Actions

Work Header

The Photo Worth A Thousand Hurts

Chapter Text

1988

"...Shawn, I'm going to give you a single chance to tell me why Mr. Heralds down the street called me at work today."

Shawn shoved the brand new comic book he'd bought that afternoon under his school books and turned slowly in his desk chair, "Doesn't this count as entrapment? Since I'm trapped in my room? And you already know why he called?"

Henry crossed his arms and tipped his head in a scowl, badge flashing in the afternoon light, "One chance, Shawn."

The younger Spencer stood up, crossing his arms and trying to match the intensity of his father's much-practiced stonewall face: "Mr. Tattleface Heralds exiles Colonel Fluffers to the back yard every time his wife leaves town! For a whole week! I have my doubts that he even feeds him while he's stranded out there. And it's elder abuse -- the colonel's older than I am. That's pretty much 150 years old in dog years -- or more! You can't do that to an old man -- it's not right!"

"Neither is blackmail, Shawn," Henry said as he uncrossed his arms, walked into the room and sat down on Shawn's bed. He leaned his elbows on his knees and looked up at his son, "What were you thinking?"

Shawn's face twisted a bit and he sat heavily in the chair, spinning it to face his dad, slouching down, "I was thinking of telling Mrs. Heralds -- but then Mr. Heralds said she wouldn't believe me, I was just 'a dumb kid with too much time on my hands'... So, I took pictures."

"So that's what happened to my last roll of film... I was saving that for the fishing opener, Shawn."

"Dad! He's not just an abuser of old dogs -- he's a lying liar-face! Captian Fluffers can't help the fact that he smells weird and pees sometimes when he doesn't mean to!" The office chair rolled back into the desk, knocking some books and papers down -- as well as exposing the shiny stack of brand-new comic books.

Henry nodded toward them: "How long have you been blackmailing him, Shawn?"

"Not that long. Just a couple weeks. Maybe like... four months. ...But -- he deserved it!"

His father reached out and placed a firm hand on his shoulder, locking their eyes together, his voice not unkind, "Listen Shawn, you're absolutely correct that it's not right for Mr. Heralds to lie to his wife--"

"Or to treat an old dog that way!" Shawn interjected.

Henry closed his eyes and nodded in a rare show of patience, then squeezed his son's shoulder, "Or to do that, either, but." He paused until Shawn looked him in the eye: "Just because someone's doing something wrong doesn't make it okay to do something wrong to them. You understand?"

Present Day

"My dad would be really disappointed in you right now," Shawn mumbled, wiping a spot of blood off the corner of his mouth as his ears rang.

"What was that?" the tall, blonde man growled as he pulled the younger man to his feet by the front of his shirt, propping him up against the brick wall near the back door of the Psych building.

Shawn blinked hard until his eyes focused and then smiled, the spit between his teeth stained pinkish: "Not only are you blackmailing someone, but you're doing it for something that isn't even wrong. You'd think a criminal would know how this kinda thing is supposed ta' wor-- ough!" Shawn couldn't help himself as he leaned most of his weight forward into the other man; the third punch to his stomach in as many minutes had finally knocked the air out of him. He took the moment of gasping to think as hard as he could about what he could say, if anything, that would get he -- and ultimately, Lassiter -- out of this pickle.

"Now listen, you little fucker, I have multiple copies of these photos and it doesn't even matter that your little tryst didn't work out -- just like it won't matter what Carl tries to say if they end up all over his boss' mailbox, you get me?"

Shawn leaned back against the wall, pressing his skull against the cool brick and taking in a few lungfuls of sweet, sweet ocean-side air: "...You're saying you never attempted a little stakeout nookie with Lassie? Come on, now, a good looking guy like you must've-- ah!" Spencer cringed back, throwing an arm up to guard his face as Harkin wound up again, "Okay! Alright. I get it, I've got it, I'm good. ...But you should know that I can only pay you in quarters and dryer lint, though, my piggie bank has been a lot more like a Twiggy bank late--"

Did the streetlight just change colors? Oh -- lookit that -- the ground! So fast, this ground is very speedy Gonzales...

"Wake up, you unbelievable idiot--"

Shawn put his hands up again, spitting the not-delicious mix of saliva and blood out of his mouth before saying: "Shawn Spencer, reporting for getting-his-ass-kicked duty, sir!"

Harkin leaned over him, wiping his hand off on Shawn's shirt before standing up and squaring his shoulders, "I expect you to show up at that address tomorrow, alone. Got it?"

Shawn nodded, keeping himself close to the ground and letting his mind wander to the ants creeping alongside the back door. Oh man, Gus is gonna be a fussyface if those little dudes get into the office... By the time the back of his mind registered the man's footsteps disappear around the corner, Shawn was pretty sure the Jamba Juice down the street had closed for the night.

"The hits just keep comin'," he sighed melodramatically to the empty back lot; it sounded weak, even to Shawn and he shook his head before reaching out to his motorcycle helmet the crazy man had knocked out of his hand not even fifteen minutes ago. He sat up, wiping the blood off his mouth, still dazed that Lassie had lied to him about liking men, "I mean, jeezy creezy, he could've just said it was me."

Dragging himself up the wall, Shawn spit one more time and headed toward his bike, deciding on a shower, some ibuprofen and formulating a plan while taking a very long nap.

Chapter Text

"Gus, I seriously can't handle it anymore," Shawn whined, tying a knot with two Red Vines. "What's the worst he can do anyway? Pass up the opportunity of a lifetime?"

Gus pursed his lips and flicked tired eyes up at his best friend, "Shawn. We've been over this a hundred times -- besides, it would never last. You know that."

