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This fic is a tag for the episode Tuesday the 17th. It's 15k words of Shawn/Lassiter first time, rated PG-13, with humor and a little angst thrown in.

And just so you know, this is not a story about a chance meeting of two insomniacs. This is a story about beer, a machete, the fashion police, zebras, egg salad, Truth or Truth, the c-word, and handcuffs. With sprinkles on top.

Many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] snarkydame and to [livejournal.com profile] trystings for their invaluable beta reading services! ETA: *facepalms* Also, [livejournal.com profile] tacittype during the early stages of this fic. Thank you, guys!


Part One


There were times when sleep didn't come easily to Shawn. He would never in a million years, plus or minus a few ice ages, admit it, but their cases often kept him awake at night.

Rather than sleeping soundly in his bed (or anyone else's, he wasn't that picky) Shawn would find himself riding his motorcycle around Santa Barbara, usually at a speed that his father would call reckless, and without a warm enough jacket, which his mother would disapprove of. Somewhere in the back of his mind he was aware that most people stopped defying their parents purely out of spite sometime in their late teens. But Shawn wasn't most people.

For one, he was almost constantly out of gas and out of money. Which was fine, really, as long as Gus could be prodded into treating Shawn's machine to a tankful every now and then. But Gus wasn't as generous as he used to be, and not nearly as easy to manipulate as he'd been at, say, age ten to seventeen, when Shawn hardly ever had to buy a movie ticket for himself. Not to mention the popcorn.

But Gus had grown up, the traitor, which meant no extra gas, which meant no aimless, cool-looking motorcycle-riding into the night. Shawn usually didn't mind. Much. There were other things he could do.

Sometimes he went loitering in the park opposite the station with a spyglass, half a dozen cold cheeseburgers and a bucketful of coke for company, in case something criminally interesting happened that would justify him showing his face there at night.

Or he hung out at the office, which had an XBox, a TiVo, lots of sugary food supplies, and a complete collection of Knight Rider tapes to show for itself. Sure, the old VCR botched the colors all the time, but David Hasselhoff was way more fun when he looked a little green around the gills, anyway.

The close proximity of the pier was another plus. Shawn liked the pier. Especially when it was deserted, and when the waves were crashing exactly like this, and when the wind was trying to ruffle his hair (tough luck), and when his supply of M&Ms was virtually limitless. He popped one into his mouth. It tasted green.

A state of ongoing consciousness during the dark hours of the night wasn't such a bad thing, Shawn decided. Not as long as his mind kept circling around unexplained case-related details, yet undiscovered connections, or the best way to annoy the living daylights out of Lassiter in the morning before his second cup of coffee. Lassiter's second coffee, not Shawn's. Because Gus was convinced that coffee made Shawn twitchy and restless. When he pointed this out to Shawn, one particularly slow Thursday morning in the office, Shawn looked up from the hopscotch field he'd drawn on the office floor and promptly hopped onto a chalk line. "Aw, Gus, look what you've done! I lost. Against myself! I really thought I'd be more of a challenge."

"Twitchy and restless," Gus repeated matter-of-factly.

"Dude," Shawn said. "That summarizes the very heart and essence of my being in a compact and astoundingly accurate way. And you're noticing only now? I'm shocked. And deeply disappointed."

Gus glared that less than intimidating glare of his and still forbade him to drink anything but decaf. Officially Shawn abided by the rule. Unofficially, Gus could always tell when Shawn had gone straight for a double espresso. Stacy, Shawn's favorite barista, always topped it with whipped cream and brightly colored sprinkles. That made it even better. Sprinkles made everything better, after all.

It was worth the pointed looks and not-so-veiled complaints Gus would aim his way afterwards. Shawn would usually shrug and say something like, "You wouldn't believe how well caffeine goes with sprinkles. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it," or, "Honestly, I ordered decaf. But a cute little girl in a pink Barbie dress begged me to switch it for her espresso. I couldn't very well leave a tiny six-year old with a drink that is strictly for adults, now could I, Gus? It could have stunted her growth!"

By which time Gus would start muttering about how Shawn's blood pressure would be going through the roof, or how Shawn had better behave himself despite his caffeine high, or he would ask how Shawn expected to go to sleep anytime in the next, oh, two to three days.

Contrary to popular belief, Shawn knew not to drink double espressos before bedtime. If he was sleep deprived, it was never due to caffeine consumption.

The thing was, Shawn was not a quitter. No matter what his father told anyone who wanted to hear it, and anyone who didn't want to hear it, and sometimes complete strangers. It wasn't that Shawn couldn't hold a job. It was that no job had been able to hold him. Shawn never quit. He moved on.

He liked that about himself, being a non-quitter. But apparently it was possible to be too much of one. He never could stop and take a pause, couldn't let things rest. Not as long as there was a serial killer or violent robber around, or, like in one memorable case, an elderly lady with a pointy umbrella and little patience for impoliteness. Lassiter still had that reddish spot on his forearm, the tiny scar where the metal tip of the umbrella had broken his skin. It only showed when Lassiter shrugged off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves, or when he reached out and tried to steal one of Juliet's cupcakes (sprinkles on top) without anyone noticing.

Shawn always noticed, but he pretended not to. Lassiter was best not disturbed in this important phase of his development. He had just started to discover the upside of fun, the importance of loosening his tie once in a while, and the awesomeness that was sprinkles.

Sadly, beer didn't come with sprinkles. Or was that not sad at all? Shawn couldn't decide. He drummed his fingers on the bench beside him, tapped his propped-up foot on the pier railing in time with the imaginary beat, and considered retrieving the half-empty bag of sugary sprinkles from the cupboard under the easy bake oven in the office. Beer with sprinkles. It was worth a try, but the walk from the pier up to the office looked long and steep, and the treacherous steps would probably not stay horizontal and right-angled under his feet, either. Maybe M&Ms would work as a substitute? Although-- No. It'd be a crime against chocolate. Possibly beer, too.

Shawn sighed regretfully. He leaned back on the bench, watched the sun rise, felt the world spin a little faster than it should, and wondered why the hell he had even started on that fifth beer.

Alcohol in larger quantities wasn't something Shawn was used to. It messed with the intricate workings of his brain, and he couldn't have that. His brilliantly gifted and meticulously trained mind was the one constant in his life, the one thing he could always depend upon.

Well, that, and Gus' friendship, important constant number two. Thinking about it, there was also his dad's control-seeking and patronizing personality. And Juliet's enthusiastic professionalism, complemented by a spark of humor that was just right. Also, there was the chief's no-nonsense attitude. And Lassiter's openly displayed disapproval – an expected occurrence in every working day.

