Carlton has thirty-seven ties in his closet, but none of them are black. He regards a dark blue one speculatively for a moment, then pulls back to adjust his suit jacket – black, the only one he has in that color, and recently dry-cleaned, thank god – and gives himself a quick once-over in the mirror. Why he’s so worried about how he looks, Carlton has no idea.
It’s not like he hasn’t suspected that this could happen. Well, not this, not exactly, circumstances being what they are, but given the nature of Shawn Spencer’s work and the content of his personality (reckless, overconfident, perpetually annoying)…well, he knows there are only so many times you can beat the odds before they catch up to you.
Not that anyone would believe him, but this isn’t something he’s ever actually wanted to happen.
Carlton glares at the inside of his closet. How is it that every single tie he owns is either brightly colored or luridly patterned? Some even manage to be both. Every single one of them is completely inappropriate, and unfortunately, Carlton can’t exactly show up to this thing without a tie. One that really should be black.
It’s his favorite color and everything, which just makes this glaring omission in his wardrobe all the more unbelievable. He probably has just enough time to stop at the Men’s Warehouse on State Street on the way over to the service – Carlton looks at his watch: it’s 1:36 – but he’ll have to leave now.
He drags himself out of the bedroom, each step stiff and forced, his legs apparently staging a silent protest against his leaving. He already doesn’t trust himself to get through this day without incident, and now to make matters worse, apparently he can’t even walk like a normal human being. At least he has his gun, resting comfortably underneath his jacket, and it’s the only thing that makes him feel any modicum of security at all. He can only hope its soothing powers are enough to keep him sane throughout today’s utterly insane proceedings, which he is, for some reason, practically required to endure.
Carlton can’t help slamming his fist into the wall once, just to get out a little aggression. He’s fairly certain there’s no one around to hear it.
The keys aren’t on the hook, so he spends a minute looking around before spotting them on the floor, hanging off the edge of the welcome mat. Carlton knows he didn’t leave them there, but he’s got bigger things to worry about. He just can’t be bothered to think about this right now, so he just reaches down to scoop them up and slams out the door.
The crux of his problem, really, is that he has no idea how to take everything he’s feeling right now – and everything he should be feeling, but can’t, because he knows – and channel it into any kind of acceptable behavior. How are you supposed to act when you once used some hypothetical, therapeutic vision of this day as a way to relieve stress; when you’re supposed to be a professional but everyone knows your relationship was tense and largely unpleasant; when you – no, he can’t even go there. Oh, hell. When you’re the one who found the body?
Carlton slides behind the wheel of his personal car, slipping his sunglasses on when he starts it up. If he thought he could get away with it, he’d keep them on for the rest of the day. After all, he has a reputation to uphold, doesn’t want everyone to take one look at his eyes and be able to know how much he isn’t handling this, and he isn’t sure he can keep it from showing.
His mind wanders as he drives, and before he knows it he’s downtown, driving past the restaurants and shopping plazas. He parks in the garage off Chapala, which is sort of a hike to Men’s Warehouse if you’re running late, and makes a last-minute decision to duck into Express – mostly because it’s closer, even if it is more expensive. Too expensive for this.
Some floor rep is on top of him practically as soon as he’s through the door, a perky blonde who tells him she can help him with anything he needs today. She flashes a bleached-white smile at him, and Carlton isn’t making much of an effort to keep the sneer off of his face as he stalks past her, but she keeps right on talking anyway. “Are you looking for anything in particular today, sir?”
Carlton pauses mid-stalk. Best just to get this over with and get out of here as soon as possible. Even if it means…interacting with people.
He turns slowly in her direction, putting together what he hopes is a composed look on his face. “Yes,” he says, voice steady, and he mentally congratulates himself. “I need a tie. A black tie.”
The store is full of an annoying sort of hip, under-forty, styled-hair, looking-for-anything-but-a-black-tie clientele, and Carlton just wants to get out of here.
“Ooh, wonderful,” the girl says, probably because she’s supposed to be excited by whatever he wants to buy from her, even if it’s socks or something creepy, like ladies’ underwear. She actually has the gall to clamp a hand onto his elbow, zig-zagging them through the racks and displays as she leads him to the right part of the store. Like she knows he’s never been here before. “Do you have some kind of fancy event coming up? Like one of those ‘black-tie only’ things? I’ve never been lucky enough to be invited to one of those. I mean, if you are, I’m sure I could get you fitted for a new jacket while you’re here, too.”
Carlton looks down at his own jacket with a frown before he remembers himself, scowls, and snaps, “It’s not for that sort of thing, no.” He shakes his arm with perhaps a bit more force than necessary, and her fingers slip away from his sleeve.
Her smile flickers for a moment, but she reins it in and presses on in a cheery tone anyway. “Can I ask what the occasion is?”
Carlton’s eyes narrow. “No.” Frankly, he thinks the occasion is a farce.
The sales girl’s smile thins but doesn’t fade. With a job like this, she probably has a lot of practice smiling in the face of tested patience, Carlton figures. It’s a good thing he became a cop and never had to work in customer service; he’d probably have shot someone by now. “We have standard silk ties that come in solid black,” she tells him, hands skimming over a rainbow of ties fanned out on one of the display tables. “There’s also a skinny version, or black-on-black stripes, if that’s more your style. We might have some pindots in the back, too, if you want me to check, but it looks like this is all we have on the floor.”
She hands him one of the ties to inspect, the one with the stripes. It’s smooth to the touch and feels expensive, far too good for what he’s buying it for.
“This one is…fine,” Carlton says, unable to muster up much enthusiasm, though he does like stripes. “I’ll take it.”
The girl – Allie, he sees, when he finally bothers to look at her name tag – rings him up at the register herself, pleasant enough about it that it’s starting to grate on his nerves. She pauses before handing back his credit card – $42.99 after tax; he feels he’ll be owed at least that much later and plans on saving the receipt – and gives him a measuring look. “No bag, right? If you want, I can cut the tag off for you.”
Carlton sighs and rubs at the back of his head. “How do you know I’m not buying it for some other time?”
“Nobody buttons up to their neck if they’re not planning on wearing a tie,” she says, her smile a little apologetic for some reason. Maybe she feels guilty that store policy obligates her to demonstrate vulture-like salesmanship? If not, she should. She passes him the tie and his receipt as he hands back the signed version and a pen.
Except he’s pretty sure she’s just trying to be nice. What is wrong with him? Pull it together, Carlton, he mentally berates himself, or Henry, Guster, and O’Hara are going to eat you alive.
“Look,” Carlton says, winding the tie around his neck and properly aligning the ends, “I’m sorry I was so short with you before.” He carefully looks down his nose as he loops one end around the other to make a knot. “It’s a funeral.”
He can practically feel the – probably false – sympathetic vibes she’s sending his way, and it’s enough to make his stomach start doing those damn nauseous flips again. Why is he admitting this to, of all people, the sales clerk of an (obnoxious) clothing store? Her hand flies up to cover her mouth as her eyes widen. “Oh! I’m so sorry. Were you close?”
Carlton snorts and shakes his head. “It’s…complicated.”
For a lot of reasons, really. For example, he’s not sure if ‘were’ or ‘close’ was the most wrong word in that sentence.
“Oh, well. I’m sorry, anyway.” She looks like she might be moving in to pat the back of his hand, so he slides it off the counter as casually as he can manage.
“Yeah. Me too.” He forces a thin-lipped smile. He probably doesn’t mean it in the way she must think he does, and the smile feels a lot more like a grimace than what he was going for anyway. Hopefully discomfort will be an appropriate emotion for the day, because Carlton is no actor and he definitely can’t pretend to feel much of anything else.
God, this is awkward. He finishes knotting his tie and gives a sort of half-nod that he hopes reads as a good-bye, then turns away a little too quickly to make his escape.
If she tells him to have a nice day as he leaves, he doesn’t hear it. He’s halfway back to the car by the time he realizes he left his receipt on the counter. It probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway; even if there was any money in that idiot’s bank account, which is doubtful at best, it’d have to be inaccessible by now, wouldn’t it?
Carlton doesn’t understand what he did to deserve this. He snorts. Spencer would probably have a whole list of things for him if he were here.
Of course, the entire point of today is that Spencer is not here.
His phone starts to ring, and Carlton takes one look at the number and slams a fist into the steering wheel, swearing loudly. He catches some movement out of the corner of his eye; the driver of the car stopped beside him at the light has turned toward him and is gaping unabashedly, like he thinks Carlton is out of his mind or something. Well, at least he’s not the one going slack-jawed over a stranger’s temper-tantrum.
He’s late. He’s certain that that’s what the phone call must be about, so he lets it go to voicemail; they’ll leave a message if it’s really that important. And anyway, he’s almost there. It’s a five minute drive from the store, tops.
They don’t leave a message, but he does notice he has a text waiting for him when he parks and snatches up his phone on the way out of the car. Carlton’s finger itches to press “ignore,” but on the off chance that it’s in any way urgent, he opens it.
where r u? henry is trng 2 gv an ‘i tld u so’ spch 2 the urn. nds 2 b stpd
It takes three reads to decipher, and all Carlton can do as he comes up the walk to the building is pound out the reply, Leave. Now.
The response comes almost immediately: dnt wry, no1 wl c me ;)
And then, just as he’s about to slam his phone shut: excpt u
Carlton very nearly throws his phone into – something: a bush, a tree, maybe the wall – before he catches himself. Instead, he snaps it shut and pockets it, forcing himself to take a few deep, calming, moderately helpful breaths before he goes inside.
Sure enough, the first thing he hears is Spencer’s father. Apparently the man actually does own a suit and a pair of closed-toed shoes – who knew? He doesn’t catch everything that’s being said, but as he gets closer, he can make out something about how half the reason he always thought the badge was so damn important was that it also came with a gun.
He’d like to stay out of it, but this is just too ridiculous to listen to for the next half-hour, hour, however long it is Henry intends to keep on going. Well, that, and he doesn’t want his phone to suddenly start being inundated with ridiculous texts and weepy emoticons.
“Henry,” he says, walking up to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the man, “you do realize that you might as well be having this conversation with one of the vents for all the good it’s going to do, right?”
Henry’s not really a beat-around-the-bush kind of guy, so tactless or not, Carlton’s fairly certain it’s a safe enough comment to make.
“I don’t care,” Henry says, and he’s glaring at the urn like it’s about to be grounded for a year. Possibly two. Possibly forever. “He needs to hear this.”
They both know it’s going to do about as much good as it ever did, which is to say no good at all. Maybe Henry just likes having the opportunity to finally get out a lecture without having the flow broken up by some smart-ass remark or another every thirty seconds.
“You know what, wherever he is right now,” Carlton says, making an effort to keep any tightness out of his voice, “I’m sure he can hear you just fine.” He does a quick sweep of the room with his eyes, then adds, “Possibly better if you talk in a more… upward direction.”
“Funny,” Henry says, raising an eyebrow, “I would’ve thought you’d be more likely to suggest I direct my talking down than up.”
“On any other day, I would,” Carlton mutters, crossing his arms. He clears his throat. “Anyway, I want you to know that you, uh, have my sympathies. He was…” Carlton coughs. “Well, no one deserves a premature….funeral.” It’s not exactly a lie.
Henry gives him a curt, if rather distracted, nod. “And I appreciate that, Lassiter, but if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a few more things I’d like to say to my son.” He starts to turn away.
Carlton pauses, unsure how to approach this. He considers just walking away, but there’s something just downright creepy about hearing a man talk to the pile of ashes that he presumes are his dead son. “Listen, Henry. Are you sure that this is really – ”
The look Henry turns on him is more than uncomfortable. Carlton finds he can’t quite meet his eyes. “You can’t possibly understand how much I cared about my son,” Henry says, and it’s unsettling both because of its intensity and because Carlton doesn’t exactly know what he means by it, but it feels a little bit like an attack.
“I – ”
“You didn’t exactly make it a secret that you didn’t like Shawn,” Henry says, accusing, like they hadn’t once commiserated about Shawn’s ridiculous behavior on their fishing trips. “So just let me do what I need to do, and stay out of it.”
There are dark circles under Henry’s eyes, he can see now, and his stubble is more pronounced than usual. It looks like he’s been neglecting his exfoliating or his bubble baths or whatever frilly hygiene regimen the younger Spencer had felt it necessary to disturb the station – or maybe just Carlton, who knew? – with a vivid account of.
Carlton had tried to explain that this whole thing was a bad idea, but no one ever listens to him, do they?
He throws his hands up in the air and turns his eyes toward the ceiling. “I don’t know why I bother,” he says. At least no one can say he didn’t try.
He’s trying to find a nondescript chair to slump into while he waits for the service to start, preferably one somewhere near a corner, when O’Hara notices him. “Carlton, you came!” she shouts, though her attempt at a cheerful tone falls a little flat.
Whose idea was it to turn death into a social event? He turns toward the sound of her voice and sees that Guster is also there, hovering at her elbow. “Of course I came,” he says, a little offended that she might have thought he wouldn’t. He’s not completely devoid of empathy. “Why wouldn’t I come?”
She frowns, the corners of her mouth wobbling a little. “Well, I mean, you and Shawn never really…uh, that is to say…”
“Right, right, we never got along,” he finishes, forcing himself to use the past tense, crossing his arms over his chest. He notices that her makeup is smudged, just a little, and shifts uncomfortably. Carlton sighs. “How are you holding up?”
