There's a large part of me that feels like this story does not deserve to see the light of day, but since I stayed up until 3 AM finishing it, I feel like it should at least get a chance. So just consider this my Passengers project, my Original Soundtracks 1, if you will.
...This is why I shouldn't try to write Shules. :-D
Anyway, this story is completely clean and free of language as usual, but I slapped the T rating on it just in case because there's some violence. But it's mostly world-building/character study, really.
This is an AU story (more or less) set sometime after the season 5 finale (the Actual Extradition episode) and before season 6.
Probably going to enter this in the Ship-A-Thon...don't judge me. ;-)
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: Thank you so much to everyone who supported "Dusk" in this year's PF Awards! I'm honored (and honestly, pretty darn surprised by this one), and I cannot thank you enough. I guess a shiny silver pineapple isn't too shabby for a story that began as a joke for BlkLunaDragon, huh? ;-)
In all seriousness, thank you all so much. I couldn't be more proud.
Yellow carnations mean "No!" in Victorian flower code.
The first thing Juliet O'Hara wanted to do when she got home was take a long, hot shower. She just wanted to get rid of all the stress of the day and pretend that her fight with Carlton hadn't happened.
She replayed the incident again in her mind as she shoved her key in the lock and began to open her front door. She paused right as she was turning the knob, thinking that maybe she should stop to grab a quick bite to eat first. Tilting her head, she cast a glance back in the direction of her car, briefly noticing the squirrel in the tree next to her driveway. After another moment of contemplation, she shook her head. No. Not worth it. Shower first, food later.
Right as she turned back to open the door, her keen ears picked up on a noise from inside. It sounded like a clatter. The delicate hairs on the back of her neck rose as she opened the door and ran inside, drawing her weapon in one fluid motion. Before she'd taken two steps into the house, however, she realized who was there. "Shawn?"
"Oh, hey, Jules!" Shawn called from her kitchen. She heard more noises as she shut the door behind her. Either he was cleaning up or he was just making a bigger mess. She would bet on the latter.
After hanging her purse on the coat rack next to the front door, she walked into the kitchen to see what he was getting up to. Flour, sugar, and cocoa powder dusted the countertops and Shawn's hair, the opened milk carton joined a bowl of eggshells on the table, and her sweet---literally---boyfriend was holding a shiny cupcake pan in his hands, looking like a toddler caught playing in the kitchen...except unlike a naughty child, Shawn had no remorse.
Juliet smiled. "What are you doing?"
"Making sweet treats for the best girl in the whole wide world," Shawn said, grinning big.
She crossed her arms in mock annoyance. "This wouldn't have anything to do with what happened earlier today, would it?"
"What, that thing with you and Lassie? No way. Did you think I was talking about you with the best girl in the world thing? Because these cupcakes are totally going to Adele Dazeem."
Juliet couldn't hold back a laugh. "You mean Idina Menzel!"
Shawn's grin grew even wider. "No, I've heard it both ways, and this time, you can't say I haven't!"
Juliet's shoulders shook from the force of her laughter. "Shawn, you're not John Travolta!"
"Prove it!" He said, grin never faltering. "Nobody puts Baby in the corner!"
"Thank you, Shawn," Juliet said, scooping him into a tight hug. "I needed this today."
Shawn smiled at her as he returned her embrace. "Hey, what are cute psychics for?"
Juliet wished she could stay there forever.
But just a few seconds later, she pulled away, tapping his nose playfully with one finger. "I'm going to get out of these work clothes and freshen up. You keep working on these cupcakes. You don't want to keep Adele waiting."
She grinned at him as she walked upstairs, but as soon as she was out of his sight, she dropped her happy mask and ran a hand across her face. "Oh, Shawn," she sighed, "I really didn't need you to be here tonight..."
She knew that if she didn't get some food in her body soon, she was going to have a hard time just thinking straight, let alone entertaining Shawn for who knew how long. But first things first, she told herself, and sank into the warm shower she'd been longing for all day.
Enjoying the steam and hot water, she tried to make herself forget about what had happened, but naturally her thoughts turned to Lassiter as soon she tried to stop thinking about it.
How angry he'd been. How cruel. How she thought he might hurt her...or that she might have to hurt him.
She never wanted to feel that way ever again.
