Summary: There are very few things that I am willing to risk losing my job over. As it turns out, my partner is one of them. Major spoilers for Mr. Yin Presents. Strong Lassiter/Juliet friendship. Lassie POV.
A/N: I suppose this has been brewing for awhile, ever since I saw the Mr. Yin Presents preview on the countdown calendar (it had the screen shot of Jules crying hysterically in Lassiter's arms). While I was mostly trying to figure out what would make her cry like that, I was also wondering what Lassiter would be thinking while his partner broke down. So then the episode came along, gave me even more material to work with, and this fic came together because the idea for it wouldn't leave me alone...
When O'Hara is first taken, it's like there's a screaming inside of me that is trying to rip its way out of my lungs. I want to move, run, find her. I don't want her spending a single second with this psycho. Not a goddamn second.
But she's gone before I can recover her. Like a puff of smoke, she disappears without a trace.
And I'm left to worry, to wonder, to fear.
Returning to the station after this defeat, I have to momentarily wonder if I've gone deaf. Everything is muted; all the officers know what has happened, to both McNab and O'Hara. They are silent. Even Spencer – God, even Spencer – can think of no words, no jokes that can make this okay. I feel a rush of sympathy for him. I can see – everyone can see – that he's being driven to the very limits of his sanity. I can tell that he wants nothing more than to rip his hair out and scream to God, to the world. He wants to give up and break, to say no more, no more.
There is nothing to do but wait. I consider locking myself at Spencer's side, because I have this crazy idea that sharing his pain will ease my own. I let myself wonder if trying to reassure him would do anything to release my own anguish, my fear, my crushing sense of guilt and hurt and torment.
But of course, I don't.
It's stupid to think that our grief and fear will lessen because we share it. We all live in our own separate spheres of pain.
So I do what I have always done.
I isolate myself from everybody. I keep quiet and sit like a statue as I wait for that second call. Everyone, all the officers, know what is wrong with me. But no one tries to give me any comfort, which I guess is just as well.
She's always been the only one I'd accept comfort from, anyway.
I find myself thinking about stupid, inconsequential things that shouldn't matter.
I think about how O'Hara once tried to throw me a surprise party, and instead invited convicts to my house.
I think about how she switches Secret Santas every year in order to get me, because she knows that she is the only person with any idea of what I would want.
I think about how she has let me become her confidante, about things like Scott and Ewan and her secret fears.
I think about how she has been there for me when no one else has.
I've had other partners that I have liked and cared about, other people who have been steady and good at what they do. But no one besides O'Hara has stuck around for long. No one else can handle my temper; no one else has been able to open me up and balance me out.
These are the kinds of things I'm thinking when that second call comes in.
We listen and I am automatically ready to save my partner, ready to bring her back from whatever hell that monster has put her through.
And then the Chief reminds me that a civilian has also been taken.
It's as though she wants me to follow that lead instead, and anger bubbles up in my stomach, even as I realize that she's probably doing this to protect me. She knows that things may end badly, and if I'm there to witness it...I'll break.
But still, it doesn't give me a pause.
I know what I have to do.
I tell the Chief that there are other units than can follow that lead, that can rescue Lytar. But I am going after my partner. I wonder for a second if she will resort to ordering me off, but I know it doesn't matter anyway. I won't listen. Usually when the Chief gives me an order, I always comply. I may argue and question her judgment, I may even yell, but I always do it. Because I know the hierarchy and my place in it. There are very few things that I am willing to risk losing my job over.
As it turns out, my partner is one of them.
The Chief can fire me and I won't care as long as they don't strip me of my gun, as long as no one tries to stop me from my mission.
I'm out the door before anyone can try.
And then Guster and I are at the top of the clock tower, and my heart is squeezing itself painfully. O'Hara is in front of me, but tied up and there is no time to untangle her. At least not while the clock is ticking. I fight the acid rising in my throat and I run to the area just behind the clock face. As I sprint full-out, I worry that Guster won't be able to give me the time that I need.
When I see the turning gears, I do the only thing I can think to do – I jam my gun between them. Everything seems to stop, and then I'm running out again. The first words I yell: "Did it work?"
Because if it didn't work, I will return to the machinery and blow it up if I have to, if that will save O'Hara. But the face of the clock tower is now dark, no longer lit from within. And that's how I know we can rescue her without her death being imminent.
I rush over to her and suddenly I'm saying things to O'Hara without any conscious effort: "We've got you. We've got you." I tell her. My hand goes briefly to her shoulder before Guster and I begin to work in tandem. It's a precarious effort, still dangerous, but Guster's hands are just as steady as my own. She will not fall. Once she's safely behind the railing, I work to untie her. My fingers find all the right knots quickly, and everything comes undone.
Upon her release from the hold, O'Hara stands and stretches out her legs, keeping her back to the view of the city (and the drop below). She keeps it together for awhile, whether from shock or from her stubborn desire to never fall apart, I can't be sure. I ask her if she's okay, and she tries to give me a smile. It looks pained and fake; I can see the facade she is so desperately trying to put up, to cling to. "Some adventure, huh?" she says.
