last01standing: ([random] scifi)
[personal profile] last01standing
Title: Spare Change
Rating: PG

Disclaimer: Psych is not mine
Summary: Find a penny, pick it up...
Notes: Written as part of Sweet Charity for [ profile] lozenger8 who gave me the prompt: “Nothing is as obnoxious as other people’s luck.”

Spare Change

Tucked into a crack in the sidewalk, a shiny copper penny winked up at the Santa Barbara sky. It seemed for a time that it might stay there unnoticed as hundreds passed it by, oblivious to its presence, uncaring of its value.

And just when it seemed that the penny would lie there forgotten, a dark shape bent down toward it.


Shawn used to eat pennies when he was a kid.

It started when he was two years old, jabbering away in mostly unintelligible gibberish. But it wasn’t babbling that made the twos truly terrible.

It was the mobility.

See, Shawn was attracted to shiny things and pretty much anything Shawn got his hands on eventually ended up in his mouth.

The coins were the worst.

By Herny’s count, in the past month, his son had consumed two dollars and nineteen cents in change.

And that was unacceptable. After years on the force, Henry knew what kind of stuff went out in the streets, on the boardwalk, in the sand. There was blood and sex and dirt and disease festering in the Santa Barbara sand and all of that coated pennies Shawn happily gulped down anytime Henry took him for a walk.

Henry wanted to know what was so damn attractive about the pennies. The only thing Shawn liked eating more was the pineapple Madeline would carve into thin slices every week after her trip to the grocery store.

Which was just great. Madeline fed him pineapple and Henry--Henry feed him pennies.

The damn kid had a great eye for it. He didn’t just happen across them, he seemed like he actually went looking for them.

Well, two of them could play this game.

So he shoved his hands in his pockets and started looking for loose changed everywhere he went, snatching up all the pennies, the quarters, the dimes and the nickels he can before his change seeking son could get his tiny hands on them.

And when he got home after their outings, Henry put the change he’d collected into a jar he kept by the fridge and it became habit.

Even now, almost thirty years later, Henry found himself picking up every piece of spare change he found and it went into the same jar.

At the end of every week he bought a pineapple.


A pair of fingers were pressed to Shawn’s temple. His eyes were closed. His entire body seemed to be vibrating with excitement. “So what I’m thinking is—“

Juliet put up a hand. “Shawn, hold that though for a minute.”

Shawn faltered. “Hold that thought? Really Jules? Really? I’m about to bust this case wide open and you want me to hold that thought?”

Juliet offered him a small smile and bent down to pick-up a penny from the side walk. She flipped it over in her hands, frowned and tossed it back to the ground. “Tails up,” she said, disappointedly.

“Jules, you just stopped in the middle of one of my visions so you could pick up a penny.A penny, Jules. And you didn’t even have the decency to keep it!”

“It was tails up, Shawn! You can’t keep a penny if it’s tails up! It’s bad luck.”

“No, Jules. It’s not luck. It’s a penny. It’s worth an entire hundredth of a snicker’s bar and you didn’t even have the decency to keep it.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m not sure we can be friends anymore.”


“I’m sorry,” he said primly, “I’m not speaking with you.”

“You’re being ridiculous.”

“You’re the one who through away the penny! You’re lucky Gus wasn’t here to see it. He may have well defriended you for good.”

“Fine! I’ll go pick up the penny.”

“Too late now, “ Shawn said, grabbing her by the shoulder. “Murderer on the loose ringing any bells?”

“He’s in custody.”

“Yeah,” Shawn said. “That’s not the right guy.”


Interim Chief Karen Vick needed all the luck she could get on days like this. It was an odd kind of day, hell an odd time of year when her interim status had stretched to just shy two years. Her daughter still cried every night and Vick herself was teetering on the edge of something she didn’t want to consider.

To make matters worse, Lassiter was quietly putting in a bid for the job that should have been hers months ago and Juliet trying to be friends with everyone who came through the station. And then there was Mr. Spencer, hovering on the outskirts of the station’s chaos, watching.

Of course, Shawn did more than watch. He barreled into her station and made fun of her detectives threw wrenches into the system and generally quadrupled the required amount of paperwork.

