The lights from the TV cast long shadows across the room, shadows that jumped and danced every time the picture on the screen changed. Shawn and Gus huddled under blankets in the center of the couch. They shivered with fear and clutched at one another, arms held fast in each other's grip. Two pairs of large eyes were fixed on the screen in rapt fascination.
Light flooded the room and they jumped up, screaming. They both scrambled over each other, pushing and shoving as they vaulted over the couch to cower behind it.
"What in the world are you boys doing?"
The familiarity of the voice brought Shawn's head slowly out from behind the back of the couch. "Watching a movie."
Henry Spencer took one look at the screen and groaned in disgust. "That's not a movie, that's trash." He crossed the room in quick strides and flicked it off. "You shouldn't be watching that filth."
"Hey!" Outrage brought the two boys out from behind the couch. "We were watching that."
"Not anymore." Henry gave Shawn and Gus measuring stares. He took in the blankets clutched to their tiny frames and they way they stood close to each other. "Don't tell me you're actually scared by that drivel?"
Shawn's blanket slipped from his shoulders as he put his hands on his hips. "It's not drivel. We were learning about vampires." The arch of Henry's eyebrow told Shawn exactly what he thought of that. "How are we supposed to defend ourselves against them if we don't study them?"
It should have been the perfect defense. It was right out of one of Henry's police manuals. Shawn had seen it countless times - know your enemy, be prepared. Instead, Henry burst out laughing.
"Vampires aren't real. None of that stuff is real. It's all hokey tricks and fairy tales."
Shawn frowned. Of course it was real. Everyone knew vampires were real, but the way Henry said it made Shawn doubt.
Gus spoke up first, putting Shawn's thoughts into words better than he ever could. "You don't know that."
Henry ruffled Shawn's hair as he passed by on his way to the kitchen. "None of it's real, boys. It's just make-believe."
Shawn remained unconvinced.
A wolf howled at the moon. There was something strange about the wolf. It was big, too big. The full moon hung overhead, but it glowed red and was flat. The entire scene was flat, like it was cut out of paper.
He opened his eyes. The world was dim and blurry. He could feel the dream pulling at him, trying to drag him back into unconsciousness. He didn't lift his head from his pillow, didn't turn. There was a hand on his arm, warm and comforting in its presence. It made the incessant pounding in his head stop. The dream let him go.
He closed his eyes.
He slept in short fits. His dreams were strange and out of focus. Strange blue lights sparkled in the distance and behind them hovered a shadowed presence, dark and dangerous. He smelled an alley and saw the ocean, glistening in the light of a full moon. Every time he closed his eyes, he could hear a woman laughing, her voice high and clear, the only clear thing in any of his dreams.
Shawn woke to a pounding in his head and a pounding elsewhere in the house. The pounding in his head was louder. The light in the room had changed fractionally, street lamps replaced the sun behind the thick drawn curtains. He knew that the passage of time should bother him but time seemed so distant. Time was something that happened to other people.
"Shawn." His father. Downstairs. Front door. Usually he could pick up more but it was all blurry. Everything was blurry. That should definitely bother him but it seemed like too much effort.
The pounding stopped and his father went away.
Shawn closed his eyes.
Laughter. Dancing shadows. Voices. Alcohol. Glowing hands. Claws.
"Seriously, Shawn, this is getting ridiculous." A new voice. Guster.
He rolled onto his back and scrubbed a hand over his face but didn't get up. Even that little effort, probably the most movement he'd had all day besides a trip to the bathroom, tired him. His head ached.
Blurry Gus looked down at him with an expression on his face. Shawn couldn't tell what that expression was, but he knew it was there and probably not good. "You don't look so good."
He rolled back over and buried his head in his pillow. "Headache." It came out muffled, the words smothered into the pillow, but he knew Gus had enough years of Shawn interpretation to understand him. The conversation was making him tired. He closed his eyes to go back to sleep.
A hand shook him awake. "Did you take anything, Shawn?"
He mumbled a reply and curled into the pillow.
The hand shook him again. "Did you take anything?"
He flailed a hand towards the bathroom. "Pills."
Thankfully there was no more shaking. There was however footsteps crossing the room, a door opening, the rattle of a pill bottle, a door closing, more steps. Then the shaking was back.
"How long have you been taking these, Shawn?"
He squeezed his eyes closed and tried to go back to sleep. Gus kept shaking him until he answered.
"Dunno." He swatted Gus away before Gus could shake him again.
"These aren't headache pills."
An image of Shawn's therapist - department mandated and necessary before they'd let him work any cases again - flashed in his minds. She smiled. Shawn didn't like her smile. "'S what they're for." She'd brought up his psychic consultancy even though he'd hoped to avoid talking about it. She'd been dismissive.
"These are anti-psychotics. Shawn, are you listening to me? You can't take any more of these."
If he were more awake, if his head hurt less, if he wasn't so bone-achingly tired, he would have been disturbed by that announcement, probably even mad. He could barely manage to care.
His head hurt so much. He just wanted to sleep.
"I'm taking these away Shawn, and I'm going to go down to the station and tell Lassiter what happened. Okay?"
If Gus was waiting for a response, he didn't get one.
Shawn sprawled bonelessly in the waiting room chair. His head rested against the wall, his legs were stretched out, and his left hand clung tightly to Carlton's hand. The handholding made Lassiter uncomfortable but he didn't try to pull away or hide the fact that they were holding hands. Carlton just let him, because Shawn wanted to and because he knew Shawn needed it. It made the ever-present headaches from his 'gift' go away, and with the way Shawn had been feeling lately, he needed every reprieve he could get.
At least he was out of the bed. That was one step in the right direction. Being here, in this office was another.
Shawn glanced up and nodded at the nurse standing in the doorway. He gave Carlton's hand a quick squeeze. "Back in a bit."
Carlton waved his book, held open in his free hand. "I'll be here."
Shawn had a bit of experience with psychiatrists. His mom was one and she'd forced him to go a few times when he was a kid - when his parents split up, when he got into a fight at school, when he got arrested. She'd made him go a few times when he was older too, when he'd been living with her in Florida and his relationship with Marco had gone sour. Because he'd grown up with one, he knew the right things to say to get around them. He knew the magic phrases that showed the right kind of emotional growth to get him out of there as quickly as possible.
He'd been off his game after Lexington. That was the only thing he could think of to explain why he'd let the last one trick him. He was determined not to let that happen this time.
Doctor Alexi Ross was a young man, mid-thirties with black hair with some grey around the temples and an absolutely neutral affect. Shawn walked into the office looking for something about the man to hate but there was nothing. The man was nothing. He smiled politely, but not too polite, and it didn't set Shawn's teeth on edge like his last therapist's smile. His office was bland, his clothes were bland, the way he sat was bland.
Dr. Ross stood and held out his hand as Shawn approached. Shawn hesitated. He didn't like touching people, not since his psychic gifts had woken, but part of him wanted to, just so he could have a reason not to like Dr. Ross.
He took the offered hand. Nothing happened. Dr. Ross shook his hand, not too hard, not too tight, then let go and sat back down in his padded chair.
Shawn stayed where he was and stared.
Dr. Ross's smile didn't change, didn't alter in the slightest fraction. He gestured towards the couch across from his chair. It wasn't like the stereotypical therapist couches that looked like something Victorian women fainted on, but rather an actual couch like those typically found in living rooms. It was long and plush and matched Dr. Ross's chair as if they'd come from the same set. They probably had. Who bought living room furniture for a doctor's office?
"Won't you have a seat?"
Shawn took the hint and sat, perching stiffly on the edge of the couch. "Am I supposed to lie down? Isn't that how this works?"
Dr. Ross tilted his head slightly. He didn't stop smiling. Shawn wondered if his expression ever changed or if it was painted on like that. "You don't have to. However you feel comfortable is fine."
Shawn had come prepared with a mental list of things to say to get him out of here and back to work. What he said instead was, "Why can't I read you?"
Finally Dr. Ross's expression cracked. His smile shifted, just a fraction, but it was enough of a change that Shawn noticed, probably only because he was looking for it. "Is that something unusual?"
Shawn shifted back against the couch and crossed his arms. "You're the second person I've met, so yeah, it's rare."
"Perhaps it's genetic."
Shawn frowned. His brow furrowed. He wanted to argue but the words never materialized. He wanted to call Dr. Ross a liar but he had no proof, nothing beyond his gut feeling that there was more to it than genetics, but that kind of talk led to a prescription of anti-psychotics and many more unwanted sessions here.
Dr. Ross picked up a notepad and pen from a small table next to his chair. He flipped it open and glanced down at the top page. There were words scribbled there, but Shawn couldn't read any of it from his perch. "So you're a psychic consultant for the Santa Barbara Police Department?"
Shawn hesitated before answering. "Yes." He waited for the inevitable follow-up.
"And you're in a relationship with Head Detective Carlton Lassiter?"
That was not the follow-up he expected. "Yes."
"And you're here because of a case involving a man by the name of Lexington James?"
Shawn froze. His mouth went dry and he stared. His last therapist had never brought up Lexington, never even asked what happened, just kept questioning him about his psychic abilities. He hadn't expected the mere mention of Lexington's name to make him go cold inside. He shivered and rubbed his arms in an attempt to warm up.
"Yes." He wasn't sure how he got the word out, but there it was, hanging in the air between them.
"I see." Ross looked at him for a long moment before making a note on his pad. "Tell me about Detective Lassiter."
Shawn's mouth hung open. Of the three topics Ross had brought up, not to mention all the others that they could go into, this was what Doctor Ross chose. It seemed wrong. Carlton was the most normal of the three topics, hardly worth a mention.
He humored the doctor. "Carlton... Carl, he's nice. I guess." Once he started, once his mouth got moving, he found it a lot easier for one word to follow the other. "I mean, not in a flowers and bunnies kind of way, though he did get me flowers once when I was in the hospital, but just nice. Calm. Collected. He's really dependable."
More notes scribbled on the pad. "Do you not normally date nice, dependable men?"
Shawn laughed and relaxed back into the couch. He threw an arm over the back. "I don't normally date men and dependable has never really been my type."
Doctor Ross's blue eyes stayed focused on Shawn, wavering only for a moment now and then as he glanced down at his pad to jot another note. "Is that a good change for you?"
Conversation was going to get around to how screwed up he was eventually, but for now, Shawn was happy to talk about something harmless. "Yeah, it's a good thing. We really... I mean, we're really good for each other. I think. I mean Carlton seems happy and the sex is good so no complaints there." Why did he say that? Why did he even think to say that? He flushed and rounded off his spiel lamely. "So, yeah, it's good."
The way Ross smiled at him was comforting. Like he wasn't judging or laughing at Shawn. Yeah, his pen was moving and he was taking notes about everything Shawn said but there was nothing in his demeanor to suggest that they were the bad kind of notes, more like reference, jotting down things to remember.
"And your psychic business. How's that going?"
Shawn tensed and then forced himself to relax. He didn't get a sense of judgment. Whatever Ross thought about Shawn being a psychic, he kept it behind his polite, friendly mask.
"It's going okay. Slow, at the moment. I'm suspended from the PD," Shawn waved a hand towards the doctor, "hence why I'm here, and I haven't been taking on private cases."
"Why is that?"
A myriad of possible excuses floated through Shawn's mind. He chose none of them. "I haven't been feeling well."
It felt like the words wanted to come out of his mouth, like this was the right time and place to talk about it. He knew then that he wasn't going to use any of the tricks he'd learned as a kid. He was going to stay and talk and probably come back.
He told Dr. Ross about his headaches and his visions and being psychic. They didn't talk about Lexington and what had happened - the warehouse, the handcuffs, Shawn's new aversion to cold, his injuries - but Shawn knew it would come up sooner or later. When he left after the mandated hour and walked out into the visiting room where Carlton was waiting, he found that for the first time in a while, he actually felt a little bit better.
Dinner with his father was not Shawn's favorite activity. Pretty much anything done with his father was not his favorite activity. He and Henry were better off as far apart as possible, for as long as possible. Or at least that's what Shawn thought before he started seeing his father regularly for dinner. As it turns out, with Carlton added into the mix as a social buffer, spending time in his father's presence wasn't all that bad.
It was weird being a couple in front of his dad. Henry had met maybe one or two of Shawn's girlfriends, and only in passing. But Henry knew Carlton and talked to Carlton and Shawn was fairly certain they'd been plotting about him behind his back. He knew they'd connected during the Lexington case. He knew that because in the span of a few days Henry had gone from trying to set Shawn up on blind dates to trying to get Shawn to bring Carlton over for family dinner.
There was something different about them. It was in the easy way they chatted with each other, in the way they moved in and around each other's spaces as they set the dinner table and pulled food out of the oven and generally got dinner prepared with a lot of politely ordered "Shawn, go sit down"s and "Shawn, go relax"s. It was like they were conspiring.
Shawn knew they were concerned. He could feel the emotion rolling off of Henry even though his outward demeanor suggested nothing of the sort, not unless you knew exactly what signs to look for. Shawn was starting to learn those signs. There were no easy psychic hints with Carlton, but it was obvious in the way he held himself around Shawn, in the way he deferred to Shawn's opinion far more than he used to, in the pineapple smoothies that appeared every day for breakfast.
He understood their concern. He'd been kidnapped by a serial killer, tortured, found, been put on surprise anti-psychotics, got sick, got better. He'd lost weight and muscle, but it was more than that. He knew from the way they looked at him that he didn't act the same as before. He was different. He felt different. He was quieter, less prone to outbursts or stupid stunts. It was like he'd finally grown up, something Henry had been scolding him for years to do, and now that he had, forcibly, they didn't like it.
He wasn't sure he liked it.
He turned his head to look up at Carl. Judging by the way Carlton was staring at him, he'd been trying to get Shawn's attention for a few minutes.
"Sorry. Mind wandered."
Carlton held out his hand to help Shawn off the couch. Shawn didn't need help, but he took it anyways. As always, Carlton's touch soothed him, like an icepack against his pounding head, only Carlton's touch worked better than an icepack ever had.
They settled around the table, Henry at one end, Carlton at the other, Shawn in between. His hand rested on the table, still twined with Carlton's. Henry didn't even bat an eye at it.
"How are you feeling?" Henry asked.
There was so much loaded in that question. It'd been a while since they'd been over. They'd made it twice after the kidnapping and then the drugs Shawn hadn't intended to be on had got in the way. Most of the time in between was missing and the only reason Shawn knew exactly how much was missing was because he knew how to read a calendar. It was somewhat scary how much time was gone - almost as much as he'd spent with Lexington, and that thought made him want to retch. Suddenly the food on his plate was much less appetizing but he forced himself to pick up his fork and shovel some into his mouth anyways, if only to give himself more time to respond.
