Warnings: Character Death
Characters/Pairing: Carlton Lassiter, Shawn Spencer, none
Disclaimers: Nope. Just borrowing. Will return in . . . mostly good condition.
Notes: Okay. This was inspired by a tactical nuclear warhead of an English class I had. The last one of the semester in fact. Heck of a way to end a semester.
Anyway, I needed to deal with it and so I wrote. That's just how I roll.
Take the warnings seriously. I've already put several people into pretty intense crying jags. Hopefully that won't scare you away but I understand if it does.
I'm not a big fan of these kinds of fics myself. Like I said, I just needed to deal and this is how I do it.
Summary: “Expanding your tastes?” Shawn asked. “You're more of a single malt scotch kind of guy, aren't you?” Carlton bit back his instinctive response and tried to tone down his sarcasm. “Normally yes. Tonight is . . .”
He entered the room and gave it a quick scan, a habit he wasn't even aware of after all these years, his gaze stopping on the familiar brown suede jacket of a customer at the bar.
He was the last person that Carlton wanted to see right now.
Not after . . .
He started to turn and leave to go find another place, but stopped.
It had to be here. Getting a drink at any other bar would just be getting drunk and pathetic.
Here it meant something.
Putting aside differences for one night would mean something more.
She deserved that.
So he swallowed his pride and usual annoyance and made his way over to the bar, sliding silently onto a seat next to the hunched figure there.
“Carlton,” Shawn acknowledged.
“Shawn,” he returned, then gave his order to the bartender who'd come over. “A caramel sour apple shooter.”
He dared to glance at the psychic and found a small smile on his lips. Red-rimmed hazel eyes came up to meet blue.
“Expanding your tastes?” Shawn asked. “You're more of a single malt scotch kind of guy, aren't you?”
Carlton bit back his instinctive response and tried to tone down his sarcasm. “Normally yes. Tonight is . . .” He had no way to finish that so he just looked at the bar and left it as it was.
Shawn nodded and went back to staring at his own glass, spinning it lightly between his fingers.
“That it is,” he agreed softly.
Silence fell until the drink was delivered.
Carlton held it between his fingers, staring into the brownish green liquid.
He thought about saying something, but wasn't feeling particularly profound at the moment. So he just raised it slightly in salute, then downed it.
He pondered the empty glass for a moment, then set it down, pushing it away so the bartender could pick it up on his next pass, ordering a single malt scotch when it happened moments later.
He noted the same concoction he'd just swallowed was in Shawn's glass, though it was a full drink instead of just a shot.
He considered saying something, but the dose of alcohol hadn't inspired him any so he remained silent.
He was feeling the pain of the day, the regrets, the what ifs, the if onlys, but he had a feeling that all of those were being felt in a much greater magnitude just a foot and a half to his right. Add to that the fact that he wasn't dealing with the feelings of someone who wanted to be more than a friend.
No, his burden was a lot lighter than Shawn's right now.
He should say something.
She would have. She was always after him to talk about his feelings whether he wanted to or not—usually it was not.
Shawn gave him a break, though, and opened the conversation.
Not that he wanted to have it, but he'd suffer through it for her.
"I'm not one for regrets.” He gave the glass another spin, then shrugged. “A waste of time and energy. I just wish . . .” He stared into the depths of the drink for a moment, gathering his courage. “I just wish I'd told her. She deserved to know.”
Carlton shifted uncomfortably, then took a sip of his drink, letting it slide slowly down his throat, burning the whole way. It was a far more pleasant sensation than having to have this discussion here and now.
“She knew how you felt about her, Shawn.” He couldn't help a wry grin. “The whole city knew how you felt about her.”
Shawn laughed once, quietly. “Yeah. Not my usual subtle style was it?” he asked, with a half grin of his own, a hint of amusement sparking in his eyes behind the shadow of sorrow.
Carlton couldn't help the eyebrow that shot up at that. “I seriously doubt you know the meaning of the word 'subtle'.”
The grin spread to the other side as Shawn looked back down at the drink.
“I rely on Gus for things like that. He's the smart one.”
His smile faded.
“Being smart was never my thing.”
Silence descended once more and Carlton took another drink. He saw the serious contemplation in Shawn's eyes in regards to doing the same, but he held off, opting to speak again instead.
“I'm not psychic.”
Half a second earlier and the mirror behind the bar would have been covered in single malt scotch. As it was the swallow stopped halfway down and lodged uncomfortably there for a moment. A cough and another drink sent it on its way, serving the dual purpose of giving him a moment to think.
“What?” he finally managed.
Shawn looked up at him, eyes as serious as Carlton had ever seen them. “I'm not psychic.”
When it seemed repetition hadn't helped, Shawn explained.
