A/N: As always, Psych, Shawn, Juliet, Lassiter, Gus, and Henry aren't mine, no matter how much I wish they were.
The title of this piece comes from The Bangles' "Eternal Flame" (1988), which seemed to match the questions and emotions nicely.
It was the second night of nightmares in a row. The same nightmares, which, Shawn mused, trying to get his heart rate to slow down, as he stared at the ceiling, along with being terrifying, was also boring. After all, with his memory being the way that it was, he'd already memorized every detail of the dream the first night; the least the nightmare gods could do was give him something different.
Oh, who was he kidding? There was no one he was trying to impress; there was no reason for him to mock this dream to avoid admitting that he was just…well, scared. In reality, it was a small gift to get the same nightmare twice. The dream had been terrifying, and it was a little easier experiencing it the second time.
It was a little easier, but it wasn't easy.
His heart rate still abnormally high, Shawn tried desperately to stop his memory from replaying the dream. He was awake now, he should be free of those images, like a normal person would be. But his memory, as usual, didn't listen, instead plunging him back into the nightmare in flashes of visions, so realistic it was as if he was back asleep, trapped and tormented.
Shawn screwed his eyes shut, his arms involuntarily reaching up to cover his ears—as if that would be any use—but it was no good. It never was. Once he was in a memory, he had to be in it. And so here he was, experiencing it again.
The thing was, the dream really had been unbelievably realistic. Another curse of his perfect memory meant that the parts of the dream pulled from reality were pulled to perfection—exact images of the very real things he'd witnessed. Then, once a believable location and situation were established, the nightmare twisted it, warping it into something so much worse than it had been.
And, it had already been pretty bad.
He'd stumbled upon a massive drug trafficking ring, off a bit of information that didn't quite add up from an arrest the SBPD had made several days earlier. Of course, he'd been told not to pursue it, to let Lassie and Jules handle it, but—again, of course—he hadn't listened, which was why he'd deduced the warehouse where the drugs were preparing to be shipped, as well as when the preparation was happening.
He should have called Lassie and Jules in right then, he knew. He should never have gone in without backup. But he hadn't really been intending to bust them, not right then. He'd merely wanted to garner a little more information, prove that he was right, figure out who exactly was involved—though he suspected he was correct about the two perpetrators already.
So he'd headed in, slinking along behind a row of crates in the warehouse, realizing a moment too late that he was in way over his head—there were way more people involved in this scheme than he thought. Five, to be exact, instead of the two he was anticipating.
He'd called Jules while hiding behind a crate, saying nothing and keeping the volume on his phone silent so that she could hear everything going on around him but the perps wouldn't be alerted to his presence. He knew she'd come if he called.
She did, with Lassie, but not before Shawn had been discovered. When she'd arrived, he'd been tied up, in a heap on the ground, just coming to after having been knocked out by the butt of a gun.
The first thing he noticed was that several of the suspects had disappeared, no doubt fleeing when they realized what Shawn had witnessed. By the time Lassie and Jules arrived, only two remained—the ringleader, whom Shawn had been tracking for over a week, and what appeared to be his right-hand man, the other perp Shawn had suspected, who disappeared behind a stack of crates just as the door burst open to let Juliet and Lassie in.
The boss had attempted to flee almost immediately, taking several shots at Lassie, who dodged them as he pursued him.
Juliet had immediately run to Shawn, crouching on the floor next to him and pulling the gag out of his mouth, beginning to untie the knots that held him. "Shawn, are you okay?" she'd asked worriedly, almost involuntarily running her hand across his forehead in a gesture of comfort.
But there was no time to dwell on the moment, to respond to the question, to say anything except inform Jules that there was still a suspect in the room, hiding nearby, and even that almost came out too late, the suspect darting out of hiding suddenly and hitting Juliet on the side of her face.
She recovered almost instantly, ignoring the blood springing up on her forehead and her cheek and leaping to her feet. The suspect wheeled around, pulling his gun out and pointing it at Shawn, but Jules, with a half-second glance at Shawn, dove in front of him, her body shielding his, just as the man pulled the trigger. Shawn's scream died in his throat.
But—miracle of miracles—the round was a dud. The misfire gave Shawn just enough time to finish kicking himself free of his restraint and tackle the suspect around the knees, causing him to drop his weapon.
They'd managed to nab the suspects—all of them, the other three fleeing right into the cavalry that Jules had called in—but right now, the dream fresh in his mind, that didn't seem to matter quite as much.
In the dream, see, the gun didn't misfire. In the dream, it hit its unintended target, right in front of Shawn, as he watched helplessly. And it was that vision from the dream that haunted him now.
He wished he could roll over and find her there, next to him, sleeping soundly. He wished that most nights, in fact, not just when she'd saved his life, but he wished for it more than anything right now.
He squeezed his eyes shut again, trying to focus on the one somewhat pleasant moment of the day, holding Jules' hand as the medics cleaned them up, bandaging her cuts. They hadn't spoken, but she'd let him sit there, next to her, their knees touching, her left hand in his, resting on his thigh.
