A/N: HOLY CRAP I'M SO SORRY GUYS. I'm the worst. I'd say life got in the way, but I've a pretty steady life and job since at least February, so I've got no real excuse. For story purposes, this takes place a couple months after the previous chapter, around season 4 or 5-ish in real show terms. I've been rewatching the series with my fiance, who's never seen the show, so hopefully that'll be pretty decent motivation to actually get some of these fics done.
The file folder had to be made of lead, because there was no way regular paper could feel this heavy in Lassiter's hands. Based on how his stomach was churning, it had the approximate toxicity of lead too. He was sure he could feel the poison working its way off the paper and into his body, spreading through his system with every thumping heartbeat. He had to do this, had to do it now, before the lead poisoning killed him where he stood and he never had a chance to confront Shawn.
He heard Shawn's motorcycle roar into the driveway, and anxiously readjusted his grip on the file.
He'd known this existed, known for a lot longer than it had really mattered, but up until this file had dropped on his desk an hour ago, it hadn't really held any importance to him. Until he'd physically had it in his hands, it hadn't been real, just a far off concept that he'd never really wrapped his mind around, not in a way that mattered.
But now it mattered. Good lord, did it ever matter. He was a cop, a damn good cop if he did say so himself. He was a pinnacle of justice and liberty in his jurisdiction; other cities and districts looked up to the arrest and conviction record Santa Barbara maintained under his tenure as Head Detective. He was a good, decent man, perhaps a little obsessive and socially stunted, but upstanding nonetheless.
And he was dating a felon.
Well, sort of; Shawn had an arrest record, which was close enough for him. It was something about misdemeanor grand theft auto back in 1995; although Henry was listed as the arresting officer, Carlton had no doubt that Shawn had done it. Henry wasn't the type to fake his own son's arrest, even when his son was undoubtedly some teenage hooligan. Paired with all of Shawn's semi-legal antics in the last few years, Carlton had been thrust into the sudden realization of his boyfriend's criminality with enough force to fuse metal.
"Why, Carlsbad, you're home early," Shawn said, suddenly leaning in the kitchen doorway. Goddamn, he could be a sneaky bastard when he wanted to be. Carlton cursed himself for losing his focus and hastily composed himself. What kind of detective worth his salt let himself get distracted like that? His heart thundered in his chest with a mix of nerves and anger as he raised the file clutched in his hand (which wasn't shaking, no matter what anyone else said).
"Shawn, do you know what this is?" The younger man peered at the file, forehead creasing in some semblance of thought before an eyebrow rose slowly. He raised a hand to his temple, pretending to get a 'reading' from the file. It was cute, but Carlton already knew Shawn was faking it, and it didn't set him any more at ease.
"Your bookie's game predictions for next year's NHL?" Shawn replied after a moment, sounding sure in an answer they both knew wasn't true. "You know you shouldn't be betting, Carly. What would your mother think?"
"It's your criminal record, Shawn," he stated, cutting to the chase. He wasn't about to get sidetracked by his boyfriend's attempts at humor.
"My record, huh?" the younger man asked, unflappable as always. At the very least, the smile on his lips fell a little, and that was enough of a foot in the door for Lassiter. "Let me guess, you did some digging, pulled some strings, and found out about my entire sordid past."
"More or less." Shawn, casual as ever, leaned back against the breakfast bar opposite Carlton, arms folded across his chest. He made direct eye contact with the older detective, who positioned himself on the other side of the kitchen island like it was a protective barrier. It wasn't so much about defending himself from Shawn if this went poorly, but about defending himself against the younger man's wiles. Carlton was pretty sure if he stood too close to Shawn, either his resolve would weaken, or Shawn would do something to melt him down and divert him from what was, in his mind, a very serious discussion.
"So, my file," Shawn stated, eyes never leaving the detective. In fact, Shawn was staring him down with a steely gaze that probably only rivaled Carlton's own. He likely had Henry to thank for that, whether Shawn would admit it or not. At least he was taking this seriously. "Anything interesting?"
"I wouldn't be here otherwise."
"Aw, so you were going to skip date night?" Shawn pouted, lower lip poking out in a way Lassiter absolutely ignored. He was focused on Shawn's eyes; lacking in their usual twinkle, they betrayed his jest. The detective laid the file out on the island, open so Shawn could see exactly what was going on here, see exactly why Lassiter had to do this. Wide open so he could see why he had to end it all before Shawn did something else that would end up in this folder, something that could reflect poorly on Lassiter and, in turn, his career aspirations.
The psychic leaned in, stony expression dropping as his eyes soaked up the information in the file. He flipped through a couple of the pages and, slowly, a smile grew on his face. "This is it?"
Not what Lassiter was expecting. Well, he'd expected his boyfriend's flippancy–nothing new or shocking about that–but the comment was what got him. This is it?
"What else is there?" he snapped back, half appalled, half curious. "What else could there possibly be?" Shawn glanced up at him, leaning casually against the island on his elbows now, all tension slipping away like it had never even existed.
