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"Yes. Who is this?"
"Agent Roberts... Shawn. I told you that I'd get back to you once I had a few other things worked out. I wasn't sure when would be the best time to catch you."
"Are you going to be able to make it? It's day after tomorrow, in the afternoon."
"Yes. In fact, I've already cleared it to have the time off, so barring an emergency, I should be able to make it. What time would you like for me to be there?"
"Everyone's going to show up around one in the afternoon, but... I mean, if you wanted, you could stop by a little earlier and we could... I don't know... hang out and stuff."
"How does eleven sound?"
"Really? I mean yeah. That'd be great! Do you already know where it is?"
"Yes. Unless you've moved since the investigation."
"No. I'm still in the same place."
"Good. I'll see you then."
"Thank you Shawn. I can't even tell you how much this means to me."
"Thursday, at eleven, just the two of us, we'll talk." Shawn said in a low sultry voice.
There was a pause, possibly a gulp, then Matt hoarsely responded, "Yeah."
* * * * *
Shawn sat for a long silent moment staring at the ancient rotary dial phone on the side table beside his favorite armchair.
"Wanna talk about it?" A voice asked from no specific place.
Rather than play dumb, Shawn quietly answered, "There's not much to talk about. He invited me to celebrate his birthday with him and I said that I'd go."
Shawn's shadow emerged from the wall and became more or less solid as it said, "I know how hard it is for you to put yourself out there and risk being hurt. You're doing the right thing."
"Obby, I don't understand how you can be part of me and be so different at the same time. You make it seem easy. The way you started relationships with Milo and Otis seemed almost effortless."
"Yeah. Well, what I have with the guys is fun. This thing with you and Matthew... it could be for keeps. It's worth it to take the time to do it right." Obby said with concern.
"So, you don't think that you could have a real lasting relationship with 'the guys'?" Shawn asked curiously.
"I didn't say that." Obby said firmly, then explained more gently, "I don't know if I have a better or worse chance than you at finding 'true love'. But what I do know is that if Otis or Milo found someone else to be with, and if I knew that they'd be happy, then I'd be happy for them. I have a feeling that if this thing with Matthew goes the way that you want it to, that it would devastate you if he found someone else. You'd be completely gutted."
"Do you think I'm making a mistake?"
"No! This is exactly what you need to be doing. In fact, it's probably a few years past when you should have started the search for a mate."
"A mate?" Shawn chuckled.
"Yes." Obby said firmly, not having any of it. "You need a mate, a soul mate. Everything up to now has been in preparation for what you're doing right now. I mean, why build up a fantastic life if you're not going to share it with someone?"
"Well, excuse me if I don't take life advice from a shadow." Shawn grouched.
"I may be just a shadow, but according to my scorecard, I'm getting a lot more action than you are. I must be doing something right." Obby said frankly.
After a moment to consider, Shawn finally said, "Sorry Obby. I know that what you're telling me is good advice. I guess I'm just reluctant to try new things."
"You're doing fine. And I'll be right there if you need my help with anything." Obby assured him.
"Yeah. I guess that's probably a good thing."
"Yep. That way I'll be there, ready to jump in, if you screw it up with Matthew." Obby said with a grin.
"Hey! You said you knew how much it would hurt me if we didn't work out."
"I promise that I won't try to sabotage it or steal him away from you, but if he's suddenly up for grabs, I'm grabbing."
"That's very mercenary of you."
"I'm just trying to be honest. As long as you commit to your decisions and put in the work, I won't ever get a chance with him."
"I'll hold you to that." Shawn said humorlessly.
"You have been warned." Obby said firmly before walking face first into the nearest wall and dissolving into a normal looking shadow.
* * * * *
The sound of the phone startled Shawn out of his thoughtless staring out of the living room window.
He listened carefully for the ring pattern. Once he had determined that the call was for him, he picked up the phone and said, "Agent Roberts."
"Shawn? I wasn't sure that I was going to be able to get through. The phone system there must be insane. Am I catching you at a bad time?"
"No. Actually, it's the perfect time. I'm just sitting and relaxing for a few minutes after work."
There was a long silence which prompted Shawn to ask, "Shelly? Are you still there?"
"What? Oh, yeah. I was just trying to imagine what that would be like, to just sit and relax... it sounds like heaven."
