Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. I do not own any of the characters of Psych and am not affiliated with the show or USA Network. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. I do not own nor am I associated with M&Ms, the TV series “Deadwood”, or the TASER X-12 less lethal shotgun.
*AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is set immediately after the ending of the Psych Season 5 finale episode “Yin 3 in 2D.” It also takes place after my previous Psych Fan Fiction stories "Choose It Or Lose It", "It Can Happen", "This Stalker Thing Kind Of Sucks", and "Stir Crazy". Events affecting the Lassiter/Shawn and Lassiter/Juliet dynamics that take place in both of these previous stories are mentioned in this one. You might want to read them first. Doing so is not a requirement to understand what is going on in this one, but it will definitely help alleviate any confusion that might occur when the references pop up.*
In case you’re interested, this is the TASER X-12 Less Lethal Shotgun: http://www.taser.com/products/law-enforcement/taser-x12
Carlton sat in the dark on his living room couch, staring dumbly at the blank TV screen before him. He didn’t remember the drive home, or even how long he’d been sitting there; his mind was so preoccupied by the tumultuous storm of thoughts swirling within that he hadn’t bothered looking for the remote. He peered down at his watch, surprised to find a glass of scotch clutched in his hand, and saw it was after three in the morning. He tried to figure out how long he’d been there, but he just couldn’t remember when he’d arrived. Hell, he didn’t even recall pouring that drink he apparently hadn’t touched yet. Lassiter’s stomach churned again as the ugly memory that shocked him to his core resurfaced. He tried to burn the nausea away by downing the scorching shot of liquor in one swift gulp. He welcomed the harsh, numbing warmth slowly spreading through his abdomen. But no matter how hard he tried, no matter how much he drank, he knew he would never be able to sear that image from his brain.
Spencer in the interrogation room.
Kissing his new girlfriend.
Kissing his partner.
Thankfully, the only person who’d died that day was the notorious killer Mr. Yin. Yet for some reason, he felt like he’d suffered a terrible, painful loss. The moment he’d seen their lips touch in that tender, intimate kiss, he knew his world, the life he’d built for himself over the last five years, had changed forever.
He wanted to call O’Hara, to check up on her and make sure she was doing okay. His partner talked about everything, a trait he’d despised in the first years of their partnership, but had grown to accept. He’d even started to enjoy it on some level, being secretly pleased when she’d confided in him about meeting her ex-boyfriend again after seven years apart. So he knew she’d need to talk about the evening’s events, especially after having to face her darkest fears regarding the criminal mastermind Mr. Yin. It took her over three months to get back to work after he’d kidnapped Juliet and held her high above the streets of downtown Santa Barbara. But he couldn’t call her now, she wouldn’t endure his eternally awkward attempts at comfort tonight. He couldn’t call her because he wasn’t welcome in her private life anymore, that privilege having been unceremoniously ripped away from him and bestowed upon someone else. Because Spencer was there. Feeding her goddamn pancakes.
–“You have me now. I would protect you right back.”
The lead weight of shocked disbelief in Carlton’s chest was displaced by a simmering anger. Protecting O’Hara was his job, damn it! How dare he! She trusted him to have her back no matter what, especially when her life depended on it. That stupid kid couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag, much less protect her from the dangers they faced every day. His temper flared again as he thought about how many times he’d saved his partner’s ass, both on and off on the job, usually risking his own in the process. He’d pulled her to safety in the middle of a massive gunfight after a shotgun slug grazed her side. He’d rescued her from the clutches of her “rebound date” after Spencer declined her request for a date that fateful night at the drive-in during their first run-in with the Yin-Yang killer. He’d literally pulled her from the precipice of certain death as she’d dangled from the top of the clock tower.
He’d saved her that night. Her partner. Not Spencer. Because Shawn left Juliet to go save his girlfriend at the time. A fact that, though O’Hara told him to do it, Lassiter knew had hurt her on some level.
And now she was dating the little twerp. What the hell was wrong with her?
Lassiter stood up and stalked into the kitchen, feeling his blood pressure rise with every step. He refilled his glass and downed another shot of scotch while his brain continued its train of thought. He was angry, pure and simple. Angry at Spencer, angry at Mr. Yin for traumatizing O’Hara into making poor life decisions...and, he realized with mild shock, angry at Juliet herself. How could she be so stupid? Couldn’t she see Spencer wasn’t serious about her? The man was a child, he wasn’t serious about anything! He could see O’Hara’s future clear as day; Shawn would be enamored with her at first, then get bored once the novelty wore off, slowly becoming more distant until the relationship sputtered to its inevitable end. He envisioned his sobbing partner standing in his doorway with a tear-streaked face, clutching several pints of chocolate ice cream and a handful of Blu-rays, hoping he could provide a brief respite from the pain the brat had inflicted. He could see it coming from a mile away, so why couldn’t she? Apparently O’Hara hadn’t listened to his cryptic, yet wise advice that “all love ends in despair.” Spencer was going to hurt her, and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
Or...maybe there was something he could do?
