Chapter 1: A Beautiful Day for Not Fishing
It was a perfect day for fishing. The sun was hovering low in the Alaskan sky, a slight breeze swayed the boat in a gentle back and forth motion. The only sounds coming from a few of the birds on the shore. But Henry Spencer was not enjoying himself. He couldn't shake the somber mood that had lingered since the funeral the week before, but this trip had cost too much for him to cancel. So, here he sat in mock rest and relaxation on a boat in the waters of the best fishing North America had to offer.
He was startled out of his brooding by the chiming of a familiar ringtone.
Normally, Henry would have left his cell phone in the hotel room, or maybe even back in Santa Barbara, to avoid being interrupted during his fishing trip. But these were not normal circumstances, and for once he was glad for the interruption. He had too much time to think out here. Thinking which led to worrying, which led to tension. He swore that fish could sense tension. In order to be a good fisherman, one had to learn to relax. So, as a result, he was catching no fish. It didn't take him long to decide this was a call worth taking.
"Gus," Henry answered after swiping away the photo of the caller, "Is Shawn ok?"
There was only one reason his son's best friend would be calling him in the middle of his vacation. Gus was acutely aware of other people and seemed to go out of his way to not bother them unless absolutely necessary, or if Shawn forced his hand in some way. Henry had a feeling this call was both absolutely necessary and about Shawn.
"I . . . I don't know. He's not here," Gus said, confirming Henry's suspicions. This was definitely about Shawn. He could feel his blood pressure rising already.
"Where is here, Gus? His house? San Francisco? California? The country? I'm going to need some details."
Henry took a calming breath. It was no fair to go off on Gus like that. Once more he found himself replaying the same guilt track in his mind: he knew he shouldn't have taken this vacation. The timing was all wrong. But he'd been planning it for quite awhile, and he was too cheap to take the loss of the cost of his reservations and airfare. How many times does a man get a chance to go fishing in Alaska?
He should have stayed home. No, he should have stayed in San Francisco. He should have stayed with Shawn.
Maybe he wasn't cheap, maybe he was selfish.
"The car is gone. Norton's still here. A bunch of other stuff looks like it's missing. Almost everything that's left looks broken. I'd almost say burglars ransacked the place except the TV's still here and the XBOX. I kind of understand why he'd do this after . . . but . . ."
"Shawn's gone, you're worried," Henry supplied. Finishing the thought Gus could or would not.
"He ran away again. He won't let us find him until he wants to be found," Gus said, disappointment coloring his words, though who he was upset with, himself or Shawn, Henry couldn't tell.
Shawn had a history of running away from his problems. He would claim to be clearing his head, but really it was his way of avoiding dealing with things. He took nothing in life seriously except himself, but even hid that under several layers of humor and movie references. But Henry knew Shawn better than that. Henry was his father after all. And Shawn was more like him than either man liked to admit. Shawn would initially crave the isolation, but it wouldn't be good for him. Henry was isolated right now, and being alone with his thoughts was too much for even him, and he considered himself pretty far removed from the situation. No, Shawn wouldn't be alone for long. Maybe his decision to trash his home and pack his car had started out as running away, but Henry had a feeling the long drive would take it's toll. And if Henry's instincts were right, and they usually were, he had a feeling he knew where Shawn would end up when he was through being alone.
"Not this time Gus," Henry said, "I think he's going to Santa Barbara." Henry's boat touched the shore and he began to gather up his things with his free hand.
"Why do you think that? I think that would be the last place Shawn would want to go."
"He doesn't want to go there, but that's where we'll find him. Trust me, Gus."
"How can you be so sure?" Gus wanted to trust his best friend's father, but his voice was still laced with doubt. Henry pretended he couldn't hear the insecurity.
"He needs closure, he'll go to the places that make him feel close to her." When it seemed like the other man wasn't going to argue with that logic, Henry asked, "So, how soon can you get to Santa Barbara?"
Henry didn't have to be specific about which her he was talking about. There was just one. The wound was too fresh, even for him, the father-in-law, to simply say her name. Juliet.
Chapter 2: The Best - Bar None
The moment he got the call from Detective McNab, Chief Carlton Lassiter knew he wasn't going to find any respite in this already long and trying day. He was planning to leave in just 20 more minutes. That was 20 minutes until he could go home to his wife and daughter and hopefully a hot meal. Nevertheless, it seemed no matter how hard he tried he could never seem to get home in time for dinner, even when he promised Marlowe he would. Like tonight.
Lassiter leaned back in his ergonomic office chair and pressed the pads of his thumbs into his temples. Marlowe was trying to teach him acupressure to relieve some of the tensions and stresses of work. Unfortunately, Carlton was the type of person who didn't believe in anything he could find solid evidence for himself. Thus, even though his detectives' current case had just gotten even more complicated, Chief Lassiter would not be found praying for a miracle. Even if a miracle was what they needed.
Making a decision, Lassiter rose from the chair and grabbed his keys and suit coat before switching off the lights and heading out the door. He nodded goodnight at the officers he passed.
The mood around the station had been somber for the lasts few weeks. They were dealing with a possible spree killer, on top of the death of one of their own in San Francisco. Even though Juliet had moved nearly two years earlier, most of the officers and staff still remembered her fondly, if they didn't keep in touch. Juliet was great at keeping in touch. Or, she had been. Carlton and Marlowe were going to miss the Sunday evening facetime chat "double dates" with his former partner and her man-child husband.
But then, thinking about Spencer, he realized that marriage had done the man good. He'd matured a bit, had found an honest job as a script supervisor for an indie film, whatever that meant, and was trying to be the equal partner that Juliet deserved. Any fool could tell that Shawn had loved Juliet fiercely.
A knot was beginning to form in Lassiter's stomach. He hadn't talked to Shawn since the funeral. And while that had only been a week ago, it felt a lot longer. Like even time was slowing down to mourn the loss of such a vibrant soul. If Carlton had been taking it this hard, he couldn't imagine what Spencer was going through.
Chief Lassiter flipped on his blinker as his car approached the newest crime scene. His top detectives, Brannigan and McNab, were standing at the curb with a couple of CSU guys, seemingly awaiting his arrival. He threw the car into park, and strode over.
"What have we got?" He asked as he approached.
"Same MO as the last two. Same knives. I think we officially have ourselves a spree killer," Brannigan supplied.
Lassiter ducked under the crime scene tape and entered the alley between a bar and a cheap motel. "Sweet justice," he murmured as he took in the grizzly sight.
Like the first victim, the body in front of them was female. Late 30s. She was dressed in exercise pants and a baggy t-shirt from a nearby theme park. Definitely not dressed to visit a bar. However, the fact her ID said she, Jessica Buekers, was a Santa Barbara resident, meant she was not a guest at the motel, either. If that wasn't enough to convince him that it was the same killer, the knife was a dead giveaway.
Victim number one, Cassandra White, 37, was left behind a dumpster on Cottage Hospital property three weeks ago. And Peter Austen, 41, the only male victim, was found last week in the bushes near a church. All three had been stabbed somewhere else, and then dumped, still alive, where no one would find them until it was too late.
It made Carlton sick every time he realized that if they'd been found earlier, maybe someone could have done something. Or if they could have been found before being stabbed... Or not even kidnapped at all. Even better.
The previous two victims had been held for approximately two days before receiving a knife in the gut, and being unceremoniously left alone to bleed out, knife still in place. And looking at the duct tape on Jessica's wrists, and around her mouth, he figured she'd been the same.
"Have you talked to the owners yet?" He asked, gesturing to the buildings around them.
"Ya," McNab said, "Bill Swanson, owner of the Beat Bar, is kicking the last of his customers out as we speak, and will be closed for the rest of the evening. Or until we get things cleaned up here."
"Alma Weeks, who is managing the motel, wasn't so accommodating. But we told her as long as her guests don't interfere with the crime scene they can stay."
Lassiter nodded and was about to ask a follow up question when he was interrupted by a loud voice coming from the front of the Beat.
"Look! I told you we're closed! I cut you off an hour ago. I don't know why you're still here. Now get out!"
"You still have my keys," a quieter, slurred voice answered.
"I never had your keys! Why do I have a feeling I'm not the first bar that's cut you off, today? And it's barely 8 o'clock!"
The door slammed shut. Then they heard it open again immediately, "And leave the cops alone! They're trying to solve a murder!"
Chief Lassiter winced. That wasn't exactly something to be shouted to the whole city. Carlton turned his focus back to his detectives and was about to open his mouth, when the drunken voice yelled back at the closed door. The police chief stiffened as he realized that he recognized the voice underneath all the slurring.
"And what if I don't leave them alone? What then? If I solve the stupid murder will you let me back in? I'm a little rusty, and a lot drunk, but I bet I can still run laps around ol' Lassie!"
Chapter 3: The Place Once Called Home
The first thing Shawn became consciously aware of was the buzzing. He couldn't tell if it was coming from within his brain or without. However, when the buzzing turned to vibrating at the smallest movement of his head, and a pain he hadn't realized was there spiked, he figured he was hung over.
Shawn rarely let himself get so out-of-control drunk. He could count on one hand the number of times he'd drank enough to cause the drunken forgetfulness that usually preceded the hangover. Apparently, last night had been one of those times. He had no idea where he was, and he figured opening his eyes was probably paramount to figuring that out. And he wasn't quite prepared for that yet.
Therefore, he continued to lay prone, eyes firmly shut, and tried to recreate the night in his mind.
This was worse than that time Lassie shot the giant donut. Shawn couldn't even remember exiting the freeway, let alone going to a bar or liquor store. His last clear memory was eating lunch at a gas station in San Luis Obispo. He'd been driving straight down the 101 on a mental autopilot, and would have continued if the car hadn't made it abundantly clear that it was running out of fuel. As he was eating, he'd been trying to decide whether he should continue on the highway or backtrack a half-hour to get on a highway that would take him eventually to an interstate and potentially out of California all together.
The problem was Shawn hadn't decided if he was running away or going home. Or maybe he should just turn around and go back to San Francisco, Gus would probably freak out when he realized Shawn had taken off.
He couldn't remember what he'd decided. Or if he'd decided at all. Actually, that seemed to make the most sense. Perhaps he'd stayed in SLO and was now lying on a hotel bed after drinking the whole mini bar.
It didn't smell like a hotel.
With a groan, Shawn pried his eyes open. He wasn't one to speculate, not when evidence came so naturally to him. If he wanted to solve this mystery, he'd have to look around.
He had to blink several times before his eyes were fully adjusted.
This wasn't a hotel room. It looked like a bedroom. Two windows, a closet, a door. Looked pretty much like every other bedroom, but without the personal touches. The closet was open, but empty. It wasn't a bed and breakfast either, it wasn't flowery enough. Everything in the room was functional, nothing decorative. So, it must be a guest room.
Shawn closed his eyes again, willing his brain to supply him with the images of his forgotten evening. However, it was no use. He must have been embarrassingly wasted last night. He was lucky he ended up in someone's guest room and not a jail cell. Or maybe it wasn't luck, maybe it was pity.
Shawn winced at that thought and brought his hands up to his temples, pouring extra effort into trying to remember. But he couldn't even hear his own thoughts over the buzzing vibrating pain that was so intense it was almost audible. Soon the heels of his hands were kneading his eyelids as Shawn tried in vain to "massage" away the pain.
"Peek-a-boo!" A voice sounded from incredibly nearby.
Shawn jumped about a foot, threw his hands out in a defensive gesture and opened his eyes once more. It took a few blinks before he was able to focus in on the dark-haired, pink pajama clad, toddler staring up at him.
"Um, hi," Shawn said, urging his heart rate to decrease back to normal. "Where did you come from?"
"Mommy's tummy," she said.
"Ah. Well, that's . . ."
"Where you come from?" The child interrupted.
"Same place. Different mommy."
The child nodded, satisfied with the answer.
"It doesn't sound like you're getting dressed up there!" A woman's voice shouted from below.
The girl giggled and ran towards out door, swinging it partially shut behind her. Playful screams following in her wake as she went presumably to do as she was told.
Now that Shawn was fully awake, he realized he really needed to use the bathroom. But that would require leaving this room, and possibly running into his hosts. That was something he didn't think he was up for. Maybe, if he could find the bathroom on his own, he could sneak out. He knew that wasn't a good way to show his gratitude for not having to spend the night in a drunk tank, but he'd likely never see these people again. And they'd have a great story to tell their posterity. "Remember that one time dad let a drunk guy sleep in the guest room and he snuck out the bathroom window? I wonder where he is now. Maybe he's a fugitive!" Shawn grinned at the idea of being the center of some suburban family's conspiracy story.
Mind made up, Shawn slowly crept to the door and peeked out into the hallway.
A very familiar hallway.
"Shawn! You're up!" Marlowe said as she appeared at the top of the stairs. She looked him up and down, obviously assessing his health. The slight frown that appeared meant that she must have been displeased with what she saw. "There are still some hash browns and eggs on the stove. You may have to microwave them. Go ahead and finish them off, we've all eaten. It's good to see you."
She surprised him with a hug, and then pushed passed him to disappear into Lily's bedroom. Shawn felt his face get hot. So much for sneaking out unseen and avoiding embarrassment.
Shawn stood stupidly at the top of the stairs for a few moments. He had made it to Santa Barbara last night that much was obvious. But why was he at the Lassiters'? Had he shown up, banging on the door, at some unreasonable hour? He hoped not.
