Close Encounters

by Jane Davitt




Finding Spencer in the men's room was like biting into an apple and discovering half a worm. Disconcerting and it made Carlton's stomach lurch. He stepped forward and gave Spencer his best glower as the man zipped up and turned around, thankfully in that order. "For your information, Spencer, the use of these facilities is restricted to the men who actually work in the Santa Barbara Police Department, not wanna-be cop groupies with delusions of being useful."

Spencer held up his hand. "Before I throw myself on the mercy of the court, because, yes, I admit it, cops get me hot, well, handcuffs do, and cops and handcuffs go together like ham and pineapple, you startled me with your manly entrance and I may have splashed. Are you willing to risk the lawsuits if I walk out of here laden with pee-pee germs, or can I, as a tax-paying citizen of this fair city, wash my hands at the sink?"

Carlton shuddered. "Wash. Use soap," he said curtly. "Just don't even think about using a paper towel. You can air dry."

"You're really good at giving orders," Spencer said thoughtfully over the rush of water. "I think I like that about you."

"Just not enough to obey any." Carlton wanted to use the facilities but he wasn't giving Spencer ammunition for what was sure to be a series of ribald and offensive attacks. He didn't trust Spencer not to violate every section of the code and peek.

"You just never tell me to do anything fun," Spencer explained. "Or anything I want to do. Or anything involving both of us naked and moaning into each other's ears. Ear. Ears? Whatever."

Carlton choked on nothing but air and spit and felt the tips of his ears darken to rose. His worst nightmare these days involved finding out that Spencer really was psychic and knew about every single stray, salacious, wicked thought Carlton had ever entertained about him. There had been enough of them recently -- Spencer had slapped his ass twice this week so Carlton didn't entirely blame himself -- to make him feel like turning his mind in for gross indecency. "I beg your pardon?"

The only reason he didn't pull out his gun and shoot Spencer dead where he stood was that the stalls were empty and no one else had heard that outrageous, disgusting, oh, who was he kidding, intriguing suggestion.

"Oh, Lassie-bear, you heard me," Spencer said, shaking his hands to dry them, droplets flying.

"For your information, any naked moaning I do is with women. And if I was -- if I did, ever, with a -- which I haven't, never --" Carlton took a deep breath and cut to the chase, lying as best he could. "It wouldn't be with you."

"I'm not your type."

It wasn't phrased as a question, but Carlton answered anyway. "You most certainly are not."

Was that coming across as believable, even if he could remember every time Spencer had touched him, so open and brazen with his wandering, slapping, tweaking, massaging hands? Sometimes, he wondered how good his poker face was. He practiced it in front of a mirror twice a week, but Spencer…he saw through things.

"Then that means that you have a type," Spencer said and he sounded thoughtful again which was never good. "If you just weren't into men at all, you wouldn't be so fussy."

"I'm not fussy!" Carlton licked his lips - another mistake. Spencer's gaze went to them instantly and stayed there, a warm, tangible gaze, which wasn't possible, but hell, maybe Spencer wasn't psychic, but it didn't mean that he didn't have other skills. Like looking at someone and making their body flush with heat and a shamed, secret desire. "I mean…" He was floundering. Again. In the dark privacy of his bedroom, late at night, he replayed his encounters with Spencer and anyone else who disturbed him (so many people did) and they always reshaped themselves into smoothly voiced victories for him, Carlton Lassiter. He was eloquent, witty, urbane.

"It's okay," Spencer said and my God, Carlton realized with a dawning hope, Spencer sounded subdued, even hurt. "I get it. I never was top of anyone's list. You'd think I'd be used to it by now, but I keep on hoping…" He sighed, too mournful to be entirely plausible and Carlton had a second realization, namely that he was being played. His hurt was genuine and it prompted him to try playing a game of his own.

"You mean you're not joking?" he said, careful not to sound too eager. Spencer wasn't stupid. Loud, brash, completely free of any fear of embarrassing himself, yes, so that often Carlton felt embarrassed for him, but not stupid. Even, sometimes, surprisingly bright, though Carlton would have sooner voted Democrat than admit that.

A slight narrowing of Spencer's eyes showed that he wasn't going to be easy game. Good. Bring it on, you heartbreaking, hot as hell little faker. "About what, Lassie?"

"About being interested in me. That way."

"'That way'?" Spencer made the words mocking. "What way would that be, exactly, my wound-up, repressed little cop buddy with the bedroom eyes? If my bedroom had ever been painted blue with a hint of violet, which sadly, it has not."

"The, uh, naked and uh, moaning way," Carlton said, forcing the words out. If his eyes were blue, there was only one other portion of his anatomy that matched them and the rest was the scalding, steaming red of anticipated humiliation.

Faint heart never won fair lady. He guessed it worked for fake psychics, too.

"Actually, I was joking," Spencer said with a dismissive flip of a still-wet hand. "You me, joking around. It's what we do, right?"

"Right," Carlton agreed, a sick bitterness churning in his gut. "I was joking, too, by the way."

"Of course you were," Spencer said softly, rocking back and forth just enough to be distracting. "I'm laughing on the inside. Really."

Carlton cleared his throat. He needed this conversation to be over. He had reports to write, coffee to drink, wounds to lick. "Are we done here, Spencer?"

Spencer nodded his head, a bobble-head nodding that didn't know when to stop, and Carlton watched another opportunity flash by forever. He could've leaned in and kissed Spencer before everything got labeled 'joke' and filed away. Could have pressed his mouth against those lying, taunting, teasing lips and found out what temptation tasted like.

Probably like junk food and tropical fruit, but that was a theory and he was a cop; he wanted the facts.

Too late now. You couldn't reopen a joke like a cold case and add to it.

Carlton decided to get out and find another men's room to use. Preferably one in Mexico. Somewhere far, far away where sharp-eyed psychics didn't haunt his life, waking and sleeping.

Spencer had stepped behind him two days ago when he was working at his desk and rubbed his shoulders, his thumbs digging into the tight knots of tension cramping Carlton's neck. He'd been babbling about a vision with the spirits apparently insistent that Lassiter buy cupcakes for anyone whose name started with 'S', but Carlton had tuned out the crap and concentrated on the blissful release Spencer's fingers had delivered. So blissful in fact that by the time Spencer had finished his speech and his massage, Carlton had been half-hard, tingling.

Mixed messages. Spencer was good at those.

He'd just decided to end this stupid encounter and retreat with the few shreds of dignity he had left when Shawn stepped forward and used Carlton's tie to dry his hands on.

Shock held Carlton immobile for a moment, but outrage had him moving, his hands rising to grab Spencer's wrists, his full strength behind the shove that sent Spencer lurching back, his eyes wide, his mouth forming words Carlton couldn't hear through the seashell roar in his ears.

He walked a captive, protesting Spencer back to the nearest wall and slammed him against it, his blood beating out an approving applause.

"You think you can use me?" he hissed into Spencer's face, noting automatically how dilated Spencer's pupils were, how flushed his face. "Is that what I am to you? Something useful, something boring? A toy?"

"Toys aren't boring," Spencer shot back and of course he wasn't going to shut up, even with Carlton crushing his wrists painfully, his body pressed up close and tight against Carlton's because he had nowhere else to be. "Toys are fun, Lassie. You should swing by my place one night. We can compare cuffs. I've got a whole box of stuff we could play with."

"I bet you do," Carlton said, the words spoken so close to Spencer's mouth that the conversation was as intimate -- and invasive -- as a kiss. "You would."

"I would," Spencer said and it didn't sound like agreement to what Carlton had just said, but to something else. "If you want to, I would."