Lassiter slammed his empty glass down on the counter with newfound resolve. He knew what he had to do now. It would probably hurt Juliet’s feelings in the process, but would spare her the much greater future agony she’d endure if he let things continue as they were. She would see the wisdom of his ways and forgive him eventually. Yes, despite the slings and arrows he’d suffer as O’Hara unleashed her wrath, he was committed to this course of action. Tomorrow he would tell Chief Vick the pseudo-psychic was dating another employee in the department. Being vested as a long-term member of a department with Civil Service protections for employees, Juliet’s position and assignment would be safe. She wouldn’t be transferred. But as a freelance civilian consultant, Spencer was afforded no such protection. The Chief would have no choice but to discontinue his services.
Lassiter would be free of him once for all, and things would go back to the way they were before Spencer mockingly flailed his way into their lives.
Lassiter sat at his desk the next morning, staring down into the contents of his coffee mug. He took a sip of the dark brew only to make a sour face upon discovering it had cooled to slightly above room temperature. He checked his watch and discovered it was already 10:30 AM, well past the time he usually finished his first cup of the day. Lassiter glanced over at the Chief’s office and saw the doors were closed, the standard warning sign she wanted absolute privacy. Not surprising, since she was currently in a meeting with the investigation team from Internal Affairs. Lassiter’s patience waned with every passing minute. He wanted to get his meeting with Vick over with quickly, like ripping a bandage off of a heavily scabbed wound. But that would have to wait until the Chief finished briefing IA about the conclusion of the Yin case. He’d have to find something else to occupy himself while passing the time.
“McNab!” Lassiter yelled. Scrambling footsteps skidded to a halt beside the Head Detective’s desk.
“Yes, sir?” Buzz inquired, ready to fulfill his commanding officer’s request.
He handed his tepid beverage to the eager young officer. “Refill this. Make sure it’s hot. Preferably fresh.”
“Yes, sir!” he turned and hurried away to carry out his orders.
Lassiter was once again assailed by creeping doubt about his decision to inform the Chief of Spencer’s blossoming relationship with O’Hara. Though he’d never admit it to anyone unless actively being tortured, he’d actually developed somewhat of a fondness for the younger man over the years. Like it or not, Spencer had proven himself to be reliable on several occasions, even going as far as to earn Lassiter’s begrudging respect. So he couldn’t help but feel more than a little bit guilty about turning him in to the Chief.
“Dependable in everything except relationships with women,” he told himself. “He won’t take her seriously, he won’t give her the respect she deserves. He’ll break your partner’s heart, and you know it. You have to do it for Juliet, damn it.”
A shadow falling across his desk startled him out of his thoughts. As if on cue, Juliet O’Hara offered him his full, steaming mug full of fresh coffee. She was smiling in that annoyingly chipper way Lassiter felt was entirely inappropriate for that hour of the morning. Or evening. Anytime, really.
She looked so happy.
“I was headed this way, so I thought I might as well bring this over to you, since Buzz had an armful of files,” she beamed as she set the mug down on the corner of his desk.
Lassiter’s volatile temper flashed when he thought about how he’d been forced into this position by his partner’s seemingly limitless gullibility. First she’d believed Spencer was really psychic, now she’d fallen for the kid’s charm? And to add insult to injury, she actually thought she could hide her newfound relationship from him? Her partner of all people? Did she honestly think he was that blind? Or, even worse, stupid enough not to notice their daily flirtations? He scowled and grumbled something unintelligible yet suitably grumpy as he took a sip.
Juliet’s brows knitted together slightly. “Carlton? Is something wrong?
He opened his mouth to snap at her in frustration, but paused just in time to avoid an afternoon full of apologies. “She’s not thinking clearly, this whole Yin thing has really rattled her,” he reminded himself. His gaze drifted over the bruise on her forehead, still visible beneath her attempts to cover it with extra make-up. An ugly reminder of the previous night’s events. “She hasn’t been herself since the clock tower. It’s the only reason she’d be stupid enough to date that idiot Spencer. It’s not her fault, give her a break. If this is anyone’s fault, it’s Spencer’s for manipulating her–”
Juliet’s worried inquiry shook him out of his thoughts. “I’m fine,” he dismissed her concern. “I just didn’t get much sleep last night. Thanks for the coffee.” He took a hearty sip from his cup, finding the beverage prepared to perfection, as expected.