Despite the pounding droplets of water flowing down onto her head, she was still able to hear the loud noises coming from downstairs. The slam of a car door...
In a sudden rush of panic, she shut off the water, threw on her clothes, and scrambled to look out her bedroom window, the closest one to her.
Carlton's car was parked in the street below. Any minute now, she'd be able to hear him pounding on her front door.
Almost as soon as the thought escaped, his characteristic loud knock came thundering through. She gasped, wiping rivulets of water off her face with her soaking wet sleeve. What was she going to do? Should she go downstairs and open the door? Should she ignore him?
And then she remembered---Shawn.
"Oh, no." She ran downstairs, but Shawn had already answered the door.
"Hey, Lassie," she heard Shawn say as she pressed herself against the wall, unsure whether or not to stay out of sight.
"Spencer," Lassiter growled. "Is O'Hara here? I need to...apologize."
"Apologize? Lassie, I didn't even know that word was in your vocabulary!"
"Carlton!" Juliet said, stepping quickly into view and trying to calm her nerves. "I'm sorry. I was in the shower. What did you need?"
"I came to...apologize," Lassiter said in a strained, almost monotone voice. In one hand, he held a bouquet of yellow carnations.
"There's that word again," said Shawn.
Juliet crossed over to him and accepted the flowers. "Thank you, Carlton." She hoped that her voice was less shaky on the outside than it sounded inside her head.
Lassiter nodded to her. "I need to speak to you alone."
"All right," she replied.
"The spirits aren't so sure that that's a good idea," Shawn said.
Lassiter shook his head. "I don't care, Spencer! This is none of your business."
"It's all right, Shawn," Juliet said. "It'll only be for a minute. Right, Carlton?"
Lassiter scowled. "Right."
Juliet led him into the dining room, peeking out to make sure Shawn hadn't followed them. "All right, we can talk in here. Just don't get too loud."
"Fine," Lassiter said. "Look, O'Hara, have you given any thought at all to what I said earlier?"
She frowned. "I thought you came to apologize."
Lassiter tossed the haphazard bouquet onto the table. "I did, but my point still stands. You've got to get out of Santa Barbara. Tonight!"
"I'm not running, Carlton. We discussed this earlier. You can say whatever you want to about me, just like you did earlier, but---"
"What else can I say, O'Hara? What is going to get through your head?" Lassiter snarled. "I already told you how stubborn and selfish you're being---"
"It's not selfish of me to refuse to leave my home! Everything I've worked for! I'm not starting over again! I can't!"
Lassiter's voice dropped to almost a whisper. "O'Hara..." He sighed. "Juliet... You don't understand. You're out of time. They're already here."
She gasped. "What?"
"They arrived this morning. They know you're in Santa Barbara. Now it's not a matter of if they find you, it's a matter of when."
"No... That just isn't possible... Why didn't you tell me earlier?"
Lassiter inhaled slowly and said, "I didn't want to panic you. And I guess I flew off the handle a bit when you didn't listen to reason. Look, O'Hara... I need you to trust me. You've got to get out now. It's imperative. Like I said earlier, it's for your own safety."
Juliet's face hardened. "No," she said. "I'm still not leaving. They can't intimidate me into---"
"Juliet," Lassiter interrupted again. His eyes were cold and hard as ice. "If you don't get out, they will kill everyone in this city you care about. Starting with Spencer, then me, and then...they're going to kill you."
Shaking her head, Juliet backed away from him until she was against the wall. "No. You don't understand. You don't understand what it means for me to be here. I don't want to restart my life again. I'll lose everything. I'll lose---"
"You'll lose everything either way. I'm not saying this to hurt you, O'Hara. I'm saying this because it's true. This is how it has to be."
Juliet nodded, trying to push back tears. "All right," she whispered.
"Pack your things," Lassiter said. "I'll make up a story for Spencer. Quickly."
As they turned and walked out of the dining room, Shawn blocked their path to the door. Every trace of his smile had faded; his eyes were dark and his mouth was grim. "You know, it doesn't do you any good to walk into the other room and then yell. I have ears. I don't need to be a psychic to hear. What kind of story were you going to make up for me, Lassie? What were you going to tell me when you spirited my girlfriend into the night? What, is she in the witness protection program or something like that?"