Carlton couldn't remember being this aroused, ever, and not being naked and somewhere private. Anyone could walk in. Anyone. They had to end this now, but it would be like pouring water out onto the desert sand or a freezing man walking away from a fire. He couldn't do it. He relaxed his grip on Spencer's wrists and saw disappointment flash across the expressive face so close to his. With a deliberation that cost him, because right then control was hard to find, his stroked his thumbs across the tender, fragile skin of Spencer's inner wrists and felt the pulse jitter and leap for him.

"Would what?" he asked, snarling out the words because Spencer had to like him angry or he wouldn't devote so much time to putting Carlton in that state of mind, now would he?

"Anything," Shawn said and it was the first time that Carlton had seen what honesty sounded like from Spencer's lips. "You're hard, Lassie. I can feel it. You're a hard, horny Lassiter and you've got me right where you want me. So do it. Do anything. Push me down to my knees, bend me over a --"

The words hit Carlton like stinging slaps, snapping him out of the fog of lust and exhilarated fury.

"God, not here. Are you crazy?" He let go of Spencer's wrists and stepped back, horrified at himself for losing so much of himself, so quickly. Spencer scared him as much as he aroused him because he could do so much to Carlton with just a crooned word or a smile. "We can't --"

The door creaked, began to open, and Spencer sidestepped neatly, his lips pinched shut. Whoever was coming in was talking to someone in the corridor; their voice rose and fell and the door remained partially ajar, giving them a last few seconds of privacy. It wasn't going to be enough for Carlton's erection to subside. He'd need to go into a stall, hide out in there.

"Apparently not," Spencer said coolly, "but you decided that before the door opened, didn't you?"

"Please," Carlton said, helplessly. "I want to. Just not here, okay?"

Spencer glanced at the door and  back at Carlton, then tapped his lips, his message clear.

Kiss me. Or else.

With a sense of crossing a bridge as it burned, exploded, fell into the chasm below, Carlton leaned in and kissed Spencer with an open door behind them, a fellow officer a few yards away, and a lot of tongue.

Spencer tasted of Funyons, salt, and root beer. And possibilities.

Carlton drew back as the door was pushed wide open and met McNabb's curious look with a stony glare.

Stall. Now.

Spencer smacked his ass just before he pushed the stall door closed.

It didn't help his immediate problem at all, but Carlton found himself smiling.

***

Carlton had been sitting on the bench outside the Psych office, looking out at the ocean, for twenty minutes before Spencer flopped down beside him, all loose-limbed and casual. It didn't take a detective to figure out that the casual act was just that. One swift, sideways glance showed him that Spencer's fingers were flexing, tapping, never still, and a place on his lower lip had been chewed raw since Carlton had kissed it that morning.

Unless...No, he would've remembered biting into that lip.

"Took you long enough to pick up the psychic vibration that I was out here," he said without turning his head again. "Ever consider looking out of the window from time to time?"

"The spirits are angry with me," Spencer said, his voice lacking the sparkle Carlton was used to hearing. "They blocked your presence for hmm, I'm sensing...nineteen minutes? No, twenty."

"Now how could anyone possibly be angry with you?" Carlton asked, his voice so heavy with sarcasm that he could almost see his words plummeting to the ground, one by one.

"I got out of bed on the wrong side this morning," Spencer said promptly. "They take that very seriously. Or do I mean I got out of the wrong bed on the right side?"

"If you're sleeping with someone else --" Carlton began, not at all surprised that the thought of it bothered him, but troubled by how much he wanted it not to be the case.

"The love of a man for his binkie is a sacred thing, Lassie-the-Pooh -- no, you're more of an Eeyore type. Don't worry. I'm pure as the driven snow, unless the driving was done by a snowmobile. I've heard they're a threat to the woodland creatures and make Piglet hide under the covers."

Carlton ignored ninety percent of what Spencer was saying eighty percent of the time -- it was that or commit acts of wanton violence on a civilian -- but he'd heard enough to realize that Spencer was being reassuring in his own way. No rival for Spencer's affections, then.

Until the next pretty woman walked by.

The problem Carlton had in dealing with Spencer as a potential...something, was that his utter confidence in his abilities to be a good detective were in inverse proportion to his belief in his own powers to attract. Because he didn't. If he was a fridge, magnets would slide off him. Nobody wanted his enthusiasms, his passion, his quirks. No one wanted him enough to overlook them, either.

He was pinning his hopes on the fact that Spencer was different than everyone he knew, so maybe, just maybe, Spencer would be different when it came to wanting him, too.

Long shot. Very. There was also Spencer's attention span deficit to consider. Carlton was well aware of the risks he was taking getting involved with Spencer -- today had made sure of that, presenting them in 3-D and Technicolor. He was just at the point where the warning voices in his ear were still shrieking, but they were being drowned out by Spencer's voice. Even when he wasn't there.

It'd be a hell of a thing if he gave in, turning his back on all that was right and proper in the world -- because detectives didn't screw around in public restrooms, they just didn't -- and then discovered that Spencer had wanted a one-night stand and some juicy blackmail material.

Not that he'd call it that, of course. No, he'd just get his own way, from here to Carlton's retirement, by dropping little hints and innuendos whenever Carlton said 'No way, Spencer'.

The idea of being used, dumped, and then manipulated made Carlton itch as if he were wearing one of the woolly sweaters his aunt used to knit for him and his mother made him wear.

"I bet your feet are as chilly as a grape Popiscle right now," Spencer said with a flat certainty. "I knew I shouldn't have given you time to think. Or jerk off."

"What? How did you -- I didn't." He was blushing furiously now. He had. Coming hard into a wad of thin toilet paper, his eyes closed, no hand free to gag himself with, so he'd gritted his teeth and then, inspired, flushed the toilet with a flailing foot to help cover the single moan that he'd known he couldn't hold back. It'd been the quickest, most comprehensive climax of his life and he'd staggered out of the stall when the coast was clear and washed his hands until they were red from the gallons of scalding water that'd coursed over them.

"You're scared I'll mess up your nice, tidy life," Shawn continued, still with that total lack of fizz to him. "Oh, Lassie. You coulda been a contender."

"I -- what?" Carlton shook his head. "No. I'm not going to let you sidetrack me." He'd turned without being aware that he'd moved, turned to face Spencer like a flower seeking the sun. Moths and flames were also on his mind.

Spencer raised his eyebrows. "We're on a track now? A fast track to nowhere? A highway to hell?"

"You irritate me," Carlton told him. "Most of the time, in fact."

Spencer held up a finger. "To be fair to me, most of the time I'm doing it on purpose. You're unbelievably cute with your ears wiggling and steam whooshing out of those perfectly sculpted nostrils."

"Is that so." Carlton reached out impulsively, daring himself to do it, and stroked his finger across Spencer's lip, feeling the roughness of the skin and following its changing curve when Spencer smiled. He wouldn't have done that yesterday, but things had changed.

He'd kissed Shawn Spencer. God, he'd actually kissed him. The magnitude of that hadn't sunk in fully, but it'd descended enough for him to feel that he had a right to touch that mouth with any part of him he wanted. Okay, maybe not any part…but he flashed on an image of Spencer lying curled up on the floor beside Carlton's couch, a naked, collared, obedient, faithful man's best friend. He could just reach out with his bare foot and push gently at him, move him with a nudge here and there, then place his foot oh so very carefully across Spencer's mouth and feel that hot, clever tongue lick and lap…

"Lassie, are you thinking naughty thoughts? Because you're staring at me without blinking and I need a towel to mop up the drool."

Carlton jerked out of his fantasy just as it changed to him straddling Spencer's chest and rubbing the head of his cock over a mouth he'd licked wet a moment earlier. It took him a second or two to switch gears and when he stared into Spencer's quizzical eyes he felt so guilty for what he'd been thinking that he apologized. He'd sometimes wanted to do that before -- not often but sometimes -- but it'd felt like capitulation, craven and complete.

"God, I am so sorry, Spencer. Really."

"What for?"