When had Shawn's life become all about constants rather than variables? Variables were good. Variables were Shawn, the complete opposite of dull and stuck-up and fixed in place.

An excess of constants in his life should probably have him worried, as well as the overuse of math terminology in an internal monologue, but somehow Shawn couldn't be bothered. He put the fifth beer bottle down beside the bench without finishing it.

He still wasn't tired. And it wasn't even the good kind of insomnia tonight, the productive must-solve-case insomnia. It was the less common, but much more unsettling I-almost-died variety.

Shawn should have gotten used to this. It had been happening a lot lately. Bad Guy of the week would get wind of Shawn and Gus' fine detective work – or 'snooping around' to the untrained observer. Bad Guy would then draw his gun/pickaxe/firepoker on them and advance, sometimes slowly and cautiously (which was really, really bad), sometimes hurriedly, with a mad gleam in his eye (which wasn't quite as bad, but scarier). And always, always, Bad Guy wasn't fast enough to put a hole, however shaped, in either of them before Lassiter and/or Juliet entered the scene and convinced Bad Guy to lay down his weapon of choice, usually with a friendly, non-threatening shot to marginally important parts of the anatomy.

Everything was always over in a couple of minutes, and there was nothing to worry about, after. Nothing at all. Everything always turned out fine, and that was that.

It was just-- These occasions would be more fun if they were actually fun. Shawn wanted them to be fun, wanted to be able to remember them as the adventures his mind insisted they must have been, what with the extreme lack of boredom, and the catching of evil murderers, and Jules looking kind of hot when she was all determined and pointing a gun.

Instead, his photographic memory turned out to be less than perfect in its consequences. There were a lot of great things Shawn could have spent this night, any night, thinking about. In fact, he had a list of those written down, pinned to his fridge with a Marvin the Martian magnet, for when he needed to be reminded of the awesomeness that was life at five-thirty in any given early morning. Pineapples was right there at the top, closely followed by The Uncertainty Principle and Boxers that say 'Eat my shorts'. Slow-mo memory replays of a bearded madman coming at him, cold water dragging at his clothes, panic squeezing the breath out of him-- that wasn't anywhere on the list. Not even close. Not even sort-of-around-ish.

Shawn had known that alcohol wouldn't break the-- thing. Memory feedback loop. But it should have made him care a little less. That had been the plan. The plan had sucked from the get-go. He capitulated and decided to sacrifice the rest of his beer to the ocean gods, or to anyone who might incidentally be swimming under the pier with their face upturned and their mouth open. He bent down to grab the bottle from its place next to the bench when a pair of familiar shoes attached to equally familiar legs walked into the edge of his vision.

Lassiter. Lassiter walking down the pier, tense and stone-faced and apparently even less happy than on the day Sergeant Kruger had beaten his score on the shooting range by half a dozen points.

Shawn could feel a grin spread on his face. This was exactly the kind of distraction he needed right now. This was perfect.


*


Carlton knew that sleep wasn't going to come to him that night. Instead of going to bed to toss and turn for hours, he switched off his (very own) TV, got off of his (very own) couch, and left his (very own) apartment, heading for-- somewhere else. Anywhere else, really.

Now that his apartment had officially been upgraded from 'temporary living quarters' to 'home', he found he couldn't stand staying there anymore. As much as he wanted to accept, or better yet, not think about the failure of his marriage, it wasn't that easy.

He had half expected things to get better once the divorce papers provided tangible proof. Only subconsciously, of course. Even after all this time, they should have been able to work things out. They could have worked things out. Carlton knew this as certain as the sky was blue, as the grass was green, as Spencer was a shameless liar.

Instead of hating himself (he'd done everything he could), or hating her (just not possible), Carlton started hating his apartment. It wasn't really fair. The apartment had never done anything wrong, except for being nice and vacant when he had needed a new address, back when his old one was being sold on the street to any Tom, Dick and Harry with an arrest record and an axe to grind.

Thankfully, this minor aversion was only going to pose a problem during his off-hours. Carlton briefly considered not leaving the station for a while, but there were only so many nights he'd be able to spend on a cot in an unoccupied cell before the chief or O'Hara would notice. Two, maximum. They were police detectives, after all. And it wouldn't be worth the hassle. He was fully equipped to deal with the chief's disapproval, but O'Hara's concern, the inevitable questions, her obsessive compulsion to help-- no.

Carlton preferred this aimless midnight stroll, with an occasional stop at a bar for a coke or a ginger ale. Because he wasn't going to get drunk over this again. Not after last time. He still didn't remember how much of a pathetic ass he'd made of himself in front of Spencer, who likely thought that 'discretion' was a difficult science word.

The sky was already starting to lighten in the east, in red and purple, when the ocean surprised Carlton by appearing right in front of him. He hadn't been paying attention to his surroundings, with his subconscious at the steering wheel, but he liked where it had taken him. The pier was a quiet place to be at sunrise – or so he thought before he heard someone call his name. And not just anyone. Spencer was sprawled on a bench at the side of the pier.

"Lassie!" Spencer shouted, delighted, and waved at him.

Carlton froze in mid-step. "Spencer? What are you doing here?"

"I could ask you the same thing," Spencer said cheerfully and patted the empty space next to him on the bench. "Come on, Lassie, there's room for another creature of the night here on the throne for the rulers over all things dark and evil," he said, grinning. "That includes early morning work-outs, cucumbers, Dallas reruns, and all those neatly aligned office supplies on your desk. Really, it does. I checked." He patted the bench again and his grin faded a little. "Okay, so this is not the throne for the rulers over all things dark and evil, but wouldn't it be cool if it was? Let's pretend that it is."

This was taking cheerfulness to a new level, even for Spencer. Carlton stayed where he was, suspicious.

"You look so not happy," Spencer said, tilting his head. He was squinting a lot more than he usually did, and his gestures were a little off-target, and that was when Carlton noticed the beer bottles. Jesus, was Spencer drunk? He'd better not be. He already acted completely nuts when he was sober; Carlton had no desire to observe an intoxicated Spencer in action.

"What is it?" Spencer continued, squinting at him some more. "Did your cat die? When did you get a cat? Why didn't you tell me? Is it a tabby? I always thought you look like a tabby kind of guy. Just last week I said to Gus--"

"Spencer," Carlton interrupted sharply.

Spencer actually shut up for a moment and looked at him expectantly, as if to ask, "What?"

"I got divorced yesterday," Carlton finished. "I'm not in the mood for your antics."

