[[Dear Readers:

I love you for reading this. Thank you.


Adrenaline, it pulls us near

I'll take you over.

[[&day 3. NearYou.]]

Carlton Lassiter is drowning on dry land.

He wakes with a start, choking, his heart racing: and when he's awake he knows he's not really drowning, but he suspects he might be having a heart attack. He wrenches his eyes open, looking for Spencer, trying to call out to the other man only he's hyperventilating too much to speak.

"Shh, shh, easy, just breathe, relax." Spencer's suddenly there, at his side, with a glass of water and two of those blue pills. He nudges the straw towards Carlton, who tips his head and manages to take a sip of the water, and that helps. He chokes, wheezes, takes another sip, tilts his head back to swallow the pills from Shawn's hand.

"You're having a panic attack," Spencer says, matter-of-factly. "It happens to my mom, sometimes. You've met her, right?"

Carlton can only nod.

"She's got this freaky memory thing, she remembers everything she hears. Everything. And sometimes she just gets, you know, overloaded. Could you imagine what it's like, not to forget anything?" Shawn reaches for the red knit blanket he's so fond of, deftly wraps it around Carlton like a cocoon – like a straightjacket, he can't help thinking, and he remembers seeing his father in the hospital that one time and then he quickly remembers where all the guns are.

(And he looks at the dark circles under Shawn Spencer's eyes and wonders, for a moment, if such a talent runs in the family, and maybe that's why the other man keeps insisting he believes he's a psychic.)

Carlton is still hiccupping, gasping for air, trying to remember how to breathe. Spencer, meanwhile, has hopped into bed next to him, piled up about half a dozen pillows so Carlton can sit up.

"It's gonna be okay, man, just relax, okay?" Spencer snuggles in close, really close, wraps both arms around Carlton's blanket-cocooned self.

Through the blankets, Carlton can feel the rhythm of Spencer's breathing, the steadiness of the other man's heartbeat, and some combination of all of it leads to a great feeling of safety; one of the greatest feelings of safety he's ever had in his entire life, in fact. He closes his eyes, and listens to Spencer tell him about a misadventure with Uncle Jack and soon enough the sedatives take effect.

When he wakes, Spencer is snoring and that simple fact – being relaxed, safe enough with eachother to snore – makes him grin a rather stupid childish grin. He tries to shrug off the blankets, fails because he's wrapped up too tightly, manages to use one elbow to nudge Spencer awake.

He flinches, laughs, leans down looking into Carlton's eyes. "You woke me up," he mutters, with sleepy pretend indignation. "Therefore I am going to kiss you and there's nothing you can do about it." He gives Carlton a quick peck on the lips, then leans up, helping free the other from the blanket cocoon. "Feeling better?"

"Yeah, I think I am," Carlton says, and it surprises him because it seems to be the truth. He stretches, looks up at Spencer, remembers where all the guns are, and then surprises himself by saying "We need to get out of this house." And he watches as Spencer gets pale, all of a sudden, and so he says "I know another place, just as safe, maybe safer, we could spend the afternoon. There's someone I want you to meet, besides."

Spencer's eyes are half-lowered, and he shrugs one shoulder, mutters "Can I borrow something to wear?"

And so Carlton keeps watch while it's Spencer's turn to shower, and he emerges wearing one of Carlton's undershirts with a button-up unbuttoned over it, and it's somehow both so him and so Spencer that it's unintentionally half-erotic and half-comforting. It's an outward symbol of togetherness, and he wonders if this is how Spencer felt a few days ago, when he was wearing one of his shirts, and he smiles all of a sudden, a giddy sort of smile.

The circumstances could be better, but this is nice, he thinks.

He's not about to leave the house unarmed. He always keeps a gun in the glove-box – right next to the flashing light when his civilian car turns business – and he knows that, but there's still something strange about leaving the house without the familiar weight of the holster across his back.

They're standing there on the doorstep and Spencer reaches for his hand, weaves his fingers through Carlton's and squeezes tight and that's enough to give Carlton the courage to continue. "We're going to take the long way. In case anyone's following us," he says softly, and Spencer nods, and together they step into the sun.

