The Best of Me

Summary: They bring out the best in each other, most especially at times when it really counts. Pre-Shules.

A/N: This could be seen as Shules are Pre-Shules, I guess.

Juliet O'Hara is many things.

And though she often pretends otherwise, fearless is not, in fact, one of them.

The shootout only lasts a few minutes – but to Juliet, it feels like an eternity.

She's a cop. She's trained for this type of thing. But every good police officer knows the truth – training doesn't compare.

The adrenaline is just barely enough to overtake her almost paralyzing fear.

She's afraid when the bullets whiz past. She's afraid when she catches sight of Lassiter's tight expression, an expression that betrays a darker emotion. He must feel it too.

Call it intuition, but she knows, just as her partner knows, this will not end well. It will not end with surrender, because the suspect has nothing more to lose by now.

She's so afraid, but her gun is steady, and she shoots. And misses.

He's hiding behind his vehicle, and they are hiding behind theirs, and it feels like a terrible, terrible shootout cliché.

She's afraid, afraid, afraid as she shoots and this time, she hits her mark. The suspect goes down, blood spreading across his shirt, across his chest. The gun tumbles from his hand.

The next moments are a blur of movement. She and Lassiter close in, still cautious – you never know how many weapons a suspect has until it's too late. Lassiter does a quick frisk of the wounded man, calls an ambulance, and Juliet makes sure the suspect's gun is far out of his reach.

The bleeding man cries and curses and they don't bother telling him to shut up. The wound is serious. Lassiter tries to keep pressure on it, but there's only so much he can do.

Juliet shakes and trembles, and she wants to stop, but can't.

The ambulance arrives, and other police officers and gawkers come out of the woodwork from God knows where.

Juliet knows the danger has passed.

But she still can't stop herself from shaking, and she still feels the fear that has settled itself in her heart..

She answers questions of what happened without really thinking about it. Lassiter gives her a look. "You okay, O'Hara?"

She can only nod in response.

- - -

Shawn arrives quicker than anyone could have expected. Juliet doesn't know who called him or where he came from; the only thing that really matters to her is that he's here now.

He catches sight of her from a distance. He x-rays her up and down with eyes that worry. Then he crosses the distance between them so fast that he's there in a little over a second.

More than anything, she wishes that she could stop trembling, because the thought of him seeing her this way makes her feel too exposed, too vulnerable.

He stops a foot or so away from her. "You okay, Jules?" he asks softly.

She can't answer, can't even look at his face. She feels guilty for being so weak in front of him. She stares at the ground.

"Hey." he says, and some indefinable quality in his voice makes it impossible for her to ignore. She looks up and makes the mistake of looking in his eyes.

The usual spark is missing – there is no playfulness or mischief, only concern and worry and something else she can't quite recognize.

Shawn opens his arms wide, and this is the only invitation she needs.

She closes the distances between them and wraps her arms around him, tight. He hugs back, and this, more than anything, is what steadies her frazzled nerves.

- - -

Shawn is not a consoler by nature. He tends to avoid tears and negative emotions like the plague. Comforting people has never been his forte. Ever.

But seeing Juliet in that parking lot, looking almost like she was ready crumble, pulls him in and he needs to make sure that she's okay.

He had been so afraid when he heard about the shootout. So scared.

But she's here and she's alive, a little worse for the wear emotionally, but she's unhurt. He thanks God for that much.

When he sees her, she looks just short of broken. Her hands shake at her sides.

When he opens his arms to her, he doesn't really know what to expect. The fact that she accepts the hug actually scares him a little.

Juliet O'Hara has always been a soldier, a rock. Juliet O'Hara rarely needs comfort.

So yes, he's surprised when she hugs him, surprised when she doesn't let go for what seems like the longest moments of his life.

"I think I killed him, Shawn." she whispers. "I meant to hit him in the shoulder, but he moved and it got his chest instead. Near his heart..."

Shawn doesn't know quite what to say. "I...I'm sorry it came to that. But you know it had to be him, Jules. He wasn't giving up. He could have killed you. Or Lassie. Or some innocent bystander."

"I wish he would have just given up..."

"I know, Jules. I know."

- - -

In this moment, Shawn doesn't waste his words. He says what needs to be said, the things she needs to hear, and then he just keeps holding her until the shaking stops.

In his arms, she feels safe, protected, loved.

This comforting gesture from Shawn is all she needs to piece herself back together, to regain control of her emotions. She pulls out of the embrace, somewhat reluctantly.

"Thank you, Shawn."

It's all she can manage to say, but it's really all that's necessary, anyway.

"Always, Jules."