He was still pondering when he walked into the kitchen a few minutes later, but was brought out of his reverie by another familiar voice. Lassie was sitting at the kitchen table holding a phone to his ear with his left hand, a fork was in his right hand, which was moving from plate to mouth to tablet and back again. He glanced up when Shawn entered the room, catching his eye. Shawn acknowledged him with a nod, but then instantly regretted the movement. He winced and pressed a hand to his forehead.
"No, no. I agree," Lassie said to the person on another line, sounding anything but agreeable. He caught Shawn's eye again and mouthed the word "aspirin." He pointed to at the shelf above the stove.
Shawn looked and found the bottle. He twisted the lid off and grabbed three before going to the cupboard for glass. He listened in on Lassie's side of the conversation, as he chased the pills down with two glasses of tap water.
"I was planning on it." Pause. "Yes, really. How heartless do you think I am?"
Shawn sank down in a chair across from him, and mouthed the word "thanks." He lifted the glass and held it up to his aching temple.
"He's my friend, too, you know!" Lassie's eyes shifted in the younger man's direction for an instant before he averted his gaze, cheeks reddening.
Shawn felt heat rise in his own cheeks as he realized that this conversation was about him. Moreover, Lassie had said they were friends, something that Shawn had only admitted aloud himself once, and not even in person. Suddenly the pattern on his glass became infinitely more fascinating.
"No you can't talk to him. He's still asleep," Lassiter snapped. "And if you can't bother to be here yourself, then you're just going to have to trust me."
He ended the call with an angry jab at the screen, and then looked up to see Shawn staring at him.
"You didn't want to talk to Guster did you?" Lassiter asked, wiggling his phone in the air.
Shawn shook his head, and then squinted.
"And I'm guessing you don't really want and hash browns and eggs?"
The squint deepened into a grimace, making him look vaguely sick, and one his hands moved to rest on his belly.
"Yeah. I didn't think so."
There was silence for a beat, then Shawn spoke up for the first time. "What happened last night? How did I end up in your guest room?"
"How about I tell you on the way to the station?"
"Things went that bad?" Shawn asked. Then why did I spend the night in a guest room and not a drunk tank? He wondered, even as he posed the question.
"No. I figure while I have you I might as well put you to work." Lassiter grabbed his suit coat from the back of his chair and swung it over his shoulders.
"Work? Lassie, I'm in 'show biz' now," he air-quoted, "I don't really do the detective thing anymore."
At that, Lassie just smirked.
"You really don't remember what happened last night, do you? You solved three murders. Drunk."
Chapter 4: Grumpy Gus
Gus was shaking in anger as he wore a rut in the living room carpet. Where did Lassie get off? I'm his friend too! What could Lassiter do for Shawn that Gus hadn't already tried? Replaying the hostile phone call was aggravating. He just hoped the police chief would keep his word and not let Shawn run away. Well, run further away, he supposed.
And where did Shawn get off on just flying the coop without any warning? They were nearly forty! When was he going to stop running away from his problems?
As soon as Gus had the thought he felt incredibly ashamed. Shawn hadn't ran away in ten years, and had matured during that time-exponentially in the last two years. And this wasn't just any problem. He'd lost his wife. The love of his life.
Gus stopped his pacing for a moment to glance at the woman sitting on his couch. Olivia had become the love of his life. Two pairs of brown eyes met briefly before he pivoted on his heels and continued in the opposite direction. He was lucky she'd stayed with him this long. If Shawn didn't run potential girlfriends off with his crazy antics, Gus usually found a way to sabotage his relationships himself. Even now he was probably scaring her with all this anxious energy that was rolling off him.
"I thought being your own boss meant you could take as much time off as you wanted."
Gus had been working very hard the past two years getting certified in physical therapy. Something he'd tried simply because it was in the medical field and found he really enjoyed doing. Just last month he got his own practice off the ground. But then he'd taken a whole week off for Juliet's funeral and to help his friend grieve. And his business was suffering for it.
"Wouldn't that be nice!" He snapped. Then he deflated. "I'm sorry. I'm just worried about Shawn."
"I hadn't noticed." Her curls bounced a little as she giggle awkwardly. Then her face became more serious. "Shawn's a big boy, he's gonna be fine. Now would you stop pacing and come sit by me."
She patted the empty space next to her on the couch. Gus sat down heavily and released a sigh. His whole posture was the picture of depression, his forearms resting on his knees, head hanging limply between his hands.
"I know. It's just with . . . without . . . Juliet!" His brain had seized forming whole thoughts as grief took over. Why Juliet? He looked up once more, his eyes seemingly searching Olivia's face for some some kind of comfort. He found it in the concerned curve of her brow and pressed on. "And . . . he's Shawn."
Olivia draped her arm across his back and leaned into Gus's side. She let her chin rest on his shoulder and said lightly into his ear, "I thought you said he was staying with a friend."
"Well, friend might be generous." Gus scoffed.
There was silence for several terrible moments. Finally, Gus broke it with a shuddering exhale, and then a voice barely above a whisper. "Tell me what I should do."
"Look." Olivia stopped and gave him a squeeze before continuing in a softer tone, "Can your practice survive without you?"
Gus rubbed his hand over his head and dropped his shoulders. He looked back up his head shaking in defeat.
"Ok. Can Shawn survive without you?" Olivia prompted.
"He shouldn't have to." And Gus was up and pacing again.
"That's not what I asked. Gus, I understand you want to be there for him, like you always been there for him. But would Shawn want you to give up your dream for him? Would Juliet?"Gus's movements stopped again, but he didn't face his fiancee. "I know it's hard to believe, but Shawn will get through this. All of us will. And you don't have to be in the same city to support your best friend."
Gus could feel the wall he'd put up coming down brick by brick. He wasn't sure how Olivia could do that to him. She could read him almost as well as Shawn could. "Why does it feel like I'm being selfish?"
Gus heard Olivia moving behind him, her soft footfalls on the shag carpet moving her closer to him. He felt a soft hand on his shoulder.
"You can't grieve for him, Gus. Especially when you haven't allowed yourself to grieve properly."
"I'm fine," he said. But his actions betrayed his words as he leaned his head into Olivia's touch.
When he still didn't turn she let go and took a step back, then continued in her normal voice, "You are a good person, Gus. If you weren't I wouldn't have agreed to marry you. But you know how when you're in an airplane and your left ear is half listening to the captain as the flight attendants demonstrate how to use the breathing apparatus? What do they tell you? Always help yourself before helping those around you. Even children. Even Shawn. Because you can't help anyone if you aren't breathing yourself."
Not breathing? What did she mean he hadn't grieved? Did she really believe his job was more important than his best friend? Was Olivia trying to make him choose her over Shawn?
Could he even make a choice like that?
Once again she returned to his side, and Gus imagined he could feel her love for him radiating through him, warming his very soul. "I'll support you no matter what you choose, but here is what I think." Her whisper tickled his ear and sent tingles down his back. "Taking care of yourself does not make you a bad person."
She kissed him on the cheek and then left him with his thoughts.
Chapter 5: I'd Hate You if You Weren't My Friend
"Are we going to get my car?" Shawn asked as he watched the residential streets of Santa Barbara roll by from the passenger side window.
Lassiter spared him a short glance, before giving his curt reply. "No."
Yes, why not? Lassiter asked himself. Life was so much simpler before Spencer. And when he'd left to San Francisco, things returned to that simplicity. Sure, he had missed O'Hara, and, okay, he didn't completely hate the video chats, but still Spencer was a lot to handle. So, why was he purposely forcing the man to stay in Santa Barbara? Why not just return the vehicle and let Spencer disappear to who knows where? Perhaps fatherhood had made him soft.
"Do you even remember where you left it?" He eventually asked.
"Well, not yet," Shawn started, and when Carlton glanced at him he thought he could see a bit of the mischief return to Spencer's eyes, "but if you give me a minute I can-"
Shawn trailed off, closing his eyes and leaning forward a bit in concentration.
"That's why not. I'm not going to go driving around from bar to bar. It's a wasted day."
"Wasted," Shawn chuckled, the mischief now entering his voice. "The whole point of going bar to bar is to get wasted."
Lassiter scoffed. "And did getting wasted help?"
Shawn didn't respond. Lassiter smirked and turned up the radio. They listened for a few moments before Spencer turned the dial back down.
"I can't just leave it in some parking lot. What if it gets impounded?"
"I'm police chief. I'll take care of it." And Lassiter was surprised to find that he meant that, he would take care of it. He was getting soft.
The younger man was surprised too. "Really? That seems so very un-Lassitarian of you."
"Un-Lassitarian? Are you forgetting about the motorcycle?"
"Oh, yeah. Huh." The younger man slumped back in his seat, seemingly giving up on the fight. "So, where are we going?"
"The station. I need to help McNab and Brannigan with some final interviews so we can close the case you solved last night." Lassiter still couldn't believe his entire force had been shown up by a drunken civilian from out-of-town. "You can look through some cases that were abandoned or back-burnered and prioritize them."
"Sounds like fun," Shawn replied, dejectedly. He rested his head on the cool glass and zoned out once more.
When Lassiter returned to his office several hours after leaving Shawn there, he was a little worried about what he might find. But as he entered he realized that his anxiety was unnecessary. At least, the anxiety for the state of his office; he wasn't quite sure what level of worry he should have for the state of its current occupant, who was soundly asleep on the sofa. On the table in the corner, the files he'd given Shawn to look over were in three mostly-neat piles.
Opting to revel in the rare peace and quiet, Carlton let Shawn sleep, and wandered over to the file-laden table. Each folder in the largest pile had a sticky-note attached to it that said things like "solved," "uncle did it," "easy-peazy," "srsly? totes obvs," and finally "are your detectives defective?"
Lassiter let out a puff of air in an attempt to stifle a chuckle. He had to admit, besides McNab and Brannigan, he didn't have the brightest bulbs to work with. He'd been meaning to look through all these "unsolved" cases that were "just too hard" for his B team, but with everything that had happened, Juliet's death and the spree killer, he hadn't gotten around to it. He'd decided he'd recruit Spencer to find a another angle on one of the cases and then piggyback with Dobson and his partner, What-ever-his-name-is. He knew he could count on Spencer to give a new perspective, but he hadn't counted on him solving most of the cases just by reading the files. He'd have to find another way to keep the younger man busy.
The chief couldn't make sense of the remaining haphazard piles, so he left them and carried the first pile over to his desk. Spencer may have solved them, but he'd still need to send officers to follow-up and close the cases. He allowed himself only one yawn before he set out to scheduling assignments. As he thumbed through the files, at first, Lassiter couldn't help but be amazed at Spencer's deductions, but as he looked closer, he realized that most of them made perfect sense. How did his detectives miss such obvious clues? And Spencer claimed he hadn't worked a case in 2 years?
Lassiter's eyes wandered to the man on the couch. Somehow he looked troubled even in sleep. He realized he'd been watching too long when he noticed Shawn's breath hitch on an inhale, a sure sign he'd fallen asleep crying. Cheeks reddening, feeling like an intruder in his own office, Carlton forced his eyes back to the task at hand.
A nearly an hour later and Carlton decided it was about time to call it an evening. Thanks to Shawn, it would be the first time in weeks he'd finished up his paperwork in time to be home for dinner. Marlowe might just have a heart attack.
"Time to get up, Spencer," he said nudging the other man's shoulder.
Shawn groaned and buried himself further into the cushions. Lassiter tapped him a few more times until he was convinced that Spencer was finally stirring. He walked back to his desk and began gathering his things.
"Jules!" Shawn's eyes popped open, a look of terror on his face. His eyes took a moment to adjust to the sudden light. "What? Where?"
Spencer looked around the office, his eyes finally landing on Carlton. The chief could see the moment the memories hit Shawn as his entire countenance shifted from panic to grief-filled defeat. He tried to ignore the sudden stinging in his own eyes.
"Oh, Lassie." Shawn sighed. "It wasn't a dream."
The younger man looked like he was about to lose it, clenched fists raising to chest and falling back to his sides, but somehow managed to reign in his emotions.
"Come on," Carlton attempted to sound annoyed, "we're going to be late for dinner."
He stalled in the hallway just long enough to ensure that the other man was following, then continued through the bullpen on the way to the front doors.
"Look," Shawn grabbed his shoulder as he caught up, "I helped you prioritize or whatever-the-hell you wanted. Just take me to my car."
Lassiter shrugged off the touch. "No."
"Just take me to my damn car," Shawn repeated, venom lacing his voice, "and I can get out of your life forever. Isn't that what you want?"
Lassiter stopped. "No."
"No? No, you won't take me to my car, or no, you don't want me out of you life?"
Lassiter turned, barely holding back his own anger, "What do you think, Shawn? I know I'm not known for being good at the whole friendship thing, but I didn't think I was that terrible. Why do you think I agreed to the stupid video calls?"
"For Jules. I don't know. For Marlowe?" Spencer shifted his gaze to the floor, he hadn't missed the rare use of his first name.
"For me!" Lassiter's voice rose in both pitch and volume. "If I didn't want to, do you think Marlowe could have made me? If I only wanted to keep in touch with O'Hara, don't you think phone calls would have been easier? Don't you get it? I'm proud, honored and baffled to call you my friend."
Shawn looked up, hazel eyes meeting Carlton's blue ones, and the older man knew he had Spencer's full attention now. Maybe it was a low blow using the man's own words against him, but Lassiter didn't care. He needed Shawn to understand. So, when he continued, it was in a softer tone.
"You once told me that I'm the only other person on the planet that loves Juliet as much as you do. And it's true. I don't know what I would do if I didn't have Marlowe and Lily to help me get through this."
