I Don't Know How to Say Goodbye by Psychrulz
FeatureSummary:

It was supposed to just be a training. Nothing more. Just a training followed by breakfast consisting of a cheese danish. What it turned into was something so much more, throwing those left behind into a world of pain, blame, and doubts over how to move on. 

Award: Best Deathficgold2011


Categories: Season Characters: Buzz, Gus, Henry, Juliet, Karen, Lassiter, Maddie Spencer, Shawn
Genres: Angst, Hurt/Comfort
Warnings: Character Death, Tear Jerker
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 10 Completed: Yes Word count: 56577 Read: 29916 Published: August 20, 2011 Updated: November 04, 2011

1. Training Day by Psychrulz

2. Friendly Fire by Psychrulz

3. You Never Told Me You Left by Psychrulz

4. Voices From the Past by Psychrulz

5. Past and Present Partners by Psychrulz

6. Free Fall by Psychrulz

7. Rock Bottom by Psychrulz

8. Terms of Acceptance by Psychrulz

9. It's so hard... by Psychrulz

10. Letting Go by Psychrulz

Training Day by Psychrulz
Author's Notes:

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. 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.

Major thanks to Dragonnan and Tex- my muses, friends, rocks, butt kickers, and generally awesome peoples. Thanks for being open minded, accepting, and fully supportive of me even when I "dare" go down this road. *hugs* 

“Shawn. Shawn, get up.” Gus prodded his sleeping comrade, who simply responded by turning over and covering his head with the blanket. Gus sighed and tried again, this time with the added persistence of pulling the blanket off the bed. “Shawn! Get up or we’ll be late! I swear you have 30 seconds to get out of this bed or your precious hair is getting an ice water bath. We can’t be late again!”

            “You’re bluffing.” Shawn groaned in response, still refusing to open his eyes. “I don’t have any ice in my freezer.”

            “Try me.” Gus challenged.

            “Bluffer.”

            “I’m warning you, Shawn.” 

            “Bluffy McBluffer.”

            “15 seconds.”

            “You said 30.”

            “That was 15 seconds ago!”

            “Nahh.”

            “10 seconds.”

Shawn pulled the remaining sheet over his head.

            “5 seconds, Shawn.”

            Shawn tuned his pesky best friend out, sure that he would soon enough walk out in a huff and give him a blessed 30 extra minutes of rest. Why did Gus insist on getting there so early, anyway?! It wasn’t as if….

            “YEEEAAARRGGGHHH!!!!” The involuntary, yet highly powerful scream forced itself out of his lungs as he suddenly found himself jumping up onto his knees- only to get tangled in the sheet and end up falling flat on his back out of bed. It took his mind a couple seconds to register exactly what had happened, but the distinctly wet feeling and his body letting out an unexpected shiver from the cold were enough to clue him in.

            “Really Gus?!” He exclaimed, clumsily working to untangle his legs from the sheet as he coughed and sputtered on an errant ice chip that had found its way into his mouth. “Some warning would have been nice!”

            “I DID warn you, Shawn!” Gus defended himself, exasperated. “You think I can’t bring my own ice water? I refuse to be late to another training session. Not after what happened last time. I won’t be partnered with Lassiter again.” He shuddered at the thought of having to work with the Head Detective yet again as punishment for arriving late. The man was tall, thin, and lanky, but he had shown no mercy in their combat fight training. At least Gus felt like he now had a new expertise for his other job on pain relievers, anti-inflamatories, and ointments of various types. He stepped aside as Shawn groaned and finally seemed resigned to getting up. Even his best friend couldn’t justify laying back down in a cold, wet bed, after all.

            “This is ridiculous.” Shawn whined, shaking out his wet hair. “And it’s all dad’s fault too. Why the hell should we have to take all this training, anyway?! My job is just to offer tips and…consultations. I’m a consultant, Gus. You know, all the fun, none of the green tape. It’s the cops’ job to do all the fighting and…stuff.”

            Gus threw some clothes at Shawn as his friend stomped off into the bathroom. “It’s red tape. And he has a point, Shawn!” He called after him. “We’ve gotten into some pretty scary situations, it’s safer for us and the cops if we have an idea of how to protect ourselves out there. What better way to learn than with the cops themselves?”

            “Even if I were to agree with you, there’s a major hole in the logic here, just like red tape isn’t logical” Shawn argued from behind the bathroom door. “Why the hell would dad think I of all people need firearms training?! I could teach that class! Hell, I could teach the teachers!”

            Gus had to admit Shawn had a point, but he held his ground anyway. “There is always room for learning something new. Besides, you don’t pick up a gun often enough to keep up your skills. Think of this as a good refresher course. And I wouldn’t mind learning a few things myself. You never know when it’s gonna come in handy.” He figured he finally got through Shawn’s thick skull when the sounds of his arguments were replaced by the sounds of the shower running. Whatever the reasoning might have been, Gus knew that the SBPD insisting that they become better trained in basic self defense and weapons skills was a good way to make them more useful to the Department. He even had to admit that he was kind of looking forward to this. At the very least, it would have to be physically easier on him than fight training, right? He wasn’t sure how much more abuse his body was willing or able to take. At the same time, he felt more than a little bit nervous. He had never been one to underestimate the innate power and danger in a gun. Perhaps this training would help him overcome the frequent nervousness he felt at just thinking of having to hold or use one. It was times like these when he wished that Henry had included him in the firearms lessons he’d given Shawn so many years ago, but he assumed his parents would never have agreed to it, anyway.            

            Gus was relieved that Shawn continued to refrain from further argument once his shower was over. He simply insisted, as he worked some mousse through his hair, that Gus owed him a cheese Danish for breakfast. Gus shrugged and agreed, feeling like he could really use one as well.

            “So what are some things that would be helpful to know about guns before we get there?” Gus asked once they were finally on the road.

            Shawn pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Dunno. I guess it depends on what guns they want us to shoot. Most likely they’ll have us on a 9mm or a .40 caliber, the kinds you’re likely to see out in the field with cops. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure they don’t push you too hard at first if you’re nervous. They’re pretty easy once you get the hang of them. Just point and shoot.”

            Gus laughed. Of course Shawn would think they’re easy. About as easy as visually memorizing and re-creating an entire Civil War battlefield layout given only a couple minutes to look it over. Things never seemed to end well whenever Shawn said something would be easy, but he had to admit he had never seen Shawn goofing off around firearms. Clearly, even Shawn knew better than to do anything stupid with a gun in his hand. This thought was supposed to make Gus feel better, but instead, his stomach fluttered in response with even more anxiety. If something was serious enough to keep his infinitely immature best friend on the right path, it must really be serious. What if he didn’t do it right? What if he couldn’t get himself to fire the gun? What if he sucked horribly at it? He tried to think of times when he’d seen Lassiter handling his gun, willing any memory to come forward for him to use on how to hold it, or do anything with it for that matter. Strangely, he realized the only memories he had were of him looking away and basically avoiding having to look at the guns around him. He was perfectly fine being surrounded by heavily armed people, so long as he could just not look at the weapons and in a way, pretend they weren’t there.

            “Hey, Gus, you ok?” The sound of Shawn’s voice brought him back to the present. He glanced over to see Shawn looking at him with a halfway concerned look in his eye. “Dude, you drove right past the bakery.”

            Gus quickly registered where they were, and with a sinking feeling, realized his friend was right. “Uh, yeah. I guess I just spaced out there. Mind if we just grab something when we’re done? I’m not feeling so hungry right now.”

            Shawn nodded, noticing that his friend had indeed started to look a little green around the gills. Considering what they were about to go do, he decided it would be in everyone’s best interest to keep Gus’ stomach empty for the time being. It could be quite temperamental when under stress, and when it became temperamental, anyone nearby was likely to suffer the wrath.

            “Listen, buddy.” Shawn spoke again. “It’ll be fine. If anything, you’ll get to watch me school Lassie in sharp-shooting! How awesome will that be!” He actually found himself feeling somewhat excited at the possibility. His skills with a firearm were not widely well-known within the Department, but a few people had gotten a few peeks at his abilities. He had honestly been hesitant to reveal this to the Department as a whole, but in this case, he would have no choice. At least it would be impressive to those involved, he figured. 

            “So, where is this place again? It’s where we went for the Academy training, right?” Gus asked for clarification.

            Shawn furrowed his brow. “Uh…no. It’s at the SBPD range…right?”

            “Nope.” Gus corrected. “Chief and your dad said we’re going to the Tactical range. Open field, shoot house, all that good stuff. You were there when they gave us the info, dude, weren’t you listening?”

            Shawn put on his best show of seeming offended. “Gus, in case you weren’t paying attention, I was a little busy running to get some ice for you after Lassie knocked you down for the 10th time in a row. Then I was busy covering for you so they wouldn’t hear you whimpering about how much you were hurting. I was too busy looking out for you to pay close attention.” He hoped his act would be convincing for the moment, at least convincing enough to keep Gus from noticing that he was suddenly nervous about this assignment. Tactical shooting? Really?? Of course his dad would throw this curve ball at him, knowing that he could easily blow everyone out of the water at simple target shooting. Tactical shooting, on the other hand, was not exactly his strength. He finally sighed and gave his friend directions to the SBPD’s Tactical shooting range. If this wasn’t something he was completely excited for in the first place, it suddenly was turning into something he was thoroughly unexcited for. He couldn’t help but sulk into his seat for the rest of the drive as he resolved to reward himself with some seriously good eats afterwards for having to put up with the trouble.

 

**********************************

 

            Shawn and Gus arrived at the West lot of the SBPD Outdoor Tactical Shooting Range a few minutes later. They stepped out to see that the range was quite different from what it was the last time they had been there during their ill-fated Academy experience. Most notably, their attention was drawn to the distinct ‘messiness’ of the area. Large parts of the ground around them were littered with unused construction supplies, left over cut board ends, and what basically appeared to be leftover clutter in general. Soon enough, they heard the familiar voice of the SBPD’s Head Detective speaking, but not to them. His usually pristine suit appeared unusually dusty, and he was seemingly unaware of their arrival, completely engrossed in what sounded like a heated telephone conversation.

            “I told you a damn week and a half ago to make sure all this crap gets cleaned up!” He exclaimed, kicking a loose board in the process. “I needed it to be done before today because as I told you at least three times already, I have an active shooter training session to conduct!...When?! Are you kidding me?! The training is today! I was extremely clear about this!....No, it’s not okay. I’m training beginners here. And now you’re telling me that I have to put loaded weapons in their hands and expect them to manage while trying not to trip on this shit and fall on their asses?! I already had to go inside the damn house to clean out a bunch of this junk, and believe me...No. No, this is ridiculous. I don’t care who didn’t talk to who. You all need to get this mess cleaned up! You’ve had more than enough time to get this done!”

            Shawn and Gus exchanged glances, neither daring to speak while Lassiter said a few more choice words to the person on the other end of the line, then slammed his phone shut and stuffed it in his pocket. He kicked another board and took a few deep breaths before turning to finally notice the consultants’ presence. He straightened his suit jacket and tie as he stepped forward in what Shawn recognized as his method of brushing something off his mind before moving on. 

            “On time for once? To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?” He attempted to tease once he met up with them. 

            “Motivation to get this done and over with.” Shawn replied. “I have much more important things to do than chase after cardboard cutouts in a non-air-conditioned house.”

            “I’ll have you know that there is little more important than being able to get in and out of a situation like this alive, Spencer.” Lassiter scolded. “But I do agree with your first statement. Let’s get this over with. I’ll get you two set up while we wait for O’Hara and McNab to arrive. Chief wanted to keep this group small so we could make sure to focus on giving you two as many training turns as possible.” He reached into the trunk of his car and pulled out a couple of duty belts, which he tossed to Shawn and Gus while instructing them to put them on. Shawn examined his belt and saw that it contained a holster and a double magazine pouch.

            “Going for full gear here, Lassie?” Shawn asked curiously.

            Lassiter continued pulling gear from the trunk, this time two cases, each containing an unloaded Glock. He removed them from their protective foam surroundings and inspected each one before passing them to the consultants, making absolutely sure that the guns were completely empty before Shawn and Gus laid hands on them. “Carrying a weapon doesn’t mean you’re running around with it in your hand all the time.” He replied. “You need to know how to draw, too.”

            “I can draw!” Shawn joked as he expertly tested the slide and trigger on his gun. “My kindergarten teacher said I had the most excellent stick figures of anyone in the class!”

            Lassiter rolled his eyes. The last thing he needed was for Spencer to insist on making a joke of a training exercise such as this one. “I meant ‘draw’ as in drawing your weapon, Spencer.” He corrected. “And you’d better be getting rid of all this childish nonsense now before we actually get started, because I sure as hell won’t….Oh for the love of…Guster!” he looked over at Gus, who was looking at his own gun as if it might explode in his hand at any moment. “Don’t try to tell me you’ve never handled a gun before. I know for a fact you at least had some firearms training during that Academy debacle a few months ago.”

            “That was only a few hours’ worth.” Gus defended himself. “Aside from that, we were only allowed to carry the rubber guns.” He stopped short of adding in the time when he had handled Juliet’s gun while chasing after Mr. Yin. That experience had not ended well for him either, as far as him being able to do anything to help her. Thinking about it didn’t exactly give him any sort of confident thoughts about anything related to weapons handling.

            Lassiter sulked and kicked the dirt a few times, upset at discovering that this training session would end up going much longer than he expected now that he would have to acclimate Gus to shooting a gun first. “Ok, Guster. Get over here. I’m sure you just need to go over it again since it’s been a while.” He pulled Gus aside just as Juliet pulled into the parking lot and stepped out of the car, phone in hand.

            “Buzz is busy on a call that got pretty involved.” She announced, “So it might be another hour or so before he can get out here.” She smiled and waved at Shawn while ignoring the curses coming from her partner’s general direction in response.

            “Hey, Lassie, this is a good thing!” Shawn called out. “You can take Gus to the station’s range and practice there for a while now before Buzz gets here. Jules and I can get set up here in the meantime.” He, in turn, ignored the glowering death-glare that his friend was now shooting at him in response for being forced to spend some very close 1-to-1 alone time with a very cranky Head Detective…yet again. Shawn bit his lip in a vain attempt at hiding his amusement as both Gus and Lassiter sulked and pouted their way to the blue Crown Victoria. This would be a scene he’d be only too happy to replay in his mind a few times over. “Jules and I can go grab some breakfast for you two while you’re out! What d’ya like on your breakfast burrito, Lassie?” He called just before they reached the vehicle. He giggled again when both men specifically ignored him while they got in the car and drove off.

            “You’re having a lot of fun with this.” Juliet noted once Gus and Lassiter pulled out of the parking lot. “Didn’t you tell me once that Gus isn’t comfortable around Lassiter?”

            Shawn finally let out a laugh. “Of course he’s not. The man scares the crap out of Gus. I would feel bad about it, but let’s just call it payback for me getting a pitcher full of ice water in the face this morning. Besides, he’s my best friend, and he deserves the best. He may not like it, but I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have training him on this.”

            Juliet nodded while she pulled out her own gear as well as the necessary magazines, and began arranging them on the equipment table. Shawn’s way of being thoughtful to those he cared about was strange indeed, and he rarely actually admitted to it, leaving most others thinking he was only interested in pulling pranks on people. She was grateful that he felt comfortable enough with her to admit what his real motives were for forcing Gus to take private shooting lessons from her partner.

            “Well, I guess we could go grab something to eat, but let’s take a look around here first so you’ll know what we’re gonna be working with.” She announced. “You’ve been out here once before, haven’t you?” Shawn nodded. “Ok. They have actually completely remodeled the shoot house. We’ve got loads of time, apparently, so let’s go take a look around.”

            Shawn didn’t even try hiding his extreme approval of getting to spend some alone time with Juliet, even if she did seem focused on her work at the moment. He followed her as she led him down range to where the shoot house was, then began pointing out what had been changed, moved, or replaced. Most of the changes, naturally, Shawn was able to pick out almost immediately, but it was still interesting getting to see them from Juliet’s point of view.

            “Ok, so here…” She continued, leading Shawn to the building. She carefully side-stepped a mound of construction debris a few feet from the house as Shawn moved some stuff out of the way. “Here are some new targets that they’ve added,” Juliet noted once they were inside, “and replaced some of the ones that have been shot a few too many times. Lassiter actually helped with the strategic placement of some of these based on which ones get hit the most, which ones don’t get hit at all, how they move, all that good stuff. I really like this setup, actually. It’s challenging and realistic.” She sighed heavily, looking out through one of the windows. “Yeah, this place is a major mess. Sorry. Lassiter really tried to make sure it would get cleaned up for you guys. It’s great we get to use it first with the all new layout and everything, but this…”

            “Don’t worry about it.” Shawn waved her off. “We’ll work around it. More realistic anyway, right?”

Juliet smiled in response. The two of them spent the next twenty minutes studying every room in the house, and with each passing minute, Juliet was more and more impressed that she had not lost Shawn’s attention yet. After explaining to him the details of the final room, she glanced over to see him busy looking over the parts that she had pointed out. “Hey, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you clear a room before. Did you get a chance to do that at the Academy? How about we do a quick run through together so I can see where you’re at with this.”

            Shawn looked up at her and his eyes brightened. “Sure! You mean like taking some shots now?” 

            Juliet shook her head. “Not yet. I want to make sure you’re good with the basics of this first, like draw & fire, trigger control, grip, form, and how you put it all together. Then we can move on to using a loaded gun.”

            Shawn pretended to sulk, throwing his arms up in defeat.

            “Ok, see! That’s what I’m talking about.” Juliet snapped. “You’re really lucky Lassiter didn’t just see you waving your arm around with a gun in your hand.”

            “But it’s not loaded! It’s perfectly safe!”

            “Doesn’t matter!” Juliet admonished. “Safety first, Shawn. Always! Now, holster your weapon and let’s go through some Draw & Fire exercises.”

            “Don’t you mean Draw & Dry Fire?” Shawn teased.

            “Yes, of course, but…Shawn! Focus!” Juliet took off her jacket, revealing the short sleeve satin shirt she had underneath, thoroughly dazzling Shawn in the process. The fact that he could now also see the holster she kept on her back only added to the appeal of the vision before him. Unfortunately for him, Juliet was deep in ‘training’ mode, leaving Shawn with no choice but to go along with her instruction. Besides, he figured, the better he did, the more impressed she’d be by him, and surely she’d reward him for it later once she was back in ‘girlfriend’ mode. The two of them went through some basic drills and exercises throughout the house, and even were able to move up to a couple intermediate level skills once Juliet saw that Shawn was picking things up very quickly. She was admittedly impressed at his instincts and reflexes once he actually let go of any immature antics, and even saw that his ability to move around a building was reminiscent of someone who already had more training that she would expect.

            “Ok. You’re definitely ready.” She finally announced. “I’m going back to load up and grab the magazines. You stay here and keep practicing. I’m thinking Lassiter will actually like going through some of the more advanced stuff once he sees what we’ve been working on.”

            “Aww you flatter me, Jules!” Shawn smiled. “I’m a target shooter. This kind of stuff isn’t nearly my strong suit.”

            “It’s strong enough for someone who’s supposed to be a beginner.” Juliet argued. “Now stay here. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” She stepped outside, then shook her head in frustration at seeing that the wall hanger for the red “safety” flag hadn’t even been mounted above the door yet. Safety First! If there was anything to remember on any kind of shooting range, it was this. No way would she leave a civilian alone inside a shoot house without raising the red flag to declare that there was someone inside.

Well…what now? She thought as she picked the flag up from the ground. She looked around for ideas on how to improvise, finally settling on staking it upright in the ground right next to the front door. It was big enough to be easily seen, and being right at the front door meant there was no way anyone could enter without seeing it first. Satisfied, she dusted off her hands and trudged all the way back to the equipment table at the edge of the parking lot. For once, she was glad that she had finally begun wearing boots to work, especially knowing that her feet would most definitely not forgive her this long walk on uneven terrain in high heels…no matter how cute they looked.

 

******************************************

 

Shawn ran through some of his exercises on his own after Juliet left, actually finding it quite interesting to consider the thought of honing his sharp shooting skills by combining them with the actions involved during a tactical situation. He had only been at it for a couple minutes when he heard some movement outside. Was Jules back already? That couldn’t be possible. Maybe she forgot something? He decided to step out and see what she might need. Instead of Jules, however, he discovered what appeared to be some construction guys milling around the house.

“Hey guys!” Shawn greeted, assuming their presence had something to do with Lassiter's phone call from earlier “Can I help you?”

One of the men raised his hand in greeting. “No, sorry, we didn’t know someone would be here already.”

Shawn shrugged and leaned on the door frame. “No worries. We’re not really getting started with heavy live fire for a while yet. Detective O’Hara and I were just gonna take some practice shots in a few minutes.”

“In that case,” The construction guy replied, scratching his head as if to think through the situation, “We’ll just get this area cleaned off if you don’t mind, then come back and do the rest. We just thought Detective Lassiter wanted this done immediately.”

Shawn had to admit to feeling bad for the guy. Lassiter had a way of shaking people up like that. “Hey, I’m just doing some dry practice runs inside. You’re not in my way.”

The man nodded in agreement. “Ok, thanks! We’ll just be a few minutes, then we’ll be on our way out.” He watched the young man go back inside, then commenced to barking orders at his crew. Getting an angry earful from the Department’s Head Detective first thing in the morning had not been his idea of a good way to start the day, so he was determined to minimize the damage as much as possible. He even got personally involved with helping out his crew in an effort to get done quickly, because surely, the last thing he wanted was to come face to face with either Detective at the moment. He directed his crew to hurriedly clear the surrounding area while he filled his arms with the remaining clutter around the front of the house- a few boards, a left over empty tape roll, and a dusty red flag that he assumed had been placed to mark a paint line of sorts.

 

******************************************

 

            Buzz McNab pulled into the North parking area of the Tactical Shooting Range a short while later, somewhat perplexed to find himself all alone. He could swear Detective O’Hara had told him they would still wait for him and still wanted to use him on their training even if he was delayed. Even with his delay, he had still finished half an hour faster than he thought he would thanks to a helpful fellow officer who had agreed to take over for him. He assumed this meant he could at least arrive just as things were really getting going with the training. Could they have actually finished up and left already? He pulled out his cell phone to dial Lassiter’s number.

            “Hi Detective, Buzz McNab here.” He greeted. “I’m just arriving at the shooting range, but I don’t see anyone else here.”

            “That was fast. We weren’t expecting you back for at least another 30 or 45 minutes.” Lassiter grumbled. “Well, Guster and I went to do some shooting at the indoor range while we waited for you.” He declined to mention Guster’s queasy stomach and the complete lack of any kind of useful shooting practice they’d had because of it. “Oh you know what, Spencer said something about going to get breakfast. I’ll bet that’s where they went. You know how he is, he likely convinced O’Hara to go out for pancakes again. Just like the annoying little twerp to delay important training for food, so you’re on your own for a while.”

            “Understood.” Buzz nodded. “I can just go down to the shoot house and set things up for us then.” He informed.

            “Good idea, McNab.” Lassiter replied. “I’ll give O’Hara a call and see where they went. Hopefully she can manage to drag Spencer’s ass back out there so we don’t waste time standing around waiting for them.”

            McNabb ended the call with a big smile on his face. He hadn’t missed his chance after all! He had been looking forward to this training exercise with Detective Lassiter for the past week, and couldn’t wait to show off the new skills and techniques he had learned from spending some time with the Department’s new Tactical Defense Instructor. He was only too happy to get to set up the shoot house, and while he was at it, maybe he could even practice his moves a bit, just enough to make sure he had them straight for when Lassiter and the rest of the group came back.

 

**********************************

 

            There was something about approaching the shoot house all alone that got McNab’s adrenaline running and set his mind into ‘on-duty’ mode. He decided if he was going to make this approach, he might as well do it ‘properly.’ He drew his gun and held it up close to his body, then proceeded to come up onto the building as if he were making a real-life tactical approach. He truly loved the feeling of his adrenaline and his instincts beginning to take over once he got into that ‘mode,’ and felt even better being able to just let go and allow his training to take him forward.

 

********************************

 

            Shawn sighed and squinted out through the window of the house, noting that the construction workers had departed, and wondered how much longer until Jules came back. Perhaps she needed some help carrying all the gear back? Shawn felt a pang of guilt at the thought of not being around to help her out if she needed it, but assumed she would have called him if that were truly the case. Speaking of ammo, he wondered how Gus and Lassie were doing. They should be on their way back soon, perhaps, unless they really hit a groove and decided to stay a while longer. Shawn figured that basic shooting practice was what Gus really needed anyway to get comfortable with a gun before trying a tactical situation.

            He squinted out the window again, trying to see if Juliet was on her way back yet. Seeing nothing, he decided to pull out his gun and practice some of the exercises again. At this rate, he could already sense his boredom beginning to grab hold of him. He moved around the back rooms of the house, taking steps and corners just as Juliet had instructed him. He covered the entire back area of the building before deciding to move towards the front rooms.

            Front rooms are wide open. He reminded himself, considering how he would tactically manage moving from his current more constrained space to an open space. Just then, his imagination grabbed him, making the pretend situation more interesting for the moment.

            Bad guy’s out there. He imagined. Whoa, that must be a really good imagination! He could almost swear he was actually hearing footsteps just outside. Just waiting for me. I’ve got to get out of here before he comes in after me. He stood just inside the back bedroom door for a few seconds while he counted himself down, then took a deep breath and quickly stepped out of the room, holding his gun out in front of him.

 

******************************

 

            Buzz was beginning to feel his heartbeat increasing- a sure sign, to him at least, that his adrenaline was pumping and that he was ‘in the zone.’ Some might have trouble getting into such a mentality for a pretend operation, but not him. Not if he intended to make it to Detective and higher someday. He knew that Lassiter never did anything half-assed, and if there was anyone worthy of emulating, it would be the Head Detective himself. The world around him began to fade away as he focused on the house, taking in every inch of it visible to him with every step forward that he took. Out of habit, he glanced at the front door to make sure there was no safety flag up, then snapped back quickly into his mental process. How would he manage in a situation like this, if he were forced to do this alone? What should he be looking for? What should be going through his mind? He ran through his mental checklist, determined that he would get one good round in before the others arrived. He even led himself to dive into a fictional tactical situation where the others were counting on him to have this house cleared before their arrival. Nothing else mattered. Nothing else even existed in this moment- except that house in front of him, and his mission to take out any threats lurking inside of it.

            He made it to the front entrance, carefully making his way inside while using every single one of his senses to remain aware of anything that might be inside. In his mind, this was even more realistic than usual, because he hadn’t seen the new additions or improvements since the renovation. At least in that sense, he honestly had no idea where trouble might be brewing. He carefully cleared what would be the front living room area and the adjacent dining area. Taking a deep breath, he prepared to move into the hallway leading to the bedrooms. That’s where the real danger would likely be. His ears confirmed this, alerting him to a sound in the far back bedroom. He stood very still, focusing on that one sound in the back bedroom, and reminding himself that he could not forget about the two other rooms between him and that sound.

            There it was again, except this time, the sound materialized into a moving form that suddenly appeared in the hallway. This form was in the shape of a man- holding a…

            GUN!

            Without another thought, Buzz raised his own weapon and pointed it at the form, his finger curling in from its extended position and coming in contact with the trigger.

            In that instant, his eyes registered the image in front of him…it was not just one of the targets, or any threat for that matter.

            Too late. His mind had already given the order. Even as he tried to halt his actions and lower his weapon, his finger was already in motion.

 

End Notes:
So I started as a writer on PF with a deathfic. Been getting an itch to do another deathfic. This is what came out of that. Strange, I didn't start writing it as one...it just turned itself into one. Thanks for reading!
Friendly Fire by Psychrulz
Author's Notes:

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. 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.

The awesome and most wonderful Texasartchick & Dragonnan are to be thanked hundreds of times over for everything they've done for me, including helping me on a fic that is NOT anything like their own genres. You girls ROCK! 

            Juliet raised her hand up to shield her eyes from the sun as she approached the equipment table. Was that Lassiter and Gus coming back so soon? Couldn’t be. They hadn’t been gone nearly long enough to get through Lassiter's initial ‘speech’ that he gave anyone he was instructing before allowing them to lay hands on a loaded weapon. The closer she got to the table and parking lot, the more sure she was that it was indeed them she was seeing. Finally, once she confirmed it was them, she raised her hand in a confused greeting.

            “Hey guys!” She called, breaking into a jog for the last few feet between her and the equipment table. “Back already? I was just getting ready to start Shawn on a few live fire exercises to warm up while you were gone.”

            Lassiter had a decidedly disgusted look on his face. “Guster insisted on coming back for some nausea medication.” He grumbled. “I guess it wasn’t like he could have said something before we got to the range and I was unpacking my gear.”

            “Hey, I was doing just fine.” Gus defended himself. “But when you brought out that big ass gun…”

            Lassiter interrupted “I wasn’t going to make you shoot the tactical rifle, Guster! I was just moving it out of the way so I could get my other equipment out! I was actually going for a training gun to help you learn some basics of form first, or would that be too intimidating for your delicate sensitivities too?”

            “Some clear communication would have been nice!” Gus stood his ground, albeit a little more shaky now. “Saying ‘let me grab what you’re going to use’ while pulling out that big ass gun…”

            “Tactical rifle”

            “You know what I mean!”

            “Ok, guys…” Juliet decided to intercede, but was cut off unexpectedly by a loud crack ringing through the air. Lassiter and Juliet immediately looked towards the direction of the shoot house, where the sound appeared to have come from.

            Gus looked from one Detective to the other. “Was that…”

            “A gunshot.” Lassiter confirmed, still looking towards the shoot house. “And it came from over there.” He finally tore his gaze away from the direction of the house to look at his partner. “O’Hara, you left Spencer alone with a loaded weapon?!” He demanded.

            Juliet shook her head vigorously before finding her voice again. “No. No! I didn’t!” She gestured at the equipment table. “All the magazines are right here!”

            Lassiter looked at the table for a few seconds, silently mouthing numbers as he counted the magazines, then looked back up at Juliet. Before she could say a word in response, her partner was gone- headed straight for the shoot house at a full sprint. Gus barely had a second to look back at Juliet in surprise before she took off after her partner. Whatever fear had made him nauseous before was now completely gone as he immediately ran after both Detectives.

 

***********************************************

           

            The remnants of the gunshot were still ringing in Officer McNab’s ears as he tried to reconcile what just happened with the image that had materialized in front of him only a second before. It had been a mere moment in real time, but he could swear it felt like an hour with the thoughts that had time to run through his mind. That figure looked remarkably like Shawn, but it couldn’t be him. No way. The house was empty, Detective Lassiter himself said so. It had to be one of the targets. His mind was playing tricks on him. Of course it was one of the targets. But it moved! Easy explanation. The targets were moving targets. Someone must have come in to set up already. But it looked JUST LIKE Shawn! Well, Detective Lassiter helped put this new remodel together. Maybe it’s his idea of a joke. But it specifically raised an arm with at gun AT YOU! But that’s what they’re supposed to do…kind of…maybe if Detective Lassiter had decided to… Then why did you try to pull back?!