There was a beat of silence, which meant that Carlton had time to curse himself for spilling the beans to Spencer, of all people. He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his pants and considered turning around and leaving. He would have done it, too, if there had been the slightest chance of Spencer letting the topic, and him, go.

Yeah right, he thought, maybe when hell was frozen over. He knew Spencer well enough to tell from the look on his face that the devil was still roasting marshmallows over a nice hot fire.


*


Shawn usually digested information fast as lightning. Really, really fast. So fast that Gus had taken to calling him Nanosecond Man. Never in front of possible sexual partners, of course, because that could lead to unpleasant misunderstandings.

Okay, so actually Shawn had totally invented the name himself, but that was beside the point.

This new development, this new piece of the 3D-puzzle that was Lassiter, took its sweet time working its way though Shawn's brain. In terms of natural phenomena it was more like a mudslide than a lightning strike. For a moment Shawn didn't know what to say. It was an unfamiliar feeling and really not pleasant. Plus, mudslides were infinitely less cool than lightning strikes as metaphors went. But Lassiter seemed to suffer from a mudslide moment of his own, with an added edge of twitchy restlessness. That made it easier to bear.

"Have a beer?" Shawn held out the last bottle from the six-pack to Lassiter, who considered the offer long and hard. Longer and harder than he would have needed to, in Shawn's opinion.

"How many of those have you had?" Lassiter asked and came closer.

"Four. And a little," Shawn said.

"In, what, the space of ten minutes? You're drunk."

"I've always been proud of the fact that I'm a cheap date," Shawn answered seriously.

"Of course," Lassiter said, dead-pan. He carefully brushed non-existent dirt off the bench before sitting down next to Shawn and accepting the beer.

Suddenly Shawn didn't feel all that drunk anymore. The world wasn't spinning as wildly anymore, for one. He leaned forward, looking intently. Lassiter's edges weren't blurry at all. He was all sharp and defined and-- stuff.

The profound truth of the thought sank in, and Shawn nodded approvingly to himself. Sharp and defined and-- stuff, that was Lassie.

Lassiter shot him another one of his suspicious looks, then twisted the cap off the bottle and took a swig. He turned to look out over the ocean. Sometime later he said without turning his head, "Quit staring at me. Did no one ever teach you that it's not polite to stare?"

Shawn blinked. Right. His eyes were still focused on Lassiter, which meant that, in light of the time that had passed and Lassiter's excellent peripheral vision, 'staring' was a justified assessment of Shawn's behavior. And no, his father had taught him no such thing. Or maybe Shawn hadn't bothered to listen.

"You," Shawn said earnestly, pointing a very steady finger, "are a bucket of cold water."

Lassiter turned his head and eyed him. "Right," he said after a moment, but he didn't sound entirely convinced, much less adequately flattered.

"Like, really cold water. A bucket of cold water," Shawn clarified. He really did feel completely sober now. It had to be a special kind of Lassie-magic. "Deep water, too. Very deep and-- stuff."

"Deep," Lassiter repeated with a frown, his tone cautious. "That's-- reassuring."

"I thought you'd find that--" Shawn began. He would have continued, but Lassiter was shaking his head to himself. The movement was barely there, but Shawn wasn't hyper observant for nothing. "Wait, are you yanking my chain?"

"Am I yanking your chain?" Lassiter asked, incredulous. "Are you kidding me?"

"Hey, I asked first."

"Spencer, you--" Lassiter took a deep breath. "Why don't we just sit here for a while and drink our beer. In silence. Before I get tempted to shoot you."

Shawn nodded. "Uh-huh. I can do that. I bet I'm not nearly as much fun without my famous witty comments and clever observations, but why not? I try everything at least once."

"Silence, starting now," Lassiter ordered and pointed the neck of the bottle at him, possibly as a sign of determination.

Lassiter turned to look out over the sea again.

Shawn timed thirty seconds on his watch, then he said, "It's four-thirty in the morning."

Lassiter's head fell forward until his chin rested on his chest, in defeat, or maybe in annoyance, but hopefully in defeat. "It's bad enough that you're completely unable to carry on an adult conversation," Lassiter said into his shirt. "You better not make a habit out of stating the obvious, too."

Shawn raised his eyebrows. "The obvious, Lassie? Not obvious to you, obviously. You're still wearing your tie. In a tight knot. At a time when decent people have long since passed out on a convenient stretch of sidewalk, preferably near a bush. That is just not natural."

Lassiter turned to him, glaring. If Shawn had a dollar for every glare Lassiter had ever sent him, and two for the really dark ones, he would own one-thousand seven-hundred and sixty-seven dollars and thirty-five cents now. As it was, there were only twenty-two dollars to his name. And thirty-five cents, of course. There was no such thing as a partial glare.

"Let me spell this out for you once more," Lassiter said. "I am comfortable wearing a tie. I like wearing ties. Now that we've finally cleared that up, can we never speak of ties again?"

Shawn pretended to consider this. "No. Talking ties with you is fun."

To Shawn's complete surprise, Lassiter rolled his eyes. It was a very un-Lassiter thing to do, and more than a little disturbing.

"Now, that is completely unattractive," he said. "Please tell me you don't do that when you're on dates."

Lassiter upgraded his glare to the two-dollar kind. "Seriously, Spencer? I just told you I got divorced, and you want to discuss my dating habits? That brings me straight back to the point where you're completely unable to carry on an adult-- You know what, forget it." He handed the bottle back to Shawn.

Before Lassiter could get up and leave, and before Shawn had really thought about it, he said conversationally, "The funniest thing happened to me last night: I almost died."

Lassiter froze, his hands still on the bench where he had put them to push himself off. Shawn froze, too, wondering where the ten foot pole was that he had sworn it would take for him to touch that topic. It didn't seem to be around anywhere.

"What do you mean, you almost died?" Lassiter asked.

"What do you mean, what do I mean? It was a perfectly clear statement. If you want the gory details, say, 'Spencer, give me the gory details.' And attach a 'please'." Shawn took a swig from the beer that had formerly been known as Lassiter's.

Lassiter glared again (another dollar's worth), but he lifted his palms from the bench and crossed his arms. "If you want to tell me your life story, go ahead, but I'm not going to ask for it."

Things were never easy with Lassiter, which Shawn rather liked a lot about him. "I'll make you a deal. My story for yours. My full recollection of the real life horror movie night for everything about divorce day, first hand recap, from your lips to my attentive ears. What do you say, Lassie?"