"Are Mom and Dad on your case again?" Shawn asked sympathetically.
"Again? Try still! They've never let up for even a minute. Here I am studying for my board certification exam and they're both doing their damnedest to ramp the stress up to eleven. They're relentless."
"Shell, you need to stop. This is killing you." Shawn said firmly.
"That's easy for you to say. You're not here. I can't just stop."
"Pretty soon you're not going to get a choice in the matter. Either you'll stop or you'll be stopped. You can't keep going like this."
"That's not what Mom and Dad say." Michelle said knowingly.
"Shell, have you ever heard of 'do as I say, not as I do'?" Shawn asked his sister bluntly.
"It's occurred to me that neither of them ever really accomplished all that much in their professional lives."
"Right. Listen. What I've figured out is that Dad just backs up Mom. We could disappear off the face of the earth and he wouldn't notice if Mom weren't there to harp and nag at him about it. Mom is the one who blames her parents for not pushing her hard enough. So she pushes Dad to push us, rather than take responsibility for her own failure and lack of ambition and for not marrying better. Shell, don't let their disfunction destroy you. It serves no purpose." Shawn implored his sister to understand.
"I wouldn't know where to start." Michelle hesitantly whispered.
"Well, if you need a clean break you can come here and stay with me for a while." Shawn easily suggested.
"I can't. I have to take my board certification exam."
"You do what you have to do, Shell. I'm just trying to get you to realize that with Mom and Dad nothing will ever be good enough. Nothing will ever be fast enough. And there is no possible way that you will ever, in a million years, get them to say that you've done enough to suit them. You're chasing an impossible dream."
"I have to take my board certifications..."
"Okay. But I can see how close to the edge you are. The minute that it gets to be too much, come to Waxell and stay with me for a while."
"I can't. I've got to..."
"I know. Just keep it in mind. I even have a spare room, just for you."
"Thanks Shawnie, I probably won't end up doing it, but knowing that you have a place for me really means a lot."
"I'll always have a place for you." Shawn immediately assured her, then firmly added, "And don't call me Shawnie."
* * * * *
Shawn walked into his kitchen and immediately turned the oven on, to get it preheating. As he washed the clods of dirt off a large potato, he considered if it might not have been better for him to go to the Waxell Diner.
In the end he concluded, as he had more and more often as of late, that even though the cost of eating out every night was not at all prohibitive, he had reached a point in his life where he was ready to take on a bit more responsibility for his own well-being and be a bit more self-sufficient.
Once his potato had been thoroughly cleaned, he poked it several times with a fork and slathered it with grease before wrapping it in foil and putting it in the oven.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" Obby asked from over his shoulder.
"No. I've kind of got this timed out to do it myself, but I wouldn't mind it if you kept me company." Shawn easily answered.
"I don't know how good of company I'll be, but I don't mind hanging around."
"Have you been missing Milo and Otis?" Shawn asked curiously as he mechanically worked at cleaning and chopping fresh vegetables for a salad.
"No. Not yet." Obby easily answered, then explained, "It's nice to be with the guys when they're around, but I don't really miss them all that much when I'm on my own. I actually expected to miss them more."
"Well, I suppose it's good that you're not heartbroken, pining for your lost loves." Shawn said with a quick smile at him.
"It's like, we had what we had, then it was over. There's always a chance that we'll have something else later, but if we don't, we don't." Obby said frankly.
"I have a feeling that my relationship with Matt... if there ends up being one, isn't going to be quite as casual as that." Shawn reluctantly admitted.
"Well, duh! You're jumping into this thing heart first. If it works out, it's going to be epic!" Obby said happily
"And if it doesn't?" Shawn cautiously asked.
"Then it doesn't." Obby said simply before explaining, "It'll hurt like hell and you'll probably still be stinging from it in a few years from now, but you'll survive."
"Any idea of how I can keep from having to go through all of that?"
"Sure. That's an easy one. If you're too afraid of the pain, then don't put your whole heart on the line. Of course, doing it that way, you're probably not going to find the deep emotional connection that you've been looking for. It'll be nice and safe for your fragile little feelings." Obby finished with a teasing grin.
"Ouch! No mercy!" Shawn said as he fought to contain a smile.
