Head Detective Carlton Lassiter thought Shawn's request seemed innocent enough—"Give me a ride in your car."
Life would still be simple and good if his answer had just been "NO."
And now he's stuck in the middle of nowhere with one injured and extremely annoying fake psychic pestering him with no hope of rescue any time soon. That is, if they can manage to make it out alive...without killing each other first.
And YES, Shawn gets whumped something fierce. He'll never know what hit him.
This one story is answering four challenges at once. I'm nothing if not ambitious.
Categories: Season Characters:
Buzz, Juliet, Karen, Lassiter, OMC, Shawn
Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, General, Humor, Hurt/ComfortWarnings:
, Stuck in the middle
, Lassie Saves the Day
, Stuck in the middle
, Lassie Saves the Day Series:
November 19, 2009 Updated:
February 01, 2010
1. Note To Self—Don't Give Rides To Spencers by Texasartchick
2. Any Port In A Storm by Texasartchick
3. Like Father, Like Son - The Ghosts Of Old Sonora by Texasartchick
4. A Sweltering Cabin Paradise And A Frosty Blue Treat by Texasartchick
5. Under The Weather by Texasartchick
6. Home Is Where the Heart Is by Texasartchick
7. Mission Impossible by Texasartchick
8. I'll Take A Burger With A Side Order Of Underpants (Epilogue) by Texasartchick
Note To Self—Don't Give Rides To Spencers by Texasartchick
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. I do not own any of the characters of Psych and am not affiliated with the show or USA Network. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. I do not own nor am I associated with the I-Phone, Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla", "Here Comes the Rain Again" by the Eurythmics, or "I Love a Rainy Night" by Eddie Rabbit.
*AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story takes place after my three previous Psych Fan Fiction stories "Choose It Or Lose It", "It Can Happen", and "This Stalker Thing Kind Of Sucks". Events affecting the Lassiter/Shawn dynamics that take place in both of these previous stories are mentioned in this one. You might want to read them first. Doing so is not a requirement to understand what is going on in this one, but it will help alleviate any confusion that might occur when the references pop up.*
ENJOY! Please be kind enough to review. All feedback, good or bad, is welcome.
Head Detective Carlton Lassiter was not a happy man. Not that his demeanor could ever be described as cheerful on a regular basis, but tonight he was even more perturbed than usual. No, at this particular moment, downright pissed off was an accurate assessment of his mood. Shawn Spencer might even go so far as to claim his 'panties were in a wad'. Shawn Spencer. The man who just happened to be the reason for his foul mood.
The man sitting next to him in the front seat of his car. As if 'man' was an accurate description of him.
Lassiter glanced over at Spencer and wondered yet again how he'd been duped into the eternal man-child's little scheme. It had to be a scheme, because Spencer certainly couldn't consider this fun. No person in their right mind would categorize driving up a steep, dark, winding, deserted mountain road at night in heavy rain and a brisk wind as a good time. But then again, this was Shawn Spencer's idea, after all. What the hell was he thinking when he'd roped Lassiter into this?
"What the hell were you thinking when you roped me into this?" Lassiter blurted out.
Shawn continued listening to music through the earphones that were plugged into his iPhone. He was bouncing in his seat and singing along loudly to the Blue Oyster Cult song "Godzilla" in an entirely off-pitch voice. Lassiter thought he sounded worse than the most talentless American Idol rejects. He reached over and unceremoniously slapped the headphones off of his head.
"There goes Tokyo—hey! Come on, Lassie! That song is a classic!" Shawn sounded truly offended.
"Not the way you're butchering it, Spencer," Lassiter ground out between his clinched teeth as he returned his hand to the 3 o'clock position on the steering wheel. "I'll ask you again. What the hell were you thinking when you roped me into this!" He pressed down on the accelerator a little more as the incline of the road became steeper.
"I told you, Lassie. The spirits are sending me vibes like crazy that there are criminal activities going on at this place. Possibly even nefarious schemes afoot."
Lassiter turned the windshield wipers up to their highest setting to combat the heavy rain and shot a withering glare at Shawn. "You know that psychic crap doesn't work with me, Spencer," he seethed, rapidly losing patience.
Shawn winced. "Oh yeah, right," he replied.
The Detective returned his eyes to the road as he carefully drove around several large rocks and a thick patch of mud spilling off of the shoulder and into the roadway. His annoyance level only increased when he checked his watch and realized he was now going to be late for an important rendezvous back at the PD. "No more bullshit. What are we doing up here? If you expect me to continue hauling your ass up this mountain, then I damn well want to know why."
Shawn knew from the Detective's tone of voice that he was certainly not pleased. Well, he was never pleased with anything, but that was beside the point. Shawn's mind raced as he tried to come up with a decent sounding excuse. Because he sure as hell wasn't going to tell Lassiter the truth, which was that Shawn had found a brochure for an unusual 'theme' ski lodge up in the mountains surrounding Santa Barbara and he wanted to check it out due to sheer boredom. Gus was out of town for the fall pharmaceutical exposition—in Vegas of all places—and Juliet was visiting her sister in Bakersfield to get acquainted with her newborn niece. Shawn made a mental note to get sweet revenge on Gus somehow. He still hadn't figured out how Gus kept his credit card hidden long enough to prevent him from secretly buying an accompanying Vegas trip of his own. Shawn needed an excuse so he wouldn't have to tell Lassiter he'd dragged him up this mountain side because he didn't have any other playmates in his virtual sandbox at the moment. He didn't feel like being strangled by one of Santa Barbara's finest this evening.
"I told you, Lassie. It involves a really important case," he lied, trying to stall for a little more time.
"Quit stalling and give me the real reason why we're up here," he replied curtly.
Damn it. 'So that's what it feels like,' he thought. He hated it when Lassiter did that, turning the tables and guessing what he was thinking. He was wrong on cases at times, but there was a reason Carlton Lassiter had earned his title at such a young age. The Head Detective was no idiot, and had a pretty good sense of when people were lying. There were times he hated the fact that Lassiter knew his secret, because it meant he couldn't just use his patented 'the spirits told me so' excuse. This was certainly one of them.
"Seriously, Lassie. I have reason to believe the manager of this ski resort is engaging in criminal activity." Shawn let the statement hang in the air, hoping the deliberately vague answer would placate the Detective's curiosity for the moment.
"What kind of criminal activity?" he demanded.
Damn it! He just couldn't let things go, could he? No, he had to be the big bad Dick-tective! "Um, I think they're deahhrrringg bruuggs," he said as he wiped his hand across his mouth and deliberately made his last words unintelligible.
Lassiter's brow furrowed in confusion. "What the hell did you say?"
"What, you didn't hear that, Lassie? The old dog's ears aren't what they used to be?" he mocked, trying to throw Lassiter off by making him angry.
"Uh huh," Lassiter said, knowing full well Spencer was stalling. As he turned his eyes back to the road something about the passing landscape caught his eye. He leaned forward and looked out the windshield at the steep incline to their right as he passed another area where grey mud had washed across the highway. He noticed the mountainside looked almost barren, with only a smattering of small bushes and fresh saplings covering the area. He glanced down to his left at the sharp drop where the land fell away at a steep angle, finding only the remnants of burned tree trunks and new shrubbery in a large swath of scorched earth cleared by wildfires over the summer. Even the grass was short. He did not like this. He did not like this at all. He suddenly realized they were driving through mountain terrain that had suffered widespread fire damage to the plant life, and the rain was coming down even harder now. As a matter of fact, he was about to tell Spencer where to cram his supposed case and began looking for somewhere to turn the car around.
Lassiter was looking ahead for a spot wide enough to turn around the large sedan when Shawn leaned forward in his seat. He was trying to reach his headphones from where they'd landed on the front floorboard of the car. As he stretched forward, Lassiter caught a glimpse of the top half of a brightly colored brochure sticking out of the back left pocket of his jeans. Curious, he was about to reach for the pamphlet when Shawn sat back in his seat. He unbuckled his seat belt and leaned forward again, this time unencumbered by the safety device. Lassiter immediately took advantage of Spencer's position and snatched the paper from his pocket just as his fingers curled around the head set.
"Hey! What the hell are you doing, Lassie?"
"Just a little detective work, Spencer. What have we here?" Lassiter slowed the car and turned on the interior light to look at the cover. It was an advertisement for the "Hot Beds Honeymoon Hotel and Ski Resort", and showed several buxom young women dressed in skimpy "ski bunny" outfits standing in front of gaudy neon lights. Bright multicolored text on the front proudly proclaimed 'a heart-shaped hot tub and vibrating bed in every room!'
"What the...SPENCER! You dragged me all the way up here for this crap?!?"
"It's not 'crap', Lassie! It's a resort made entirely of awesome!
The car's interior filled with the sound of creaking leather as Lassiter's hands tightened around the steering wheel into a death grip. He was trying to take out as much of his anger on the wheel as possible in a desperate attempt to avoid throttling the idiot beside him.
"Look at this, it even has vibrating beds! I've always heard about those, but I've never seen them in real life. They're like an urban legend, I didn't think they actually existed until now. It's kinda like finding Bigfoot!"
"SHUT IT Spencer! Just shut the hell up!" Lassiter growled. "I cannot believe you...no, never mind. You really are that stupid."
"Stupid? Lassie, there's hot babes and heart-shaped hot tubs in our near future! It's a cheesy pop culture nirvana for two single dudes like us, I tell you! Look, they even have a condom machine in every bathroom, and—"
"God DAMN IT Spencer! Do you ever stop and think before acting on your hair-brained ideas? Do you have any idea where we are right now?"
"Umm...in the mountains?"
"In mountains that have been scorched by wildfires all damn summer!"
Spencer shrugged. "So? It's not on fire now, so let's go Lassie!"
"It's raining, Spencer. Just like it has been for the last three days! Did you even bother checking the weather report? It's going to rain like this the rest of the week!"
"Great! Again—no fire! And that means we'll have nothing to do but stay inside all night with beautiful women." He wiggled his eyebrows, held up the brochure, and pointed to a ski bunny as if to prove his point. "I'll bet there's even one that will put up with a certain Mr. Grouchy Pants tonight," he added suggestively. "Ooh, show her your badge! Chicks dig that!"
Lassiter snatched the paper out of Shawn's hand, crumpled it in his fist with a growl, and tossed it in to the back seat. Shawn stuck out his bottom lip and pouted as he watched it bounce off the 'pleather' covered cushions and tumble to the floor.
"Do you have any idea how dangerous it is driving up here right now, you fucking moron?!? Don't you know the combination of steep mountains coupled with heavy rain makes the perfect conditions for landslides? If I'd realized where we going I never would have agreed to this!" He spotted a road sign up ahead that read 'Turnaround - 5 miles.' He gunned the engine, determined to reach that turnaround area as fast as possible and get them the hell out of there. "Now I am turning this car around, and taking my happy ass back to Santa Barbara ASAP! And you are coming with me whether you like it or not!"
"But Lassie, that metaphor is totally inaccurate. You're not really happy, and I'm sure your a—"
"Even if I have to handcuff you to the door and drag you along for the ride!" He fixed Shawn with a vicious glare that let him know he meant every word he said. "And by the way, I'm damn well going to make sure that both my time and the city's gas money for this little trip comes out of your next paycheck from the department," he added with a snarl.
Shawn fell silent and moped as he slouched in his seat. The only sound filling the silence was the roar of the car's engine and the soft swish of wipers sweeping the spattering rain off the windshield. Becoming increasingly bored, Shawn decided it might be fun to activate the lights and sirens while they sped along the dark road. After all, even Lassiter liked driving fast with his emergency lights on. Who didn't like brightly colored blinky flashy lights? Deciding it might lighten the mood, he reached for the controls mounted on top of the rise in the center floorboard. Lassiter saw the motion out of the corner of his eye, and smacked his hand away with hard *slap*. Shawn's hand bounced off the square black metal frame housing the electronic controls with a hollow *thunk*.
Lassiter turned to face Shawn just as the car came over the crest of a hill. "How many damn times have I told you not to—"
"LASSIE LOOK OUT!"
Lassiter instinctively hit the brakes as he immediately scanned for danger ahead. That's when he saw it. A massive section of the roadway directly in front of them had been washed away along with part of the mountainside, creating a giant, deep gap in the pavement ahead. The Crown Vic slid towards the hole on the slick mud-covered pavement at a frightening speed. Lassiter jerked the wheel to the right in an attempt to stop the car by hitting the mountainside, but the front end only veered slightly and continued the downhill slide. The car was out of control and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
"Spencer hang on!"
Lassiter quickly removed his hands from the steering wheel, crossed his arms across his chest, and drew his legs in to the base of his seat. He crossed his ankles hoping to prevent his long legs from being broken against the floorboard upon impact. Shawn turned in his seat and barely managed to click his seat belt's buckle home before the vehicle sailed off of the pavement and into the void.
The nose of car dropped and smashed into the other side of the gap, impacting with tremendous force and deafening sound. The vehicle slammed to a halt, throwing the two men hard against their seat belts in a violent jerking motion. The side windows exploded in a shower of glass and the windshield shattered into a series of web-like cracks. Spencer yelped in pain as the car dropped and came to rest pointing nose-down into the hole at an extreme angle, with the rear wheels bouncing against the ragged edge of the broken pavement above them. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, everything stopped.
Rain began dripping into the car through the broken side and rear windows. Lassiter exhaled slowly, releasing the breath he didn't even realize he'd been holding. He slowly began moving his extremities, first wiggling his fingers and toes, then gradually flexing his arms and legs. He was relieved to find that nothing felt like it was broken. He looked over at Shawn and saw he was still mostly held in place by his seat belt, but he was clutching his left leg, is face contorted in pain.
"Spencer! You all right?" He wiped away the water that was rapidly dripping onto his face and turned towards his companion.
Shawn's teeth were clinched and his face was turning red. He finally exhaled sharply as he gritted out, "No!" He inhaled again and gasped in pain.
Lassiter tried to unlatch his seat belt but he couldn't depress the button. The car was positioned so it was standing almost directly on its nose, causing his body weight to put so much tension on the belt it was nearly impossible to unbuckle. He pulled out his pocket knife, braced his knees against the dashboard, held on to the steering wheel with his left hand, and sliced through the seat belt. He caught himself as he fell forward and immediately began maneuvering himself towards the other side of the car. Lassiter used the back of the seat to haul himself up so he could plant his feet on the dashboard and stand in a half-crouched position. He began checking Shawn for injuries and immediately saw what was causing him such pain.
Shawn's left leg was pressed against the now twisted metal housing surrounding the car's electronics in the center console. The sharp metal edge had torn a huge slash in the front and side of Shawn's leg just below the knee. Blood was beginning to soak through his jeans around the wound. Lassiter produced the small high powered tactical flashlight he used for building searches from of his inner jacket pocket and took a closer look. Holding the light in his mouth, he carefully cut away the fabric around the wound and leaned in for a closer inspection. The metal edge of the housing had ripped a deep gash into Shawn's leg that was about five inches long.
"Damn." Lassiter pursed his lips and put his hand on Shawn's shoulder. "Spencer, it's not safe here. We have to get out of the car." As if to confirm his statement, the car creaked and shifted slightly as the earth around the vehicle continued to move. "I'm going to cut your seat belt and get you out of here. Do you understand?"
Shawn nodded in understanding as he finally started breathing somewhat normally again. "Okay. Just...with as little pain as possible, please! This kinda hurts, man!"
"I'll try." Lassiter positioned himself in a crouch beside Shawn and helped him pull his legs up so his feet were planted on the dashboard. Then Shawn braced his left hand on Lassiter's shoulder as the seat belt was cut away. He hissed in pain as more of his weight briefly came down on his left leg, then he pushed himself up as Lassiter reached down and grabbed hold of Shawn's right foot. "Climb out of the back window Spencer." Lassiter pulled up on Shawn's foot, stood up as much as he could, and lifted him towards the broken back window of the car. He grunted as Shawn's other foot accidentally hit him in the face, then a few seconds later, stepped on the top of his head. He finally managed to haul himself out the back window and onto the car's trunk where he hopped down and sat on the pavement. The heavy rain soon had his clothes soaked through.
Lassiter reached down and found the hand mike for the police radio. He knew they were well out of range, but he figured it was worth a try. He immediately keyed up the mike and tried calling for assistance. "Unit eleven ten to dispatch, do you copy." The only response he received was static. "Unit eleven ten to dispatch, do you copy!" Nothing. He tried several more times before finally giving up. He went ahead and pressed the emergency button on the radio even though they were well out of range just in case dispatch could happen to pick it up.
He tossed the useless handset aside and turned his attention to the rest of the car. Lassiter turned off the headlights, windshield wipers, and everything else he could find that might drain power from the battery. Then he removed the keys from the ignition, and used the single spare 'lockout' key he kept in his pocket to turn the ignition to the 'auxiliary' position. At least that way the GPS device would function until the battery died, hopefully allowing the SBPD to get a fix on their general location. Then he crawled out of the car, pulled himself up onto the trunk, and jumped up onto the pavement. The car had already sunk another three feet by the time his feet hit the road.
Lassiter pulled out his cell phone and tried to dial 911. Hearing only a beeping noise, he looked at the screen of his phone and found it wasn't getting a signal. "Spencer, try your cell phone." He moved back to the slowly sinking back end of the Crown Vic and tried to open the trunk.
Shawn pulled his phone out of his pocket and tried to dial Gus's number. Then he tried dialing Juliet, his dad, and 911 in rapid succession. It was useless. "I've got nothing, man. No signal up here."
No matter how hard he tried, Lassiter couldn't pop open the trunk of the car. The key turned in the latch but the lid wouldn't raise. He examined the trunk and found the force of the impact had apparently bent the frame of the car, resulting in the body panels being shifted out of alignment. The trunk was wedged closed.
"Spencer, give me a hand with this. We need to get in here," he said impatiently.
Shawn hobbled over and the two men worked together to try and pull open the trunk. Despite their combined best efforts, it just wouldn't budge.
"Damn it!" Lassiter yelled as he slammed his fists down on the car. Shawn sat down on the pavement as Lassiter paced in frustration. They were both soaked to the bone and the temperature was in the mid-fifties. Add the brisk 15 mph wind, and it was becoming extremely uncomfortable rather quickly.
"What the hell do we need out of the trunk so badly, anyway?" Shawn asked.
Lassiter pointed to Shawn's leg. "First aid kit for starters! Road flares, blankets, things we really need right now!" he yelled. The rain was starting to come down even harder and it was becoming more difficult to hear each other without shouting. The wind was starting to pick up as well. "We can't stay here, Spencer! We have to find a place to stay for the night!"
Shawn threw his hands up in the air. "Dude! Do you see a Holiday Inn around here? Cause if you do, please let me know!"
Lassiter strode over to Shawn and knelt down in front of him. "We have to move, Spencer. We have to get out of the rain. Now if I bandage this up, do you think you can walk?"
Shawn winced. "Do I really have a choice?"
Lassiter shook his head. "Not really, no," he said in his usual blunt tone as water cascaded down his face
Lassiter pulled out his pocket knife, a Gerber folder with automatic opening, and pressed the button to pop open the nearly four inch black matte finish blade.
"Damn Lassie!" Shawn gaped in surprise. "Is that thing even legal in this state?"
"It is for cops," he smirked, obviously pleased with his choice in weaponry. He cut off the lower portion of Shawn's left pant leg and cut two long strips out of the fabric. He folded up the remaining portion into a thick square, placed it over the large diagonal gash, then used the two strips to tie the pad tightly in place. "The pressure should at least keep it from bleeding too badly. Let's get going, Spencer."
Lassiter looped Shawn's left arm around his shoulders and helped pull him to his feet. Shawn gingerly tried putting weight on his leg and found it was quite painful, but he could walk on it with a limp. "Okay, I'm good."
Shawn started down the road, but Lassiter steered him towards the steep slope by the left side of the highway. "Uh, Lassie? The nice even pavement is that way, dude."
"Spencer, don't you remember the drive up here? There was nothing along that road for at least the last twenty miles. No houses, no business, not a damn thing. Our best chance to find shelter fast is straight down the mountainside. It's going to be pretty rough terrain, but this way we significantly cut the distance we need to go by moving in a straight line. We have to cut distance any way we can because you won't be able to go far on that leg." He looked over at Shawn, who was gazing down the steep hillside with apprehension. "Besides, I remember a pretty rocky area with several overhangs a few miles down. If we can't find a building, at least we can hole up under one of those and dry out. Think you can handle it Spencer?"
Shawn gulped. "Uh...yeah, I guess so..."
"I can't carry you down, but I'll help you as much as I can. Just be careful, Spencer. Watch where you step. I mean it." Lassiter maneuvered them to the edge and found a spot where the ground wasn't quite as steep as the other areas. It even had a few bushes for handholds. He helped Shawn over the guard rail and clasped his wrist as he lowered him down as far as he could before letting go. Then he crossed the railing himself, and they began slowly working their way down the steep hillside.
Buzz McNab bounded up the steps in front of the police station as fast as his great legs would carry him. He clutched the black plastic pistol case in his hands securely, feeling very protective of the shiny new treasure inside. He'd just picked up the custom made Springfield 1911 .45 caliber pistol from the gunsmith, and he could hardly wait to get to the firing range to test it out. Actually, Buzz was just as excited about who was going to be joining him on the range tonight as he was to be breaking in the new gun.
He'd been elated when the Head Detective had seen him reading up on custom pistol builders in the local area, and struck up a conversation with him about which gunsmiths and weapons were superior in quality. Buzz saw the gun enthusiast's eyes light up when he'd mentioned he was in the market for a premium .45 caliber. Being an expert in firearms, Lassiter had promptly volunteered to be his guide into the realm of high quality handguns, and insisted a custom 1911 was the best way to go. When Buzz placed the order, he'd asked if he'd like to help him break in the new gun. Buzz had never seen the man say yes to something so fast in his life. He still couldn't believe the stoic Head Detective had actually smiled when the invitation was tentatively extended.
Buzz arrived on the gun range and staked his claim to two firing lanes. He set the case down on the shooting platform and checked his watch. Thirty minutes until Lassiter was supposed to meet him here. To pass the time, Buzz pinned up targets and set out black markers for marking hits on the paper. Then he opened up the case and ran his hand over the chrome plated Springfield's custom cherry wood grips, tailored to perfectly fit his large hands.
'Detective Lassiter will love shooting this!' he thought, secretly overjoyed to have found common ground with someone he looked up to so much.
It was slow going, but Shawn was managing surprisingly well. Ever the trailblazer, Lassiter had insisted on climbing down first with Shawn following close behind. He'd claimed he wanted to go first because he liked to see ahead of him at all times for 'tactical reasons.' What he didn't tell his companion was that he really did it so he'd have a chance to try and block the descent if Shawn's wounded leg gave out and he accidently fell. He was also trying to spare the younger man the rather unpleasant cascade of mud and small dislodged rocks that were currently raining down upon his head. Shawn sure as hell didn't need any more cuts or bruises—his current physical state was already bad enough. So he'd decided to just shut up and take a few lumps so his injured companion didn't have to.
Lassiter's quiet nobility had an unintended side effect that he found extremely annoying—since Shawn wasn't busy preventing rocks from pummeling him, he'd decided to occupy himself by singing theme songs to every police television show he could possibly think of.
And Shawn Spencer had a photographic memory. He also watched a hell of a lot of TV.
"Duh da da da, daaa daaaaaaa! Da da duh da, daaaaaaaaaaa!"
Lassiter recognized that one as "Hawaii Five-O" immediately. He had to admit, he was impressed by the sheer amount of material Spencer was able to recall. Who the hell even remembers the theme song to "Policewoman" anyway? Or "Adam 12" for that matter? He reluctantly admitted to himself that he was secretly pleased to hear the "SWAT" theme again, which was one of his favorite shows as a child. But he would never admit to enjoying hearing Shawn Spencer sing anything. Not to anyone. Ever. Not unless he was actively being tortured.
They'd been crawling and clawing their way down the steep hillside in the mud and pouring rain to Spencer's chorus of police show theme songs for well over half an hour when Lassiter noticed a change in the terrain. The hillside wasn't as damaged by fire as it had been farther up the mountain. The fires must have started somewhere around that point and the wind-driven flames traveled uphill. There were large patches of grass and a few pale, unmarred limestone rocks under his dirt-encrusted fingers now instead of the constant presence of gray, ash-filled mud and burned remains of trees. The incline they were traversing was also, thankfully, starting to level out a bit. Lassiter paused and used his flashlight to peer into the darkness beneath him. He found the steep angle of the land flattened out about sixty feet below their current position.
"Spencer! We're almost there!" Lassiter wiped away a fresh face full of mud and batted away a golf ball-sized rock before it could smack him in his right eye. He looked up to see Shawn had perched himself on a rocky ledge and was leaning back against the hillside. His face was contorted in pain and he looked exhausted.
"Just—give me a second—Lassie!" he panted between labored breaths. "I need to stop for just a minute!"
Cursing under his slightly winded breath, Lassiter climbed back up and planted his backside on the soaking wet grass behind the charred remnants of a tree stump next to Shawn. "Well maybe if you'd quit singing that TV Land crap and actually save your breath, you wouldn't be so damn tired, Spencer." He turned off the flashlight and put it back in his pocket to save the battery, then turned his face to the pitch-dark heavens and secretly cursed the day God created rain. Christ this sucked! Good thing his watch was waterproof. He wiped the droplets of moisture from the face and checked the time. They'd been wandering around after the wreck in the drenching rain for almost an hour.
Shawn winced and carefully stretched out his injured leg. Lassiter noticed immediately and crouched by his side to check the wound as Shawn suddenly broke out in song.
"Here comes the rain again, falling on my head like a memory..."
Lassiter pressed his lips together hard and frowned. "Great! A song about rain," he grumbled as he spat out a mouthful of rainwater mixed with the mud washing off of his face. "Thanks a lot, you asshole!"
"Well you said I should quit singing 'that TV Land crap', I'm just following orders. You are the Head Detective, after all!"
"Just shut the hell up and hold still, Spencer!" Lassiter carefully peeled back the remnants of Shawn's pants leg to check the bandaging. The material covering the wound was, of course, soaking wet with water and covered in mud. It was also soaked through with blood. There was a little bit of blood training down Shawn's calf, but so far the pressure of the tight bandage was keeping blood loss to a minimum. Even so, Lassiter knew Shawn probably wouldn't be able to walk more than another hour at most with the severity of the injury.
Lassiter returned to his seat behind the tree stump. "We need to find shelter, and fast. The temperature is dropping, and you sure as hell can't go on forever like this."
Shawn nodded. "Yeah, I know." He pulled his navy blue plaid flannel outer shirt around himself a little tighter even though it did absolutely nothing to keep the biting wind from chilling him.
"Well, at least the ground levels out just up ahead. At least that's something."
Shawn crawled over to the edge of his rocky seat and crept over the side. "Well, no time like the present, then! Let's hurry up and get down there! I'll race you to the bottom, Carly pants! Whoever wins gets first dibs on a hot shower whenever we finally get the hell out of here!" Shawn began scampering down the hillside before Lassiter could dislodge himself from his perch and find solid footing.
"Hey, Spencer! Slow down and be careful! This isn't a race damn it!"
"I thought we just established that it was! Ooh, it's just like that Blake Edwards movie The Great Race! I'm The Great Leslie with my amazing, although currently rain-soaked hair, and you're the bad guy Professor Fate! You even have the super cool villain's black spiky eyebrows, too!" He continued to scurry down the steep slope while Lassiter struggled to catch up.
"Spencer, Goddamn it, slow down!"
Shawn's response was to start singing again as loud as his tired lungs would allow. "Oh I love a rainy night, it's such a beautiful sight! I love to feel the rain, on my face, taste the rain on my lii-iiiips!" He had his eye on that beloved flat ground, that terrain that was easy to walk on for an awesome injured dude such as himself, and he just wanted to get this climb over with as fast as possible. In his mind, the sooner it was done, the better. So he was determined to ignore the pain, suck it up, and just do it.
He'd descended about twenty feet and was working his way down over a small rocky outcropping with a tiny shrub beneath the overhang when he heard something that caught his attention. It sounded a little bit like air escaping a balloon.
'What the hell?' Curious, Shawn pushed the plant aside and peered into the dark space underneath the rock. Two small sets of beady black eyes stared back at him from behind black masks. Shawn immediately recognized them as creatures he considered as evil incarnate.
"AAAAHHH! SATAN'S LITTLE HELPERS!" Shawn let out an ear-piercing shriek that rivaled the best B-movie scream queens as the mother raccoon hissed and swiped at him with her paw. He jumped to the side in a panic in an effort to avoid what he was absolutely sure to be claws infested with rabies and God-knows-what-other-nastiness, his arms pin-wheeling to maintain his balance. Shawn's right foot landed on a loose rock. It sank beneath his weight and rolled out from under his sneaker, causing him to lose his balance and topple over backwards. 'Oh shit!'
Lassiter watched in horror as Shawn began tumbling head-over-heels down the mountainside.
Shawn brought his arms up and clasped his hands together behind his neck in an attempt to shield his head from the rough terrain. Falling backwards, his back hit the ground first, then his feet, his side landed on something hard and he continued to roll, picking up momentum as he went. His ribs impacted with a tree trunk, knocking the wind out of him as he bounced off, slammed into a rock, and cartwheeled down the steep incline with frightening speed. He finally reached the bottom of the forty foot expanse and rolled to a stop, his motionless body coming to rest in a crumpled heap.
Lassiter frantically picked his way down the mountainside as fast as he could without falling himself. It wouldn't do Shawn any damn good if he broke his neck as well. He quickly scurried past the rocks and trees, jumping the last seven feet onto a patch of grass. Lassiter pulled out his flashlight and ran over to Shawn, terrified by the possibility that he may have just witnessed his mission turn from a rescue into a recovery.
Shawn lay face down on his right side in a puddle of muddy water. His eyes were closed, his arms were still up near his head, and his right leg bent awkwardly underneath his left. Lassiter crouched down beside his motionless form and lightly touched his left shoulder. He was relieved to hear a low pained groan. It meant that Shawn was still breathing.
"Spencer! Can you hear me?"
Receiving another groan as a response, he carefully rolled Shawn over onto his back. He had no choice but to move him because finding shelter was now more imperative than ever. Lassiter tried his best to protect Shawn's head and neck as he rolled him over. As soon as he was on his back, Lassiter noticed the awkward position of his right leg and immediately recognized that it was broken below the knee.
"Lassie?" Shawn's pain-filled eyes fluttered open briefly as he raised his head.
"What?" Lassiter peered down at him with concern.
"I think I won the race, Professor," he joked with a weak smile. "First dibs on that hot shower..." Shawn's voice faded away as he passed out.
That's the end of chapter one. Hope you enjoyed it! The whump continues in chapter two. Poor Shawn will never know what hit him.
For all those who have read this far, THANK YOU! I live for feedback, so please, by all means, leave a review. It's really appreciate it if you did.
Any Port In A Storm by Texasartchick
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. I do not own any of the characters of Psych and am not affiliated with the show or USA Network. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. I do not own nor am I associated with Underoos, the iPhone, "The Six Million Dollar Man", or Superman.
*AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story takes place after my three previous Psych Fan Fiction stories "Choose It Or Lose It", "It Can Happen", and "This Stalker Thing Kind Of Sucks". Events affecting the Lassiter/Shawn dynamic that take place in both of these previous stories are mentioned in this one. You might want to read them first. Doing so is not a requirement to understand what is going on in this one, but it will help alleviate any confusion that might occur when the references pop up.*
ENJOY! Please be kind enough to review. All feedback, good or bad, is welcome.
Buzz McNab stared forlornly at his watch yet again, the disappointment in his expression unmistakable. Lassiter was over half an hour late. He checked his phone for what seemed like the hundredth time only to find no missed calls or new messages. He stared down at the shiny, chrome plated, custom built beauty he'd so proudly left displayed in the open box on the firing lane shooter's shelf, ready for inspection by his commanding officer. 'I guess he really doesn't like me if he blew off a chance to shoot a gun like that,' he thought to himself. Feeling like he'd been stood up on prom night, he slowly closed the case and gathered his belongings. As he unloaded the magazines and began placing the live rounds back in the box, Buzz's thoughts turned in another direction.
'Detective Lassiter willingly spent his free time giving me advice on having this gun made. He wouldn't pass up a chance to shoot it without a good reason. Be nice and give him the benefit of the doubt, you big doof.'
Buzz collected his property and made his way back up to the main floor of the police station. He pulled out his phone and tried dialing Lassiter's cell phone again. It went straight to voice mail, which meant that his phone was probably turned off. 'Or he's blocked my calls,' Buzz thought, self-doubt creeping into his mind yet again. He waited to hear the prompt telling him to leave a message, but instead heard an automated response from the message system.
"Sorry, that voice mail box is full."
Buzz immediately started to worry. Lassiter never let his voice mail fill up like that. Work was as sacred as religion to him, and he always made sure his fellow officers could contact him without fail in case he was needed on a scene. Fearing he might look foolish, but deciding he no longer cared if he did, Buzz made a detour to the night Sergeant's office who was in charge of patrol. He knocked on the open door and greeted Sgt. Bona with a smile.
"Hey, Sergeant Bona! Do you have a minute?"
"Sure, Buzz! Come on in and have a seat," he replied with a friendly smile of his own. "So, what brings you over to patrol? You finally decide to join us here on the 'dark side' of the force?"
Buzz laughed. "No, I was actually hoping to ask you for a small favor."
"Sure, Buzz. How can I help you?"
Buzz looked over at the large flat screen TV in the corner of the office that showed a detailed electronic map of the city. Dozens of little red dots were moving around on the lines representing the various streets. "I was wondering if you could use the GPS tracker in the squad cars to give me the location of a particular officer. Or, more specifically, an officer's car."
Sgt. Bona's brow furrowed. "Someone go AWOL, Buzz?"
Buzz shrugged. "You could say that."
"Who's car am I looking for?" he asked as he pulled the tracking system's keyboard and mouse in front of him.
"Umm..." Buzz looked a little embarrassed. "Head Detective Lassiter," he said a bit sheepishly. "He was supposed to meet me on the shooting range but he never showed up."
Bona did a double take. "Detective Lassiter? You want me to locate his car?" He raised his eyebrows. "Why the hell do you want to get a fix on him of all people?"
Buzz nodded. "Yeah, I know, I know. I'm probably just being stupid. But I can't reach him on his phone. It's turned off and his voice mail is full. That's not like him."
Bona frowned. "Yeah...yeah, you're right, the guy lives for work. He'd never be without a way for the department to contact him. Even if he was on a hot date with a supermodel, he'd bail if a dead body turned up." He paused, then added, "Don't you ever tell him that I did this. He'd kill me if he found out I was spying on him." He turned towards the screen and began a search for the GPS device in Lassiter's car. "If his car is turned on I can find it." After about a minute, the patrol Sergeant examined the display with a concerned look on his face. "That's strange...Detective Lassiter's car isn't in the city, it's up in the mountains to the East. And...well, that can't be right."
Buzz began to worry. "What do you mean, 'can't be right?'"
"Well, according to this, his police car isn't on the road. It's about forty feet off the highway. This has to be a glitch caused by the terrain. It could be from interference caused by the mountains, the heavy rain in the area, or—"
"Or maybe it's reading the signal right and his car isn't on the road." Buzz began dialing his cell phone. "Maybe he had an accident," he said, the distinct sound of worry creeping into his voice. After three rings a familiar cheerful voice answered.
"Hello, Juliet O'Hara."
"Detective O'Hara? I'm sorry to bother you, but—"
"Hey, Buzz! How are you?"
Buzz liked talking to Detective O'Hara, she was always so bright and friendly. So he absolutely hated to bring up work while she was on vacation. "Um, well, I need to ask you a question. Have heard from Detective Lassiter recently? Like, within the last hour?"
"No, haven't heard from him, but I'm on vacation so that's not unusual." She paused, then asked, "Oh, Buzz, I'm sorry. Did he cancel your plans to go shooting tonight?" Juliet's voice was laden with sympathy for the big man, peppered with a hint of irritation towards her partner.
"He told you about that?"
"Oh yeah, he's been looking forward to it all week. Wouldn't shut up about it yesterday, he bragged about getting to shoot your new .45 all damn day. If I didn't know any better, I'd say it was his new gun, not yours." After a moment Juliet ventured, "Buzz, is something wrong?"
"Well, he didn't show up tonight. And he hasn't called—"
"He didn't show up? To the shooting range?" Now Juliet sounded worried.
"No, he wasn't there. He hasn't called me either. His phone is turned off, and the voice mail is full."
"Buzz, where is he?" she demanded, the apprehension in her voice clear as day. "Where is my partner?"
"Buzz!" Sergeant Bona pointed to the red dot on the screen representing Lassiter's car. "His car just moved another five feet in the last few minutes, it's going away from the road." He turned to face Buzz, his face creased with concern. "It's moving down the mountain—sideways."
Buzz felt his gut do a flip. "Detective O'Hara, I think we have a big problem. How fast can you get here?"
"Who the hell ever heard of a wilderness area without any fucking sticks?!?" Lassiter bellowed into the wind-driven rain. He'd searched high and low for over fifteen minutes for any broken tree branches, fence posts, discarded rails, or even small trees he might be able to break apart and use for a splint to stabilize Shawn's broken leg. But all he'd been able to find were burnt tree stumps, small bushes, a few small weak new trees, and an abundance of smaller twigs. His hopes were raised when he did find some branches scattered on the ground, but they were either charred from the fire or very old. The brittle wood broke and crumbled when Lassiter tested it to see if it was sound enough for the job. The few saplings in the area were small and green, too flexible to provide any rigid support.
Unable to find anything he could use to make a stretcher or even a simple leg splint, Lassiter had been forced to move Shawn as soon as he woke up and continue their search for shelter. They were both soaking wet, the temperature had dropped to below fifty degrees, and the unrelenting wind felt like it was driving the damp chill into straight into their bones. Lassiter knew he had to get Shawn out of the elements as fast as he possibly could. In his weakened and badly injured state, hypothermia would set in quickly and probably kill him. So having no other choice, he'd maneuvered Shawn onto his back as carefully as he could, and began carrying him 'piggyback' style down the mountain.
The flat land had turned downward into a hillside again, but not nearly as steep as before. The angle was still sharp enough that Lassiter had to turn around, face the ground, and occasionally put down a hand to safely negotiate the terrain.
Lassiter was quite disturbed by the fact that the normally talkative Shawn was so quiet. He was clinging to Lassiter's neck as best he could without letting his arms ride up to strangle him, but the older man could tell that his grip was starting to weaken. He could also feel him beginning to shiver slightly. Lassiter was busy exerting himself, so maintaining normal body temperature wasn't nearly as much of an issue for him as it was for Shawn at the moment. And he knew that moving around with an unsupported broken leg was extremely painful no matter how careful he tried to be. Shawn had stuffed a wad of Lassiter's suit jacket into his mouth and bitten down in an effort to keep his cries to a minimum. But with Shawn's head buried in his shoulder and his face so close to his ear, Lassiter couldn't help but hear the whimpers of pain.
He would rather be subjected to Spencer singing the theme to "The Six Million Dollar Man" again.