Carlton had to pause as he was unexpectedly once again overcome with fierce anger. He thought about the people who should be helping Spencer. The best friend who was too busy with his love life. The father who'd taken a vacation as soon as his daughter-in-law was in the ground. The absentee mother who was actually trained in psychiatric health. He shouldn't have to deal with this. He was barely getting by himself.
Lassiter took a calming breath before. "I can't go through this alone. And you shouldn't have to either."
Shawn looked completely stunned, but that expression soon melted into one of his trademark smiles. He raised his arms out to his sides and took a step towards the police chief. "Aww, Lassie. I didn't know you cared! Let's hug it out. Come on, I know we could both use one right now!"
"Touch me and I'll have to hurt you." Carlton started walking away from the other man's reach.
Shawn grinned, and he followed his friend to the parking lot. "I wouldn't expect anything less."
Chapter 6: Leo's List
Still don't own anything.
Gray. The sky outside was gray, the walls inside were gray. And Karen Vick couldn't help but think the bleak color scheme perfectly matched her melancholy. Things hadn't been the same since she'd lost her favorite head detective.
And now Juliet's killer was demanding an audience with the cheif. There was no question he'd been the one to pull the trigger, but now claimed he had vital information that he was willing to trade for relocation. Karen should have said no.
But if there was more to O'Hara's-Spencer's-death, she owed it to her friend to find out.
Her heels echoed across the concrete floor of the prison as she followed the guard to the visitor's area. They came to a stop in front of a large security door. The guard swiped an access card and ushered the Chief inside.
Leo Deschamp was looking very smug in his orange jumpsuit, despite the fact that one arm was hancuffed to a bar in the table. Vick smirked when she saw the other arm was still in a sling. Detective Spencer had been able to get off two shots into her killer before succumbing to her injuries.
They had both been alive when Juliet's partner, Detective Lund found them minutes later. Juliet had died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, while her murderer was sitting healthy in front of Karen. It didn't feel right. Like justice hadn't been served in some way.
The rookie detective was beating himself up for splitting up, but protocol had been followed. They had no idea that they were essentially walking into an ambush. Karen didn't blame her junior detective at all.
"For your sake, Mr. Deschamp, let's hope you're not wasting my time," Vick said as she crossed the room and seated herself on the other side of the table.
Deschamp flashed her a winning smile, his perfect teeth too white in contrast to the blackness of his soul. He coughed before beginning his spiel. Saliva sprayed across the cool metal surface since he couldn't use either hand to cover his mouth.
"Oh," he said, "I think you'll find that what I have to say is . . . life and death information."
Karen folded her arms, not responding.
Deschamp continued, "And it's more than my own life you'd be saving. If you know what I mean."
"Mr. Deschamp, if I knew whatever information you allegedly have, I wouldn't be here wasting my time talking to you. So, let's get on with it."
"Touchy, touchy," Deschamp sing-songed between coughs. "Ok, I'll tell you. What would you think if I told you killing the lady cop wasn't my idea? What if I told you someone paid me to 'take care' of her?"
"I would ask who hired you."
Deschamp shook his head. "Can't do that. Don't know him. Miracle of the internet and all."
"Then I don't see how your information is of any use to me."
"What if I told you she was just the first name on a list? And that the man who hired me will still want to check off the rest."
Vick frowned and leaned forward, her elbows coming to rest on the table.
"Just how many names are on this list?"
"Four, well three. Or two."
Karen blinked at the inmate in disbelief and pushed back her chair, rising to her feet.
"I think I've heard enough. I don't know why you want a relocation so badly, but this has been a complete waste of my time."
She turned to signal the guard when Deschamp also rose and shouted, "No wait! Hear me out!"
His outburst left him in a fit of coughing and he held up his hand the few inches the cuffs would allow and shook it back and forth frantically. Vick paused, expectantly.
"There were four names," he said when he got his voice back, "I eliminated one and one was bogus. Thus there are only two left."
"Why would your 'boss' put a fake name on his hitlist?"
"Search me. Unless you happen to know a Brutus Gunslinger?"
Vick stepped back to the table and put her hands on the cold metal surface. Deschamp looked surprised.
"Wait. You know who that is? Brutus Gunslinger is a real name?"
"No, it's not a real name, but I think I know someone who could be called by that name. Who were the other two targets?"
"Lady Cop's hubby and some other cop in Santa Barbara. I was going to get paid extra for making the trip. Carlton Lassiter, or something equally ridiculously pompous sounding. But now that I failed, this list will go to someone else, and my name will likely be added to it."
"Yes," Vick agreed, "Criminals with deep pockets and endless resources rarely take too kindly when one of their investments fails."
"So, you'll help me?"
"I'm not making any promises. But I'll talk to the judge. How long until you're replacement is hired? Obviously you're not dead yet. No one else on the list has been hurt."
"Oh, he's been hired by now for sure. We can be real patient on a job if the reward is big enough. If he got the same instructions as me, he's supposed to make the hits look like accidents or routine job hazards. It takes time to set something like that up so you don't raise any suspicions."
Karen gave him a disgusted look.
"Why have you been sitting on this information for three weeks? Why Are you telling me now?"
"I wasn't going to tell you at all," the coughing was back and he continued saying the words between harsh puffs of air, "but then . . . yesterday . . . I found . . . a-"
But what he found, Chief Vick would never know, because he started coughing harder, saliva and blood sliding down his chin. Vick turned to the guard in alarm as the inmate collapsed back into his chair and began to convulse. But stillness quickly followed, and by the time the medical team got to him, Leo Deschamp was dead.
Chapter 7: Child Care Nightmare
"You've got to let me go, Shawn," Juliet crooned.
"Hmm. Don't want to. Nope. Never," Shawn said with his eyes still closed. He pulled his wife closer and nuzzled his nose into her neck.
She sighed and turned in the bed to face him. Shawn opened his eyes, and they were met by the most beautiful pair of smoky blue ones staring back at him. What had he done to get to be so lucky? He didn't know. But what he did know was that he really wanted to kiss her lips. So he did.
"Good morning, Mrs. Spencer. My radiant beauty," he whispered into her close talking. He smiled at the memory and went in for another kiss.
Jules playfully pushed his shoulder. "Shawn, stop."
His arm latched onto the small of her back and he pulled her back into the kiss.
Juliet indulged him probably a few moments longer than she should have before breaking them apart. "Shawn, I've got to go to work."
Shawn was in the process of scooping the rice out of the cooker and into a bowl when the doorbell rang.
"Who on earth?"
Jules wasn't due home for another half hour or so. Gus would have just let himself in. The guys on the film crew usually stuck to texting. And Shawn didn't really know many other people in San Francisco, even after 2 years.
He turned off the stove and unplugged the rice machine, before making his way to the door. The person on the other side began knocking.
"I'm coming!" Shawn shouted as he took the last four strides to the entryway. He grabbed the handle and pulled the door open.
Chief Vick was standing before him. And something inside Shawn started twisting into a black gnarly knot.
"Mr. Spencer. Shawn. I-" Her throat closed off and she wasn't able to form another word. Her expression turned to sorrow, and tears began streaming from both eyes.
"No." Shawn shook his head. "No."
"I'm so, so sorry," Chief let out when she found her voice again.
Shawn's eyes popped open. He took a moment to calm his breathing, then stilled, listening to the rest of the house. He really hoped that he was the only one that had been awakened by the shout. After several minutes of deep breathing, Shawn was satisfied that he was the only one stirring in the Lassiter household.
This was the third morning he'd spent in the guest room of his childhood home. Yesterday, some officers had stopped by with Shawn's car. He thought about leaving then, but after the fit Lassie had thrown the previous night, he decided he'd stay awhile. Besides, he still had no clue where he would go if he were to leave. He suspected the Lassiter's hospitality would only last until Henry got back from his ill-timed vacation. Then Shawn would be his father's problem.
Shawn's chest heaved in a silent derisive chuckle. Here he was, forty years old, and still depending on his father to tell him what to do next. But Henry had lost his wife too. And she'd left voluntarily. Maybe that was worse. But if Henry could live without Maddie, maybe Shawn could find a way . . . He wasn't ready to finish that thought yet. He rolled over to try and get a little more sleep.
A few hours later, still awake, Shawn sighed and rolled out of bed and to make his way downstairs. He could already hear sounds in the kitchen and guessed that Marlowe was preparing another 5 star breakfast. So, he wasn't prepared for the sight that met him when he crossed the threshold.
Marlowe was no where in sight. Lily was standing on top of the counter. All the drawers were open, evidence that she had used them as steps up to her current perch. Everything seemed to be covered in a layer of flour, including Lily. Her dark locks were completely white. Shawn gaped, and Lily blinked a few times before she opened her mouth and began screaming at the top of her lungs.
"What?" Shawn breathed, confused. Why was she screaming? What was he supposed to do? Dust off the counter? Dust off the child? Get her parents? Well, the screaming would probably accomplish that.
"Lily," he said louder, "why are you screaming?"
"That's what I'd like to know," Marlowe's voice sounded behind him. She appeared at Shawn's shoulder a moment later and let out an audible gasp. "What happened here?"
Lily's scream stopped and she batted her flour coated eyelashes in faux innocence. "Unca Sawn made a mess."
"Hey!" Shawn said in mock indignation.
"Uncle Shawn is an expert at making messes," Carlton said as he joined the group.
"But, he's not so good at cleaning them up," he continued, ignoring Shawn's outburst, "Do you think you could help Uncle Shawn clean up this mess, Sweetie?"
"I see what you're trying to do, Lassie, but it's not going to work. I don't even clean my own kitchen."
"Pwease help, Unca Sawn," Lily interrupted. She held out her arms signalling that she needed to be lifted off the counter.
"I'm on my way out," Marlowe announced suddenly, "I won't be back before Carly goes to work. You don't mind watching Lily for a few hours, do you, Shawn?"
"I -" Shawn couldn't easily say no. She was letting him crash in her guest room, after all. But he couldn't say yes either. What did he know about kids?
"Daddy, help!" Lily shouted when Shawn didn't pick her up immediately.
Lassie gave Shawn a smirk. "I'm in a suit," was all he said before walking out of the room.
"Ok, kid," Shawn relented, "but as long as we're going to clean it up anyway, what's to stop us from making a bigger mess."
Lassie poked his head back in the kitchen before heading to the station an hour later. Both "children" were covered in flour and looked like some low-budget ghosts.
"This kitchen better be sparkling when I get home, Spencer. And if anything happens to my daughter, I will kill you personally."
Chapter 8: This Gus is on Fire
Gus was en-route home from work when his favorite Friendly Indians song started playing in his pocket. That was Shawn's ringtone! As quickly and cautiously as possible, he crossed two lanes of traffic to pull off on the shoulder. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. The call had already gone to voicemail, and Shawn was no doubt leaving him some absurd message. But Gus could listen to that later. With a few hasty taps he was returning his best friend's phone call.
"Gus! Buddy!" Shawn picked up after only one ring.
"What the hell, Shawn? You ransack your own apartment, disappear on me, won't answer any of my calls. For almost a week," Gus couldn't help but go into full lecture mode. He ignored cars that honked as they sped past him, but flipped on his hazards for good measure.
"My phone was dead, my charger was in my car, which Lassie wouldn't let me have, and it turns out the Lassiter family is strictly Android. There was no way to charge my phone until I got my car back and that wasn't until the day before yesterday," Shawn shouted in his ear. Gus wasn't sure what Shawn was doing on the other end, but swore he could hear a blender running.
"Uh-huh. And that's supposed to be a valid excuse? The day before yesterday. Why didn't you call yesterday then? I was worried sick, Shawn."
"Dude! Why were you worried? You knew I was at Lassie's." The motor cut off, and Shawn continued at a lower volume, "How much trouble do you think I can get in here under Chief Lassitarian's watchful eye? And I couldn't call yesterday, I was babysitting. Spent all day at an interactive aquarium. Lily got to feed vampire bat rays."
"I think they're just called bat rays, Shawn."
"I've heard it both ways," Shawn said.
Gus smiled at the familiar joke. He had to admit his friend sounded happier than he had in the past weeks.
"Anyway, it's ok," Shawn continued, "You can just say you missed me."
Gus clicked his tongue. Shawn clicked his own in response.
There was awkward silence for a few beats, but when Gus took a breath about to fill the void, Shawn spoke up again.
"I'm sorry I left, Gus. I just couldn't stay there anymore. Sleeping on the couch was doing a number on my back, and I couldn't bring myself to sleep in the bed. And now I'm over sharing. Sorry," he apologized again, "Look, I think I'm going to stay here awhile longer. Lassie's being oddly tolerant."
A sound like smoothie being slurped through a straw came through Shawn's end of the phone.
"Tolerant? Are we talking about the same Carlton Lassiter?" Gus clenched his fist in his lap. He was still angry at the older man.
"Maybe it's the free babysitting."
"He didn't seem so cordial when I talked to him," Gus spat. The words from that phone conversation still echoed in his head, eating at his conscience. Was he choosing Olivia over Shawn? And if he was, was that wrong? When did life become so complicated?
"Anger is his coping mechanism. He's taking this pretty hard. He's . . . I'm not convinced he's okay." Shawn's voice faded out.
"I'm not convinced you're okay," Gus said seriously after a beat.
"Ya, about that . . . " Shawn started, but he trailed off. "There is another reason I called, though. I left a few things, besides my heart, in 'Frisco."
