If you've ever wanted to read a short bit of romance between Lassiter and Lucinda, then you should also read this story.
And if you've ever wanted to read a story in which the death of a loved one changes everything, then you should definitely read this story.
Disclaimer: I do not own Psych, nor do I own any of its characters, settings, trademarks, or related material. Psych and all related materials are the property of their respective owners. The plot and original characters of this story are my intellectual property. I am not associated with Psych, its creators, or any involved parties. No copyright infringement is intended.
***UPDATE: One thousand thanks to everyone who read this fic, nominated it for the PF Awards, and voted for this little story. When I first posted it, I really didn't think that it was very good, but over time, I've grown to be quite proud of it. Thank you for your kindness and your support. It's an honor to be able to use this banner and pineapple icon. ...And special thanks to whoever nominated my sweet Nick for Best OC/Big Bad. Nick holds a special place in my heart, and I truly appreciate you thinking of him.
Thanks to Texasartchick for her help with the firearms in this story!
In the end, it didn't really matter why he had done it. The act was done, the scene played through, the die cast. And now that the night was through, there would never be any way to take it back.
But she wished it could be taken back.
As Lucinda Barry held the smoking gun in her right hand, finger slipping away from the trigger, staring at the man laying on the dingy tan linoleum floor in front of her, she wished that it could all be taken back and undone.
But now, the night was ending fast, and her cop's instinct told her to run, to get away from the fear and pain. She turned to face the door, but now her date for the night was standing there blocking her, staring past her, through her, to the bleeding body behind her.
"What happened?" her date asked, his voice a strangled sound barely above a whisper.
"I shot a guy," she said.
What else was there to say?
Just weeks earlier, Carlton Lassiter had been in his favorite bar having drinks with his best and only friend, Nick Westley.
Raising his shot glass for a toast, Lassiter laughed and said, "Here is to the best and most bizarre collar I have ever seen!"
Nick laughed along, replying, "Aw, it was nothing, Lassy. She practically ran right into me!"
Lassiter grinned. "I will still never forget the way that perp shouted when she realized that she jumped into the wrong car."
"And when she figured out that she couldn't open the door!"
Lassiter laughed harder. "Honestly, what idiot mistakes an unmarked police car for a getaway car?"
"Well, what else was she supposed to do, Lassy? You chased her so far, she ran out of oxygen for her brain!"
By then, their revelry had gotten loud enough for them to attract the stares of their fellow patrons.
Officer Allen leaned back from her chair to look at them. "You got a good collar, I hear?"
"Oh, it was just a petty crime," Nick answered.
"But it was a funny one," Lassiter said.
Nick smiled. "I tell you, Lassy here is the best partner in the precinct for chasing down perps. Those long gangly legs of his actually manage to come in handy!"
"Oh, shut up," Lassiter said, only half-joking this time.
"No, I'm serious," Nick said. "Remember when we were kids, and you used to come to my uncle's church?"
"I remember," Lassiter said.
"Backslider." Nick grinned. "You haven't come since I beat you in that last race."
"I did," Nick admitted, turning back to face Officer Allen. "All of us kids who went to my uncle's church---he's a priest, my uncle is---we all used to get in races in the churchyard, right? This guy here---even back then, he got so far ahead of everybody else, cheating was the only way to win!"
Officer Allen smiled. "Lassy. You, winning races? How many did you win?"
"I lost count," Lassiter said.
"So now you're a backslider and a liar!" Nick interrupted.
Lassiter grinned. "All right, I remember. I won 57."
Nick laughed. "That means I lost 57 times! But this guy---his running got us the collar." He lifted his beer bottle and clinked it against Lassiter's shot glass. "To my partner!"
Officer Allen smiled and clinked her glass of club soda. "To your partner."
Lassiter's ears got red around the edges and he looked down.
"Why are you looking down all of a sudden?" Nick asked. "Did I embarrass you too much?"
"No," Lassiter mumbled, then cleared his throat. "I just really needed that." He downed the liquid in his shot glass.
"Victoria again?" Nick asked.
Lassiter nodded before sighing and rubbing the bridge of his nose. "Separated. We're separated now." He shook his head. "I need another drink."
"What you need is a new woman," Nick said. "The human heart is fallible. You should never trust it."
Lassiter scowled into his empty shot glass. "I know that. Do you think I don't know that?"
