At first, Carlton hadn’t even recognized him. He’d been sipping a beer at the bar, more interested in crime updates on his phone than the world around him, when someone had swayed by. Out of the corner of his eye he’d recognized spiky brown hair-- hell, he’d know that hair anywhere, there was only one person in town with that style-- and as he turned, his suspicions were confirmed. It was Shawn.
And he was.... drunk?
On the other side of the room, Shawn was moving with the rhythm of whatever horribly-poppy song was playing. He had a broad, goofy smile plastered onto his face, and was slowly taking off his jacket. Almost sensually. He seemed lost in his own world.
Carlton approached Shawn, tapping him on the shoulder. “Shawn?”
Shawn turned, eyes lighting up with glee and recognition. Before Carlton could stop him, Shawn had enveloped him in a tight hug, pressing the two together. Though his voice was loud, straining to be heard over the music, it felt more like a whisper in Carlton’s ear.
“Aw, hey, Lassie! It’s great to see you here!”
The smell of alcohol was coming off him in waves. Carlton wrinkled his nose, trying to separate himself from Shawn. Shawn only held him tighter, almost looking like a drunk koala bear clinging to a tree.
“Spencer, get the hell off me. What’re you doing here? Where’s Guster?”
Shawn shook his head, almost in time with the music and flashing lights. “No, I....I came here alone. Needed to clear my head, think for a bit.”
Carlton scoffed. “Yeah, sure.”
“Oh, what’s that supposed to mean?” Shawn slurred his words together, almost in a comedic approximation of a drunk. If he didn’t know any better, Carlton would swear this was some type of practical joke, a set-up to reveal his ‘soft’ side or allow Spencer to spill beer all over him. He glanced about, half-expecting to see O’Hara or Gus peering around a corner with cameras at the ready.
“Nothing, nothing at all.” He sighed. Shawn didn’t seem like he was faking it, and he doubted Juliet or Gus would actually get him this drunk. “Listen, do you need a ride home?”
Carlton tried to steer the two towards the door and was met with a series of whines, high-pitched noises that seemed as if they couldn’t have come from Spencer. Shawn gripped his shoulders, though now Carlton was wondering how much of it was for stability.
Shawn slowly shook his head, voice low. “No, no no no. I don’t wanna go home, Lassie.”
He blinked. “Is there someone at your house? Have you been getting death threats?” His hand itched for his gun.
“No! Lassie!” Shawn laughed, drawing out his name. “Stop jumping to crime. I just....I don’t like being alone. It’s dark and quiet and lonely.”
“That’s what the TV’s for.”
Shawn bit his lip, eyes falling to the ground. Shit, was that insensitive? Shawn was always joking and throwing names around-- whenever things got real Carlton found it hard to catch on.
Shawn’s voice was small, cowed enough that Carlton felt a twinge of guilt. “I know. I sound pathetic. I didn’t mean to bother you.”
“No, don’t apologize, I-- I was the one who came over here in the first place. Just--” Carlton searched around the club, as if some plan of action would appear on the walls.
“Do you want me to call Gus, or Juliet to pick you up? They could come sleep over with you.”
“No, please. I don’t want them to see me like this. I hate when I’m like this.”
Before he could stop himself, the words tumbled out like unobedient stones. “I can take you to your house.”
He cursed himself, but before Carlton could take it back he saw the shine in Shawn’s eyes. They were lit up, though more with contentedness than excitement. Fuck, he really had proposed this, huh?
In the car, Carlton was surprised to see how still and docile Shawn was. In the daytime, he’d expect Shawn to be fiddling with every button and sticking his fingers in each nook and cranny, searching for God knows what with enough energy to power a city. But now, he was just sitting there, head slumped against the window as if he hadn’t been out partying just moments earlier.
Rain was pelting against the windshield, allowing for Carlton to only spare a glance over at Shawn every now and then. He hadn’t said anything yet, hadn’t even given his address. They were just driving on what vague direction Carlton knew Shawn’s house-- hell, was it even a house? It’s not like he’d ever visited-- was in.
Carlton tried to urge Shawn on. “What’s your address?”
Shawn shook his head. “Don’t take me home.”
“Damnit, Spencer, you keep sending me mixed messages. I thought you said you were just lonely.”
“I am, but….”
Carlton paused, waiting for Shawn to continue.
Shawn ran his hands through his hair. “I don’t know! I keep thinking about Mr. Yin.”
Shawn slumped in his seat, hands over his eyes. His body seemed to curl in on itself in a protective gesture Carlton recognized all too well on Juliet, when she’d broken just a few months earlier. Oh. So that’s what was happening.
Shawn continued, breaths labored. “I just keep wondering if he’ll come to my house. I thought it was just Yang but he-- he seems pretty obsessed with me too! Why doesn’t he just kill me already? He knows where I live, probably where I am every hour of the day. I live alone and isolated and-- well, what’s to stop him from killing me?”
The car slowed to a halt on a side street, Carlton shifting into park. Next to him, Shawn was still refusing to open his eyes. He was sucking in deep, almost pained breaths.
Carlton reached out, hand tentative and shaking. Shawn flinched as it found his back before sighing, leaning into the touch. Carlton pulled him closer, into a full hug. In this awkwardly intimate moment he’d never expected to end up in, he didn’t know what to say.
“You’re his adversary. He wouldn’t kill you. Besides, you’d figure some way out of it-- you always do. Remember when you got shot by that thief?”
Shawn shuddered a bit, though it may have been a stifled laugh. Carlton traced swirls up and down his back.
“You gave us everything we needed to find you and help you. If that ass tried anything, you’d find a way to tell us. I’d be down there in a heartbeat to cuff Yin.”
It was definitely now a laugh that ran through Shawn’s body. His head maneuvered to fit perfectly up against Carlton’s chest, a gesture Carlton rationalized as trying to seek warmth and further affection though his heart skipped a beat. He continued his motions, fingers feeling for the slowing of Shawn’s pulse.
“I know it’s dumb, Lassie. I can’t help it.”
Shawn bent his head back, looking in Carlton’s eyes. “Can I sleep at your place tonight?”
Carlton swallowed down the lump in his throat, probably killing the butterflies in his stomach. “Okay. Sure.”
How could he say no?