Gus shook his head in disbelief, but then remembered his friend couldn't see him. "You left literally everything here, Shawn."
"Touche. But there are only a few things I need. Grab a pen."
"If you think I'm driving a bunch of your crap all the way to Santa Barbara you must be outta your damn mind," Gus said, even as he dug in the glove box for a writing utensil and scratch paper.
"Of course I'm out of my mind, Gus, that was never in question. But I was thinking you could just mail them to me."
"Oh." But I'd probably spend more in postage than gas, Gus thought.
"I even transferred some money into your account for postage," Shawn added, taking away Gus's last argument.
"Really? That's a first. I thought you only knew how to take money out of my account. Ok, what's on the list?"
And so it was that twenty minutes later Gus found himself pulling up to the Spencers' now-former residence. Key in hand, he walked to the porch, grabbing the mail on the way inside.
He was met at the door with the unmistakable and powerful smell of cat urine. Gus had had the presence of mind to leave the cats, indefinitely, with a neighbor when he'd first discovered his best friend's classic disappearing act, but he'd failed to think to empty the litter box.
Well, that was now priority number one. There was no way he could dig through the mess Shawn had left with this overwhelming stench. He left the front door open to air out the place and walked into the apartment. He stopped in the kitchen long enough to toss a TV dinner in the microwave. If he was going to do this favor for Shawn, he might as well get lunch with it. It wasn't like Shawn was going to ever eat it. No sense in letting good food go to waste.
Finally, Gus made his way into the bathroom at the end of the hall to tackle the cat box. Before he'd even finished putting on the elbow-length teal rubber gloves, he decided that he might as well just take the whole darn thing out to the trash. No sense cleaning it. Even if Shawn were to return-doubtful-he was unlikely to keep the animals. The neighbor kids probably wouldn't let him take them back anyway.
Gus securely tied a hand towel over his nose to protect against the assault on his super sniffer and then began the filthy task of removing the box. He kept it at arm's length the entire walk to the dumpsters and then tossed it in followed by the rubber gloves, glad that he'd brought extra.
The hand towel was beginning to gather sweat under his eyes, so that was the next thing to be removed. The moment his nose was free, Gus smelled the smoke.
He turned and ran back towards the apartment. He made it just inside the door before stopping dead in his tracks. Huge flames were already blocking the way to the kitchen.
Gus was no electrician, but figured that something in the wiring must have sparked the blaze, probably from the microwave. He may or may not have let out a high pitch squeal as he backed out of the apartment and closed the door behind him. He jogged to the curb and pulled out his phone to call 911.
How am I going to tell Shawn I burned his apartment and all the memories in it to the ground? Gus thought as his phone connected. And all for some lousy mac and cheese!
Chapter 9: I'm So Glad When Daddy Comes Home
Sorry I dropped the ball on updating this. I should set a reminder in my phone or something!
After landing in California, Henry decided to just go straight to the Lassiters'. He realized flying back so soon was probably overreacting, but if he were honest with himself, he was glad for an excuse to cut his vacation short.
He didn't have to wait long on the porch before Marlowe, who had a cell phone between her shoulder and ear, invited him in with a smile and a sweeping gesture of her arm. Henry returned the smile and followed Marlowe into the living room. She continued into the kitchen, leaving Henry to absorb the sight in front of him alone.
Shawn was sprawled out on the couch, snoozing deeply. One stockinged foot was on the armrest, his other leg was bent off the edge, the tips of his toes just barely brushing the rug. What made Henry chuckle, however, was not his son's restful state. The kid could fall asleep anywhere and in a number of uncomfortable-looking positions. Perched quite proudly on top of her "Unca's" stomach was Lily. One arm was hugging a familiar stuffed dog close, in the opposite hand was the squashed remains of what Henry could only guess used to be a strawberry, the juices staining her fingers, face, and shirt. Some cartoon was playing on the television.
The child's eyes lifted to inspect the newcomer. They lit up with recognition and she sprang off the sleeping man's stomach like it was a trampoline, waking him with a start.
"Grumpy Henry!" Lily squealed before launching herself into Henry's outstretched arms. He spun her around once before stopping and catching Shawn's eye.
His son looked completely miserable. There were dark circles under his eyes and it looked like he'd lost a fair bit of weight in the less than a fortnight since Henry had seen him last. He almost felt guilty for waking the kid up. All that guilt faded when Shawn cracked one of his famous grins and spoke up.
"Grumpy Henry? Oh, you are so not living down that nickname, dad."
Henry bit back the knee-jerk sarcastic reply that had been on the tip of his tongue. Instead, he shifted the toddler in his arms and prodded Shawn's dangling ankle with his shoe.
"Make some room on the couch, why don't you?"
Shawn obliged by putting both feet on the floor and pivoting himself into a sitting position. No sooner had Henry's butt hit the cushion and Lily was crawling away to sit back on Shawn's lap, smearing strawberry liberally across both men in the process.
"This was my favorite shirt," Henry complained as he pulled at the olive-colored Hawaiian shirt that now had a red handprint-sized stain across the stomach, but he was grinning.
"You're just a sticky mess, aren't you?" Shawn teased the girl, tickling her sides. She squealed until he stopped. Then she was planting a slobbery kiss on his stubbled chin. Shawn made an exaggerated attempt at wiping the sticky slime from his face. "Oh, gross! Lily!"
Lily giggled and then shot off towards the kitchen, howling in delight. Henry watched her go, then turned back to his son.
Shawn had zoned out, his eyes squinted in the general direction of the tv. Henry could tell, however, that he wasn't really look on Shawn's face meant that Shawn had checked out of the present and was now replaying or analyzing something he'd stored in his mind.
Gus called it Shawn's "clue" face. But Henry had seen that look long before Psych, in both his son and his ex-wife. Both were gifted with eidetic memories, though in Shawn's case the gift was much more acute.
Henry leaned back and reached for the tv remote on the table beside him. He flipped the channels absently before landing on a news station. He glanced back at Shawn and noticed the younger man had his eyes closed once again.
They sat like that for several minutes, just listening to the mumblings on the tv and Marlowe and Lily singing as they prepared something in the other room. Henry was convinced Shawn had fallen back to sleep until the younger man started speaking.
"I thought you were going to Alaska, dad." He hadn't even opened his eyes.
"Hmm." Shawn went silent once more. A commercial for toilet spray was on.
"I thought you were going to stay in San Francisco and help Gus with his new business and the wedding," Henry stated after a long pause.
Shawn folded in on himself, his head buried in his arms. He let out a deep sigh.
"I couldn't stay," he said.
Henry would never understand Shawn's urge to run away when things got tough. That was a quality he had inherited from Maddie. Henry was the type to bury himself in familiar tasks, to work until the problem was solved. And if he did feel a need to "get away" it was always to the same places. When things were hard, Henry was most comfortable close to home.
He spared a sideways glance at his dishevelled son and the thought occurred to him that maybe Shawn wasn't as different from himself as either man liked to believe. Because this time, he reminded himself, Shawn hadn't run away. He'd run home, to Santa Barbara. But now that he was here, Henry had no idea what to do with him.
"So, what's your plan then?" He finally asked when it became clear Shawn wasn't going to elaborate.
His son's red-rimmed, completely exhausted eyes met his. "I don't have a plan."
"Not really surprised," Henry said.
Shawn bristled at the words. His body language shifted from "defeat" to "defense" in an instant. "You've been here, what, not even five minutes and already you're telling me what a big predictable disappointment I am? Well, excuse me for not grieving on your timetable!"
Shawn stood and turned away from his father, raking his fingers through his overgrown hair and making it stick up crazily on the sides. When he faced Henry again, the heat in Shawn's eyes completed the picture of insanity. He was seething, chest heaving with each breath.
And Henry knew he wasn't seeing the temper tantrum of a rebellious son, but the genuine anguish of a desperately lost man. His heart broke a little more. Henry had never been one to cater to the sensitivities of others, never the father who taught with his "kid gloves" on. Truth was, he wasn't surprised Shawn didn't have a plan because he couldn't think of one either. What would he have Shawn do? Go back to San Francisco to face the ghost of his wife's memories? Wasn't that what brought him to Santa Barbara? Or would he have Shawn move in with him like one of those over-privileged millennial yo-yos?
"Hell, kid," he sighed, face softening. "I don't have a plan either."
The fire in Shawn's eyes fizzled out. He blinked and a few of the tears he'd been holding in escaped. And Henry found himself off the couch and pulling his grown son into a firm embrace. Shawn gave a weak squeeze back, mumbling something into his dad's shoulder.
The hug ended as quickly as it had began. Shawn wiped any evidence of his crying away with his wrist.
"What was that?" Henry asked.
"I said, 'you're right. I can't stay with the Lassiters forever,'" Shawn said.
"Well, maybe not forever," Marlowe said appearing in the doorway. She wiped her hands on her orange apron. "But Lily just adores you and I can't pass up the free babysitting."
Shawn grinned. "She is pretty cute for a Lassie pup."
The front door opened announcing Carlton's return. And he called from the doorway, "Hello, family!"
As he stepped into the living room, he swept his head from side to side, taking in the whole scene.
"My home has been overrun by Spencers!" He said, giving a slight smirk in Henry's direction.
"Actually," Henry said, extending a hand to the younger man to shake, "I think it's my house that's been overrun by Lassiters."
"Daddy's here! Daddydaddydaddydaddy!" A whirlwind of pink came flying into the room and attached itself to Carlton's leg.
Henry smiled fondly, "I miss those kinds of welcomes sometimes."
"Daddy's here!" Shawn yelled a little too close to Henry's ear, before grabbing his dad's face and planting a kiss on his bald head.
Carlton held back a chuckle at the youngest Spencer's antics while Henry wiped at the residue Shawn had left.
"Looks like you're in a better mood," Lassiter commented.
It was apparently the wrong thing to say.
The atmosphere of the room turned electric and Shawn threw some shade in Lassiter's direction. Marlowe punched her husband's arm with a closed fist.
"What?" Carlton asked, rubbing the now sore spot on his bicep.
No one said anything.
Henry's eyes scrutinized the occupants of the room. He made eye contact with the oblivious toddler. She pulled a face at him. Then his gaze found Shawn with his raised shoulders turned away from the group. Lassiter was still trying to communicate telepathically with his wife. But Marlowe was just giving him a "you know what you did" look.
"Well, he-" Lassiter started to say, before he was cut off by Marlowe.
"Dinner's ready," she said in an attempt to dispel the tension and stop Carlton from digging himself a bigger pit.
Her words worked like magic, on the two year old at least. With both of her hands, Lily took Henry's right hand by the fingers and gave him a tug. "Come on, Grumpy Henry! S'ghetti!"
He allowed himself to be pulled into the kitchen, but saw Carlton grab Shawn by the shoulder and heard him say in a low tone, "We need to talk, Spencer."
Henry wasn't able to successfully eavesdrop because Lily was soon pushing him into a chair at the table.
"You sit here," she commanded.
Henry obeyed, but spared one more glance in the direction of the living room, and found himself hoping Lassiter wasn't giving his son the boot just yet.
Chapter 10: Instead of Just Goodbye I'll Say So Long
Still don't own Psych.
"Where do I start?" He asked out loud, but still mostly to himself. He wiped a hand across his weary face.
"It this one of those 'I have some good news and I have some bad news' type situations?" Spencer asked, his words light and almost hopeful, but the younger man's face betrayed his apprehension.
Carlton was actually kind of glad he'd already killed Shawn's good mood with his earlier comment. What he had to tell him was going to crush him, but maybe since he was already feeling down, the hit wouldn't be as hard.
His own stomach was feeling queasy just thinking about all he had learned a few moments ago on the phone in his driveway. He couldn't imagine how this was going to effect Spencer.
"It's more like, 'bad news, terrible news,'" he paused before adding, "'potentially devastating news.'"
Spencer took that as a cue to move back to the sofa. He sank down and looked up at Lassiter with a look so pathetic the Chief had to look away. "I'm not sure how much more potential devastation I can handle, Lassiter," Spencer said honestly, and Carlton caught the proper use of his surname. It was so un-Shawn like. He almost wished he could have the hyperactive "psychic" back. Almost.
With a sigh, Lassiter joined Shawn on the couch, sliding the manila folder he'd been holding under his leg. He was going to approach Spencer with it tonight after dinner, but that was before Karen had called and told him about Leo Deschamp's confession and subsequent untimely death. She'd told him about the fire, and how evidence was overwhelming that it was no accident. Most likely the trap was made for Spencer, but Guster had been unfortunate enough to be the one to set it off. And now he had the unpleasant task of dropping this information bomb on Shawn. No, the folder would have to wait.
"What's in the folder?"
"It's unrelated to the bad news," Carlton said. Dammit, nothing could get past Spencer.
"Oh, ok. It's just, it had my name on it..."
"Well, I had a different conversation planned when I left work," he replied, "but I didn't know then what I know now. And now I know that this is not the time for this." He held up the folder to punctuate the last word and then slid it under the sofa. Out of sight, out of mind. He needed this particular conversation to be distraction-free. If he had to be the one to tell Shawn, he only wanted to have to say it all once.
He opened his mouth to speak, but the words wouldn't come. He took a deep breath, but it did nothing to conquer the overwhelming sour feeling in the pit of his stomach. Spencer must have been feeling the same uneasiness, because he was subconsciously clutching a decorative pillow against his middle.
