Disclaimer: *snore* don't *snore* claim *snore* any *snore* ownership *snore* of psych.
Summary: A fight between Lassiter and Shawn leads to a secret kept, and Juliet is determined to discover the truth. Or, I have no idea what I'm doing but once the idea came to me, I had to go with it. Lassiet by the end, as if you needed to be told that.
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CHAPTER ONE: The News
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Juliet was just about to get into bed at midnight when her cell rang. Somebody's dead, she thought, only as a cop she always assumed it would be people she didn't know.
In the moment before she picked up the phone she saw Gus' name on the screen, and mild annoyance colored her tone as she answered. "Gus, tell Shawn that having you ask me to come over this late on a weeknight isn't going to work. I'm about to go to bed and I—"
"Juliet," he interrupted. "No, I called to tell you…" He hesitated. She couldn't decipher the background noises, but there were a lot of people talking and it sounded as if he were outside. "Lassiter's on his way to the hospital, and I thought you should know. You're his medical proxy, right?"
"His medical—oh my God, what happened?" She should have been springing into action but instead she sank to the edge of the bed, weak with sudden fear.
"Gus, tell me! Is he okay? Is this about a case? Was he shot?" The fear was rising.
"No, no. It's not that. Not a case." One more pause. "He… he and Shawn got into a fight over at Circles."
Juliet blinked. "A fight? What? Wait… then how's Shawn?" Because Carlton was tough enough to put down any fisticuffs with Shawn quickly, she knew that much. Bless his heart, Shawn was a creative fighter but not one with much staying power.
"He'll be okay. Just bruises. I'm taking him to his dad's to be fixed up and yelled at. Look, you should get over to—"
She was on her feet. "Tell me now. What happened to Carlton that you think his medical proxy should be there?"
Gus sounded miserable. "Shawn hit him in the head with a pitcher of beer. There was blood. He's alive, Juliet, but right now that's all I know. He's being taken to Regional."
She hung up and got gone.
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Gus drove Shawn over to Henry's house. He'd made a quick call to let Henry know he'd be dealing with the walking wounded, but gave no other details (Henry was perfectly able and willing to grill Shawn himself).
Shawn, an icepack to his eye while he pinched the bridge of his nose to stop the bleed, lay back in his seat looking like exhausted, drunken crap.
"Shawn," Gus said sternly.
"Shawn, pay attention to me."
"Dude, this all really hurts. I just want a dozen aspirin and some—ooh, a smoothie, yeah, right on my face, because—"
"Shawn," Gus said again, and something about his voice made Shawn lower the icebag and look full at him. "Do you understand what you did tonight?"
The faintest of grins. "Yeah I do. Cleaned Lassie's clock, that's what I did."
Gus, not a violent person by any means, suddenly found himself reaching in to grab Shawn's blood-spotted shirt. Shawn's good eye widened. "You hit him hard enough to make his head bleed! He's unconscious! You may have cracked his skull! That's damn serious! You understand?"
"Gus, yeah, I understand! Let go of me."
"No, because there's something else I need you to understand." Gus had tried many times over many years to make Shawn understand many things about his choices and their consequences, but he knew making him understand this thing was exceptionally important.
"Well, get on with it before my head splits, okay?" He raised the icebag back to his black eye.
"You've done a lot of questionable things in your life and sometimes I've been right there with you but a lot of times I've only been there to ask you to not to do them. You get away with a lot and people let you slide and you think you're always going to be able to slide but it's not going to be so easy this time. You may have seriously injured the head detective of the Santa Barbara Police Department."
"Dude, we were drunk and it was a fist fight! Happens all the time."
"Not if he dies, Shawn. Or has brain damage."
Shawn glared at him. "Over-dramatizing isn't good for you. Look, I'm not proud of any of that. But you saw what went down. You know who said what."
Gus gave him an utterly mirthless grin. "Yeah, I do. I saw you go after a guy who was down and keep chewing on him. I saw you throw the first punch when he talked back and I saw you swing that pitcher of beer at the end. You're the bad guy here, Shawn. And I'm pretty sure no one else heard what you guys were saying before it started, but I know I'm not the only one in that bar tonight who saw what happened and in what order."
