Disclaimer: you know the drill. I don't own psych and the only profits I make are intangibles like knowing someone out there's reading this.
Summary: This is another sort of AU story like my Lassiter: ChChChanges, where people act like people might act if they weren't trapped on TV doing what TV people do. Or, if you want more details, Lassiter gets tired of the way Shawn treats him, and stuff happens. Shules exists, Marlowe doesn't, and I don't want to say this is Lassiet yet but it miiiight head that way. Consider it strong friendship for now.
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Carlton Lassiter bent over the body, using his pen to pry the knife out of the man's hand. Juliet was ready with the evidence bag, but both of them jumped when Shawn Spencer proclaimed, "I see I'm just in time!" at perhaps the greatest volume of his already lived-out-loud life.
Carlton swore, dropping his pen, and Shawn stood grinning over him, Gus at his elbow.
"Shawn," Juliet snapped, "use your inside voice."
"But Jules, we're in a park." He gestured to the greenery, the benches, and the curious onlookers.
"Yes, at a crime scene. You need to be discreet." She sealed the bag, nodded at Gus, and handed the bag to Dobson.
"I'm always discreet. Lassie, why do you even bother starting without me?"
Rising, Carlton merely looked at him intimidatingly.
Didn't work. Shawn barreled on, loudly, "I mean, really. It's not like you can do this on your own."
"Shawn," Gus warned.
Juliet said, "Shawn, we didn't call you. In fact we just got here ourselves. We don't know if we need you yet so—"
"Of course you're going to need me, Jules." His tone was only slightly condescending. "The minute Lassie-face gets the call, it's the same as a call to me."
"Spencer," Carlton said coldly, stepping up close to Shawn, "you're not hired until your father says you're hired, and I don't see him around here."
Shawn smiled innocently and got out his cell. "Fortunately, I have him on speed-dial."
Gus snatched it away. "Stop stealing my work phone!" He stomped off a few feet.
Carlton turned his back on Shawn—Juliet was proud (and relieved)—and started toward the other victim.
"Lassie!" Shawn yelled. "No need; he's already dead!" Grinning at Juliet, he added loudly, "He probably didn't know."
Two seconds later, Carlton was looming over Shawn, who had the sense to look apprehensive. "Spencer. Shut it."
"What? I'm just trying to help."
Juliet looked at Carlton's icy blue eyes and had a feeling he was about to lose it. Stepping between them briskly, she grabbed Shawn and yanked him away from the danger zone. He protested all the way over to where Gus stood, whereupon she took Gus' arm as well and pulled them both to the perimeter of the crime scene and handed them over to McNab. "Buzz, keep them here until I hear personally from Henry Spencer that they've been hired by Chief Vick."
Leaving Shawn gaping, and Buzz smiling nervously, she returned to Carlton.
He glanced up from the second body and muttered, "Thanks. I owe you."
"That wasn't a favor. That was a necessity." She kept her tone light, and he looked at her more directly, much of the ice gone from the blue.
"Thanks anyway," he said, just the slightest of smiles at the corner of his mouth.
This peace was short-lived.
Shawn bellowed across the crime scene, "Ladies and gentleman of the gawking crowd, may I have your attention! I would like to direct your curious gazes to the giant-eared man who has single-handedly not solved more cases than anyone else here, Detective Carlton—" The last was muffled when Gus slapped his hand over Shawn's mouth and even McNab shushed him, before both men dragged Shawn in the direction of the unmistakable Blueberry.
But Carlton was on the move, too, striding purposefully past Juliet after the trio, and she hurried after him, hoping she could keep up with her long-legged and potentially homicidal partner.
He caught Shawn by the arm and pushed him against the car, and the other men backed off. "Spencer, is there any doubt in your mind whether I can kick your ass?"
Shawn retorted, "From this angle, yeah."
"Carlton!" she said urgently, afraid by his tone alone that he was going to prove Shawn wrong.
"Lassie," Shawn drawled.
"Answer my question, Spencer."
He stared at Shawn so long, and so murderously, that Shawn did begin to look unsettled.
"That's what I thought," Carlton continued. "Now you get this straight. I've been a cop for going on twenty years and—"
"And it's time to retire?" Shawn interrupted.