"The headaches are a bit better," Carlton answered for him. He rubbed his thumb over the back of Shawn's hand. There was a time where Shawn would have found Carlton doing anything for him, let alone getting it right, bizarre.
Shawn nodded and swallowed. "They are. A bit." After getting off the meds, he'd dropped from waterfall to raging rapids level headaches. Not much better, in the grand scheme of things, but better than they'd been at their worst. Gus had procured a small bottle of Loritab for him and neither Shawn nor Carlton questioned the legality of it, though Carlton's face had pinched a little the first time he saw it on Shawn's nightstand.
"And the new therapist?"
Shawn chased a chunk of potato around his plate with his fork. "He's nice. Not like the other one."
"Good." Henry paused, looked at his plate, then back at Shawn. "That's good."
"We got a new case," Carlton said. Both Spencers perked up at the announcement. "Jewelry heist at the Santa Barbara Museum."
They had a rule, a rule they'd established shortly after they'd gotten together. Neither of them had ever spoken about the rule but it sat solid between them like one of the Ten Commandments. The rule stated that Lassiter wouldn't talk about cases he didn't want Shawn involved in and vice versa. They both had analytical minds that didn't turn off. So, if Carlton was talking about a case then that meant he was giving Shawn unofficial permission to work on the case.
He sat a bit straighter. "What was stolen?"
Carlton squeezed Shawn's hand and smiled slightly. "A necklace. Very old. The curator swears that it's haunted or possessed or something. Lots of mystic mumbo jumbo on the internet about it."
Shawn raised an eyebrow. This was sounding more and more like something he should be looking into. He slipped his free hand into his pocket and sent Gus a quick text: Tomorrow. You, me, and a museum. Pick me up at noon. Psych was back on the job.
"I thought we weren't supposed to be working cases." Gus's voice was pitched low in deference to the museum in which they stood.
Shawn had no such qualms about volume, though he didn't reach near the exuberant level that he normally would. He blamed it on the combination of a screaming child and a pounding headache, thankfully lessened by Loritab though not gone completely. It was more of a background thing, something he could almost ignore, but still incessant and annoying, much like the crying child.
"When has that ever stopped us?"
"It's stopped us for the last two weeks."
Shawn spun in a circle, taking in all of the current display room in one sweep. "Yes, but this case has mystical necklaces stolen in the dead of night without a trace of evidence. Prime Psych territory."
Gus gave a sort of nod-shrug gesture that indicated his reluctance and agreement at the same time. Shawn smiled. It was good to have Gus with him. Bad things didn't happen with Gus around.
"That, and I was getting bored." Shawn's life was supposed to be full of excitement and action. The only excitement he'd had lately was surprise smoothies. All in all, his life had gotten pretty lame. It was time to un-lame himself.
"That's the point, Shawn." Gus had that 'I'm an expert in this and you're not' look on his face. "You're supposed to be resting, relaxing. Not solving cases."
Shawn waved a hand and moved away, wandering towards the Egyptian exhibits. "I've had my fill of relaxing."
The museum was pretty busy for a weekday afternoon. A group of school kids were gathered on the opposite side of the room, huddled around the mummy exhibit while their teacher tried and failed to impart a history lesson on the enthusiastic mass. A few others milled about, wandering from exhibit to exhibit alone or in pairs. There were a few college-aged kids camped out on benches here and there, usually with notepads or sketchpads in hand. Security was all over the place, more than the last time Shawn had been here though that wasn't really surprising with the recent theft.
The necklace had been stolen from the Far East exhibit. They ended up there a few minutes later, after a detour through the Greek exhibit and a brisk walk through the mini art gallery. Asian cultures collided in the large twisting hall. Mini walled off sections broke the exhibit apart into smaller sections - Japanese, Chinese, Korean. The necklace had been housed at the far end, in the Indian exhibit.
Shawn circled the room, taking in the position of the security cameras, the placement of the windows - too high up for anyone to get in and sealed shut with no obvious way to open them - and the air vents - a possibility but unlikely given their size and positioning. The case stood empty in the center of the room, the glass cracked as if someone had punched a hole in it. There was a velvet rope cordoning the case off. The security camera had a perfect angle on the room so whoever took the necklace had to be on the tape. Except, according to Carlton, they weren't.
"What do we know about this thing?" He waved his hand at the empty case.
Gus grinned, preening a little in that strange way he had before he started rattling off an exorbitant amount of information. "The necklace is known as the Eyes of Kali. It's part of the private collection of an Indian billionaire named Alamar Satir. He claims that one of his ancestors was a priestess of Kali and that the necklace has been in his family's protection for generations. If that's the case, then he's not doing his job very well. The necklace has been on display all over the globe as part of a publicity tour. Rumor has it, he's considering selling and the tour's just a stunt to drive up the price."
Shawn shifted closer to the case, pressing against the velvet rope. There was something about the spot that called to him. "That's nice. Tell me about the necklace itself. What are we looking for?"
"Seven sapphires set in a complex filigree of silver. There's a lot of buzz about it on the internet. Bunch of rumors that it's haunted. According to the family legend, the Indian goddess Kali was trapped in the necklace after losing a battle with the demon Raktabija."
Shawn stared. "How do you even know how to pronounce that?"
"It's called Wikipedia, Shawn." He pointed at the empty case. "That necklace was very valuable, and not just for the gems. It's supposed to be really powerful. Lots of occultists would have killed to get their hands on it."
This was his life now, where the word 'occultist' didn't even make him blink.
There was something odd about the case, like the lingering scent of a woman's perfume but different. It wasn't a scent in the air but a resonance in the mind, something left behind. Maybe the necklace really did have power. Stranger things had happened. He reached towards the glass.
He straightened as his name was called, though the voice was unfamiliar. This part of the museum was mostly empty, just them, a security guard stiff as a statue next to a giant Kali sculpture, and a knockout in red heels clacking her way over to them. Gus had that look in his eye that said he didn't know whether to step in with a pick-up line or drool on his shirt.
"Guh." Apparently Gus'd chosen the later, thankfully low on the drool.
"That'd be me." Shawn took a step away from the case. A quick glance told him surprisingly little about this woman. She was neat - polish on the shoes, crisp press to her skirt - and professional - not too low a cut on her blouse, plastic name badge on a lanyard around her neck, hair up in a tight bun. He'd almost guess librarian but she was missing the stereotypical horn-rimmed glasses and she had a purpose to her step that reminded Shawn of law enforcement.
She held out a hand. "Adriana Blackwood. I was wondering when they were going to call you in on this one."
He hesitated. Gus elbowed him in the side. "Shawn, don't be rude." He took her hand in Shawn's stead. "I'm Burton Guster, Shawn's associate. You'll have to forgive his manners."
She smiled. It reminded Shawn of a shark. "Not at all." She shifted, planting her feet and crossing her arms across her chest. "I have to admit I'm surprised to see you here. They told me you were unavailable."
Shawn quirked an eyebrow. "You asked?"
There was that shark grin again. There was something about this woman that was odd, something that didn't feel quite right. "Stories of your gifts have made their way to my circles. I was impressed."
It was the way she spoke, Shawn realized. There was a vagueness to it, like she didn't want to give too much away. It carried over to her clothes as well. They were fashionable but bland. There was no personalization. Her outfit looked like it'd been pulled straight off a store mannequin. A hot mannequin, but a mannequin none the less.
"Which circles would those be?"
"Insurance." There was a twist in the way she said it that made Shawn think she was lying. "Specifically, for that." She pointed past Shawn to the empty case.
In other words, she was competition. "No leads, then?" He already knew what she'd say.
"Nope. I came back to see if there was anything I missed. Good thing I did, or I might have missed you." Her teeth bordered on unnaturally white.
"What about the security footage?" Gus asked, finally done ogling long enough to contribute.
"Nothing, but you're welcome to take a look."
"We'd love to," Gus answered for him.
They followed Adriana back through the museum to one of the staff-only doors. She showed the badge hanging around her neck and the guard let them through. All the beauty and elegance of the museum was wiped away as they stepped into the staff section. Blank white halls stretched in front of him, broken only by doors and more hallway. The security office was four doors down. There were two more guards stationed inside. They queued up the tape of the robbery at Adriana's request and played it through.
The necklace was there and then it wasn't. There was something about the tape, though. There was a blip on the film, almost imperceptible.
"Can you slow it down?"
"Yeah." The guard tapped a few keys and the tape played again, the timestamp on the top crawling along.
There were three blips this time, at even intervals. "Can you slow it down further?"
More key tapping. The tape slogged through one frame at a time. This time the blip was more visible, only it wasn't a blip, it was a blur. A human shaped blur. The security's eyes grew wide and he hastily rewound the tape to pause on the blur. The shape looked to be human but it was moving fast, too fast for the camera to catch. Whatever it was, it had run in, smashed the glass and grabbed the necklace without slowing down, then ran out.
Their case had just gotten a whole lot weirder.
"What party of 'on leave' was unclear to you, Mister Spencer?"
Shawn resisted the urge to fidget. Being in Chief Vick's office when she was angry at him always made him feel like he was back in high school and visiting the Principal’s Office one more time. Margie waved at him through the window but didn't encroach. Despite the situation, it was good to see her again. He'd kind of missed his ghostly BFF, weird as that sounded.
"I just went to have a look."
Gus fidgeted in the chair next to him. He kept his eyes turned away and Shawn knew he was fighting the impulse to blame it all on Shawn. Vick didn't look any happier.
"You're supposed to be at home. Don't make me put a detail on you to make sure you stay there."
"He was actually pretty helpful," Adriana put in from where she leaned against the wall at the back of the room.
If Shawn turned his head, he knew he'd see Carlton and Juliet hovering on the other side of the closed door. At least he knew Carlton wasn't going to be mad at him. It'd been his idea after all, even if he hadn't intended Shawn to get caught. He probably hadn't expected Shawn to find anything at all. No, he took that back. The old Lassiter wouldn't have expected pre-psychic Shawn to find anything. The new Lassiter knew better.
"A blip on a security camera is hardly helpful."
Shawn shrugged. "At least now you know someone was there."
Vick knew him, knew what he could do, but she didn't seem to want to make the logical leap from 'Shawn can do something supernatural' to 'maybe there's other supernatural stuff out there'. "I'll put an APB out on the Flash right away."
"Chief!" His protest withered under her glare.
"Go home, Mister Spencer. You are not authorized to work this or any other case until you are cleared by a medical professional. Is that understood?"
Shawn wanted to protest. He really wanted to protest, but he couldn't think of anything that would change Vick's mind. "Alright. Fine." Gus looked a little relieved. Adriana sighed.
He had another appointment with Doctor Ross in two days. He could do some research in the down time, try and figure out what had stolen the necklace, and get Ross to clear him. Two days, then he was back on the case.
There was a crystal ball sitting on the dining room table when Shawn got home. He recognized the ball. It was the one from the box Vera had given him, the box that Lexington had made him go through, the box that should be hidden in the back of the closet back where Shawn couldn't see it. He'd said he'd go through it but ever since the incident with Lexington, he'd found himself hesitant to even look at the box, let alone open it.
The crystal ball sat, accusing him. It hadn't been there this morning, which meant someone - Carlton - had set it out while he was gone. He was meant to use it, or at least try to use it. He walked away instead.
He took a shower. He made the bed. He went out for a smoothie. When he came back, the ball was still there. He walked over to put it away, then thought better of it and detoured to the kitchen. He did the dishes. He came back. He took out the garbage. He came back.
He pulled out a chair and stared at the ball. It reflected his face back at him. The last time he'd tried to use it, he'd gotten nothing, but that had been with Lexington hovering over his shoulder and the ghosts talking at him and his injuries distracting him. All of that was gone. It was just him, alone in Carlton's quiet house.
He got up and did a quick sweep of the room. He locked the door, made sure the windows were sealed. He was alone, at least for the next hour until Carlton got out of work.
He sat down. Slowly, he reached forward and put his hands on the sides of the ball. He stared into it. All he saw was his own face. He tried to look past that. He thought of pineapple smoothies. Shawn shook his head and tried again. Five minutes later he was up and out of his chair, heading to the kitchen to make a smoothie.
He put the crystal ball back in the box and changed which closet he hid the box in.
If Carlton noticed the absence of the crystal ball, he didn't comment on it. He came home late, something that was becoming more and more common of late. Shawn blamed his banishment from the station. When he'd been there helping, Carlton had gotten home earlier. He'd solved cases faster. He'd had more time to relax. Now that things were back to the old way, Carlton was starting to revert to his old frowny-face self, at least outside of his house. His house that had at some point become their house without either of them ever really talking about it.
Carlton collapsed on the couch next to Shawn. "I'm sorry."
Shawn frowned. He pressed mute on the TV. "For what?"
"I got you in trouble. I told you about the case." Carlton let his head fall back on the couch. He stared at the ceiling. From the way he frowned, it'd really been eating at him. Once upon a time, Carlton would have been happy that Shawn got in trouble.
"We have met, right?" He let his fingers brush against Carlton's. "I'm in trouble all the time. It'll blow over. Besides, Vick's just mad cause she likes me."
Carlton raised an eyebrow. "I don't think that's the way it works."
Shawn shifted and swung his leg over Carlton's lap so that he was straddling him. Carlton tilted his head, not lifting it from the back of the couch but moving it enough that he could look Shawn in the face. His frown was rapidly disappearing. "Sure it does." Shawn smiled and rubbed his hands over Carlton's sides. He could feel Carlton starting to relax. "Vick's not doing it because she thinks I'll be in the way. She knows how useful I am." Carlton smiled a little at the brag. It wasn't even much of a brag. He was useful, really useful, and they all acknowledged it. There was no doubt. It was just weird, being thought of as useful by the police department. "I got..." He paused, shuddered, and distracted himself with unbuttoning Carlton's shirt. "...burned out. Hurt." He had to force the words out. He stared at his hands. "She'd do the same with any of her cops that came back to work before they were medically cleared."
Strong hands settled on his hips. It was comforting. He was getting used to not being the strong one in the relationship. Yeah, he had a bit of muscle, but it was nothing compared to Carlton's strength. He smiled and ran his hands down Carlton's arms.
He could see words forming on Carlton's lips, words he wasn't sure he was ready to hear, words of love and devotion, offers of protection. Things they'd kept unspoken between them. One day they'd talk about it. One day he'd let Carlton say the words. Today, he thought they might break him.