"All romance ends in despair or death. Repeat it after me, Lassy. Come on. All romance ends in...?"
"I'm not repeating your stupid mantra, Nick," Lassiter snapped. "Besides, if you're so keen on thinking that love is so bad, then why are you so eager to hook me up with another girl when I'm already losing the one I have?"
Nick shook his head. "Perspective, Lassy," he said, as if the answer were obvious. "Perspective."
Several rounds of Scotch later, Lassiter had finally agreed to meet up with Nick's match for him. He immediately regretted the decision.
He was still regretting it when Nick brought it up a few days later, during their next stakeout.
"Nick, I'm sitting here with nothing but a half-eaten sack of sunflower seeds and a cup of cold disgusting coffee at a quarter 'til midnight. I am not going to discuss my failing love life with you and I am definitely not going to help you make dinner plans," Lassiter said.
"It's no big deal, Lassy. All I want to know is will you be picking her up or will you be meeting her at the restaurant?"
Lassiter frowned. "I don't know where she lives and I don't know what restaurant. You haven't even told me her name!"
"I did tell you her name, but you were too drunk to remember it," Nick said.
"Then shame on you for manipulating me during my moment of weakness."
"I think it was Victoria that did that when she convinced you to propose."
"Don't say that about my wife!"
"Your soon-to-be ex-wife, you mean."
Nick glanced at him. "Her name's Lucinda Barry. She's blonde and she's a cop. You'll hit it off, I guarantee it. You'll be taking her to that old cafe around the corner from that sci-fi coffee place. You know where that is?"
Lassiter nodded. "Yeah, I know where that is."
"I'll write down her address for you before then. Just remember---hey, is that our guy?"
Lassiter grabbed his binoculars to check. "That's him."
As a unit, they exited the car, Nick circling along the perimeter from the left and Lassiter standing behind his car door on the right.
"Police! Freeze!" Lassiter shouted, aiming his weapon at their perp.
The criminal, blocked in by a brick wall on the right, ran down the street to the left and found himself face-to-face with none other than Nick Westley. He raised his hands above his head and looked around, but saw no other route of escape. Cornered.
Lassiter quickly advanced on the criminal, never taking his aim away from the man's vitals. Once he was close enough, Nick broke away and went to clear the building from which the criminal emerged. Just as Lassiter finished handcuffing the man, he heard an ear-splitting shriek from inside, and Lassiter ran for the door.
Nick emerged before he got there, dragging behind him a scrawny woman, in her early twenties and newly-handcuffed, whose appearance betrayed her as a victim of long-term drug abuse.
"Police brutality!" she screamed. "Police brutality!"
"Yeah, yeah," Nick scoffed. "Tell it to the judge."
As it turned out, the scrawny, shrieking woman did not need to speak to the judge to get her accusation out. All she needed to do was speak to her attorney, who had been paid for by her wealthy patron-of-the-arts aunt, and who spoke out to the media on the subject.
"I'm suspended," Nick fumed, raging quietly as he paced across Lassiter's living room. "Suspended for three weeks for something I didn't do!"
"It's just until this all blows over, Nick," Lassiter said. "Give the media a little time, and they'll find something else to do. They love to pick at cops, that's all. Everyone knows that there's no truth to it."
Nick glared at his partner. "Oh, really? You didn't seem so sure of that when you were talking to the Chief."
Lassiter looked away. "I told the truth, Nick. What else was I supposed to do? He asked me if I saw what happened---"
"And you said no, you weren't there."
"Because I wasn't! I was outside, handcuffing the other suspect. That's what happened!"
"You could've stood up for me!"
Lassiter sighed. "Nick, we've been over this a thousand times. I vouched for you the best I could. I told the Chief that you're a good cop. What else can I do? There's nothing else to say and nothing else that either of us could have done."
But Lassiter still felt a niggling worm of guilt inside, wishing that he'd gone into the building with his partner.
Things had seemed normal, or at least relatively so, when Nick Westley left Lassiter's residence that day.
"He's a hothead," Lassiter had thought. "As long as he doesn't do anything stupid in the next three weeks, this will all boil over."
In the end, Lassiter was not surprised when he heard from Dobson the next day that Nick had gone to the police station early, visited the Chief's office, said some things that should not have been said, and received notice that he was being fired. The lack of surprise, however, did not diminish his grief.
After work, he went straight to his best friend's apartment with a bottle of Scotch.