Carlton moved closer. Not touching him. Not one finger on him. Juliet's heart was thumping in her chest but she couldn't move to stop whatever was going to happen.
"I'm just saying, Lassie-face, that we both know you need me here, and the sooner you admit it, the sooner we solve the case."
"You don't even know what the case is," Carlton near-hissed. "How many SBPD cases have you solved in the past six years?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. Ninety? A hundred? Gus?"
Gus mumbled something about that sounding right to him.
"So what is that, less than twenty cases a year? Great. And how many have O'Hara and I solved?"
"Well, she's solved plenty, but you—"
"Shawn, what is wrong with you?" Juliet was furious with him now. Why wouldn't he just shut the hell up?
"O'Hara and I solve hundreds of cases… every year. Every year, Spencer. Without your help."
"But you have Jules. Without Jules, you couldn't—"
That was it for Juliet; she pushed her way between them again and said in her own icy tone, "Everything I know about being a good detective, I learned from my partner. You insult him, you insult me. Go. Home. Now."
Gus said uneasily, "Shawn. Get in the car."
Shawn was staring between Carlton and Juliet. "Jules, I'm just playing around. You know I—"
She glared, and could almost feel Carlton's glare behind her.
"Shawn, get in the car now, or I'm leaving without you."
Juliet glanced meaningfully at Buzz, who obediently opened the car door and herded Shawn inside, and then she tugged at Carlton's sleeve and turned him back to the crime scene. The onlookers probably hadn't heard much but they'd seen plenty, and she was embarrassed and horrified that Shawn had done this. Again.
Carlton didn't say anything, but his jaw was clenching and his expression the stoniest she'd ever seen. "That's the last time, O'Hara."
"It better be," she said with matching grimness.
He stopped and looked at her steadily. "Thanks for intervening again, but I don't think you get my meaning. That was the last time he pulls that crap at a crime scene with me."
Again, he turned away, and got back to work with his usual precision and attention to detail.
Juliet couldn't help but feel this wasn't over.
. . . .
. . .
Lassiter sat heavily in his chair, tired not from the crime scene but from the anger. He was so very very tired of being angry about Spencer's antics (long past being angered by the antics themselves; if you've seen one narcissist, you've seen them all).
He didn't hate Spencer, contrary to popular belief; he could see the idiot-man was intelligent and certainly he made case-solving observations quickly. While Lassiter's preference was certainly that police matters be handled by actual trained, competent, able-to-use-silverware-effectively police staff, he wasn't so arrogant as to assume consultants had no value, and God knows Spencer had certainly come to his aid during the Drimmer business.
But these constant public attacks in the name of 'humor'—those had to stop. He meant what he'd told O'Hara: that was the last time.
He got up to refill his coffee mug, and moments later, Spencer breezed past on his way to corral his father.
"Dad!" he said peremptorily. "I want in on Lassie's case."
Henry didn't look up from his computer. "Aren't you always on Lassiter's case?"
"Ha ha. Oh ha. Ha and a double ha." He paused. "Actually, that was pretty funny. Props to you. But you know what I mean. The case he and Jules just got."
"I don't even know what that is, Shawn. Mostly like you don't even know what it is."
"Doesn't matter. I want in."
Henry leaned back in his chair, surveying his son. Lassiter kept just behind the column, stirring coffee slowly enough to seem to be intent on that and nothing else. Eavesdropping wasn't eavesdropping when the conversation was in public and at normal volume. Hell, eavesdropping was one of the things which made this country great.
"How am I supposed to make a case for you being on the case if you don't even know what the case is?" In a sharper tone, he demanded, "Is this about a bill you can't pay?"
"I can pay my bills, Dad."
Thanks to Gus, Lassiter thought.
"Thanks to Gus," Henry retorted. "So it's about something you want to buy."
"Dad, just get me on the case!"
"I need more information," Henry declared, and walked away from his desk; Spencer followed and Lassiter returned to his seat.
Juliet appeared to drop a folder on his desk, and gave him a careful once-over. "You okay?"