Her forced-cheerful tone makes both Guster and I cringe.
Once others start arriving at the top of the clock tower, Guster tells me that he's finding his own ride away from the scene. I just nod at him, because I know he is rushing to be by Spencer's side, to give him the support I'm sure he needs right now.
Once out of danger, it seems like there are a thousand people trying to bother O'Hara. They want statements and evidence and they want her to be checked out for injuries. One paramedic pushes her too far; she lashes out when he tries to take her by the elbow. She snarls in a feral way I didn't realize she was capable of.
I grab the medic by his jacket and pull him easily away from her. "She said to leave her alone," I growl.
"Okay, okay!" he says, finally getting the message. He retreats as I let him go, and O'Hara looks at me. Her hands go up and she's ranting.
"I'm fine! I said I'm fine...totally fine, totally okay!" she yells at me, at everyone. At the world.
But she isn't, and of course, I don't expect her to be.
Comforting people isn't something I'm used to, but the words are there, because they have to be. "Listen to me for one second, O'Hara. It is okay if you're not fine. It's okay," I tell her quietly, and I put my hand on her arm.
I can see the crack in her mask as if it is a tangible thing. It gets longer, then wider, until her entire facade shatters into a thousand pieces. She lets go of all control and begins to sob. She reaches for me and I cling to her; I let her weep into my jacket. Her fear and hurt and pain all spiral out together as she cries and shakes. My arms tighten around her.
There are no words to make this better, but my mouth rebels against me anyway. "You're okay...you're safe now, " I murmur into her hair.
She just keeps crying. And suddenly, part of me wants to tell her that she has to stop, that she can't cry, even though I already told her otherwise. But it's only because I can't cry. I can't allow myself to fall apart when she needs me to be strong, but my throat is getting blocked up and my eyes sting unpleasantly. Her pain is my own, and before I can stop them, tears are sliding down my face. I wonder if she can feel them when they land in her hair.
I don't know how long we stay like that – two broken people trying to salvage the remains of ourselves – but it must be awhile. Even after her sobs subside, she still clings to me, hiding her face in my shirt. I rub circles on her back; it's all I can think to do. Eventually, she manages to regain her coherency.
"Thank you," she whispers.
Then she lets go of me and turns away, wiping her eyes and nose with her sleeve. I do the same, swiping angrily at my face; I hate myself for these tears and this weakness.
After that, she lets me lead her inside the tower and down to the scene of officers below. An ambulance is there too, but she gives it a scathing look and walks past it, past everyone. She finds my car in the chaos of the scene and makes a headway for it. I, however, pause as the Chief spots me and catches my eye.
She comes over to me. "How's she doing?" she asks.
I shrug helplessly, but then find my voice. "She needs some space. She doesn't want to be checked out, and I really don't think she needs to be. Is it okay if we meet you back at the station?"
"That'll be fine, Detective. I'm done here, anyway. I'll meet you there."
O'Hara is already in the passenger seat when I get into the car, and it seems that we've both regained control over ourselves now. She sits calmly beside me, as if this is a normal day and just another trip back to the station after closing a case.
There are things we must do: she is going to have to give her statement, and we both know this. And I will be there when she does, if she wants me to be.
Then she turns to me and some of the fear has returned to her eyes. "Shawn and Abigail?" she whispers, as if suddenly remembering the rules of the game.
I thank God that I can give her this one comfort, this one relief. "They're okay. They're both okay," I tell her.
She smiles briefly and nods, and then we stay quiet for the rest of the trip.
Once at the station, I act as her body guard. I walk in front of her and wave off everyone who even looks at us. I know that the other officers would love to hug her and tell her they're glad she's okay, but I also know that all she wants to do is get out of here as quickly as possible.
The Chief is not far behind us, and the three of us head to the familiarity of her office. It is there that O'Hara recounts her nightmare. There are no more tears from her, however. She spins the story out with the cold hard facts and leaves no room for emotion. Although it isn't her job, Chief Vick takes all the necessary notes.
At the end, Chief Vick stands and hugs her, and I see O'Hara relax slightly into the motherly hold. "If you need anything," Vick tells her, "don't hesitate to call, and don't be afraid to ask for help. We will be using all the department resources: the psychologist if you need to talk, or if you just want to hang out here, whatever you need. We're keeping officers posted outside your place as well as everyone else involved..."
"Thank you, Chief."
Then they let go of each other. "You should get some rest, Detective O'Hara." says Chief Vick. "Go home and catch up on sleep." she suggests.
O'Hara nods. "I'll do that, Chief."
Then Chief Vick looks at me. "You can have the rest of the day off too, Carlton. You've both had a rough night, so use the time to sleep and recover."
And then there is one instant where I can read the Chief's eyes. Take care of her, she says without using words.
I nod in response.
I intend to.
Once we leave the Chief's office, O'Hara turns to me and I can see another crack splintering her calm exterior. "I don't..." she starts, and her voice trails off softly.
I lead her away from prying eyes. "What is it, O'Hara?" I ask, as gently as I'm able.