"You don't need mercy. You need a kick in the ass so you don't puss out and screw up this thing with Matthew." Obby said firmly.
"I guess you're right. It's not like I'm trying to get out of it. I'm just not very experienced with dating and..."
"That whole goofy awkward thing you've got going on, I'm pretty sure that Matthew will think it's adorable. Don't let your training kick in and make you try to pretend that you're confident or in control. Just be yourself. Let him accept or reject the real you. If you do that, then no matter how things end up going, you'll have no regrets."
"How did my shadow attain such wisdom?" Shawn chuckled as he took out a big bowl, then started placing the prepared salad ingredients in it
"Remember what I am."
"A repository for everything that you couldn't deal with or chose to ignore."
"What does that make me?"
"One lucky son of a bitch."
* * * * *
Obby was mostly silent as he watched Shawn take out a cast iron skillet, then meticulously adjust the flame to be sure that it would achieve the absolute perfect cooking temperature.
"I never thought to ask before, do you eat?" Shawn asked curiously.
"I never have, but I'm not sure if I can or not." Obby answered slowly.
"Do you want to try? I can cook you your own little steak if you want." Shawn offered.
"I wouldn't want to take a chance of wasting the food. But if you wouldn't mind, I could try a bite of yours and see if I'm able to eat it. If I can, then maybe I could have my own plate next time." Obby said thoughtfully.
"Okay. But if you decide that you're starving all of a sudden, don't expect for me to split my food with you. You'll just have to remember that you had your chance." Shawn cautioned.
"I'm not Michelle." Obby said bluntly.
"Oh, you caught that reference, huh?" Shawn chuckled.
"I don't remember every little detail about your life. Honestly, most of the time I just wasn't that interested. But I know the basics, and that includes the fact that you'd have to take double portions of dinner for yourself because Michelle would say that she wasn't hungry, then end up eating half of yours." Obby explained.
"I did whatever I could to make her happy." Shawn said in his defense.
"You did fine."
* * * * *
An abrupt knock on the door was a complete surprise to Shawn. He looked down at the steak in the skillet then toward the door with indecision.
"I can watch this, if you want." Obby hesitantly offered.
"Do you know how to cook?"
"I don't even know how to eat. Just tell me what to do."
"Right. Okay, um, just give it about two more minutes, then pull it off the heat. According to what Conrad said, that's good for meat. It likes to rest for a few minutes after it's been cooked." Shawn said before another, slightly louder, knock at the door sounded.
"I've got this. Go ahead." Obby assured him.
* * * * *
Shawn peeked out the door and was surprised to see Gil Spencer standing on his porch.
After cautiously opening the door, Shawn hesitantly asked, "What can I do for you today, Gil?"
"We did an early pick of the raspberries and ended up with more than we needed. There's not enough to bother with canning, so Nancy thought that you might enjoy them." Gil said simply as he held up a large jar full of raspberries swimming in syrup.
Before Shawn could think of how to respond to the completely unexpected act of kindness, Gil continued, "She knows that you're busy with your job and probably don't have a lot of time to do extra cooking, so she made a simple sponge cake to go with it."
"Thank you. That's incredibly kind of you." Shawn finally blurted out in astonishment.
Gil's stern facade broke to reveal a slight grin as he said more quietly, "You should be able to get a few good desserts out of this."
"I really appreciate it. Thank you." Shawn said as he accepted the jar and square cake pan covered with foil.
"It smells like you've got dinner cooking. I'll let you get back to it." Gil said with the slightest smile before turning to leave.
"Yeah. Thanks again. Please thank Nancy for me." Shawn hurried to say as Gil slowly walked away.
Rather than answer verbally, Gil raised one arm in a gesture that acknowledged his receipt of the message.
As soon as Gil crested the rise, Shawn went back into the house.
* * * * *
"Is everything alright?" Obby asked from his position in front of the stove.
"Yes. Gil just brought us some raspberries and sponge cake for dessert tonight." Shawn said with a smile.
"Us?" Obby asked curiously.
"We were talking about you trying to eat something. This sounds like a pretty good thing for you to try." Shawn said frankly.
"It does look good." Obby reluctantly admitted.
"Would you like to have dinner in the breakfast room?"
"Yeah. That sounds nice." Obby answered with a smile.