"Oh, Carly, my sweet summer child, this isn't even the fun stuff. Besides the grand theft auto paperwork, everything in here is just creepy notes Henry kept until I left home. Although..." He flipped through a couple more pages, many of which were handwritten notes and newspaper clippings. "Wow, he really kept tabs on me after graduation. Should've figured. My name isn't even mentioned in most of these. I bet Gus tipped him off. I'm so revoking his Snyder's privileges when I get into the office tomorrow. I mean, what are we, six?" He looked up to Lassiter, presumably for validation, and was only met with an impassive stare.
"What else is there?" the detective reiterated, switching into interrogation mode. The smile he received in return was almost as disconcerting as it was amusing, but Lassiter refused to succumb to the younger man's charm. Absolutely refused. That smile would not break him this time.
"Lassie, Lassie, Lassie, the stories I could tell you." He smiled wistfully, presumably reliving his more exciting antics for a few moments. "There was that time I helped with the theft of the Mona Lisa. We actually made it out of the building with it before Gustav had a sudden case of the guilts and we returned it. Never heard about it again, so I guess the Louvre didn't want it publicized. Oh man, Gus would go nuts if he found out." Lassiter suddenly found his jaw tightening, teeth clenched, as Shawn lazily flipped through his felonious memories.
The psychic flipped to another page, this one featuring a newspaper clipping that looked to be in Cyrillic, with a large picture of Shawn stirring an enormous vat and giving a thumbs-up. "Oooh, this is when I was a rakija promoter working with all those Serbian clubs! Which I sort of accidentally started doing after the time I short-sheeted all the beds in Buckingham Palace with those Polish backpackers. Jagoda was really great about the whole situation, especially considering I was the one who knocked over that lamp and tipped off the guards. I wonder how she's doing now?" Shawn stared at the article for a moment longer, while the older detective felt himself flushing with anger.
He'd known about the car theft. That was bad enough. Shawn only got off as lightly as he did because it was his first offense, and probably because Henry was such a well known cop in the area. Carlton knew that Shawn was rebellious as a teenager and young adult, and reveled in causing trouble to this day, but he'd thought the major offenses ended at grand theft auto. On paper, officially, they did, but if there was any grain of truth to these stories, then Shawn was even more of a criminal than he'd first thought. This was too much. Suddenly, their house seemed too stuffy to breathe or think in.
He raced past Shawn, out the front door to the less oppressively suffocating front lawn. Breathing didn't seem to come any easier out here, despite the cool breeze on his face, and his thoughts didn't slow down enough to put a damper on the anxiety he felt.
Shawn was a criminal. Lassiter was a cop. It couldn't work, not in this life or any other. Sure, he'd come home early to confront Shawn about his criminal past, maybe get some answers for why he'd done it, possibly even end it all before it ruined his chances at being chief someday. He'd had no idea the depths of Shawn's criminality, as ridiculous as the stories seemed. How was he supposed to stay a respected paragon of virtue in the community if he was dating a known scofflaw?
This time, he heard Shawn appear. The younger man stood to his right, although Lassiter didn't look directly at him. He was too consumed with getting his thoughts in order. Neither spoke for a moment, letting the sounds of Santa Barbara fill the silence. Carlton took a few calming breaths and mentally prepared himself to break it off. It'd always been a possibility, especially with how notoriously flighty Shawn was, but that wouldn't make it any easier. Still, he had to do it. There were no other options.
"So I suppose you don't want to hear about all the things I got to see in Area 51, do you?" Shawn asked, before Carlton could muster the energy to start a breakup. Concentration broken, he snorted and shook his head; Shawn Spencer, ludicrous to the end.
"No, Shawn, no I don't. Not today." He glanced to the younger man, who was holding the file in his hand. Willpower dissolved by the psychic's mere presence, he wanted answers now more than a quick breakup. "Why? Why did you do all that crap, if it's actually true? Why risk imprisonment, in foreign countries no less, for childish pranks?"
"Why not?" he answered after a moment of thought, glancing up to the taller detective. "I was just traveling back then, hopping from country to country and doing random work to buy the next ride. I had nothing going for me in Santa Barbara back then, so I left. The world was so much more interesting than going to college or getting some office job like everyone else. I met people and just did things. I wasn't aiming much higher in life than just having fun." He shrugged. "I'm not like you or Gus. I never had a dream job, at least nothing I could see myself doing for real. I had no reason not to do crazy things."
"But didn't Henry train you to be a detective? I know you would've been amazing at it. Hell, you aced the exam at only 15. That's better than most cops can hope for at the peak of their careers," Carlton replied, confusion replacing some of his anger. He knew that Henry had been a tough parent, especially after Shawn's mother left them. He knew about the observation games they'd played, and the eidetic memory Shawn had inherited from his mother. He knew Shawn came from a line of cops. It almost seemed like a forgone conclusion, but apparently Shawn disagreed.
"Yeah, yeah he did," Shawn replied, almost chuckling. "Every day since I could walk and talk, he did everything he could to make me the perfect cop. But just because Henry wanted me to be a cop, didn't mean I wanted to. You have no idea what it was like growing up in that environment. There are only so many times a ten-year-old can count the hats, Carlton. Breaking the law was the only way to make sure he didn't forcibly enroll me in the police academy." Brow furrowing, Lassiter processed this information, until it very suddenly clicked into place. He turned sharply to face Shawn head on.