"I'm sorry, Nick," he said. "It's a shame that this happened to you. You're a good cop."
"I was a good cop," Nick replied, taking the bottle from Lassiter's hands. "Now I guess I'm not much of anything."
"Don't say that," Lassiter said.
"What else am I supposed to say? It's true, and it's all my own fault. No point in drowning in my own self-pity."
Lassiter nodded. "Maybe this is good. It's a fresh start. People do that, right?"
"People, Lassy. Not cops. Once a cop, always a cop. The Job is the only job for people like us. There's no other way in or out."
Lassiter sighed. "I'll drink to that."
Nick poured them both drinks and clinked the glasses together before handing one to Lassiter. After they had both downed the alcohol and settled into a long, uncertain pause, Nick broke the silence by saying, "I'm gonna miss you, Lassy."
"We're still going to see each other, Nick," Lassiter said. "It's not like you're dropping off the face of the Earth."
"No, I'm just dropping off the face of the SBPD. Like a nice drippy egg."
"Nick, don't do this. Come on. Dobson already filled me in, and---"
"Dobson? Lassy, since when has Dobson known anything?"
Lassiter frowned. "For someone who says he's not drowning in self-pity, you seem awfully willing to make the worst of your troubles."
Nick shrugged. "I just need some perspective, that's all."
Lassiter wondered whether or not to call off his date with Nick's friend Lucinda Barry, but in the end, he decided to go through with it. He had nothing better to do except drink himself into oblivion over a few episodes of Cops, so any kind of outing, even a half-hearted one overshadowed by a storm cloud of trouble with Nick, would be a good way to get everything off his mind. ...Maybe.
He picked her up promptly at eight o'clock, opened the car door for her, and complimented her appearance as she was getting into the car, just as dating protocol required.
And then she surprised him.
"Don't give me all that small talk, just wasting my time," she'd said as she slipped her lithe body, wound in a form-hugging black dress, into the passenger seat.
"Uhhh," was all Lassiter could say for a moment.
"This is a blind date set up by a mutual friend. That's all. It doesn't have to be so awkward," she continued, scrutinizing him. She continued staring at him and he couldn't figure out what was wrong. Finally, she scoffed and edged her way into the driver's seat.
"Hey!" Lassiter said, crossing around the front of the car in a vain attempt to stop her.
"Well, you were just standing there like you'd grown roots while I was waiting for you to drive. If you're not going to do it, then I might as well." She stared him down again, daring him to say something. He had flashbacks of working over criminals in the interrogation room, only now the roles were reversed.
There was only one thing he could say, so at last he said it, with complete and utter sincerity: "I'm Carlton Lassiter. It's truly a pleasure to meet you."
"Well, you already know I'm Lucinda Barry," she said, hiding a faint flicker of amusement behind the steel in her eyes. "And the pleasure is all mine."
Lassiter did get to drive that night, though he drove at a higher speed than normal: ten miles above the speed limit, as opposed to two miles below. The car ride was a suspension of time; as long as he was in the Crown Vic talking to Lucinda, the rest of the world did not exist. The risk of being pulled over, the stress of his separation, the worry over his best friend. None of it was present or real.
He already knew that he would fall in love with her. He already respected her, and he had only once before hit it off with someone so quickly and so grandly. While it was true that the only other person he'd liked so quickly had abandoned him in a heartless twist, he was determined not to believe what Nick said about romance ending in despair. Tonight, he was going to have a good time and let the chips fall where they may.
And judging by Lucinda's bold, strong laughter, she was thinking along the same lines.
Long after that night, Lassiter reflected that if Lucinda had driven, or if he had gone at normal speed, then perhaps things would have been different.
Then again, as Lucinda would remind him, if they had not also stayed in the parking lot for an extra five minutes, things may have been different.
They stayed in the parking lot for an extra five minutes enjoying a long, languishing kiss in the front seat of Lassiter's car. Lassiter could feel the warmth of the slightly-cracked vinyl of the seat where her back had been leaning as he wound his arm around her shoulders to hold her closer. One of her hands grabbed him by the tie and the other hand clutched his thick black hair in a tight warm grip.
Long after that night, and after Lucinda had been moved to his unit, they both expressed their regret that the uncharacteristic and spontaneous kiss had happened, both because of the following events of the night and because of the problems that it caused when they became partners.
Neither of them were sure that their regret was genuine.