Shawn balled the candy up and shot it toward the garbage can, "Three points!" He then sopped up some condensation from a smoothie with a napkin and started working on the lingering stickiness between his fingers from his aborted candy project, "And anyway, I've made it work with difficult relationships before."

Gus wrote another small note in his schedule book then set his pen down, folding his hands over it: "Shawn, talking your way back into a convenience store after dumping a slushie on the clerk does not count as managing a difficult relationship."

Pulling a face, Shawn stood up and paced around the Pysch office, fidgeting with random toys and items, unable to hold still. When he approached Guster's sample case with hands akimbo, the other man piped up: "Shawn! Don't. I already made sure that thing's perfect for my trip. And you know it would be miserable, dating Lassiter. He's grumpy, works long hours and is ten times stuffier than a taxidermied bear. Admit it."

Perching on the edge of the tidy desk opposite his own, Shawn crossed his arms and tapped his chin with a finger, "Ah, but the angry, handcuffed makeup-sex marathons would totally--"

"Shawn! We had an agreement!"

"Oh come on, Gusamillion, I'm always open to hearing your fantasies!"

"Winning a safe-cracking world championship is not the same thing as... that, Shawn. Not even a little bit."

Shawn sighed theatrically, stood up, stuffed his hands in his pockets, took them back out, spun in place and finally huffed, leaning over his best friend's desk: "Gus, seriously. I'm gonna do it, I gotta. Call Jules? Please? You're gonna be gone for three weeks, don't act like you don't wanna have dinner with her one more time before you leave!"

Gus took a deep breath, closed his eyes and inevitably -- but caringly -- caved, standing up to close his case, "Alright, Shawn. I'll call her and text you if Lassiter really lets her leave long enough for dinner. I doubt it. And she might not even want to. She's a professional, unlike the other people in my life."

He was grumbling, it was affectionate and Shawn leapt around the desk to hug him, lifting him off his feet: "Guh-uh-uhs! Thank you!" When he put the other man down, Gus gave him a squinty-eyed look -- to which Shawn replied with a winning grin: "You have too many professionals in your life. You need my wild, unpredictable shenanigans, Gus, let's be real."

He rolled his eyes but ultimately smiled, bumping knuckles with Shawn: "Yeah, yeah, yeah.... Now, I gotta go if I'm gonna convince Juliet. Don't leave your dishes everywhere while I'm gone and ...be careful tonight, Shawn."

Shawn watched his friend bustle out the door, calling after him, "Careful? It's not like Lassie's gonna shoot me!" Gus didn't respond other than to shake his head and close the door behind himself. Once he was alone, Shawn looked around the office, pulling at his hair with one hand as he mumbled: "At least I hope he doesn't shoot me..."

"Alright, O'Hara! Enough! Get -- get off me -- ech!"

Juliet let go of Lassiter, adjusting his tie cheerily before she hopped out of the car and into the mostly-dark early evening. He re-adjusted the maroon silk, slightly embarrassed by the outburst of affection, and turned a skeptical look at his partner as she leaned down to speak to him through her open window: "You really are sweet, Carlton, but I promise I won't tell anyone. Wouldn't wanna blow your cover. Oh! And I'll bring you something delicious, okay?"

Carlton rolled his eyes, waving a hand, "Don't worry about it. This is a pointless stakeout anyway, I'll be fine." As an after thought, he cleared his throat and said awkwardly, "And, uh, tell Guster to have a good... trip? Or... whatever."

Juliet grinned at the older man, promising she would and then waved excitedly at Gus as the blueberry pulled up; she'd put the cabash on Lassiter's open disapproval of she and Gus' relationship the first time Burton had asked her if he was making her working life too hard. It had helped Carlton warm up to the salesman when he noticed that Gus'd been tugging Shawn back from invading the detective's personal space every goddamn day.

Carlton reached over and picked up his coffee, eyebrows drawing together as he took a sip. Vick had put the two of them on a stakeout that, in his humble opinion, was a complete and utter waste of time. "Probably just trying to get me out of the station," he grumbled, thinking back to the chief challenging his work ethic, convinced it was straying too far into the realm of 'completely obsessive.' "Absurd... of course I sleep. And eat things other than 'case files topped with mugshots'."

The head detective refused to admit that part of his constant drive to be at work recently had stemmed from the unfamiliar territory of personal interest. ...A personal interest he was pissed about having in the first place, but nonetheless a strange topic that persisted in eating up more and more of the sparse idle room in his head.

"Spencer," he grumbled out loud before taking another sip of bitter liquid -- and then choking as he damn near dropped it all over himself when Shawn popped his head into the passenger's window, chirping: "You rang?"

The detective stuffed the coffee back in the cup holder and scowled at the drops that jumped and spilled onto the surrounding pristine black plastic, hissing: "What the hell are you doing here? We're -- I'm on a stakeout. Get out of here."

Shawn was already opening the door and had slid comfortably into O'Hara's seat like he belonged before Lassiter had even turned to look at him. He was grinning and holding up a bag of mini donuts from the pier, "But I brought snacks!"

Lassiter clenched his jaw, cranking his hardest glare on the civilian pain-in-his-ass, "I don't want snacks, I want you to get the hell out of my car!"

Shawn shrugged, opening the bag and snatching a sweet. He examined it a bit as he said, "Well, more for me then," and popped it into his mouth before asking around the dough, "So, what're we looking for? Have the baddies shown their mustachioed mugs yet?"

The detective's nostrils flared as he reached out and gripped the steering wheel in both hands for a moment, turning his face away from Shawn as he ground out, "What do you want, Spencer?"