She ordinarily probably wouldn't have allowed it, but she seemed to understand that he needed the physical contact, needed the assurance of their intertwined fingers that she really was going to be okay.
The third night, Shawn falls asleep at the Psych office instead of in his apartment, but the nightmare comes, all the same. He wakes up, sweaty and terrified, his legs tangled in the blanket he'd thrown over his lap and his heart hammering again.
He knows Juliet is okay, but he still wakes up breathless and afraid, desperate for her hand in his, her muffled giggle when he says something funny and she doesn't want to encourage him, hell, even just the sound of her voice, anything at all. Instead, he stands up, shaking his head to clear it, and heads down to the beach.
On the beach, he calls Gus, who doesn't answer; he's probably snoozing happily, visions of jerk chicken and a plethora of new clients on his pharmaceutical route dancing through his sweet brown head. (It is three in the morning, after all.) He leaves Gus a voicemail, but he's so disoriented that even he doesn't really remember what he says, something about the beach and Jules, and how the lack of churro vendors at three in the morning is startling and upsetting.
When he's rambled long enough, he hangs up, staring out at the water again from his perch on a bench. He tries to pull his thoughts away from Jules, but it doesn't work.
It's been working less and less, these days, even before the nightmares started happening.
He knows she's okay. But that doesn't stop the guilt that comes with the dreams, that if she hadn't been okay, it would have been his fault. It makes him want to wrap his arms around her, cling to her tightly, beg her forgiveness, and then never let her go.
He hears his dad's voice in his head when he thinks about that moment, watching Jules fall in front of him. "Shawn, actions always have consequences," his dad has always said. "And no matter how good you are, you can't outrun them."
Much as he hates to admit it, his dad was right. Because even though Jules is okay and alive, those nightmares are the consequences he can't quite outrun. They're so much better than the alternative, and he'd pick nightmares in a heartbeat over Jules being really hurt, nightmares every night for the rest of his life, even, if that's what it takes, but they're a consequence nonetheless. He can't go in without backup again. But more than that, he can't put Jules in danger again.
For what's probably the millionth time in his life, he curses his perfect memory. If only it lapsed sometimes. Maybe then he wouldn't be so haunted by it, by the look in Juliet's eyes just before she jumped in front of him.
It was…different, somehow, than he'd ever seen her look at him before. More intense, more determined, certainly, but there was a softness there too, and it might have given him some kind of hope if he hadn't been so sure that one or both of them was about to be killed.
He thinks about that softness in her eyes, and it makes something inside him flutter for just a moment. Of course, he tells himself, she'd only done it because she's a cop. She would have jumped in front of anyone, because she's Juliet, and she's probably the most fiercely protective person he's even known, not to mention that she takes the duty of being a cop as seriously as his dad does.
In fact, she'd practically said as much, when he'd stammered on to her about it afterwards. She'd just shrugged slightly, said gently, "I'm just glad you're okay."
And yet, there had been something in her tone when she'd said that, a kind of tension he's heard before but couldn't quite place in the moment. Her words hadn't matched her tone, hadn't matched the look in her eyes as she said them, a kind of blazing intensity that almost made him blush, the same intensity he'd seen in them just before she dove in front of him.
She hadn't said anything else about it to him, though, just let him hold her hand gently as they got cleaned up afterward. He hadn't said anything further either, not knowing quite what to say, for once in his life, because this was Jules, and anything he said about it had to be exactly right. In fact, they still hadn't really talked about it, seeing as Shawn has tried very hard not to think about it until he wakes up in the middle of the night, unable to avoid it any longer.
But, he thinks again, that moment with her before…what was that in her tone? He scans through his favorite moments with Jules in his mind—there's so many of them, and he can't help dwelling for a moment on some favorites—and suddenly, there it is.
"I'm just glad you're okay." Her voice in that moment had matched exactly with another moment between them—a very different one, all things considered, without anyone else nearby, but it had been him and Jules standing alone, then, and she had a bandage on her forehead that was smaller, but otherwise not unlike the one she'd be sporting after this bust.
"Well," she'd said then, "it's been a long day."
He grins, remembering. The words had been a dismissal, like they had been three days ago, but the tension between them was almost an invitation, and he'd taken it. That had been the night he almost kissed her, a moment he's thought about nearly every time he's looked at her since, wondering in hopeful anticipation if they'd ever get to finish what they started.
Her tone when she'd looked at him three days ago, bleeding but somehow calm—how did Jules do it?—had been much the same. The words didn't match the electricity there, didn't match the intensity of the way they'd looked at each other, but he hadn't quite pieced it together until now.
And suddenly, he has to know. He has to see if there's more to it.
Yes, it's three in the morning, but this is Jules, and if that moment meant something, he just has to know. So, why not here? Why not now? If the events of three days ago taught him anything, there's just not time to wait around wondering.
He picks up his phone, dialing the number he knows by heart with shaking fingers.
A/N: Thank you SO much for reading! I hope to have the second half of this piece up next week. As always, any feedback on this work is very welcome and appreciated! Thank you, thank you, thank you, again, for taking the time to read this!