After what seemed like an eternity, which in reality was probably closer to fifteen minutes, the ground had thankfully started to level out again, and Lassiter was able to stand upright and walk relatively normally. He'd used the belt clip on the flashlight to attach it to the collar of his jacket and turned it down to the dimmest setting of three lumens in order to preserve the battery. It provided them just enough light to make their way through the dark without stumbling over the rocks and debris scattered within their path. Lassiter could see they were finally getting into an area that had trees again, so his hopes of finding material for a splint were starting to rise. He paused for a moment to catch his breath. Lassiter realized that Shawn had slipped down as his grip started to loosen, so he hitched Shawn up onto his back a little higher in order to get his thighs up over his hips again, making it easier to support his weight.
"Mmmff!" Shawn let loose a muffled yelp of pain as the motion jostled his leg.
Lassiter winced in sympathy. "Sorry." He spit out another mouthful of rainwater, helped Shawn readjust his grip, and started walking again.
They had been walking another ten minutes when Lassiter paused and turned, scanning the ground yet again for any materials to use for a splint. They were coming up on a forested area that appeared to be only partially burned. And, unfortunately, it appeared the ground was about to drop off sharply again just beyond where the trees started. Lassiter continued searching the area as he walked towards the tree line. Shawn's head suddenly perked up.
"I know you're hurting, Spencer, but we have to keep going."
"No, stop, I see something! Off to the left, turn your flashlight up!"
Lassiter grabbed the flashlight off his collar, turned it up to full power, and followed Shawn's directions. "I don't see anything Spencer, maybe your eyes are just—" That's when he saw it, about forty feet to his left. The object was tremendously difficult to see in the dark as it was painted black—how Shawn noticed it, he'd never know— but it was probably one of the most beautiful things he'd ever seen in his life. And he'd almost walked right past it in the dark.
It was the hand pump for a water well. And that meant there was probably a house or some sort of structure next to it.
Lassiter began searching the wooded area frantically, sweeping his light over the trees. He looked up and saw one strange looking tree in particular that seemed to be almost perfectly straight and had no branches. No, it wasn't a tree...it was a telephone pole. And there was a wire leading down from it at a sharp angle towards a group of trees to his left. He hurried over to the area where the wire disappeared into the foliage, worked his way through a thick clump of bushes, and found the wire's destination. A small wooden cabin.
"Oh, yes!" Lassiter shouted. It was a damn good thing they'd found it now, because Lassiter was pretty sure he wouldn't be able to carry Shawn down that drop-off anyway. He picked up his pace and moved as fast as he could towards their newfound shelter, eagerly anticipating being warm and dry again.
As he drew closer he noticed there were no lights on inside. The cabin looked to be old but in pretty good shape and of sound structure, the roof appearing solid and in good repair. Lassiter walked up to the small covered porch, turned around, and carefully set Shawn down on the short set of steps leading up to the well-constructed platform. Shawn leaned back against the boards as Lassiter bounded onto the porch.
"Hello! Is anybody home? We need help!" Lassiter pounded on the door, hoping to wake up whoever might be inside.
"Hey! Try not to scare them to death, Lassie!" Shawn admonished him as he clutched his leg in pain.
"Santa Barbara Police Department! I'm a police officer and we need assistance! Open the door!" he ordered in his official Head Detective voice as he pounded on the door again.
"Oh yeah, that's much better. Very subtle. Nice going, man!" Shawn wrapped his arms around himself in an attempt to control his shivering.
Hearing no sounds of movement inside, Lassiter used his flashlight to peer into the crack of the door. He could see what appeared to be two dead bolts, but only the one with the keyhole on the outside of the door was locked. That meant someone had locked the door from the outside as they'd left, and there was probably nobody home. He tried the doorknob but the door, of course, wouldn't budge.
Shawn laughed. "We're out here freezing to death in this pouring rain from hell, I've got a broken leg, we happen to find what's probably the only cabin within a one hundred mile radius, and the damn door is locked?!? How's that for irony?" He laughed and pulled his arms closer around himself. "Not like there's a ton of burglars around here or anything!"
"Shut it, Spencer." Lassiter drew his gun, took step back, and kicked in the door. It took him only a few seconds to clear the small one room structure and confirm there was no one inside.
Lassiter came out to the porch as he snapped the thumb break closed on his holstered gun. "No one's home," he said flatly as he crouched on the stairs beside Shawn.
Shawn looked up at him and broke into a grin. "C-c-captain Obvious-s-s..." he laughed through his chattering teeth.
Lassiter wrapped his right arm behind Shawn's shoulders, slipped his left arm underneath his knees, and carefully lifted him off of the stairs. Shawn's face contorted in pain and he hitched in a breath as his broken leg shifted yet again. "C-c-c-carrying me over t-the thr-r-reshold? R-r-r-r-eally, Lassie? W-w-where's my r-r-r-ring?" he joked as Lassiter carried him through the doorway and set him down on the bare wooden floor. Shawn fell back against floorboards as Lassiter used his flashlight to look around inside the dark room. After about a minute of rummaging around interspersed with the clattering noises produced by Lassiter's search, Shawn heard the distinctive sound of a match strike as dim light flared briefly inside the room. After a few seconds the room brightened with a warm glow as Lassiter walked over holding an old oil lantern by its wire handle. He set the lantern on the floor next to Shawn then walked over and shoved the front door shut, forcing it back into place.
Lassiter turned to look down at Shawn as he took stock of their situation. They were both muddy and dripping wet, and Shawn was now shivering violently. Now that he had a better light source, Lassiter could see several cuts, scrapes, and small holes in his clothing that had obviously been obtained during his fall. The knuckles on both hands were badly scraped and bleeding from using them to shield his head as he tumbled down the hill. He had to immediately provide first aid for Shawn and get him warm and dry as soon as possible. They were out of the elements now and the wind was no longer a factor, so he decided that stabilizing the broken leg was most imperative. If the broken bone tore a major blood vessel inside the leg, it would kill Shawn. It had already gone too long and been moved around enough without being immobilized. He looked around the room for anything he could use. It was only about thirty feet square, so there wasn't much to see.
There was a simple yet sturdy wood frame twin bed with a thick down mattress and plain wooden headboard in the back right corner of the room. A wooden chest sat at the foot of the bed, and Lassiter could see a couple of long storage boxes underneath the bed's low frame. He continued scanning their surroundings and saw a neatly stacked pile of wood cut to small size to the right of the door against the front wall. A couple of yellow rain coats hung on wall pegs just above the stack of wood. An old, black, well-used wood burning stove was in the middle of the back wall to the left of the bed, and there was a sturdy writing desk with the lid closed and a small wooden chair and folding table in front of it against the left wall. Various crates, tools, and equipment were stacked in the back left corner of the room next to a large set of cabinets. Lassiter was considering breaking apart the wooden chair when he saw a pair of wooden crutches poking up from behind the rest of the equipment pile.
He quickly strode over to the corner, pulled out the crutches, and brought them over to Shawn where he knelt down and began to disassemble them. He unscrewed the bolts holding the adjustable center poles in place and pulled them free of the frames. He walked over and opened the chest at the foot of the bed. Finding spare blankets and bedding inside, he pulled out a folded flannel sheet and set it on the ground next to the disassembled crutches. He looked around again and noticed an old horse bridle hanging on a nail in the wall above the desk. He inspected it and found the headstall was almost torn in half, but the chin strap and other leather parts were still in good shape. He removed the chin strap and another long piece of leather with a buckle on one end, then dropped to his knees beside Shawn.
"Take off your belt, Spencer," he ordered. He unclipped his badge and began to remove his own black leather dress belt.
"Damn, Lassie. N-not much f-f-for foreplay, huh?" he quipped. "Not until I get t-t-that ring, man!" His teeth were still chattering, but not quite as badly anymore now that they were out of the wind.
Lassiter had his belt off already and was punching extra holes in the leather with his knife. He went to retrieve Shawn's belt, and found it was still around his waist. Shawn's trembling hands were so numb he couldn't work the buckle. Lassiter leaned over him, unlatched the buckle, pulled it off of his waist, and punched extra holes in it as well. Then he moved next to Shawn's right leg, removed his shoe and sock, and picked up the knife.
Shawn watched nervously as Lassiter sliced up the leg of his jeans and cut off the fabric near the top of the thigh. The soaking wet cloth landed with a *plop*on the floor as he tossed it aside and picked up the belts. He carefully maneuvered them underneath Shawn's leg, positioning one just above the knee and the other down near the ankle, and placed the thinner bridle straps in the middle just above and below the break in the bone. Then he carefully lifted Shawn's leg just enough to slide the wide top portion of the disassembled crutch underneath his calf, laid the folded flannel sheet on top of the frame as padding, and set his leg down again. He wrapped the fabric around the sides of the leg, placed a pole on either side, and cinched the belts and straps just tight enough to hold everything in place.
'Well, that wasn't so bad,' Shawn thought. 'It always looks like it hurts when they do it in the movies.'
Lassiter kneeled on the floor between Shawn's feet and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly as he looked down at the floor. Then he set his jaw and fixed Shawn with a determined gaze. "You ready for this?"
Shawn frowned in confusion. "Ready for what? I thought you were done."
"I haven't even started yet," he replied.
Uh oh. Shawn did not like the sound of that. He didn't like it at all. "What are you gonna do, Lassie?" he asked in a warbling voice. Suddenly he wasn't so sure he wanted to hear the answer.
"This fracture is displaced. I have to set the bone."
Shawn laughed nervously. "Hey, don't joke about that, man. It's not funny."
"You know I wouldn't do this if I didn't have to." Lassiter continued looking at Shawn, his gaze holding steady. "This is going to hurt."
Shawn felt his stomach drop and he swallowed hard. "You're kidding, right? You have to be kidding..."
Lassiter placed one hand on his ankle and flattened his other palm out over the break in the bone.
"Oh, shit! You're not kidding! Lassie, wait!"
Lassiter paused and looked up at Shawn.
"Lassie, come on, man. Can't it just wait until we get to a hospital? Where they have these cool things called painkillers and sedatives? And doctors?"
"We don't know how long we're going to be here, Spencer. It's supposed to rain like this the rest of the week so it could be several days before we're rescued." He sighed, and for a moment Shawn saw a hint of sympathy flash across the Detective's face. "There's no choice. I have to do this now. Bite down on something if you have to."
Shawn watched in horror as Lassiter looked down at his leg and tightened his grip around his ankle. "Oh, no, no, no! Wait, Lassie, no no nonono..." Shawn was desperately trying to stop Lassiter before he could accomplish his goal. Screw what was good for him, this is going to hurt! Not knowing what else to do, Shawn sat up and frantically made a 'T' with his hands as he cried, "TIME OUT!"
Lassiter stopped and raised his head again. His expression was hard, as if it was set in stone.
Shawn knew this wasn't going to end well. But he still tried to prolong the inevitable.
"Come on, Lassie, can't we talk about this? Really, let's wait just a few hours, maybe the rain will let up?" Shawn pleaded. He was trying really hard not to cry. Or panic. Neither one would be very helpful right now. "I mean, we can just wait until morning, and see how the weather looks, and—"
"I'm sorry, Spencer."
"Lassie. Please just waaaAAAAAHHHHH!"
Lassiter pulled hard on Shawn's ankle to spread the broken ends of the bone apart, then released the tension and pressed down with his palm to realign the edges of the break. Shawn's fingers clawed at the floor as he felt the bones in his leg shift. He couldn't breathe, the air in his lungs having left in a rush as he screamed in agony. He finally sucked in a huge gasping breath as tears squeezed out of his eyes. 'It's over! It's over, it's okay, you did it,' he thought to himself.
That's when Lassiter tightened the first belt.
"GGAAAAAHHHHH!" His leg exploded in agony again as Lassiter clamped his hand over the bones to hold them in place while cinching the belt tight. Shawn's back arched off the floor and he writhed in excruciating pain. A weight settled onto his left thigh and something was pushing down on his chest. He forced his eyes open, and through tear-streaked vision he saw Lassiter sitting on top of him. He'd shifted around so his left leg was on top of Shawn's left thigh and his right knee was in his chest, pinning him to the floor.
"Damn it, Spencer, you have to hold still! I don't want to do this again!"
Then Shawn realized there were three more belts to go.
"Oh, God! NooooaaaAAAAAHHHHHH!" Lassiter pulled the second belt tight, and Shawn's heart was pounding so hard, he thought he was going to die. He sucked in another breath, panting hard, trying to wish the pain away. "Oh God Lassie stop please just stop..." Shawn begged breathlessly as Lassiter made quick work of tightening the two middle straps.
Shawn's leg erupted in pain as Lassiter's fingers pressed into the swollen flesh around the break, probing along the bone to make sure it was properly aligned. Shawn's vision started to turn white around the edges and his ears began to ring.
"Oh God yes, please pass out, just let me pass out so I can't feel this any more, just...please...pass...ple..."
Chief Karen Vick strode up the steps of her police station and through the front doors with purpose. "All right, people! I want the most up to date information on the situation, and I want it now. McNab!"
"Yes, Chief?" Buzz materialized at her side with a clipboard in hand.
"What's the situation, Officer?"
"Detective Lassiter didn't show up for our appointment at the shooting range tonight. I got a little worried, so I had Sergeant Bona track the GPS on his car, and we found that it went off the road at this location up in the mountains to the East." Buzz walked over to a large flat screen monitor that had been set up in the conference room 'command center' and pointed to the dot representing Lassiter's car. "It started out up here, then gradually moved down to here, where it appears to have stopped for now." The icon showed the car's location to be about sixty feet off the road. "We can't reach him by cell phone and his car's radio is too far out of range for our dispatch. But I asked the Sheriff's Department in that area to have their dispatch scan for our frequency because they use the same communications equipment we do. They did manage to pick up a signal." Buzz paused, then said, "The emergency button for his car radio has been activated."
"Damn it..." Vick looked around at the officers crowding the room. "Can anyone tell me what the hell Detective Lassiter was doing up there? Was he working on a case?"
Buzz shrugged his shoulders. "No one knows, Chief. He didn't have a case that we know of, and it's not like he talks to people about personal stuff. Well, no one besides Detective O'Hara."
"She's still on vacation, isn't she?"
"No ma'am, she's on her way in right now."
Chief Vick sighed. "All right, I want to know if we actually have eyes on his car. What resources do we have on the ground in that area?"
She turned and leveled a stern glare at the much larger officer towering above her, causing him to shrink back. "And why not, McNab?"
Buzz swallowed nervously. "Because that area has been evacuated of all emergency personnel due to landslides. The wildfires over the summer were pretty bad in that region, and a lot of the vegetation stabilizing the ground was burned away. Those conditions combined with the heavy rain have produced a lot of landslides. Several portions of the road leading into that location have been washed away, Chief." He shrugged helplessly. "We can't get up there right now."
"What about aircraft?"
Buzz shook his head. "Flying in the mountains at night is dangerous enough as it is, and it's raining really hard up there right now. No way we can get a helicopter or plane in the area tonight. And based on the forecast, tomorrow is doubtful too."
Chief Vick put her hands on her hips and set her lips in a firm line. This is not what she wanted to hear. "Give me some good news, Officer McNab. What do we have working for us?"
"Well, I took the liberty of calling the Department of Fish and Game, I thought maybe they could help. There are a couple of Game Wardens living in Santa Barbara that work the area and know it pretty well, they're on their way over here right now."
Vick nodded in approval. "Good thinking, Officer McNab. Way to use available resources." She was about to turn away, but paused and addressed him again. "Speaking of available resources, give Shawn Spencer a call. I want everyone we have working around the clock until Detective Lassiter is found."
The last thing he'd been aware of was searing, white hot pain coursing through his leg. But now, as Shawn came to, he realized the pain had faded to a mild, dull, tolerable ache. He was warm and dry, and it felt like he was lying on something soft. 'Maybe I'm in the hospital?' he wondered. He opened his eyes and found himself staring up at the wooden rafters supporting the roof of the small cabin. 'Nope, no such luck.' He realized with some amusement it was the first time he'd ever wanted to be in the hospital.
He was lying flat on his back in the bed, covered up to his chin by a thick, warm quilt with both of his feet propped up. He tried to sit up but pain immediately shot through his ribs on his right side. He groaned and squeezed his eyes shut, falling back weakly against the soft mattress as his entire body protested the simple motion. He was sore everywhere. He heard the faint squeak of rusty hinges and the soft *clink* of a small metal door swinging shut. The floorboards creaked as heavy footsteps made their way towards him and stopped directly to his right.
Shawn opened his eyes and saw Lassiter standing next to the bed. He had taken off his jacket, shoulder holster, and tie, rolled up his sleeves to his elbows, and was holding a plastic water bottle in his right hand. Judging by the pleasant warmth coming from his right that was beginning to fill the chilly cabin, Lassiter had managed to fire up the wood burning stove.
"Hey, Lassie," he greeted him weakly. He noticed that Lassiter's mud stained clothes were no longer dripping water, but were still wet enough to cling to his body, leading Shawn to guess that he'd been unconscious for about an hour, maybe less.
He kneeled down next to the bed with a look of mild concern softening his usually harsh features. "How's the leg?"
Shawn cleared his throat. "Not too bad."
Lassiter nodded. "I found two chemical cold packs in the cabin's medical supplies. I've got one on your leg now." He produced a small white pill bottle from atop a wooden crate he'd evidently pulled over next to the bed to serve as a table. "Also found some Advil, it should help some." He opened the bottle and shook three pills into his hand, then set the bottle down again and picked up the water. "Sorry, Spencer. It's all I've got. It's better than nothing."
He cracked the seal on the water bottle, dropped the pills into Shawn's mouth, then slid his hand behind his neck and raised his head. "Drink at least half the bottle, Spencer," he said as he brought it to his mouth. "We will not add dehydration to your list of problems." Shawn was pretty thirsty anyway, so he wound up drinking more than half before indicating he'd had enough.
Lassiter set the mostly empty water bottle on the crate next to the bed and stood up. As he walked back over to the corner by the stove, Shawn took the opportunity to become more familiar with his surroundings. His clothes, including several strips of cloth cut from his now completely demolished jeans, were hanging from a clothesline strung across the corner of the room in front of him. They weren't nearly as muddy as they had been last time he'd seen them so apparently they had been rinsed off before being hung up to dry. The small folding table had been set up next to the desk and Shawn could see the parts of Lassiter's disassembled Glock arranged neatly on top. His sneakers were set out by the floor underneath the stove to dry in the warm air and...Shawn's eyes snapped back to the clothesline in front of him. He stared wide-eyed in horror at one item in particular. 'Oh no...'
There, dangling in front of him, was his underwear.
Shawn ran his hand down to his hips and felt nothing but bare skin. "Ohhh!" he groaned and squeezed his eyes shut, sinking down into the bed and wanting to just disappear.
Lassiter immediately reappeared by the bed holding another fresh bottle of water. "What is it? What's wrong?" he asked, mistaking Shawn's pained expression as being caused by physical discomfort.
Shawn opened his eyes, looking up at Lassiter like he'd just eaten something foul. "Dude...Lassie...you totally saw my junk! Not cool!"
Lassiter rolled his eyes and set the water on the crate as he shook his head.
"Hell, I've got a broken leg. Maybe you should put your gun back together and put me out of my misery now," he lamented.
Lassiter planted his hands on his hips, his posture clearly indicating he was quickly becoming annoyed. "Your clothes were wet, Spencer."
"So? You'd rather I let you die of pneumonia?"
Shawn scoffed. "Pneumonia. Embarrassment. The result is the same." Shawn frowned. "Dude, you don't take a guy's underwear. Major violation of man code. At least be honorable and leave the tighty-whities, man."
"White?" Lassiter raised his eyebrows and glanced back over his shoulder at the colorful garment in question. "Isn't that a pair of 'Superman' children's underwear?"
"They are adult Underoos, Lassie! And I'll have you know, they are quite fashionable."
"Quit bitching about your kiddie briefs and man-up, Spencer." Lassiter narrowed his eyes and stared down at Shawn. "It's a survival situation. Deal with it." Shawn pouted while Lassiter took a few deep breaths and paced beside the bed. After a few moments he decided to change the subject. "We need to know for sure exactly how badly you're injured. Since you're awake, you can tell me if anything else hurts. Now...do you have any other injuries?"
"Just my pride."
"Will you stop?" Lassiter ran his hand through his short hair in frustration. "Damn it, Spencer! If you're hurt anywhere else, I need to know about it now. We sure as hell don't need any surprises out here. So quit screwing around and tell me if you're having any pain." He fixed Shawn with an annoyed glare. "If you say nothing, I'll just assume the answer is no." He stood there looking down at Shawn for several moments waiting for an answer. Hearing only silence, he turned on his heels and began walking back towards the stove.
"My ribs," Shawn began hesitantly. "On my right side." His declaration caused Lassiter to stop and turn around again. "And, um...maybe my right shoulder, too."
Lassiter crouched down beside the bed again. "How bad is it?" he asked. Suddenly he didn't seem angry anymore.
"It hurts pretty bad when I breathe too deep," he admitted reluctantly. "My shoulder isn't too bad, it's just a little sore, that's all."
Lassiter pulled the quilt down to Shawn's waist and leaned in to take a closer look. He placed his large hands on Shawn's right shoulder and lightly pressed on an area that he thought might be a little swollen. "Does that hurt?" Shawn shook his head, so he continued. "Relax your arm." He slowly raised Shawn's right arm, then moved it to the side, carefully manipulating the shoulder joint while looking for any signs of damage.
While Lassiter worked on his shoulder, Shawn took the opportunity to check himself over. Now that the quilt had been removed, he could finally see the extent of his injuries. His right side had a huge bruise on his ribcage that was already a nice mix of purple and blue. He saw various other minor wounds along his arms, chest, and stomach, as well as some small bruises that would certainly darken over the next few days. All of his cuts and scrapes had been thoroughly cleaned and either covered with bandages or treated with what he assumed was antibiotic ointment. Both of his hands were bandaged with gauze wrapped over the knuckles.
"Any pain when you move?" Lassiter asked as he slowly rotated Shawn's arm.
"Not really. I mean, it's a little sore, but not much."
"If it gets any worse, let me know and I'll put it in a sling." Lassiter raised Shawn's arm and moved down to his ribs, gently running his fingers along his side. Shawn winced when he pressed on the extremely tender area as he felt for breaks in the bone. "Sorry," he apologized when Shawn flinched.
After a few moments of intense scrutiny he came to a conclusion. "Ribs are definitely bruised. Probably cracked, but nothing is displaced. Try not to move around too much." He lowered Shawn's arm and placed it back along his side. "Any other pain, Spencer?" he asked as he stood up.
"Everything is sore, Lassie. I kinda fell down a mountain, remember?"
Lassiter sighed and leaned over the bed. "Fine. I'll check everything, then. We need to make sure you don't have any other breaks or joint damage."
As Lassiter continued his examination, Shawn couldn't help but notice how cold the Detective's hands were. The cabin was only beginning to warm up, and he was still wearing his wet clothes. He wasn't shivering but he still had to be extremely uncomfortable. Finding no injuries in his left arm, Lassiter pulled the quilt back up over Shawn's shoulders, walked around to the foot of the bed, and pulled his left leg out from under the covers.
"That gash is pretty bad, Spencer," he explained when he noticed Shawn staring at the heavy bandages wrapped around his leg. "A piece of metal from the console broke off inside the wound and was lodged in there pretty deep. I dug it out and cleaned it as best as I could. Just be glad you weren't awake for that." He raised Shawn's leg and continued his inspection.
"What?" he replied without looking up as he squeezed Shawn's ankle.
"I never thought I'd say this outside of a nightmare, but you need to take off your clothes."
No answer. He pressed on Shawn's knee.
"Lassie, I'm serious, man. Your clothes are wet and you need to take them off. Actually, you should have done that already."
"I've been busy, Spencer," he stated firmly as he flexed Shawn's leg at the hip.
"You'll get that 'new mona' you warned me about if you don't."
"It's 'pneumonia', and I'm fine," he insisted as he placed Shawn's leg back under the covers and started walking away from the bed.
"Hey, Lassie. In case you haven't noticed, I'm pretty banged up here. I can't do...well, much of anything, really. I mean, I can barely reach over there and grab that bottle of water."
Lassiter stopped with his back to Shawn, his hands planted firmly on his hips.
"I'm kinda depending on you to get me out of here. I can't afford for you to get sick right now. I need you to be one hundred percent. So strip it, Lassman."
After a brief pause, Lassiter turned his attention back towards Shawn, regarding him with a heated glare through narrow eyes.
"It's a survival situation, Detective. Deal with it."
Deciding he couldn't argue with his own logic, Lassiter walked briskly over to the chest at the foot of the bed, flipped open the lid, and pulled out a plain wool blanket. He was pretty damn cold, and actually looked forward to ditching his soaked clothing. But he sure as hell wasn't going to tell that to Spencer. He walked over to the desk, placed the blanket on the seat of the chair, and kicked off his shoes and socks. He paused as he started to unbutton his pants and cast a glare back over his shoulder.
Shawn sighed and pulled the quilt up over his head. "I promise not to look, Lassie. Your petite flower's honor is perfectly safe," he said, his voice muffled under the covers. "Like I want to remember that image for the rest of my life," he muttered to himself.
Okay, so that's chapter 2! Hope you enjoyed it! The whump continues in chapter 3 as their situation only gets worse. Fun for all! And, as always, Lassie shines! Because Shawn's life literally depends on it.
Thank you to all those who have taken the time to read, and especially those kind souls who have left reviews. You are wonderful! I hope you continue to read! Chapter 3, coming soon to a computer near you!
Like Father, Like Son - The Ghosts Of Old Sonora by Texasartchick
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. I do not own any of the characters of Psych and am not affiliated with the show or USA Network. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. I do not own nor am I associated with Superman, Batman, the Spirograph, Etch-a-sketch, or the Muppets.
Sam the Eagle: http://www.palefirer.com/images/sam_eagle.jpg
In case you're wondering what one looks like, this is a portable "key and sounder" set:
SPOILERS: For Psych season 4 episode "High Noonish".
*AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story takes place after my three previous Psych Fan Fiction stories "Choose It Or Lose It", "It Can Happen", and "This Stalker Thing Kind Of Sucks". Events affecting the Lassiter/Shawn dynamics that take place in both of these previous stories are mentioned in this one. You might want to read them first. Doing so is not a requirement to understand what is going on in this one, but it will help alleviate any confusion that might occur when the references pop up.*
ENJOY! Please be kind enough to review. All feedback, good or bad, is welcome.
"Buzz! Give me an update!" All heads turned as Detective Juliet O'Hara came bounding up the stairs leading from the front door of the station and jogged into the conference room. Having tied her hair back into a simple ponytail and donned an SBPD sweatshirt, jeans, and hiking boots, it was obvious she'd dropped everything and left at a moment's notice.
Chief Vick turned to look over her shoulder. "Officer McNab, bring O'Hara up to speed." She resumed leaning over the conference room table, carefully studying a large map alongside two officers that O'Hara recognized as Game Wardens from their green and tan uniforms.
"Yes, ma'am." Buzz turned and motioned for Juliet to join him in front of the GPS display as she entered the room at a brisk walk.
"Where is he, Buzz? Did you find him?" she asked hopefully.
The younger officer couldn't help but notice the undercurrent of worry in her voice. "Not yet, but we do have a fix on his car." He pointed to the dot on the display showing the vehicle's location. "It appears to have gone off the road. It's here, on the mountainside, about sixty feet off the highway."
Juliet's face blanched and her mouth hung open as she stared at the dot on the screen.
Buzz saw her reaction and tried his best to reassure her. "We do know that he activated the emergency button on his car's radio, so that means he was still able to function after...well, whatever it was happened. So, just concentrate on that," he added, giving her a sympathetic smile. Buzz didn't say it outright, but Juliet knew what he really meant with the words 'still able to function.'
'He was still alive.'
Juliet swallowed hard. "Thanks, Buzz," she said, even as she tried desperately to bury the mental image of her badly injured partner, alone and in the dark, trapped inside the twisted remains of his wrecked car. "No contact with him yet I assume?" She forced back the worried friend threatening to consume her thoughts and pulled forth her professional persona. That's what her partner needed most right now and that's what he was going to get. She could always revert back to the other role after he was safe and sound. "Do we have anyone on the ground up there yet?"
Buzz shook his head. "No, not yet. But we're working on it," he added in an apologetic tone.
With a heavy sigh, Juliet turned her attention to the Chief and the two visiting Game Wardens. Officer Bailey, the taller and younger of the two, was a rather large man, almost equal to McNab in height, build, and age. Officer Miller was about average height and much older, probably in his early fifties, with a heavier, stocky frame and a good amount of gray peppered throughout his dark brown hair and mustache. He bore the look of a seasoned veteran and experienced outdoorsman. Several large maps had been rolled out onto the conference room table, and Miller was busy marking areas with a pencil while Chief Vick watched in earnest.
"Just got another report of the road being washed out here as well," he said as he drew two parallel marks over the blue line representing the road. Looking over his shoulder, Juliet could see the new area being marked was farther down the mountain than the other damaged areas of road. "Landslides here are pretty bad. There's no way we can risk a land rescue right now, maybe not for the foreseeable future. Even if they were still intact, the roads are unstable and Its just too dangerous. There's no way a vehicle can get to him." He shook his head in sympathy. "Not looking too good right now. I'm sorry, Chief Vick. I wish I had better news for you."
The Chief nodded. "What about aircraft?" she inquired. "Can't we get a helicopter, or at least a search plane in the air at sunrise?"
Both Miller and Bailey shook their heads. "Don't know. Air rescue is looking like your best bet right now, but it'll have to wait until the weather clears. If that weather report is accurate, it's going to be at least a couple of days before it's safe enough to fly into that kind of terrain. Maybe more."
As Juliet looked at the map she felt a slight twinge of fear beginning to make its presence known in her gut. The red 'x' marking the location of Lassiter's car was at least twelve miles away from the very first damaged section of road. Twelve miles of harsh, rough, unstable mountain terrain. She must not have been hiding her emotions nearly as well as she thought, because Officer Miller was studying her carefully with compassion behind his wise eyes.
"You're his partner, aren't you?" he asked as he glanced at the dot on the map.
Juliet bit her lip and nodded solemnly.
Miller patted her softly on the shoulder. "We'll find him and bring him home, ma'am. I promise."
Juliet noticed he didn't promise to bring her partner home alive. One of the first lessons every officer learned in the Academy: 'Never make a promise unless you are one hundred percent sure you can keep it.'
"Um, Chief Vick?" Buzz spoke up.
"What is it, Officer McNab?"
"I know we're assuming that this," he pointed to the dot on the screen, "is Detective Lassiter's current location. But what if he's not in the car? I mean, his vehicle has slowly moved over sixty feet from the roadway over the course of the last hour. I would think if he's able, he'd get out of the car. It's too dangerous to stay with it." He paused, then added hopefully, "Maybe he's trying to find help? For all we know, he might be walking down the road, or climbing back down the mountain right now trying to get back to town."
Vick nodded. "All right, let's firmly establish a safety zone and stage emergency personnel in the immediate area. I want them surrounding that accident scene and on that road absolutely as close to the car's location as possible without jeopardizing their safety." She nodded at an officer who scurried out of the room. "And McNab, I want Mr. Spencer here now. Maybe he can..." she waved her hand next to her head, "divine Detective Lassiter's exact location. If he can tell us whether or not he's still with the car, and possibly what condition he's in, that would be extremely useful information to have." She pointed at the large officer. "Find him and bring him here." She jabbed her finger at a spot on the floor next to her feet.
"You mean, he's not here already?" Juliet asked.
Buzz shook his head. "No, we haven't been able to reach him yet. He's not at home and he hasn't answered his phone."
Juliet's brow furrowed in confusion. "Well, he's bound to be around here somewhere. His bike is parked outside the station."
Lassiter sat in the chair in front of the stove, warming his hands and feet while he heated up a small pot of beef stew. He'd wrapped himself in the wool blanket and tied it to his body using the leather reins from the bridle, leaving both his hands free from the burden of securing the cloth.
"You know, Lassie, that 'mountain man' toga of yours looks kind of ridiculous, but it is practical. Extra points for originality," Shawn said with a smirk. He was sitting up in bed, propped against the headboard with a pillow behind his back and a blanket around his shoulders to keep him warm. "You're totally working that look, by the way. Found object fashion. Who knew that street bums had it right all along? When we get back to civilization, I'm sure it'll be all the rage."
"Really," Lassiter replied flatly as he briskly rubbed his hands together. "As fashionable as 'Batman' underwear?"
"It's 'Superman' underwear," Shawn corrected. "And I'll have you know, it is awesome."
Seeing the stew was properly heated, Lassiter stood up and poured a generous amount into one of the tin cups he'd found with some cookware and utensils stored underneath the stove. He dropped a spoon into the cup and brought it over to Shawn. "It's hot," he cautioned as he handed him the container. "Don't burn your mouth."
'Because Heaven forbid you'd burn it bad enough to keep you from talking and give me some damn peace and quiet,' Lassiter thought to himself.
Shawn accepted the offering, taking hold of the handle with his left hand. His bruised ribs made it too painful to move his right arm much, so he cradled the cup against his chest with his right hand while operating the spoon with his left. He was a bit awkward, but he managed to deposit the first spoonful of stew into his mouth without any mishaps.
As soon as Shawn began eating, Lassiter returned to his task of searching the cabin. The Detective had just finished conducting an inventory of almost everything within their temporary home before taking a break to warm himself again. It was still pouring rain outside, and he knew full well they would probably be stuck there for at least the next several days, if not longer. Lassiter wanted to know every resource they had available to them in case their situation took a turn for the worse.
The small cabin was sparsely furnished but surprisingly well-stocked with provisions. The cabinet in the corner by the stove had turned out to be a pantry full of various canned foods, spices, flour, and salt. Lassiter estimated they had over two weeks' worth of food for the both of them, more if he rationed the supplies. Several cases of bottled water were stored underneath the pantry as well as the rather well-supplied emergency medical kit. There were some buckets for carrying well water in the corner full of crates and equipment in case they needed it. They also had an abundance of wood for the stove, so they had a reliable source of heat for the foreseeable future.
The only part of the dwelling Lassiter had yet to fully investigate was the sturdy writing desk against the left wall. The center drawer under the desktop was open, but the main top panel and side drawers were locked. The writing desk was old and well constructed, so bypassing the locks posed a bit of a challenge. And Lassiter was extremely interested in gaining full access to it because of something he'd noticed while conducting his search. He didn't see it at first because of an old framed wall poster from the Department of Fish and Game detailing 'new' catch and release sizes for fish from 1983 mounted above the desk. But on the second pass his sharp eye caught the extremely important detail. The wires from the telephone pole outside were routed through the wall near the ceiling, tracked down behind the large picture frame, and fed into the back of the desktop through a hole drilled into the wood. That meant it was highly likely there was either a telephone or some other form of communications equipment locked inside. One way or another, the Detective was damn well getting into that desk.
Lassiter grabbed his knife and small flashlight off of the table containing the parts of his disassembled Glock, and kneeled down in front of the desk. He wedged the knife blade between the panel and the frame then used the light to examine the lock in an attempt to figure out the best way to bypass it. It was an old but simple lock with a metal bolt that extended up into a reinforced hole in the desk frame. Unfortunately Lassiter had no idea how to pick it. The rest of the locks on the desk were the same. After unsuccessfully searching for a key he'd hoped might be stashed in the immediate area, he decided he'd have to pry it open. He shoved the blade into the crack by the lock again, wedged it to force the panel down, and pulled hard. The panel shifted enough that the bolt slipped free of the hole and the top popped open with a loud 'thud.' He flipped the writing panel down, wedged open a second drawer, and immediately repeated the action until every locked compartment was open.
"You know, I don't think whoever lives here will appreciate that very much, Lassie," Shawn volunteered around a mouthful of stew. "They're probably gonna be pissed you broke their desk."
"They can bill me," he replied as he pulled the chair over, sat down, and began searching inside. "Besides, I didn't break it. The locks still work." He pulled out some booklets and several pieces of printed paper and began examining them.
"Well I guess it's not 'breaking and entering' if you didn't break anything when you entered," Shawn added helpfully. "Guess you're safe from the cabin peeps pressing charges, then."
"I don't think anyone actually lives here, Spencer," he said as he leafed through the papers in his hands. "At least it's not a home. Looks like it's some sort of research station for the Department of Fish and Game. Guess that's why it's so well-stocked." He rummaged through a large drawer on the bottom left and pulled out a pamphlet with an old black and white photograph printed on its cover. The picture showed several people in older style suits standing in front of what appeared to be the cabin when it was brand new. The caption read "WPA dedication ceremony for DF&G facilities, 1937."
Lassiter smirked, clearly impressed. "Damn. This cabin was built by the WPA, it's older than both of us put together." He looked around with newfound appreciation for the solid construction. "Surprised it lasted this long. Guess they don't build them like this anymore."
"Ewww! Lassie! Don't ever say that again! 'Both of us put together' sounds like some horrible medical experiment gone awry! It's like Re-animator!" Shawn looked distastefully at his stew. "Great. Now you put me off my food. Nice going, Lassy-face."
Lassiter ignored him. Something much more interesting inside the top portion of desk had caught his attention. He'd found the hole where the wire entered the desk, and saw it was spliced, running in two directions. The first part terminated in the unused plug for a telephone, which unfortunately was missing. The second part of the wire led to a locked wooden box, slightly smaller in size than a small shoe box. Judging by the amount of dust under the unused plug, there hadn't been a phone there for quite some time. But what Lassiter found particularly interesting was the fact that there was almost no dust on or around that mysterious box. He immediately began rifling through the desk drawers, hoping to find the key. He didn't want to try forcing the lock this time for fear of damaging what he hoped might be radio or communications equipment inside.
"Hey Lassie, aren't you going to eat something?" Shawn asked. "You have to be hungry by now. Come on, man. Soup's on."
"I'm busy, Spencer," he replied impatiently. "Food can wait." Lassiter finally found the small skeleton key in a cubby hole in the back of the desk, and eagerly unlocked the box with a small *click*. He carefully raised the lid, and what he saw made his eyes grow wide in complete surprise. "Oh, you have got to be kidding me..."
It was an old telegraph. And it appeared to be in good shape, too. The label inside the box lid identified it as a Bunnell portable model, circa 1937, complete with sending key and sounder. As he looked closer at the device, Lassiter could see the shine of new copper wires where old parts had been replaced. Feeling his hopes rise, he opened the center desk drawer and pulled out the pencil and pad of lined yellow paper he'd seen just minutes ago. He worked the side of the pencil lead over his finger tip then lightly rubbed the dark graphite across the surface of the paper, exposing the last words that had been written. He saw a series of capital letters with slash marks drawn between them at certain intervals to designate words. It was something one would do when translating Morse code.
It meant that telegraph was still in use.
"Well I'll be damned..." Lassiter dropped the pad and turned around in his chair with a small laugh, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "I think I may have found our way out of here, Spencer."
"What is that thing, Lassie? A radio or something?"
"It's an 'or something', all right. It's a telegraph."
Shawn frowned in confusion. "You mean one of those things where you draw cool shapes using the little disks with teeth on them? How the hell is that going to get us out of here?"
Lassiter rolled his eyes, his elation momentarily dampened. "That's a Spirograph, and it's a toy. This isn't—"
"I think you mean that red thing with the knobs that makes little black lines."
"No, that's an Etch-a-sketch, Spencer." He was trying his best to be patient, but quickly losing the fight.