            Buzz snapped himself out of whatever daze he was in long enough to lower his gun and look past it, fully expecting to see a target with a bullet hole through it. For half a second, he thought he might actually even laugh at himself for his silliness. The rest of that second, on the other hand, brought with it the kind of shock and horror he had ever only felt in his worst nightmares. Shawn himself lay before him, bleeding heavily and only barely moving.

            “Shawn! Oh god, Shawn!” Buzz raced forward towards the fallen consultant. He tried to make eye contact, but Shawn’s gaze appeared unfocused from shock and…Buzz was terrified to think what else. He instinctively began looking for the wound to assess his friend’s specific condition. Lots of blood. Damn there was so much blood already. It was definitely not coming from the head. Good. Very good. Not from the chest, or from the abdominal area, either. Another stroke of luck. But…so much blood. It’s coming from somewhere! Scanning further downward, he felt his heart drop as he discovered the source of the bleeding. It was coming from the right upper leg, and with so much blood, that could only mean one thing. Even still, his mind raced and begged him not to believe it. Not the femoral artery. Please let it not be that. If you hit the femoral artery, you’ve killed him.

            “Ok, Shawn, just stay with me, buddy. Help is coming.” He said with as much control as his voice would allow, which admittedly, wasn’t much. There’s no help coming, you idiot. You two are all alone and miles from any kind of useful help. He shook his head, determined his words would not turn into empty comfort given to the dying. Femoral artery or not, he had to do something to get the bleeding under control, and his only option right at that moment was to apply pressure. He positioned himself closer to Shawn’s leg and looked back up at the young man’s face. “I’m just gonna put some pressure on your leg to control the bleeding.” He explained. Shawn was now ghostly pale, and Buzz highly doubted he really was interested in any explanations, so he just went ahead and did it, ripping off his uniform shirt- seemingly the only cloth/bandage type option within reach, and used it to press down firmly on Shawn’s leg. Immediately as he did so, the consultant finally came alive, letting out a loud and agonized scream that startled Buzz into momentarily letting off the pressure. It was at that moment that Buzz recognized Shawn’s upper leg didn’t actually feel as ‘solid’ as any other person’s upper leg should feel. Couple that with the immense pain that Shawn was in, and that led Buzz to only one conclusion. Shit…his leg’s broken. His FEMUR is broken. As if things weren’t already as bad as they could get. He had just started to consider the need for a tourniquet when he heard hurried footsteps rushing inside, accompanied by the Head Detective’s voice.

            “McNab! What the hell happened?!”

            “It’s Shawn, sir.” Buzz struggled to explain, but Lassiter was already on the radio, calling for emergency help. As soon as he finished, the Head Detective was on his knees next to Buzz, assessing the situation.

            “His leg’s broken…and his…” Buzz struggled to speak, even as Lassiter moved forward with removing his own belt in order to fashion a makeshift tourniquet until help arrived.

            “Get them out of here, O’Hara.” Lassiter ordered as soon as Juliet arrived and Gus joined them. He didn’t have to see Gus’ reaction to know what it would involve, and Buzz himself was already beginning to fall apart. Those two were the last issues he needed to deal with at the moment, not to mention he didn’t trust O’Hara to fare much better, either.

            “Spencer, it’s me, Lassiter. Help is coming. Just hang on, now.” He spoke, primarily to try and keep the younger man as alert as possible. Looking up at Shawn’s face, Lassiter saw that his eyes were open, but he hardly seemed conscious. At least his chest was still moving. His breathing was uneven and seemingly getting worse, but at least it was still there.

            “Stay with me, Spencer. Look at me.” Lassiter spoke again, mostly as an attempt to drown out the increasingly loud and panicked voice of Guster outside. He breathed a sigh of relief at hearing the oncoming sirens of emergency vehicles, thankful that he had alerted them to a scheduled training exercise ahead of time. Obsessive tendencies or whatever else people liked to tease him with be damned. This was the reason for having EMS on standby even when they were not needed 99.5% of the time. He continued to do what he could until the medics arrived, then stood back to give them room once they entered the house.

            “Gunshot wound to the leg.” He described as they converged upon Shawn. “Fractured femur, possible hit to the femoral artery as well.” Possible my ass. His mind argued, and he knew it the moment it escaped his lips. No way would that kind of bleeding be caused by anything other than a hit to the artery itself. He finally took a moment to take a deep breath and step outside to see how the rest of his group were.

            He found Juliet desperately trying to console a downright inconsolable Guster, while Buzz sat on a rock just a few feet away, staring into space, his face almost as white as Spencer’s had been. Assuming Juliet had things covered as well as she could with Guster, he stepped over to Buzz and stood over him without saying a word. The enormity of what had just happened was beginning to dawn on him, and even without knowing any of the details yet, he already knew there would be a lot of explaining to do.

            It was another long minute before it seemed that Buzz noticed Lassiter’s presence, but instead of looking up at him, the young officer looked down at his hands, still covered in Spencer’s blood, as was the previously white undershirt he had left on after stripping off his uniform shirt. Lassiter sighed and crouched down to McNab’s eye level.

            “What happened?” He asked as simply as he could.

            Buzz shrugged and shook his head. “I…I don’t know, sir.” He stammered. “I got here…I went in…and then he just…and I…” his voice trailed off, clearly not ready to continue. Continuing to talk would make what just happened a reality, and that was just not an option right now.

            Lassiter patted McNab’s shoulder as he stood and walked away. In his head he had pretty much already figured that the officer had shot Spencer, but the confirmation was no easier to accept. Whatever had happened here, it was big. An officer had just shot a civilian in training, leaving him with life threatening injuries at best…assuming Spencer even survived this. Even so, McNab was obviously in no shape to give any kind of a statement right at this moment, so Lassiter resigned himself to looking around at the rest of the surrounding area for any clues as to the happenings. The safety measures taken would surely be questioned, and they would all start with a particular red flag that he now noticed was nowhere to be seen.

            Juliet continued trying to offer comfort and reassurance to Gus, even as her own nerves were violently shaken and threatened to break down right along with him. At least keeping her attention on him kept her own head from going off into too many panicked directions, meaning she could stay somewhat grounded in keeping control of herself. No need to react until you have something firm to react to. She told herself over and over. It was little consolation, but it would have to do for now. Her fragile hold on a modicum of calm finally began to break when the medics emerged from the house, hurriedly taking with them a stretcher with Shawn on it. She wanted to see her boyfriend. She wanted to see that he was ok, but all she could see was how covered in blood he was. And for all the times she had witnessed Guster nearly fainting at the slightest hint of blood, she could hardly believe it when he tore himself away from her to go with the medics and remain with his best friend. Only when she was left empty handed did she look up to see that Buzz was equally covered in blood, as were her partner’s hands. How could there be so much of Shawn’s blood in so many different places? This just couldn’t be good. Not at all. 

            She took a few tentative steps towards her partner, but suddenly felt as if something was holding her back. His body language. There was so much more to it than what she expected to see in her concerned comrade. There was something about him that was screaming out to her, but she just couldn’t place it. What could it possibly…

            Oh shit….

            The moment she saw him standing in front of the doorway, looking up at the spot where the red flag should have been, she knew. He blamed her! No wonder he wasn’t calling her over to assist with looking around the place! She had half a mind to march over there and shove the red flag in his face to prove to him that she did take every safety measure possible. She likely would have done just that, if the flag was anywhere to be found. Where is it?!  

            “I put it up!” She finally got up the nerve to run over to him. “I swear I did! The holder up there isn’t in yet, so I put it right here!” She motioned to the now empty spot where she had stuck the flag into the ground. Lassiter followed her gaze and looked towards the spot, but said nothing. “Lassiter, you’ve got to believe me! It was right. THERE!

            Lassiter simply looked back at her and nodded. “I got it, O’Hara.” He knew he had no reason to disbelieve his partner, but the fact of the matter remained that there was no flag outside as a safety signal. How this could be explained along with her panicked insistence, he had no clue, but things didn’t look good. He swallowed hard in an attempt to avoid the anguished sobs that he knew she was desperately trying to hold back, choosing to focus once again on the spot that she had pointed to.  This time, he noticed it- a distinct, yet small hole in the ground that looked like what would have been left by the flag having been staked in the dirt. He quickly took out his cell phone and took a picture of it, fully aware that something this small might not last another few hours in the wind and other outside elements.

            After a couple more minutes of looking around, he stepped back to Buzz, hoping that the young officer would at least be able to answer one question. There was already something about the scene outside the house that was bugging him, but he had to get this one question answered first. “Was there a red safety flag up when you entered the house?” He asked.

It took Buzz a moment, yet again, to register the Head Detective’s presence, but when he did, he looked up at Lassiter and shook his head slowly. “No. I looked for it on my approach. There was nothing there.” He whispered. He started to lower his head again, well on his way to sliding back into his stunned state, when his eyes caught glimpse of the blood stains on Lassiter’s knees, then looked again at the blood stains all over his own clothes.

“I killed him, didn’t I?” he asked no one in particular.

“What was that, McNab?”

“I killed him. I killed Shawn.” He spoke again, louder this time. He looked up to make eye contact with Lassiter, as if to confirm for himself that what he was saying was true. His breathing increased, then he stood and raised his hands up to his head, grabbing on to two fistfuls of hair in the process. “Oh my God!! SHAWN!”

Lassiter immediately ran up to Buzz, hoping to get to him before he actually managed to pull out those two fistfuls of hair, or do anything else crazy for that matter. “McNab! Stop it! We don’t know anything yet. Get a  hold of yourself!” He demanded, but the young officer was beyond any semblance of calm. Buzz looked back at the Detective, this time making Lassiter actually take a step back at the look in McNab’s eyes- a look he did not recognize and would have never expected to see from Buzz of all people.

“You.” Buzz accused, catching Lassiter so far off guard that he couldn’t even respond. “YOU told me the house was empty! WHY?! WHY didn’t you tell me Shawn was in there?!”

“McNab, I didn’t know he was in there.” Lassiter replied, keeping his voice as calm and rational as he could. “I honestly thought he was not even on the range, much less in the house.”

Buzz shook his head, unable to accept Lassiter’s explanation. “You LET me go in there when HE was alone in there too! What kind of SICK game was this?!”

Lassiter focused on maintaining as calm a posture as possible, hoping to keep the situation from getting any worse. “McNab, this was a terrible accident.” He explained again. “That’s all it was. I didn’t know he was in there, he didn’t know you were coming, and you did what you have been trained to do. Spencer was only alone because O’Hara had left to go get the ammo so they could load up and start training.”

Finally, it seemed that Lassiter’s words registered with Buzz. He turned to make eye contact again with the Head Detective, his demeanor suddenly no longer angry. Instead, Lassiter could have sworn he just witnessed the younger man’s heart drop.

“You mean…” He whispered as he slowly raised a hand to his mouth. “You mean…he wasn’t even armed? The gun was…empty?” This time, he didn’t wait for a response. He ripped his arm away from Lassiter’s attempt at placing a hand on his shoulder, then stepped a few feet away before dropping to his knees. Even after all his experience at hardening his emotions in the field, Lassiter still had to bite his lip and turn away from the now weeping officer.

It was all he could do to avoid letting himself get carried away with the enormity of what had just happened, so Lassiter automatically switched into doing what came naturally. He would continue to review the scene until more units arrived to begin the investigation. He glanced over at Juliet, who was now leaning against the outside wall of the house, hugging her shoulders tightly. Immediately, he felt bad for having let her believe that he blamed her. Even if she had somehow forgotten to put up the flag, now was not the time to show any kind of reproach. He stepped carefully in her direction, hoping to avoid any kind of blowup similar to what he had just seen from Buzz, and couldn’t help breathing a sigh of relief when she seemed to accept his presence.

“I believe you.” He said before she had the chance to try and keep defending herself. “I have no idea what the hell happened here, but I believe you.” He pointed at the small indentation he had noticed before. “That hole there, and the fact that I know you take safety as seriously as I do, it all says to me you’re telling the truth.”

Juliet looked up at him now with a look that appeared to be a mixture of gratefulness and pain. “Thanks, Carlton.” She sniffed and wiped a tear away, then shook her head. “But it doesn’t matter, does it. I could have put up ten flags and a flashing neon sign, but he was still all alone in here…and I was the one who left him…”

“O’Hara, it’s ok. C’mere.” He pulled her in close, choosing not to say anything more about how he thought the investigation would go. That was his own logical need to get things straightened out. He could see that Juliet was not in the least bit interested in that right now. Her mind was with Spencer, and as much as he wanted to, he couldn’t tell her that Spencer would be alright. Hell, he couldn’t even assume that Spencer had made it to the hospital alive.

There would be time for the investigation itself soon enough. Right now, as he stroked his partner’s back, he realized his primary duty was to look out for McNab and O’Hara’s needs, given their extremely emotional and mental states. Questions would be asked and answers would be given in their own due time. He would take the brunt of that responsibility if need be, even as far as explanations to Chief Vick would go. The thought of having to face the Police Chief after such an occurrence would be enough to shake anyone, and surely, Lassiter would never lessen the gravity of doing so. On the other hand, he soon found himself much more nervous at the thought of having to face Henry Spencer himself with the news.

 

 

********************************************************

 

            Chief Vick hung up the phone as an officer opened her car door to let her out at the hospital’s trauma center. The words training accident and severe gunshot wound were still resonating in her mind after receiving word of what happened, as was the difficult initial report of how it had happened. McNab had been brought to the emergency room to be medically cleared on a precautionary basis. Good thing, that meant he’d be right here and within easy access of her. She was approached and flanked on both sides by two Lieutenants as she stepped to the entranceway, making her thankful that her staff didn’t need her to actually call them over or even have to utter a word for them to get down to business.

            “They took Spencer into surgery about 20 minutes ago.” One of them reported. “I let them know we need an update on his condition as soon as they have something to report, even if they’re not done with surgery yet.”

            “Good work, Carson.” Vick nodded in approval. “So what do we have here?” she stopped once inside the trauma waiting room, where there was already a large handful of officers present.

            “From what we have learned so far,” The second Lieutenant spoke up, then commenced describing the details of the event as they had been reported to him by Lassiter, O’Hara, and Gus. He hesitated at having to admit he had not had any luck speaking with McNab yet due to his extreme emotional state.

            “I can’t say I blame him.” Vick shook her head solemnly in reply. “I’ll go ahead and talk to him myself. You all can leave him be for now. In fact, hold off on calling Henry Spencer as well until we know more about what’s going on with Shawn.”

            “Yes, Chief.” He gave a quick nod, then stepped away to relay Vick’s order to the rest of the officers present.

            Vick was in the middle of checking messages on her phone for any further information, when a doctor appeared and began looking around, as if wondering who he should be speaking to. Vick immediately approached him herself to request an update, but felt her heart drop at the sight of the doctor’s body language. She had seen this kind of behavior enough times before to have an idea of what was coming. It couldn’t be good news.

            “I’m Chief Karen Vick.” She introduced herself. “What’s going on with my consultant?” she could feel the eyes of every officer in the room on her as the doctor motioned for her to follow him to a secluded corner of the room.

            “I’m Doctor Stevenson, Head Trauma Surgeon.” He began. “Mr. Spencer arrived with a severe gunshot wound to the upper thigh that pierced straight through his femoral artery and fractured his femur. Right off the bat, that’s an extremely unstable injury to address.”

            “Doctor, I can appreciate and understand the gravity of the injury.” Vick responded. “But I really need to know exactly what Mr. Spencer’s condition is right now.”

            Dr. Stevenson sighed and nodded. “Of course. Chief, I’m very sorry to have to tell  you that there was nothing we could do to save him. Mr. Spencer died about five minutes ago.”

            Whether she was actually expecting to hear that news or not, Vick couldn’t be sure. Even still, the words felt like a sudden lead weight in the pit of her stomach, causing her to wrap an arm around her midsection as she took a deep breath to maintain her composure. Instinctively, she looked over at the rest of her officers who were watching her intently. She assumed, as they lowered their heads in response, that her body language had not been difficult to figure out.

Soon enough, Lassiter himself emerged from the triage area where he had been offering support to McNab. He had seen it as a saving grace that all he could do for the young officer was offer blissfully ignorant comfort as far as what was going on with Spencer. That blissful, albeit tense ignorance ended the moment he met eyes with his Commanding Officer and she motioned for him to approach her. The look on her face in that instant was all he needed to know as his mind formulated the outcome that he had been dreading: Spencer had not survived.

End Notes:
Thanks for reading! Reviews are welcome! :) And yes...I warned you...
You Never Told Me You Left by Psychrulz
Author's Notes:

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. 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.


            Lassiter sat in his car, staring absently at his keys while he tried to come up with a way of breaking the news. It hadn’t been longer than a minute since he had pulled into Henry Spencer’s driveway, and he knew it wouldn’t be much longer before the elder Spencer noticed his presence. No sense in lingering, just get this over with. He was at least thankful for the extra change of clothes he kept in his car. The last thing he needed right now would be to show up to deliver the news in a blood stained suit. There was probably nothing about his job that he hated more than this part of it. Having to face family members to give them tragic news…could there be anything worse? Oh yeah, having to face someone that he was personally familiar with and considered a co-worker to deliver this news, about his only son on top of it all. Vick had offered to do it, in fact, and he would have loved to take her up on the offer. But the truth was that she had more than enough on her plate to deal with. She may only be able to offer Henry a limited amount of time to talk about things despite her best efforts. Henry deserved more than that. Lassiter was on immediate administrative leave, anyway, as were Juliet and McNab, pending investigation. He had all the time in the world. At least Vick had agreed to allow him to perform this one duty.

            Just as expected, the front curtains of the house soon rustled as Henry moved them aside to peek out, then opened the door and stepped out expectantly. Lassiter drew in a deep breath and stepped out of the car to face him.

            “Hey, Lassiter!” Henry greeted. “What an unexpected surprise. I thought you would be spending the day doing training with Shawn and Gus.”

            Lassiter steeled himself for carrying out his duty while he stepped forward and onto the porch. “Henry, we need to talk.” It was all he needed to say. He could see immediately the look in Henry’s eyes that knew what was coming. Henry had been the one to initiate this talk with many family members during his own years of service. There was no way he wouldn’t recognize what Lassiter was doing now.

            “Lassiter, what’s going on?” He asked it rhetorically, but also as a way to beg Lassiter to tell him that he didn’t like fishing anymore, or that he wanted to come over this weekend for some steak, or to complain of Shawn’s latest antics. He stared deep into the Head Detective’s eyes, only to see none of that. There was no annoyance. There was nothing there, except deep regret. He looked across the front yard and towards the ocean, unsure if he was ready to hear Lassiter’s response, but desperately needing to hear that response anyway.

            “There’s been an accident, Henry.” Lassiter replied, feeling like whatever resolve and determination he had built up suddenly left him right at that instant. He lowered his head for a moment, then raised it back up and gently guided the elder Spencer inside, where he sat the man down on the couch.

            “What happened to Shawn?” Henry asked through forced breath. It was as if he knew already, but for some god-forsaken reason, they were forced to go through with this torturous dance.

            “It was an accident on the tactical range.” Lassiter began. The best thing to do would be to just get it out, then go from there. “Shawn was shot. We had EMS on standby, they got there really fast, considering. We…they did everything possible to help him. He was in surgery almost immediately after they got to the hospital. Henry…I’m so sorry.”

            Both men sat in silence for a few minutes, each lost in his own, and Lassiter feeling more lost than ever. He searched Henry’s face and body language for any sign to guide him on what he should say or do next, but got nothing. So, he simply sat, willing to wait as long as necessary to offer support in whatever form Henry needed. Finally, after what felt like hours, Lassiter was shocked to see Henry actually let out a slight chuckle.

            “Leave it to Shawn.” He commented. “I was never sure if I really got through that thick skull of his, no matter what I did or said. I guess the answer to that is a big fat no. He never really believed that pulling those shenanigans of his could lead him to serious trouble.”

            “Henry…” Lassiter tried to interrupt, but Henry kept going.

            “You know, I actually thought that working with you would mellow him out some, too. But of course the kid’s hopeless. Maybe this will be the self-correcting problem he needs, huh?”

            Lassiter was going to interrupt again, but Henry’s last comment left him stunned. The man had clearly not heard…or worse…not believed that his son was dead. DAMMIT! Would he really have to tell Henry this all over again? Besides being unusually cruel, Lassiter himself doubted his ability to get the words out a second time. He never really did to begin with, hoping that mere insinuation would be all that was necessary. That’s the way he had been taught so many years before, after not understanding why an already upset Officer’s wife had crumpled into complete hysteria at his description of what had happened to her husband. They will already know you’re there to tell them their loved one is dead. His Sergeant had instructed him. Just give them your condolences. Let them know you’re very sorry. They’ll get it. In that one moment, that’s all they need. That’s all they can handle. His Sergeant had been right. Skimming just above the surface of harsh reality worked as well as any technique could work in such situations. He had not encountered any further problems breaking ‘the news’ to someone when he did it this way. It always worked…except this time. This one of all times! He set his jaw, determined not to let Henry down.

            “Henry.” He tried again after taking a deep breath, but Henry cut him off yet again, making Lassiter feel like the man was explicitly forbidding him from clarifying what had happened to his son.

            “I tell you, Lassiter.” He said with a finger pointed at the Head Detective, the smile never leaving his face, “You have my full support and permission to take whatever action necessary to teach him a lesson. If he’s not gonna learn it from me, he’ll have to learn it from you.”

            “Henry let me talk.” Lassiter finally insisted. Henry made a move to speak again, but this time, Lassiter was ready. He immediately crouched down directly in front of Henry, his hands on the man’s shoulders again, demanding direct eye contact and his full attention. Unfortunately for him, the older man was also just as ready, immediately pushing off of Lassiter, sending him hard onto the floor. Henry was on his feet now, looking down at the Head Detective.

            “What would you say, Lassiter?” He challenged with a tone in his voice that left Lassiter questioning whether he should even consider getting back up. He did anyway- slowly. Very carefully, and only enough to take a seat back on the couch. He had a distinct feeling that facing Henry at full height would only instigate another physical reaction.

            “What would you say?!” Henry challenged again. “You’re here to tell me that Shawn’s gone? That he’s dead? Fine! Say it! You’ve hated him since the day you met him anyway.” Lassiter remained quiet and lowered his head, avoiding any semblance of challenging or standing up to the man in any way. Right now was not the time for arguments over how he himself felt about the young consultant. This was about Henry. His only duty was about helping Henry through the initial shock of what he was hearing. He watched Henry pace back and forth a few times, seemingly at a loss over what to do with himself. Finally, after the longest ten minutes of Lassiter’s life, Henry sat back down, resting his forearms on his knees.

            “What happened?” He asked.

Lassiter knew the question was coming, but he hadn’t expected Henry’s voice to be as firm and strong as it was. He cleared his throat and looked back up at the older man. “We’re still trying to figure out the details of exactly what happened.” He began. “But Shawn was hit in the upper leg. The bullet hit the femoral artery and broke his femur. With the way the bone broke, it caused even more damage to the artery…and the injury was just too extensive. There was no way to repair it. They tried, Henry. I can promise you that they tried. And we tried. McNab and I did everything we could until EMS got there, then they did their part, and the surgeons really did everything they possibly could. Henry, I’m so sorry. Please know I mean that with everything I have.” Finally, Henry didn’t have a response as he sat, staring thoughtfully into space. Lassiter allowed the silence to linger now that the man would have no choice but to reflect on the hard reality of what actually happened. He also admittedly kept quiet simply because he had no idea what more to say. What does one say to a man when his only son…his only child has died on one’s watch?

“You said it was an accident.” Henry finally spoke again.

Lassiter swallowed hard. “Yeah.”

“So this all happened in the confines of training. No hostile suspects involved?”

Lassiter shook his head. “No.”

Henry shook his head slowly. “You know, I spent Shawn’s entire life preparing him to survive every situation I could possibly think of. He survived getting kidnapped, being thrown into the trunk of a car, and getting shot because of the skills I taught him. He survived Yin and Yang, for goodness sakes.”

Lassiter didn’t respond this time.

“I made damn sure, when Shawn was born, that he would be a survivor. I taught him how to handle dangerous situations. I taught him how to handle hostile suspects, and how not to easily trust…and I taught him how to trust and respect members of law enforcement.”

Lassiter clenched his jaw. This wasn’t heading in a promising direction.

“He pulled lots of crap. I know that.” Henry continued. “But when it all really came down to it, he respected you guys deeply. He would do anything for all of you, and yes, Lassiter, you too.”

Lassiter looked down, knowing Henry’s words weren’t a matter of what Spencer would do for him, but what he had already done do for him on more than one occasion.

“So he trusted you guys completely. You know that?” Henry asked, but didn’t wait for a response. “He knew that he could put his life in your hands, and he would come out on the other side. Because there was just no way you all would ever let him down.”

“He didn’t trust easily, hell, believe me I know that much.” Henry finally let a crack in his voice betray his composure. “But he trusted you guys. He trusted you, Lassiter.” Lassiter raised his eyes to meet Henry’s, but the older man continued. “He trusted you. I trusted you! You tell me you want to take him out onto the tactical range and run live fire tactical exercises, and you know what I’m thinking? I’m thinking that’s a great idea! The last thing I’m thinking is whether or not it’s dangerous…because you wouldn’t let anything like that happen, would you, Lassiter?”

“Henry…”

“No. It’s not all those cases and dangerous people he’s saved you and the Department’s ass from these past years. It’s you who finally brought him down. How ironic is that….No, Lassiter. Don’t even try to say anything right now. What the HELL can you possibly have to say to me right now?! You just killed my son!” his voiced cracked and faded to a pained whisper, unable to say out loud those final three words.

“Henry…” Lassiter begged, but the man’s mind was made up, and in his mind, there was nothing more left to say.

“Get out.” He ordered, all of the wrath and emotion he had not allowed himself to show before finally coming out. “Get the hell out of my house! NOW!”

Any other day, Henry would have considered it a hell of a sight, to see Lassiter betraying the kind of emotion he had just shown. He didn’t say anything. Didn’t argue. But the look in his eyes right before he left spoke volumes. Any other day, Henry might have cared about what exactly would have been written in those volumes. Not today. Not now. He could barely even manage to hold himself up as his knees threatened to buckle right after slamming the door shut. No way would he bother expending any energy caring about Lassiter.

I have to see him. His focus was immediately shifted towards a need to see his son. Not that his mind had really begun to register the idea of Shawn being dead quite yet. Maybe they were wrong…maybe there was a misunderstanding of sorts. He had a habit of getting upset too quickly and missing the message. Maybe that’s not what Lassiter had meant at all. Surely he could iron it all out once he got there. Yes, that had to be it. A simple misunderstanding. Shawn pulling one of his ‘brilliant’ hijinks again. Henry chuckled. The kid would probably take great offense to that, insisting that it was actually shenanigans. Or was it the other way around? Henry didn’t care. It would work out somehow. He quickly gathered his wallet and keys and made a beeline for his truck.

As soon as he hit the road, he cursed himself for having kicked Lassiter out so quick. He should have at least gotten confirmation of where exactly Shawn was. No worries. Vick would know. He ignored the sense of irony nagging at him when he picked up his cell phone. He hated people who would talk and drive, thinking there couldn’t possibly be anything important enough to do that for. Well, now he found it. He didn’t have the time to spare to pull over, nor to drive around to any number of wrong locations. Talking and driving would have to do.

He heard the line on the other end ring three times before it picked up, then Vick’s voice, sounding somewhat hesitant.

Henry, hi.’ Her voice greeted softly. ‘What can I do for you?’

“I just had a nice little visit from your Head Detective.” Henry wasted no time getting to the point. “I need to see my son. Where is he?”

‘We’re all here at Santa Barbara General still. Henry, I’m so sorry. If there’s anything at all I can do for you, please…’

“I just want to see my kid, Karen.” Henry snapped. “I’ll be there in five minutes.” He closed the phone and almost tossed it to the side, then thought twice of it…just in case Shawn called. Maneuvering traffic and changing traffic signals becoming a blur in his peripheral vision as he drove with only one objective in mind. The route memorized years ago from trips taken for work, for Madeline when she delivered Shawn, and for Shawn’s many ER visits thanks to one escapade after another. It was always Madeline or the school who would call with the frantic news of Shawn’s latest injury. That always led to a frantic drive to the ER only to be told that it was a simple scrape, a black eye, or a broken bone, and all would be healed in time. That’s surely what this would be about, too. More serious because of a gunshot wound, but still manageable.

He held on to this thought through the entire ride, finally pulling into the parking lot, parking at the first spot he could find, and rushing into the ER lobby, only to be immediately confronted by Chief Vick. For that moment, he wasn’t even aware of the rest of the officers in the room now looking at him with eyes full of pity and sorrow. Days from now, he would look back on this moment and realize that he indeed had seen them, but his mind had mercifully blocked his awareness.

“Henry…” She began

“Where is he?!”

Hands on his shoulders, her eyes boring into his, begging him to make contact, and coming to the realization that he had not fully accepted reality yet.

“Henry, please…”

“Just tell me where he is, dammit!”

“Ok. I’ll take you.”

One hand on his right shoulder this time, guiding him through the doors. He didn’t shrug away, nor did he hurry her again, but simply fell silent. They were both silent on their walk to the end of the hallway, then a right turn down another seemingly identical hallway- cold, pale blue/gray, lined with doors on either end. The only sounds Henry could hear as they took another turn- left this time- were the echoes of Vick’s high heels and the beating of his own heart. He hated himself for noticing the change in personnel in this new area. No longer were there orderlies pushing patients in wheelchairs or nurses chasing doctors around with charts in hand. No more patients taking slow walks while leaning on IV poles. No more families lingering in the hallways. Even the walls on either side of the hallway no longer had evenly spaced doors or windows.

Henry frantically blocked out any conclusion his mind was trying to force upon him as they stopped at one of the only doors around so Vick could talk to the man outside. She then slowly turned to him, placed a hand on his shoulder again, and quietly led him inside. Henry realized immediately that this was no ordinary hospital room. There were no windows. There was no bed in the middle of it, and for how serious his son might have been injured, there were no IVs or machines or any other equipment often used to help stabilize a patient. The room was oddly barren…and large, and…just…not right. There was something so very not right going on here. He was in the middle of blocking everything out, forcing himself not to notice anything more, when Karen stopped walking. Not in front of a bed. She stopped in front of…what looked like a gurney of sorts. There was someone on it, and there was just a plain white sheet on this person.

A hand patted his back and Karen’s voice broke the silence. “I’ll be right over there if you need anything.” She said gently.

Henry was just about to ask her where the hell she had taken him when the edges of his gaze swept up to the head of the bed…gurney. That tuft of hair. So familiar. Wait…that could only mean…he finally allowed his vision to focus on the person laying in front of him, covered from the chest down. And on that chest, just peeking out from under the sheet was the tip of a scar that was just as familiar as the hair.

