AN: I needed a slight break from Exposed, so I wanted to write a quick little one-shot. This was inspired by a challenge on Psychfic that called for Shawn to have a hidden skill, and it morphed into something a bit longer than I planned. I haven't done as much grammar check on this story as I usually do. Please forgive me for any mistakes. I hope you enjoy it!
This was ridiculous. There was no way he could look that good. He reached a hand up, his muscles rippling as he moved his body along the side of a cliff. For not being an outdoorsman, he was surprisingly adept at climbing.
They were on one of those departmental team building days, one of those things that they each grumbled about, but still enjoyed; and she had been laughing at him less than ten minutes ago as he cracked jokes about Lassiter.
"It's not going to hurt you, Lassie! It's just a rock!"
"Shut up, Spencer," Lassiter said through gritted teeth.
Shawn laughed, his eyes twinkling merrily as he continued to verbally poke at the detective.
"It's, like, twenty feet! You're not scared, are you?"
"Twenty feet! It's taller than a building!"
"I would have gone with a small house, but building does make it sound much more dangerous."
"I don't see you volunteering to climb, Spencer," Lassiter growled back.
"Why waste my time on that pebble? Give me a challenge and I'm right there," Shawn tossed back, crossing his arms and rocking back on his heels, winking at Juliet as she smothered a laugh.
She'd looked around, searching for him amongst the group when several minutes had passed and she hadn't heard another sarcastic remark from him. Her brow furrowing in confusion, she moved away from the group, head tilting when she just managed to catch a glimpse of him heading down the trail, alone. Curious about what he was doing, she followed him at a distance, hesitating when he stepped off the trail and headed into the forest.
She argued with herself, debating whether or not to continue following him. She couldn't just let this pass. Shawn going off on his own, into the forest? She had to know why. She took a deep breath and continued to follow him, choosing her path carefully so he wouldn't hear her. She didn't want him to stop whatever it was he was doing.
When she came across the clearing, she stopped. Shawn was standing at the base of a cliff, his head tilted back and his hands on his waist as he studied it. Juliet cocked her head to the side, watching as he rubbed his hands together and stepped closer to the cliff, one hand resting on the rock near his head, the other stretching higher. What was he doing? Was he trying to climb? He couldn't climb! Was he doing this just to spite Lassiter, to try and prove something? She had opened her mouth to call out to him, but she stopped. Because as she watched him, she was surprised to see him move steadily up the side of the cliff, like he knew what he was doing. She had to admit, he really did know how to climb.
And he looked darn good doing so. He moved confidently, assuredly; the muscles of his arms and legs bunching as he pulled himself up, testing and retesting his handholds and footholds. She was fascinated. The strength and grace that he showed as his body moved…It captivated her. Usually, his movements were clumsy, sporadic. He was always flailing around when he gave his visions. But now? Now, his movements were measured and deliberate.
She never knew he could climb. She didn't even think that he had the attention span to focus on something like this, nor did she think he would find something as physically and mentally challenging as rock climbing intriguing. She could just imagine the look of intense focus he must have on his face now, and she felt a short stab of disappointment that she couldn't see that expression.
He was halfway up the face of the cliff and truly showing his skill. The places where he jammed his fingers and the tips of his feet into the cliff were farther apart, and there were times where his feet dangled free, the strength in his arms the only thing keeping him from falling to the ground. She felt her heart start to pound every time she saw this. He was far enough from the ground that a fall could cause serious injury or even death. She saw him reach for a new handhold again, testing it carefully, his legs still dangling loosely against the cliff. He was starting to shift his weight to move to that handhold when the rock crumbled, and his body slipped. She gasped, her hands flying up to cover her mouth, taking an unconscious step forward as his body dangled freely, swinging against the cliff.
There was nothing she could do to help him! Why was he climbing without any protective gear? It was too dangerous! But before she could yell out, he had already recovered. He had found another handhold and continued climbing. She let out a sigh of relief and sunk to the ground, her legs too shaky to support her.