The strange thing was, the more Lassiter tried to darken his glares, the less intimidating the look on his face got. It was a mystery never to be solved, or possibly only to be solved by Shawn himself.

"Okay, so I'm going to tell you anyway," Shawn said amiably. "Good call, Lassie."

It was entirely possible that this was the alcohol taking its dreaded effect, but Shawn gave Lassiter an accurate description of the events, even though it was in text message style. "A crazy guy with a machete and a serious childhood trauma came after us and almost killed Gus. I thought he had, anyway, and then he caught me in a half-drained swimming pool, in the middle of the night, during a storm with a huge creep factor, with that dark forest all around and flying leaves and all that. It was a close thing. Almost drowning might have been involved, and almost being sliced up, but Jules shot the bad guy in the hand before any of that happened," Shawn said, and added as an afterthought, "Everything turned out fine. Except for the two dead people. But we got the murderer. Camp Tikihama is safe once more."

Lassiter-- did nothing for a moment. Then he blinked. "Tiki-- what? Are you serious?"

"Completely. And yes, that comes as a shock for me, too." Shawn lifted the beer bottle again, but he found it empty. When had that happened?

"Really?" Lassiter asked, frowning. "Wait, a machete? I never had a perp come at me with a machete." He sounded wistful.

Shawn felt his eyebrows rise all the way up to his hairline. "It's not all it's cracked up to be, Lassie. You're not missing out on much. What's a machete, anyway? A butter knife blown completely out of proportion. No biggie."

It was only when he saw Lassiter staring down at them that Shawn noticed he had his hands clasped tightly together, leaving the knuckles white. He consciously relaxed the death grip his right hand had on his left. Also, ow.

"O'Hara had everything covered, I take it?" Lassiter said, still staring at Shawn's hands. Shawn waved them, just to make him stop.

"Oh, she was a pro. I especially enjoyed the part where she disarmed the crazy murderer in the nick of time. Don't you worry, Lassie, one fine day, not too far from now, she'll be a better police officer than you are."

Shawn had intended to get a rise out of Lassiter. That was what gave his life meaning and purpose, after all. But Lassiter just gave a quick smile, no more than a short twitch of the corners of his mouth. "Probably."

"Huh," Shawn said, tilting his head. The movement promptly made his head spin again. So much for the Lassie-magic. "Sounds like somebody has lost his mojo."

"Spare me your psychic crap," Lassiter shot back. "Mojo? What does that even mean? You have no idea what it means. You spurt these imaginary psychic terms all the time because you think they make you sound like a professional, but guess what? They only make you sound stupid."

Shawn leaned back a fraction, surprised by the vehemence of the outburst. "I never sounded, or looked, stupid in my entire life," he said, offended. Then he amended, "Well, except that one time in eighth grade when Lissy Hiller put her Barbie sweat band on my-- Never mind. You really don't need to know that. Where was I? Right, your mojo. It's a common term. It should be familiar to anyone who hasn't been living under a rock or inside a bunker or otherwise underground for the last--" Shawn noticed the look of increasing irritation on Lassiter's face and decided that cutting to the chase was his best option; a lot better than being thrown off the pier. It was a shame. He so rarely had a devoted audience. "Your mojo," Shawn explained seriously, "is the collective entirety of your very best abilities, if-- IF," he emphasized with a raised finger, "there's fun involved."

Lassiter let that sink in for a moment, no doubt awed by the depth of the statement. "I'm afraid to ask," he finally said. "But fun involved in what?"

"Whatever you're doing."

"When?"

"At any given time," Shawn said, sighing. Lassie was ever the skeptic, forever suspicious. "Lassie, I don't think you've opened your mind wide enough to get the complete implications of--"

"I don't think I want to open my mind, thanks, Spencer." Lassiter measured Shawn and the bottle park with his best deductive-reasoning face. "Just how many empty bottles have you thrown over the railing before I got here?"

"I'm not drunk, Lassie." Not much, anyway. Not with his own private cold bucket of water so close.

"Good," Lassiter said. "It wouldn't help, anyway."

"Help?"

"With the insomnia. This isn't your first sleepless night, is it?"

Shawn swallowed. His own private bucket of cold water really could be counted on to deliver. Of course Lassiter was observant, what with him being a detective and all. Shawn knew that. But Lassiter wasn't usually this observant. He wasn't supposed to be.

"Define 'sleepless'. Are you talking sleeplessness in the clinical sense, or rather in its common perception as--"

"Spencer," Lassiter interrupted and turned around on the bench so they were face to face. Specifically, Lassiter's serious face to Shawn's carefully blank one. "With your choice of – for lack of a better term – profession, this is going to be a regular occurrence. You know that. You've had close calls before, and this kind of thing comes with them. It's a job hazard. Go to sleep with dogs, you get up with fleas. There's no catching flies with honey in this line of work. That's one thing O'Hara has yet to learn."

"Nice," Shawn said in his cheerful voice. It might have come across a little too cheerful. "Do you have any more of those animal analogies in your repertoire? Something with whales, perhaps? I like whales. They're big. And-- big. And apparently they're mammals, even though they bear no resemblance at all to, say, squirrels. Or cows. Or even cats."

"Spencer," Lassiter said, shaking his head. "You're nuts."

Now, that was more like it. "Thanks, Lassie. You say the sweetest things."

Lassiter caught Shawn's gaze and made an effort to hold it, and he put a hand on Shawn's shoulder, too. Apparently this next bit was going to be important. "Spencer," Lassiter said. "If you can't handle this, you need to give it up. Or else it's going to squash you like a bug, and that's not going to be pretty. I've seen it happen. This is a dangerous job, and not just because you might get shot, or-- or stabbed, or thrown off a building, or strangled, or poisoned, or drowned, or sliced up--" His voice drifted off as he lost momentum, then he caught himself. "You catch my drift."

Shawn did. The vehement protest that was on the tip of his tongue died a quick death. There was a wobbly quality to Lassiter's voice which Shawn identified as honest concern. That was-- kind of sweet. And he had not just been thinking that. "What is it with you and the animal metaphors?" he muttered instead.

"I have an annual-season ticket for the zoo," Lassiter said, as if that explained anything.

In his capacity as the master of non-sequiturs, Shawn was unimpressed. "Cool. You should take me there some time. I don't think they'll recognize me after more than twenty years, so we'll probably be safe."

"I'm tempted to ask, but then again, I'm not sure I want to know," Lassiter said. He started collecting empty bottles from the ground. "Come on. I'll drive you home."

"But I don't want to go home," Shawn said, and he absolutely did not sound petulant.