He leaned forward, sealing his lips over Carlton's. He swallowed the words with his kiss and mirrored them back with the press of his lips and the movement of his tongue. Carlton's hands squeezed, gently pressing into his skin and pulling him forward. The kiss deepened. Shawn shifted, lifting himself slightly up on his knees and rolling his hips. From the way Carlton groaned into Shawn's mouth, he was fairly certain Carlton approved.
Deft hands pulled at Carlton's shirt, lifting it free of his pants and undoing all the careful neatness Carlton favored. He kept going, working at Carlton's undershirt until it too was free and he could slide his hands under the fabric. Carlton's skin was warm against his palms. Shawn wiggled closer, burrowing into the heat. He had a thing for heat lately. He didn't like to think too hard about why.
Shawn shrugged out of his t-shirt and tossed it behind him. Carlton's belt followed next. He didn't bother taking off their pants, just pushed them down enough that they were out of the way. His ended up tangling around his ankles. He thought about kicking them off but then Carlton's hands were on his ass, squeezing tightly and pulling Shawn down tight against Carlton's hips. Their erections brushed against each other. It felt like magic.
They hadn't done this in a while, nothing this spontaneous and rough. Carlton had been busy and Shawn had been... off, which didn't really combine well for intimacy. When they did, it was always gentle, as if Carlton was afraid that Shawn was going to break. This was different, more like the way they used to be, before.
Shawn loved the feel of Carlton's hands gripping him, holding him tight in place. It was hot. He loved how easy it was for Carlton to control him. He loved that he let Carlton, that he wanted Carlton to control him. It wasn't something he ever expected to want. It wasn't something he felt he should want. It should scare him, after Lexington, after being restrained and tortured and having his every move determined by the whim of a psychopath, but it was different with Carlton. Carlton wasn't going to hurt him.
One of Carlton's hands moved away, groping along the seam of the cushions before pulling out a tube of lube. Shawn mentally praised his forethought to stash lube around the house. He liked it even more when Carlton pressed the tube against Shawn's entrance and squeezed. Cool gel slid along his skin, a little bit of it oozing inside of him. Then the tube was tossed to the side and Carlton's fingers were there, scraping along his skin to gather up the lube and then pressing inside him, two at once.
It was Shawn's turn to moan into the kiss. He twisted, reaching behind him to grab his pants and yank them the rest of the way off. Carlton still had all his clothes on, but that only made him seem even more debauched with his shirt open and his undershirt rucked up high on his chest. The zipper of Carlton's pants pressed against Shawn's thighs, hard enough that there would be marks on his skin later. Shawn was okay with that. He was okay with marks, as long as they came from Carlton.
He wanted Carlton to mark him all over, to cover every place Lexington had ever touched him and wipe away every memory of Lexington's touch.
Shawn grabbed Carlton's wrist, pulling his hand away earlier than he should. He loved the feeling of Carlton's fingers inside of him but he needed more than that and he needed it right now, before his thoughts wandered any more. He shifted, gripping the back of the couch with one hand to steady himself while the other held Carlton's member in a loose grip. He guided their bodies until they finally met. Carlton's erection pressed hard against Shawn's entrance. He pushed his hips down, forcing Carlton into him.
His head fell back as he groaned, loud and obscene. It wasn't loud enough to cover Carlton's startled gasp. They fit together like a dream, a really good dream with puppies and kittens and pineapple smoothies, not like any of the weird ones he'd been having of late. Shawn shivered and pressed down until his ass was flush against Carlton's hips. He was going to have zipper marks on his ass but that was okay.
He started to move. They both groaned. Carlton gripped Shawn's hips, tight enough to bruise. They moved together, rocking in a perfect rhythm that made Carlton press against just the right spot inside of him. Shawn's knuckles went tight against the back of the couch.
Time slowed down. The world fell away until it was just this, this perfect ocean of their bodies, rising and falling like an endless wave. Shawn's head went quiet, blissfully, wonderfully quiet at his headache subsided and the constant murmur of psychic knowledge went away. Shawn closed his eyes and let himself relax, fully relax, into the press of Carlton's skin. He was moaning, making the most desperate and needy little noises but he couldn't bring himself to care, not when Carlton was inside of him.
It ended far too soon. Carlton pushed up, hiking his hips up and then Shawn was seeing stars. He gasped, squeezed his eyes shut, and tensed as he came, spilling his seed on to Carlton's undershirt. He could feel Carlton still moving, still keeping up that delicious pace though it was growing erratic. Shawn collapsed against the couch. His head fell on Carlton's shoulder and Carlton turned his head, panting softly against Shawn's ear. Carlton's hips spiked upwards, shoving hard and fast into Shawn once, twice, three times and then he was coming with a soft gasp. Carlton shivered and jerked his hips. His hands tightened on Shawn's waist and held him still in Carlton's lap.
Shawn opened his eyes and turned his head. He pressed a kiss against Carlton's cheek. Love glistened in Carlton's eyes but for now he kept it there. Silence stretched between them as they relaxed on the couch, still entwined, neither in any hurry to move.
Some things didn't need words to be understood.
Shawn stared up at the ceiling. It was a very bland ceiling, which meant it fit in perfectly with everything else in Doctor Ross's office. "I haven't been able to find squat. I mean, there's just nothing concrete, nothing beyond some internet rumors. What moves that fast?"
"Comic book characters?"
Shawn glanced over at the doctor. Had that been an attempt at a joke? Maybe Ross did have a personality hiding in there.
"How are your headaches?"
Shawn turned back to the ceiling. "The same." That wasn't entirely true. He now had two points of calm - here and at Carlton's - but broaching that topic never got him anywhere. Ross was just as clueless as Lassiter on the subject.
"Not getting any worse?"
"Not really." He'd had a wonderful moment of respite with Carlton the other day but that had ended far too soon.
"Have you tried the techniques we talked about? Relaxation, meditation, altering your diet?"
Shawn sighed and stretched further along the couch. "Yes, yes, no. Food has nothing to do with it." The only things that helped, even briefly, were using his powers and sex, and he wasn't getting squat from the former and only occasional occurrences of the latter. He needed to be back on the case. "What might help..."
Ross cut him off. "Diet could be a factor. You won't know until you try."
Shawn turned his head and glared. "It's not food. Psychic powers are not connected to food. Cutting out carbs or eating more protein or less fat isn't going to make it just go away."
Ross watched him for a long moment before jotting down a note on his ever-present pad. "Alright. Not diet, then. And the meditation, did that help?"
He resisted the urge to groan. Ross just didn't understand. No one understood. The only one who would didn't exist half the time. Shawn would have thought she was just a figment of his imagination except Carlton had seen her too. "No. I can't concentrate long enough. I always get distracted."
Doctor Ross leaned back in his chair and tapped his pen against his lips. Silence stretched between them for several long minutes while Ross stared off into space and Shawn stared at the doctor. Shawn started to open his mouth to ask about being reinstated - again, Ross kept deflecting - when Ross started to speak, his voice soft and hesitant. "Are you and your partner adventurous?"
Shawn raised an eyebrow. "He's a cop and I'm a psychic detective. Short of mountain climbing and exploring tropical rain forests, it doesn't get much more adventurous."
"I meant in bed."
He squirmed a little and flushed. It was weird, really weird, talking about his sex life with Ross but Shawn wasn't one to hold back. "Somewhat. Not recently. I mean a little," images of the other night and the couch flashed to mind, "but, yeah." It wasn't like when they'd started dating, when he'd suck Carlton off in the kitchen and get bent over tables.
"Have you considered trying domination and submission? A lot of your focus seems tied up in sex, and we already know Carlton's presence helps you. Maybe that would let you focus."
Shawn was fairly certain his face was doing a passable impression of a tomato. "I..." The words stuck in his throat. He sat up and stared down at his feet. He swallowed. "I don't know if I can handle the pain part."
He'd been in a relationship like that before, with Marco in Miami, and it hadn't ended well. A few weeks ago, he would have considered it. Things would be different with Carlton, but after Lexington... Some of the marks Lexington left were still fading. Shawn didn't think he could do anything like that anytime soon.
"It doesn't have to be about pain." He could hear Doctor Ross shifting forward in his chair but Shawn didn't look up. "The media gets it wrong, never shows the full picture." Ross stood and walked away towards his desk. "I have some clients who are into it." The file cabinet opened. Papers rustled. "It can be about whatever you want it to be. You can set limits, and I think I know you well enough by now to say that you trust Carlton to stick to those limits." The cabinet shut and Ross returned to his seat. "There doesn't have to be any pain involved, but the control aspect might help you focus."
Paper rustled. Shawn looked up. Ross was holding out a sheet of paper towards him. Shawn hesitated before taking it. It was a list of book recommendations.
"Give it some thought. We'll talk again next week."
He'd missed his opportunity to get back on the case but as Shawn stared down at the piece of paper in his hands, he thought that might not be such a bad thing.
Shawn fidgeted on the couch as he waited. He heard the key turn in the lock, right when he expected. His face flushed and he grabbed the book he'd left casually out on the coffee table and shoved it behind a pillow. He couldn't do this. He really couldn't do this.
"I'm home," Carlton called out.
"Hi." Shawn flushed, even though Carlton couldn't see him yet. "I mean, welcome home."
Carlton stepped into the living room, his eyes trained on Shawn, his posture signifying he was on full alert. "What's wrong?"
Shit. He knew. Carlton knew and... And he didn't seem mad so maybe Shawn could just go for it, just say "I want you to dominate me."
From the look on Carlton's face, he had said that. Out loud. With words and speaking and everything. "Pardon?"
At least there was no running or screaming. That had to be a good sign. "Domination. Like in BDSM, though we don't have to do the B part or the M. I mean, we don't have to do any of it, at all. Ever, and you can just forget I ever brought it up." He was babbling. That wasn't abnormal for him, but right now he couldn't seem to stop babbling even though he wanted to. "It's just the headaches. And meditation sucks, I mean, it doesn't work even though it's supposed to, cause I can't concentrate but Vera said I needed to and I think it might help, might make the headaches stop if I could focus, if I could get myself and my powers under control and..." Breathe. He needed to breath. "I just... I thought... It might help."
Carlton stared at him. Shawn stared back. After a few seconds of their impromptu staring contest, Carlton looked away and stepped back out into the hallway. Shawn heard him toe off his shoes, hang his jacket in the closet, and drop his keys into the dish by the door. It was strange how comforting those sounds were. They were the sounds of Carlton coming home, normal everyday sounds.
When Carlton returned his face was composed. The shock was gone, buried behind a polite smile. The couch dipped as Carlton sat next to Shawn, the movement rocking Shawn towards Carlton. He let himself go with the motion and dropped his head on Carlton's shoulder. "How about we try that again, maybe with about half as many words?"
Shawn reached into the pillows next to him and pulled out the book. He handed it over to Carlton, who stared at the cover for a long moment before cracking it open.
"You want this?"
There was no censure in Carlton's tone, no disgust. It was just a simple question. Shawn didn't need psychic powers to know what Carlton was thinking. He wanted to make sure that it was something Shawn wanted, that Shawn was serious.
He was. "I do. But only if you're okay with it." The scent of Carlton's cologne was relaxing. Shawn shifted slightly, inching closer to bridge the minimal gap left between them.
Carlton flipped through a couple pages. From his vantage point, Shawn could see exactly which pages made Carlton stop. Shawn had read the book already, one of the few times he'd actually read a book cover to cover. There were diagrams. Shopping lists. Instructions. Not all of it was appealing, but most of it Shawn could see himself getting into.
There was an entire chapter on spanking. Shawn wasn't much for violence but he'd had to take a cold shower after reading that.
Shawn lifted his head. "Okay?"
"Give me a bit of time to read through this," Carlton hefted the book, "and then we can work out the specifics, but I'm okay with giving it a shot." His fingers brushed over Shawn's cheek. "Anything to help you."
Times like this, Shawn didn't mind the headaches or his psychic powers, since it meant he got to see this side of Carl. He let his head fall back on Carlton's shoulder and enjoyed the silence that came with Carlton's presence.
The museum was quiet in the late afternoon. This time of day, most people had better places to be. Few people were at a museum, especially one that closed in fifteen minutes. Shawn was counting on the solitude. He made his way over to the Far East exhibit, navigating by memory without any of the detours he'd taken last time. The case was exactly as it had been when Shawn had last visited - glass shattered and the area around it cordoned off.
There was something about the case that was important. It called to him, tantalizing him with the promise of answers. He didn't exactly have much else to go off of. The SBPD techs were analyzing the surveillance tapes. That and the shattered case were the only pieces of evidence they had, but at least the case was physical. There was a slim chance that his powers might actually be helpful for a change and work when he needed them to.
He glanced around. The security guard was absent, probably making his rounds and shooing people out. Shawn was alone, no strange insurance agents to distract him. He reached forward, extending his arm towards the glass. Maybe if he touched it, he'd pick up something. The velvet rope pressed against his stomach. He couldn't quite reach. He shifted, taking a half step forward. The velvet rope bent around him. He stretched, a bit too far and got caught in the rope as the stanchions on either side tipped over. They pulled him off balance. Broken glass cut into his hand as he caught himself on the case. A droplet of blood ran down the glass.
Blood. Death. Violence. Shawn sucked in a breath as images assaulted him. He heard a woman laughing, dark eyes and dark skin, reflected out of blue gems. There was evil here, a dark and powerful presence that lingered even though the object containing it was gone. He caught a flash of curled hair, a woman, a strong woman, not quite human. He got an impression of old and young mixed together. She had the necklace and she wasn't going to do anything good with it.
Shawn snapped back to the present. There was a security guard at the entrance of the room, staring at him.
"Sorry." Shawn pulled his hand away. "Slipped." He fumbled with the velvet rope. It took him a minute to untangle himself. He left the rope and the stanchions in a pile on the floor as he stepped away. The guard was still watching him. "I'll just be," he waved a hand towards the entrance, "going. Now."
He needed to find the woman that had taken the necklace. He needed to find her and stop her before she did something really bad with it.
Carlton was waiting for him when he got home. That in and of itself was an unusual enough occurrence to make Shawn pause. He hesitated at the edge of the dining room and forced an uneasy smile. Had the chief somehow found out about his trip to the museum? Was he about to get yelled at for bleeding on evidence? He hid his injured hand behind his back and took a tentative step into the room. "You're home early."
"I wanted to talk." That was not what Shawn wanted to hear. Those were bad words. They always led to bad things, like break ups or talks about the direction and velocity of relationships. Shawn stepped further into the room. Carlton was seated at the head of the dining table, in what was by unspoken agreement Carlton's chair. There was a yellow pad of paper in front of him and a book. It was that book.