“Oh, you know,” she says, making a vague gesture that he thinks is supposed to indicate ‘fine’. She should really know better than to think that will fool him; he is a detective, after all. “And you’re – ?”
She doesn’t ask him the same question, how he’s holding up, because she doesn’t expect him to be having any trouble holding it together at all. Which, while sort of flattering, just goes to show just how much she doesn’t know. “I’m not happy to be here either, O’Hara,” he says, and Guster actually snorts. “What, really?” he says, turning to look at Spencer’s friend. “You people seriously think I don’t care?”
Half the problems he had with Spencer had had something to do with the idiot attempting to recklessly endanger himself, which could have easily landed him in a situation much like this one, which had been something he, Carlton, had only been trying to prevent. It’s not so different from what Henry does, not that Carlton really wants to compare himself to Spencer’s father, but at least he doesn’t see anyone wondering why he bothered to show up.
“Oh, no, Carlton, it’s not that,” O’Hara says, shooting Guster a narrow look. “I just thought this might be a bit…awkward for you, is all. I’m glad you came. And,” she lowers her voice, “I’m sure he would be glad, too.”
Behind her, Guster grumbles something that could just as easily be construed as a threat as it could be agreement. He looks rough, but Carlton supposes that’s better than the alternative of twitchy and nervous.
“We were just looking at some pictures,” O’Hara tells him. Carlton gets the feeling that she’s appointed herself to look after Guster, pick up any conversational slack, that sort of thing. It could be a noble move, but he’s pretty sure it’s just her way of coping. “Do you want to join us?”
Carlton hesitates. “Do you want me to?” Sometimes when they’re at work he feels like they’re friends, sort of, if he were the type of person to have friends, but on the outside – well, he’s not really quite sure where their relationship stands.
Juliet gives him a watery grin. “Sure. Of course. I mean, if it’s all right with you, Gus.”
Guster shrugs and pushes out a noncommittal noise, turning the other way.
O’Hara catches his eye, darting a worried look back at Guster. “He’s – ” She purses her lips, apparently either unsure how or unwilling to describe Guster’s emotional state with him still within earshot.
“I know, O’Hara.” After a hesitant moment, he makes the decision to pat her on the shoulder; it’s a little awkward, but the tension in them seems to ease a little. He’s really going to have to make this up to her when all of this is over. “Look, why don’t you show me those pictures?”
When Carlton finally sits down for the service, he’s not, as he expected to be, next to some random high school acquaintance of Spencer’s in the back row. Which is fine, because he doesn’t really feel like answering somebody’s curious, “So, how did you know Shawn?” And he definitely has no interest in asking the question himself.
O’Hara had reluctantly abandoned Guster to let him sit in the front with his family, and Carlton ends up between her and McNab, in the same row as Vick and a desk sergeant he recognizes mainly by her earrings. He supposes it makes sense that there would be a row reserved for the group of people he might grudgingly, and not without some serious reservations, describe as Spencer’s “colleagues,” but he’s still a little surprised to find himself sitting in it.
This part – the one where he just sits down, shuts up, and listens – he feels a lot more confident about his ability to get through. No one’s looking at him now. Not that they were before, really, but he had still felt that itchy sense of paranoia that someone – there were an awful lot of detectives here, after all – would take one look at him and know.
It does get uncomfortable when people start making speeches, but then, he had expected that. It’s times like these when the fact that he has the California Vehicle Code memorized comes in handy. For example, when Henry’s voice cracks as he discusses the years he spent estranged from his son, Carlton thinks about Chapter 2, Article 4: Highway Spill Containment and Abatement of Hazardous Substances. When Madeleine Spencer brings up the Yang case, he’s so focused on Section 15620 that he barely hears her. And for all that he’s aware, Guster’s speech may as well have been, “The court shall notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of each conviction of Section 23103 that is required under this section to be a prior offense for purposes of Section 23540, 23546, 23550, 23560, 23566, or 23622."
The service ends with a slideshow and music so cheesy he almost doesn’t stop his completely inappropriate eye roll. Shawn Spencer might have made a cute kid, but he’s definitely seen enough pictures of that for one day. Plus, if this is the end of the service, then it’s only a matter of time until it’s back to awkward mingling, this time around a table set up with stale cookies and bad coffee. He’s got to get out of here, at least for a minute. Shifting in his seat, Carlton mutters out some excuse to O’Hara and, he’s not ashamed to admit, flees to the bathroom.
By some miracle, the bathroom is single-occupancy: quiet, empty, and scented faintly of lavender. Carlton quickly locks the door behind him and leans back against it, rubbing his hands over his face. He feels a little bit more collected afterward, but definitely still on-edge. Crossing the room, he leans against the sink and frowns into the mirror when he sees the dark circles that have formed underneath his eyes.
That’s when he hears the noise.
It’s coming from behind him, a sort of scraping sound followed by a dull thud. His hand is already on his holster by the time he whips his head around to get a good look at the culprit, standing behind him with his hands in his pockets and looking as casual as it’s possible to for someone who may have just fallen out of the ceiling.
“You brought your gun? Dude, come on. Was that really necessary?”
“Oh, it’s necessary,” Carlton says. His fingers slide reluctantly away from his weapon, though, and he puts on a scowl instead. Because being accosted in the bathroom of a funeral home is just what he needs right now, clearly.
He steps back and casts a dark look around the room, noting that one of the ceiling tiles has been pushed to the side when he glances up. Huh, well. Looks like he was right about that vent theory after all.
As for the idiot who leapt down from the vent, he doesn’t say anything, just grins at Carlton like this is all part of some great joke. Personally, Carlton doesn’t see what’s so funny about it. Then he notices something else, and narrows his eyes. “Is that my shirt?
Shawn Spencer looks down at the blue plaid button-up like he’s just now noticing it. “In the sense that it’s spent about a year living in your closet? Mmmmm…maybe. In the more real sense of ownership defined in terms of good ol’ cash-for-goods-style capitalism, the likes of which were championed by Reagan? No, this is not actually your shirt.”
Far be it from Shawn Spencer to start saying things that actually make sense one of these days. “I have no idea what you just said, so I’m just going to ignore all of it,” Carlton informs him. “How did you get here? Which part of ‘do not go through my things’ did you fail to understand? I suggest you start explaining yourself before I change my mind and decide to shoot you after all.”
“Okay, first of all, you’re completely missing the point! This is my shirt. My shirt, which I might add that you stole, shot a man in, and very rudely never returned. Now, if you want to talk about the things of yours I am wearing, specifically under my jeans, I’m afraid that I may have had to borrow a pair of your – ”
Carlton hastily jumps in there. “Shut up, Spencer; I don’t want to know.”
“ – socks,” Spencer says. “I borrowed your socks.”
But Carlton is not about to fall for the shock and awe distraction routine today, and when he glares at Shawn, his eyes are not saying I will shoot you if you touched my garters. “Spencer,” he begins dangerously, “there was just one thing – one teensy, tiny, impossible-to-screw-up little thing – that I very specifically told you not to do. And yet, here you are.”
“Here I am,” Spencer says, nodding agreeably.
“Goddammit, Spencer,” Carlton says. “Who the hell attends their own funeral anyway?”
Spencer waves a hand in the air and bounces on the balls of his feet like an overexcited game show contestant. “Oh, I know this one! Tom Sawyer? The Fonz? Those three hot sisters on Charmed?” Spencer scrunches up his nose, then shakes his head and waves a hand dismissively. “No, never mind, I take that last one back. They were witches, which is totally cheating. How about…Tom Sawyer’s buddies, Huck Finn and, uh…that other one? Help me out here, Lassie. It was something with a ‘J’. Jehhhhhhh-hosaphat?”
“Those are all fictional characters, Spencer.”
“Are they? I hadn’t noticed. Anyway, it’s not like I came in and offered to give my own eulogy or anything.” Which is a good thing, since Spencer had seen that very same joke played out on TV the previous night, and Carlton had been worried that it might haven given him ideas.
Carlton pinches the bridge of his nose. He can feel the beginnings of a headache forming behind his eyes. “Yes, but as I told you – not once, not twice, but seven times, Spencer – when you are presumed dead by your would-be murderer, you lay low.”
“Come on, Lassie, you know me better than that. I mean, how long have we known each other? It’s been, what, four years, five if you want to be a little generous – and I do. Fourteen, if you count from that incident in the police station with my father arresting me and you…having a mustache. This is me laying low.”
Carlton doesn’t care; he’s not about to give Spencer credit for resisting the urge to publicly eulogize himself.
“Oh, for the love of – I don’t have time for this,” Carlton snaps. “Just – go crawl back up into the ceiling or something.” Spencer doesn’t move. “No, fine, okay. Don’t listen. Here I am, actually trying to help you not get caught at one of your little schemes, so naturally your response is to ignore me at every turn.”
“But Lassie, I always ignore you. Half of the secret to my success is doing exactly the opposite of what you think I should.”
“What’s the other half? Pineapple smoothies? Shamelessly flirting with everything within a 50-foot radius? I certainly hope it’s not Guster, because if it is, we’re screwed.”
“Lassie, don’t be the talking half of Penn and Teller,” Spencer admonishes. “It’s going to work out just fine.”
Carlton breathes out a long breath and looks away. He hates being complicit in this…whatever this is. “Oh, what do you know?”
Carlton snorts. “Even assuming I bought that, which I don’t, that doesn’t explain how you got in here without being seen. For that matter, how are you planning on sneaking out?” Spencer opens his mouth and Carlton holds out a finger. “Say one word about psychic invisibility and I will shoot you,” he promises.
Spencer wisely shuts his mouth as he no doubt composes a new excuse designed to infuriate him. “Well, I was going to catch a ride with you – ”
“Like hell you are.”
“Laaaaassssssie. You know I know that you like to sing danger music when you drive, right? I won’t judge you. Also, I have this pretty killer harmony worked out that I think you might appreciate.” He pauses as if to consider this, but thankfully doesn’t start singing. “Anyway, the point is, if you can’t stop me from taking a back-seat joyride in a police-issue vehicle, slipping into Tatiana will be easier than you are after a few scotches.”
Carlton blinks. “Spencer – ”
“Huh. That really didn’t sound right, did it?”
It’s gotten to the point where Carlton mostly doesn’t bother trying to keep up with Spencer’s bullshit anymore, so he chooses to focus on the only part of that that doesn’t have anything to do with him and asks, “Who the hell is Tatiana?”
“Oh, she’s a sleek, sexy little vixen,” Spencer tells him, warming to the subject immediately. “Possibly a minx. A minx-like vixen. All shiny black metal on the outside and smooth black leather on the inside. Definitely a take-charge kind of girl.” Spencer switches into a high-pitched feminine voice that’s more outright ridiculous than sultry. “‘In 500 feet, turn left.’ ‘Your destination will be on the right.’”
A vein in Carlton’s neck twitches in protest. “You named my car…Tatiana?”
“Is it really a car? I’d say it’s more of a crossover. Anyway, yes; she’s just so very – ” Spencer waves a hand, “ – Tatiana, don’t you think?”
“No! Martha,” Carlton blurts, the name already out by the time his mouth bothers to consult his brain on the matter, and Spencer raises an eyebrow. Carlton resolutely ignores the flush he feels creeping up his neck and straightens, gathering up his dignity in the firm set of his shoulders. “Never mind, forget I said that. I’m through having my time wasted. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to head back out and…pretend that you are dead.”
He brushes past Spencer too closely on the way out, but he does manage not to look at him, not even when he puts a hand on the doorknob and Spencer’s voice drifts over from behind him, a gleeful, “Try not to have too much fun!” Carlton just turns the handle and gets the hell out of there, breathing a sigh of relief when the door clicks shut behind him.
Hopefully no one has noticed how long he was gone. Not that he plans on staying for much longer anyway; he’s already working on an excuse to get out of here at the earliest possible opportunity. This thing is hell on his nerves. Why aren’t funeral homes built with a gun range attached?
He sighs and forces himself to start moving. If Shawn Spencer ever has a second funeral - and he will - Carlton sure as hell doesn’t want to be around for it.
When he finally makes it home, feeling ready to pour himself a scotch, collapse onto the couch, and watch the COPS marathon he knows is on TruTV, Carlton walks in only to find that the sofa is already occupied.
Spencer looks up at the sound of the door opening, grinning when he sees him. “Lassie, you’re home!” He doesn’t even bother to try and hide the fact that he’s doodling all over Carlton’s Halibut Derby trophy with a permanent marker, just goes right back to coloring in a mustache on the fish that tops it. His feet are propped up on the coffee table and, to make matters worse, he hasn’t even taken off his shoes. Carlton has known five-year-olds with more common sense than this. The man needs constant supervision.
“Spencer,” he says flatly, sparing him a passing glance as he makes his way through to the kitchen. “Why am I not surprised?”
It’s a pretty sad reflection on the state of his life that Shawn Spencer can sit in his house, casually vandalizing his property, and Carlton will just accept it as par for the course. Carlton pulls a glass out of the dishwasher and pours himself a drink. Of course, putting his foot down has only ever seemed to encourage Spencer, so maybe it’s a tactic worth considering, actually.
He turns to face Spencer, leaning back to rest his elbows on the countertop. “I take it you at least changed your mind about breaking into my car, then?”
“Hardly,” Spencer says, grinning another one of those infuriating grins. “I just got bored waiting while you stopped off at the station. I mean, you got rid of my reading material. What was I supposed to do, read the California Vehicle Code instead?”
