"We were supposed to stay with the helicopter, Shawn!" Gus hissed, out of breath.
Shawn slid to a stop and turned, prancing on the spot with nervous energy. "Come on dude, how long have we been doing this? Lassie is out there somewhere and as much as I love Jules, she might miss something. We gotta go!"
Gus nodded and tried to catch his breath as he jogged to catch up to Shawn. "I still don't get how you know he's here," he panted.
"Are you kidding me? I thought I explained it all in the helicopter!"
"That was your explanation? I thought you were just rambling on about the thematic differences between Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles!"
"That was a metaphor!"
"A metaphor for how you knew where to find Lassiter?"
"Okay. Fine. Maybe it was a little weak. Maybe it wasn't completely accurate. Maybe I don't even know what a metaphor is. The point is, he's here." Shawn stopped short as they drew up some meters behind the straggling black clad search party and ducked behind a bush. "Jules was looking closer to home because she thought Lassie was tricking us into looking far away. She was right, only it wasn't Lassie who was tricking us. The string of numbers and letters Lassie put in his message - it was a time and a date - and something else." He pulled a fare schedule out of his pocket and tilted it so Gus could read it in the moonlight. "It's a ferry designation."
"MDR-THB. The Marina Del Ray to Two Harbors route," Gus picked out. He looked around. "And no wonder. This island is practically deserted."
"This side of the harbor moreso than the other side," Shawn agreed. "Oh oh, they're moving out again." He loped along behind the large group of police. "Hang on..." He slowed; Gus jogged right past him, then jogged backward.
"Shawn. I thought we had to go save Lassiter," Gus said.
"Heck yeah we do," Shawn said, distracted.
"So? Didn't Juliet's file say Lobego had a cabin at the end of this road?"
"Yeah, yeah." Shawn waved him off, thinking.
"No. The chief said he emailed her three weeks ago. The report from the neighborhood watch was only submitted a week and a half ago. Something's up-" He paused as the call connected. But it didn't ring. Just went straight to voicemail.
Juliet frowned and beelined for her desk to dial Lassie's number from her phone. The voicemail picked up immediately.
"Dude, when a phone goes right to voicemail-"
"It means the phone's off," Gus realized, following Shawn's gaze to the moon-illuminated guardrail of a tiny bridge just off the main road. "Or maybe-"
"It got tossed into the river after Lassie changed his message. Come on dude."
"This isn't a river," Gus accused when they got to the bridge. "It's barely a crick."
"A creek is bigger than a crick."
"No, a creek is bigger than a brook."
"That's silly-talk," Gus said. "A brook is bigger than a creek, which is bigger than a crick."
"Dude, there's no such thing as a crick- you know what, I can't do this with you right now. Come on." He skittered down the bank.
"What are you looking for?"
"This," Shawn said, plucking a taco wrapper from the rocks on the bank. "Lassie's favourite taco place. We're on the right track."
"You know Lassiter's favourite taco place?"
"Easier to keep track of him that way," Shawn jibed back, searching the opposite bank. It was hard to tell with just the moonlight, but he could definitely see evidence of a fight. Tracks on either side of the bridge on the opposite bank, deep gouges in the mud where one man had fought two others before... being dragged away. Shawn's heart sank into his stomach. But if Lobego wanted to make it look like a suicide, he'd have kept Lassie alive. "Come on, Gus," he said, hopping over the crick and hustling up the other bank.
"Oh my gosh," Gus hissed once they were on level ground again. He bent to retrieve something from the ground, and when he held it up in the moonlight, it glinted.
"What is that?" Shawn asked.
"Could be anything," Gus said, trying to make out a label written in chicken scratch on medical tape along the side. "I thought you said Lobego wanted Lassiter to go into withdrawal."
"I did, and I still think so. But I think... Lassie fought it. I was right, wasn't I? Lassie doesn't do emotional. I bet he just sat around thinking it was silly to be depressed when he was supposed to be escaping, and it threw a wrench into Lobego's plan. This-" He spread his arms out to indicate the whole bridge area. "This was an escape attempt."