"Yes, you do," Lassiter said, then corrected, "I do, anyway, and I'm not leaving you here."

"Aw, Lassie. That's sweet, you being all concerned about my safety."

"Shut up, Spencer." Lassiter picked up three bottles, one at a time, and pinned them to his chest with one arm. "We're leaving."

"No," Shawn said, determined. "I think we should celebrate."

"Celebrate what?" Lassiter straightened up again.

"Surviving," Shawn declared. It was a great reason to celebrate. The best. He leaned over and started tugging on the knot of Lassiter's tie.

Lassiter tried to fend off the attack with his one free hand. "What are you doing?"

Shawn rolled his eyes. "We've been through the getting-intoxicated part of the evening. Well, I have, for the both of us. Now we can get to the part where we celebrate by losing our ties. And hey, since I don't wear one, we're already halfway there."

Lassiter shook his head and bowed it in defeat, muttering something unintelligible. There was a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, though, a weird cross between incredulity, irritation and-- and-- fondness, of all things. Then Lassiter looked up, like he wanted to say something, but the words never made it out. Shawn's hands stilled, with the tie halfway pulled through the knot. Lassiter's face was close. Really close. His eyes were kind of-- pretty. A little wide, too. And Lassiter wasn't moving away. Neither was Shawn, he couldn't help but notice.

"Um," Shawn said eloquently.

Lassiter cleared his throat. "You, Spencer, have to celebrate by wearing a tie," he said. He pushed the bottles at Shawn. Shawn took them. He was still a little too perplexed to think of protesting. Lassiter pulled the tie loop off over his head and then lowered it over Shawn's. He fixed the three top buttons of Shawn's shirt, pulled the tie tight and arranged it to his satisfaction with a few practiced movements.

"There," he said, leaning back.

Shawn remembered to breathe, but he couldn't quite remember why he'd forgotten to do so in the first place. He looked down at himself. The tie was orange with gray stripes. His shirt was checkered in red and white. "Oh man. The fashion police is going to turn up any moment to throw me in jail," he said. "I'm going to get life for this. I deserve life for this."

Lassiter smirked. "Yes, you do. It looks hideous."

"And whose fault is that?" Shawn complained, which only seemed to amuse Lassiter more. "When they lock me up with used car salesmen and Posh Spice, my resulting trauma will be all your fault."

"Let's get you away from public eyes, then," Lassiter said and picked up the remaining bottles.

"But I don't want to go home," Shawn said again. This time he definitely sounded petulant. He added a whiny, "Dad," hoping that would make it sound funny rather than pathetic.

"Shut up, Spencer," Lassiter said, and that was, what, only the second time tonight? They'd make it to at least five 'shut up's before the night was over. Shawn was determined.

Lassiter started walking away, expecting him to follow. Shawn did, with a sigh, and with three bottles wedged between his arm and his chest, an empty M&M bag in his pocket, the bruises from the night before still spread all over his body, and Lassiter's very best tie around his neck.

At some point, this night had officially crossed over from very depressing into sort of weird.


*


It wasn't until they reached the Psych office, with Carlton's hand securely around Spencer's arm, that Carlton remembered he hadn't brought a car. But Spencer's motorcycle was in the parking lot in front of the office.

"Keys?" he asked.

"Huh?" Spencer said. Apparently a drunk Spencer was a slow Spencer.

"The keys to your office?"

"Oh, right. Here," Spencer said and fished them out of his jeans pocket.

As soon as he'd dumped his share of the bottles in a trash can in the office, Spencer started rooting through a cupboard. He surfaced again, holding up something in triumph.

"Lassie," he said and shoved the item into Carlton's hand, "I want you to have these."

It was a plastic bag of colored sprinkles, already opened, but secured shut with a rubber band. Oo-kay, Carlton thought, this was it, Spencer had now officially lost it. "Er," he said, only a little desperate. "That's-- sweet."

"Ooh, funny. Very funny," Spencer said with a cheeky grin. "Lassie, I'm proud of you. And everyone deserves sprinkles once in a while. Especially you," he added as an afterthought, then he turned his eyes away quickly.

Carlton had no idea how to proceed with that train of conversation. "Do you have a spare helmet?" he asked instead and let the sprinkles slide into his jacket pocket.

"Why?"

"I didn't bring my car."

Spencer's head whipped around. "You can ride a motorcycle?"

The tone in Spencer's voice-- It did weird things to Carlton's focus on reality. He was so used to flippant and condescending and teasing from Spencer, and now there was something approaching awe in his voice, even if it was slightly drunken awe. He blinked. "It's not rocket science, Spencer. The spare helmet?"

"In the closet," Spencer answered, gesturing vaguely. "It's Gus' helmet. He won't mind if you borrow it. I think. Maybe. Sometimes he's a liiiittle overprotective of his things, if you know what I mean."

And that had nothing at all to do with Spencer being around all the time, Carlton guessed. He pulled the closet door open. It creaked, and then there was a dull thump. An offensively pink bowling ball rolled slowly through the door, passed between Carlton's feet and continued to obey Newton's third law of motion until it hit the leg of Guster's desk with a small clonk.

Carlton wasn't at all surprised. Well, okay, the pink had him a little thrown. He wouldn't have taken either of them for a bright pink kind of guy. "I think I can handle Guster," he said and noticed with more than a little pride how completely unruffled he sounded. All that time he'd spent around Spencer had schooled his ignore-the-weird-stuff-and-focus-on-sanity skills to levels he hadn't ever dared to hope he could reach. It came in handy on the job, even when Spencer wasn't around. People often did things that were more than a little nuts, especially perps.

Spencer nudged the bowling ball carefully with his foot. "Hey, you. I was wondering where big evil Gus hid you. The closet? Man, that's lame, even for him."

Carlton found the black helmet on the second shelf from the bottom and tugged it free from under a balled-up lime-green sweater and a pair of purple sneakers with yellow polka dots.

"You should consider yourself lucky the fashion police haven't shown up before," he called out.

"That's all Gus, not me," Spencer answered in protest, which was a total lie. Guster had fashion sense, and more importantly, he had dignity. "You should see his pajamas," Spencer added in what he clearly thought was a helpful manner.

"No, thanks," Carlton said. He gave sweater and shoes a firm shove so they would stay on the laden shelf. The forceful movement traveled up the shelf frame, and next thing he knew, a stuffed Sponge Bob hit him in the face, flying in from somewhere above. Carlton stood still for a moment, just blinking, and possibly taking a breath or two. Maybe this was a sign. Maybe he shouldn't be here. Maybe he shouldn't recognize a Sponge Bob when he saw one.