Carlton rubbed his hand over his mouth. He didn't lie often and Spencer was being surprisingly honest today so it didn't seem like a good time to change his habits. Well, not that one. "Because I was thinking about you like that," he admitted.

Spencer whistled and pumped his fist in the air, some of his ebullience returning. That made Carlton feel better about what was becoming a terminal case of the blushes. "Knew it. I nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-knew it. Lassie, you bad, bad boy. Tell Uncle Shawn all about those wicked thoughts and we can schedule a spanking. My ass or yours?"

"Keep your voice down!" Carlton cast a hunted glance around. People walking dogs, jogging, eating ice cream…the place was awash with potential lip-readers or people who knew him. Before he could realize how stupid it sounded, he added, "And I'm not even sure they were my fantasies."

"Maybe they're mine if they're that steamy," Spencer said brightly. "Thought transference. Way cool." He put his fingers to his temple in a move Carlton had watched him perfect over the months. "What number -- no, what color am I thinking about?"

"Red," said Carlton without hesitation. With him doing tomato impressions, what else could it be?

"Ooh," Spencer said. "Now I'm really sure we're on the same wavelength. Are you a paddle or a hand man?"

"I don't know what you mean and I don't want to," Carlton said with as much decision as he was capable of, deciding that lying was the lesser of many evils. He was not getting into kinky games in bed or out of it, no matter how tempting they suddenly were. He'd never once suggested anything along those lines to Victoria, never even thought about it. That proved...okay, that just proved what he already knew, namely that he was different around Spencer.

It was a measure of how bored he was with his life and himself that different didn't necessarily get a 'do not want' label slapped on it these days. Was this what a mid-life crisis felt like? Didn't you have to be old to have one of those?

He strove for composure. "I just want to know what's happening here between us. Straight answers to some simple questions; is that too much to ask?"

Spencer stared out at the water where a setting sun was making gray waves flush scarlet, his momentary liveliness fading. "Ask away."

"Are you serious about this or is it some kind of joke with me as the punch line?" Carlton demanded.

"Define 'this'," Spencer said.

"You know what I'm talking about!" Carlton said. "The flirting. The kissing. The clear implication that you want -- God knows why -- to have sex with me."

Saying it aloud was a mistake. It sounded really unlikely. Inconceivable, even.

"Oh, that," Spencer said with a shrug. "Sure. Totally, one hundred and ten percent serious, Lassie. By which I mean I'm not joking about having sex with you, but I reserve the right to giggle before, during, and after."

"After? You'd laugh about me in bed in front of other people?" Carlton said hoarsely. Not even Victoria had done that.

Carlton had seen Spencer disconcerted before, but so rarely that it ranked with solar eclipses. He saw it then, and he swallowed back a second apology.

"Dude, I wouldn't do that to you. To anyone. True, I once told a girlfriend that she barked like a seal at the crucial moment and should I bring her tuna not chocolates, but that was totally between us."

Carlton stared at him, his mouth ajar at the very idea that Spencer could have been that cruel, that crude, until Spencer waved his hand. "Okay, I didn't actually say it aloud, but I thought it. And I broke up with her five minutes later because I hated myself for thinking it, which sucked, becasue I really liked her."

"I'm not sure you're helping me make up my mind about asking you to come back to my place or walking away while I still have some self-respect."

"You could do that?" Spencer asked, his eyes wide. "Walk away from me after kissing me once? Not reach out for another handful of salty goodness? Wow. So that's what an iron will looks like. I had a whole different picture in my head."

There was a pause that Carlton measured in breaths, three of his, five of Spencer's, then he shook his head. "No, I can't walk away. I'm here, aren't I? I just -- I know how fickle you are and I don't want to be another notch on your belt."

"'Fickle'? Me?" Shawn pursed his lips. "Not when it counts."

"Yes, you are," Carlton argued. "You flirt with every woman who crosses your path, you don't stop even when you're already walking away --"

"Gus," Shawn said with the air of a man providing the clinching argument.

Carlton gaped at him. "You and Guster have sex?"

If Spencer said 'yes' and even looked like he was about to go into detail, Carlton planned to run. Fast. With his hands over his ears.

Spencer choked. "What? No! Good gravy, no. Gus is...he's Gus. I just mean that we've been friends for ever. No fickleness in sight. We'll probably die on the same day and fight over who gets to walk through the Pearly Gates first."

"I'll give you Guster," Carlton said, "while not admitting that he's relevant to our situation or that you'd make it into heaven."

"Too much talking," Spencer said decisively. "Unless you want to share those fantasies -- no? -- I'm going to table a motion to find a table and put it in motion. Unless we find a really sturdy one that can handle two grown men using it for a bed."

"Or we could find a bed?" Carlton suggested with a daring that left him breathless. He was doing this. Flying blind, without a single assurance from Spencer, other than the one about not mocking Carlton in public on this one subject, at least, he was really doing this. God.

Shawn sucked in a disapproving breath. "Do you see a bed nearby, Lassie? And, no, the sea bed doesn't count. Whereas my office is just here and it's got lots of tables."

"It's not that far to my place," Carlton began, secretly appalled at the idea of doing anything in a place that open, that public, with doors that far too many people had keys for.

Spencer stared at him incredulously. "Lassie, it's way too far. Have mercy, dude. I've been hard since you appeared and sat down here looking all stern and determined with just a hint of vulnerability. I think that's your shoulders. They do this drooping thing when you're worried. Didn't you notice I'm wearing one of my dad's shirts because it gives me a crucial three inches more coverage?"

"No," Carlton said. "I wasn't looking at what you were wearing."

Spencer's hand flashed out and Carlton found himself deprived of sight. "Not true, Head Detective Lassiter. What am I wearing? Guess it right and I'll let you take it off me."

Carlton could feel the press of every finger and the humid heat of Spencer's palm. He opened his eyes and closed them again when Spencer said, "That's cheating and it tickles. Your eyelashes are like a foot long."

"They are not!"

"They flutter like my heart when you slam me against a wall," Spencer said in a languishing voice. "Now tell me what I'm wearing."

Carlton sighed and gave in. "Jeans, blue, ripped at the knee, a triangular tear, shirt's a white background with a pattern of --"

"I won't make you describe the pattern," Spencer said. "The shirt, you can rip off me. In fact, please do, and if you can manage to somehow set fire to it as well, I'll refrain from sitting on your desk and disturbing the alignment of your spare pencil sharpener for the next week."

"Red parrots, pineapples, and -- I'm truly puzzled here -- kittens wearing sombreros?" Calton said, refusing to cheat.

"That'll do, Lassie-pig, that'll do." Spencer took his hand away, leaving Carlton blinking, then glanced at his office and back before raising his eyebrows.

Carlton was willing to concede the choice of venue for whatever came next, even willing to push aside his misgivings about th duration of this insanity (he should want to be sane but he didn't, oh God, he didn't) but he wasn't going to let Spencer dictate every single term of his surrender.

Without a single glance around at who might be watching, he tapped his lips and waited.

Spencer's kiss was hard, fast, and hungry, the kiss of a desperate man who was holding it together but barely.

Carlton staggered to his feet a moment later with only one thought in his head: the bench had been put in entirely the wrong place.

It took him ten endless seconds to cover the distance between it and the office door.

***

Carlton had been in Spencer's so-called workplace before. Not often, because the disorder there disturbed him. It was the physical expression of Spencer's mind; childish, off-beat, incomprehensible.

It was also, most definitely, Spencer's territory, and Carlton preferred to engage with Spencer on his own turf; the police department, a crime scene, the morgue. Places where his authority was complete and unquestioned. Except by Spencer.

