AN: Your wonderful support (and patience) is so very much appreciated. Thank you!
His son was already absorbed in the case by the time he got to the police station, and Henry breathed a sigh of relief, his frantic pace coming to a stop so sudden the officers behind him barely missed running into him. He ignored them and their muttered curses, his whole attention focused on Shawn.
There had always been something about watching his son work that Henry found captivating, especially when Shawn was so absorbed in a case he wasn't aware of anyone's scrutiny. The intelligence Shawn so often hid would burn brightly in his eyes; his lips would purse, his face would scrunch in concentration, and his head would tilt as he picked up on a clue. It was fascinating.
If Shawn thought someone was paying attention to him, however, he felt the need to put on a show. His intense focus was hidden by a cocky, immature persona that left a bitter taste in Henry's mouth. He had raised his son to be so much more than a joke! Couldn't he see that no one took him seriously? Couldn't he see how his actions reflected poorly on Henry? Make no mistake, Henry loved his son fiercely; but irritation and impatience over the way his son had decided to portray himself had crowded out affection and pride, severing a relationship that had begun splintering during Shawn's teenage years.
Then when Shawn decided to become a psychic detective? Henry had been poised to brush off his son once more, but there had been the slightest hints of pride that had mingled in with his annoyance as Shawn successfully solved his first case. As strange as it was, Psych had offered him and his son a fresh start. He had seen his son use the skills Henry had painstaking taught him to solve crimes, adding his own unique twist to them, of course. He had seen Shawn grow as a person, as a detective, as a son.
He should have been prepared for the danger, thought he had been prepared. After all, he had taught Shawn basic survival skills and ways to defend himself; but he had never expected the level of criminals that would be attracted by his son's brilliant mind. Or fake psychic abilities, for that matter. He had wanted his son to be successful, but with that success came recognition and criminals bent on challenging him. Henry had been forced to stand by and watch his son confront them, his meager defensive skills nothing compared to the perilous situations and ruthless foes he faced.
His son had surprised him yet again, however. The intelligence that Henry took pride in and the sophomoric humor that irritated him had been the main components of the defense Shawn used against criminals, along with steely undertones of confidence and unexpected bravery.
Henry was damn proud of his son.
Determined to take advantage of the opportunity and watch his son work, he leaned against the wall, arms crossing as he settled in for his vigil. Shawn must have felt the extra eyes on him, however, because a few minutes later he turned around with a frown, eyes sweeping across the station until he saw Henry. He muttered an excuse to his friends and walked over to join him, shoulders hunching as he ignored the stares that followed him.
Henry couldn't tell if the officers were just curious or angry—he had his own opinion on the officers' attitude towards Shawn—but whatever the intentions were, they made his son uncomfortable and he leveled a warning glare at the offending members until they returned to their work.
"You come all the way down here because you were worried about me?"
There was an interesting balance of emotions in his voice that took Henry by surprise, and he swallowed the yes he'd been about to articulate. There was a genuine appreciation that Henry had come, but also irritation for his presence, and Henry realized the confirmation he'd been about to give would have undermined his son. Shawn was torn between wanting his support, needing it, and still being able to cope on his own. He needed to work on this case with the support of his father, but without his father hovering over him.
He couldn't do that to his son, couldn't make him feel weak by telling him he was worried. "Don't flatter yourself, kid. I just pulled too many steaks for dinner and wanted to see if Gus was hungry."
Slouching against Juliet's desk, halfway across the room from where Shawn and Henry were, Gus suddenly straightened and swiveled his head towards them. "Steaks?" He asked, his voice just barely reaching them over the cacophony of the station.
"How did he hear that?" Henry asked in astonishment as Shawn snorted. He gave a little shake of his head before moving on. "Dinner?" The two friends looked at each other, Gus' eyes widening in a hopeful expression that made Shawn roll his own.
"Yeah, we'll be there," Shawn sighed, eyes sparkling with the smallest flare of humor as Gus did a little happy dance.
Henry watched the exchange with approval, grateful that Gus' antics were able to provide a lighter contrast to Shawn's new seriousness. Why had it taken Henry so long to realize the immature, childish behavior that had bothered him so much had hidden Shawn's real thoughts and reactions? How long had his son used innocence and humor as a shield, not just for dangerous situations, but for everyday life?