"Again, not helpful! Drawing kiddie pictures won't get us home any faster!"
"What the— I'm not...will you shut the hell up?" Lassiter barked as he turned his attention back to the newly discovered device. "It makes perfect sense," he said, speaking to himself as he went into the 'ignoring Spencer' mode he'd perfected long ago as a means of preserving his sanity. "These were still in use for long distance communication when this place was built, cheaper and more reliable than a phone would be in a remote area like this. And most cell phones can't get a signal up here." He ran his hands over the dark stained wood, admiring the craftsmanship. "God, I used to love playing with the ones they had at Old Sonora when I was a kid. They were more elaborate than this one, but..." his voice trailed off as he fondly remembered sending messages on the devices used for souvenir telegrams. "Never thought I'd see another one outside of a museum after that place finally closed."
Lassiter grabbed the pencil and poised his finger above the pad of the sending key, hoping desperately someone was on the other end of the line. He rapidly tapped out a series of dots and dashes, using the standard International Morse code he'd learned in his youth to send out a distress call. He smiled with satisfaction, feeling slightly vindicated. "And to think my dad said all those weekends at Old Sonora were a total waste of my useless time," he muttered to himself.
"Awww, that's so sad, Lassie."
Lassiter froze, slightly horrified that Spencer had overheard him. He hadn't meant for Shawn to hear that. "What the hell are you talking about, Spencer?" He stammered, trying to cover his mistake.
"It's sad that your father called your time 'useless', that's not a very nice thing to say."
Lassiter wheeled on Shawn. "He simply said that Old Sonora was a totally useless waste of my time. He just didn't appreciate it like I did, that's all."
"No," Shawn corrected, "you specifically quoted him as saying, 'weekends at Old Sonora were a total waste of my useless time.' That's what you said."
Lassiter opened his mouth to rebuke his statement, but he couldn't think of an adequate defense. "Then I misspoke," he insisted flatly. "I made a mistake."
"I don't think you made a mistake, you meant exactly what you said," Shawn continued. "I think you—"
"My father did not call me useless!" Lassiter spat back vehemently. Suddenly mortified when he realized exactly what he'd said, he quickly turned back to face the desk, feeling heat rise to his cheeks.
Shawn paused, his mouth slightly agape. After a brief awkward silence, he ventured cautiously, "I didn't say he did, Lassie. It's just..." He thought for a moment before continuing. "That's just so wrong to say to a kid. As a matter of fact, it's kind of mean."
Lassiter sighed in frustration and rubbed his hands over his eyes. It was bad enough that he'd accidentally said what he did. The sympathetic undercurrent in Shawn's voice made it even worse. "Drop it, Spencer," he ordered curtly. He did not want Shawn Spencer's pity. He did not want to discuss it any further. And he was becoming increasingly annoyed with Shawn's refusal to take the hint.
But Shawn continued to explore the subject, thinking of it as his best shot to finally open up a friendly dialogue with the gruff Head Detective. As much as they'd worked together, he still didn't really know the man. He'd already accidentally received a spontaneous confession, and he felt if he could just talk his way past Lassiter's initial resistance, he might succeed in his mission. "So, your papa wasn't around much, but he didn't like you spending your weekends there? I can't see why he objected, at least your time with Sheriff Hank was constructive. He was a positive influence on you. Not like you were out stealing cars or anything." He thought if he showed approval for how Lassiter had spent much of his youth, he might not be so defensive about the subject.
Lassiter's jaw clenched so tight he thought his teeth were about to break. Then his eyebrows dropped and his face curled into the particular angry frown that only surfaced when Spencer was infuriating him, the one Shawn claimed made him look like Sam the Eagle from the Muppets.
"Did your dad not—"
"We're not doing this," Lassiter growled.
"Doing what?" Shawn asked innocently.
"This bonding crap. Or whatever the hell it is you're trying to pull." He whipped around in his chair to face Shawn again, his expression dark and angry. "Drop it, Spencer. I'm not in the mood. Now be quiet and finish your Goddamn soup. If it gets cold, I am not heating it up again." He turned his back to Shawn, indicating he considered the conversation over.
Shawn saw the Detective's hands were gripping the desktop so tightly his knuckles were white. 'Okay, so Lassie's daddy is apparently a pretty sore subject,' Shawn thought. Realizing it was best to refrain from talking about Lassiter's father for the moment, he decided he should talk about his instead. Maybe after hearing about his own less than stellar upbringing, the two men could find some common ground?
"You know Henry locked me in the trunk of a car once?" Shawn smirked. "Your dad may not have been around much, but I couldn't get rid of mine."
Lassiter let go of the desk and picked up the pencil again, slowly breathing in through his nose and out through his mouth in an attempt to calm himself. It wasn't working. Because Shawn kept talking. The incessant chatter was as grating to his ears as fingernails raking down a chalkboard.
"He was always on my case, he never let up. Everything I did with him, he had to turn it into another lesson."
Lassiter kept his back to Shawn and his mouth shut. He knew that if he tried to say anything, he would lose his temper completely. Why the hell couldn't the kid take the hint this one time and just shut up?
"He never let me be a kid, you know? He wouldn't even let me read comic books. Dad said, 'Forget this make-believe crap! The real heroes are cops!' Man, he was relentless."
'At least he cared about you enough to be there...'
"I think he was so busy trying to turn me into the perfect cop that he forgot I was just a kid." Shawn fell silent as he grew pensive. He ate some more stew, chewing slowly as he lost himself in deep thought.
For a few blissful moments, Lassiter thought Shawn was actually going to be quiet and finish eating. He was sorely mistaken.
"So, Lassie...your father wasn't around much when you were a kid?"
Damn it! The Muppet frown was back again. Lassiter was gripping the pencil in his fist so tight he thought it was going to break.
"So where was he? Was he a traveling salesman, or a workaholic, or something? Was he absent because of work or by choice?" Receiving no answer, Shawn continued to fill in the blanks on his own. "I'm going with workaholic, it makes perfect sense. You're pretty obsessed with your job too, Lassie. There's probably more of your dad in you than you realize." As misguided as it was, he'd meant it as a compliment, trying to point out a small connection between the man and his father.
*SNAP* The pencil broke.
Shawn thought back to what Lassiter had said about his father's opinion of his time in Old Sonora. 'A total waste of my useless time.' He was right, that was a pretty mean thing to say to a kid, especially at that age, and he had a sudden realization. "Lassie? Was your dad kind of abu—"
"Shut. The fuck. Up."
It was the menace in Lassiter's voice that made him pause. Shawn looked up to see the man with his back to him, wickedly glaring over his shoulder with only one eye visible beneath a sharply arched brow, his tone an ominous warning. The Detective's hands were clenched into fists and he seemed to be radiating furious anger. Shawn found himself shrinking back in the bed and trying to sink down into the blanket around his shoulders. He'd seen Lassiter incensed plenty of times before, but until this moment, he had never seen the man look vicious.
Lassiter slowly turned back around when he was satisfied that Shawn had been sufficiently cowed into finally dropping the subject. Carlton closed his eyes and took a few slow, deep breaths to regain his composure. The patter of heavy rain on the roof was the only sound filling the cabin for several tense minutes.
"I'm sorry, Lassie," Shawn said timidly. "I...I didn't mean to..."
Lassiter opened his eyes and caught sight of Shawn's reflection in the glass of the picture frame above the desk. He was staring down at the cup he held against his chest, seemingly at a loss for words. He looked vulnerable, and weak. Completely dependent. His eyes moved over the shape of the splint on Shawn's leg underneath the quilt. Swept up in the rising tide of his anger, Carlton had forgotten how badly injured he was.
He felt like he'd just stepped on a puppy.
Lassiter sighed, regret filling the hollow space previously occupied by his indignation. "Just...go to sleep, Spencer," he said quietly, deliberately keeping his tone even. "You need it." He felt awful, but that was as close as the kid was getting to an apology.
With considerable effort, Shawn managed to set the cup down on the crate next to the bed. Lassiter heard wood creak and the soft swish of fabric as he tried to get himself settled. He looked to the reflection in the glass again and saw Shawn struggling helplessly, trying to use his one good arm to push himself away from the headboard so he could lie down.
Lassiter lowered his head to rest his forehead in the palms of his hands. God, did he feel like an ass. He felt like a bully picking on a defenseless crippled kid. He raised his head and reluctantly stood up, then after a brief hesitation, slowly moved towards the bed. Shawn looked up as he approached, and to his shame he detected a hint of fear in the young man's eyes.
Unable to look him in the eye, Lassiter averted his gaze as he leaned over and removed the extra blanket from around his shoulders. He carefully lifted Shawn and moved him down the bed so he could lie flat, making sure to move his splinted leg as little as possible. He stood up to leave but paused, looking down at the fake psychic and studying him intensely. Shawn regarded Lassiter with slight apprehension, unsure of what he might do.
With a tired sigh, Lassiter sat down on the edge of the bed. He knew he couldn't let this go on any longer. He reached over and pulled up the thick quilt to cover Shawn, gently tucking it around his shoulders to keep him warm. When he finished, he looked up, and was relieved to see Shawn was no longer afraid of him.
"You comfortable, Spencer?" he asked. Both of them knew he wasn't actually asking about the bedding.
Shawn hesitated, then nodded slowly. "Yeah...yeah, I'm good."
"Get some rest, Spencer." He patted Shawn on the shoulder in an awkward, somewhat affectionate gesture before standing up and striding back over to the desk. He sat down in the chair and began sending the distress signal again, repeating it every thirty seconds before stopping for an equal amount of time to listen for a reply.
Juliet was ready to start pulling her hair out in frustration. They couldn't get anyone close enough to get a visual on Carlton's car, the rain wasn't letting up, and the forecast called for rain and low-lying cloud cover for at least the next four days. She'd asked Officer Bailey about the possibility of using ATVs to form a rescue party. He'd said even if there weren't any landslides and too much mud for reliable hillside traction, several portions of the terrain were too rough for even those vehicles. The only progress that had been made was the safety zone had been established and mapped out with emergency personnel staged on scene.
Buzz lumbered into the conference room and made a beeline for Chief Vick. "We still can't find Shawn Spencer, ma'am. We've sent units to his apartment, Gus's place, the Psych office, even Mr. Spencer's house. We haven't been able to locate him."
"Damn it, Shawn," Karen swore under her breath. "This is not the time to pull one of your disappearing acts!" The Chief ran her hand through her hair in frustration. Nothing about this rescue operation was going right! She reasoned if she wanted to find Shawn, the best way to do it was to locate his keepers. "Where are Henry Spencer and Mr. Guster?" she demanded.
"Mr. Spencer is in the Gulf of Mexico on a fishing charter boat, and Gus is in Las Vegas for a business convention, ma'am. We haven't been able to reach either of them, either."
Juliet's brow furrowed. "Well, maybe Shawn is in Vegas? I mean, he didn't mention anything to me about it when I saw him yesterday at lunch, but they are best friends. Is it possible that Shawn left his bike parked here and caught a ride to the airport with Gus?"
"Knowing Shawn Spencer, anything is possible" Chief Vick lamented. "All right. Dobson! Let's contact the airlines and see if Shawn Spencer was on any flights leaving Santa Barbara starting yesterday. And just in case, put out a local BOLO for him as well. I damn well want Shawn Spencer found. Do you understand?"
The officer nodded in acknowledgment and hurried off to carry out his orders.
"Chief!" Buzz's urgent cry filled the room.
"What is it, McNab?" she inquired.
"It's Detective Lassiter's car, ma'am!"
Chief Vick and Juliet swiftly converged to stand next to him in front of the GPS display. Juliet looked at the screen and felt her stomach drop.
The car was sliding down the mountainside again at a rapid pace. Juliet watched in horror as the vehicle moved another one hundred and twenty feet in less than fifteen seconds, then stopped. The cause of the sudden shift was obvious - the car had to have been caught in a landslide. Juliet felt a large hand on her shoulder as she choked back tears. She looked up to see Buzz's friendly face staring down at her in sympathy.
"Remember what I said about him probably abandoning the car by now," he said, trying to keep her fears in check. "He's too smart to stay there. I just know it."
As Buzz returned his worried gaze back to the screen, Juliet thought he was trying to convince himself of that fact just as much as he was her. She forced herself to turn away and tried to find something else to do. She looked at her watch and saw it was just after three in the morning. Feeling exhausted, she decided coffee was a great idea. No way in hell was she going to sleep until her partner was found, anyway. As she turned to leave the room she noticed the two Game Wardens off to the side, carefully studying one of the maps on the table as Officer Miller spoke on his cell phone. Juliet approached them and asked Officer Bailey what was going on.
"Oh, Miller has a hunch about something," he said, nodding towards the older man.
Juliet pressed closer and listened to Miller's conversation.
"Well when can you get someone up there? This has to be done ASAP." He paused. "Okay, first light, then. And no, he doesn't have to know what he's doing. Like I said, all he has to do is listen. Anyone will do. Understand?" He looked up and saw Juliet watching him. "Okay, thank you Jerry." He hung up and acknowledged her. "Yes, ma'am?"
"What are you doing, Officer Miller?" Juliet inquired politely.
"Well, I kind of have this hunch based on what your big man over there said." He nodded, indicating Buzz McNab. "He thought your man might not be with the car anymore, and I'd say it's a fair bet that's true. So here's what I'm thinking." He pointed to three spots on the map that were in the middle of the dangerous red zone, marked with little squares labeled 8, 11, and 12. "Our department has a few small research cabins up there that are usually pretty well-stocked with provisions. This one," he used a marker to cross out number 11, "was destroyed in a landslide a few hours ago. But these other two are still intact. See this cabin 12 here? It's got a large rocky hillside behind it, so it's stable and pretty safe. It's also only a few miles away from your partner's car." He scratched the stubble that was beginning to show on his chin. "Now they're really small, so the chances of finding them in the dark is about slim to none. But I figured there's a chance he might get lucky and be holed up in one of these spots. I'm sending someone to the base research station located in the safe zone as soon as possible just in case we hear from one of these satellite stations." He looked at her and shrugged. "It's not much, but I figured it's worth a shot."
Juliet felt her hopes rise. There was a chance, as small as it was, that Carlton might have found one of the cabins. If not, that meant he was out in the storm somewhere. Or worse... She tried to force out the image of her shivering, rain-drenched partner stumbling blindly through the wilderness and focus on the map in front of her.
Miller turned to Officer Bailey. "You going out on that errand you were talking about?"
Juliet looked up to see the two Officers share a knowing look. She recognized it as the same one she and Carlton usually exchanged right before they did something sneaky. Juliet immediately knew they were up to something.
"Yeah, think I will," he replied casually and headed for the door.
"Wait a second," she stopped Bailey by blocking the door with her comparatively diminutive frame. "If you're up to something, I damn well need to know about it," she whispered harshly.
Bailey and Miller looked at each other and laughed. "You gotta admit, she's got spunk," Miller said.
Bailey looked down at her, acknowledging the determination in her eyes. "I'm going out for a walk." He covertly showed Juliet the small pair of night vision binoculars in his hand. "Trust me." He stepped around her and strode out the door. Juliet let him pass without incident.
As soon as he was out the door, Juliet turned to Miller. "Okay, where the hell is he going?"
"You don't need to know any more than you already do, Detective O'Hara." He cast a quick but meaningful glance at Chief Vick. "I promised I'd find your partner, and that's what I'm gonna do."
Juliet knew that look, too. It meant they were breaking a few rules and wanted to keep her from getting in trouble as well in case their plans were discovered. Juliet had the sneaking suspicion that Officer Bailey needed rain gear where he was going.
Okay, there's chapter 3! Hope you enjoyed it! I know I said I was gonna whump Shawn some more in this one, but this chapter was getting WAY too long, so I ended up splitting it up into two chapters. So to those who are enjoying this story so far, that means BONUS CHAPER! The story will now be 6 chapters instead of 5. The whump will start again in chapter 4 and go on from there. Poor Shawn won't know what hit him.
To those who have been reading, thank you for taking the time to do so. I hope you've been entertained. And another huge *thank you* to all who have rated/reviewed. You encourage me!
A Sweltering Cabin Paradise And A Frosty Blue Treat by Texasartchick
I included the nightmare for VampKira, because you inspired me to write one. My first dream sequence! Enjoy!
And a big "thank you!" to Egorstandish for helping me come up with the title for this chapter and chatting with me late at night after work.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. I do not own any of the characters of Psych and am not affiliated with the show or USA Network. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. I do not own nor am I associated with Superman, Spider-man, Advil, Dominos Pizza, or The Gorton's Fisherman.
In case you're wondering what one looks like, this is a portable "key and sounder" set:
The Gorton's Fisherman: http://blogs.creativeloafing.com/freshloaf/files/2008/03/fisherman.jpg
SPOILERS: For Psych season 4 episode "High Noonish".
*AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story takes place after my three previous Psych Fan Fiction stories "Choose It Or Lose It", and "This Stalker Thing Kind Of Sucks". Events affecting the Lassiter/Shawn dynamics that take place in both of these previous stories are mentioned in this one. You might want to read them first. Doing so is not a requirement to understand what is going on in this one, but it will help alleviate any confusion that might occur when the references pop up.*
ENJOY! Please be kind enough to review. All feedback, good or bad, is welcome.
Shawn awoke in the morning to the smell of coffee in the air. For a few brief groggy seconds, the aroma made him think that he'd fallen asleep on Juliet's desk at the police station again. But when he opened his eyes he once again found himself within the confines of the cabin. He tried to take a deep breath as he stirred and discovered that his battered body was even more stiff and sore than it was the previous night.
"Ohhh...not cool..." he groaned painfully as he tried to relax his aching muscles.
After a few seconds Lassiter appeared to stand next to the bed, peering down at him while casually drinking fresh coffee from a tin cup. He was wearing his now dry clothes again, only without the tie, jacket, or shoulder holster. "What's wrong, Spencer?" he asked as he took another sip of the dark ambrosia.
"It hurts," he whimpered.
"What does?" Lassiter asked, his brow creasing.
Shawn took a shallow breath before speaking. Breathing any deeper would only make the pain in his ribs flare up again. "Everything," he groaned weakly. "My whole body is so sore I can barely move."
Lassiter nodded, looking slightly relieved. Not that he'd ever admit it. "It's normal. That's what happens when you fall ass-over-teakettle down a mountain," he stated matter-of-factly as he knelt by the bed. He took another sip from his coffee, set the cup down on the crate next to a fresh bottle of water, and popped open the Advil.
Shawn's neck was so stiff he couldn't even lift his head off the pillow when he tried. "Ohhh...damn. This sucks."
"Don't start moving around until this gets into your system. No point in hurting yourself more than necessary." He dropped three of the pills into Shawn's mouth and raised his head to help him wash them down with the water. "Whole bottle, Spencer. You didn't drink as much as you should have last night." Shawn finished the water, then sank back against the pillows while he waited for the medicine to kick in.
As Lassiter took the empty bottle and stood up again, Shawn noticed his movements seemed painful and stiff. Shawn's bed was fairly comfortable, but Lassiter's 'bed', if one could even call it that, consisted of a well-used down sleeping bag laid out on the floor in front of the stove. He was using a folded blanket as a makeshift pillow because the only two real pillows were currently being used by Shawn. Based on the way the Detective was moving, it was obvious the uncomfortable sleeping quarters were taking their toll on him.
"Might want to take a few of those yourself, Lassie," Shawn suggested. "Looks like you're almost as stiff as those floorboards you slept on last night."
"I'm fine," he insisted as he rubbed the back of his neck. "You need it a hell of a lot more than I do. I just have to get used to a bedroll again." He moved over to the pantry and retrieved a fresh bottle of water.
"At least take one of these pillows, man. The blanket thing? That totally has to suck."
"I said I'm fine." He walked over and set the water down on the crate with a loud *thud*. He was beginning to get annoyed with Shawn's persistence about the subject. Besides, it wasn't his physical condition that concerned him.
"Well, someone is a total Mr. Crankypants when he doesn't have any cream for his morning coffee."
Lassiter downed the rest of the contents in his cup in one gulp. "Instant coffee, but it's better than nothing. At least there's sugar." He went to make himself another cup.
"Dude, you keep drinking that and you're gonna have to pee like a racehorse. Take your own advice and make sure you don't get dehydrated, Lassie. Why don't you avoid pissing yourself to death and chase that second cup with some water? It's totally delicious." Shawn paused for a moment, hesitating to bring up a rather embarrassing subject. Unfortunately it had to be done, as he literally couldn't avoid it any longer. "Uh, speaking of which, Lassie, I kinda have to...you know..."
"What?" Lassiter eyed him suspiciously as he stirred a third spoonful of sugar into his cup.
"I have to pee, Lassie."
He signaled he understood with a slight nod and began looking around as he set down his sugar-laden coffee. He turned around, picked something up, and Shawn heard a *snick* as he opened his knife. He used the knife for a few seconds before putting it back in his pocket, then went over to the desk and sat in the chair as he dug around in the bottom right drawer, eventually producing a roll of silver duck tape. He tore off a few pieces and applied it to whatever he held in his hands, then stood up and walked back over to the bed.
"Here." He pulled Shawn's arm out from under the covers and pressed something into his hand.
Shawn looked down and found he'd been handed an empty water bottle with the top cut off and duck tape around the rim. He scoffed as it dawned on him what he was supposed to do with it. "Awww, man..."
"You have a better idea, Spencer?"
"Yeah. How about you help me up and I go outside to pee on my own two feet. Like a man."
"You have a broken leg, dipshit. You aren't going anywhere on your feet. Deal with it." He went over to the equipment corner, grabbed one of the buckets, then strode across the room to the front door and began putting on one of the yellow rain coats. "I need to get some water from the well. Back in a minute."
Shawn made a frowning pouty face at the bottle before looking back up at Lassiter as he pulled on the accompanying yellow vinyl floppy rain hat. Shawn immediately burst out laughing.
"What's so damn funny, Spencer?" Lassiter demanded with a scowl.
Stifling a giggle, Shawn said, "You look like the Gorton's Fisherman!"
Lassiter looked down at his bright yellow rain gear and metal bucket, then self-consciously ran a hand over the thick stubble now covering his chin. He hated to admit it, but Spencer was right. He did look slightly ridiculous. "Shut it, Spencer," he growled as he stalked towards the door. "Have fun peeing in your bottle."
"Have fun emptying it!" he retorted as Lassiter closed the door behind him and stepped out into the rain.
Thirty minutes and two empty bottles later had Lassiter deciding the racehorse metaphor was entirely accurate. The medicine had finally taken effect, relieving enough of the soreness that Shawn was able to move again without much pain. He was sitting up in bed, watching Lassiter as he stirred a teaspoon of salt into a one-quart sauce pan full of water on the stove.
"Whatcha doing, Lassie? You cooking salt soup for breakfast?"
Lassiter rolled his eyes. "Making a saline solution."
Shawn frowned. "You wear contacts?"
"For your leg," he explained impatiently.
"My leg doesn't wear contacts either, Lassie. Wrong body part, dude."
He gave a frustrated sigh. "I have to flush that wound again, Spencer. Try to keep it clean." He stirred the water as it came to a boil, making sure the salt was completely dissolved.
"Oh." Shawn thought for a moment before something dawned on him. "That doesn't sound like too much fun."
"No." The two men fell silent as Lassiter took one of the empty plastic water bottles, used his knife to punch a slot in the cap, then rinsed it out thoroughly with a little alcohol. He grabbed a plastic funnel he'd found in the cookware and wiped it down with alcohol as well. After several minutes, Lassiter removed the boiling water from the heat and set it to the side to cool down. When the solution had finally cooled enough, he used the funnel to pour it into the empty bottle, filling it to capacity before replacing the cap. He then carried the chair, bottle, and medical kit over the side of the bed.
"I'll check those other bandaged areas first," he said as he set the supplies on the seat of the chair. "We'll take care of the leg last." He kneeled by the bed, pulled the quilt down to Shawn's waist, donned a pair of latex gloves from the medical kit, and began removing the bandages covering his minor wounds. Fortunately the only injuries that needed to be cleaned and dressed were his raw knuckles, as everything else had already scabbed over. After checking his splinted leg to find the swelling had actually started to go down, he replaced the quilt and moved over to the other side. He carefully removed the heavy bandages covering the deep gash in Shawn's left leg and examined it closely.
Shawn watched Lassiter as he kneeled at the foot of the bed to examine his leg. His brow was furrowed in concentration as he leaned in to take a closer look. "Well? How does it look?" Shawn asked, slightly worried. "Is it okay?" He pulled the quilt up and clutched it to his chest.
Lassiter pressed lightly around the edges of the wound. "Does that hurt?"
Shawn winced. "Some, but not too bad."
"Hmmm." After a few more moments of intense scrutiny, Lassiter sat up and looked at Shawn. "Looks a little more red that it should be, but I think it will be fine if we keep it clean. No pus or unusual discoloration." He removed his gloves, stood up, and moved the supplies to the flat top of the wooden chest at the foot of the bed. Then he walked over to the kitchen area and retrieved a towel, which he folded and placed underneath Shawn's left leg. He spread out the specific items he needed from the medical kid on top of the chest for quick and easy access.
"Is it gonna hurt?"
Lassiter looked up at Shawn to find he had pulled one the pillows out from behind him and was hugging it nervously, as if it was some sort of security blanket. His eyes shifted between Lassiter and the bottle of alcohol he'd set out on top of the chest with the other various supplies. The memories of having his broken leg set were still fresh in his mind, and it was obvious Shawn was scared. Lassiter sighed. "Yes. It's going to hurt. But not for long, and it shouldn't be as bad as setting that break," he assured him calmly as he activated the remaining chemical cold pack. "This should numb the pain fairly quickly." He returned to the foot of the bed and kneeled down.
Shawn swallowed and tightened his arms around the pillow.
Lassiter pulled something from his pocket and tossed it to Shawn. "Here. Bite down on this."
Shawn looked at the object and saw it was a strip cut from the leather reins that had been folded over several times and tied together with a string wrapped around the middle. He looked up at Lassiter in disbelief. "You can't be serious."
"I'll do this as fast as possible," he promised as he opened up some packages of sterile gauze pads. He unscrewed the cap on the alcohol, put on a fresh pair of latex gloves, picked up the saline bottle with his right hand, and gripped Shawn's ankle firmly with his left.
Shawn stuffed the pillow back behind him so he wouldn't accidentally smack his head against the headboard. He was about to toss the leather strip aside but paused at the last second, and upon second thought, stuffed it into his mouth. He decided all those western movies and TV shows couldn't be wrong. If cowboys did it, he probably should, too. He gripped one of the pillows behind his head with his left hand, and clutched the quilt over his chest with his right, keeping his arm against his side. 'It won't be as bad as last time. You can do this,' he told himself.
Lassiter tipped the saline bottle upside down and squeezed hard, flushing out the injury with a strong stream of the warm liquid. Shawn flinched as it stung when it hit, but was surprised to find it didn't hurt nearly as much as he'd anticipated. 'Well that wasn't too bad,' he thought as Lassiter patted the area dry with a gauze pad. 'I wonder why he—'
That's when Lassiter poured the alcohol into the gaping wound.
"Huuu—MMMMMPPH!" Shawn bit down hard on the leather and squeezed his eyes shut. Holy shit that burned! It felt like his leg was on fire. He instinctively tried to pull away but Lassiter's hand on his ankle held it firmly in place. His breath hitched in his chest as more alcohol was used.
After what seemed like an eternity, Lassiter thoroughly flushed the wound again with the saline, rinsing out the alcohol and providing a mild relief. The searing hot agony was reduced to a sharp, painful, throbbing ache. Shawn spit out the leather strip with a loud huff as Lassiter quickly dried and bandaged his leg.
"Ohhh...uhhh! God, that hurts!" He was panting hard, causing stabbing pains in his ribs, and beads of sweat were collecting on his forehead and upper lip. The discomfort in his leg wasn't subsiding yet, it was still stinging and throbbing with intensity. His fist was twisting in the thick fabric of the quilt as he whimpered in pain, doing his best to endure. Christ, he just wanted it to go away. Why couldn't he have passed out this time as well? Then the burning ache began to fade, slowly replaced by a growing numbness as the cold pack finally began to soothe the irritated wound. He swallowed hard, relaxing his hands from their death grip on the bedding as he started to calm down, gradually taking slower, shallow breaths.
"Lassie?" he asked, his voice trembling weakly.
Shawn opened his eyes, surprised to find Lassiter sitting next to the bed. When had he moved over there? He was hunched over with his elbows on his knees and his hands clasped in front of his chin, a worried frown on his usually stern face. Shawn blinked to clear his clouded vision. He felt wetness on his cheeks, and with mild embarrassment, he realized he was crying.
"Hey, Lassie," Shawn said, sounding utterly exhausted. "I need you to do something for me."
"What's that?" he asked.
Shawn swallowed again before speaking. "Bite my toe," he joked, his lips tugging upward into a weak smile. "Make me furget 'bout the pain in muh leg," he said in a ridiculous Western accent.
The faintest hint of a smile flashed across Lassiter's face for a brief second before it was buried underneath his trademark stoic expression. "Shut up, Spencer," he replied, even though it sounded more like an apology than an insult.
Shawn sank back against the pillows with a sigh. "Hey, my dignity called. It would like to come back now. I do kind of miss it, you know." He cast a quick glance over at the clothesline in the corner. "So, if my clothes are dry, I'd kind of like to get dressed again sometime soon. I think I've been free-balling it long enough."
Lassiter nodded. "After that cold pack is finished. It's only good for about twenty minutes. Just rest for a while." He studied the way Shawn was leaning against the headboard, noting it looked a bit awkward. "You comfortable like that?"
"Could be better, but I'm okay."
Lassiter stood up and moved in front of the stove, then got down on his knees and curled up his sleeping bag into a tight roll, using the velcro straps on the outside to secure it in place. He brushed it off as he carried it back to the bed, then set it aside and helped Shawn move down on the mattress. He propped Shawn up against the bedroll and pillows into a much more comfortable half-sitting position.
Shawn nodded. "Yeah, a lot better. Thanks." He closed his eyes and leaned back.
"You need to eat something," he declared as he moved over to the pantry and pulled out a box of flavored instant oatmeal. Lassiter emptied and rinsed out the sauce pan, and within a few minutes had heated a fresh pot of water to just below boiling. He prepared a double serving of the tasty breakfast food for each of them, and handed Shawn his tin cup full of oatmeal.
"Awww, Lassie! You gave me the strawberries and cream! I always knew you liked me!"
"You're getting that because I like the maple and brown sugar better. Now shut your hole and eat," he said as he moved the chair over to the desk and sat down.
"Do you want me to eat, or shut my hole? Because I can't do both at the same time."
"Yes, you can. Chew with your mouth shut." He smirked, making sure his back was to Shawn before delving into his hot cereal. He began tapping out a message on the telegraph as he ate.
"How long were you using that tele-thing last night?" Shawn asked.
"About four hours." He continued tapping the key without interruption.
"So...how much sleep did you get?"
Lassiter looked at his watch. "Not much. Why do you think I'm drinking so much of this crappy coffee?"
"You get a reply yet?" Shawn asked hopefully as he ate.
Lassiter shook his head. "No. Not yet. But it's still our best chance of getting out of here." He tapped out his message as many times as he could every thirty seconds, then stopped, listening intently for a reply.
Shawn spoke after swallowing another mouthful. "Do you know if anyone is even listening on the other end of that thing? I mean, where is the signal going?"
Lassiter paused and looked back over his shoulder. "I don't know."
Juliet could see him through the broken side window of the midnight blue car. He was so close, only twenty feet away. Blood streamed down his face from a gash in his forehead as he lay trapped in the mangled wreckage of his once pristine patrol car, pinned in his seat by the twisted metal. He struggled uselessly in a feeble attempt to free himself, getting weaker by the second. She desperately tried to slog her way through the mud and freezing rain, legs churning endlessly, but she never seemed to get any closer.
"Carlton!" she yelled at the top of her lungs, but her voice sounded distant and far away, lost in the driving rain and howling wind. She screamed again, but her voice wouldn't reach him.
He reached out to her through the broken window, extending a hand covered in dirt and blood. He was badly injured, he was dying, and still she couldn't get to him no matter how hard she tried. If anything the car was farther away.
"O'Hara, help me..." he called desperately. She could tell he was in pain by the sound of his voice.
"Carlton! I'm here! God, I'm right here!"
"Where are you?" he pleaded, unable to hear her cries. "I need you, O'Hara! You have to find me..." His voice trailed off and she knew he was getting weaker, his life ebbing away.
Juliet clawed desperately through the mud as the mangled car drifted further beyond her reach, carrying her trapped partner along inside.
"Help...I need help...O'Hara, I'm lost, I need you to find me...why can't you find me..."
His arm went limp and fell against the side of the car with a soft *thud*.
Juliet jerked awake with a terrified gasp. She sat up in the darkened room, trying to get her bearings as the rush of adrenaline started to wear off. After a few panicked moments she remembered she was lying on one of the cots in the evidence room, and that she'd decided to try and get a few hours of sleep when she realized she couldn't keep her eyes open anymore.
"Oh, Carlton, I'm so sorry," she whispered as she felt tears tracking down her cheeks.
A soft knock at the door interrupted her. Juliet quickly wiped her face and composed herself as she jumped up to open the door. She winced as the bright light from the hallway assaulted her eyes.
She shielded her face and looked up, eventually recognizing the person addressing her as her eyes adjusted to the light. "Officer Bailey?"
He looked down at her, concern creasing his brow. "You all right?"
She nodded. "Yeah, I'm just...yeah. I'm fine."
He stared at her red-rimmed eyes, and she knew that she was busted. "I understand. You're tired," he said as other officers walked by outside. He discretely handed her a handkerchief.
Juliet smiled gratefully and took it from his hand, pausing to quickly wipe her face as she left the room. She noticed that his hair was damp, and the cuffs of his pants were peppered with gray mud. She wondered if his 'walk' had yielded any results. "I assume there's a reason why you woke me up. Any new developments?"
"Yep. Miller's hunch was right."
Juliet's mouth dropped open as she made a mad dash for the conference room. Bailey had to run to catch up to her. She charged into the command center and saw Miller on his cell phone.
"So, you can't find a key?" he asked, looking somewhat annoyed. "All right, just sit tight. I'm leaving right now. I should be there in about forty minutes." He flipped his phone shut and gave Juliet a knowing smile before turning to address Chief Vick.
"Chief, I think you'll want to come with me. You aren't going to believe this."
Approximately forty minutes later, O'Hara, Chief Vick, and the two Game Wardens strode through the front door of research station 5 at the base of the mountain. They'd made good time by utilizing the lights and sirens on their police vehicles. As soon as they'd entered the small communications room of the building, they heard it—an odd repetitive clicking noise. Juliet looked around and finally pinpointed the source as a wooden box on a desk in the back corner of the room.
A young man in his early twenties wearing a polo shirt bearing the logo for the Department of Fish and Game approached them.
"How long has it been going off, son?" Miller asked him.
The kid checked his watch. "Um, I noticed it right before I called you, sir."
"All right. Good job, kid. You can go home now."
Officer Miller approached the desk and pulled out a set of keys. "All Game Wardens have keys to the research cabins because we often have to use them when we're out in the field," he explained. "We also check up on the researchers staffing them from time to time. And those of us who know Morse code have keys to the 'backup communications equipment' you see here. It sure helps to be able to send a message when your satellite phone runs out of juice." The clicking stopped as he sat down at the desk. He searched through his keys until he found the right one, and used it to open the box.
"Is that what I think it is?" Chief Vick asked when she saw what was inside.
"It sure is," Miller replied. "These were still in use when those research cabins were built. They just strung phone lines along the telegraph poles later on when they finally installed phones. These old telegraphs have held up beautifully since then, we still use them when the phone lines have too much static interference, or need repair." He pulled a pad of paper towards him and retrieved a pen from his pocket. "I have to say, I'm pretty impressed that your man knows how to use one. Apparently he's pretty damn resourceful."
Juliet smirked, feeling more than a hint of pride. "Officer Miller, you have no idea!"
The Chief's brow furrowed for a moment. "It's not clicking anymore. Why did it stop?"
"He's probably waiting for a reply," Miller told her.
"Well, what was he saying?" Juliet asked. "What's the message he sent out?"
Miller wrote a few letters on the paper and showed it to them. "He said this. Repeatedly."
"Well, Chief," he said, "we've got an open line. What do you want to say?"
"'Superman', Lassie. Not 'Spider-man', it's 'Superman'. And they are Fonzie level cool. All I need is a leather jacket and I'm set."
"I've never heard someone bitch so much about kiddie underwear, Spencer."
"Hey, I am a grown-ass man, and I am entitled to choose my own wardrobe. It's my panty party, and I'll cry if I want to. Besides, they're a hell of a lot cooler that your plain old boring boxers."
"Thought you said you weren't going to look, damn it."
"My psychic vibes told me that—"
"My decidedly non-psychic psychic vibes told me that you, my good man, are wearing nothing more than a plain old pair of sad, colorless boxer shorts."
"They look better with slacks. They're the practical choice in men's undergarments."
"Practical schmactical. Sometimes you just have to cut loose and have fun, Lassie! Let down the buzz cut and live a little!"
Lassiter couldn't believe he was actually having this conversation with an adult. He'd finally managed to get Spencer dressed again in his t-shirt and underwear, but Shawn was upset because the right leg hole of his super hero underpants got permanently stretched out of shape when they'd worked it over the splint. When he heard Shawn's comments about his own choice of undergarment, he was terribly relieved this incident hadn't taken place one day earlier. Because that was laundry day, and he would have been wearing his 'reserve' pair of boxer shorts, the smiley-face underwear O'Hara had bought him for his birthday last year as a joke. She knew he thought it was pretty damn funny to arrest some big tough street thug with 'Have a nice day' secretly written across his ass.
"Just be glad you weren't wearing boxers yourself, Spencer. Because I would have had to cut them off of you, and then you'd be freebasing the entire time we're stuck here."
"That's free-balling, Lassie."
"I've heard it both ways," he shot back with a smirk. Feeling somewhat victorious, Lassiter strode back over to the desk and sat down with his third cup of coffee. He'd only gotten about four hours of restless sleep the night before, and was feeling pretty tired. He started tapping out yet another distress call when Shawn spoke up again.
"How long are you going to keep trying that thing before you realize that nobody is listening?"
"It's the best chance we've got, Spencer. Give it some time."
"But you've been trying for about forever and a day, Lassie!"
"Five total hours is hardly an eternity, Spencer. And besides, it's morning now. Maybe someone came into work and will hear us." He continued to send his message, undeterred by Shawn's doubts.
Shawn frowned. "Do phonograph operators keep regular business hours?"
"It's telegraph, and maybe they do!" Lassiter stood up and went to retrieve another spoonful of sugar for his coffee. He wasn't used to drinking it without cream, and kept adding sugar to compensate. He'd had little sleep, was forced to drink crappy black instant coffee, and Spencer was getting on his last nerve. He stirred in the sweet granules and took a swig, trying to suppress the urge to throttle the younger man.
"You suppose they get Labor Day off?"
"Damn it, Spencer! I am tired of—"
The sounder on the telegraph suddenly sprang to life, drumming out a quick series of long and short clicks.