Tonight, with dusk doing the job of a mop and duster, and no lights turned on, the place didn't look too bad. Carlton admitted to himself that he preferred it with no lights for more reasons than that, but didn't let himself think too far ahead. He was in a state where thinking wasn't a good idea. If he gave mature consideration to the madness he'd tacitly agreed to -- sex with Spencer in this distressingly open, accessible space -- he'd find an excuse to leave. When it came to hunting down criminals, Carlton knew, without vanity, that he was a brave man. Courage was part of his duty. When it came to sex with anyone, let alone Spencer, he'd learned to be insecure about his ability to please, trained to that state by countless flicks of the whip. Scornful glances, rolled eyes, heaved sighs, one date even getting out her vibrator, a frankly terrifying piece of competition, before Carlton had finished putting his socks back on (he'd been told six months before that leaving them on during sex was completely unacceptable. When he'd obediently taken them off, she'd stared at his feet and told him to put them back on. Women were a constant mystery.)

Carlton didn't trust Spencer not to raise the bar on mocking his genuine efforts to be a considerate lover. Spencer loved mocking him -- his clothes, his hair, hell, even his name. Expecting his penis to be exempt would be foolishly optimistic and even if the two kisses they'd shared hadn't been disasters, they'd been less of a joint effort and more of a walk down a one-way street.

"Mi casa and all that," Spencer said with an airy wave of his hand.

Carlton cleared his throat. He'd made a huge concession and taken off his suit jacket when he walked in, putting it carefully over the back of a chair, and he felt exposed without it. "I don't -- is this really what you want to do right now?" His head hurt, panic and lust like spiked balls bouncing around inside his skull. "We could, uh, go on a date first? I could buy you some, umm, some food?"

As soon as the words hit the air, he looked around for a wall to bang his head against. Incompetence. He hated incompetence whether it be a confusing report, a poor grouping of shots on a target, or the lamest attempt to procrastinate ever.

"Not hungry," Spencer said and then, predictably, leered. "Not for food, anyway."

There was something just a little off about that line -- and all of Spencer's words gave the impression of being carefully scripted, dreamed up inside his devious brain before being shared, not the off-the cuff drivel they initially appeared. Carlton studied Spencer and decided that incredible though the idea sounded, Spencer was nervous. Eager, definitely, but twitching and bouncing, jittery even, too.

That was reassuring. Company in his meltdown.

"And you, know, Lassie, it's not like this is our first date, before you go thinking that I'm easy."

Carlton was trying to listen to what Spencer --no, Shawn, goddamn it, he'd earned the right to call Spencer that -- was saying, but as he spoke, Shawn was unbuttoning that gaudy nightmare of a shirt, exposing skin instead of his usual T-shirt. Distracting. Very.

"Huh?" Belatedly, Carlton's brain connected 'easy' to 'adjective that will get your face slapped' and he added hurriedly, "I don't think you're easy, Spencer. Just...accessible to many."

Spencer frowned. "I'm going to come back to that one when I decided if it's a surprisingly subtle compliment or pistols at dawn time. Let me refresh your memory. We met. You handcuffed me and threw me against your car. Lather, rinse, repeat, many, many times. We're practically married."

Carlton couldn't help wincing and Spencer gave him an unapologetic smile. "We are," he insisted. "And dating's been fun, Lassie-pie, but I think I'm ready to go past first base."

"If we've been dating, you've two-timed me a lot," Carlton said wryly. He wasn't sure that he completely accepted Spencer's logic -- if cuffing someone and slamming them around constituted courtship then he was a slut by anyone's standards because he did that on a weekly basis. Not that he didn't see where Spencer was coming from. In the early days of their acquaintance, the heated, hectic moments of holding a squirming Spencer close to him, trying to subdue him, had provided fuel for a lot of pleasurable encounters between his hand and his dick. He'd never been sure if Spencer had provoked their not infrequent physical clashes deliberately, but there wasn't much room for doubt now. He had. "Is that behavior going to continue?"

Spencer shrugged. "Not if you keep me occupied. Make playing with me your favorite hobby. A bored Shawn is a naughty Shawn. I had to write that out one hundred times once. On the back of a stamp. Really small writing. Tiny."

"Not acceptable," Carlton told him, automatically filtering out the nonsense, then finding a line and mentally building a wall on it, too high for Spencer to jump. Might as well spell out the facts of his life before Spencer started working on his zipper. Save them both from starting something doomed to fail. "I'm a busy man with very little spare time and I want you to be aware of that -- " He took a deep breath and lost his calm along with his ability to keep his voice at a normal volume. "And if I catch you even flirting with someone else --"

"I need you to finish that thought," Spencer said when Carlton trailed off, miserably aware that he was doing it again, grabbing and holding on too tightly, too soon. He wasn't possessive, he was just -- well, okay, maybe he was a little possessive. When you'd never had much, you clung to the little you did have. "Tell me the consequences. Are we talking a sliding scale? So if I smile at someone else, you hmm, you pout for ten minutes, but if I kiss them, you deal with me very severely later, and if I actually make a date with them, you gatecrash and take me hard against the nearest wall until I --"

Carlton shook his head, trying to dislodge the images of what Spencer seemed to think -- except he had to be joking -- was an acceptable reaction to infidelity for a disillusioned detective with an appalling track record in matters of the heart. "Are you trying to make me angry?"

"I know I like you when you're angry, my little Hulk," Spencer said, "but this time I really want to know. Give me your limits, Lassiter. Tell me what I can get away with and what will make you walk away. Then go into detail about what I can do to get you looming over me, snarling out something about you, me, and a strip search."

Carlton swallowed, his mouth dry. "If you want out, just tell me," he said hoarsely, the words rasping his throat because they weren't what he wanted to say, but anything else would be so…uncivilized. Not that Spencer was a prime example of evolution.

Spencer did the fingers to temple trick, his faint smile profoundly skeptical as he closed his eyes. "The spirits tell me that Master Carlton -- no, that's not at all funny. You really have to be called 'Bates' for that to work -- isn't being entirely honest and they're looking sad." He opened his eyes. "'Fess up, Detective. You'd like to keep me collared and leashed, with you holding the leash. You want to control me. Keep me safe. Keep me close."

The image was too close to Carlton's earlier fantasy of Shawn curled at his feet, for him not to react, his dick throbbing, hardening. "If you're trying to warn me that you can't stop playing around, this ends now. I don't share."

"I hear that," Spencer said and for once he sounded serious, though that state of being endured for less than a second. "I never thought you would, though, so you wasted your breath telling me that when you could have been using it to compliment me on something. I don't require flowers, but lavish praise? Like oxygen. Or pizza. I need it. Never think you can tell me I'm wonderful too many times. Can't happen."

"Compliments, huh? Such as?" Carlton had long ago realized that when it came to Spencer, his weakness was the fact that sometimes Spencer amused him. Not when he was goofing off at crime scenes, but when he was squabbling with Guster, or just hanging around the station running his mouth. To date, Carlton had always been able to keep a straight face, but it'd been a close call now and then.

"Well, I could give you a list of my favorites, but that would lack a certain spontaneity. Just let yourself go, Lassie. You don't usually have a problem telling me what you think of me." Spencer shut up, his eyes sparkling, expectant.

Carlton smiled, taken from self-doubt and jealousy at the thought of Spencer crooning nonsense at some flattered, gullible female, to good humor. He could've dealt out a verbal slap, but he didn't need to, did he? He'd done a good job of concealing his feelings when Spencer's hands were wandering over his face and hair, but now…everything had changed.

He put his hands on Shawn's shoulders, pulling him in closer with no effort at all, though Shawn's hands remained by his side. Carlton could feel the warmth of Shawn's skin, his bared chest visible through his open shirt. He wanted to touch it, taste it, but he held back. "You're the only person who could get me to kiss them where you did."

"On the mouth?" Shawn shook his head, willfully misunderstanding. "You need to get out more, Lassie."

"The only person who makes me -- sometimes -- want to misbehave," Carlton continued, sliding his hands until they were curved loosely around Shawn's neck. He wasn't exerting any pressure, barely grazing the skin, but Shawn shivered pleasurably without moving away, even as he tossed back a reply.