More paper bag rustling as Shawn ate another two mini donuts, quiet chewing, happy little noises... but no answer. When Shawn held the bag out to the older man, waggling his eyebrows in an 'are-you-sure?' expression and bumping the greasy paper against the elbow of his suit, Lassiter grabbed the offending offering and whipped it out his window before rounding on Shawn, "Goddamn it, Spencer. What the hell is up with you?"

Shawn was kicking himself, just a bit, but mostly just trying to keep his spirits up -- Lassie was clearly not in a good mood.... and not happy to see him, but that was pretty par for the course lately. "What's wrong with you?! There were still donuts in there!" He was stalling for time and he knew it. When he tried to find the words on the way over, he didn't have much trouble but now... his mind was an obnoxious, even buzz of unhelpfulness. Lassie's sexy-hateful glare isn't really helping...

Shawn coughed into his fist, shifting in the bucket seat to face Carlton and the detective's angry expression took on a suspicious undertone. Sweet Lady Justice, why does he look like a teenager about to ask someone to prom? ...Oh hell...

"Soooo... Lassafrass. I've been thinking--"

"Someone call the press--"

"And there's something I've been trying to figure out how to say--"

"It's easy, repeat after me: 'I'm a con artist, there's not a psychic bone in my body, you were totally right Head Detective now lock me away...'"

Shawn stumbled to a verbal stop, Gus' voice and his own heartbeat both ringing in his ears. He took a breath and pressed on: "Hah, funny! You're funny, Lassie. But, actually--"

Shawn leaned a bit closer and Lassiter held very still: "--I was thinking more along the lines of, 'Head Detective, I really, really..." Words failed him. All he could understand was Lassiter's mouth, slightly parted, so close; lean body in the driver's seat, still, coiled... but not pulling away. Simultaneously, Shawn crowded Carlton with hands reaching for the older man's face and Lassiter put his own hands up to push Spencer away. When their mouths met, Carlton's hands froze where they fell against the younger man's shoulder and chest, fingers taking in Shawn's racing heart underneath the thin jersey material.

He moved to jerk his head back, opened his mouth to cuss the (--attractive, energetic, irresistible--) fraud out, but Shawn, overjoyed at an unexpected but hoped-for turn of events, read it as an invitation. He shifted closer, hollowing himself over the console and tilted the older man's head in his hands to delve deeper.

Holy bananas, he's letting me kiss him--!

Holy hell, he's an excellent kisser--!

Lassie groaned quietly as one of Shawn's hands tightened in his hair; the vibration of Shawn's answering noise lit the older man's libido like a Molotov cocktail bursting over a can of gasoline. Sensing the beginnings of his body's reaction, Carlton finally re-asserted use of his nervous system and shoved Shawn back, compensating for his momentary (enjoyment) stillness with unnecessary force.

The younger man yelped as he smacked his head squarely on the seat belt anchor point on the car frame behind him; he threw his hands up to cradle his head as pain raced forward over his scalp, "Shit, ouch! Ow, ow... I like it as rough as the next guy, but that's a little overboard for a first kiss, don't'cha think, Lassie?"

Shawn peeked up at the detective with one eye, watching as he used the back of one of those crazy-sexy hands to wipe his mouth before barking, "What the hell are you playing at, Spencer?!"

He straightened up in the seat, rubbing at his head one last time before letting his hands drop to his thighs. He picked at the hem of his cargo shorts to release some nervous energy, glancing over at the older man and having to clear his throat before he could croak, "I'm not a player, Lass. I don't believe in cheating."

Carlton snorted at that. Ripping on the idiot sitting next to him was familiar, comfortable ground, and he latched onto it: "Straight from the horse's mouth: a steaming load of shit."

Shawn looked over at the detective before shifting in the seat again. He pointedly glanced at Lassiter's lap and grinned, deciding to attempt playful: "I don't think that's how the digestive tract works, Lassie, but it looks like 'steamy' is an adjective you've got goin' on right about now..."

Lassiter growled and shifted in his seat as he adjusted himself, pissed that Shawn noticed the erection he was seething about: "I have a very sensitive scalp, don't get excited--"

Shawn interrupted him, going for broke with an even, honest tone: "I'm sorry, that's... yeah. I mean it, though, I... really like you, Carlton. Can't stop thinking about you, if I'm honest. I just wanted to-- kinda needed to-- y'know. Tell you."

A cold wave crashed over Lassiter, hearing his proper name fall out of Shawn's mouth so earnestly. Anger and full-body prickles followed as he pointed at Shawn, lifting his other hand a bit in anticipation of the younger man leaping at him again: "No! Nope. Not. Interested."

He saw hurt -- real hurt -- flit over Shawn's face before his persuasive face took over, "I know I'm frequently and persistently annoying, but I'm not always like that, honest."

"Again, not interested. No go. No way. As in the very idea makes my stomach flip." The last bit is true enough...

Shawn tried to grin again even though his confidence was deflating doubletime: "I could've swore my gaydar was in working order, I just had it in the shop."

Lassiter shook his head, huffing out a breath, "You're insane. Completely insane."

"Sure, okay, I'll give you that one... but I'm fun! And inventive in bed--"

"Are you also deaf? I cannot believe this conversation is happening..."

Shawn swallowed, eyes dropping off Lassiter's face and down toward the floorboards, "Me either."

The moment of silence after that, watching Shawn's shoulders droop, was like a pocket of stale air stuck in Lassiter's chest. Spencer? Speechless...what the hell--? "So, there is a circumstance in existence that makes you shut your mouth for longer than two seconds."

When Shawn didn't shoot back a snarky comment immediately, Lassiter continued to panic. This is all wrong; he should be bouncing back twice as annoying, it's not that big of a deal, it's not like he can't-- The detective cocked his head just a bit as Shawn suddenly laughed, pushing his hands back through his hair before looking up and out the windshield with a familiar weightless expression, "Well, Lassie, this has been fun but I gotta hit Whole Foods for some cheese on the way home."