Shawn relaxed. Not a bad talk then, just an uncomfortable talk. He could tell by the stiff way that Carlton sat that he didn't want to be doing this either but he had his resolve face on which meant Shawn wasn't going to be able to deter him. They needed to talk about it anyways, even if it was uncomfortable. They'd talk about it and then the rest of the fun kinky sex part could get underway.
He kept his injured hand out of view as he crossed the room to sit next to Lassiter, hiding it under the table as he sat. The cuts on his hand stung. The glass had cut pretty deep. There was a large gash across his palm and three smaller cuts on his fingers. It'd taken a while to get the bleeding to stop. There'd been a lot of blood. An image of the thief flashed through his head. "Alright. Shoot."
"We need to talk about..." Carlton hesitated. He fidgeted with his pen, twirling it between his fingers. He swallowed. "...about this." He tapped the book with the end of the pen. "It says." Carlton glanced up, then back down at the notepad. Shawn could tell Carlton was fighting a blush. He felt the same way. "It says we should make a contract. Establish ground rules. List out our expectations."
"Okay." His voice came out less sure than he intended. He tried again. "Okay." It wasn't like him to be hesitant, but this was different. This mattered. He could do this. They could do this. Shawn exhaled slowly and leaned back in his chair. He wasn't used to planning sex. Usually it was a spontaneous thing and he just went with whatever his partner wanted. Maybe that's why things never worked out with Marco. There hadn't been any rules and then the things Marco had wanted turned into things Shawn didn't want. A contract sounded like a good thing. "Where do we start?"
Carlton flipped open the book. There were little post-its sticking out of it, marking a number of pages. Shawn was kind of impressed. He was used to Carlton's thoroughness when working cases, but it always surprised him to see that thoroughness directed at something mundane. It was so opposite the way Shawn normally function, but he didn't really mind, not when it meant he could let Carlton do all the prep work, the stuff Shawn usually skipped and then later regretted, for him. Carlton consulted the book and then looked up at Shawn. "First, roles. I..." Carlton blushed slightly. "I think we've established that you want me to dominate you."
Shawn felt an answering blush heat his face. It felt real when Carlton said that, and at that moment Shawn realized they really were going to do this. Before it had just been a theory, a maybe, a what if. Now it was becoming a reality.
He squirmed in his seat and nodded. "Yeah." He licked his lips. Carlton's eyes followed the movement of Shawn's tongue. "Yeah, that's what I want."
"Okay." Carlton jotted down their names on the top of the notepad, then noted a 'D' next to his name and an 's' next to Shawn's. "And you're okay with that? With being submissive?"
The question caught Shawn unprepared. He stared at Carlton, almost brought his injured hand up to fidget with his sleeve but he caught himself just in time. Several jokes came to mind, along with a few cheesy pick up lines. He answered honestly instead. There was just something about Carlton that made him want to tell the truth, even when it was against his nature, even when it was against his best interests. Lying used to be second nature to him but his relationship with Carlton was slowly changing that.
"I hadn't really given it much thought. But. Yeah." He wasn't entirely sure he knew exactly what he was agreeing to. There were implications to that word - submissive - that he didn't like, but at the same time it had a nice ring to it.
He could do this. He needed to do this. He wanted to do this.
Carlton shifted forward on his chair and leaned closer to Shawn. Sharp eyes focused on his face, watching for any sign of hesitation. "You're going to let me be in control? Complete control. If we do this, when we do this, if we want to do it right, you have to do everything I say. Even if you don't want to. Even if you don't like it. You have to submit." His hand closed over Shawn's and squeezed tight. "It might not be pleasant, sometimes, but I promise I won't do anything to hurt you. I promise to keep you safe."
Suddenly it was as if all the air had left the room. Shawn couldn't breathe. He stared. His mouth hung open but no words came out.
"Shawn?" Carlton's free hand brushed his cheek and that was all it took to break the spell over him. He smiled.
"I promise. You're in control. I'll do whatever you ask."
Carlton smiled back at him. They stayed that way for a minute before Carlton pulled away and glanced down at his notepad. "So. Boundaries." Carlton marked two columns on the paper, one labeled 'Yes', the other 'No'. "What do you want me to do to you and what's off limits?"
Shawn's stomach twisted. He felt like his face was going to combust. He could probably roast marshmallows off his forehead. If he wanted to do this, if he really meant it, he needed to be able to talk about it but it just felt so awkward, so intimate. They didn't talk like this. He didn't talk like this unless he was joking, unless he was out to make Gus uncomfortable. The words came so easy when he was joking about sex but when he was serious and they really mattered, they stuck in his throat.
Carlton's hand was a warm weight on top of Shawn's. At least he wasn't alone in feeling awkward. He knew it had to be just as hard for Carlton to talk about it and yet here he was, being frank and candid, like it didn't even bother him. Shawn owed him the same. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. It wasn't too hard. He knew what he liked and what he didn't....
Memories of Lexington flashed through his head. He shivered and turned his hand into Carlton's, squeezing back. "No handcuffs. No chaining me to a bed. No chains at all, preferably." He stared at the wood of the table. It was easier to focus on that than to look Carlton in the face and bare his scars. "And I don't want pain." He ran his thumb over Carlton's hand. Touching Carlton calmed him. "I mean, a little is okay, but it might be a while until I can do much. At least with that. And nothing with choking. Or knives. I can't.."
"It's okay. I don't want to do anything that will make you uncomfortable. That's why we're making a list." Out of the corner of his eye, Shawn could see the pen moving as Carlton made notes under the 'No' column. "Toys?"
Shawn shivered, but this time fear had nothing to do with it. "Yeah, that could be good." That could be really good, depending on how Carlton used them. He didn't have much experience with them but he'd had enough girlfriends with strange tastes to know what was out there.
"Blindfolds?" Shawn nodded. "Gags?"
There was something in the way Carlton said the word that made Shawn smile. He risked a glance up and was rewarded with an uneasy expression on Carlton's face. There was a hunger in his eyes that said he wanted it and tension in the way he held himself that said he expected Shawn to say no. Instead, Shawn grinned and squeezed Carlton's hand. "You've been wanting to gag me since you met me."
The tips of Carlton's ears turned red. "Maybe." He wrote 'gags' under the 'Yes' list. "Restraints?"
"As long as it's not handcuffs, you can tie me up any which way you like." There was a gleam in Carlton's eyes that told Shawn he'd hit on some undiscovered kinks. He smiled and leaned towards Carlton. "You can spank me too," he let his voice drop low, as close to sultry as he could get, "if you think I've been a bad, bad boy."
Carlton swallowed and scribbled quickly. "Noted."
"I don't mind a little biting either. I like it when you leave marks." Maybe it wasn't so bad talking about sex when he could make Carlton's face turn that red. He wanted to see just how red he could make Carlton, just how far he had to push before Carlton took him right there on the table.
He opened his mouth to push further but Carlton's finger pressed against his mouth, stopping him. Carlton stood and walked into the kitchen. Shawn heard a drawer open. When Carlton returned, he had a thick circle of leather in his hand. He set it on the table in front of Shawn.
The collar was by no means elaborate. The leather was plain black, unadorned save for three silver loops spaced evenly around the collar and a silver buckle with a small padlock, currently unlocked. Shawn ran his finger along the inside of the collar. There was a soft inner lining. He wanted to know how good it would feel against his skin.
Shawn picked it up in both hands and brought it closer to examine the workmanship. He'd been to enough Renaissance Fairs to know quality workmanship when he saw it. It may not be a fancy piece of work but it was quality. He wanted to know when Carlton had picked it out. His face flushed just from the thought of Carlton walking into a sex shop and picking this collar out for him.
"Can I try it on?" He started to bring it up to his neck but Carlton stopped him.
"By wearing this collar, you agree to do whatever I say, whenever I say, no matter what. You will be mine, to do with as I please. Is that clear?"
The words went straight to Shawn's groin. He nodded.
"And you agree to always tell the truth, even if you think I won't like it."
Shawn hesitated a fraction of a second before nodding again.
"You need a safe word."
Safe word. A word that would make Carlton stop, no matter what he was doing, because he'd pushed Shawn too far. He'd never had a safe word with Marco. He should have.
"And if you can't talk?"
"I'll snap three times."
Carlton released Shawn's hands and slipped the padlock off the buckle. He took the collar from Shawn and stood, moving around to stand behind Shawn. Soft, supple leather pressed against his skin. He felt it tighten around his neck and he clenched his hands, waiting for the point when it got too much, when it became too close to choking. It never got there. Carlton stopped just before there, with the collar tight on his neck but not too tight. He could breathe easily. The collar had a little bit of room to move around, but not too much. It was a solid presence around his neck and he was a little surprised at how grounded it made him feel.
The padlock snapped shut behind his head.
Carlton returned to his seat and took Shawn's hands in both of his. He turned them palm upward. "Would you care to tell me how you cut your hand?"
Shawn glanced down at the ugly red gash running down palm and the three smaller cuts, still bleeding a little, on his index and pointer fingers. He'd forgotten about them but Carlton hadn't. He'd probably noticed something was off as soon as Shawn walked in, and then that bit about honesty... He'd been played, but at least it was the good kind of played. He noted a mental point for Carlton.
"I went back to the museum. I got interrupted the first time - that insurance lady showed up - so I couldn't get a read, but I knew there was something there. I tripped and cut myself on the glass."
Carlton stroked a finger over one of the cuts. The light pressure stung a bit but in a strangely good way. Shawn kind of wanted Carlton to do it again but he wasn't sure how to ask, or if he even should.
"Did you see anything?"
He hesitated. He hadn't intended to tell Carlton about it, not this soon. But he'd made a promise. "I saw a woman. Curly black hair, exotic features. Really pretty but with an impression of old. And the necklace. There's something bad in it, something trapped." Carlton raised an eyebrow. Shawn forced himself to keep talking. "Yeah, I know, it's weird, but so are ghosts and disappearing psychic ladies and all the other strange things that have been happening. The necklace is cursed and I need to find it before something really bad happens."
Carlton squeezed his hands, careful not to put too much pressure on Shawn's injured hand. "I believe you, Shawn." Those words were like a magic bullet shot straight into his heart. He felt lighter all of a sudden, more confident. "Now, stay here while I go get something for your hand."
The pressure from Carlton's grip stayed with him even after Carlton had pulled away. He stared at his hands but there was no mark there beyond the obvious, no sign of the presence he still felt on his skin. He hadn't wanted to tell Carlton all of that, he had wanted to wait until he had more evidence, maybe a bit of proof, but he found that he felt better getting it off his chest.
Maybe this submission thing wasn't going to be so bad after all.
Shawn dreamed of a bar. It wasn't a very crowded bar. There were a few people scattered around, their voices pitched low. It was a sedate kind of bar, more for relaxing and unwinding than trolling for dates. It seemed like the kind of bar Shawn would like. He wanted to go there. He had a feeling he needed to go there.
He was situated at the far corner of the room, a vantage that gave him a clear view of everything and everyone. The rest of the patrons were blurry, normal visages overlaid with strange features that gave them a kind of nightmarish cast - fangs and fur, horns and wings. There was a strangeness to the bar. Something was off but he couldn't focus on that. Instead, his attention focused on one woman seated at the bar.
She had flowing black hair that curled around her face, twisting like a mass of poisonous snakes. Her eyes glowed red and she kept watching one of the other patrons, one of the few that didn't have a weird overlay. There was something off in her stare, something frightening that pierced to the core of him. He didn't like it. Her eyes made him want to run away but that wasn't the truly terrifying part. Her smile was the worst. At first it seemed normal but as he stared, he saw another image overlaid on her mouth. Her teeth were at the same time pearly white and stained red with blood. Two dripping fangs, sharp and deadly, protruded from her top row of teeth, there and then hidden, like they were blinking in and out of existence.
Vampire. This woman was a vampire, or at least she matched every stereotypical Hollywood depiction. She was also the woman Shawn had seen at the museum. A vampire had stolen the necklace.
The woman the vampire was watching stood and left the bar. The vampire followed. Shawn was close behind. As they left, he caught sight of a neon sign with a name, presumably the name of the bar - Blue Moon. That or it was advertising what they had on tap. He was reasonably certain it was the former.
Both women turned into the alley. Shawn had a feeling he was about to witness something bad. He shouted, trying to warn the lady but she didn't turn. Neither reacted. They hadn't heard him. They couldn't hear him, because he wasn't really here.
A wolf's howl made the vampire pause. She hesitated long enough for the woman she was following to slip into her car. Headlight came on. The wolf howled again and he woke up.
Shawn sat up in bed. It was dark. Carlton was snoring softly next to him, his arm stretched across Shawn's waist. He stared down at the arm. He usually didn't dream when Carlton was touching him. He usually couldn't get anything when Carlton was touching him. Shawn had a feeling that made the dream even more important to remember.
The case had just gotten a whole lot weirder. He was kind of glad he'd had this vision after Carlton had asked him about the case. He wasn't quite sure how to explain that their suspect might be a vampire. Things were weird enough as it is, and Vick was already unhappy with the weirdness he'd turned up. He didn't think Vick was going to believe that their suspect might be a vampire. Shawn could barely believe it himself but he knew better than to doubt his dream. He'd seen the fangs.
So, how was he going to catch a vampire who could move faster than a video camera could catch? More importantly, where was that bar?
Shawn slowly eased himself to the edge of the bed, sliding out from beneath Carlton's arm. He watched Carlton carefully, waiting for any sign that Carlton had woken. Carlton's chest continued its even rise and fall, his snoring constant, even after Shawn's feet were on the floor. He palmed his phone and tiptoed across the room, grabbing his clothes from the top of the laundry pile as he passed. As soon as he'd made it to the doorway he paused, listening. The snoring continued.
He waited until he was downstairs to text Gus.
Blue Moon was weirder in person than it had been in Shawn's dream. He felt entirely out of place as he walked in with Gus and took a seat at the bar. The bartender gave them a lingering look before wandering over to take their order with an arched eyebrow. There wasn't anything obvious that marked them out of place. The rest of the occupants were dressed in varying degrees of casual and they all looked like normal people, but Shawn could tell that there was something going on, something he wasn't seeing.
Shawn closed his eyes and stretched out his senses. Usually when he did that, he got a flood of images and emotions. Here, he barely got anything. There was a current of interest from Gus - he had yet to figure out that they were out of place here - and a thin swirl of excitement from two girls in the corner. Everyone else was silent, blank voids like Carlton and Dr. Ross but there was a difference in the silences. Shawn stretched his mind, trying to focus on the differences but it was hard to pick out. His attention kept shifting.