"Misbehaving? I'd be happy to help you with that."

Carlton leaned over and Shawn's head tilted back automatically, the small gesture making Carlton feel like purring with satisfaction.

"I want to do so much to you," Carlton said and heard the bewilderment in his voice, even if he suspected that Shawn was too focused on his own arousal to notice. His desires were shocking him, literal shivers thrilling through him whenever he dreamed up something involving Shawn naked and God, so very willing. He moved his hands again, cradling Shawn's face in them, his thumbs brushing across the sharp cheekbones. "So much I never even thought about before. I want to -- I need -- Shawn --"

Part of him knew that for all his attempts to slow this down, they'd both stepped out of a plane and there was only one possible direction for them to take. Might as well enjoy the plummet.

He didn't kiss Shawn's mouth yet. He didn't want to take away Shawn's ability to talk. He could -- maybe -- picture himself calling Shawn's bluff and handcuffing him, or returning the favor and blindfolding those sharp, seeking eyes, giving Shawn nothing but darkness to interrogate, but gag him? No.

Instead, he kissed Shawn's throat, his forehead, the imperious beak of his nose, scattered, light kisses that were addictive, intoxicating until by the time he returned to Shawn's throat, where a pulse beat wildly, he couldn't hold back. He licked skin wet and bit into it, sucked heat, scarlet, red, wet heat into Shawn's warm, tanned skin and felt Shawn's hands touch his back, clinging to him.

They stumbled, locked together, to the nearest wall and Carlton turned them so that his back was to it as they slid to the floor. He had a lapful of Shawn a moment later, with Shawn straddling his legs, his arms around Carlton's neck, his mouth hungry. For the first time, Carlton kissed Shawn and got kissed back. It wasn't anything like he'd expected. Shawn was feverishly eager, but clumsy, his mouth slipping over Carlton's, so that half of the time, Carlton's cheek or chin got more attention than his lips. Spencer was moaning deep in his throat, grinding down against Carlton's erection with his ass. It hurt, but Carlton didn't want him to stop, exactly, just slow down. A memory fought its way up through the fog of ardour -- a Golden Lab puppy licking Carlton's face dripping wet when he was twelve, just as uninhibited. It'd humped Carlton's leg and sniffed his ass a few years later, destroying his composure as he tried to talk to its owner, a pretty teenage girl a grade above him.

Eventually, frustrated and mildly confused, he pushed Shawn back, one hand against his chest, and pointedly wiped his face with the back of his hand. Shawn frowned, a puzzled twist distorting his shiny, spit-slicked mouth.

"What?"

Carlton imagined the way the conversation would go if he offered even a mild critique of Shawn's technique -- not well -- and contented himself with a tentative smile. "Just wanted to check everything was okay."

The frown became a scowl. "Lassie, I'm sitting on something hard and pointy, so clearly you're just fine and if I wasn't, I'd have told you."

"About the sitting part…" Carlton cleared his throat. "You're on the heavy side."

Shawn knelt up, prompting Carlton to sigh with unadulterated relief as the pressure on his dick and balls was lifted. It was a measure of how turned on he was that he was still hard despite the pain. He didn't entertain the thought that pain, when it was dealt out by Shawn, was something he'd gotten used to transmuting into arousal.

"Better?" Shawn inquired, a chill in his voice, settling down across Carlton's thighs.

Carlton leaned his head back against the wall and stared up at the ceiling. Fuck. He'd done it again. Did anyone else have the ability to piss off a date so quickly or was it his own special gift? "I'm sorry."

"And you're allowed to tell me if something's going…" Shawn waved his hand, his fingers wiggling. "You know. Droopy. Suffering in silence isn't sexy. You are. It isn't."

"Is that supposed to be me?" Carlton said indignantly as Shawn's fingers drooped and twitched sadly. He was glad that Shawn's annoyance wasn't for the usual reason, flattered by the implication that he was hot, but even so…"For your information, Spencer --"

"I liked 'Shawn' better, FYI. It's got that novelty factor."

"For your information, Shawn, my… that part is still in perfect working order, it was just -- it needed adjusting."

"Frabjous," Shawn said. He touched his fingers to his wet mouth, then Carlton's and sighed, smiling ruefully. "Hmm. I got carried away, huh?"

"A little," Carlton agreed cautiously. He wanted to glance down and see if Shawn was hard, too, but he couldn't take his gaze away from Shawn's flushed face and the bruise rising on his neck. He'd never left marks on someone before and it made him want to kiss Shawn somewhere that wouldn't show and leave another, one just the two of them would know about. He thought about putting one somewhere that Shawn wouldn't be able to see without twisting around and angling a mirror, a hickey on the underside of Shawn's ass, maybe, and found that he'd turned himself on so much that his breath was coming in rapid, shallow gasps.

"But you don't seem to mind me making hay while the sun shines," Shawn continued. "Not really."

Carlton tried to listen, but his attention was focused elsewhere. Specifically, on one of the nipples he could see because Shawn's open shirt had gotten pushed back and his chest and stomach were exposed now…

"Hey!"

Carlton raised his head, met Shawn's startled eyes and said calmly, "If you don't want me to do this, tell me to stop."

Shawn bit his lip and touched the nipple that Carlton had kissed briefly. "Not too hard," he said and took off his shirt. "They're kind of ticklish."

"Really?" Carlton said with a rising emphasis. "Good to know."

"Now, wait, if I tell you, then you can't use it against me, that's not fair --" Shawn said, only shutting up when Carlton snickered and gave Shawn's left nipple the lightest brush, not with his mouth but his fingers. "And besides, I was totally lying about being ticklish there. I have three tickle spots. They're all in hard to reach areas when it comes to the general public, but I'm hoping that you find at least two before this date is over."

That seemed, unfortunately, to be true. Shawn didn't flinch at all. Carlton abandoned the attempt to tickle and went back to kissing, with tongue and just a little hint of teeth, until Shawn's nipple tasted hot and stiff against his lips and Shawn was making approving murmurs, his hand threading through Carlton's hair.

When it felt as if Shawn's headlong rush had been slowed to something less likely to leave Carlton unmanned and covered in slobber, Carlton went back to kissing his mouth, forcing Shawn to follow his lead this time, patiently instructing him, wordlessly, until Shawn -- so quick -- got the hang of kissing a man.

Which begged the question of why Shawn didn't already know.

Carlton had kissed women -- some -- and men -- Shawn made two. He would've had trouble articulating the difference, but it existed. Maybe it was in the details; stubble against stubble, two people both assuming they had to lead, who knew. Whatever the difference was, it seemed to be a novel concept for Shawn.

Slowed down, schooled, Shawn was perfect, but Carlton couldn't shake the feeling that Shawn's seduction of him was based on a bluff.

With an inward sigh, he stopped them again.

"I need to know something."

"The answer to life, the universe, and everything? Forty-two," Shawn said promptly.

Carlton gave him a half-hearted smirk. Funny. "I've seen you with women, but never with men."

"Gus is sticking pins in a voodoo doll of you right now."

"You know what I mean. Well?"

Shawn stared at him for a moment, then reached out and undid the buttons on Carlton's shirt cuffs. "You want to know how many men I've slept with."

"I think I need to." Shawn was rolling Carlton's sleeves up with a neat precision that managed to be erotic. Carlton suspected he was at the stage where anything that Shawn did was maddeningly arousing. It had been a long dry spell -- he'd stopped counting in months, it was that long -- but that wasn't the reason.

"Is this where we have that awkward conversation about if Shawn's been a good boy and not gone out in the rain without his rubber boots on? Because I have. Been good, I mean."