Lassiter dropped his coffee cup on the floor and turned to face the desk in stunned silence. Then he snapped out of it and punched the air with his fist. "YES! YES! I knew it would work!" He rushed over to the chair and started scribbling on the paper.
Shawn laughed. "Holy crap! Lassie! You did it!"
"Hush up, Spencer! I need to listen!" He frantically wrote down letters as he translated the incoming message from International Morse code into words.
—"Distress message received by DFG G W Miller at base 5. Who are you and what is your emergency?"
Lassiter breathed a huge sigh of relief. They understood him! He quickly began tapping out his reply.
"Who is it, Lassie? What are they saying?" Shawn asked expectantly.
"It's a Game Warden," he informed him, recognizing the abbreviations, as well as the fact that the cabin they currently occupied was operated by the Department of Fish and Game. "He's asking who we are and what's wrong. I'm a little rusty, but I'm pretty damn sure that's what they said."
"Can you order some take-out? I could go for some sesame chicken and egg rolls right about now."
"I might just do that, Spencer," he joked, his bad mood momentarily forgotten as he enthusiastically replied to the message.
—"Det. Carlton Lassiter SBPD. Need rescue ASAP for me and badly injured civilian."
—"Been looking for you. Who is civilian?"
Lassiter's brow furrowed in thought. From that last question it sounded like they didn't know Shawn was with him. "Spencer, did you tell anyone where you were going before we left the station? Did anyone know you were with me?"
"Um, let me think...that would be no."
Lassiter rolled his eyes. It was just like Shawn to run off into a potentially dangerous situation without telling people where he was going. As a matter of fact, it was entirely possible they never even realized he was missing at all. Deciding it was no longer relevant, he dropped the subject and concentrated on relaying as much information as possible. Learning if they'd been searching for Shawn wasn't important, but getting the hell out of there was.
—"Injured civilian is SBPD Consultant Spencer."
—"Yes. What is ETA for rescue?
—"Land rescue not possible. Air rescue in 3 to 4 days depending weather."
Damn. "Looks like we'll be here at least three or four days, Spencer. We'll have to wait until the weather clears up."
"Awww, man! They can't get to us faster than that? Why don't you call Dominos pizza? I'll bet they get here in thirty minutes or less. And added bonus, rescue pizza! I want pineapple and ham on mine."
Lassiter rolled his eyes as he sent another reply. Why did he even bother talking to him?
—"What are Spencer's injuries? Are you hurt?"
—"I am fine. Spencer broken leg/ribs, large flesh wound on leg. Needs hospital."
—"10-4. You have enough food/water in cabin 12 until rescue?"
Lassiter breathed another sigh of relief. Since the other operator specified 'in cabin 12', they must know exactly where the telegraph was transmitting from. Apparently the cabin even had a number designation of some kind.
—"Yes. Supplies good."
—"Advise if situation changes."
—"Understood. Please contact SBPD and advise of situation."
—"Already have. Vick and SPBD are here."
Lassiter felt an overwhelming sense of relief knowing she was there and probably in charge of the rescue operation. He knew she would do absolutely everything within her power, and even some things outside of her authority if necessary, to bring them home safely.
—"To Chief—sorry about this. Stuck up here following tip from Spencer about possible case."
Lassiter knew she had to be wondering what the hell they were doing up here in the first place, so he decided to just get it out of the way now. At least this way he wouldn't have to wait around for the reprimand papers to be drawn up after they were rescued, he could just sign the damn things, go home, and take a nice hot shower.
—"Were doing your job Detective. Now get both of you home safely. That is an order."
Lassiter couldn't help but smile, hearing her voice speaking those words in his head clear as day. There were times when he really loved working for Karen Vick.
—"Hear you loud and clear."
—"Doing everything we can for fast evac. Will advise if situation changes. Contact us if needed."
—"Be careful and stay safe. Over and out."
Lassiter leaned back in the chair and breathed a long, drawn out sigh. Their salvation was no longer his responsibility alone. Realizing a great burden had been lifted off of his shoulders, he suddenly felt tired. The events of the previous evening coupled with lack of sleep had worn him down, and all he wanted to do was take a well-deserved nap.
"So, what's going on, Lassie? What did they say? When are they coming to get us?"
Lassiter stood up and crossed over to the chest at the foot of the bed. "Like I said, we'll be here at least three or four days. They can't get to us by land, so it's going to have to be an air rescue. They have to wait until the weather clears up enough to get a helicopter in here. So we're stuck here for a while, but at least they know where we are."
"So...no Dominos?" Shawn pouted.
Lassiter rolled his eyes as he pulled out two extra blankets. "No Dominos. Quit obsessing over pizza." After making sure Shawn had a bottle of water and some food in case he got hungry, he spread out one blanket on the floor in front of the stove, lied down on it, and covered himself with the second one as he pulled his makeshift pillow underneath his head.
"Uh, you want your sleeping bag back, Lassie?" Shawn asked. "I know it's not that comfortable, but it has to be better than that."
"Keep it. I'm too tired to give a damn right now. If that telegraph goes off again, you wake me up immediately." Lassiter curled up underneath his blanket in front of the warmth of the stove and finally slept.
Juliet slumped into the chair, suddenly finding herself drained of energy. She finally gave herself permission to relax for a few minutes. Carlton was safe and Shawn was with him. One was injured, but both were alive and apparently doing fairly well under the circumstances. She was worried about Shawn now too, but it reassured her to know he was in her partner's capable hands. Even though Shawn annoyed him to no end, she knew Carlton would set aside his dislike for the juvenile antics and take good care of him. And now that she knew exactly where they were, she could focus her energy on something besides worrying, and concentrate instead on helping to bring them home.
Juliet watched as Chief Vick examined the latest series of projected weather patterns with members of the Department of Fish and Game and the local Sheriff's Department Air Rescue Unit. They were looking for their earliest window of opportunity to try and mount an air rescue. Judging by the grim looks on their faces, their prospects weren't looking very good. She turned away with a frustrated sigh and spied something that was particularly interesting. Officers Bailey and Miller were standing quietly in the back corner of the room, speaking to each other in hushed voices while discretely pointing to features on a map. Juliet instantly knew they were up to something. She was determined to find out what it was.
She wandered over to the coffee station, filled two styrofoam cups, grabbed a handful of cream and sugar packets, and sauntered over to the corner. She made sure to eavesdrop as much as possible before making her presence known. "Hey, guys," she greeted them, feigning innocence. "Thought you looked like you could use some coffee." She handed each of them a cup, then set the packets on a table, taking the opportunity to sneak a glance at the map.
Bailey smiled and began pouring sugar and cream into his cup. "Thanks, Detective O'Hara," he said gratefully as he stirred his coffee before turning his attention back to the map. He appeared to be marking out certain ares with a pencil.
Bailey seemed unaware of her intentions, but Miller regarded her with a knowing grin. "Is your partner as tenacious as you are?"
Busted. She smirked and gave up the ruse. "Even worse."
Miller nodded. "I like him already. You two must be quite a team." He added two creams and sugars to his cup and took a sip. "So how in the world does he know how to operate a telegraph, anyway?"
Juliet shook her head. "It's a long story."
She got the feeling that he was digging for potentially useful information about Lassiter's unique skill set as well as asking out of genuine curiosity. And just like that, the tables were turned, so he was the one getting facts out of her. He'd done it with practiced ease, too. Miller was one smart man. She decided that the feeling would probably be mutual; Carlton would like this guy. "Well, there's this old tourist trap of a recreated Western town outside of Santa Barbara called Old Sonora. He spent a lot of weekends there as a kid, so I'm guessing they had one there."
"Old Sonora. No kidding? I was assigned to that district when I first started out in the field. Sheriff Hank is a good man. Very nice fellow."
Juliet's jaw dropped in surprise. "You've been there? You know Sheriff Hank?"
Miller nodded. "Yeah, let's just say I've been to the wild west a few times. That was a fun place, even took my kids there once or twice." he smiled.
"Holy crap, Lassiter has to meet you," she laughed. Now she knew her partner would like him. Juliet glanced at the map that the two officers had been studying. "So...you going to tell me what you two are up to? I'm guessing this has something to do with Officer Bailey's 'walk' last night."
He studied her with a wary eye for a moment, then glanced over at Chief Vick, making sure she was still engaged in other important activities. "Keep this under your hat," he said as he motioned towards the map. "Bailey went out to the edge of the safe zone in order to scout out some potentially useful trails we know of that lead up to that cabin, trying to see if any are still intact after all these landslides. We're just putting together an emergency contingency plan in case we need to go pull those fellas out of there in a hurry."
Juliet's brow furrowed in confusion. "But we do need to get to them now, Shawn needs a hospital."
Miller shook his head. "From what the Detective said, none of his injuries are life-threatening. Look at what they're up against. Right now they're safe inside shelter, have plenty of food and water, and the ability to communicate with us. We also know exactly where they are. That's pretty damn good considering the circumstances they're in, and we don't want that to change. It's best that they ride this out for a few days and wait until it's safe to go in by air as planned. Don't get impatient." He took another long sip of his coffee before he continued. "But you never know what might happen with something like this, it could always go to hell in a hand basket very quickly. So I'm putting together an emergency plan just in case things take a turn for the worse and get really bad. This is only for use as an absolutely last-ditch effort in case we have to get to them fast. No solid plans yet, just weighing options for now."
"Why aren't you telling the Chief about this?" she asked.
"Because even though it would probably work, it's pretty dangerous and kinda stupid. I doubt she'd let it happen. She doesn't want to make things worse by having to rescue the rescuers, if you know what I mean," he replied. "The Chief is responsible for everyone's safety, not just theirs. So if it comes down to it, well...let's just say I've learned that it's easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to get permission." Miller smiled and downed the rest of his coffee. "I always like to have an ace in my back pocket. You never know when you might have to cheat."
Lassiter sat at the small table using a rifle cleaning kit he'd found in the equipment corner to clean his Glock. The cotton patches and bore brushes weren't made for a handgun, but being the firearms expert, he was able to adapt and improvise. All he needed was the solvent and gun oil from the kit, a pencil to push the trimmed swabs through the barrel, and some Q-tips from the medical supplies to accomplish his task. He reassembled his newly oiled weapon and worked the slide back and forth several times to make sure the action was smooth. He smiled in satisfaction as he slapped home the magazine and replaced his beloved duty weapon back in its holster. God he loved the smell of Hoppes number 9 solvent!
"Indulging in a little gun porn over there, Lassinator?" Shawn was sitting up in bed using his left arm to play solitaire with a deck of old, faded playing cards Lassiter had found in the desk.
"Damn right, Spencer," he replied with a salacious grin as he got up and added more wood to the stove. He was in a good mood after his morning conversation with the Game Warden via the telegraph, and he was certainly letting it show.
"Yeah make it hotter in here, that's really what we need," Shawn said sarcastically. "Man, Lassie, I'm bored! Come play cards with me. Ooh, I know! Whoever loses has to run naked through the lobby of the SBPD carrying a bologna sandwich. Come on, best two out of three!"
"You know what, Spencer? Please do that when we get back. I'd love to arrest you for disorderly conduct."
Shawn grinned. "I think you mean indecent exposure."
"No," Lassiter began to correct him, "it's not indecent exposure unless you intend to—" He stopped as soon as he saw the highly amused look on Shawn's face, realizing he was way too immature for this conversation to continue. "Christ, never mind. It's illegal, so the answer is no." He looked at his watch and noted it was after six o'clock in the evening, providing him with the perfect opportunity to bail on the conversation. "It's late. We should eat something," he declared, and walked over to the pantry. "Chicken or beef?" he asked as he surveyed the contents of the pantry. They had a good variety of different canned soup and stew flavors to choose from, but only two different types of meat as the base ingredient. He completely ignored the cluster of tomato soup cans because he hated that infernal red concoction. His mother had forced him to eat it for years. Throw in some lima beans to go with that tomato crap, and it would be a perfect sampling of regrettable food from his childhood. Tomato soup was not on the menu unless it was absolutely necessary to prevent starvation.
"Oh, hell...surprise me, Lassie!" he said sarcastically. "You're such a great cook! You reheat Campbell's canned goods like no other!"
"Or I could add a little shoe leather to your diet by cramming my foot in your mouth," he grumbled.
"I heard that!"
Lassiter selected some hearty looking beef stew, popped the tops on the cans, and poured them into the pot on the stove. After stirring the pot for a few moments, he got a little bored, so he decided to check the weather again. He walked over to the front door, went out onto the porch, and looked up into the sky. All he saw was pouring rain and thick, low-lying clouds. It was also getting cold again. He guessed the temperature couldn't be any higher than fifty degrees, and it was only going to get colder that night. He sighed and went back inside.
"Still raining I assume?" Shawn asked, despite the fact that he could hear it on the roof.
Lassiter rubbed his hand over the back of his stiff neck. "Yeah. Cloud cover is thick, too. I doubt it's going to let up any time soon." He took a moment to stretch his mildly sore back, sat down at the desk, and sent a message asking about the latest weather forecast.
"What are you doing, Lassie?" Shawn asked.
"Sending a message."
"You're tweeting your peep the Game Warden again?"
Lassiter rolled his eyes. Why the hell did he ever let O'Hara set him up on that infernal Twitter thing? "Yeah, you could say that, Spencer." After a few minutes the reply came. Lassiter leaned back in the chair and ran his hands down his face.
"It's not good, is it?"
"Same. Three to four days." He leaned forward, propped his elbow on the desk, and rested his forehead in his hand.
"Wanna play cards? No bologna involved, I promise."
Lassiter raised his head and looked at Shawn, who was waving the deck in the air in his left hand, inviting him to join in. They were stuck there for at least another three days. What the hell else was there to do? "Jokers wild?"
Shawn smiled. "Whatever you say, Lassie!"
"Fine, cards while we eat. But I get to shuffle the deck." He got up to stir the pot of stew to make sure it was evenly heated.
"Okay, you shuffle. Kind of hard to do that with one hand, anyway. But no cheating, you sly dog!" Shawn began picking up the cards off the quilt and putting them back in the deck. He made sure to keep his right arm against his side so movement wouldn't aggravate his injured ribs. "You know what I could go for right now?" Shawn lamented. "A nice big blueberry smoothie. A frosty blue treat in my sweltering cabin paradise. That or a good steak. Ooh, Red Robin has—"
"What did you say?" Lassiter had stopped stirring the food and was looking at him intensely.
"I said Red Robin has good steaks."
"No, before that. Something about blueberry smoothies."
"Yeah. I said it's a frosty blue treat in my sweltering cabin paradise. So what?"
"That's the second time you've mentioned being hot, Spencer. It's not that warm in here." Lassiter scowled, strode over to the bed, and placed his hand on Shawn's forehead. His eyes narrowed before he removed his hand and quickly moved to the foot of the bed, pulling back the covers to expose Shawn's left leg. He pulled the bandages aside and examined the injury again. His face darkened at what he saw. The surrounding skin felt hot, appeared to be inflamed, and the wound itself was a dark shade of angry red. Lassiter replaced the bandages and slowly stood up, his face a mask of concern.
"What is it?" Shawn asked. "Something's wrong, isn't it?"
"You have a fever, Spencer." Lassiter said, as he regarded Shawn with an unmistakably worried expression on his face. "That wound on your leg is infected."
Okay, that's chapter 4! Hope you enjoyed it! And to those who are reading & liking this story, more good news. I'm having so much fun whumping Shawn, this story has now officially expanded to 7 chapters. And THANK YOU to all who have rated and/or reviewed! Your feedback is incredibly encouraging, not to mention fun to read. These have been some of the funniest responses I've ever received. LOVE IT!
Aaaand, cue Sick!Shawn for chapter 5. Enjoy the angsty fun.
Under The Weather by Texasartchick
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. I do not own any of the characters of Psych and am not affiliated with the show or USA Network. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. I do not own nor am I associated with Advil, Quaker Instant Oatmeal, or the Sharpie.
In case you're wondering what one looks like, this is a portable "key and sounder" set:
SPOILERS: For Psych season 4 episode "High Noonish".
*AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story takes place after my three previous Psych Fan Fiction stories "Choose It Or Lose It", "It Can Happen", and "This Stalker Thing Kind Of Sucks". Events affecting the Lassiter/Shawn dynamics that take place in both of these previous stories are mentioned in this one. You might want to read them first. Doing so is not a requirement to understand what is going on in this one, but it will help alleviate any confusion that might occur when the references pop up.*
ENJOY! Please be kind enough to review. All feedback, good or bad, is welcome.
"Chief! I'm here!" Buzz McNab strode through the front door of the base station wearing his long, black, department issued uniform raincoat. He held several grocery bags full of food in his large hands.
"I see you brought the food," she observed as she left the area housing various large maps and crossed the main room.
"Yes, ma'am. I also brought several cots from the PD so people can start taking naps when they get tired."
Vick raised her eyebrows in approval. "Good thinking, Officer McNab. Good job. Since this is now the command center for the rescue effort, I'm going to need you here. Dobson and Sergeant Bona will handle things for the time being back at the PD."
"Yes, ma'am." Buzz set the bags on the counter, shed his raincoat, and hung it up to dry on a peg by the front door.
Chief Vick motioned for O'Hara and Buzz to join her over by the maps. "Detective O'Hara, bring Buzz up to speed and inform him of the current situation while I confer with our counterparts." She went to meet with the members of the Sheriff's Department again.
"Okay, Buzz, this is what we've got. Lassiter and Shawn are both stuck in this small research cabin here, cabin twelve in the middle of the red zone." She pointed to the spot on the map. "And we're here, in the base station number five." She slid her finger along the surface of the paper until it rested on the square representing the station, located at the base of the mountain next to a large private ranch. "We've established communication with them through the use of an old telegraph system still used by these research facilities."
Buzz nodded in understanding. "So that's why we couldn't find Shawn? He was with Lassiter the whole time?"
"Yes," Juliet confirmed. "And don't bother asking me what they were doing together, because I don't know," she added when she saw Buzz open his mouth to ask the obvious question. "Lassiter briefly mentioned something about Shawn having a lead in a case, so my best guess is Shawn must have persuaded him to drive up there to follow it."
Buzz's brow furrowed. "But there's hardly anything up around that area. I mean, there's some weird 'Honeymoon Ski Resort', but it went out of business last month. Maybe they were going to a private residence?"
"I doubt it," Juliet said as she shook her head. "But I have no idea what Shawn was up to." She sighed, then added, "Well, it doesn't really matter now. Let's just concentrate on getting them out of there. We can always ask them after they come home."
"Chief Vick!" Officer Bailey leaned through the doorway of the adjoining communications room. "We're getting another message from Detective Lassiter."
The Chief, Juliet, and Buzz all hurried into the small room. Buzz broke into a wide smile when he saw the working telegraph. "Oh, that's so cool!" He leaned over and whispered to Juliet, making sure he didn't talk over the sound of the repeated clicking as the incoming message was received.
Officer Miller transcribed the message to a piece of paper on his note pad, then shook his head as he looked at Juliet and Chief Vick . "Looks like their situation has changed, Chief." He tore the note off the page and handed it to Chief Vick.
—"Wound on Spencer's leg is infected. Need to push up time on emergency evac."
Vick handed the message to Juliet and Buzz. "Damn it," she swore under her breath. "I just spoke to the rescue unit. There's no way we can get to them until this weather clears up, it's just not possible."
"What do you want me to tell him?" Miller asked. "He's waiting for a reply."
"Ask him how bad their situation is," Vick instructed.
"Miller," Bailey interrupted. "Ask him what the exact symptoms are. What does the wound itself look like? I need details." Officer Miller tapped out the message while everyone else looked at Bailey. "I was a combat medic when I was in the Marines," he explained. "If I know the symptoms, I might be able to help him treat it and buy us some more time."
—"What are Spencer's symptoms? What is appearance of wound? Need details."
—"Spencer has fever. Wound dark red with redness/swelling in surrounding skin."
"Ask him if there's any pus or drainage, and if there's any other discoloration. Does it look purple, or blue at all?"
—"No pus. Not purple or blue so probably not gangrene."
Miller raised his eyebrows. "Well, at least he knows what gangrene is and what to look for."
"Ask him how high a fever. What's his body temperature?"
—"No thermometer so no exact info. Fever low right now. Dug piece of metal out of cut. Suspect sepsis."
"Oh, shit." Bailey brought his hand to his chin.
Juliet saw the concerned look on his face. "What is it?" she asked. "What does that mean?"
"It means if he's right, that would be bad," Miller informed her.
Bailey leaned over and placed his hands on the counter next to Miller. "I know what his answer's probably going to be, but ask him if he happens to have any antibiotics there. What kind of medicine or medical supplies does he have access to?"
—"No antibiotics. First aid kit and Advil."
Bailey nodded. "Yeah, that's what I thought." He stood up straight and issued his instructions. "Tell him to pack the wound with gauze soaked in saline solution, cover it with dry sterile gauze, and change it once a day. Use the Advil to try and reduce the fever. That's about all we can do for now."
Miller sent out the instructions and waited, finally receiving a reply.
—"Understood. New time for evac?"
Vic shook her head. "We have no other options at this point, Officer Miller. Tell Detective Lassiter we're still stuck with the original time frame, but will do everything we can to get them out sooner. They're just going to have to do their best and hold on until then. Understood?"
"Yes, ma'am," he said, already tapping the sending key.
The Chief turned to address the young Game Warden. "How much time does Spencer have, Officer Bailey?" she asked.
The young man shook his head. "I don't know, it depends on the type of bacteria causing the infection and how fast it moves. If it does turn out to be gangrene or tetanus, that's actually good because those infections move slower and take more time. Same if the infection is in the skin or in the wound itself. If that's what he has, then the three to four day window will be okay, we'll have enough time before he becomes critical. But..." Bailey's voice trailed off as he rubbed his hand over his chin, deep in thought.
"But what?" Vick prodded.
"He said he dug a piece of metal out of the wound on his leg. That worries me. Because if the bacteria has entered the bloodstream and the wound is septic, the infection will move fast and Mr. Spencer will become very ill in a short period of time."
"How short, and how ill?" Vick asked as she crossed her arms over her chest. "I want a no bullshit assessment, Officer Bailey."
"If that's the case, then by day four, Mr. Spencer will be dead."
Lassiter tied off the gauze on the new bandage and pulled the quilt back over Shawn's leg. As he stood up he saw that Shawn had finished the last of his stew. "Well at least we know you're not nauseous," he remarked as he took Shawn's empty cup. He handed Shawn a couple of Advil and a bottle of water. "Take these and drink plenty of water," he instructed, then went to rinse out the used cup.
"So, when are they coming to get us?" Shawn asked hopefully once he'd swallowed the pills.
"Nothing's changed. They still can't get to us for about another three days," he said, a hint of apprehension in his voice. "We're just going to have to tough it out, Spencer." He swirled some water around in the cup as he stepped outside, sloshed the water out onto the ground, then came back inside and set the cup on the stove to dry.
"Well, guess we have no choice then," Shawn lamented as he picked up the deck of cards. "Go Fish it is."
Lassiter stepped over to the side of the bed and stared down at him, his hands on his hips. "How can you want to play games at a time like this?" he asked incredulously.
"What the hell else are we gonna do, Lassie?" he asked. "Dude! This doesn't change the fact that I'm bored! We're stuck here for three more days, and I sure as hell don't see a TV or any books in here. How many times can you read the same pamphlet on the changes in the hunting regulations of 1953 before you go insane? Or that classic brochure, 'Know Your Wild Animal Scat'?" He held the deck of cards out to Lassiter with his left hand. "So, how about you man up and play some cards, Carly pants? Or are you just afraid I'm gonna kick your ass at Poker?"
Lassiter sighed and ran his hand through his hair. He hated to admit it, but Shawn was right. Standing around worrying wasn't going to help anything, so they might as well make the best of their situation. He picked up his now tepid cup of stew that he'd abandoned in favor of re-bandaging Shawn's leg and pulled the chair over to the side of the bed. "Joker's wild, right?" He took the cards from Shawn and sat down.
"Whatever you want, man. This is your game. I'll even start with a handicap so I don't whoop up on you too bad."
Lassiter scoffed. "In your dreams, kid." He ate a spoonful of cold stew and shuffled the cards. He dealt their hands face down on the quilt and put the stack in the middle. As he fanned out his cards to look at the hand he'd dealt himself, he noticed Shawn wipe a little sweat off of his upper lip. Lassiter checked his watch. It was just after seven thirty in the evening.
By eleven o'clock, Shawn had the chills.
Shawn was lying propped up in bed and shivering with the quilt pulled up to his chin. Lassiter sat at the desk, sending out another message updating Chief Vick on Shawn's condition.
"Las-s-s-ie? C-c-an I have another b-b-b-lanket, please?"
Lassiter looked back over his shoulder at the trembling form huddled underneath the quilt. "No," he replied apologetically as he shook his head. "You have the chills because you have a fever. You're too hot already. I'm sorry, Spencer."
Shawn smiled. "Hey, you t-t-t-think I'm hot! I'm t-t-telling ever-r-r-yone y-y-y-y-ou said that!"
Finished with his message, Lassiter stood up and moved the chair over to the bed. He handed Shawn two more Advil. "Take two more. It reduces fever, it might help."
Shawn swallowed the pills with enthusiasm, willing to try anything in order to stop feeling so damn cold. And as if the chills weren't bad enough already, the shivering was becoming pronounced enough to make his ribs start to hurt. "Hey, Lassie? How can you f-f-f-feel so damn c-cold when you have a f-f-f-fever? It's jus-s-st-t so wrong in s-s-so many ways!"
"I don't know," he said as he sat down next to the bed. "I suppose it's a conundrum."
Shawn smiled and gave a weak laugh. "C-c-conun-nun-nun...ugh. How many p-p-points that worth in S-s-sc-c-crabble?"
"Used it for a double word score once," he replied. Lassiter looked at his watch. "It's eleven thirty. How about you lie down and try to get some sleep?"
Shawn nodded. At least if he was lying flat against the bed, his shivering might not jar his ribs so much. Lassiter moved the bedrolls and pillow out from behind him and helped him lie down.
"S-s-sure I c-c-c-can't have another b-blanket?"
Lassiter sighed. "Sorry, Spencer. I would, but...it will do more harm than good. I know, it certainly isn't any fun."
"Muh-man, I'm gonna c-c-complain to hotel manag-g-gement. C-c-can't even get a d-d-d-d-amn blanket? Service here r-r-r-really s-s-s-sucks!"
"Yeah, it sucks." He tried to make Shawn as comfortable as possible before lying down in front of the stove to try and get some sleep himself.
Shawn's episode of the chills finally ended at about one o'clock in the morning. About an hour after that, Lassiter noticed that Shawn was becoming increasingly restless. Shawn's chills had given way to the feeling of being uncomfortably hot. So Lassiter soaked a washcloth in water and placed it on his forehead in an attempt to alleviate his discomfort. Shawn finally gave in to exhaustion sometime after four and fell into a mildly fitful sleep. Finding himself too worried over the progression of symptoms to rest well, Lassiter barely managed a few hours himself.
Shawn woke up at around nine in the morning once again feeling uncomfortably warm. The wet cloth on his forehead had dried until it was only slightly damp and it needed to be refreshed. He was also pretty hungry, and his water bottle was empty.
"Hey, Lassie?" No response. With the exception of the constant patter of rain on the roof, the small cabin was eerily silent. Shawn began looking around, expecting to find his companion somewhere close by. Lassiter was nowhere to be found. "Hey, come on, Lassie-face. This isn't funny. Come out, come out wherever you are!" He waited for what seemed like several minutes, and still no response. "Lassie? Lassie!" he called out again, becoming increasingly agitated. That's when he noticed one of the raincoats by the front of the door was missing, as well as Lassiter's jacket, shoulder holster, and gun.
'Oh shit, I'm alone. He left me!' Shawn thought desperately. He theorized that Lassiter must have become angry with him last night because he kept waking him up complaining he was hot and asking for water, and decided to save himself. And speaking of water...Shawn looked over to the crate beside his bed and was reminded of how thirsty he was when he laid eyes on the empty bottle.
Feeling panic beginning to rise in his chest, Shawn tried to sit up. He was on his own now, and somehow had to find a way to get to the water and food. He was still sore all over and pain immediately stabbed through his ribs, but he had to keep trying. Sweat began collecting on his forehead as he continued to try and push himself up. He couldn't do it, especially not with his left arm alone in his weakened state. Becoming desperate, he abandoned his efforts to sit up and decided to try rolling out of bed instead. It was low to the ground, so Shawn figured he would be able to tolerate it when he hit the floor.
With supreme effort, he collected the last of his strength, and began using his left arm and leg to roll himself onto his right side. The pain in his ribs intensified as his weight shifted, and his left leg was beginning to ache terribly. As he slowly managed to roll to his right, his broken leg started to move, and he just had to stop. God did it hurt! He lay with his head over the side of the bed, breathing hard and sweating profusely, wishing more than ever he could just take a sip of water. He realized with a sense of foreboding that he wasn't going to make it. Caught up in a rising fear that he was going to die in that bed, he was surprised to see the front door swing open.
Relief flooded through Shawn when he saw Lassiter standing in the doorway. He was playing Gorton's fisherman again, wearing the ridiculous yellow rain gear and carrying two buckets of well water. He wiped the mud off his feet before he stepped inside and kicked the door closed. Lassiter's head suddenly snapped up when he heard Shawn cry out in pain.
"What the—Spencer!" He nearly dropped the buckets when he saw Shawn leaning over the side of the bed. Lassiter set them on the floor, tore off the raincoat, and rushed over to lift up Shawn, carefully helping him back into bed.
"What in the name of sweet justice are you doing, Spencer?" he demanded angrily as he eased Shawn back onto the mattress.
Shawn squeezed his eyes shut and cradled his right arm against his side, favoring his aching ribs as he tried to catch his breath. "I—I didn't—didn't see you..." he said in between shallow breaths. "Thought you—you left!"
"What the hell gave you that ridiculous idea?" he asked incredulously.
Shawn heard the sound of dripping water and felt the wet cloth on his forehead. The cold water was fresh from the well and felt good against his hot skin. "When I woke up, I didn't see you. Your jacket and gun were gone..." He let his voice trail off, too exhausted to continue.
"I saw fresh bear tracks by the well this morning, no way in hell I'm going out there without my gun anymore," Lassiter informed him. "And I took my jacket because it's cold. I'm not going anywhere, Spencer. You can't get rid of me that easily," he declared firmly.
Lassiter covered Shawn with the quilt and went to retrieve some water from the pantry. Then he came back to the bed, and Shawn heard the familiar rattle of the pill bottle as it was popped open.
"Open your mouth."
Shawn opened his eyes as Lassiter dropped the pills into his mouth and lifted his head off the pillow. When the bottle was placed against his lips he began to drink greedily, suddenly reminded of just how desperately thirsty he was.
"Slow down, damn it. Don't choke on it," Lassiter scolded him. Shawn did as he was told, but kept drinking until he finished the entire bottle. When he was done, Lassiter stood up and retrieved more water from the pantry while Shawn used the cold cloth to wipe the sweat from his face and neck. Lassiter paced the room with his hands on his hips while trying to keep his own temper in check, finding himself angry at the younger man for doing something that was so blatantly stupid and potentially harmful. Finally, when he thought he had calmed down enough, he decided to speak.
"What the fuck was that, Spencer?!?" he fumed while angrily flinging his hand in the air. Apparently he wasn't as calm as he'd thought.
Shawn peered out from underneath the washcloth, trying his best to look innocent. "What? Dude, I woke up and you weren't here. You know I'm scared of...well, stuff. Stuff, and a smattering of things as well. For instance, I'm afraid of the dark. And what if there's a monster in the closet? I was in mortal peril."
Lassiter looked at his watch. "What do you mean, 'afraid of the dark'? It's just after nine in the morning, there are no closets in here, and I was gone less than ten minutes! So I'll ask again—what the hell were you thinking? You could have seriously hurt yourself, damn it!"
"I was scared, all right?" he shot back defensively. "I woke up, saw your gun and jacket were missing, and I thought you were gone. I thought you left me here to go save yourself. I just...I panicked, that's all."
Lassiter's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "You panicked?"
"Yeah, it's—it was weird. I just got really scared all of a sudden. I know it was stupid, but it just kind of hit me pretty hard, and...I couldn't help it."
Lassiter stalked over towards the bed. "That's not normal behavior, even for you. I know you can be a coward at times, but it's not like you to panic over something like this, you're too smart for that. No...your normal reaction should have been to immediately look for clues and figure out where I went." He leaned over and took the washcloth out of Shawn's hand. "The buckets have been right by the front door almost the whole time we've been here. You should have noticed they were missing and realized I was outside getting water from the well. You weren't thinking clearly." He placed the back of his hand against Shawn's cheek, drawing it back with a grim look when he felt how warm the skin was, confirming his suspicions.
"Let me guess," Shawn said, "bad news?"
Lassiter nodded slowly. "Your fever is higher. The infection is getting worse."
Shawn's brow furrowed with concern. "That's kind of fast, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is." He moved to the foot of the bed, pushed back the quilt, and examined Shawn's leg. His worst fears were confirmed when he saw that two dark red lines had crept out from under the bandages and were now tracking up the inside of Shawn's thigh, currently ending just above the knee. Lassiter moved to the desk, retrieved a black felt tip marker from the middle drawer, went back to the bed, and drew a line on the skin marking the end of the red tracks. He checked the time on his watch, then wrote "9:10 AM" next to the mark so he could track how fast the infection spread. He put the cap back on the marker with a soft *click* and stood there for a moment, running his hand down his face. He suddenly turned and threw the marker against the far wall as hard as he could. The cap popped off as it bounced off the wood and skittered to the floor with a clatter.
"Hey—hey, Lassman. Simmer down, now," Shawn said in a calming tone. "Don't start tearing things up, that's not going to help anything."
Lassiter stood with his back to Shawn, his hands on his hips and his eyes closed.
"But you know what does help and makes everything better?"
"What?" Lassiter barked impatiently without turning around.
"The soothing powers of Quaker Instant Oatmeal," Shawn said, sounding remarkably like a commercial pitchman. "Yes, one warm bowl of tasty steamy goodness will melt your problems away so you can start your day off right."
Lassiter raised his eyebrows and turned around. "'Steamy goodness?' Isn't that laying it on a bit thick?" he asked, his frustration temporarily abated.
"Yes, I'll admit that. But you looked like you'd eaten a rotten sardine, and I was forced to go with the big guns. It was a stretch, but hey, it worked!"
Lassiter nodded. "Okay. Breakfast it is, then. I'm assuming you'll want the strawberry again?" he asked as he slowly walked towards the pantry.
"You read my mind, oh Great Sharpie Menace. I'm beginning to wonder if you're the one with the psychic powers around here." Shawn looked at the marker on the floor as Lassiter set a pot of water on the stove. "Seriously, dude. I think you killed it. Should we have a little funeral?"
Lassiter picked up the marker, replaced the cap, and sat down at the desk. "No," he replied flatly. At least Shawn was back to being a smart ass again. For once, that was actually a good sign.
"Officer Miller!" Buzz said as he shook the older man's shoulder.
Being a light sleeper, Miller woke up immediately. "Yeah? What is it?"
"We're getting another message from Detective Lassiter, sir."
He sat up, and Buzz offered his hand to help haul him up off of the cot and onto his feet. "Thanks, kid. Can you go get me a double shot of coffee? Extra cream and sugar, please."
"Yes, sir!" Buzz ran off to fulfill his request.
Miller jogged over to the desk and resumed his post in front of the rapidly clicking telegraph. He jotted down the letters as the message was received, transcribing them into words. As he read the message, his heart sank. "Somebody go get Chief Vick!" he hollered. He sent a reply acknowledging he'd received the message and advised Lassiter to stand by.
A few minutes later, the Chief strode into the room, accompanied by O'Hara, Buzz, and the head of the Air Rescue Unit. "What is it, Officer Miller?" she asked in her usual no-nonsense tone.
"Update from Detective Lassiter, ma'am." Miller handed her the note as Buzz gave him a large cup of coffee, prepared to perfection. "Well, that was quick, Buzz!"
Vick read the message. "Damn it."
-"Spencer getting worse. Red lines on leg so blood sepsis confirmed. Need faster evac."
Vick turned to the head of the Air Rescue Unit. "We can't wait two or three more days, Deputy Kilgore. We have to find a way to get aircraft in there before that. Is there any way we can make that happen?"
The tall Senior Deputy shook his head. "Ma'am, I'm sorry. We're doing absolutely everything we can, looking for any break in the weather that would give us an opportunity to stage a rescue. We're standing by and literally ready to go at a moment's notice. But that cloud cover is just too damn thick. My pilots are very good but they can't see anything. They'd fly right into a tree or the side of the mountain trying to get to them. It's just not possible until this weather clears, and now the forecast is showing at least three more days of this, not just two."
Vick gave a frustrated sigh. "Thank you, Deputy Kilgore. That's all." He left the room while the Chief weighed her options. "McNab, go wake up Officer Bailey." Buzz ran out of the room to immediately carry out her orders. She turned to address Juliet, who was reading the message with a grim look on her face. "O'Hara, I'm giving you a special assignment."
Her head snapped up as she acknowledged her commanding officer. "Yes, Chief."
Chief Vick turned to face the door as Buzz entered the room, followed closely by Officer Bailey. She handed the younger Game Warden Lassiter's latest message. "Ladies and gentlemen, the situation has changed. Officer Bailey, I would like you and Officer Miller to work with Detective O'Hara to continue making an emergency evacuation plan by land."
Bailey raised his eyebrows in surprise and glanced at Miller, who simply smiled knowingly in return.
The Chief glanced at the dusting of dried mud on the cuffs of Bailey's pants. "What, you think I haven't noticed you two boys sneaking around my command center?" Vick asked. "Now, keep in mind this will only be used as a last resort due to extreme necessity. We're still seeing active landslides all over the red zone, so I know how dangerous it is. Field personnel will consist of volunteers only who are fully aware of the risks involved. Use the absolute minimum amount of personnel necessary. Since Detective Lassiter is not injured and fully functional, he should be able to assist in the evacuation effort once they arrive, so I am allowing no more than three additional people. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, ma'am," Bailey and Miller answered in unison.
"O'Hara, give them whatever help they need. You have the full resources of the SBPD and the Sheriff's Department at your disposal. If everything else fails, I'm depending on you to get them out of there." She turned to Miller. "Tell Detective Lassiter we are working on a possible emergency ground evacuation plan, but the air evacuation is still their best possibility of rescue and is the current plan. My orders are to do the best he can with what he's got until then. Officer McNab!"
"Have you managed to contact Henry Spencer or Mr. Guster yet?"
Buzz nodded. "I've contacted Gus by phone and he's on his way back now. But I still haven't been able to get word to Henry Spencer yet. The Coast Guard is trying to relay a message to the fishing vessel he's on now, ma'am."
"All right. You all know what to do." Her orders issued, Chief Vick strode across the room and began fixing herself a plate of food.
Bailey raised his eyebrows and looked at Miller, clearly impressed. Miller laughed at him. "What? Come on, kid. She didn't make Chief for nothing! She's a smart lady, it was only a matter of time before she busted us. I'm just glad she's on our side." He turned and began sending Vick's orders to Lassiter. "I'll join you folks over at the maps in a minute."