"Oh my gosh," Gus said again. "I think I see the word 'mystic.'"
"So, blue mystic - otherwise known as 2-CT-7, is highly illegal."
"How can something be highly illegal? It's illegal or it isn't."
Gus raised a brow. "It causes hallucinations and who knows what this psycho shrink mighta mixed it up with. We gotta find Lassiter."
They followed the path, what path there was, into a woods and then into a meadow. Where there stood a cabin.
Shawn snuck up to it in the moonlight, fully illuminated, but he got points for trying to sneak. And no one shot him, so there was that. He crouched under a window and craned his neck to look in. Lassie was alone. Excellent.
"Call Jules," Shawn hissed.
Gus looked at his phone. "No signal."
"You had a signal on the main road. Go call her there. Hurry!"
"Gladly," Gus said, looking around at the shadowy forest doubtfully.
"Scaredy cat. Lassie!" Shawn threw the door open, and in the pool of moonlight cast by it knelt the lanky detective himself, cradling his trusty gun.
"Great, you're good. Let's go," Shawn said in a rush.
"Go?" Lassie said softly, hollowly. Like he wasn't really there.
"Yeah, go. As in the 1999 movie starring Katie Holmes and more importantly, a verb which means get the hell out of here before the bad guys come back."
Lassie looked up. He looked like death warmed over, sickly pale and shaking, and he was crying. Which was a bad sign. Shawn cursed his own jinxing - Can you just imagine him sitting around somewhere on his vacation having a good cry? Not possible.
"Come on buddy," Shawn said, taking a step into the cabin's front room.
"No," Lassie said sharply. He blinked hard and lifted his gun.
Shawn raised his brows. "Okay, Lassie-pants," he said cautiously, hands up. "It's me, Shawn. Shawny. Uhh Spencer? I know what's going on here. And everything's gonna be okay. Gus is calling Jules right this very moment."
"I thought you loved me..." Lassie mumbled.
"I thought - you said you always would. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
Shawn cleared his throat. "Uh, Lassafrass-" But whatever he was planning to follow it up with - something he hadn't quite worked out ahead of time anyway - was cut off by the arm across his throat, dragging him out of the cabin doorway and into the night.
He fought. Hard. Because whoever was trying to choke the life out of him was probably the same guy who'd drugged Lassie for over a month and set up an elaborate kidnapping, and if Shawn had anything to say about it, he was going to get at least a stern talking-to. But the guy was like a million pounds of muscle and about ten feet tall and all Shawn could do was drag his feet in the grass as he was pulled into the trees just to the side of the cabin where they waited, watching, listening.
A moment later, Lassie's tall, ungainly form lurched into silhouette at the entrance of the cabin, gun gleaming in one hand while the other arm hung limp at his side.
"He's here, isn't he."
The voice managed to be quiet but carry across the little meadow well. He didn't know where the other speaker was hiding, but it was familiar and Shawn revised his theory. The guy holding him was just the muscle; the mastermind was the speaker, Kurt Lobego.
"Spencer." Lassie groaned out the word like he was saying "kill me now."
"Yes. The brilliant detective. How many years has he been on the force?"
Lassie didn't have to answer.
"How many cases has he solved while you were still getting the facts straight? How many times has he beat you, Officer Lassiter?"
Lassie flinched. "Detective," he mumbled, but there was no conviction to it.
"Detective? Do you know how elaborate this set up was? You still have no idea where you are, and he managed to track you down without the benefit of even knowing who I am. Come on, Detective," Lobego said. "You know who the better man is."
Lassie mumbled to himself again. Shawn couldn't make out the words, but if there was a part of Lassie that had any pride left, any fight in it at all, that part was losing the argument.
Lassie dropped to his knees and lifted the gun, turning it toward himself like he was looking at it, just looking, but it was too close for comfort for Shawn.
