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Characters: Karen Vick, Carlton Lassiter
Summary: Separately, Vick and Lassiter contemplate the attempts on Lassiter's life. Episode Tag/ Missing Scene for Season Four's Shawn Has the Yips. Short, One Shot.
Author's Note: Well, yes, spoilers for Shawn Has the Yips. Some OOC-ness, but I couldn't help it. :) Reviews and feedback are greatly appreciated; if you feel the need to criticize, please be constructive. Happy reading!
Not On The Same Side
A Psych Story
She knew she shouldn't have relented. Chief Karen Vick had come to know her Head Detective well enough to appreciate his stubborn qualities, the way he clung to projects and cases as both a man filled with determination at seeing through a completion, and as a child who pressed the limits of her rules to get his own way. He wanted what he wanted, even if it was poisonous for him— he liked to be in control, regardless.
Lassiter's protests following the accident had told Vick that he was not taking his own safety seriously, and she used her rank to force him to stay under 24 hour guard. She was firm, and would not take "NO" for an answer, even considering "spiriting" him off to a safe house if need be. Lassiter would never admit that he needed outside protection, assured he could take care of himself. His causal, almost bragging statements of "A lot of people want to kill me. I take great pride in that," solidified Vick's order to yank him from the case. These attempts on his life would have given anyone else, if found in his situation— herself included— pause.
He almost fooled her, everytime, into believing that he was always fearless.
And on the majority of the days, Vick would agree that his insistence of fearlessness was one of his best qualities— but not on days when he was having a gun aimed at his head by a person hell bent on some plan of revenge.
Karen Vick was not always fearless. She had been deeply disturbed to receive Lassiter's call, via dispatch, following the second attempt on his life. She had formulated her plan to keep his safe— confined and watched over for his own good— when she heard the few groggy seconds where he'd mumbled that there had been an accident— he'd crashed— and to top that off, that he may have been nearly shot for a second time in only a few hours.
"I'm fine," Lassiter had protested with a sneer typical of just any day, crediting the functional airbags and semi-defensive driving as his salvation. "I don't need to see a doctor." He had been favoring his right shoulder, holding it and working the joints, but he was an adult and couldn't be talked into going. She could have made it an order, but she held back her good intentions. Lassiter could still walk, had no broken limbs and not a scratch on him. She decided to save up those hospital orders for when— if— he couldn't fight her. Vick had been disheartened, though not the least bit surprised, to hear that following his securing of the accident scene, Lassiter had unholstered his gun and did a perimeter sweep— on his own, while waiting for back-up— looking for the gunman. She would have to disguise her order of protection as "procedure", acting "by-the-book". These were terms Lassiter best understood and could live by— even if he resented her for it.
O'Hara had not been in the car— a grace; Karen had selfishly thanked Lassiter, another thought that shamed her. The junior detective had declined a ride back, wanting, she'd said, to secure the scene at the motel, check if there was anything they could have missed. But later Vick had overheard her telling Shawn and Gus that she had not wanted to listen to Lassiter complain about her scuffing his floor mats with her muddy cleats.
The shot had shattered the passenger side window and had narrowly missed striking Lassiter in the side of the face or the head, since he'd ducked to answer his phone. But, if O'Hara had been with him, Salamatchia may not have—
Karen shook her head. She couldn't reason that out; after all, what if Salamatchia had missed in the bar, hitting someone other than his intended? He would have seen it as casualties of war, Karen speculated. Victims of "friendly fire". She frowned sharply.
She had been beside herself to learn that the man working so hard to murder Lassiter and McNab had not been a common criminal, a drug pusher or a thief, but a solider and a father— the same of the family who had lost their rising star son to a massive drug overdose. She had thought, as Lassiter had, that they were on the same side as Mr. Salamatchia— but to him, the system had failed, and he sought to punish whom he held most responsible.