“Oh, God…” The realization hit him hard, giving him no chance to prepare, his knees threatening to buckle once again. The person laying in front of him was his son. Hand clasped over his mouth in shock as his eyes forced him to take in everything else about the sight before him. Shawn could be sleeping, save for the fact that there was no movement in the chest to indicate breathing. No movement under the eyelids to indicate dreaming. Henry knew his son would dream about anything and everything when sleeping. He often wondered how Shawn could ever get any amount of real sleep with as much moving around as he did. And the sheet was wrong. Shawn could never sleep with just a sheet. He liked blankets. Multiple blankets if possible. Thick, and the heavier the better. He would blast his bedroom with a/c and fans to make it cold if need be especially during the summer, but he had to have his blankets. This stillness. It was so unlike his son. Shawn could never be this still, especially under these conditions. For Shawn to be laying like this, he’d have to be…

A single, solitary sob managed an escape from his mouth the moment his blissful denial was shattered. He couldn’t even try to pretend anymore. Lassiter was right, after all. There was no miscommunication. His hand reached out to touch Shawn’s shoulder, but pulled back right away. His skin was already cool to the touch. Not as cool as it would likely get, but cool enough. Definitely not warm like it should be.

“Kid…” he managed a faint whisper, as if maybe speaking to him would make a difference. He forced himself to touch Shawn’s skin again. This time not so fazed by how it felt. He caressed the young man’s fingers, then moved up to his hair. The hair that Shawn had fiercely protected since he was a child, insisting on letting it grow out even back then. It was his earliest sign of independence, Henry remembered, the kid insisting on being the one to make the decision on when and how to cut it, style it, etc. Then came the clothes and his son’s refusal to wear any name brands. Well, at least on that one, Henry had to halfway agree with the kid. Paying extra to basically promote a brand somehow didn’t make any sense.

Then came the personality and demands for independence. The traits that Henry could now admit almost ripped their relationship apart, mainly due to his own refusal to understand Shawn’s way of being. Sure, Shawn was stubborn himself, but he was just a kid. He was the kid. Henry was the father. And Henry almost missed out on a relationship completely. That Shawn ever came back into his life, willingly of all things, was nothing short of a miracle, and even then he almost ruined it. Henry remembered so vividly that day when Shawn showed up at his doorstep, complaining about never being called when Henry moved back into town.

‘You never told me you left.’ Had been Henry’s cynical comeback. Yet somehow, their relationship had been salvaged, volatile though it may be. He heavily preferred that to no relationship at all.

He allowed a few tears to roll down his cheek as he gazed at his son’s face, unsure that he could ever bring himself to look away. There had been only one other time that Henry remembered being so intently focused on memorizing his son’s features- the day that he was born. He remembered holding that tiny little bundle in his arms and gazing upon his firstborn, wondering if he could ever put this child down, and certainly not ever wanting to look away for fear of missing a moment.

He closed his hand around Shawn’s hand and lifted it up to his chest. “Kid, you did it again.” he sniffed. “You never told me you left.” All at once, he felt like the world was literally coming down on top of him. He might have been crying. He might have been sobbing. He might have even been just standing there in some kind of trance. He really wasn’t quite sure, either, of whether it was actually Chief Vick’s hands who gently led him away and mentioned something about giving him a ride…something about his truck being brought back to his house. He really didn’t know much of anything right then except that the world had dissolved into a shapeless haze, and he had no interest in making sense of it anymore. Nothing would matter or make sense ever again.

End Notes:
As always, reviews and thoughts are appreciated! Thanks to all of you who are willing to put up with the angst and subject matter! You're all awesome :) 
Voices From the Past by Psychrulz
Author's Notes:

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. 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.

Thanks to Texasartchick & Dragonnan, without whom my writing would be non-existent.

Lassiter slammed his front door closed upon arriving back home that night, then took off and threw his suit jacket against the coffee table, not caring that it had slightly missed its mark and slid unceremoniously to the floor. He couldn’t think. He couldn’t feel. Well, he could feel…but what he felt was remarkably like anger…and that wasn’t exactly a proper thing to be feeling, was it? He immediately went to his fridge to retrieve a beer, then returned to his living room, where he dropped himself on the couch. If Spencer had in fact actually been psychic (and no, not even after his death would Lassiter ever believe that to be true), even he would have had a very hard time reading what was going on in the Detective’s mind at the moment. Lassiter realized he had a hard time committing to any one thought. Probably the worst accident in SBPD history. An unarmed civilian had been shot and killed by one of the Department’s officers. The media was already beginning to have a field day with it, so he was thankful for having been able to arrange for McNab and O’Hara’s transportation home to avoid any of the media’s attention.

That’s what it was. He had been so busy looking out for others since the accident that he hadn’t had time to even stop and think of himself. That’s actually the last thing he wanted to be doing right now, as a matter of fact. He wanted to be out there, finding out exactly what the hell happened that led to Spencer’s death. As far as those under him, he knew who had done what, but what went wrong, and when?? O’Hara swore she left the flag up, and he believed her. McNab swore there was no flag up, and he believed him. So what happened in between her leaving and McNab arriving? Did Spencer see anything? Could Spencer himself have taken the flag down? It wouldn’t be beyond the eternal man-child to get bored and decide to play with it. Not likely in this case, however. Lassiter had looked all over the shoot house while they were still out there. The flag was nowhere to be found. He wanted so badly to be on the scene again, processing it like he knew he should be. That’s where he belonged, not sitting on his ass at home.

You’re thinking there’s something else there, aren’t you? Lassiter held his breath, somewhat startled at his own thoughts. Actually, he was more startled at the idea that his own thoughts had sounded a little too much like Spencer’s voice. Buzz and Jules are gonna get blamed for this. They’ll lose their jobs, and  you know it. The voice came at him again.

“McNab reacted like he was trained. He’ll be fine.” Lassiter responded out loud.

But that still leaves Jules.

“The investigation will clear her too. She’ll be fine.” Lassiter insisted, but couldn’t feel nearly as confident of this as he had with his comment about McNab. Spencer was right, her job was most on the line right now. No, dammit! That wasn’t Spencer talking, you dimwit! That’s your own imagination running away with you. Get a hold of  yourself!

His mind refused to stop running through the scene over and over again. There had to be an explanation for what happened!

You’re a good Detective, Lassie. You just need to put the pieces together.

But what pieces?! There was no way in hell he’d be allowed back on the scene. No way for him to take any more looks at what was out there. He turned on the television as an attempted distraction, hoping he could at least finish his beer in peace.

You don’t need to see the scene again. You’ve already seen everything you need to see.

So much for peace. And no. not likely. If he had already seen what he needed to see, he wouldn’t be stuck in this crazy feeling.

Something about the scene bugged you. What was it?

“Well that’s fucking vague.” Lassiter took the final swig from his beer bottle and went to retrieve another one, which he promptly finished half of before he made it back to the couch. “Just like you, Spencer, to always be vague.” He returned his focus to channel surfing, then went to check his DVD collection for something that might take his mind off things. The beers sure as hell weren’t doing anything, and if they weren’t going to help…well…there were other options available.

He stepped back to his kitchen to retrieve the bottle of high end whiskey he usually kept stashed for special occasions. Not that this would exactly count, but it had to count for something…on some level. If anything, it might silence his memory of the sounds of Henry and McNab yelling at him, accusing him, and basically blaming him for what had happened. In the meantime, it might also silence the sobbing cries of McNab in the triage room, and those of Guster out on the range, for that matter.

If it was clear-cut and not vague, you’d have it figured out already. Spencer’s voice spoke to him again. But you’re a good Detective, Lassie. You can figure this out.

Lassiter downed the second shot of whiskey and looked at the shot glass quizzically. That was odd. He could swear he was able to handle more of the stuff before his mind started playing tricks on him. Not only was the voice in his head sounding disturbingly like Spencer, but it was even calling him ‘Lassie’ now, too.

What was it, Lassie? What about the scene bugged you? What was different?

Lassiter cleared his throat after a third shot and pulled out a handful of DVDs to focus on. No way. Not now. He wasn’t doing this now.

Come on, Lassie! You can do this! There was something different about the scene, and  you knew it. What was it?

“Nope. Not doing this.” Lassiter put the DVDs back and went for his gun. That would work. It always did. He couldn’t remember a time when getting fully immersed in cleaning his gun didn’t help clear his head. As soon as his hand came in contact with the weapon, however, his mind immediately flashed back to the sound of the gunshot ringing through the air, then the scene of Spencer lying in a pool of his own blood, his leg ravaged by one of the Department’s own weapons. His hand pulled back instantly, like one’s instinct at touching hot metal. Ok. That could not be normal. He took a moment to steady himself, breathing deeply to try and slow his racing thoughts.

Don’t think of the scene as a whole. Just look at small parts of it. How about the front porch area of the house? What was different about it?

“Dammit, Spencer! I’m not doing this! I don’t give a damn what you say!”

This is about Jules, Lassie. It’s Jules you need to look out for now.

Lassiter threw the empty shot glass against the wall. “Shut up!” he cried as he watched the glass break into dozens of tiny pieces. “Dammit!” Automatically, he stormed into the hall closet to grab his hand held vacuum cleaner. The last thing he needed was broken glass on the carpet. There was no way he’d be able to handle cutting himself and seeing blood stains in his own home now of all places. He carefully knelt down to commence cleaning up the mess, fully aware of his alcohol-impaired balance, when he was suddenly struck with a realization.

“They cleaned it up.” He whispered to himself. The mess immediately surrounding the shoot house- the piles of junk he had built by cleaning out the inside of the house- they were gone! The construction clean-up crew must have shown up during that time between O’Hara leaving and McNab arriving, and if they did, it wasn’t too far of a stretch to consider they might have taken the safety flag with them, assuming it was trash, as well.

“There you go, Spencer. I figured it out. Happy now?!” He demanded, but his thoughts remained silent in response. His breathing became heavier as the silence continued, as if he actually longed to hear the young man’s voice again. He must have stayed there for who knows how long, on his knees, not daring to turn on the small vacuum cleaner for fear of drowning out Shawn’s voice if he were to speak again. He finally almost kicked himself for feeling this way about what was nothing more than alcohol-induced imagination, but the feeling just wouldn’t go away. His new realization seemed to make the only logical sense. There was no other way he could see it happening. If that were true- the only reason the construction company would have showed up when they did would be because of his own telephonic insistence. When his legs finally began to cramp, he sniffed and allowed himself to sit back against the coffee table, only now noticing how misty his vision was becoming.

“I’m sorry.” He whispered, hoping that somehow, in some way, his words would be heard. “Spencer…I’m so sorry.”

 

**********************************************************

 

Juliet sniffed and added a tenth wadded-up tissue the growing mound on the floor beside her. She had no idea how long she had been sitting on her living room floor, nor did she care. Had it been an hour? Two hours? The shadows of the blinds as they lay across her kitchen suggested it might be around 6:00 pm. Since when did she tell time via kitchen blind shadows?? That’s when the painful realization hit her. Shawn. Of course. The memory of that Sunday evening came back to her vividly.

“Okay, Shawn. If you’re so sure, tell me what time it is.”

“I would, if you would remove yourself from in front of the microwave clock display” He had teased with that look in his eye that let her know immediately she would eventually fall for whatever he had up his sleeve.

“No. You said your psychic vibes would tell you and you don’t need my wall clock. I, on the other hand, do need it, and I’d really like to re-set it now that it has fresh batteries. So, out with it, Shawn.” She had tried anyway, because playing the game was fun, even if she knew hers was a lost battle in the end.

He had put his hand up to his temple and appeared to be deep in concentration. “Um…6 o’clock.”

Juliet clearly remembered having been almost floored when she checked her wrist watch to confirm. “Shawn! That’s amazing! I never knew you could do that!”

Shawn had laughed, then shrugged and pulled her over to her kitchen island. “You see this? The shadow from the blinds? This is usually where it is at 6:00 every evening…for this time of year at least.”

She had wanted to ask how it is he would even take note of such a trivial detail, but the manner in which he looked in her eyes at that moment frankly made her forget all about it. She enjoyed reveling in the mystery that was Shawn’s mind, with the few little peeks he would give her now and then, like this one. In her heart, she knew there was a never-ending supply of wonders and nuggets of treasure in the way that her boyfriend’s mind worked, but there would be plenty of time to discover them all.

Plenty of time.

Her breath caught in her throat again and she glanced at her cell phone, nearly reaching for it to dial Shawn and ask him to come over. He never minded her calling him at all hours to de-stress after a hard day at work. Or if he did, he certainly never showed any annoyance. He would always show up with flowers, or dinner, a pastry from the nearby bakery, or even a board game on occasions to help take her mind off the difficulties of her job. Having him around as that person to lean on and be vulnerable to had been the support she had been sorely missing since moving from Miami. Now that he was with her, she honestly couldn’t remember how she had made it so long without that presence- that constant and unwavering presence from him as her friend even more so than a boyfriend. Today was one of those days. A horrible, tragic day that she could have never seen coming. It was that familiar comfort that she needed now more than anything.

Her hand was on her cell phone before she even realized what she was doing, and it had even opened up her contacts list directly to Shawn’s number. She felt her fingers urging her to push that ‘send’ button…just push it. You’ll see, he’ll pick up and everything will be ok again. Shawn always makes everything ok…the phone was immediately air born, having been thrown across the room at the wall furthest from her. He was gone, even if her mind and body still refused to believe it. He wouldn’t be there to help her through this. There would be no pastries or board games to pass the time. He won’t be here to help me through this. The thought pierced her mind like a dull, jagged dagger, making everything suddenly more painful than even something like this needed to be. As much as she had longed for someone to lean on, there was a logic to keeping her heart under guard. She had loved and lost before. More than once. Keeping herself under lock and key was a good way of keeping control- a good form of protection, especially in her line of work.

But Shawn had promised to be there for her. He knew the level of commitment she required, and he had agreed to it. He had promised to be there for her no matter what! No one else had ever done that for her like he did or gone through what he did for her. But Shawn…there was something in that confession of love to her that promised forever…and now he was gone? Just like that? How could a promise like that be stolen so easily?? She had allowed herself to depend on that presence…on that promise. She had allowed herself to drop her defenses because his promise to her meant that he would be there to shield her from the hurt.

Instead, she found herself exposed, raw, and alone…trapped on the living room floor because everywhere she went in her home reminded her of him. A toothbrush and his shampoo in the bathroom, his cereal in the kitchen, some clothes in the bedroom. Even the TV had some of his DVR recordings on it. She brought her knees up and hugged them close to her chest, unsure of what to do next…unsure of even how to move or breathe anymore. The realization was finally starting to hit her that she was alone once again. Her family was thousands of miles away, and she had no friends. Even if someone did offer their ear, what could she say? To everyone around, there was no reason why she should be so destroyed. Saddened, for sure, but theirs was, to the outside world, nothing more than just a mere acquaintance, after all. Perhaps a casual friendship at most. Certainly a difficult situation to go through, but nothing more. She and Shawn had yet to open up to anyone besides Gus about their relationship. The moment he died, so did their relationship, and no one even knew about it…like it had never even existed.

Juliet didn’t realize she had put her head down on her knees until her phone rang, shaking her awake from her thoughts. Interesting that it had survived being chucked across the room and bouncing into the hallway. Maybe Lassiter had a point about these ‘heavy duty’ cell phones after all. The fog in her head took a moment to clear away enough for her to remember what she was supposed to do with a ringing phone, but she still didn’t have the strength to stand. She couldn’t imagine wanting to talk to anyone right now, anyway. The ringing finally stopped, but started right back up again, letting her know that whoever was on the other end was determined to speak to her. Not that she cared, but if they were going to continue bothering her like this, she might as well at least answer and tell them to bug off. She sighed and reluctantly crawled across the living room and towards the hallway, still unwilling to expend the required energy to stand. If this person really was that determined to talk to her, they’d wait.

Sure enough, the person calling her was apparently willing to wait and keep calling, because the damn phone was still ringing when she finally got to it. She picked it up as she sat back down and leaned against the wall, not even bothering to check her caller ID.

“Hello?” she did her best to sound at least somewhat put together.

“Um…O’Hara…” her partner’s gruff voice on the other end surprised her. “You had me worried for a minute there. I was…I was just calling…you know, to see if you’re ok.” The slight slowdown in his speech was not lost on Juliet’s trained ear, not that she cared. Drinking seemed like a good idea right now, in fact.

“Um…I’m…” Was this really happening? Would she actually start this awkward social little dance where people would ask if she’s ok and she’d respond that she was…and was this game actually starting with her own partner??

“O’Hara? You still there?”

Juliet shook her head, apparently she had waited too long to answer. She inadvertently looked up through the open door of her bedroom, where she caught sight of one of Shawn’s shirts folded on top of her clean laundry basket. Immediately, she felt her breath begin to hitch and her ability to speak leaving her, but she was determined to answer. “I’m…ok.” Too late. The pitch in her voice and the unrelenting sob had managed to betray her.

“Like hell you are.” Lassiter replied. Strangely, his voice didn’t sound so firm either, alcohol aside. “O’Hara, I’m sorry…dammit, I can’t…Listen, why don’t you come over. I’ll get some dinner delivered. I haven’t eaten since having a muffin and coffee this morning, and I somehow doubt you’ve had much more than that either.”

Juliet managed to only sniffle in response. There was no way her voice would even kind of cooperate now.

“It’s settled then. I’ll be waiting for you. Dinner should be here in about 30 minutes.”

She didn’t have a chance to try coming up with a reply before the line clicked to signal Lassiter had hung up. Not that she would have been able to argue anyway with how the massive lump in her throat refused to leave her alone. Perhaps this was just as well. She wasn’t sure she could handle another minute in her own place, anyway.

End Notes:
Thanks to all of you who are reading and reviewing. A few comments have even given me some stuff to think about! You're all awesome :) 
Past and Present Partners by Psychrulz
Author's Notes:

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. 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.

 

Tex and Drag, you keep me going in so many more ways that you can imagine. You two rock!

To all you amazing peeps who have gone through tornados, flooding, hurricanes, and who knows what else has hit recently, my thoughts and prayers are with you.

To CautionBee, I’m SO sorry I erased your review! I wanted to edit something in my response to you, but somehow ended up erasing the whole thing. I love the reviews you leave and never meant to take it down. : )

 

Henry didn’t feel the ache in his back until the doorbell rang. Only then did he realize he must have been sitting in this hunched over position at the kitchen table for quite a long time. Too long. Long enough that the room had even darkened without his knowledge. Scratching his head, he couldn’t even remember what he had been thinking about. The whole day seemed somehow surreal. First Lassiter showed up…with the news. He didn’t believe it at first. Then going to see Shawn…and suddenly he was back home, without any clear memory of how he got back. He suspected he must have had a bad reaction to what he saw. In fact, he vaguely remembered having done so.

Right. The doorbell. He was reminded of the reason for his return to reality when the doorbell sounded a second time. Part of him didn’t even want to open it, but he went anyway. It was easier to just set his body on ‘automatic pilot’ and let it go through normal routines on its own. He would just check out mentally and let whoever was here figure things out. That was the plan, anyway, until he turned the latch and opened the door to see Gus, as disheveled as he had ever seen the kid with his shirt tail untucked, bloodshot eyes, and tear streaked face.

“Gus!” He immediately opened the door, letting the young man enter and head straight to the couch- where he sat, put his head down, and began crying. Just watching him, Henry couldn’t help wondering how he had put himself together enough to make the drive to the house. This was the one visitor Henry knew he could not mentally check out on. This kid was his son’s best friend and the closest thing Shawn ever had to a brother. He would also be the one person left in the world who could actually help Henry continue to feel some sort of attachment to his son.

Henry went and placed a hand on Gus’ shoulder while taking a seat next to him, allowing some tears of his own to fall. “It’s ok.” He said quietly, continuing to pat Gus’ back for another twenty minutes until he finally took a deep breath and was able to look up.

“It doesn’t seem real, does it?” Gus asked in between hitched breaths. “I mean, the last time I saw him, he was asking Lassiter what he wanted on his breakfast burrito. And I was…I was mad at him.” he broke down all over again, as if this was the first time he realized what his last encounter with his best friend had entailed. Henry still highly doubted it, however.

“I was awful to him all morning.” Gus continued, sobbing all over again. “Maybe he did it for payback, making me take private lessons from Lassiter after I said that’s the last thing I wanted to do. But he was hungry this morning, he asked for a danish. All he wanted was a cheese danish…and I didn’t even get it for him after I told him I would.”

Henry nodded. This back-and-forth constant bickering between Shawn and Gus was something they did all the time. He highly doubted there was any animosity within either of them over the missed breakfast, but in the context of something like today, he could imagine how it would be magnified in Gus’ mind. “I’m sure it was no big deal for him, Gus.” He spoke supportively, but Gus continued the self accusation.

“But I dumped ice water on his face to wake him up this morning!” He cried. He was trying to continue his penance. Henry knew this. Yet, he suddenly had a feeling inside of him that felt so out of place for the current situation. He couldn’t believe this was really happening, but as the smile involuntarily left his lips, he couldn’t help also letting out a small chuckle. Just as he thought would happen, Gus was instantly looking at him with a mixture of shock and confusion on his face, turning Henry’s chuckle into a full out laugh, which only managed to make the look on Gus’ face even more perplexed and confused, which in turn only made Henry laugh harder. Another few seconds of this, and Gus was now laughing - both of them laughing through their tears for a good five minutes, until all they could do was sigh and sink back into a heavy silence.

“I’ll bet that got him up.” Henry commented.

Gus chuckled again. “You could say that. He screamed, got tangled up in the sheets, and fell out of bed. Never saw it coming. He thought he was calling my bluff.”

“I’d have paid to see that.” Henry smiled solemnly. He looked down at the ground as he pondered Gus’ words. “He never saw it coming.” That damn feeling was coming back again. The vice tightening on his chest- making it hard to think, to breathe…to exist. He cleared his throat instead, refusing to give in to the tears yet again. “Um…Chief said he could have full honors…you know, at his…”

“That’s nice of her.” Gus interrupted, unable to hear the word ‘funeral’ associated with his best friend. Yet, oddly, the idea of letting the organized portion of his mind take over was surprisingly comforting. “Full honors…I guess that means more people. You tell me what you want, Henry. I’ll make it happen. You don’t worry about anything.” He looked expectantly at Henry, thinking that perhaps talking about some sort of planning would help both men focus on that part of their grief. Then again…maybe not. Henry’s gaze remained on the floor, as if he had not heard a single word coming from Gus.

“Maybe I just need to sit and think about things alone for a while.” Henry replied after a couple minutes.

Gus nodded, taking the hint. He had really only come over to offer support anyway, so if what Henry needed was to be alone, then so be it. He stood up and patted the man gently on the shoulder along with letting him know to call anytime for anything he needed, then let himself out. He hadn’t noticed the weather at all this whole day, but as he stepped down the porch steps and across the Spencer’s front yard, even he had to admit that the cool breeze felt nice against his face. This was the kind of weather Shawn loved, he remembered- the kind of weather that would motivate his friend to hop on his bike and go for a night time ride, or simply sit outside for a while.

Unconsciously, that’s what Gus ended up doing. He rolled down the windows in his car and made the drive to the Psych office, where he didn’t even bother going inside. Shawn wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on this kind of weather- cool, and slightly damp and salty from the incoming sea mist. Gus took off his shoes and began walking down the boardwalk to the beach, determined to take in every aspect of the beautiful evening for his friend. Gus himself had never appreciated walking barefoot in the sand. The idea of all the places that one could get sand into was enough to repel him from the thought. For once, that wasn’t the thought that crossed his mind as he went. Instead, he focused on everything there was to see, and how the feeling of the sand beneath his feet added a nice backdrop to the sights, sounds, and smells.

“It’s a beautiful evening out, Shawn.” He whispered aloud once he made it to the pier and leaned on the rail. He looked out over the never-ending expanse of ocean just as the final rays of sunlight reflected off of it. “The seagulls are just quieting down for the night, so the waves are mostly what’s out there to be heard. There’s that mist coming in that you loved, even if you always complained of what it did to your hair. It’s a perfect night. I wouldn’t have minded us getting some tacos and sitting out here for dinner.”

He lowered his head and sniffed, forcing out the thoughts that were trying to make their way into his head- visions of his best friend laying in a cold, dark morgue- shut off from the world. Shawn didn’t deserve that. Shawn wouldn’t allow that, not now that he didn’t have to. That had to be it. Gus needed that to be it.

“I’m sure the night looks even better from where you’re at, doesn’t it?” he spoke again. “I don’t know where that is, but I can imagine things look much better from there.” He fell into a deep silence as he pondered this thought. Even he had to smile as he imagined pineapple fields as far as the eye could see, broken up only for places to play foosball or air hockey…perhaps a road running down the middle of it, wide enough only for a bike, and long enough to last as long as he wanted his ride to be. Well, there would have to be a taco stand in there somewhere, too. And an IHOP. No way would Shawn be happy without his pancakes. There would be a small house where he would have his big screen TV and entire collection of favorite movies and TV shows…and American Duos would be nonexistent. He might even take some time out to play racquetball with Mary Lightly. He would like that.

The perfect eternal home. Peaceful. Content. That’s where Shawn deserved to be. Gus liked the feeling of imagining him there, but couldn’t avoid the pained feeling in his gut over what that might mean. Would Shawn miss him? Would he even think of him? Even when Shawn was gone for all those years, Gus could always feel comfort in knowing that his best friend was thinking of him. The frequent postcards, letters, and even occasional phone calls were enough proof of that. There was a connection between the two of them that remained intact even if they were halfway across the world from each other. Shawn had even gone so far once as to confess his fear to Gus over ever having that connection broken.

The pained feeling in his gut intensified. Gus wasn’t even sure he’d be able to describe it if asked to do so, but it hit hard and fast. He was suddenly doubled over, his mind barely having any time to register this before he was on his knees, overcome by a feeling he had never felt before in h is life. He was doubled over, so it must have affected his stomach, but…it was affecting his head, too…pain? No…he couldn’t exactly classify it as pain, but it was definitely there, and it was overwhelming every inch of his ability to think. Whatever it was now moved to his lungs, squeezing them and threatening to forbid him from ever taking a breath again. He gasped for breath as he rested his forehead on the pier’s wooden plank, unable to hold himself up any longer. His eyes must be affected now, too, because his vision was suddenly very blurry. Or…was that just because of tears? When had he started crying again?? He had been so consumed with this feeling of being about to die that he couldn’t imagine having been crying through it…yet he was. This realization was only a small respite from his body collapsing in on itself as he was soon enough once again gasping for breath while starting to wonder more and more if this would be his last day on earth, too.

Now there was a weight on his back. How much more of this could he endure?! If he was going to be crushed on top of everything, he wished to just die now and spare himself whatever added torture was coming. The weight, however, did not crush him. In fact, it wasn’t a heavy weight at all…and…now it was patting him??

“Gus? Are you ok??” A worried voice broke through the fog in his head and he looked over to see a pair of shoes right beside him. The shoes, voice, and patting must all be connected somehow. He fought to regain his bearings as the worried voice continued talking to him. The patting now became two firm hands- one on each shoulder- trying to get him up. Gus wasn’t sure how to help get himself up, or how to fight whatever this was, or how to do anything about this, and soon enough found himself sitting on a nearby bench, those firm hands never leaving his person in an attempt to keep him steady.

“Gus! Gus, look at me.” The voice demanded. It was coming from directly in front of him now. Since when did he have his eyes closed?! He struggled to force his eyelids open, then blinked a few times and wiped his face to remove the tears. The voice soon enough had a face…and it was not a face he thought he could handle right now.

“Buzz?” He was at least fully aware enough to know his senses couldn’t be completely trusted right about now, but even through blurry vision, that had to be Buzz McNab. Perhaps the shock of seeing the young officer, especially after what happened, was enough to render Gus speechless, because he honestly had no idea what to say or even how to react. He blinked a few more times and was soon able to get a clear look at Buzz. The man looked like he had spent a good portion of the day in tears, as well. He was now cleaned up, wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, but honestly speaking, he looked a mess.

“Gus, are you ok?” Buzz asked again. Apparently his concern for Gus overrode whatever else he might have been thinking or feeling at the moment. The more his own sensibilities came back, the more Gus had to admit the officer probably had a point. He must look an even worse mess to Buzz.

“Buzz…what are you doing here?” he managed to ask. By the way the young officer dropped his head, Gus realized it must have come out more harshly than he meant it to sound. Oh well. This man did just kill his best friend, after all. Gus figured if he was still too out of it to feel anger, at least he was still somehow able to enact punishment.

Buzz kept his head down for another few moments before raising it back up again, his eyes once again misted over. “I don’t know.” He admitted. “I don’t know how I ended up here. Francie’s trying to be helpful…but you know…I just needed some time away. Gus…”

Gus was abruptly on his feet and walking away. He didn’t have the energy to deal with this. Not from Buzz. The man could go back home to his loving wife for all Gus cared. At least he got to go home at the end of this day. He made it only about 20 feet before he heard the sniffles and the sobs coming from Buzz, who was still crouched in the exact same position in front of the bench. Shit. He could easily tell himself that he was upset too. This tightening in his chest, it could be from whatever had grabbed hold on him just now, or his own need to cry and mourn his friend. No reason the sympathetic crier in him was at work yet again. Not now. Not for Buzz. He tried taking a few more steps, but the more he heard the sniffles, the more his chest tightened, and the less he was able to convince himself.

DAMMIT!

Gus stopped and unconsciously looked up at the night sky, begging for wisdom. What should I do, Shawn? He wanted so badly to just keep walking. Leave Buzz to his tears and self-pity and penance. Hell, he should be crying! He should be suffering! HE had taken Shawn’s life and robbed Gus of the closest thing he ever had to a brother. Shawn wouldn’t be dead right now if Buzz had only been more careful. He felt the tears welling up in his eyes again as he stood there, his back to the young officer- unable to keep going, yet unable to turn back to go to him.

He stood there for what seemed like forever, completely at a loss, until the wind shifted. The wind that was before coming in from behind him was now coming at his face, leading towards the ocean instead of away from it…towards Buzz. From his perspective, it truly felt like a gentle nudge for him to turn back. Great. And then what?? Still, the wind continued, causing him to ever so slowly turn around, then take one slow step after another. Sympathetic crier aside, he still didn’t feel anything for the man ahead of him. He refused to feel any sympathy. So what if Buzz was crushed and feeling terrible? At least he was still alive to feel that! He would hate to see his best friend in pain, but at least if he was, he’d be alive to deal with it!

So what the hell am I supposed to say now?? He thought once he was next to the bench again. Buzz sniffled a few times and looked up at him without saying a word. He stayed down, as if he was expecting some sort of punishment. You deserve punishment. Gus thought. You deserve to be thrown over the pier for what you’ve done. He wanted to say those words out loud. He wanted so badly to scream them at the top of his lungs and let Buzz feel even a fraction of the pain he was feeling inside. There was just no way that for all his tears, even Buzz could have any idea what he was going through.

“What are you doing here?” He asked again, simply because he had no idea what else to say.