He pushed the closet door shut again, before anything else in there could try and leap at him. For all he knew they could have stored plutonium in there. Or the cure for the Spanish flu. Or the Spanish flu. Or maybe a zebra or two, because their stripes went so nicely with Spencer's checkered shirts.

He turned in time to watch Spencer pick up the bowling ball from the ground, give it an affectionate pat, then walk over to put it down in the middle of his desk, right on top of a half-eaten sandwich that had seen better days. It squished under the assault.

Mildly surprised, Spencer bent down to peer closely at the mess. "Ooh, egg salad," he said approvingly. "I thought I'd finished that. No wonder I'm hungry. It's been three days, but this would have phase-shifted my hunger backwards for the space of half an egg-salad-sandwich digestion. That would have been perfect timing for breakfast tomorrow morning."

With great effort Carlton managed not to comment on that and tried the helmet on instead. It wasn't a perfect fit, but it would do. "Okay, Spencer. We're good to go."

"Wait," Spencer said, holding up a hand.

"What now? You're not taking the sandwich. Forget it."

"No, no, it's not that." Spencer was squinting at him. "It's the Lassie-on-a-motorcycle part of this that I can't wrap my head around. It just doesn't compute."

"Let me give you a visual to help with that," Carlton said and tugged him out the door. Because, seriously, he wanted to get home sometime tonight.

There was an awkward moment when Spencer got on the bike behind him and couldn't decide where to put his arms. Carlton finally grabbed them by the wrists tugged them around his torso with a little more force than necessary. Their helmets bumped together, back to front.

"Just hold on," Carlton called out over his shoulder.

"Thanks for the advice, Lassie. I was just wondering how much fun it would be to just let go and fall backwards at forty miles an--."

Pointedly, Carlton started the engine.

"Did I mention?" Spencer yelled over the noise. "I'm almost out of gas."

Of course he was. Carlton couldn't even find it in him to be annoyed. He checked the gas gauge. It might still be enough to get them both home. "No risk, no fun?" he shouted back. He'd never ever in his life said that before, and he had always, deep down, secretly wanted to.

Spencer didn't answer, but Carlton could feel him laugh, his body shaking against Carlton's back.

The ride was quiet, apart from the low rumble of the engine. They weren't going fast; Carlton was cold enough as it was. His back was warm, though, with Spencer pressed up against him. Maybe it was Carlton's imagination, but it seemed like Spencer was tightening his grip around him. And it felt a lot like Spencer was resting his helmeted head on the back of Carlton's shoulder. Okay, so Spencer was pretty out of it, more tired than actually drunk, and probably close to falling asleep. He'd better not fall off the bike after all. Because that was one accident report Carlton really didn't want to have to write, much less pitch to Henry Spencer. There was just no way to spin, "Your son fell off his motorcycle while I was driving," in a way that made Carlton sound like the hero in the scenario. Actually, there was no way to spin it that didn't make him the bad guy.

Fortunately, Spencer didn't fall off the bike. He carefully slid off after they had come to a stop in front of his drycleaner's-shop-slash-apartment. Yes, Carlton knew all about that. He'd staked the place out for a week in his off-hours, after all, back when Spencer had first consulted with the police department. The apartment was still the same, and Spencer hadn't changed much, either. He was still the same pain in the ass he'd been three years ago, but by now he he'd proven himself to be a trustworthy pain in the ass. Not that Carlton would ever admit that to his face.

Spencer got rid of his helmet, reached over and turned off the engine, stealing the keys in the process.

"Hey," Carlton protested, voice muffled by his own helmet. He tugged it off.

"I need to let myself in." Spencer dangled the keychain by what Carlton guessed was his apartment key.

"Just give me the ignition key then."

Spencer took two steps backwards, head tilted, frowning in concentration. "I--" he said. "I don't want to go to sleep yet." He sounded like he was trying hard not to sound pleading. "You want coffee? Tea? Milk? I have cookies. I think. Maybe I ate them already. Or didn't buy them in the first place. I'm not sure. There could be some."

Carlton remembered the 'join me for coffee' code from his dating days. He didn't for one second consider the possibility that Spencer was using dating code on him. Spencer was-- Spencer. Spencer thought Carlton could be lured into hanging out with him with cookies. Well, he wasn't completely wrong. But most importantly, Spencer sounded tired and miserable, and this was what gave Carlton pause. When he didn't immediately decline the invitation, Spencer darted forward to tug him from the motorcycle by the arm.

"I guess I could use a cup of coffee," Carlton agreed when he was already being pushed down into Spencer's couch.

"With whipped cream and sprinkles." Spencer waved the bag of sprinkles at him, grinning, and then vanished into what Carlton assumed had to be the kitchen. This was just great. Spencer was a pick-pocket now, too. The good news just kept coming.

Spencer's place was strangely appropriate, Carlton thought, looking around without seeming too much like he was looking around, in case Spencer turned up again. Spencer was sneaky like that.

This place was about as normal as Spencer himself was. Not many people had an electrically powered clothes rack in their living room. And not many people would think to use it to ferry their shoes around the room, either, tied together by the laces. Or their stuffed-- was that a cockroach? Who the hell owned a stuffed cockroach? And what for?

There was another thing the apartment had in common with its tenant. It wasn't psychic. Not in the slightest. Not as far as Carlton could see, which, admittedly, was only as far as the living room went. No crystals, no Ouija boards, no mysterious ornaments on any of the flat and paintable surfaces, and absolutely no mirrors. Carlton was by no means an expert, but he was fairly certain that mirrors were involved somewhere if you were serious about pretending to be a psychic. And possibly wide billowy dresses combined with twinkly jewelry, but he could understand why Spencer had foregone those.

Spencer and his hideous tie-shirt combination appeared from the kitchen, carrying two mugs. "Here, hold these," Spencer said and handed him the two very hot coffee mugs. He flopped down gracelessly on the couch next to Carlton. It almost made him spill the coffee. Spencer squirmed beside him to find a comfortable position. It took a while.

"Are you done now?" Carlton muttered and handed Spencer his mug.

"Yup. Kick back, Lassie," Spencer said. He toed off his shoes and propped his feet up on the coffee table, leaning back with a sigh.

Carlton did no such thing. That would have been weird. Yes, so he was already sitting on Spencer's couch at five in the morning, drinking coffee with sprinkles that Spencer had made specifically for him, and they were kind of touching from thigh to shoulder because the couch heartily encouraged a slow slide towards its middle. But Carlton had his limits, and the buck stopped at shoes, today.