"Lassie, stop!" he yelled from cover, then yelped as the brute squad captain thumped him on the back. "Lassie -"
"He's brilliant," Lassiter whispered. "I can't compete."
"No it isn't! Lassie, this isn't real! Whatever you're feeling, it's just the drugs!" Shawn called, fighting to get out of the muscle's hold. Lassiter was shaking his head. Logic wasn't going to work. It was time to get personal. "Lassie, you're better than this, better than him. Better - better than me! If it were up to me, I'd be dead a hundred times over by now! Don't let him trick you!" The muscle kneed him in the stomach.
"You're just the mechanism," Lobego translated. "You're the dog who bites on command. You've got a steady aim and no higher ambition than to pull the trigger when told. So save us all the drama and do it now. Do it now."
"Jules would be dead," Shawn countered, wheezing. "She'd be dead. It's your training, and your loyalty, your dedication. Look, we all have strengths. I could be using my gifts to do anything, but I use them to help you because you're worth it, because you -" He almost choked on the words, but they needed to be said. "You inspire me! Do you think these cases stick because of me? They stick because you know how to make them work."
"But I'm a detective that doesn't... detect," Lassie said dazedly. He sounded close to breaking up. "I can't be anything else."
Shawn sucked in a breath as the muzzle went to Lassie's cheekbone and settled there. "You detect! You totally detect. You detect your ass off. Hey guess how we found you. That trick with the phone message and your whole obsessive perp board and twelve year old case files that you still check on every month. You are a man obsessed! Everything you've ever gotten, you've fought for."
"Yeah..." slurred Lassie. It didn't have quite the rallying effect Shawn had hoped for. "Nothing comes easy."
"Not to you," Lobego nudged from cover. Shawn still couldn't pinpoint it in the hollow echo of the dew-damped meadow. "But to him-"
"Everything is so easy."
Shawn blew out a breath. "Yeah, okay! Sue me! Look, I can't help that. But that's my gift and guess what! As soon as something gets hard, I quit. You don't quit, you can't, because nothing is easy! You stick with it, and you never give up! That's your gift."
Lassiter paused. "My gift."
"Yes!" Shawn said, sensing a break in the wall. He tried again to get away from the muscle, but didn't succeed, and this time felt the press of a gun dig into his neck. "Lassie," he choked.
The moment lasted forever. Lassie seemed to turn over their conversation for possible truth, tilting his head to look at it sideways. He stayed where he was though, kneeling on the ground and pointing his own gun at himself like he'd forgotten it was there. Then - and Shawn could have sworn he saw the reassuring flash of steel blue as Lassiter looked up and zeroed in on exactly where Shawn was. in an instant, he had taken aim and fired, taking out Shawn's captor before anyone had realised what was happening.
Shawn's whoop of glee was shortlived. Lassiter was still on his knees, hands up, gun safely swinging by the trigger guard in a show of surrender. Lobego stood behind him, pressing a gun into the hollow of Lassie's collarbone, too close to the jugular. Dammit, dammit.
Shawn stepped forward, stalling for time. "Lobego, it's over. The cops are on their way. They'll be here any minute."
"It's not over."
"Oh yeah it is. The whole department knows where we are. There's no way you're escaping the island before they find you. You kidnapped the wrong Head Detective. People love this guy down there, God knows why."
"God knows why," Lassiter repeated, off into his own world again.
Shawn flinched inwardly. Hadn't he just spent the last ten minutes convincing him not to kill himself? "We know everything, Lobego." Shawn took another step forward. "Even if your plan worked now, you have to know there's no way it'd be ruled a suicide. We know about the scotch, how you drugged him to make it look like he was on medication for depression, prescribed by you under your innocent partner in practice's name. That's right. We know about the sham psychologist office-"
"Psychiatrist," Lobego and Lassie answered in unison. Lassie was still out of it. It was unsettling, watching him echo Lobego - proof of just how deeply into Lassie's head Lobego had clawed.