“Yeah, me either,” she commiserated with a small laugh.
Carlton couldn’t stop the small explosion of coffee spluttering past his lips even if he’d tried. Not the image he wanted in his head right now!
Juliet hurriedly retrieved a handful of napkins from the perpetually full snack counter behind her desk. “Are you okay?” she asked while offering him a stack of the absorbent paper.
“Yeah, just–untimely hiccup. Inhaled some of it,” he claimed while blotting the surface of his desk with the wad of napkins in his fist. Fortunately O’Hara seemed to accept his explanation, and wandered away to her own workspace, leaving him to dry his case files in solitude.
It was just after 1:00 PM when Chief Vick’s door finally opened. Juliet was off delivering files to the records room while everyone else busied themselves with avoiding Lassiter’s even grumpier than normal self. He watched the Chief walk the investigators out of her office, shake their hands, then part ways with a relieved smile before returning to her desk. This time, she left the door open. Her standard invitation that any officer wishing to speak with her was welcome to do so at any time.
Lassiter took a deep breath and steeled himself. This was for Juliet’s own good, he had to do it. He closed the case file he’d been reading, straightened the knot in his tie, and rolled his chair back away from his desk. He was less than a second away from standing when he heard the distinctive annoying nattering that belonged to the bane of his existence.
“Buzz! How are you this fine morning, my gigantic friend? Have you seen Jules?”
Lassiter flipped open the screen on his laptop and hunkered down behind it. He tried to ignore their casual exchange in hopes Spencer would wander off in search of his partner. Said hopes were dashed when a brown paper bag with an attached ‘Thank You, Lassie’ card landed on his desk blotter right next to his face.
“Really? You’re hiding from me, Lassie?” Shawn asked with a mischievous smile. “You really think I can’t find you with a little of this?” He waved his left hand next to his head, and brought it to his temple with a flourish in one of his more grandiose ‘I’m psychic’ gestures.
A gesture that infuriated Lassiter since Shawn knew he knew he was lying.
Anger flared in Lassiter’s chest yet again when Spencer casually reached into the paper bag, pulled out an M&M sugar cookie, and started eating it. The Detective leaned forward, his fingers wrapping around the edge of his desk with a white-knuckle grip as he slowly rose from his chair. It was bad enough the little bastard was continuously lying to him, but now he was lying to his partner? And that line of crap he’d fed her about protecting Juliet–that was his job, damn it! Didn’t the damn kid have any shame?
“Get the hell away from me before I cram that stupid cookie where the sun won’t shine,” he growled menacingly.
Shawn was apparently unfazed by Lassiter’s death glare. “Aww, come on, Lassie. Is that any way to treat your favorite consultant? Especially one who comes bearing gifts consisting of your favorite cookies?” He took another bite of his stolen multi-colored cookie.
“I don’t have time for your crap right now. I’m going to see the Chief.”
“About what?” me mumbled through his food.
“I know, Spencer. I know. About you and O’Hara.”
“What, that we’re friends?” he shrugged. “Everyone knows that, Lassie.” Shawn stuffed the rest of the cookie in his mouth.
“I saw you two in the interrogation room last night. I was behind the glass in the observation room. I saw you, kissing her. I know.”
A single M&M dropped to Lassiter’s desk when Shawn’s jaw gaped open in surprise, leaving a sticky blue trail along the surface as it skittered across an open case file. He quickly swallowed and wiped his mouth on the sleeve of his jacket. “Lassie, we were going to tell you, but–”
“But nothing, Spencer!” Lassiter retorted angrily. “You thought I was going to do the same thing to you that you did to me? That I was going to rat you out to the Chief because you ended my relationship with my former partner? That I might jump at the chance to get a little payback for the damn five year dry spell I suffered as a direct result of your actions?” His voice grew louder with each passing word. The tempest of emotions he’d been keeping bottled up inside began rushing to the surface like lava escaping an erupting volcano. “That was your fault, Spencer. Your fault. At the time, you did it because you thought it was funny. Let’s all laugh at the great Head Detective who you reduced to being the butt of a joke. Well, you’re about to get a taste of your own medicine. Let’s see how you like it!”
Lassiter turned and began walking toward the Chief’s office, but Shawn caught his arm just above the elbow to spin him around so they were once again facing each other. “Carlton,” he pleaded, momentarily stunning the furious Head Detective into silence with the use of his first name. “If you want to punish me for what I did–hell for every time I’ve ever pissed you off, that’s fine. I can deal with that. Truth is, I’ve probably had it coming for a pretty long time. All I’m asking is that you leave her out of it.” He paused, swallowing hard before he continued. “Seriously. I really care about her, man. Please don’t do this.”