Lassiter launched into his tragic monologue. Spencer sat in an uncharacteristic silence, staring intently in the direction of the television, never mind that it was off. He didn't ask questions for clarification, or nod in acknowledgement. If this had been any other situation, Carlton would have assumed that his house guest was tuning him out. However, the white-knuckled grip on the poor pillow and the shallow, stuttering breaths were evidence enough to Lassiter that the younger Spencer was absorbing every horrible word.
Finally, it was done. Now Spencer knew everything.
"And you just found out-" Spencer started to ask after a few minutes of processing.
"I came inside as soon as I got off the phone with Vick."
Spencer nodded. "So, we're not safe here. Your family is not safe here."
That was the grim truth in a nutshell. The two fell back into a contemplative silence, appetites lost.
There was a knock at the front door and Spencer started.
"I called one of my men," Lassiter explained on the way to answer the door, "He'll get the girls and Henry someplace safe."
"Keep them a safe distance from us," Spencer bobbed his head in approval, "good thinking."
Carlton pulled open the door at the same time Marlowe came in from the kitchen.
"Are you coming to eat or not?" Then she noticed the officer and the look of trepidation in her husband's eyes. "What's going on?"
"Short version: we have intel that someone was hired to kill the Spencers, and Guster and myself. And if the information is good, then they've already succeeded once."
Marlowe made a strangled sound of alarm that stuck on the forming lump in her throat.
"A hitman killed Juliet?" Henry asked skeptically as he joined the conversation.
"They almost got Gus, too," a tight, quiet voice said from the couch.
The group focused on Shawn. There was a ferocity burning in his eyes, the determination written on his face clearly said that he would not allow any more of his loved ones to be harmed.
"Dad, you need to get Lily and Marlowe to safety."
"I thought that's what he was for!" Henry gestured at the policemen standing dutifully in the entryway. "What about you, Shawn? Who's going to protect you?"
"I don't need your protection! I'm not a little kid anymore! You know who is a little kid, dad? Lily! Protect her!"
"You may not be a kid anymore, but you're still my kid!"
The elder Spencer was at his son's side in two strides. Lassiter could practically see the steam coming from the father's ears. Marlowe crossed between the men to return to Lily who was crying in protest to being left alone. The officer stayed silent, but looked to his Chief for some direction.
Carlton held up a hand to his man, a non-verbal cue to stay put, then placed the same hand on Henry's shoulder in what he hoped was a placating gesture. "I have to know my family is safe, Henry. They're all I've got."
Henry started to cut him off, "Of course Lily and Marlowe should-"
"Listen," Lassiter said, squeezing Henry's shoulder a bit, "If I can't be there with them, which we both know would be incredibly unsafe, then I can't think of anyone better than you."
"You've got your officers. I could help-"
"Please, dad," Shawn said. He was practically folded in on himself, the pillow still in his grasp. "You and Gus are all I have left."
Lassiter's throat suddenly got tight when he realized the youngest man was not speaking metaphorically. Everything he had owned had quite literally gone up in flames. He cleared his throat against the uncomfortable feeling, and both Spencer's turned to him expectantly. Well, since he had the floor, he might as well speak.
"It would make Shawn feel better to know that you're away from all this until we figure it out. It would make me feel better knowing that I left my wife and child with someone they know and trust. And it would make Lily feel better having you there. She thinks you're her grandpa! You protect my family, Henry, and promise I'll protect yours."
He could tell from Henry's face that the argument was won before the older Spencer even began to speak.
"Y'know," Henry said, "I think you've gotten soft."
Lassiter sighed, "Yeah. I know."
A few short minutes later and two duffles were packed. Henry had said a brief goodbye to Shawn and was already in the passenger's seat of the black, unmarked SUV. He was already grilling the cop on basic policies and procedures. Lassiter smiled a bit at that as he loaded the bags into the back, while Marlowe loaded in Lily. He closed the hatch and then turned to his tearful wife. He held her a little longer than was strictly necessary, burying his face in her neck and whispering reassurances for both her and himself. He kissed her tenderly on the lips and then on the forehead, and helped her into the back seat. His eyes stung as he closed the door and walked around to the other side to say goodbye to his daughter.
Lily was sitting quietly in her car seat. Her dad leaned over to check and recheck the buckles and straps. The girl sniffled and inhaled a hiccuping breath-a side effect of the tantrum she had thrown when she found out daddy wouldn't be coming on this impromptu trip. At least, that's what Carlton told himself she was crying about. It couldn't really be because her duffle bag was Frozen and not Moana.
"Daddy, you sad?" The child reached up and touched his face. He put his hand over hers and was surprised to find his cheek was, in fact, damp.
"Ya, sweety bum, daddy's sad."
Marlowe let out short sob and looked back towards the house.
"Not this time, baby. But I'll see you real soon. I love you so much."
Then, before he totally lost it, Carlton shut his family inside and stepped onto the grass to watch them disappear around the corner.
Why was he so emotional? It's not like he was saying goodbye forever. He'd see them again. It wasn't like . . . Juliet.
What was he going to do about Spencer?
Lassiter collected himself and then headed back into the house. They'd go to the station, where they would be surrounded by cops. They'd go through all the case files from 2006-2014, searching for any clue that might lead to who was behind their grief. Justice would be served and life could go on. He wouldn't have to worry about anything anymore.
Except for Spencer. How would his life go on?
Why should Carlton even care? He supposed it was for the same reason he had always cared. Deep, deep, deep down. Only, now it had been verbalized. And that made things different somehow.
His friend, Shawn, was still on the couch, but had taken up a lounging position. In his lap was the manila folder, and he was thumbing through the contents. He looked up at the sound of the front door closing.
"Are you serious about this?" He waggled the folder in the air.
"Are you interested?" Carlton asked, trying not to sound hopeful.
"I- I don't know. I'm not sure what am I supposed to do next?"
"How about we catch the scumbag who's responsible for all this, and then we can talk about the long term?"
Shawn nodded and put the detective application back in the folder. A look of determination fell across his brow. Or was that righteous indignation? Either way, the former psychic was on his feet and standing before Lassiter with his hand extended.
While his host was mulling about the house gathering this and that, Shawn was entertaining an unpleasant thought that had been at the back of his brain since that morning. They couldn't stay here, at the house, that was for sure. But holing themselves up at the police station was starting to seem less and less like a better option.
"Ready to go?" Carlton called as he made his way into the front room.
"Hey, Lassie?" Shawn said, deliberately ignoring the question. He didn't really have anything to get ready, and even had his shoes on. He was ready to go, just not confident with their destination.
"What, Spencer?" Lassiter returned as he grabbed the keys to Marlowe's car off the hook by the door. They'd decided that her silver Nissan was a lot more non-descript than Lassiter's Crown Vic, and hopefully safer, if the killer was tracking them.
"I'd really hate to be the voice of reason," Shawn started, rubbing nervously at his neck. Lassiter scoffed, but said nothing, so Shawn continued, "honestly, it kind of goes against everything I stand for, being reasonable. But, in light of recent events-well, current events, really..."
"Will you just spit it out?" Lassiter cut off Shawn's rambling, effectively telling him to get to the point, already.
Shawn lowered his arm and looked Carlton directly in the eye. "I don't think we should go to the station."
"You call that the voice of reason? Sounds pretty ridiculous to me. How else are we supposed to go through all our old cases?"
Shawn let a hint of a smile lighten his face as he brought one finger to his temple and tapped twice.
Lassiter laughed, not an amused laugh, but the maniacal sound a man at his wit's end makes when words fail him. "No! None of that. Psych!" He yelled, "As in ... what, 'gotcha?"
"Actually, Gus thought-"
"I'm not falling for that. Not again, Spencer," Lassiter said talking over Shawn, his voice rising in pitch and volume with each breath, "Fool me once, shame on you..." He pointed at the younger man, a gesture exaggerated by his now-heavy breathing.
"Fool you repeatedly on a nearly weekly basis for eight years straight...?" Shawn jibed, hoping to lighten the suddenly tense atmosphere. Lassie was on edge, though that was excusable. Shawn was feeling a little jittery himself, but knew he'd feel better if they could finally spring into action. Then he'd have a direction to point his energy in and put the adrenalin coursing through his veins to good use.
The other man deflated. "Oh, shut up."
"Just listen. I called Gus just now," Shawn said in an attempt to steer the conversation back to the issue that had been causing the anxiety, that he'd felt everyday since Jules had died, to solidify and expand in his chest. Lassiter let out a gruff grunt, which Shawn interpreted as a signal to continue. "He's headed our way. He's actually more than halfway here."
Lassiter nodded, and when Shawn didn't immediately expound, he said, "So?"
"So... What no argument? No 'he's safer where he is?'" Shawn asked, finally rising from the couch.
"He's not safer where he is. He's practically here already. I have a feeling nothing I could say would stop Guster from coming. Plus, he's worked all the cases and is another set of eyes for the case files," Carlton counted each item on his fingers, "So, no. No argument from me. Unless, you have a reason you don't want Guster to join us?"
"No, I agree with you," Shawn said, and then added with a slight smile, "for once."
"OK, now that we've got that over with," Lassiter wiggled the keys and pulled the front door open.
Shawn made no move to leave, but instead stuck his hands in his pockets. "I actually haven't made my point yet. That 'voice of reason' thing."
"Ok, I'm listening," Lassiter said, tapping his foot as he leaned against the door jamb.
"Let's say you're a baddie," Shawn gestured with his hands as he talked, "And you're an unapologetic cop killer, or at least the kind of badlings you hire are."
"Badlings?" Lassiter raised an eyebrow.
"Bad underlings. Don't interrupt. I'm trying to have a 'Serious Shawn' moment."
Carlton gave the ceiling an exasperated look, before spinning his arm in a "go-on" motion.
"So, let's say you really want to kill us, and all three of us are hanging out at the police station. Is the 'added security' really going to scare you off?"
Lassiter swore and flung the front door shut. "I'm listening," he repeated.
"Burning down my apartment was pretty bold. He could have killed a lot more than Gus, or me, the fire could have spread to other units. He didn't care about the collateral damage. What's to stop this guy, or his current hired hand, from planting expolsives or something and taking out as many of us as possible? Now that we're onto his plot, he's not going to make it look like accidents or chance killings 'in the line of duty.' If we go to the station that would be like setting ducks in a barrel."
Lassiter ignored the setup for one of Shawn's "I've heard it both ways" jokes, because Shawn was actually making sense depsite the nonsensical mixed metaphor. They would be sitting ducks, and the killer would be shooting fish in a barrel. He tried not to read into how well he found himself understanding the younger man. Instead, he scrubbed his brow with two fingers in apparent contemplation. "So, what? You think we should just hang out here, wait for the hit man to come to us? That sounds just as stupid. What about the case files? How're we gonna get a step ahead of this guy if we can't even figure out who hired him?"
Again, Shawn tapped his temple. "I've got it all cataloged in here. I'm even working up a list of suspects. Especially those who might have had a vendetta against Jules specifically."
"I can think of a few people myself. Like that ax-wielding psycho from the asylum but I'm sorry, there's no way you can remember every important detail of every case we've ever worked together. No one is that good."
"I am!" Shawn argued, not even a hint of boasting in his voice.
Lassiter just looked at the younger man for a moment, and then heaved a sigh and whispered a curse under his breath.
"You're serious?" He asked.
"Yes. You surprised?" Shawn let a grin break through his deadpan.
Lassiter considered him some more, shaking his head, and let another swear loose.
Shawn nodded, grin widening.
"That has to be cheating." He shot Shawn a look of contempt, maybe a little jealousy, and then turned away from the smug look to leave out the door once more.
"Where are we going?" Shawn asked, moving to follow the older man.
"I don't know, but we can't stay here." He emphasized the last three words, letting them hang in the air.
Shawn's smile didn't waver and he began a rousing rendition of the chorus of "Closing Time" as Lassiter locked up.
Soon the two men were leaving the white and red beach house in the rear view mirror. Despite the distraction Shawn's singing provided, both men noticed when a car that had been parked a block down the road pulled away from the curb behind them. They locked eyes for a moment. Shawn could practially hear his heart quicken. Lassiter's eyes shifted back to the road ahead.
He turned left.
Shawn kept his focus on the passenger side mirror, and continued his song. "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."
His voice cracked a bit and faded in volume to eventual silence.
The car behind them also turned left.
Maybe it was just a coincidence.
If you're eager for the next chapters, let me know, otherwise I kind of forget to upload. I've got 4 more chapters finished and ready to go. After that point, updates will come as I write, which is hit-and-miss lately. And please tell me what you think: the good, the bad, the ugly. I can take it. ;)
Chapter 12: Who Ya Gonna Call?
Ask and ye shall receive! Thanks to those who've left kudos and comments. Here's the next chapter.
Being his own boss meant that Burton Guster had the power to take time off whenever he pleased, to re-schedule all his appointments, and recommend his clients to other licensed professionals in his absence. Sure, he might lose a few of those clients, but if he didn't take the time off he might lose his life. And Gus's life was something Olivia Crampton was very invested in. His name, along with Shawn's and one of the detectives from Santa Barbara, was on a hit-man's kill list. Gus had delivered the information to her, his voice muffled through an oxygen mask as he sat on the back bumper of an ambulance. She'd had to eat her previous words, and concede that it might indeed be best to follow Shawn south. And she'd insisted on coming with. He'd of course protested in the beginning, saying it would be too dangerous and he didn't want anything to happen to her. Eventually, however, she had been able to wear him down and he agreed to let her tag along.