Shawn came down with the chills again at around two o'clock in the afternoon. He suffered through the second bout for two and a half hours before it finally abated and he was able to fall asleep. Shawn slept fitfully until just after eight o'clock that evening when he woke up complaining he was thirsty and asking for food. Lassiter propped him up on the bedroll and pillows, gave him more Advil, handed him a fresh bottle of water, and went back to the stove to prepare their dinner. He busied himself with making sure the beef stew was properly heated and left Shawn to doze off again while he worked.
When it was ready, Lassiter poured half of the concoction into Shawn's cup, dropped a spoon into it, and walked over to the bed.
"Wake up, Spencer. Time to eat," Lassiter said as he gently shook him awake.
Shawn opened his eyes and stared at Lassiter for a moment while his vision focused. "Hey, Lassie! What are you doing here?" he said as he broke into a goofy smile.
"Quit kidding around, Spencer," he grumbled.
The grin didn't waver. "Seriously, man. I didn't know you were invited."
Lassiter paused when he realized Shawn's speech was a little slurred. Then he looked closer and realized the younger man's eyes were slightly unfocused. Becoming increasingly worried, he asked, "Spencer, do you know where you are?"
"Silly Lassie, we're at my dad's house. For a Saturday night steak dinner." He paused, starting to become confused. "At least, I think we are...aren't we?" Shawn began looking around the cabin. "Wait, this isn't right..."
Lassiter reached out and placed his hand on Shawn's forehead, growing disturbed when he felt how hot Shawn's skin was. His fever had risen to the point where he was becoming delirious. He slowly pulled his hand away and stood up, weighing his options. There wasn't much he could do except what he was doing already. One thing he knew he had to do for sure was make Shawn eat something now while he was still coherent enough to chew and swallow food. It bothered him greatly to know that Shawn would probably be past that point sometime soon.
Lassiter pulled the chair over next to the bed and sat down. "Spencer, you need to eat. Here, take this." He held the cup out in front of Shawn, who squinted at it with bleary, unfocused eyes as he reached out with his left arm, groping awkwardly, trying to grasp it. His hand bumped Lassiter's wrist and almost spilled the stew. Lassiter gave a tired sigh and pushed Shawn's hand back down. "Never mind." Knowing it was imperative that Shawn ate now, he scooted his chair closer and picked up the spoon.
If anyone dared to claim Detective Carlton Lassiter had ever spoon fed Shawn Spencer anything other than a well-deserved heaping serving of justice, he'd deny it to his dying day.
"Open your mouth, Spencer," he said as he collected some of the stew on the spoon.
"Hmm?" Shawn opened his eyes and raised his head, looking like he'd just woken up from a long nap.
"I said open your mouth."
Lassiter seized the initiative and stuffed the spoon into his mouth as soon as he'd opened it wide enough. He was relieved when he saw Shawn chewing the food. He readied another spoonful and waited for him to finish.
Shawn swallowed his first mouthful and tried to speak again, still looking confused. "Where's Dad? Is he grilling the steaks out ba—urgh..."
Lassiter cut him off mid-sentence as he inserted another spoonful of stew. "Quit talking and eat, Spencer." At least now he knew one way to shut up Shawn.
Shawn looked at Lassiter as he slowly chewed his second mouthful of food, still trying to figure out what was going on. The Detective's simple directive must have cut through the fever-induced fog clouding his brain, because when Shawn finally swallowed his food, he remained quiet and simply opened his mouth. Either that, or he finally realized the other man wasn't going to stop cramming food in his face.
Pleased that Shawn could still follow instructions to a certain extent, he fed him another spoonful. Shawn leaned his head back against the pillows, obviously tired. Lassiter was determined to make sure he finished his meal because he literally didn't know when he'd get another chance to eat again. After spoonful number five, Shawn closed his eyes and seemed to relax, but still opened his mouth obediently after he finished chewing and swallowing.
A little more than halfway through his meal, while Lassiter was preparing another spoonful, Shawn's eyes fluttered open as if he was waking from a dream. He looked at Lassiter, then down at the cup and spoon in his hands, and a confused expression crossed his face. Then he tasted the remnants of the stew in his mouth, and looked back up at Lassiter again.
"Lassie, what are you doing?" Shawn asked, bemused at first. Then he squinted at the spoon in Lassiter's hand again, managed to focus his eyes, and finally realized what was happening. "Why are you feeding me?" Now he was concerned.
Lassiter was becoming increasingly worried about Shawn's diminishing mental state. He felt bad for the kid; it had to be disconcerting to not be fully aware of what was happening to him. But he knew he had to get Shawn to finish eating, and make him drink plenty of water afterward. He decided he had to push his feelings of concern aside and focus on the task at hand.
"Keep eating, Spencer. You need to finish this meal." He saw the apprehension in Shawn's eyes when he finally understood the gravity of the situation.
"I can't do it myself anymore, can I?" He tensed and swallowed nervously. "I'm that sick? I can't even feed myself?" He sat up a little and looked around the cabin, clearly confused. "Lassie, where are we? I want to go home." Shawn didn't recognize his surroundings anymore and was becoming agitated.
"Take it easy, Spencer. Just sit back and relax." He placed a hand on his shoulder in an attempt to keep him calm. It was also to make sure he didn't try to get out of bed like he had that morning. His firm tone seemed to register with Shawn, because he did as he was told and lay back against the pillows.
"You need to eat, Spencer. You can't get better if you don't eat." Lassiter took up another spoonful and placed it in Shawn's mouth. He chewed slowly as his gaze drifted about the room, examining unfamiliar surroundings. He no longer knew where he was, and was obviously scared and confused. He looked...lost, like a young child who had been separated from his parents in a large shopping mall.
Lassiter managed to get Shawn to finish his meal, then coaxed him into drinking the entire bottle of water. Shawn closed his eyes and leaned back with a tired sigh as Lassiter stood up and retrieved more water from the pantry. He returned to the bed with fresh water and a small hand towel he'd found stored with the cookware, and set them on the crate next to the bed. "I'll be back in a minute, Spencer." He turned to leave, paused, then retrieved his jacket, draping it over the back of the chair next to the bed. He didn't want Shawn to wake up in a panic thinking he'd abandoned him and try to get out of bed again while he was outside.
Lassiter donned one of the raincoats and went out to retrieve two fresh buckets of cold well water. He left one bucket outside on the porch to keep it cool and brought the other one inside. He shed the raincoat and set the bucket down on the floor next to the bed, then leaned over to wake up an apparently snoozing Shawn. Lassiter noticed a sheen of sweat covering his face.
"Spencer, wake up."
"Hmmm?" He looked up as he blinked slowly.
"Wake up. We need to take your shirt off."
"Mmmkay," he replied groggily. He grinned lazily as Lassiter pulled up on the bottom of his shirt. "We goin' swimming?" he asked.
Damn, he was in a daze again. "Yeah, you're going swimming." Lassiter sat down in the chair, soaked the towel in the cold water, then wrung it out and spread it across the top of Shawn's chest.
"Hey, that's cold," he said when he felt the cooling sensation against his hot skin. "Feels kinda good..." He closed his eyes and leaned back as Lassiter placed the wet washcloth on his forehead, and after a few minutes, he dozed off.
While Shawn was asleep, Lassiter quietly retrieved the Sharpie from the desk and pulled back the quilt covering Shawn's left leg, taking to opportunity to check the progression of the infection. What he saw made his stomach drop.
In less than twelve hours, the red tracks had crept all the way up the inside of Shawn's thigh and disappeared into his groin.
Lassiter marked the red lines at the spot where they disappeared, noted the time, then slowly made his way back to the desk to send out an update on Shawn's condition. They had to get Shawn to a hospital soon.
"Incoming message, Buzz. Go get Chief Vick," Miller said as he began transcribing the latest communication. In less than a minute, Vick, O'Hara, Bailey, and Buzz were hovering around the older Game Warden. He set the pad on the desk so the entire crowd could read it at once. "It's not looking good, Chief."
—"Infection moving fast, Spencer getting worse. High fever and delirious, needs hospital. Need faster evac."
"Officer Miller, I've just been informed that we may get just enough of a break in the cloud cover late tomorrow afternoon to attempt an air rescue. Tell Detective Lassiter we will be standing by with helicopters ready to fly the moment that opportunity presents itself." She turned to Officer Bailey. "Do you think Mr. Spencer can last that long?"
He nodded. "Well, it's only been about 48 hours. Of course this is just my best guess without seeing the patient. Ideally we need to get him out right now. But as long as you evacuate him to a hospital by tomorrow night, I think he might be okay."
The Chief raised her eyebrows. "Might?"
"Blood sepsis is a bad infection to leave untreated for any length of time. The man should be in a hospital right now. His prognosis depends on the type of bacteria causing the infection, and whether or not it responds to medication." He shook his head. "I'm sorry, Chief. But that's the best 'no bullshit' assessment I can give you without seeing the patient. He might be just fine if we get him to a hospital tomorrow night, or it might already too late."
Vick nodded. "I understand. Thank you for your honesty, Officer Bailey."
The telegraph signaled Lassiter's reply.
—"What are chances of ground rescue tonight?"
"Chief," O'Hara spoke up. "It sounds like Carlton is really worried about Shawn. He wouldn't be asking to move up the evacuation if he didn't think it was absolutely necessary."
"Do you have a final plan to evacuate them by ground?"
O'Hara shook her head. "Not yet, Chief. We can't get any vehicles up there, and they can't carry enough of the supplies they'll need on foot. We need some sort of vehicle to at least carry supplies to make it possible."
"All right. Let me know as soon as you have a viable plan."
O'Hara decided to plead her case. If her partner was alarmed enough to be requesting an immediate emergency evacuation despite the risks involved, then she was going to fight for it. "But Chief, we can at least send some people out there to try and—"
Vick held up her hand. "I understand that you're worried about both Mr. Spencer and your partner, Detective O'Hara. But it's just too damn dangerous right now, especially at night. If a landslide occurred, the rescue party couldn't even see it in time to try and get out of the way. Not that they could, even if they saw it. I'm sorry, O'Hara. I'm not sending out several people blindly just to have them get killed trying to save one man. Especially not when we may have an opportunity to do it safely tomorrow." She turned to address Miller once again. "Tell Lassiter there's no possibility of a ground evacuation tonight because it's too dangerous, and our best and quickest chance for an evacuation is by air late tomorrow afternoon if the opportunity arises. He's just going to have to wait and do the best he can."
Miller sent the message, and transcribed Lassiter's response.
—"Understood. Will do my best with available resources. Will advise if situation changes. Over and out."
Chief Vick turned to Officer Bailey. "Finalize a plan to get them out by ground. If Spencer takes another turn for the worse, I damn well want to have a viable option besides 'hurry up and wait.'"
So that's chapter 5! Note to all those who are following this story and want the whump to continue—good news! Chapter 6 is finished, and I am, yet again, breaking it up into multiple chapters. So this story will now have 8 chapters instead of the originally intended 5, and the aforementioned 6. But that's it! I swear! It will only be 8 chapters long, and that includes an epilogue.
Hope you enjoyed the increasing Shawn whump in this chapter, because the poor boy only gets worse in 6. And THANK YOU to all those who are reading, and especially those who review. It's greatly appreciated! I LOVE you to death!
Home Is Where the Heart Is by Texasartchick
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. I do not own any of the characters of Psych and am not affiliated with the show or USA Network. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. I do not own nor am I associated with Advil, Campbell's Chicken and Stars soup, or Coffeemate creamers.
SPOILERS: For Psych season 4 episode "High Noonish".
*AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story takes place after my three previous Psych Fan Fiction stories "Choose It Or Lose It", "It Can Happen", and "This Stalker Thing Kind Of Sucks". Events affecting the Lassiter/Shawn dynamics that take place in both of these previous stories are mentioned in this one. You might want to read them first. Doing so is not a requirement to understand what is going on in this one, but it will help alleviate any confusion that might occur when the references pop up.*
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Contains a major reference for chapters four and nine of "This Stalker Thing Kind Of Sucks".
ENJOY! Please be kind enough to review. All feedback, good or bad, is welcome.
Shawn slept quietly until about ten o'clock that evening, which is when he started getting restless. It began with the occasional shifting and stirring, as if he was unable to find a comfortable position. An hour later and he was talking in his sleep. It started with the occasional faint whisper, but eventually grew into incoherent mumbling as Shawn slowly descended into full-fledged delirium. Lassiter monitored him closely throughout the night, changing the cold cloths on his head and chest every twenty minutes to try and keep his temperature down, and making him drink as much water as possible during occasional semi-conscious moments. His fever seemed to peak at around four in the morning when he was mumbling something about whether or not a beret was technically classified as a hat or a cap, his eyes moving behind closed lids as he shifted restlessly against the pillows. Lassiter did his best to keep him calm and prevent him from moving around too much so he wouldn't hurt himself.
Shawn gradually quieted down and fell into a deep sleep at around eight in the morning. By that point Lassiter was so exhausted he actually fell asleep in the chair for a couple of hours. Not even realizing he'd dozed off, he woke up at ten to find himself slumped against the straight back of the chair with his chin on his chest, legs splayed out, and arms hanging limply at his sides. He gathered himself and stood up, trying in vain to work the massive kink out of his neck as he tended to Spencer before making his way over to the pantry in search of coffee and food.
Lassiter hadn't bothered rolling out his makeshift bed that night because he knew he wouldn't be sleeping anytime in the foreseeable future. He simply couldn't afford to sleep because Shawn's condition had deteriorated to the point where he needed constant monitoring. Knowing he wouldn't be needing it for anything else, he put his blanket to better use and folded it up to create a makeshift cushion for the hard chair. After spending all night sitting in its uncomfortable wooden seat, he was wondering if the slats had made permanent marks on his backside. He sat down on his new seat cushion as he resumed his position beside the bed and continued soaking the wet cloths with cold water. Shawn was asleep for the moment, but his fever was still high, and showed no signs of abating anytime soon.
At around noon, Lassiter stood up, stretched, and went out on the front porch to look up into the sky. The low-lying cloud cover appeared to be as thick as ever, and the rain continued to descend in a miserable drizzle. He still held out hope, but the conditions he saw made him doubt the air rescue was going to happen at all. He used to love the sound of rain, but now he hated it. The soft patter against the roof meant their chances of rescue were slowly wasting away as the day wore on. He ran his hand over the three days worth of itchy stubble on his chin that reminded him just how isolated they were from the rest of the civilized world. With an exhausted sigh, he turned and slowly went back inside.
Lassiter sat down in the chair, removed the drying cloths from Shawn's head and chest, and dunked them in the bucket of cold water again. He folded the washcloth lengthwise, wrung it out, and began wiping away the abundance of sweat collecting on Shawn's face. His eyes slowly opened when the cool cloth touched his cheeks, taking a few moments to focus as he looked up at Lassiter from behind heavy lids.
"Hey, Lassman..." he said slowly, his voice only a hoarse whisper. Shawn swallowed, then moistened his dry lips before he continued, "Is...day three yet?"
"Spencer?" Lassiter leaned closer when he realized Shawn might be having a lucid moment. "Do you know where you are?"
"Cabin," he said groggily. He was aware of his surroundings for the time being, but was very weak and obviously struggling to stay awake.
Realizing Shawn was cognizant again, Lassiter immediately set about the task of getting him medicine, water, and food. Judging by the condition Shawn was in the last time he'd fed him, he knew he was lucky to have this opportunity. After last night, he knew it was highly likely this would be his last chance.
"Hey, stay awake, Spencer," he said when he noticed Shawn's eyes starting to slide closed. "Stay with me, don't go back to sleep." Shawn opened his eyes again as Lassiter cracked open a fresh bottle of water and shook three tablets of Advil into his hand. Even though he knew it was highly unlikely, he hoped that the medicine and cold compresses had started to bring the fever down.
"Here, more Advil to reduce the fever," he said as he pushed the pills between Shawn's parted lips and carefully helped him wash them down.
"Lassie," Shawn joked weakly, "can we get our money back? I think they're defective."
"Bit late for that, Spencer. Keep drinking." Lassiter helped him finish the entire bottle of water, then quickly got up so he could hurry and heat up some food. He had a small window of opportunity and was determined to use it to his full advantage. He chose the Campbell's Chicken and Stars soup because it was the easiest to chew and swallow. Shawn was extremely weak and needed food that required the least amount of effort possible.
"Hey, Lassie? Think I need to make some room for that water I just drank."
Understanding what Shawn meant, Lassiter set the can next to the stove, went over to the bed, and handed Shawn the open top bottle with the duct tape around the rim that served as the makeshift urinal. He returned to the stove and had just poured the soup into the saucepan when Shawn called out again.
"What?" he asked as he stirred the contents of the pot.
"I, um...I think I need...a little help," he admitted hesitantly.
"Help with wha—oh..."
He stopped stirring the soup. Oh, wow. Shawn had become so ill that he couldn't even handle that basic task by himself anymore. Whether it was due to his struggle to stay conscious or the fact that he was just that feeble, Lassiter took this as a sign that Shawn was getting worse. It was a good thing Lassiter had his back to him so he could hide the stunned expression on his face. At first he'd been overjoyed to see Spencer lucid again, but now, this new development had him more worried than ever. Not quite knowing what to make of the situation, Lassiter finally decided to take the good with the bad; bad that Spencer was this weak, good that he was cognizant, properly hydrated, and his kidneys were still functioning normally.
Knowing that the poor kid had to be terribly embarrassed, Lassiter hid his emotions behind a mask of casual indifference while he retrieved a pair of latex gloves from the medical kit. As he approached the bed, Lassiter remembered a time when he was so weak immediately after major surgery for a near-fatal gunshot wound that he found himself in similar circumstances. He remembered Shawn standing by his hospital bed holding a bottle of Gatorade, placing the straw into his mouth for him because he couldn't do it himself. He remembered Shawn helping him out of bed and supporting him when he was too weak to walk or even stand on his own. He remembered how humiliating it was to not be able to care for himself, and how grateful he'd been that Shawn was surprisingly mature enough to temporarily set his childish antics aside while assisting him. Feeling more than a little sympathy for the kid, Lassiter was determined to get through this while leaving as much of Shawn's dignity intact as he possibly could.
"I'm sorry, Lassie," Shawn apologized pitifully. "I just—"
"It's all right, Spencer," he assured him as he took the bottle from his limp hand. "You're sick. It's not your fault."
Shawn's face was red, and it wasn't just because of his temperature. "I'm so sorry..."
"Hey, I've collected some truly nasty shit from crime scenes over the years during my career as a police officer. And I do mean that literally," he said as he pulled back the covers on the bed. "You think something like this even phases me? I have an iron constitution, Spencer. This doesn't bother me one bit. Now, let's hurry up and get this over with, okay?" Shawn regarded Lassiter for a moment, then nodded slowly. Lassiter could see the appreciation in the younger man's eyes, relieved that he was handling his delicate situation as tactfully as possible under the circumstances.
After he'd finished helping Shawn relieve himself, Lassiter emptied and rinsed the bottle, disposed of his gloves, and hurried to finish heating the soup. Shawn was fading out again, and he wanted to make sure he ate something now before he gave in to sleep. "Stay awake, Spencer," he said, trying to hold his attention. "Stay with me. Count the rafters in the ceiling, or—"
"Twenty," he replied immediately, having memorized that fact the first time he looked up at the roof. "Twenty rafters, ten on each side of the roof..." his voice trailed off, growing tired.
Somewhat surprised by how quickly he'd answered, Lassiter tried to think of something else. "Where are the buckets? Tell me where the buckets are, Spencer."
"Can't...can't see them right now, but...one by the bed, and I think you left the other one out on the porch..."
Knowing that Shawn was fading fast, Lassiter decided the soup was warm enough. He poured it into the cup and sat down next to the bed. "Time to eat, Spencer. Open your mouth," he said as he readied the spoon.
Shawn opened his eyes, looking at the spoon hovering in front of him for several moments. He squinted, trying to focus his vision, not bothering to raise his head off the pillow. "Lassie?" he said weakly. "I can't see the spoon, it's all blurry..."
Lassiter's concern increased yet again. When Shawn said he couldn't see the buckets, he'd assumed he meant they were out of his field of vision, not that he literally couldn't see them. "Let me worry about the spoon, Spencer. You just eat." Lassiter hoped the taste of the food would help revive Shawn enough to make it through the entire meal.
Lassiter watched Shawn closely as he fed him, scrutinizing his behavior as he looked for anything that might be a new symptom. He was very lethargic at first, and seemed to have to concentrate just to be able to close his lips around the spoon. He chewed slowly, as if it required great effort. Lassiter was glad he'd made the right choice when selecting the soup that was easiest to eat. But he did appear to be slightly more awake by the end of the meal as his body regained some much needed energy from the food. Unfortunately, he was also sweating profusely again. Lassiter made him finish all of it, even drinking the broth, to make sure Shawn received as much nutrition as possible.
"Hey, Lassie," Shawn said wearily as Lassiter set the empty cup and spoon on the crate by the bed. "Again, sorry about the whole pee thing. Not a job I want to outsource. Thanks for...you know..."
"It's all right, Spencer. Like I said, survival situation. We'll deal with it."
Lassiter couldn't stop thinking about how unsettling Shawn's appearance was. Looking every bit like he'd just stepped out of a sauna, his hair was plastered to his forehead with sweat, features drawn, and skin flushed pink with heat. He looked like he felt just awful. Knowing there was nothing more he could do for him at the moment, Lassiter tried to make Shawn as comfortable as possible. He figured the least he could do was keep the excess sweat on Shawn's forehead from running into his eyes and trickling down into his ears. Lassiter dipped the washcloth in the cold water and wrung it out.
"I have a question for—oohhh, thank you..." Shawn closed his eyes as Lassiter dabbed the sweat off of his forehead, thankful for the feel of the cold cloth against his hot skin.
"Question about what?" Lassiter asked, moving the cloth down to wipe Shawn's cheeks.
Shawn opened his eyes again and continued. "So, how much are you gonna pay me not to tell Jules you helped me wee in a bottle?" he said with a faint smile. "With premium information like that, she could blackmail you...make you cover her paperwork for a year."
"Shut it, Spencer," Lassiter replied, even though his biting tone lacked its usual strength. He wiped the perspiration from Shawn's chin, then freshened the cloth again and laid it across his forehead.
Shawn closed his eyes, welcoming the relief provided by the cooling sensation. Realizing he was thirsty again, he swallowed and licked his dry lips. "Well I hope your wallet's fat, because the spirits are telling me there's another such episode in your near future. Say, four to five hours from now. They're fairly clear on this matter."
Having seen Shawn swallow and knowing how much he was sweating, Lassiter knew he was probably thirsty. "Bit short on cash at the moment, Spencer. You take an I.O.U.?" he mockingly replied as he retrieved a fresh bottle of water from the crate and twisted off the cap.
Shawn's smile widened slightly as he opened his eyes. "Hey, Lassie made a joke...seriously, that really was above and beyond the call of duty, man. You deserve a medal...a nice, golden medal."
Lassiter's eyes narrowed. "Keep annoying me and I'll make sure your new official nickname at the station will be 'whiz kid.'" He slipped a hand behind Shawn's neck and raised his head off the pillow.
"Ooh, touché, Detective."
Lassiter brought the bottle to Shawn's lips and helped him gradually drink all of the water. Keeping Shawn properly hydrated was one of the few things he could actually control, and he was determined not to add to Spencer's growing list of medical problems. When he was finished, Lassiter carefully eased the younger man's head back down and resettled the cold compress on his forehead. Overcome by fatigue, Shawn surrendered his struggle to stay awake and closed his eyes.
Knowing there wasn't anything else he could do at the moment, he placed the wet towel across Shawn's chest and adjusted the pillows, trying to make him as comfortable as possible. Unfortunately, that was as good as it was going to get. "Get some sleep, Spencer," Lassiter advised as he picked up the empty cup and went to rinse it out.
"Goin' home..." Shawn mumbled.
"What's that?" Lassiter made his way back over to the bed and leaned over to hear what he was saying.
Shawn looked up at him hopefully through heavy, half-closed lids. "Third day, gonna rescue...going home..." his voice trailed off as his eyes slid closed. This time, they stayed shut.
Lassiter gave a worried glance at the door, having already seen the persistent obscuring clouds in the sky. "Yeah...that's right, Spencer."
He didn't have the heart to tell him the truth.
"Detective O'Hara!" Buzz called as he ran through the front door. "Officer Bailey is back!"
Juliet looked up from the map she was studying with Officer Miller, then glanced at her watch to note the time. It was just after noon. Bailey had taken an ATV and set out that morning at first light to try and scout out any intact trailheads leading to the cabin. He was also attempting to get a visual on the mountainside and determine the stability of the terrain. The rain had reduced to a mere drizzle, but the dangers of landslides were far from over. The ground was already saturated, with more rain expected later in the day and throughout the night.
Buzz held the door open as Bailey strode in still wearing his long green raincoat, gray mud covering his boots and spattering the knee high nylon gaiters he wore over the legs of his uniform pants. He shook his head and looked at Miller and Juliet as Buzz joined them at the map table.
"Wow, it's bad up there. That mountain is pretty chewed up." He pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and unfolded it, then set it on the table next to the map and picked up a pencil.
Juliet's stomach dropped as she heard his declaration. She'd hoped he would come bearing good news, that he'd been able to find some avenue of ascent to be used by the rescue party. Everyone was tired. They were exhausting themselves giving everything they had in the effort to rescue Shawn and Carlton, and needed something positive to energize them again. But judging by Bailey's actions, her hopes were misplaced. Even Buzz's eager expression began to falter.
"Okay, this is what we've got," Bailey said as he leaned over the map. "These are areas where landslides have already occurred, and the trails have been destroyed. No access in these spots." He began marking the large map with the pencil, recreating what he'd documented on the paper he'd brought with him into the field.
Juliet's jaw dropped when she saw how many landslides there had been. For the first time, she realized just how dangerous a land rescue really was. No wonder Chief Vick was considering this an absolute last option. From what she saw, it looked like Shawn and Lassiter were hopelessly trapped, surrounded by unstable terrain.
Miller surveyed the damage and gave a low whistle. "You're right, that's not good. That's a hell of a lot of damage."
After what seemed like an eternity, Bailey finally stopped updating the map and stood up. "I went out as far as I could, guys. I even ventured into the red zone to survey as much of the mountain as possible, out to about here. That's as far as I could get for the moment." He pointed to a spot on the map that showed he'd traveled almost one third of the way to the cabin's location.
Miller raised his eyebrows. "Damn, Bailey. That was risky."
The younger officer shrugged his broad shoulders. "What? It's easier to ask for forgiveness, right?"
Juliet smirked, knowing what Carlton's reaction would have been if she'd taken such an extreme risk and been so nonchalant about it.
"Anyway," Bailey said as he turned back to the map, capturing the group's undivided attention. "Here's the bad news. Almost every trail I saw leading up to the cabin has been destroyed by a slide at some point. It's also damn near impossible to find a path around those damaged areas because of either rough terrain or more landslides. There are also a few spots I identified where the land is about to break free. So it's going to be extremely dangerous, to say the least."
Juliet struggled to push back the rising despair she felt in her chest. "Isn't there any good news?" she asked somewhat desperately.
Fortunately, Bailey nodded. "Yeah, there is. I spotted two trails that appear to be undamaged, both of them leading near that cabin. Hell, one of them leads damn near right up to the front door. Now keep in mind, I only saw part of the trails. They could very well be washed out farther on up the hillside. But if they're still intact, then that's a direct path to them."
"And what if we go half of the way up the mountain only to find the trails have been destroyed?" Buzz asked.
"We'll just have to adapt and improvise, find a way around it and keep going." Bailey shook his head and sighed. "Going up is hard enough, but bringing both of them back down to get Mr. Spencer to a doctor will be even more difficult. Especially with him being so sick and badly injured." He thought for a moment, his large hand working over his chin. "As a matter of fact, damn near impossible," he added skeptically.
Everyone raised their heads to stare at Buzz. "What did you say?" Juliet asked with mild disbelief.
"I was just thinking...if you can't bring him to the doctor, then why not bring the doctor to him?" He stared back at the group, absentmindedly tapping his fingers on the clipboard he held in front of his chest.
The first to speak, Juliet beamed. "Buzz, that's brilliant!" She turned to the Game Wardens, who were both sporting wide smiles as well. "Can we do that? Could it possibly work?"
Miller nodded, a promising gleam in his eyes. "Certainly decreases the amount of equipment you'd need to haul up there. Wouldn't need to take anything with you to carry Spencer back down, you could just hole up and treat him there a day or two while waiting for an airlift. It's a lot safer for all involved, too. You only have to bypass the unstable land once, cuts the danger to the rescue party in half."
"I agree, it's certainly our best option," Bailey added as he shifted his hands to his hips. "Still have to find a vehicle to get us there, though. Even that ATV I was on could only take me so far."
Miller left his companions to debate amongst themselves and slowly wandered over to the communications desk to retrieve his coffee, thinking as he went. He knew there had to be a solution to this vehicle problem, he could feel it. He was frustrated, as if the answer had been staring them right in the face all along but was still being completely overlooked. Maybe they were making it too complicated, maybe the answer was simple? As he picked up his cup, his eyes once again fell on the telegraph. A rare antique that still functioned to perfection in this modern world. He found it highly amusing that sometimes, the old ways were best.
And then it hit him.
"Ladies and gentleman, I believe I have the solution," Miller said proudly as he turned to address his colleagues. "We've been going about this the wrong way. We're trying so damn hard to find some fancy high-tech means of transportation when we should have been thinking low-tech all along." He strode over to the map and pointed to the spot representing the ranch next to their base station.
"Horses," he said with a smile. "Hell of a lot faster than walking. They can carry all the extra equipment you need strapped to the saddles, will go anywhere an ATV can go, and then some. Just get off and walk them over the really rough spots that the ATV's wheels can't handle. Take some extra rope to help pull them up the steepest inclines if you have to, but it's doable." He looked up at the now enthusiastic faces of his colleagues. "If all goes well you can be up that mountainside and drying your boots in that cabin in about four hours."
Juliet was so happy she felt like crying. Ever since those first desperate moments when she'd found out her partner was missing, they finally had a viable plan to bring him and Shawn home. Knowing she couldn't afford to lose her focus now, she pushed her elation behind a mask of professionalism and started thinking about the logistics of their mission. Having a course of action did no good if they couldn't figure out exactly how to pull it off. Suddenly, she didn't feel so tired anymore.
"Okay guys, let's make this work," Juliet stated with conviction. "Bailey, make a list of the equipment and give it to Buzz, he'll get whatever you need. I'll find a doctor and go visit that ranch to arrange for some horses. How many do you need?"
"Three," he said confidently as he started writing his equipment list on a piece of paper. "Make sure they have saddle bags, tie-downs, and extra rope to lash equipment to the saddles. And have them shod with rubberized shoes for better traction on slick rocks."
Miller looked at Juliet. "You know a doctor that can handle this? I mean, they're not necessarily the rugged outdoors type of folks."
"I don't, but I may know someone who does." Juliet opened her phone and dialed a number. "Hello, Gus. Hey, I need you to do something for me."
Lassiter received the message from base station 5 at about three o'clock that afternoon. His heart sank as he translated the message onto the notepad. Just as he'd expected, it was more bad news.
—"Weather not clearing, air evac canceled. Break in weather late tomorrow afternoon, will try again then. Over."
Frustrated, Lassiter crumpled up the paper and burned the damn thing in the stove.
Shawn slept restlessly until he woke up about an hour after the message canceling the air rescue came through. He was lucid again, but barely so, and seemed even weaker than he was the last time he was awake. He was also complaining that now his joints ached terribly. The pain had come on suddenly, so Lassiter knew it was a disturbing new symptom caused by the infection instead of the result of too much time spent in bed.
Shawn's earlier prediction proved true as he once again needed Lassiter's assistance to relieve himself, which he took as a positive sign that Spencer was remaining properly hydrated. After that task was accomplished, he'd managed to feed Shawn again. It took a lot more patience and coaxing this time because he was so weak and groggy he could barely chew his food. Lassiter got him to take some Advil along with two more bottles of water before he was simply unable to keep his eyes open any longer and fell asleep. That's when Shawn lost his tenuous hold on reality and once again descended into the throes of delirium.
Shawn was talking in his sleep again only an hour after succumbing to slumber. He was more agitated this time, the disorientation and confusion more severe. He shifted restlessly on the bed as he babbled incoherently, sweated profusely and groaned in pain. He occasionally opened his eyes and asked Lassiter where he was and what was happening to him. All Lassiter could do was tend to him and try his best to keep him calm.
By eight o'clock that night, Shawn started hallucinating.
Lassiter found it extremely disturbing to witness Shawn talking to someone who wasn't in the room. Apparently he still recognized Lassiter but had no idea that Juliet, the person he thought he was speaking to, wasn't actually there. He carried on a conversation with her for almost fifteen minutes about why she wore impractical high heels all the time before returning to incoherent babbling. Lassiter was just about to send out a message updating Chief Vick on Shawn's deteriorating condition when he opened his eyes and started talking again.
"Lassie...Lassie, please, stop him..." Shawn called out as his eyes fixed on a spot in the air just above the foot of the bed. "Stop him, Lassie...don't let him leave..."
"Calm down, Spencer. No one is leaving." Lassiter continued talking to Shawn, but was discovering he wouldn't always respond to the sound of his voice anymore.
Shawn continued, his pleas becoming more desperate. "Gus, I'm sorry, don't go! I didn't mean to lose the phone again...Lassie, he's getting on the plane, he's leaving for Vegas without me! Help me stop him...Gus, please!" He looked at Lassiter with glazed over eyes as his cries became more frantic. "Lassie, tell him I'm sorry, I want to go too!" Shawn started to sit up as he reached out towards the foot of the bed.
Lassiter put his hand on his shoulder and pushed him back down. "Gus isn't here, Spencer. He's not leaving you. Lie down."
Shawn seemed to calm down as Lassiter pressed him back against the pillows. He rolled his eyes as he closed them and sank back, his arm falling limply at his side. "Thirsty...I'm so thirsty..."
Lassiter took that as an opportunity to make Shawn drink some more water. He opened a fresh bottle and brought it to the younger man's lips as usual. Shawn groaned then suddenly reached out wildly and swatted the bottle away, knocking it out of Lassiter's hand and sending it bouncing across the floor.
"Damn it," Lassiter swore under his breath and went to retrieve the leaking bottle.
Shawn sat up while Lassiter's back was turned and started looking around the room in a blind, fever-induced panic. "I have to go find Gus!" he whispered desperately, then began clawing at the splint on his right leg. "What is this thing? I can't walk..."
Lassiter turned around just as Shawn was loosening the top belt securing the brace to his thigh. "Spencer! Stop!" He rushed forward and pushed Shawn's hands away, then began tightening and securing the belt again.
"Gus! Don't leave me, buddy! I have to go with Gus!" Shawn reached forward, frantically attempting to rip the splint off again, kicking the quilt off of his legs in the process. "Lassie, he's leaving, I have to stop him!" he panted desperately, his breathing becoming faster. Lassiter had just finished buckling the strap when Shawn reached up and smashed his palms into the Detective's face, groping and clawing at flesh while trying to push him away. The blow had enough force to rock his head back slightly and make his nose sting. He grunted and turned his head as Shawn's fingers came perilously close to gouging his left eye.
Lassiter quickly shoved Shawn's hands aside, then pushed down on his shoulders and settled his leg across his thighs, pinning Spencer down to the bed with his weight so he couldn't rise. He felt blood begin to trickle from his nose as Shawn continued struggling weakly, grasping at Lassiter's arms and trying to get up. "Stop it, Spencer! Calm down!" Lassiter was actually considering retrieving the leftover reins from the bridle and using them to tie Shawn's arms and legs down to the bed to keep him from hurting himself. Glancing down to make sure the brace and bandages were still intact, he did a double take, shocked at what he saw. Were Shawn's feet...swollen?
"Gus! Gus! Don't leave me! Stop him, Lassie!" He clawed at the front of Lassiter's shirt in a feeble attempt to free himself.
Hidden amongst Shawn's continued panicked cries, one word captured Lassiter's attention. Lassie. Shawn was still calling out to him, even in his severely altered mental state. It gave him an idea.
Keeping his forearms pressed against his shoulders to hold him down, Lassiter reached up to firmly grasp both sides of Shawn's face in his large hands, then leaned in close and locked eyes with the younger man. "Spencer!" he shouted. "Spencer, it's me, it's Lassiter! Look at me!"
His chest heaving, Shawn's hazel eyes met his, glassy and bright with fever as he struggled to focus on the face in front of him.
"Spencer, it's me! Do you know me?"
Shawn blinked repeatedly, his brow furrowed in confusion for several moments as his gaze roamed over Lassiter's features, finally settling on his intense blue eyes. "Luh...Lassie?" he asked, still looking befuddled. "Lass...Lassie!"
Lassiter nodded. "That's right. It's me, Spencer. It's Lassiter."
"Wha...what's happening? Where—where am I?" he asked as he shifted his frightened gaze around the room.
"Calm down, Spencer. Just calm down. Relax," he repeated in a soft reassuring tone. Shawn's eyes closed as Lassiter gently eased him back down against the pillows, his breathing gradually slowing while he finally relaxed. When Lassiter removed his hands, Shawn's head lolled to the side as he went limp with exhaustion. Having successfully quieted Shawn, Lassiter carefully removed himself from the still form beneath him and stood up, then moved to the foot of the bed to take a closer look at his feet. He wiped the blood from his upper lip as he leaned over to examine him closely, and felt his stomach drop at what he saw. Both of his feet were swollen, as well as his lower legs. He knew Shawn's legs weren't in this condition when he'd changed the bandages earlier that afternoon. Whatever was happening, it was new. And extremely disturbing. He lightly pressed the puffy flesh of the left ankle with his fingers, then jerked his hand away at Shawn's reaction.
"Ohhhh!" Shawn moaned in pain and tried to pull his leg away from the touch.
Lassiter covered Shawn with the quilt, stood up, then slowly moved to the side of the bed and sat down heavily in the chair. He brought his hand to his mouth as he looked at the younger man lying before him. He'd never seen someone this sick outside of a hospital or hospice care. The painful swelling in the legs, he'd never seen or heard of that symptom before, and didn't know exactly what it meant. All he knew was that it was very bad and Shawn's condition was deteriorating quickly. For the first time since their ordeal had started, he didn't know what to do, and it scared the hell out of him. A familiar sound coming from the bed caught Lassiter's attention, and that's when he realized Shawn was crying.
"Home...I wanna go home..." he moaned quietly as he began sobbing softly.
Lassiter leaned forward and placed his right hand on Shawn's shoulder, then bowed his head to cover his eyes with his other hand. He felt the combined weight of pity and guilt settle into his chest as he listened to Shawn's repeated tearful pleas. Despite his best efforts, Lassiter knew he was absolutely powerless to stop Shawn's frightening downward spiral. He was losing this battle, the one he absolutely had to win. There was only one thing left he could do that would possibly turn the tide.
Officer Miller hovered in front of the coffee machine as he waited for the fresh pot to finish brewing. He reached for the small basket that was supposed to contain various flavors of liquid creamers but found it was empty. "Just my luck," he grumbled as he went in search of sugar instead.
Miller turned around to find Juliet standing behind him holding up a bottle of Coffeemate creamer. "Thanks," he said with an appreciative smile as he took the bottle from her hand.
