Mia's fault. She posted a poem on the Psychfic forum and had a plot bunny for it. I, foolishly, accepted the cute little thing.
Took it home.
And then promptly got eaten.
The poem has the same title as this fic and is written by Dorianne Laux.
Go find it. It's good.
Also, neither Psych nor any of its elements, nor the poem on which this is based belong to me.
That's why I can write things like this. My word is not Canon, like Steve's.
I did menton this was a tear-jerker, right? Get those tissues ready! :D
She stares at a sock.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, hair a tangled mess waiting to be tamed after a night of restless sleep, eyes red and puffy and itchy and tender, back hunched as if someone were leaning on her shoulders, knees together, feet apart, she stares at the sock.
Which is perfectly reasonable.
Since they bought the house four years ago his things have been all over the room. The whole house, in fact, but especially this room.
She always glares at him and tells him not to be a slob, but secretly she loves the way he takes over a room, every inch of it, and makes it his. His simple joy in life spreads with his possessions and marks of passage until you can't help but feel that, somehow, the room is now a part of him, instead of the other way around.
The fact that he keeps doing it says to her that he's perfectly aware of her secret—and that's why he keeps doing it.
So, of course, his sock would be there.
In a pile.
With his sleep pants and her tee-shirt and underwear.
There's a sign taped to the wall above the pile that says—in her handwriting, though it was penned by his hand—"Stinky socks go here, Shawn!" with a caricature of her frowning and pointing at the floor.
He refuses to let her put a hamper there.
She's long ago stopped fighting it.
She blinks and suddenly realizes that it's morning and not the weekend and therefore she has somewhere to be.
She sniffs one last time, wiping at her nose and then frowning at it, wondering how she can still have anything left to sniffle up.
Maybe she's catching a cold.
She heads for the bathroom, turning the water on hot, because steam will help clear her sinuses, and starts her day with a shower, humming under her breath like she always does.
Carlton greets her at the door—not because he was waiting, but because he was leaving. They have a new case and he's already made an appointment with the first witness.
She sniffs again as she looks over the case on the drive and he casts a sidelong look her way.
"Are you okay?" he asks warily, as though afraid she's going to explode on him.
Her lips curve slightly at the notion and she shakes her head. "Fine. Just a little cold coming on I think."
He keeps watching her in the rearview mirror and she pretends not to notice.
She used to think that meant he didn't trust her, but she's long since learned it means he's concerned.
It's nice to have people worry about you sometimes. It makes you feel loved.
"So the victim's wife knew the suspect?" she asks.
Carlton stares for a moment more and she arches a brow and meets his gaze in the mirror.
"Uh, yes. She was having an affair with him, actually."
Juliet frowned. "The lover took out the husband? Not the usual way of things, but not that unusual I suppose. Definitely a motive."
"Yes, but the victim's wife is also saying that her lover didn't do it."
Juliet's head bobbed as she snorted in amusement. "Of course not. Being restricted to conjugal visits would put a serious crimp in their relationship, now wouldn't they?"
He gives her another one of those looks and she still ignores him.
If she acknowledges them, he'll stop and, right now, she likes feeling loved.
The rest of the drive passes in silence.
They spend the morning talking to the victim's wife and some of her neighbors.
They're all sure that the suspect is innocent, even though he was found at the scene, with the gun in his hand, and the victim's blood all over his clothes.
Circumstance, they say. It looks bad, but looks can be misleading.
Juliet doesn't believe them.
"Why would they all lie?" Carlton asks.
Juliet just gives him a look as she takes a bite of her tuna melt. She chews and swallows, then says, "Maybe he's made threats. Or maybe they really do believe it. But Carlton, the evidence just doesn't support their claims. His fingerprints are the only ones on the gun. And according to the vic's wife there were no bullets in the house. The gun was intended for show and bluff. And the blood spatter indicated that he was at point blank range."
"Which fits with his story that they were fighting over the gun and it went off."