"Whatever," Shawn snapped. "You hoped taking him off cold turkey would plunge him into a deep enough depression that he'd do it himself and you could keep your hands clean, but he didn't break, did he? You had to resort to something else. Something stronger. But the jig is up. We know about the fake email, the fake vacation. We know he didn't stalk Missus Lassiter."
Lassie gasped at the mention of Victoria, and his eyes filled again. But he didn't say anything or try to get away from Lobego, just dropped his hands to the ground in defeat. Come on Gus, tell me you got through to Jules.
"You knew she'd complain to her neighborhood watch after seeing Brutus over there around her house-"
"How'd you know my name?" came a voice from the woods.
"Brutus? Really? I was just - anyway. You knew that Lassie would come check it out if he saw a watch report from Victoria's neighborhood with the word stalker in it, so you called in the first one and let the hyper-alert neighborhood watch guy call in the second one, when he could identify Lassie's car patrolling the area. You knew he was going to be away, because you've been watching him for months, waiting for the right moment to strike. The transaction date on his hotel reservation was the same date of his - or should I say your - email to the chief asking for time off, and furthermore-"
"FREEZE! SBPD! Drop it! I want your hands where I can see them!"
Shawn looked over. "Dude. Seriously? Right in the middle of my - okay. Fine."
Jules strode forward, bathed in the sudden light of a million cops on a manhunt. Her gun was straight out in front of her, trained on Lobego.
"You okay," Gus whispered, jogging up behind Shawn to watch. "What happened? What's wrong with Lassiter? He's just staring-"
"I said drop it!" Juliet's voice was hoarse, harsh, edging on a scream.
Lobego looked at her, at the guns poking out of the darkness behind her, at the entire department who'd come to find their Head Detective and who were probably pissed as hell. Shawn saw it in his posture, in his expression, that he was going to give up, but not the way Jules needed him to. He didn't have anything left to live for, except to see Lassie dead-
A single shot rang out, then a flurry of movement. Shawn looked at Jules, but she was staring at Lassie - or rather, Lobego, rolling around on the ground clutching his foot. And then time sped back up to normal. Shawn rushed in ahead of the ferocious officers of the SBPD and skidded to a stop on his knees in front of Lassie. Lassiter looked at him, blinking hard. He swiped at his eyes and blinked again, and then he threw his arms around the psychic, kissing him full on the mouth.
Shawn froze, stunned. At a loss, he pulled away and patted the detective awkwardly on the back while Lassie murmured, "you're alive, you're alive." Jules knelt behind him to take the gun from Lassie's hand. She patted Shawn on the shoulder and frowned at him a warning.
"Yeah, I'm alive," Shawn reassured. "You got him. It's cool, big guy. Everything's fine."
"You're alive. You're alive. Oh God, Victoria, you're alive..."
And then Lassie was dead weight in Shawn's arms.
Shawn blinked at the paramedics as they pried the unconscious detective from him, and he touched his mouth as they wheeled Lassie away. "Victoria?" he whispered.
"Victoria?" Lassie's voice was little more than a groan, but Shawn had been listening hard even while he flirted with the nurses.
"Hey buddy," he said loudly.
Lassie blinked slowly around, then settled on the ceiling. "I... hugged you."
"Uh... sure," Shawn said. He wasn't sure whether he was agreeing to a deal never to mention the smacking of lips, or if Lassie just didn't remember.
"I thought you were her... But that wasn't real."
"Nope, it wasn't."
"Yeah..." Shawn said. "Sorry."
"Has anyone told her - I should be the one to tell him, if no one has yet. How long have I been-" He stopped, eyes welling. Then he rallied. "I should be the one to tell her father."
Shawn quirked a brow. "I think he knows," he said. "Since he drove her there."
Lassie stared at him for a long moment. "Drove her..." He frowned hard. "What?"
"To her aunt's house? In Bakersfield?"