Buzz sighed and shrugged. “I told you. I don’t know. I went out for a drive and somehow ended up here. Thought I’d take a walk on the pier, then found you.” His voice cracked as he spoke, and he sounded hoarse, as if his pain and punishment had indeed lasted for hours. Gus tried to think of something to say in return, but came up with nothing. Not that it mattered, anyway. He doubted his voice would cooperate carrying out a conversation like this.

“Gus…I…” Buzz started and stumbled on his words.

Gus really didn’t want to have this talk. Not here. Not now. But that damn catch in his throat wouldn’t budge.

“…I…Gus…please…I’m so sorry.”

Gus clenched his jaw. He couldn’t think of anything more difficult to hear right about now than the apology. What was he expected to say to it? It’s okay? How?? No way in hell was anything about this even kind of okay! Get the hell out of my sight? Get the hell off this sacred ground that I shared with my best friend? What would that accomplish? So, he stood unmoving. Unspeaking. Unable to do anything more until Buzz nodded. To what he was nodding, Gus had no idea. Nor did he have a chance to ask. The officer finally stood and quietly walked back off the pier without another word.

 

********************************************************

 

Lassiter suddenly wasn’t so sure, when he opened the door to his partner, that asking her to come over had been his brightest idea. She looked, frankly speaking, awful, meaning he could already tell it would be a long night. Even worse, this also meant he’d have to lay off the alcohol until she left. It was hard enough having sobered up as much as he had already…but oh well. Rule #1 of partnership- never abandon your partner. She needed him right now, and he’d be damned if he wasn’t there for her. In any case, being there for others had helped to numb his own feelings better than the alcohol had. This might not be so bad, after all.

Or…maybe it would be…

He realized he had made his judgment too soon when she, before even speaking or making a move to enter, sank tearfully into his arms. So there they stood for the next few minutes- Lassiter holding on to O'Hara while she cried and mumbled who-knows-what into his shirt. He would have normally worried about the stains she might be leaving on his clothing, but for once, that was the last thing on his mind. He was perfectly fine standing there with her until she composed herself enough to mutter a quick ‘hello’ and make her full entry.

“Pizza’s still hot.” Lassiter cleared his throat and announced. “I know you like the veggie ones. Got you one of those.” He went to get a plate and some soda for her while she took a seat at his dining room table.

“That’ll be nice. Thanks.” She whispered. She watched her partner serve the both of them dinner, then sit back down, once again seeming at a loss for what to do with himself now that he wasn’t busy on a task. So this was the part where they would have to say something to each other. Juliet was used to being the one that more often than not initiated the conversation. She enjoyed doing it, even, but for once, she had no idea what to say. The way that Lassiter was fidgeting suggested to her that he felt the exact same way. Well, perhaps for once, just being in each other’s presence would be good enough. She was content just knowing she wasn’t alone, and even better, that her partner truly did not blame her after all.

“I’ve got an idea for what might have happened.” Lassiter spoke up after a few minutes of tense silence. “I’m gonna call Chief in the morning and ask her to follow up on it.”

Right. Discuss it like any other case. Juliet almost smiled. Of course this is what Lassiter would turn to. That still didn’t mean she wasn’t curious, however. “Oh? What’s that?” She asked.

Lassiter finished chewing on his slice of pizza and swallowed, taking a sip of soda before answering. “I was there pretty early, thinking I’d set up before anyone got there. Long story short, that didn’t happen. I arrived there to find the place a mess. Even worse, the inside of the house was full of junk and crap. So, I had to forget about setting up just to clean the damn house out. There were some piles of stuff I had left outside from what I cleaned out. I didn’t realize it when I was back there, when….well, but now I clearly remember that those piles were gone! Someone must have cleaned up after you left. That means there’s a good chance they took the flag you set up, too.”

Juliet chewed on her own pizza slice thoughtfully. That almost made sense. Almost. “But wouldn’t the construction crew know not to mess with the safety flag?? I thought Chief gave them a big talking to about that a year ago when they were making repairs to the house.”

“She did.” Lassiter shook his head. “But that was a different company. This is a new crew out. This is the first job they’ve done for us. There’s a good chance they wouldn’t have known.”

Juliet nodded somberly. Part of her was actually grateful that her partner had been thinking of how this could have happened while considering both her and McNab’s side of the story. Another part of her felt yet again completely broken over the idea that Shawn had died because of a stupid misunderstanding like this. Of all the crazy and often ridiculous things he did and got himself into…this is what finally killed him?! The thought was too much for her to handle. She couldn’t handle thinking that after all he had been through, his death was ultimately meaningless.

She was gone again, Lassiter noticed. Mentally trapped somewhere in a depth of pain that she somehow didn’t feel able to share with anyone. At first he thought she was just thinking about things, but after holding her slice of pizza in midair for a full minute, eyes glazed over and not really focusing on anything, he knew there was more to it. He hated having to work so hard just to keep her in some semblance of reality, not because it was inconvenient or for any other selfish reason, but because it could only mean that this was truly destroying her from the inside out. He realized, at that moment, that she had already determined not to share her secret with anyone. She would suffer through it alone, apparently, and that would be it. It would mean no one, not even he, could ever do more than touch the surface of what she was going through.

The idea threatened to destroy Lassiter himself. There was no way he could be satisfied with just pretending, all the while keeping himself in some made-up excuse that telling her he knew her secret would only make her angry and hurt her worse. That’s not how partners worked. Partners who kept such major secrets from each other would only manage to destroy each other in the process. Personally speaking, he simply couldn’t stand to settle for such mediocre or superficial ‘help’ that would ultimately accomplish nothing. So what if she got angry with him? that was just a selfish fear, anyway. Truth was, she needed him more desperately now than he had ever seen her need him in the past, and he was damn well not about to let her down, no matter what the consequences for himself. On her end, even just knowing that her secret was no longer just hers would at least take the burden from her shoulders, taking them to the point where  they could figure out where to go from there.

Well, he soon learned, making the decision was a hell of a lot easier than following through. His voice even threatened to commit insubordination on him for thinking of saying what he wanted to say. He took a moment to put his pizza and drink down and compose himself, hoping at least there were enough remnants of inebriation left within him to make himself go through with it. He swallowed hard, cleared his throat, and decided to just get it over with.

“Uh…O’Hara…Juliet…” Damn that didn’t start off so well. Never mind, she was looking at him again. At least he had broken her out of whatever trance she was in. Another throat clearing and he gave it another attempt. “I…I just want to let you know…and before I say anything I want you to know that it’s ok. You don’t have to worry about anything…I just wanted to say…you know…”

“Carlton, what is it?”

Right. Just say it, you idiot! “Ok, O’Hara, all I wanted to say is that I know…about you and Spencer.”

Confused stare, followed by a long pause before she spoke again. “What do you know?”

“I know…I know that you two were dating.” He said quickly. As if it were even possible, and in any other situation, Lassiter might have considered calling paramedics, O’Hara’s face lost even more color from the shock. He chose to remain silent, hoping not to screw anything up until she had a chance to re-compose herself.

“How?” Was her only question after a tense couple minutes. “Did he…”

“No! No, he never said anything.” Lassiter interrupted. Great. Now came the moment when he would have to confess to spying on her and Spencer’s moment. Would have been nice to have thought of this beforehand. “Uh…I saw…After the Yin thing, when you were in the interrogation room writing your statement…and Spencer came in to talk to you…”

“You were watching us from across the glass?!”

“No! I mean, yes…but I didn’t…” Ah hell. This wasn’t going well at all. Well, at least he didn’t have to keep talking, because she was once again crying, this time with her head down on the table. The grand majority of him wanted to just let her cry it out and try again later, but he just couldn’t. Not when he had already committed to telling her with the intent of making her feel better. He quietly rose from his seat and pulled a chair up right next to her, then put a hand on her back.

“Listen, O’Hara.” He began, oddly more composed this time. “I wasn’t spying on you two. I just happened to end up there for some reason, maybe the same reason you went down there, to clear your head. And then Spencer walked in on you and I saw. I’m only telling you this so you’ll know that I know, and you won’t have to feel like there’s this whole other side of what’s going on with Spencer that you can’t tell anyone, because I can see how hard that is on you. I won’t tell anyone, I promise. You don’t have to tell anyone. Hell, you don’t have to talk about it anymore if you don’t want to. I’m just putting it out there so you’ll know that I’ve got your back for anything you want to talk about or that you’re going through. I mean it.”

O’Hara, predictably, broke down into tears once again. The only difference was that this time, Lassiter was sure he could sense a large part of her emotional release had to do with such a burden being lifted off her shoulders.

“He was after me since he started with the department.” She sobbed into the table, making Lassiter strain to hear what she was saying. “Right after I started, too. I don’t know what it is about me. I don’t just go out with any guy that flirts with me, you know? But he promised me forever. How can I…anyone protect themselves from something like this?!”

Lassiter swallowed hard. This was getting very personal, even on a level that he was familiar with despite not having ever lost a loved one like this. But again, she needed him, and he determined to be there for her no matter what.

‘Being there for them doesn’t mean making them feel better.’ An old mentor had told him once, long ago. ‘It just means letting them know you understand their pain, and letting them know they don’t have to bear it alone.’

“Um…it’s hard.” He began, somewhat shocked that he was actually about to open up to O’Hara about a very personal pain of his own, but it would at least show her that he truly did understand where she was coming from. “That moment…when you just know that the person is gone forever, and there’s absolutely nothing you can ever do to bring them back.”

A sniffle and slight head raise showed him he had her attention, so he continued. “Whether you see it coming, or whether it hits suddenly, the hurt is just as bad. I know with Victoria…well, she didn’t die, but I lost her. I guess I should have known, but I was in denial. Refused to see the signs. So when she actually served me with those papers, and when she walked out that door…that’s when I knew there was no going back no matter what. It’s crushing. I felt lost, like I didn’t even know what I should be thinking anymore.” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, not having been prepared to share something like that, much less relive the experience. At least O’Hara was now looking back up at him through tear brimmed eyes.

“Yeah.” She nodded. “That’s exactly it. I’m so lost I don’t know what to do with myself. I feel numb, but I can’t stop crying. And I keep wanting to pick up the phone to call him. I know it makes no sense.” A part of her couldn’t believe that Lassiter of all people was actually the one offering such emotional advice, but she didn’t have the energy to question it. All she could do was nod and put her head back on the table when her partner offered her a cup of coffee. He’d likely have nothing more to say about the matter for the time being, but the fact he had mentioned it at all was good enough to give her an oddly peaceful feeling.

Both partners spent the next four hours mostly in silence, each one drawing comfort from the other’s simple presence. Lassiter turned on the television at one point, but neither was truly focused on it except to recognize that leaving it tuned to The Weather Channel was perhaps the safest thing at the moment. No chance of a triggering cop show, and no certainly no chance of any news reports coming on to remind them of why they were here. On occasion, Lassiter would hear renewed sniffling coming from his partner’s direction, and he would get up to bring her the box of tissues, plus a cup of water or warm milk. When the sound he heard coming from her was the deep breathing of sleep, he gently eased her into a more comfortably reclined position, covered her with a blanket, shut off the TV, and retreated to his bedroom. The logical plan would be for him to go to bed and get some sleep. The going to bed part, he fully intended to make happen. It was the sleeping part, on the other hand, that he was much less sure of.

End Notes:
Thanks, as always, for reading! Hope you continue to like it :) 
Free Fall by Psychrulz
Author's Notes:

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. 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.

 

Well, I have a tendency to dig myself into a few holes now and then. There was a major one writing this chapter that was quite deep, in fact. It's always the awesome Dragonnan and Texasartchick that help dig me out, then offer to cover up any other holes within sight while at it- not only helping me in my moment of need, but looking forward to what might come. Girls, thank you SO much! This story wouldn't be anywhere good without you. 

            He sat facing the evening sky on his deck. Not quite looking at anything, not even entirely aware of the still full glass of lemonade on the table next to him, the ice cubes in it melting away to water down the drink. He wasn’t even aware of the plate with dinner that now sat cold next to the glass, having been brought out for him at some point by his wife. He couldn’t just sit here, but he couldn’t even do anything, either. His disastrous encounter with Gus on the pier was enough evidence of that. True, Francie was doing everything she could to be supportive. She had held him for an hour when he’d come home to collapse into her arms and cry after what had happened. She then sat with him and listened for another hour while he spoke and carried on endlessly about what must have been incoherent nonsense about anything and everything. She even cried with him through it all, the previously full box of tissues on their coffee table soon coming up empty between the two of them. She had been everything that anyone could expect of a supportive spouse, and he hated that he could not reciprocate or acknowledge her efforts. Worse, he even got up abruptly and walked out on her at one point, mumbling something about needing to go for a drive. When he came back from that ill-fated escape, she had dinner ready. She didn’t grumble or complain when he ignored it. She only cleaned off the dinner table and brought his setting out to the deck when he went outside. He vaguely remembered her saying something about being inside, and to let her know if he needed anything.

            ‘You can’t do a job like this unless you’re willing to die for a complete stranger if necessary.’ He had been told on his first day at the academy. He remembered sitting up straighter at those words. No question he’d be willing to do that.

            ‘You also can’t do this job unless you’re willing and able to kill someone if necessary.’ The words had given him pause this time. The idea of killing someone hadn’t been as easy to swallow as the idea of laying down his own life for others, but he accepted it. It wouldn’t be easy, but if it had to be done, then it had to be done.

            He searched his mind and memories for any words that might have prepared him for the possibility of taking an innocent life. No one had told him about this one. There had been trainings about saving innocent lives, and even some on how to deal with being unable to save an innocent…but never had he prepared for something like this. The closest that anyone ever came had been his instructors and trainers beating safety rules into his head, constantly drilling him on safety protocols and procedures to avoid ‘accidents’ or an ‘unsafe discharge’ of his weapon. Never had he actually brought the thought of real, innocent people being affected by these accidents. Of course, they were always assumed. The involvement of innocents is always assumed when talking about an accident, but it was just something he never thought about specifically. Such an ‘accident’ was not a possibility as long as he was doing everything correctly, right? Perhaps out in the field there might be a slim chance of it happening, but certainly not on the practice range. There was just no way it could happen.

            But it did. His thoughts reminded him. You killed Shawn. You could have pulled back, but you didn’t. And he wasn’t even armed.

            He had cried, he had yelled, begged, pleaded, and nothing worked. Nothing had brought Shawn back no matter how hard he tried. Nothing ever could again. Something poked at his side and he reached over to investigate, only to find it was his badge that he’d stuck in his pocket after changing clothes.

            To Serve and Protect. He read the words on its front and shook his head. The badge itself seemed to get heavier and heavier in his hand, as if to show him the weight of his guilt for what he had done. It was unbearable. He’d never be able to wear it again. No way. Without another thought, without even an idea of what he was doing or why, he stood up and threw the badge across the yard and into the darkness.

            Anger. That’s what he was feeling. He didn’t feel like crying anymore.  He was done begging and pleading. He had worked so hard for everything in life, and this is what he had to show for it in the end?! Perhaps he should have learned of his uselessness as a cop when he couldn’t even keep Shawn’s ex-girlfriend safe. The one time that Shawn had needed him more than ever, when Shawn had put Abigail’s life in his hands, and he failed. Yet, Shawn had never held it against him. Shawn never even blinked at the sight of him again, never even hinted that there was a loss of trust after the incident. Actually, Shawn placed more trust in him. Shawn had gone to him about his feelings for Juliet, knowing the kind of risk he could be taking by doing so. But he did it anyway. Because Shawn trusted him.  

            And you honor that trust by hilling him. His conscience berated him yet again.

            “Shut UP!” This time, the deck chair flew through the air, thrown into the yard in the same general direction that the badge had gone. A few seconds later and he had another chair in hand, ready to repeat his action, when he caught a glimpse of Francie standing at the doorway. She was watching him with a tear in her eye, but remaining calm and making not a single motion to stop him. He stood motionless in response, his arms oblivious to the increasing weight of the chair he was still suspending in mid-air. She continued to say nothing, waiting for him to make the first move. That was odd, considering he had absolutely no idea what to do with himself. The longer he stared at her, the weaker he felt, until his knees could no longer hold him up. He felt himself going down but was unable and unwilling to brace himself, nor did he feel his knees hit the ground when he landed. The chair itself landed a couple feet away from him, but he was oblivious to that as well. He soon felt the soft hands of his wife on his shoulders as she came to kneel beside him. A large part of him felt so useless, so unworthy of her support that he almost pulled away. The only thing that kept him from doing so was the fact that he was quite honestly out of energy. He simply didn’t have the strength to fight anymore.

            Even through his exhaustion, even through his hitching breath, he felt compelled to talk. “I…I don’t know what to do.” He confessed. Francie only patted his back and stayed close in response. “I don’t…know…how to make this right.” Francie did her best now to wrap her arms around his broad shoulders and hold him close. “Gus…he hates me. I don’t blame him. I can’t imagine Henry…and everyone else.” He coughed through a few more sobs, feeling more and more hopeless. “Francie, I don’t know how to fix this. I can’t ever be a cop again.”

            “It’s ok, sweetie.” She finally spoke softly. “It was an accident. They’ll see that. You’ll be back on the job soon enough.”

            This time, he did pull away, scrambling all the way back to the steps leading from the deck to the yard. “You think I care about my job right now?!” he asked indignantly. “You think I can actually put on a badge and gun and go out there and do this job?! I just killed one of my only friends in the Department! Francie, right now, if someone tried to break into our house, I don’t know that I could even protect you without thinking that I’m gonna hurt you, too!”

            “Sweetie, I…” Francie made a move towards him, but he put a hand out to stop her.

            “Stay away.” He commanded. “I told you I don’t know how to fix this. I can’t make this right. I can’t protect you. Did you know I almost got Shawn’s ex-girlfriend killed once, too? You’re better off at your sister’s house.”

            “Buzz…” Francie took another step to approach him anyway, but Buzz’s decision had been made.

            “Get away! Get out of here!” he shouted, startling her and causing her to freeze right where she stood. He had never before yelled at her, never even raised his voice to her, but now he was looking at her with what could only be true anger in his gaze. She put a hand to her stomach as it lurched with the realization that she actually felt afraid of her husband – a feeling she never thought she would ever experience. She stepped backward slowly until her back came in contact with the glass of the sliding door, then stepped back through it and into the house. She thought fleetingly of cleaning up the kitchen before leaving, but one glance out the window told her that Buzz would not be willing to wait for her to finish. Instead, she rushed upstairs to the bedroom, grabbed her overnight bag, put some clothes in it, made a quick phone call to her sister, and was backing out of the driveway within fifteen minutes.

            Buzz listened to the sounds of his wife’s car driving away and swallowed hard. If he was going to lose her, he’d much rather it be this way than to let anything happen to her. Besides, she couldn’t possibly be feeling nearly as supportive of him as she made it out to be. How could anyone forgive, much less so easily, an act such as the one he had just committed? Even he had to admit to feeling like he might have second thoughts about it if it had been anyone else in his position. He was a reject in the Department, anyway. Officer Friendly, he had been referred to on more than one occasion. Too many times, actually. He had never minded it, but thinking back, he could see it only served as a caricature of how others saw him. He would never amount to anything more than that, no matter how hard he tried. He realized that he was the only person who had never seen that. If he did, he wouldn’t have tried so hard to ingratiate himself to the new defensive tactics instructor. He wouldn’t have worked to learn the new skills he had been so eager to show to Lassiter, and he wouldn’t have worked so hard to get added to the training that Lassiter was conducting with Shawn and Gus. If he had only known his place from the beginning…Shawn would still be alive tonight. He would be out with Gus or Detective O’Hara, doing whatever it was that he did with them. He’d be out doing anything other than laying in a hospital morgue right now.

            As if on cue, and as if to add insult to his injury, his cat now came out to nuzzle at his side and beg to be petted. He wanted to shoo it away, but couldn’t bring himself to do so as his hand automatically went to scratch behind the feline’s ear. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t need to say or even do anything except allow himself to act out of habit in sharing a moment with the cat. As far as his pet knew, nothing had changed. Nothing had happened. The cat was just doing what came naturally, because the world was still natural to her. Everything was still as it should be, so there was no reason to worry about asking for some affection from her owner. Such trust. No questioning whatsoever. The cat never even seemed to mind having changed hands from Shawn to himself, as if she knew that anyone Shawn entrusted her with would be a good person.

            “Ignorance is bliss, isn’t it.” He spoke softly to the cat. “You have no idea what I’ve just done. Everything is perfectly fine to you.” The cat continued to snuggle against his body, and soon enough he could feel the cat’s purring through his fingers. Any other night, he would consider it relaxing. He would consider it a great way to end a hard day. But tonight, there was no relief to be found. He couldn’t imagine there would ever be any relief to be found. He closed his eyes anyway, hoping that somehow, by some strange mercy, the world would melt away from him so he wouldn’t have to deal with things. A good way to do this would be through alcohol, but he’d never been much of a drinker. Closing his eyes and wishing would have to do for now.

            Sitting on the steps as he was, he couldn’t help remembering the days when he had escaped to the back exit of the SBPD station to sit on the steps and do his best to gather his thoughts. Sometimes this was prompted by having to work a particularly gruesome crime scene, other times he just needed to gather his wits after being yelled at by a superior officer. Buzz remembered how many of those time he had been joined by Shawn himself, always showing up under the pretext of having an extra smoothie or hot dog, and always sitting down to listen to whatever was on Buzz’s mind while they finished their treat. Shawn would do his best to remind Buzz that he was a good officer, and only the ones that become great officers are willing to make these kinds of mistakes. Buzz would oblige and listen. Depending on his particular infraction, Shawn’s words may be easier to hear at some times, and harder on others. What would Shawn have to say in a situation like this?! What kind of officer would a mistake like this turn him into?

            “You did what you had to do.” A voice in his head replied, and Buzz was shocked that it sounded surprisingly like Shawn. “You acted exactly like you were trained. I’m proud of you, buddy!”

            Buzz’s chest tightened. The last thing he felt like he could manage right now would be a pep talk from Shawn of all people – even a pseudo, imaginary pep talk. He sighed deeply and shook his head to try to clear the thoughts. It had been stupid to allow himself to remember Shawn right now, anyway. Never mind that he had actually had a very similar conversation with Shawn already, about hurting an innocent. It had come after a surprisingly difficult training for Buzz, where he had hesitated a few too many times for the instructor’s patience.

            “I’d let you practice on me any day, just let me know when and where and I’ll be there. I’ll help you show those guys how good you are!” Shawn had announced. Buzz brushed him off, suggesting that this kind of ‘practice’ would risk Shawn’s safety. Shawn, in turn, had brushed him off just as fast.

            “I’d be proud to say you took me down, Buzz. Just about anyone can take me down…don’t tell Gus or Jules I admitted that…but I would only be proud to take it from a very few amount of people. You’re one of them.”

            “But who would you be proud to be killed by, huh?” Buzz asked out loud, unable to suppress the cynicism from his voice. The cat now hopped directly onto Buzz’s lap and continued begging to be petted, not letting Buzz ease up even for a few seconds. Strange, how the cat seemed to get closer to him every time his tension increased.

            “Everyone screws up sometimes.” He heard the voice in his head again, remembering that day “You just need to know how to make something good happen from your screw up, no matter how big it is. If anyone knows that lesson, it’s me!”

            “Screwing up is one thing.” He whispered in response. “I…I…killed you.” The cat licked his hand and repositioned herself, asking to be petted on her stomach again – effectively placing herself in her most vulnerable position on his lap.

            “So it was a really big screw up this time, and you got your ass chewed out big time. Go ahead and practice on me so you’ll be lots more ready for next time!” Shawn insisted.

“But what if I hurt you? Fine if you say you can deal with that, but if this had happened in real life, I could have gotten someone killed.” Buzz argued.

Buzz couldn’t believe, at the time, the words that Shawn had spoken to him in response. They felt…odd, in a surprisingly comforting sort of way. “It happens to all of us eventually. I’d put my life in your hands any day, man. And if something happens anyway, I can think of lots worse way to go. You’ll be fine, Buddy. Make something good happen out of this. I trust you.”

             Buzz let out another sob that he didn’t even know he had within him before going back inside. He wasn’t sure what he would do – whether shower, try to eat, or try to sleep – not that any of the last two seemed possible. He just knew he had to figure out something to do with himself before going crazy.

 

*******************************************************

            Driving. Gus found himself doing a lot of that lately. Mostly aimlessly. It was no different the next afternoon. Where he would go to, he had no idea. Notice with his boss had been left, informing his work that he wouldn’t be around for at least a couple weeks. He had more vacation time than that anyway. Might as well use it. So no going to work. His gut instinct unconsciously led him to turn towards the Psych office yet again, but he knew there was no way he’d be able to handle going there. Not yet. He knew their video game system was still set up from a couple nights ago, when they had been involved in a rather heated game of Mario Kart and had planned on coming back to resume the challenge after their training. He couldn’t fathom walking into the office to see it set up, waiting for the both of them to return. His mind could not even begin to fathom the thought that Psych was, for all practical purposes, over.

            He was so distracted by thinking of how much he couldn’t fathom going to the Psych office, that Gus unconsciously ended up parked right in front of Shawn’s apartment building. Perhaps Psych wasn’t the last place he wanted to be at, after all. Shawn’s home would easily take that top spot. Yet, he couldn’t drive away. He didn’t even realize he had shut off the engine, but couldn’t bring himself to start the car back up again, either. So he sat, staring at the door to Shawn’s apartment. His apartment. Gus remembered a long, deep into the wee hours of the morning talk with Shawn about this very topic a couple months ago. His best friend actually thinking of signing a long term lease on a real place – a move obviously inspired by his newfound relationship with Juliet. Shawn declared his readiness to put down roots when he made this move. Nervous as it made him to tie himself down to something like this, the thought excited him. Gus had been the one to provide the practical advice that his friend could indeed afford it now with the stability and success of Psych, not to mention a record of continued employment now several years long, but it was Shawn who would have to be willing to take that leap of faith.

            ‘It’s a new adventure, Gus!’ he had exclaimed, watching the ink dry and embed his signature permanently into the lease document, his knee repeatedly bouncing up and down in excited nervousness. Gus remembered feeling slightly bitter-sweet that Shawn had not asked for his or Henry’s assistance as a co-signer. This place would truly be his own. ‘I’m going with the 2-year lease, get a break on rent that way. Gotta save up for that car I promised Jules I’d get, right?’

            Gus remembered feeling slightly annoyed for a while, perhaps more jealous than annoyed, at the thought that Juliet was now taking up so much of Shawn’s mental attention, but it was a good feeling to see him like this, too. Shawn was happy, content, at peace. Gus also remembered feeling good about Shawn making long term plans. Whether they would have actually materialized and worked out with Juliet in the picture the way his friend hoped, he couldn’t be sure. But at least Shawn was, for once, making long term plans. It was refreshing to see. It was what he needed, Gus had thought. He shook his head against the irony of the situation now throwing itself at him.

            “Ben.” He whispered to himself, remembering the mouse that Shawn had decided to keep after Mary Lightly’s death. Gus was not in the least bit fond of mice, but he realized the little thing probably needed feeding and a water change. Before he knew it, he found himself at Shawn’s door, letting himself inside, fully intent to focus only on what needed to be done for feeding the animal, and possibly taking it with him to avoid having to come back. Not that the idea of taking a mouse with him sat very well in his mind (or stomach), but it had to be better than forcing himself to come back to this place on a daily basis.

            Actually entering Shawn’s home turned out to be even harder than he thought it would be, and whatever focus he had resolved for himself earlier was gone the moment the door swung open. Gus felt himself immediately caught up in the ‘presence’ – for lack of a better word – of his best friend in this place. Besides all the knick knacks and possessions around, the apartment even smelled like Shawn. Had he been asked any other time what Shawn smelled like, Gus wouldn’t have been able to clearly answer, Super Sniffer aside. Shawn generally smelled like whatever he happened to have eaten most recently…for better or worse. Axe was also a frequent scent in between meals and when prepping for a night out. But this smell, what was surrounding him now, wasn’t food…exactly. There was no way to actually describe it except that it was just Shawn. It was familiar and comforting, and Gus couldn’t believe he had never noticed it before. He even chuckled at the thought of how Shawn might react to his thoughts. Surely he’d have a strong reaction of some sort.

Unconsciously following the scent to where it seemed the strongest (although he had to admit that most people would be highly unlikely to notice it), he somehow ended up in Shawn’s bedroom, where he noticed the previously wet sheets still rolled up in a pile in the corner of the room, along with evidence of Shawn’s last morning here still spread around. His blanket was still on the floor beside the bed, having been ripped off by Gus shortly before the water throwing began. He wandered over to the restroom, where he noticed Shawn’s towel haphazardly placed back on the towel rack along with his pajama pants. It was odd, walking around in a fog the way he had been doing since the incident. Part of Gus felt crushed, part of him felt completely numb, and he was never quite sure which side would present itself in any given moment.

“So much to do.” He whispered to himself, looking around. The place would have to be cleaned out. Although Shawn was never one to have very much, there was still plenty around to sort through. Perhaps it had been thoughts of the mouse that had lured him here, but he was quickly overtaken by the need to work on Shawn’s funeral service. The simple concept of what he was doing hurt him tremendously as he took a seat at the kitchen table, but he felt like he was in the only place possible where he could be sure to keep his best friend in focus while he carried out this task.

He reached for a nearby pad of paper and pen and began writing some initial details, working for only ten minutes before he realized he could no longer see through the tears in his eyes. “I don’t know how to do this, Shawn.” He spoke, more like begged for some sort of guidance, but kept working anyway. Perhaps this is how things would be from now on, or at least for a long time- going through the motions of a nightmare-like alternate reality, never sure how to get through it, but having to do it just the same. Still, this task was just so impossible! How could he even think about managing the idea of making plans like this? Never mind what Shawn would want…though that admittedly was a big concern for him. What would Shawn want? The idea that Shawn would even have ‘wants’ for a funeral service was as laughable as thinking of what a child would want at their funeral service. The concept was just plain wrong.

“I’ve got everything I need all set.” He recalled Shawn saying once in response to Gus’ insistence that they work on their 401k plans. Gus had laughed at the time, thinking of the meager savings plan Shawn had reluctantly started, and challenged him to consider what he would want to have in case he got hurt on the job bad enough that he couldn’t work anymore. That conversation inevitably led to talks of what would happen if either of them were to die. Well, it was as complete a conversation as could possibly occur between the two of them, which admittedly was not much of one. He recalled Shawn seeming physically uncomfortable at the thought of Gus dying, so much so that he quickly turned the subject to matters of his own death – much to Gus’ lament. It also didn’t help matters that this conversation had occurred only two weeks ago.

“Don’t worry about me, buddy.” He had announced, standing up and walking over to his entertainment center, placing a hand on one of the top shelves and looking at it for a second before speaking again. “Nothing’s gonna happen to me! But just to soothe your conscience, if anything were to happen, everything you need is right here.”

“Right, so you die and you want me to come watch your DVD collection?” Gus had laughed, and of course his best friend nodded, motioning to the shelf again.