Shawn opened the door, talking through the whole process of making himself stand up as normally as possible when all he wanted to do was slump back bonelessly into the seat and un-do the entire conversation: "Can't make a good pineapple risotto without provolone, you know."

"Don't forget the wine," Lassiter automatically snapped as Shawn shut the door. He winced as the other man stood next to the open window, slipping his hands into his pockets.

His face fell back into automatic, defensive irritation as Shawn leaned at the waist without freeing his hands to glance into the car, "I'll give you an eight out of ten for that one, Lassie; good delivery but a bit of a stretch to follow." The smile Shawn's face was frozen in was one of the most uncomfortable things Lassiter could remember experiencing, but he didn't have to suffer for long before Shawn stood up and patted the open window frame as he quipped, "Don't worry, you'll find your stride eventually, Grasshopper."

Carlton watched the younger man walk away, stowing his hand back in his pocket and glancing both ways down the street before crossing. The detective let out a breath he didn't realize he was holding as he glimpsed the profile of Shawn's head in the streetlight right before he disappeared around the corner -- and it was definitely the six cups of coffee he'd downed that made his chest ache just then, not at all the blank, utterly foreign expression on Spencer's face.

Chapter Text

"Did you really think I wouldn't be watching the station?"

Shawn bit back a sigh as he walked deeper into the (oh joy of joys) gross apartment stairwell. He wasn't really surprised when he mapped out the location he was supposed to meet the man at -- streets kept getting less well-kept and more scattered with people and garbage the closer he got. When he parked his bike, he prayed to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that no one would simply pick it up and steal it while he was inside. The wad of twenties in his pocket barely came out to the $500 Harkin had demanded, but it was all he had in his account at the moment.

He squinted in the dark, noticing Harkin's staring out at him from a doorway, as well as the frazzled look of the woman slumped on the stairs and the smattering of needles in the back stairwell corner, "Nice place you've got here, buddy. What's rent run you? Twelve bucks a week?"

Harkin grabbed Shawn by the front of his shirt and jerked him into the apartment, closing the door behind him, "Shut the fuck up and take your shirt off."

Shaw's eyebrows jumped up and he put his hands out, forced-casually, "You know, dinner and a movie would work bett -- ouf!"

He leaned at the waist, coughing and feeling more than a little bit grateful he hadn't been able to eat much during the day after seeing Harkin spot him driving up to the police station. He'd cursed into his helmet and sped past, pointedly not looking toward the dark colored sedan. He really hated it when criminals turned out smarter than they seemed. ...Almost as much as he hated getting punched in the stomach.

"Ahl-alright. Just let me -- hey!"

Shawn shoved at Harkin but the other man grabbed the hem of his grass-green t-shirt and pulled it up roughly, turning Shawn with his other hand and feeling all over him for a wire or evidence of other recording equipment. Shawn managed to wriggle away, tripping a bit before pulling his shirt back down with a huff, "Christ, you could've just asked if I was bugged!"

Harkin curled his lip at the younger man, "Like I'd believe anything that came out of your mouth."

Shawn's eyebrows pulled together, "Blackmail-pot calling the kettle -- ack! Okay, okay!" He dug quickly into his pockets to produce the money, "Here! It's a little less than $500..." He wouldn't let the fear show on his face, not completely -- he just wanted to get this over with so this nutjob would sink back into the woodwork and take the fevered worry over Lassie's career with him. Oh, and not having the detective's rejection thrown in his face anymore than it already had been would be nice, too, but that was neither here nor there as Harkin crossed his arms, snarl turning into a little grin.

"I'm surprised you actually came up with it. You hold onto that, you're gonna need it. Now, let's go."

Shawn froze, squinting at the taller man, "Uh... I don't think that's how this whole thing works, y'know? I give you the money, you go poof, we all live happily ever after. Ring any bells in that box of rocks you call a brain?"

Harkin grabbed the front of Shawn's shirt and shoved him backwards against the door before pulling him away, opening the door, then pushing him again. The brunet stumbled back into the opposite hallway wall, dropping the money and gritting his teeth -- fuck, his head still hurt from last night! And now this. Peachy keen, Norma Jean. Just the frosting on the... whatever was the absolutely awful, all-time worst opposite of cake.

As the blank-eyed woman spotted the money and started leaning toward it, Shawn snatched it up, standing up right afterwards and shrugging his shoulders to straighten his shirt. Harkin was already part way down toward the stairwell, the smugness in his voice thick enough to choke on, "How this 'whole thing works' is however I say it works, and right now, you're gonna get your stupid ass down these stairs and into my car."

Shawn pushed a hand up across his face, into his hair, pulling it none-too-gently while trying not to have a heart attack. Going somewhere with a criminal when no one knew where he was gave him heebies on top of his jeebies... then Harkin called up from the door leading outside, "Or I can drop by the station with an envelope. Your choice."

The younger man cursed and clenched his teeth before loping down the stairs two at a time.

The ride was short, silent and Shawn felt his stomach clenching up into tighter and tighter knots all the time. Is he smart enough to have a back up copy somewhere with someone who would mail it if he gets arrested? It doesn't take a genius to stakeout the station; I've gotta get more information somehow... "So, tall, blonde and psychotic... tell me how you know Lassiface other than your what I can only imagine as brief, violent and wildly unstable relationship?"

Harkin's smug face only intensified; he was getting the hang of not letting the little shit strike his temper -- especially since he'd made his mind up about some of the finer details of the evening.

"We were in the Academy together."