“I know she knew that I loved her. What I wish I'd told her was that I'm not psychic.”
“Why are you telling me now?” Carlton asked in disbelief. The expected sensation of elation and victory was conspicuously and alarmingly absent, he noted.
Shawn held his gaze. “Because I need to be stopped.”
That had the detective blinking while he pondered it.
Finally he asked, with a nod to the drink, “How many of those have you had?”
Shawn laughed again, quietly and sadly. “None.” When that didn't appear to be accepted he waved a hand at the bartender. “You can ask. I haven't had a single drop of alcohol. And this is the first place I came after . . .” His eyes dropped and his fingers tightened on the glass. There were a few tense moments where Carlton was sure that the whole thing would be emptied down his throat, then they relaxed and gave the glass another twist.
Silence reigned for long minutes before Carlton spoke again.
“You said you need to be stopped. What does that mean exactly?”
Shawn shrugged. “I need to be stopped. The whole . . .” He waved his hand, then dropped it. “Charade. It needs to be stopped before someone else dies.”
Carlton rolled his eyes. “It wasn't your fault.”
Shawn nodded. “I know,” he said evenly, sincerely. “It was his. He pulled the trigger. I didn't tell her to go there. I didn't tell her to save that little girl. I didn't pull the trigger.” Then he shrugged again.
“But I might next time. Next time I might go off on one of my insane quests to be the first to solve the case, make one of my leaps of logic, that—while right—is betting on far too much that I can only guess at. Who will pay the price then? Gus? Buzz? My dad? Karen? You?” Shawn shook his head.
“I'm not sure I could handle that.” The glass was turned. “Ding! Reality check on Aisle 3.”
A heavy and stifling pause settled over them.
Carlton had no idea what Shawn was thinking right then, but he knew what was in his own mind.
“So you're giving up?” he asked.
Shawn barked out a mirthless laugh and straightened up a little.
“There it is. I knew that question was coming, though to be honest, I expected it from my father-”
Shawn looked at him.
“I don't have a choice now, do I?”
“How do you figure?”
Shawn's eyes widened a little and a hint of incredulity and maybe some frustration laced his tone when he said, “I just told you I'm not a psychic. I confessed. I have no special link to the other side or to any spirits. I can't see the future and I can't read anyone's aura. It's like I told you way back when: I'm really observant. Add to that my near-photographic memory and it makes for a pretty convincing act, but that's all it is. An act.”
Carlton nodded. “Okay. So what are you going to do now?”
Shawn leaned forward again, resuming his game of spin the glass.
“I have time to consider. Not going to be much else to do in prison is there? Though I might finally get a degree in something. Do they have correspondence courses in skydiving instruction, do you think?”
Carlton rolled his eyes.
“You're not going to prison.”
Shawn snorted. “I think that's up to the jury there, Detective.”
“Well last time I checked they didn't send you to prison just for having too much to drink,” he said and finished off his scotch. He stood and pulled out the money to pay for his tab and Shawn's, pointedly ignoring the stare he was getting from the younger man. “Most you'll do is a night in lock up and I don't want to have to do the paperwork that would require. Come on. I'll drive you home so you can sleep it off.”
Shawn remained sitting, staring in disbelief.
“Dude, I told you. I haven't been drinking.”
“I haven't! Ask the bartender!”
Carlton looked at the man a few feet down the bar. “How many has he had?”
The man looked at him, glanced at Shawn, then looked back to Carlton. “Enough that he shouldn't be trusted to drive home and anything he's said should be taken with a grain of salt.”
Carlton waved a hand. “There you go. Come on.”
“No!” Shawn retorted angrily, jerking his arm away when Carlton reached for it. “What is wrong with you? You're supposed to be arresting me. I'm a criminal. I confessed in front of witnesses.”
With an angry huff, Carlton ran a hand through his hair, his eyes sweeping the room once again, still out of unrecognized habit.
“Why did you do it?”
Shawn frowned. “What? Confess? I told you-”
“Why did you pretend to be psychic?”
“The first time? Because I didn't want to be arrested.”
“And the second time? Why did you come back?”
Shawn shrugged. “I don't know. It was exciting. It was interesting. It was freaking awesome. It was something I could do. Plus it bugged my dad.”
“And the time after that?”
“Is there a point to this?” Shawn asked, his annoyance making a reappearance.
“Why are you still doing it?”
Shawn's frown deepened.
“It's been four years. I know for a fact that you've never held a job that long in your entire life. You barely survived high school and that was only because you had to keep going if you wanted to stay under your parents' roof. So I'm gonna ask you again. Why are you still doing it?”
“I don't know,” Shawn said in bewilderment.
“Because you care.”
That was as expected as being struck by lightning on a clear summer's day. “What?”