Lassiter’s eyebrows rose, and for a fleeting moment, Shawn thought he’d managed to change his mind. His hopes plummeted in a wild tailspin when Lassiter spoke again. “Serious? Serious?! For someone with such an excellent memory, you seem to forget I know you lie to the police for a living. You can’t be serious about anything for more than five damn minutes. Especially when it comes to women.” Lassiter loomed over him menacingly while jabbing his finger at his chest. “You finally caught the perfect woman, that girl of your dreams you’d been chasing since high school, and what did you do? You dated her for a few months. You even brought Lytar to the station, flaunting her in front of everyone. Then you actually celebrated being single as soon as you dumped her, and immediately started chasing O’Hara again. Now you’re telling me you’ll somehow be different this time? That you’ll protect her, and all the flowery, feel-good nonsense you promised?” Heat flushed his face as he continued his tirade, building with intensity as he remembered Juliet’s tearful confession to him in the car that night at the drive-in. Shawn’s rejection had crushed her back then; if he did it to her a second time, Lassiter knew it would absolutely devastate her. “What a load of crap, Spencer! You may have been able to swindle her into believing you, but I’m not buying your little dog and pony show this time. Say goodbye to your precious career, you fraud. Have fun selling Japa dogs down at the pier the rest of your life.”
“Wait, just–why now? Why bust me now?” he asked. “After over five years of solving cases, you’ve kept my secret, only to rat me out to the Chief about my girlfriend? Why can’t we just keep this a secret, too?”
"Yes, I've kept your secret from Vick, but this is different. This is my partner we're talking about. This time, it's her or you, and the choice is easy. I choose her."
Shawn stepped in front of Lassiter with hands raised in a peaceful gesture in a last-ditch effort to avoid disaster. “Lassie, please, just–”
But the older man was through listening. He determinedly pushed his way passed Shawn, once again heading straight for Chief Vick’s open door.
“Oh, God...please, no! Lassie, wait!”
Shawn desperately grabbed Lassiter’s arm again, only to have it savagely ripped from his grasp with a twist of the Head Detective’s strong shoulders. Lassiter marched right up to the open doorway, and with a few simple words, shattered Shawn’s world.
“Chief, I need to talk with you about something. In private,” he stated briskly
Vick looked up from a file she was reading, closing the cover to give her officer her undivided attention. “Well, I’m not busy now, Detective. Come in.” She motioned toward the chairs in front of her desk.
Before stepping into her office to accomplish his mission, Lassiter turned around to face Shawn once more, a sneer curling his features into a victorious grin. He was finally going to be rid of the pseudo-psychic! No more would he suffer the indignity of being labeled with nicknames suggesting total incompetence after being shown up yet again by some slacker kid who was nothing more than a charlatan.
The expression slowly melted away when he saw Juliet standing next to Shawn, her hands clasped together in front of her mouth. Her eyes glistened with building moisture as she met his gaze with a desperate sadness that was painful to see.
He glanced over his shoulder to see Chief Vick studying him. “Have a seat.”
Lassiter crossed the threshold into her office, and slowly swung the door shut.
“I blew it, Jules,” Shawn whispered dejectedly. He was sitting with his arms covering his head, which was currently resting face down on the corner of Juliet’s desk, hiding from the world unraveling around him.
Juliet rubbed comforting circles on his back in an effort to reassure him. There was no point in hiding their relationship anymore, so she didn’t really care who saw them. “It will be okay, Shawn,” she soothed. “You’ll see, everything will work out.” She made the statement even though she knew there was almost no chance it could be true. She tried to infuse her words with confidence in an attempt to cheer him up, but judging by Shawn’s reaction, she’d failed miserably. He slowly raised his head, looking utterly defeated. She was glad he couldn’t bring himself to make eye contact with her, because if he did, Juliet knew he would see just how affected she was as well. She didn’t want to snap the last threads of hope she clung to like a drowning man clutching pieces of driftwood in the sea.
Shawn stared off into space, his eyes fixed on a random spot about three feet above the floor beside her desk. “Man, my life was finally perfect,” he said softly. “Everything was going great. I had my dream job, awesome friends, I even finally found the best girlfriend in the world. Now it’s all gone, because I was stupid...” his voice trailed away, the compliment to her swept away with the flow his thoughts.
