Summery: Carlton loses something he didn't even know he had.
Warning: Mild language. Pre-pre-slash. More of a friendship fic, really.
Disclaimer: Psych and all related characters are the property of USA Networks and a bunch of other people in suits. Please don't sue
Despite spending his whole life on the California coast, Carlton Lassiter hated the beach. Sand made him feel grimy. The salty ocean air stung his nose and throat, while seawater irritated the cuts and scrapes that usually covered his arms. The sun burned his ears and turned them a painful scarlet red.
Recently, however, Carlton had fallen into the habit of joining Shawn Spencer at the beach every Friday evening to watch the sun set and eat warm giant pretzels. Carlton had been surprised to discover that the beach had a sedative effect on the psychic. In fact, when he and Shawn were sitting in the sand with no dead people or murderers around, he found he could actually have a real conversation with the other man. One he'd actually enjoy.
"Hey, Carly, if you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?" Shawn asked him one evening, his mouth full of salty dough.
Carlton thought. "On top of a mountain."
Shawn snorted. "A mountain?" he repeated, crumbs flying out of his mouth.
"Yep. It'd be peaceful. Quiet. Safe."
"What?" Carlton asked.
"You'd hate it," Shawn replied.
"What makes you think that?"
"Dude, you're a cop. You'd be bored out of your mind criminals to hunt down."
Carlton watched the surf as it surged and ebbed at the shore. He'd stopped eating his pretzel and had taken to tossing bits of the pretzeled bread onto the beach. "I'm not a cop because I like to arrest people," he said softly. "I do it because I want to make the city safe. But sometimes…it's a tiring job."
Shawn looked over at the detective, taking in the signs of weariness that had become more pronounced as of late: the graying hair at his temples, the lines on his forehead from late nights of studying piles of evidence and the shoulders which sat slightly more hunched than before. Tired was an understatement. The man looked exhausted.
"Okay," Shawn began, "a mountain. I can understand the appeal."
"May I ask what brought this question on?"
Shawn shrugged, attempting to appear nonchalant. "I've just been thinking."
Shawn smiled at him. "Nothing important."
They sat in comfortable silence for a few minutes. Shawn finished the last few bites of his pretzel and Carlton began tracing circles in the sand with the toe of his shoe.
"What about you?" the detective asked suddenly. "Where would you live?"
Shawn smiled. "That's kind of a hard question, Lassie. I've lived enough places to know there is no perfect place. No matter where you go, something sucks."
"Doesn't have to be perfect, Spencer. I mean, there's got to be some place you dream about going. Someplace where'd you be happy." He tossed the last of his pretzel onto the sand and watched as sea birds pecked at the bits of food.
When Shawn didn't answer, Carlton just assumed the conversation was over.
These series of Friday night talks had taught Carlton something else: While Shawn got a great deal of pleasure making other people uncomfortable, he really wasn't capable of dealing with his own feelings of awkwardness. Especially if it was something he couldn't smart-ass his way out of. And an uncomfortable Shawn was a silent Shawn.
Silent Shawn unsettled Carlton. He knew how to deal with the man when he was snarky or even straight out disrespectful. Silent Shawn, on the other hand, baffled him. Made him question himself. Silent Shawn was a bit too silent, stared a bit too long and was able to see a bit too much.
Still, as unsettling as he was, Carlton liked Silent Shawn. Silent Shawn felt as close to the Real Shawn as Carlton thought he'd ever get to see.
Carlton had also learned what topics made Shawn uncomfortable: his mother, his father, his ex-girlfriends, his childhood and, for some reason that Carlton was sure he didn't want to know, Patrick Swayze.
"What?" Carlton shook himself out of his reverie and turned to look at Shawn.
"I'd go someplace exciting. Someplace busy, that always has something going on and people to meet. Someplace where I won't get bored."
"Everyplace gets boring after a while, Shawn."
Shawn gave a small laugh. "Oh, trust me, Lassie, I know that better than anyone."
Carlton felt a twinge of discomfort at Shawn's comment, but decided to ignore it.
Shawn lay back on the sand, putting his hands behind his head, and closed his eyes. "That's why I said everyplace sucks. As soon as you've seen all there is to see and done all there is to do, what's the point of staying?"
"Why'd you come home?" Carlton asked quietly.
"You grew up in Santa Barbara. You've 'seen all there is to see' and have 'done all there is to do,'" Carlton replied, punctuating his comment with air quotes. "But you came back. And you've stayed for a while."