It made her shiver, and made her a little sick to her stomach. Lassiter had done the best he could at the time— and it still gnawed at him that he hadn't been able to do more. This— the grief that had ruined Salamatchia— still did not give him any right to put a gun to the back of Lassiter's head.
If there was ever a time to thank their resident psychic— again, Vick silently offered her thanks. Shawn had, in the nick of time, divined the location where Salamatchia was holding Lassiter, and had provided a distraction. In fact, had he not been "present" in some form during all three attempts, Lassiter— She pressed a hand against her collarbone. If anything had happened to him. . . . After the relief of discovering Salamatchia's failure, Karen had been overrun by angry guilt, with more "what ifs" than she could count.
"He's all right, just shaken," O'Hara had radioed in to her, following the skirmish in the cemetery. "You know him. Just give it five minutes, and he'll be back to his old self." Vick imagined that O'Hara had taken great care not to express her emotions while removing the handcuffs that Salamatchia had bound her partner with. But she also liked to imagine that Lassiter had shared with his partner some of his private grateful looks, the moments of tiny fear he usually hid from everyone else. Maybe even a smile. She sighed, figuring she would never know.
Time had been cut too close; what if they'd been delayed in traffic, or if Salamatchia had pulled the trigger milliseconds before O'Hara, Spencer and Guster managed to get close? He's safe, stop worrying, she chided herself. But she second guessed herself many times; in spite of the fact that she had, along with everyone else, believed that the threat had died with Petrovich. You would have released him from his 24 hour guards then— and still would have been unaware that Lassiter was not yet out of danger.
Detective Lassiter was a persuasive man, head strong, and stubborn— they often clashed, though Carlton mostly knew enough to behave in her presence as she was his superior. Karen had found herself astounded at his small changes through the years, how he began warming up to her in his own way and had come to respect her and her authority. For this, Vick also credited O'Hara, as well as Lassiter's own survival instincts when it came to working with women in such proximity and on a daily basis. In the beginning, it had been nearly impossible for him to accept that a woman had taken over as Chief of Police after his beloved mentor retired— and he had been very vocal on the subject. Karen, however, was used to dealing with this chauvinistic attitude and had no tolerance for it, and would not allow this insensitive but nonetheless hard working Head Detective to undermine her, not then, and not now.
Lassiter had made a strong case why he should be turned loose to go after Petrovich, and in the end, Vick had to admit that he was the best choice— even though he had emotional stake in this case, with something from the past to prove. She had relented to appease more of his childlike side, the one who sulked and cursed, furious at being kept indoors while the killer threat was outside. Decisions like these went against the grain and made her nervous, but were ultimately the very best option. It would always bother her, she knew, how ready and willing Lassiter was to step into the line of fire, his fearlessness projecting like a shadow on a wall, or a shield in front of him— an invisible bulletproof vest.
Maybe, just maybe, this incident had jabbed him uncomfortably enough to make him pause, to take the advice of his superiors when it came to protecting his life more seriously. Even if only for a single day. She resolved to be content enough with that outcome, should it present itself.
Vick prepared her lecture, considering herself fairly charismatically and hardly ever, since her days as a rookie, at a loss for words. Her words usually wore a balance of order and demand, spiced with comfort or reprimand, depending on the situation, driven to higher volume by the fire of her convictions.
"You wanted to see me, Chief?" Lassiter asked, as he stepped in, anticipating some taste of sternness when he saw her face. He closed the door behind him.
"Yes, come in."
Lassiter stood before her desk, waiting; he had shrugged off most of his scare, it seemed, though she could still make out some of it just sitting under his lower eyelids, and in the slightly paler pallor of his skin tone. He had some chastisement about the corner of his eyes— something leftover from his shock and loss of control, or possibly something O'Hara had said— Vick couldn't be sure.
"Chief?" Lassiter raised an eyebrow, uncharacteristically uncertain at her hesitation.
Vick, casting out her prepared words, crossed around her desk and approached him, acting impulsively. Lassiter stiffened as his superior threw her small arms around his frame, her hug tight and quick, but a hug nonetheless.