Denial about their situation obviously wasn’t working, so she switched tactics to accepting the future as best they could. “Hey,” she said softly. “Come on, don’t be like that. This isn’t the end of the world, Shawn. No matter what happens, we’ll still have each other. Try to focus on that.” She slid her palm across his back, down his arm, then over the back of his hand to lace their fingers together. The soft warmth of her fingers entwined with his pulled him from his depressed trance. He slowly turned his head, and when their eyes met, Juliet was almost shocked by the level of sadness within them.
“You know he’s right? I thought it was funny. I actually thought it was fun to screw with his personal life,” he said, hanging his head with regret. “Everything I’ve done to him, all the jokes I’ve played on him over the years at his expense without ever stopping to think how badly it actually effected him...well, I guess I really do have it coming. I actually deserve this. And the worst part is, this time, I’ve hurt you, too.”
Juliet opened her mouth to reply, but was interrupted by the door to the Chief’s office abruptly swinging open. Lassiter emerged at a brisk walk making his way purposefully to his desk. He stared straight ahead, lips cemented into a tight line, refusing to make eye contact with anyone as he strode over to retrieve his jacket from the back of his chair.
Juliet motioned for Shawn to remain still while she rose from her seat, and cautiously approached the clearly upset Head Detective. “Carlton, are you–”
He turned his back on her before she could finish her sentence. Lassiter thrust his arms into his jacket, and pulled the lapels over his chest with a sharp *snap* of fabric. Then he picked up Shawn’s gift bag of cookies, threw it into the trashcan next to his desk, and strode out of the bullpen without saying a word. Juliet’s heart sank as she watched him leave her in his wake. She desperately wanted to talk to him, but found all she could do was watch helplessly as he descended the steps leading to the front door of the station.
Juliet sighed in defeat and slowly returned to her desk, her arms hanging limply by her sides. She placed her hand on Shawn’s shoulder as his head once again flopped down on the corner of her desk to disappear beneath his arms.
“We are so busted,” he moaned.
They stayed like that, waiting for the sound of Chief Vick’s commanding voice to order them into her office and seal their fate. She squeezed her boyfriend’s shoulder supportively as they sat in silence, and waited. And waited. And waited...Juliet risked a curious glance over her shoulder through the open door of the Chief’s office. She saw Vick sitting at her desk, casually sipping her coffee while browsing through the department’s monthly acquisition reports.
“Shawn?” She tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention, gesturing toward the open door. He turned around in his chair to peer inside Vick’s office, then looked back up at Juliet, his brows furrowed in total confusion. Juliet’s gaze fell on her partner’s vacant desk, then followed the path he’d taken out of the bullpen.
“Stay here,” she ordered, then grabbed her black jacket from the back of her chair and hurriedly pulled it over her shoulders. She left a befuddled Shawn at her desk as she retraced Lassiter’s steps toward the front door. As soon as she stepped outside, she began looking for his car. Juliet saw his beloved dark blue Crown Victoria sedan still parked in his assigned space, but the car was empty. She began looking around outside, canvassing the parking lot, even going as far as visiting the playground behind the station, but Lassiter was nowhere to be found. She wondered if perhaps he’d circled back to the interrogation rooms to brood in the dark, as was his tendency when he wanted to think about things in private. But Juliet had a sneaking suspicion she might know where to find him this time, so she decided to follow her hunch and take the chance. Instead of focusing her search on the station, she turned and walked toward the beach.
She found him sitting alone on a bench on the deserted boardwalk. She recognized his distinctive form immediately even though his back was facing her. Juliet remembered the first time she’d seen him sitting on this very bench. It was during their first year working together, they’d only been partners a few short months, and she’d discovered he was the most surly and difficult person she’d ever met. She was wondering if their working relationship would ever improve, if he would ever stop treating her like an incompetent rookie, as his relentless criticism had been seriously eroding her confidence. But when she’d found him sitting on that bench the first time, taking in the spectacular sunset while eating his lunch, she’d realized maybe, underneath that gruff exterior, he possessed a softer human side as well. He’d denied even noticing the natural spectacle at the time, but she’d known he was just saving face having been caught in the act. The simple sight of her hard-ass partner enjoying something so beautiful strengthened her resolve to work through their differences. And as a result of her tenacity, they’d actually become friends over the years.
Juliet noted the tension in his shoulders, visible even beneath his suit jacket from a distance. She approached cautiously, quietly walking around the bench to his right, studying him carefully as she moved. He sat stoically staring out over the ocean, his heavy brows knitted together with the weight of his thoughts. She gingerly sat down next to him, making sure to keep a respectful distance between them. In reality it was only a small gap, but it felt like the Grand Canyon, a seemingly insurmountable distance between the two partners. Juliet occasionally glanced in his direction, waiting patiently, watching the muscles in his jaw flex as he stared silently at the vast expanse of the ocean.