Olivia look over at her fiance in the driver's seat. He was gripping the wheel so hard, she thought he might leave permanent hand impressions in the hard plastic. His back was so straight it wasn't even touching the seatback. And a muscle in his cheek kept twitching as he clenched and relaxed his jaw. Her presence obviously wasn't having the desired calming effect on him. Still, she wondered how he'd be without her here. He'd probably be talking to himself, driving too fast, poised on the very edge of his anxiety tolerance. He'd be an accident waiting to happen.
She reached over with her left hand, and placed it on his wrist. Gus started, and looked at her, then the hand, his eyes passing over the ring before settling back on the road ahead.
"We're almost there." It was the most encouraging thing he could think of to say. She couldn't promise that everything would be ok. She couldn't promise that they'd figure out who the mastermind was before it was too late. Oh, how she hoped they would, and she wanted to believe they could, but as a realist, she couldn't voice those wishes or promises out loud. No point in giving false hope.
Life was a funny balancing game. She didn't want Gus to constantly put everyone else's needs above his own. It was something he did often, especially where Shawn was involved. But she also had to accept that Shawn was family, and that wasn't going to change. Gus and Shawn were a package deal. And now things were so much harder since Juliet's death. Shawn was grieving, they all were, and he was going from needing endless attention, to shutting them out completely. He hadn't even told Gus he was leaving town.
Olivia wanted to be mad. Mad that Shawn had left. Mad that Gus had almost been killed running his errands. Mad that some hitman had a target on her fiance's head, that wouldn't be there if he hadn't let Shawn drag him around playing detective for all those years. Mad that they were now on their way to Santa Barbara, and she was on the phone frantically re-scheduling Gus's appointments with other PTs. But despite all of that, she was more concerned than anything.
Would Shawn be ok? Would any of them? And not just emotionally. There was a hitman on the loose, for heaven's sake! That's why she'd insisted on coming along with Gus. Gus didn't need or want to be alone right now. Plus, if she was gone, Vick wouldn't have anyone left to grill about how and why they slipped their security detail.
"Hey, babe?" Gus said, pulling Olivia from her musings.
"Ya?" She asked catching his glance before he turned back to the road.
"We're getting pretty close to the city, do you want to call Shawn and find out where he wants to meet us?"
Olivia pulled out her phone and made the call. It went straight to voicemail. She pulled the phone away and looked over at Gus.
Their eyes met again, and he asked, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing. Maybe, nothing. It just went straight to voicemail." She was afraid her attempt at hiding her worry had failed miserably.
"Try Lassie. My phone's in my jacket pocket," Gus said, and if the nervous tension in his throat made his voice waver, Olivia wasn't going to mention it.
Olivia reached into the backseat and pulled the grey windbreaker to the front. Once she'd retrieved the phone, she quickly made the call. This time it rang several times, but still ended with a voicemail. She quickly left an awkward message to a man she'd never met or talked to, then ended the call.
Gus's posture had changed by the time she returned his phone to its pocket. He'd leaned back a bit, but his back was still ridged; his elbows were straight, his knuckles gripping the wheel so tightly that a little vein in his wrist was bulging; his jaw was clenched tight and the muscle was still working in his cheek.
"Should I try Mr. Spencer? I know he's not with them, but maybe he's heard something."
Gus nodded mutely, eyes straight ahead.
Before she could make the call, however, Gus's phone began ringing.
"It's says 'SFPD,' should I answer it?" She asked.
"It might be Chief Vick," Gus stated, not really answering the question.
Olivia knew they were in trouble for slipping the two officers that had been posted at their apartment. To their defense, it had been way too easy to fool them. They'd just feigned exhaustion, gone in the master bedroom, turned on the tv, and climbed out the window. While she didn't want to be reprimanded for that, a call from the SFPD might be important.
She accepted the call.
"Where the heck are you, Guster?" Karen's angry voice began without greeting, and it continued without waiting for response. "I called my officers to let you know that we have a new development, and they go to wake you up, and you're not there! That is the kind of irresponsible stunt I would expect from Spencer, but not from you. I-"
Olivia had to interrupt before she continued, "Chief, this is Olivia, Gus's fiancée. Let me put you on speaker." If she had to hear it, so did Gus.
"Guster?" Karen asked once the call was transferred to the Bluetooth stereo.
"I'm here. Sorry, Chief, but I just couldn't-" He started to explain.
"I don't want your excuses, Guster. What's done is done. That's only part of the reason I'm calling."
Her voice sounded grim, even to Olivia who had only met the woman once, at Juliet's funeral. Whatever this new development was, it wasn't good. And the fact that they hadn't been able to reach Shawn and Chief Lassiter had an unpleasant knot forming in the middle of her stomach.
"Benjamin Drimmer has escaped from prison. They only noticed this evening, but tell me he could have been gone since same time yesterday. One of the guards didn't show up for his shift, so we're going on the assumption that he was paid off to help get Drimmer out."
"I'm not gonna lie, I'm sure he's a bad dude," Gus said, "but I can't remember who you are talking about. We helped put a lot of people in prison over the years."
"You should remember this one. Detective Drimmer."
"Detective… Oh, he's the guy that framed Lassie for murder and pistol-whipped Shawn. Why after all these years is he coming after us? Why Jules?"
"Those are questions we'll have to ask that dirtbag when we catch him again." There was a beat and then, "Are you to Santa Barbara yet? I've been trying to reach-"
"No, not yet," Gus interrupted, and anticipating what Karen was going to say added, "And us too. We just tried calling both Shawn and Lassiter, both went to voicemail. We were just about to try Mr. Spencer."
"Don't bother. He and Marlowe didn't take their cellphones to the safehouse. Too trackable. I called them just before calling you, using a more secure line. They haven't heard from Shawn or Carlton either, and Carlton should have the safehouse number. I'm starting to get worried."
"Ya, us too."
"Watch yourselves out there. And if you hear from-"
"You'll be the first one we call."
Chapter 13: Destined to Wander
They'd been driving around aimlessly for over 20 minutes trying to lose their tail. Every time Lassiter was starting to think they'd succeeded, the silver car would reappear in his rear-view mirror. It was getting frustrating. More than that, the anxiety in his chest was beginning to resemble something akin to actual fear.
"I don't think they're following us," Spencer said. And that was a stupid thing to say, because clearly the other vehicle was still visible. He was about to point that fact out when Shawn expounded. "I think they're tracking us. Because sometimes they don't even appear from the same direction we came from. They must have planted something on the car."
A GPS tracker… How resourceful. Not everyone carried GPS locators in their pocket... Oh, crap!
Carlton reached blindly to grab the phone out of Shawn's hand.
"Lassie, what the hell?" Spencer shouted as Lassiter grabbed his own phone from it's dash mount.
Without providing Shawn an answer, he rolled down the window and tossed both devices out.
"Seriously, man. What's your damage?"
"We're idiots to carry those things. Why do you think the security detail wouldn't let Henry or Marlowe take theirs with them? We'll stop and get some burners somewhere. I hope you have Guster's number memorized."
"Obviously." Shawn folded his arms across his chest and smirked.
Carlton pushed down his momentary jealousy of the younger man's eidetic memory. He wasn't sure he could feel anymore emotions right now or he might just burst. And that skill of Spencer's could end up saving their lives. How many times had it saved their lives already? Lassiter couldn't even imagine, but wondered of Shawn was keeping a mental tally of some sort.
He thought about asking, but when he glanced over at his passenger, he saw that Spencer's eyes were glued to the mirror and he was gnawing on his lip. Lassiter forced himself to derail his silly train of thought and get back to the task at hand. They couldn't afford for him to lose his focus.
It took five minutes to shake their tail again, and another five minutes without seeing the other car before the tension in the car started to fade. Still neither man spoke, and hardly even dared to breathe. Carlton led the car through a residential area on the edge of Santa Barbara for another ten minutes. Every mile they went without seeing the other vehicle felt like a release, until finally, it felt like, just maybe, they might be free.
"I'd say you owe me a new phone," Spencer began, breaking the silence, "but that was actually brilliant, so if we get out of this alive, I think I'll buy you one."
Carlton scoffed. "Ya, sure you will."
Shawn put a fist up to his chest, miming being stabbed in the heart by a dagger, "Your lack of faith wounds me, Lassie, absolutely wounds me!"
"Just going off your track record," Lassiter said with a smile.
"And which track record would that be?" Shawn's arms returned to their folded position. "The record number of cases I've closed? The record I still hold at the Santa Barbara shooting range? Or my actual track record? 'Cause, I'll be honest, I didn't even last a full semester before I quit track. To quote Back to the Future, part tres, 'run for fun? What the hell kind of fun is that?'"
"You know, Spencer," Lassiter held back a chuckle, "I agree with you on that one. But you know, not everything in life relates to an 80's movie."
"What is life without 80's movies? It's a sad, dark, humorless-" Shawn prattled on.
He and Shawn argued about which Back to the Future movie was the best. (Obviously the third one.) They'd fallen easily back into their familiar banter, and distracted each other from the feeling of impending terror.
Lassiter had led them off the well-known city streets to a back road with nothing but weeds on either side for as far ahead as they could see, and not another vehicle in sight. An occasional dirt road or driveway ran perpendicular to the road, but they were extremely low traffic, and now that the sun was setting, Carlton would be very much surprised if they saw anyone at all. He wasn't sure where he was going, they hadn't really made a plan. But now, getting distance from Santa Barbara was more important than finding a place to stay for the night. He wasn't tired, yet. They could drive until it was time to fill up; go to a gas station, buy a couple cheap pay-as-you-go phones; and try to meet up with Guster. He was hoping the cover of night would be an advantage.
Unfortunately, their stalker had the same idea and he was now speeding towards them with his headlights off. The tall weeds prevented even the ever observant Shawn from seeing the vehicle about to collide with them until it was too late.
They were struck on the driver's side back end, causing their car to go into a slow spin, eventually ending up across both lanes. Lassiter took one moment to do a self-inventory. He had some bruised ribs from the air bag, and he was pretty sure his left arm was broken, but other than that he seemed ok. He took one more moment to do a visual check on his passenger. Shawn was dazed, but not unconscious. There was a grotesque blood smear on the window by his head. In another moment, Lassiter was out the door with a gun gripped comfortably in his right hand.
He approached the other vehicle walking low, and with his hurt left arm pushed tightly to his chest. The headlights from Marlowe's car lit up their would-be-assassin's front seat. The man was slumped against the steering wheel, seemingly unconscious.
"Idiot." Lassiter scoffed, awkwardly trying to laugh some of the adrenaline away. He let out a shaky breath, steeling himself against the stupid thing he was about to do. He holstered his sidearm, and yanked the driver's side door open. The strong smell of body odor and cigarette smoke billowed out at him.
The man inside was white; his blonde hair buzzed just short enough that Carlton could see tattoos through it; he was young, late twenties, early thirties, maybe; wearing a dirty wife-beater; and what he could see of the kid's face seemed to be heavily pierced. If Lassiter was the judge-a-book-by-its-cover type, he'd say the man generally looked like a thug. And considering this particular man had just ran them off the road, he'd wager that in this case the stereotype was correct.
There was something else bothering him about the man's appearance, though. He didn't recognize him at all. So, this was just another hired gun, just another two-bit criminal purchased to do them off. He'd probably been told to make their deaths look like an accident and had taken the instructions literally. Too bad for the moron that he hadn't planned better and driven something heftier than a sedan. All the better for them.
He wasted no time handcuffing the jerk to his steering-wheel, and lost no dignity patting down his pockets in search of a cell phone. He eventually found one, shattered and unusable, on the ground between the driver's feet. So much for that idea. They wouldn't be calling for help, then. He wished Marlowe would have let him install a CB radio in her car. Maybe after this whole thing was over she'd reconsider.
Spencer had only gotten as far as undoing his seat-belt and opening his door. Carlton found him leaning against the seat, eyes closed, and holding one hand to his head. Lassiter touched the younger man's knee, hoping to rouse Spencer's attention without startling him.
"Shawn? Are you with me?" He asked gently.
"You don't have to shout, Lassie," was the breathless reply, "some of us are suffering from a contusion."
"That means 'bruise.' I think you mean concussion."
Without opening his eyes, Shawn used his free hand to gesture where the seat-belt had been across his body and retorted, "both ways."
The pain in Carlton's own ribs was getting harder to ignore as the adrenaline level in his system receded, and his arm sent shock-like jolts through him every time he moved wrong. He could definitely sympathize with Spencer, but he couldn't coddle him right now. He put a little more pressure on Shawn's knee.
"Ok, we've got two options," he told Shawn, "Walk until we find civilization, or stay here and wait for help, and pray that lead foot over there doesn't have any friends on the way."
That got Spencer to open his eyes, finally. Even without any medical training, Carlton could see that the pupils were uneven. Shawn blinked and turned slightly away, not expecting the closeness, and grimaced in pain at the movement. Carlton self-consciously leaned back, he hadn't realized he gotten so close.
"So, what'll it be?" He prompted.
"I vote we walk," Shawn said before suddenly jerking forward and vomiting. The vile bile barely missed Lassiter, but clung to Shawn's own pant leg.
This was going to be a long walk.
Chapter 14: Please Stop the World and Let Me Off
Shout out to my mother, who gets lyrics consistently wrong, and tends to make up her own. This chapter title came from her rendition of "I Melt With You". I don't own Modern English or Psych.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It was just their luck that it began raining not one mile into their walk.
"What kind of cliche BS is this?" Lassiter questioned aloud. "It's bad enough that we've got a price on our heads, that we're walking around in the dark, injured, and without cellphones. All of that wasn't enough? No, it just had to rain!"