Shawn didn't let anything show on his face, "Oooh, good cop/bad cop romance, eh? What'd you get kicked out for?"

The blonde barked out a short laugh, "Maybe you really are psychic. Not gonna be much help to you, but... that's pretty funny. I let slip to the wrong prude that I liked to dip into some narcotics once in a while."

Shawn turned his gaze out the window, memorizing the drive, "Oh yeah... you know, stealing evidence is generally frowned upon... How'd Lassiter take it? Not well, I'm sensing."

Harkin's face darkened a bit and his nostrils flared, "Little prick broke up with me the next day."

The younger man cheered a bit for Lassie in his head -- from what Shawn could glean, he'd tried really hard to save his marriage, which led the serial-short-term-dater to suspect the older man might have a track record of putting up with painful shit way longer than necessary.

"I'm sure you were just devastated, sugah," he drawled, trying to figure out why the car was slowing down at a unpleasant looking corner.

"Get out there and score us some coke," Harkin said, ignoring the bait.

"...Excuse me?"

Harkin reached across his lap, opened the door and shoved him hard in the side, words clipped, "You heard me, go on. Get an eightball."

The younger man unfolded himself from the car, starting to feel a sense of relief. If all the asshole wanted was for him to buy him drugs, he could deal with that. His wilder days in Nevada could probably still yield some decent contacts; maybe he could put them in touch and call it a day. As he appraoched, he let himself go slack, relaxed.

Money talked, Shawn's stack got smaller and the 3.5 grams of cocaine felt like a brick in his pocket as he got back into the car. He moved to dig it out and pass it over, but Harkin slapped his hand away from his pocket, shaking his head with a hard look on his face, "Nope. You hold onto that for now, too."

Shawn dragged his top lip through his teeth in frustration -- he'd seen enough horror dramas to start really dreading where this night was going to end.

"Hey, listen man," he started as Harkin pulled away from the curb and drove what seemed to be a familiar route, "You don't have to share with me, as kind of you as that is. I can get you better stuff in larger quantities at a much, much lower risk than all this. I know that --"

"Shut up, we're here. Get a room on the third floor, use some of that cash, and hurry the fuck up." Shawn swallowed hard, squinting at Harkin and trying to figure out how fast he could dial Juliet's phone number from memory. Harkin reached out, pushed Shawn's shoulder hard enough that his head cracked against the window smartly, "And don't even fucking think about it. Weggs will mail those photos the minute I miss a twenty-four hour check-in."

Shawn tried not to show it, but he was crushed, shoulders sinking, chest collapsing just a bit. Harkin laughed, "Hah! Yeah, didn't think I was that smart, did you? Don't you worry about what's going on in my head, kid; you'll find out soon enough. Now, go on."

When they got in the door of the room, Harkin shut it quietly enough that the deadbolt turning over in the lock sounded like a goddamn gun shot. Shawn stared at himself, then past himself at the back of Harkin's head, in the mirror just behind the TV. ...At least I know he's got his phone on him.

"Alright, get the stuff out."

Shawn dug in his pocket, clenching his teeth against sudden nausea. He put it down on the small table Harkin was sitting in front of and stuffed his hands in his pockets. He wanted to ask 'Now what?' but was in no way trying to rush the crazy man toward whatever fresh hell he was cooking up.

"Sit down. Here," Harkin wiped the Formica top of the table with one arm and flicked a razor blade over the table toward Shawn, "Make three lines."

Shawn wanted to make a joke, say something witty, he really did -- but three lines? Did that mean someone else was going to show up? He'd never be able to get a hold of Harkin's phone at that rate -- there's no way. His hands shook, just a bit, as he fumbled through the steps the other man barked at him, on by one, until there were three fat lines of cocaine sitting on the table. When Harkin held a hand out to take the razor back, Shawn acted fast, sliced down into his palm and surged forward, trying to knock the other man out of his chair.

Harkin swore and, instead of toppling, the muscle-bound asshole grabbed Shawn by the hair and elbow, then wrenched has hard as he could, "You -- !"

Shawn tried to kick out, knock the table over, but Harkin was all over him. I need to work out as much as Gus does, sonofa--

Shawn's face was at the edge of the table now, an arm locked around his neck while Harkin produced a small, stiff straw from his pocket and held it close to Shawn's face: "You're going to take one of those lines, right now, or I'm gonna break your nose and pour the whole damn thing down your throat."

Shawn hadn't done that many drugs in his relative youth, but he was pretty sure the amount Harkin'd made him buy was meant to be shared. He rasped out, "Well, seeing as how 'O.D. on drugs' isn't on my bucket list, I choose option A."

Harkin let go of his throat and when Shawn adjusted his shirt, it was wet in spots with the other man's blood. "Got me pretty good there," the ex-cop mumbled. He looked at Shawn, then the table, making a pointed face. Shawn sniffed reflexively, picking up the straw and leaning over with a plan in springing into his head fully-formed.

He gagged twice and his eyes watered like crazy, but he managed to get the horrible shit down. When he turned around, Harkin barked at him to hand over his shirt.

"But I'll get cold!" ...Stupid.

"...Don't make me say it again."

"Catch more flies with honey than vinegar, Mister Bossypants." ...So, so stupid. He was starting to feel a little lightheaded and getting naked was exactly the last thing on his to do list.

Harkin swore and stood up, grabbing at Shawn's shirt. It escalated quickly and they stumbled onto the bed, Shawn pushed Harkin off to roll onto the floor, then the taller man was back, hissing and red-faced. Shawn kept trying to keep his mind on his task -- get Harkin's phone -- without letting panic overtake him. Finally, Harkin got sick of the flailing and slammed Shawn's head against the night table. The younger man crumpled in place, his hand under the bed letting go of Harkin's phone just long enough for the panting, bleeding man to clumsily peel his t-shirt off his 'unconscious' body.

