Title: Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
Characters: Shawn Spencer, Mal Reynolds, Zoe Washburne, River Tam, mentions of Jayne Cobb and Burton “Gus” Guster.
Content Warning: AU, world fusion, Shawn being Shawn, Author ignoring tragic events in one canon in favor of having awesome character interactions (aka setting this pre-Serenity).
Summary: Shawn Spencer’s Guide to Pretending to be Psychic.
Author’s Notes: Written for misura for xoverexchange. I … really had a lot of fun writing this. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Disclaimer: I don’t own. They belong to USA and FOX. I’m just borrowing and will put everything back where I found it.
Shawn Spencer’s Guide to Pretending to be Psychic
Lesson One: When pretending to be psychic to give you some kind of relief from the boredom of living on a cushy central planet, only pretend to be psychic at the right people.
Shawn may have been a lot of things, but he wasn’t stupid. He acted like it, at times—in fact, there were occasions where he probably looked like the most idiotic person that you’ve ever met, but contrary to popular belief, Shawn was, in fact, very smart. He knew the rules of the game he was playing and he knew how to bend them just enough in order to get what he wanted, and that was what made him so good at what he did. He didn’t pretend to be psychic for money, or for the notoriety—though the money was very nice—he did it because he wanted to help people and because he was good at it. That seemed to be enough for most people.
It wasn’t enough for the Alliance.
He was borrowing Gus’s work ship to drop something off for Jules on one of the moons. It was just supposed to be a quick in-and-out thing when he was flagged by an Alliance cruiser that happened to be patrolling the planet. Shawn was prepared to handle this the way he handled most things—a quick little twist with the powers of observation, but it didn’t end up going as well as he hoped. One minute he’s explaining that he’s a psychic detective, and the next he’s being commandeered by Alliance troops, and being shoved into a holding cell for reasons he still didn’t understand.
This wasn’t good.
This so wasn’t good.
Turned out that the Alliance had been looking for psychics. Not in the public eye, of course, but under the radar when they happen to come across people with … talent. Due to Shawn’s somewhat mediocre reputation, the Alliance thought he had talent, and were supremely disappointed to find that he, in fact, had none. Not even a modicum.
Shawn was pretty sure that he was going to end up dead.
If there was one thing that Shawn Spencer was known for, however, it was his ability to get lucky.
They had taken him to Persephone to get rid of him. He figured their initial plan was to kill him and make it look like a mugging or something similar. With no evidence to link it back to the Alliance, odds were that most of Shawn’s family and friends would never know what happened to him. Jules would never know what happened to him.
Shawn needed to run, and he needed to run now.
He didn’t even think to where he was running, or how he was going to escape. He acted on gut and instinct alone, two things that have never failed him before. He grabbed the heaviest thing he could find, swung it at the first guard’s head, and took off running as fast as he could. He disappeared into the crowd, shoving his way through people, trying to find the nearest public access communicator. It wasn’t easy—there aren’t as many of them around as there are on the core planets, but he did manage to find one and quickly banged out the information to get in contact with his best friend.
Unfortunately, Gus wasn’t home to take the call.
“Damnit, Gus, you’re never around when I need you,” he sighed as the message started recording. “Look, the Alliance mistook me for an actual psychic, and when they found it I wasn’t … ” His voice faded for a moment and he looked serious. Or as serious as Shawn ever looked. “I’m pretty sure they’re going to kill me. If you don’t hear from me in a few hours come to Persephone. You should be able to find me there.” There was a pause as he glanced back over his shoulder, and then turned wide eyes back to the screen again. “I’ll try and get in contact soon.”
He quickly disconnected the call before he started running again. He needed to find a way out, a way off this planet where the Alliance couldn’t find him. He stopped in the middle of the docking area, eyes scanning the various vessels docked around him, before he spotted one that was starting to get ready for take off. He ran towards the closing doors, and then took a running leap through the doors, and skidded to a stop on the loading bay.
When the ship continued to move, he just took the moment, closing his eyes happily with the idea that he was safe, for now. At least until he heard the click of the safety of a pistol being cocked over his head, and he was forced to open his eyes. All he saw was three muzzles hanging above his head.
“Hi there,” one of them said. “Mind telling me what you’re doing on my boat?”
Lesson Two: Know your audience. And if that doesn’t work, make it up as you go along.