He sat back, hands closed around his mug, a soft cushion supporting his back in a way that made him want to sink further into it and fall asleep there and then. Preferably not with his head on Spencer's shoulder, though.

All in all, he was surprisingly okay hanging out with Spencer in his living room. Predictably, the feeling was short-lived.

It wasn't long until Spencer lowered his mug, wiped a smudge of whipped cream from the tip of his nose, licked it from his index finger and asked casually, "So, what's the deal with that divorce of yours?"

If Carlton weren't so completely wrung out, he would have picked up the gauntlet and given this the retort it deserved. Everything could have turned into a nice and satisfying shouting match, which would have given him an excellent excuse to leave.

Instead, he took the minimal-effort-guaranteed-silence approach. "How long has it been since you last slept?" he shot back.

It worked. Spencer averted his eyes and took a sip of his coffee, then another one, still not talking.

Carlton wasn't as happy with the ongoing silence as he'd expected. It was uncomfortable. He'd thought they'd had the worst of uncomfortable silences before. He'd been wrong.

Spencer wasn't happy with it, either. When was he ever, where silences were concerned? Another three slow sips of coffee and one deep frown later Spencer suggested, "How about we trade questions? I ask you a question which you then answer to the best of your knowledge, and then you ask me a question, which I cleverly weasel out of, and then I ask you another one which you--"

"Yes, yes, I get it," Carlton cut him off. "Truth or Truth, Spencer?"

Carlton felt Spencer shrug rather than seeing it happen. "Everybody loves a good party game, don't they? They should, if they don't. It should be mandatory."

Carlton did not like party games. At all. He did not like parties per se. There was no way he was going to participate. It was a pointless thing to spend his time with. It was-- It was five in the morning, and that was really all the excuse Carlton had for answering, "I get to go first."

"Uh," Spencer said. He turned his head and looked at Carlton in surprise. "Okay then. Fifty-one hours."

Carlton was more than a little surprised himself. So much, in fact, that he needed a moment to catch up. "Fifty-one hours what?"

"I've been awake for fifty-one hours and seventeen minutes. Did you meet Victoria yesterday?"

Carlton shot Spencer a look. So this was how it was going to be. Well, two could play the game. "Yes," he answered and observed Spencer closely as he asked the next question. "Did you really think you were going to die?"

Spencer exhaled, his grip on the mug tightening visibly. "Yes. Where did you two meet up?"

The answer came more or less on autopilot. "At her favorite restaurant." Once again, Carlton was left staring at Spencer's white knuckles. They were the only visible sign that Spencer was in some kind of inner distress. "Why do you do this to yourself?" Carlton couldn't help but ask. Spencer was a civilian, and he'd made it clear on more than one occasion that he didn't intend to make an honest cop out of himself. Spencer didn't need to do this.

The question gave Spencer pause. To his credit, he didn't pretend not to understand what Carlton was asking. "It's the only thing I'm really good at," he said finally, and huh, it seemed like they were really going for the actual truth here. No smoke and mirrors, no diversion tactics, no calculated craziness. That-- wasn't what Carlton had expected. And did it mean that he had to be honest, too?

"Were you there early?" Spencer asked, with a knowing gleam in his eye.

"Yes, but so was she," Carlton said, a little defensively. He was distracted quickly by the distinct smell of a now-or-never once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and asked, "How do you do what you do?"

Spencer didn't miss a beat. "It's a hard-earned gift. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but that's the way it is. I am a living and breathing oxymoron," he answered flippantly. He had obviously anticipated the question, and wasn't that the irony of ironies. "Why are you good at what you do?" he shot back.

That one was easy. "Talent and hard training." Carlton took a sip of his rapidly cooling coffee. "That's what gets you all the way to head detective. How did you 'earn' that so-called gift of yours?"

Spencer looked at him. "Talent and hard training," he said. They stared at each other for a moment, until Spencer turned away. "Psychic powers don't just drop on your head from the sky, you know. It's hard work, being a psychic. Have you seen Medium? I don't know how she manages that family thing on the side--"

"I watch The Mentalist," Carlton interrupted. "There's no such thing as psychics."

This, Carlton knew for sure. Even in this specific case. Especially in this specific case. He'd known for a while. He was a detective, so he had gone and detected things.

There was a folder marked 'P. Jane' locked in his desk drawer at the station. It contained all the files he had managed to gather on Shawn Spencer, starting from his earliest school records, which described him as a curious, open-minded and highly intelligent child. If Carlton prided himself on an I.Q. somewhere in the stratosphere, then Spencer's was in goddamn space. Little Shawn Spencer had also been a troublemaker, suffering from ADHD, which Carlton had no trouble believing, or imagining, at all. It was no surprise Spencer was so easily bored. This had resulted in a number of different paths of education Spencer never followed through with, and a string of jobs he never managed to hold for longer than three weeks.

Back when Carlton first got an inkling of what was up with the fake psychic, he had reviewed a number of cases, specifically the flying leaps and psychic hunches Spencer had provided. It became apparent soon enough that all Spencer needed to work his psychic magic were quick eyes, a photographic memory, lightning-fast thinking, a mean stubborn streak, and absolutely no capacity for embarrassment whatsoever. The first three could be trained, the latter two not so much. Still, Carlton was sure Henry Spencer was to blame for at least four out of the five.

What Shawn Spencer did was astounding in itself, but he wasn't, in any way, shape or form, psychic. Carlton couldn't even blame him for never coming forward with that piece of information. Not anymore. Somewhere along the line he'd run out of steam. After all, when Spencer had first tried, Carlton had been intent on arresting him for the crime he'd just helped solve. It was a pretty good incentive for Spencer to keep his mouth shut. Weirdly, it stung, a little, that Spencer was still lying to his face. But only when Carlton's mind wasn't preoccupied inventing one-hundred-and-one new ways to kill him, because Shawn was Just That Annoying.

And at this point, Carlton wasn't sure he even wanted to know. They worked, in a strangely dysfunctional way.

"My turn," Spencer said. "Did you know she was going to bring the papers for you to sign?"

"You're actually not all that drunk, are you?" Carlton asked, frowning. He was feeling a little woozy himself. The long night was finally getting to him.

"Told ya," Spencer said and grinned at him, all teeth. "Answer the question, Lassie."

"No," Carlton said darkly. "No, I did not."

"You thought she wanted to get back together, didn't you?"

Carlton gritted his teeth. "That's none of your business, Spencer."

"Well, whatever," Spencer said, waving a hand dismissively. "It was your turn to ask a question, anyway."