"No she's - she's dead. Victoria's - dead. Lobego got her, he got her and shot her - her blood-"
The nurse butted in to check on her patient. Lassie looked at his hands like he was afraid of them, and Shawn sucked in a breath as realizaton clicked into place. They'd found a buttload of blue mystic in Lassie's system.
"I need you to calm down, Mr. Lassiter-"
"Detective," Shawn corrected. "She's not dead, Lassie-pants. She's alive. She's staying with her aunt. We called to check in on her, and she's fine. She's fine."
"She's fine," Lassie repeated dully. He looked back up at Shawn. "And you're fine?"
Shawn grinned. "I'm fine."
"Good." Lassie looked away from him, suddenly unable to meet his gaze. "That's... good."
"Uhm, yeah, I think so."
"That's... really good." Lassie looked off, brows wrinkled.
"Everyone's fine. Except Brutus. And Lobego."
Lassie nodded, then glanced at him again and away. "And you're fine."
Lassiter closed his eyes. "I shot him in the foot." Like he was reciting from memory.
"Yeah you did!"
"His memory will be a little hazy for a day or two," said the doctor from the doorway. She swung into the room with a smile, followed by the nurse who'd summoned her. "But it'll come back. The drug you were exposed to is supposed to have a very clarifying effect." She turned to Shawn. "The hallucinatory effect should be gone by now, and soon he'll be able to remember which events were real and which weren't, but he'll be more emotional than usual until it's been worked out of his system."
"In other words, now is the best time to ask him embarrassing questions," Shawn guessed gleefully.
"He's in a vulnerable state," she confirmed with a sly grin. "I'll be back to check on you in a bit." She tilted her head. Shawn followed her. "I want to caution you that Detective Lassiter has started to remember things. You need to be careful with how you proceed."
Shawn raised a brow. "How I proceed?"
The doctor narrowed her eyes at him. "Yes. If you're as good as they say, you already know what I'm talking about, Mr. Spencer."
Shawn frowned and looked back over at Lassiter. She knew something he didn't, but all that meant was that he should know and just hadn't looked yet. When she left the room, Shawn turned fully to really take in the scene, flashing from item to item - no get well anythings, not from anyone yet, but Jules' overnight bag was already there waiting for her to show up in fifteen minutes to take her shift at Lassie's bedside which meant she'd been there and left again rather than hang out. Gus was taking his shifts with Shawn, but he'd mysteriously vanished to get them both some coffee twenty minutes earlier. Lassie still wasn't able to look Shawn in the face, but he'd asked whether Shawn was okay like sixteen times and oh my god -
Lassie was blushing. Probably remembering - Shawn grinned. He flipped out his phone and called Gus. "Hey, buddy. Can you go out to that taco place on Mercy Street for me?" Once his instructions had been relayed, he cleared his throat. Now that he was thinking about it, he felt the warmth of embarrassment flood his own face as well, but it didn't matter. Because he remembered. Just before Lassie had passed out, he remembered the hands around his neck, the flash of recognition in Lassie's eyes before they were clouded by hallucination again - he'd called him Victoria, but he knew. He knew. On some level, he knew who he'd been kissing.
Shawn settled into a chair at Lassie's bedside, intent on taking full advantage of the fifteen minutes he had before Jules came back in for her turn.
Two days later
"Hey, you're awake."
"Of course I'm awake," Carlton grumped, scribbling in a file folder. "It's daytime."
O'Hara twisted her mouth up. "Who gave you that? You're supposed to be resting. You're in the hospital."
"Crime waits for no man, O'Hara."
"I'm gonna kill Buzz," she grumbled jokingly. "Listen. Chief says you can come back whenever you like, but it's desk duty for at least a week."
"A week?" he whined. "That's the most ridiculous - what am I supposed to do for a week?"
"Take it off," she suggested. "Take two. It's recommended. An actual vacation. Go fishing? For real this time."
"I'm never taking a vacation again."