But he got results and getting results was a big reason she still had this job.

Using Shawn Spencer to get those results was a big reason she was still Interim Chief Vick.

Firing him had been the back of her mind since day one. Every time he contaminated a crime scene, every time he worked Lassiter into a rage, every time he conned Juliet out of privileged information, she’d thought about it.

Mr. Spencer wasn’t psychic. A talk with Henry Spencer when this charade had first begun confirmed that much. He wasn’t psychic but he was something. Something made up observation, intuition and blind luck. She could make those same connections but she just couldn’t make them at that same speed. She could see the logic in everything Spencer did no matter how much he tried to hide it.

But he was better than her. But she was all right with that. She could use that. There was a reason she had risen this far. She had no reservations about using her advantages.

She picked up the penny from the steps of the Santa Barbara Police Department. The metal was warm from the sun.

All she really needed was a little more luck.


It started with the penny shining up at him on the sidewalk before he went into his favorite coffee shop where he won a fifty-dollar gift card for being the store’s one-millionth customer.

He used the gift card to buy coffee for Juliet, Lassiter and the Chief and then, because he hated leaving people out, he bought an extra three just in case he missed someone.

Lassiter took his coffee with three creams and four sugars. Juliet liked just one. The Chief took hers black.

The fourth and fifth ones ended up going to Shawn and Gus who he caught hanging around the records room talking about a case file. So, smiling, he made a copy for them and while he was at it, made one for himself. Something about the case was nagging at him. So he glanced at the name of the arresting officer, wondered why he was surprised and brought the last coffee to Henry Spencer’s house and walked out with a story about a murder ten years ago that sounded eerily similar to a murder that happened ten days ago.

Twenty minutes after that he was sitting in the chief’s office trying to keep the smile from tearing across his face. Lassiter nodded in his direction and said, “Good work, McNab.” Chief Vick mentioned something about a recommendation for detective and when he walked out the office trying not to break into the three step waltz pattern he learned for his wedding, he spotted Shawn Spencer standing by Juliet’s desk positively jittering with uncontrolled energy.

“You don’t know what you did when you gave him coffee,” Gus said from behind him. “I’m still suffering from the great paperclip fiasco of 2002.”


“Trust me you don’t want to know.”

“McNab!” Shawn cried, bounding over toward them. “I’m going to need you to find the green flavored smoothies, half a box of Oreos and some Mentos. Gus, we need to get some tacos.”

“No, Shawn,” Gus snapped. “I’m going back to the work before you find some way to talk out the entire station and blame me for the mess.” He paused. “And I’m pretty sure green isn’t a flavor.”

“Don’t be such a popsicle in a parade, Gus. This is going to be great! Right, McNab?”

Buzz patted the penny in his pocket.

He smiled.


He would never be sure what possessed him to pick up the penny. He had never been one for superstition. There were other cops in the station with their weird rituals, their stake out boxers and their lucky holsters and Lassiter would laugh at them behind their back.

Well not laugh exactly. Proper policemen didn’t laugh. Henry Spencer never laughed.

Police work wasn’t about luck. It was about hard work and dedication to the law.

And Carlton Lassiter had better things to do then go around picking up pennies.

But six months into his job, still a beat cop working nights, he got out his squad car out of and caught sight of a penny half hidden under his loafers. He bent down almost automatically and picked it up.

At that precise moment, there was a loud crack and the window on the abandoned factory behind him. He reacted on instinct, like it was part of a training gig and the gun was in his hand and he pressed himself up against the squad car as he radioed for back up.

Later, back at the station as a senior detective who had never spoken to him before clapped a hand on his shoulder, Lassiter realized he still have the penny clenched in his fist, the circular imprint imbedded into his skin.

He has had it on his person every day since.


“You’re never going to guess what just happen!” Gus said, throwing open the door to Psych’s offices a wide smile tearing across his face.

“Did the peanut guy come back?” Shawn asked, standing up to go peer out the window, “Because I missed him this morning and he usually doesn’t come back until noon but I want my lightly salted goodness now! Popcorn guy just really isn’t cutting it today. I keep picking kernels out of my teeth.”