Harkin spat more obscenities at Shawn and kicked his legs out of the way as he walked toward the little corner that passed for a bathroom to run his hand underwater and figure out a way to wrap his palm.

Shawn texted as fast as he could to Juliet's phone, hitting send and then hitting the home screen button just in time to push Harkin's phone almost all the way out from under the other side of the bed. He then writhed toward it, halfway under the bed and making noises of pain that weren't very fake at all, trying to 'grab' it.

He howled when Harkin stepped on his hand and snatched it back, cradling it close to his body, his attacker's voice loud enough to be heard over the rushing in his ears: "Ah-ah. Not so fast." Shawn listened as the man pocketed his phone, walked to the table, snorted a line in one, gigantic, scary-smooth go, and then turned to look down at Shawn as he nudged a nostril with the knuckles of his now-wrapped-in-Shawn's-t-shirt hand.

Shawn spat out a little blood, voice feeling far away from his mouth as he whined, "That's my favorite t-shirt! How dare you bleed all over it like a big jerk?"

Harkin's smile made his stomach lurch again and he gasped in pain as the taller man leaned down, grabbed one of his ankles and pulled him toward the middle of the room, rug burning him across the bare shoulders, "This t-shirt's gonna be the least of your worries by the time I'm done with you, trust me."

Across town, Juliet asked Gus to hold on for a second, sobering from a giggling fit, and pulled her phone away from her ear to check the text message noise. It was a number she didn't know, which always made her a little bit uncomfortable in the first place, but the content of the text made her go pale:

bunk motel 311 pls help fasstt

"Gotta call you back!" She all but yelled in her boyfriend's ear and jumped up, not bothering to change out of her pajamas as she grabbed her keys and rushed out of her apartment. By the time she started her car, she and her partner had agreed to rendezvous at the motel and she hung up, dropped her phone in the passengers seat, and tore out of the parking garage.

Chapter Text

Lassiter didn't give a second thought to putting the siren and light on in his car as he sped toward the seedy motel -- it was 15 minutes across town at normal speed in light traffic and, from the brevity of the text Juliet had yelled into his ear, Spencer couldn't afford that kind of ETA.

Spencer... what the hell did you get yourself into this time? Carlton searched his brain for a current case the idiot had inserted himself into, but came up blank -- he hadn't seen Shawn at the station in days. He'd chalked it up to the somehow successful rejection he'd mustered up in the car that night, but now his brain was spooling out worst-case scenarios faster than you could say undercover-without-a-handler.

Carlton pushed his foot down on the pedal as he pushed the fear down and away. He wouldn't be any good to anyone splattered in a car accident, and so forced himself to focus only on the matter (and traffic) at hand: getting to Spencer as fast as possible.


Shawn was gasping for breath, again, and it only made trying to orient 'up' and 'down' harder by the moment. Harkin had dragged him up by the neck and, apparently, the younger man was still not pliant enough for his tastes as Shawn once again found himself face-to-face with the speckled tabletop, Harkin demanding he take half of the remaining line.

He didn't mean to, but as his aggressor swore and leaned on him angrily, Shawn let out a huff of breath and puffed the powder all over the place -- mostly onto the floor: Oh lawdy, thank you, I dunna think I'cn --

Shawn gasped as Harkin pulled him back against his body, his weeping rug burn grinding into the other man's shirt. He was dizzy, so dizzy... Probably concussed my melon earlier, the big galut. He tried to focus his eyes as Harkin shoved the table away, but only caught a glimpse of the curtains before Harkin pushed him face-first into the carpet, kneeling on his lower back and hissing, "You little prick -- lick it up. Now!"

Self-preservation was never really Shawn's strong point, as the laughter that bubbled up out of his chest testified to, "Are you kidding? Who the hell know's what this carpet's seen. Or absorbed... yucky yucky, double sucky!"

Harkin snarled, spit on his fingers and swiped them across the carpet before cramming them into Shawn's mouth, pushing them across his gums, "You'll suck, don't you worry, you little faggot, now -- Ouch! Fuck!"

Shawn spit onto the carpet, trying not to gag at the combined taste of Harkin's fingers and the threat. If he's stupid enough to put it anywhere near my mouth, I'll bite it off, I don't give a flying figbasket --

Angels... bells? Nah, a choir of bells with little paper angel wings? Maybe... Shawn shook his head, feeling blood trickle down the side of his face -- Harkin had punched him square in the ear and it left the younger man gasping with pain as his head reeled. He bleated weakly, "There goes my boxing career! Lost in a puff of owww!"

Harkin let go of him and Shawn automatically started to push himself up off the carpet with one hand while his other cupped the side of his face. He lunged for the door, turned the handle -- even got it open about two inches before Harkin slammed into him from behind, putting his whole weight behind it. The air leaving Shawn's chest came out as a whimper; the air rushing back on bordered on a sob, but before he could use it to scream, Harkin hooked an elbow around his throat again. Jesus, Jesus, Lassie, Jules, please, this is getting too-- The crackle of duct tape just above his head made Shawn's mind go blank and all of his body hair stand on end as echoes of all the scoldings people had given him about taking danger seriously rang in his ears.


Carlton paid no attention to the two suspiciously under-dressed women scuttling across the street out of the trash-littered parking lot as he jumped the curb -- he'd turned the siren off a few blocks away, but left the lights on just long enough to tear around the corner. He ripped the keys out of the ignition, eyes already trailed to the door of the room.