"Believe me, I'm used to making sure the coffee is prepared to perfection," she said as she rolled her eyes. She surveyed the older officer's appearance, noting the dark circles starting to form under his eyes. "When was the last time you got some sleep?" she asked.
Miller chuckled. "Don't worry about me, ma'am. I'll get enough sleep when I'm dead," he said casually as he poured fresh coffee into his creamer laden cup. "How are you holding up?"
Juliet gave a worried sigh as she ran her hand through her hair and down to the back of her neck. "I'll be doing a hell of a lot better when we get them home."
Miller nodded in understanding. "Don't worry, O'Hara. We'll get them home." He took a sip of his coffee, scowled, then reached for one more packet of sugar. Miller abruptly turned towards the desk as the telegraph suddenly sprang to life. "And speak of the devil! We're talking about your partner, and here he—" Miller stopped mid-sentence, already recognizing the message being sent, then ran towards the desk. "Get the Chief, quick!"
"I'm on it!" Buzz volunteered as he ran out of the room.
Juliet hurried forward to hover over Miller's shoulder as he transcribed the message. "What is it? What's wrong?" she asked, her voice laden with concern.
Miller shook his head. "I don't know yet, but this is not good. Something bad must have happened."
Chief Vick strode into the room, followed closely by Buzz, Officer Bailey, and Deputy Kilgore from the Air Rescue Unit. "What do we have, Officer Miller?"
"We have a problem, that's what. I think things just got ugly," Miller replied.
Juliet's heart nearly skipped a beat when she saw her partner's frantic message.
—"Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!"
As always, Chief Vick remained outwardly calm. "Find out what the situation is, Officer Miller," she instructed. He was already sending his reply.
—"Message received. What is your emergency?"
—"Situation critical! Need evac tonight!"
Chief Vick shook her head. "It's way too dangerous to try to evacuate them at night. No way. Deputy Kilgore informs me that there will be a break in the weather late tomorrow afternoon, and we'll be able to perform an air rescue then. Tell him to stay put and do what he has to until that time." Miller sent the reply.
Juliet spoke up, immediately leaping to support her partner's request. "Chief, you know he wouldn't—"
"O'Hara, I don't want to hear it!" Vick interrupted her. Realizing her tone had been unnecessarily harsh, Vick softened her expression, regarding her Detective with a hint of sympathy. "I know you're standing up for your partner, but I do not want to place any more lives at unnecessary risk. If there's any chance they can hold out until tomorrow afternoon, we need to take it. I have to worry about their safety as well as that of your partner and Mr. Spencer. I'm sorry, O'Hara. My hands are tied."
Juliet immediately backed off. "Yes, Chief."
Chief Vick noticed Bailey and Buzz quietly creeping towards the door out of the corner of her eye. She knew exactly where they were going. "Officer Bailey! You will stand down! I have not given the order for the emergency plan to be implemented, and you will stay here until I do so! That is an order, Officer!" Chief Vick had no sympathy, or patience, for those in her ranks that put themselves at risk while attempting to subvert her orders.
Knowing they were caught, the two men froze in their tracks, then slowly retreated from the door.
Miller shook his head when he received Lassiter's reply. "This is not good, Chief. He's not taking 'no' for an answer this time."
—"Negative! Repeat situation critical! Spencer needs hospital now need evac tonight!"
Juliet's heart was in her throat. "Chief, you know Carlton! He wouldn't be this insistent unless something was terribly wrong! Trust him!"
Chief Vick studied Juliet intently for a moment, then she glanced at Bailey and Buzz. "Are your plans for an emergency ground evacuation finalized?" she asked reluctantly.
"Yes, Chief!" she said enthusiastically. "We can be ready to—"
Vick held up her hand, then calmly turned to Miller. "Tell him we will send out a rescue party at first light for an emergency ground rescue. That's the fastest we can get to them. His orders are to hold on until then." She gave Juliet a sympathetic look. "It's too dangerous to go at night, O'Hara. You know that."
—"Negative! Spencer needs hospital now need evac tonight!"
Juliet felt herself choking back tears when she saw her partner's repeated desperate pleas for help. There was nothing she could do but endure the agonizing wait for her Commanding Officer to act.
Chief Vick swallowed hard. "Tell him the land rescue is in effect first thing in the morning no matter what the circumstances."
Juliet had to turn away when she saw her partner's reply.
—"Spencer is dying!"
The Chief stared at the message in her hands, clinching and releasing her jaw. The telegraph sounded again.
—"Spencer is dying!"
"Officer Bailey." She looked up and met the young Game Warden's eyes.
"Be careful out there."
Bailey and Buzz immediately ran for the door. Juliet paused for a second to grab the pencil and scribble a message on Miller's notepad before slamming the pencil down. "Send him that," she said firmly, then sprinted to catch up with Bailey and Buzz.
Juliet pulled out her cell phone and dialed a number. "Doctor Brauer, it's time to go. Be ready to ride out with them in ten minutes."
So...there you go! How's THAT for Sick!Shawn! For those worried about the "level" of whump, don't worry, poor Shawnie actually gets worse in chapter 7! Like I said, I'm having way too much fun whumping the poor boy! But don't worry, it shall be realistic, as always.
Sorry about the time between updating chapters 5 and 6. I decided to wait until after the flood of holiday fics had died to a trickle to make sure this didn't get washed away in the tide. Hope it was worth the wait! Because I certainly enjoyed writing every part of this chapter. I'm thoroughly enjoying writing chapter 7, too!
THANK YOU to all those who have read & rated/reviewed so far, I highly appreciate your time and comments!
Aaaaanndd...CUE continued WHUMP!
Mission Impossible by Texasartchick
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. I do not own any of the characters of Psych and am not affiliated with the show or USA Network. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
SPOILERS: For Psych season 4 episode "High Noonish".
*AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story takes place after my three previous Psych Fan Fiction stories "Choose It Or Lose It", "It Can Happen", and "This Stalker Thing Kind Of Sucks". Events affecting the Lassiter/Shawn dynamics that take place in both of these previous stories are mentioned in this one. You might want to read them first. Doing so is not a requirement to understand what is going on in this one, but it will help alleviate any confusion that might occur when the references pop up.*
*AUTHOR'S NOTE: Special thanks to BlackTsChica, WinkyCutto and Dragonnan for both providing wonderfully helpful feedback as well as incessantly pestering me for "moar"! And a HUGE thank you to Psychrulz, your input was, as always, invaluable! It ALWAYS makes my stories so much better!
ENJOY! Please be kind enough to review. All feedback, good or bad, is welcome.
"God damn it, they have to send us help now!" Lassiter was desperately trying to convey how urgent their situation was. Shawn needed a hospital immediately, but yet again he was told he had to wait. Frustrated, Lassiter knew he couldn't accept 'no' for an answer this time. Shawn's life depended on it.
—"Negative! Repeat situation critical! Spencer needs hospital now need evac tonight!"
Lassiter waited, hoping he'd finally gotten through to them. The answer he received proved otherwise.
—"Will send rescue party by ground at first light in morning. Too dangerous for night rescue. Orders are to do best you can until then."
Lassiter remembered the shocking image of Shawn's swollen legs, and knew that tomorrow morning just wouldn't be soon enough. If they left in the morning they probably wouldn't have Shawn in the hospital until well into the afternoon, and Lassiter legitimately feared that if he waited that long for medical attention, it would be too late. He tried again, stubbornly refusing to accept what he'd been told.
—"Negative! Spencer needs hospital now need evac tonight!"
"Come on, Chief. Come on..." He had faith in his Commanding Officer, she had to come through for them!
—"Land rescue will happen tomorrow morning no matter what. Too dangerous at night, best we can do."
"Christ!" Lassiter slammed his fists down on the desk and stood up, frantically pacing in front of the desk, trying to fight the nearly overwhelming urge to start pulling out his hair. He looked back at the bed as Shawn groaned in pain and shifted uncomfortably. This was Shawn's last chance, he had to make them understand! Lassiter sat back down at the desk, and made the conscious decision to disobey a direct order. Unable to deny his failure anymore, he knew he had to voice the one concern he wouldn't admit to himself until now.
—"Spencer is dying!"
He waited. No answer. The telegraph was silent. After what seemed like an eternity, he tried again.
—"Spencer is dying!"
Lassiter was painfully aware of just how hard his heart was beating, the steady rhythm pounding in his ears. Finally, after several seemingly endless moments, Lassiter was relieved to hear the sounder spring to life with his long-awaited incoming message. He'd barely finished transcribing it when he suddenly felt a strong vibration run through the floor of the cabin. A low rumbling was coming from outside, and he looked up to see dust falling from the rafters as the wooden frame of the structure began to creak and flex slightly. Lassiter immediately leapt out of the chair and ran to the bed. He covered Shawn with his body, lying across him in an attempt to shield his helpless companion him from falling debris in case the roof started to collapse. Then he heard the tremendous sound of wood snapping and splintering coming from outside the front of the cabin, followed by a thunderous crash. The telegraph cable running down the wall jerked free of its top two mounting brackets and was pulled taut for a second with a *zip*, then went slack again. The rumbling and vibration stopped, and the cabin was eerily silent.
Lassiter lay on top of Shawn, silent and still, his body tense as he listened. The only thing he heard was the patter of the heavy rain on the roof. Realizing it was safe to move again, he slowly eased himself off of the bed and stood up, retrieved his flashlight, and opened up the door to peer cautiously outside.
The telegraph cable leading from the cabin to the first pole was slack. He used the beam of his flashlight to follow the cable and saw the pole next to the cabin was still upright and untouched. But as he looked farther down the hillside, he saw the next pole that stood on the edge of the wooded drop-off in front of the cabin had been snapped in half, and hung out over the rim at a forty-five degree angle. Lassiter could also see there was now a huge gap in the foliage in front of the pole where several trees were apparently missing. The once taut cable now hung limply on the ground between the two large posts. It was obvious what had happened: another landslide had occurred and damaged the cable for the telegraph. Their only means of communication with their rescuers had been destroyed. They were cut off.
They were alone now.
Feeling despair settle into his chest like a lead weight, Lassiter switched off the flashlight, then turned and slowly walked back into the cabin. As he made his way inside, he looked over at Shawn, who lay silent and unmoving on the bed. Concerned at the lack of movement, Lassiter hurried to the side of the bed and put his fingers against Shawn's throat to check for a pulse. He was relieved to feel the steady rhythm beneath his hand. Lassiter stood up, breathed a long, tired sigh, then moved towards the desk and sank down into the chair. All he could do now was make Shawn as comfortable as possible and wait to be rescued. Wait while Shawn ran out of time.
Lassiter had never felt so helpless in his life.
He looked down at the last message he'd received before their lifeline to the world had been severed, latching on to the glimmer of hope he found in those few simple words.
—"I will find you partner."
The rain started coming down harder as Officer Bailey spurred his horse up the hill. He leaned forward and grabbed a fist full of wet mane as the tall bay surged up the steepening incline. He looked back over his shoulder, making sure his two companions followed, and was relieved to see they were right behind him. They were making good progress so far, and were actually closing the distance to the cabin much faster than he thought possible under the circumstances. He spurred his mount again, clicking to encourage the mare, and soon he was sitting atop the hill, surveying the path ahead with his night vision binoculars. What he saw did not look good.
They were less than one third of the way to their destination, and already a new landslide had blocked the trail ahead. He wiped away the water spattering the lenses and looked through the binoculars again as the other two riders crested the hill on either side of him. That's when he noticed land was continuing to shift, sinking down and beginning to break free yet again. It was directly above them.
"Move to the left! Move! MOVE!!!" Bailey and the others took off at a gallop as the earth finally broke free and an avalanche of mud, rocks, and debris began cascading down the mountain. It increased in speed as they spurred their horses faster, carrying them behind the cover of a sheer rock wall and out of the path of the swiftly moving earth. Reaching a safe distance, they stopped and watched as the landslide roared passed them.
Dr. Brauer shook his head, causing rain to pour off the sides of his flat, wide brim hat. "Good catch, Bailey. Damn, that was close!" he shouted over the sound of the pouring rain. "Well, that trail is blocked, what are we going to do now?"
"We try the second trail! It should be about a thousand yards to the West, just over there!" He pointed to their left, showing the direction to the trail. "The mountainside is a lot rougher on this path. It's going to be steep ground between here and the trail, so it's going to cost us some time. But it's our only choice now!" Bailey motioned for the other two riders to follow his lead as he clicked to his mount and rode on at a trot along the base of the sheer rock face. Soon he had to slow as he encountered a patch of rougher rocky ground at the base of the wall, allowing his sure-footed mount to pick her way across the uneven terrain. Eventually he found the narrow gap in the rock face that was the beginning of the trail. Bailey steered his horse through the pass, taking careful note of the mud and water washing down the mountainside around his horse's hoofs, listening and watching for any additional warning signs. The last thing they needed was to avoid a landslide only to get caught in a flash flood.
They rode in tense silence, Officer Bailey confidently leading the way using his night vision equipment and years of experience. The rock finally gave way to earth, and they came to the end of the crevice they'd been traversing only to find the gentle slope leading out of it had collapsed and washed away, leaving them surrounded by a seven foot wall of rock and mud.
"Damn it!" Bailey swore under his breath. He had to get them out of this trench, or else they'd have to backtrack yet again and try to find a new path up the mountainside. Bailey looked around again, and then he saw it. A small low spot on the edge of the trench where the earth dipped down that was only about four feet high. It was their best chance to get out of there and continue on to more level ground, so he decided to give it a try.
"Wait here!" he called back over his shoulder. Bailey dismounted and took the end of the reins in his hand as he climbed up and over the ledge. He turned around and began pulling on the reins, urging his house forward.
"Ha! Come on, get up here!" The animal balked at first, sniffing at the obstacle with wide eyes and perked up ears, but obeyed the repeated commands of her rider and tried to scramble up the ledge. Bailey pulled as the horse's legs churned, but she couldn't quite get above the rise. Determined not to fail, the young officer backed up his horse for another try. "Hey, Doc! Come around the side and give her a swat on the butt when I tell you to!"
Dr. Brauer positioned his mount beside Bailey's horse and waited for the signal. Officer Bailey took a deep breath, backed up his horse as far as he could to give her a running start, and gathered the reins in his hand.
"Now!" Bailey ran backwards and pulled hard on the reins as Dr. Brauer smacked the animal's rump with the long end of his reins. The horse lunged forward, leapt up, and scurried over the ledge.
"Yes! Good girl!" He praised his horse while briskly patting her neck, secretly thanking his partner Miller for coming up with the idea of using these sturdy animals. No way in hell anything with wheels could have managed such a task. He tied the reins to a sturdy branch on a tree and went back to help the others. "Okay, dismount! We'll do this one at a time!"
Lassiter stoked the embers and fed more wood through the open door of the stove. It was getting colder outside as the rain continued to pour, and he wanted to ensure they had adequate warmth. He knew he should eat something, but he just didn't feel up to it. Even though he hadn't eaten since breakfast he wasn't hungry. The soft moan drifting up from the bed reminded him why he'd lost his appetite.
He looked at his watch and noted it was time to change the cloths again. He'd begun changing them every ten minutes now instead of twenty in a vain attempt to keep Shawn's raging fever under control. He stood up, the persistent stiffness in his muscles and joints making itself known again as he made his way over to the bed and sat down heavily in the chair. As he removed the towels from Shawn's forehead and chest, he couldn't help but notice the slightly pinched together brows, discomfort clearly evident on the younger man's face. Lassiter felt equal parts sympathy and guilt when he saw Spencer lying there in pain, because he knew there was almost nothing he could do to ease it. All he could do was offer the minimal relief provided by the cooling cloths.
As he dipped and wrung out the folded cloth, Lassiter saw Shawn's damp bangs had fallen forward and were plastered to his forehead with water and sweat. Intending to make room for the cold compress, Lassiter reached out and used his hand to push the errant hair away. Shawn reacted to the contact and stirred, turning his head towards the touch as his hair was smoothed back from his forehead. He opened his eyes, blinking slowly, and for a second Lassiter thought he was having another moment of clarity. He turned his head and focused his bleary eyes on the Detective's face in apparent recognition.
As Shawn looked directly into Lassiter's eyes, his pained expression eased into a contented smile.
Lassiter froze. Rendered speechless, he stared at Spencer in shock, only dimly aware that he'd dropped the washcloth back into the bucket. His initial instinct was to correct the error, so he closed his gaping mouth and attempted a reply.
"Spencer, I—I'm not..." he stammered. The awkward experience was entirely unnerving. Shawn was looking at him, staring right at him, yet in his delusional mind he believed he was talking to his father. Spencer was so far gone couldn't even recognize him anymore. Lassiter glanced back over his shoulder at the door, desperately hoping to see their rescuers materialize and miraculously save him from this uncomfortable situation. His heart sank when he looked back at Shawn as the crushing weight of harsh reality finally settled upon him.
There was no rescue. No one was coming until some time late in the morning. And by then, it would be too late.
Pain briefly registered on Shawn's face as a soft groan escaped his throat, then he looked up at Lassiter again. "Dad, I feel bad...make it better..." He reached out, groping blindly until he found the sleeve of Lassiter's shirt. His trembling fingers gathered the fabric in a feeble grip and he began tugging weakly, trying to pull Lassiter's arm towards him.
"What the..." At first, Lassiter was dumbfounded, completely lost as to what Shawn wanted.
"Please, Dad, it hurts...make it better..." he begged in a hoarse whisper as he continued tugging on Lassiter's arm.
And then he understood. Shawn felt absolutely horrible. He was in pain—hell, he was actually dying. And the one thing he wanted more than anything else in the world was for his father to give him a hug.
"Oh, Spencer—" Nearly overwhelmed by sympathy, Lassiter's voice trembled and broke as his eyes began brimming with tears. His throat tightened, trapping the hitched breath in his chest before it could break free. Shawn desperately wanted something familiar to him, but having had an absent father, was completely foreign to Lassiter. Yet Carlton understood the longing—that need for affection—on a deeply personal level. It was incredibly painful to watch. And despite years of harsh experience on the streets and earning the tough reputation to match, Carlton Lassiter just couldn't stand by and watch someone suffer. So Lassiter did the only thing he knew how to do—he averted his tear-filled eyes and turned his head away.
"Dad, please," Shawn whimpered. Another tug on the sleeve, his grip faltering and getting weaker.
'Damn it, Detective, pull yourself together!' he admonished himself. 'Don't go soft now, you can't afford to be weak. Toughen up and do your Goddamn job!' Lassiter swallowed back the lump forming in his throat and began to collect himself. He was right, he still had a job to do. Shawn was deathly ill and couldn't afford for him to fall apart now. The voice in his head reminding him of that fact sounded remarkably like his father's, scolding and stern.
'You know what you have to do.'
Lassiter sniffed and briskly wiped the gathering tears from his eyes before they could fall, then set his jaw in determination and firmly pushed Shawn's hands off of his sleeve.
"No—Dad, please!" Shawn begged, clutching desperately at Lassiter's arm, his panicked cry mixing with tears.
Lassiter brushed the feeble hands aside and stood up, pulling his arm away, his hands clenching into fists at his sides. 'Stay strong, damn it. Keep your emotions in check. Just be a man and do it.' He looked at Shawn and pressed his lips together in a firm line as he strengthened his resolve. He could do this, he'd been in tougher situations before. He'd survived gun battles, knife fights, assassination attempts, even a car crash during a high speed pursuit. So why was this simple task so damn difficult?
"Dad, don't—don't leave me!" Shawn panted desperately as his breathing quickened with fear.
Forcing himself into action, Lassiter took a deep breath and mustered up his courage before pushing Shawn's searching hands away from him again. Having learned a valuable lesson from his father's example, he knew what he had to do. Before he lost his nerve, Carlton sat down on the bed with his back against the headboard, placed his hands underneath Shawn's arms, and carefully pulled him up so his back rested against Lassiter's left side. His left arm encircled the young man to hold him firmly in place while he patted Shawn's shoulder reassuringly with his right hand. When he spoke this time, his voice was unwavering and strong.
"It's okay, Shawn. Calm down, I'm here. I won't leave you, I promise. Just lie back and relax. Try to get some sleep, kid"
Another soft pained groan drifted up from Shawn's chest as he stiffened and shifted uncomfortably. "Uhh...hurts..."
"Shhh...Just take it easy, Shawn. Lie still and relax." Carlton adopted a low, calming tone as he placed his right hand on Shawn's forehead and gently pressed his head back onto his left shoulder. "It's okay, it will be over soon. You need to rest, son. Just lie back and rest." Remembering how Shawn had reacted just moments ago, and guessing it was something Henry must have done before, Carlton began smoothing the damp hair back in an easy soothing motion. It worked, because he felt Shawn's weight begin to settle against him, his head rolling limply to the side so his left cheek lay on Lassiter's arm. "That's it, Shawn, you're doing great. Now close your eyes and go to sleep. I'll be right here when you wake up. Just relax, and rest." Shawn sank into his arms with a contented sigh, his breathing slowing gradually as he calmed, finding comfort in what he believed was his father's embrace. After a few more moments he finally fell into peaceful sleep.
Another crisis momentarily averted, Lassiter gave a tired sigh and let his head back fall against the headboard with a soft thud. Utterly exhausted, he just couldn't do this anymore. He wanted nothing more than to close his eyes—just for a few seconds—it would be so easy.... He knew he shouldn't give in to the temptation, no matter how strong, but sitting on the soft mattress instead of that damnable chair was so inviting and comfortable.
'Take a quick nap, just for a few minutes. It won't hurt anything, and you've sure as hell earned it.' If he closed his eyes now he knew he wouldn't wake up for hours. Despite his reservations, that sounded terribly inviting at the moment. He didn't even know why he was still trying to stay awake anymore. Hell, it was obvious there was no way help would arrive in time. They weren't even leaving until morning, and Lassiter knew Shawn probably wouldn't survive the night. In a disturbing revelation, he found it somewhat comforting to know that if he fell asleep, he wouldn't have to sit by helplessly and watch Shawn die.
Lassiter's mind began to wander as he pondered these thoughts, his eyelids getting heavier by the second. They began to droop closed as his head rolled to the side, his body starting to relax involuntarily. As he turned his head, his eyes fell on the desk, catching sight of the now useless telegraph. His gaze wandered to the upturned corner of the yellow piece of paper lying on the desk. His eyes slid closed as he envisioned what was written on it.
—"I will find you partner."
O'Hara. That message had to have been from her, she was still trying to rescue them. Tenacious and resourceful, Lassiter had learned that Juliet O'Hara didn't know the meaning of the word 'quit.' He had to keep going, he had to believe his partner would reach them in time. Lassiter had faith in her, he literally trusted her with his life every day. And if she was still trying, then he should be too. He couldn't give up now, he owed her that much, and more. If O'Hara was still working hard towards their rescue then he believed deep down in his heart they still had a chance.
This battle wasn't over. Shawn wasn't dead yet, Goddamn it!
Lassiter's eyes snapped open and he leaned forward, then whipped back, deliberately bashing his head against the solid wooden headboard as hard as he could. His winced when his head impacted the unforgiving wood with a hollow crack as sharp pain radiated throughout his skull. Now fully awake, he blinked away the stars flashing behind his eyes. It was a trick he'd learned to stay alert during boring stakeouts that lasted long into the night—a little pain always did wonders for fending off sleep.
Lassiter knew he still had a job to do. He was reminded of that task by the heat radiating from the young man he currently held in his arms. It was disturbing to feel how hot Shawn was as he lay unmoving against him. So he gathered his reserves and once again repeated the endless ritual of placing the wet cloths on Shawn's forehead and chest, settling in for yet another overnight bedside vigil. Even though he knew it probably wouldn't alter what he believed would be the likely outcome of events, he wasn't going to just give up now. As annoying as the kid was to him at times, Carlton Lassiter was damn well going to fight for Spencer's life until the bitter end.
He looked down at Shawn as he held the cloth in place on his forehead, relieved to feel his slow and steady breathing. A flurry of emotions ran through him as he watched him sleep, sympathy and guilt mixing with hints of jealousy. He couldn't help the twinge of sadness tugging at his chest because, despite their strained relationship, Shawn Spencer would always have something that Carlton had never truly known—the unconditional love of his father.
And at that moment, regardless of how painful the subject was to him, Lassiter decided there was no greater purpose in his life than to reunite a father with his child.
Shawn stirred and muttered something in his sleep, but quieted again at the sound of Lassiter's calming voice. Unfortunately, he knew the words he'd spoken to Shawn earlier were true. Meant to comfort, they were also remarkably cryptic; one way or another, Shawn's ordeal would be over soon.
"Doc! DOC! Are you all right?!?" Bailey ran to the side of the rocky ledge, then dropped to his stomach and crawled as he cautiously peered over the side. He was relieved to see the beam of a flashlight moving around between a clump of tree limbs about twenty-five feet down.
"Yeah, I'm hung up in these branches! Hurry up and get me out of here, Bailey! I don't know how long they're going to hold!"
"All right, I'm sending down a rope! Loop it underneath your arms and I'll pull you up!" Bailey ran to his horse, untied the 100 foot coil of nylon climbing rope from the side of his saddle and began to tie off one end into a loop. He couldn't help but feel relief that their latest run-in with danger had ended so well. They had encountered another surprise landslide while walking their horses over some rocks, but this time, they weren't quite so lucky. Bailey had moved to the side in time, but Dr. Brauer and his horse were caught on the very edge. The animal had spooked when a clump of dead bushes had tangled up in its legs, and it took off running while Brauer's feet were swept out from underneath him by the flowing mud and debris. The landslide carried him down the side of the mountain and over the sharp drop off the rocky ledge, where he'd gotten hung up in a large clump of tree branches, bushes, and debris, saving him from a fatal fall to the sharp rocks below. Bailey finished tying the rope and scurried to the ledge again, then carefully lowered the rope to the trapped man.
"Okay, I'm secure, Bailey! Pull me up when you're ready!"
Keeping the line tight, Bailey slowly worked his way back from the edge and stood up. Spotting a thick tree root sticking out of the ground that ran parallel to the edge of the drop-off, he unsheathed his KA-BAR survival knife and carved a deep notch in the root. Then he placed the rope inside the notch so it wouldn't fray on the sharp rocks as Dr. Brauer was pulled up. He walked back to his horse, looped the rope around the saddle horn several times, and took the reins in his hand. "Okay, Doc, I'm gonna pull you up now! Hang on!" He slowly led his horse forward, using the animal's great strength to pull the doctor's weight up to the top of the ledge. When he finally saw the other man's hat crest the edge of the drop-off, he ran over, grabbed his hand, and helped him up over the side.
"Damn, that was close!" the doc said as he exhaled sharply. He looked back towards the ledge and bent over with his hands on his knees as he took a moment to collect himself.
Bailey clapped his hand on the other man's shoulder. "You all right?"
He nodded. "Yeah...yeah, just give me a second." Both men turned to the left as the sound of hoofbeats attracted their attention. Dr. Brauer's horse came trotting up and stopped about ten feet away, then walked up and nuzzled its rider's coat pocket.
Bailey laughed. "That's a damn good horse. I think he's sorry!" he said with amusement as he inspected the gear strapped to the saddle. He was relieved to find everything still in place.
"No, that's the pocket where I keep his damn carrots." Brauer grabbed the reins, patted the horse's neck, and fed him a carrot from his palm as he led him away up the hill.
Bailey pulled out his hand held radio and keyed it up. Not having enough room on the narrow trail for all three riders at the same time, the third member of their party had run to the right instead of to the left when the landslide started. Bailey eyed the wide, deep crevasse that had opened up in the earth as the ground collapsed, and hoped their companion was safe on the other side. "Twenty-three thirteen to eleven-eleven, do you copy? Are you 10-4?" He waited, hoping to rear a reply.
"Eleven-eleven, affirmative. I'm 10-4. Look for my light."
Bailey looked up to see a flashlight strobing in his direction from about one hundred yards away. "10-4, I see you. We're both 10-4 here. Stand by." He looked up at the mountainside in front of them, and saw a massive chunk of earth was missing several hundred feet up. The thick tree line had a massive gap in it from an earlier landslide, and Bailey saw the broken remains of a telephone pole from the communication network lying in the deep chasm. Damn it, he was planning on using the poles and telephone wires to help quickly guide him to the cabin in the dark. The landscape had been so altered by the weather, fires, and landslides over recent months he hardly recognized it anymore. He was going to have to find the cabin the old fashioned way—observation and instincts. And to add yet another level of difficulty, they were now separated from the third member of their party.
Bailey keyed up the radio again. "Okay, we should be getting close. Stay on that side, make sure you stay within sight of our flashlights, and sound off out loud as much as possible. We should be getting close now, make him hear you so he knows we're out here. We don't want to walk right by them in the dark. And be careful."
Bailey secured the radio on his belt and began leading his horse up the steep hillside. "Come on, Doc. We should be pretty close now, I think it's right over the ridge passed those trees." Bailey pulled the metal traffic whistle out from underneath his shirt that was secured around his neck with a lanyard. "Hold on to the reins tight, Doc. Don't want your horse to spook again when I use this." Brauer tightened his hold on the reins and patted his horse's neck to keep it calm as Bailey put the whistle in his mouth and blew as hard as he could. The shrill sound cut through the chilly air and echoed into the rainy night. Surprisingly enough, the horses didn't flinch. Bailey raised his eyebrows. "Well, apparently they aren't noise shy. Damn, these are good horses!"
He heard their companion's whistle sound to their right as they slowly began walking their horses up the steep incline. Bailey led the way, peering through his night vision binoculars into the darkness.
Just after two in the morning, Lassiter sat in the chair by the bed trying to read the book he'd scrounged from the bottom of the desk drawer, the 1942 edition of "The California Penal Code". He kept the book open on his lap with his left hand while he held Shawn's hand with his right. He'd had to get out of the bed after about an hour because he just couldn't stay awake anymore in that position no matter how hard he'd tried. The adjustment had caused Spencer to stir and become agitated again, but Lassiter found he could keep him calm as long as he maintained some sort of physical contact while speaking to him. So he tucked two of his long fingers into Shawn's hand and held them in place with his thumb, the young man's grip being too weak at that point to hold it on his own.
Realizing he'd read the same paragraph five times in a row and still had no idea what it said, Lassiter gave up and set the book aside. He accidentally laid it down on top of something, and the heavy book slid off the makeshift table and landed on the floor with a loud *thud* at the base of the crate. Shawn didn't stir at the sudden noise. Not even a blink, or flinch of his hand.
"Spencer?" Lassiter gently shook his shoulder in attempt to rouse him. No reaction at all. Becoming increasingly worried, Lassiter moved from the chair and leaned in for a closer examination. "Hey, Spencer. Wake up." Nothing. Shawn was unconscious and completely unresponsive. Lassiter placed his fingers alongside his throat to feel for a pulse and checked to make sure he was still breathing. Shawn's pulse was there, but it was getting weaker, harder to feel. It meant his blood pressure was dropping. His breathing was also shallow, and slightly faster than normal for someone who was resting.
This was it then. The breaths becoming more shallow, pulse beginning to weaken...Shawn was dying. It would probably take several agonizingly long hours, but Carlton now faced the unavoidable truth that Shawn was slowly beginning to lose his fragile hold on life. Lassiter abandoned the chair and sat down on the side of the bed next to Shawn, thinking it was somehow inappropriate and cold to remain that far away from him at this point. He looked down at his thumb resting across the back of Shawn's limp fingers. Carlton tightened his grip as his other hand joined in, briefly covering the back of Spencer's smaller hand with his larger one. Then he leaned forward and placed a hand on his shoulder as his gaze took in Shawn's slack features. Carlton noted with some grim consolation that he looked peaceful and didn't appear to be in any pain.
Carlton leaned a little closer as he spoke in a hushed tone, hoping Shawn would somehow hear him. "I'm sorry, Shawn. I tried my best, but...I couldn't save you." Lassiter swallowed down the lump forming in his throat and continued, "I should have made them realize you couldn't wait, made them try a land rescue sooner. It's all my fault, I failed you. I..." He swallowed again as tears began to cloud his vision.
"I failed. And I'm so sorry, Shawn. I am so, so sorry..." He thought about slapping the headphones off of Shawn's head in the car as they drove along the dark mountain road just a few nights ago, and calling him a 'fucking moron' when he'd discovered the reason for their trip. He wished he could just apologize and take it back—hell, for all the times he'd ever handled the kid roughly, or pushed Shawn up against a wall to growl at him in a menacing tone. Lassiter wanted nothing more than to see Shawn open his eyes and start singing some ridiculous TV theme song to try and annoy him again. To his amusement, he found himself actually wishing he could hear Shawn call him 'Carly pants' just one more time. As annoying as Spencer could be at times, and even though he'd never admit it to anyone else, he'd actually grown quite fond of the strangely flamboyant young man over the years. Carlton wiped away a few tears with his sleeve as he realized he was really going to miss Shawn.
He patted Shawn's shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze...then he sat up straight. Did he hear something? Lassiter turned his head toward the door, freezing in place and listening intently. He heard it again—was that...a traffic whistle? He immediately jumped up and ran to the door, tearing it open and frantically searching the darkness through the pouring rain. As his eyes adjusted to the dark, he heard the shrill whistle off in the distance again. Following the sound, he looked to his right, and saw two pinpoints of light moving up the hillside several hundred feet away. His heart skipped a beat as he realized what they were. 'Flashlights! It's a rescue party!'
"Hey! OVER HERE!" Lassiter yelled as loud as he could while waving his arms in the cold night air. The lights continued moving without changing course. They hadn't heard him and were about to pass right by the damn cabin in the dark. Lassiter hurried back inside, grabbed his gun, and ran back out to the porch.
"OVER HERE!" He pointed the barrel at the ground directly in front of him and pulled the trigger.
The lights stopped moving.
"HEY! OVER HEEERE!"
Lassiter pulled his flashlight out of his pocket and set it on strobe as he pointed it in the direction of the rescue party, desperately hoping to catch their attention. After a slight pause, both of the flashlights turned towards him and began to rapidly converge on his location. He kept the beam pointed towards them to help guide them in even as his knees buckled with the wave of relief washing over him. He fell back against the wall of the cabin, and that's when he noticed a third pinpoint of light coming from much farther down the mountain to his left. There were three of them, and they were all heading his way. "Oh, thank you, Chief!" If they could get Shawn to a hospital within the next couple of hours, he might have a fighting chance to survive.
As the lights got closer he heard the distinct sound of hoofbeats thudding against the muddy earth. "Detective Lassiter! Is that you?" an unknown male's voice rang out in the darkness.
"Yes! Spencer's inside, please hurry!" he frantically replied. Two men on horseback wearing large backpacks, long green rain slickers, and flat, wide brimmed hats trotted up to the front of the cabin. They slid to a halt and quickly dismounted, then tied their mounts to a post on the front porch underneath the overhang as Lassiter began to explain their situation. "Spencer is very sick, he's in serious trouble. We have to get him to a hospital within the next couple of—"
"We're not taking him to the hospital tonight," the taller of the two men said as he stepped up onto the porch. "Too dangerous to move him, so we're going to treat him here until we can evacuate by air, hopefully tomorrow afternoon. We have medical supplies."
The shorter rider, an African American man of average height and athletic build, made his way up the steps. He was carrying a black nylon gym bag in his hands in addition to the pack on his back. "Detective Lassiter, I'm Dr. Brauer, the Orthopedic Surgeon on call for the Trauma Center at Santa Barbara General Hospital. Where is the patient?"
"You're a doctor? Oh, thank God!" Lassiter said as he breathed a sigh of relief. "He's inside, he's in really bad shape. Please hurry!" Lassiter opened the door and stepped out of the way as he pointed to the bed in the far right corner of the room. He closed the door behind the two men as they slouched off their backpacks and rushed to Shawn's side. Lassiter approached the bed as the doctor removed his raincoat, opened his backpack, and began pulling out medical equipment. Reinvigorated by the appearance of rescuers, the Detective stood by, ready to assist in any way he could. When the taller man shed his raincoat he recognized the uniform immediately.
"You're a Game Warden? Are you Officer Miller?" Lassiter asked the tall young blond.
"No, I'm Officer Bailey," he said as he donned a pair of latex gloves. "Miller is my partner, he's back at the base station. I'm also a certified combat medic." Bailey took a blood pressure cuff from the doctor and began fastening it around Shawn's right arm.
Dr. Brauer timed Shawn's pulse as Bailey began taking his blood pressure. Then he produced an electronic aural thermometer from his backpack and pressed it into Shawn's ear for a couple of seconds until it beeped. His eyebrows rose as he read the temperature. '105.1°F.' He immediately grabbed the gym bag and unzipped it as he looked back over his shoulder.
"Detective Lassiter, I need you to activate these cold packs and place them on Mr. Spencer's head and chest. Now, please."
Lassiter grabbed a handful of chemical cold packs from the gym bag and began activating them one at a time while Bailey deflated the blood pressure cuff.
"Pressure's down, only ninety-five over fifty. He's starting to crash, Doc."
"Let's get those IVs started and see if we can get his blood pressure up. We need to stabilize him fast." He laid out the open backpack full of medical supplies on the bed and each of them grabbed sterile IV needles and alcohol swabs from inside.
Lassiter watched as the doctor and Officer Bailey established IVs in each of Shawn's forearms. They worked quickly, and within less than two minutes, Bailey was hanging up two large bags of clear fluid from nails in the wall while Dr. Brauer added a third smaller bag containing a powerful broad-spectrum antibiotic. Lassiter finished breaking open the cold packs and laying them on and around Shawn's head and chest, then stepped back and gave the two men plenty of room to work. The doctor now had a stethoscope in his ears that he was using to listen to Shawn's chest as he monitored vital signs.
"Bailey, faster infusion of saline and Ringer's Lactate," he ordered. Bailey reached up and began squeezing the two large IV bags to increase the flow.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" Lassiter asked.
Bailey looked back over his shoulder at him. "Go get the rest of the equipment off of the horses. There are medical supplies out there we're going to need."
Lassiter nodded and started for the door, but stopped and stepped to the side as it unexpectedly swung open. The third member of the rescue party stepped passed him into the room, carrying a large black backpack slung over one shoulder while talking on a satellite phone. Having only a view of the back of a dripping wet rain slicker, he could see this person was much shorter than the other two, only about 5'6" tall with a remarkably smaller build. As the rescuer turned to face the bed, a long ponytail of wet blonde hair whipped out from underneath the wide brimmed hat and fanned out across the back of the raincoat. Lassiter would recognize that hair anywhere.
She hung up the satellite phone and turned around with a huge grin as she dropped the backpack to the floor. "Carlton!"
Her expression turned to shock as she finally registered his appearance. He looked...worn down, that was the best way to describe it. She'd never actually seen him go for this long without shaving, so even though she knew he wouldn't have much in the way of men's toiletries in such an isolated location, the nearly four days worth of beard growth was rather shocking and unexpected to say the least. Dark circles underneath red-rimmed eyes told her it had been days since the last time he'd slept. Add in the wrinkled, mud-stained clothes he'd been wearing and sleeping in for several days, and, well, Carlton Lassiter looked anything but his usual self.
Realizing she was gawking at him, she quickly collected herself and gave him a friendly pat on the arm. "What, you think I'd let the boys have all the fun?" she said with a smirk.