“You do it because you care. And you're good at it. Don't expect me to repeat that, but it's true. You don't have to like this next part either, but it's just as true.
“You are your father's son. You're a born cop, a well-trained detective, and the only reason you're playing psychic instead of wearing a uniform is because you have a contrary streak a mile wide. You may not have wanted to follow in your father's shoes, but you didn't have a choice in the matter. It's in your blood and been pounded into your skull from a very early age. You did the best you could to twist out of it, but it didn't work. And now you're stuck.”
Shawn's expression darkened. “Screw you,” he said and stood, intending to leave.
A hand on his arm stopped him and he spun back, an expression on his face very reminiscent of his father, though not even Carlton would have pointed it out at that moment.
“Leave me alone. If you won't arrest me I'll go find a cop who will.”
Carlton cursed, getting his attention. “Is this what she would have wanted? For you to throw away your life on an idiotic attempt to appease your own guilt?”
“What does it matter?” Shawn shouted, his temper boiling over. “Who cares what she would have wanted? She's dead. She doesn't want anything anymore.”
Shawn blinked at the interruption.
Shawn frowned, but Carlton refused to back down.
“You care about the job and you care about her and you care what she would want. At least be man enough to admit it.”
Shawn laughed mirthlessly. “Seriously, dude? You think that's going to work? You just have to say, 'Man up, Shawn!' and I'll come back with, 'Okey-dokey, Lassie!' and everything will be fine?” He snorted. “What fantasy world are you living in?”
“I never said it would make everything fine,” Carlton snapped. “But at least we won't lose two good detectives out of this.”
“You just repeated it,” Shawn couldn't help but point out.
“Spencer,” Carlton growled.
Shawn rolled his eyes. “Relax. I'm not going to kill myself.”
“You might as well,” Carlton shot back. “It took courage to die the way Juliet did today. She gave up her life to protect a little girl. It takes just as much courage for those left behind to keep living.”
Silence fell once more, thick and heavy between them.
Shawn held his gaze for a long minute, then dropped it.
He stared at the floor for another very long minute, then his shoulders rose and fell in a deep breath.
Finally he looked up, a hint of a smile on his lips.
“That was pretty deep, Lassie.”
“Yeah, well, I had Chinese for dinner last night. Fortune cookie wisdom is kind of contagious.”
Shawn's grin widened just a little bit.
“Yeah.” Then it turned wistful and the light in his eyes dimmed a little before he looked to the floor again. “Probably the last time I'll encounter it.”
“She loved Chinese food. And I'll never be able to eat it without thinking of her.” Shawn shrugged. “One of the hazards of a photographic memory.”
Carlton nodded and looked at the floor.
“Yeah. That's . . . that's gotta be . . . rough.”
“Yeah. Sometimes.” He paused, then said, “But you know, sometimes it's pretty cool.”
A half shrug.
“Most of the memories are good. As long as I focus on those and not that she's gone . . .” He looked up. “They say that as long as you remember someone they're never really gone. Well no worries there. I couldn't forget her if I tried.”
Carlton looked up. “That's some pretty deep fortune cookie wisdom there yourself.”
Shawn laughed, though it was a little strained. “Yeah. I guess it is.”
Jerking his head at the still untouched glass on the bar, Carlton asked, “You going to drink that?”
Shawn stared at it for a long moment, a kaleidoscope of emotions crossing over his face.
Silently he picked it up and regarded it for a moment longer.
“To memories,” he said quietly, then put it to his lips and tipped it up.
It was a full glass instead of a shot so it took a few more swallows, but he chugged it down, shaking his head as he set the glass back on the bar.
Carlton gave him a moment, then nodded to the door.
“Come on. I'll give you a ride.”
Shawn considered that, then gave in. He wasn't impaired by the alcohol, but that didn't mean he should be driving tonight either. There were other things that could impair thinking and losing Jules was pretty much at the top of that list.
They headed out to the parking lot and Carlton's police issued red sedan.
Shawn stopped with the door open.
Carlton stopped short of getting in and met his gaze over the roof of the car.
“Don't mention it.”
Shawn grinned. “Of course not. It's only fair.”
“We're even. You know I'm not a psychic and I know you're hiding a soft marshmallow center beneath your gruff exterior.”
Carlton rolled his eyes and climbed in.
“Get in and let's go. My patience does have a limit and we are fast approaching it.”
Shawn did as ordered, managing to keep his smile down to a respectable level.
Everything was not fine. It wouldn't ever really be fine again.
But he had good friends and something worthwhile to do with his life.
And when things got hard, he could always remember.
This is dedicated to the memory of Ashely,
who had the courage to hug,
and Travis, who had the courage to share.
God keep you both.