He opened his eyes and looked at Gus. Gus stared back.
"If you wanted to sleep, you could be doing that in bed. You know, that place I was before you called and woke me up because you wanted to go to a bar."
Shawn sat facing the bar. He didn't need to turn around to know exactly where every patron was sitting. He'd gotten all of that from the glance he'd taken when he walked in. In his head, he ran through faces. The black haired woman wasn't here. Maybe she'd left already. Maybe she'd never been here. He wasn't sure if what he'd seen in his dream was something that had happened or something that was going to happen. A lot of the patrons seemed familiar, but it was hard to tell if the people here now matched the blurs he'd seen in his dream. There were less people, but he blamed that on how late it was. The people who were here were clustered in small groups with a few loners scattered about. No one looked their way but he had a feeling they were being watched, studied. He shook his head. "No, I was just," he pressed a hand to his temple, mimicking his fake psychic impression, "doing my thing."
"Oh." Gus leaned back on his stool and sipped his Shirley Temple. "Is that why we're here? Is this about the-"
Shawn pressed a finger to Gus's lips and shook his head. He kept his voice low, meant only for Gus. "Yes, and not so loud. We might have to wait a bit."
A female voice cut in before Gus could respond. "Wait for what?"
Shawn turned and found himself face-to-face with Adriana Blackwood. He leaned back against the bar and rested his elbows on the wood. A quick glance around the room told him that Adriana wasn't attracting the same sort of attention that Shawn was, despite her exquisite dress. She looked like she was headed out for a night on the town. It was a little too classy for a place like the Blue Moon but she seemed to fit right in. If anything, her presence seemed to be drawing attention away from them.
He stretched out a hand, suddenly curious. "Good to see you again."
She smiled the faintest of smiles and didn't take his hand. "Indeed. I didn't expect to meet you at a place like this."
She was on to him. He could pick up a hint of emotion from her but it wasn't quite the same as a normal person. It was muted, not like Carlton was muted but like she was purposely controlling her emotions. He got a faint hint of amusement and concern. Suddenly he really wanted to see what he'd pick up if he touched her. "And what kind of place would that be?"
Her smile widened slightly. Gus was watching them, aware that there was something he was missing but unable to guess exactly what was going on between them.
"It's an eclectic crowd."
"Did you?" Her grin said he was missing something. "I doubt that."
He tapped his head. "Psychic, remember?"
"You're out of your league." Her smile was full of teeth. It reminded Shawn far too much of the vampire they were waiting for. "You shouldn't be here."
Gus gripped his arm and leaned close. "Shawn, what's going on?"
They were attracting attention. A few of the patrons had paused in their drinking and while they weren't obviously watching, Shawn could tell they were trying to listen in. He sighed. They weren't going to get much here tonight. He stood, forcing Blackwood to move away before he walked into her. "We're leaving." He nodded at Blackwood. "Nice seeing you again." He grabbed Gus by the arm and pulled him out of the bar, not speaking again until they were inside the Blueberry. "Let's go to the office. We have some research to do."
"Are you going to tell me what that was all about?"
Shawn glanced up from his laptop. "Promise you won't freak out?"
Gus crossed his arm over his chest. "Is there a reason I should be freaking out?"
"Then I'm not promising."
Shawn shrugged. "I think we were just in a bar full of vampires and werewolves and other things that go bump in the night."
Gus raised an eyebrow. His face was full of disbelief but his posture suggested he was ready to hide under his desk. "Very funny, Shawn."
Gus stared at him. Shawn tried very hard to keep his face serious. It was a bit hard with Gus looking at him like that. His urge to tease was building but he needed Gus to believe him, if only because his attempts to research vampires kept turning up useless information and Gus was the king of research.
Gus's expression fell slightly, shifting towards panic. "You're serious." Shawn nodded. "You're absolutely serious." Gus frowned. "How can you be serious? Vampires aren't real."
"Just like psychics aren't real?"
"Of course psychics are real." Gus waved a hand at Shawn. "You..." Shawn could see realization dawning on Gus's face. "That means..." Gus cringed. "We really just..." A look of horror crossed Gus's face. "Why didn't you tell me?" Gus shouted.
Shawn pointed. "That. That's why. Would you have gone in there if you knew we were hunting a vampire?"
"Vampire!" Gus crossed the room in three quick steps and pressed his hands flat on Shawn's desk, looming over him. "You didn't say anything about hunting a vampire."
Shawn leaned back in his chair. "Didn't I? Well, the lady who took the necklace is a vampire. Like, pointy teeth, drinking blood, all that."
"These are details you do not leave out!" Gus's voice increased with volume on every word. "Shawn!" There was a hysterical edge to his voice. Shawn waited, knowing it wouldn't last long. "Vampire?" Gus stamped his foot. "Shit, Shawn. Arg. Seriously? Did you seriously just take me on a vampire hunt without telling me? Seriously?" Gus was starting to wind down, his anger shifting into panic. "This is worse than chasing after a murderer, Shawn, worse than any of the things you've had me do. You saw how fast that thing was." Gus shivered. "It's a freaking vampire, Shawn. It could have killed us."
Shawn was beginning to see the flaw in his plan. Hindsight, twenty-twenty, all that. He'd just been so caught up in the dream. He'd had to find out if the bar was real, if the woman was real. Anything to prove he wasn't going crazy. "Look on the bright side," he said, forcing cheer. "We're not dead. That would have sucked, in more ways than one. So, seeing as how we're not dead and safe inside of our office, far away from any vampires, what do you know about not getting killed by vampires?"
Gus stared at him. He straightened and crossed his arms over his chest, huffing for a few minutes, doing that thing where he was too angry to talk and yet kept trying to anyways. After a few minutes, he calmed himself and walked back to his desk to sink into his chair. "Don't you think that's the kind of thing to work out before you go into a bar hunting a vampire?"
Shawn shrugged and propped his feet up on his desk. "Probably, but not the point here. I haven't been able to find squat." He gestured towards his computer. "I mean, there's garlic and stakes and running water but those aren't very practical, especially not in these jeans." His pants were a tight fit, bought specifically because of the way they made Carlton's eyes follow him. No way he could hide a stake in those without a number of 'is that a stake in your pocket or are you just happy to see me' jokes.
Gus stared at him for several moments, a frown etched on his face. He shook his head in disgust and turned to his computer. After a few moments of typing, he looked back at Shawn. "Sunlight. Holy symbols. Holy water. Stake through the heart. Garlic. Maybe silver."
"Yeah, I got most of that. What really works?"
"Do you honestly expect me to find a manual on vampire hunting on the internet?"
Shawn frowned. He supposed that would be too convenient. He stared out the window. It was starting to get lighter out. Carlton would wake up soon and he really should get back.
"Yeah, you're right." He swung his feet back to the floor. "We can hit the library in the morning, see what we find."
Gus raised an eyebrow. "By we, you mean me, cause I know you're going to find some reason not to go."
Shawn grinned. Gus knew him well. "Well, as long as you're volunteering."
Gus sighed but didn't actually object.
"So, you do some research, I'll try to pick of some psychic vibrations or something, and then we'll try again."
"I know I shouldn't be agreeing to this."
Shawn clapped Gus on the back as they headed to the door. "Glad to have you with me, buddy."
Shawn stared at the cards spread out on the table in front of him. They made no sense. How was he supposed to get anything useful off of random pictures printed on flimsy cardstock? The Fool card sat in the center of the spread, the Magician was off to the right, the Lovers to the left, the Devil below, and the Tower above. He was fairly certain that there should be other cards involved - swords or cups or something - but he kept getting these five cards, over and over. It was supposed to mean something, but it didn't, at least not to him. His headache didn't help. His head had been killing him this morning, but he blamed that more on the late night and lack of sleep than anything else.
The floorboards creaked over his head as the shower shut off. He could hear Carlton moving around the bathroom, then the bedroom, then coming down the stairs. Carlton paused at the bottom of the stairs. Shawn could feel Carlton's eyes linger on him for a few seconds before Carlton headed into the dining room to stand behind him. "You're up early."
Shawn tilted his head back to rest on Carlton's chest. He smiled and tried to act like he hadn't been up all night. "You're up late."
Carlton leaned down. Their lips met in a gentle kiss. "Are you hungry?"
He shook his head. Carlton wandered into the kitchen. Shawn swept up the cards and tried again. He shuffled the cards and dealt out five. Same thing. He tried it again and again. Same result. Shawn sighed and switched one deck for another. There was a small booklet with that deck and he started to read through it. The cards had to mean something but they might as well have been written in Klingon for all they made sense to him.
A plate settled on the table near Shawn's elbow. There was a sandwich on it and a few slices of pineapple. Shawn looked up at Carlton.
"I'm going out for a bit. Make sure you eat."
He nodded and tilted his head up for another kiss. Carlton smiled at him, one of his soft, goofy smiles that made Shawn melt a little inside, and obliged. Shawn took a bite of the sandwich, making sure Carlton saw him eat it. The front door opened and shut. He finished half of the sandwich before Carlton's car started. He turned back to the booklet and forgot about the food.
Each card had a brief sentence description on the tiny pages of the booklet. The Fool was a spirit in search of experience. The Magician represented innate potential. The Lovers were supposed to signify relationships and choices. Then there were the last two - the Devil and the Tower, neither actually as bad as they seemed according to the little paper booklet. The former represented being held back by material needs, the other conflict and catastrophe. When he put them all together as a narrative, they made absolutely no sense.
How was any of this supposed to help him find a jewelry thief? He kept getting the same cards, no matter what, so it had to be important. It had to mean something but he couldn't figure out what.
He shuffled and dealt, shuffled and dealt. Nothing changed.
His head felt like it was tearing apart. Maybe a nap would help. He certainly wasn't getting anywhere with this. Shawn slipped the cards back into their box and set it aside in disgust. This was getting him nowhere. What good were psychic powers if they didn't work? He stretched out on the couch, intending to get a few minutes shut eye before heading back to the cards. His eyes closed. His brain shut off. Darkness pulled him under and then there were lips, soft lips pressing against his own in a lingering kiss. As he opened his eyes, he realized the light was wrong. It was darker than it should be, late afternoon instead of early morning.
"Shit." He sat up slowly and rubbed his eyes. There was something on the table in front of him. It took Shawn a few minutes of staring to realize what it was - his collar. The cards he'd left out on the dining room table were suddenly forgotten. "Oh."
Carlton sat on the couch next to him. "We don't have to." His fingers brushed against Shawn's ear. "You look tired."
He shook his head. His headache wasn't much better but maybe, just maybe, this would help. "It's okay. I want to." He started to reach for the collar but Carlton stopped him.
Shawn wasn't sure he'd ever get over the thrill of Carlton's fingers brushing against his skin while leather closed around his throat. He wasn't sure he wanted to. The leather hugged his neck and he felt something shift inside of him as the lock snap closed.
"Take off your clothes." Even Carlton's voice felt different. Shawn glanced over at him but it was still the same man sitting next to him. It just felt different. He felt different.
Shawn rose slowly and pulled off his t-shirt. His socks came next, then his pants and his underwear with it. He dropped them in a pile beside the couch. Carlton watched his every move. It made Shawn slightly self-conscious. Carlton had seen him naked before numerous times but usually Carlton was naked as well. This was different. He was putting himself on display, peeling off every layer that stood between them and exposing himself to Carlton, laying himself bare.
He shivered. He wanted to cross his arms over himself, to cover at least a small part of himself but instead he forced his hands to his sides. His arms were tense but he couldn't really help that.
Carlton gave him a lingering once-over. There was a faint smirk on his lips and for an instant, Shawn imagined that they weren't themselves, but instead a slave and his new potential buyer. That thought sent a strange spear of heat straight through his groin. It wasn't the sort of thing he'd expect to be hot, definitely not something he'd find erotic outside of this context but when it was Carlton staring at him like that, he couldn't help himself. He wanted Carlton to own him, in every sense of the word.
"Turn around. Slowly."
Heat spread across his face and through his chest, like he was melting from the inside. He moved, slowly like Carlton asked. He wished he'd showered after getting back from the bar last night. Once he'd completed one full rotation, Carlton leaned back on the couch and used his foot to push the coffee table further away. He grabbed one of the throw pillows - a big, plush square of green fabric and minimal padding - and tossed it on the floor at his feet.
Shawn lowered himself to the floor and shuffled forward onto the cushion. He could feel the thin padding give beneath his weight. It provided minimal comfort, at least, but it wouldn't stay comfortable for very long.
"Face that way." Carlton pointed towards the coffee table.
There wasn't much room to move around but Shawn managed it, shifting around on his knees until he was facing the way Carlton wanted. The couch pressed against his feet and the coffee table was only a few inches away from the front of the cushion. He let his hands hang at his sides, not really sure what else to do with them. Carlton stood and walked out into the hall. He came back with a plastic shopping bag. There were several strange lumps inside the bag but the plastic was too thick for Shawn to see what was inside.
Carlton took the bag into the dining room. Shawn started to turn his head to look.
Shawn snapped his head forward. He stared at the TV, hoping to get a glimpse of what Carlton had in the bag through the reflection on the screen. Carlton stood in the way, keeping the bag and its contents hidden in front of his chest. Plastic rustled. Shawn heard a few tags snap and some plastic cartons being opened. Everything went back into the bag, which was then set down behind the couch while Carlton disposed of the garbage. On his return, Carlton reached down and pulled something from the bag before coming around on Shawn's opposite side.
There was a leather blindfold in Carlton's hands. It was thick, padded like his collar with a buckle on the back. Carlton smirked. "I picked up a few things while you were napping."
All of Shawn's attention was now focused on what was in that bag. He felt hot all over in expectation. What had Carlton bought him? Carlton sat on the couch next to him and leaned forward. Shawn licked his lips as the blindfold slid over his face. He could feel Carlton's fingers brushing against his hair. The world went dark. He couldn't see anything. The blindfold covered his eyes completely, blocking out all light. There wasn't even a crack where it pressed against his skin.
Shawn gasped as Carlton's fingers brushed through his hair. He knew that it was Carlton touching him but that didn't stop his mind from doubting. He couldn't see which meant that he didn't know, not for certain. That thought terrified him. He shivered again and shifted on the cushion.
Knuckles brushed against his cheek. Shawn swallowed around the lump in his throat. "Yes?"
"We're alone, right?"
He hesitated, knowing he was being stupid but at the same time he felt incredibly vulnerable. He didn't entirely like the feeling. "Can you make sure the doors are locked?"