Lassiter raised his hand, and she slapped it enthusiastically in their familiar celebratory gesture of a high-five. But instead of releasing his grip as usual, he grasped her hand firmly and pulled her to him, enveloping her in a nearly bone-crushing hug. "God, it's good to see you!" he said against the top of her hat.
Surprised by the unusual display of affection, Juliet simply patted his back in return. "Hey, I told you I would find you, partner." Her reply was muffled as he was currently mashing her face into his shoulder with his overly enthusiastic embrace.
Suddenly aware of his awkward behavior, Lassiter released Juliet and stepped back, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand. "Um, they need the rest of the medical supplies," he stammered, ducking his head to hide the fact he was blushing.
Juliet picked up her backpack and brought it over to the bed. "Here, we'll go get the rest of the equipment." She dropped the pack at Dr. Brauer's feet and went back to the door. "Come on, Carlton. Let's bring the rest of the supplies inside. It will go faster with both of us working on it." Lassiter grabbed the yellow raincoat from the peg on the wall and followed her outside.
"So, what the hell are you doing out here, O'Hara?" he asked as they stepped out into the rain. "I thought the Chief would probably send McNab, or another Game Warden."
"Well, Buzz was all set to go, but I decided to pull rank on him a the last minute and took his place." She caught sight of his curious expression, and looked away for a second before continuing. "I knew this was going to be really dangerous. He's married, Carlton. I'm not."
Lassiter nodded in understanding as he helped Juliet untie the saddle bags on the horses. They worked in silence for the next few minutes, unloading all the equipment from the backs of the three animals, bringing it inside as quickly as possible, getting the last of the bags in as well as the bedrolls they'd brought when Bailey turned and looked back over his shoulder at them.
"Detective Lassiter, we need your assistance here for a moment." As Lassiter made his way over to the bed, Bailey motioned towards Shawn. "We'll need you to help us roll him onto his side in just a minute so we can check his back for injuries."
Lassiter signaled he understood. He was about to turn away to address his partner when he noticed the doctor had pulled the quilt completely off of Shawn so he could perform a complete and thorough physical examination. Unfortunately for the patient, that meant his physician was currently in the process of cutting off his coveted super hero underwear with a pair of medical scissors. 'Well now I know what O'Hara can get him for Christmas,' he thought. And speaking of O'Hara...unfortunately she happened to choose that moment to approach and inquire about Shawn's condition. Lassiter saw her heading for the corner of the room and quickly headed her off.
"Hey, how's Shawn doing?" she asked, looking worried. "He hasn't said anything, or—"
"O'Hara, how about you go remove the saddles from the horses?" he suggested as he grabbed her by the arm and turned her towards the door.
"What? Carlton, the saddles can wait. I want to go check on Shawn."
"How about you wait a few more minutes? Just until everything is covered." He gave her a pointed look.
"What are you—oh..." She understood as soon as she saw the doctor discard the mangled undergarment on the floor by the bed. "I'll, um...I'll go get the saddles and bring them inside, then." She hurried out the door as Lassiter went to assist with the procedure.
After Dr. Brauer finished his examination, they carefully laid Shawn back down on the bed and covered him with the quilt again. "Okay, Detective, we're done here. Thank you," Dr. Brauer said as he moved to examine Shawn's broken leg. "You made this splint?" Lassiter nodded in acknowledgment as he was stepping back from the bed. "Very good work. Pretty impressive. Won't be able to tell without an X-ray, but I think you set the bone well enough that all we'll have to do is put a cast on it."
"Is there anything else I can help you with? Anything you need me to do?" he asked, sounding tired. The adrenaline surge he'd felt when the rescue party arrived at the cabin was wearing off, and he felt the resulting energy slowly leaving him. Even though his limbs were beginning to feel like lead, he still felt the need to help somehow.
"Nope," Bailey said as he shook his head without looking up. "We've got it from here."
"You're sure? I mean, I could—"
Lassiter turned to see Juliet standing at his right side. He hadn't even realized she was there. She'd removed her wet hat and raincoat, and was wearing a thick black fleece jacket, blue jeans, and hiking boots.
"They're both medical professionals, they can handle it."
He looked back towards the bed, seemingly unable to let the issue go. He'd been in 'rescuer' mode for so long, his sleep deprived brain was having trouble ceding that duty to someone else. "But what if they need me to—"
Juliet trapped his scruffy chin in her hand and turned his head towards her. "How long has it been since you slept?" she asked, letting go of his face as she looked into his bloodshot eyes.
Lassiter looked down at his watch, seeming more than a little confused, then looked back up at her in a daze. "I don't know...what day is it?"
Feeling her concern for her partner increase, Juliet placed her hand on his arm. "Hey, you've done everything you can for Shawn. You took great care of him, Carlton. Now let's take care of you, okay?" Even though she was terribly worried about Shawn, Juliet knew there was nothing she could do for him at the moment other than let Bailey and Dr. Brauer provide him with the treatment he so urgently needed. She decided to let them work and focus all of her attention on her partner. Even though he'd never admit it, she knew he really needed her help now.
"Come on, you look tired. Why don't you get some sleep?" Juliet took him by the arm and led him over to the front corner of the room next to the desk. She'd set up two makeshift beds using padded bedrolls rolled out across the floor and laid atop the seats of saddles as headrests. "Okay, lie down, Carlton."
"Huh?" He was watching Bailey clean the wound on Shawn's left leg, seemingly in a daze. It was obvious to Juliet that he wasn't thinking clearly anymore.
Juliet guided him to the 'bed' closest to the corner and gently pulled down on his wrist as his cue to sit down. As he started to sit, she had to grab him firmly by the arm to keep him from falling hard onto his backside. His exhausted body was shutting down but his befuddled brain was still clinging to functional thought, still fighting to stay awake in case Shawn needed him. She managed to lower him down onto the bed without him gaining any new bruises, then pushed him back against the saddle, picked up a blanket, and spread it out over his legs. She took the bed next to him, removed her jacket, and folded it up into a tight square. Juliet noticed he was sitting stiffly, his gaze still fixed on the activity centered around Shawn.
"Carlton, you need to sleep. Let them take care of Shawn."
"You know what's sad?" Lassiter suddenly blurted out as his eyes wandered around the room. "This is the type of place I'd actually enjoy under normal circumstances. Hell, I'd even like to take a vacation here one day, I'd be perfectly comfortable out here," he said forlornly as his eyes moved from the sturdy rafters and fell on the silent telegraph. "It reminds me of...well, better times..." he let his voice trail off as he looked absentmindedly at a picture on the far wall.
Knowing he was lacking cognitive ability due to severe sleep deprivation, Juliet decided to take matters into her own hands. Lassiter was so exhausted that he didn't even protest when she slipped her hands under his arms and pulled him to her, shifting him so his back was lying against her right side. She placed her hand on his forehead and tucked the soft folded coat underneath his head as she gently pressed it down to rest on her shoulder. Keeping her hand in place, she reached down with her other hand and pulled the blanket up to his chest to protect him against the chill in the air.
"Go to sleep, Carlton," Juliet spoke softly into his ear. "It's okay, it's safe to relax now. Someone else is taking care of Shawn. Just close your eyes and go to sleep." Feeling that he was still tense, she began slowly stroking his unkempt hair back from his forehead as she settled her free hand on his shoulder. "You did a great job, partner. Now it's time for you to rest."
Lassiter finally quit fighting to stay awake and surrendered to exhaustion. O'Hara was right, he'd done his job. There was nothing else he could do, it was time to let go. Now that his partner was here with him, he felt safe, secure in the knowledge that she would take care of things in his absence. He knew she would take care of him. Mesmerized by the soothing motion of her hand stroking his hair, he gradually relaxed and leaned back against her, too tired to engage in a debate about not coddling your fellow officers. Especially the Head Detective of the SBPD. He would save that lecture for later, because right now, he was too damn warm and comfortable to move.
Maybe it was the sound of hollow footsteps on antique floorboards, the creaking of heavy wooden rafters, or the heady smell of well-oiled saddle leather, but when he closed his eyes, he wasn't in the cabin anymore. He was back in Old Sonora, transported to his childhood home where he was nothing more than a carefree child. Where he was untouched by the weight of responsibility for people's lives. Where he was actually happy. Only this time, he found comfort knowing there was a good friend by his side.
After enduring almost four days with less than ten combined hours of sleep, and driving himself well passed the point of exhaustion, Carlton Lassiter finally slept.
Well, there it is! The much awaited chapter 7. Hope you enjoyed it. One more chapter left, and it will be chock full of angsty post-whump goodness.
Thank you to all those who have been reading and reviewing, your feedback is wonderfully encouraging. If you liked this chapter, let me hear it! Holla!
I'll Take A Burger With A Side Order Of Underpants (Epilogue) by Texasartchick
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. I do not own any of the characters of Psych and am not affiliated with the show or USA Network. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. I do not own or have any association with 'Batman', Jell-O brand pudding, or Underoos.
SPOILERS: For Psych season 4 episodes "High Noonish" and "Shawn Takes A Shot In The Dark".
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Contains MAJOR REFERENCES to chapters 5, 10, and 13 of my previous story, "This Stalker Thing Kind Of Sucks."
*AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story takes place after my three previous Psych Fan Fiction stories "Choose It Or Lose It", "It Can Happen", and "This Stalker Thing Kind Of Sucks". Events affecting the Lassiter/Shawn dynamics that take place in both of these previous stories are mentioned in this one. You might want to read them first. Doing so is not a requirement to understand what is going on in this one, but it will help alleviate any confusion that might occur when the references pop up.*
ENJOY! Please be kind enough to review. All feedback, good or bad, is welcome.
Juliet watched with interest and concern as Officer Bailey and Dr. Brauer continued hovering over Shawn while they worked. It had been over an hour since they'd arrived at the cabin, and the initial flurry of hurried activity had since died down to a much calmer level. The only signs of life she'd seen from Shawn were when he'd woken up for a few brief minutes. He was obviously delirious and seemed confused, but that was about twenty minutes ago, and he'd been quiet and still ever since.
Knowing there was nothing she could do for Shawn at the moment, Juliet turned her attention back to her partner. She glanced down at him to make sure he was still resting and saw he appeared to be deep in sleep. As she studied his slumbering form, she couldn't help but think about how peaceful and child-like the usually stern-faced and stoic Head Detective looked. Lassiter had rolled over onto his left side and curled up against her with his arms tucked to his chest and the blanket pulled up over his chin. The lack of sleep had finally caught up with him and he'd crashed hard. Even though she knew bearing so much of his weight on her shoulder was going to make her arm fall asleep soon, there was no way in hell she was making him move. He was finally resting comfortably after pushing himself well past the brink of exhaustion, and Juliet was absolutely determined that he would continue doing so until he woke up on his own, no matter how long it took him.
Juliet watched as Bailey said something to the doctor, then knelt down, pulled something out of his backpack, and stood up to begin making his way over to them. Juliet instinctively tightened her arm around her partner's shoulders in a protective gesture and shot Bailey a stern glare as she brought her finger to her lips in a warning to stay quiet.
Making sure to step lightly as he approached, Bailey couldn't help but laugh to himself as he took note of Juliet's actions. He'd seen female cougars that were less protective of their cubs. He approached cautiously and knelt down beside them.
"How's Shawn?" she asked while keeping her voice low. It was obvious that Juliet was very worried about him.
Bailey sighed, then answered her in a hushed tone. "Well, Mr. Spencer definitely needs to be in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital right now. We got his fever below one hundred and five, but it's still very high. We also brought his blood pressure back up and managed to stabilize him with the IV fluids, but he needs plasma badly. He's critically ill but we should be able to keep him stable until he can be evacuated." Bailey glanced down at Lassiter's relaxed form. "He was right, Spencer couldn't wait any longer. He was in the beginning stages of septic shock when we got to him. A few more hours and it would have been too late."
"Will Shawn be okay?" Juliet asked, her brow creasing with concern.
"He seems to be responding to the medication so far. We won't know his prognosis for sure for at least another day or two, and he'll be in the hospital for a while, but as long as the antibiotics work, he should make a full recovery," he replied with a smile. "He woke up for a few minutes, but he was so distressed that we had to sedate him. We'll probably keep him under until he reaches the hospital, it's safer for him that way." Bailey nodded towards Lassiter and asked, "So...how's he doing? Does he need medical attention?"
Juliet shook her head. "No, he'll be okay. He's barely slept for four days, he needs a lot of rest. Let him sleep, he'll be fine. Carlton just needs to hibernate for a while." She rolled her eyes and shook her head. "Of course he'll be angry and embarrassed when he wakes up like this, so just do me a favor. Be nice and pretend you didn't notice, okay?" She winced slightly as she made the request.
Bailey looked slightly confused. "Angry? Why would he be mad?"
"When is he not mad? When he's pissed off he's like Oscar the Grouch on steroids." Juliet replied. Seeing Bailey's confounded look, and realizing he'd met the man for all of ten minutes, she decided an explanation was in order. "Look, this is Carlton Lassiter, the Head Detective of the SBPD. And he's the youngest person in the history of our department to earn that title because he's great at kicking ass and taking names. So the last thing he wants anyone to see is—well, this." She nodded towards his recumbent form. "He has a reputation to uphold, you know." She gently patted Carlton's back as if to confirm her characterization of the 'tough guy' super cop that was currently snuggled up against her.
Bailey nodded. "Spare his pride. I get it," he replied. "I'll do my best."
"Thanks," Juliet smiled in genuine appreciation of Bailey's concern for her partner's physical health as well as his ego. He extended his long arm and held out a small travel pillow to her. "Oh, that's okay, Bailey. He already has a pillow." She pointed to her folded jacket underneath Carlton's head.
"It's for you, Detective O'Hara," he said, with a hint of concern creeping into his voice. "When was the last time you slept?" he asked, noting the dark rings forming beneath her eyes.
"Oh, I'm fine, really," she attempted to dismiss his concerns.
Bailey narrowed his eyes in a clear indication he wasn't buying it. "You need to get some sleep. Doctor's orders, ma'am." Seeing her will wasn't bending, he decided to try a different tactic. "I'll make sure Detective Lassiter isn't disturbed, and I'll wake you up if Mr. Spencer's condition changes. I promise." He offered her the pillow again. Conceding defeat, O'Hara took it reluctantly and stuffed it behind her head as Bailey draped a blanket over her legs.
"Thanks," she said as she pulled the blanket up to her chest to cover herself and, by default, most of her slumbering partner as well. Now that she was underneath it she realized she was happy to have the blanket. No wonder Carlton had curled up to her in his sleep. It was pretty damn drafty and cold in that corner, he was just trying to stay warm. She was actually glad to have her partner plastered to her side at the moment because he was serving as her own personal heat source. "Hey, Bailey, seriously...thanks for everything. We wouldn't have gotten here in time if—"
He held up his hand. "Thank me later. Job's not done yet," he gave her an easy smile. "Save it for when we're all back home." He glanced down at Lassiter once more before standing up to make his way back to the bed. "You're a damn good partner. I hope he realizes that. Miller's a great guy, but I won't let him drool all over my jacket," he said, laughing quietly. "And there's no way in hell he's getting cuddle privileges no matter how cold it is."
"Don't worry, I keep him in line. He may act like he's in charge, but he knows who's the boss," she replied with a savvy smirk. As Bailey returned to Shawn's bedside, Juliet closed her eyes and settled back against the saddle.
Juliet opened her eyes to find Bailey shaking her awake. "Hmm? What is it?"
"It stopped raining this morning and we've got a small break in the clouds, so the air evacuation is a go. Helicopter will be here in fifteen minutes, and we need both of you to help us." He looked at Lassiter, who was still fast asleep. Apparently he hadn't even moved. "I'll let you wake up Oscar," he said as he stood up and made his way back to the bed.
'Coward', she thought as she started to sit up. Juliet looked at her watch and noted it was just after four thirty in the afternoon. Juliet had dozed for several hours at a time, waking intermittently to check on her partner and get updates on Shawn, but Lassiter had slept for fourteen hours straight. He'd barely moved at all, and was still lying on his side with his head atop the makeshift pillow resting on her shoulder. Even though he hadn't woken up on his own yet, Juliet decided it would have to be enough rest for the moment. He could always go back to sleep later. Juliet certainly did not look forward to her partner's reaction upon waking up in her arms, but she knew it had to be done. It was a necessary evil. It was time to get back to work, so Lassiter was just going to have to suck it up and live with it.
"Carlton. Hey, wake up," she said as she gently shook his shoulder. He didn't even stir. "Great," she rolled her eyes. "Carlton," she said a bit louder as she gave him a firm shake.
"Huh?" he grunted as he blinked wearily and started to raise his head. "Gimmie 'nuther min O'Hara..." he grumbled as he lowered his head back down to the improvised pillow. "Okay, I'm up..." He closed his eyes again...then opened them immediately, his brow furrowed in confusion as he took in his surroundings. Lassiter peered down questioningly at the folded coat tucked underneath his head, then leaned back and looked up, meeting Juliet's eyes as he fought to get his bearings. A look of pure terror crossed Carlton Lassiter's face when he finally realized he was sprawled all over his partner in a very undignified and decidedly non-manly pose.
"Oh, hell..." He shot up and began scrambling away so fast that his feet tangled in the blankets, causing him to lose his balance and tumble over backwards. His backside hit the floor with a loud *thud* and his head bumped painfully against the wall as he fell over in a panicked heap of blanket, arms, and legs.
Juliet shook her awakening right arm to try and relieve the pins and needles sensation as she knelt in front of her now scowling partner. He blushed and shrank away from her, trying frantically to free himself of the fabric currently ensnaring him. Through sheer force of will, Juliet somehow managed to keep from laughing at his boyish awkwardness.
"Hold still," she said patiently as she grabbed a corner of the blanket and unwrapped his left foot.
"I can do it, O'Hara!" he protested bitterly, his scowl deepening into an angry frown. He rubbed the spot on the back of his head that hit the wall as he finally managed to extricate himself.
"Sorry I had to wake you, but the airlift is almost here. They need our help to evacuate Shawn. You feel up to it?"
"I'm fine. Just...give me a second." He blinked several times before rubbing his hands over his eyes in an attempt to banish the residual grogginess. He lowered his hands and saw Juliet still crouched in front of him. "I said give me a second!" he snapped defensively.
Noting how the blush spread to his ears, Juliet knew not to take it personally. Carlton was simply embarrassed, and as usual, was reverting to his overly aggressive cranky side in an attempt to cover what he perceived as unacceptable weakness. After years of working with him, she knew exactly how to handle this.
"Hey, stop that. Right now," she admonished him as she jabbed her finger at his chest. Lassiter stopped and looked up at her, surprised by her firm tone. "You have no reason to be embarrassed about anything. You saved Shawn's life and pushed yourself way past the point of exhaustion to do it. It was an amazing thing you did, and I'm proud of you, Carlton. We all are. We all know how badly you needed a break, we understand." She leaned in and placed her hand on his shoulder. "Hey. I'm just glad you're okay," she said with a sincere smile. Juliet stood up and held out her hand. "So, you ready to get up? We have a job to do, partner."
Lassiter's gaze moved from Juliet's hand up to her face, then back down again. He looked away before reluctantly reaching out and grasping her hand, allowing her to help pull him to his feet. Having been prone for fourteen hours, and still tired, he was slightly unsteady on his feet at first, but used Juliet's shoulder and the wall to support himself for a few seconds before finding his balance and brushing himself off. "Okay, I'm ready. Let's get to work," he declared firmly as he confidently rose to his full height. They strode towards the bed side-by-side, ready to fulfill whatever task was needed of them.
Lassiter and Juliet assisted Officer Bailey and Dr. Brauer as they wrapped Shawn in wool blankets and strapped him to the folding portable backboard they'd brought with them up the mountain. Shawn woke up as they were securing him to the backboard, severely disoriented and confused, completely unable to recognize anyone in his delirium. He became combative when he felt Bailey tightening the nylon straps around his body. Juliet found it surprisingly scary when he grabbed her arm, and came disturbingly close to hitting Lassiter in the mouth. She noticed that Lassiter was apparently expecting it, and easily blocked the blow before it landed, trapping his arm and pushing it back down. She and Lassiter were forced to restrain him while Dr. Brauer administered another strong dose of sedative to render him unconscious.
They had just finished immobilizing his head in the board's head brace when they heard the distinctive sound of a helicopter approaching their location. Juliet held the IV bags while they carried Shawn outside and waited as the rescue helicopter maneuvered into position above them. A metal framework basket containing an emergency rescue worker dressed in an orange helmet and jump suit was slowly lowered down to them from the open side door of the hovering aircraft. The rescuer informed the group that the window of opportunity for the air rescue was extremely small. The gap in the clouds was already starting to close again, and they would have just enough time to pull up two people before they had to leave and return to base. Unfortunately the weather reports indicated this was probably the only break in the cloud cover they'd get for almost a week. The group unanimously decided to send Shawn and Dr. Brauer so he could continue to treat Shawn while he was transported to the hospital. The others would stay behind in the cabin until it was safe enough to ride the horses back down the mountain.
As soon as he was evacuated, Shawn was going to be flown directly to Santa Barbara General Hospital for emergency medical treatment. After the helicopter left, Bailey and O'Hara sat outside on the porch to give Lassiter some privacy while he took a 'camper's shower'—basically wiped himself down with baby wipes—and changed into the fresh clothes she'd brought for him. When he emerged almost an hour later, he was wearing the navy SBPD sweatshirt and light blue jeans Juliet had swiped from the emergency suitcase he kept at her house. She'd also been thoughtful enough to procure a pair of hiking boots and thick wool socks for his size twelve feet. As he strolled out onto the porch, Lassiter ran his hand over his freshly shaven chin, seeming to relish in the feel of clean, stubble free skin.
A shrill beeping sounded from O'Hara's jacket pocket indicating an incoming call on the satellite phone. She pulled it out and answered it immediately. "O'Hara." Juliet paused, listening intently to the voice on the other end of the line for several moments. "Oh, good," she replied as a look of relief washed over her face. "Thanks for the update, Chief...oh, we're all fine, thank you. I'll let you know if we need anything. What's the latest weather forecast?" Juliet looked at her companions as she listened to the Chief's reply. "Oh, that's great. We have plenty of supplies, we should be fine. I'll keep in touch, Chief." She hung up the phone and put it back in her pocket.
"That was Chief Vick," she informed the two men looking at her expectantly. "Shawn is in the Critical Care Unit at Santa Barbara General. She says he'll stay there tonight, and if he remains stable, they'll probably upgrade him to the ICU tomorrow. Gus is there with him, and Henry is already on a plane on his way back." Juliet's relieved expression slowly lifted into a bright smile. "Looks like we did it, guys."
Lassiter visibly relaxed at her words and leaned back against the wall with a sigh of relief. Knowing Shawn had made it to the hospital and was in stable, although critical condition seemed to lift the huge burden he'd been carrying on his shoulders ever since their ordeal began. He stood there for a moment, letting the good news sink in before collecting himself and standing up to his full height.
"Officer Bailey. I changed the sheets and blanket on the bed. O'Hara and I will stay outside and feed the horses if you'd like to get some sleep." Lassiter realized that the young officer had probably been up all day and night providing medical care for Spencer, and judging by how tired he looked, thought he could use some much needed rest.
Bailey nodded his head. "Yeah, I think I'll take you upon that offer." He stood up and slowly headed inside, his shuffling gait a testament to his level of exhaustion.
"Hey Bailey," O'Hara stopped him as she pulled something out of her pocket and handed it to him. "Ear plugs. So we don't wake you up in case you're still asleep when we come back inside."
He stared down at the two soft foam pieces in his palm. "Thanks," he said gratefully as he finally went into the cabin and closed the door.
Lassiter and O'Hara untied the horses and led them over to an area full of long grass. Lassiter had brought the bag of small carrots Dr. Brauer had left behind, and as soon as he produced them from his back pocket, he found himself surrounded by three hungry animals eagerly sniffing and pushing their soft noses at him. Juliet couldn't help but smile as she watched her stern, seemingly eternally grumpy partner gently feeding the horses carrots from his palm and scratching behind their ears. She was amazed at how at ease he looked. She wondered if this was how he'd spent most of his days at Old Sonora, petting horses and generally behaving like a kid. When the carrots were gone, they led the horses over to the thick, tall grass. They sat on a large rock as they allowed the large animals to graze nearby.
The two detectives sat in silence for a while, watching the horses eat and occasionally swat pesky biting insects away with their tails. Lassiter squinted up into the sky, carefully studying the gray mass of obscuring clouds overhead.
Juliet was slightly startled by her partner's voice suddenly breaking the silence. "What's that?"
"How long before we get out of here? What's the latest weather forecast?"
"Oh," she replied. "The clouds aren't going to break anytime soon, but the rain has stopped for a while. It looks like most of the landslides finally stopped this morning, too. If it doesn't rain anymore, and we don't have any more landslides, it should be dry and safe enough for us to ride out in two days."
Lassiter nodded and turned his attention back to the horses. After a while he spoke again. "When the hell did you learn to ride a horse, O'Hara?" he asked, sounding a bit like he was interrogating a witness. "I didn't know that was included in your skill set. You learn that in Girl Scouts or something?"
Juliet rolled her eyes. "You know I was never a Girl Scout," she replied. She sighed, knowing she was as good as busted. Carlton wouldn't quit digging for information once he started. "Okay, I started taking riding lessons this summer. I was going to surprise you during your Civil War reenactment this year. I know you've been working really hard on recreating the Battle of Gettysburg, and you didn't have nearly enough people, and...well, I thought you might let me be part of Gamble's Cavalry Brigade. I know it's just a minor part, but—well, there it is." She turned to face him and shrugged her shoulders. "So, surprise!" she said half-heartedly.
Lassiter raised his eyebrows as he looked back over his shoulder at Juliet, obviously impressed by her enthusiasm to join in his reenactment troupe. He took a swig from a bottle of water and looked down at his hands as he screwed the cap back on. "Sure you wouldn't rather be part of Pickett's Charge?" he asked.
Juliet smiled, knowing he was loosening his own rigid adherence to historical detail by allowing a female rider to take a major part in the mock battle traditionally only performed by men. "Count me in, partner," she replied.
After a few moments, Juliet's thoughts turned from Lassiter to Shawn. Even though he'd made it to the hospital and his prognosis was good, she was still terribly worried about him. She couldn't stop thinking about how bad he'd looked when she finally got a close look at him, and how unsettling it was to see him completely disoriented and thoroughly lost in delirium. Shawn's mind was always sharp, thinking constantly, it was the one thing about him you could always count on. So she found it incredibly disturbing when he couldn't even recognize her or Lassiter, two people he'd known and worked with for years.
"Carlton, I wanted to ask you something," she asked after several moments of contemplation.
"Go ahead." Lassiter leaned over and picked up a small stick off the ground at his feet.
"How long has Shawn been like that?" Juliet inquired.
She paused for a moment before she answered. "How long has he been...altered?"
Lassiter nodded, turning his attention back to the piece of wood in his hands. "His fever got high enough that he started to lose it on the morning of the third day. I went out to get some well water while he was asleep. He woke up while I was outside, panicked when he didn't see me, and damn near hurt himself trying to get out of bed. He thought I'd left him. It only got worse from there." He was quiet for a moment as he used the stick to dig a small rock out of the tread on the bottom of his boot. "Spencer became delirious at around eight o'clock that night. He woke up lucid again the next day around noon, that lasted for a few hours, then he became delirious again. It was— well, he got a lot worse. Spencer started hallucinating that evening. He went downhill pretty fast after that." Lassiter chuckled briefly. "You know he actually hit me?"
Juliet's eyebrows rose in surprise. "He hit you?"
"Yeah, smacked me dead in the face, a good shot, too. He gave me a bloody nose. I'm sure Spencer's been wanting to do that ever since the day we met. Too bad he probably won't even remember it."
"Carlton, that's awful!"
"Surprisingly enough, it got worse."
"It got worse?" Juliet turned to face him. "How did it get worse than Shawn hitting you in the nose?"
"He—well, he was hallucinating pretty badly towards the end, he couldn't recognize me anymore, and..." He paused and took a deep breath before he continued. "Spencer thought I was his father."
"Oh, Carlton," Juliet said as she regarded him with sympathy. After a few moments she added, "That must have been hard."
"I'm fine, O'Hara," he insisted bluntly. "Spencer is in the hospital now, everything turned out okay. I was just doing my job. It's over," he declared firmly. And just as quickly as they'd been lowered, his defenses were back in place. His tone told Juliet the matter was closed for discussion as he turned away.
After a few awkward moments of silence, Lassiter changed the subject. "You actually pulled rank on Buzz and kicked him out of the rescue party?"
Juliet nodded. "Yes, I did."
"Excuse me?" she looked at him incredulously.
"Why did you take his place? It was dangerous, O'Hara. That was a foolish risk to take, damn it," he admonished her.
She opened her mouth intent on giving him an angry lecture about responsibility for one's partner, but clamped it shut before she spoke. Juliet knew he was scolding her for taking such a risk simply because he was concerned for her safety. If she'd been in his place, she'd have been worried about him as well. So Juliet swallowed her anger and instead let her rational side compose her answer. Ironically, it was this very quality that served as a perfect complement to Lassiter's volatile nature.
"Buzz isn't your partner, I am. It wasn't his place to take that risk, it was mine. I knew full well how dangerous it was. And like I said, he's married, and I'm not." Juliet fixed Lassiter with a determined gaze. "I was just doing my job. It's over."
Lassiter fell silent again, staring off into the distance. She could tell by the deep line between his brows that he was obviously contemplating something. She let him sit in silence, waiting until he was ready to speak. Years of working with Lassiter had taught her when she should leave him alone to his thoughts and when she needed to actively draw them out of him. After several long minutes, her tactic paid off, and he finally said what was on his mind. What he uttered quietly spoke volumes, encompassing everything he felt in only three simple words.
"Thank you, Juliet."
She would never get used to him using her first name. Lassiter always referred to her as 'O'Hara', 'partner', or her official title of 'Detective.' And back when they had first started working together, she thought she might officially change her name to 'could you please be quiet?' Lassiter had only called her 'Juliet' on a handful of occasions, and hearing him do so always left her slightly stunned and confused. But this time, she knew exactly what he was telling her.
He was saying, "Thank you for bringing me the fresh clothes that I'm wearing right now. Thank you for bringing the electric razor, because you know I can't stand not to shave. Thank you for allowing me to use you as a pillow and for watching over me as I slept. Thank you for helping save Shawn's life by bringing doctors and medicine before it was too late.
"Thank you for choosing to risk your life to find me."
Juliet smiled knowingly, genuinely touched by his simply worded confession. "Welcome," was her minimal reply. She knew he understood everything she was saying as well.
They spent the next several moments in silence, reverting to watching the horses eat their fill. "You hungry?" he finally asked. Seeing her nodding in affirmation, he rose to his feet and brushed himself off. "Come on, I'll heat up some soup." He just hoped she didn't want tomato.
Gus sat in the waiting room outside the Critical Care Unit, drinking coffee and reading an extremely beat up copy of the most recent issue of Popular Science. He checked his watch again, noting he could go back to visit Shawn in another five minutes. He was perusing an article about the latest advancements in the technology of magnetic levitation trains when he heard a familiar voice coming from the main hallway.
"Where is he? I want to see my son! Now, damn it!"
Gus rolled his eyes. Hurricane Henry was storming down the hall in all his blustering fury. If he kept that up, the staff would have security kick him out, and then he'd never get to see Shawn. And Gus knew he would never hear the end of it.
Gus reluctantly stood up and made his way over to the door closing off the CCU waiting room from the main hallway. "Hello, Mr. Spencer," Gus greeted him in a fairly tired voice as he walked through the door and closed it behind him. Henry stopped and looked up, momentarily taking his attention away from the nurse he'd been attempting to terrorize.
"Gus! Where's Shawn? I want to see him now, damn it!" He turned his heated glare back to the nurse in front of him. "Not five minutes from now, not an hour from now, but now!"
To her credit, the veteran nurse didn't back down. She stiffened her spine and stood up straight, placing herself between him and the doors and refusing to budge. "Mr. Spencer! I will tell you this just one more time! If you do not calm down and lower your voice, I will call security and have you removed from this hospital." She pushed her glasses farther up her nose and continued. "This is the Critical Care Unit, and all patients here are very sick, not just your son! They need their rest and you will not disturb them. Do I make myself clear?" She raised herself up to her full five-foot, two-inches in height and stared him down.
"Now look, lady! I've had just about—"
"It's okay, Nurse Jennings," Gus interrupted Henry's tirade. "I'll take care of it. Mr. Spencer won't cause any problems." He took Henry by the arm and led him back down the hall, away from the waiting room. Nurse Jennings left in a huff and disappeared through the double doors.
"Gus, let go of me, damn it! We're going the wrong way!" Henry said incredulously. "The waiting room's over there!"
"Mr. Spencer, I need to talk to you before—"
"I don't have time for this crap, Gus. I'm going to visit Shawn, and nothing is going to stop me from seeing my son." He turned towards the door, but Gus's hand on his arm stopped him. Henry looked down, surprised at how firm the young man's grip was.
"Would you please listen to me? Just for a second?" Gus asked patiently.
"You had better let go of my arm, Gus," Henry glared at him menacingly.
"Mr. Spencer, let me explain—"
"Explain what, Gus? Why Shawn went off like an idiot without thinking and probably almost got himself and Detective Lassiter killed? And why the hell did Lassiter drive him up there in the first place? The man's a cop, he should have known better! I know he doesn't like my son, but...I swear to God, if any of this is his fault, I'll have his badge, right after I kick his ass!"
But Gus's pleas for rational thought were falling on deaf ears. "No, Gus, that's it! It's high time Shawn learned some responsibility! I'm gonna see Shawn, I'm gonna find out what the hell he did to get himself into trouble this time, and I'm gonna stop his nonsense once and for—"
"No, you won't!" Gus shouted right in Henry's face, then stood back with his hands on his hips before lowering his voice to a level more suitable to their surroundings. "I will not let you see Shawn when you're behaving like this! No way, no how!" He clinched his hands nervously as he stood his ground in front of the most imposing man he knew. Tiny beads of sweat broke out on his forehead, but for Shawn's sake, he wasn't going to allow Henry to intimidate him into backing down.
Henry was momentarily taken aback by Gus's tone, but recovered quickly. "Get the hell out of my way, Gus!" he said angrily as he tried to storm around the younger man, but Gus defiantly stepped into his path, blocking him.
"You aren't going to see Shawn until you calm down! You hear me, Mr. Spencer? I won't let you get anywhere near my best friend right now! Shawn is in critical condition, and all you want to do is yell at him? You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Mr. Spencer!" Gus jabbed his finger at Henry's chest to emphasize his point. "Do you have any idea how close you came to losing Shawn? When the doctor got there, his fever was over one hundred and five, and his blood pressure was getting dangerously low. He was dying, Mr. Spencer."
Henry opened his mouth to reply, but closed it again without speaking, the expression on his face quickly morphing into regretful concern. It was obvious Gus's words were having an effect on him, because he'd paled visibly as Gus spoke. When he ran his hands over his face, Gus noticed they were shaking. Stripped of his anger, Henry could no longer use it to mask his concern. For the first time since he'd received news of Shawn's condition, Henry was forced to confront just how perilously close he'd come to losing his only child.
Gus's tone softened when he saw the effect his words were having. "Mr. Spencer, Shawn is still extremely sick. His fever is still over one hundred and four degrees, they're having some trouble bringing it down. He literally can't take you being angry with him right now. Can't you just...put your temper aside, forget about all that other stuff, and just be glad Shawn is alive? I know he might not be able to say it, but he really needs you right now."
Henry looked down at his shoes, unable to look his son's lifelong friend in the eye at the moment. "You're right, Gus. I shouldn't—I mean, I just get so frustrated with him sometimes. God, I'm such an ass..." he sighed as Gus placed his hand on his shoulder. "I'm just...I'm afraid of losing him," he admitted quietly.
"I know, Mr. Spencer. I am, too." He gave Henry a comforting pat on the shoulder before removing his hand. "How about we go visit Shawn? We're only allowed ten minutes of visitation every two hours, so let's make the best of it. Okay?"
"Ten minutes?" he asked incredulously as his head snapped up. "That's it? But he's my damn son!"
Gus held up his hand. "He's also extremely sick, and needs to rest. I'm sorry, but those are the CCU visiting hours, Mr. Spencer. No exceptions. I know half the staff in there, and they still won't let me stay longer than that! Believe me, I've tried."
Henry sighed. "Let's go. Time's wasting," he stated firmly.
Henry and Gus walked through the doors and signed in at the nurse's desk, then sat in the surprisingly comfortable padded chairs and waited to be escorted back by a nurse. After what seemed like an eternity, the desk nurse finally called their names, and they rose from their seats to follow their escort back into the patient treatment rooms. The wing had twelve rooms in all, four rooms along each of three walls arranged in a "U" shape around a large central nurse's station for easy patient access. While they walked, Gus tried to prepare Henry by informing him of Shawn's condition. He explained that Shawn was still delirious due to a very high fever, and he shouldn't be surprised if his son seemed extremely disoriented and confused. He might not even be able to recognize him. Henry assured his son's best friend that he understood, and would be perfectly fine. After all, he'd seen much more disturbing scenes during his tenure as a police officer. But as they rounded the corner into Shawn's room, Henry stopped dead in his tracks, stunned by what he saw. Nothing, not even Gus's highly detailed words, could have prepared him for this.
Surrounded by monitors and medical equipment, Shawn lay motionless in the bed with his eyes closed, appearing flushed and drawn. He'd obviously lost weight given how sunken his cheeks looked underneath the four days of unkempt beard growth, and his face was covered by a sheen of sweat. There was an IV in each forearm, and an oxygen mask strapped over his mouth and nose. Shawn's breathing was so shallow that Henry didn't notice it at first, and had to look closely just to see the steady rise and fall of his blanket covered chest. Both legs were propped up, with his right leg in a fresh cast and his left leg heavily bandaged below the knee. He'd never seen his son look so ill before, so weak, so utterly...lifeless. Henry felt his chest tighten as the inescapable reality of Shawn's condition truly hit home.
"Aww, kiddo..." Henry slowly moved to Shawn's bedside and quietly sat down in the chair. He looked up at the monitor displaying vital signs, and saw a body temperature reading of 104.3 degrees. He slid his chair as close to the bed as possible, carefully pulled Shawn's scraped and bruised right arm out from under the blanket, making sure not to disturb the IV, and held his son's limp hand between his strong, calloused palms. Henry was so focused on his critically ill child that he wasn't even aware Gus had left the room.
"Shawn? Can you hear me?" He leaned forward while squeezing his hand gently, taking great care to avoid putting pressure on the deep scrapes along his knuckles, hoping desperately to see any signs of life. "Come on, wake up, son." The only response Henry received from his unconscious son was the repeated soft puffs of air in the oxygen mask from his shallow breathing. Feeling his eyes begin to sting, Henry swallowed hard in an attempt to keep his emotions in check. Shawn was always so vibrant and full of life, so it was tremendously difficult to see him in such a weak and feeble state. No matter how many years he aged, no matter how many jobs he held, or how thick his beard grew, to Henry, Shawn would always be his baby boy. And it was tearing him up inside to see his son like this.