Juliet nodded and sat. "So... how do you feel?" she tested.
"I feel..." he began thoughtfully. Then he leveled his glare on her and said, "like I wish people would stop asking me that. I'm fine."
"You're fine? Really. Cuz I'm not."
Carlton frowned. "O'Hara..."
"I'm really not." She shook her head at him and put her hand over his. "Shawn told you what happened? What we thought you were - I thought-"
Carlton blew out a breath and tried not to look embarrassed or annoyed. Spencer had spilled the story almost as soon as he'd opened his eyes; before he could even figure out where he was or why his head felt like a huge cotton swab, Spencer had been there to give him all the gory details and ask all the mortifying questions and make some wild accusation that - he preferred not to think about.
"O'Hara," he said, unsure how he was supposed to comfort her. He was the one in the hospital for cripes' sake.
"I thought you were dead," she interrupted. "I thought you were - ready to give up. And I yelled at Shawn for not caring and I snapped at Buzz and I made the chief take over all my other duties just to find you because I thought - I - I was lost. In not knowing, in 'what if' and I'm not okay. Because now I just keep thinking we - we came so close to-"
"O'Hara. It's okay." He turned his hand under hers over to entwine their fingers. It was a bit overly intimate, but he figured he'd take it for the team. "Look. Now we're even."
"For the last month and a half. For what if. Came so close."
He watched the realization dawn on her. It was embarrassing. But maybe it was an aftereffect of the - whatever the doctor had said. He'd still been "tripping" when he'd been told, but he remembered feeling everything click into place at the time. The clarity of thought, even though it'd pulled him down into deep, if artificial, despair, had forced him to realize some things for himself.
Mercifully, O'Hara just nodded and the topic was dropped. Mutual affection and concern over each other's survival didn't have to mean the complete breakdown of professionalism, after all. Carlton blew out a breath in relief.
"So I'm supposed to debrief you," she said.
Carlton nodded. "I don't remember a whole lot." She frowned at him, so he corrected hastily: "I mean, I don't have a good sense of the time. I remember what happened, but not how much time passed. And... I can work out what was real and what was... you know."
O'Hara smiled gently at him; it was infuriating.
"Just give her time," she said. "She's really rattled, and she almost lost you."
"She thought I- Can we not talk about this?"
"Okay," O'Hara said quickly, backing off. "No problem."
Carlton frowned. "You don't have to treat me like I'm breakable. Dammit O'Hara-"
"I know you're not breakable, Carlton," she said. "I just don't want to make things harder for you. Why do you think I haven't brought up Shawn?"
"What?" Carlton snapped, vaguely panicked. "What about him?"
O'Hara narrowed her eyes. "Nothing."
Carlton pursed his lips. His first day in the hospital was still foggy, but he remembered hand holding and Spencer not being as much of an ass even for all of the horrifying implications. And a great wonderful sense of relief that made him want to cry buckets like a namby.
"O'Hara, I-" he said, then stopped.
"We can talk about it later," she said with a smile. She had had a thing for Spencer - Carlton wasn't sure what was happening with the fake psychic, and... well, him, but if anyone understood even a little the situation he found himself in now, it would be O'Hara. Well. Maybe not his exact situation.
"I don't know if..." he began again. But she had her little nose scrunched up in the expression he knew meant that she didn't really want to talk about it and he wondered if she didn't still harbor romantic intentions toward Spencer. In which case, he was off the hook and didn't have to talk about it.
"Carlton. It's fine." She waved it off. "Whatever... this is." She raised her brows and watched him. "Maybe it's even... good."
Carlton swallowed nervously. "Okay... Okay. Uhm... thanks." He nodded. "Thanks." He frowned. "I don't-"
"Just do it. Nobody cares. If that's what you want to do." She plastered a smile onto her face, and after a moment, it even seemed genuine. She put her hand over his. "Look, Carlton. You really worried us, and I'm glad you're okay. I care a lot about you, and I want you to be happy."