“Yes! You will look through this collection, and pick the perfect one to watch before my funeral. Pick carefully, there’s only one perfect one. It’s how we always prep for big events, isn’t it? Promise me you’ll do this, buddy. Mary left us something to watch after he died, so I should be able to do it too. Except…I’ll make the watching part easier on you No dancing around in long johns at least.”

Gus laughed in spite of himself, to think that his best friend would actually expect him to now to pick a DVD and watch it. Then again, knowing Shawn meant that he wasn’t kidding, either. Shawn’s logic was never easy to understand, but it was always important to him. Gus sighed and looked down at the pad of paper in front of him, realizing he had gotten very little done, anyway, and was not likely to achieve much more for the time being. Perhaps a break would be what he needed right about now. He stood up and headed towards the shelf that Shawn seemed to have emphasized when he was making this request. Indeed, it held all the DVDs that were considered his favorites.

“What would ‘perfect’ mean for something like this? Did he even mean he actually taped something?” he asked himself as he perused the choices on the shelf. None of them seemed like what he would consider appropriate for the situation. Then again, what would Shawn consider appropriate? He regarded each one carefully, unsure that any of them could make the cut, until he reached the end of the bookshelf. There, all the way at the end and almost hidden by a decorative border on the wooden structure, was a black DVD case. Plain, with no wording or pictures on it to inform Gus of what it contained inside. He furrowed his brow and stared at it quizzically for a few seconds before reaching up to take hold of it. He turned it over in his hands a couple times, aware that a detail freak like his friend would never have left an unmarked DVD like this on his shelf. Organization itself was often beyond Shawn’s scope of comprehension, but details were not.

“This is it, isn’t it, Shawn?” Gus asked out loud. “You left it unmarked so that I’d find it?” the thought that this would be something specific on Shawn’s part made Gus’ hands tremble as he opened the case and revealed a plain DVD-R disk bearing a sticky note with Gus’ name on it. Obviously, this had to be it. He took a deep breath in a futile attempt to calm his nerves as he removed the disk from it’s case and inserted it into the DVD player. He then turned on the TV and took a seat on the couch, his insides trembling with anxiety.

 

***************************************************

 

            Buzz stepped carefully through the threshold of the house, hands held tightly on his gun in the low-ready position and quickly raised up to eye level, ready to acquire a target at a moment’s notice. Senses heightened, his eyes scanned through the rooms in front of him, ears straining to listen for the slightest sound while his eyes searched through corners and other darkened spots immediately surrounding him. The current hour of morning cast multiple angles of light into the building’s windows, causing a mixture of shadows that he would not have expected to see.

            Careful steps forward, small at first, just big enough to put his leading heel directly in front of his lagging toe. Feeling confident that the front room was secure, his steps widened, but just a little bit. There was still a long hallway ahead of him – guarding rooms that held possible unknown threats. Two more steps, and his heart began racing as the narrow space of the hallway began to enclose him, his large body feeling somewhat more constrained than someone else of smaller stature might have. This feeling only heightened his senses further, letting him know he had even less room in which to react should the need arise. Any threats appearing would have to be dealt with immediately.

            A small sound caught his attention, hardly noticeable, but definitely present. He stopped short right where he stood, straining to pinpoint its source. For a couple seconds, all he heard was silence punctuated by the ambient sounds of outside. He even almost thought he might have imagined it to begin with. In an instant, this thought was  shattered as the sound magnified, and where just a moment before there was nothing but an empty hallway, there was suddenly a person standing there.

            His mind working frantically to reconcile what was happening fast enough to act in time, he saw the figure of a man standing just a few feet in front of him. The man was facing him, and more importantly, was holding a gun – pointed directly at his chest. Buzz felt time slow down…maybe even stop in that one instant. He noticed the gun in the man’s hand, missing a magazine, and most likely unloaded. Looking up from the weapon, he noticed that he knew this man. This was Shawn Spencer, hardly what anyone – least of all him – would consider a threat. He made eye contact with Shawn, the two of them standing there, aiming guns at each others’ chests, the hazel coloring in Shawn’s eyes suddenly more intense to him than they had ever been before. Every feature of his face, in fact, was burned into Buzz’s awareness more clearly than ever, as if he had been tasked with memorizing every single inch of it.

            The ‘action’ portion of his mind and training now told him to lower his weapon. Shawn was no threat, and much less with an unloaded weapon. Even calculating the possibility of a round in the gun’s chamber, he knew that Shawn would not pull the trigger. There was even evidence of this fact when, looking closer at Shawn’s gun hand, he noticed the young man’s trigger finger still indexed, held up and away from the trigger, resting instead against the weapon’s muzzle. He had no intention of moving his finger from that spot.

             Buzz looked down to his own gun hand, noticing his trigger finger making a small motion towards the trigger.

            No, lower your weapon. Shawn’s not a threat.

            His arms maintained the gun up at Shawn’s chest height, not coming down even a centimeter.

            Lower your weapon!

            Fighting with all his will, and shocked at how hard it was to do, he forced his arms to begin coming down. He had just begun to have some success, when he noticed his finger was now moving towards the trigger.

            No…dammit…stop!

            He tried to will his finger to stop and return to its indexed position, but his attempts were fruitless. It was all he could do to lower his arms. Whatever force he was fighting against continued its push even as Buzz begged it to stop. He looked back up at Shawn, eyes still bright, ready to break into a smile at any moment. He glanced back at his own finger just as it made contact with the trigger. His weapon was not nearly lowered enough just yet.

            No…please…don’t do this!

            His pleas were useless. This was happening, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. He was forced to stand helplessly as his arms and hands defied his orders, finally completing the actions that sent a bullet shooting out of his own gun. He watched in horror as the bullet flew through the air and ripped into Shawn’s leg, causing what would surely be a deadly injury. If only his aim had been slightly wide, or if he had managed to lower his arms just a little bit further, the bullet would have gone harmlessly into the ground. But no, this bullet found its mark perfectly, without the slightest hesitation.

            He tried to close his eyes to the horrific sight before him. Instead, his eyes were drawn back upward to meet Shawn’s eyes. They were still open, still looking at him, but the light – the spark – was gone.

            He bolted upright in bed, drenched in sweat, fighting for breath while his heart threatened to beat itself right out of his chest. It was just a dream. No, a nightmare. Either way, not real. No, it was real…more real than what even he remembered. It really did happen. He had seen Shawn before pulling the trigger. He had tried to pull back, but didn’t. Even now that he was awake, his mind continued to torment him with images of the blood splatter, the look on Shawn’s face…the look in his eyes when he realized he had been shot.

            He tried to focus on something else…anything else to force the images from his mind, but nothing worked. He stumbled into the bathroom, intent on splashing some cold water on his face to clear his mind, but that plan quickly failed, leading him to turn on the shower instead. He ran the cold water first…then thought twice. Perhaps hot water would work better. A full body shower in the hot steam should help to ease his nerves and wash the intrusive thoughts from his mind. Big mistake. The unrelenting memories continued their assault on what was left of his sanity, forcing him to see, instead of clear water, the remnants of Shawn’s blood flowing down the drain as they had that day, when he first washed himself off after returning home. The heat of the water even reminded him of the warmth of Shawn’s blood. Not something that stuck in his observations at the time, but were now front and center of his awareness. He realized then that he would always have the young man’s blood on his hands, no matter how hard he scrubbed or how much time passed, or even how many people tried to insist to him that this wasn’t his fault. He tried anyway, scrubbing his arms and hands, and even his knees where he had knelt down when attempting first aid. Nothing worked. The stains of his guilt remained, seemingly even got darker the harder he tried to scrub them away, as if to punish him for trying to do away with them.

            No longer able or willing to hold off the violent shaking in his chest from the sobs that were now consuming him, he sunk to his knees, resigned to a reality that would be forever stained by his horrendous act. Even resignation, however, was unbearable. He had no idea how he would or could continue to live this way. No way could he face his wife ever again…and no way could he ever consider having children. No way could he even consider ever going back to work in law enforcement. He was a danger to anyone who might cross his path…he should have learned it when he couldn’t even keep himself out of trouble the time he almost got blown up, and almost getting Abby killed should have been the last straw. No, he wasn’t smart enough to get the hint. It had to lead to this, killing Shawn of all people.

            He shut off the water and forced – more like half dragged – himself out of the tub, overcome by the immense weight and heaviness that he was feeling. Acting automatically, he at least managed to get a towel wrapped around himself and shuffle slowly back into the bedroom. That’s when he noticed it. Sitting on his bedside nightstand, likely having been left there when he first came home to change that fateful day, was his backup gun. It vaguely reminded him that he had surrendered his main duty weapon for the investigation, but the backup was still on his person when he arrived home.

            Buzz stood rooted to his spot for several minutes, staring at the gun, unable to take his eyes off it, feeling like the weapon was luring him forward. There was something oddly comforting about it, as if it was the only thing that could offer anything even remotely close to a respite from his torment. Nothing else could come close, but this…this could do it…and it would be fast and easy.

            Strangely, this seemed like the easiest thing he’d done all day. No, not so much that it was easy…more like…this just felt right. Buzz didn’t even question the thoughts when he finished crossing the distance between himself and the gun, nor did he think twice when he picked it up, the weight of the weapon offering a reassurance that nothing else had even come close to providing.

End Notes:
Thoughts please! And speaking of, THANK YOU for your kind and encouraging thoughts! Not only do they keep me motivated, but you also give me a lot to think about :)
Rock Bottom by Psychrulz
Author's Notes:

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. 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.

 

In this chapter, Lassiter discusses his involvement in a previous case that had an extremely traumatic effect on him. The case that he talks about was taken directly from Okapi’s masterful fic – When the Hammer Drops. Please feel free to check it out for the whole story. Okapi’s work is too awesome to not be inspiring.

 

Thanks always to Tex and Drag…without whom life would be boring, less inspiring, and much less whumpish…and we certainly can’t have that!

      The disk had been left on the dining table for a couple hours, Gus feeling unsure of his ability to watch it. Actually, he was terrified. What would Shawn have to say on a post-mortem basis? What would he want? Most importantly, Gus couldn’t help feeling that this was just something to look forward to. He had been trying to get accustomed to the idea that his best friend was gone, but all of a sudden, here was one more gift from him…and once the disk was watched, that would really be it. The idea was hard to digest, but the more Gus stared at it, the more he felt its pull for him to watch it. Hey, it was a recording, after all. At the very least, he could just watch it over and over, right? The novelty was still a longing in Gus’ heart, but he finally stood and picked up the disk, resolving to carry out Shawn’s final request. He walked it over to the entertainment center, loaded into the DVD player, and nervously sat back on the couch to wait for it to start. After a few seconds, Shawn appeared on the screen, fixing his hair one last time before facing the camera and offering his best smile. Gus even unconsciously returned the smile. It had only been a short time, but he still desperately missed seeing his friend smiling back at him just once more. Shawn was sitting at his desk, looking as comfortable as ever, just like he so often did during their days at the office.

      “Gus! You found me!” Shawn exclaimed happily. “See! You’ve learned a thing or two from me! Magic Head fist bump, come on!” He held out his fist, at which point Gus had to laugh and hold up his fist in return. For just a moment, he could truly lose himself in the illusion of actually sitting and having this chat with Shawn. The moment ended all too soon when Shawn’s face sombered and he took a deep breath.

      “Ok. I know.” He continued. “If you’re watching this, it means…” he suddenly let out a laugh that he had apparently been holding back, as if the effort to remain serious had been too much. Gus didn’t even care that this kind of behavior would have normally annoyed him to no end. He laughed right along with his best friend this time, completely understanding what it was that Shawn was laughing at. His eternally immature friend would most definitely have a hard time keeping serious about such a cliché line! Shawn must have laughed for another two full minutes, Gus laughing right along with him, until he took another deep breath, cleared his throat, and settled down for another attempt. Gus was left to reluctantly settle down, too, wishing this moment didn’t have to end.

      “Take two.” Shawn smiled deviously at the camera. He held his gaze for another few seconds before talking again, as if trying to maintain his composure. “Ok. So, we know why you’re watching this. I knew you’d find it. Well I guess you have a lot to do at the moment, so let’s get down to the point.”

      Gus took a deep breath and fought off the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, sure that he would never be ready to go through with whatever it was that this video had in store for him. He was also determined to do it anyway. This was a task that Shawn had clearly designated specifically for him.

      “Buddy, there are a couple things I want you to do with this disk.” Shawn began, looking more and more solemn by the moment. Gus immediately picked up his pen and prepared to take notes. “First of all, I want you to play this disk at my funeral. I don’t care who is or isn’t there. I want this played. Anyone that is mentioned in this video but isn’t present, I want you to make sure they see it.”

      Gus nodded. This didn’t sound like too much to ask…so far.

      “Second thing.” Shawn continued. “And I know it’ll be hard for you, buddy, but I want you to shut this off right now. I don’t want you to watch it until the funeral, I don’t want you editing in some Sarah McLaughlin or anything…lord knows, the last thing I want is my funeral associated with commercials about sad puppies. You shut this thing off as soon as I’m done talking here, take note of the time stamp, and I promise you that it’ll start at the exact right moment at the funeral. Trust me! It’ll work! Seriously, Gus, I know your overly developed sense of organization is determined to defy me, but…” Shawn suddenly looked back over his shoulder at the office front door, clearly distracted by someone coming in. He then turned back quickly at the camera and smiled. “Do it, buddy! I know you can!” he grabbed the camera and stuffed it under the desk and onto his lap, leaving the view focused on the wall behind Shawn’s chair.

      “That’s it, Shawn!” Gus was taken aback that the camera had continued running, now capturing his own voice coming through. “That’s the last time I’m fighting 15 grade schoolers on summer vacation just to satisfy your sudden pineapple swirl ice cream cravings.”

       Gus was shocked to realize he remembered that scene! It had happened just a couple months ago! He couldn’t understand at the time why Shawn was suddenly so insistent on having to have that ice cream right at that moment, just as the poor vendor had been converged upon by a crowd of rowdy kids. He had been looking for an excuse to get Gus out of the office for a few minutes, apparently, and now Gus had to smile at knowing that he had indeed been better at his assignment than even Shawn expected.

      “Because I needed your uber fast dancer feet to get in and out of there!” Shawn’s voice came through in response. “You know me, I’d have been eaten alive out there!”

      Gus could tell that Shawn was fidgeting with the camera again, and suddenly the video cut off, leaving Gus staring at the darkened screen. All he could think of at that moment was the scene of him and Shawn that day continuing to play out. At the time, he hadn’t thought much of it, but there had been something about Shawn that day. In hindsight, his behavior was definitely a little bit off. Gus assumed anyone’s behavior would be off if they were in the process of filming their own eulogy! Who does that, anyway?! Oh right, Shawn. Of course. Gus was startled almost out of his chair when Shawn suddenly appeared on the screen yet again.

      “Dude!” Shawn exclaimed indignantly, then immediately softened his tone. “I know it’s rough. I’ll even give you that ice cream distraction. But really, shut this off. Now. I promise it’s for the best. You can do this, buddy.”

      Gus pushed his pain aside and turned off the TV, more inspired now to plan a service that would suit his friend after all. Strangely, being busy and having a new focus helped to keep the tears and crushing feelings far enough away for him to actually feel productive and organized. He worked for several hours this time, putting together funeral plans according to what little he had heard from Vick on what was expected for services of this type. He would be able to send out notice of services very soon at the rate he was going, then it would be just a matter of putting final touches on things, making final choices, etc. He got through it by focusing on the fact that this was taking a load off of Henry and Madeline’s shoulders, giving them the opportunity to simply be there for each other. It was bad enough already that they would still have to choose the casket and burial clothing. The least he could do was handle the details.

      When he did as much as could be done for the time being, he stretched, took a sip of water, and thought of turning the TV back on. His head had begun hurting, so he took an aspirin and decided to lay down instead. Just for a little while, only until he could re-gather his thoughts. The moment he closed his eyes, his mind transformed the apartment into what it had been just a couple weeks ago, a few hours after his talk with Shawn over what DVD to watch after his death. He could even hear the ambient sounds exactly as he had heard them back then.

      “Just so you know, you’re never planning my Bachelor party, Shawn!” The boys stumbled into Shawn’s apartment, both soaking wet and covered in paintball splatter.

      “Aww c’mon, dude!” Shawn complained. “You really think a goat could do a better job as Best Man and Bachelor Party Planner than me?!”

      “At this rate, YES!” Gus carefully pried his stained t-shirt off his back, using only thumbs and forefingers as much as possible to avoid getting paint everywhere on his body. “Tell me the likelihood that a night out with a goat will end up with me being on the wrong end of a paintball team’s target practice?!” he stopped short at the sight of his friend actually thinking about the question.

      “Well, they did offer to help us get cleaned up. Guess I’ll have to think twice about my inside contact at that place.” Shawn offered after a short pause.

      Gus threw his wet, paint stained shirt at him. “You mean they let us take a few laps through the moats. That’s not helpful, Shawn. Now I’m wet, muddy…”

      “And very colorful. Blue suits you, buddy.” Shawn interrupted with a smirk. “And just so you know, you’re welcome to plan my bachelor party anytime.”

      It had been impossible to remain angry at his friend, Gus recalled. Even while he was dripping with paint and water, he couldn’t help but smile. That’s how it was with everything that Shawn did and with every encounter that Shawn had with people. No matter what the difficulties, he had a way of making things right in the end. Not only could he forgive and move on, but he had a way of helping others forgive and move on. Not that he was in any way shy about confrontation. Shawn almost attracted confrontation like a magnet. No, it wasn’t a fear of confrontation that motivated him. It was more a need, perhaps, on his end to make sure that people simply appreciated each other.

      The tears were back again. Gus sat up to grab a tissue and wipe them off, wondering and hoping with everything he had that he had somehow at least shown Shawn his own appreciation of him. For all their bickering and fighting…for all the faults that Gus was constantly pointing out…he could only hope that Shawn knew. Looking up to see a picture on a shelf of Shawn, smiling side by side with Buzz brought these thoughts to a whole new level. Had Shawn survived, Gus was sure that he would have already forgiven the officer. Shawn was even likely to wonder what Buzz would have had to apologize for, in fact.

      But I didn’t survive, why would that make a difference? Gus imagined his friend arguing with him. Leave it to Shawn to come up with a challenge like that. And knowing Shawn, he would have actually expected a response, the childlike sense of wonder within him refusing to accept that there are questions for which there are no answers. The situation would have been so simple to Shawn- if what Buzz did was forgivable, then it was forgivable, no matter what the outcome. Simple…a little too simple, Gus thought, but that’s what those two men in the photograph were – simple. And they were two of the happiest people he knew.

      “You want me to forgive him, don’t you?” Gus asked, staring down the picture that continued smiling back at him. “So what if I don’t? He killed you. He should have been more careful. Forgiving him won’t make you come back.”

      I can’t let it go, Gus! The words he had heard thousands of times, at least once for each argument between Shawn and Henry. Each time, Shawn would storm out of the house, many times incredibly hurt by whatever had been said. Each time, Gus would suggest he take his mind off things, let it go, move on, and each time, Shawn would say those words to him. Gus felt like his friend was saying those words to him all over again all of a sudden, pushing him just as he had when Buzz was out on the pier. And once again, Gus just couldn’t bring himself to do it.

      “I can’t let it go either, Shawn!” He shouted and stormed over to the shelf, where he ripped the picture from its frame, crumpled it up, and threw it across the room. He then stood rooted to his spot, breathing heavily and mostly blinded by tears welling up in his eyes. “You wouldn’t let it go either if he had killed me.” He finally spoke again through a cracked voice. He took another minute to wipe his face off, then left the apartment, slamming the door shut behind him.

*************************************************

      Francie could understand if her husband was simply not taking her calls. Well, actually, no, she couldn’t. But at least for a situation such as this one, she could make an exception. She couldn’t imagine the amount of pain and guilt Buzz must be feeling right about now, and if what he needed was some distance, then so be it. Painful as it was, she would give him some space until he was ready to let her back in. This plan was acceptable to her, relatively speaking, so long as her phone calls meant lots of ringing followed up by a voicemail greeting. Her phone calls going straight to voicemail, on the other hand, did not ring so acceptable to her. Pride aside, she knew enough about her husband’s job to know that there would be questions and investigations going on, which meant he’d need to be available for calls from work. If he wasn’t taking her calls, he would at least need to be taking SBPD and Internal Affairs calls.

      Traumatized though he may be, Francie knew her husband to be diligent in his duties. He wasn’t one who would be likely to avoid this part of what had happened, much less due to the fact that those doing the investigation were not likely to be so patient. Not in her mind, at least. It was, then, highly troubling to her that his phone was forwarding calls directly to his voicemail. There was something about this that didn’t seem right to her. Perhaps, as her sister told her, he was just taking messages and returning the important ones as they came in. Her sister also added that there may be co-workers calling him whom he didn’t feel up to talking to, and answering any calls that came from SBPD would mean he ran a risk of accidentally accepting a simple ‘how are you doing’ phone call. That made good sense, Francie couldn’t deny it. But still…she just couldn’t shake that feeling in the pit of her stomach that said something was just not right about all this. Perhaps it was her guilt over having left the house as quickly as she did. Sure, she was afraid of him at the time, but that was just her own feeling. Buzz would never have hurt her, she should have known that. She should have seen that he needed her more than ever in that moment, and she should have shown him that she would be by his side no matter what, even if he wasn’t able to accept her. It was her job to be there for the both of them if that’s what it took.

      She cursed herself for what had to be the tenth time that night and grabbed the car keys, determined that she would not leave him alone tonight, not unless given much better reason to do so than simply his pleas to her to go away. Mumbling a quick explanation to her sister, she rushed out the door and to her car while trying – and failing – for what felt like the hundredth time to reach him by phone. She started the car and pulled onto the street, keeping the phone in the cup holder right next to her, just in case he called.

      The ride to her home was normally only a 20 minute drive, but felt so much longer than that to her. Of course every single stop light would have to turn red right upon her approach, and every single right turn required her to wait for some pedestrian to cross the street first. Times like these were sometimes comical to her, considering she was married to a Patrol Officer, but not tonight. Tonight, it felt as if the universe itself was conspiring against her, determined to keep her from her husband’s side when he needed her the most.

      She pursed her lips and continued on, however, determined to fight against these distractions and the doubts creeping into her mind. She distracted herself by thinking of things she might say to explain her sudden and unannounced presence back at the house. Would he even want to talk to her? She could handle it if not. She would just camp out on the couch if he insisted on space. And if he yelled at her again, she would stand firm and take it. Would he be taken off guard if she said something about forgetting her toothbrush or something like that? Maybe that might work as a distraction enough to get the conversation started again. Or maybe at least well enough for him to allow her to make him some hot cocoa…or…anything at all.

      The final turn onto their street revealed to her that he was at least still home. Well, his car was still present. She couldn’t imagine him having gone out with anyone else. As she pulled into the driveway, she noticed the light on in the upstairs master bedroom window. He was definitely still home, and awake of all things. Any other day, she would have been surprised to see him still awake at this late hour. He was proud of being the early to bed, early to rise type. She figured old habits just had no place in times like these. She quickly and quietly exited her car, then made her way to the front door and let herself in. She paused briefly at the home’s entrance, straining to see if she could hear anything coming from upstairs. Nothing. Not even the TV or radio. Understandable, she thought to herself.

      Francie took a deep breath and prepared to face her husband again, taking quiet steps to the stairway and up each step, the whole way wondering if she should perhaps announce her presence to keep from startling him. She wasn’t sure she ever actually made a decision either way on that one. Whatever decision she would have made became moot the moment she entered the bedroom, unconsciously dropping her keys at the shock of what she saw.

      “BUZZ!!”

      Her husband was sitting on the edge of the bed by the night stand, hair wet, towel wrapped around his midsection. On his lap, he was casually holding a gun. His hand was relaxed, resting on the grip, but he was staring directly ahead, as if focusing on something far beyond the wall. Shockingly, he didn’t startle at her scream, either. In fact, he barely even reacted, but only looked in her direction as if he had been expecting her.

      “What are you doing here?” He asked, making Francie wonder whether he was even actually aware of her…sounding like his mind was actually somewhere far away. He didn’t wait for a response as he picked up the weapon and examined it the way someone would who had never held a gun before. He then tightened his grip and straightened his arm, pointing the gun at the wall ahead of him. “I killed Shawn with a gun very similar to this one. Strange, I’ve never seen his shooting stance before. It’s pretty damn good. Was…pretty damn good. I’m sure he even had me in his sights. You know, I’ve heard he was a damn good shot and I couldn’t wait to see him in action. He wouldn’t have missed….”

      “Buzz, please…” She begged, tears emerging onto her cheeks, her voice distraught. She wanted desperately to rush at him and take the weapon from his hands, but had a feeling that would likely end disastrously, especially for someone with his kind of training who wasn’t thinking straight.

      “What are you doing here?” He asked her again, his arm relaxing and his attention once again focused on the gun. “I told you to go to your sister’s.”

     “My sister doesn’t need me.” She sobbed. “But I need you, Buzz. Please don’t…”

      “Don’t what?”

      “Don’t do something stupid.” She regretted her words the moment she said them, and had she been in a better frame of mind, she would have most likely thought better of it before opening her mouth. Either way, it was too late now.

      “Don’t do something stupid?!” He threw the words back at her. “Like what? You mean like killing one of my only friends at the Department? The only person who thought I could do something with my career?!”

      Francie wanted to respond, but the catch in her throat forbade her, probably for the best. She had no idea how to deal with a situation like this, and the last thing she wanted to do was aggravate him further. Slowly, she backed out of the bedroom. As soon as she was out of his view, she rushed downstairs, out the door, and into her car, where she remembered having left her cell phone. She was thankful that in her haste to see Buzz, she had forgotten to lock the car doors.

      Just as she started dialing 911, she thought twice about it. Buzz wouldn’t be able to handle that. He needed to speak to someone who would be halfway understanding of what had just happened, what he was going through. He also needed to speak to someone trained to deal with things like this. Unfortunately, he was right when he said he didn’t have many friends in the Department. She couldn’t think of any to call right away. The only possibility was one phone number that was still stored in her contacts list, the person who had called to inform her of her husband’s injury during the Yin case. Her only hesitation was in knowing how unlikely Buzz would be to ever call this person on his own, but then again, she had no choice, and besides, this person would have to understand much better than almost anyone else. She also knew that her husband had an immense respect for him…enough that Buzz might even respond to his authority more easily than for other people.

      She finished dialing and brought the phone up to her ear just as the line was answered, catching her off guard. She swallowed, hoping and praying that she had made the right call, her voice wavering as she spoke. “Um…hello, Detective Lassiter. This is Francisca McNab. I’m so sorry to call you this late, but we really need your help.”

***********************************************

      Lassiter answered his phone just after the first ring, before it had a chance to wake up O’Hara. It wasn’t like he was sleeping anyway. His initial annoyed curiosity over who might dare call at this time was quickly overtaken by concern at the voice now speaking to him. Francisca McNab – that would be McNab’s wife – Francie, they often called her. Just the fact that it was her calling him caught his attention, but the sound of her voice immediately raised his level of alertness to full.

      “Yes, Fran…Mrs. McNab. What’s going on?” he replied in the most even tone possible. He could already tell from the distinct lack of even tone in her own voice that this was something big. His question was apparently the invitation she needed to open the floodgates, he felt himself tensing up as she struggled to inform him about what she had just encountered, working her way through hitched breaths punctuated by heavy sobs.

      When he finally saw an opening in the conversation, his instincts kicked into questioning mode to get further information necessary for the situation. “Ok, you said there’s a gun in the house, and he has that gun in hand?....he does. Did he say specifically what he intends to do with it?” his heart both pounded harder and sank as Francie described how her husband had been holding the weapon, as well as the demeanor with which he spoke to her. Diligence led him to suggest that she call 911 or the police department directly, but he knew she had already considered and dismissed that thought. He honestly couldn’t blame her, even if it was technically what she should have done. He would just have to make those calls himself to avoid laying any more burdens or responsibilities on her shoulders. At least if he were the one to call, he’d be able to discuss appropriate approach strategies as well.

      “Ok, Mrs. McNab. I’ll be right over.” He finally acquiesced, hurrying to gather some clothes. “But please promise me you’ll stay in your car for now. Don’t go back into the house, no matter what.” He waited for her to acknowledge him and promise to follow his direction before hanging up. He quickly entered the hallway while still pulling on his shirt, shoes still in his hands, knowing he would have to get himself and backup to the McNab home as soon as possible.

      His haste stopped short once he made it to the darkened living room to see his partner sleeping soundly on the couch, a pang of guilt filling his chest. She deserved this rest…she needed this rest now more than anything. The last thing he wanted right at this moment was to wake her and break her from that respite from her grief, but he had to do it, even if he had no idea how to bring himself to doing so. He was just about to call her name when she shifted position and peeked her head out from under the blanket.

      “Carlton?” She asked in a sleepy haze, blinking to try and orient herself.

      “Yeah.” Lassiter replied quickly. “O’Hara, I’m so sorry to wake you, but we need to go.”

      “What’s up?” She asked, now sitting up and following his lead in putting on her shoes. She knew her partner well enough to know that just based on his vocal tone and body language, this was something big.

      “I just got a call from McNab’s wife. I guess he’s having a tough time. I’ll tell you about it on our way there.”

      “Why would she call you about it at this time of night? And why didn’t he call you himself?” She wondered, her suspicions raised. “This isn’t just him wanting to have a chat, is it?” She didn’t wait for a response as she quickly ran to the bathroom to splash some water on her face. She heard Lassiter’s voice coming through the hallway just as she reached for a hand towel, assuming he must be on the phone.

      “Hello, Chief. It’s Lassiter. Sorry to call you this late, but we have a serious situation going on with McNab…”

      She was only about halfway done drying her face when she heard this, but it was all she needed to drop the towel and rush out to meet her partner. “Carlton! What the hell’s going on?!”

      He finished his call with Chief Vick and simply motioned for her to follow him out. “Come on, I’ll tell you on the way.” He spoke up quickly once they were on the road, making sure that O’Hara was brought up to speed on the situation as much as possible before their arrival. “No, this isn’t just about having a chat.” He began. She turned to look at him, waiting for the rest of the story. “His wife called me. She was very upset. She said he yelled at her earlier, told her to get out of the house. She did, at the time, but chose to come back tonight.” He paused to gather his thoughts as he watched the road, trying to digest the gravity of what Francie reported to him. “She said that when she arrived and went upstairs to the bedroom, she found him sitting on the bed…with a gun in hand…”

      Juliet’s hand went to her mouth in an unsuccessful attempt to cover her shock. “What?! What is he…”

      “His wife said he didn’t look like he was immediately about to do anything, but she also didn’t feel like he was aware of what he was doing.” Lassiter interrupted. “She called me from inside her car, I instructed her to stay put until we get there.”

      Juliet nodded and lowered her head, wondering how in the world she could have been so self-centered in her own feelings, that she would completely forget what someone like Buzz would be going through. Her thoughts were interrupted by Lassiter speaking again.

