A/N: So it turns out that I wasn't quite done with this just yet, even though it's been a while. I mentioned at the end of the last chapter that I was thinking about an alternate ending, if I got the inspiration for it, and some of my lovely reviewers (thanks to all of you!) showed an interest. Well, it's been a while, but that inspiration finally struck, and I know present you with an alternate ending to Paranormal! This one is not happy and fluffy, quite the opposite in fact. So I'll warn you right now of character death and some angst. The beginning is the same as part of chapter four, leading up until the part where the verdict is announced, and that's where the changes come in. So, enjoy!
Disclaimer: Still not mine.
The Alternate Ending
They walk through complete, solid darkness and step into a pool of golden light. Everything around them is completely dark; there is the sense that they are the center of the room, and that anyone in the darkness can see them without being seen.
"Shawn Spencer and Carlton Lassiter." A voice says, loud and booming, like thunder, powerful enough to send tremors through them. They reach out to each other, reaching out for some sense of familiarity and comfort, and they move closer, shoulders brushing. "Your fate has been decided."
"And?" Shawn says, raising his voice. He fights to keep the tremor out of his voice, summoning the anger that lies beneath the thick layer of fear. "What is it?"
"You, Shawn Spencer, were supposed to die. This fate was determined prior to the event; you received the warnings and followed the path that led to your death."
"I didn't exactly have much of a choice."
"You did. Had you ignored the warnings and done nothing the consequences would have been much higher. You would have lived. Carlton Lassiter would have not. He, and many other people, would have died."
"Told you I had to." Shawn whispers to Carlton, feeling like a child who has won some kind of small victory against their parent.
Carlton shoots him a vicious glare and he clamps his mouth shut.
"You made your decision, followed the warnings, and sacrificed yourself. You are meant to die."
"If he was meant to die," Carlton says, his voice loud and strong and angry, "why was he sent back? His heart restarted and you sent him as a ghost."
"His heart was restarted because of human efforts. He was meant to die and stay dead. He was sent as a ghost as a gift to him, to allow him to say goodbye. It is a courtesy offered to those who sacrifice themselves for the good of others."
"If he dies," Carlton says, and his voice is that of a man offering an ultimatum, "I'm not going back to my body. I refuse."
"You present a problem. It is not your time to die, Carlton Lassiter, and ultimately your fate is not your choice." He sets his jaw, a muscle twitching in his neck.
"Then why did I leave my body? Why am I here?"
The voice seems to heave a great sigh. "The strength of your connection with Mr. Spencer was…unanticipated."
"I don't know what that means." Carlton says. "And I don't really care."
"You said that a decision had been made." Shawn says, speaking up. "What is it? Stop jerking us around and just tell us, so that we can get on with our lives…or my death."
"You were meant to die. We therefore present you with a choice. You may live, but the price of your life must be that all those you saved will perish, including Lassiter." Shawn's grip tightens on him; Shawn's eyes are wide and his skin is pale, and his mouth forms the word no silently. "The other option is that you will die, now, but those you saved will continue to live. There is no other course that destiny can take. It is either live or die, Spencer, so choose now."
Shawn's nails dig into Carlton's skin; the fake psychic refuses to look at him, and Carlton can tell from the determined line of his jaw that the decision is already made. And it kills him.
"Shawn…." He whispers.
"That's not a choice at all," Shawn says, his voice strong.
"It's the same choice you were presented with before. Will your answer be any different now?"
"No." He says, the word slipping out of his mouth. "I choose to die, if they can live."
Now it is Carlton's turn to dig his nails into Shawn's skin. He holds the younger man in a death grip, his eyes gazing furiously out into the darkness.
"We expected nothing less," the voice says, and it fills Carlton with a rage like he has never felt before. Rage and despair, a twisting storm inside of him.
"That's not fair!" He screams out at the great voice and the darkness. "You can't do this! I will not go back without him, understand? I will not!"
"You will," the voice says at the same time as Shawn. He falls silent, staring at the shorter man in disbelief. Shawn moves closer to him, pressing their bodies flush against each other.
"I told you before, Lassi, that I had to die." Shawn licks his lips. "And I don't want to die, but if that's the price of saving you…then it's worth it. I won't let you die, Lassi, not over me. You have to live, okay? You have to."
Shawn silences him with a desperate kiss, and Carlton holds on to him with all of his strength. When they surface for air he turns his face towards the immovable darkness.
"This isn't fair," he whispers.
"Fairness isn't our concern, Lassiter. The world is not fair. Say your final goodbye." The voice is cold and distant.
"You don't have a heart, do you? You don't give a damn about any of us, or you wouldn't do this." He holds Shawn, feeling their hearts beat in time.