He took the stairs two at a time, whipped his pistol out and kicked the door in with practiced ease. He was three steps into the room, bellowing, "SBPD!" before he registered the two bodies struggling on the floor between the two beds. He recognized Spencer's sneaker -- his other shoe had been wrenched off moments before -- and a pair of worn jeans pooled at shaking ankles.

He rounded the nearest bed, nostrils flaring, and caught Shawn's assailant by hooking his hand in the back of the man's pants, bunched at his thighs, and yanking as hard as he could. Holy hell, holy shit, holy fuck! "Hands up, dirtbag!"

Shawn, higher than a Rastafarian kite, rolled onto his side. He saw Carlton -- sweet, sweet, angry Lassie... -- and pulled two lungfuls of air through his nose, trying not to vomit, chest heaving forward as his aching shoulders shook from his hands being taped so far behind his back.

Ears ringing, Carlton sighted in on the criminal, registering both who it was and Juliet's heels pounding up the stairwell.

Harkin, comfortably coked out, stared back at the frozen Lassiter with a smug grin on his face. He was about to speak when Juliet stormed in, echoing Carlton's earlier announcement. The moment passed and Carlton was all business again: "Face down on the floor! Hands behind your back!"

Harkin took his time following the order, even going so far as to pull his pants up and begin buckling them, but Lassiter struck like a viper, swooping in and planting a knee on the small of his ex's back, slamming him into the floor and tucking his pistol away with one hand while grabbing his cuffs with the other, "Marcus Harkin, you are under arrest--"

Juliet was already at Shawn's side, eyes going flat with anger and sympathy as she grabbed a blanket and draped it over him. Shawn nodded, his own eyes getting hazier by the second, as she helped him sit up then reached up and peeled the tape gently from his mouth, "Thanks, Jules. I -- urk --"

She supported his body, kneeling next to him with an arm around him, as he vomited onto the carpet.

"Shawn --"

"Spencer!"

Hazel eyes swam up to meet blue, one newly-freed hand stuttering up to wipe his mouth, "Hey there, Lassie," his voice was very thin as he tried to put on an un-concerned face, "Thanks for--"

Rooted on the spot, the three of them looked at Harkin who was -- inexplicably to the two detectives -- laughing, "Less than twenty-four hours, Shawny; less than twenty-four hours..."

Juliet's lip curled and she stood, helping Shawn up onto the bed as she spoke to Lassiter, "Black and whites should be right behind me, get him -- Buzz! In here. Get this piece of crap out of here."

McNabb dragged Harkin up with no mercy, kind eyes full of questions but professionally averted from Shawn, and marched him out of the room. Juliet stood to make a path for the ambulance crew, a reassuring hand on Shawn's shoulder, but Lassiter was frozen in place, eyes intense and glued to Shawn, "What is he talking about, Spencer?"

Shawn swallowed, trying to make sense of Lassiter's question through all the noise and pain and cocaine, "He -- there's photos -- the stakeout where we -- he's gonna send them to Chief Vick."

One of the EMTs moved to shove Carlton aside, but the detective shoved him back, stalking in closer to Shawn: "You're not making enough sense, Spencer -- spit it out!"

Tears sprang into Shawn's eyes -- his body had had enough and was starting to close up shop, end of shift, time to go sleepy-by. Lassiter saw this happening and it struck fear into his heart -- he needed the information! If Shawn was in some sort of danger, if there were something else going happen, he needed to know and he needed to know now.

He grabbed the younger man's shoulders, shaking him; Juliet was yelling at him, pulling at his forearm, but all Carlton could see was Spencer's face and eyes, quickly going slack, "Spencer! Dammit, talk to me!"

Shawn lifted an arm, let his hand drop in a limp-wrist motion and mumbled, half conscious, "Blackmailin' sumabitch gonna out chu, sillyLassie..."

"What?!" Carlton roared, damn near in Shawn's face, and the tears threatening the traumatized man finally spilled free. The combined effort of the ambulance crew and Juliet finally pulled the head detective back and, as the EMTs helped Shawn over to a stretcher, Carlton shook out of Juliet's grip, face red, absolutely livid.

"Spencer, you idiot! Vick already knows! It doesn't matter! I can't believe you could be so stupid!"

Seeing Shawn's eyes finally roll up and close, face twisting at Lassiter's outburst, was the last straw for Juliet and she yanked on her partner's tie savagely, forcing him to lean to her eye-level, "Carlton! Shut! Up! Right now. You're not helping!"

Lassiter, temper flaring at being man-handled, jerked out of her grip, so Juliet put a gentle but firm hand in the middle of his chest, schooling her face to remain calm, "Carlton. Take a breath. He's headed the hospital, they'll take care of him. We need to go deal with our end of business. Right?"

Mention of the process and technically lose ends grounded Carlton and he sighed, shoulders deflating the tiniest bit as his feet touched back down to Earth: "You're right, O'Hara. You're... right." He pushed a hand over his face, then back through his hair, before nodding and stepping toward the door: "Let's go deal with... the perp."

Chapter Text

The first thing Shawn registered when he woke was Gus' snoring... which made him wonder if he'd fallen asleep in the Psych office and dreamed the whole unfortunate episode... But when he sat up, the spinning in his head made him gag, which woke Gus.

"Which way are the -- Shawn!"

Shawn swallowed hard, pushing his half-curled hand complete with IV trailing against his lips to keep himself from barfing. He scrunched his eyes up, trying to get control of the rest of his expression before anyone would read 'oh crap on a stick, I wasn't just having a jerk-chicken overdose nightmare.'

"Don't do that, Shawn, I can see right through it, always have, and I am not in the mood." Gus crossed his arms, pursing his lips and staring hard at his best friend.