A flicker of unease showed in Shawn's visible (but blood-shot) eye. "But you—"
Gus released his shirt and faced the windshield. Then after a moment during which he valiantly tried to resist the impulse, he reached into the glove compartment for an antiseptic wipe. Because, really, do you need Shawn's blood on your hand? "Here's my real point. And I know you're drunk and hurting and have ADD but if you ever listen to any damn thing I say, this had better be it."
He glanced at Shawn, who was staring at him, lip curled in pre-mockery about the wipe.
"Do not tell anyone what you were fighting about." He waited for Shawn's frown. "Do I need to explain why?"
Long pause. Shawn nodded.
So frustrating. How can someone so intelligent be so unbelievably dense?
"Because it would be cruel. It would be like kicking a puppy."
Shawn frowned—the usual mock frown which preceded something annoying. "Lassie's a puppy? Well, yeah I guess he'd have to be with a name like—"
"Shawn," he interrupted, so very tired of this already.
"Maybe a puppy Rottweiler."
"Stop it. I know you have a heart. If you go public with what you were fighting about the only thing you're going to do is screw with his life and…" He breathed deeply. "And look like a jerk. A real jerk."
"He's tough," Shawn mumbled.
"Yeah? Well what about Juliet?"
"What about her?"
"Is she so tough that it's not going to screw with her head too? Come on, son. You're the last person I'd ever call stupid, but you'd be a seriously stupid jerk to think she wouldn't be affected."
Another long pause. Shawn adjusted the icebag, sighing. "Well, what am I supposed to say when people ask what we were fighting about?"
"Something you've never said before." He pulled Shawn's arm down and looked at him full in the face. "Nothing. Okay? You tell everyone you don't remember because you were too drunk."
Shawn let out a huge sigh and put the icebag over both eyes. "Okay," he said finally. "I get it. I won't tell anyone, not even Juliet."
"Thank God." He got out of the car, going around to Shawn's side to make sure he didn't fall on his face.
Shawn made it out okay, stopping a moment to lean against the hood. "Where is Jules anyway? Did you call her like I asked you to?"
"Yes, I called her, but not because you asked me to. I called to tell her about Lassiter."
This earned him a glare. "What for? She'd find out in the morning anyway."
Gus snapped, "Do you realize the only reason you're not in jail is that the cops who showed up know you? And that once this gets to Vick—which it might have already—you could still be arrested?"
Shawn just stared at him, and Gus thought maybe he 'got' that.
He sighed deeply, trying to calm down. "To answer your question, Juliet needed to know about Lassiter because she's his medical proxy as well as his partner and his friend."
"But she's my girlfriend. Don't I get dibs?"
For the love of God. "Were you the one bleeding in the ambulance?"
"Oh. Good point."
The front door was yanked open and Henry loomed in the doorway. "You gonna stay out there yakking all night or what?"
This was one of those times when Gus was all too glad to hand Shawn over to his father and get away as fast as he could.
But Henry had other ideas; he was on the sidewalk, his grip on Gus' arm like a vise, while Shawn was still stumbling inside. "What?"
No point evading. "He and Lassiter fought. Lassiter's…" He really, really hated to say it. "Shawn hit him with a pitcher. Lassiter's on his way to the hospital."
Henry's grip relaxed and the shock on his face was something foreign to Gus. "Son of a bitch."
"I gotta go," Gus said desperately, because he did; he had to get out of there, away from the craziness, away from the utter impossibility of what he'd seen tonight.
Henry released his arm, and as Gus was putting the Echo in gear, he could see Henry walking slowly back to the house.
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Juliet was finally allowed to go in and see Carlton about two a.m. She'd made it to the hospital in time to answer a myriad of insurance questions but he was already out of her reach and she'd been going crazy waiting.
He has to be all right, was the mantra in her head. I need my partner and friend.
Dr. Westlake told her that according to the CT scan, there was a minor skull fracture, linear in nature, but so far there were no signs of either a bleed or swelling in the brain. This was good news, he assured her, but because Carlton had been unconscious for a good fifteen minutes they were keeping him overnight and would do further tests in the morning.
He had spoken to them and knew who and where he was, and all of this, the doctor promised, really was a good thing, but they were still keeping him overnight.