It was the flippant tone that fired up Carlton's anger. "What's so wrong about me wanting to work things out with her? We used to be good together, and I don't understand why that changed. Nothing's changed. We could have worked it out again. She just decided that she didn't-- It was a good thing we had. A great thing. I loved her, and I don't know why it had to end like this." Carlton knew he was babbling, and that was something he just didn't do. Babbling was for the childish and insecure.

Spencer nudged him with his shoulder. "You realize what you just said?"

"What?" Carlton snapped.

"'Loved' in past tense, Lassie? It seems there is hope for your broken heart yet." Spencer twirled his empty mug around on his index finger, spilling droplets of coffee everywhere. On Carlton's shirt and jacket, for example.

He wrestled the mug from Spencer's hand and put both mugs on the table. "And this is the part of the evening where I'm tempted to go and find myself a machete of my own," he said, glaring at Spencer, who got a completely uncharacteristic deer-in-the-headlights look that made Carlton almost regret the bad joke.

Especially since Spencer was right. It had been a Freudian slip of the tongue. A slip of the shocking-but-good kind. Three years was a long time. Maybe Carlton had been too preoccupied planning their reunion to realize that he'd changed, too, that it hadn't been just her. He still loved her, in a way, and he always would, but maybe there really wasn't a 'them' anymore. It was a strangely liberating thought.

He patted Spencer's knee reassuringly. "I'm only kidding. I don't usually kid. You should consider yourself lucky."

"Oh, I do," Spencer said, frowning down at his thigh, where Carlton's hand was now lying comfortably. Carlton snatched it back.

Spencer looked up. "If you want to do me some more favors out of guilt over your insensitivity – which I whole-heartedly encourage – you could tell me again how I astound you. That was great. You can do that again anytime."

Carlton put his hand down firmly on his own thigh. "I never said such a thing."

"You so di-id, Lassie," Spencer sing-songed. "Back when you were stinking drunk and had your 'altercation with a table'." He made the finger quotes in the air. "Ah, the good old days."

"I certainly did not say-- that. I would never say that."

"Yes, you did. It was back on that night when you gave me your handcuffs as a very special gift. I really appreciated that, did I ever say?"

"Wait, what? That was you? You stole my handcuffs?" Carlton had searched for the damn things for days before finally giving up and requesting a new pair. Gloria from supplies had treated him as if he'd asked for a new car and could she please make it a Ferrari?

"Uh-uh," Spencer said. "You gave them to me. You said you wanted me to have them. It was a very touching gesture. That reminds me. Can I have the key, too?"

"No."

"Aw, come on, Lassie. What good are handcuffs if you can't undo them after you're done with what you were doing with them?"

Carlton was certain he didn't want to know.

Spencer wriggled around on the couch, trying to get a little more face-to-face. It wasn't a very successful endeavor, because the soft couch fought it all the way. "Also, I'm a little disappointed," he announced. "I called you the c-word back then, and you don't even remember."

Carlton marveled once again at Spencer's ability to turn a conversation around in the space of a few sentences. It was an effective deflection technique, especially if the other person was unfamiliar with it and didn't know what hit them. "You called me what?"

"The c-word. Your name."

"Carlton?"

"Yes, that," Spencer said, nodding enthusiastically. "The c-word."

"What's so difficult about my name that you can't even say it?"

"It's just-- weird. You don't look like a Carlton. You're-- more like a Harry. Can I call you Harry?"

"No." Carlton let himself sink back into the couch. Enough. He'd officially had enough of this. He rested his head on a cushion, looking at the ceiling.

"Not even a little?"

Carlton didn't sigh, but it was close. "How could you possibly call me Harry a little?"

"That is a good question. Let's dwell on that for a while."

"Let's not. My name is Carlton. It's not that difficult to remember. Carl-ton. That's what you should call me. Not Tony, not Carly, or Carl, or C-man, or Harry or whatever else your juvenile mind can come up with."

"For the record, you just asked me to call you Carlton," Spencer pointed out, sounding pleased. "Just so we're clear on that. Make a note."

Carlton tipped his head sideways to look at him. "Spencer--" he said warningly.

"That's Shawn to you, now that we're officially on a first-name basis--" Spencer paused and seemed to brace himself, "--Carlton." He wrinkled his nose. "Are you absolutely sure I can't call you Harry?"

Spencer's face was unnervingly close. Carlton blinked and tried to focus on him. "Spencer--"

Spencer raised a finger. "Ah?"

Carlton sighed, for real this time. "Shawn," he said. "Shut up."

He was feeling a little-- strange. Spencer's breath was warm against-- everything all over. Sort of. His head rolled back into a comfortable position.

The next thing he knew, he was horizontal on the couch. And he was hot and sweaty. Someone had taken off his shoes and jacket and covered him with a blanket that provided far too much insulation. They had also removed the keys from his pocket, which Carlton discovered as he was about to sneak out. Both sets of keys were missing, Spencer's and his own. They were nowhere to be found in the living room, and neither was Spencer.

Carlton went to investigate and found the bedroom easily enough. Spencer was lying fully dressed across his double bed, on top of the covers, feigning sleep. He was looking a little too casually arranged and breathing a little too fast to have been lying there for long. Carlton suspected that a nose-dive onto the comforter had taken place just a few moments ago.

What had Spencer been doing? Watching Carlton sleep? The idea was more than a bit disturbing. On so many levels. None of which Carlton could think of right now, but he was positive those levels existed.

Something shiny caught his eye. A pair of handcuffs was dangling from the bed frame above Spencer's head, the free side unlocked.

Of course that was where they'd turn out to be.

"Spencer," Carlton said. "I know you're awake. I'm heading home. Where are the keys?"

Spencer did a bad job of faking sleepiness as he lifted himself up on his elbows. "Lassie. How have you been sleeping? Had some nice dreams?"

"Spencer." He held his hand out and snapped his fingers, right in Spencer's face. "The keys?"

"Right. Keys! Didn't you promise me a key for my handcuffs? You've got one, right?"

"Of course I do, but I'm not enough of an idiot to consider giving it--"

It was too much of a surprise for him to react adequately. Spencer's hand snatched out, and then there was a quiet snick when the formerly open side of the cuffs closed around Carlton's left wrist.

The cuffs rattled against the bed frame as he pulled at them once, harshly and unsuccessfully. He breathed in. He breathed out. Then he said slowly, "The key is in my apartment."

"Oops," Spencer said, not looking sorry at all.








Part Two

Or read it all in one go at the AO3.
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