When her heart had slowed down and her hands had stopped shaking from that rush of adrenaline and fear, she dug into her pockets, searching for the camera she had brought. She didn't think there was anyone around, but she still glanced behind her, just to make sure no one had come looking for them. She didn't want to be interrupted…or caught watching him. She liked seeing this new side of Shawn. She brought the camera up to her eyes, zooming in on his figure and snapping several shots. She swallowed, her heart pounding for an entirely different reason when the zoom-lens of the camera gave her an even better view of his strength.
When he reached the top of the cliff, she hesitated. She really wanted to see what he did once he reached the top, but she also didn't want him to see her. She stood up and stepped back into the cover of the forest, peeking out behind a tree to watch him. She squinted before bringing the camera back up to her face. It was no use; he was high enough now that even with the zoom she couldn't see his face very well.
She checked her watch, eyebrows lifting in surprise when she saw how long she had been watching. If she didn't hurry back, someone was likely to come looking. She gave one last, lingering look at Shawn's figure before turning and walking back to the path.
"Where were you?" Lassiter asked as she rejoined the group.
"Exploring. How did it go?" She asked, looking around. It seemed like there were a few more people that were waiting for their turn to climb.
"Climbed all the way to the top," He said, his chest puffing out in pride.
"Congratulations," She said, her mind still focused on the breathtaking climb she had just witnessed.
"Wish Spencer had hung around. Would have loved to see him try to climb; I could have used a laugh."
"Or maybe you would have been surprised," She replied quickly, her voice a little harsher than she had intended as she defended Shawn.
Lassiter was too excited over his accomplishment to notice the tone she used with him. "Doubtful, O'Hara."
They watched as the rest of their coworkers climbed, their voices mixing with the rest of the group as they encouraged their friends with their climb.
When the last person went, Lassiter turned to her. "Come on. It's time for the three-legged race."
"I'll be there in a bit. Go ahead without me," She said, her eyes falling on the guide who was starting to pack up the equipment used in the climb.
As Lassiter walked away, she approached the man. He looked up as she walked over to him, smiling at her. "Can I help you?"
"Yes…Joe," She said, recalling his name from his introduction earlier. "Can I give this a try?"
He lifted his eyebrows in question and she hurried to give an explanation.
"I didn't want to try it out in front of my colleagues," She shrugged.
He nodded slowly as he agreed. "Sure. You do realize, though, that the purpose of the activity was to build an encouraging environment."
"Yes, of course."
He cocked an eyebrow at her, but quickly began setting up her harness and explaining what she needed to do.
At first, it was easy, and she found herself starting to enjoy it. And then she looked down. She froze, her eyes widening when she saw how far she was from the ground. She closed her eyes, breathing heavily as she fought against the fear that had suddenly gripped her. Logically, she knew she wasn't that high up, and knew that even if she were to fall, it wouldn't be that far before the rope caught her.
But logic wasn't helping her to get past her sudden fear. She could hear the guide talking to her, trying to soothe her and get her to refocus.
It wasn't working.
Shawn had made it look so easy. The cliff he had just climbed was much more difficult than this 'pebble,' as Shawn had called it earlier.
"Jules?" And there he was, his voice floating up to her, his confusion and concern obvious to her.
She clenched her eyes shut even tighter, horror flooding through her. She was being truthful when she'd said she hadn't wanted to climb in front of her colleagues. She hadn't wanted them to see her if she froze. And now Shawn was seeing her like this! It was even more embarrassing in light of the fearlessness she had caught from him earlier.
"Hey…Hey Shawn," She called back, her voice pitched slightly higher than usually.
"Are you okay?"
"Okay…You going to come down now?"
"Ah, no. I mean, it's such a great view, I think I'll stay here. For a while."
"Sir, I don't recommend climbing like that. You don't have a harness!"