"If you'll take the dessert on in, I'll follow you with dinner." Shawn said as he handed the dessert to Obby.
"I'm still not sure if I'll be able to eat." Obby cautioned him.
"It's not a problem. We'll make the best of it, no matter how it turns out." Shawn said as he started gathering plates and silverware onto a tray.
"Okay. Thanks Shawn." Obby said with renewed enthusiasm as he hurried away.
Shawn smiled tenderly after him, amazed at how content he was with his life.
* * * * *
"Here you go. I hope this doesn't end up hurting you somehow." Shawn said as he carefully cut a piece off his steak and placed it on a separate plate.
"Do you think we should talk to Milo about it before I try?" Obby asked uncertainly.
"I wouldn't want for you to be hurt. But I'll back you up no matter what you decide." Shawn said seriously.
After a moment to consider, Obby broke into a grin, then said, "You only live once."
"With everything we've been through, I wouldn't count too much on that." Shawn said with a smile.
"Yeah. Between the vampires and witches, they've probably come up with some kind of a work-around for that." Obby chuckled.
Shawn cut a piece of steak for himself, then took a bite as he looked out the window into the woods surrounding his house.
"Is it good?" Obby cautiously asked.
"Yeah." Shawn responded.
"Good... I wouldn't want to try doing this with something that tastes like ass." Obby said as he looked down at the steak uncertainly.
"So, if it tastes good but it hurts you, it'll still somehow be worth it?" Shawn asked curiously.
"Maybe. It depends on how good it is." Obby said thoughtfully.
"It's really good. I'll let you decide what you're going to do." Shawn said before taking another bite.
Obby considered a moment longer, then began to cut a small piece of the meat.
"Make sure that you get enough to taste. If you only get one shot at this, make it count." Shawn cautioned him.
"Yeah." Obby nervously agreed, then slowly lifted the piece of steak to his mouth.
Shawn slightly nodded his encouragement.
Obby finally took the plunge and put the steak into his mouth.
Shawn watched silently as Obby chewed.
"How is it?" Shawn asked cautiously.
"I don't know yet. Give me a minute." Obby said around his mouthful.
Shawn nodded again and waited, trying to make sense out of the expressions flitting across Obby's face.
Finally, Obby quietly said, "It's like I can feel my taste buds coming alive for the first time ever. I'm not sure exactly what it is that I'm tasting, I just know that I love it."
"I'm glad. You had me worried for a second." Shawn admitted with a relieved smile.
"It had me worried, too. At first I couldn't tell if I liked it or not. The sensation was so... overpowering that I wasn't sure if I was tasting or hurting or being eaten away from the inside out." Obby quietly confessed.
"Do you want to try a bite of my baked potato?" Shawn offered warmly.
"Could you save me a bite? I want to have some more steak and get used to what I'm tasting before I try anything else." Obby said carefully
"Yeah. I can do that." Shawn said as he immediately cut a piece off his baked potato, being sure to get enough butter and sour cream so that Obby would be able to taste all of it.
"I never really thought about what people got out of eating. I mean, I knew that there was something good about it, but I never even imagined that it felt as good as this."
"There's a whole world of foods for you to experience. But make sure that you take time to enjoy them. You're probably going to become desensitized to them over time, so make the best out of the time that you have." Shawn explained before taking another bite of his steak.
"What do you think would happen if I tried to go flat right now?" Obby asked curiously.
"Go outside if you're going to be trying anything like that because I'm guessing that when you go flat, the food inside you won't." Shawn said frankly.
"I guess that makes sense." Obby said cautiously.
"Ready for the potato?" Shawn asked with a grin.
"Yeah. I think so." Obby said happily.
Shawn shifted the bite of potato that he had carefully carved earlier to Obby's plate.
"Thanks for doing all of this for me Shawn. I'm pretty sure that I'm the luckiest shadow in the world." Obby said quietly.
"I have no doubt that you're lucky among shadows, but I'm pretty sure that you might also be considered as lucky among 'people'."
Obby put the bite of baked potato into his mouth and slowly chewed as he thought about Shawn's words.
After carefully considering, Obby slowly said, "I know that what you're saying is true, but I'm not sure how I feel about it. I mean, it seems wrong to be happy with where I am and what I've got when I know that there are people who don't have as much."