"Something like that," Lassiter replied. "It's none of your business, Spencer." Lassiter's eyes were narrowed and sharp as a broken bone.
"You keep saying that, but I think it is my business," Shawn replied, the coldness in his voice matching Lassiter's dangerous tone. "I think I have the right to know where my girlfriend is going and what she's gotten into." Then his bitter glare turned to Juliet. "Don't you?"
"Shawn, please, you don't understand," said Juliet. "Please, I never want to hurt you, but---"
"You know, maybe I would understand if you'd communicate with me. Maybe you wouldn't hurt me if you talked to me. Isn't that key in a relationship? Talking? I talk all the time, but apparently we've never gotten anywhere," Shawn said.
Lassiter scowled and shoved Shawn backwards with enough force to push him into the wall. "We don't have time for this, Spencer! In case you didn't overhear the entire conversation, all of our lives are on the line!"
"Don't hurt him, Carlton!"
Without warning, Lassiter and Juliet both snapped their heads to look off into the distance, frozen in place for just a split second.
Shawn glanced over, following their gazes, and frowned. They were looking straight at a wall...the west wall of Juliet's house. But the wall was blank, with no windows...
"They're coming," Juliet said with a gasp, her voice trembling.
"Get to the car," Lassiter said. "Hurry. We're out of time. You, too, Spencer."
"Whoa whoa whoa, I want some answers here!" Shawn said.
Lassiter shoved him again, toward the front door this time. "You'll get them later. Move!"
Grabbing her fluffy white cat just as it arched its back to hiss, Juliet darted outside after the two men, narrowly beating Shawn to the passenger's side and climbing into the front seat as Lassiter jumped into the driver's seat and turned the car on.
"Aw, man," Shawn complained as he dove into the backseat and slammed the car door behind him. "I wanted shotgun!"
"Shut up, Spencer," Lassiter growled, gunning the engine and hurtling down the street fast enough to make the tires squeal.
"Wow, we're really burning rubber, Lassie," Shawn chuckled nervously, latching on to Juliet's cat and stroking it as it clambered into the backseat.
"I just hope this car is fast enough," Lassiter said. "It's got a full tank of gas, so if we can make it far enough away, we might be able to swap without losing too much distance."
Shawn's eyes went wide as he felt his heart drop. "Wait, what about Gus?!"
"Relax. They aren't after Guster. They'd only want you to get to O'Hara," Lassiter replied.
"Well, who's they?!"
Lassiter scoffed. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
Juliet clutched the handle of the car door so hard her knuckles turned white and her other hand clenched into a fist. "Carlton, I don't know if I can do this. I haven't had anything to eat today."
Lassiter cursed under his breath. "How long do you think you can make it? We'll need a couple hours at least if we want to lose them long enough to be able to stop at all."
"I don't know, but I can try." She squeezed her eyes shut. "I have to try."
Shawn squinted. "But, Jules, you did eat something. We shared that croissant at lunch, remember?"
Lassiter groaned. "I can't believe I actually have to share a car with this moron. I told you we should have left earlier."
"Shut up, Carlton!" Juliet snapped.
Almost in response, Juliet's white cat hissed and snuggled closer to Shawn. His head burrowed into the crook of Shawn's arm and his tail folded across Shawn's leg. Petting the anxious feline mechanically, Shawn said, "Look, I get that today is Block Out Shawn From Everything Important Day---which happens on the third Wednesday of every month, I might add---but seriously, I need to know what's going on. The spirits aren't talking to me. They're too afraid of dying...again."
"Shawn, there's something I need to tell you," Juliet said. "I'm...I'm a vampire."
Shawn burst out laughing. "Seriously, Jules? That's usually the kind of thing I come up with..." His grin slipped away. "You guys aren't laughing..."
"I'm serious," Juliet said. She looked into the rearview mirror to get a glimpse of his face. She could see puzzlement and confusion, but not horror. If she hadn't been so scared and tense, she might have sighed in relief.
Shawn frowned. "Yes, you are." His eyes flickered from Juliet to Lassiter and back. Both of them were dead serious. Juliet was telling the truth, or at least, she believed she was. "Okay," he said at last. "You're a vampire."
"You don't believe me." Juliet's frown mirrored Shawn's.
"I'm just shocked," Shawn said. "What are you going to tell me next, that Lassie's a werewolf?"