Well, at least that explained how Howard Zinn had ended up in his glove box.
“Get your feet off of my table,” Carlton says, moving into the living room. Spencer takes his sweet time, but the feet are gone by the time Carlton gets close enough to shove them off.
Carlton takes a seat himself, being careful to leave an empty cushion’s-worth of space between himself and Spencer. He sets his drink on a coaster, then turns to face Spencer. “All I want to do right now,” he informs the man, reaching for the remote – which Spencer also makes a grab for, but too slowly, “is sit on my own couch and relax. And do you know what I would like you to do during that time, Spencer?”
“You want me to leave?” Spencer asks, sitting up a little straighter and starting to push himself up off the couch. “Because I can – ”
“Oh, no, I want you to stay in my sight,” Carlton says, reaching out with one arm to shove Spencer back down onto the couch and flipping the TV on with the other. “I just don’t want you to say anything.”
If anything is going to relax him after today, it’s going to be Spencer’s silence and the sight of bad guys being served sweet, sweet justice. Carlton turns to channel 49 and then looks back at Spencer, who is trying and failing to look innocent. “What did you do?” he asks, and Spencer says nothing, because of course he is going to be difficult and use the last thing Carlton said against him. He drops the remote into Spencer’s lap. “Fix it.”
The TV screen only shows “Channel Blocked” for another moment, and then suddenly he’s looking at two Real Housewives of who-knows-where, evidently in the middle of a cat fight. Carlton snatches the remote back and Spencer makes pouty face at him. “Fine, I’ll fix it myself.”
Except five frustrating minutes later, the only thing he’s managed to do is also block access to channels 47 and 48.
“You know,” Spencer says, breaking what was probably a record-setting silence for him, “it’s a good thing they pay other people to go through camera footage and hard drives and stuff. I mean, come on, this is just sad. You’d never get a case solved even with my help.”
Carlton can’t help but snort at that. “You don’t help. You impede.” He gives up and opens the channel guide.
“Oh really? Is that what you’d call what I’m doing right now?” Spencer asks, his voice taking on a certain tone, and it’s pretty clear what he’s actually talking about. Admittedly he does sort of have a point.
“There are a lot of things I’d call what you’re doing right now,” Carlton says, gritting his teeth. He hasn’t forgotten that he agreed to the whole thing, though, or that whatever he could say about Spencer, he’s equally at fault here. Well, almost equally. Spencer is almost always responsible for the larger share of the blame in just about any situation.
He turns his attention back to the TV; America’s Most Wanted is on. It’ll have to do.
“Lassie, no!” Spencer sounds…alarmed? Before Carlton can even ponder that, Spencer has thrown himself across the sofa in a mad grab for the remote. “I refuse to sit through another true crime marathon! Can’t crime ever take a holiday?”
“I suppose you’d prefer some insipid garbage about orange-skinned alcoholics?” Carlton asks, easily holding the remote out of reach even as Spencer ends up sprawled across his lap in a flailing attempt to get to it.
“Are you talking about Jersey Shore or The Simpsons?” Spencer asks, flopping down in defeat. Carlton glares and pushes Spencer’s head off of his thigh. “Not that it matters,” he goes on. “I’d take either over this.”
“My house, my rules,” Carlton says. “Now get off.”
Spencer does so, though with no small amount of complaining and probably a lot more fidgeting than is strictly necessary. When he’s finally settled, closer to him than Carlton would like, he crosses his arms and slips into a truly pathetic sulk. “You’re watching Lifetime, you know.”
Carlton rolls his eyes. “This isn’t exactly The Golden Girls, Spencer. I don’t care.”
“The Golden Girls would be better,” Spencer mutters, fingers twitching as he continues to eye the remote. “Who can resist Rose?”
Carlton reaches for his scotch, takes a sip, and pointedly says nothing. Apparently Spencer can’t think of anything to add, either, because although he keeps throwing Carlton dirty looks, they lapse into a welcome silence.
Well, at least the silence is welcome until John Walsh starts to introduce the next dirtbag fugitive of the episode, and too late Carlton realizes just what Spencer was trying to do.
“We’ve seen a lot of scumbags in our day, but this next guy takes the cake,” Walsh is saying, and it is an absolutely true statement, but Carlton is finding it hard to hear what follows over the sudden roaring in his ears.
Spencer touches his arm. “Lassie…”
He jerks impulsively at the contact and Spencer’s hand falls away. The remote is still in his hand and he quickly switches off the television before they can get to the dramatization of their guy’s latest murder. He doesn’t need to see that to know that Russell Rogers is a slimebucket of the worst kind.
“Lassie,” Spencer tries again, quietly. He looks uncharacteristically serious. “Buddy. You’ve got to stop worrying so much.”
Carlton looks at Spencer, though he’s not sure what he’s trying to find; maybe a tell that Spencer isn’t as sure about everything as he likes to pretend he his. It’s not like he wants to keep thinking about this, imagining scenario after scenario of just how wrong this whole thing could go. The lengths they’ve already gone to are so extreme – he doesn’t like thinking about it, what could happen if they fail.
Carlton stands up, allows himself to loom over Spencer’s seated form. “This had better be worth it, Spencer,” he says, lowering his voice to convey just how serious he is. He hopes Spencer understands that this isn’t a game.
He looks down at Spencer long and hard, considering everything: the stubbly, grinning face; the artfully mussed hair; the unexplained pineapple in Carlton’s fridge. The whole damn psychic routine. These are not the hallmarks of a serious man. There is nothing even remotely trustworthy about him. But now Carlton has to trust him, doesn’t even get the option not to.
“It will be,” Spencer says.
His eyes don’t say that he’s lying, but for all Carlton knows, Spencer could be able to beat a polygraph.
Besides, much as he’d like to forget about it, there are about a million different ways for this operation to go bad. And even if it doesn’t, well, they’ve got a month at the outside to take Rogers out before the game’s automatically up. It should seem like plenty of time, but it’s nothing with Rogers, and anyway Carlton hates it when there’s a clock ticking on one of his investigations.
“It had better,” he repeats, and leaves.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
A/N: Because Lassie likes being difficult and Shawn enjoys derailing conversations, this chapter is over 30 pages long. The first scene borrows some dialogue from episode 1.07, Who Ya Gonna Call? Also, I realize that Henry didn’t accept the job offer to oversee consultants for the SBPD until the Season 4 finale, but for the purposes of this story, I’m going to imagine that he accepted it before then.
Any mistakes you find are mine alone – feel free to point out any errors you notice so that I can fix them. I know I'll say this again later, but seriously, I appreciate the hell out of feedback, and if you take the time to review it will probably make my day.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Psych and I am in absolutely no way profiting from this story. Uh, also, I obviously do not in any way recommend and/or condone doing what Shawn is about to do, especially given that I definitely took some liberties in a couple of areas.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Shawn crouches in the grass outside Gus’ open window, a walkie-talkie clutched loosely in one hand. He strains his ears for the sound of his friend’s breathing, grinning when he catches the distinctive noise of a snore. He juggles the walkie-talkie between his hands, then creeps two steps closer, so he’s directly underneath the windowsill, and presses the call button.
“Wooooooooo,” he says, and hears a crackling echo of his voice a second later, coming from inside of Gus’ room. “Woooo-eeeee-ooooo-eeeee-oooo.”
So maybe he sounds a little bit more like a siren than a ghost. It’s not Shawn’s fault that his dad only lets him watch R-rated movies if they’re cop films and, consequently, that the scariest movie he’s seen is The Goonies. Anyway, Gus is asleep, so it’s not like he can tell the difference.
Shawn hears the creaking of bedsprings and the rustling of covers, imagining Gus sitting bolt upright in his bed. “Who’s there?” trembles a voice.
And Gus wonders why Shawn won’t call him “Fearless Guster”.
“Hello?” Shawn says into the walkie-talkie, raising his voice an octave or two. “You can hear me?”
There’s more shuffling of the covers in the bedroom, this time sounding more frantic. “I can hear you,” Gus whispers. “What’s going on?”
Shawn stifles a giggle. “Can you…see me?”
Shawn hears the muffled sound of feet hitting the floor; he bets that Gus’ eyes are just beginning to adjust to the dark, and pictures them anxiously darting around his bedroom.
“No,” Gus says, sounding wary. “Where are you? You know what, this is kind of freaky. I’m – I’m going to tell my parents.”
Well, that’s just ridiculous. You don’t tell the mysterious presence in your bedroom that you’re telling your parents on them. There are footsteps; Gus must be starting toward the door.
“Oh, no, don’t do that! Please. You look so kind,” Shawn trills. “I only need someone to listen to my story. It would make me so happy.”
The footsteps stop.
“Well,” Gus says, hesitant. He’s totally coming around. Flattery always works on Gus, and besides that, he’s just so, well, gullible. “I have been told that I’m a good listener. Are you – are you a ghost?”
“I am,” Shawn says, making his voice as solemn as possible. He throws in a couple of wooshing noises for effect. “Your house was built on an old Indian burial ground, and it is there I was buried. I died many moons ago and have found myself trapped between worlds ever since. I have been so sad with no one to talk to.”
“Really?” Gus says, but he sounds excited, not disbelieving. If Shawn told Gus he could read minds, he’d probably believe that, too. “What’s your name?”
“My name?” Shawn asks. “My name is Wilting Flower. I died without knowing love. Will you be my friend?”
There’s a sharp intake of breath from inside the room. “Me? Your friend? I’d be – I mean, of course!”
Well, that was even easier than he’d expected it to be. Shawn looks down at his watch. He is pushing it if he doesn’t want to get caught, so he should probably just jump ahead to his wrap-up. “Oh, I haven’t felt happiness like this since I was alive! It’s so beautiful – and, oh, I see a light!”
There’s a scrambling noise from the room, probably Gus moving closer to the wall that Shawn hid the other walkie-talkie in. “Is there a tunnel?” Gus asks eagerly.
Shawn brings the walkie-talkie closer to his lips. “Yes,” he whispers.
“Go toward it!” Gus hisses.
“Oh, I will! Thank you! Thank you so much! I’ll never forget you, Gus,” Shawn says into the walkie-talkie, pitching his voice just a little bit higher and adding in an emotional quiver. He hears a stunned Gus ask how Wilting Flower knows his name, but he’s already pushed himself up from the weeds in the Gusters’ backyard and taken off running for home.
Shawn creeps toward his house, coming through the backyard, and is relieved to see that it’s just as dark as when he left it, not single light on. He grips his windowsill and pulls himself up, swinging one leg and then the other over the ledge, dropping down catlike onto the carpet. He doesn’t even make a sound.
But when he looks up, he sees his dad sitting in his desk chair, dressed in pajamas and a terrycloth robe. The outfit still doesn’t make him look any less intimidating than usual.
“Busted,” his dad says.
Shawn considers attempting an escape right back out the window, but he’s afraid his dad will grab him before he gets all the way out. “I was sleepwalking?” he tries.
“That excuse might work a little better if you didn’t have eye-black underneath your eyes,” his dad says, standing up, and Shawn takes an involuntary step backwards and into the wall.
“There was a late-night baseball game?” Shawn offers, though without much hope.
His dad just sighs, comes over and puts a hand on his shoulder, and steers Shawn over to his bed, pushing him down to take a seat. “You know, you had your mother and I worried sick,” he says, fixing Shawn with a stern look. “And here I thought you wouldn’t start sneaking out of the house for at least another three years. I’m disappointed in you, kid.”
Shawn scowls and crosses his arms. “I wasn’t even gone that long! You shouldn’t have noticed. You were asleep when I left!”
“Your mother is a light sleeper, Shawn, and sometimes she likes to check on you when she wakes up. Imagine her surprise when all she found was an empty bed,” his dad scolds. “For all we knew, you could have been dead.”
Yeah, right. His dad would have called up half the cops in Santa Barbara if he’d actually thought something bad had happened to him.
“You didn’t need to worry,” he says. “I knew I wasn’t dead.”
“Be that as it may, it doesn’t really do your mother and I any good, now does it, Shawn?”
“I don’t know,” Shawn answers.
His dad uncrosses his arms to point a finger at him. “Well, you’ll have plenty of time to think about while you’re grounded for the next month.”
“Month!” Shawn cries. No way should this get him a month.
“Just be glad it’s not longer,” his dad tells him, stepping over to Shawn’s window, pulling it shut with an audible ‘thud,’ and fitting a child-proof latch on top of the regular lock. “Trust me, pal, you deserve every second for making us worry like that.”
Shawn closes his eyes and falls back onto the covers, letting out a breath. He hears his dad’s feet retreating toward the doorway. The steps pause on the threshold, though, and his dad’s voice comes back to him, bearing an unwelcome promise: “We can talk about this more in the morning.”
“Aw, man!” Shawn says, once he hears the door being pulled shut. Now he’s going to miss Gus’ family vacation, and they’re going to Jamaica, and he’s been looking forward to it practically all year. His dad is so unfair. Besides, he still doesn’t see what the big deal was, and it’s not like grounding him is actually going to make him suddenly agree with his dad or anything.
Then again, making Gus think he was a ghost was totally worth it.
2010 – One week earlier
“What in the hell is this, Spencer?”