And now that that defense had been stolen from him, how would Shawn cope?
"Six o'clock. Don't be late." Henry clasped Shawn's shoulder and met his eyes to say one last thing. "My phone's on." He waited until Shawn nodded to walk away.
Henry turned to find his son absently tracing one of the drawings on his cast.
"Do you…Do you want to stay?" He asked, eyebrows lifting in question.
Henry rocked back on his heels, surprised by the offer and more tempted than he would admit. He gave a small smile and shook his head, however. "Thanks, kiddo, but I think you've got this."
Shawn gave a surprised little quirk of his lips and nodded one last time before Henry took his leave.
Walking away made him feel like the worst kind of father. His instincts were screaming that he was going to make Shawn vulnerable with his absence, but it wasn't true. His presence would only make Shawn doubt his own skills, would make him feel less prepared to face this threat. It hurt him to leave, but it was what Shawn needed.
He could do that for his son. For now.
He should have seen it.
It was a thought he hadn't been able to get out of his head since he'd left the crime scene.
He should have seen it.
Before he'd met Spencer, Lassiter had been proud of his detective skills. His solve rate was above respectable, his ability to wrangle a confession from a perp unmatched by any who dared challenge him.
The detective skills Lassiter had been so confident of, however, had floundered when Spencer entered the picture.
Spencer, who had called in a tip on a robbery and was brought to Lassiter's attention because he knew details only the criminal should have known. The younger man had irritated Lassiter from the start, though he wouldn't have been able to explain why. Sure the kid was annoying, entitled, arrogant, and idiotic; but that wasn't what bothered Lassiter the most. It wasn't until he had worked with the fake psychic on several cases that the answer came to him.
He was threatened by Spencer. Threatened by his ability to see what Lassiter missed, by his ability to read a crime scene as if he'd been born to do it. Threatened that his hard-earned success would disappear as the station became enamored with the flashy fake psychic. It didn't matter if Spencer showed no inclination to be an officer, apparently relishing his position as psychic consultant; Lassiter couldn't get past his irrational feelings. He was the real deal. Him. Not Spencer.
His rivalry with the younger man had pushed Lassiter to do better, to be the detective he knew he was. But no matter how hard he tried, Spencer could still upstage him. He wasn't inept, he wasn't stupid, he wasn't a bad detective. It was just that the fake psychic had a natural born talent that he now knew had been honed since he was a child.
It was an easier excuse for him to swallow than being psychic, at least, a ridiculous lie that Lassiter had seen through from the very start.
He had been a good enough detective to see through the well-played charade, but not enough to see what they were all facing. No, it had taken a second crime scene, a second murdered man, and a note to clue him in.
He should have seen it.
He tried to ignore Spencer as the younger man stepped up next to him, uncomfortable with him, uncertain on how to act around him. Not exactly friends before his secret came out, they had reluctantly accepted the other's presence in their lives, alternately badgering and teasing each other as they worked, and acting as unexpected back-up for the other when he was in deep trouble. Lassiter had respected Spencer's skills, and over time, Spencer himself.
Just a little.
O'Hara was one of the few who had breached his barriers and earned his complete respect, even if he would never admit it. When Spencer's secret came out, it had hurt her, hurt his partner, and Lassiter had seen red. Any and all progress he and Spencer had made was destroyed when his partner found him and fought back tears as she explained Spencer's betrayal.
Lassiter wanted Spencer to be punished for what he did to O'Hara and Santa Barbara, and for the mockery he had made of the police force. He wanted Spencer to be prosecuted and sent to jail, case closed, the end.
When Spencer had been kidnapped, targeted because of his close relationship with the department—punished because of it—however, the situation became much less open-and-shut than Lassiter thought it would be. Stripped of lies, of all of his defenses, of all his support, Spencer had been laid bare for them all to see. He wasn't just the "psychic" that Lassiter tolerated. He was the man his partner had, for some reason, fallen in love with. He was Guster's partner-in-crime, literally, and a retired cop's son.
And Lassiter's personal pain in the ass.
His anger had cooled over the three days Spencer was taken. His need to see Spencer punished within an inch of his life was much less appealing when it looked like the younger man might actually be murdered in front of his eyes. That wasn't justice, in any sense of the word.
This? This new game with Cole? This wasn't just, either.
He should have seen it.
"You're brooding," Spencer said, and Lassiter crossed his arms.