Lassiter cleared his throat. "Hey, don't drag me into this."
Shawn's eyes bugged out. "Holy--- Lassie IS a werewolf! I knew it! Why didn't you guys tell me sooner? This is great!"
Juliet's teeth clenched and she glared at the road ahead of her. "You can believe that Carlton's a werewolf without even trying, but I confess my vampirism to you and you have nothing to say about it?"
Grinning, Shawn said, "It's so obvious, though. And kind of cliché. He's grumpy, he's brooding, he never gets to sleep until 3 AM, he eats way too much red meat, and he has half a zillion girls posting online about how wolfy he is and all these rumors and---"
"What rumors?" Lassiter yelled, his surprise and indignation nearly causing him to veer into the other lane. Deftly, he jerked the vehicle back into its proper place within seconds. "Who's been posting about me? I want names and details!"
"Carlton, eyes on the road!" Juliet said.
Lassiter scoffed. "I'm not going to wreck us, O'Hara."
She shot him a glare that silenced him without question.
Shawn shook his head. "Okay, Jules, so you think you're a vampire, and---"
"And you don't believe me."
"I was going to say, 'And somebody's out to kill you,' but sure, for argument's sake, let's go with that."
"What is it about me that makes you think I couldn't be a supernatural creature?"
Shawn laughed. On an ordinary day, Juliet would have found his laughter charming, but right now, at such a pivotal moment, she just found it infuriating.
"Jules," he said, "look at you. You have none of the classic hallmarks of being a horror movie creature like Lassie does."
"Hey!" Lassiter said.
"Come on, Lassie, you know it's true. You've said it yourself: you have way too much chest hair and way too much preoccupation with bloody crime scenes to be a normal human being."
Lassiter shrugged. He couldn't argue with that.
Shawn continued, "Jules, you lived in Miami. Bright, sunny Miami. Your skin is perfectly tanned---and beautiful, by the way---every summer. Your eyes are pretty blue, not red and hungry, and I see you eat human food all the time, like the croissant from earlier. Plus, you can walk through bloody crime scenes with Lassie all the time, and while he gets excited like he's about to chase his tail, you never show any indication of being affected with an otherwordly, possibly-undead thirst."
"I do not chase my tail!" Lassiter said.
"Lassie, be a good boy and let us talk. Maybe later, we'll walk you and you can chase a squirrel."
Lassiter grumbled under his breath. "I'm never going to live this down..." And a few seconds later, he added, "Stupid yummy squirrels..."
Juliet wrinkled her nose. "Ugh, I hate eating squirrels."
Shawn shook his head. "Jules, there is just no way you're an undead monster."
Resting her palm against her head, Juliet said, "You know what? You're right, Shawn. I'm not an undead monster."
"I knew it."
"I'm a living, breathing, flesh and blood monster."
"Vampires are okay going out in the sun. Most of us are born this way instead of being made this way. We can digest human food fine, but we still need blood. You remember my dad? Frank? You know why it's so easy for him to con people?"
"Uhhhh, because he has all the grace, charm, and wit of William Shatner?"
Juliet scoffed. "No. It's because he has the classic horror movie power of hypnotism. As if he even needed it. Most vampires just lure in humans naturally. Why do you think you were so compelled to talk to me that day in the diner, when we first met?"
"Uhhhh... Because you were pretty and you were sitting in my seat with my straw wrapper snake?"
Lassiter shook his head. "Just give it up, O'Hara. He doesn't believe you. And as far as I'm concerned, he can stay that way."
"Okay, let's say you are a vampire," Shawn said. "Can you show me your fangs? Or do the hypnotism thing on me?"
Juliet sighed. "I would if I could, but...showing my fangs would just make me more hungry. All my vampiric instincts would come right up to the surface. And on top of that, using my powers would drain my energy and make the hunger even worse, and it's hard enough to fight it as it is. It's hard being in an enclosed space like this."
Just thinking about the sweet taste of dark, red, warm blood rolling across her tongue made her mouth water...and the exquisite fragrance of a mammalian throat pulsing with life, just begging to be bitten into...
She fumbled with the buttons on the inside of the car door.
Seeing what she was trying to do, Lassiter quickly rolled down the window for her. She cast him a thankful glance as she inhaled the calming, fresh cool air.