Shawn stayed uncharacteristically quiet. His head hurt. The effort of merely staying conscious was beginning to make him feel queasy once more, but the urgency of the situation kept him putting one foot in front of the other. To keep his mind off the pain in his head, Shawn concentrated on breathing in time with his steps. Even that minimal exertion was taking its toll and he could feel himself waning. He couldn't care less about conversation. He just wanted to lie down.
He let his thoughts drift to a warm bed, with a soft pillow, in a dark room... His feet halted their forward momentum of their own accord. He hadn't even realized he had stopped until Lassiter grabbed his left elbow, effectively slowing Shawn's fall to the mud until he landed on his butt with a small thud.
"Dammit, Spencer!" Carlton's voice boomed from above, sounding more exhausted and worried than frustrated or angry.
Shawn blinked up at him, and immediately regretted it as the beam from the chief's maglite, held tight against Lassiter's chest with his broken arm, sent a spike through Shawn's right eye and straight into his skull. He squeezed his eyes shut and folded in on himself. At this moment, his entire existence was pain and nausea and the only thought he could bring to his mind was the repeating mantra of: Don't throw up, don't pass out, don't throw up, don't pass out. So, he didn't noticed when Lassiter sunk down on the ground next to him. He didn't notice the hesitation before the older man placed his right hand on Shawn's back. And he didn't notice himself leaning subconsciously into the slight warmth of the touch.
Lassiter shifted stiffly and sighed. "Ok," he acquiesced, "we'll take a break, a short break."
It was several minutes before Shawn finally lifted his head and straightened himself up. The rain had made a small pool around them. He took a deep steadying breath, and deliberately swallowed, to stem the tide of bile that was threatening to come surging out his mouth. Then he turned, slowly, to find Lassie was staring at him in concern.
"Stop looking at me like that. You're scaring me," Shawn said with a pathetically fake chuckle.
Lassiter looked away and grunted, "Yeah? Well, you're scaring me. If you haven't realized it yet, now isn't really a good time for a mud bath."
"Anytime is a good time for a mud bath. Haven't you heard that mud does wonders to soften rough skin?" It was a lame joke, but somehow he made himself laugh. That, in turn, had him grabbing his head to make sure it hadn't really split in two. Despite the cold rain that was soaking his hair and dripping down his face, his right hand came back warm and sticky. That wasn't really reassuring at all.
"My head really hurts," he confessed. It hurt so bad he could swear it was rumbling out loud. Or maybe that sound was coming more from without his head than within. Thunder? No, that wasn't it.
His companion stood and turned back the way they had come from and stared off into the distance. Shawn looked too, and forced himself up and got as far as to his knees. Lassie extended his good arm and Shawn accepted his assistance. He knew that sound. It was a car!
And then he saw it. Headlights.
Someone had found the wreck, and now help would surely be on the way. Unless the person who found the wreck wasn't friendly.
Carlton took a step forward. Just one. Shawn barely had time to follow his dreadful train of thought before his fears were realized. There was a flash of light and then a second later...
This would have been a perfect time for one of his trademark squeals, complete with quick exit, but his attention was focussed on stopping the progression of the gray haze that was forming at the edges of his vision. He felt Lassie's fingernails grind into the skin of his forearm as the older man pleaded, "Don't go passing out on me now, Spencer!"
With a grimace of pain, Lassiter clicked off the flashlight with his left hand, while his other hand continued its firm grasp on Shawn.
The pain of Lassie's grip grounded Shawn, and his lightheadedness passed.
It was very dark now, but he could still make out Carlton's features. His eyes landed on the now-darkened flashlight and then wandered back up to his friend's face.
"Do you think they saw us?"
Lassiter shook his head. His eyes said, I hope not. His mouth said, in a harsh whisper, "Let's get moving. We're not safe here."
"Way to state the obvious, Lassie," Shawn whispered in return, "Obviously if the dude that tried to kill us just got iced, we're probably not high on the list of people who get to live tonight. Whoever is at the top of that ditch means business, could be the 'big bad' himself."
Despite their words, neither man had made a move yet. Shawn was about to turn back to keep heading away from the road, when a flashlight beam from the road shined across on the field around them.
"I think he knows we're out here," Shawn said.
"Who's stating the obvious now?" Lassiter bit back.
The light swept left and right, not quite reaching them. Shawn didn't think they should stick around until the killer was close enough that it did. Carlton must have had similar thoughts, because he yanked on Shawn's arm, pulling him away from the light into a brisk jog.
"Zig-zag," Shawn said.
"We don't want to go in a straight line. We need to zig-zag."
Lassiter didn't say anything, but changed their direction a few yards later. Shawn let the other man lead the way, he was in too much pain to try and navigate or to out think their pursuer. He kind of felt like he was floating, like that time his dad had taken him and Gus to the beach and taught him how to float on his back. He closed his eyes, allowed himself to be pulled along by the arm, and let his legs do all the work.
"Oh, Detective! Where are you?" A taunt pierced the darkness, interrupting Shawn's flashback. Lassiter stopped, in shock, when he recognized the voice. "Is that psychic with you? He must not really be psychic or he would have stopped Detective Ohara's tragic death!"
Shawn recognized the voice as well. It was that dirty cop that tried to frame Lassie for murder!
"See, I wanted to get back at all of you," Drimmer's voice was loud but seemed to be moving away. "But mostly you two. Killing you wouldn't be enough. I needed you to suffer first. You took everything away from me! You took my life! That's why poor little Juliet had to die. Her death was punishment for you both!"
Shawn's eyes burned, and he felt like he might throw up again, but what he really wanted to do was scream. He held it all in, however-the vomit and the scream. It wouldn't be smart to give away their position. It might have been two against one, but they were both injured pretty badly. Shawn resigned to remain quiet, and had only a moment to pride himself on the moment of maturity, because Lassiter obviously didn't have the same inclinations.
"Hey, Drimmer!" He called out, and Shawn gaped at his friend. Lassiter had taken a wide stance and was holding his gun out in front of him. He was even using his broken arm to steady his shooting hand. Maybe policemen did have balls, despite Lassiter's pronouncement of the opposite all those years ago. "Let's end this!"
Shawn's heart was racing, and he could feel himself losing his battle with consciousness once more. He blinked back the gray, willing himself to stay awake to see this thing through. He may have been injured and unarmed, but he would be Carlton's backup if he needed to be.
Drimmer appearred before them, gun drawn, flashlight blinding. His lips were moving, but Shawn couldn't hear him over the sound of the rain and the rushing of blood in his ears. Sparks were flying in his eyes, and it looked like he was watching the scene through crappy binoculars.
Lassiter said something in response. But Shawn's world had gone all but completely silent. His vision was pinpricks. He was losing the battle to remain alert.
A muted CRACK!
Two bodies hit the soft wet ground.
We're 2 chapters away from catching up to what I've written so far. And probably only one more after that until the end. Yikes! My muses are sleeping, I'm afraid. I've never been this close to finishing something before, I don't quite know how...
It was dark by the time Gus and Olivia reached Santa Barbara. It had also started raining, which made the old unkempt road they were travelling on all the more unpleasant. Gus had insisted on going this way, because, he said, if Shawn and Lassiter were trying to leave town discretely, this would be the most likely route they'd take. His hunch ended up paying off. Soon after the rain commenced, they came upon the remnants of a car wreck.
Gus threw the vehicle in park and stepped out into the night, leaving the engine running and headlights on. He was careful where he stepped to avoid getting mud all over his new shoes. There were three vehicles, not counting their own, in the middle of the road. Only two of them looked damaged, however. The undamaged car appeared to be empty, as was the sedan closest to them. It looked like it had been t-boned. Gus carefully approached it, and Olivia came up behind him, holding her phone as a flashlight. The light revealed a nasty blood stain on the passenger side seat and window. Gus pressed a fist against his mouth, willing his stomach to not revolt.
Next, they moved on to the other damaged car, the one that seemed to have inflicted the damage. Unlike the other two vehicles, this one had an occupant. The drivers' side door was open, and they could see the driver slumped across the middle console. Olivia illuminated the interior and this time Gus couldn't stop the sudden and urgent lurching in his stomach. The man was handcuffed to the steering wheel, but that seemed like a wasted effort since he had a bullet through his head. His unseeing eyes were locked in a look of pure terror, and seemed to be staring right at them.
While Gus emptied his stomach onto the road, Olivia called 911 to report their findings.
After several heaves, and even more deep breaths, Gus was able to calm himself down enough to straighten up. He looked up in time to see a light sweeping back and forth in the weeds in the distance. Without a second thought, Gus took off in a dead run through the mud.
"Gus! We should wait for help!" Olivia called and her fiance crossed the ditch and began running full pelt into the weeds. "You're wearing nice clothes! Your shoes!"
Gus didn't even look back as he yelled, the rain nearly swallowing his voice completely, "My shoes are replaceable!"
He stumbled only twice and otherwise made good time catching up to the source of the light. He was about to make his presence known, but was glad he hadn't when someone else called out a taunt.
"Oh, Detective! Where are you? Is that psychic with you? He must not really be psychic or he would have stopped Detective O'hara's tragic death!"
Gus slowed his pace and began to skirt around the flashlight's reach. The last thing he needed was for some crazy criminal with a vendetta to catch sight of him. He tuned out the yells and focussed on getting some distance away from them. So, it was a complete accident that he found himself standing less than twenty feet away from Lassiter when the chief yelled back."Hey, Drimmer!"
Gus squinted towards the source of the shout and was able to just make out the shapes of Shawn and Lassiter. Good, he thought, they're both still okay. Then he remembered the blood he'd seen earlier and amended his thought, relatively. For now.
The bad guy, Drimmer, his brain supplied, was speaking again.
"You know what they say," he sneered, coming into full view. Gus remained, thankfully, unnoticed. "If you want something done right..."
Drimmer chuckled evilly to finish his thought.
"Then you should know better than to involve Shawn Spencer!" Lassiter bellowed over the laughter with some ill-timed humor of his own.
A gunshot rent the air and in the same instant everything went dark, Gus's heart was pounding so hard and fast he thought it might just pop. He hadn't seen who had taken the shot!
That question was answered when a flashlight clicked on. This time it was Lassiter's. Lassie shined it on Drimmer who was on the ground, cradling his right arm.
"You shot my hand!" The newly injured man cried in disbelief.
"Ya, well, if it's any consolation, I would've preferred a head-shot, but I couldn't see anything but your damned flashlight. And I couldn't risk missing, now could I? You need to learn to shoot first and talk later. But I'm afraid that's a lesson that won't come in very handy in prison."
Gus stood there in shock and watched as the chief disarmed his would-be killer and commanded him to "sit" and "stay." Then, Lassie turned his attention to Shawn. Gus hadn't even realized that his best friend had passed out. Shawn was now sprawled out in the mud. Lassiter slid to his knees at Shawns side, the flashlight illuminating the younger man, the pale skin in stark contrast to the dark blood that covered half his face. Gus figured that this was as good a time as any to step out of the shadows and offer his assistance.
A sudden movement in his peripheral vision had him changing his direction mere feet away, his sprint turning to a charge, and he plowed into Drimmer, tackling him into the ground, right at the moment the criminal was going to bring down his flashlight on Lassiter's head. They scuffled on the ground and Gus took an elbow to the jaw, but he retaliated by grabbing the ex-cop's injured hand and squeezing it, hard. He tried not to think about the blood, and focused instead on inflicting as much pain as he could. The larger man cried out in agony and Gus was able to pin him to the ground facedown.
"What is it with you and bashing in people's skulls?!" Gus yelled in Drimmer's ear, remembering the time the man had pistol-whipped his best friend before being arrested for murder.
"Guster!" Lassiter said brightly, oblivious to the fact he'd nearly been attacked, "Excellent timing."
Sirens began echoing over the rain, and the horizon began to flash red and blue.
"No," Gus said, "that's excellent timing!"
Shawn moaned and tried to sit up. Lassiter repeated the command he'd given Drimmer earlier to Shawn (stay!) and ran off to meet the rescue party.
Shawn's unfocussed eyes landed on Drimmer's face in the mud. The man glared angrily back. He looked at Gus, who was currently digging a knee into his foe's spine. It took a second longer than usual for the pieces to fall into place, but when they did a goofy grin spread across Shawn's face.
"Gus! Did you just tackle a dude for me?"
"Actually," Gus shifted, grinding Drimmer further into the mud, "if you want to get technical, I tackled him for Lassiter."
Shawn clicked his tongue.
Gus clicked back. "Suck it, Shawn!"
The banter helped to normalize the absurd moment, and Gus could feel his heart rate returning to normal, even as he was perched on top of a murderer.
"You suck it," Shawn said with a pathetic chuckle before sinking back to the ground. "Don't make me laugh. It hurts my head too much."
Gus smiled back at him and adjusted his hold on Drimmer again. If Shawn was cracking jokes, he'd be fine. Everything would be fine.
Shawn closed his eyes and brought a hand up to rest over them. His other arm lifted off the ground, and one finger pointed vaguely in Gus's direction.
"I'm proud of you!" Shawn said gruffly and let his arm fell limply across his middle.
Gus grinned and shoved Drimmer down as he tried to buck Gus off. And then suddenly the weren't alone anymore. Lassiter was running back with Olivia and a team of cops and paramedics trailing him. Gus rolled off of Drimmer and onto the ground and watched with a satisfied smirk as the cops descended on the murdering scum. They had won tonight, and he had to admit it felt good to be back in the justice business. Olivia threw her arms around his neck from behind, and he reached up and held her hand. If only for this one moment.