Shawn sighed audibly. "Gus. I came back for Gus."
Carlton frowned. "That's kind of...strange."
Shawn didn't answer. It was strange. He didn't come back to see his family. Hell, he was in town for months before he even spoke with Henry.
Shawn pushed himself up on his elbows to look at the detective. "You have a best friend, Lassie?"
Carlton just grimaced. "Make your point, Spencer."
"I've known Gus all my life. He's more like a brother than a friend." Shawn seemed to think about that last statement for a few seconds before shrugging to himself. "A much browner, nerdier and less hot brother, but a brother none the less. I missed him. So I came back to see him."
"You've known him your whole life, huh? So places get boring, but people don't."
"Some people do. Some people don't. Gus is one of those who don't."
Carlton stared out at the sea, admiring the golden reflection of the setting sun on the water. He had to practically bite his lips to keep himself from blurting out the utterly ridiculous question that sat on the tip of his tongue.
"What about me?"
As had become his habit, the next Friday Carlton drove to the beach, purchased a giant pretzel and sat on the warm sand to wait for Shawn.
He watched the beach-goers stroll along the shore, and thought back to the conversation he'd had with Shawn last week.
"So places get boring, but people don't."
"Some people do. Some people don't."
Boring. The way Shawn had said the world last week, it might as well have been a curse.
Who among these people would Shawn consider boring? The screeching children who splashed in the water, chasing after friends and siblings? The young lovers who walked barefoot in the wet sand, their hands linked and their faces pressed close together? The dour detective who sat on the ground, alone, eating a pretzel?
Carlton had no misconceptions over how he was perceived: Stiff, aloof and awkward.
But boring? No, not him. He was a cop. He tracked down rapists, murderers and thieves on a daily basis. He got to shoot people. He couldn't be boring.
Suddenly, Carlton felt a surge of envy for Gus. Carlton didn't think the man was any more interesting than he was. He sold pharmaceutical drugs for a living. He didn't even know how to shoot a gun. What made him interesting enough to bring Shawn back to Santa Barbara?
And who in Carlton's life would ever come back to him?
Certainly not his wife. Nor many of his friends. They'd wanted a man who could make witty conversation. A man who was charming and attractive, with sophisticated hobbies. Hobbies, such as wine-tasting, boating or traveling. They didn't want a man who studied the Civil War in his free time. Didn't want someone whose social calendar was completely empty save for Friday nights when he sat on the beach eating pretzels with a man whom most of the time he barely tolerated.
Didn't want someone so...boring.
"I'm not boring!" Carlton said out loud.
"Of course you're not, Lassie," Shawn's voice called out. "Your hair alone is astounding"
Carlton turned quickly to see Shawn sauntering up to him, a pretzel in one hand and a bright orange smoothie in the other.
"Nice to see you, too," Carlton replied sarcastically.
Shawn just nodded while sipping his smoothie.
Carlton chewed on his pretzel and resumed his pondering. He was sure he wasn't boring. He was sure that Shawn didn't find him boring (the psychic got way too much enjoyment out of pestering him to find him boring). Nevertheless, Shawn said Gus wasn't boring, but he had to have been at one point. Otherwise, why would Shawn have left in the first place?
"Something on your mind, Lassie?" Shawn asked, between sips.
"You've been staring at me for the last thirty seconds."
"Why'd you leave?" Carlton hadn't meant to ask that question. His lips aways got looser during these pretzel-munching Fridays.
"What are you talking about? I just got here."
"No. I mean, before. Last week you said you came back home because you missed Guster. Why'd you leave to begin with?"
Shawn sat his smoothie down in the sand and began picking his pretzel apart. "My friendship with Gus was enough to bring me back home, but it wasn't enough to keep me here."
"So why'd you leave?"
"Why all the questions, Lassie?" Shawn snapped. "Watch an inspiring episode of Dr. Phil today?"
"It's a simple question, Spencer," Carlton snapped back, before stuffing his mouth with soft pretzel.
"You're snooping, Lassie. Why so curious?"
"No reason. I just find you interesting." Carlton felt his face flush with embarrassment as soon as the words left his lips.
Shawn smirked. "Why, Lassie, how kind of you."
"I just meant..." Carlton stammered, pretzel crumbs flying out his mouth, "I find your thinking interesting."
"Really?" Shawn said, a mischievous glint in his eye.
"We've gotten off topic," Carlton said, fidgeting under Shawn's gaze. "Why'd you leave?"