Silence. It stretched out for too long and then there was movement, the creak of the couch springs, the subtle shifting in the wood as weight was redistributed along the frame. "Of course. One second."
In his head, he pulled up a mental map of the house and followed Carlton through it as he checked first the front door, then the patio doors, then the door to the garage. They were already locked but each time Carlton rattled a knob to check, Shawn felt his nerves ease. It wasn't enough to completely relax him, but it helped. Carlton's footsteps were a soft whisper against the carpet. Plastic rustled. Carlton picked up the bag and returned to sit on the couch.
"Put your hands behind your back."
Shawn obediently clasped his hands behind his back. The bag rustled. Carlton brushed his hand down Shawn's arm. Soft leather closed around his wrists, thicker than his collar. First one wrist, then the other was encased, then there was a quick snap. Shawn gave his wrists and experimental tug. They were latched together. His chest tightened with anticipation and he felt his breathing speed up slightly.
Fingers tangled in his hair, gentle at first and then tightening. His head was pulled back until he was arched almost all the way back to the couch. He heard Carlton shift and then Carlton was kissing him, deep and possessive. Shawn couldn't move, couldn't do anything but surrender to the kiss. Carlton's tongue felt hot. It slid through his mouth, mapping out the deepest corners. Shawn moaned into the kiss. He wanted to press up, to press himself against Carlton but the angle was all wrong. He wanted to touch more of Carlton. The hand in his hair kept him in place.
A low whine escaped his mouth as Carlton pulled away. He stretched upwards, arching further in an unsuccessful attempt to get closer to Carlton's mouth. The hand in his hair directed him, moving him slightly more upright before letting go. Plastic rustled again.
"Open your mouth." Shawn did. "Wider." He did, hoping this meant that all his cooperation had earned him a prize. He waited for the couch to creak, to hear the familiar sound of Carlton's fly sliding down but instead he got something large and round pressing against his lips. He tasted plastic. Leather straps pressed against his cheeks.
Apparently, when Carlton wanted to do bondage he went all out. Shawn was starting to feel trussed up like an animal for the slaughter. He wiggled slightly, testing his bonds again and received a sharp slap on the ass. The pain went straight to Shawn's groin and he moaned around the gag. He debated doing that again just to see how far Carlton would go.
Well, there went that plan. He sighed and relaxed into his position. More rustling plastic. Shawn was starting to wonder just how many things Carlton had bought. The bag had been fairly full. He could just picture Carlton's face as he handled the ball gag, feeling its leather and imagining it against Shawn's skin. Shawn moaned again and had to fight the urge to move. He was getting hard just thinking about what Carlton would do to him. It wasn't fair that he couldn't move. He needed Carlton, needed Carlton to touch him.
He wasn't ever going to be able to think about leather, much less look at it, without getting hard.
Carlton was so getting a leather jacket for Christmas.
Something large and heavy settled on his head. It clapped over his ears, taking away the last connection Shawn had over the outside world. He froze. Carlton's fingers brushed against his scalp as he adjusted something thick and hard that ran over the top of his head. There were large padded circles around his ears, soft enough not to bother him save for the fact that they cut off all sound.
Fingers brushed through his hair, over and over again in a slow pattern. He was breathing too fast, breathing too hard with the gag in his mouth. He couldn't get enough air. There was a hand on his back, rubbing deep circles over his spine. He felt Carlton's warmth press against his side. He turned his head into the warmth. Carlton's scent filled him - the spicy fragrance of his cologne mixed with gunpowder, mechanical oil, and a hint of sweat. It calmed him. His breathing eased. Each new breath, slower and steadier than the last, made his chest loosen until he was limp against Carlton's chest.
Lips pressed against his hair, then his cheek as Carlton pulled away, untangling himself from Shawn with slow deliberation. A hand slid down to his chest, pressing next to his heart while the one on his back pushed him forward. It was incredibly terrifying being moved without having any sense of where he was beyond the press of fabric against his knees. He had to trust Carlton not to push too far. He had no other choice. He couldn't see or hear where he was going and at that moment all of his years of training escaped him. He couldn't remember the room. He couldn't remember what was in front of him, if there was even anything there to stop him if he fell. For all he knew, there was a massive black hole in the floor in front of him and Carlton's hands were the only things keeping him from falling in.
He didn't fall in. His nose touched something hard and then the hand on his back shifted to his hair, turning his head to the side so that his face could press against something hard and flat. He felt it all down his chest, ending just above his stomach. He smelled Pledge and varnish. The coffee table.
Carlton's hand brushed down Shawn's spine, sending a tingling of warmth everywhere he touched. The hand continued down, over his ass and down his thigh to his knee. It pulled, encouraging him to open his legs. Finally, they were getting to the good stuff. Shawn felt a quiver of anticipation in his spine, mixing with the tension and fear that had been growing there from the minute the blindfold came on. The hand went away, then came back, wet and a little cold. It pressed against his ass, circling his entrance over and over again in a teasing gesture that was going to drive Shawn mad very soon if he didn't get more. He whimpered into the gag but that only made the finger slow. His eyes squeezed shut and he rolled his head, pressing his forehead into the wood and biting plastic to keep from whimpering again.
A hard slap on his ass reminded him of Carlton's rule. The finger went away and his head was repositioned, back the way it had been before. Shawn whimpered again. There was a faint hint of moisture inside the blindfold. He was hard again and he wanted nothing more than to rut against the coffee table. He needed touch, needed some kind of sensation when he was denied his sight and hearing.
Shawn gasped as the finger pushed in hard, driving in all the way to the knuckle in one quick push. All of his attention was now centered on that finger, on the way it twisted inside of him, rotating quickly before pulling out and shoving back in again. His breath hitched. His entire world narrowed down to that finger and the way it was driving him absolutely wild. He moaned into the gag, hoping the sound, muffled though it was, was enough to get Carlton hot and hard and ready to fuck him. He needed Carlton inside of him, he needed the rough heat of Carlton's member and the press of his body. He needed it like he needed air, more than air. He'd gladly stop breathing if it meant he could get Carlton inside of him.
Instead he got a second finger, sliding in beside the first, then an third, then a fourth. The last surprised him. Normally Carlton didn't go to this much trouble to prepare him. Normally it was one, two, maybe three, go. Nothing about this situation was normal, so Shawn supposed he could grant a little leeway. That didn't mean he had to be happy about it. Carlton's touch was driving him wild and it took every bit of his limited control not to start writhing against the table. At least he was allowed to moan. He couldn't stop that, not even if he tried. More moisture gathered on the blindfold - tears of frustration as he was pushed closer and closer to the edge. He was hard enough to pound nails. Surely Carlton saw that and would take pity on him soon.
Pity didn't seem to be on the agenda. The fingers twisted inside him, pressing against his skin and making him shiver every time one of them grazed his prostate. They stretched him, pushing and turning until he was wide open. Two of them rubbed over his prostate and he couldn't help but press his hips back into the touch. The fingers pulled out instantly and he tensed, waiting for the slap he knew was coming. Carlton didn't disappoint. Carlton smacked him hard enough that it had to leave a mark. Real tears stung Shawn's eyes and he clenched his hands into fists as he fought to keep still.
Time stretched out with nothing but silence and the press of wood against his skin. He wondered if he'd angered Carlton. He wondered if Carlton had walked away, if Carlton had left him here, bent over the coffee table and painfully hard. Then something pressed against his ass. It wasn't Carlton. It was too hard to be his cock, too large to be a finger. It slid inside of him, widening as it went, growing larger and larger almost to the point of pain. Was Carlton trying to split him in half? Then all of a sudden it tapered off and he felt his entrance close slightly around it, trapping the object inside.
Shawn cried out against the gag. It was too big. It hurt, not much but a little and he could feel it pushing against his prostate, a constant maddening pressure. He waited for Carlton to pull it out but he didn't. Two hands ran up his back and he trembled under the touch. They tightened on his shoulder and pulled him backwards. Shawn screamed as the object shifted with him, driving him absolutely mad as it moved against his prostate. The hands on his shoulders pushed him down until he was kneeling again and held them there while he panted for breath. He couldn't help his shaking now but Carlton seemed to be allowing it. He trembled against his bonds. The hands on his shoulders kept him in place.
He needed to come. He desperately needed to come. At this point, all it'd take was a touch. He whimpered against the gag, tried to beg even though he knew it was useless. The words were too muffled to be understood but he kept trying. The hands on his shoulders pulled away and he sobbed in relief, waiting for the inevitable touch that would set him free.
It never came.
His trembling slowed. His breathing eased. His attempts to beg around the gag became less and less frequent until he stopped entirely. He shifted his weight on his knees and instantly regretted it as it made the object shift too. He knelt on the pillow and waited. Nothing happened.
Darkness and silence surrounded him. With the absence of all other stimuli, the object inside of him grew more and more uncomfortable. The pain was starting to ease but it left behind a dull and constant ache, an ache that was mirrored by his flagging erection. He felt overfull, like he was going to split open the minute he tried to move. He couldn't sit comfortably. The rough fabric of the cushion scraped against his skin like sandpaper. The cushion did nothing to stop his knees from aching at the hard press of the floor. His arms burned from being held in position behind his back.
One by one, his individual aches and pains began to blur, combining into one whole body ache that settled at the bottom of his subconscious, too annoying to be completely forgotten but not distinct enough to pull his attention to any one place. He could almost forget about the object holding him open, but it kept his attention enough that he couldn't hold a complete thought.
He felt lost and alone. There was nothing here. He had no distractions. Possibly for the first time in his life, there was nothing clamoring for his attention, no puzzle begging to be solved save for the question of where the hell had Carlton gone. There was only silence and an endless stretch of nothingness. He found his will to fight against it slowly wearing away. This wasn't going to end until Carlton decided it would and there was nothing Shawn could do to change that. He was stuck here for however long Carlton decided to keep him this way.
As soon as he stopped fighting, something inside of him eased. He felt a pressure lift away. His head felt like someone had blown it open. The constant pain was gone. It slid away, leaving him feeling like he'd surfaced after spending hours underwater. He floated there, body limp and relaxed. His mind was completely empty and he liked it. He wanted to stay here forever.
He drifted for what felt like an eternity.
A touch on his shoulder startled him back to the present. That touch, just a single touch, was all it took to set his body on fire. He gasped and shivered as heat crawled along his veins, pooling around the object in his ass. The hand on his shoulder moved, sliding down his chest and brushing across a nipple. Shawn screamed into the gag.
He was pulled forward again and this time Shawn didn't worry about falling. Carlton's hand was on him, burning an imprint of heat into his chest. It felt like a brand, and he wouldn't mind if it were one. He wanted it. He wanted Carlton's touch imprinted on his skin, a permanent mark on his flesh that could never be erased. He wanted people to be able to look at it and know that Carlton owned him.
His chest rubbed against the coffee table. Before the wood had felt smooth but now it was too much, grating against his skin and making him tremble. His forehead pressed against the wood as the hands burned a line down his chest. He whimpered against the table. Then Carlton's fingers pressed against his opening, and he screamed as Carlton stretched him, opening him back up so he could slide the object out. Shawn couldn't stop screaming. His blindfold was wet. Shawn thought he'd be happy to have that thing out of him but it left behind an aching void as it was pulled out.
He was empty, so empty he couldn't stand it, but he didn't have to, not for long. Carlton's hands rubbed down his thighs, minimally soothing the burning ache from being kept in one position for so long. Then they were sliding up and he felt a familiar weight behind him. Carlton's hands spread over his ass, thumbs digging into his cheeks to spread Shawn open wide as Carlton slid inside.
It was too much. It was too perfect, after being full for so long, then empty, then having Carlton inside of him. It was like coming home. Carlton belonged there, belonged inside of him, and he ached deep in his chest as he felt that belonging fulfilled. He felt himself relax around Carlton, his body more than willing to accommodate him. Carlton rocked his hips, slow and gentle. It was too much for him. He was hard again and he needed Carlton. Thankfully, this time Carlton obliged. His hand closed around Shawn's member and that was all he needed to come undone.
He was vaguely aware of screaming, of pleasure so intense it made him see flashes of light behind the blindfold. Then there was heat and wet and gentle touches and kisses. Strong hands rubbed the aches out of his legs. He was boneless putty in Carlton's hands. From his legs, Carlton moved up to his hands, disconnecting his cuffs, then pulling the leather away, then rubbing feeling back into Shawn's arms. The earmuffs came off. Shawn jumped as they were set next to him, the sound of the earmuffs touching the wood too loud right next to him. Carlton pulled Shawn back against his chest. The gag was pulled off and Carlton spent minutes rubbing the ache from Shawn's jaw. Finally the blindfold came off.
It was too bright. Shawn squinted and turned his face in towards Carlton's chest. He used Carlton's body to block most of the light. Carlton's familiar scent washed over him. He didn't ever want to move.
"Think you can stand?" Carlton whispered in his ear.
Moving seemed like an impossible feat but the floor was far from comfortable. He nodded, not trusting his voice just yet. Carlton supported him as they stood. Shawn's legs trembled and he relied on Carlton's support far more than he expected. Carlton pulled away for a brief moment to pull a blanket off the back of the couch. The fabric felt strange against his over-sensitized skin, at once soft and jarring. He shivered. Carlton mistook the motion and wrapped the blanket tighter. His arms came around Shawn, pulling him down onto the couch. Shawn ended up on Carlton's lap, his head on Carlton's shoulder, and his body curled up tight.
It felt like coming down from a high. The world slowly slid back into focus, resolving into meaningful images that his brain could process. There was Carlton's heartbeat, his blood pounding loud beneath Shawn's ear, much faster than his even breathing would suggest. Carlton's hands moved over the blanket, smoothing the fabric over Shawn's skin and causing decreasing levels of tremors as his skin adjusted to normal levels of sensation. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the coffee table with all the implements Carlton had used on him laid out across the surface. He could finally see the object Carlton had put inside of him - a slender black plug, far smaller than Shawn's imagination had made it seem. He shivered as he remembered how it felt stretching him.
"Are you okay?" Carlton's voice was soft and low, pitched in a way that Shawn had never heard before but wanted to hear again. It made his chest burn with emotion.
He turned his head, shifting slightly against Carlton's shoulder without ever breaking contact, moving just enough that he could look up into Carlton's eyes. He paused before answering, squinting at the strange image hovering on Carlton's forehead. It was a card, one of the tarot cards, glowing with a strange light. The Lovers. His lover. The cards he'd kept getting... They were literal. They weren't supposed to mean anything, they were pointing him at people and Carlton was one of them.