Lassiter looked at her over the top of his mug. "Stop worrying. I'm not going postal."
The expression in her eyes was both kind and fierce. "I'm so sorry about earlier."
"It's not your fault. In fact, O'Hara, you went above and beyond to control the situation. Now what's new on our victims?" He had to turn the subject back to work proper or he might say something nice to her, and that wouldn't do.
"Lassie-saurus!" Spencer declared, coming up behind Juliet, startling her and making Lassiter's jaw clench again. "My dad says I'm in. Now, for my first trick, I'm going to pull a rabbit out of your giant ears, and then I'm going to take you shopping for new cologne, and then I'll—"
"Shawn!" Juliet interrupted angrily. "Stop it right now."
He beamed at her. "I told you, Jules, I'm just playing. Like last week when you said you wouldn't—"
Lassiter was sort of intrigued. On the one hand, her level of anger at Spencer was fascinating because he hadn't seen anything like this since Spencer had forced her father back into her life; on the other hand, this anger seemed to be in Lassiter's defense, which made no sense. On a mutant third hand, he found his own annoyance with Spencer intensified by the fact that he was pissing Juliet off. He stood up abruptly, taking the case folder. "Spencer, if you'll excuse us, and frankly, even if you won't, my partner and I need to go speak with the Chief." And even though he never did this, ever, he grasped Juliet by the elbow and led (forced) her in the direction of Vick's office.
Juliet didn't protest, and his glance at her showed she was fuming, but obviously not at him. Kinda nice, he reflected, to not be the only one torked off at Spencer for a change.
Spencer of course followed, whistling some slap-happy tune.
Karen Vick was at her desk, making notations in a file, and when they came in, she gestured to them to sit. "Give me the rundown. Mr. Spencer, I take it your father okayed your involvement?"
"So far as you know," he said nonchalantly.
Lassiter sat in one chair, and Juliet the other, as the unamused Vick said with deliberate precision, "Mr. Spencer. If I call Henry in here, is he going to say he thinks you should be on the case?"
"Of course he will!" He perched on the table in the corner until her glare encouraged him to use a chair properly.
Henry walked by the open door with Guster, and Vick called them in. "Henry—"
Shawn interrupted. "Okay, okay, he didn't exactly say I could be on it, but he didn't say I couldn't. He just said he needed more information."
"Well, so do I," Vick said, and turned to Lassiter. "Sum it up, please? I have a meeting in ten minutes."
He concentrated on the work, because that at least was… dependable. "Two white males, both between the ages of 45 and 60, no ID, not obviously homeless, at the south edge of the park. Victim 1 was knifed; Victim 2 held the knife and had been shot in the head. No gun found at the scene."
"You know," Spencer interrupted, "there's really no such thing as obviously homeless anymore."
"Shut up, Shawn," Juliet said, clearly still annoyed.
"No, really. They wear better clothes and sometimes they'll even have cell phones and—"
Now Vick. "Mr. Spencer, please. Lassiter, continue."
"We're waiting for prints and DNA, and the autopsy to retrieve the bullet; we're canvassing the area and running their photos through the system. Until we get an ID or a witness, we're in limbo."
"How loooow can you goooo?" Spencer slid out of his chair, doing a limbo dance sans pole, then straightened up. "Chief, while Lassie here was wasting time adjusting his military garters, I was talking to the spirits. They tell me that the knifed victim wasn't knifed by the man holding the knife."
She sighed, but gave him her attention. "Do they now?"
"Yes. The guy with the knife was right-handed but the knife was in his left hand. Have I used the word 'knife' too many times in the last thirty seconds?"
"You're suggesting there was a third person there who killed them both?" Henry inquired.
With relative calm, Lassiter said, "Again, we're canvassing, running photos and waiting for test results. At this point I don't see the need for—"
"How can you not see with eyes that freakishly huge? Come on, Lassie, don't slow me down again. Don't get in the way of solving the case like you always do when I'm here to save the day!"
Lassiter looked at him, feeling the anger building.
Vick cut off whatever he might have said. "Fine, go talk to the spirits while we wait for the results. Lassiter, O'Hara, you can—"
Spencer was crowing. Actually crowing. Henry said his name sharply, and Gus nudged Spencer hard in the arm, eliciting a gasp of pain.