"Goddammit, Carlton, won't you listen to me once in a while?"
"S-sorry?" Lassiter mumbled, relieved to feel the embrace come to an end. He coughed to cover his apology, not knowing why he'd said it— her tone bore a fierceness that he couldn't deny, yet there was also such relief mixed in that it disarmed him. He hadn't moved, suppressing an irritated grumble when he considered the irony that, of the entire department, both he and Vick were the two people least likely to offer or accept hugs. Maybe his disquietude at facing death had made him a little soft today; he'd allowed O'Hara to grip his palm tightly as she'd "fumbled" with handcuff keys. It was only a few seconds between friends, a private moment he was certain O'Hara might not repeat again— at least not for a while— among themselves, and in truth, he didn't mind because she was part of the reason he was still alive.
And O'Hara had fixed him with her no-nonsense look of "I care, so just shut up about it", one of her many personality traits that he had come to admire the priceless value of, meaning it had irritated him less and less over time.
Through the haze of his apprehension, he had seen the gears turning in her head while O'Hara tried to formulate a successful plan of rescue. She hadn't take her eyes off of him, not until she had been able to retrieve her gun. He had, when he'd first heard her voice, jumped a little and had experienced momentary diminished anxiety, knowing that he had a few more seconds to live. It dismayed him to see her relieved of her gun, but his captor had no qualms about his death, and certainly would have put a bullet in his skull right then if his demands weren't immediately met.
After she stepped back, Vick cleared her throat. She looked in his eyes, asserting her authority. "This never happened."
For a second, Carlton slipped, a tiny smile on his face. Then he caught himself, and cleared his throat as well. "Deal," he agreed. He shifted his weight. "It's like you said, Chief, we do the best we can." He sighed. "I thought Salamatchia was on the same side as us."
Vick nodded. Salamatchia's ideas of "justice" chilled her; Salamatchia, she felt, was a man who should know better, but had come to view the world before him in only black and white. He had a choice, and instead let his grief fester into rage, transforming him negatively. "He didn't have to go down that road, Carlton," Vick said quietly. "We can't fault ourselves for things out of our control."
Lassiter ran a hand through his short hair, seeming not to hear her. "I just— I froze," he admitted softly, looking at the floor. He didn't have to say it, but she knew that this occurrence was rare. "That he was driven to what he considered 'justice'—" Lassiter frowned, his feelings still mixed with pity, anger and disbelief. He couldn't stop reliving the moment when Salamatchia turned around with the silver revolver in his hand, aiming it point blank at his chest. The easy smile that had been on his lips slid away, his lips parting in white hot shock. This couldn't be right— this couldn't be happening. For the first time since his early days, Carlton had no instinct to reach for, no game plan already in motion. He was less than a foot away from the man who had already tried to kill him twice, who now had him in a mostly deserted place, and whose hard brown eyes were predicting Lassiter's violent end. And the fear he'd swore he never experienced crept up on him, ensnaring him with its tendrils from within. He watched himself hand over his gun, and then felt Salamatchia snap the handcuffs around his wrists with one hand before the first round of terror subsided, and he found his voice.
"You didn't know what you were walking into," Karen said with a sigh. "If I'd the slightest inkling—"
Carlton nodded, swallowing tightly. "I know. It's like you just said, beyond our control."
Vick nodded again, but fixed her mouth in a tight line. She had prepared a set of orders: days off, at least one session with a department psychologist, and that he was to, with no arguments, obey her to the letter if there was a next time around, but she felt such solace that he was standing before her unharmed that she let it all go. Just for now. "Is O'Hara giving you a hard time?" she asked instead, with the hint of a smile.
Lassiter surprised her, harboring an amused twinkle of his own in his eye. "It's not so bad."
Her eyes narrowed, but she couldn't hide her smile. "Then I suggest you get back to work."
"Thanks, Chief," Lassiter said, with a nod. "That's what I do best."
Vick sighed. "Yes. I know." Some things would never change.