"That's a pretty big subject that we can discuss in depth some other time. Just try to keep in mind that being miserable because the world isn't fair doesn't help anyone. No one is happier because you're miserable and those people you're concerned about aren't one bit better off than if you were happy." Shawn carefully explained.
"I hadn't thought about that."
"Besides that, if they turn out to be the type of people who would rejoice in other people's misery, then why would you want to do anything for their sake anyway?" Shawn asked grimly.
"I'm not saying that I do want to, but at the same time, I won't allow someone else's bad behavior to dictate whether or not I'm going to do what I believe is right." Obby said firmly.
"So you're saying that you would offer someone a kindness simply because it's the right thing to do, and not because you think they somehow deserve it?" Shawn asked curiously.
"Yeah. Well, within reason. I'm not stupid." Obby assured him.
"Even so, I think you may be a better person than I am." Shawn said thoughtfully.
"Neither of us is better. We're on the same side. There will probably be times when my way is right and other times when yours is. In fact, there will probably even be some times when neither way of thinking turns out to be right." Obby stated with certainty.
Shawn smiled at the response, then noticed Obby's empty plate and asked, "Are you hungry for more? We've still got salad."
"I'm still not sure what the whole 'full' and 'hungry' thing is. I don't think that I can feel that but I know what you're asking and I don't think I want any more right now." Obby said seriously.
"Are you still going to want to try the raspberries and cake?" Shawn asked before taking another bite.
"Oh yeah, I wanna try that. I've been watching you and other people enjoying desserts so much over the years that I want to see what all the fuss is about. I can't even imagine how good it must be for how everyone seems to go on and on about it."
"I hope that you won't be disappointed." Shawn said frankly.
"Wouldn't that be funny? I'm trying my first dessert ever and it turns out that Mrs. Spencer's raspberries just plain suck?" Obby asked with a chuckle.
"Well, since I've never tasted Nancy's berries before, I can't say that that won't happen. But the casserole that she sent over was wonderful, so I would expect for her dessert to be just as good." Shawn said honestly.
"That was nice of her. And it was nice of her husband to bring the stuff all the way over here. We should really do something nice for them." Obby said thoughtfully.
"Yeah. Except that I don't know what we could do. There's nothing that I could make that would compare to Nancy's cooking." Shawn said before gathering up the last bite of food onto his fork.
"We'll just have to think about it. There must be something nice that we can do for them." Obby persisted.
"Let's save any decisions on that until after we've tried the raspberries. Are you ready for dessert?" Shawn asked with a smile.
* * * * *
Obby was surprised when Shawn stood up and walked out of the room.
Before he could ask what was going on, Shawn returned with dessert plates and clean silverware.
"If we're going to do this, we might as well do it right." Shawn explained as he moved their dinner plates out of the way.
"I've never understood the point of something like this before. Using the 'special' plates or eating in a 'special' room always seemed kind of pointless to me. Now... I'm glad that you show your appreciation and gratitude for the gifts that you've been given by showing respect. It feels to me like it's the right way to do things."
"To be honest, I've never really thought about it before. I suppose you're right. Doing anything less would seem disrespectful to me." Shawn admitted, then asked, "How big of a portion would you like?"
"Well, from everything I've seen, I'm probably going to really like it, so why don't you give me the same size portion that you give yourself?" Obby asked thoughtfully.
"Coming right up." Shawn said as he lifted the foil off the square cake pan.
"Can I taste some of that without the raspberries? That looks like it might be good by itself."
"Sure. But cake by itself can be a little dry. Why don't I get us some milk to go with dessert?"
"Okay. Yeah. I want to try that too... I want to try everything." Obby said with a growing smile of realization.
"I'm afraid that we'll have to save the everything for later. But we can do the milk right now. Why don't you cut us some cake while I get that?"
"Okay." Obby happily agreed.
* * * * *
When Shawn returned to the breakfast room, he stopped in the doorway and smiled at the sight of Obby, sitting and staring at the piece of cake on the dessert plate before him.
"Go ahead and try some. You don't have to wait for me." Shawn said as he continued on into the room and placed the small glasses of milk on the table.
"This is kind of a big thing for me. I feel like sharing it with you." Obby said as he carefully cut a small piece of cake with the edge of his fork.