Carlton worked that out and found that, as usual, Shawn was a few steps ahead of him and had answered the question he'd been asked and the one that would have followed. "Well, okay, then." His ass was close to numb, but the office didn't seem to have anywhere better than the floor. Shawn might've talked blithely about screwing around on his desk, but it was a cluttered mess. Guster's wasn't, but Carlton wouldn't have crossed that line. A man's desk was not to be trifled with, any more than his gun.

"Do I get to grill you now?" Shawn asked. "How many notches on your bad boy belt? Is sixty-nine your lucky number? Are you a cop who tops and doesn't stop or do you like to take your turn with your knees close to your ears and your --"

"Spencer!" Carlton swallowed back his outrage. They were -- some of them -- questions that Shawn had a right to ask. "Okay, you're only the second -- there was a man in college --" He stopped and began again. "I won't tell you his name. He's married now, I think. We didn't keep in touch." He'd wanted to, but Steve had made it clear at graduation that it wasn't an option. Carlton had looked him up when he'd become a cop, a shameful piece of research that'd left him sweating with fear that he'd be hauled up and questioned before being fired.

Shawn wasn't looking sympathetic exactly, but he began work on Carlton's shirt buttons in a respectful silence. Carlton hadn't worn a tie for this meeting, a symbolic omission he was beginning to regret. Shawn would've taken it off him so…inventively.

"And as for the rest…" Carlton told himself not to blush. Not that he had enough spare blood for it. "I remember being very fond of that number in the past and knowing you, I'll end up in whatever position you want me. I'm fine with that. I might have only been with one man, but we, uh, covered all the bases."

"You shock and amaze me," Shawn said and deftly yanked Carlton's shirt free of the waistband of his pants. "I pictured you being the epitome of a model student, burning the midnight oil to get straight As."

"I did that, too," Carlton admitted. "I only met, uh…"

"Let's call him Lucifer, corrupter of innocents. Lucy for short? No?"

"I only met him my final year and he didn't corrupt me. He just…broadened my horizons. Temporarily."

"And now here I am doing it again," Shawn said. "What comes around, goes around."

"Why?" Carlton said, helpless not to ask, even if it opened the door for so many insults. "Why me? You've made it plain just how dull you think I am, you go out of your way to insult and bedevil me -- Why do you want to fuck with me this way, too?"

Shawn stood without warning, leaving Carlton feeling bereft. "Ooh. Head rush." He held out his hand and Carlton took it, allowing himself to be hauled up. "The thing is, Lassie," Shawn said, leading them over to his desk, "you're one of three men in my life who call me on my bullshit and try to make me behave."

Easy enough to guess who the other two were.

Shawn studied the surface of his desk with pursed lips. He set his laptop aside, then cleared the desk by simply tilting it until everything slid off it and crashed to the floor. "Housekeeping for the week: check," he murmured. "Where was I? Oh, yeah. So my dad's, well, he's Poppa bear and he's too rough on me and Gus is Mommy bear and he's not tough enough, but you…you're just right, Lassie-bear."

And you can't sleep with either of them, for pretty much the same reason, and you need to get close to someone you can't intimidate because even you must get sick of running the show sometimes…

Carlton nodded to himself. Limits. It all came down to them. Okay. He could give Shawn that small mercy and set him some. It wasn't a question now of worrying that he wasn't going to come up to Shawn's standards -- the kissing had told him that he didn't have a lot of competition -- more making sure that he wasn't boring when he imposed some much-needed discipline.

And even if the rest of the world thought that the dictionary could have used a picture of Detective Lassiter in place of a definition of that word, Shawn didn't seem to agree.

"One last question," Carlton said, spinning Shawn around to face him then beginning to unfasten his jeans. "Do you think I'm boring?"

Shawn gave a chuckle and kicked off his jeans with an unselfconscious lack of grace and a wiggle. He was naked under them, a discovery that made Carlton forget to breathe for the space of a few seconds as he took in the view. Not bigger than he was, thank God. Shawn would've been insufferable. Now, their relative dick size would never get mentioned, he was sure of it. "Oh, Lassie, you can bore me anytime you like."

"How about now?" Carlton said and pointed at the desk. "I've got what we need. You just have to decide if you want to be looking at me or the desk when I do it."

"Interesting choice," Shawn said thoughtfully and fell to his knees. "Let me get back to you on that after I say hello to Mr. Pointy."

"Don't ever give my dick a nickname again, Spencer," Carlton said without much hope that he'd be obeyed.

"I promise I never will. Well, not aloud, anyway. Can you lip read? Does mouthing the words count?

Carlton let Shawn divest him of everything he was wearing beneath the waist -- that would have needed to happen, anyway -- but he didn't let that clever mouth get even a taste of him. With a silent apology to his erection, which had been eagerly anticipating something it hadn't gotten in years, namely a mouth on it, not Carlton's lube-slicked hand, he stepped back.

"I wanted to fuck you," he said, the crudity deliberate. He wasn't blushing now. Time for a limit.  "If I'd wanted a blow job, I'd have told you."

"I'm not sure you call pull off a line like that when you're wearing a shirt, Lassie. I think you need something in leather. Maybe a few studs."

"I think I can pull it off just fine," Carlton told him and ran his hand over the darkly red length of his dick, not bothering to hold back a moan of pleasure at just how good it felt. "Desk. Now." He smirked at Shawn. "I'll make sure I fuck you just right, Goldilocks."

"Make me," Shawn said with a flirtatious glance upward under demurely lowered lashes, which prompted a tussle that Carlton enjoyed more than he should. They'd danced to this song before, but never alone, never with both of them naked. He'd been wearing his shirt, but it'd gotten torn off him somewhere around the time he'd taken a fistful of Shawn's hair and used it to hold Shawn in place for a kiss that had left Shawn's lip swollen and Carlton with a bitten tongue.

Panting, victorious, he bent Shawn over the desk and pinned him there with his body, pushing Shawn down against the smooth, hard surface until Shawn's hand groped for his and slid into it, an oddly poignant surrender.

It was then that Carlton realized the lube and condoms he'd slid into his jacket pocket -- with a feeling of unreality because they were there in case he and Shawn got to fuck and dear Lord, how bizarre a notion was that? -- were out of reach. He swore under his breath, then put his mouth next to Shawn's ear.

"If you move, one inch, one single fucking inch, I'll tie you to your chair and jerk off in front of you," he said. "I put you here fair and square and you stay here, got it?"

"Woof," Shawn said, but he stayed put when Carlton straightened and walked over to the chair with his jacket draped across it.

Good behavior deserved a reward. Carlton placed the lube where Shawn could see it and ripped the condom packet open, tossing it down next to the bottle while he contemplated the possibilities.

"No second thoughts?"

"Lassie, if you think I'm capable of thinking with you looming behind me ready to nail my quivering, virginal ass…"

"Your what?"

Shawn twisted around enough to meet Carlton's incredulous eyes. "Oh, didn't I mention that? I've never taken it up the ass. I can say stuff like that to you now, right?"

"But you said --" Carlton replayed Shawn's earlier words in his head and discovered, too late, that Shawn had neatly sidestepped the question of how many men he'd slept with and never gotten around to what he'd done with them. "If you think I'm going to -- not here. Not like this."

"You're such a romantic," Shawn complained. He wriggled off the desk, red marks from Carlton's fingers showing starkly against his skin here and there. "Fine, if you're going to be like that --"

Carlton closed his eyes and heard the thud as Shawn fell to his knees again, getting his own way, just like always.

Two minutes into the blow job, he realized that he was going to have to show Shawn how to do those, too.

***

Interlude 1

Shawn watched Lassiter walk -- stalk -- away, peeking through the blinds at a stiff back and a thrust-out chin. There was a scowl, too. He couldn't see the chin or the scowl from this angle, but they had to be there -- everyone Lassiter passed took one look at him and flinched.