Shawn didn't answer.
Shawn shoved the rest of his pretzel in his mouth, causing his cheeks to bulge with soft dough.
Carlton sighed. "You don't have to tell me if it's too personal, I just...I want to hear, from you, why you left the people you care about. Maybe it will tell me why the people I care about left me."
Shawn watched as the detective stiffened, embarrassed by his frank confession. He took a sip from his melting smoothie and swallowed the mash of food in his mouth in one big gulp.
"It's not always about you, Lassie," Shawn began as soon as he could talk. "God, could you be more self-centered?"
Carlton's head snapped in Shawn's direction. "Are you mocking me, Spencer?"
"See? There you go again."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
Shawn sighed. "You're not always the problem, Lassie. Sometimes, it's the other person with the problem." Shawn ran his hand through his hair and turned so that he couldn't see Carlton's face. "Some people will leave no matter what you do."
"Shawn?" Carlton asked softly.
Shawn sucked loudly on his smoothie, refusing to answer him, so Carlton let the topic drop. He finished his pretzel, the salt leaving a bitter taste in his mouth.
"I think Gus is jealous of you," Shawn said as they stepped off the gritty boardwalk and onto the beach. The sand was damp from a morning storm and when he sat down, Carlton could feel moisture creeping into the seat of his pants.
"Jealous?" he asked as he licked a stray dollop of cheese from his fingers. The pretzel cart hadn't showed this week, so they'd gone with nachos from a nearby convenience store. Both Carlton and Shawn agreed it was a poor substitute; pretzels were much more beachy.
"He's found out about our secret rendezvouses. Wants to know why he wasn't invited."
"They're not secret, Spencer," Carlton mumbled nervously. "Not really."
"Oh, don't worry about what Gus thinks. He's just mad that I don't make you pay for my food."
"You mean that I refuse to pay for your food."
"I've heard it both ways."
Carlton rolled his eyes. "I have no problem with Guster. He can come if he wants. No one's stopping him."
"I'm stopping him. I don't want him to come."
Carlton stared as the psychic continued to casually eat his nachos. "Um...why? Why don't you want him to come?"
"I get to see Gus everyday. Spend nearly every waking hour with just him, working or hanging out. Trust me. He'd throw our whole mojo off. You'd never act like this if Gus were around." Shawn waved in his direction with a cheese-covered nacho.
"You know...not a jerk."
Carlton threw a nacho chip at the psychic. "I'm not a jerk."
"Dude, that's what I just said."
"No, you didn't. You basically said I was a jerk except for when we hang out."
Shawn cocked his head. "Huh. I guess I did. But that's hardly anything to get mad about, Lassie."
"Yep. That just means I'm the cure for your jerkiness."
Carlton snorted. "That so?"
"Yep. I'm your drug."
Shawn shoved a nacho in his mouth and grinned at him. "Take one of me, every week with food as needed."
"Thank god for the low dosage," Carlton remarked.
Shawn laughed. "Has to be low, Lassie. I'm very habit-forming."
Carlton chuckles. "Wouldn't want me to get dependent on you, would we? Withdrawal can be a bitch."
Shawn grinned. "Don't worry, Lassie. It only lasts for a little while."
A few weeks later, when Carlton recalled the conversation, he realized that he couldn't tell if Shawn was talking about the dependency or the withdrawal.
"Lassiter?" Gus asked, peeping from behind the cracked door. "What are you doing here? It's Friday. I thought you were at the beach with Shawn."
"He didn't show up," Carlton fumed. "I sat out on that nasty beach for forty-five minutes and he never showed up. I'd cuss him out for wasting my time, but I can't seem to find him."
"What do you mean 'you can't find him'?" Gus asked, stepping out into the entryway.
"I mean, I can't find him. I checked all over that beach, the station, your office. He's nowhere to be found. I rode past his apartment, but his bike was missing."
"Did you try calling him?"
"Do I look like an idiot to you, Guster?"
"No need for an attitude, Lassiter," Gus said, a warning in his voice. "I'm just checking." He ducked back into his apartment and returned with his cell phone to his ear.
Carlton gave a frustrated sigh. "I already tried calling him? Didn't you get that hint?"
Gus scowled at him. "I'm calling his father," he said quietly.
Carlton sighed and began to slowly pace the hallway as Gus talked on he phone. Frustration was making his head pound. It would be just like Shawn to go missing and create more work for the detective. And just when he'd started to sort-of-not-entirely hate him.
