Chapter 1

Santa Barbara's Head Detective Carlton Lassiter looks up and shouts, "Spencer why are you standing on top of my desk?"

"The spirits have called me Lassie and have given me the answer!" Shawn Spencer starts spinning with his arms out. "Victor, where are you? You said you would always catch me if I fell…" He starts to wobble arms flailing about.

Even though he's tempted to just watch, Carlton instinctively leaps to his feet and puts his arms out to catch Spencer as he falls from the desk.

"It was the stuntman all along!" shouts Detective Juliet O'Hara triumphantly.

Spencer smiles and whispers "Good girl." When Carlton glares at him, he wraps his arms around Carlton's neck, put his head on Carlton's shoulder, bats his eyes, and says, "At least I know you'll always catch me when I fall, Lassie."

Carlton exhales in disgust and dumps him back on his feet before stalking away.

"But Lassie," Spencer calls after him, "we had a moment."

Carlton Lassiter is not gay, but he's not stupid either. He knows Shawn Spencer is flirting with him. It's obvious. He calls him pet names, he prances, he gropes, he rubs, he invades his personal space, but it's so open that everyone thinks it's a joke, to wind Carlton up. It's the …other things that perturb Carlton Lassiter. The sidelong looks when Shawn thinks no one else is watching, the "accidental" touches that Shawn doesn't draw attention to, and the intakes of breath when Carlton invades Shawn personal space, or manhandles him. These are the things that Carlton Lassiter thinks about when he goes home alone to an empty house.

Another day, another case. Spencer is up to his usual antics. Spencer leans into him; he feigns a swoon, pressing himself against him.

Carlton cannot take it anymore. He grabs him by his shirt and pushes him up against the wall. "Spencer! Stop touching me!"

Dark blue eyes widen and Shawn Spencer looks down and up at him through impossibly thick lashes. "Why, what will you do if I don't, will you punish me Lassie?' He sounds breathless.

Shit. He knows. He knows that Carlton knows.

"Well, what are you going to do to me detective?"

Carlton groans and pushes him away. "Nothing."

Carlton doesn't know how he let himself get talked into "going out with the gang," as O'Hara put it, but here he was, drinking in the corner, watching everybody else having a good time. He drained his scotch, started to rise to get another one from the bar when a hand pushed him back down in his seat. He didn't have to look up to know who it was.

"Here, Lassie I got you a drink," Spencer handed him a fresh glass, "just how you like it."

"How do you know how I like it, Spencer?" Carlton growled.

"Oh I've got some ideas." Spencer sat down next to him.

Too close. Carlton scooted away. "Well don't, just" he paused, "don't."

Spencer just looked at him with bright eyes. Hopeful eyes. Knowing eyes.

Carlton is drunk. Really drunk. But it's that kind of drunk where everything is exceptionally clear. And he knows exactly what could happen next if he let it. He looks at Shawn Spencer, feels the body heat positively radiating off of him. He drains his drink in one gulp and stands. "I'm going home."

Nothing could happen next. Because. Carlton Lassiter is not gay.

Carlton runs his hands up sweat slickened skin the color of golden honey. Tastes saltiness beneath his tongue. Smells the sweet and musky scent of his neck. Kisses and bites. A hand tightens on him, and strokes him until Carlton comes, alone, his own hand on himself, the name "Shaw-" on his lips.

"Damnit Spencer!"

Shawn Spencer doesn't touch him as often now, but he looks. He looks when he thinks no one else is looking. He looks when he knows only Carlton is looking. And sometimes, Carlton doesn't look away.

Carlton is not the kind of man who talks about his feelings. Even years of marital counseling couldn't change that. Carlton spends a lot of time at the gun range these days. And when that stops working he goes to the gym. And when that stops working he comes back to work in the evenings. And when that stops working he drinks. On the upside, his clearance rate is the highest it's ever been, he's in great shape, he won the countywide shooting tournament…

"Carlton, is something wrong?" O'Hara is looking at him, concern in her eyes.

"What? No, I'm fine."

"It's just that lately, you've seemed a little off."

"Off? I'm on top of my game. My clearance rate is the highest it's ever been, I'm in great shape, I won the countywide shooting tournament..."

"Oh work-wise, yeah. I meant emotionally."

"You know I don't find this kind of talk appropriate in the workplace O'Hara." He scowls at her.

She rolls her eyes. "Fine, excuse me for worrying about my partner."

"I will tell you when you need to worry about me. Which is never. Come on-we have scumbags to put down-I mean away." He smiles at her-hoping for distraction.

She laughs, "Alright Lassiter-let's go put them down-I mean away."

"I'm worried about Carlton, Shawn." Juliet bit her lip, hating to talk out of turn about such an intensely private man.

"What do you mean Jules? He's on top of his game! His clearance rate is the highest it's ever been, he's in great shape, he won the countywide shooting tournament..."

"Yeah yeah that's what he said too. Actually that's exactly what he said," she looks at him strangely. "And he's also been quieter than usual, meaner than usual, and I think he's been drinking a lot."

"Drinking? Come one Jules, it's Lassie we're talking about, Mr. Responsibility."

"I'm serious Shawn. He wears his sunglasses even when he doesn't need to, and when he does take them off, his eyes are bloodshot. "

"Maybe he has allergies."

She sighs deeply. "And sometimes he smells like booze in the mornings."

"You mean you think he's drinking at work?" Shawn stares at her, aghast.

"No! That's not what I meant. More like he drank too much the night before. But Shawn, this has been like almost every day."

"Okay okay. I will employ my fabulous psychic detective skills to find out what is going on in our Head Detective's head. "

"Thanks Shawn. I may be worrying about nothing, but I think highly of him and…" her voice trailed off.

"Don't apologize, Jules. I think highly of him too."