"Wait, you still need to tell me who's after you and why," Shawn said.
Juliet bit her lip. "Shawn... I'm only half vampire. My dad is a vampire, and my mom is a human. That's one of the reasons they divorced---well, that and the con thing. But, the thing is, I'm not really...acceptable. I had to move around a lot growing up, not just because of Frank and his antics, but because it's dangerous to be like me. There are a lot of crazy extremists, both human and vampire. And...they think I'm some kind of abomination. That's why I had to leave Miami. I was nearly killed three times before I finally realized I had to get out. And now they've followed me here."
"So...this is like The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod."
Juliet groaned. "Ugh! This is so frustrating!"
Shawn nodded. "You're right. This is more like Twilight."
Leaning her head against the back of the seat, Juliet willed herself not to cry. "Just stop it, Shawn. I wish you could have stayed in Santa Barbara. I wish I'd never told you."
Seeing that look on her face sent a ripple of hurt flooding though Shawn. "I'm sorry, Jules. I didn't mean it. I didn't realize how much this is hurting you." For some reason, he felt a tickling sensation that told him to tear his eyes away from Juliet and look into the rearview mirror. When he did, his heart nearly stopped because of the look Lassiter was giving him. The detective's cold blue eyes were staring back at him from the reflective glass, and the message was clear: If you hurt her again, I will tear you to pieces and watch you die.
Shawn gulped. Message received.
"Are we being followed?" Juliet asked after a brief silence, oblivious to the unspoken exchange between the two other people in the car.
"Not that I can tell," Lassiter said, "but I wouldn't be surprised. I'm sure they're on our trail, but they're probably too far back for us to see."
"So, how does all this work? Do you guys have some kind of ESP? Because I saw you two staring at the wall in Jules' house earlier, just before all the running and screaming," Shawn said.
Juliet laughed a little. "You could say that. We have way better senses than humans. Even though I'm half-human, I have an advantage. Carlton has a better nose than I do, but I have better sight."
"Sweet! Can you turn into a bat?"
"Don't be ridiculous, Shawn."
"Oh. That's disappointing."
"Bats are just mice with wings. Why would I ever want to turn into a bat?"
"Uhhhh, so you can fly?"
"Vampires don't fly. We don't like heights."
Shawn gave her a skeptical look. "Why not?"
"It's closer to the sun."
"Uh-huh. I thought you said that vampires were okay in sun."
"Well, we won't burst into flames or anything, but we have really sensitive skin. We sunburn really easy. If not for my mom's good genes, I'd be all red and crispy instead of tan every summer!"
Juliet smiled, relieved to be talking, because when talking, her mind was off the craving: the intense, burning sensation that stretched from the top of her throat to the base of her stomach and occupied so much of her thoughts. When talking, she could almost forget the way she wanted to tear into something warm and alive and press her face into the exposed veins and---
"I can turn into a cat," she said. It was better not to fantasize about all the many different ways she could pull the car off the road and sink her teeth first into the protein-rich werewolf and then into the sweet, delectable human...
"What? No way!"
Hearing Shawn's delight, she pushed the disturbing mental images away and grinned, not daring to turn her head to look at Shawn, but pleased at the expression of his that she pictured in her mind. "Yup. You remember when we first met, and you talked about how the gray cat was affectionate and the white cat was a little standoffish?"
"I believe the exact phrase I used was that the white one makes you work much, much harder for the attention, but yes, I remember."
Juliet smiled. "The gray cat is me."
"What?!" Shawn looked down at the white cat in his arms. "Snowy, you never told me?!" He looked back up at Juliet. "So all that gray cat hair---"
"Was mine." Juliet's smile turned triumphant. "Pretty cool, isn't it? And you never noticed that I didn't have a gray cat in the house!"
"I thought maybe he ran away or went to cat school or something!"
Lassiter scoffed. "You're an idiot."
"Wait, I just thought of another question," said Shawn.
Lassiter rolled his eyes. "Of course you did. You never shut up."
"Nope, never. So, if you two really are supernatural creatures, how come I haven't been eaten yet?"
"People are so prejudiced," Lassiter said. "A vow to protect and serve is all well and good when you're a so-called ordinary human being, but if you happen to grow fur every now and then, suddenly you're expected to abandon all your principles and chow down on every scummy person who walks by."