      “Listen, O’Hara…I know this is really hard on you. Technically, yes, McNab shot Spencer, but…”

      Juliet’s head shot up, shocked at what her partner seemed to be suggesting. “I don’t blame him, Carlton!” She interrupted emphatically. “If I blame anyone, it’s me for leaving Shawn alone in the first place. Or maybe those stupid construction people for thinking the flag was trash…but maybe that was my own damn fault for leaving it in the ground like that…”

      “O’Hara, please.” Lassiter cut her off this time just as her voice began to waver again. So this is what the event had come to – blame across the Department for self or others. His years of experience led him to see how it could expand through the entire SBPD like a ripple effect, weakening the Department in the process. This was something he would not allow, never mind his own feelings of self guilt for having put the whole thing together in the first place, then leaving half the team on their own without proper planning on who was supposed to be where, and when. This reminded him of a children’s cartoon he had caught Spencer watching in the video room one night – A Bug’s Life – he thought it was called. The one scene he caught involved a bully grasshopper looking down at the ant princess and, for being nothing more than a kids’ movie, the grasshopper’s words had resonated with him – “First rule of leadership, Your Highness, EVERYTHING is your fault.” Truth was, this was ultimately his own damn fault for being the man in charge, and he’d be damned if he let anyone else in the Department go down because of it.

      “I hate to be harsh, O’Hara.” He continued, “But there’s nothing we can do about Spencer being gone, and blaming ourselves only makes it worse. That’s why we’re in this car at all, because McNab is blaming himself so badly that he’s suicidal. Let’s just focus on him for now and make sure the Department doesn’t suffer any more losses because of this, ok?”

      Her partner was trying to rally her focus for their mission at hand, she knew that, and she appreciated it, even if the continuing uncertainty in his voice betrayed him more than he realized. He was right, however. Whatever thoughts might be going through her head right now would have to be put aside for the sake of her co-worker in need. She nodded in response and turned her gaze out the window for the last 5 minutes of their drive, her vision focusing on the well-lit, upstairs bedroom window of the McNab residence once they arrived. Lassiter quickly exited the car and Juliet followed suit, both of them heading straight to the car parked on the driveway, where Francie was waiting for them. She was openly crying when they came up to her, tear streaks running down the length of her cheeks.

      “I keep trying to call him, but I’m getting nothing.” She said in a faltering voice. “Please help him.”

      “I’m going in. O’Hara, you stay here with her.” Lassiter ordered. “I’ve called Chief and backup, they should be here soon. I want everyone to remain outside unless directed otherwise.”

      “Bedroom’s on the second floor, take a left at the stairs, door at the end of the hall.” Francie directed. Lassiter nodded and took the stone walkway leading to the front door. He paused at the entrance, listening for any sounds coming from upstairs. Hearing nothing, he let himself inside and made the slow, careful trek upstairs. He had no idea what he would encounter, except that there were no reports of shots fired since his talk with Francie, so that had to at least be some good news. He still had time, and he had no intention of losing this mission…no matter what it took. With that thought in mind, he unholstered the Taser he had brought with him, determined to use it if necessary to disarm his colleague. For once, he felt quite comfortable not being armed with a gun. There was no way he would use it on McNab, anyway, so no reason to even risk bringing yet another deadly weapon into the situation.

      Once at the top of the stairs, he quietly stepped through the hallway towards the bedroom, flattened himself against the wall once he reached the door, and peered inside to get as clear a picture of the situation as he could. He noticed McNab was still sitting on the bed just as his wife had described, still holding on to the gun. Instead of simply confirming Mrs. McNab’s report, however, he was shocked to see the situation seemed to have escalated and progressed since her call. Buzz was not just sitting and holding a gun. He was now pointing the weapon directly at his own head, and even worse, his thumb was also inside the trigger guard, making this situation immediately much more deadly than he had imagined. Buzz was not just contemplating suicide. He was, in fact, working himself towards pulling the trigger.

      Lassiter took a deep breath to calm his nerves and quietly stepped back down the hallway, down the stairs, and to the doorway, where he saw the Chief and several Department cars now parked. His superior immediately approached him to demand an update.

      “He’s armed.” Lassiter confirmed quietly, hoping his breath didn’t sound as shaky as he felt. “Chief, this is serious. He’s definitely actively suicidal. I’ll let you know if I need backup, but for now it’s best if everyone stays outside until I say otherwise.”

      “Understood, Detective.” Vick replied, the fear clearly evident in her eyes. “You be careful in there.”

      “Yes, Chief.” Lassiter nodded and retreated back inside and up the stairs, once again taking a position against the wall. Any use of the Taser was out of the question now, as was any option that might involve sudden movements or startling Buzz. The man’s thumb position inside the trigger guard made this situation as precarious as someone holding on to a bomb detonator, knowing that any unexpected movement would mean explosive results.

      Lassiter pressed his back against the wall and took a deep breath, preparing to announce himself without causing a startle response. “McNab?” He called cautiously. “It’s me, Lassiter.” He waited a few seconds for a response, then continued talking when he didn’t get one. “Francie called me. She’s very worried about you. Is it ok if I come in?” Once again, no response. He tried again. “McNab, I’d like to come in and talk to you if that’s ok. How about you let me know if you don’t want that.” Still hearing nothing, he prepared to make his move. “Ok, I’ll take that to mean you’re ok with it, then. I’m coming in. I’m alone I promise.”

      He cautiously entered the room to see Buzz still in the exact same position as before, the young man not even looking up at him when he entered. Lassiter took a few careful steps inside, never taking his eyes off the gun itself. “So, what’s going on?” He asked in an attempt to break the ice. When Buzz didn’t answer, he tried again. “McNab, what are you thinking about?”

      Finally, Buzz spoke. “It’s just interesting, you know. This is the one position they never let us hold the gun in. I’d have thought I would be more afraid of it the way Conforth drilled gun safety into our heads. And ironically it’s the last thing so many people see. It’s the last thing Shawn saw.” He even chuckled slightly. “Imagine that. There were so many times when I wished I could be more like him. Ironic, you think?”

      Lassiter clenched his jaw. The man was serious. He wasn’t seeking attention or crying out for help or anything else he had been taught in his CIT trainings on suicidal subjects. It was bad enough that he was now using it on one of his close colleagues, but this made it so much worse. McNab truly sounded like someone who was in the process of coming to terms with the fact that he was about to die.

      “We were just like each other, in that moment.” Buzz continued. “He was staring down the barrel of my gun, I was staring down the barrel of his…except his weapon was harmless. I was never in any danger. I clearly saw he was missing a magazine…but I shot him anyway.”

      “Wait, McNab, that’s impossible.” Lassiter interrupted. He immediately cursed himself for speaking without thinking first, especially now, but McNab had just given up a vital clue to his feelings of guilt, and Lassiter would be damned to let the young officer continue believing it. “You didn’t see that the gun was missing a magazine. You couldn’t have seen that. You’re probably only remembering it that way in hindsight now that you know it wasn’t loaded.”

      “But I still fucked it up big time, didn’t I!” McNab finally looked up and made eye contact with Lassiter, making the Detective’s heart skip a beat as McNab’s thumb suddenly twitched inside the trigger guard. “I’m a horrible cop! Say it! I can’t do anything right!”

      Lassiter swallowed hard, willing his heart to stop racing. He couldn’t afford to let himself get led into a trap. “You’re a good cop, McNab.” He said, lowering the volume on his voice just enough to force McNab’s focus on having to listen to him. “I’ve seen you since you started. You’ve learned and grown, and you’re always looking for new things to learn. That’s what makes a good cop.”

      Buzz was undeterred. “What does it matter? What the HELL does it matter when ONE screw up means you’ve killed one of your only friends?! You can tell me I’m on pace to be the best cop ever and you know what? Shawn will STILL be dead! YOU wouldn’t have fucked this up and YOU KNOW IT! YOU wouldn’t have shot him! You’re so much better than I’ll ever be…”

      “McNab” Lassiter allowed himself to raise his voice this time, just enough to halt Buzz’s momentum. “You saw the silhouette of a man with a gun, and you reacted the way you were trained. You did what you were taught to do.” He spoke faster, before Buzz could have a chance at interrupting. “And if I’d been in that exact same situation, under the exact same circumstances, I can’t promise you I wouldn’t have shot him myself.”

      “You wouldn’t have, and you know it.” Buzz challenged

      “I don’t know that…” Lassiter swallowed hard, once again feeling the pain of personal experience coming back at him. “…because I did…once. I did pull the trigger. And a young kid died.”

      His words registered enough of a shock with Buzz that he at least was left without a response, giving Lassiter another opportunity to keep talking. “I’m not sure you remember that time when I killed the kid who broke into a house. What was he, 15 years old I think. He was so scared, I could see tears in his eyes. He didn’t want to hurt me. He just wanted to get away…and…honestly, I actually thought about putting my own gun down to help him get control of himself. That’s how sure I was that he wasn’t gonna shoot, at least not on purpose.” He took a deep breath, trying to work through the shake in his voice. “Just one split second, McNab. That’s all it takes. Something happens, and you have one split second to evaluate a situation, make a decision, and act on it. I pulled the trigger. You could say I was trying to save O’Hara’s life when he started to turn to her. My gut instinct was to protect her. I did what I was trained to do. That’s what everyone told me. And you know what? It damn near destroyed me anyway. I mean…I killed a kid! McNab, I can’t make you feel better about what happened. I won’t even try, because I know that’s impossible. But I can tell you that I know exactly what you’re feeling…because I’ve lived through it too. And you do get through it, one day at a time. Sometimes one hour at a time.”

      McNab sat staring at the Head Detective while Lassiter continued staring at the gun, a wave of silence falling between them momentarily. Lassiter felt his head swimming in the unexpected emotion of having to relive that traumatic case, while simultaneously trying to keep his thinking clear enough to remain focused on the situation. Buzz seemed to have heard him, finally, but his thumb was still inside that damn trigger guard, and the gun was still pointed dangerously at his head. Lassiter realized, whatever the continued danger, that he had created a window. If he was going to have any chance of breaking through, he would have to act now.

      “McNab.” He spoke, grabbing the young man’s attention again. “I already lost one good man on my watch. I’ll be damned if I lose another.” Buzz simply responded by continuing to stare at him, but at least Lassiter could now see some semblance of his mind coming back to reality. He tried again, before Buzz could retreat back into himself once more. “McNab…Buzz…We can’t bring Spencer back no matter what, but you can still do great things. I see the potential in you. You think I would let just anyone assist me on an all day tactical shooting training with extremely inexperienced beginners?! Let’s just say you weren’t the only one that asked to help out, but you were the only one I said ‘yes’ to. Then there’s Spencer. He saw the potential in you more than anyone. Even you admit to it, it’s all you’ve been focusing on since this happened. Don’t you dare prove him wrong.” He paused just long enough to let the words sink in, then made his move. He stepped forward slowly, cautiously stretching out his hand. “McNab…Don’t do this. Please give me the gun.”

      Lassiter stood with his hand outstretched, watching McNab carefully for another few seconds until the young man’s hand finally let go of the gun, letting it drop harmlessly onto his lap. Lassiter quickly, but cautiously stepped to the bed and took the weapon before Buzz had a chance to change his mind. Although he had assumed throughout this whole ordeal that the gun was loaded and ready to fire, it still sent a chill up his spine when he confirmed this upon dropping the magazine and clearing the chamber.

      McNab continued to stare at his gun hand, as if he hadn’t noticed that it was no longer in his possession. Lassiter himself might even have been fooled, were it not for the lone tear running down his cheek. “I’m so sorry.” Buzz whispered to no one in particular.

      Lassiter went up and placed a supportive hand on his back. “You’ve been through a lot, McNab. I don’t blame you.” Buzz looked up and made eye contact with the Head Detective. So much to say, he thought…but couldn’t think of anything actually worth speaking. Instead, he simply accepted Lassiter’s supportive embrace and allowed himself to cry once more.

End Notes:

Yes…I did consider killing off Buzz. For a few minutes. But honestly, it wouldn’t have added to the story the way that I would have wanted it to, so he gets to stay ; ) Thoughts please!

Terms of Acceptance by Psychrulz
Author's Notes:

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. 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.

 

Sorry for the delay on this one. I've had some things come up. But, I've never left any story unfinished, this one will be no different I assure you :) Thanks to Tex and Drag who are able to give AWESOME feedback even on short notice. You gals are the best!

Two hours later, back home and his partner once again soundly sleeping on the couch, Lassiter closed his bedroom door behind him and leaned heavily against the wall, feeling the pressure and fatigue finally start to hit. At least O’Hara had seemed so worn out by the time they arrived back at his place, that she could only collapse onto the couch the moment they came inside. He could only wish it was that easy for him. He had trained himself, through years of experience, to use adrenaline to his advantage while working through a crisis, then hold on to that adrenaline long enough to wrap it up afterwards and present a solid, composed face to his staff. What no one ever saw was what normally happened after he was out of sight, most often back in the privacy of his own home. What no one ever saw was how stress got to him, also. How the pressures of the job left him just as weak-kneed as the rook for whom his Super Cop façade was so important. No one ever saw him reaching for the bottle of whiskey in an attempt to take the edge off, or simply leaning against his counter, staring absently into space while the whirlwind in his mind sought a way to calm itself. Everyone depended on his strength, and he would be damned if he let anyone down – not his Chief, not his partner, not his coworkers, and not the civilians whose lives depended on him holding it together.

At least for now, he had no one who needed him or depended on him, meaning he could finally take a moment for himself. He was in the eye of the storm, perhaps. A brief respite that would surely be followed up with more tomorrow. In this one moment, however, things were calm once again. It was also in this moment of calm that he felt his insides screaming to him that they were anything but calm. His knees were the first to show this by revealing the sudden weakness that was now traveling up his body, making it difficult to remain standing. He had been the one to lean on since this all began, but now that he began to feel his own weakness, he had the wall to hold him up, not that he cared whether it would or not. He deserved every ounce of punishment that could rain down on him for what happened, and he knew it. Not just for the life that was lost, but more and more, for the lives that were to be forever affected because of this.

He was hardly aware of his back sliding down the wall until he was seated on the floor, his concentration focused at the time on the half open blinds on his bedroom window.  The moonlight came through to his bedroom in the pattern of bars running across his space…in his mind, not unlike prison. Never in his career, not during the Yin/Yang cases, and certainly not during any other case, had he ever gone through something like this. Colleagues had perished in the line of duty, people had been talked down from suicide, colleagues have been talked down from suicide, the SBPD had been subject to public scrutiny for controversial shootings, and colleagues had suffered traumatic stress from difficult cases. He had seen all this during his years…but never all at once. He closed his eyes against the increasing weight of the burden, feeling like there was absolutely no way for him to escape it, no matter what he did. Even alcohol, during his last attempt, seemed to only make it worse, not that he would consider drinking himself into oblivion with is partner in the living room. The utter uselessness of his attempts at helping them infuriated him to no end…to think that the most he could do was offer them an ear to talk to while confessing that there was nothing he could really do to help them. At the end of the day, O’Hara and McNab were still emotionally broken, the ripple effect beginning to extend visibly, having now overtaken Francie.

Being infuriated over an inability to help…this, he could understand. It would be easy to feel that anger, maybe even throw a few things around as a release. But that wasn’t what was tormenting him right now. He knew exactly what was tormenting him, and perhaps it was his constant denial – his attempts to block what was tormenting him – that was tearing him up inside now.

‘Spencer, stay with me. Look at me.’ He was trying desperately to save the young man’s life, doing everything he could to improve his chances once EMS arrived. Spencer had seemed to be in some sort of shock at the time, but he made eye contact with Lassiter upon that command. It was the look in Spencer’s eyes that Lassiter couldn’t force out of his memory – a look he had never seen before in the young man. There was fear, and pleading, as if he was begging Lassiter to help him. But there was also something else…perhaps an understanding that his time had come to an end. Lassiter remembered a slight pause in his efforts at that moment, trying to convey some sort of comfort through his own eye gaze. What he saw in response from the young man…he wasn’t sure he could ever describe or understand it. His eyes remained open, and his breathing was still present, weak though it was, but Lassiter could swear he actually saw the moment that Spencer lost his battle – he actually witnessed the moment that Spencer’s life (essence…soul…perhaps?) left his body. There was no other way to describe the look in his eyes right then, like a light had just gone out. This awareness had been pushed aside in the heat of the moment, especially when EMS arrived just a few seconds later, as he realized now, to work on what was by then an already empty body.

What does it mean…being the one to witness the moment a person leaves their body, especially if that person does it while they’re looking right at you? For being in this line of work, Lassiter never imagined sharing a moment like this with anyone, much less Spencer. It wasn’t as if the kid had fallen unconscious, only to stop breathing and die the ‘normal’ way, the way that he was more familiar with. Leave it to Spencer to even find his own way of dying, too. There had been no final words, no final requests of him, so that wasn’t what was so haunting. Lassiter figured he might even feel better with having been given a final task. At least then, he could carry it out and come to fulfillment that way. Thinking about that final responsibility, Lassiter knew that what was tearing him apart wasn’t a responsibility that he could or should carry out…but instead an implied responsibility that he couldn’t be sure he had carried out when it was needed most. Spencer had looked to him in his final moments, because he was all the kid had. Was it enough? Did Spencer go with the feeling that at least he had a friend by his side, or did he go with the feeling of being all alone? Lassiter had seen the gravity of the injury. In his heart, he knew how deeply in danger the young man’s life was, and he had tried to at least offer some sort of comfort amidst the craziness of what was happening.

In his heart, Lassiter knew that he considered Spencer a friend…strange and strained friendship though it might have been. Spencer had gone out on a limb for him any time there was a need and, although his antics usually involved Lassiter having to save his ass, the fact remained that Spencer wouldn’t have gotten himself into those predicaments in the first place had he not been trying to reach out to Lassiter. It’s relatively easy to consider how Spencer would have worked hard to help him avoid murder charges. What Lassiter had a hard time understanding now, in hindsight, was how hard Spencer had worked on the case involving his ex father-in-law. Lassiter could admit now he was clearly biased in his views on it, and had even strong-armed Spencer’s own investigation towards the results he wanted. The fact that his desired results were the right ones in the end was irrelevant. Most relevant now was how hard Spencer had worked to find the seemingly impossible clue that would give Lassiter his desired result…all for the sake of helping him to salvage something from the broken relationship. That’s the kind of thing that someone does for a friend.

These thoughts in mind, Lassiter knew that, had the roles been reversed, and all he had was Spencer looking down on him in his final moments, he would have the comfort of knowing he had a friend by his side. What Lassiter didn’t know was whether he had helped Spencer feel that way, as well. The possibility that the kid could have died wishing that he had someone who cared by his side…that was more than he could handle…it was a thought that Lassiter knew would haunt him for the rest of his life.

 

***********************************************************

           

            Gus watched the setting sun through the room’s window a week later, wondering where in the world the time had gone. The feeling was surreal…unreal…not right…whatever. He just knew he hated himself more than ever right now. They were already an hour into the viewing, with him having done none of the sort. Excuses had been exhausted, he knew that. There was only so much ‘last minute planning’ and ‘checking up on details’ he could do to avoid having to cross the threshold into the gathering room, where his best friend lay. It had already been almost too much to ask of him when Henry requested that he also pick the casket, but no way would Gus even consider turning the man down, no matter how hard it was. For as much as it hurt him, he could imagine the pain magnified several times over for Henry and Madeline. He had been in frequent contact with the two of them during this planning process, making sure that all his steps were acceptable to them, and working hard to ensure their privacy was respected during their time of grief. He still had yet to hear Madeline speak, in fact, during the few times he’d seen her while at the Spencer home, but that was ok with him. He felt honored that they would think highly enough of him to entrust him with this task.

            And yet, now that it was finally coming together, and the viewing was underway, all he could do was stand off to the side and pretend he had a handle on himself. There were quite a few people at least, enough to keep himself busy with greeting and shaking hands, exchanging condolences, etc. The public knew Shawn well, many of them coming to pay their respects for this open event. That in and of itself had been a difficult decision to make. Once again, Gus was first and foremost looking out for the privacy and peace of Shawn’s parents, but he soon began to see how much of an impact his friend’s life had made in the lives of so many. He felt like Shawn would have wanted this to be a public event, his feelings being confirmed when Henry himself suggested it without prompting.

            The SBPD itself had a very visible presence as well, for which Gus was very grateful. They were making a strong effort to show their respects with their presence, as well as offerings to the ceremonies on their behalf- the full honors and 21 gun salute set for the next day’s funeral and burial being the largest. Some had commented that the Department was only doing that to make themselves look better, as a PR move, considering their role in the death. In his initial anger, Gus had even believed it too. However, the more he looked, the more he could tell they were honestly there to honor his best friend.

            “Hey, Gus. I was wondering where you’d gone to.” Gus was snatched from his musings by the sound of Henry’s voice beside him.

            “Uh, yeah. I’m here. Just making sure everything’s in order.” He scrambled to regroup himself.

            Henry glanced back towards the gathering room, then turned back to Gus and placed a hand on his shoulder. “You’ve done a great job, Gus. I want you to know how much we appreciate you for doing all this.” Gus shrugged. Henry continued. “But I’ve noticed you haven’t been inside yet.” Gus could only lower his head in response, unable to force any kind of vocal answer for himself. Henry, seeing his distress, led him outside onto the sidewalk. “Let’s take a walk.” He suggested.

            “But Madeline…” Gus protested. “And I’ve still got to…”

            “She’ll be fine, Gus. And I promise the thing won’t fall apart with you gone for a few minutes.” Henry insisted. Gus sighed and followed.

            “Shawn was never the type who could handle funerals well. Not that any of us do.” Henry spoke up after a short while. “He was lucky, didn’t really have to go to them when he was very young. I took him to a fellow officer’s funeral once, he thought it was great…at first…until I told him what was going on. I think that was the moment when he first got confronted with the concept that people die. He was about 6 years old then and, considering the things he could do and all that, plus growing up with a cop dad, I had just taken it for granted that he knew about death. He really didn’t. I’m not sure he ever accepted that concept, to be honest. The kid could notice the tiniest details, but he just couldn’t see what was right in front of him when it came to death. Maybe he was too young…I don’t know.”

            “You said he was 6? How old was he when you saw what he could do? His perception and memory…I guess?” Gus asked curiously. He had never inquired on this, to his surprise, and would have never guessed that now of all times was the moment he’d want to know. Then again, he felt like Henry actually wanted, or needed, to talk about Shawn, so he was more than happy to give the man his opportunity.

            Henry smiled in response. “He was 5 years old. I remember that day like it was yesterday. It was during the Christmas season, he and I were at the mall shopping for a gift for his mother. Just as we’re about to leave, we pass this big open common area, and of course Santa is there, taking pictures with the kids. Shawn begged and pleaded for permission to take a picture with him. We were out of time and in a hurry, so I had to say no, but I promised that I would bring him by in a week to get his picture. Well, a week later, I bring him back and think all is great. Next thing I know, the kid is throwing a fit right in front of me. He’s carrying on and on about how they’re trying to scam him, this wasn’t the same Santa…it was quite the scene. I mean, who would even notice something like that, you know? They all look the same…old guys, heavy, same suit, face mostly covered with hair and beard…makes for a hell of a time for the cops when ‘Santa’ commits a crime, by the way. So Shawn’s completely inconsolable by now, thinking they took the real Santa away and replaced him with an imposter. He keeps this up another couple minutes until the people there give in and admit that it’s not the same guy. They feed him some silly story about how this is actually Santa’s helper and Santa had to go handle an emergency at the North Pole or something. They finally convince the kid, he calms down, negotiates a 10% discount for not having the real Santa there, and takes the picture. It was a hell of an experience, I tell ya. We had no clue. After that, I tested him a few more times on it, and he passed each time. We were blown away by what he could do.”

            Gus noticed they were standing by a bench at the end of the property, overlooking the ocean, once again consumed by the emptiness he felt inside. “I can’t believe how much I miss him.” He confessed. “Like I would do anything just to get one more minute with him. At least to say goodbye. I never got that chance.”

            Henry turned to begin walking back towards the building. “I know it’s not the same, Gus, but maybe you can do it now. You haven’t gone in to see him yet, have you?”

            Gus’ heart leapt to his throat and he was angry at himself for having made such a confession. He should have seen that coming a mile away, and walked right into it anyway. He lowered his head, unable to say no, but unable to say anything more that would lead to him having to see his best friend that way. He just couldn’t imagine it. Instead of further prodding, he felt Henry’s arm around his shoulder as the elder man began leading him back towards the building. He didn’t fight it, but stopped himself before allowing himself to enter the gathering room, the room where his friend lay.

            “It’s ok, Gus.” Henry whispered. “Whenever you’re ready.” He gave Gus one last pat on the back and went to rejoin Maddie. Gus noticed she was still seemingly in the exact same position that she had been in the first time he peeked inside. He couldn’t blame her. He desperately wanted to just sit and tune the world out, also, however that was a luxury he reserved for Shawn’s parents. They deserved it so much more than he did.

            He couldn’t help his gaze sneaking ever closer to the casket itself, his eyes directly upon it before he even really realized what was happening. Immediately he felt his heart beginning to race, but couldn’t look away. It was the casket he picked out himself, after all. Ideas of what Shawn would want to be buried in had haunted every moment of his deliberation, thoughts ranging in his mind from the traditional to the scarily outlandish. In the end, it was the more traditional route he went with, and not just because it was what would be most ‘proper.’ He decided on it because it would be honorable – what he and his parents deserved at a time like this. For all the craziness his best friend had a proclivity for, he deserved to be honored, not laughed at. That wasn’t his biggest reason for choosing the traditional route, however. In fact, he hadn’t even fully decided to go that route when his eyes first fell upon the casket that he would end up picking. There was something about it that spoke to him. Wood, dark brown, smooth & glossy finish, with brass handles. It was solid and strong, the inside of it promising a secure protection for the one who would sleep inside. As he finally allowed himself to look at Shawn’s body resting in the casket, Gus was surprised to find that the feeling in his chest went right along with what he had hoped for when he chose it. There was grief, no doubt. Intense, and not likely to go away anytime soon. But there was also a strange sort of comfort at the sight. The casket cradled his friend securely just as it had promised, just like his father’s arms perhaps – safe and strong. Gus was sure it wasn’t likely what Shawn would have chosen, but he was fairly certain it’s what Shawn would have wanted.  

            “Guster.” The familiar voice caused Gus to freeze right where he stood. He cursed himself for not expecting it, even though he honestly wasn’t sure whether this would have been something that Lassiter would want to attend. Apparently it was. Either that, or he was only here to support Juliet. He turned to face them, wondering if they would have actually greeted him if he wasn’t blocking most of the entryway. He turned and nodded to both partners courteously, all at once shocked at how both of them looked. Juliet looked, to put it simply, completely broken. Sure, she was well put together…at least on the outside. It didn’t take a psychic to see the intense sadness in her eyes. The proper thing to have done at this moment would be to mutter some sort of polite greeting, perhaps a handshake, then show them inside. Instead, he found himself in a firm embrace with Juliet before either of them even spoke a word to each other. He also didn’t expect the supportive weight of Lassiter’s hand on his back, as well. None of them said anything, not even when the embrace ended, but it didn’t feel awkward, either. Perhaps there just wasn’t anything to say. Their moment over, Gus watched as Lassiter led his partner inside and to the front, where the both of them exchanged handshakes and condolences with Maddie and Henry, the both of them standing to greet Juliet with a hug, as well.

            Lassiter knew he was treading on thin ice – approaching Henry like this after their previous encounter, but he resolved to risk it for the sake of being there for his partner. He simply made a mental note to make a quick exit at the slightest hint of anything from the elder Spencer. To his surprise, Henry didn’t seem all that upset at his presence. The handshake was not quite as firm as he was used to, and the man didn’t quite make eye contact with the Detective, but Lassiter had to admit it was more than he expected. Not quite forgiveness – not even close – but it was something. An olive branch, perhaps. Or maybe Henry simply didn’t want to create a scene at his own son’s viewing. Whatever the reason, Lassiter accepted it gladly and with relief. He took the few extra steps towards the casket with his partner, making sure to stand just a step behind her and to the side, always keeping her within arms reach…just in case. He wanted desperately to look up, around….anywhere but at the body just a couple feet in front of him. It was a trick he used during times like these – doing visual sweeps of the area and people around just because, to keep himself busy. But here, that would be seen as rude. Even he knew that. So, he looked down at Spencer laying before him. He could be sleeping for all anyone knew. Lassiter’s instincts after so many years of working with the young man kept him guarded, as if Spencer might spring up at any moment and announce his best prank yet.

The moments ticked by, however, without this happening. Without even the slightest movement from within the casket, Lassiter finally had to admit for himself that perhaps this nightmare was real, after all. Resigned to this reality, he finally chose to take a closer look just as Madeline came up to stand by them, making brief eye contact as she did so. Lassiter watched her curiously while she lovingly brushed some hair off his forehead with her fingers, then continued to smooth it out until it was too her liking, a small smile on her face the entire time.

Ok…what now?! Lassiter felt a small sense of panic coming over him, completely unsure of what to do next. Should he talk to Maddie? Ignore her? Walk away? What?! His situation became even more precarious when Juliet actually stepped over to Maddie, who then put an arm around her, pulling her in close and holding on to her. The Head Detective was now standing uncomfortably beside them, completely at a loss for what to do. So…they need a private moment then? Every ounce of his being wanted to walk away and let O’Hara find him whenever she was done, but he just couldn’t do that to her, especially because he wasn’t upset…just confused. He decided to just stand firm instead, fully willing to wait for his partner for as long as she needed. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of Chief Vick, just arriving and making her entrance into the room after giving Guster a quick hug. When she turned to see him, her approving nod in his direction was all the encouragement he needed to know that he was doing the right thing.

 

***********************************************************

 

Buzz McNab leaned against his car at the far end of the parking lot, watching mourners and well-wishers coming and going. Most came for only a short while, then left, while a few were here at the beginning and still remained. He had been one of those that was here when the viewing started. Unable to ignore the need to pay his respects to Shawn, but just as unable to show his face amongst everyone present, he simply stood against his car and watched. No one had seen him. He had made sure to keep himself secluded enough for that.

He felt his pocket vibrating and reached in to pick up his phone. Promises had been made to his wife that he would check in with her, and respond quickly to her messages. Such was her message now, letting him know that dinner would soon be ready. Keeping his promise, he replied to her text, returned the phone to his pocket, and got back into his car. He didn’t realize, as he drove away, that he was being watched – by the one person in attendance who had been unable to approach Shawn’s casket.

Gus watched Buzz’s car driving away. In his mind, he wanted to be upset. The words ‘yeah, get the hell out of here!’ formed in his mind, but never made it to the thoughts that he truly felt. There was something to be said for the man having shown up at all, especially when he had every excuse in the world for staying far away. Hell, he had every excuse in the world for even taking a ‘quiet getaway’ with his wife…but he wasn’t doing it. Gus shoved his hands in his pocket just as the car turned and left his line of vision, then went back inside, thoughts of Buzz weighing heavily on his mind.

