Spencer and Gus stop talking to each other on February 3rd. It takes two weeks for Carlton to notice, but once he knows he finds he can pinpoint the precise date everything changed. He gives them a week to work it out. But they don't.

He figures O'Hara knows what happened, but when he asks she just purses her lips and shakes her head, looking disappointed and kind of angry. Carlton's good at getting information from suspects, not so much from acquaintances. Colleagues. Ah, friends.

A month passes in blessed silence, and the station actually feels like a police station again. But Carlton's not worried, not really. He's curious, but he figures Spencer will give him a nice little wrap up as soon as he and Guster make nice again. It's just...taking longer than he thought it might. He wonders how O'Hara feels about whatever spat they've currently embarked on, wonders if she's playing the mediator or taking sides.

He gets his answer a few days later. Whatever happened, O'Hara stands firmly on Guster's side of the altercation. Judging from the look she throws Shawn when he slinks into the precinct to pick up his check, in her mind whatever he did is nigh unforgivable. Alarm bells start going off in Carlton's head. Juliet is not one to hold grudges.

Shawn's return to the precinct isn't marked with any sort of fanfare. The only reason Carlton knows he's there is because he was staring at the front door contemplating...nothing. It takes a second for his brain to realize Shawn's back, because the figure walking through the hall doesn't bear any resemblance to the Shawn Spencer from a month ago. He's smaller, subdued. He glances their way and he bears Juliet's look of censure with a tightened jaw and a short nod.

Carlton watches him get his check from the desk sergent without his usual shenanigans. He hunches in on himself and tries to remain as inconspicuous as possible as he heads for the door, avoiding Buzz's friendly overtures and heading straight out without talking to anyone. That's enough to push Carlton's low-grade concern into full-fledged worry.

Juliet looks sad but determined when Shawn leaves, her lips pressed into a hard line that doesn't suit her at all.

Carlton hates her a little bit.

****

Shawn proves hard to track down. All of his favorite haunts and hang outs yield nothing—not even the smoothie place that makes his favorite pineapple slush. How Carlton knows anything about Shawn's admittedly unpredictable and full schedule does not bear thinking about at this juncture. Not after a quick stakeout proves that Shawn Spencer, of all people, has become a recluse.

Carlton clears a weekend (plus Friday) to stake out Shawn's apartment. Friday and most of Saturday is a wash, much to Carlton's irritation, but Shawn ventures out around seven on Saturday night, hands jammed into his pockets and hair unintentionally messy—nothing like the messy look Carlton knows Shawn spends ihours/i achieving.

Carlton takes a moment to fight with himself before he gets out of the car and takes off after Shawn, belting his new jacket against the cool February air. Shawn has on a heavy leather jacket that doesn't disguise the weight of the world pressing on his shoulders

----

Shawn ducks into a Ralph's grocery store and Carlton follows. He loses Shawn for a second amongst the muted chaos of the store before spying him over by the produce. Next to the pineapples. Which he looks at, then walks past.

Well shit.

Carlton trails behind him (and picks up a pineapple somewhere along the way), eyes tracking Shawn as he half-heartedly throws random cans in his shopping basket. Carlton could be wrong, but Shawn doesn't strike him as the kind of guy who eats gefilte fish. There are no shenanigans, no flirting, so charming going on anywhere. Shawn keeps to himself and just does his shopping. What could possibly have happened to turn Shawn Spencer into a...normal human being?

"It's a highly misunderstood delicacy." Carlton, lost in his thoughts, startles. He had forgotten to stop walking when Shawn stopped, but he figures Shawn probably knew he was here the whole time. Shawn is staring at him over a can of...canned whole chicken?

"The chicken?" Carlton asks, trying to quell the nausea riding in his stomach. Really, canned whole chicken?

"A canner, exceedingly canny..." Shawn hums with a humorless smirk. The words to an old camp song flitter through Carlton's head, but he can't catch them.

"Camp Tikihana?" Carlton asks with a smile, but it's strained and he knows Shawn sees right through it. It fades out, leaving only concern in its wake.

"Whatcha doing here Lassy?" Shawn asks. It sounds flippant and carefree, but it lacks Shawn's signature charisma.

"What are you doing here, Shawn?" Carlton returns evenly. Shawn smiles, but for once it doesn't reach his eyes, and shakes his can of canned whole chicken. Carlton rolls his eyes. "Right." Shawn doesn'tsy anything, just drops the chicken into his basket and watches Carlton expectantly, rocking back and forth on his heels.

Carlton sighs. Shawn smirks at him and Carlton can't remember why he thought he needed to do this. Why he thought he should. He does have a life outside of the job, better things to do than stalk Spencer on his three-day weekend. He glances around, trying to think of something to say, but he can't find his words. He's always been more of an action guy, really. Probably a good time to cut loose. Shawn's alive and functioning, which is all Carlton wanted to ascertain.

"I'll see you around, Spencer," Carlton offers awkwardly.

"You know what to do with that?" Shawn asks.

"What?" Shawn nods downward, and Carlton abruptly remembers the pineapple he picked up what felt like ages ago. Now that Shawn mentions it...no. He does not.

"You have to treat a pineapple right to get what you want out of it. They're not the easiest fruit, but the rewards are awesome. It takes a steady hand and some patience to convince it to let you in." Carlton stares at Shawn, who has apparently lost what little of his mind he had left. "Attention to detail. The ability to navigate the prickly parts. It's a rare skill."

Carlton gets the feeling they took a sharp left somewhere and he lost the thread of the conversation few miles back. At least they're back on familiar ground.

"I don't...what?" Shawn grins, full and unshuttered. The brilliance makes Carlton's eyes hurt and his heart rate spike. There's something else underneath it, not so much friendly as...promising. Inviting.

"Come on, Lassy. I'll show you the proper care and handling of a pineapple."