"Well, in my defense, you did share with us your plan of who you'd eat first in the event of an apocalypse," replied Shawn.
"Exactly, Spencer! In the event of an apocalypse! That's not a werewolf thing. Any sensible person would do that."
"Seriously, though, Lassie, why haven't you eaten me yet?"
Lassiter scoffed. "Do you really think I want to eat a filthy, dirty human being? People are disgusting! Unlike O'Hara, I can subsist entirely on good old-fashioned human food, and I like it that way."
"You just eat more red meat around the full moon."
"Did you notice that on your own, or did you hear that from those online rumors you've been reading? Don't think that I've forgotten about that! I still plan to track down all of those 'girls' you were talking about!"
"Don't change the subject," Shawn said. "Even if you didn't eat me, why not maul me or terrify me or something?"
"Don't think I haven't thought about it," Lassiter grumbled.
"Do you go out and hunt wild animals with teeth and claws?"
"Absolutely. During hunting season, with the appropriate tags and permits, of course."
Shawn's eyebrow shot up. "They have permits for werewolf-style hunting? What do you do, put on a doggie orange vest and head for the woods during deer season?"
Lassiter grinned. "Exactly."
Shawn looked to Juliet, surprised. "Is he serious about that? Do they really go out in...?"
The only answer he got from Juliet was a shrug and a knowing smile.
Hoping to clear his head, Shawn moved on the next question. "Okay, Jules, so how come you haven't eaten me yet?"
A horrifying, wrenching sound of crashing metal thundered through the car.
"What was that?" Shawn yelped.
Cussing like the proverbial sailor, Lassiter steered the car off the road and into the muddy ditch. "Get out and run!"
Blindly, Shawn bailed out of the backseat, crawled out of the ditch, and dashed across the grassy field as fast as he could, trying to keep himself low to the ground and wondering what had hit them. He could see the shape of Juliet running ahead of him, and he raced to catch up with her. How was she going so fast?
From the grass just behind him, he heard a sound like ripping and a sound that was something like a roar or a loud groan. The bizarre noise startled him so much that he tripped and fell flat on his face against the ground, skidding a few feet on the slick tall grass. Something big and dark smoky gray charged past him, close enough to him that he could feel the air moving as it rushed by. It looked almost like...
"No. No way."
"Shawn, get up!" came Juliet's voice from above him, and a split second later he found himself in the air somehow, moving again.
"What the...? Jules! Are you carrying me?!" Shawn's eyes went wide as he saw the ground streaking past him in a greenish-brown blur. He became aware first of the hands clutching him so hard it hurt, one near his ribs and the other on his hip. Then he noticed the feeling of two somethings supporting him from beneath, and finally he realized that the surface beneath his neck was Juliet's arm. "You are carrying me! This is so awesome! You really are a vampire!!"
Juliet's brow furrowed as she ran as hard as she could in hopes of making it to the concealing forest just ahead. "Oh, now you believe me."
"Wait, so that gray thing I saw earlier---that was Lassie?!"
"He can run faster as a wolf," Juliet replied, trying not think about how the close proximity of Shawn's heart and arteries and thick rich nutritious blood was to her burning mouth...
"Wow, you're not even out of breath!"
"That's because I don't need half as much oxygen as you and Carlton do. Now be quiet. The more I talk, the more air I need." She didn't add that the more she breathed, the more she inhaled his delicious honey-like scent...and that the less she held her breath, the more at risk he was of becoming a cold, empty, corpse drained entirely of any life-force...
It was better that she not think about that, with this person that she loved being held in her arms and the both of them trying to flee from people who would kill them, without hesitation, if they could get close enough.
Definitely better not to think about it.
Reflexively, Juliet dodged the crossbow bolt as it came whizzing through the air toward her. She veered three feet to the left almost without thinking, and the heavy steel projectile came to a thudding halt in the earth, showering her with clumps of dirt and grass. She was fifteen yards away from the tree line. Even if they made it to the woods, there was no guarantee that they would be able to evade the hunters in there. After all, they'd tracked her from Florida to California, all the way across the country, in just a few short years. How much faster would they be able to find her with only a few feet and a few minutes between them?
