Disclaimer: I do not own, nor am I in any way associate with, Psych.

Trail Mix

I had that dream again. The one where I'm standing in the grocery store, trying to decide between snack foods. There's the bursting section of potato-based products, all promising variety but all invariably the same. The crackers, lined up in their neat little boxes, never wavering, never surprising, always safe. The cookies, looking sinfully delicious with their bright rappers and illustrations of silky smooth chocolate, even though I know they'll only result in extra hours on the treadmill. And while I stand there, staring at all of them, trying to decide between sameness, safety, and immediate gratification, I find myself drawn to a small, overlooked bag at the edge of the aisle. I don't need to look to see what it is. I've had the dream often enough to remember. Peanuts, dried fruit, and M&M's: simple trail mix. But there's nothing simple about trail mix. It's sweet and salty and a mix of all these things that shouldn't work so well together but do and that is why I'm in a bad mood today.

Lassiter keeps glancing over to my desk as if looking for signs that I'm a pod person, which I suppose I deserve. I did snap at McNab this morning. I should probably apologize for that. It wasn't his fault that I spilled coffee on my new shoes, he just happened to be the person I didn't see coming, and I should be thankful it was only my shoes. But not now. No apologizing today. I can feel the Chief watching me too. She may be hidden by her office blinds, but I'm not a detective for nothing. I know when I'm being obsessively watched.

My cell rings and I only glance at the caller ID for a moment before tossing it across the room to Lassiter, who catches it easily since he's been watching my every move.

"It's Shawn," I say and he kindly refrains from commenting on my less-than-chipper tone.

"O'Hara's phone," he says briskly and I can see him bristle as Shawn speaks. "She's not available right now. You'll have to talk to me."

I almost smile at the way he says it, the same way my brothers used to talk to all my high school boyfriends. But Lassiter isn't my brother and Shawn isn't my boyfriend. A fact made abundantly clear by what happens when Lassiter tosses the phone back.

"There's been a break-in at their office," he says, already halfway across the station, his stride seeming to lengthen with each step.

I grab my coat and race after him, trying to ignore the way McNab practically glues himself to the wall when I pass. If Shawn was anything more than my friend, I would be worried for him, asking Lassiter a thousand questions as the siren wails and buildings fly past. Instead I sit in the passenger seat, clenching my hands in my lap to keep from dismantling my gun right here. A cold knot forms in my chest and I momentarily close my eyes to block out frightening images, reminding myself that Shawn's the one who called so he has to be fine.

When we arrive I get out before Lassiter can get the car in park but he's only one step behind me when I enter the building.

"Hey, guys!" Shawn says, seeing us in the doorway. Every atom in my body seems to breathe a sigh of relief at seeing him whole and unharmed, but I somehow manage to keep from doing so myself. He's lounging at his desk, seemingly oblivious to the files scattered around the room as he reaches into a small bag and pops some unidentifiable food in his mouth.

The walls are almost completely bare, anything that wasn't nailed in place has been torn down. A ping pong table I've never seen is upended. The lockers have been shifted sideways, somehow balancing with one corner on the wall and one on the floor. And in the middle of it all sits Gus, trying to sort through the paperwork on the floor.

"Can you believe this?" he asks. "I bet this has something to do with that murder we solved last week," he adds to Shawn. "I told you there had to be another guy!"

Shawn shakes his head, tossing a handful of the food into his mouth. He says something none of us can understand and holds up a hand for patience while he chews. Lassiter takes the opportunity to push past me and carefully heaves the set of lockers back into place. I stumble into the room as he passes and come close enough to Shawn to see what he's eating. Trail mix. Of course. This is just like that time with my horoscope and the Apple Jacks t-shirt, only more annoying because I know Shawn can't control my dreams.

"What happened?" I ask, trying to get my bearings and forcing back all thoughts of snack food.

"It's the dog thieves," Shawn says, motioning wide with his hands. "We're looking into this dognapping that turns out to be related to an underground dog fighting ring and the thieves are the ones who trashed our office."

"How can you be so sure it was them?" Lassiter asks.

"The doggy spirits told me so," Shawn says as if Lassiter just asked what color the sky was. "That and one of the thieves wears specially made shoes. You can see the imprint in a spilled puddle of thousand island dressing in the kitchen," he finishes brightly.

"They got into the kitchen?" Gus demands and moans as he gathers up more papers.

Lassiter goes to examine the shoeprint and Shawn gives Gus an annoyed look. "I can't believe you made me call them," he says, "we're totally capable of handling this ourselves."

"What do you mean 'we'? I'm the one doing all the work. And anyway, you're the one who insisted on calling Juliet."

Shawn makes a violent motion across his neck and stops abruptly when he notices me looking, settling back into his seat as if nothing has happened.

I stare at him, then the mess, then the bag resting between his laced hands on his chest. Finally I reach into the bag and steal a piece of dried pineapple, popping it in my mouth before he can snatch it back.

As I step carefully through the mess to join Lassiter I wonder if, next time, I'll finally have the guts to grab the snack I really want way at the end of the aisle. I probably could, if that bag had pineapple slices too.

reviews = love