The sound of the door of the Crown Vic slamming shut is loud enough that it echoes a little, even with all the trees around to muffle sound. Shawn looks up to see Lassie striding forward quickly, twigs snapping underneath his feet, and the look on his face couldn’t be more sour if he were sucking on a Warhead. Even if it happened to be the black cherry kind, and everybody knows that those aren’t for the weak tastebudded. Weak of tastebud? Or no, wait! Wouldn’t weak tastebuds actually make sour things less sour? Maybe he means they’re not for strong tastebuds.
It doesn’t take a psychic to figure out what the problem is. Lassie had been about to make a break in the Great Shoplifting Caper of Frilly-Frou Shopping District – officially the Nordstrom Paseo Nuevo burglary case, whatever – which had been so open-and-shut that even Shawn hadn’t bothered, so it’s understandable if he wants to be a Grumpy Galapagos tortoise. And, okay, among other things, “driving up a disused hiking trail to a potential crime scene at the request of Shawn Spencer” probably doesn’t appear on the list of “Things Carlton Lassiter Wants to Do, Ever”.
Well. At least he came.
Lassie stalks over to where Shawn is standing, stopping just before his feet end up in a puddle of blood, and puts his hands on his hips. It’s that move where he pushes his jacket aside just enough that you get a glimpse of his badge and the gun peeking out of his holster, totally the first thing you’d learn in Intimidation 101, if that’s a course at the academy. Having never been himself, Shawn finds nothing wrong with continuing to assume that it is. Lassie would probably be disappointed to find out that his intimidation techniques have never had the intended effect on Shawn.
“What does it look like?” Shawn grins at him, going for easy and relaxed. Lassie looks far too serious right now; it’s sure to rile him up.
Shawn knows exactly what it looks like, and what you see is more or less what you get. Sure, there are a couple of minor details that don’t fit in with the rest of it all, but then that’s no different from how it is with pretty much any case Shawn has ever worked on, and anyway Lassie spends most of his time being suspicious of Shawn rather than of the evidence.
If he looks closely enough, Shawn can make out the irregular ticking of Lassie’s jaw. Yahtzee. Usually it takes at least five minutes to achieve that. He gives a small, satisfied nod. Not that Lassie will get what the hell he’s nodding about, but sometimes Shawn just can’t help but acknowledge his own ingenuity.
“Why don’t you tell me, Spencer? Does it look like I’m in the mood for your shenanigans right now?”
Shawn considers this. “I’m not sure. Could you demonstrate that expression for me?”
It’s a sunny, almost cloudless day outside, but the trees surrounding them have grown thick and tall enough to cast this area in their shadow, causing Lassiter to have forgone his sunglasses. So when Shawn looks at Lassie to see just how pissed off he’s managed to make him so far, it’s the rage darkening his eyes that really tells the story.
Did his puppy die or what? Shawn’s hardly done anything to make him that angry yet.
“Need I remind you, Spencer, that you are the one who called me out here?” Lassie asks, jabbing a finger first at Shawn and then pointing it back at himself. “And if you think that I drove all the way out to the edge of town to play Twenty Questions or – or whatever other little slumber party games your juvenile mind might have come up with, you are deeply, sadly mistaken. So.” Lassie waves a hand, smiling that tight-lipped, mildly condescending smile he uses whenever his patience is being tested. “Talk.”
Lassie punctuates this remark by slapping at a mosquito on his neck, and Shawn rubs behind his ear, feeling sweat at the edge of his hairline.
“Well, I was thinking we could start off with a few rounds of Pretty Pretty Princess, but then after all the grown-ups have gone to bed: prank phone calls!” Predictably, Lassie just glares at him. Shawn holds his hands up in defeat and pretends to look disappointed. “All right, fine, but you’re missing out. So…you wanted me to talk, you said?”
There’s a warning finger jammed right in his face a second later. Shawn has to go cross-eyed to look at it. “For the love of all that is good and holy, not just about whatever lunatic thought happens to be passing through your brain right this second,” Lassiter says. Well, there goes that plan.
Lassie puts on his interrogation glare, and then his interrogation voice. “Why am I here?”
“We-e-e-ll,” Shawn says, preparing a highly unsatisfying answer to that question. He raises a hand to his temple and squints dramatically into what he likes to imagine is a portal to the Great Beyond. It’s green and swirly, and beyond it, Shawn can see that Lassiter is swiftly growing more and more agitated.
Once, not long after he’d started, Shawn made a list of his top ten favorite things about this job. Annoying Lassie came in at number seven. Which wasn’t a bad showing for the Lassmeister, considering numbers one through six all related to pineapple, and, like dynamite in rock-paper-scissors, nothing beat pineapple. Developing and executing a repertoire of psychic gesticulations, such as the classic hand-to-temple maneuver seen just now, had come in at number twenty-three. Again, not bad, especially given that the list currently comprises a total of seventy-one things.
“I sense that there was…an altercation. Yes! An altercation. And it was definitely centered somewhere around this – ” Shawn waves his arms in wide semicircles over the ground directly in front of him, where blood is beginning to congeal in the dirt, “ – general area.”
“I can see that,” Lassie says, rolling his eyes. “You’re supposed to be psychic. Tell me something I don’t know.”
“Sorry, Lassie. The spirits aren’t giving me anything. Oh, no, wait! I’m getting – uh huh. Really? No, I don’t think he’s going to like that. All right, all right, if you insist. I’ll tell him.” Shawn looks back up at Lassie and schools his face into a sincerely apologetic expression. “The spirits feel used, Lassie. Used and abused. They say a detective as seasoned as yourself should be able to easily – their words, not mine – crack this case just by examining the evidence. It’s all there, they assure me, with no villainous trickery or supernatural hoo-doo involved.”
Lassiter blinks. He draws in a long breath and lets it out through his nose, his shoulders slumping just a little with the exhale. The more ridiculous his behavior, Shawn has found, the more quickly Lassie tends to resign himself to playing along. “Hoo-doo?” Lassie says, like he’s afraid to even ask.
“Look, if you’re going to ask the spirits to get with the times, I’m afraid it’s a lost cause. They just don’t get the new, hip lingo. It’s one of the downsides to being dead. Or so I’ve heard.”
Lassie rubs his forehead with his thumb, like that’s what he needs to relieve his tension, yeah right, and then folds his arms. “You’re just going to keep on doing this until I give in and play your ridiculous little guessing game, aren’t you?”
Shawn spreads his hands out in front of himself, palms up. Lassie is surprisingly quick on the uptake today. “Just tell me what you see,” he says.
Lassiter sighs and rakes his eyes over the scene, moving them briefly over Shawn and then looking quickly away, though his gaze keeps drifting back. The longer he looks at everything, the more pronounced his frown becomes, and it takes everything Shawn’s got not to jump in and call him “Detective Frowny-Face”. After a moment, looking at Shawn but refusing to meet his gaze, Lassie says, “Honestly? It looks like you should be dead.”
Well, okay. Shawn supposes he can see how Lassie might get that impression. But obviously he’s not dead, and if Lassie bothered to take his eyes away from the two bullet holes in Shawn’s shirt and the dried blood crusted all down his front, maybe he’d be able to pick up on some other clues. “Try not to sound too disappointed,” Shawn says. He laughs a little, because if you can’t laugh at this, well…the other things on the list of potential reactions are a lot more embarrassing.
Lassie’s eyes narrow and he advances a step or two, carefully sidestepping the patches of blood on the ground. It seems that that was the wrong thing to say. Or maybe to laugh about?
“What, that you didn’t manage to get yourself killed?” Lassie snaps, and whoa, is that an actual snarl? His eyes are darting around all over the clearing again, settling on Shawn every now and then, and okay, yes, this does look pretty bad.
Except Shawn sort of feels like what Lassie’s really saying is that he doesn’t like that Shawn clearly could have gotten himself killed today. Well, maybe. No, that must be it, because the corners of Lassie’s mouth tighten every time his eyes move over Shawn.
Huh. Shawn looks down at himself. He made sure to wear a shirt he didn’t care that much about, and these jeans are like a week away from having a hole wear through in the thigh, but damn. Shawn may look at this mess and think that even that hydrogen peroxide trick Henry taught him isn’t going to save his clothes, but Lassie is looking at it and there’s no mistaking it, even someone who wasn’t preternaturally observant could pick up on it: it’s freaking him out.
Shawn sort of wonders if Lassie even notices. If he hasn’t yet, he’s bound to soon, and then things will definitely get uncomfortable. Lassie doesn’t like worrying, and Shawn doesn’t really like Lassie worrying much either, to be honest.
“Whoa there, Lassie. Don’t worry yourself too much on my account. With all those three-creams-four-sugars you insist on packing away, I don’t know if your heart will be able to handle it.”
Something about that causes Lassie’s scowl to turn into something a little less intense and a lot more exasperated, and Shawn feels somewhat more at ease with that. Still, he ought to try and honestly reassure him anyway. So Shawn reaches out and pats Lassie on the shoulder, feeling cheap polyester under his palm, and says, “Besides, there’s really no need to worry at all. As you can see, I’m way not dead, and my plan to stay that way was totally foolproof.”
If anything, though, the crease between Lassie’s eyebrows deepens, and his eyes slide to the left to look at his shoulder. Maybe it’s sort of adorable when he gets all crinkly-eyed like that, but Shawn had also sort of been hoping that he’d spend less of this conversation frowning.
Lassie shrugs his shoulder and Shawn allows his hand to slide off of it.
“Listen, Spencer,” Lassie says after a moment, putting up a hand and making one of those weird, grasping gestures that seem to either mean he wants to punch something or he’s at a temporary loss for words. It’s probably the latter, since Shawn’s the only one around to get punched, and the one time Shawn asked Lassie to punch him, he’d actually had to be goaded into it. Lassie’s jaw ticks minutely, the movement small enough that Shawn almost doesn’t catch it. “I really couldn’t care less about any plan you have ever had, will have, or are thinking about having. In fact, I’m certain that they’d all be terrible. What I really want to know is exactly what the hell you called me all the way out here for, and why the hell – ” he trails off and gestures pointedly at the scene in front of them. “I suggest you start explaining yourself.”
“You’re not going to like it.”
“I’m sure I won’t.”
“I mean, you’re really not going to like it.”
Lassiter taps his foot, jaw doing that ticking thing again, and it’s becoming more and more deliberate. Didn’t anyone ever teach him that patience is a virtue? “Just get on with it, Spencer.”
“Okay. Try to keep in mind, though, that everyone is still alive. Because clearly…things could easily have ended differently.” Shawn draws in a deep breath, looks left as he tries to recall the events leading up to this. “So, let’s see. I guess this whole thing started about, oh, three hours ago? I was at the station – you wouldn’t have noticed me, you were on your lunch break, and also I may have come in the back way and taken the very scenic behind-the-potted-plants route, which by total happenstance led me to the equipment room, which Henry had very kindly left me a key for. Okay, so I took it off his key ring. Well, more borrowed. …Ish. Anyway, I think you’ll find that it was an entirely appropriate thing to do, because what I did was sign out one of the bulletproof vests – ”
Lassie cuts him off. “You’re not authorized to do that.”
“Well, no. I guess if you want to get technical, you signed the vest out.”
Lassiter glares at him, probably on instinct, because comprehension begins to dawn on his face a moment later. “By which you mean…”
“That I forged your signature? You got me. Look, are you going to let me finish my story or what?”
“Is your story going to involve any crimes other than felonies that you yourself committed? Because I’ve been counting, and you’ve already admitted to at least three.”
Shawn huffs impatiently. “What, are you going to turn me in? Trust me, they were all crimes of necessity. By the time I’m done, you won’t even have a problem with the forgery.” He pauses for a second, then decides hey, he doesn’t have anything to lose here, and adds, “Oh, and by the way, that reminds me: you’re welcome for making sure your cable bill got paid on time last month.”
Lassiter looks like he’s about to say something, but then he tilts his head to the side and frowns, probably realizing that he actually doesn’t remember writing that check, after all. He shakes it off, though, and snaps, “I’m never going to thank you for breaking the law, Spencer. What are you doing paying my bills when half the time you can’t even manage to pay your own?”
Shawn shrugs. “Well, you see, that’s really more of an insufficient funds issue,” he tells him. How did they even get on this subject, anyway? Not that Shawn can’t roll with it, but he thought Lassie would be a little bit more focused on the whole growly ‘explain yourself’ demand. “I guess if you’d rather talk about domestic issues right now, there is a discussion I’ve been meaning to have with you about your recent choices in peanut butter. They’re starting to become a problem for me. I mean, I can understand a little youthful experimentation, but who suddenly decides to switch to crunchy PB in their forties?”
Lassiter looks a little guilty, apparently realizing that he’s let himself become distracted, but Shawn’s certain he can’t hold himself back from making at least one comment on that anyway. Sure enough, after working his jaw for a moment, Lassie says, “For the last time, stop breaking into my house, Spencer. Also, incidentally, that is breaking and entering, and what do you know, you’ve just implicated yourself in yet another felony.”
It’s not like Shawn is in any danger of being charged, though. Even if Shawn came out with the big I’m-not-actually-psychic fraud showstopper, he somehow gets the feeling that Lassie wouldn’t charge him on that, either. Not that he actually plans on taking his chances with that one right now.
Lassiter sighs and rubs a hand over his face. “Just get back to your little story, will you?”