Juliet's eyes narrow. "Why are you doing this?"
"Doing what?" he asks.
"What? Look- I'm not-" he says.
"Yes, you are. You think he's innocent."
"No," he counters, "I think that things don't add up cleanly. And in court that's something the defense is going to jump all over."
Juliet sighs and looks down at her plate. With a grimace she drops her sandwich and dusts off her hands.
"Are you okay?" Carlton asks again, giving her a scrutinizing look.
"Yeah. I'm just . . . done." She stands and slips her jacket back on.
"Where are you going?" Carlton asks.
"I'll catch a cab back to the station," she says as she gathers the folder and her purse. "I want to go over some things in the evidence vault. Maybe talk to the CSIs about the ballistics."
Carlton sighs. "O'Hara, we've got the guy in custody. There's no race to figure it out. It'll still be there in an hour."
"And it's already there right now. Don't rush," she says when he sets his sandwich down. "Eat. It's fine. I can do this by myself. See you back at the station later."
And she's gone.
He stares at the empty door for a few moments, then wipes a hand over his face.
Something needs to be done, but hell if he knows what.
Afternoon is spent going over reports and talking to other personnel about their areas of expertise and, later, a meeting with the suspect in the interrogation room.
Carlton says it's a bad idea and Juliet rounds on him, temper shortened considerably since lunch.
"Why?" she demands. "Because it wasn't your idea? You know, you're not the only one who has hunches. Who can read people. I can read this guy," she says, jabbing a finger at him through the two-way mirror from the observation room. "He's guilty as hell and I'm not going to let him get away with it."
Carlton opens his mouth, then shuts it. He frowns. "Are you sure you're okay?"
Her jaw snaps shut and her lips press into a thin line. "Why do you keep asking me that?"
"Because you're not acting like yourself." He winces. "Not that you've been acting like yourself for a while now—which is totally understandable," he adds, putting a hand up. "But you've been getting better recently and then today it's . . ."
"It's what?" she says, quietly. Dangerously.
He looks her straight in the eye. "It's worse. Much worse. It's . . . did something happen?"
She rolls her eyes and goes to leave, but he follows and stops her at the door to the interrogation room.
She spins and nails him with a look. "Let. Me. Go."
She jerks her arms free and grabs the handle of the door but he puts his hand over hers and stops it by sheer force of greater strength.
"Lassiter," she warns, eyes sparking with anger.
"O'Hara," he counters, cool as an ice cube.
She snarls but yanks back.
"Fine. You tell him and his lawyer that we have nothing to say." She sniffs. "Fuck." She nails him with a glare. "I am going to take some more cold medicine and then I have work to do."
She stalks off and he watches her go, then lets his head fall to rest on the door.
Definitely worse today. Dammit.
He thought they'd gotten past this.
She sits at her desk, seething and boiling just under the surface.
Nine years they've been partners. Almost a damn decade.
She understood his doubts in the beginning. She had her own. She thought they'd gotten past that part of their partnership.
The folder is whipped open and she focuses ruthlessly on the words on the page, denying her brain a chance to think about it any more.
He's just got some stick up his ass.
He'll sit down eventually and it'll poke him in the brain and, if she's lucky, jog the part of his memory where he keeps the idea that she's a trained cop and a damn good detective and not a child or a rookie or a damn girl.
She's read the same paragraph four times now and has no idea what it says.
Taking a deep breath and closing her eyes she starts again, reading under her breath to help her focus.
"'Victim called 911 at eight-forty pm to report sounds of an intruder outside.'"
~"Did you hear that, Jules?"
She looked up from the report she was reading. "Hear what?"
He was staring at the window. The corners of his lips pulled down and he shook his head. "Nothing, I guess. Wind or something."
She watched him for a moment longer, but he was back to his movie and she shrugged and went back to her report.~
She blinks and stares at the black words on the white page. She takes another breath and then starts reading again.