"Okay. Thank you, Mr. Spencer." Gus flipped his phone closed.
"Well?" Carlton asked.
Gus just sighed and put his hand to his forehead. "Shawn is gone."
Carlton froze. "What?" he asked.
"Gone. Shawn is gone," Gus repeated.
"Gone? Gone where?"
"I don't know," Gus answered in a tired voice. He slumped against the door frame. "His dad is too pissed to tell me anything else. Apparently, they got in a fight and Shawn left."
"Left? When's he coming back?"
"I don't know, Lassiter. This is just what Shawn does," Gus answered, frustration and disappointment evident in his voice. "I can't say I didn't see this coming."
"You knew he was going to leave?"
"No, I'm just not surprised that he left. He's been here almost five years. I could tell he was starting to get antsy."
Gus ran a hand over his bald head. "He's been skipping out of Psych more than usual. I can never find him when there's actual work to do. I...I don't know. I can just tell when he's getting bored."
Bored. Shawn had been bored. Bored with Psych. Bored with Gus. Bored with Santa Barbara.
Bored with him.
"So now what? What are we supposed to do?"
Gus groaned. "God! The Psych office lease still has six months on it. How the hell am I going to pay that off?"
Gus threw his hands up. "Look, Lassiter. I don't know what to tell you. This is just how Shawn is. He comes. He goes. He leaves loose ends for other people to tie up." Gus took a deep breathe before continuing. "Look, I tell the Chief myself. Just...don't worry about it. This is what you wanted, right? Shawn out of your station? Don't worry. I'll deal with it."
Lassiter stared at the other man, struggling to keep his temper in check. "When will he come back?" he asked in a near whisper.
"I don't know," Gus replied simply.
Carlton turned and left without saying good-bye. As he walked back to his car, he couldn't decide who to be more angry with: Shawn for leaving his family, his business and his home in response to an argument or at himself for so invested in someone so emotionally immature. Carlton thought back to all the conversations he'd had with the man. The more he remembered, the angrier he felt.
"I've lived enough places to know there is no perfect place. No matter where you go, something sucks."
"Some people will leave no matter what you do."
"Don't worry, Lassie. It only lasts for a little while."
"Of course, Carlton," he mumbled to himself. "He was practically telling you he was leaving."
Carlton gripped the steering wheel hard, trying desperately not to succumb to the tight feeling in his chest. He had no reason to get upset. Who was Shawn to him, anyway? An annoying pain in the ass that made a mockery of everything valued.
He was a busybody, who may or may not have been lying to the police force for the last five years.
He was annoying, flippant, disrespectful, reckless and unqualified to even step foot into the SBPD police station.
He was, Carlton realized as he squeezed the steering wheel tighter and tighter, the best friend Carlton had ever had.
"He'll come back," Gus had assured the Chief, when they all had met up in the station the next day. "I just don't know when."
"This is why that kid doesn't have any sense of responsibility," Henry had groused as he, Carlton and Gus packed up the Psych office the following Sunday. "Someone's always cleaning up after him."
"You've clearly got some problems, Shawn," Carlton had said softly to himself as he he sat on the beach Friday evening, watching the sea birds swoop and dive in the purple sky.
It had been a week since Shawn had left and no one had heard from him since he'd left town. No one knew were he was or when he was coming back. Carlton had headed over to the beach as usual. He'd purchased a giant pretzel, sat down on the sand and watched the sun as it dipped beyond the horizon.
"I, on the other hand, have astonishing hair. I can be a jerk. And I am not boring," Carlton continued quietly. He took a bite of the pretzel and savored the yeasty dough as it melted on his tongue. "And when you come back, if you ever come back to see me, I'm going to punch you in the face."
Carlton sat on the beach. The grimy sand stuck to his skin. The salty sea mist stung his eyes. The sun burned his ears. Despite all of that, Carlton realized he liked the beach. It reminded him of a friend.
A/N: Where the hell have I been? My bad, peeps. Real life has sucked my soul. I have such a backlog of fics I want to post, it's pathetic. I know the only way to get better is to write but I have a real hard time posting stuff I think is crap. And lately, I've been thinking a lot of my stuff is crap. But I guess they've been better than the stuff I first started writing. (I think? I hope?). =/
I forgot all about this drabble series! I had posted it with the intention of completing each drabble. Sorry for leaving you hanging.
As always, reviews work wonders at fighting procrastination! Thanks so much for reading!