The solution came to Juliet out of the blue, and even though it seemed a little suicidal, she accepted it with a surprising level of certainty and calmness. Maybe it was because, with her true love in her arms and facing what might well be their final moments together, she had a burst of clarity about her life, and her views, and what she held to be important. Maybe she had an epiphany about her intense desire to protect Shawn from all harm, even at risk to herself and her partner; or maybe she had a revelation about her true nature and how she'd denied herself and her powers for too long.
Or maybe her motives were as simple as the brief un-explanation she gave to Shawn as she abruptly---but gently---tossed him into a shallow dip in the ground.
"I need to eat."
Shawn's jaw dropped---not in disbelief, but in pure, true belief for the first time---when as Juliet spoke, he saw her canine teeth push out from her gums and extend into very long, very sharp, pearly-white fangs. Scary, animalistic fangs that in no way looked like they belonged on the face of the kindest, most beautiful person he had ever seen.
As she turned her back to him and faced the oncoming band of attackers---six of them, dressed all in black hoodies and carrying ugly, painful-looking weapons like iron stakes and heavy crossbows---a very real chill shuddered down Shawn's spine as he fully realized just how close he had come to death on the car ride to whatever this forsaken place was.
He watched from his hiding place of relative safety as a thick-furred, almost-black wolf did an about-face in mid-run, trotting from its path near the tree line and back to take its place next to Juliet. "Lassie..."
As if the wolf could hear him---and maybe it could---it turned its head backward for just a split second to look at him with bright, intelligent blue eyes.
"Got to be Lassie. Real wolves don't have blue eyes unless they're puppies."
The wolf snorted and looked back at the attackers.
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Shawn couldn't hold back a grin. "Definitely Lassie."
He glanced over to his side to make a snide remark to Gus before he realized that he was all alone in that field. "Oh, well... It's for the best."
Shawn hoped that, if he died, Gus would be able to find his body and take it back to his dad. Somehow, he doubted that there would be anything of him left if the bad guys won this battle royale.
Right about the time Shawn wondered when the fight would start, a weird blur passed through the scene in front of him. Then he realized he couldn't see Jules anymore. He crept up out of the dip a little, peeking over the short ridge and through the grass.
Juliet could feel the hyperawareness of the hunt activating the second she showed her fangs. She fought back her instincts for just a moment, until she was a safe distance from Shawn. Then, she let her other self take over.
This was not the polite girl who bought cupcakes for her fellow officers. This was the person who scaled fences, tackled criminals, and intimidated smart-alecky juvenile delinquents into changing their ways permanently. This wasn't the gentle soul who got Christmas cards from the people she put in prison.
This was a predator.
She recognized Carlton beside her without bothering to look at him; she could hear his footfalls crunching through the tall grass and she could locate him precisely just by his scent. He was downwind, but that didn't matter much to her vampiric senses, just as the location of her prey mattered little. They were dangerous, but she was fast and strong.
Her hunting partner took the first step forward, but she was the one to meet her prey first, crossing the distance between her and the cult du jour in eight seconds. Two vampires, four humans.
She angled her approach to meet the biggest vampire first, the one armed with the crossbow that had nearly shot her just moments ago. He was ready for her, blocking her first strike with his thick pale arms and swinging the steel crossbow toward her head. She ducked low, dodging backwards out of the way of his kicking leg just in time. A distant part of her mind registered the sound of a guttural human scream being cut off by a loud snarl and a sickening crunch, but she had no time to dwell on that as she rebuffed another blow aimed at her head. With her shoulders forward, she rammed the big vampire's midsection hard, toppling him over and sending him crashing to the ground.
Another human scream mingled with a scream of her own as a wall of pain hit her, jolting through her left shoulder and across her chest and back. Without a doubt, she'd been staked, but thank heavens, it missed her heart. Twisting to face her new attacker---one of the humans, she noted with surprise and pleasure---she finally indulged herself in the one thing she'd been craving all day: hot, deliciously messy human blood.
All she could think was, "Thank God this isn't Shawn."
Another wave of pain crashed into her---a dull but almost debilitating blow to the back of her head---and interrupted her feeding time, followed by another quick hit that forced another scream out of her throat, hoarse and louder than she thought she could ever be. The overwhelming scent told her that it was the big vampire who had driven the stake in farther; she was in too much agony to see clearly. Everything was a blur.