Shawn's usually spiky hair was plastered to his forehead with sweat. Henry reached out with his left hand to push the errant hair away, becoming disturbed by the amount of heat he felt radiating from the warm skin beneath his palm. Shawn reacted to the contact and stirred, turning his head towards the touch as his hair was smoothed back from his forehead.
"Shawn?" Henry leaned a little closer. "Can you hear me? Wake up, son." Shawn slowly opened his eyes, his unfocused gaze wandering behind heavy lids. "Hey, I'm here, Shawn. I'm right here," Henry continued, encouraging Shawn to focus on him as he kept stroking his hair.
Shawn's bleary eyes finally settled on his father's face, slowly roaming over his harsh features in apparent recognition. His parted lips moved slightly as he tried to speak, but his voice was so weak he couldn't make any sound.
"That's okay, kid. Don't try to talk, just take it easy and relax." Henry looked down as he felt Shawn's hand move. He was surprised when Shawn repositioned his hand so he was only grasping two of Henry's thick fingers. For some reason Shawn seemed to find that comforting, so he laid his thumb across the back of his son's fingers to hold his hand in place. When he looked up, Shawn's mouth held the hint of a weak smile.
"...dad, you...made s'better..." he mumbled faintly as his eyes began to slide closed again.
"It's okay, Shawn, I'm here. Just lie back and relax. Try to get some sleep, kid." Shawn's eyes closed, and Henry felt his grip gradually loosen as he fell asleep.
After a few minutes, Nurse Jennings tapped Henry on the shoulder. "I'm sorry, Mr. Spencer, but it's time to go."
"Can you give me just one more minute, please?" Henry asked quietly as he looked up at her.
Seeing the drying streaks underneath his red-rimmed eyes, she made her decision. "I'll give you two," she said, patting him on the shoulder sympathetically before she turned and walked out of the room.
Lassiter never thought a simple office chair could feel so comfortable. As he sank down into the chair behind his desk, the imitation leather molded to fit his body through overuse, its familiar form seemed to welcome him home. After spending a grueling nine days of unscheduled time away from his beloved job, he'd never been so glad to sit behind a desk in his life.
That is, until O'Hara dropped the mountain of files onto the open surface in front of him.
"Aww, crap," he lamented.
"Sorry to do this to you on our first day back at work, Carlton, but here are all the reports that you need to proofread and approve. The Chief was too busy coordinating the rescue effort while we were gone to take care of it, so they kind of built up into a massive backlog." She gave him a sympathetic look. "Vick says she needs these on her desk tomorrow morning. Sorry, partner."
Apparently the old saying was true. No good deed goes unpunished. "Fine," he replied with an exasperated sigh as he resigned himself to his monotonous paper pushing fate. Lassiter surveyed the huge stack of files sitting ominously in front of him as O'Hara's heels clicking on linoleum signaled her departure. He estimated there had to be well over thirty, at least. He sat back in his chair and pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers, knowing he'd probably be staying late in order to complete the task before him.
Lassiter removed his hand from his face as he heard the distinctive shuffle of large, patent leather shoes hesitantly approaching from his right. He let his head fall back against the top of his chair in tired frustration. This was the last thing he needed right now. "Okay, what the hell do you want?"
He turned to see the face of Buzz McNab peering hesitantly at him from around the column next to his desk. Interpreting Lassiter's impatient glare as his cue, the large man crept out from behind the pillar and cautiously approached the Head Detective. Grinning sheepishly, he showed his mentor the black plastic case he clutched in front of his chest in his large hands.
Lassiter's eyebrows rose immediately. "Is that what I think it is?" he asked the young officer, his tone immediately changing from dour to upbeat. Seeing Buzz nod in affirmation, Lassiter quickly shoved the monolithic stack of folders to the side, almost toppling it over in his haste to make room as Buzz set the case down in front of him. He glanced up at Buzz as he opened the box and saw his face was reminiscent of a giant puppy eager to show his master he'd learned to fetch.
Lassiter's breath caught in his throat as light glinted off polished chrome finish. "Oh, wow..." The custom Springfield 1911 pistol lay before him, nestled in the gray protective felt, still smelling heavily of fresh gun oil. Lassiter would never tire of that 'new gun' scent. The Head Detective couldn't prevent the grin from spreading across his face if he'd tried. He looked up at Buzz, his expression silently asking permission to lay hands upon the masterpiece before him.
Buzz nodded in permission. "Go ahead, sir!"
The weapon was immediately in Lassiter's expert hands, magazine dropped and slide locked back to confirm unloaded status, before he released the slide and admired the polished mechanized perfection. He worked the action, the ambidextrous safety, de-cock lever, pulled the trigger...everything functioned to perfection, as smooth as butter.
"Would you like to help me break it in, sir?" Buzz ventured hopefully. "The gunsmith said the sights might need to be adjusted slightly."
Lassiter looked forlornly at the massive pile of folders cluttering the left side of his desk, otherwise known as 'instant overtime.' He gazed longingly at the gun as he placed it back in its protective box, produced a gun cleaning cloth from the top drawer of his desk, and wiped his fingerprints off of the shiny artistic creation in his hands. He knew he couldn't spare the time right now; he'd spent the first hour of his shift filling out requisition forms for his brand new PD issued Crown Vic at the motor pool, and was already guaranteed a late night at the station from the work piled high on his desk. And that was if he was lucky enough not to have more work heaped on him throughout the day.
"How much ammo do you have, McNab?" He inquired.
"Two hundred rounds, sir."
"Okay, but only for an hour," he said as he draped his suit jacket over the back of his chair and eagerly grabbed two sets of ear plugs out of his desk.
"O'Hara!" Lassiter bellowed angrily as he strode back into the bullpen. He zeroed in on her desk like a heat seeking missile locked on target.
"What?" she asked as she looked up to find herself the recipient of her partner's angry scowl.
"What the hell did you do to my car?" he blustered.
"I did not do anything," she replied, attempting to feign innocence and failing miserably. "There might have been a clerical error with the traffic department, though."
"Clerical error?" he asked incredulously as the vein in his forehead started to stand out. "There is a clamp on the front wheel of my car, O'Hara! But I suppose you conveniently don't know anything about that, do you!" he demanded from her as he planted his hands on his hips.
"Nope," she said, casually dismissing his tirade. Which only served to infuriate him even more.
Lassiter glared at her, trying his best to bore two little holes in the middle of her forehead with his most heated angry stare. "Make them take it off", he growled menacingly. He was already running late after one hour on the shooting range with McNab had magically stretched into two, and all he wanted was to grab a quick bite to eat before delving headlong into the endless pile of paperwork weighing down his desk. He'd offered to pick up something for O'Hara as well, but she just forfeited that benefit for the foreseeable future thanks to this little stunt.
"Sorry, Carlton, no can do. Might want to talk to the traffic department and see what the problem—."
"This is about Spencer, isn't it?" he cut to what he knew was the heart of the matter. Lassiter knew his partner too well to entertain her ridiculous charade about traffic enforcement 'accidentally' putting an immobilization clamp on the front wheel of his precious new PD issued Crown Victoria. She'd already tried asking nicely, pleading, even bribery with gourmet cupcakes, but he'd remained steadfast in his resolve to not visit Shawn Spencer. He had absolutely no desire to open up that potentially embarrassing can of worms, thank you very much. But Lassiter didn't have time for pathetic excuses at the moment. His small window of opportunity to wrangle take-out was evaporating quickly.
Juliet sighed as she abandoned the tactic of blame shifting and confronted the issue head on. "Carlton, this is ridiculous. Why won't you go visit him?"
"I was stuck in a one room cabin with him for over four days, O'Hara. Believe me, I've been in his presence enough to last me a lifetime. No thanks. Besides, I'm not too fond of hospitals." He rose to his full height and loomed over her desk in his most imposing stance. "Have the traffic department get that infernal contraption off of my car. Now."
Unfortunately for the SBPD's Head Detective, his junior partner refused to be cowed into submission. She stood up and squared her shoulders in determination. "Not until you promise to go visit Shawn. Come on, Carlton, he spent one day in Critical Care, three days in the ICU, and this is his second day in a regular room where he can finally have real visitors. He's going to be stuck there for another two days, and the poor guy is bored! Wouldn't you be if you were stuck in the hospital for that long?" Juliet gave him her best sympathetically pleading look. "He keeps asking me about you every time I visit him, so I know he'd like to see you."
"No," he stubbornly refused.
"But you saved his life!"
"I did my job," he countered.
Juliet scrunched her eyebrows in a frown. "Okay, why not? He's your friend, Carlton!" He attempted to challenge Juliet's claim of 'friend' status, but she forged ahead before he could speak. "When the tables were turned, Shawn visited you in the hospital, and you know it!" she scolded him. Juliet's expression turned quizzical as a thought occurred to her. "Carlton, is something...wrong? Did something happen with Shawn that you're not telling me about?"
Lassiter opened his mouth to reply, but clamped it shut before he unleashed his angry denial. He shouldn't take out his temper on her just because she was hitting a little too close to the truth. She was right; plenty of things had happened that he'd love to forget. Believing you're watching someone die and being helpless to stop it is not a fond memory. He decided to abandon his attempts at deflection and settled on simplicity instead. "No, nothing happened, O'Hara. I just...like I said, I don't like hospitals."
"I call bullshit, Carlton. We've been to plenty of hospitals for cases and co-workers, but it never bothered you before. So what is the real reason you won't visit Shawn?"
Lassiter sighed in defeat, knowing his stubborn refusals were only prolonging the inevitable. It was only a matter of time before he would be stuck working with Shawn Spencer again, forcing him to confront the issue head on. Better to get it over with now than in the middle of some crime scene in the near future. He decided to get what was sure to be an embarrassingly personal meeting with Spencer out of the way as quickly as possible. Painful but mercifully fast, just like ripping off a Band-aid.
"Fine. I'll go."
Fortunately O'Hara hadn't set an actual time limit on said visit, so he figured about five minutes would be more than enough. She also didn't specify whether or not the other man had to be conscious in his presence. Lassiter decided he might even get lucky and Shawn would happen to be asleep.
"Today," she insisted firmly. She pulled a 'get well' card and accompanying envelope out of her middle desk drawer and thrust it at his face. "Make sure you sign it."
"Okay, today," he rolled his eyes as he begrudgingly snatched the card from her hand. "Now get that damn clamp off of my car, O'Hara!" He looked down at his watch while his partner dialed the extension for traffic enforcement on her desk phone. The battle of wills with his partner had taken far too much time and wasted what little opportunity he'd had to go out for food. Leftover morning coffee and a stale sandwich from the break room vending machine were on the menu yet again. Lassiter snatched his personal mug off of his desk and stalked away to stake a claim on the sludge in the bottom of the coffee pot. As he poured the tepid liquid into his cup, he caught sight of the container full of white coffee straws sitting next to the well-used microwave oven on the counter. An idea suddenly occurred to him as he saw a rare opportunity for sweet revenge.
"Hey, O'Hara!" he yelled, capturing her attention.
"What is it?" she asked as she made her way across the station. "Are we out of coffee filters again?"
Lassiter regarded her from beneath an arched brow, a mischievous gleam in his eye. "How good are you with arts and crafts?"
The front doors of Santa Barbara General Hospital loomed before him like an electronically controlled monolith. He was not looking forward to this. Carlton Lassiter did not like having deeply personal conversations with anyone, not even his partner. And after having been forced into so many days of confinement with the younger man under some intense, even life threatening circumstances, he knew that was where this upcoming chat with Shawn Spencer was likely to end up. Personal, probably emotional, and above all, highly uncomfortable.
Right now he'd rather take a bullet than walk through those doors.
"He's your friend, Carlton! When the tables were turned, Shawn visited you in the hospital, and you know it!"
Juliet's words echoed in his head. Earlier that afternoon she'd forced him to promise he'd do this, and he wasn't about to let her down. She'd voluntarily risked her life for him, even when someone else was more than willing—actually eager—to take that risk instead, but she'd made that grueling trek up the mountain anyway. She'd even gone the extra mile and brought him an electric razor because she knew one of his pet peeves was an unshaven face. No, he owed Juliet big time, and if this was how she wanted him to repay that debt, then so be it.
Besides, he was afraid of what she'd do to him if he didn't follow through. O'Hara was getting creative with her methods of 'persuasion', as she put it. He had to admit, the clamp on his beloved car was rather original. He'd have to remember that one next time he wanted to ditch Spencer.
'Like ripping off a Band-aid. Just get it over with, Detective,' he reminded himself. And with that final thought, Lassiter tightened his grip on the handle of his briefcase and forced himself to walk through the doors. If Juliet O'Hara could handle these types of things with ease, he should be able to stumble through a few unbearably personal moments. If it got bad enough he could always just fake a call from the Chief and bail out of the room. It amazed him how much braver O'Hara could be than him at times when it came to the simple things.
Lassiter punched the button on the elevator and waited, his mind turning to the impending conversation as he stood in front of the steel doors. Just because he was going through with it didn't mean he was looking forward to it. It was bound to be awkward, to say the least. And said level of awkwardness would depend solely on Spencer. Or, more specifically, Spencer's memory.
Lassiter wasn't bothered by most of the events that had taken place. Almost everything he'd done was for the sole purpose of providing medical assistance to a severely injured civilian, and he was fine with that. Even stripping Spencer of his wet clothes and helping him pee in a bottle barely fazed him. Certainly unpleasant and somewhat embarrassing tasks, but it was a survival situation, and he'd grit his teeth and done what was necessary at the time to ensure both of them made it out alive. But as the doors opened and he stepped into the waiting elevator, his thoughts turned to what he didn't have to do, and that's what was making him so damn nervous. As he pressed the button for the correct floor, his eyes fell on the jacket sleeve covering his right arm, and he remembered with disturbing clarity what had taken place just one week ago.
—Trembling fingers entwined themselves in the fabric of his shirtsleeve and began to pull in a weak grip. "Please, Dad, it hurts...make it better..."
Christ, he'd pretended to be the kid's father.
Lassiter knew he was doing the right thing by comforting Shawn when he desperately needed it, but he had no right to do it by pretending to be a member of his family. He felt as if he'd completely invaded Shawn's privacy, forcing himself in where he didn't belong. He'd intruded on something sacred, that deep, irreplaceable bond between a father and son. And given his own family history, it was a bond that he knew almost nothing about. Lassiter was nothing more than a fake, an inadequate substitute for the real thing. He hoped Shawn would eventually forgive him for crossing that line. He hoped he would forgive himself.
Another thought had crossed Lassiter's mind—Shawn was so delirious at the time, it was entirely possible he might not even remember what had happened. If that was the case, how would Shawn react if he ever found out? Would he feel embarrassed, angry, resentful, perhaps even, he hated to say, violated? How could Shawn work a crime scene with him knowing that Lassiter—Carlton Lassiter, hard ass Head Detective of the SBPD—had literally cradled him in his arms while he was dying? While he literally cried for his father. While Spencer thought he was actually Henry. God, for both their sakes, he hoped Spencer was too far gone at the time to remember any of it. If he was, Lassiter sure as hell wasn't going to clue him in. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.
And speaking of Henry....Carlton couldn't even imagine how furious the older man would be over the thought of being 'replaced' in his son's life, even if only for a few hours. Lassiter knew he was a poor surrogate to say the least, but there was absolutely no substitute for Henry Spencer, especially not in the elder man's eyes. Hell, he wouldn't be surprised if Henry actually blamed him for Shawn's near death experience because he was the one that drove them into the mountains. He could hear it now: "You drove up into mountains ravaged by wildfires all summer long without checking into it first? Some Head Detective you are! You know how irresponsible Shawn is, you should have known better, damn it!"
Lassiter wondered if he'd be the recipient of a hard right hook to the jaw the next time he met the man. Some part of him felt that he actually deserved it, that he shared the blame with Shawn. Because Henry would be right—he should have known better. Shawn wouldn't have been injured if he'd never driven them up there. When Spencer had asked the favor of him, he should have been smart enough to say 'no.'
The doors slid open and Lassiter was deposited on the fourth floor of the hospital's general wing. He stepped out of the elevator and into the wide lobby containing the central nurse's desk, which was stationed in front of the network of corridors lined with patient's rooms. With an exasperated sigh, Lassiter set down his briefcase, signed in as a visitor at the desk, and asked for directions to room 412.
"It's down that middle hallway on the right hand side, sir," the nurse informed him with an annoyingly cheerful smile.
Lassiter thanked the nurse and picked up his case, determined to get this over with as soon as possible. He turned and had just started walking down the middle corridor when he spotted a familiar form approaching him at a brisk walk.
"Hey! Detective Lassiter! Stop right there!"
"Oh, crap. Here we go..."
Henry Spencer increased his pace and broke into a jog as he drew near, his face a mask of intensity. Lassiter briefly entertained the thought of ducking back into the elevators and making a run for it. Unfortunately they were too far away for that to be a viable escape plan without him looking like a total coward, so Carlton set his briefcase on the floor and readied himself for whatever onslaught he was about to receive. If the elder Spencer decided to clock him, at least he was right in front of the nurse's desk.
Henry slowed to a walk and stopped directly in front of him. They studied each other, the elder man breathing slightly faster because of his dash down the hallway. His expression was stern and his eyes locked with Carlton's in a hard stare. The way Henry was looking at him, Lassiter was surprised he wasn't already on the floor clutching his jaw. Not knowing what to say, Lassiter stood firm, waiting for the other man to act first. Whatever course of action Henry had decided upon, Carlton was just going to take it without protest.
Without a word, Henry's lips pressed into a firm line of determination, and he stepped forward to envelop Lassiter in a bone-crunching hug.
"Thank you for my son," he ground out, his voice breaking noticeably.
Too stunned to respond, Lassiter just stood there while Henry squeezed him a little too hard for comfort. He certainly hadn't been expecting this. After a few seconds Henry mercifully released him, and Lassiter took a very appreciative breath to expand his squashed lungs. He pretended not to notice as Henry discretely ran a thumb under his eyes, acting like he was scratching an itch while quickly wiping away a few errant tears before they rolled down his cheeks.
Once the elder Spencer had collected himself, Lassiter nodded in greeting. "Henry," he said in his usual brisk tone.
Henry cleared his throat before speaking. "Carlton. I assume you're here to visit Shawn?"
"Yes, I am."
"Well, he might be asleep by now, but you can go in if you'd like. He's been asking if you were going to come visit him, so I'm sure he'll want to see you." Henry turned and started walking towards the elevators.
Lassiter's brow furrowed. "You're leaving?" he asked. He suddenly found himself hoping Henry would stay, because it occurred to him that if Shawn's dad was in the room with them, he might not want to discuss any potentially embarrassing moments. "Where's Guster? Is he babysi—staying with Spencer?" he managed to catch himself before making that mistake in front of Henry.
"Gus and I have been here damn near all week. He finally had to get back to work before he got fired, and I'm sick of sleeping in hospital chairs. I'm damn tired, Detective. So by all means, keep my easily bored son company as long as you'd like while I go home and sleep in a real bed for a change." He turned and headed for the elevator doors before stopping to address him again. "Oh, and Carlton, um..." Henry paused for a moment, clearing his throat before continuing. "If you're ever in the neighborhood, or maybe just in the mood for a grilled steak, feel free to stop by. After what you did, what you've done for my family, I just..." His voice trailed off as he walked up and briskly clapped him on the shoulder. "Don't be a stranger, old man," he joked as he abruptly turned and left a flabbergasted Lassiter standing in the middle of the hallway.
Lassiter slowly walked down the corridor until he stopped in front of the door to room 412. He took a deep breath and knocked lightly on the dark wood, pausing to listen for a response. Hearing nothing, he carefully turned the handle and slowly opened the door to peer cautiously inside. He saw Shawn lying in the hospital bed with his eyes closed, apparently sound asleep. Lassiter reasoned the empty medicine cup on the night stand next to the bed was the probable cause for his late afternoon nap. As Lassiter quietly slipped into the room and closed the door, he noticed Spencer looked much different than the last time he'd seen him. The fake psychic still didn't look like his normal self, but he appeared to be a lot healthier than the last time he'd seen him. The first thing he noticed was Shawn had shaved his four days of beard growth down to his usual amount of facial scruff. Almost all of his cuts and scrapes had healed, most of his normal color had returned, and the bruises on his arms were mostly faded, except the fresh one on his right arm where one of the IVs had recently been removed. He still had the IV in his left arm that continued administering fluids and potent antibiotics. Both of Shawn's legs were propped up on pillows, his left leg underneath the blanket. His uncovered right leg was in a cast that had been signed by multiple people using various brightly colored markers. Judging by what Lassiter saw as he examined the writing more carefully, some people had used a few crayons as well. Guster's name was neatly written in what Lassiter identified as 'periwinkle blue.' The bulge on his leg underneath the covers indicated the gash on Shawn's left leg was still heavily wrapped in bandages. He was relieved when he saw the monitor displaying vital signs showed a normal body temperature of 98.9 degrees.
Lassiter placed his briefcase on the night stand beside the bed, opened it up, and pulled out a small stack of files. He still had seven files to proofread by morning, and he'd chosen to take his work home with him rather than stay at the station well into the night. But since Spencer was asleep at the moment, he decided to take the opportunity to get some of that work done. Lassiter poured himself a cup of water from the sink across the room, sat down in the padded chair next to the bed, and began passing the time by reading over a file. As he quietly sat by Shawn's bedside, he realized the position was strangely familiar to him.
Shawn awoke to find himself in the same bland regular hospital room he'd been stuck in for the last two days. He'd always hated the scent of that particular antiseptic medical facilities used, and now he felt like it was beginning to permeate every cell in his body. He wondered if Gus could use the 'super sniffer' to identify the specific ingredients used in the germ killing cocktail that seemed to be saturating his room. He was sick of wasting away entire days in bed, he wanted nothing more than to get up and leave the infernal place. The fact that he couldn't walk yet was only a small obstacle in his obstinate mind.
Desperately wanting to be anywhere else, he sighed in frustration and began looking around the room, hoping to see Gus, or perhaps Juliet. Hell, he was even hoping Chief Vick, or those two cool Game Wardens would stop by again. He was bored with a capital 'D', and was hoping someone still had the will to come for a visit to alleviate his desperate need to pass the time. Gus, his father, and Juliet were regular visitors, but he could tell they were probably getting tired of dropping by. Besides, they had better things to do. Both Gus and Juliet had gone back to work, and even his father was so sick of the place that he'd left to spend time in the comfort of his own home. So when he turned his head and saw someone sitting in the chair next to his bed, his mood immediately brightened at the thought of company. The excitement was replaced by stunned surprise when he realized who it was.
Detective Carlton Lassiter sat next to him, reading over an open case file and making corrections with a ball point pen. The sight of Lassiter at his bedside was something he'd grown oddly accustomed to.
"Hey, Lassman!" he said breaking into a grin as Lassiter looked up. "Chief Vick finally let you off the leash long enough to come visit me?"
"Spencer," Lassiter gave his customary curt greeting. He clicked his pen, closed the case file, and set it on top of two other proofread files already stacked on the rolling tray table in front of him.
"Aww, look! You got me a card!" Shawn gasped in mock surprise when he saw the 'get well' card lying on the table. Lassiter rolled his eyes as Shawn opened it and saw the Detective's signature scrawled inside. "Wow, you even signed it! I always knew you cared, buddy!" He thought for a moment, then added, "Seriously, dude. How much did it set Jules back?"
Lassiter looked slightly offended. "Nothing," he paused, then muttered, "I reimbursed her for it."
Shawn closed the card and set it down next to a covered food tray the nurse had brought in while Shawn was asleep. He eyed the round plastic device sitting beside the files with a sense of dread. "When did they bring that in?" he asked, a slight note of apprehension evident in his voice.
"About twenty minutes ago," Lassiter replied, looking at his watch. "Probably still hot if you're hungry."
"You open it, Lassie, I'm afraid to see what mystery meat is on the menu today." He pulled the blanket up over his face and peered out from underneath it with just one eye, quaking in mock terror.
Lassiter shook his head as he popped the top off the tray and surveyed its contents. He knew it couldn't be bad enough to warrant such childish theatrics. "It's just some—oh..." Okay, maybe it was that bad after all. As annoying as Spencer was at times, he couldn't help but pity the younger man when he spied the various substances that were masquerading as food. He winced when he saw a dollop of unappetizingly soggy spinach, some runny macaroni and cheese, and two small patties of something he thought was supposed to be salisbury steak. Either that or meat loaf. He couldn't be sure without having the crime lab to run a battery tests on it. Whatever it was, it was covered in a film of what he guessed was supposed to be brown gravy. The only decent selection on the tray was a pre-packaged Jell-O chocolate pudding cup. Which, of course, Spencer saw immediately.
"Dude! Dibs on the pudding!" He shifted and sat up a little as Lassiter mercifully handed him the foil covered cup. He held it in his right hand and grasped the tab with his left, fumbling in his attempt to open it, having to adjust his IV tubing when it got hung up on the bed rail.
Without thinking, Lassiter took the cup, pulled the foil cover off the top, and held the open Jell-O out to Shawn.
Shawn looked at the pudding, then back up at Lassiter. With a grin he sat back against the pillows and opened his mouth as if expecting to be spoon fed the dessert.
Lassiter rolled his eyes, crammed a plastic spoon into the chocolate gel, and unceremoniously shoved it into Shawn's hand. "Do it your damn self, Spencer," he growled as he glared a warning at him.
"What? Just for old time's sake, Lassie!" He replied, feigning innocence. "Seriously dude, I could use some water," he said, looking around the room for a drink. Lassiter gave an irritated sigh as he crossed the room to the sink, filled up a cup of water, and handed it to Shawn. "Thanks, Carly-Q," he said before taking several sips.
Lassiter noticed Shawn was still holding his right arm against his side in an effort not to move it around much. "Ribs still bothering you?" he asked as he returned to the other side of the bed.
Shawn nodded as he finished drinking and set the half full cup on the tray table. "Yeah, cracked three of them. Turns out they don't play well with trees. Guess that's what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object." He thought for a moment, then flashed a stupid grin. "Hey, I'm an unstoppable force! That's awesome!" he said cheerfully as he stuffed a spoonful of pudding into his mouth.
"Not so 'awesome' when you're rolling down a Goddamn mountain", Lassiter lamented as he sat back down in the chair. "How long are you stuck in the cast?" he asked, nodding towards Shawn's leg.
Shawn groaned audibly as he readied another spoonful. "At least nine weeks," he moaned. "But they'll probably give me a walking cast in about a month." He downed another mouthful as he frowned at his leg, wiggling the toes poking out at the end of the grafitti covered cast.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, the only sounds filling the room coming from the plastic spoon scraping the sides of the pudding cup as Shawn mined it for the last traces of the sweet chocolate gel. Lassiter glanced at his watch. Apparently time had slowed to a crawl because the hands had barely moved at all, even though it seemed like he'd been sitting there for an eternity.
Shawn tossed the empty cup and used spoon back on the table. "Damn, I think I'm gonna starve to death in here, Lassie. How about you take pity on a dying man and smuggle in a steak?"
"No," he said flatly.
"Jerk chicken?" he asked hopefully, as if altering the menu would somehow change Lassiter's mind.
Another frustrated sigh. "No."
"Okay, I'll settle for some new underwear then. Something with 'Batman' this time would be nice. I'm getting tired of this stupid gown. Although it is fun to moon the nurses."
"I am not buying you kiddie underwear," he declared resolutely.
"Hey, you owe me a pair, man! You killed my Underoos! Boxers this time, if you please."
"Spencer," he growled menacingly through gritted teeth. He couldn't help but think he would be forever grateful for the 'Spencer-free' quiet time he was going to experience around the station for the next few weeks.
Shawn held up his left hand in mock surrender. "Okay, fine, I'll let you off the hook. But for the record, my birthday is coming up. Just a hint, man..." Shawn settled back into the bed and watched Lassiter out of the corner of his eye. The Detective took a calming breath and ran a hand down his face in frustration before glancing at his watch yet again. It was obvious to Shawn he wanted to leave, so he decided to broach a particular subject while he still had the chance.
"Hey Lassie, See if you can settle an argument between me and my pop, will you?" he ventured as Lassiter stood up.
"What?" he asked a bit impatiently as he began to move towards his briefcase on the end table beside Shawn's bed.
"When did my Dad get to the cabin?"
Lassiter stopped in his tracks, frozen for a moment. But he recovered quickly, and stared at Shawn with mild apprehension. "What did you say?"
"I said, when did my Dad get to the cabin? I'm thinking he came up with the rescue party, but he swears he wasn't there. Thing is, I know he was!"
"How do you know that, Spencer?" he asked skeptically. "You were delirious at the time. You probably aren't remembering anything with any accuracy." Lassiter's hopes of Shawn memory being fuzzy were fading quickly. It was being replaced by a mild panic beginning to rise in his chest.
"No, I remember being delirious. It was like...having a really weird dream, but I just couldn't wake up, no matter how hard I tried." Shawn shook his head in mild disbelief. "I believe I was talking to Jules at one point about her totally impractical choice of footwear for a police Detective. I mean, who wears heels when they know they're going to be running after bad guys? Who even does that?"
Lassiter found he'd raised his hand to brush his nose as he remembered Shawn smashing his hands into his face. "What else do you remember, Spencer?" he asked, becoming curious as to just how good Shawn's memory was at that point.
Shawn's brow furrowed as he concentrated, clearly struggling to sort through the confusing jumble of memories. "Well, something about Gus and a plane. Not too clear on that one."
"Yeah, that's it." He eyed Lassiter suspiciously. "Why are you asking?"
Lassiter shook his head. "Nothing, no reason..." So there were gaps in Spencer's memory. Maybe he could get out of this no worse for wear and convince him it was all a hallucination?
"Well, my Dad is claiming he was never there, and the first time he saw me was in Critical Care here at the hospital. But I know he's full of crap, I remember him being in the cabin." Shawn looked down at his hands and shook his head. "I just...I thought things were different now, you know?" He paused and swallowed before continuing. "Ever since we had that great conversation that one night after you got shot a while back, and he's, well...Dad has just been...it's been a little better, you know?" He looked up at Lassiter, the frustration clear in his eyes. "But now he's saying he wasn't there, and I know he was, I know it, I remember it clear as day!" He brought his hands up in front of him as if he was grasping an imaginary object. "And what he did, I mean, it was so awesome! I never thought he would do that, he was holding m—" He stopped abruptly to look up at Lassiter.
He stood next to the bed, looking down at Shawn, making sure to keep his expression carefully neutral. "Well, so much for not remembering," he thought to himself.
Shawn swallowed again and collected himself. "So, Lassie...was my Dad in the cabin, or not?" He stared right into the Detective's deep blue eyes, seeking his answer.
Lassiter froze. His mind was racing, trying to come up with a viable answer that would cover all his bases, something to get him out of this mess. But try as he might, he just couldn't think of anything.
"Lassie?" Shawn asked, beginning to sense something was wrong. "Was he there?"
He didn't know what to say. He stood there for a moment, placing his hands on the bed rail, not quite sure what to do. Lassiter had no idea how to answer Shawn's question in a manner that wouldn't backfire on him in some way. So finally, he decided to just tell him the truth.
"He was there," he said quietly.
Shawn nodded silently as tears sprang to his eyes. He sniffed and looked away briefly, pretending to scratch an itch on is cheek while discretely using his thumb to brush away a few errant tears before they could fall. Lassiter noted with some amusement that it was exactly the same move he'd seen Henry use in the hallway earlier that day.
"Why would he tell me he wasn't there, then?" Shawn asked after he'd pulled himself together. "Why would he deny it?"
Lassiter shrugged. "I don't know, Spencer," he began to explain. "Some people just aren't comfortable talking about those types of things. Maybe that's why, maybe it's an uncomfortable subject for him?" he suggested as he looked away, suddenly finding himself unable to meet Shawn's gaze. "Maybe he's embarrassed by showing affection? Or maybe he—he just doesn't know how..."
Lassiter wondered when he'd stopped speaking about Shawn's father and started talking about his own.
He was suddenly struck by a memory, so vivid and clear it was almost as if he was reliving the event. He remembered the sound of gravel crunching underneath tires as he watched the tail lights of his father's car fade into a cloud of dust. He stood in the middle of the dirt road, clutching his bedroll and a few dollar bills, desperately wishing his father would stop the car and come back to spend the day with him. He wanted to show him how the telegraph worked, sit on his shoulders like the other kids and watch the gunfight together, maybe even hold his hand as they walked down the street. Just once, so he didn't feel abandoned again...
That's when Lassiter realized he'd been absently staring at Spencer's blanket covered left foot for several minutes.
He snapped himself out of his reverie and cleared his throat. "Um, well, I'd better be going now," he excused himself.
Carlton noticed Shawn was staring at him, a look of curious intensity painting his features. His brow was furrowed and his mouth was pursed, and Lassiter recognized that look. It's the same look he got on crime scenes when he was solving a case.
"Damn it, he's figuring it out!" he thought as his apprehension began to build.
Shawn continued studying Lassiter, his eyes narrowing suspiciously. He kept examining Lassiter's right hand for some reason, paying close attention to his right thumb in particular. Lassiter looked down, curious as to what Shawn could be looking at, and spied the healing remnants of a small cut he'd received when his car ran off the road. Realizing Shawn was focusing on the distinctive mark, Lassiter jerked his hand away and attempted to hide it down by his side.
Shawn looked up again as Lassiter stepped away from the bed, the crease between his brows deepening, then his eyes widened in surprise and his jaw dropped open as realization finally hit home. He gasped and looked down at the foot of his bed as he paled visibly, obviously shocked and confused.
Oh, sweet justice, Spencer knew.
Lassiter glanced over his shoulder at the door, suddenly wanting to be anywhere but there. He decided his best course of action was to get the hell out of there absolutely as fast as possible in order to minimize his embarrassment, so he hastily began collecting the files off of the tray table to facilitate a quick escape. "I have a lot of work to do, so—"
"Yeah...um, okay," Shawn agreed as he nodded, almost in a daze. He turned and watched Lassiter fumbling with the papers, opening his mouth as if compelled to say something, but was unable to find the right words. Shawn found his voice as Lassiter finally corralled the stack of files in his hands.
A little surprised and confused, Lassiter stopped and cast a quick glance towards the bed to see Shawn holding out his right hand. He paused, regarding the offering for a moment, noting the slight tremble in Shawn's otherwise steady hand, then raised his eyes to look questioningly at the younger man. His eyes brimmed with emotion as he confidently met the Detective's gaze. Lassiter saw the opportunity to get out of his awkward predicament with nothing more than a simple handshake between them, and decided to take what he could get. He set the files down on top of his briefcase and clasped Shawn's hand in what he thought would be a customary parting of ways.
"Spencer," he gave a curt nod and a brief handshake, then turned to retrieve his belongings from the night stand.
Shawn didn't let go of his hand. Instead, he surprised the older man by grasping firmly and pulling Lassiter towards him, wrapping his left arm around him as he buried his face in the shoulder of his meticulously pressed suit jacket.
He stiffened as Shawn's arm encircled his back and grabbed a fistful of fabric in a tight hug. Highly uncomfortable at finding himself trapped in the middle of such an emotional display, Lassiter desperately wanted to escape the confines of Spencer's unwanted embrace. His desire to flee increased tenfold when he heard Spencer discretely trying to sniff back tears. But he realized if he followed his instinctive need to run and pulled away from Shawn now, his clothing might catch and pull on the IV needle buried in his left arm. Not wanting to accidently hurt the younger man, Lassiter just stood there, completely at a loss as to what he should do.
When Shawn finally spoke his voice was choked with raw emotion.
Lassiter abruptly pushed himself away this time and stepped back, startled by Spencer's words. "What did you say?" he asked, his eyes wide with apprehension.
"I said, 'Thanks, man.'" Shawn sniffed again, his brows knotted together in confusion. "Why, what did you think I said?" he asked as he wiped his thumb beneath his eyes yet again.
"I—uh, nothing, I just—" he stammered before taking a deep breath to compose himself. "I have to go," he stated flatly. Mortified at what he knew he'd heard, Lassiter just wanted to get the hell out of that room as fast as possible.
Shawn looked back over his shoulder at him. "You're leaving? Already?" he asked, sounding a little disappointed.
"I have a lot of work to catch up on," he replied, dismissing Shawn's obvious hint. He was in 'damage control' mode, desperately trying to get back into his comfort zone of emotional distance from the world. He opened his briefcase and began organizing its contents to make room for the stack of folders.
Not one for subtlety, Shawn continued his attempts at persuasion. "But I'm bored, Lassie. I'm stuck here all by my lonesome with this crappy food and nothing to do. Even this TV sucks. How about you stay, just for a little while? We can get a deck of cards and play—"
"I'm busy, Spencer!" The room grew quiet as he slipped the last of the folders into his briefcase and closed the lid.
"Oh—okay..." Shawn said softly as the latches clicked shut.
Lassiter paused with his long fingers wrapped around the handle, taking a moment to look back over his shoulder at Shawn. As the young man stared dejectedly at his hands, Lassiter recognized that look. It was the same expression he'd worn every Saturday while watching the tail lights of his father's car recede into the distance. All he wanted was for someone to stay and spend a little time with him. Stay so he wouldn't feel abandoned.
—"There's probably more of your dad in you than you realize."
Lassiter looked down at his hand, his fingers grasping the handle of the briefcase in a white knuckle grip. It would be so easy to just pick it up and leave. But was that the kind of person he wanted to be? Hadn't he learned anything from his father's example?
He had to wonder; what the hell was he so afraid of?
"I'll buy you a burger."
Startled, Shawn looked up to see Lassiter standing next to his bed. He broke into a wide grin when he realized he'd been promised the salvation of real food. "Lassie! I knew you liked me!" he said mockingly as he wiggled his eyebrows at the stern Detective.
"Yeah, well, no one deserves that crap," he said as he motioned towards the food tray. "Not even you, Spencer."
"Can I get fries with that?"
"Don't push it." The stern warning came complete with a frown.
"And some underwear. Don't forget the underwear." In true Spencer form, Shawn was completely ignoring him and pushing is luck anyway.
Lassiter took one step towards the door before he stopped, hesitating for a moment, then he turned and faced the bed, placing his hand on Shawn's right shoulder.
"I'll be back, 'Whiz Kid.'" He gave Shawn's shoulder a slight yet awkward pat before he turned and walked out the door with a satisfied smirk.
"Holy crap," Shawn laughed to himself when he was alone. "I just got one-upped by Lassie!" He laughed even harder as he leaned back against the pillows. "Ooh, Gus can never know about my dark secret," he said with a mysterious air. He reached up to lazily scratch an itch on his chest and felt something on his gown. Curious, he pulled at the small object, which was pinned to the front of his hospital gown with a safety pin. He unfastened it and held it up to the light, examining it closely. "Oh, you have got to be kidding me..."
It was a little dog constructed from white coffee straws that had a tiny red paper cape attached to its back. The handwritten tag tied around its neck read "Krypto."
Realizing Lassiter must have pinned it on him while he slept, Shawn smiled mischievously as he studied the little straw dog.
"Oh game on, Detective. Game. On."
Well, there you have it. This story is now officially finished! I hope you enjoyed the ride, because building this roller coaster was a hell of a lot of fun. Thank you to all those who have read this far and followed the character's journey to the end. Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the form of a review, or even an e-mail if you're so inclined. Feedback is always welcome, and only makes my stories better. I enjoy hearing from readers immensely, and always take your comments into consideration.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.