“You could have told me, you know,” he finally spoke. He continued watching the distant waves, still refusing to look at her.
Juliet finally realized the true reason for his behavior; it wasn’t her dating Shawn that was upsetting him, but the fact she hadn’t trusted him enough to tell him from the beginning. He’d stumbled upon their secret relationship by accident several months after it began, and the violation of their trust in one another had hurt him deeply.
“I’m sorry, Carlton,” Juliet sighed. “You’re right, I–we should have told you. It’s just...” She let her voice trail off, not knowing what to say. He turned and fixed her with an intense glare, his deep blue eyes challenging her to finally be truthful. She knew she needed to chose her next words carefully in order to close this rift between them. She decided she had to be honest, no matter what the consequences. She owed him that.
“I know that Shawn told Chief Vick about your relationship with Detective Berry. We thought, if you knew, you would turn us in to the Chief and get Shawn fired in retaliation.” She watched his hands curl into fists at his sides.
“So you lied to me.”
Juliet sighed. “Yes, I lied to you,” she admitted somewhat shamefully.
“You didn’t trust me,” he accused scathingly.
Juliet’s gaze slowly drifted down to study her shoes. “Carlton, I’m so sorry.” She shrugged, looking back at him helplessly, at a loss for words. “You’re right, I should have trusted you, I was wrong. I just...I don’t know what else to say.”
He acknowledged her admission with a small grunt, once again turning his icy stare to the late afternoon sun as the two fell into silence once again. Juliet knew him well enough not to interrupt his thoughts at the moment.
“He makes you happy, doesn’t he?”
She raised her head to look at him once again, studying him carefully, trying to read him. She was surprised at the level of sadness behind his eyes.
“Yes. Yes, he does,” she admitted quietly. Juliet was dreading what he might say next. Where others lived their lives in multiple shades of gray, Lassiter’s world was black and white; Juliet had chosen a relationship with Shawn, so he was now officially downgraded to “second fiddle” in all areas of her life. In his mind, there simply wasn’t enough room for both men in her life. Knowing the man so well, she was aware the ‘you chose him so I’ll leave instead’ speech was a very real possibility. It was his misguided version of nobility. She watched him take a slow, deep breath before he spoke.
“Guess I’ll have to get used to him being around more often, then,” he breathed in a long, resigned sigh. “But Spencer will never ride shotgun in my car.”
Juliet’s relief was nearly overwhelming. Her fear, that her relationship with Shawn was going to devastate her partnership with Lassiter, wasn’t coming true after all. She slumped back against the back of the bench, finally aware she’d been as tense as the man sitting beside her. That’s when it finally dawned on her–he hadn’t mentioned Chief Vick’s reaction to the news she was officially dating another department employee.
“Wait a minute. When you say you’ll have to get used to him, does that mean the Chief doesn’t mind that I’m dating Shawn? Did she lay down some additional restrictions, or ground rules for us working together, or...”
Carlton remained silent, choosing instead to busy himself by brushing some unseen lint off the end of his tie.
“You didn’t tell her, did you?” she asked in shocked surprise.
He smoothed his silk tie back into place with his palms. “No, I didn’t.”
She swallowed to regain her composure, surprised to find herself getting choked up at his admission. After a few moments, she finally asked, “Why not? What changed your mind?” When he didn’t answer, she placed her hand on his arm, encouraging him to voice his thoughts. “Carlton?”
Lassiter sighed again, and turned to face her. “Oh, I was ready to bust him. Believe me, I wanted to do that more than anything in the world. That little brat Spencer deserves a taste of his own medicine, especially after everything he’s done to me over the years. Six damn years of juvenile pranks, interference in my personal life...hell, he even super glued my coffee mug to the top of my computer monitor, O’Hara!” he exclaimed in frustration. He felt Juliet lightly squeezing his forearm through the sleeve of his jacket, her standard reminder he was letting his temper get the better of him. It had the intended effect and calmed him before he could work up another head of steam. He slowly inhaled, breathing in the soothing sea air. Juliet seldom failed to ease his temper, her sunny and patient disposition the perfect compliment to his surly and impulsive nature.
“But,” he continued reluctantly. “I noticed the change. Over the last couple of months, I could tell there was something...different about you, O’Hara. You always seemed to be in a good mood. At least, more than usual, that is. You laughed at things a bit easier, I’d catch you hiding behind your computer monitor, smiling when you didn’t think I was looking...” he paused, taking in the light glistening off the ocean waves once more. “You were happy. Apparently that was Spencer’s fault. And no matter how much I dislike Spencer, and how firmly I believe your relationship with him will end badly, I just couldn’t take that away from you, Juliet. I don’t want you to end up like me.”