He wasn't quite sure why Lassie was pissed off, even less certain why he was letting him walk away. He'd hoped that they'd spend a little longer together than, hmm, thirty-seven minutes. As dates went, it was a short one. Not his record, no, that honor was still held by Rhonda Halliwell who'd taken one bite of her pineapple and pineapple pizza (it hadn't caught on, which amazed Shawn to this day) discovered a deathly allergy to yellow fruits and thrown up right there at the table. Twelve minutes. He'd noted the time even as he leaned to the left to avoid the splatter.

Maybe Lassie thought that he was bearing a mark of shame, a scarlet 'S' for 'Sexy' or something. Or he still didn't believe Shawn's assurances that his suit and shirt would pass any just-been-pressed test out there.

Okay, that was a lie. Lassiter's shirt did have a certain slept-in look to it and his pants lacked the knife-edge crease down the center of each that they'd had when Lassiter walked into Shawn's web, known to those not of the arachnid persuasion as the Psych office, headquarters of all that was cool in good old Santa Barbara. His jacket, though, there was nothing wrong with that at all. Overall, even quickly dwindling to a dot on the horizon Lassie looked good. Hot, in fact, exuding the steamy appeal of a man who'd just gotten to come with a grunt and a sigh, his dick tucked neatly inside another man's mouth.

Blow jobs were tidy. It figured that Lassiter would like them, even if he had seemed surprisingly fussy for a man getting his mind blown along with his dick. Teeth scrapes didn't hurt that much, did they? It wasn't like he'd been trying to bite down, after all, he'd just gotten a little enthusiastic when it'd all come together -- the sounds Lassie was making, shocked whimpers, muttered curses; the smooth skin of Lassie's hips and ass, so different from the wiry cloud of hair around his dick, and the smell of another man's balls and sweaty skin, intense, secret smells that he'd breathed in and shuddered over. The taste had been something else again, the novelty value outweighed by the sheer rush of lust it'd evoked. How could clean skin taste so deliciously dirty?

Shawn spared a moment to think about what Lassie had been hiding inside his woefully dull boxers (navy blue shorts lacking any form of decoration, not even a polka dot pattern or some frisky puppies). Headrush time. Wow. Shawn opened his mouth and wiggled his jaw just to check it still could move that way. The thought of what had rounded his mouth, choked him so perfectly, being driven hard up his ass was simultaneously terrifying and what he wanted for every birthday, Christmas, and Happy Psychic Day. Which fell on every day in the week beginning with a 'T', except in leap years, when it changed to the 'S' days.

He closed his eyes now that there wasn't anything left to see of Lassiter, even if he'd broken out the binoculars, and sat slumped in a chair, the darkness giving him room to think.

Lassie had figured out that he was the first man Shawn had known carnally, if they weren't counting -- no, they really weren't counting him. Shawn grimaced at the memory. Rank locker room stink and something he'd thought he'd wanted -- all those jock muscles, all that glamour saying his name in a shaken growl -- turning into a panicked rush for the door. He'd nearly made it, too… Saying he was sorry for being a prick tease on his knees, mouth open wide, had saved him some bruises and cost him some dignity. He'd thrown up afterward, brushed his teeth until he'd been spitting red, and then jerked off over a reworked memory of it, when it'd happened the way it should have, for years.

Shawn still wasn't really sure what had given him away to Lassiter, though. Lassie, who'd spent a year exploring the joys of man on man hot loving with his roommate and emerged a more rounded, confident person as a result.

Okay, that was stretching it. This was Lassie, after all, a man whose insecurities had issues, who didn't even seem to realize that he was weird and got oddly hurt when it was pointed out to him by, well, Shawn mostly. Yet also a man who knew that blow jobs ideally didn't involve gagging, drool, and pained yelps. Freaky. Lassiter was the Mariana Trench; who knew?

Shawn sighed and snuggled deeper into his chair, sorting through recent events. Lassie's hands in his hair, guiding him, holding him still, refusing to let Shawn bite off more than he could chew. Lassie fucking his mouth with a caution that had held no hesitancy and then, when Shawn had gotten the hang of what to do with all that spit and his tongue, with a rising urgency.

It'd all gotten blurry toward the end, but Shawn had heard his name attached to a lot of guttural groans and felt Lassiter's hands tighten around his skull before the moment when Lassie had --

"Lassie came in my mouth," he said aloud, wonderingly, incredulously. It still didn't seem real, but the corners of his mouth felt stretched raw, his jaw ached, and the back of his throat held an echo of the taste of Carlton Lassiter's come, faint, acrid, addictive.

He wanted to taste it again, a fresh flood of it spurting, jolting into his mouth, with Lassiter's ass rock hard under his hands as Lassie's muscles locked, frozen in ecstasy. He wanted…

Okay, just why had he let Lassie walk out with nothing more than a muttered, "Mention this to anyone and I swear I will lock you up and lose the key," when what Lassie should have said was, "I'm not done with you yet. You're coming home with me, Spencer."

And he would have followed him, close on his heels, because Lassiter hadn't just zipped up and walked out. He'd taken Shawn in hand first, jerking him off with a sure and steady grip, staring into Shawn's eyes even when Shawn had closed them (he could tell Lassie hadn't looked away because he'd peeked), not looking down at what his hand was doing, his arm thrown around Shawn's shoulders, holding him up.

Shawn had clutched and clawed at Lassiter's shoulders, mewling out exhortations that'd ranged from the desperate to the demanding. Lassiter had ignored them all and done it his way, from start to Shawn's finish, working Shawn's dick in a silent passion, blue eyes glittering, his breath harsh and hot against Shawn's face.

Shawn had come in a messy flourish all over Lassiter's hand and stomach, gasping for words and breath, still gasping when Lassiter had kissed him, pulling him close for it, so that Shawn could feel the heat of Lassiter's skin through the cooling skim of come.

He'd watched Lassiter disappear into the small rest room to clean up, watched him dress, fling out the threat that wasn't up to his usual standards, watched him leave.

That was a lot of passivity for one evening.

Shawn opened his eyes.

He knew where Lassie lived. Why was he still sitting here?

He was halfway to the door when he remembered that he was still mostly naked, one leg into his jeans when it occurred to him that Lassiter had been walking away from where he'd left his car.

Shawn reviewed the possible options in that direction and sighed as they narrowed to one. Peachy.

One date and he'd driven Lassie to drink.


***

Carlton hadn't come to this bar to get drunk. He still planned on driving home, just not yet. Home was an empty house, silently pointing up his single status; one toothbrush in the holder, every hair stuck to the tub a former resident on his head.

Quiet.

Oh, he could turn on the TV -- yes, he owned one, no matter what certain people said about him being out of touch with anything post I Love Lucy-- or some music, but like air freshener when a skunk had passed through, it wouldn't do much more than ineffectively mask the silence, not destroy it.

Only the presence of another person would do that.

Ten minutes in the bar taught him that real live voices weren't that effective at breaking through the cone of silence he was sitting in when none of the people talking were speaking to him. Or even aware that he existed. He sat tucked away in a corner, nursing his scotch, and thought about Shawn, who talked endlessly and said so little with those words, so much with his body.

Carlton wasn't sure why he'd left Shawn after getting him off. It'd felt as if, that accomplished, they were done, but there'd been surprise and even hurt in Shawn's eyes when he'd gotten dressed and headed for the door. Had Spencer expected…was there something that Carlton had left undone?

He chewed his lip. Shawn didn't strike him as the romantic type and his seduction technique was one step up from the stereotypical caveman approach. Maybe, though, he'd wanted to…talk? Carlton shuddered and took a sip of his drink. He hated talking about relationships. What was there to talk about?

He'd just decided that maybe on the way back to his car he'd glance into the Psych office and see if Shawn was still there when Spencer walked into the bar.

It sounded like the start of a joke. A fake psychic walks into a bar and asks for… What? What was Spencer doing here? Carlton narrowed his eyes as Spencer went directly to the long, well-polished bar without looking around and immediately got the bartender's attention.