"You stole that car so the academy wouldn't take you. You knew you had no priors and that the sentence probably wouldn't involve jail time, but the academy still wouldn't take you with it on your record." Shawn nodded, toeing the dirt.
"You've got it. Stealing that car was my ticket out. All I had to pay was a fine, and a few tense weeks later, after graduation, I was gone." Carlton nodded. He was starting to understand the situation more, at least as much as you could understand Shawn's logic. The anger had pretty much melted away, just like it always did with Shawn. At least the grand theft auto he could understand now; there was still the matter of the veracity of the other ludicrous claims Shawn had listed off.
"What about that other stuff? Is it all true? The Mona Lisa, Buckingham Palace, Area 51? Those could've been serious offenses if you'd been caught." Shawn just smiled.
"There's always a kernel of truth, Lassie, except when it's an outright lie." He paused, then shrugged. "I was young and stupid. It was fun, exciting, and it would've drove Henry nuts if he'd known. Now, I'm just old-ish and stupid. It's maybe a..." He thought about it for a second, eyes darting around the way they did when he was doing mental math. "...forty-sixty chance that I'd do it all again."
"I'd expect nothing less," Lassiter snorted. Shawn's smile widened, more closely resembling his usual broad grin now, and the older detective felt some of the tension in his shoulders disappear.
"Besides, when was the last time I did something seriously illegal?" Shawn postulated. Carlton could've laughed then if he wasn't immediately inundated with memories of all of his boyfriend's barely legal, sometimes entirely illegal, activities, just since he started working with the SBPD.
"You've got to be kidding me," he chuckled instead. "Just last week you 'stumbled' right into a suspect's house during one of your psychic convulsions, even though we didn't have a warrant yet."
"Buuuut, we managed to find the murder weapons," Shawn quickly answered. "And that helped us catch the FroYo Psycho. Those hip college students on his hit list are all alive because I forgot to tie my shoes that morning. Besides, I said seriously illegal, and it's been at least a couple years since I committed any heinous international crimes. Little local stuff doesn't count, especially when it gets the bad guys off the streets."
"It still counts, Shawn," Lassiter replied, but he could see the fake psychic's point. He hadn't done anything illegal enough to earn a serious sentence (probably), and most of his illegal stunts now helped the police solve crimes. It wasn't the by-the-book approach that Carlton revered, but there was no denying that Shawn's 'methods' were effective.
And Shawn was a well-known local detective too. Maybe not 'well-respected', but he had helped with more successful investigations than a lot of the cops on the force, and his overall solve rate had to be at least as good as Lassiter's own, if not better. He was an amazing detective, on his own terms, and dozens of Santa Barbara citizens owed him their lives. He didn't have a great past, and his current shenanigans were often annoying to anyone who followed the letter of the law, but Shawn's success as a detective with the SBPD couldn't be denied.
There was no way he could break up with Shawn just because of this. God, how could it even be an option? Most people at the station already knew about Shawn's less than legal mischief, and Vick certainly wasn't going to fire Carlton just for dating someone with a criminal record. And so what if the politics of the situation meant he might never become chief someday? Was a job more important than a relationship to him?
He'd lost Victoria for too many reasons, and choosing the job over her was without a doubt a major factor. What he had with Shawn was stronger than anything he'd had with Victoria, but he knew it wasn't immune to either of them making stupid decisions. The months they'd been together were some of the best months of his life, and he wasn't going to throw that away for some perceived reputation and a job he might never get.
"Whatcha thinking about?" Shawn asked, eyes that were so hazel today watching the taller man avidly. Carlton smiled back him, nerves finally calmed. He held out a hand and walked with Shawn back into the house.
"I'm thinking that we can still make it to that Last Starfighter showing you wanted to go see, if you can manage not to dawdle for once."
"Dawdle? Me? I'm offended, Carly-Q. I'm the pinnacle of speed and efficiency."
"If you say so. Just go get ready. And try not to steal any cars between here and the bedroom." Shawn mock gasped, affecting the air of a modern day Southern belle.
"Why Mister Lassiter, how dare you!" he huffed, a palm dramatically placed on his chest. Carlton just raised an eyebrow and nodded to the clock in the hallway.
"Pinnacle of speed and efficiency, huh?" The younger man glanced to the clock, then seemed to fight internally with himself about whether to keep up the scandalized routine, or actually make it to a movie he liked on time. After a moment's hesitation, he apparently chose making it to the movie on time, curtsied, and bounded up the stairs. Halfway up, though, he paused and turned back to look at Carlton.
"We're good, right?" he asked cautiously. "I don't want things to be weird between us, because we're kind of sort of awesome." It was nice to see the psychic actually worry sometimes. It made him seem just like everybody else, and with Shawn, it was easy to forget that sometimes. Lassiter smiled lightly.
"Yeah, Shawn, we're good."