Shawn grins. “Lassie, I thought you’d never ask.” Lassiter doesn’t break from his stony-faced silence this time, however, so Shawn thinks back to where he left off. “So, right, where was I? At the station, in the equipment room, oh, right! The bulletproof vest. You see, Lassie, I’d had a – premonition – that I might encounter a gun-wielding criminal harboring a grudge against psychics with amazing hair. And, as it turned out,” Shawn gestures down at himself, “I was right!”
Lassiter’s eyes narrow skeptically. “If you’re wearing a vest, then why is there blood all over your shirt?”
Shawn glances at the mess on his shirt and shrugs. “Why are you wearing a striped shirt and a patterned tie? As if your suits weren’t bad enough already.”
Lassie looks down at himself and frowns. “What’s wrong with my suits?”
“I have a list,” Shawn offers. “There’s also one about your hair, if you’re interested.”
“I’m not,” Lassie snaps, still looking a little stung about the whole suit thing. His eyes run up and down Shawn’s body again. “You know what, who are you to talk anyway? You look terrible.”
Shawn flings a hand over his heart, giving Lassiter his best scandalized expression, not that he’s looking at Shawn anymore anyway. “Whoa, Lassie! You really know where to hit a man where it hurts. That one cut me deep.”
“Deep enough for you to bleed all over your shirt?” Lassie asks pointedly, mouth twisting as he eyes the puddle of blood nearest to his shoe. And hey, Lassie is good at this interrogation thing sometimes, because now he’s gotten the back to his original point without even having to stop and complain about Shawn leading them off-topic again. “Seriously Spencer, what the hell?”
“Okay, so I may have made a stop at the meat department at Cantwell’s on the way out here,” Shawn admits.
“And purchased, what, buckets of blood to pour all over yourself?”
“They were more like smallish plastic packages, and I didn’t pour them on myself so much as hide them underneath my shirt, but otherwise…pretty much yes.”
Lassie stares at him unblinkingly for a second, like the level of Shawn’s insanity has finally, at long last, reached the point that’s too much for him to handle. “Why?”
“Well, duh, Lassie. He wasn’t going to buy it if he shot me and I didn’t bleed. Would you have preferred it if he’d gotten suspicious and shot me in the head? Or worse, in the face?”
Shawn feels that this is particularly good point, but Lassie’s eyes are wide in a very unhappy way and his mouth is drawn into as severe a line as ever.
“He? He who? And buy what? You can’t possibly mean that you planned to come out here and get shot.”
Shawn shrugs; it’s not really as big a deal as Lassie is trying to make it sound. He totally had this whole thing under control the entire time. “Well, I mean, the guy has a pretty straightforward MO. I was hardly in any danger at all. Also, I saw how it was going to happen, you know, psychically, so…”
“No, you didn’t,” Lassie snaps. “Spare me. Just who the hell are we talking about here?”
Lassie swings his head from one side to another looking around the clearing, as if he’s expecting their shooter to realize he’s being discussed and pop out from eavesdropping behind a tree.
“Well,” Shawn says. “You know that case, the one we were assigned a couple of days ago?”
Lassiter brings his eyes back around to Shawn, looking momentarily confused. “The petnapping?”
As if Madame Fifi von Fluffington could climb these trees.
“No,” Shawn says slowly, “the cop-killer.”
The line between Lassie’s eyebrows vanishes instantly. He steps swiftly forward and jabs a finger right in Shawn’s chest, pressing hard enough that Shawn can feel it even through the Kevlar he’s wearing. “You’re not working that case.”
“I think you’ll find that I am.”
Lassie looks conflicted for a moment, then takes the finger away, but only to go and fist his hand roughly in Shawn’s collar a second later. His eyebrows are doing that thing they do where they turn Lassie’s face into what is, quite frankly, a terrifying representation of Vulcan anger. “I told you – ” he hisses, “in no uncertain terms – to stay away from that case.”
Shawn tries to twist out of Lassie’s grasp, but it’s surprisingly firm. “Oh, come on. Are you honestly surprised that I didn’t?”
The hand holding him twists in the fabric of his shirt – which, ow, that actually kind of hurts – and Shawn stumbles forward a little. “Why won’t you ever listen to me?” Lassie growls.
Shawn pretends to consider this. He probably wouldn’t have go as far as insulting Reagan to get Lassiter to pull out the right hook today. “Well, that wouldn’t be any fun at all.”
Lassie’s eyes flash, the line of his mouth growing even narrower. “You got shot, Spencer,” he spits, getting little flecks of Lassie-saliva all over Shawn’s face. “Did you ever stop and think that half the reason I usually want you off my cases is that I don’t happen to enjoy watching civilians make a game out of putting themselves in danger?”
Shawn reaches up to rub at his nose with one finger, not that he’s really very grossed out by Lassie’s spit – or grossed out at all, actually. “Hmmm. No, not really. I’ve always preferred to think that you wanting me off your cases is just part of a bit we do, for old time’s sake.”
“I already told you, Lassie, I was never in any danger.”
“Is that so?”
“Absolutely. Being shot once in the past year was definitely enough for me. I wasn’t taking any chances.”
“And doing whatever the hell you did to end up with two bullets in the chest was what?” Lassie demands. “What would you call that?”
“A precautionary measure? Dude, you haven’t even let me explain myself yet. I promise I’ve got an awesome reason.”
Lassiter sighs and lets go of Shawn’s collar, taking a step back. Shawn raises his hand to rub at a spot on his neck. “This had better be good, Spencer.”
“Look, this guy, Rogers – you started out thinking he was smalltime, right?”
“I never – ”
“I mean, okay, not you like Carlton H. Lassarelli you; you in the broader sense of the word, as in the SBPD. Right? Everyone thought he was just your average low-life petty thief, even after you’d ID’d him and everything, because some yokel cop over in Wyoming goofed on putting him in the database.”
“I know you read the case file,” Lassiter says, long-suffering. “I don’t need a play-by-play of everything in it.”
“Dude, don’t worry. I’m just working up to the color commentary,” Shawn says, holding up a placating hand. Which is normally his specialty, except it’s maybe not the best thing to say considering what he’s planning on following it up with. “Okay, never mind, that was probably a bad choice of words. Just – Lassie, think about everybody who’s investigated him so far.” Shawn raises his hand and begins ticking them off on his fingers. “There’s that guy who had the robbery case, the cop who caught up with Rogers in Nevada, the detective on the original homicide in Wyoming, and before her even, you’ve got the regular patrol dude who the whole thing started with. And they all have one very important thing in common. Do you see what I’m getting at here?”
Lassie’s eyes are like ice. “They’re all dead, if that’s what you mean.”
Shawn winces. Lassie never has been one to mince words. “Right, and if everybody who’s ever worked a case on this guy is now dead and we can expect the same pattern to continue, I’m not really sure I like the way this is going to end up. Because, dude, I don’t know if you noticed, but this case is yours and Jules’ now.”
So, yes, Shawn is fine with admitting he’s concerned. Jules and Lassie are like…stuff, like, really important stuff to him, and yes, they’re generally pretty adept at the ass-kicking part of the job and they’re no slouches in the detecting department, either, but this wasn’t a chance he wanted to take. So he found a loophole and made himself the target.
Lassiter makes a funny face, his mouth turning down at one corner, and he pulls his arms more tightly against his chest. Shawn had thought that the vulnerability-exposing admission had been his own, but obviously Lassie is reading into it too far and coming up with something else, something he doesn’t seem to like. He scratches at his chin and speaks to something in the vicinity of Shawn’s left earlobe. “O’Hara,” he says, then pauses to clear his throat, and oh, that’s interesting that he thinks this is only about Jules, “is a completely capable police detective. She’s been thoroughly trained, she’s armed, and I have the utmost faith that when it comes down to it, she wouldn’t hesitate to make a tough call. I hardly think she needs you protecting her.”
Shawn would say something, he really would, but right now he’s a little bit afraid to upset Lassiter’s assumptions about Shawn’s motivations. Still, Lassie’s definitely way off base on his interpretation of some of the more crucial points here, and Shawn can’t help but be reminded of Henry and his delusion that even if you’d been through crazy detective boot-camp your entire life and never forgot anything you saw, it’s still a shame that you don’t have a badge and aren’t packing at all times. He points a finger right back at Lassie. “Yeah, well, you know what? Sometimes having a gun isn’t enough to protect you!”
Lassie brings his eyes back around to Shawn, fixing him with a harsh blue glare. “And I’m supposed to believe that being shot by one will do a better job of that?”
“Having a plan is better than having a weapon,” Shawn insists, and he hates how he just gets petulant when he’s arguing, cut-out-the-banter really arguing, but at least he isn’t down to foot-stomping yet.
Somewhere behind the tree line, the sun must have gone behind a cloud, because the clearing grows a fraction darker.
Lassie throws up his hands. “What is your plan? Get shot, fine, whatever, I’m not even going to ask why anymore, but what possible purpose does any of this serve?”
What is his plan, indeed? Moment of truth. Shawn licks his lips and wipes his palms on the front of his jeans, then raises a finger. “Okay. First of all, he wasn’t expecting me. Throw him a curveball, we buy ourselves some time. Second, this guy is obviously doing something right – I mean, if you’re looking at the world through crazy-colored glasses, which he obviously is – so I think the best thing to do is get creative. Oh, and also, now that he thinks I’m dead, I’ve got the perfect excuse to go undercover – like, really, really undercover – to catch him.”
Shawn smiles hopefully, but if Lassie understands him, and Shawn thinks he does, well. He probably won’t be offering up any of his fake mustache collection for this job. Still, this is the part of his plan that Lassie actually needs to agree to, and, incidentally, it’s also the part on which he’s expecting the most pushback.
“What?” Lassie snaps, eyes widening. “No. Nonononononono, Spencer. Do not be saying what I think you are saying.”
He looks like he wants to take Shawn by the shoulders and shake him. Which is just silly, because though it’s often been tried, that method has proven useless at getting Shawn to see sense.
“Do you want me to lie? Because I can’t. It’s against the psychic code. You know, don’t use your Ouija as a TV tray, no burning incense with names like ‘Love Hangover’ on the package, and don’t lie,” Shawn says. He’d written that list down, too, even sent it out for review to others in the profession, but nothing ever came of it other than a “Thank you for your kind thoughts” form letter from John Edwards. “Oh, and hey, by the way, this part is going to require a wardrobe change, soooooo. If you could go and grab me the stuff I left in – you know that pocket underneath the passenger seat of your car? – that’d be just super, buddy.”
Lassiter doesn’t move or even so much as glance in the direction of his car, but there is a tell-tale flaring of nostrils at the mention of Shawn having left something in it. He drums his fingers against the butt of his gun. “Rogers may think you’re dead for now,” he says, conceding that point for the moment, “but he also knows who you are, right? If he’s been following our investigation, if he’s done his research on the SBPD, he knows. Which means that if you turn up at the station, or in the Mirror, or even just even just at your ridiculous excuse for an apartment – if you turn up anywhere that’s not an obituary, your cover is blown. Obviously you haven’t thought this through, Spencer. So why don’t you leave the real police work to, oh, I don’t know, the police, and…”
Wait just a minute here. Shawn waves his hands in fervent disagreement. “I have so – ”
Lassie’s fingers stop their drumming and close around the handle of the gun. “Don’t interrupt me when I’m – ”
“Just let me explain – ”
“So help me, Spencer, I am about an inch away from – ”
Shawn reaches out blindly toward Lassie to shut him up, closing his fingers around his elbow. “If he finds out I’m not dead, then pretty soon I will be!” he shouts, watching as Lassie’s mouth goes still around whatever he was about to say, and for a moment they share a shocked silence.
Another moment later, Lassie shakes Shawn’s hand off and rubs at his arm. “Fine, then we can put you under police protection,” he snaps, suddenly businesslike, brushing imaginary lint from his sleeves and standing up straighter. “And anyway, the Chief would have never signed off on this, so even if you do possess the capacity to lay low, which I doubt – ”
Shawn cuts him off again. “I know the Chief would never go for this. Why do you think I called you?”
Lassie stares at him like he’s out of his mind. “What on earth makes you think that I’m more likely to go along with this than the Chief?”
“Lassie! Don’t tell me you’ve never fantasized about handing out some good old fashioned street justice every now and then.”
The corner of Lassiter’s mouth gives the barest hint of a twitch, the only thing that suggests his resolve might not be unshakable. “I don’t see how that’s relevant.”
“Your fantasies are always relevant,” Shawn assures him, giving Lassie the most earnest face he’s capable of making and watching as the tips of Lassie’s ears turn red.
“Shut up, Spencer,” he snaps. “What’s the connection here? You pretend to be dead and suddenly I become a lawless vigilante? I’m not seeing it.”
Shawn makes a square out of his thumbs and index fingers and surveys Lassiter critically through it, tilting his head to the side. “I’m not seeing it either. Maybe if we get you in some spandex and a cape? The point is, this is your chance to work outside of the law.”
“I don’t – it’s not going to happen, Spencer. I follow protocol.”
“Dude, I feel like we’ve had this conversation before. That’s exactly your problem! I haven’t followed protocol a day in my life, but that hasn’t stopped anybody I’ve caught from being convicted.”
“Well, we can’t all be so lucky, Spencer!” Lassie shouts. Sure, maybe the consequences of not following procedure are a bit steeper for Lassie than they are for Shawn, but that’s part of Lassie’s problem, too, always being so fixated on consequences and not just doing what feels right. Lassie pinches the bridge of his nose, trying to refocus. “Okay, fine. I can work with this. If you want Rogers to think you’re dead, forget the elaborate charade and just, I don’t know, go into Witness Protection.”