Lassiter was the first to pull away from the kiss (or, as they would later think of it, The Kiss), but Lucinda was the first to get out of the car. After The Kiss was over, Lassiter could do nothing but stare into the beautiful abyss of her warm eyes and golden hair and wonder if she was strong enough to knock him out with one good backhand. This left Lucinda staring back into two melty ice chips and making internal remarks on how fundamentally attractive they were; and for a brief moment, she wondered if perhaps it might be worth sacrificing a good table for settling in for another five minutes of perfect affection.
However, without warning she felt a great internal pressure to escape, a flight instinct pushing her as far away as she could possibly go, and so she popped open the passenger-side door and began to walk toward the front door of the restaurant, short chunky heels clacking on the pavement like the sound of a high-powered female politician strutting into office.
Lassiter stared after her, itching and breathless and wondering what came over him. What came over both of them.
"I owe you for this one, Nick," he said to no one in particular. "I owe you a flask of bourbon and a brand-new sidearm." Then he opened the driver's-side door and began to walk across the parking lot.
Lucinda, of course, got there first, and for a moment, she did not see the other person standing in the foyer with her because she turned to see if Lassiter was close behind her. He was not, so she let the glass door swing shut and turned to face the dingy lobby space in front of her.
And she saw him.
"What time is it." Nick Westley said, not bothering to glance at his analog wristwatch. It was a statement, not a question. He knew the time; Lucinda could tell that immediately. "You're not supposed to be here."
For a split second, Lucinda could only stare, her cop's instinct screaming at her to do something. Anything. "Nick, what are you doing?"
"It's pretty obvious what I'm doing, isn't it? It's a cop-out. Do you think that's where the term came from, Barry? Cop-out? Do you get it?"
"Yes, Nick, I get it, now put the gun down."
Nick glanced down at his right hand, as if surprised to see the Glock clenched there, index finger dangerously closed to the trigger. "No."
"Nick, I'm warning you."
"You're not armed, Barry. Besides, I won't hurt you. I'm just going to scare them a little bit. You get it, right?"
Before she could answer, Nick turned to face the door leading into the restaurant, and Lucinda could no longer ignore the cop's instinct forcing her into action. She sprung at him, and he jerked back to face her, the gun aimed at her chest, but she continued to dive right at him, knowing that at this point, Nick was too far gone.
For both of them, it was either fight, or die.
One bullet hurtled past and missed her shoulder by a few inches as her body slammed into his chest, knocking him off balance and into the potted palm tree in the corner and finally to the ground. The pistol hit the linoleum, discharged a second bullet upon its fall, and skid across the floor toward the door. Lucinda and Nick raced to get it, and Lucinda only beat him to it because she opted to slide across the freshly-waxed linoleum rather than to scramble to her feet as Nick had done.
She rolled away from him, fearing a kick that did not come. Instead, he stood stock still and watched as she jumped to her feet and took aim.
"Stand down," she said. "You can go back from this. It's not too late."
With the tables turned, Nick Westley lunged for the gun.
Lucinda Barry did not miss.
When Lassiter was halfway across the parking lot, he heard the first gunshot and ran. He was nearly hit by a silver car that didn't understand the meaning of pedestrian crosswalks and had to shove several gawking people out of the doorway before he reached Lucinda, and before he got to her he could already see the blood oozing across the slick tile.
He could already tell whose body it was before he had stepped fully into the room. Once he entered, he wished he hadn't, because seeing that face chalk-pale on the floor, eyes already going flat and skin already losing its tones of warmth, he wanted to run clear to the next city and never come back.
"I shot a guy," said Lucinda. Her voice carried such futility, such fatalism.
They had both known that Nick was bound to do something. They didn't know where or how or when, but they had seen the look in his eyes. They had known. They were his accomplices. So it was just as well that he had chosen them for this.
Lassiter had known enough cops in his life to know when a cop was fine and when a cop was trying not to break down. Lucinda put on a good strong front, but Lassiter could see through it all too easily, and he took the gun from her hands with his handkerchief and set it on the floor.
She looked at him, and for some reason neither of them could ever quite figure out, she said, of all things, "I'm sorry, Lassy."
"Don't," he said. "Don't call me that. Nobody calls me that ever again."
He walked out the door, certain of two things.
He was going to see Lucinda Barry again and he was never going to let her suffer the way she had been forced to suffer tonight.
And all romance ends in despair...or death.