 

 

It's so hard... by Psychrulz
Author's Notes:

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. 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.

 

Tex, Drag...you two are freaking amazing. Thanks for putting up with me, especially on such a difficult chapter!

      Gus blinked against the sunlight shining directly at his face. Since when did he go to bed having forgotten to close the blinds?! Since you spent the evening tip-toeing around and avoiding seeing your best friend in a casket. His mind admonished him. He admitted to himself it also wouldn’t have helped that he had spent most of the night fighting a bout of insomnia…seemingly only to have crashed and passed out at some point without his knowing. At least he had managed to crash in his own bed, and at least he was wearing his PJs. That was encouraging.

     Oh right, the alarm was also ringing loudly on his nightstand, having been set purely out of habit and perhaps a sense of obsessiveness. He knew damn well there was no way he’d be able to oversleep his best friend’s funeral and burial, not even if he tried. He sat up and finally forced himself to face the day. It was a bright and clear morning, the birds were chirping…once again exactly the type of day that would normally put anyone in a good mood. Certainly not at all the kind of day he would have expected it to be for an event such as this one. Why was it that it was always dreary and raining during funerals in the movies? At least then, the weather would appear to be mourning right alongside them. He wasn’t quite sure how to interpret the weather being this…happy…on a day like this, not when he wasn’t even quite sure how he would manage getting out of bed and going through with all this.

     ‘Get up, Shawn! I will not be late again!’ Just one week ago…exactly one week ago, he realized…at this exact same hour, even. He was standing over Shawn’s bed, pitcher of ice water in hand, demanding that he get up. This was almost identical to the weather that Shawn had seen on his final day, in fact. To think, Gus couldn’t help imagining now, that when he got Shawn up that day, his friend only had a couple hours left to live. These thoughts only led him to start wondering and doubting himself – thinking of what might have been if he’d only allowed his friend to be late – or even if he’d allowed a stop for that promised cheese danish. The thoughts and questions had been floating around in his head for a week now, and he damn well knew he couldn’t afford to let them continue on this of all days. Whatever might have been, it wasn’t. What had happened was what happened, and there was nothing he could do about it anymore. He would get up, he would get dressed, and he would go through the motions. He would honor his best friend and the whole Spencer family today, and he would do it to the best of his ability. Whatever the emotional consequences would be, he would suffer them afterwards – alone.

     His resolve firmly in place, he managed getting out of bed and into the shower, then back out to put on his suit that he had professionally pressed and prepared for this event. He couldn’t help taking a minute to look it over as it hung on his door, having been carefully laid out by him the night before. It just felt so wrong – going through this process – to the point that he knew he was forcing himself to take every step required to dress himself. It felt somewhat like he had felt upon waking up the morning after Shawn’s death. To think that the sun would actually rise again, the world would go on, and that people would be out going about their daily routines…it had been difficult for him to accept that reality. It basically turned into a sort of forced existence for him to even get out of bed at that point, but once he did, the fact that there was so much to do was what kept him going. What would there be to do after today? The process of saying goodbye and laying his friend to rest would be complete. He would be truly gone, and life would still go on…somehow. Of that, Gus was still not quite sure. He would have to see it to believe it. In the meantime, acting out his daily business as if he were some actor in a play was the best he could do.

     Reluctantly, he picked up his keys and stepped out the door.

*******************************************


      He stood at the front door with her jacket draped over his arm as she looked herself over in the mirror one last time. She was smoothing her hair and straightening her clothes, but there was a look in her eye that told him her mind was elsewhere. Far elsewhere...as was his. Her efforts at finalizing her personal appearance seemed to take a little longer than they should – normally enough to cause him annoyance. Indeed, out of instinct, he even remembered that he should be feeling annoyance. Yet, there was no such feeling in him at all. His body itself was hoping for one little extra moment.

     Watching her, he remembered a time years before when they seemed to be doing the exact same uneasy dance in the living room. He, at the door, her jacket draped over his arm, one hand on the doorknob. She, looking herself over one last time, visibly filled with anxiety and nerves. She had looked different back then. Sure, she was younger, but the main difference was that bump in her midsection. It was that bump that had awoken them in the middle of the night, the tiny child within it announcing that he was ready to join the world. They didn’t know at the time, of course, that it was a little boy. What they did know was that the moment they stepped out that door, they would be on their way to changing their lives forever. Granted, they had been preparing for this moment for the past few months, but finally it was all becoming a reality. He had seen it in her eyes – a mixture of emotions coupled with a small tear on her eyelash, not quite big enough to make it down her cheek, but big enough to display the joy of a mother’s heart newly born.

     The tear was there today, just as it had been so long ago, except this time it did slide down her cheek. This time, a visible image of a mother’s heart broken and lost forever. This time, they’d had a week to prepare for their journey out that door. And just like last time, they knew that they would return as changed people forever. Back then, they had returned with a precious little new life in their arms. Today, they would return empty handed, having put their child in the ground.

     Henry cleared his throat and swallowed back the lump in his throat, determined to hold himself together for her sake. He couldn’t be sure how successful he’d be at controlling his emotions later, so he might as well not lose control so early in the day. He waited patiently while his ex-wife prepared for their journey to the funeral home. That’s what she was worried about much more than her appearance, he knew that as well as she did, but he was ok with that. When she was no longer able to continue pretending, Maddie sighed deeply and turned to look at Henry.

     “I guess we should get going, huh?” She asked. Henry shrugged and nodded reluctantly. Maddy thought another moment, then shook her head. “No. We shouldn’t. We shouldn’t have to do this. This shouldn’t have happened, Henry.”

     It was the most that Henry had heard her speak over the past week. She had mostly spent the days sitting silently in her son’s room, deep in thought and straightening his things. That was, of course, when she wasn’t elsewhere in the house, crying alone or with Henry. He could only pull her in close in response, holding an arm around her shoulders while walking her out to the car. “No. It shouldn’t have happened.” He agreed.

**************************************************


      Lassiter had been waiting outside his partner’s apartment a little longer than he thought he should have, his instincts telling him he should at least go check on her. Then again, his instincts had also told him to insist on her staying at his place a few more days, rather than to let her go back home all alone. She had insisted on it, however, doing her best to assure him that she would be fine and would check in with him often. His own excuses for having questioned her readiness to leave focused solely on her well-being, but he knew that it was his own loneliness in this time that he was also hoping to avoid. Had he told her that he was being woken up at least once every night with nightmares of Spencer’s final moments flashing through is mind, she would have surely stayed longer. But then, she would have stayed as his caretaker, and he just couldn’t have that – not because of pride – at least not now. He just simply couldn’t accept her caring for him when he knew damn well how severely she was also hurting inside. So, he sat and waited, and lasted only another two minutes before leaving his car and going straight up to the front door. An unanswered ring of the doorbell got the butterflies going in his stomach, causing him to test the doorknob to find the front door unlocked.

     “O’Hara?” he opened the door and stepped carefully inside, automatically doing an immediate visual sweep of the apartment. Nothing seemed out of place, but his partner was not in view, either. Slowly, he stepped through her living room and into the hallway, trying to balance his own sense of caution and due diligence with her right to privacy. “O’Hara? Are you ok?” He asked again. This time, he heard some movement behind her bedroom door, followed by a sniffle.

     “I’m fine.” He heard her voice respond.

     He breathed a momentary sigh of relief, then stepped to the door, stopping short of opening it. “I’m sorry, O’Hara, but your door was unlocked and I was worried. We don’t have much time before…before it starts.”

     A little more shuffling on the other side of the door, then she opened it, apparently still having been in the process of dressing herself. She had her “dress blues” on, as did Lassiter and what they assumed would be most of the SBPD. She busily tried to smooth out non-existent wrinkles and looked at the mirror thrice to make sure her appearance was perfectly in order, except her shoes, of course, which were still laying on the bed. Taking a closer look at the bed, Lassiter noticed a blue flannel shirt laying by the pillow.

     “Sorry. I meant for you to just let yourself in…I guess I should have told you that. I’ll just be a couple more minutes.” Juliet sniffed, trying to quickly compose herself. Lassiter nodded and stepped back out to the living room to wait. He had known it would be hard for her, but honestly didn’t really expect the difficulty to start so early. Perhaps the difficulty was starting early with him, as well, as he realized that he didn’t exactly feel as in a hurry as he should feel at the present moment. At least he didn’t have to wait long enough to ponder this possibility. His partner, as promised, was ready within a couple minutes and came out to join him at the apartment entryway. She paused at the door only long enough for the two of them to step out and lock the door, then seemed to hurry over to his car, where she quickly climbed into the passenger seat, keeping her head down the entire time.

     Lassiter followed suit, respecting her space while he slid behind the wheel. Still, just before pulling into traffic, he placed a hand on her shoulder as an offering of support for whenever she might need it.

**************************************************


      The funeral home was a sprawling, squared off white building in the midst of the cemetery that it served, adorned with ivy framing its edges and doorways. It was a large building, big enough to hold services, viewings, and other events, along with the room to accommodate a variety of gathering sizes. There were a few rooms off to the sides, not quite attached to the main building, designed to house the smaller and more intimate gatherings. Even the largest area, however, had a certain feeling of closeness and comfort. This was, in fact, where the services were to be held. The casket itself was already present, closed now, adorned with a flower arrangement and a large portrait of Shawn – crouched proudly beside his dinosaur fossil discovery. Just outside the main room was the large clear board that Shawn often used to scribble his ideas on while working a case. In a few small spots of the board there still remained some of Shawn’s drawings and scribbles, presently detailing ideas for various creative uses of pineapple leaves. Gus made sure to go over the notes and drawings in dark green permanent marker for the sake of preserving his friend’s final doodles. He then replaced the dry erase markers on the holder with permanent markers to allow guests the opportunity to sign in with their thoughts and wishes. It was an original alternative to the commonly used book, Gus thought, and it seemed to be getting a nice reaction from those present.

     A large number of people had already arrived and were mingling around the outside of the building, talking softly amongst themselves. Many were members of the Santa Barbara Police Department, and many were members of the community who had been helped by Shawn and Psych in one way or another. Gus’ initial instinct in the early stages of planning this service was to plan for something very small. Shawn’s family was, after all, very small. Instead, he soon saw his plans changing as more and more inquiries about the services came in from more and more people who were interested in attending and paying their final respects. As with the viewing, Gus at first wanted to keep the service private, but changed his mind when Henry gave his blessing for a larger ceremony. His opinion being that Shawn had never been the type of person to close himself off. In a sense, this was true, though Gus knew that privately, Shawn kept to himself much more than anyone could have ever guessed.

     Gus nodded as he took in the surroundings upon his arrival, pleased to see that the staff at the funeral home had apparently taken the necessary care to follow his directions exactly. The items of Shawn’s that he had provided were displayed prominently at various spots in the building, providing an atmosphere of his best friend’s presence throughout. He saw the guests themselves smiling and sometimes even laughing as they perused the items, giving them the chance to talk about memories and remember his friend fondly. It was exactly the mood that Gus wanted to create. Satisfied that things were going the way he had planned, he took a deep breath and went to sit at his predetermined spot – the space reserved for the pall bearers. He nodded to the other officers that were already sitting there, then realized that he just couldn’t do this. Nothing against those who were there to serve as pall bearers as well. In fact, he was honored they had agreed to do this. He just simply felt like he needed some extra support to get through what he knew would be the hardest experience of his life. He nodded at the officers again and stood, making his way quickly towards the front of the room, where he noticed an empty seat next to Henry and Madeline. He quickly sat to Henry’s left side, hoping and praying that he wouldn’t be sent back. To his relief, Henry accepted his presence with a silent pat on the back.

     Shawn’s portrait on top of the casket appeared to make eye contact with everyone who looked upon it. For some, this was comforting, causing them to look at it often. Others instead looked away and focused on other things or people, feeling uncomfortable at the idea of Shawn looking straight at them. To an officer standing in the shadows at the far back of the room, having not come inside until everyone was already seated and shortly after Father Wesley’s opening greeting had been spoken, it was a mixture of both. Buzz McNab couldn’t feel anything but overwhelming shame and guilt looking into those hazel eyes, but he couldn’t tear his gaze away either. At least the mischievously proud look on Shawn’s face in the photo actually helped Buzz to remember Shawn with a look that was something other than what he had last seen at the training range. He finally forced himself to look down, hoping that no one had noticed his presence, and wishing that he had agreed to let his wife accompany him after all. It was much harder than he thought it would be, attending without anyone to offer support, but he accepted it as a part of the penance he would no doubt be paying for the rest of his life.

     “…and for a life that was taken from us far too soon,” He heard the words of Father Wesley speaking, “we are called to remember Shawn with joy in our hearts for the friendship he offered openly to those lucky enough to know him, and for the great service he provided to our community.” He spoke a few minutes longer, looking members of the group in the eye as he did, addressing as many as he could. The news of Shawn’s death had hit him hard, as it had hit so many others, and he had been incredibly honored when Gus showed up at his church to ask that he officiate at the service. He did his best to provide a speech that would do justice to such an unexpectedly short life before introducing Chief Vick as the next speaker.

     Vick stepped up to the podium and nodded her thanks to Father Wesley before turning to the group. “Hello everyone.” She began, nodded at her officers and at others in turn. “I’m happy to say that my history with the Spencer family spans quite a long time.” She paused to smile and make eye contact with Henry. “Believe me when I tell you that Henry was one of the proudest fathers I’ve ever seen Shawn was born. They had their ups and downs over the years. They’d be the last ones to try and hide the difficulties that they’ve had. Shawn was even gone from Santa Barbara for a while. But…he came back. And so did Henry. Somehow, the two of them got back into contact with each other, and somewhere along that line I and my department got dragged into that storm…” She paused while the group laughed. “That young man…he has wreaked absolute havoc in my department on many occasions. He has led us on more crazy chases than I can remember, I’m even sure that the majority of my gray hairs are a result of his antics…and I have to say that having Shawn around has been one of the highlights of my entire career in law enforcement. His work truly speaks for itself when it comes to the things he accomplished, that goes without saying. But what must be said, and yet never was…” Her voice finally gave out, forcing her to stop and look down while she swallowed to try and recompose herself. “…was…that several officers owe their careers, and even their very lives to Mr. Spencer. He was as dedicated to the individual officers of my Department as he was to this entire community. I am honored to have had him as a valued and indispensable part of my department. He will be sorely missed by us all.” She swallowed hard and ended her speech there. She had wished to say a few more things, but realized that she would be unable to continue without a very public show of emotion – which she was not quite ready to surrender to, and most definitely not when so many of her own staff were looking to her for guidance.

     Father Wesley nodded his thanks to Chief Vick as she stepped down from the podium, then stepped up and waited quietly until she had taken her seat before speaking. “I recognize that it’s customary at this point of a service for the eulogy to be given. However, in true form to himself, Shawn has made it clear that he has something to say, and would like to give the eulogy himself. Please be patient with us while we set up his statement.”

     A nervous murmur spread through the group while the large white projection screen was lowered above the casket and the lights were dimmed. Gus’ heart pounded in his chest with anticipation of what might be coming, as he was sure was happening with Shawn’s parents and others with whom Shawn shared a close relationship. Having had that DVD disk in hand for the past week had been a nerve-wracking experience for Gus, knowing that it would be so easy for him to just stick it in his player and see what was to come – if only for the sake of preparing himself – yet his sense of honor for his friend’s wishes prohibited him from doing so. As the projector came to life and began playing the disk, Gus was as much in the dark about his friend’s intentions as everyone else present.

     The disk began with Shawn sitting on his couch in his apartment, trying his best to look casual and relaxed. He had on the blue and gray baseball shirt that he had worn for the SBPD’s softball games. Gus had not seen him wear that shirt since the last game they had played, and thought it oddly fitting that he would choose a time like this to wear his only “official” SBPD apparel.

     Shawn smiled brightly at the camera for a few seconds before speaking. “Hello!” he began, making everyone smile in response. “Ok, well…I guess this is it, huh?” he continued, his smile beginning to fade. “Um, well, I admit I don’t really know what to say, except that I really hope Gus isn’t playing sad puppy dog music over this.” he paused while the group chuckled, although it became apparent that the reason he paused was apparently to gather his thoughts. “It feels kind of weird to be making this video, because I hope that it’s never needed. Not because I plan to live forever…even though I do…but because everything I’m going to say on here, I plan to say it personally to everyone. I plan on having enough time to do it, and I plan to destroy this disk as soon as I do that. But…I’ve learned that things don’t always go as planned…so, if you’re watching this, I guess they didn’t. I’m sorry, to those that I speak to here, that I couldn’t say what I wanted to say privately, but it’s still very important to me, so please hear me out. I love you all. Thanks for being there for me.”

     Gus wrung his hands nervously, forcing himself to breathe deeply as the screen went black and the next scene faded in, knowing that he was about to hear what would have to serve as his best friend’s final words. The entire room waited anxiously for the video to come back on. When it did just a few seconds later, Shawn appeared on camera as the screen faded into view. He was at his father’s house this time, now sitting on the couch and holding a throw pillow against his midsection. He smiled, but Gus could tell that this time, he didn’t seem comfortable at all.

     “Hey, dad.” Shawn began. Gus turned to Henry, who had previously appeared to be staring into space. He was now intently focused on the screen. “I guess this is a little awkward, huh? Well, just so you know, I made sure I have more than 15 seconds this time. Who knows how much more than that I’ll actually get…” Shawn looked off to his left, seemingly to look for something out the window. “…you’re gonna yell at me for leaving the truck’s gas tank empty again, and I’m sorry, but I had to do it to buy myself a little more time here.” He flashed a fleeting smirk, then hugged the pillow closer to his chest while clearing his throat.

     “Ok, so here goes. I guess the two things I want to say are ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry.’ I know I fought you as much as I could. Even more than that sometimes. But no matter what, I want you to know that I was paying attention all that time. I know I didn’t follow the road you wanted for me, but I tried. I promise I tried, and followed a road that made me happy, and I couldn’t have done it without you. So…Dad, thank you.” Gus heard a sniffle coming from Henry, who nodded and wiped his eyes. “Thank you for taking the time to drive me insane, because I know now that you only did it because you cared. Also…I’m sorry. No, I’m not sorry you have another unexpected gas bill on your plate today. You owe me for making me clean all those fish again last week. I’m sorry…I’m sorry that I failed you,. You taught me to be a survivor. I couldn’t have survived everything I did without the things you taught me. That’s my proof that I paid attention. Something got me this time. Whatever it was, I promise you that if it was at all possible, I used everything you taught me to get out of it. I guess it didn’t work this time, and I’m so sorry for that. I don’t know what went wrong, but please know that if there was any chance of survival, you would have given it to me. I’m sorry I failed you. But you know what, I lived a good life. A happy life. And the last few years were my happiest ever. They wouldn’t have happened without you.” Henry had now apparently abandoned any attempt to maintain a composed appearance while Shawn looked to the window again, got up to go check something, then came back to sit down, the pillow forgotten this time. “Really?! What, do you have your own personal pit crew at the gas station or something?! Wow, I guess I did somehow end up with only 15 seconds. So here goes. Thank you for these past years. I didn’t think a good relationship between us was possible, but you made it happen. And Dad…I love you.” Shawn looked fleetingly like he might say something else, but seemed to change his mind just as a sound of the door opening came from off camera. Everyone present instead watched Shawn reach over to the camera and shut it off.

     Those in attendance sat in silence for a few seconds while the screen was black. Everyone, except for Henry, whom they could tell was in tears all over again. A heartbroken father, they could all understand his pain. Yet, in a sense, they could also feel a sense of relief – perhaps a lightening of the burden with the words that Shawn had dedicated to him. Gus placed a hand on Henry’s back, holding back his own tears in an attempt to comfort him. For all the years he had spent watching these two fighting each other, there was a certain level of peace that seemed to cover them now as he listened to Henry whisper his response to Shawn, letting his son know it wasn’t his fault, and that he loved him too. Gus honestly had no idea if those two would have ever been able to actually live in a peaceful relationship, but he knew the love was always there. At least now, it finally had been spoken.

     The screen came back on again, this time with Shawn sitting at Chief Vick’s desk, a goofy smile spread across his face. Half those in attendance broke into nervous laughter while the rest turned to see Vick bring a surprised hand to her mouth. Shawn actually took a few seconds to speak, as if wanting to savor the momentary victory of having conquered the Chief’s space.

     “Chief!” He finally exclaimed, his eyes continually darting to something beyond the camera while some muffled sounds could be heard. “Ok, well I don’t know how much longer Gus can keep you and Lassie busy…” eyes darted towards the office door again. “So I’ll make this quick. There’s not much to say anyway. That’s odd, considering how much you’ve done for me.” He paused for a moment, lowered his head, then looked back up at the camera. “Chief, thank you. Thank you for taking a chance on me…it was a hell of a chance, I know. Thank you for giving me this gift that is Psych. For putting up with me all this time. I know it wasn’t always easy, and I asked a lot of you. But…you always delivered, and you demanded that I grow and better myself in the process. No one’s ever done that for me before. Well…no one outside my dad and Gus of course. No one who didn’t have to do it, I guess. You always believed in me. Thank you, Chief.” He flashed a bright smile just as his cell phone began ringing. He picked it up, looked at the display, then laughed and stood up. “Ok! Time’s up!” He quickly went to shut off the camera, leaving everyone present in a strange mixture of laughter and tears, most of them looking over at Chief Vick. She had her face in her hands by now, making everyone wonder if she was laughing or crying. Not that she really cared, for once, if the majority of her staff saw this demonstration of emotion. Besides, as she considered her consultant’s words, it was very much like him to keep her in a strange state somewhere between excitement and frustration. She had been shocked to hear what he thought of her and what she had done for him, in his perspective, at least. Strange, she wondered, how one never really knows the impact they might be having on another person’s life until they’re gone.

     The screen faded in once more, this time Shawn was at the Psych office again. By now, it didn’t take a psychic detective to see that he had basically done all of these tapings on the same day. Either that or he had chosen to wear the same long-sleeved blue shirt in all of his clips. Gus smiled and shook his head when he noticed the ice cream wrapper on the desk. Of course it would have all been done on the same day. That was the moment that Gus’ breath stopped short in his throat. Shawn was sitting at his desk. Shawn was getting ready to talk to him now. His heart started racing and he felt his hands beginning to shake. He wasn’t ready for this. He’d never be ready for this. Yet, it was happening. Shawn was going to talk to him, and there would be no stopping him. As if sensing what was about to happen, Gus felt Henry’s strong arm around his shoulder to offer him support through what was to come. Under any other circumstances, Gus would have stiffened and considered it awkward, but as Shawn smiled and prepared to speak, Gus found the support to be extremely needed.

     “Gus!” Shawn began, greeting him exactly as he would have on any other day. “How goes it, buddy! See, I knew you could do it. I knew you’d come through for me.” Gus felt Henry’s arm tighten around his shoulder as Shawn continued.

     “Ok…so…” Shawn said awkwardly, as if, for once, he was at a loss for words. Gus couldn’t tell if it was his own misty vision, or the quality of the video on the screen, or if it was really happening, but Shawn’s eyes suddenly appeared slightly misty, too. He even stopped and swallowed hard, then laughed as if to shrug off his feelings. “Um…wow, I would think I’d have a million things to say. I’ve never had a problem talking to you. I’ve told you everything. I always have. But now…” Shawn had to pause and swallow hard again while the entire room filled with sniffles coming from all directions. “Gus…you’ve been beyond anything that anyone could ask for in a best friend. You made me not miss having a brother, because that’s what you were to me.” He stopped and put his head down, the noticeable hitch in his voice a major clue to everyone why he didn’t immediately continue. In the room, tears were now flowing freely. Shawn took a few seconds to gather himself, then raised his head again. “It’s so easy to talk to you about anything and everything…but not this. Gus…I don’t know how to say goodbye to you. I can’t. I won’t. All I can say is…” His voice caught hard, forcing him to whisper the final words he was determined to say.

     “I love you, buddy.”

     “I love you too, Shawn.” Gus managed in his own whisper, shortly before breaking down into Henry’s embrace. This was it. Even if he had openly avoided it, Shawn had said goodbye to him. Gus wasn’t ready to accept it. He couldn’t accept it. There would be no more hanging out, no more working at Psych, no more running around…not even anymore funeral planning. As painful as it had been, it had also been a source of comfort for him – a chance to “do” something for Shawn even if just one last time. It was all gone now, and there would be no going back. At least during the years that Shawn was gone on his travels, there was the occasional post card or phone call, and always the chance of him coming back. No more chances or calls or postcards now. It was over, and the realization consumed him. It pushed down on his chest, making it hard to breathe, and feeling like he might actually have another panic attack like had happened on the pier. The only thing that stopped him was Henry persistently keeping attention on him, forbidding him from slipping back into himself and the darkness. He also refused to allow this to happen at his best friend’s funeral of all places. He focused instead on deep breathing and on Henry’s voice until his head began to clear up and he could breathe again. When he looked back up, he noticed Shawn sitting at Lassiter's desk this time, and was already speaking.

     “…I know, Lassie, I know.” Shawn had a guilty smirk on his face, making Gus feel sorry for having missed the beginning of the sentence. “But I’ll try not to embarrass you. I promise. Ok, first off, the haircut. Can I say I am digging your experimenting ways lately?! This whole Carey Grant thing is working for you! But don’t go back to the buzz cut. That just wasn’t you. Also, the new suits? I wholeheartedly approve! But you’ve got to fix the loose threads on the inside of the gray jacket. It bugged me something awful when I tried it on.” Lassiter could only lower and shake his head in response while a couple officers patted him on the back and Spencer became somber once again. Lassiter tensed for what was coming. “But most of all, Lassie, you’ve gotta know you’re good at what you do. You’re damn good. You’re better than you think. I learned a lot from you, you know, and I couldn’t have done a lot of what I did without you. I’m serious, Lassie! All joking aside…you’ve had my back all this time, don’t think I didn’t notice. But most importantly…” he stopped for a moment, trying unsuccessfully to hide a catch in his voice. “You’ve had Jules’ back. Lassie, she…without you, she wouldn’t be…anyway, let’s just say I don’t worry about her as long as you’re around. I respect you, man. Keep up the good work, and take care of Jules for me, like I know you will.” Lassiter instinctively reached over and placed a hand on his partner’s shoulder, his sign of re-committing to the vow that he would watch out for her no matter what.

     The video didn’t go dark this time after Lassiter’s segment ended. Instead, the camera kept filming as Shawn looked completely undecided on something. He kept looking to his left, then acting as if he was getting up, but stopped himself every time. Lassiter figured out right away he was looking towards Juliet’s desk, thinking about filming her portion of the video. Considering what he knew of their relationship, even Lassiter could see that this had to be the most difficult one of all for Spencer to do. The young man finally got up and took the camera with him, sat down at Juliet’s desk, and positioned the camera once again in front of himself. He then took a few seconds to look around, make sure the coast was clear, and slipped back into the most casual smile he could manage. Juliet was already leaning heavily into Lassiter and holding onto his hand tighter than was comfortable for him, not that he would even think of saying or doing anything about it.

     “Jules.” He began, then paused, as if to savor the sound of the name in his head for a moment. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say. No girl has ever made me work so hard, and I never thought I’d ever want to work so hard for a girl. You never just went along with me, but you never played hard to get either. You were just…you. And you know, you drove me insane because of it! Maybe I lost track of myself a few times. Ok, I definitely did. More than a few times. But it was hard work, Jules. You know, the process of becoming worthy of you. I know I never really achieved it. I’m not sure I ever could. But you gave me a chance anyway, because that’s the kind of angel you are. Wherever I’m at right now, I guarantee you that I can’t possibly meet any angels that can even come close to…” his voice finally caught in his throat and refused to release. Shawn lowered his head for a moment again, and when he raised it, his eyes were obviously tearful.

     “I can’t imagine having gone to what people call a better place.” He spoke. “I don’t want to go. I don’t know how. I hope…with everything I’ve got…that no one ever has to see this. because I don’t want to go. It can’t be a better place, Gus and Jules, if I can’t have you there with me. I don’t know how…I guess I’ll learn. I’ll be ok. In the meantime, be good to each other. Watch out for each other. Gus, take care of my parents for me. And speaking of parents, mom…of course I’d never forget you!” his smile was back, along with a sparkle in his eye, and Gus could only smile at the thought of how quickly his best friend was able to shift mental gears. He was just about to speak when something off camera caught his eye. “Lassie alert! Ok, mom, hold that thought. I’ll be back!” He quickly reached to turn off the camera and the screen went black once again. everyone present remained silent, expecting the video to come back on soon enough, this time with Shawn’s message to his mom, but it quickly became apparent that it wouldn’t happen. For whatever reason, Shawn had not had a chance to finish his video.

     Madeline put on a brave smile and shrugged when Henry tried to put a supportive hand on her shoulder. “It’s ok.” She sniffed. “The way his face lit up when he mentioned me. That’s all I need.” She was surprised to find that she wasn’t really lying, either. Whatever Shawn would have said on the video, she wanted to hear it, but she didn’t miss it. What she missed was all the time between them that was lost after her marriage broke up. She missed the time she could have spent with Shawn during her time off work, the way Henry spent as much time as possible with the kid. She missed those three long years during which Shawn was trying to reach out to her, but she was too busy to reciprocate. She missed calling him whenever she was in town to see if they would at least meet for lunch. Most of all, she missed being a mom, and it hurt deeply to realize that she had missed out on that chance a long time ago. She was also angry at having convinced herself that things were good as long as Shawn was still happy to see her during their infrequent encounters.

     The entire room remained eerily silent for a while, feeling the ironic void left by an unfinished video, meant to bring closure to a life that was itself left unfinished. What Shawn had managed to say brought comfort to those that his words were dedicated to, but there was still a deep feeling amongst everyone that there was at least that much more left unsaid. Perhaps it was just his way of being – always keep people guessing. Gus decided it was Shawn’s way of living out his mantra for television – ‘Always leave them wanting more.’ Well, he definitely did that. And strangely, as much as many members of the SBPD complained about him, Gus could tell that they were feeling the same way.

     Lassiter hadn’t meant to mostly tune himself out of his surroundings for the rest of the service. He barely even registered Guster and his old college acappella group performing a song in Shawn’s honor. If asked, he wouldn’t even be able to say what he was thinking of instead. All he knew was that he was startled back to reality when the service finally ended. So this was it. they would head over to the burial plot and it would be over – honor guard aside. He shifted in his seat and placed a hand on his partner’s shoulder as the pallbearers stood up to go take their places, Guster amongst them. It seemed fitting, and painful to see him do this, to the point that even Lassiter had to swallow hard at the sight. The young man’s eyes were red and tear-brimmed as he stepped up to his previously determined spot at the front of the casket. He sniffed a few times, glanced at the casket a few times, then placed a hand on it while a few final words were spoken.