"Victim reported that the front door was opened and a man had entered his home."
~He sat up. "Okay, I know I heard something-"
She'd been looking up at Shawn's words, but the unfamiliar voice giving an order brought her head up that much faster and had her body moving as well, despite the order not to.
"Don't shoot!" Shawn shouted as she spotted the gun in the man's hands. "Don't shoot!"~
Her eyes are squeezed shut and she gasps and forces them open wide.
Her breathing is shaky now and her voice trembles, but she refuses to give up. She is going to read this report, dammit. She is going to find her answers. There has to be something she's missed.
She clears her throat and starts once more.
"Victim was heard shouting, 'He has a gun! Oh fuck, he has a gun!'. A fight ensued and then a gunshot was clearly heard."
~The muzzle swiveled to center on her and her heart started racing. She saw the flash of the fire, heard the deafening roar, but there was no pain.
She'd been shot before, she knew there was supposed to be pain, infinite amounts of white hot, blindingly real pain, but there was none this time.
Just a heavy weight that hit her in the chest and took her to the ground and stole her breath.
She gasped for air and had the strangest thought.
'I didn't wear my flak vest home tonight.'
And then she heard a curse and footsteps retreating.
He was getting away. The bastard who'd come into her home and shot her was getting away.~
She covers her mouth with one hand to prevent her lunch from making a reappearance and to conceal her lips stretched wide in a grin to suppress the gag reflex. She takes several deep breaths and looks at the page, blinking until the blurry image clears.
Her voice is strained, but she can't stop now.
"'My husband,' the victim's wife shouted, 'he's been shot! My husband's been shot! He's-"
~It took her a few moments to realize that the weight on her chest was actual weight, not her muscles refusing to work after the shock of being shot. She managed to lever herself out from under it and pushed up to her knees.
That's when she saw what had been pinning her.
And he wasn't moving.
Bright red leaked from the hole in the center of his chest and all she could think at first was that it wasn't much.
Which is wrong, because the blood is supposed to stay inside, that's good, but when you're shot it's not normal.
The blood should have been coming out and it wasn't and then she saw his face and she knew why.
His wide, glassy eyes were focused on the ceiling.
She called his name and tilted his head toward her, trying to get his attention, but it wasn't working.
His eyes stayed glassy and unfocused and dead.
Just like the rest of him.
He was dead.~
"-Dead!" she repeats. She's collapsed onto her desk, tears soaking into the report, shoulders heaving with her sobs. "He's dead. He's dead." Her voice quiets with each repetition until it's barely a whisper. "He's dead."
A hand rests on her shoulder and she lifts her head and looks into the sympathetic eyes of her partner.
"He's dead, Carlton."
"I know," he says softly.
"He's dead and he's not coming back."
His hand slides down to her arm and he tugs gently.
She doesn't have the presence of mind to resist being pulled to her feet and into his arms.
Her forehead falls to his shoulder and she breaks down again as the realization crashes over her again and again, a storm-tossed wave on a helpless beach, pounding her, beating her into submission, breaking her down and carrying parts of her away, parts that she'll never get back but that she can't keep with her.
"He's dead," she says again and Carlton just holds her and wishes he could say something besides, "I know. I know."
The sock is gone.
So is the paper taped to the wall.
His pictures no longer hang on the wall or grace the shelves above the desk.
His possessions and marks of passage have been removed.
Her house is sparkling and clean and empty of all traces of him.
It looks much like it did before he ever waltzed his way into her life and pulled her into his crazy dance.
She knows it's not healthy.
She knows that she needs to find a balance, a way to remember him without obsessing over him.
But right now it hurts too much.
So she's packed him away.
He sits in boxes in the attic, pictures and trinkets and clothes and things all neatly packed away where she can't see them, doesn't have to think about him.
She knows he's gone and he's not coming back.
And maybe, someday, she'll be able to think about when he was here and remember that he always will be.