She could hear snapping jaws, snarling, and low growls as she pushed herself back to her feet, reached one hand around to her back, and jerked the stake out with as much force and speed as she could muster. She let out a sigh of relief; it was actually kind of like ripping off a Band-Aid, and she could already feel her flesh knitting itself back together. She wondered, as she felt the most severe wound she'd ever received beginning to heal, if she would have a scar there later.
Getting her bearings just in time to avoid a slash from the smaller vampire, Juliet pushed through the lingering pain and lunged at her opponent with the blood-slicked stake. With the burning hunger gone at last, her head was much clearer and her thoughts were in order again, and she was able to incapacitate the smaller vampire with one quick hit to her chest. Unlike the big vampire, Juliet did not miss the heart.
Scanning the area, she could see that Lassiter had made short work of the other human attackers, but it took her a moment to figure out what had become of the big vampire who had almost killed her. Her jaw dropped in complete shock.
Standing over the big vampire's body was Shawn, his gentle eyes huge and terrified, holding a large smooth rock coated with mud and damp grass.
"Oh, Shawn," Juliet said, on the verge of tears, feeling horrible that he had to be in this place, at this time, being forced to kill one monster just to save another. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry you had to do this and be involved in this and---"
"Jules?" Shawn's voice came out as a hoarse whisper. He dropped the rock and ran to her. "Are you all right? Are you okay?"
Juliet gasped, in shock yet again, as Shawn threw his arms around her. "I'm fine. Shawn, did you get hurt?"
"No, but I saw you get hurt." Panicked, Shawn's hands spun her around and searched for the injury. "I saw you get---"
"Shawn, calm down. It'll heal."
He stared first at her back and then at her chest (though not for the reason he usually stared). "You're right. There's just a scar there."
Juliet smiled. So there was the answer to that question.
He grabbed her in a hug again, and she had to hold onto him in return just to keep from losing her balance. "I was so scared..."
"I was scared you'd get hurt, too," Juliet said. "I know how hard it's going to be for you to live with me now that you've seen---"
"I was so scared I was going to lose you," Shawn continued almost as if he hadn't heard her...or almost as if he didn't care. His arms tightened around her. "I'm not ever going to let anyone or anything take you away from me."
Safe and secure in Shawn's love, Juliet relaxed in his protective embrace. "I love you."
"I love you, too," Shawn murmured. "You're not going to eat me now, are you?"
"No. I'm so full, I couldn't eat another bite. Shawn...to answer your question from earlier. The reason I could never eat you...well, first of all, I don't need as much blood as full vampires, and also this is the first time I've ever actually killed a human..."
Juliet smiled. "But the real reason I could never, ever hurt you is that I love you more than life itself. I love you more than Santa Barbara, and more than blood, and more than...more than anything."
Shawn returned her beautiful, perfect smile and planted a kiss in her soft blonde hair. "I love you more than my own personal safety and sanity, Jules."
"Did you throw up?"
Shawn paused. "Yes. Don't tell Gus."
"It was mostly because I realized that Lassie is totally naked right now."
Juliet laughed harder, and Shawn grinned.
"So, just to clarify," he said, "I can't become a vampire just by whacking one in the head with a rock, can I?"
"No. You'd have to ingest a vampire's blood to be changed. So you're not a vampire. Just a vampire hunter now."
"Sweet!" Shawn grinned. "Something else to add to my résumé. Shawn SpenStar: psychic detective, and vampire hunter!"
Juliet smiled. "It has a nice ring to it."
"Now I need a werewolf-skin cloak to complete the image. Maybe I could use the fur that Lassie sheds to make one!"
Suddenly, Shawn felt a set of sharp teeth clamping around his ankle. He screamed in pain and terror, and just a heartbeat later, the set of teeth let him go.
Sitting once again in the grass, Lassiter's blue eyes shone in the fading light of evening and his tongue lolled in the lupine equivalent of a satisfied smirk.
Juliet's gray-blue eyes locked onto the werewolf bite standing out in red against the tanned skin of Shawn's left ankle. "Oh, no..."
Also, thanks to BlkLunaDragon for her discussions of Lassiter and all the girls who post about him online... We two being chiefly among them. ;-) And thanks to her again for her vampire story discussions helping me get the idea of a vampy Jules.