Eventually, they graduated from the guns portion of the evening once they determined that Shawn wasn’t all that viable of a threat. He wasn’t armed, and he didn’t have any other baggage—his only real crime was being a stowaway, and for that they hadn’t airlocked him yet. He was pleasantly surprised. But that didn’t mean he was counting his chickens yet. He sat on the crate they put him on, looked them over in his own unique way, and waited for the questions to start. There were two of them—one tall guy with red hair who looked like a reject from an old western, and the other was a woman with so much curly hair that Shawn was tempted to ask her if her hair came from a poodle, but given the look she was giving him, he decided it wouldn’t be a wise choice.
Shawn, apparently, was putting his intelligence to good use today.
“Who are you?”
“My name is Shawn Spencer. I’m from Jiangyin.”
“Fancy capital man,” the man sighed, crossing in front of his chest. “What were you doing on Persephone?”
“I was kidnapped. By the Alliance.”
“By the Alliance?” The guy seemed to be doing a lot of the talking, while the woman was mostly standing there looking terse. Shawn was pretty sure that she was the one that he didn’t want to deal with. “Why, pray tell, were they so interested in you?”
Shawn sighed. “Because they thought I was a psychic.”
“They thought you were a psychic. And why did they think that?”
“Because I’m really good at what I do. And I market myself as a psychic, but apparently this time around I did it to the wrong guys.”
“You say you’re so good at what you can do?” The captain crossed his arms in front of his chest. “What exactly is it that you can do?”
Shawn sighed. He didn’t like showing off—okay, that was a lie, he really liked showing off, but not in times like this. So he took a breath like ripping off a band-aid and rambled through it. “You are obviously the guy in charge, but she’s the one that everyone’s scared of.”
“You know that? She hasn’t even said a word.”
“She doesn’t have to. She’s clearly more badass by the fact that she doesn’t do all the talking. People who know how scary they are, don’t need to self-promote.”
The two of them exchanged a look for a moment. “He has a point there, sir,” she replied, and the captain gave her a look, before turning back to Shawn.
“It doesn’t take a ‘psychic’ to tell something that obvious. You’re going to have to try a little harder than that.”
Shawn sighed heavily, glancing around the room as he tried to see what clues he could pick up. It wasn’t a lot—the place was more of a mess than anything else—but there was just enough that he could glance back at them with a smirk. “The reason why I jumped on this ship? I knew you would never knowingly let a member of the Alliance set foot on it.”
“Oh really? I’ll have you know we are fine upstanding citizens. We love the Alliance. We even voted for Unification.”
The look Shawn gave him was skeptical at it’s worst. “Please. You are the browniest browncoats I’ve ever seen, and I haven’t even been here that long. Besides, even if you weren’t, having Alliance on your boat wouldn’t bode well for that cargo you’re smuggling.”
“So we’re smugglers now?” the captain glanced over at his first mate, and was clearly very amused by this whole thing. “That is quite the imagination you have.”
“Oh, I do have quite the imagination. It takes an imagination of that caliber to have come up with some of the amazingly delicious combinations with pineapple that I have over the years. But it is not my imagination that you two are definitely smugglers, and—” Out of habit more than anything else his hand came up to his temple, and he flashed them a grin. “—I know where to find it.”
Ten minutes later, he was digging out a pile of Alliance marked protein from one of the hidden compartments in the hold. It was probably the most physically exhaustive work he’d done in a long time, because man, those things were heavy, but in the end he stood triumphant over his box of smuggled goods, and he wasn’t sure if the people he was trying to impress were actually impressed or were about to shoot him. It’s gone both ways before.
The captain just looked pensive for a moment, before tipping his head to the side. “Where did you say you were lookin’ to go again?”
“I just want to get back to Jiangyin and my family.” At that, the looks on both their faces sobered, and Shawn frowned. “What?”
“If the Alliance knows you found yourself a ship, that’s the first place they’ll assume you’ll go,” the first mate replied quietly. “You can’t go home—at least not until the heat dies down.”
Shawn stumbled back at the revelation, unsure how to take it. There was only so much shock a person could take to their system, and this was a bit too much for his. He sat back against the crate, before shaking his head. “Then no. I don’t have anywhere to go.”
The two of them glanced at each other again, before looking over at him. “You stay on the ship,” the captain began. “You work for us, and when the heat dies down, we’ll see about gettin’ you home.” Shawn considered that for a moment, before nodding. The captain gave him a thin smile. “I’m Mal Reynolds, and this is my first mate, Zoe. Welcome aboard Serenity.”
Lesson Three: Never try to con an actual psychic.
It took a while for Shawn to settle in with the actual crew. His hijinks didn’t really fit in with most people’s sense of humor, and while there were some—mainly Kaylee—who would smile at anything, and they had a smile that would light up a room. But most of the men were a bit too surly to really appreciate Shawn’s particular brand of jokes, and most of them tended to fall flat. But in the end, he managed to find his place.