Behind the wheel of the car, Carlton actually relaxes a bit, and he wonders why he didn't think of this sooner: driving always relaxes him, he thinks, and then he thinks about the gun in the glove box, and then he smiles and squeezes Spencer's hand.

Spencer grins, and brings their joined hands up to his lips, presses a kiss to the inside of Carlton's wrist: a little gesture, to be certain, but there's something about it that makes him shiver all over in the best way possible. And either the other man is really psychic or just very attentive, because almost at once he does it again and it's enough to make Carlton think inappropriate thoughts about Spencer, about sex, about sex with Spencer and it's all he can do to nod his head in all the right places in the other man's rambling story about Burton Guster and some woman named Regina.

Late in the afternoon, they finally reach their destination: a small farm, a pasture full of horses that approach the car in the drive curiously. Perhaps they recognize his car, Carlton thinks, perhaps they know that he always has treats for them, and that makes him grin.

"We came to see horses?" Spencer's grinning too, and Carlton laughs, turns the key to shut off the car.

"Come on," he says, and leads the way to the stable.

The owner of the farm – a slightly built, middle-aged woman - is raking out one of the stalls, she turns and salutes Carlton. "Hey, Binky," she says.

"Good afternoon, Lilly," he replies, cordially, trying to ignore Spencer's moment of snickering, his elbow jabbing at his ribs. "We're here to see the General."

"I'm sure he'll be glad to see you," she says, and Spencer turns his head one way and the other, taking in all the scenery about them.

"The General?" he asks, and Carlton leaves him in suspense until they're standing in front of the stall with the placard "GENERAL" over it.

"Yes, Spencer. This is General. General, Spencer. …and yes, I just introduced you to a horse." Carlton's moving to the side of the cream-colored palomino. "My horse, to be specific."

"You own a horse? You own a horse," and he's smiling that incredulous sort of smile that Carlton secretly adores. "I remember him! You rode him at that Civil War thing – I didn't know he was yours."

"Remember when you teased me about always wanting a pony?" Carlton mutters, dryly. "I might have told you then, but I didn't."

"Lassiter! Let's run away and be cowboys," Spencer declares, reaching out to pet the horse on the nose.

"Don't tempt me. Do you know anything about horses?"

"This is one." He points to General. "There's another one over there. What more do I need to know?"

"A whole lot more," he says, attempting for sternness, but the grin on his face totally spoils it. "I can teach you. When it's safer, we can go riding. Okay?"

"Yeah," and Spencer's eyes are very wide. He listens as Carlton recites General's impressive pedigree – being a rare and historically-accurate breed.

"General hears all my secrets," Carlton admits, shyly, and then leans in to whisper something inaudible in General's ear. He's pretty sure Spencer could hear enough to know that this secret was about him, and he doesn't mind that in the least.

They visit the horses until Carlton gets too edgy – his weapon is simply too far away – and then they say goodbye to Lilly, get back into the car, and he sighs with relief as he settles into the drivers' seat. "Should we go home?" he asks, and it's telling, the emphasis he puts on that one word, home.

"I'm starving," Shawn complains softly, and so they stop for pizza along the way, take it back to the safety of Carlton's condo. And crossing the threshold is something of a relief, because Carlton knows where all the weapons are, because he and Shawn are home and they are safe and they are together.

They watch Dateline and eat their pizza and Carlton's mind keeps drifting: sometimes to where the weapons are, sometimes to the best escape route from the house if necessary, but mostly, to remembering the feel of Spencer's lips on the soft skin at the inside of his wrist.

There's decades of guilt and shame weighing him down, but he manages to reach out and take Spencer's hand and echo the gesture: is gratified to see the way Spencer looks at him, eyes all wide and dilated-pupil dark. So he does it again, with a scrape of his teeth and Spencer whimpers, encouragingly.

He leans in, whispers warmly "Come to bed?" and the invitation is so crystal clear that Spencer simply moves right into his waiting arms.