Shawn heaves a sigh and Lassie’s expression pinches even further. “Witness protection? Really, Lassie? I like my idea better. It accomplishes the same goal, but without any of that inconvenient paperwork. Besides, you don’t even have the guy in custody, so how am I supposed to testify against him?”
“Maybe it won’t mean any paperwork for you,” Lassie mutters bitterly. Shawn knows he has him on the custody issue, though, so he’s a little surprised when Lassie’s eyes flash in a way that so clearly say he has an idea that Shawn would almost expect to see a light bulb hovering above his head, too. “If you want your death to be official, you’re going to need to get a death certificate. And that’s not going to happen without a body.”
Shawn just grins, because he totally knows this. He grins even more when Lassie notices and visibly deflates. “My plan does take that into account.”
“You have a body,” Lassie says, tone flat.
“Don’t knock yourself out complimenting it or anything. Yes, I have a body, and it has been known to play dead on occasion. But I can only make it convincing as long as you don’t let anybody else get too handsy with it.”
And by ‘anybody else’ he means officers, detectives, forensics guys, paramedics, and just about anybody else who can get behind the yellow tape he envisions encircling this clearing within the next hour.
One way or another, this place is going to be a crime scene, and Shawn would really prefer it if the one it turns into is the one that’s part of his plan. He’s already done more legwork for this thing than he did for his last five cases combined, and there’s no way he’s letting that go to waste without one hell of a fight.
“No. No way. You are not – I repeat, not – pretending to be a corpse at my crime scene, Spencer.”
“Do you have a better idea? Because I did some Googling, and there are other options, if we can do missing-but-presumed-dead on this thing. Bridge jump, staged home invasion, kidnapping by Mexican bandits…although the article was very clear that I’d need a co-conspirator to call in a ransom on that one, if you’re volunteering.”
“No,” Lassie snaps. “Have you even thought about what you’re going to tell Guster and O’Hara and your father?”
“Relax,” Shawn says. It’s better to let people harbor the misimpression that he’s dead than to actually be dead, isn’t it? It’s not like it’s necessarily a new thing, anyway. “Gus and Henry both spent a week in 1998 convinced that I’d died in a freak llama herding accident. They got over it. Although, to be fair, the incident in Mexico with Gus is another story. He still gets upset if I even so much as mention tostadas.”
Lassie actually starts laughing and Shawn’s almost proud for a minute, until he realizes that it’s an entirely humorless sort of laughter.
Lassie sobers and shakes his head. “You know, if your plan had involved actually catching Rogers you might have gotten my support, but this,” he shakes his head again. “Christ, Spencer. Couldn’t you have at least tried to prevent the guy from getting away?”
Shawn bristles at that. “Dude, I’m sorry. I was pretty busy with having just been shot twice and trying to play a convincing corpse so that it didn’t happen a third and much more fatal time. But you’re right, I totally should have taken off and chased after Thick McRunfast instead. I’m sure that would have ended well.”
Lassie crosses his arms and scowls. “I mean that your plan should have never involved getting shot in the first place.”
“I couldn’t think of one that didn’t end with at least one person getting shot,” Shawn admits, frowning a little himself. “The guy’s a sniper, right? You know my visions aren’t enough to get SWAT out here, not that I’d want to involve Luntz if I could help it, and before anybody figured out what tree he was in, they’d have already taken two to the chest. If we’ve got any chance of getting this guy without any more casualties, we need to have some sort of element of surprise, and if all the episodes of Paranormal State he’s TiVo’d tell me anything, it’s that a visit from a ghost might be just the sort of distraction we need.”
Lassie doesn’t ask how Shawn knows what’s on Rogers’ TiVo, so he takes a chance and moves toward Lassie’s car. As wary as he looks, though, Lassie doesn’t stop him, and Shawn opens the passenger side door, reaches in and pulls out the fresh shirt and pair of jeans he left under the seat.
He turns back around to face Lassie. “You gonna help me stage the scene?” he asks.
Lassiter sighs and looks out at the tree line, bringing his eyes slowly around to gaze at the scene that’s already there. His eyes flick back to Shawn and he scrubs the hair at the back of his head. “I haven’t decided yet,” he says.
He’s still going to need some convincing, Shawn can tell, but probably not much.
Shawn reaches into his pocket and closes his fist around its contents, taking a few tentative steps in Lassie’s direction. Lassie doesn’t offer up any kind of protest, so Shawn bridges the rest of the distance and holds his hand out, knuckles up, like an olive branch. “Take it,” Shawn says.
Lassie holds his hand out reluctantly and Shawn drops the two slugs and two casings into it, fingers brushing slightly against his open palm.
“I figured you could probably run ballistics on them, if you wanted to,” Shawn tells him.
Lassie picks up one of the slugs and holds it up to his eye for a closer inspection.
“Or, you know, that you could just do that,” Shawn says, looking at the little lines of concentration around Lassie’s eyes. “Bet you wish you had your monocle right now, huh?”
“Shut up, Spencer,” Lassie says distractedly, not looking away from the slug. “If I had to guess, I’d say this was fired from some sort of sniper rifle. A Remington 700, maybe?”
“Yeah, sounds about right,” Shawn says. He thinks about showing Lassie what’s in his other pocket, but it’s not time for that just yet.
“Did he leave behind any other evidence?” Lassiter asks, crouching down and pushing aside some of the dead pine needles in the dirt, going into true detective mode for the first time since he got here.
“A couple of footprints,” Shawn says, gesturing at one with his shoe. “Oh, and some tire tracks, but we don’t need to scrub those out or anything.”
“Car was probably stolen, anyway,” Lassie grunts, moving over to look at the shoeprint. “I’d bet he’s dumped it by now.”
“Size thirteen, Nike Sweet Classic Leather,” Shawn says, following Lassie’s gaze.
Lassie looks up. “Sweet Classic Leather?”
“Yeah, it’s the name of the style. They were black. Looked at least a few months old.”
Lassie stands up, brushing off his pants. His eyes are blue pools of seriousness, and here it comes, the last-ditch effort to talk Shawn out of this. “I don’t like this, Spencer.”
Well, that’s not going to work. Shawn never asked him to like it.
“But you’ll go along with it.” Shawn’s 99.9% sure that he’s got Lassie convinced by now, not that it wouldn’t be nice to hear him say it.
Lassie frowns and looks away, but he’s not saying ‘no’ anymore. “If it helps us catch Rogers,” he says at last, and finally, a concession. “But I still don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Shawn grins. It’s not exactly the spirit he’s looking for, but it’s close enough. “It will help us catch Rogers,” he assures him. “Oh, and it means I can still work the case with you, which keeps you and Jules from being for-real dead, so I think it’s actually a great idea.”
“Fine,” Lassiter grumbles, back to his regular brand of bad-tempered, not that Shawn necessarily minds angry, passionate Lassie all of the time. Or most of the time. Or…whatever.
Lassie kicks some dirt into one of the larger spots of blood on the ground. “Well, Spencer? What exactly are we setting up here?”
“Dump site,” Shawn answers instantly, sidling up next to Lassie to map it out for him. “I was thinking I could lay there,” he says, pointing at a spot that’s at least a yard clear of any traces of blood, “and we should probably add some drag marks to make it look authentic. I haven’t actually been shot or physically harmed in any way, so we’ll have to get rid of the blood, obviously. Or at least cover it up. I’ll change my clothes, situate myself in what I believe is referred to as the ‘supine’ position, and you can call for back-up.”
They get to work piling dirt over top of the blood stains on the ground, working in silence for a minute until Lassie stops and says, “Do I get to say ‘I told you so’ when this doesn’t work?”
“Nah,” Shawn says, “but only because it totally is going to work. Just you wait and see.”
“Hmph,” Lassie rumbles. “Somehow I doubt that even you will be able to fool every investigator they send out here for very long.”
Shawn grins mischievously. “Oh, I don’t know about that,” he says lightly. “I think I generally do a pretty good job of fooling the entire station on a regular basis.”
Lassiter stops moving dirt and fixes Shawn with a long look, which Shawn takes as his cue to cry out in pain and grab his calf. “Ah, Charlie horse!” He waves a hand at Lassie and the dirt. “Looks like you’ll have to finish this up on your own. So, you go ahead and do that, and I…will go get changed. But don’t mind me. Just keep on doing what you’re doing.”
Shawn hops backward a couple of steps, turns his back to Lassie, and begins to unbutton his shirt.
Behind him, Lassie makes a strangled sound. “What, you’re going to do that here?”
Shawn throws an amused look over his shoulder. “You concerned about my modesty or something? Yes, I’m going to do it here. It’s not like anyone but you is around to see anything, anyway, though I suppose if you wanted to be a gentleman about it you could always turn your back.”
There is the very distinctive sound of Lassie doing just that, and Shawn smirks as he shrugs his shirt the rest of the way off. The vest and his undershirt follow, and he tosses them aside before pulling the clean red T-shirt he left in the Crown Vic over his head.
“Are you done yet?” Lassie asks, sounding impatient.
“Are you?” Shawn is pretty sure that Lassie is peeking, so he unbuckles his belt and drops his jeans, grinning when he’s rewarded with the sound of a muffled curse. It so figures that Lassie would be a total prude.
“Yes, I’m done,” Lassie hisses. “So hurry up.”
Shawn shimmies the rest of the way out of his pants and pulls on the clean pair, inspecting his shoes for any residue before slipping them back on as well. He bends down and lifts up the jeans crumpled in front of him and digs around in the front-left pocket, pulling something out and shoving it into the pocket of the pants he’s now wearing. Then he folds up every item neatly, placing the Kevlar vest on top, and presents the pile of clothes to Lassie.
Lassiter actually takes the clothes, though he immediately seems to regret this decision, and scowls at Shawn. “What am I supposed to do with this?”
“Add it to the shrine to me that you keep in your linen closet?” Shawn suggests. “I don’t know, dude, get rid of it. Except for the vest; you get to turn that bad boy back in.”
Lassie heads over to the car, muttering darkly under his breath the whole way over. He pops the trunk and dumps everything unceremoniously into it, slamming it shut for good measure before stomping back over to Shawn.
“All right. Run this thing down for me, step by step. I need more than just the basics to go on here.”
Shawn waves a hand in front of him. “I lay here on the ground, not moving and being generally deadish. You get all Alpha-Lassie and tell anybody who gets close to back off, especially if they’re paramedics, and double-especially if they want to do something crazy like take my pulse. They take some pictures, I get loaded into the coroner’s van. You follow them down there and scoop me up before somebody tries to tag me and stick me in a cooler. After that, I’m thinking Scrabble.”
Lassie’s mouth thins to an ugly line, his brows knitting together. “Yeah, you know, Spencer, that’s a nice little plan you’ve got there, but I think you may be overlooking one rather major issue.”
“What’s that, Lassie? Are you more of a Monopoly man?”
“I’m serious, Spencer,” he growls, looking agitated. “Look, I’ve never seen you even sit still for more than thirty seconds. Do you really expect me to believe that you can manage not moving completely for however long this takes?”
Shawn fidgets, rubbing a hand over his pocket. “I was wondering when you were going to ask. I, uh, may have something to help with that.” He reaches into his pocket, plastic edges digging into his palm as it closes around the item within, and holds it out for Lassiter to see.
Lassie leans forward, squinting at the label. “Soma?”
“I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not the same drug they all got high on in Brave New World. It’s a muscle relaxant. I borrowed it from Gus’ samples.”
“Of course you did,” Lassie mutters, but he doesn’t push the argument any further. Doesn’t offer up a new one, either.
Shawn figures that’s invitation enough to throw himself down on the ground in the pre-corpse position, so he does, landing ass-first in a bed of pine needles. He breaks the seal of the blister pack in his hand, pops a pill into his mouth, and uses his excess saliva to wash it down. “You should probably take these, too,” he says, holding the sample pack out for Lassie to take. “I don’t want anything incriminating on my person when they bring me in.”
Lassie takes it wordlessly, slipping it into the inner breast pocket of his jacket, the same place he keeps his cell phone.
“Oh, that reminds me, Lassie,” Shawn says, stretching his hand out and up, “I need to send a text really quick, before this stuff kicks in and I lose all the feeling in my fingers.”
“Who do you need to send a text to?” Lassiter demands, putting a hand inside his jacket and cupping it protectively over his phone. “If it’s really that important, you can dictate it. You can think again if you think I’m going to let you use my phone.”
Shawn shrugs and lets his arm fall back down. “Woody. Tell him an Ely Arroyo stopped by the station for him,” he says, rolling the ‘r’s. The effect isn’t up to his usual standards, though; already his tongue is starting to feel thick and clumsy.
Lassie sighs. “Do I even want to know?”
“Not really. She really did stop by, though. Granted, I may have invited her, but it should get Woody out of the way for long enough.” Shawn flops the rest of the way to the ground, sticking his arms up in the air, straight above his head. Surprisingly, Lassie doesn’t hesitate before grabbing them, rough hands firmly covering Shawn’s own. There’s a tingle already beginning in his fingertips, a precursor to his whole body falling asleep, and Lassie’s hands feel strange against the pinprick sensations coursing through them, getting stronger every second. Shawn jerks his head once, indicating a direction more or less behind him. “Now drag me about three feet thataway and go call in your 187.”