"I am doing no such thing," he refuted.
"Please," Spencer scoffed. "This is your typical brooding posture. Crossed arms, rigid shoulders, furrowed brow…If you're not brooding, then I'm a…a…"
The younger man's shoulders slumped as the witty retort failed. Shame. It had been a good attempt, too.
"I'm not brooding," Lassiter shook his head, rescuing the younger man from the aborted response. "Brooding is something fourteen-year-old girls do. I am concentrating."
Spencer hummed, crossing his arms as he followed Lassiter's line of sight to the crime scene board. The silence between the two men stretched, and Lassiter shifted his weight, suddenly feeling uncomfortable enough to fidget.
It was so obvious, looking at the pictures now, that Cole had been calling Spencer out.
He should have seen it.
"Don't worry about it, Lassiter. I didn't see it either."
Lassiter clenched his jaw; he hadn't meant to speak that failure out loud. He shook his head, unable to accept the easy forgiveness the younger man offered him. He may not have Spencer's talents, but he was a darn good detective in his own right. "But I should have," he argued.
Spencer snorted, wrapping the arms he'd crossed a little closer to his body. "And I shouldn't have? I saw the pictures this morning and knew something was wrong, but I didn't know what. There was no way to know it would be Cole." Spencer turned to meet his eyes. "It wasn't your fault, Lassiter."
Unwilling to completely let go of his guilt, Lassiter still felt the tension in his shoulders ease just the smallest amount as he turned back to the board. Which, judging by the half-smile he saw on Spencer's face out of the corner of his eyes, the younger man hadn't missed.
Oh, for the love of California penal code, they just had a moment, didn't they?
Lassiter blinked at the sudden switch in the man's temperament as a frustrated frown replaced the triumphant smirk.
"At least now we know who did this and what will happen next. Not that it will help us stop Cole."
O'Hara looked up from her computer and Guster sidled a little closer to his friend, both no longer pretending they couldn't hear the conversation between the two men.
"What do you mean?" Lassiter asked.
Spencer gave him a sad smile. "You see it, too," he said. "It's just so obvious you wouldn't give it a second thought."
Lassiter frowned, eyes roaming the pictures as he wondered what would be so... He blew out a harsh breath when it clicked. It was painfully clear, now that he looked.
He should have seen that, too.
"What?" Guster asked, hovering nervously over his best friend.
"He's following the same pattern of what he did to me," Spencer said simply. "The first victim was beaten. He used the cattle prod on the second one. On the third victim, he'll use…" The look that entered his eyes alarmed Lassiter, the faraway, haunted gaze making it obvious that he was recalling a horrific memory.
"A knife," Lassiter finished, eyes closing.
Lassiter kept up a steady stream of silent curses as the knife flashed in front of the camera, the silver of the blade slowly dulling to a deep crimson. His hands curled into fists and his jaw clenched as he fought to keep his anger locked away. He needed to keep a clear head, needed to present a strong front for his partner to lean on. Snapping at the video now wouldn't provide that image.
He wasn't an emotional person, but the weak gasp and moan from the man he had grudgingly grown to respect made him feel like he'd been sucker punched. Not just because of the pain Spencer was going through, but because of the pain he sensed those noises evoked in the people that were watching; his partner the most important of them.
The bloody knife being wiped on the tatters of Spencer's shirt was the last insult, and he found himself cursing at the screen, his voice mixing with Guster's, Henry's, and the Chief's. O'Hara's anger and grief found an outlet in the glass vase on the Chief's table, the gesture speaking of her helplessness in a way she would never quite be able to articulate.
Cole's voice broke the silence in the wake of her departure. Lassiter waited impatiently for the man to finish speaking to follow her, but Henry's outstretched hand and quiet "I've got her," stopped him. As much as he wanted…needed…to be there for his partner, he had to admit Henry would be the best person to help her right now. He let his eyes linger on the screen for a few more minutes, the echoes of Shawn and Juliet's pain fueling his rage.
I will find you, he vowed, glaring at Cole as the man smiled into the camera. You won't get away with this.
"I don't understand, though. What's his game? Why go to all this trouble?" O'Hara asked, voice raspy from her own dark memories.
Spencer tapped his mouth with a finger and shook his head, eyes still focused on something no one else could see. "I don't know," he said quietly. "I don't know."