"It's fine. This isn't my first time."
She could just hear the smirk in his voice. She wanted to open her eyes and watch him climb again. After all, this time he was climbing to her rescue, and she would really have liked to have seen that.
"Hey there, Gorgeous. You okay?"
She pried one eye open to meet his gaze, expecting him to have an expression that showed how amused she was by her fear. Instead, he was smiling calmly at her while his eyes crinkled in concern.
"Hmm. You sure you want to stay up here? I hear there's an awesome three-legged race going on right now."
"I'm sure," She said, closing the one eye she had managed to open.
She couldn't see him, but she could feel him shift next to her. She was surprised to feel his arm brush against her back and she sucked in a quick breath.
"What are you doing?" She asked, breathlessly.
"Well, I've been looking for a way to wrap my arms around you without you elbowing me in the stomach and I think I finally found a way."
That wasn't quite right. He wasn't holding on to her. Carefully she turned her head away from him, prying open only one eye again to see he had anchored his hand securely on the other side of her body. It was something simple, but that small action made her feel much, much better. Shawn wouldn't let her fall.
She opened her other eye, looking back at Shawn and giving him a small, embarrassed smile.
"I had to try it," She said, trying to ignore how very close they were to each other.
She shook her head, needing to explain. "I wanted to try it after…after I saw you."
His eyes widened and she was surprised to see the slight flush her comment brought to his cheeks.
"Oh, you…you saw that?"
She nodded. "It was…you were…I've never seen anything like that," She said, still astonished over his hidden talent.
He shrugged and looked away, and she could see he was trying to brush off her compliment. "It was nothing."
"I disagree," She said softly.
He looked back at her, their gazes locking. Juliet found she couldn't look away, didn't want to look away. Looking into his eyes while they were this close to one another, she felt her fear slipping away. Not just her fear of climbing and heights, but her fear of what would happen if she leaned towards him and gave him a kiss. She smiled when he looked down at her lips, realizing they were thinking about the same thing.
Slowly, he dipped his head down, meeting her lips gently with a sweet kiss. Juliet melted; her eyes slipped closed, this time in bliss, and she shifted her weight to lean even closer to him. He tilted his head, deepening the kiss, and Juliet removed one hand from its tight grip on the rock, resting it against Shawn's chest and clenching his shirt in her fist.
When they broke apart, she kept her eyes closed, still savoring the feel of his lips moving gently against hers. She opened her eyes, her heart swelling when she saw that his eyes were still closed and that he was smiling, a look of pure joy on his face.
He cleared his throat as he opened his eyes. "So, are you ready to go down now?" He asked, his voice husky.
She twisted her lips as she nodded, still embarrassed that she had let her fear get the best of her. Shawn placed his hand on her cheek, thumb caressing her skin for a quick moment before he pulled away.
"Okay, then. One step at a time."
He talked her through each movement, keeping pace with her. Once she reached the ground, she fell into his arms, hugging him tightly before quickly pulling away. She was grateful, not only for his gentle help, but for the fact that he didn't make a big deal over her failure.
Shawn chuckled, winking at her before he helped her remove her harness. "Thanks, man," He said, passing the gear off to Joe.
"Nice climbing," Joe returned, looking at him curiously.
Shawn just smiled, reaching for Juliet's hand and tugging her away. "I don't know if you'd…be interested, but maybe I could take you rock climbing sometime. I could…could teach you, if you'd like."
He was peeking at her out of the corner of his eye, and she realized he was being shy. She smiled; she liked this side of him, too. "I would like to come…but," She saw his shoulders slump almost imperceptibly, and she hurried to continue. "But I think I'm just going to watch."
His answering smile lit up his whole face and Juliet laughed.
"You're just going to watch? That'll be boring!"
Juliet's smile turned mischievous, "Trust me. It won't be."
AN: I'm not a climber, so I apologize if I got anything wrong. I would love to hear what you thought!