Shawn is fairly certain that this drug shouldn’t knock him out completely. Drowsiness, sure, he had been expecting that. Dizziness too. But complete lack of consciousness isn’t going to come unless he willingly gives himself over to it, and if Shawn is certain of anything, it’s that he needs to be aware for this part. Aware of his surroundings, aware of himself. Aware of any tiny thing that could give him away.
The call that Lassie makes is hard to overhear; he’s stepped over to the Crown Vic and is speaking in hushed, furious tones. Shawn has to strain his ears for every word, and even then, he only manages to catch about a quarter of them.
Still, it’s enough for him to figure out that the call went directly to Chief Vick. He’s also managed to surmise that Lassie very specifically requested that Jules and Buzz be kept away from the scene without even having to mention their names, just a weird code number, one that definitely didn’t correspond to anything within the actual California Penal Code.
They had a contingency plan for him. For his death. Shawn doesn’t really know how he feels about that. Have they really been expecting him to die all this time?
Sure, okay, he’s been shot before. But that was only a few months ago. This thing – this “it’s a 742, Karen” and “I’m already here, I’ll lead…but there’s no need to upset them” – for some reason, seems so well understood, so accepted, that he gets the feeling it’s been in place for a long time. That second comment makes him wonder if Lassie’s not supposed to be here either, not if it can be helped. Maybe what it comes down to is really just a conflict of interest – it’s always Lassie’s and Jules’ cases that Shawn gets assigned to, after all – but the Chief isn’t trying to make Lassie leave now that he’s here, so Shawn thinks that there might be something else to it, too.
Shawn pushes that thought out of his mind and does some quick mental math. If Lassie began the call five minutes ago, and Chief sent the first responders out a minute in, then even if they’re coming from the far northern edge of where the SBPD typically patrols, they likely still have at least five more minutes of waiting.
Lassie approaches Shawn again when he ends the conversation, circling around the imaginary perimeter surrounding what will shortly be termed a “crime scene”. When he comes to a stop Shawn can tell he’s probably at least three feet away, but he still feels like a looming presence over Shawn. Shawn’s eyes are closed, so he can’t tell exactly what expression is on Lassie’s face, but he imagines a few that seem to fit: serious, angry, unhappy. Any emotion that tugs the corners of his mouth down, narrows his eyes, or makes the angles of his eyebrows even more severe: that’s what’s on Lassie’s face right now, Shawn is sure of it.
Shawn doesn’t like silence, especially in tense situations. Funnily enough, though, he doesn’t feel much like talking right now. If he’d ever been able to achieve a meditative state – and it’s not that he hasn’t tried; his guru assured him that his yoga positions would be much improved if he could just clear his mind first – Shawn figures it would probably feel something like this. It’s not that he’s stopped thinking or anything, but the thoughts in his head feel softer, less urgent. More like a background hum, something he can ignore, like Gus’ “No, Shawn”s or Lassie’s “Get off my desk, Spencer”s. Definitely nothing like the endless clamor of thoughts and ideas and endless observations that he’s normally dealing with. Shawn knows that he’s never ever going to be able to actually turn his brain off, but it’s interesting to feel what it’s like to at least have the volume turned down.
They have something like two more minutes until squad cars start pulling up, Shawn calculates. They’ll have sent an ambulance, too, but it’ll be longer for that.
He focuses on taking slow, shallow breaths, breathing in and out through his nose. He deliberately picked a loose-fitting shirt to mask any respiratory movement. Each time he takes a breath, his goal is to keep his chest from disturbing the material.
“Lassie,” Shawn hisses, not moving his lips, or at least pretty much almost not moving his lips. He didn’t work as a ventriloquist for two weeks and end up with nothing to show for it, after all. “Can you tell that I’m breathing?”
Lassie pauses before he answers, his own breathing audible, even but slightly shaky, probably watching Shawn’s stomach and chest for the faintest of movements. “No,” he says. “How do you feel?”
Shawn thinks about that. “Like a piece of rubber,” he decides.
Then he hears the first hint of sirens, distant but growing rapidly closer, and immediately shuts his mouth.
It’s a warm day, even by Santa Barbara standards, but even though he was totally sweating earlier, Shawn actually feels vaguely cold now. He’s not getting goosebumps or anything, and he knows he won’t shiver because it’s not a chill, just an all-over icy sensation, in his veins and on his skin. It’s like what being dipped in a bath of Bengay might feel like, only with less of a burn.
His pulse is slower than usual, too, but constant. It’s almost show time, Shawn knows that, but it’s a thought that’s not accompanied by the usual surge of adrenaline. The drug must be an antagonist for that, too. Good. There’s one less thing he has to worry about screwing this up.
Lassie is suddenly a flurry of kinetic energy, though, his anxiety palpable. He’s probably tugging at his tie, pulling at his collar, smoothing down the flaps of his jacket. Raking his hands through his hair, but carefully avoiding the front, because apparently as long as he can’t see it when he looks in the mirror, he doesn’t seem to care if the back sticks up at all.
There’s a new sound when Shawn hears tires crunching along through gravel and dirt, and Lassie cuts out the compulsive fidgeting, though he doesn’t stop moving. Shawn hears two elastic snaps: Lassie pulling on the latex gloves. He steps closer, one foot by Shawn’s head, the other near his shoulder, and falls into a crouch.
“You’re not messy enough to be a corpse,” Lassie says. He takes a hand and runs it through Shawn’s hair, pulling roughly in all directions, ruining what had been the result of a thirty-minute styling job. A thumb brushes along his hairline, then his jawline, then the hollow of his collarbone, smearing something gritty on his skin. Shawn is definitely going to have to talk Lassie into repeating that sometime when he’s not drugged, sans the dirt-smudging, so that he can properly appreciate it. Lassie isn’t done yet, though. He grabs Shawn’s wrist next, pulling it so that the tips of Shawn’s fingers scrape the ground, and Shawn feels soft earth wedge itself underneath his fingernails.
Lassie pulls back. “It’ll have to do,” he says.
The sirens are everywhere now, pounding in Shawn’s ears. A high-pitched squeal cuts through them, and then another, and Shawn recognizes it as the sound of brakes.
“What’ve we got? That the body?” a female voice asks, and four car doors open and shut in the space of the pause that follows, one that actually isn’t all that long.
“Holy shit, it can’t be – is that that psychic?” This time the speaker is male, and it sounds like he’s creeping closer for a better look. “It is, isn’t it?”
“No way.” The next voice is gruffer, probably with age, though he sounds a bit like he might be a smoker, too. “You mean it’s Henry Spencer’s kid?”
Lassiter clears his throat loudly. “Yes, it is,” he answers, tone clipped, “and I don’t want to hear another word about it. I want this thing handled right. Yes, our vic is not an unknown to this department. But what that means is that I expect each and every one of you to keep your personal feelings in check. I am not about to let anything compromise this investigation. If you feel that you have a conflict of interest, say so now, and nobody had better so much as breathe on the evidence without clearing it with me first. Got it?”
“Shit,” one of the officers mutters under his breath, but nobody says anything to contradict Lassiter.
“Good,” Lassie says, brushing his pants off and standing up. “Ortega, go set up a perimeter. Williams, Ramirez, I want you combing this entire clearing for anything our perp might have left behind – fingerprints, footprints, an eyelash, I don’t care. Harrison, I’m pretty sure I spotted some tire tracks out on the trail leading up here, so go see if you can find anything there. Somebody make sure forensics is briefed the second they get here, and then I want them sent straight over to me.”
There’s a murmur of assent, and then Lassie snaps, “What are you waiting for? Move!”
Everyone scatters, and Lassie moves around Shawn, doing a slow 360. His breathing is too loud, coming in angry, dragon-like puffs out of his nose. Shawn listens to the scritchity-scratch of Lassie’s pen against his notepad and tries to picture Lassiter as a dragon. The look sort of works for him, but only if he goes more Godzilla and less H.R. Puffnstuff with it.
“Williams!” Lassie barks. Ha, Lassie barks. That normally wouldn’t be funny – Shawn has standards, after all – but right now, yeah, it definitely is. “If you dare tip off Spencer’s father before I’m done here, I will have you working in the pawn shop unit before this shift is even over. So put the phone away.”
Good call, Shawn thinks. It really would be unspeakably awful if Henry showed up here. He doesn’t even want to imagine the lecture he’d get, though he can’t decide whether it would be worse if Henry caught him faking or if he thought Shawn actually had gone and gotten himself killed.
When forensics arrives, they dust him and brush their gloved fingertips against his skin, searching for hair follicles or whatever it is they look for. He’s probably surrounded by evidence tags. Somebody steps up and starts snapping photos, and all the while Lassie just keeps shouting out orders. It’s impressive because Lassie is not only capably managing a suspected-homicide crime scene, but he’s also protecting the way-more-secret objective of not letting anyone realize that Shawn is still alive.
He’s doing it with aplomb and everything. All snappy and demanding and don’t-mess-with-me; Shawn sort of wishes he could see it. When the EMTs come by to try and check Shawn’s vitals, Lassie just shouts, “What, you think I don’t recognize a dead body when I see one? Back the hell off of my crime scene before I add yours to it.”
A lot of people happen to be afraid of Lassie. Shawn had taken that into account when he decided to bring Lassie into this in the first place. He needed someone who could cow others into submission, but it had to be somebody who couldn’t really do that to Shawn, either. Gus, Henry, hell, even Jules – they can manage that if they get him feeling guilty enough, usually. They’d never have gone along with this, anyway. Lassie may be a stickler for procedure, but what really matters to him is justice, and that was what made Shawn think he might be just flexible enough to be the accomplice he needed.
It definitely doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that Shawn didn’t want to find out just how unaffected Lassie would have been by the news of his death. That would have been selfish on more levels than even Shawn is comfortable with.
At one point, somebody asks Lassiter why he’d come out here in the first place. Shawn doesn’t catch the whole answer, because he’s in the process of being rolled over onto his stomach and then photographed some more, but it isn’t hesitant in the least. Lassie is good with his cover; it’s something about Shawn just saying he had a lead, not sounding distressed at all, so Lassie certainly hadn’t expected to find a scene like this. Like all good lies, it’s based on the truth. If they check Lassie’s phone records – and they probably will – it’ll all check out and everything.
The heavy sensation in his limbs makes it easy for Shawn to be dead weight when he’s covered with a tarp, rolled onto a stretcher, and loaded into the coroner’s van. He breathes out a sigh of relief when the back doors are slammed shut. It wasn’t like he hadn’t expected this to work, exactly, but sometimes Shawn is frankly astounded at his own luck.
Nobody suspected anything. There’s going to be an obituary for him in Thursday’s paper. Probably an article in tomorrow’s paper, too, one sparse on details, using words like ‘suspicious’ and ‘foul play’ to describe the circumstances, but offering nothing more beyond that.
So there’s a little bit of a creep factor involved. If you can get past that, and Shawn totally can, being legally dead has the potential to be so. Much. Fun.
The morgue doesn’t exactly top the list of places that Shawn likes to hang out, even if he does stop by about once a week to shoot the shit with Woody. Anyway, that time he and Gus raced them notwithstanding, he likes it a hell of a lot less when he’s laying on a gurney.
So when Lassie shows up, presumably flashes his badge around a bit, and declares that this case is top priority; that he’s just spoken with Woody, thank you very much – he is Head Detective after all – so he’ll just be taking this to Examination Room 3 right now (Shawn feels a sharp tug on his gurney) and don’t anybody think of interrupting, Shawn mostly feels relief.
He waits until the cart stops rolling and the doors bang unquestionably shut before opening his eyes, bright fluorescence burning his retinas. “Ow,” Shawn complains.
Lassie’s unhappy sourpuss face hovers into focus above him. Shawn sits up, a little clumsily, his arms still feeling a bit like they’ve got twenty pound weights hanging off of them. “Don’t be what’s eating Gilbert Grape,” he says, scowling at Lassie’s frown.
“I – that doesn’t even make sense, Spencer,” Lassie says, clipping his badge back onto his belt.
“It does so,” Shawn protests. “Have you even seen the movie? That’s it, we’re stopping at Blockbuster when we finish up here. I mean, come on, Lassie. It has Johnny Depp and a young Leo Dicaprio.”
Lassie’s expression looks truly pained. He holds up a hand. “Just – stop talking, all right? I can’t keep this information from getting out to Henry and Guster forever. O’Hara either. It’s only a matter of time before somebody gets down here and makes a scene, clamoring around demanding to see your body. Just tell me what we need to do to get the hell out of here. You do have a plan for this part, too, don’t you?”
That last question sounds a lot more skeptical than it deserves to.
“Okay,” Shawn says, trying to keep his words from slurring together. He raises his lead pipe of an arm and points. “Go grab that clipboard over on the wall. I was totally going to fill out the autopsy report myself, but that’s really not happening until this stuff wears off. So. Do you want to do it?”
Lassie sneers, his lip curling. “I would rather dance the part of the Mouse King in the Nutcracker ballet,” he says, but he does go over to yank the clipboard down off its hook and hand it to Shawn, pen chain whacking him on the arm as he does so.
That’s oddly specific. Shawn makes a mental note to see if Lassie was ever in a production of the Nutcracker on Ice as a kid. Also to find the pictures.
Shawn flips idly through a couple of forms. He starts checking some boxes. “Well. I actually sort of already did it, anyway. It just needs to be typed up. Does that make it any better?”