This is the last chapter I have written, and there will probably only be one more chapter after that. Thanks to everyone who's left comments and kudos. You make me feel special. :)
"So, you want to let my son stay here indefinitely?" Henry's tone gave away that he thought this was a bad idea.
"No, not indefinitely," Carlton said, his own voice sounding like he was less than thrilled as well, even as he was defending his stance. Henry bet that Marlowe had a lot of sway in this matter. "And he'd have to pay rent."
He moved to the fridge and wordlessly grabbed two beers by the neck with his good hand. He placed one in front of his guest before returning to his seat. "Believe me, I know what I'm getting in to."
Henry chuckled as he accepted the beverage and began making quick work of the cap. "Believe me, you don't."
"I already have one toddler," Carlton pointed his bottle to where Lily was coloring, "what's one more?"
Henry let out a short laugh, but otherwise didn't reply. Both men took a few long drinks, and stared out the window in contemplative silence. Henry had to admit it was true. His son rarely behaved better than your average three-year-old.
"Look, Carlton. If Shawn wants to stay in Santa Barbara, he should stay with me. I'm his father," Henry held up a hand to stop Lassiter from interrupting, "But, I don't think he'll want to stay. I've known Shawn all his life. He's a wanderer."
Lassiter didn't look convinced, but didn't argue.
Marlowe came in, just then, with arms full of grocery sacks. And both men jumped to their feet. Her entrance reminded them that they were supposed to be watching Lily. Two sets of eyes moved to the small table where she had last been seen, only to find it vacated. She had just been there! It never ceased to surprise Henry how fast that girl could move. They silently communicated that they would not tell Marlowe they'd been less than attentive to the task. Lassiter pointed discretely to the canvas bags on the table using the hand that was mostly hidden in a sling.
"Here, honey, let me help put some of this away," Lassiter said, and while his wife's back was turned, he shooed Henry away.
The older man nodded, and headed out of the kitchen to find Lily. There was really no guessing where the child had wandered off to. She was drawn to Shawn, and they'd been keeping him hiding away from her for the last few days. She'd thrown more than a few tantrums when she'd been caught right outside his door and only lacked the ability to open it.
Henry's suspicions were confirmed. He rounded the hall corner and found two broken pieces of a childproof doorknob cover on the floor and the door to the guest room opened just enough to allow entrance to a vey small human.
Everything was quiet. Maybe he could get to her before she woke Shawn.
Henry crept towards the door and peaked inside.
Shawn was sitting cross-legged at the edge of the bed. Lily was standing on his lap. She had one hand on Shawn's shoulder, using it to keep her balance. The other was gently stroking Shawn's face.
Shawn had his eyes closed, but wasn't exhibiting any signs of pain or distress. The whole right side of his face was a disgusting rainbow of colors, the bruising in various stages of healing. But it was healing.
"Ouch! Owie! Ooh!" The little girl was cooing quietly and she petted his temple. "You gotted hurt, Unca Shawn," she whispered.
Shawn opened his eyes, and immediately noticed his dad at the door. Of course, he did. He may have been recovering from a concussion, but he was still Shawn Spencer. They made brief eye contact, then Shawn returned his gaze to the brunette in his lap.
"Ya, I did," he whispered back. He continued in a normal volume, "That's why I've been sleeping so much. I need rest to get better."
Lily tilted her head, and Henry couldn't help but conjure the image of a curious puppy. Lily's hair was even in little pigtails that resembled floppy ears. "Get better now!"
Shawn opened his mouth to say that he would like that too, but his words were stopped by the slobbery kiss Lily suddenly planted on his lips.
"Kiss it better, Uncle Shawn! Kiss!" She was shouting and bouncing, her arms wrapped suddenly and firmly around his neck.
Henry had to hold back a laugh, as he suspected his son was holding back the urge to wipe his face.
"Thank you, Lily. I feel much better now."
He sent his dad a look over the child's head that clearly said, help me.
"Good. Now play wiff me!"
She tugged at his arm, nearly propelling herself off the bed in the process. Shawn scooped her up before she could fall, and stood, letting the blankets fall around his feet. Henry watched as a moment later, Shawn threw out his arm to grab the head board. He stepped in and grabbed Lily away an instant before his son's knees buckled.
Shawn's butt fell heavily back on the bed.
"Head rush," he said, lowering his head to his lap.
"You okay, kid?" Henry asked, as he shifted Lily to one side so he could put a hand on his son's shoulder.
Shawn stood again, slower this time, accepting his dad's arm as he steadied himself.
"Ya, I think I'm going to be okay."
Shawn flashed him a signature grin that really seemed genuine, and Henry wondered if he was talking about more than just his head rush. Maybe Henry was wrong about Shawn being a wanderer. Maybe his son would surprise him this time and not run away when things got tough. Unbearably tough, in this case.
"Carlton told me about his offer," Henry said, "What are you thinking? Are you gonna go for it? Don't do it just because he talks you into it."
His son nodded, "I've been thinking about it a lot. Not much to do but think, lately. I think Jules-" He stopped and locked eyes with his father. Henry was prepared for Shawn to become teary-eyed and despondent. He was therefore surprised when Shawn smiled again, "It's what I want to do. I'm good at being a detective, psychic or not. And if I can keep evil people like Drimmer off the streets and behind bars..."
He trailed off, lifting a hand to scratch at his neck. Henry noticed how Shawn's sweat pants were hanging off his hips, looking two sizes too big. He'd have to get the kid to eat something. He started walking out the door, and his son followed him down the hall.
"What about his other offer?" Henry asked. "Are you really going to live with the Lassiters?"
Shawn shrugged. "Probably just until I find a place."
Lily was struggling in Henry's arms, so Shawn reached out and the toddler launched herself at him.
"If you ask me," he continued in a stage whisper, as they approached the kitchen, "I think they really just want the built-in babysitter."
"You know, you could come stay with me," Henry suggested, more from fatherly obligation than actually wanting his son to move in, "until you find a place of your own."
"And be the Oscar to your Felix?" Shawn gave him a playful punch to the arm, causing Henry to go slightly off balance, "No thanks, dad."
One chapter after this. I hope you've been enjoying my "debut" fanfic. Leave me kind words! (Or constructive criticism.)
Chapter 17: A Healthy Dose of Resolution
This is the last chapter. Thanks to everyone who stayed with me on this journey. I may be posting more Psych in the future.
Shawn turned down the volume, subconsciously, as his car approached the Golden Gate Bridge. He felt his heart speed up, and was flooded with memories. He thought vaguely he might be panicking, but truthfully, it wasn't entirely unpleasant. He concentrated on his breathing which as steady and even. How could he feel so calm and so anxious at the same time? Was this what "closure" felt like? He wasn't quite sure what he was feeling, and so was glad to find his passengers were both asleep as a rogue tear tracked across his cheek.
Henry was passed out in the passengers seat, head back, cap down over his eyes, and a pink and purple princess blanket in his lap. Glancing in the rear-view mirror, Shawn could see Lily was in a similar state, clutching a felt animal in one hand and a half eaten graham cracker in the other. Ahead of him, Lassiter's car was still in view. They were making frequent stops to let the little girl run off her pent up energy and for all of them to stretch their legs. They were in the eighth hour of their "five hour drive," but Shawn didn't really mind. Every time they'd made a stop to rest and switch drivers, Lily would beg to switch cars too. She had all four adults wrapped around her little finger and they were more than happy to oblige. Carlton didn't even complain when Lily had thrown up all over her new outfit.
"We packed enough clothes for her to last a month and we're only staying three days. At least it wasn't the flower girl dress."
Shawn wondered if he had ever been considered cute enough to get away with anything like that. He glanced at his dad and shrugged. How long had his dad played along with the whole Psych rouse? Ya, Shawn reasoned, he was still cute enough to get away with a lot.
That train of thought made him snort in laughter, waking the balder of the two snoozing riders.
"We're almost there," Shawn said without preamble, "want to pull up the address Joy gave us?"
"Don't you trust Carlton's navigating?"
"Lassie's not as reliable as his canine namesake."
Henry pulled up the map app on his phone, "what was the address?"
Shawn rattled it off from memory, distractedly. He forgot how beautiful this city looked at night. The way the lights reflected off the bay and how the Bridge rose up to meet them. They'd planned on leaving in the morning, but didn't end up pulling out of the Lassiter's driveway until after noon. After a long day of travelling, Shawn was daydreaming of the double bed waiting for him at the hotel.
The following evening found Shawn sipping a piña colada and watching the couples on the dance floor. The newlyweds were chatting away as they glided along, both the picture of perfect happiness. The Lassiter's were swaying lightly at the edge of the patio, eyes closed, Marlowe's head resting against Carlton's chest. Even his dad and Lily were out there, keeping the photographer busy as they danced to their own rhythm. The old man's shining eyes, and the small girl's twirling dress and bouncy pigtails were the ideal "Kodak moment."
"So, how's the training going, Mr. Spencer?" A voice from his left startled Shawn out of his reverie.
"Oh, hey chief. It's good," Shawn replied.
Karen Vick mimicked Shawn's posture and leaned against the concrete wall. "You're missing all the fun standing all the way back here."
She used her glass to gesture to the reception taking place under the stars of a perfect San Francisco night.
Shawn raised his own glass, "I've got about all the fun I can handle right here."
"How are you doing really?"
He smiled slightly, "I get to torment Lassie everyday, and I'm not even done with the academy yet. You know, it's harder when it's for real?"
"Or maybe Nick Conforth still hasn't forgotten how you got him suspended," Vick said with a serious tone, but a twinkle in her eye.
"But I also got him reinstated!" Shawn defended in a mock hurt voice.
"Thinking of moving back up here? I'm sure we could find a place for you."
"Tempting, but I signed a lease just before we headed out yesterday morning. I'm stuck in Santa Babs for another 12 months. Look at me adulting."
"Plus, the Gusters," he indicated the newlyweds, "are moving back my way in the next few weeks."
"I heard that rumor," she said, and then waved at her beckoning husband.
"You should go dance," Shawn told her.
She gave him a long look, and Shawn squirmed a bit under her scrutiny. She must have been satisfied with what she saw, because she smirked and nodded her head.
"Take care of yourself, Spencer." She squeezed Shawn's arm, briefly, and then let herself be pulled onto the dance floor.
The spot next to Shawn didn't remain vacant for long, it was filled almost immediately by Gus. The groom didn't say anything but was grinning wider than Shawn had ever seen him.
"You look happy. Where's your blushing bride? I thought you were about ready to take off." Shawn looked around, and noticed that not only the bride was absent, but most of the females in the wedding party had also disappeared, "And where are the bridesmaids?"
"Ah, they all went to the bathroom. I guess it takes four of them to help with the dress."
"Who would've thought?" Shawn laughed.
"I am happy, Shawn," Gus said in reply to his friend's earlier statement, "I had no clue. All that's really changed between today and yesterday is Olivia's last name, and somehow I feel like the whole world is different! It's like, I don't know how I ever lived without her, and I can't imagine what I would do if I ever lost her."
Gus realized what he just said and who he was talking to, and felt mildly ill at his own insensitivity. He turned to face his best man and the two began talking at the same moment.
"Shawn, I'm sorry I wasn't thinking-"
"I'm so happy for you, dude!"
Silence fell as they each began to process what the other had said.
"You don't have to apologize, Gus."
"It doesn't feel right. Juliet not being here."
"No, it doesn't," Shawn chuckled mirthlessly, "But there's nothing that's going to change that."
Shawn's eyes roamed over the crowd and landed on each of the people who'd helped him get through the past few months. "It would be an understatement to say it really sucks that she's gone, and I miss her everyday. Sometimes it's all I can do to get out of bed. I'd rather dream than be awake, because in my dreams she's still there. But other days, it's not so bad. I'm incredibly lucky, you know. Even though I feel alone, I'm not. I've got Dad, the Lassisters, Brannigan and McNabb, maybe even, Nick, and of course, I've got you-"
He trailed off when a choked sound brought his attention back to his friend. Gus's face was screwed up, gearing up for an ugly cry.
Shawn clicked his tongue, "C'mon, son."
"I can't help it, Shawn! You know I get emotional."
Gus latched onto his best friend and embraced him in a crushing hug.
"Gus. I can't. Breathe."
Gus released Shawn and wiped at his eyes with the back of his sleeve. He cleared his throat, and readjusted his posture.
"I think I'm gonna go see if I can find Olivia, see if she's ready to go."
"That's probably a good idea," Shawn chuckled.
"You still planning on coming to help us move next month?"
"Are you kidding? I'm already working on a mix-tape."
"I don't think u-haul trucks have cassette players, Shawn."
"Gus, don't be the pin on this boutonniere that keeps stabbing me in the chest. I have a Walkman and an FM transmitter."
Gus just rolled his eyes, and bounced away to find his waiting bride. Shawn waved at Gus's retreating back.
Something welled up inside Shawn as he watched the newlyweds drive off to their honeymoon. For the first time in a long time he truly felt content. No. Happy. It was like a voice inside him was telling him that everything would be alright. The voice was Jules'. He could remember it perfectly, remember her perfectly. For the first time in a long time, his photographic memory felt like a blessing rather than a curse. He knew his heartache would never completely go away, but he was healing. He had been broken, but he was rebuilding. Today was a good day. Not an ending, but a new beginning.