This time, Juliet couldn’t stop the tears spilling over her cheeks if she’d tried. As sad as his declaration was regarding the current state of his own personal life, the rationale behind his actions was probably one of the sweetest, most caring things he’d ever said to her. She wiped her cheeks with her palm and asked, “So what did you talk to the Chief about when you went into her office?”
Her partner scoffed in disdain. “Do you know she still doesn’t trust me enough to let me carry a fully automatic M4 assault rifle? After all this crap with the Yin-Yang killer fiasco, Vick still won’t allow me to carry one on duty! At least give me the TASER X-12 less lethal shotgun. The Chief’s always chewing my ass about pulling my gun too much, so she could at least let me shoot them from up to one hundred feet away without killing th–ooph!”
His tirade was cut short by Juliet’s overly enthusiastic hug.
He didn’t return her embrace, but he did still and tolerated it. “Oh–okay, O’Hara. That’s enough, now.” She finally peeled herself off him and accepted the handkerchief he produced from his breast pocket. Juliet punctuated their awkward moment of silence with occasional sniffles, and dabbed at her cheeks with the small square of white fabric.
“Well, I guess I’ll go take that box set of ‘Deadwood’ back to the video store,” he lamented.
“What? Why?” Juliet asked in shocked surprise. “We finally got the entire day off together to watch the first season this Sunday, don’t you dare take it back! We’ve been waiting forever for this, why would you want to return it?”
“Well,” he cleared his throat, suddenly looking uncomfortable. “You’re dating Spencer now, and that’s your day off, and I just assumed that you two would want to–uh, you know...do dating...stuff.”
“Carlton, Shawn may be my boyfriend, but you’re my partner. Dating Shawn, or anyone, for that matter, will never change that,” she assured him. She caught the hint of a smile starting to turn up the corner of his mouth as he nodded in acknowledgement. “So, we’re still on for movie night?”
“Sure.” His smile expanded into an anticipatory grin. “I heard some guy gets pushed off of a cliff in the third episode. I’ve always loved a good death by cliff.”
“Carlton, that’s disgusting. You need help.” Though she thought it slightly disturbing for him to get this excited over some poor sap being shoved to his death, she loved it when his eyes lit up with an almost childish glee.
“Oh, come on, O’Hara, admit it. That’s just good entertainment.”
She regarded him for a moment, then asked hopefully, “So...are we good?”
After a moment, he confirmed, “Yes, we’re good,” with a curt nod. He glanced to his right to find her staring back at him expectantly. “Oh, for the love of–all right.” He extended his arm around her shoulders to give her a quick squeeze before retreating to his side of the bench.
“Would you like to know why Shawn glued your coffee mug to your computer monitor?” she asked.
Lassiter turned to glower at her. “Okay, I’ll bite. Why?”
“He knew you’d been asking tech support to replace your monitor for over a year because it gave you eyestrain headaches. They’d completely ignored you, so he figured they would have to replace it if it was ‘accidentally’ damaged,” she finished with a wry smile.
Lassiter’s frown deepened. “Huh. I’ll be damned.” He pondered the implications of Spencer’s apparently charitable act. Okay, so maybe the kid wasn’t so annoying after all?
The sound of his stomach growling redirected his train of thought. He checked his watch, surprised at just how late it was. He didn’t realize how much time had evaporated during their partnership tiff. “It’s after three, and I haven’t eaten yet. You hungry?”
Juliet tucked his handkerchief into her jacket pocket, knowing she’d return it after washing it for him. “Yeah, I could use some food.”
They both stood up, straightening and buttoning their jackets. “Steak place?” he asked as they both donned their sunglasses.
“How about jerk chicken?”
“Damn it, O’Hara,” he growled.
Lassiter sat in the viewing area of interrogation room B, reading a report by the dim light filtering through the window. It was late, well past the end of his shift, but he still had one last report to approve and send up to the Chief. At the end of particularly tough days that left him with a lot on his mind, he preferred to complete this chore in the darkened solitude of the interrogation rooms. He’d sent O’Hara home because it was late and he didn’t need her assistance. He also didn’t want her to know he was reviewing her statement regarding the resolution of the Yin case. She was already under enough stress from the job, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to add to her problems if he could avoid it. As Lassiter turned the pages, his temper flared with every new paragraph; he hadn’t known the details of O’Hara’s fight with Yin’s apprentice, Allison Crowley, until now, and knowing what she’d endured made his blood boil. It made him want to dig Yin’s body up just so he could kill him all over again.