“Even better,” Gus said and put a penny down on his desk.

Shawn looked at it and then looked back up. “I’m waiting.”

“The penny, Shawn!”

Shawn picked it up, turned it over in his hand and put it back on the desk. “Yeah, so? It’s not even the right color.”

“It’s not the right color because it’s a steel penny. They were only minted in 1943, Shawn. One year. Event the Sacagawea dollar was minted longer than that. They couldn’t use copper for the pennies because they needed it for ammunition in World War Two.”

“Who needed pennies in world war two anyway? Who even bought anything during World War Two. I thought the whole country survived on our sheer awesomeness alone.”

“Pennies used to be worth something, Shawn,” Gus retorted, voice clipped. “My dad used to tell me about penny candy.”

“Need at least a quarter nowadays,” Shawn said and then snapped his fingers. “Dude we totally need one of those gumball machines for the office!”

“You know that’s right.”

“But just so we’re clear. Penny, still not big news. Meeting Brian Wilson outside, that’s big news. Penny, not so much.”

“Steel penny.”

“Same difference.”

“No, it’s really not.”


“Hey,” Shawn said mildly as he and Gus exited the office. “A penny.”

Gus looked over at him expectantly. “Aren’t you going to pick it up?”

Shawn didn’t pick up pennies anymore. He hadn’t since the last time Uncle Jack rolled into town with his tornado of chaos raining pennies all into the city. Shawn didn’t play those games anymore. He couldn’t. Not after Jack. Not after Jules and definitely not after Mr. Yang.

“No,” Shawn said only half aware of the weight he’d put into the word. “I don’t think so.”

His dad used to have him play this kind of game. They’d be on the boardwalk and he’d demand Shawn pick out the price of an ice cream cone instead of offering to buy him one himself.

“Something wrong, man?”

Abigail had kissed him last night and he’d kissed her back, leaning into it because he really liked this girl. Because she was the one who got away and he was a lucky guy to get a second chance.

So he’d kissed her and he hadn’t felt like running.

He’d been back in Santa Barbara three years now and it was starting to feel like home. Usually he would have caught the itch. He would have found a new calling as an umpire or an animal control technician. But he’d quadrupled his longest stay on the job and he didn’t feel like leaving at all.

People don’t change, his dad had told him more than once in his youth. Once a liar always a liar. Once a crook always a crook. People don’t change.

Except he was still here and he didn’t feel like running and he was done playing these games.

“Shawn,” Gus said again.

Shawn blinked.

“There’s no challenge in finding a penny,” Shawn said, steering the two of them down the boardwalk. “There are pennies everywhere. The world throws something like one billion pennies away a year.”

“Dunno about you,” Gus said, “but I could go for a billion pennies. That’s a million dollars. Not to mention all the good luck. You know how it goes: find a penny pick it up and all the day you’ll have good luck.”

“No,” Shawn corrected him sharply. “All day you’ll have a penny. A penny that you’ll inevitably drop for the next guy to come up and pretend he has some good luck.”

“Shawn with the sheer number of raffles, sweepstakes, poker games and girls you’ve won through the years I think you’re the last one qualified to dismiss luck.”

“I’m still not going to pick up the penny.”

“What planet are you from and what have you done with my friend?”

Shawn opened his mouth to retort but before he could say anything a flash of silver caught his eye. “Hey, look!” he said, pointing past him and down to the sidewalk. “A nickel!”


(no subject)

22/5/09 17:55 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Fantastic job!! Thanks for the great read!

(no subject)

24/5/09 14:27 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Glad you liked it. Thanks for reading.

(no subject)

24/5/09 05:07 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
This was brilliant. I love all of their takes with the penny.

(no subject)

24/5/09 14:27 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I´m glad to hear it!

(no subject)

3/6/09 19:21 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
By Herny’s count, in the past month, his son had consumed two dollars and nineteen cents in change.

Oh, love it! Funny, interesting and in character for all of them. I particularly Henry and Karen's sections.

The anthropmorphising of the penny at the beginning was a nice sweet touch too.

(no subject)

16/6/09 20:36 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Thank you so much!