Juliet wouldn't go home without seeing him and finally wore down the nurse by saying that if her status as his medical proxy didn't assure her entrance outside of visitor hours, then her status as a cop ought to.
I am ready to slap you if necessary. I have to see Carlton, and it has to be now.
"But he's asleep," the nurse tried one last time.
"I. Don't. Care." She wasn't going to wake him up; she just needed to see him, dammit.
He lay on his back, eyes closed, head bandaged. The doctor said the blood Gus had told her about was from the glass cutting his scalp, not from the fracture itself, and she was thankful for that.
Breathing deeply, Carlton seemed to be asleep, but she felt such relief to know he was really there and okay that she went closer and clasped his hand where it rested at his side. His knuckles were bruised, and so were his cheek and left jaw.
What in the hell happened? Shawn did this to you? Shawn? And he's okay enough to be at Henry's instead of here?
Carlton stirred, and his fingers twitched against hers, but he didn't open his eyes.
He was so pale, and her heart was twisting at how… alone he thought he was. If she could only make him understand she was there for him. If she could only make him understand that she regretted the distance between them the past year, most of which was her fault.
If she could only make him understand how important he was to her.
She squeezed his hand, and brushed a tear off her cheek with the other.
"I'll be back in the morning, partner," she whispered, and leaned in to give his bruised cheek a light kiss.
She thought he sighed, but still he slept.
Back in her car and feeling both relieved and shaky, she glanced at her phone and saw Gus had texted her. Call me when you know anything. No matter what time.
Shawn had also texted. I'm OK baby, just bruised. Don't worry.
Ironic. She hadn't been worried much about him at all.
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Gus did occasionally admit to himself—when he was completely alone—that he tended to worry about things a bit too intensely. This morning, he was feeling especially worried, even by his standards.
Chief Vick had called and asked him to come to the station to give a statement about the bar incident. He couldn't even begin to imagine how pissed off she was, and was grateful she wanted to see him early and sans Shawn.
He'd already had a taste of Juliet's wrath; when she called him at 2:15 a.m. with an update on Lassiter she immediately began asking him what happened. He was as vague as he could manage under her persistence, telling her who did what but denying any knowledge of the words exchanged between the two men.
As it was, the idea that Shawn had both started the fight and then ended it in such an uncharacteristically violent way was enough to flummox her, and he hoped to God Shawn would keep his promise not to tell her anything.
He was also worried about Lassiter. If he didn't make a full recovery, as Juliet was hopeful he would, then nothing would ever be the same for any of them. He respected the man, even though he was vaguely alarmed by him, and knew he'd saved their asses far more times than their asses deserved to be saved.
So he drove extra-cautiously in his little blue company car, hoping he wouldn't wither away completely under one of Vick's all-too-icy glares.
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Karen Vick got the news before she left her home, and called Juliet O'Hara immediately. Juliet, who sounded exhausted, ran down for her what she knew and said she was going back to the hospital first thing and would update her from there.
Karen's next move was to summon Gus, get to the station and settle in with a very large coffee and a preemptive Danish while she waited for him.
She also contacted the officers who'd responded to the bar manager's call, and was told by them somewhat stoically that they'd decided not to arrest Shawn mainly because they knew everything about the incident was screwy and if it were decided later that he should be incarcerated, Henry Spencer alone would be enough backup to bring his son in.
Gus knocked tentatively at her door.
"Come in," she said briskly. "Have a seat."
He closed the door behind him and did as she said. He looked nervous and a little sad.
"Let's get to it. I consider you a fundamentally honest person, Mr. Guster. I've witnessed you try to steer Mr. Spencer the right way on many occasions. Not always successfully, but you do try."
"So I expect to be justified in my confidence that when I ask you what the hell happened to land my head detective in the hospital with a skull fracture, you'll be completely honest with me."
"Yes, ma'am," he said again quietly. "I will."
She raised her eyebrows. "Start, then."
He shifted in the chair. "Shawn and I were at Circles playing darts and eating wings. He drank a little more than usual, and when we finally headed out to leave we came upon a group of college guys doing jello shots. Well, Shawn just had to convince them a guy his age could out-drink the rest of them."
Men are stupid. "What about you?" she asked with raised eyebrow.