He snapped the folder shut when the door suddenly opened. He was about to rip into the apparently suicidal officer that had dared to interrupt him, but paused when he saw the distinctive form of Shawn Spencer silhouetted in the doorway. He’d recognize that hair anywhere.
Lassiter was not happy at the intrusion, especially by Shawn. Given the day’s events, Juliet’s new boyfriend was the last person he wanted to see. “Damn it. What the hell are you doing here, Spencer?” He slapped the file down on the ledge underneath the viewing window, and paced along the farthest wall with his hands on his hips.
“Easy, Lassie. I come in peace.” Shawn stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. He slowly crossed over to the window, and placed the paper bag containing the M & M cookies on the ledge next to the file.
Intrigued, Lassiter placed his hands in his pockets, and leaned back against the wall. The dim light reflected off the shiny gold badge on his belt as he watched Shawn with quiet curiosity. “What do you want?” He finally asked.
Shawn pointed at the bag. “I found your cookies. You accidentally lost them.”
Lassiter quirked an eyebrow. “Lost them. In the trash can?”
“I’ve seen people lose things in weirder places. I lost a phone inside an elliptical jogger once. Anything is possible.”
Lassiter rolled his eyes, reached over to pick up the file, and began moving toward the door. If privacy was no longer an option, he might as well go back to his desk. He left the cookies untouched on the ledge.
“Don’t you want to know what they’re for?” Shawn asked as the Detective passed him.
Lassiter stopped, slowly turning to face the younger man. He remembered the first time they’d had a private discussion in this very room; it was the night Lassiter told Shawn he wasn’t turning him in to the Chief even after obtaining audio evidence that he wasn’t really psychic. “What?” he inquired, his curiosity getting the better of him.
Shawn pointed at the bag again, this time indicating the now slightly rumpled ‘thank you’ card attached to the top. “Because you were there for Jules when I wasn’t.”
He hadn’t expected such a candid admission. As he studied Shawn in the dim light, he could see the younger man was visibly nervous, swallowing hard as he struggled to maintain his composure. He also apparently had more to say. Knowing how difficult it obviously was for him, Lassiter remained silent, waiting for Spencer to finish what he’d started.
Shawn slowly breathed in, then continued. “When Yin had Juliet on top of that clock tower, I wanted more than anything in the world to go to her rescue. But then I figured out where he was holding Abigail, so I went after her instead. And the only reason I could do that was because I knew you were there for her. I knew you would save her, Lassie.” He paused, meeting Lassiter’s gaze with newfound confidence. “Then after that night, when she was trying to figure out how to deal with what happened to her, well, she told me you were the one who got her through it. You were there for her at what was probably the lowest point in her life, and helped her when I couldn’t. You’ll always have her back in ways that I can’t. So I just wanted to say, you do a great job protecting her. Thanks for being an awesome partner, man.”
Lassiter stood in the dimly lit room, staring at Shawn in stunned disbelief. Did Spencer just say what he thought he’d said? He had to admit, he was impressed with his level of candor. He also hated to admit he was genuinely touched by Shawn’s confession. Lassiter recovered his wits quickly, clearing his throat to cover the uncomfortable silence hanging between them. He opened his mouth to speak, and after trying unsuccessfully to come up with an answer, he decided to go with simplicity. Better to get this over with as quickly and painlessly as possible.
“Thank you, Spencer.”
Lassiter tucked the case file underneath his arm, and retrieved the bag of cookies from the shelf before turning toward the door. He paused, noting the bag was significantly lighter than the last time he’d hefted its weight. He opened the bag and peered down inside to find only three cookies left out of more than a dozen. Lassiter fixed Shawn with a withering glare when he pulled a cookie out of his back jeans pocket.
“I’m sorry, man, it’s an addiction. Apparently I have a problem,” he admitted before taking a bite.
Lassiter clinched the bag with the remaining cookies in his fist and stalked toward the door. He opened it, then paused before crossing the threshold, his imposing form silhouetted in the doorway. “Hey, Spencer.”
“Do you know what I’ll do If you break her heart?”
“Let me guess. You’ll shoot me?”
Lassiter looked back over his shoulder at Shawn. “Well, what do you know? You really can read minds,” he finished with a smirk. He left, letting the door slowly shut behind him. He pulled one of the few remaining cookies out of the bag and took a bite while ascending the stairs to the bullpen. He had to admit, it really hit the spot. He rounded the corner to his desk, set the file down, and picked up his empty coffee mug, noting with satisfaction it wasn’t glued down to anything. He paused when he noticed a new addition to his workspace.
Sitting in the middle of his desk was a brand new box of bullets. It was topped by a green Psych business card containing a note written in Shawn’s distinctive scrawl:
– “Just don’t miss.”