She gasps as she tries to control her emotions. "I'm afraid...to be home alone." she whispers, and my heart breaks. She isn't used to being vulnerable, isn't used to being afraid of everything and everyone. I know she's a strong person, but she's just been through too much these past few days.
"Stay the night with me," I offer automatically. "We'll go to your place, grab you some clothes and your toothbrush. Then we can watch movies, order pizza, sleep. Okay?"
She nods. "Yeah. Yeah, okay."
We take separate cars to her apartment, but I still follow her inside when we get there. I am her shadow. My eyes scan everything, just in case the danger isn't over. I'm not letting her out of my sight. Not again.
She grabs pajamas and clothes for tomorrow from her drawers. I watch as she grabs a toothbrush out of her bathroom.
Then we head back to my place. I scope out my own apartment; I haven't been the focus as much as O'Hara and Lytar, but I am still a player – a target – in Yin's game. I treat my place as a crime scene. Once I clear it, I make sure that my partner is making herself at home. She is: she has folded herself onto my couch and has her phone out, already ordering our lunch which will probably also be our dinner.
I ask her what movies she wants to watch. "Let's start with Grease," she answers, and I smile.
So that's what we do as the day fades into evening. We watch movies, we eat pizza, we drink water and soda. At the end of movie number two, she calls her family and tells them a very watered-down version of what has happened. She leaves out most details, and certainly doesn't mention the terrifying suspension from the clock tower.
I make some calls too. I check up with the Chief, with McNab, with Guster who relays me information about both Spencers and Lytar. Everyone is still okay, still protected. Still moving forward even though our world has been turned upside-down.
When night has settled completely over Santa Barbara and O'Hara begins to yawn, I look over at her. "You can have my bed," I tell her, knowing that she needs a good night's sleep far more than I do. "I can take the couch."
She looks at me, and I can see tears forming in her eyes. "I don't want to..." she struggles for words. "You'll be too far away..." she finishes awkwardly, looking down at her hands instead of at my face.
It's only now that I see just how much fear she still has left. She doesn't even want to be alone in one room, doesn't want to sleep with the shadows without knowing that someone she trusts is an arm's reach away.
I'm trying to figure out a way we can work this out (sleeping on the same bed just seems too awkward, and we both don't fit on my couch if we're laying down), when she smiles. "I've got an idea," she tells me. "That is, if you don't mind rearranging your furniture slightly, or sleeping on the floor with me."
In normal circumstances, I definitely would mind. But this is what she needs, and I can't deny it to her. "What's the plan?" I ask.
"Let's move the coffee table over, then we can lay right in front of the television and keep watching movies. We can grab blankets and pillows, too."
It sounds almost ridiculous: we're two grown people planning a sleepover, and though I almost want to laugh, I don't. I just help her move the coffee table out of the way, and then I go and grab pillows and blankets and sheets off my bed. O'Hara makes a nest of the blankets on the floor, spreading them out so that they will cover us both. She changes into pajamas and I switch into sweat pants and a nice cotton t-shirt. I put in another movie: something cheesy and lighthearted from my ex-wife's old collection. Then I turn off the lights and let the glow of the television guide me around the couch.
O'Hara settles herself on the floor, and I take my place beside her, though I leave a good two feet between us. I keep my gun within an easy reach, although I don't mention that to her. I lean my pillow up against the couch, so that way I can watch the television. She does the same, and we just lay there and watch the movie together. I don't really pay attention to it, though. After awhile, O'Hara's breathing evens out into the steady rhythm of sleep.
My mind, however, won't relax. I am alert to every sound, every sigh of wind, and any creaks that I hear. I toss and turn for hours, trying to get comfortable, trying to ease myself into sleep.
I'm almost managing it when I hear a loud intake of breath from my partner.
A gasp as though awaking from a nightmare.
I feel her moving the blankets, reaching around beneath them. She finds my arm, then slides her hand down to mine. She takes hold of it and squeezes slightly. "Carlton?" she whispers into the dark.
"I'm here," I say calmly. Reassuringly.
She scoots closer to me and sighs. "...I know I shouldn't be so afraid. I'm a cop. I should be able to take care of myself."
I could easily argue the point; she went through something so horrifying that even I cannot really fathom what that must have felt like. Anyone would be afraid. But I don't mention that to her. I just let her talk it out, and I listen.
"But thanks for doing this...thank you for being here for me."
I squeeze her hand slightly, and her own words from countless times, countless moments and memories, ring in my ears. They fight their way up my throat. "What are partners for?" I ask. She laughs slightly, and keeps a hold of my hand for a long time.
She's still holding it when she starts to fall back into sleep.
And this is how I know that I was wrong earlier: sharing pain and grief and fear does help to lessen the burden.
This is how I know that we will be okay.
We really will get through this.
A/N: So yeah, apparently, I can't watch any episode of Psych without wondering what Lassiter is thinking, even if his role isn't as major as everyone else's. Maybe one of these days, I'll write something where Shawn's the star. Lol. As always, reviews much appreciated.