Juliet said, and later Lassiter marveled at this, "Chief, I think maybe Shawn should sit this one out until we know we actually need him."
Vick raised her eyebrows. "I hear you, but really, just get to work, O'Hara, and maybe you'll have it solved before he's finished pirouetting."
"That was not a pirouette," Spencer protested. Gus grabbed his arm and led him out, and Henry, shrugging, followed.
Juliet wasn't happy.
And Lassiter had had enough.
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. . .
Juliet was trying to figure out what to say to change Vick's mind when Carlton got up and closed the door to her office. Vick's eyebrows went up again.
"One question," he said evenly, and Juliet knew this wasn't going to be good.
"A question which requires the door to be closed?" She leaned back in her chair, arms folded, the look unmistakably saying don't waste my time because I may well shoot you.
"It's a long one," he elucidated coolly. "Do you assign Spencer to our cases because I'm the Head Detective and O'Hara is my partner and we therefore tend to get the complex, high-profile cases where outside help might be required, or do you assign him to us because you don't think I'm competent to do the job without him?"
She was taken aback. "What?"
"Because if it's the former, Chief, then honestly, I don't want to be the Head Detective anymore. You can promote O'Hara, give her a new partner Spencer likes better, and put me with the other rank-and-file detectives."
"What?" she exclaimed again. "What the hell—"
"Carlton!" Juliet protested, shocked beyond measure.
"But if it's the latter," he continued, icy now, "and you do think I'm not competent to do my job without his help, then my badge and letter of resignation will be on your desk in the morning."
"Lassiter!" Vick snapped. "What the hell are you talking about? Spencer is an authorized consultant and it's no insult to anyone when we call him in!"
"No," he agreed. "It's not. What's an insult is the way he acts at crime scenes. The way he acts in meetings like this one, uninvited or not."
She sighed, trying to remain calm. "He's a showman, Carlton, and you've had six years to get used to that. You know he doesn't mean half of what he says."
"This isn't about the personal insults. You think I'm not capable of handling myself? You think I haven't been hearing about my big ears and my crooked nose and how I'm uptight since I was a kid? You think I'm not capable of beating the crap out of him and never leaving a single mark?" His blue eyes were ablaze. "That's not the point. The point is how he acts in public, in front of witnesses, victims, other cops, and the media. The point is how he publicly ridicules my abilities as a cop. It gets in the way of doing the job, Karen, because now I'm not just trying to work a case but also trying to get past everyone's reactions to the stupid-ass crap he spews to discredit me."
She stared him, as did Juliet, and the clock ticked far too loudly in the silence.
"Like just now, three minutes ago. How many times did he manage to work into his monologue that I'm a bad cop? And that's okay with everyone. I'm not saying you should defend me—I don't need anyone to defend me, because my record should speak for itself. But nobody even thinks twice about what he says anymore, and though that might be borderline tolerable here in the station, it's totally unacceptable out in the field where his constant public attacks interfere with getting the damn work done."
Juliet started to speak—to agree, actually—but Carlton held up a hand to stop her.
"I know it's impossible to change him, and even if he promised to keep his piehole shut, he wouldn't, and we all know it. Again, that's not the point." With a sigh, a terribly final sort of sigh, he said flatly, "But I'm done being publicly undermined. I'm done. If he can't work a case without insulting me—and by extension the entire Santa Barbara Police Department because you're stupid enough to have an incompetent dolt like me on staff—then he shouldn't work with me at all. Either demote me so I can get some real work done, or accept my resignation." He went to the door while Juliet was scrambling to get up, her legs having suddenly quit working. He paused to add, "I know this is an ultimatum and I apologize for springing it on you like this. But enough's enough, Karen." He strode out.
Juliet made it to her feet and was halfway to the door—never mind Vick's reaction to all this—when a thought hit her, and she turned back to tell her commanding officer, "Don't you even think about giving me a new partner. It's Carlton or nobody, Chief, and that's my ultimatum."
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[Merry Christmas, Lawson227. Of course now you'll have to wait until next week for a second chapter…]