He swallowed and forced a smile. It wasn't hard to do, not with Carlton looking at him like that, like he was Shawn's white knight out to save him and make everything better. "Fine." His voice cracked on the word, making Carlton frown. The glowing card faded away.
"Are you sure? Did I push too-"
"No." Shawn shook his head quickly. "No, that was..." How was he supposed to put that into words? He'd felt so much, and even though it had seemed like an eternity, he knew rationally that that session or scene or whatever they wanted to call it could have only lasted an hour, maybe two at the most. He felt like he'd lived a lifetime in that span and while it had been terrifying and painful, it had touched something in him, something deep. He'd liked it, every second of it. "Amazing."
Carlton's expression softened. "Okay. As long as you liked it."
He smiled and tucked his head back against Carlton's chest. He didn't think he was ever going to forget tonight, not for as long as he lived. The truly terrifying and thrilling part was that this was just the start. This was just the first of many sessions. If he was Peter Pan, that thought alone would have been enough to make him fly.
A nagging thought brought him back to Earth. If Carlton was the Lovers, who were the rest of the cards?
Shawn slid onto a barstool at the back corner of the bar, a stool that he was starting to firmly consider his. He was pretty sure he'd get kicked out if he tried to put his name on it, but it was tempting. That spot offered him the same vantage point from his original dream, the dream that had kept him coming back here night after night waiting for his vampire to show up. The bartender only gave him a brief glance as he sat down, more of a 'you again?' look than 'you don't belong here'. Maybe it was because he didn't have Gus with him or because he'd been here a few times already or because he was quiet and kept to himself, but the patrons as a whole barely seemed to register his presence anymore. That was fine with him. He was here to watch, not chat.
It was maybe a little stupid to come here alone. It was probably a lot stupid to be here at all but he knew he needed to be here if he wanted to find the next piece of the puzzle. Time was running out. He could feel it, just like he could feel his internal compass pointing him here. It was strange how his brain kept telling him where he should be. His headache had faded after that evening with Carlton and the blindfold and all that. It was amazing how clear everything seemed when his head didn't hurt. He'd taken for granted how awesome his life had been before, without constant headaches. It was days since then and all he had was a faint pounding, barely noticeable for now.
A skinny, scraggly man stood from one of the tables and wandered towards the bar. Shawn had seen him here twice before. He was one of the regulars, hanging at a table with people who were even more regular. Instead of heading towards the bartender, the man veered and sat on the opposite edge of the corner next to Shawn. Shawn stiffened slightly and was suddenly very self-conscious of the gun - borrowed from Carlton - strapped to his ankle. He wasn't stupid enough to hunt a vampire unarmed, again.
"You're new," the man said, without preamble. He took a long pull of his drink without taking his eyes off Shawn.
Shawn opened his mouth to respond, to tell the man to go away, but something stopped him. There was movement at the door. A black-haired woman descended the steps and walked into the bar. It was her. Shawn quickly turned his attention back to the man. It'd be better if the vampire didn't realize Shawn was waiting for her and a conversation made the perfect cover.
He took a sip of his own drink - a club soda with three pineapple wedges - before replying. "I am. At least in the relative sense of this bar. Outside the bar, I've been around for a few years, give or take twenty."
The vampire spoke briefly to the bartender. He pulled a dark jug from the mini-fridge under the bar and poured her a glass of something dark and red. It clung to the sides of the glass like thick wine. She took her glass and moved off to a table in one of the many shadowy alcoves in the bar.
"We don't get a lot of new folks."
"I can't imagine why." He could. If he hadn't been looking for this place in specific he never would have thought to come here. It was out of the way, far from the usual bar district. The entrance was off a side street and down a flight of stairs. Even the neon sign was angled in such a way that passersby would be hard pressed to realize there was a bar here. The only information about the bar that he'd been able to find online was the address and phone number on a Google Maps listing.
"We like it that way."
"Sorry to intrude."
The man shifted on his stool and Shawn got a quick flash of a snarling dog overlaying the man's face. A brief cacophony filled the room - barking, screeching, chittering, howling, all in different keys. The noise was faded in the way that meant it was only in his head. It was there and gone in the space of a heartbeat. Shawn shivered. He clenched his hand around his glass to hide the tremble.
The stranger leaned closer and sniffed. Shawn's eyes went wide. Had that guy really just smelled him? What the hell?
"You smell weird."
Yes. He'd just been smelled. He wasn't sure if he should be weirded out or offended. "Seriously?" A few of the patrons glanced over at them. Shawn forced his voice lower. "Did you seriously just do that? I mean, really?"
The stranger leaned closer and smiled. His breath had a strange odor, like rancid meat and dirt. He needed a shower and a shave desperately. "You're out of your territory, pup." What the hell was that supposed to mean? "What are you? You smell like fur but I can tell you're not."
Shouldn't the question be 'who' not 'what'? What did he mean that Shawn smelled like 'fur'? Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the vampire drain her glass, tilting it back to get every last drop. Shawn turned to stare at his own drink and tried his hardest to make it look like he wasn't watching. She stood, leaving her glass behind on the table, and left.
Shawn knocked back the rest of his drink and pushed it to the edge of the bar. "I think you've got me confused with someone else." Shawn counted to ten before standing up to follow her. A thick hand closed over his arm, stopping him before he made it two steps. He stared down at the hand, then up at the stranger. He felt nothing from the touch. He was beginning to think Carlton wasn't so unique after all. "Let go."
The stranger smiled at him. It wasn't a very nice smile. "You have no idea what you're messing with, do you?"
He could feel several eyes on him. He didn't care. He needed to follow that vampire. "I've got a pretty good idea." He yanked on his arm but it didn't budge. "Let go."
"I don't think so."
Anger flashed through Shawn, as hot and fast as a volcano erupting. "Fuck. I don't have time for this." His head ached, just for a moment as his rage boiled over. He needed to find that vampire now. "Let go!" The words came out louder than he intended, startling both him and the stranger. The man's eyes widened and he toppled backwards off his stool. That was more than a little weird but it meant his arm was free so he couldn't complain. Chairs scraped but Shawn didn't waste time seeing who wanted to pick a fight with him. He ran out of the bar. His head still pounded but it seemed to be focused, pointing him in the direction he needed to go.
His footsteps echoed in the alley but he didn't care because he needed to hurry, needed to move faster, to catch her. He twisted through the maze of side streets, turning blindly, not paying attention to where he was going, only to where his head told him to go. It was insane. Utterly insane but it felt right and he had nothing better to go on.
He turned a corner and saw her. She stood beneath a street lamp, the light forming a halo around her. She was waiting, staring back at him.
Shawn skidded to a halt. There was a good distance between them, maybe a dozen yards, but it didn't feel like nearly enough. He'd been hoping to follow her back to wherever she lived and call the police in to catch her with the necklace. A face-to-face confrontation was definitely not on the agenda.
"You're following me." Her voice carried clear through the air, as if she were speaking right next to him. He shivered.
"Yeah." He hadn't meant to say that but it was too late now. It was out there, hanging between them.
She smiled. She took a step closer. Shawn took a step back. "Did you want something?"
There were a lot of ways he could play this. He could pretend to be a vampire groupie - if such a thing even existed. He could pretend to be a dumb guy following a pretty lady. He could ask for her phone number. Or, he could play it straight. His gut told him to do that latter. "The necklace. The one you stole. I'm here to get it back."
She laughed. It was a high, lofty sound. It was loud. It reminded him of breaking glass. He started to lean down, moving slowly as he reached for Carlton's gun. She took another step but instead of only moving a foot forward she was suddenly there, right in front of him, too fast for his eye to follow. Her hand closed around his throat, sharp pointed nails digging into his skin and drawing blood. Up close, he could see her for what she was. Her skin was nearly white, her eyes almost pure black. She looked frail but her grip was like metal squeezing his throat. He had a second for realization to sink in, for panic to well up and then he was flying, sailing through the air and into a pile of garbage. Cardboard and plastic provided a slight buffer as he slammed into a brick wall. Something snapped but he was fairly certain it was the wooden crate he'd partially landed on rather than something inside of him.
He couldn't feel it yet, but he was fairly certain he was about to be in a world of pain. His brain hadn't caught up with what had happened. It was still in the street, facing off with the vampire. She turned towards him and grinned and he knew in that second that he was a dead man. He was going to die and Carlton was going to be devastated. Maybe he'd come back and haunt the police station like Maggie, stuck in a world where the people he loved couldn't see or hear him. He didn't want that.
Shawn tried to sit up, tried to reach the gun but his body didn't want to work. Pain flared through his chest and down his sides. He needed to move or he was dead.
"What fools these mortals be." A card glowed on her forehead - the Devil. She smiled like one.
Shawn managed to roll off the pile of garbage. He hit the pavement hard. His head swam. She stepped closer, walking like a normal person. She was baiting him. She wanted him to be afraid. There was a murmur of voices, low, like it came from behind a thick door. She didn't act like she heard it, she just kept smiling and moving closer. The voices got louder but he couldn't make out what they were saying.
An animal snarled. A shadow passed over Shawn's head. The vampire screeched and jumped to the side. A large wolf, as big as a bicycle, landed where she'd been standing. There was something about the wolf that pulled at Shawn, something in the pattern of grey and black in his fur. It snarled at the vampire. Shawn's head hurt. The wolf snapped at the vampire, lunged at her but she was on the other side of the alley in a blink. The wolf chased her.
There was light. Light and pounding, but the pounding wasn't entirely inside his head. Two glowing blobs moved towards him, each at equal height, evenly spaced. Hands. Glowing hands. It was hard to focus. There was someone coming towards him. Voices. One voice stood out above the rest, a real voice, one not in his head. A face, familiar, female, Blackwood. Her hands glowed and they felt good when they touched him, soothing. There was something on her head. His eyes wanted to close. He fought it, staring. It refused to focus and he fought off unconsciousness. She was saying something to him but he couldn't hear her.
Seconds before his eyes closed, the image on her head came into focus. The Magician.
Shawn woke to a steady, rhythmic beeping. He groaned and tried to sit up, then thought better of it as his head and chest vehemently protested the movement. There was a needle in his arm, hooked up to a bag of clear fluid.
Shawn turned his head to stare at Blackwood. She was seated in the corner of the room, her chair positioned to give her full view of both Shawn and the door. He was mildly surprised to see her and not Carlton but something told him Carlton wasn't far.
"How's your head?"
He groaned in response. Shawn shifted, moving slowly and very carefully until he was in some semblance of upright. Sunlight streamed in through the open window. The light made him feel better. He felt safer in the sunlight. His memory of last night was a bit blurred. He remembered the bar and talking to the weird guy that smelled him. Then there was the alley and the vampire and then things got a bit fuzzy after that. He vaguely recalled there being something literally fuzzy involved.
Blackwood stood, rising smoothly from the chair and discreetly adjusting her dress. It was a sleek red affair, far classier than anyone would normally wear to a hospital. Her heels clacked on the tile as she stepped forward. "They say you have a concussion. Bruised ribs but not broken. You're lucky to be alive, Mr. Spencer."
"Luck-" His voice cracked. He swallowed, forcing water down his dry throat. "Luck has nothing to do with it." It hurt a little to talk. He remembered a hand grabbing him by the throat. He probably had an impressive set of bruises.
She smiled, a thin compression of her overly red lips. "How much do you remember?"
Images flashed through his head. The Magician. Glowing hands. He glanced down at her perfectly manicured hands and then back up at her face. She was something different, something special, but he had no idea what. "Enough."
Her nails tapped against metal as she gripped the railing of his bed. "You hit your head. That kind of trauma can make people see strange things."
"I know what I saw."
He was finally piecing things together. He was the Fool, the stupid idiot who thought he could take on a vampire on his own. Somehow Blackwood and Carlton were in this with him and they were all chasing after the Devil, the vampire that stole the necklace that was going to unleash something dark and powerful and evil. That was the Tower, the ruin they were fighting against. It all made so much sense now, too bad he needed a near-death experience to see it that way.
Blackwood leaned over the railing. Her smile lost its good humor. "You're playing in things too big for you. Let it go. Walk away. There might not be someone there to save you next time."
Their eyes met as Shawn stared up at her. Something sparked inside of him, a kind of recognition, but before he could say anything the door opened.
Carlton was furious. It wasn't noticeable, not to someone who didn't know him well, but Shawn could read it in the hard set of his jaw and the tense line of his shoulders and the gleam in his eye. Blackwood took one look at Carlton and straightened, stepping away from Shawn's bed.
"Pardon me, Detective. I was just leaving."
She clacked swiftly across the room. The door clicked shut behind her. Shawn was suddenly very conscious of the bandages around his throat and his chest. Carlton shifted on his feet, his stance widening as if preparing for a fight. He crossed his arms and pierced Shawn with a stare. There was a slim chance that maybe he wouldn't be too mad, maybe he was just upset that Shawn was hurt - that much was a given - and maybe he was just going to give Shawn a lecture about staying out of bad parts of town.
"Would you mind telling me exactly what you were doing out alone on the streets with my gun?"
Shawn was not in the mood to see a psychiatrist. He was antsy, nervous. He didn't like being cooped up at home but Carlton was adamant that that's where he stay. Carlton probably would have chained him to the bed just to keep him at home but that would be triggery in all sorts of bad ways for Shawn. Still, it was a close call. The only time Shawn was allowed out of the house - there was part of him that chaffed at being 'allowed' to leave and another part of him that didn't think it was an entirely bad thing - was to see Dr. Ross and Carlton had taken time off of work to escort him there personally.
He felt trapped. He needed to find that damn vampire before it was too late.
"You seem distracted."
Shawn turned from his contemplation of the windows to stare at the doctor. He wasn't in the mood for head games and he was absolutely certain Ross knew why he was distracted. The bruises and puncture wounds on his throat were a big hint. If Ross's office wasn't on the fifth floor, he probably would have been trying to sneak out the window.
"I hear you got in over your head."
There was something about the way Ross said that that reminded Shawn of Blackwood. He narrowed his eyes and turned his attention to the doctor. No magic glowing cards appeared but something felt off. Not off in a bad way, but different. Like the bar.
"I've been hearing that a lot lately."
Ross tapped his pen against his notepad. It was a soft, even rhythm. He'd never seen Ross do that before. He looked closer. Everything looked almost normal. Ross was as composed as ever, his face neutral but there was an undercurrent of tension barely visible under his normal blandness. His hair was not quite as perfect as usual. There was a scratch almost hidden by the collar of his dress shirt.