“Marginally,” Lassiter acquiesces. He drums his fingers on the handle of the gurney and looks around the room. “I don’t quite see how no one is supposed to notice that nobody actually employed here conducted your autopsy.”
Shawn shrugs. “I think Woody might get suspicious, but he’s the only one. I’m about 95% sure he won’t say anything, anyway. It would interfere with his own self-preservation.”
“What makes you so sure of that?”
“You know how he’s supposedly wanted in the Philippines?”
“I seem to remember him mentioning that once.”
“Well, he may keep an informant on his payroll at the morgue. And since said informant’s official title is ‘medical examiner,’ he’s totally qualified to do things like autopsies. Also within the scope of his duties: sending bodies to the incinerator.” Shawn waves his hand in the air, mimicking a loopy signature. “He ‘signs off’ on that, and I – I mean we – can get the hell out of here.”
Lassie makes a face, probably thinking about how government money is paying the salary of a guy who doesn’t do anything except keep his coroner from ending up in a foreign jail. His desire to skip this particular joint appears to overwhelm it, though, and he just shakes his head and sighs. “Great. What are we waiting for? I don’t want to be here for any longer than I have to be.”
“Hey, whoa, slow your roll, Lassie-face. Don’t try to tell me you’ve never attended an autopsy before. Look, I know I said we were check, check, and check-eroo on the report writing, but that doesn’t mean we still aren’t missing one very crucial piece of the external examination.”
Lassie rolls his eyes, seeming to catch his meaning. “Right, of course. And I suppose you want me to – Christ! You seriously can’t warn me before you start doing that?”
Shawn tosses his shirt to Lassie, who catches it, looks disgusted with himself, and flings it onto a nearby counter. “I’ll leave my boxers on,” Shawn offers. “I think we can even cover up my, uh, lower regions with a linen or something. Or wait, is that just massages that they let you do that for?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Lassie hisses, rubbing the shell of one ear, probably well aware that it’s gone pink. He looks like he can’t decide whether holding Shawn’s gaze or looking away is the better, manlier course of action, a moment of indecision that just makes him look hunted and nervous when he allows his eyes to flick repeatedly between Shawn and the wall.
“No wonder you’re always so tense,” Shawn says. He snaps his fingers. “I’m scheduling you a session with Leslie. Magic hands, Lassie, I’m telling you. I’ve never felt so loose and lithe.” He attempts a stretch to demonstrate his heightened agility and almost falls off of the gurney.
Lassie lunges forward to catch him, firm hand closing around Shawn’s elbow, and yanks Shawn back up into a sitting position. “Stop messing around,” he says, jerking Shawn’s elbow while he still has a hold on it. His face is sort of red. “Where’s the camera?”
“That cabinet over there,” Shawn says, nodding in its direction. “It should be unlocked. If memory serves, it also contains some gloves and one of those little orange rulers, so you might as well grab those while you’re in there.”
“Should I be worried that you seem to have the entire layout of this place memorized?” Lassie asks. He strides over to the cabinet and pulls out the necessary items, bringing them back over and setting them on a metal tray next to the examination table.
“I don’t have it memorized,” Shawn tells him. He taps his forhead. “I can just psychically sense where everything is kept.”
“Sure you can,” Lassie says, voice dripping with sarcasm, and hey, that’s totally unnecessary. Not to mention undeserved.
Shawn toes off his shoes and stumbles down off the gurney. He manages to catch himself fairly easily before he falls; his balance seems to be improving somewhat. Still, he keeps his steps slow and deliberate as he walks over to Lassie, giving the exam table a calculating look when he reaches it. It’s…sort of high up off the ground. Shawn finds the notion of climbing up onto it to be a dubious proposition at best.
He puffs his lower lip out and turns to Lassie. “Help me up?”
Lassie rolls his eyes, but he grabs Shawn underneath the armpits and hauls him up onto the table anyway. “There you go. Happy?”
“Extremely,” Shawn says. He fiddles with his belt buckle. “You gonna have another epileptic fit if I take these off?”
“I did not,” Lassie says tightly. He looks away and clenches his jaw. “You see how you react when someone starts undressing without warning in front of you.”
“Why don’t you try it and find out?” Shawn suggests, making his best attempt at a leer.
“Just take off your pants, Spencer,” Lassie snaps.
Shawn raises an eyebrow.
“Shut up,” he hisses, though Shawn hasn’t said anything. “You know what I mean.”
Lassie’s flush is a dangerous shade of red, his hands clenched in white-knuckled fists at his side. Shawn doesn’t need to be told twice. He undoes his belt and wiggles out of his jeans, kicking them off one leg and letting them fall to the floor. As he strips off his socks and balls them up, he catches Lassie fussing very intently with the camera settings. “You have the exact same camera model at home,” Shawn points out. “Shouldn’t you already know how it works?”
“I don’t take a lot of pictures,” Lassie shoots back. The heel of his palm connects with Shawn’s chest, shoving him all the way down onto the table. Shawn hisses as his bare skin makes contact with the cold metal. “Don’t move.”
Shawn closes his eyes only because he knows he has to. The sound of Lassie taking pictures is methodical. He grabs each of Shawn’s hands and turns them over carefully, looking for any sort of scrape or bruise to focus on, then moves just as carefully up each arm. He takes a picture of the scratch on Shawn’s left elbow and another of the yellowing bruise on his right forearm. Shawn has another bruise on his right knee, this one still black-and-blue, where he banged into the corner of the nightstand getting up that morning. Lassie photographs that next, then moves up to Shawn’s head, gently tipping his jaw to each side to examine his neck. He pauses when he gets to Shawn’s chest, then taps at a particular spot twice. “What’s this?”
“Old scar,” Shawn answers. “It’s surgical.”
Lassie takes a picture of it. “I mean, how did you get it?”
Shawn grins, just barely. “From surgery.”
He hears a frustrated huff. “Turn over,” Lassie orders.
Shawn turns over and Lassie goes back to taking photos, quicker and more quietly now. He doesn’t even say anything about the birthmark on the small of Shawn’s back, though he does take a picture of it.
“Okay,” Lassie says loudly, by way of announcing that he’s finished. He shoves Shawn’s jeans at him. “You can get dressed again now.”
“What?” Shawn says, giving Lassie a strange look. “No, I can’t. These clothes are evidence.” He walks across the room, floor cold underneath his bare feet, finds some evidence bags and slips his jeans into one. His wallet, keys, cell phone, watch – all of his personal effects – were already bagged up during his brief, interrupted, intake session.
Lassie’s voice takes on an edge of hysteria. “What the hell are you planning on wearing out of here, then? Wait. Are you putting your boxers in evidence, too?”
Shawn thinks about this. “I guess I’m going to have to.”
Lassie looks wildly around the room, somehow manages to produce a towel from somewhere, and thrusts it at Shawn. It’s white and imprinted with the words “Hampton Inn”. Shawn throws it over his shoulder and continues bagging the rest of his clothes.
Lassie takes the memory card out of the camera and sticks it in his pocket, then busies himself putting everything in the room back in its place. By the time he’s done, Shawn has the towel wrapped securely around his waist and all of his clothes sealed up in evidence bags. He nods at them. “I’m sure somebody will bring these by the station later.”
Lassie nods back. “Are we done here?”
Shawn goes over a mental checklist in his head: pictures taken, autopsy report written, if not on file yet, clothes and other items in evidence, and Shawn’s body signed off as having been sent to the incinerator. He’d say that they’ve covered their tracks here. “Yep,” Shawn says. “Let’s blow this popsicle stand.”
Lassie approaches the exit first, peeking out through the door’s circular window. “My car’s parked just out that exit,” he says, jerking his head to indicate the door at the end of the short hallway directly to their right. He turns back to look at Shawn and frowns. “Wait. Here, put this on,” he says, slipping out of his jacket and handing it to Shawn. It’s all silky on the inside. It feels kind of nice.
Lassie looks out the window again. “Okay. The coast looks clear,” he says, and then reaches back and grabs Shawn’s wrist, yanking him out the door and then outside, opening the back door of the Crown Vic and shoving Shawn in headfirst all in the space of about thirty seconds.
Lassie climbs in the driver’s side and lets out a breath, then buckles his seatbelt. “Keep your head below the windows,” he instructs Shawn.
“Okay, sure,” Shawn says. “I was planning on it.”
“Good,” Lassie says. He turns the key in the ignition and shifts the car into drive.
It occurs to Shawn that he doesn’t know exactly where Lassie is planning on taking him. They haven’t actually discussed this part yet. “You’re okay with me crashing at your place for a while, right?”
Lassie tilts his head to the side and shoots him a look around the headrest. “I didn’t exactly expect you to check into a hotel or anything,” he says. “Besides, somebody needs to keep an eye on you and make sure you don’t do anything stupid. I mean, stupider.”
Shawn stretches out more fully in the back seat, feet kicking against the far door. “I call the bed.”
“You can have the couch,” Lassie growls.
“Maybe I’ll start on the couch,” Shawn offers, “and then end up in the bed after you fall asleep and I get tired of twisting myself into teensy-tiny cheese-filled pretzels to get comfortable.”
Lassie’s fingers grip tighter around the steering wheel.
Shawn grins. Living with Lassie is going to be fun.
Sitting around Lassie’s house all day with nowhere to go is boring.
Shawn fills his days the best he knows how. He snoops through every drawer and closet, pokes around for loose floorboards, and even taps on a couple walls, listening for the hollow sound of a secret Lassie hiding place. When nothing especially incriminating turns up, with the exception of the pair of possibly-recreational handcuffs in Lassie’s nightstand, he tries reading, watching daytime soaps, and Sudoku, but those can only hold his interest for so long.
Lassie’s computer is password protected, but it’s not that hard to crack, given that the password is his badge number. Shawn messes around on the internet, buys Lassie the Eastwood DVD box set as a thank you for going along with this whole thing. Sure, he also uses Lassie’s credit card to pay for it, but it’s the thought that counts, right?
He browses the internet aimlessly for a little while longer. Orders some Edible Arrangements made entirely of pineapple. Logs off.
Things are more interesting when Lassie is actually home, but he’s been staying at the station way past his bedtime, probably to avoid coming home and having to put up with Shawn. Of course, all that means is that Shawn decides to work twice as hard to rile him up when he is around.
Lassie’s responses mostly involve a lot of grunting and blushing, but even though a good portion of their conversations take place in the bedroom, it’s not the, you know, sexy kind of grunting and blushing.
Shawn thinks maybe, maybe if he pushed hard enough, though, that it could be. Just – maybe.
At some point the being cooped up gets to be too much and he sneaks out for a while. He’s not afraid of being noticed by anyone who knows him – knew him? – and is laboring under the impression that he’s supposed to be dead. Henry did a pretty good job of teaching him to sneak around and not get caught.
When he gets back, though, Lassie is home, and Shawn can’t really expect that he failed to notice that Shawn wasn’t there. He doesn’t have to worry about Lassie yelling at him about it just yet, at least. When Shawn finds him he’s passed out on his bed on top of the covers, fully clothed. Even his shoes are still on.
Shawn takes off Lassie’s shoes and loosens his tie, vacillating for a moment before deciding to go ahead and just remove it completely. He doesn’t want Lassie rolling over and accidentally strangling himself in the middle of the night. It could happen. Henry used to tell him plenty of horror stories about headphone cords, and Shawn doesn’t see any reason why neckties would be any less dangerous.
He considers Lassiter’s sleeping form. Now might be as good a time as any to tell him. “Hey, Lassie,” he whispers. “Can you hear me? Lassie? Lassiter? Um. Carlton?”
Lassie doesn’t budge. So. Definitely asleep then. Shawn is certain he would have responded to the sound of his given name.
He takes a deep breath.
“Hey, just so you know. I mean, I thought I should tell you – oh, what do you care, you can’t even hear me. But anyway, just so I feel better, listen. It’s not just about Jules, you know, this thing. I mean, about protecting her, or not, you know, wanting her to die and stuff. I don’t know why you thought that. You shouldn’t think that. I like you a lot, too. Just…don’t tell anybody I told you that, all right? Okay. Good.” Shawn kicks off his own shoes and tentatively settles down next to Lassie on the bed. “I don’t think I want to sleep on your couch tonight. But don’t mind me. I’ll just lay here, that’s it, I swear. I have it on good authority that I don’t even snore.”
Lassie seems to take that as a cue because he starts snoring as soon as the word is out of Shawn’s mouth. It’s not like an outrageous snore or anything. It might even be able to be classified as “loud breathing,” if the classifier were being generous. Also, it’s sort of cute.
Shawn sighs and puts his hands behind his head, closing his eyes. He is hopeless. “Goodnight, Lassie.”
A/N: So, I googled the shit out of how this Soma stuff in my story supposedly works, but as I am neither a doctor nor a user, the perspective I presented here is probably not entirely accurate. I took some descriptions of its effects that were written by people who claimed to have used it for more “recreational” purposes and used those as my basis for Shawn’s reaction to the drug, but to be clear: there was definitely a whole hell of a lot of artistic license taken, too.
The name “Thick McRunfast” is also not my own creation; it’s from an episode of MST3K.
ALSO. I know just about next to nothing about guns, aside from the fact that I think it might be fun to shoot one, so if I screwed anything up there: I apologize, and feel free to point any mistakes out.
As always, feedback is hugely appreciated, so please comment!