He frowned at her suspiciously.
"Hasn't anyone ever said that to you?" she wondered. He pursed his lips together. "Well it's true. When I thought you might actually be unhappy enough to do something drastic, it was terrifying. I never want to worry like that again."
Carlton nodded. "Oh... kay then. Thanks."
She nodded back, and her smile really was genuine. "You're welcome. Now. Debriefing."
Carlton closed his eyes and breathed deep. "Okay. Fine. I left the station at around 7:30." He looked up for confirmation of his memory, breathing a sigh of relief when she nodded, scribbling it down. "I arrived at the hotel - uh, Fairfield Inn - at around 9:00..."
"Back to his old self," Shawn said, standing outside Lassie's hospital room.
"Think so?" Victoria said from behind him.
Shawn turned to face her. "Certainly sounds like it." He paused. "You should go in."
"I can't. How could I face him? How could I have thought he'd - after the way we met..."
Shawn smiled. "Come on. We all know Lassie- ter, Detective Lassiter isn't ya know, exactly-"
"Sane?" Gus offered, coming up to them with three cups of coffee. Shawn and Victoria each took one.
"I wasn't going to say 'sane'," Shawn said, elbowing Gus. "I was going to say... short. He's not exactly short. What? He isn't!"
Victoria and Gus looked at each other, then back into Lassiter's room, where he lay, awake and whole and ready to tear someone a new butthole. Victoria smiled. "That's part of what I loved - love about him. He's reliable. Dependable. Dedicated to - well, to whatever he wants to be dedicated to. When it's you, you're the only thing that matters."
Shawn raised a brow, clearing his throat. So many things had become clearer after his little conversation with Lassie his first day in the hospital. Privy to Lassie's most guarded secrets and... his obsessive nature and how often he thought about the ways in which Shawn could get himself killed - coming after him after he'd been kidnapped by a psychopath, as for example - and Lassie's voice as he recounted the dread he felt every time Shawn got mixed up in the violent business of police work because - and this was important to Shawn's future - he cared.
But if he felt awkward talking to Lassie's ex-wife while having mixed feelings about a somewhat juicy smooch planted on him by her ex-husband, she didn't notice.
"But what does it say about how he feels about me? That he would dream up this whole scenario-"
"Detective Lassiter wasn't in his right mind," Gus interrupted. "2-CT-7 is a powerful hallucinogenic drug, laced with God knows what else."
"What Gus is saying is that Lassie saw you being murdered because - because of guilt, because you're important to him, because he was crazy depressed and thinking only about the stuff he fears most. Not being able to save the people he cares about."
Ex-Missus Lassiter watched through the window. After a moment, Lassie looked away from Jules in irritation, only to catch all three of them watching him. He and Victoria locked eyes for only a moment before he saw Shawn standing next to her and frowned in suspicion, but Victoria cleared her throat and looked away, busying herself with her bag before saying, "Tell him I- I have to go."
Shawn watched her leave. "Well I get why they got married now," he said. "Not exactly forthcoming with the emotional attachment, is she?"
"You're one to talk, Shawn," Gus said, gingerly sipping his coffee.
"Dude, I am a kind and loving soul."
"You're gonna have to be," Gus quipped knowingly.
Shawn frowned. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, nothing." He smiled at Lassiter through the window sugary sweet. "Just, I don't know how you're gonna do it."
Shawn watched Gus watch Lassie, then narrowed his eyes. "You know-?"
"Please Shawn. Like you could hide it from me. Besides, I know what aftershave you wear, and that's not it. You can thank the super sniffer."
"I hate that thing. I really do."
"So much for a kind and loving soul."
Two Weeks Later
Carlton skipped up the steps into the lobby of the station. His stomach rolled at the thought of facing the people who'd had to come rescue him, but O'Hara had assured him that the only people who knew how close he'd come to offing himself were herself and the chief, and of course Spencer.