He was starting to learn about the ship, too. He knew that one day this was going to give him an advantage somewhere. But at the end of the day there was still one elusive crew member that was slipping through his grasp. And one day, he found himself face to face with her.
Well, it was more like face to upside down face, but Shawn liked to think that it still had the same effect. She was hanging over the edge of the catwalk while Shawn was walking through the cargo area with a box. He stopped, and smirked just slightly.
“You really are psychic.” There may have been a touch of sarcasm to it, but he could tell from the lopsided smirk on her face that it was meant with affection. He smirked right back at her, before shrugging.
“Maybe I’m just really good at process of elimination.”
“I’ve heard it both ways.”
He waited until she swung around to drop to the ground, before placing his box to the side and giving her a grin. “You know, it’s not polite to steal people’s lines.”
“Not like you were using it,” she said. “You’re running. Like me and Simon.”
Shawn’s head tipped at that, confused at the wording at first, but then it dawned on him. “You’re running from the Alliance too?”
“They stick needles in your head and try to see inside your mind. Try to take it apart like an engine and put it back together to try and make it run better.”
Shawn’s face paled in horror for a moment, before staring back at her. “You’re the real deal, aren’t you? You’re what they were really looking for.” River turned her back on him, starting to ramble off something about the square root of pi and Bernoulli’s constant, and he shook his head, before taking her by the shoulders. “Hey, it’s okay,” he said softly. “Your secret’s safe with me.”
“Secrets are never safe,” she said as she gave him a small smile. “They just make more secrets.”
“You’d be surprised,” he said as he smiled back. “I’m famous for my ability to keep my mouth shut.”
The look River gave him was skeptical at it’s worst.
“I could try?”
“Don’t strain yourself.”
Lesson Four: All else fails, save their lives.
Most people wouldn’t have thought much of it. Then again, most people didn’t have Shawn’s observation skills.
It was a small gesture, something that on someone like Simon would have been innocuous, but on this particular wanderer that they picked up somewhere along the way was trying to pass themselves off as a farmer from a backwater planet, trying to get to Persephone. Problem was, this guy was a worse actor than Shawn, and while he didn’t seem to be setting off the rest of the crew’s radar, he was definitely setting off Shawn’s.
He followed the man back to his quarters, planning on coming up with a friendly yet meaningless ruse to stumble on him, but all that went out of his head when he saw the small communicator in the man’s hand, open to the Alliance channel all thought of that went out of his head.
“Oh my God.” That was all he had at first, and when the man looked at him, he finished that sentence. “Oh my God, you’re Alliance.” Then the man pulled his blaster. That was when he realized that he probably shouldn’t have said that out loud. Try to bring in those more badass than him. “Zoe! MAL!”
Shawn started to take off for the bridge, when he felt a hand on his shoulder, turning him around. This was Shawn’s moment of truth. This was his chance to prove that he was a big damn hero just like the rest of them. This was the moment to pull out his secret weapon.
Shawn went boneless.
He slumped forward onto the Alliance agent’s hands, forcing the man to take his weight. The sudden change was unexpected and they both went tumbling to the ground. Then Shawn pushed to his knees, trying to pin the guy down, before turning to shout over his shoulder again. “SOMEBODY HEL—”
Just as he was about to finish, the agent’s hands slammed across his jaw, and everything went dark.
When he came to in the medical ward, he looked a little dazed and confused, and everything was fuzzy. The last thing he remembered was knocking over the Alliance agent, and when he saw Mal, one hand flailed out to grab his arm. “Did I get him? Did I win?”
Mal chuckled. “Not exactly. But Jayne heard your flailin’ about and was there in time to capture your attacker.”
“Good. That’s good.” Shawn released Mal’s arm, before considering things for another moment. “Did we win?”
“Yes. Yes, we won.”
“Good.” As his vision stopped doubling and he started to come to a little more, he glanced around to make sure no one else was around, before admitting. “I probably looked pretty pathetic, didn’t I?”
“Not at all,” Mal said with a smirk. “You have been jumped and made to look like a fool by a common enemy and had to be rescued by the rest of the crew. You are now officially a member of the crew.”
Shawn smirked back as his eyes closed again. “Do I get a party as a welcoming?”
“Do I get better quarters?”
“I’m afraid not. But there might be a very shiny pin in it for you.”
“I’ll take it,” Shawn said with a sleepy smile. “Thanks for saving me, Captain.”
“Anytime, Shawn. Anytime.”