His hair. Black with hints of grey. Shawn stared. Ross shifted in his chair. For a change, Shawn was the one making the other uncomfortable.
It wasn't possible. He was mad for even thinking it but there was something about Ross that reminded him of that wolf. The wolf that had saved him.
"Do you know a bar called the Blue Moon?" Shawn asked.
Ross's posture stiffened so very slightly. "I've heard of it." He spoke slowly, cautiously.
"It's a very weird place."
"It is." That was it. The affirmation was like a subtle nod, a signal that said 'you're one of us'. Shawn just had no idea who 'us' was. It was an us that included Shawn and Blackwood and Ross, apparently, and strange men that sniffed people. It was a very odd us.
"I've been by there a few times."
"Is that so?" Ross's tone said 'I know'.
Shawn felt like he was being left out of some great big secret. It was all around him, surrounding him, but he didn't have the right clues to piece it together, at least not any clues that made sense. Ross was a wolf, or Ross was connected to a wolf that had the same hair color as him, and that wolf fought a vampire and saved his life.
"Shawn..." Ross set his notepad and pen aside and leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. "Shawn, I think you need to take a step back from this case." Maybe it was just the reflection of light through the window but it seemed like there was a hint of yellow in Ross's eyes. "Let the professionals handle it. You've been hurt enough already."
"Which professionals would that be?"
Ross didn't answer him. They sat in silence for the rest of the session.
There was a police car parked outside of the house. There was another one on the next street over, just in case Shawn somehow managed to hop the fence with a severely bruised torso and try to escape that way. Shawn drew the curtains shut and paced. The living room was decently large as far as living rooms went but it felt too small, confining. He needed to get out and find that vampire but getting out wouldn't do him much good if he didn't know where to go. The internal compass that had driven him to find her the first time was being silent this time. His head ached.
Shawn turned on his heel and walked upstairs. He pulled the box of fortune telling implements out of the closet and sat on the bedroom floor, pulling things out one at a time. The crystal ball hadn't been much help. He had no idea what to do with the gems. The one on a chain might be useful. The pouches of runes and bones were about as helpful as the cards. Random pictures weren't going to help him. He picked up the pendulum. He wrapped the chain around his finger and let the rest drop from his hand. It swayed haphazardly.
He closed his eyes. Focus. He needed focus to make it work, or at least that's what Vera had said. He cleared his mind as best he could but stray thoughts kept popping in.
Carlton. The scene with Carlton had made him focused for days. He shifted, rising up onto his knees. He sat back on his heels and remembered what it was like when Carlton touched him. The thick gag had filled his mouth. The blindfold had cut off all light. The earmuffs had taken away all sound. Darkness and silence, with a hint of pain. He remembered how good it'd felt with Carlton inside of him, filling up the emptiness. He focused on that feeling, pain mixing with pleasure and all of his concentration focused on the way Carlton touched him.
His breathing slowed. His head cleared. The pain lifted. There was a soft whirring in the air. He felt a tugging on his hand.
He opened his eyes and watched as the pendulum swung in one repeating arch. There was a distinct tug every time the gem reached the peak of its swing. It was pulling him south.
Shawn lurched to his feet and tucked the pendulum into his pocket. He had a direction, which meant he needed a distraction. Shawn pulled open the bathroom cabinet and rummaged through the pill bottles inside. They'd given him something right after he'd been released from the hospital after the incident with Lexington, something to make him sleep when the nightmares were too bad. There. He grabbed the bottle and raced downstairs. Shawn pulled ingredients out of the fridge and tossed them in the blender - pineapple, yogurt, ice, sugar, orange juice. He poured a glass for himself then crushed up five of the pills. Those went into the blender and then the whole thing into a second cup.
He forced a smile on his face as he walked outside, trying to appear like a normal injured person. He took a sip from his own and then tapped on the window of the police car with his other hand. It rolled down slowly. He smiled at the police officer, a rookie by the name of Menson, relatively new to the station. "I made smoothies. Want one?" He extended the other cup.
Menson's face lit up. "Thanks." He took the cup and downed a large gulp. "Mmm. Pineapple."
"Enjoy." Shawn waved and wandered back into the house. He left the rest of his smoothie in the fridge and pressed against the living room wall, peering through the crack in the curtains. He waited.
Menson lifted the cup once, twice. He paused. He rubbed his head. He took another sip. He started to reach for the dash and then slumped. Shawn smiled.
Time to call Gus.
The pendulum led them to a warehouse a block from the harbor. It'd only taken Shawn half an hour to convince Gus a) to come pick him up, b) he wasn't crazy, c) he really did know where they were going, and d) they weren't going to die. He wasn't entirely certain about the last one but that didn't matter right now. All that mattered was finding the necklace.
It was time. Whatever was going to happen, whatever big catastrophe awaited, it was happening now.
Gus parked the Blueberry at the end of the row of warehouses. Shawn was out of the car as soon as it stopped. He heard the engine die and Gus's door slam.
"Shawn, wait." Gus grabbed his arm before he could get far. "We should wait here. Call Lassiter. He can get a swat team together, have them meet us here and then they can go in and fight the monster while we wait here. Or at the Jamba Juice five blocks away."
It made sense but his instincts said to go now, now, now. His instincts had also nearly gotten him murdered a few days ago.
"Fine." He pulled out his phone and dialed Juliet.
"Shawn? What's up?" He could hear the confusion in Juliet's voice. He didn't usually call her, not unless Carlton didn't answer. Judging from her tone, Carlton was nearby and probably stalking his way over to her. "How are you feeling?"
He didn't have much time. "Tell Carly that we found the vampire and it's at the harbor. I'll text him the address."
"Shawn!" Juliet's voice was cut off as the phone was ripped away from her. Shawn hung up before Carlton could start yelling at him. Again.
He tapped the address out to Carlton and then switched his phone to silent. "Okay, that's done."
"Good." Gus popped the trunk and pulled out two backpacks. He shoved one at Shawn. "We're gonna need these."
"You packed snacks?" The bags felt too heavy for snacks. Several items clattered inside as Shawn hefted his. He squatted on the pavement and zipped his open. His eyebrow raised at the contents. He stared up at Gus in disbelief. "Stakes."
Gus frowned down at him. "It's a vampire, Shawn. We need to be prepared."
Shawn rummaged through the bag. There were four stakes, two crosses - one wooden and one in heavy silver, a rosary, a long string of garlic and two small supersoakers. He lifted one of the plastic guns. Water sloshed inside. "Let me guess, holy water?"
"You know that's right."
He was both concerned and impressed. Shawn tucked one of the guns into the waistband of his pants. "Where did you even get all this stuff?"
Gus smiled. "I have my sources."
Shawn was fairly certain his source was eBay. Hopefully the holy water was actually holy, otherwise they were going to have a wet, pissed off vampire instead of just a pissed off vampire. He straightened and leaned back against the Blueberry, trying to be patient. It was impossible.
The sun started to sink below the horizon. Panic welled in Shawn's chest. Sunset. Night time. "Shit." Shawn took off running. He was an idiot. There was a reason he had to be here now, why he had to go into the warehouse now. Vampire slept during the day.
It was waking up.
He heard Gus shouting at him, chasing behind him but he didn't slow down. He ran down the row of warehouses. None of them felt right, not until he got to the very last one. The sun kissed the horizon, sending golden light spilling over the water. It filled the area with an eerie cast.
There was a row of windows on the side of the building. One of them was opened a crack. It was probably a trap but that didn't stop Shawn from pushing the window up and hauling himself up over the sill. His chest blazed with pain. He bit his lip to keep from screaming. He overbalanced, lost his grip, and fell. A pile of cardboard boxes cushioned his fall but not by much.
He stuck his head out the window and motioned Gus to be quiet.
The warehouse was silent. Shawn shifted, slowly moving off of the boxes and lowering himself down onto the floor. It looked like a normal warehouse - rows and rows of boxes and bins lined up in neat aisles. The lights were off but a bit of light filtered in through the windows from the streetlights outside. He crouched low behind a row of boxes and waited for Gus to maneuver his way through the window. Gus had his backpack on and necklace of garlic cloves hung around his throat.
Gus smacked Shawn hard on the arm as soon as he landed in side and gestured frantically towards the window. Shawn shook his head and pointed down the aisle. Gus shook his head rapidly and tried to pull Shawn towards the window. Shawn brushed him off and crept down the aisle. After a brief pause, Gus started to follow him.
If he didn't know better, Shawn would have thought they had the wrong place. There was nothing out of the ordinary, just rows of shipping goods. Then they reached a corner and Shawn stopped quickly, backing away behind the stack of crates. He flailed his hand at Gus, motioned for silence, and pointed. They both turned and stared through the hole in the pallet at the woman sitting up on the other side. There was a coffin laid atop two wooden pallets. The lid was open and she was obviously just waking up.
It was now or never.
Shawn jumped out from behind the crates and emptied his squirt gun in the vampire's face. She stared back at him through soggy bangs. Her face twisted in anger.
Four things happened at once. She lunged. Shawn ducked. A wolf growled, and a ball of green fire streaked through the air towards the vampire. She twisted in midair, dodging out of the way of the fireball. Teeth closed on the back of Shawn's shirt and he squeaked as a cold, wet nose pressed against his neck. He was unceremoniously dragged back behind the crate. Gus took one look at the giant wolf and started gibbering. He groped madly at his backpack and then pulled out a silver cross, waving it in the air in front of him. The wolf let go of Shawn with a snort and both Shawn and the wolf stared at Gus.
"Thanks," Shawn said as he slid back behind the crate. The wolf gave him a nod and then leapt towards the vampire.
"Did you just see that?" Gus hissed.
"Yeah. I was there for it." He rolled over and tried to follow what was going on. The vampire was being harassed by the wolf and the fireballs, though Shawn couldn't see where they were coming from. Somewhere above them.
Things seemed to be going alright and then the vampire backhanded the wolf - Ross - sending it flying. It landed with a whimper and was slow to get up. The vampire picked up a board from a broken crate and advanced on the wolf. Another fireball streaked towards her but she sidestepped it and lifted the piece of broken wood over Ross.
"No!" Shawn jumped from behind the crates, even though he knew he wasn't going to be fast enough. The wood lowered.
Gunfire rang through the warehouse. The vampire recoiled as five spots of red blossomed on her chest. She dropped the wood and stared down.
"Shawn, get down."
He instinctively obeyed. Shawn crouched next to a pile of boxes as Carlton stepped into view, his pistol leveled on the vampire. Ross scrambled to his feet and darted towards Shawn while she was distracted. The vampire turned, staring at Carlton, then above them, then down at Shawn and Ross. She turned, moving gracefully, as if she hadn't just been shot. She stepped to the side to avoid a fireball and reached down into her coffin, pulling out a thick strand of jewels. The necklace glowed with its own light. There was a palpable energy too it, an energy that made Shawn want to be as far away as possible.
The vampire smiled and squeezed the necklace in her hand. There was a cracking sound and darkness started to swirl around her hand, crawling up her arm. She started chanting. Another fireball sped foward. She didn't even bother moving. The fireball hit an invisible barrier in front of her.
Terror washed over Shawn. They needed to stop her. They needed to stop her now.
Shawn launched himself to his feet. He tried to run towards her but Ross reacted faster, turning with a snarl to grab Shawn by the pant leg. Teeth grazed his leg, sending a jolt of bright burning pain through his leg. His body stopped but his mind didn't. He watched himself fall like he was standing outside himself. The dark light around the vampire suddenly seemed brighter. There were gold veins running through it. Shawn focused on the vampire and then he was on the other side of the room, staring at himself and the others through a new set of eyes.
He felt confusion. Concern. He - she - tried to move but couldn't. Something flashed overhead, a streak of black and red. Who was this? There was someone inside his head? Beneath that thought boiled a sea of anger and rage and hatred and despair. Shards of sapphire cut into his palm. There was a third presence building inside of him. The one that was supposed to be there, she thought, followed by 'Get out!' She snarled inside their head, wanted to rip his throat out but they couldn't move. A blur of movement. Dark skin. Gus. No. Wooden spike. Shawn gasped as it pierced his heart, ripped through his flesh. He wanted to scream but it was too late. His life blinked out and crumbled to dust.
Darkness turned to light and Shawn sucked in a lungful of air. He rolled onto his back and patted his chest, expecting to find a gaping wound but there was nothing there. His head ached.
A pair of red high heels stepped into view. Shawn craned his head back and watched as an upside down Blackwood walked across an upside down warehouse and picked up the necklace from the ceiling - floor - where it rested next to a pile of black ash. Gus stood next to her, right next to the pile of ash, staring at the stake in his hand. She patted Gus on the arm and smirked. "Good job, Mr. Spencer, Mr. Guster." Ross let out a low rumble next to him and the two nodded at each other. Weird.
More feet came into view, this time black leather with a shine, and Shawn was pulled to his feet by a pair of strong arms. "Are you insane?"
"I'm starting to think so, yeah." He wobbled a little but was able to keep mostly upright. "Good to see you too."
Carlton's arm stayed firmly around Shawn's waist as he turned back towards Gus and Blackwood, his mouth open to speak but Blackwood was already gone. He frowned and then turned towards the wolf, but Ross too had chosen that moment to disappear. His frown deepened.
Shawn patted him lightly on the cheek. "If you promise not have me committed, I'll fill you in on everything that just happened."
Carlton slowly pulled his eyes away from the spot the wolf had been. He nodded slowly.
"Good. Now let's go home before any more vampires show up."
Gus and Carlton glanced at each other and then they both hurried Shawn out of the warehouse as quickly as possible.
Shawn missed his desk. He smiled as he ran his fingers over the wood. He circled the desk and sank down into his chair, propping his feet up on the desk. Carlton's desk was only a few feet away. The detective kept throwing glances over his shoulder at Shawn, almost as if he expected Shawn to have some major vision or something on his first day back. Shawn grinned. Maybe he'd save that for his second day.
He pulled open the drawers one by one, more out of curiosity than any real need to check to make sure none of his stuff was gone. Who in their right mind would steal inside a police station? Nothing was missing, but there was something new. There was an envelope in his top right drawer, sealed shut with his name on it.
Shawn dropped his feet to the floor and ripped the envelope open. There was a letter inside, and a check for five thousand dollars.
Thank you for your invaluable help in locating our stolen property. Should business ever bring us to the Santa Barbara area again, we would be delighted to have your assistance. Enclosed is our standard consultant's fee, adjusted for hazard pay.
We trust that we can count on your discretion regarding the specifics of our business practices.
Shawn stared at the check and then the letter. He had a feeling his life was only going to get weirder.