There is a stirring, as though someone is shifting uncomfortably. "We are not human, Lassiter. We do not see things the way you see them, nor can you see things as we see. We see everything; you see but a small part. And that small part means everything to you, but you cannot see that if one part fails the entirety is destroyed. One small change and everything can unravel. This is cruel, yes, but not intentional cruelty. Everyone has a destiny, and Shawn Spencer has lived his. Now you must live yours."
He turns his face away from the darkness as the voice fades; he doesn't want to hear anymore. Instead he presses his lips against Shawn's lips again, trying to hold the world together before it shatters. He looks into the other man's green eyes, trying to drown himself in them.
Shawn's mouth quirks up into a tiny, forced grin. Tears swim in his eyes and he dashes them away with the back of his hand. "I love you, Carlton Lassiter."
"I love you," Carlton whispers back, tightening his arms around the other man.
But then his arms hold only air and he falls, falls through the unending darkness, a sob caught in his throat.
He opens his eyes to the sound of a heart monitor flat-lining, and knows that nothing will ever be right again.
Nothing in the world is right.
Carlton Lassiter knows this instinctively; he feels it every moment of every day after he wakes in the hospital. It is rather as though the world has tilted just the tiniest bit, so that every step is on an incline, as though the world is ready to fall right out from under him.
Chief Vick gives him time off. She tells him to take as much time as he needs, and for once he doesn't argue. Because he can't be in the station without seeing little details of Shawn's presence; he can't look at Juliet or Chief Vick without seeing the pain in their eyes and feeling the same pain hammer inside of him. He takes the time off and tries to pull himself back together, but he feels as though he's trying to do a jigsaw puzzle with half of the pieces missing.
Nothing, nothing is right.
The first time he opens his fridge after coming home he freezes, staring at the container of pineapple sitting so innocently on the top shelf. He stares and stares and then takes the container out and throws it into the trashcan. He can't even look at the fruit, can't even smell it without his stomach churning painfully.
There are so many little things like that, things that make him just want to curl up in the darkness and never come out. Adds for psychic hotlines on television; newspaper clippings about some of his cases; smoothies; certain songs; certain movies; it seems as though just about everything in his life is somehow tainted. As though Shawn is always just right there, hovering just out of sight.
And it kills him.
His time off grows longer and longer, because he can't bring himself to walk back into the station. Chief Vick and Juliet call, but he lets the phone ring, lets the machine answer. He listens to their tinny voices grow more and more concerned, but he can't bring himself to answer. Eventually his phone rings more and more; Gus's voice joins the others, sounding awkward and lost and broken as much as he is; Henry Spencer calls, his voice gruff and demanding, and Carlton just shuts himself off more.
Finally there is pounding on his door, and he can hear Juliet's voice calling for him. He sits inside, shaking his head, and refuses to answer.
She picks the lock.
When she walks into his living room there is a look of disbelief on her face. He is normally so pristine about his home; everything in its proper place, everything neat and tidy. Now there are things everywhere, and he simply doesn't care. She looks at him and the disbelief changes to shock.
He refuses to look in the mirror, because he can't bear to look himself in the eye.
She stares at him and then props her hands on her hips, for all the world looking like a younger, blonder version of his mother.
"Carlton Lassiter," she says, in a voice that means business. "You are a disgrace." He jerks, shocked, because that is the last thing he expects to hear. He can hear the heat in her voice, the disgust. "You are a disgrace to Shawn's memory." He rises, glaring at her, anger boiling inside of him, because how dare she say something like that? "I know that you are hurting, but you cannot live like this. What would he say? What would he say if he saw you like this? He wouldn't want you to sit here and wallow in misery for the rest of your life; that would kill him." He jerks again, because her words hit deep and ring true. "So, what's it gonna be, Carlton? Are you going to be the man he fell in love with, or are you just going to throw your life away, and disgrace the very person that he was?"
With that she whirls on her heel and storms away, the door slamming behind her. The sound echoes in the emptiness.
He stands there, mute and still and shocked, then turns. He walks into the bathroom, flips on the light, and stares at the person in the mirror. He doesn't recognize the man who stares back at him. That man is hollow-eyed and hollow-cheeked, unshaven and pale. He shakes his head.
"You have to live, okay? You have to."
"Sorry, Shawn," he whispers. He closes his eyes, his mouth forming the words I love you.
Then he reaches into the medicine cabinet and pulls out a can of shaving cream. He lathers the cream onto his face and presses the razor blade to his cheek, pulling down to reveal smooth, clean skin.
Nothing is right, and it never will be again.
But maybe he can live with that.
And now, I declare Paranormal OFFICIALLY over! So, what did you think? Reviews?