"Oh, not me. I was driving, for one thing, and for another, the shots were all lime."
Her eyebrow stayed up.
"I prefer cherry," he explained.
Internally, she sighed. "Please continue."
Gus shifted again. "You know how he is when he's determined to be the star. He was knocking back shots like… like he was 21. Which he's not," he felt the need to add, but Karen chose to remain silent. "It got pretty rowdy and he was pretty smashed and I knew it was time to get him out of there. But he wanted to make the rounds of the whole bar to be sure he could impress everyone with the number of shots he'd had, and in the back booth we saw Detective Lassiter."
He stopped, and Karen waited, and when his nervousness seemed to increase, she said evenly, "It's all right, Mr. Guster. I am well aware that sometimes police officers go to bars and drink when they're off duty." She didn't think Carlton regularly hung out in bars, but what did she know, really, about her very private head detective?
Gus gathered himself. "Well, um, Shawn had to… he had to be Shawn. He went up to him and started making remarks."
"What kind of remarks?"
"Um… the usual. You know how he likes to…"
Karen helped him out. "Make jokes about his ears, his hair, his clothes, his job skills, his whole life? That sort of thing?"
"Yeah." But the expression on his face was uneasy for a moment. "I couldn't hear all of it. The place was pretty loud."
"What did Lassiter do?"
"Nothing, for a long time. Once he told him to shut up and go away but mostly he just kept sipping his drink."
This next pause was longer. Karen knew he was reluctant to say something, but also that he was reluctant to lie about it.
At last Gus mustered up the courage to go on. "Finally Shawn made a remark… which… crossed a line. Lassiter stood up and got in his face and gave it right back, and Shawn…" Here his tone was stunned. "Shawn hit him. He just… hit him."
Even though she'd known it, it was still startling. Shawn Spencer was not aggressive by any means except verbally, in a bullying sort of way, and in her experience with him, she wasn't aware of any time when he dealt with a problem by lashing out physically.
"All right," she said. "Then Lassiter hit him back?"
"It was on," he said miserably. "I think the only reason it didn't last longer is that they'd both been drinking. But Lassiter got the upper hand pretty fast and put Shawn down, and I thought it was over. He told me to get Shawn the hell out of there. The bouncers were already on their way over."
Karen looked at him: he was as terrified now as he must have been the night before. "You're almost done, Mr. Guster."
He let out a huge sigh. "Then while his back was turned, Shawn got up, grabbed a full pitcher of beer off the next table, and smashed it against Lassiter's head." He slumped back in the chair, apparently exhausted. "That's it. That's what happened."
She gave him a few moments to calm himself down. "Thank you. I only have one more question. What was the fight about?"
Gus stared at her. "I… I told you. Shawn was—"
"No. You evaded. I need to know whether this fight was business or personal, because assuming I allow Psych to continue working with the SBPD, the former affects our work relationship generally, and the latter affects whether you'd be able to work with Lassiter and O'Hara again. Although, now that I've said it out loud, of course there's no way you'll ever work with Lassiter again."
"No." His voice was subdued. "Of course not."
"You see my point, I hope. My head detective, a high-ranking and extremely dedicated police officer, is in the hospital with a damned fractured skull. Shawn doesn't get to walk away clean from that, and by extension, neither does Psych. This is not an 'oops sorry' kind of event."
"I'll be asking Shawn to tell his story too, but I wanted to hear it from you first. As I said before, I knew you were capable of understanding the seriousness of the situation and the compelling need for honesty about it. So for the last time, Mr. Guster, what was the fight really about?"
To his credit, he held her gaze a lot longer than she thought he would.
But then he leaned forward, elbows on his knees, head down. "Chief. It was personal. It had nothing to do with work and… and as terrified as I am of you and the very real possibility you'll either arrest me or shoot me, I… I just can't tell you. I can't."
Karen stared at the top of his head.
He sat up, weary but resolute. "No good would come of it. I'm sorry. The fight was personal and that's all I'll say."
She studied him, but didn't feel the frustration she expected. "All right. You're free to go. I'll talk to Shawn later today. Right now I'm going to see Lassiter."
"Yes, ma'am," he said, and was out the door before she could even get up from her chair.
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