Shawn rubbed a hand over his face, wincing at the tenderness and bandage over his temple; instead of tugging his hair up like he usually would, he dropped his hands back into his lap and stared at them, letting out a long breath before his voice came out low, flat: "A little birdie named Jules told you everything, didn't she?"

"...She told me enough. Why didn't you tell me, Shawn? I could've helped..."

Shawn felt exhausted already and he'd been conscious for less than a minute. He shuddered involuntarily, a horrifying image of Harkin beating the hell out of Gus -- or worse. He shrugged, said quietly, "You were already outta town and... I thought it was gonna ruin Lassiter's career. I was trying to do the right thing, y'know?"

Gus sucked his teeth, face twisting up in irritation. He didn't speak though, knowing if he was quiet long enough, Shawn would squirm in the silence and explain himself more. 

Shawn wrinkled his nose at Gus after a moment, crossing his arms to mirror his best friend... And, despite his best efforts, gave into the age old tactic. "I was so... embarrassed about how... apparently grossed out Lassiter was with me that... I dunno. I guess I just didn't want to give him even more of a reason to abhor my very existence. ...Wow, I hope that sounds less middle-school-goth out loud than it does in my head." He shrugged a little, lips twitching in pain, before adding: "And I really didn't want to out someone against their will. It's bullshit that it even still matters, but... Yeah." 

After a long moment, Gus nodded and unfolded his arms, scooting his chair a little closer and shifting it to the side so they could sit side by side, with Gus a little more at the head of the bed than the side. He plucked the remote from where it laid at Shawn's side and pressed the 'nurse call' button before flipping through channels on the tv. "...Juliet said she's gonna check in on you at the end of her shift today, so... you check in with the nurse and top off your pain meds while I find out what's coming up on Cartoon Network."

 


 

"No, Shawn, that's not why I refuse to go to a movie with you before checking reviews, and you know it," Gus fussed, crossing his arms and shifting in the chair behind his best friend's bed.

Shawn shrugged, carefully lifting his non-iv'd hand up in a faux-helpless gesture, "Don't be the hairball that looks like a spider on the bathroom floor, Gus; you're just upset that I don't cry during romcoms like you do."

Gus made a 'tch' noise with his mouth and was about to retort when Juliette knocked timidly at the door, peering in, "Shawn? Gus? Can I come in?"

Shawn sat up a bit taller, then schooled the wince of pain off his face as she rounded the curtain, "Jules! You got my psychic page that I was out of the ICU; excellent. My powers must be flourishing in the face of adversity." He kept the second wave of pain from showing too -- the one that pinged him when Lassie didn't walk around the curtain behind her. He forced himself to relax as much as he could; seeing her really did make his day better, so he refused to let himself mope while she was there.

A rueful grin played on her face, "I could hear you two arguing as soon as I got off the elevator, actually... But, anyway!" She plopped a tote on the end of Shawn's bed and began taking items out of it, one after another: a bag of gummy bears, chocolate-covered coffee beans, a six-pack of YooHoo, and a pineapple with a little card tied to the stalk. "So, Buzz said he'd stop by later, if you're feeling up to it, but wanted to send the gummies with me now."

Shawn smiled and opened the gummy bears with his un-sprained hand and his teeth before taking a whiff and passing them to Gus, "You guys really didn't have to do this... But, I'm not gonna lie, it's awesome that you did."

He put his splinted right wrist up toward his temple and said, "I'm guessing the coffee beans are from you, the Yoo-Hoo's from Woody and... The pineapple's from Chief Vick."

Juliet straightened the card on the pineapple, taking a deep breath to keep her voice level and said, "Actually, you're off on one of them, but I'll... let it be a surprise." She moved the other treats to the small table next to his bed -- then pulled a chair up and sat in exactly the right spot to prevent him from fiddling with them anymore at the moment. "I'm actually here on business, Shawn. We... I need to take your official statement."

Shawn's eyes shuttered a bit and scratched gently with his iv'd hand at the side of his neck, "Jules... I, uh, don't really think Gus wants to--"

"Don't tell me what I want, Shawn," Gus sniffed, crossing his arms.

Shawn didn't look at either of them, just stared at the lump in the blankets where his feet were, "I don't think it's the kinda thing you're gonna wanna have in your head, man."

Gus tipped his chin up, crossing his arms again, "Shawn, this isn't the kind of thing I want you to have in your head. Especially not alone. I know I'm squeamish about some things--"

"You mean 'go completely catatonic at the sight of blood'?"

Julient rolled her eyes at Shawn, while Gus just kept talking as if he hadn't said anything: "--and am in touch with my emotions, unlike you--"

"You mean 'cry at the drop of a hat like a little girl, unlike me'?"

"Shawn!" Both Juliet and Gus said it at the same time, and though he didn't look up at either of them, Shawn shut his mouth.

"ANYway," Gus went on, "This isn't the kind of thing you just... joke away. I'll go if you really can't bear to talk about it with me here, but I'm not here because I think it's some kind of... chore. I'm here because I want to be."

Shawn took a deep breath and held it, then finally sighed it out, his eyes starting to sting. "Alright," he said, voice flat and low, "Fine. Whatever, man, I tried."

Gus and Juliet shared a knowing look and Shawn rolled his eyes, huffing and crossing his arms across his chest as best he could, "Gawd, knock it off with the couple-y face-talk crap, you guys love me, I'm surrounded by support, yadda, yadda, I get it! Touchy feely mumblegrumble..."

Understanding that it was the closest they were going to get to a 'cooperative' Shawn at the moment, both Juliet and Gus visibly relaxed when Shawn reached out for the bag of candy his best friend had nearly crushed in his hand, "But I'm not doing this without an infusion of sugar, that's just inhumane."