Shawn thought about that for a moment as he watched Obby carefully take a bite of the cake.
After a few long seconds of indecision, a glorious smile crossed Obby's face.
"Go ahead. Try the raspberries." Shawn encouraged.
Obby took the top off the jar, then carefully drizzled the raspberries and syrup over his sponge cake.
"Save some for me." Shawn teased.
"I don't know. If this tastes as good as it looks, there might not be enough here for both of us." Obby said as he carefully handed the jar to Shawn.
Shawn smiled as he poured the raspberries over his own cake.
"Ready?" Obby asked excitedly, with his fork poised in hand, ready to pounce.
"You don't have to wait for me." Shawn reminded him.
"This is part of the whole 'sharing' thing. Just go with it." Obby said with mock aggravation.
"Fine. Let's do this." Shawn said firmly, as though they were embarking on a high security operation.
In exemplary shadow fashion, Obby exactly mirrored Shawn's actions as he took his first bite of the dessert.
After a moment for the taste to register, Shawn fought to say around his mouthful, "You can taste the freshness."
"Mmm. Good." Obby responded.
"It's a good thing that I can see through magical enchantments because otherwise I'd be convinced that this wasn't real. I'd think it was some kind of illusion to trap us." Shawn said with a slow smile of contentment.
"All I can say is the whole thing with fat people... I get it now." Obby said frankly before taking another bite.
"Yeah. Well, neither one of us can afford to let that happen. As much fun as desserts are, they're for 'special' occasions. I need to keep myself in fighting shape and I'm going to be counting on you to back me up." Shawn said seriously before taking another bite of his dessert.
"Yeah. About that, I've been thinking..." Obby trailed off as he took another bite.
Shawn looked at him inquisitively, prompting him to share his thoughts.
"I don't really know what a shadow can do, I mean, like in a fight." Obby fought to explain.
"I just thought you'd go solid and hit them." Shawn said frankly.
"Yeah. And I can do that. But I was just thinking that there might be something else that I can do. I mean, something that only a shadow could do." Obby said seriously.
"I was thinking about something like that, except what I was wondering was if we can work out a few 'combos' that we could choreograph that would take an adversary by surprise." Shawn said thoughtfully.
"Like what?" Obby asked with interest.
"I don't know. I was just thinking that maybe there might be a way that I could give you a signal to let you know which combo I was planning for us to do then, when I see an opening, I could throw you or swing you at our opponent so that you can suffocate him or throw him off balance or something like that." Shawn said seriously.
"Yeah. I could see that taking someone by surprise." Obby said frankly.
There was a long silent moment between them before Shawn started to silently chuckle.
When Obby noticed, he smiled as he admitted, "I can see it too."
Shawn let loose an audible laugh, then said, "I'm just picturing a 'what the hell just happened' look on some perp's face."
"Can you imagine if he tried to tell someone about how he was apprehended?" Obby asked between his own chuckles.
"Your Honor, I swear to God, he hit me with his shadow." Shawn fought to say before breaking down into full laughter.
In a false high voice, with a pitiful southern accent, Obby dramatically said, "Counsellor, I suggest you instruct your client to enter a plea of 'not guilty by reason of insanity'. It would be a dern shame to let testimony such as this, go to waste."
That was the final straw that caused Shawn to start laughing so hard that he nearly fell out of his chair.
To Be Continued...
Editor's Notes: That supper must have been so much fun.
No pun intended, but hey, you use what you have. It seems that Obby is beginning to fill out, in more ways than one.
We are learning, right along with Obby and Shawn, just what Obby is truly made of, so to speak. He is very loyal to Shawn, yet he is becoming quite ready to explore the world and what he is going to be able to in it and with it.
I wonder, for instance, if Obby can changeĀ his coloration, during the times he is solid.
It seems that when he is solid, his body takes on the normal structure of someone, most likely, Shawn's body. Therefore perhaps also the limitations of that physical body as well.
I suspect his transition fromĀ flat to 3D is controlled by Obby himself.
He might be able to change himself into Shawn's twin.
I think he would have to wear clothes when he became solid.
We know he enjoys having sex, He and Milo seemed to hit it off together, so that brings up even more questions, doesn't it?
Will people see him in a mirror?
Of course, I want another chapter.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher