chapter two

Juliet has fallen asleep at the police department again.

She can tell because when she sleeps at the police department, her dreams are all experienced in shades of blinding white. And Shawn is always there. Juliet doesn't remember everything that happens in her dreams, all the things that are said, when she wakes up – but she does remember Shawn's sly laughter, his strong arms. How soft his hair feels between her fingers, how low his voice rumbles when he says Juliet. Juliet, Juliet –

"Wake up."

She starts awake, jolts – it's the beginning of a new day, false dawn cracking through the windows, and Interim Chief Karen Vick is scowling at her.

"Detective O'Hara," she says. "This is fast becoming a bad habit of yours."

Juliet winces. There is a crick at the base of her neck and spine, and her suit is crumpled and foul-smelling. She needs to change. More than that, she needs a shower. "Sorry, Chief," she says. A quick glance at her wristwatch tells her it's barely 5:00 a.m.; she has just enough time to race back to her place and freshen up before having to come back to face another work day.

Chief Vick looks at her sternly, brow furrowed. "It won't happen again," and it's a fact, the way she says it, instead of a warning. Unspoken addendum: or else.

Juliet nods, bleary. "Of course not, Chief. Sorry."

Nothing changes now that Juliet knows Shawn's name. The days go on like they have done for the last six months. Det. Lassiter is gaunt, his face thinned and cadaverous. Gus sometimes has days where he is all laughter and sometimes has days where he won't even return Juliet's calls. Shawn still leads her to solve her cases, and she can't help but admire how good he is at it.

Nothing changes, except that Juliet stops falling asleep in the station. One morning she wakes up with the press of his lips still tingling on her lips, and she thinks, Damn, did I crash at my desk again? only she hasn't, she's in her bed, and she blushes to realize that it was just a normal dream and not a ghost-possessed one. Her own head is dreaming up scenarios where she can make out with a dead guy. She is so messed up.

She is so lonely.

What are you going to do about Lassy? Shawn asks her one afternoon while she's wrapping up the paperwork on their latest case.

Juliet mutters, "What do you mean?" under her breath. Her desk is far enough away from the other officers that they don't hear what she says, but if they pay close enough attention they'll be able to see her lips move as if in speech, and she really doesn't want to be labeled the department's resident crazy – so she breaks out her old ventriloquism skills, and it mostly works for her.

Look at him, Shawn murmurs. Guy's greyer than a zombie. He's going to collapse soon. Humpty Dumpty after the fall.

It's nothing Juliet doesn't already know, so she shrugs. "What can I do? When I met him he was already like that."

She can't see him, but she can sort of feel him looking at her. Feel the disappointment in his gaze. He wasn't always like that, Shawn says, softly. He used to be a real bastard. An Irish tool. Fun to mess with, but a jerk. He used to be – alive.

"Shawn?" Juliet pauses a beat. Then she asks, "How did you die?"

A breath of cold curls around Juliet's neck and shivers down her spine. She shudders against it.

You read the report, Shawn says. You know what happened.

"Yes, but," Juliet insists, "how? And who?"

Shawn doesn't answer. Juliet keeps waiting for him to, until she eventually realizes he's left her, gone to some other place she can't follow. It's the first time he's done that, and she feels inexplicably alone.

There's this one thing she's noticed about Det. Lassiter. He won't go to the detention cells. He gets McNab to escort their arrests there, or makes her do it solo.

She hasn't felt or talked to Shawn in over a week when she's given the dubious pleasure of hauling a guy in handcuffs down to the lockup. Isolation has put a strain in her voice and face and it shows when she almost throws her bad guy in his cell. She locks the bars behind him and turns to go back to her desk when – something stops her.

Something dark and empty, it lashes at her. She cries out and falls to her knees. Suddenly – pain – in her gut, her chest, oh god, like a fire's been lit there, like she's burning from the inside – her arm, her wrist, oh, oh. Her face. Her face feels like it's in pieces, a puzzle scattered.

Then a swift swooping spike of agony through her head.

And then nothing.

When Juliet wakes up, Det. Lassiter is slapping her on the face briskly, blue eyes blazing bright with worry. Huh, Juliet remembers thinking, after, I never realized his eyes were blue before, they always seemed so dull, but they're not, they're actually a really nice shade.

"O'Hara!" Det. Lassiter yells into her face. "O'Hara, get up!"

She's woozy like she just spent the weekend doing nothing but drink booze; she's shaky like she's never learned how to walk and this is her first attempt. Det. Lassiter hauls her up by her armpits and supports her weight, and it's only then that she notices that distinct presence that is Shawn hovering all around her. Anxious worry crackles around him and she smiles in the direction she presumes his face to be in. "I'm okay," she says, muzzy. "I'm just fine, don't worry."

"The hell I won't," Det. Lassiter growls. "You're going to the hospital. Now." It's the first time Juliet has heard him speak with anything resembling emotion in his voice. It's kind of nice.

Shawn follows them all the way to the front door, and Juliet feels his frustration when he can go no further.

Gus is her emergency contact.

He's her best (only) friend in Santa Barbara. She didn't tell him he was her emergency contact because she didn't want for things to get weird between them. She's bad at handling 'weird'; she always over-reacts.

When Gus bursts into her hospital room his face is a mask of worry; when he sees Det. Lassiter sitting by her side, the worry transforms with astonishing rapidity into rage.

"You," Gus says. Though 'says' isn't the right verb. It doesn't convey the depth of hate.

Det. Lassiter flinches. "Guster," he nods, so formal. "I wasn't aware you and O'Hara were acquainted with one another."

Gus's jaw tightens, and it all goes downhill from there, and Juliet can only watch from the sidelines, horrified and confused and aching, still.

Later, Gus explains-apologizes, "That guy, he killed my best friend."

Juliet recognizes the look on Det. Lassiter's face, now. The look that never quite goes away.


Author's Note: Hey, so, there's something that really annoys me. It's this: when people on add me and/or my story to their author/story alert list without actually reviewing. I don't care if you don't review. Don't get me wrong, I love reviews, they make me incredibly happy, but I won't stop writing if I don't get any. I'm not going to threaten to withhold chapters, I'm not going to cry and say "No one loves me", or anything like that. A lack or surplus of reviews isn't something that my writing is contingent upon - I'll write regardless. I get that some people are just not into reviewing, that they don't have the time or the inclination. But. If you can take the time to add me/my story to your alerts list, then couldn't you also take the time to say you like me/my story? You have no idea how frustrating it is to get ten notifications of being added to alert lists and only one notification of a new review. This is a standard ratio. It is infuriating, after a while - it makes me think, if you like my story this much, why don't you TELL ME. Or, barring TELLING ME in a REVIEW, just DON'T ADD ME/MY STORY TO YOUR ALERT LIST. Because I am seriously getting annoyed enough to pull down my stories and close up this account. My stories will still be posted (for instance, this story in a more progressed form is posted at psychfic), just not in this forum.

Thank you.