Spencer. Ugh. The whole thing - the whole thing - was still embarrassing, and he was hoping to steamroll right over it by ignoring anything had happened.
Unfortunately, he hadn't quite gotten around to giving Spencer the memo. The fake psychic's irritating bellow echoed across the room from where he sat on Carlton's desk, telling a story about - oh, God, he heard his name.
"I can see it all clearly!" Spencer claimed, fingertips to his temple like he was having a vision. "He runs this way and that, evading his kidnappers even through the haze of delirium! He's almost free, he's hiding, but they find him. Oh God! He knows he's going to lose the fight - he's already injured and weak, so he drops this-" Spencer brandished the taco wrapper that Carlton had dropped in the river. "To lead me right to him! And then he fights like a man possessed! But they get him, and they keep him, but our Head Detective is smart, oh yes!"
The younger officers sitting around Shawn were wide-eyed as they listened. Officers Carlton hadn't bothered learning the names of. Older officers stood around with coffee, trying not to look like they were listening. Even O'Hara sat at her desk, transfixed by Spencer's account. Carlton stepped up behind her and lightly touched her on the shoulder to let her know he was there without causing a scene. She jumped and looked up. "Welcome back," she mouthed silently, then shrugged herself out of responsibility for the dramatic retelling and looked back at Spencer.
"He keeps them at bay, no matter what they try, staying alive, staying alert, because he knows we're out there looking, using the clues he's left for us!" Spencer hopped off the desk, hands in front of him to illustrate. "They lead me to him, vision after vision, to a cabin where he's been held for days, without food, without water. And just as we're about to make our escape, I'm taken hostage! Like - this!" He grabbed Guster from behind, by the throat, and the sight of it brought back gut-roiling memories. "But the bedraggled-"
"Bedraggled?" Guster hissed.
"Yes. I do know some words," Spencer hissed back. Carlton rolled his eyes. "The bedraggled detective, through the dark, through the dizzyness of hunger and ouchiness, raises his gun and takes aim! He fires! I'm free!" He pushed Guster away with a flourish. "But Lassie's stuck! And you all know what happened next."
A younger officer raised his hand. Spencer stopped short, raising a brow. "Uh... yes?"
"Detective Lassiter shot him in the foot!"
Spencer rolled his eyes. Carlton snickered. "Yes. Yes he did." But Carlton's snicker had snagged the attention from the storytelling jackass and suddenly there were a million eyes on him.
"All right," he grouched, but he could feel a smile threatening. He tamped it down. "Is this or is this not a police station? Everyone back to work!" He cut through the crowd to get to his desk.
"Not now, Spencer. I sort of have a lot of work to catch up on."
"I just wanted to say thanks."
Carlton turned to Spencer, but the fake psychic's energy was more contagious than usual, and Carlton couldn't keep up the grouchiness. His shoulders slumped. "Look, that story-"
"I know the taco wrapper thing was an accident," Spencer interrupted. "But I like to think of the truth as whatever sounds better."
Carlton scowled. "Spencer-"
"But the rest of my story? Totally true." He turned to survey the rest of the station, bustling around on their Head Detective's orders. "And as far as they'll ever know? That's the whole thing."
Carlton tilted his head doubtfully. "You're saying you're not- planning to..."
Spencer grinned. "Tell the sordid details of our two week vacation? I'd love to. But I won't."
"No you absolutely won't," Carlton growled. "I meant tell anyone about the - what you heard that night, how I nearly-"
"Ooooh that." Spencer shrugged. "I've told that story at least seventeen times just this morning. Can't change it now. Who'd believe me?"
"Only an idiot would believe anything you say, Shawn." Carlton smiled grimly.
"Yeah. Thank God you're an idiot," Spencer quipped, then grinned like a mischievous little elf and bolted.
But Carlton wasn't giving chase. He sat at his familiar desk, a desk like home, and watched the psychic skip through the lobby. Yeah, he agreed. Thank God.