|Cause & Effect
Author: Lawson227 PM
A statewide flu epidemic has the SBPD extremely short-staffed and leaves Carlton with an unlikely new partner. Non-canon, obviously, but let's assume it's taking place post-SANTABARBARATOWN, so spoilers will apply accordingly. T rating, may possibly become M because that's just how I roll.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Friendship - Carlton L. & K. Vick - Chapters: 12 - Words: 23,269 - Reviews: 27 - Favs: 7 - Follows: 9 - Updated: 07-12-12 - Published: 06-09-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8201765
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Yeah, another Karen/Carlton—even though there only seem to be about six of us who actually like this pairing, it's the one I'm currently most interested in. The usual disclaimers apply—no ownership in anything psych, TPTB have everything, I have nothing except ideas for the unlikeliest of pairings.
A weary Carlton poured his sixth—seventh, maybe—cup of coffee, wishing he could run out to Starbucks and bring back, oh, an entire vat of espresso. But same reason he was on cup seven—or was it eight?—and it wasn't even one in the afternoon was the same reason he couldn't make a Starbucks run: the flu that had decimated not just the detective squad, but the force as a whole. They were so damned short-staffed, everyone was pulling double shifts, detectives were going out to scenes solo, and support staff was being pressed into unaccustomed roles, even the janitor, who'd been given a crash course in answering phones by a feverish and hoarse Sergeant Allen, huddled in her chair with a blanket wrapped around herself and a mug of tea welded to her hand. When Carlton had complained about the god-awful smell and what the hell sort of swill was she drinking over there, she'd snapped that the "swill" was medicinal and the only thing keeping her upright.
Carlton had let it drop—in part because the hand not clutching the mug of swill rested on her weapon like she thought he was going to try to take her swill—er, tea— from her. Really, though, he'd let it go and backed away to the safety of his desk because he was just too damned tired and his head, eyes, and every blasted muscle in his body ached too much to care.
He glanced up from stirring extra sugar into his coffee to find an exhausted-looking Karen Vick beside him, pouring coffee into an oversized mug. She'd been pulling as much extra time as anyone else, juggling schedules and assignments so the most critical posts were covered and if Allen had a mug of tea welded to her hand, then Chief Vick had been existing for the past two weeks with a phone welded to her ear as she scoured neighboring law enforcement agencies, trying to beg, borrow, or steal any available bodies.
"Any luck?" he asked.
"Nope." She took the two sugar packets he offered and waited, eyebrow raised, until he added another two. Not like he could point fingers or anything. "This damned flu's doing a number on Ventura, San Luis Obispo, and Kern counties, so they're as short-staffed as we are."
"What about L.A. or Orange?" He held the creamer over the mug, pouring until she nodded.
"No luck there, either. They've got some loaners out, but they've been hit hard, too."
"Jesus. What about—" he started, but stopped short at her upraised hand and the weary shake of her head.
"The whole state is slammed, Carlton. We're officially at epidemic levels with this outbreak. CDC thinks it's not just one strain, but possibly as many as three and none of them the ones they advised people be vaccinated for."
"Damn vaccine doesn't work worth crap anyway," he groused as he downed half of the mug's contents in one swallow
"But you did get it, right?"
He glanced up from pouring more coffee and met her gaze. Even rimmed in an angry red and with gray-blue circles smudging the skin beneath them, her brown eyes were sharp, direct, and undeniably concerned.
"I did." He accepted the sugar she handed him, smiling faintly at the four packets. "You?"
"Yeah." Like he had for her, she poured cream into his mug. "Even though having a six-year-old is a better vaccine than anything the CDC can come up with. I swear, elementary schools are little more than germ incubators—Iris brings everything home then after I nurse her through it, I get to fight it off. My immune system is definitely battle-tested."
"At any rate, I've got a conference call this afternoon with other police chiefs and a state government representative—I think they're going to want to impose statewide curfews."
He snorted. "You really think that'll help?"
"Can't hurt." She lifted an eyebrow. "Honestly, what I'm really hoping for is an announcement stating they'll be marshaling the National Guard to assist with patrols."
"Great," he groused. "Then they can come in, take over our facilities, and tell us how we're doing our jobs wrong."
"It would be warm bodies, Carlton," she chided mildly. "At this point, I'd take the park rangers."
He felt a pang of guilt at the utter exhaustion evident in her soft response. "Point made."
Side-by-side, they leaned tiredly against the wall and sipped the hot brew as they surveyed the eerily quiet bullpen. Eerie because there were people there, but rather than noisy with the typical early afternoon hum and bustle, the people who were there were shuffling quietly, almost zombie-like, as if doing their best to conserve what little energy they had.
With another tired smile indicating no hard feelings, she asked, "How's O'Hara?"
"Running a hundred-two fever and ready to kill Spencer."
"Dear God, don't tell me he's trying to nurse her back to health?"
"No." Carlton felt a flash of annoyance. "More like parked on her couch, whining that he's at death's door because he's running a ninety-nine point four and he's run out of grape popsicles."
Vick's eyes widened so far, a full ring of slightly bloodshot white was visible around the dark brown. "Is he insane?"
"That's a rhetorical question, right?"
She managed a weak smile, but nothing more, not even a decent eye-roll—sure sign of how deep her exhaustion ran. He wondered just how much rest she'd gotten in the last seventy-two hours. It couldn't have been much, recalling the untouched pillow and blanket he'd spotted on her sofa. Not good. They needed her too much.
On the verge of suggesting maybe she avail herself of said sofa or maybe even run home for a few hours—that he could hold down the fort—he was forestalled by Manuel, their janitor-cum-phone clerk, scurrying up to their post.
"Señorita Chief, a call just came in and Sergeant Allen, she said I should give it right to you."
"Oh God, what now?" Vick groaned as she took the slip of paper with the pertinent information scrawled on it in Allen's favored purple ink.
"It's bad," the older man replied, a worried expression drawing his brows together.
Instantly alert, Carlton glanced over Karen's shoulder, mentally noting the breach in protocol and basic manners, but also knowing they didn't have time for the typical niceties. If it was indeed as bad as Manuel seemed to think it was, then it was likely he'd be going out on the call.
"Goddammit," he muttered as he skimmed the details. Three bodies discovered in Los Padres National Forest. He drained the contents of his mug in one long swallow as he strode to his desk, snatching his suit jacket off the coat rack. Shoving his arms through the sleeves, he retraced his steps, surprised to find Karen emerging from her office, head down as she clipped her badge and holster to her belt.
"Chief, what the hell?"
She glanced up, her gaze narrow and intent. "It's a triple, Carlton—you're going to need extra hands."
"I can grab a uniform," he protested, the hair on the back of his neck prickling.
"We're already going to have what few uniforms available on site already. You need another detective with you—" He felt skewered by her challenging gaze. "Last time I checked, I still had the cred."
Heat rose from his unbuttoned collar. "That's not what I meant, Karen," he protested, albeit quietly. "It is a triple and who knows what we'll uncover."
"Would you say the same to O'Hara?" she shot back, fists on her hips.
"O'Hara's not the Chief of Police," he snapped. More softly he added, "Nor is she a parent."
"I'm a cop, Carlton," she said steadily, with a hint of frost overlaying her words. "And as you pointed out, I'm the Chief which means I make this call. Your objections are duly noted."
"They're not objections," he countered, resigned to his new, unexpected partner.
A telling eyebrow rose. "Could've fooled me. Now—" She straightened her shoulders and looked him the eye and if he didn't know better, he'd swear that behind the exhaustion and obvious exasperation, there was a glint of humor lurking in dark brown depths.