     Lassiter watched him closely, noting that he didn’t look like he would be able to handle this. Of course, no one would ever want to, but Guster more and more looked like this would end up being too much. His breathing seemed faster than normal, and he quickly broke into a sweat when the pallbearers were given instructions to begin their journey back to the exit. Lassiter bit his lip. Plenty of experience working with Guster over the years had given him insight into what he truly could and couldn’t handle. He would almost always look like he was about to lose it on crime scenes, but there were only certain instances when he actually was in danger of doing so. He had also unfortunately seen things like this happen several times over his experiences attending officer funerals. There were times when a person just wouldn’t be able to handle this duty. This time was one of them. Guster was definitely going down – and soon.

     As he watched and shifted in his seat, Lassiter came to a slow realization of what he would have to do. He was the closest one, after all. Any other time, he’d have already been in action, but once he was on his feet, something stopped him. Sure, this was the last thing he would think he’d want to do, but it had to be done. His sense of honor and duty wouldn’t easily allow something like this to happen to Guster, much less allow the job to be left without someone to complete it. But it was this same sense of honor and duty that was stopping him now. He wouldn’t want to do this if it would upset Henry. The two of them had come to an understanding of sorts, but perhaps not enough to warrant allowing Lassiter to carry his son’s casket. He looked back at Guster, who was about ready to go down at any moment. Carrying the casket or not, Lassiter rushed over to help him out at the very least. He gently put a hand on the young man’s shoulder and another hand on his other arm, helping him back upright.

     “Hey, it’s ok.” He said softly. “Come sit down.” He led Guster to the nearest seat, then knelt in front of him to make sure the kid would at least stay conscious. “Breathe, Guster. Deep breaths.” He encouraged, just as Juliet came by to join him and take over watch on Gus. He thanked her and stood up, not noticing everyone else now looking at him. He focused only on Henry, who returned eye contact and gave a slight nod. It was all the confirmation Lassiter needed. He straightened his suit jacket, cleared his throat quietly, and stepped up to Guster’s spot at the casket. All he wanted to do at this moment was avoid every eye that he knew was now looking straight at him. instead, he held his head high and made the choice to take on his new role.

     Take long, deep breaths and steady yourself. Right. Breathe. Definitely don’t forget to breathe. He took one last look at Henry, who looked back at him through tear-filled eyes. The easy, not to mention less painful thing to do would have been to look away. It would normally have been Lassiter’s first instinct, yet he didn’t. He couldn’t. If he had already failed the son, he wouldn’t fail the father now. besides, the fact that Henry was looking to him, of all people, gave him the strength he needed to feel like he could do this. He could only hope, as he gave one final encouraging nod to the man, that his actions now would offer some sort of comfort in return.

     Walk slowly and steadily. Lassiter wasn’t sure what he had expected that performing this task would be like. A part of him had hoped that it would be consuming enough to keep his mind off of what he was actually doing. He soon found out that part was wrong. He could have never foreseen that his mind would instead take him to a time months before when he helped to rescue a baby from a serious car accident following a high speed chase. All he could think about while holding the baby carrier in hand was how much heavier it felt with the baby in it, even if the child wasn’t very big. He was carrying another person’s child now – this time a person’s child that he couldn’t save. It wasn’t the fist time he had failed to save someone. That kind of failure was never easy to deal with, but then again, he’d never had to follow up on his failure by carrying the casket as well.

     The walk back outside was slow and torturous for Lassiter. Sure, the casket was heavy, but that was the least of his concerns. Half of him wanted to just get this done and over with. the other half of him felt like the moment his job here was finished, it would slam the door on any chance ha had of making this right. Not that there ever was any chance anyway, but at least up until that moment, he could take solace in denial. Just as he reached the back door, standing against the wall and seeming to hide in the shadows, was Buzz McNab. The young officer’s eyes were fixated on the casket as it passed by and only looked up to make eye contact with Lassiter, who nodded as an offering of encouragement. At least McNab had been able to come to the service, which earned him a good dose of respect from the Head Detective.

     Once the casket was in the hearse and his job complete, Lassiter’s mind began wandering again, and didn’t stop even through the service at the gravesite. The only actual focus he had being reserved to look out for his partner’s well-being. He sat in silence as the burial proceeded, automatically counting off the gunshots from the 21-gun salute. Taking a glance at Guster, he was surprised to see the young man sitting relatively calmly, the most calm and put together he had seemed during the entire process. Gus was staring into the distance, not looking at the casket nor at anyone else, but holding himself together nonetheless. Henry maintained a hand on his back, but the man hardly looked able to keep himself intact, making Lassiter feel like he was having to keep an eye on them both. At least it was something to do.

     After it was all over, Lassiter stood and was busy helping O’Hara gather her things when he felt a heavy hand on his shoulder. He turned to see Henry standing there, looking back at him with a look in his eye that finally showed forgiveness. He extended his hand, and Lassiter shook it, unsure of what to say.

     “Thanks, man.” Henry spoke through a hoarse whisper. “That was very kind of you.” Lassiter looked down at the ground, feeling even more unsure of himself by the second. How was he supposed to respond to this one? Well, ignoring the man would be even worse, so he would have to say something. He looked back up at Guster, then at Henry, the whole time grateful that Juliet now took a turn placing a supportive hand on his back.

     “Uh, well, it was the right thing to do, Henry.” He managed.

     The small group stood awkwardly without knowing what to say next, each realizing that there really was not much to be said in a situation like this, and each hating how incredibly forced even interacting seemed to be now. Finding only words of departure to say to each other, they soon went their own ways. Henry, Madeline, and Gus went back to the Spencer home, while Lassiter walked Juliet back to his car with full intention of remaining with her for at least the rest of the day, either at his place or at hers. Not that he would ever want to be on administrative leave, but if ever he was grateful for the time off, it was certainly now.

     Both partners stepped slowly through the grass, Lassiter half a step behind O’Hara and with a hand on her back while she walked with her head held down. Upon reaching the parking lot, he looked up to see McNab’s car parked towards the back, the young officer still inside and watching as the crowd slowly dispersed. He met eyes with Buzz only briefly, glad that he was at least able to acknowledge and nod to him.

     Buzz made it through the service by standing in a dark corner at the far back of the room, but couldn’t bring himself to attend the burial directly. He sat in his car instead, watching the ceremony from a distance, flinching at the sound of gunshots during the 21-gun salute, and falling to tears all over again. It was the first time since the accident that he had heard shots fired, causing him to relive the event all over again. He fought with everything he had to keep from peeling out of the parking lot that second, aiming for nowhere in particular. It took a couple minutes, but he finally managed to force a new mental image into his head to go with the gunshots he had heard. No way would he allow himself a descent into another crisis, not after what he had already put Francie through. He chose to remember the times he went shooting with Shawn to try out his Christmas gift- the Daisy Red Rider. Bitter-sweet memory though it was, and even though it didn’t stop his tears, it did help him to smile and endure the rest of the ceremony. Lassiter’s acknowledgement of him – both times – had been immensely encouraging, perhaps more than the Head Detective himself could ever know. It didn’t go unnoticed by Buzz, who finally felt like he could leave the parking lot in peace.




End Notes:
Sorry for the delayed update. I've had lots going on, but one more chapter should do it for this one! To all of you who have stuck with it, THANK YOU for all your kind thoughts and words. They mean more to me than you think!
Letting Go by Psychrulz
Author's Notes:

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. 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.

 

Tex and Drag, I get choked up at the thought of how incredibly awesome you two have been to me, not only helping me with this fic but encouraging me through it. Thanks for everything. You both rock :) 

            Henry sat in his son’s childhood bedroom, having only now been able to enter it since hearing about Shawn’s death. He never wondered before, why it was that he had left the kid’s room untouched for so many years. Time and time again, he had thought about what he could do with the space, and time and time again he simply let the idea fall through the cracks in his memory, never fully materializing into anything serious. Perhaps for a while, while Shawn was on his travels, it served as his hope that he would someday return – not that he should have ever hoped for a return all the way back to the house. When Shawn did finally set foot in Santa Barbara again, it had been in his own home…or whatever semblance of home the kid found for himself.  Henry should have known that Shawn would never come back to this home…and perhaps he did. Perhaps leaving the bedroom this way was his way of showing to the kid that he always had a place to go if he ever needed it – not that either of them would have ever admitted to such a possibility. There was something about this room that was so different, Henry realized, from everything else around that belonged to Shawn. The kid’s boxes of stuff in the attic, Henry had tried time and again to get rid of. But all the stuff in here…he had embraced it in his own way, never even thinking of getting rid of it.

            The chances of his son ever coming home again were gone now, however. There would never even be any more weeknight dinners to discuss cases, watch a game on TV, or just sit on the deck to talk (or argue) about whatever happened to be on their minds at the time. Who would have thought, on the day his 17-year-old son stormed out the door, that the kid would one day come back…and that Henry would actually look forward to cooking for him and having him over for dinner? It had been too long already since Shawn’s death. Two weeks. Usually, if the two week mark hit without Shawn coming over, Henry would make sure to call him under some pretext of needing his help for one chore or another. Whether the chore actually ever got done (and it often didn’t) was beside the point by now – memories of having almost been saddled with a dog on the one time the kid actually did follow through with a chore still haunting him enough that he knew better than to insist with someone like Shawn. Sitting on the edge of the bed now, Henry realized he still wasn’t in a hurry to change anything in here, whether or not his own son would ever come back to reclaim it. If Shawn wouldn’t ever again have use for it, then perhaps…

            This is when he first realized it. The first time since that day so long ago, that Henry actually could pinpoint his reason for leaving this room as it was, even knowing that his son was unlikely to ever come back to it…even knowing that his son was the hard-headed type that would probably have (and maybe even had already) chosen homelessness over coming back to dad’s house. Henry felt his throat tighten upon his realization. He had kept the room like this not on the outside hope of Shawn returning…but on the hope of someday sharing it with a grandchild. For whatever reason, he always assumed his first grandchild would be a boy, and a room like this would be perfect for him to spend a night or two in once in a while.

            Henry never thought it possible to mourn the loss of someone he had never known, but that’s what he found himself doing now. Having lost his wife, and after making so many mistakes raising Shawn, he had pinned his hopes of redemption on a child that was yet to be born. This child would be his own flesh and blood just as much as Shawn, and would be loved just as much. Having Shawn back in his life had even rekindled his strong hopes that he’d get to have a close relationship with this little one too. Now, Shawn’s death meant that his child would never be born. In Henry’s mind, that was no different than a death. That thought alone was enough to break him yet again. It was all he could think of, and as he collapsed onto the side of the bed, Henry wept.

 

***********************************************

 

            Gus sighed and looked around at the space – clean, bright, and smelling of various cleaning solutions. He was embarrassed to think this is the cleanest the place had been in…well…years. Then again, he also missed the frequent ambient aromas of whatever he and his friend happened to be eating at the time, whether it was tacos from the nearby shop, or anything that might have been passing by on a vendor’s cart. The smell of churros was his favorite by far. It was hard to beat the scent of freshly fried, bready goodness surrounded by cinnamon and sugar – cinnamon especially.

            All the flat surfaces having been wiped down and the floor mopped, he looked to the walls – the one area he had been unable to clear up to this point. He had not realized how hard it would be to take the photos down – this being the final step towards clearing out the Psych office completely. Already, it looked so much more barren than he ever expected it would look, having been cleared of…well…everything that the boys had accumulated over the years. It had been said of them over the course of their relationship that they were like brothers. Shawn would have certainly bought into that. If so, then the Psych office was their shared bedroom – where they talked and played together, bickered, and generally shared each others’ company in a place that welcomed others, but remained always uniquely their own. Being so busy with the chores of getting it to this point had made it easy for Gus to get so busy working that he didn’t even notice the changing appearance of the office until he finally took a step back to review his work. It was shocking to say the least. He still couldn’t help but smile at the wall his friend had knocked down to open up the space shortly after they rented the office. Something only Shawn would do, surely, but it had actually added a nice feel to the area. So much so that the landlord even approved.

            What the landlord did not approve of so heartily, were the many holes in the ceiling tiles from Shawn’s annoying habit of flinging pencils up to see how many would stick. Eventually, the pencils came down, either on their own or after having been knocked down in one way or another, however the holes remained. The ceiling tiles would have to be replaced, which meant Gus would have to give up that portion of the deposit. And yet, he didn’t mind. He knew damn well if Shawn were alive, he would have most certainly minded, but of course, things were different. If Shawn were alive, Gus wouldn’t have needed to close out the lease on the office, and eventually he would find a way to get the tiles replaced on his own – after Shawn’s habit of pencil flinging came to an end…assuming it ever did.

            The walls would also have to be repainted, Gus had to admit, to cover the various scuffs and marks from years of wrestling, object (or food) throwing, and general furniture rearrangement to suit Shawn’s latest whim. Gus figured he could just as well paint the walls himself, much more easily now that the office was mostly cleared of everything, but he just didn’t have the energy. It would be much easier to simply give up that portion of the deposit as well and hope for the best. Painting always ended up being a much bigger project than one would have planned for, anyhow.

            Just the TV, couches and chairs left. He thought, then perhaps one final sweeping/mopping of the floors, plus some general dusting and polishing. He knew he could at least do the dusting for now, but that would mean he’d be even more efficient than he had been. Being efficient would also mean he’d be done here much sooner than he was ready. He’d never be ready, to be honest, but that didn’t mean he’d have to hurry up and be done, either. Henry wasn’t due to arrive with the truck to pick up the furniture for another hour, so he had some time to kill. He leaned against the door and allowed his gaze to wander over the boardwalk, across the railroad tracks, and to the pier that he and Shawn had spent so much time on, wondering how often he would actually end up coming back here after today.

            The thought surprised Gus. The routine of coming here every day for the past five years had become so deeply engrained in him that he simply had never considered the idea of not coming here on such a regular basis. Even being a mile out of his way between his pharmaceutical job and home, this office was, in his mind, on his way home, and not stopping here simply didn’t feel right. The thought itself didn’t sit right at all…and as he considered the ramifications of it, even the thought of not paying regular visits to the police station felt wrong. That was certainly the most surprising of all to him. Years ago, he would have been appalled at the thought of spending so much time at the police station. No proper, upstanding civilian citizen like himself would ever dream of such a thing. Yet, here he was, mourning the loss of his days spent wandering the Santa Barbara PD station, and being perfectly happy doing so instead of what could be seen as more productive tasks – like building his pharmaceutical sales contacts.

            Speaking of police…Gus noted as he gazed once again towards the pier…there he was again. Buzz had made quite the ritual of coming out to the pier almost on a daily basis. Gus would know this because of his own daily ritual of coming to the Psych office under the pretext of getting more cleaning done. Sometimes he did, sometimes he didn’t. Always, however, he would see the young officer out there. Sometimes he would sit for hours, sometimes less. More and more, Gus felt the anger in his chest beginning to abate. The man was clearly paying a heavy penance for what he had done, and more importantly, Gus had heard about what happened with him and the gun. There was really not much more that Gus could expect from him short of actually hoping for Buzz to kill himself, and not even in his intense grief could he bring himself to wish that on anyone.

            Watching him now, for the first time, Gus felt the urge to go out to him. Waiting on Buzz to come to him would never happen, he could pretty much guarantee that. Buzz would be highly unlikely to dare make the first move uninvited…and who knows, maybe he wouldn’t even want to. Gus took a few steps forward, pausing to close the door behind him, the entire time wondering why in the world he was even doing this. The anger was still there…but the fact remained that Buzz had not only paid his penance, but had made an effort. Gus had noticed him at the viewing, and had heard comments about his presence at the funeral. Buzz was definitely not just allowing this to slide by, and as much as Gus wanted to, he couldn’t either. He knew it would take years before he could come to terms with having lost Shawn…if it ever happened at all, but more and more, he was starting to realize that at least adding some sort of closure with Buzz would also have to happen first. It wouldn’t have to be a matter of forgiveness, per se. He wouldn’t have to even ‘make up’ with the young officer. Just some words. Enough to close the door on things. That would do it.

            And so he approached, determined to bring closure on this once and for all – for himself as well as for his best friend. He waved at the churro and peanut vendors as he passed them, smiling in spite of the sad look in their eyes when they saw him. One step in front of the other, he reminded himself. Just get this over with. Buzz turned and noticed him when he was still a good 30 feet away, making the rest of the distance somewhat awkward. When he finally arrived, Gus stood against the rail, looking down on Buzz, who was seated at the bench. Neither said a word for what felt like hours.

            “Hey, Gus.” Buzz was the first to speak, only fleetingly making eye contact.

            Gus continued his silence, suddenly regretting having ever come out here. What the hell was he doing, anyway? Exchanging social pleasantries? “Hey, Buzz.” He replied anyway.

            The two of them fell silent again for another few minutes before Gus spoke again. “I saw you…at the viewing. You stayed at your car the whole time?”

            Buzz was shocked that he had been seen, but simply nodded in response. “Yeah, I didn’t want to bother anyone…but…yeah I was there.”

            Gus nodded. “And you were at the funeral. I didn’t see you there, but I heard about it.”

            “I didn’t stay for the burial part.” Buzz explained. “I’m sorry…about what happened, you know, when you…”

            “I’m just glad Lassiter stepped in.” Gus interrupted. Dammit! So now they were talking about his meltdown of all things?!

            “It would have happened to me, too, just so you know.” Buzz confessed. “It almost did when I was pallbearer for my grandfather. I’m not sure how I got through it, but I was sure I was going down.”

            The boys were still not quite making eye contact, and the conversation was still somewhat forced, but they both began to sense an understanding soon enough, as if both of them knew that they needed this talk to happen – however it would turn out.

            “Just so you know…I don’t intend to return to duty.” Buzz spoke up after a long silence.  “Chief says the investigation should turn out ok for me…but I just don’t feel right…you know. I’ve been thinking a lot about it, and…”

            A sudden, strange, and extremely foreign feeling filled Gus’ chest upon hearing these words. Shock, perhaps? Maybe, but it was much more than that. Normally, he would actually consider the thought of Buzz giving up his badge, given the circumstances, but something prevented him from even considering that. The feeling was strong enough that it welled up in his chest and prevented Buzz from continuing his announcement.

            “Wait…what?!” He exclaimed before he knew what he was saying. Where was this coming from, anyway?! “Buzz, why? Why would you do that?” He felt like asking himself the ‘why’ question over why he would even say such a thing in the first place.

            Buzz, in turn, was taken completely aback by Gus’ reaction. “I…I don’t know…I guess I just…”

            Gus felt his heart pounding and did some deep breathing to calm himself. A few breaths later and he could tell that it was working. He felt his head and thought process returning to normal. However, the strange feeling remained. It pushed him to reach out to Buzz. Gus thought he could even describe it as a pleading for him to reach out to the officer.

            “I know, Shawn. I know.” He muttered to himself without even thinking. The fight was gone from him, he realized. To keep up the anger and the hatred, he would have to keep fighting for it, and he was just too tired to do that. All of a sudden, he came to an understanding of his best friend’s way of being for all this time – why no matter how much stress it caused, Shawn had simply remained unable to keep up his feelings of hostility towards his father. Doing so would have required too much energy that could be better diverted towards something better – like a relationship with Henry.

            Sighing deeply, he turned to Buzz and spoke again. “Buzz, what would Shawn tell you if he were here?” He asked simply.

            The question seemed to catch Buzz off guard, but even having thought about it himself already, he couldn’t bring himself to answer. Instead, he only shrugged and tried to deflect it. “I guess that doesn’t matter, does it?”

            Once again, Gus felt himself enraged, this time through his own doing. “Really?! That’s how you think of Shawn? He’s an afterthought to you now?!” Buzz scrambled to come up with a redeeming response, but Gus continued. “He’s the one who pushed for you to get onto our training in the first place, did you know that? He saw you asking Lassiter about it, and he made sure Lassiter was convinced to bring you on board. But that doesn’t matter now either, does it? It doesn’t matter that he’s dead because he tried to help you out?”

            This wasn’t going well. Not at all, Gus noticed as he stood there with shaking breath, mirroring the shaking breath in Buzz just a few feet from him. So much for an attempt to reach out to the man. I can’t do it, Shawn. I’m so sorry. He thought, turning his back on Buzz to lean heavily against the guard rail.

            Buzz sat frozen with shock. Shawn had lobbied for him to get onto the training?! He was the one who tipped the scales in his favor when it came to Lassiter’s approval?! This was almost more than he could bear. No, it was more than he could bear. Yet, even knowing that, Gus had stood here and seemed very much against the idea of him quitting the force. Why would he do that? “But you still don’t want me to quit?” He asked to Gus’ back, his curiosity getting the best of him.

            Gus took a few moments before answering, wondering how in the world Buzz could not see this for himself, and taking every ounce of strength he had to convince himself that Buzz was not dismissing his best friend on purpose. “No, Buzz. It’s not that I don’t want you to quit. What I want doesn’t matter, don’t you get it?” He replied, more harshly than he had intended. “I’m trying to honor Shawn, to make sure that his death means something. What do you think will happen to that idea if you quit and drop from law enforcement existence?! He’s dead and you’re nowhere to be found? That would mean his death meant nothing.” He took a second to catch his breath and try to calm the shake in his voice. “But if you learn from what happened, use it to make yourself better, get back on the force, and teach others how to be better because of it…use it to save lives…That’s gonna honor my best friend.” He wiped the tears that were now falling onto his cheeks. “On top of that, it’s what he would want.” His own words felt like they were coming back at him in that now familiar sensation in his chest, pushing him towards something. I would want you to forgive him, too. It seemed to be saying. That was harder. So much harder.

            “Buzz, you need to get yourself back on the force.” Gus directed to distract himself from those thoughts. Even this effort, however, filled him with emotion at the sight of Buzz seeming to fight the idea of going back to police work. Worse, Buzz now had tears welling up in his own eyes. Dammit! What he was already feeling inside only strengthened the sympathetic crier that he was, which really didn’t help matters considering that tears were already a part of the equation for himself. He watched Buzz’s struggle, his shoulders beginning to shake as the tears began flowing more and more freely, likely no longer fighting the idea of returning to work, but still unable to accept it in his own mind.

            Perhaps because (Gus would have liked to convince himself) as a human being, it would be wrong to just let someone in such emotional distress fend for themselves, he soon found himself taking steps towards Buzz. First one, then another and another, until he was right next to the man, his hand on Buzz’s shoulder. The gesture only seemed to release the floodgates for both of them, who soon found themselves in an embrace, both finally allowing themselves to openly feel everything they had been afraid to face up to this point. There was so much anger within each of them, for various and very different reasons, but they also knew they each had shared a very special relationship with Shawn – each in his own way. They also both knew, at this moment, that perhaps the path to forgiveness and release of this anger would be through each other. When their moment ended, they both stood against the guard rail and gazed out towards the never ending expanse of the ocean, each lost in his own thoughts and unsure of how to proceed from this point.

            “Group hug and we’re not invited?” The voice startled them both. They turned to see Juliet and Lassiter standing there, seemingly having appeared out of thin air. Both Buzz and Gus felt somewhat self-conscious at having no clue how long the two Detectives must have been watching them.

            “I’m always up for a hug, Juliet.” Gus replied, pulling her into a short embrace. “Just…you know…trying to get used to things.”

            Juliet nodded in understanding while her partner greeted Buzz and asked about his well-being. “Um, we heard that you were cleaning out the Psych office today. I figured we could come and give you a hand…unless you’re already done with that.”

            Gus shook his head quickly. “Yes! I mean, no…I’m not done. It’s just the furniture that’s left, really. Henry’s coming out in a bit to help me out and carry some of the stuff in his truck, but I know we can use some extra pairs of hands. Thanks.” He glanced at Lassiter, who had definitely come ready for the occasion, dressed in sneakers, jeans, and a t-shirt – the kind of clothes he was highly unused to seeing the Head Detective wearing.

            “If it’s ok…” Buzz spoke up quickly, “I’d like to help too.”

            Gus smiled, surprised at how glad he was to see Buzz suddenly look like his old, eager-to-help self again, even if only momentarily. “Sure, Buzz.” He replied, then looked around at his group. “I guess we should get back there and get some work done, huh?”

 

******************************************************

 

            Three hours later, Henry’s truck having completed 3 round trips to and from the Psych office, carrying various furniture items, Gus, Henry, Lassiter, Juliet, and Buzz stood quietly inside the now completely empty room. It was a strange feeling for all of them – something between relief of a long & hard job completed, and sorrow at having actually finished this task. They had even unconsciously extended their work by meticulously wiping down as many of the surfaces as they could once the entire space had been cleared. Even the floors were now literally clean enough to eat off of following what must have been 3 sweep & mop cycles.

            They all stood in a circle, facing each other, all of them unsure of what to say or how to proceed. This would be it, after all, once they declared the job done. Perhaps they each were trying to think of any more jobs left to do that would get them off the hook from having to make this declaration.

            “This feels so strange.” Buzz finally admitted first. Everyone nodded their agreement silently.

            Gus took his cell phone out of his pocket thoughtfully, then nodded as he seemed to make a final decision. “I…I never really got to say goodbye to him.” He spoke up. “I never thought I would ever have to, so I never knew how. But…I guess…this is as good a time as any. He would often call me when he was leaving the Psych office at the end of the day, whether that meant noon or 11:00 at night…if I wasn’t around, he would offer to bring me something on his way home. I feel like I owe him that final phone call now.”

            No one said a word as Gus hit the speaker phone button and dialed Shawn’s number. They all felt a heavy weight in their chests as Shawn’s voice soon filled the room with his voicemail greeting. “Hello! You’ve reached Shawn Spencer. Actually, no you haven’t, which is why you’re listening to my voicemail. Leave me a message!”

            Gus took a deep breath before speaking, wishing he had prepared something to say ahead of time. Once the line beeped, however, it was too late. “Hey, Shawn.” He began. “You’ve been like a brother to me too, you know. Thanks for always being there for me. Thanks for making my life so much more fun than I could ever make it. Thanks…thanks for being my best friend, and I’m honored that you made me a part of your life. I’ll never forget you, buddy.” He was about to cut the line off when he noticed Buzz reaching out a hand for the phone with a pleading look in his eye. Gus nodded and handed it over.

            Buzz took the phone, sniffed, and cleared his throat before speaking. “Hi, Shawn.” He spoke, his voice heavy and hoarse. “I’m…I’m so sorry. I’ll always be sorry for what I did…but I keep getting this odd feeling that you’ve already forgiven me. Thank you, Shawn. For everything. I swear I’ll live up to what you thought I could be. I’ll make you proud, I promise.” He saw out of the corner of his eye that Juliet was now holding her hand out, and quickly handed the phone over to her.

            Juliet looked at the phone, misty-eyed for a moment, then began speaking, allowing herself to be surrounded by the illusion of being all alone in the room with only Shawn by her side. “Shawn, sweetie…I guess my biggest regret is not having worked harder for you. Maybe in my heart I just knew that you would always be there waiting for when I was ready. That’s a nice feeling, by the way. Not many men do that, but you did. And what I loved most about you is that you didn’t just want me. You also cared about my career and my family. That means the world to me, Shawn. I’m so sorry I won’t get to show you everything I can be with you by my side. I’m so sorry I only got the small amount of time I had with you, but I’m thrilled I got even that much. Wherever you are, please know I still need you. Watch out for me and for all of us, will you? Oh, and Shawn…I love you.”  

            Without thinking, she handed the phone to Lassiter, whose heart jumped to his throat when he instinctively accepted the device. Adding something to this message had not been in his plans, but he couldn’t bring himself to turn it down, either. Hoping not to make too big a fool of himself, he cleared his throat and prepared to speak something short, yet appropriate. However, at that moment, he was shocked to feel a sense of calm come over him, as if an old friend and comrade had come to stand beside him to offer encouragement and support. Taking a deep and relaxing breath, he only halfway noted that it was often Shawn who would offer this kind of support and encouragement for him to take steps outside of his comfort zone. This thought in mind, he actually felt relatively comfortable speaking his final words to Shawn. “Spencer, I know we didn’t always get along, but what can I say. You got the job done. I couldn’t ever deny that, and I never will. Yeah, you were a pain in the ass, but I always admired your passion and how you refused to ever quit. That’s something I think I was beginning to forget for myself, especially after losing Victoria, so, thanks for the reminder. I won’t take it for granted ever again. I didn’t realize that you learned from me and respected me like you said you did…but hell, man, I respect you too. And I learned from you too. I’ll always have O’Hara’s back. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure she’s ok on the job and off. Thanks for being on our team.”

            He handed the phone to Henry, who extended his hand the moment that Lassiter was done. For having done so as quickly as he did, Henry suddenly found himself unsure of what he wanted to say. Perhaps he had just gotten too wrapped up in the idea of actually talking to his son again, as if Shawn would reply to him in some way. He took a deep breath and spoke anyway, determined not to lose this chance at saying goodbye to his son. “Hey kiddo.” He began, clearing his throat to help maintain his composure. “I’m sorry. I don’t really know what to say anymore. I guess…what I have to say is that you were my life. You were my light. You always have been, kid. When you were born, I swore that you would be the best thing I ever did with my life. Maybe that’s why I pushed you so hard. I’m sorry…if I pushed so hard that I almost pushed you away. Thanks, Shawn, for coming back and giving me a second chance. You were always the type to believe in second chances. Thanks for teaching me that things don’t always have to turn out as planned to turn out well. Man…I think I lost all my hair learning that lesson from you, but it was a good one to learn. Thanks, kid, for helping me to keep my promise to myself. You were the best thing I ever did with my life. You’re my greatest achievement. Thanks for coming back to me before I lost you forever. I can’t ever thank you enough for that. I love you, kiddo.”

            Being the last one in the group, he finally pushed the red button on the phone to end the call. So this was it. One final message sent out through the airwaves to his son in the hopes that he would somehow, someway receive it. The group stood silently, each thinking about the same thing in their own unique way – each one feeling a certain amount of closure – each one feeling a sensation around them that told them it was time to let go. It was a sensation that they each instinctively wanted to argue with, but felt reassured by at the same time – the same exact sensation that they each attributed to what they normally felt when they were around Shawn. They all stood silently, allowing themselves to feel this sensation, knowing it would be the last time they would ever experience it.

            After a few minutes, Henry was finally the one who broke the silence. “Um, thanks, all of you…for everything. Especially for helping out here today. I don’t know what to say. You all meant so much to my son. It’s great to see he meant a lot to you, too. Anyway, you all did work hard today. How about I invite you over to my place for some steak and drinks. The house is a bit quiet since Maddie left a couple days ago, so the company would be nice.” Everyone quickly nodded and accepted Henry’s offer, each one filing out of the office towards their respective vehicles.

            Gus lagged behind the group, feeling the need to take a last look around by himself. He took his time walking through each part of the office, smiling at the memories of the hijinks he and Shawn shared during their time here. Once back at the entrance, he placed his and Shawn’s keys on a shelf just inside, took one final glance at the space that his best friend used to occupy, and stepped outside, closing the door behind him for the last time.

End Notes:
So here we are. Finally done! Again, to those of you who have hung through this the whole time, and those of you who started reading later - THANK YOU so much! Thanks for reaching out and letting me know your thoughts as you have read. I'd love to hear from you once more now that it's all brought to a close :) 
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