That bartender was young, hot, flirty. He'd winked at Carlton when he'd passed over Carlton's drink and he was smiling warmly at Spencer, who was leaning in, his jeans pulled tightly across his ass.

Carlton breathed out, long and slow. So. If Spencer had followed him, he'd have arrived earlier. If Spencer was looking for him, he was doing a good job of hiding it; his attention was all on the pretty boy mixing him up a complicated drink, all yellow froth and cherries with a jaunty paper parasol to top it off.

It wasn't a drink for a man, but Carlton found himself wondering about how Shawn's mouth would taste after he'd drunk it. Sticky-sweet with a kick, probably…those frou-frou drinks always had plenty of alcohol hidden under the juice and mixers. He imagined that mouth on him, leaving a trail of kisses from his throat to his rapidly hardening dick, kisses that would leave his skin tacky to the touch, itching until Shawn rinsed his mouth clean and came back to lay fresh, cool lips against every single one.

Carlton swallowed nothing but spit and longing and glared across the room. If Spencer thought that he could come out to pick someone up still glowing from what he'd gotten from another man, Carlton was prepared to show him the error of his ways. If that involved marching him out of the bar in cuffs, like any filthy, despicable perp, then so be it.

Come to think of it, that sounded really appealing. Carlton could almost hear Spencer's breathy babble as he protested his innocence, feel the grind of Spencer's ass against him as Spencer tried to flirt his way free from being manhandled into Carlton's car, like the shameless slut he was.

Maybe Spencer would offer to blow him, still cuffed, using his teeth to open Carlton's pants and --

Carlton winced. Okay, maybe that fantasy would have more punch if he didn't know firsthand that Spencer's teeth could inflict a lot of damage.

He shook his head, impatient with himself. Why was he surprised to see Spencer behaving true to form? Spencer had been curious about him, God alone knew why, and he'd indulged himself in a day of pursuit until Carlton, like a fool, had walked into his trap. Fun over.

He still had a few sips of scotch left, but his gut was churning. He needed to leave. Now. Before he gave into the urge to punch Spencer so fucking hard that he'd get a genuine glimpse of the future when Carlton's fist propelled him into the middle of next week.

"You know, Lassie, darkly brooding looks good on you. Not everyone could carry it off, but you nail it."

Carlton stared up at the face he'd been planning to punch and realized that he wasn't off Spencer's hook yet.

"I was just leaving."

Spencer frowned and sat down anyway, placing his drink -- untouched -- on the table where its gaudy brightness mocked the sad dregs of Carlton's whiskey. "Did I miss something? Is it winter? Because I just felt a chill."

"I'm sure if you asked him nicely, the barman would warm you up," Carlton said, fully aware of how pathetic he was being.

Shawn leaned back in his chair, a tolerant, world-weary smile curving his lips. "Oh, Lassie. Sweet, deluded, charmingly jealous Lassie. Did you think I was flirting with Tony? Really?"

"Yes," Carlton said flatly and watched the smile slip off Shawn's face. "I watched you. You walked in, went up to him, wriggled your ass…"

Dropping the affectations, Shawn got closer, his face inches away from Carlton's, unnervingly close. "Seriously? For real? Dude! We had a deal. Exclusive. You. Me. Hearts entwined. Not to mention the fact that Tony's dating a guy who could roll me up and smoke me without breaking a sweat. I was wriggling my ass because I knew you were staring at it."

"Oh, save the crap," Carlton said, disgusted with them both. "You didn't even know I was here."

"Hell-oooo, psychic?" Shawn said in the weird, high-pitched singsong that always left Carlton's ears feeling abraded. "Of course I knew."

"Did not," Carlton said automatically and began to see how Guster, who was, when all was said and done, a man with gainful employment and a decent work ethic, could descend to the level of a six-year-old around Shawn.

"Did," Shawn said. He hesitated, then shrugged. "You're reflected in the mirrors. The one behind the bar covers all of this part of the room and anyway, I knew you were here. Everything else this way is closed for the night apart from the restaurants and you've already eaten." He looked wary for some reason that Carlton couldn't fathom, caution clouding his eyes. "I was asking Tony what you were drinking and how many you'd had. He says you're a lousy tipper but your eyes are divine."

Carlton cleared his throat nervously. "Really?"

"No, I made that last part up, but I'm sure he thinks so, deep down. I know I do."

"What are you doing here?" Carlton asked bluntly. "I thought we were done for the night." The last three words came out before he had time to censor them, born of wishful thinking that this wasn't just a one-off. Shawn had implied that he was interested in more, but trusting him didn't come easy.

Shawn widened his eyes. "Done? Lassie, can it be possible that you're only after one thing? I'm shocked. Appalled. I feel so used, so dirty." He closed his eyes and smiled, his hands laced across his stomach. "God, it feels good being someone's boy toy again. Use me some more. Tell me I'm your bad Shawn and you're going to teach me a lesson."

"Spencer," Carlton hissed, the tips of his ears getting hot. Shawn wasn't keeping his voice down at all. "A little discretion?"

"Doesn't go with this shirt," Shawn said, opening his eyes and studying Carlton with frank interest. "I'd need to be wearing one of yours."

Carlton discovered that he had the ability to conjure a fantasy between one breath and the next, sparked by Shawn's throwaway comments. This one -- stripping Shawn naked, then dressing him in the shirt he'd worn all day, warm, creased, sweaty, and fucking him in it, then putting it back on -- didn't help him to regain his composure at all. It was possible. It was doable. They could meet at lunch somewhere --

He shook his head, and tried to jar the disturbingly erotic thoughts out at the same time. It didn't work, but he put that down to the fact that Shawn was still staring at him, all green-eyed and insightful.

"Someone's thinking naughty thoughts again," Shawn observed smugly. He took a sip of his drink through the green, striped straw and sighed. "Mm. Nice. Want some?"

"It's too sweet for me," Carlton said.

"Says the man who pours sugar into his coffee by the cup."

"Coffee's different," Carlton said defensively. "Alcohol shouldn't taste like candy."

"Try it," Shawn said and held his glass out, a cherry bobbing up and down enticingly. "Then we'll taste the same."

"That only works for garlic and onions," Carlton grumbled, but he took a sip, pursing his lips around the straw that Shawn had sucked on with a tug of arousal. Shawn's mouth...unskilled, yes, but so fucking hot, so...welcoming.

The cocktail slid down his throat in an icy shiver, the alcohol in it producing an interesting afterglow. It was tangy and sweet, but Carlton took another sip before pushing the glass silently back.

"You didn't like it?" Shawn slid the straw between his lips and hollowed his cheeks, sucking noisily. It should've looked comical but it made Carlton want to grab him and push him to his knees. He knew clubs where he could've given into that impulse without raising a single eyebrow. He'd helped shut some of them down, but there were always new ones popping up.


Carlton picked up his drink and took a mouthful to wash away the taste of juice. It didn't. He could still taste tropical sugar on his lips and now the scotch tasted like mouthwash, harsh and medicinal.

"It was okay."

"You loved it," Shawn said with a fist pump that made Carlton want to slap his hand down hard. "Were you really just going to go home after one drink?"

"Yes," Carlton said and then, because Shawn looked crushed, added, "but I was going to -- if you were still in the office, I might have --"

"Dropped in for round two?"

"No! Just...said hi. Maybe."

"I didn't like you going," Shawn said and there was a genuine pout showing. "I thought we'd get to hang out."

"You really don't like being alone, do you?" Carlton said. He'd heard Guster complain about Shawn tagging along on dates, popping up unexpectedly and muscling in.

Shawn shrugged. "Sometimes yes, mostly no. I'm a people person."

"You mean you like an audience."

Shawn spread his arms wide, narrowly missing a man walking by who gave him a dirty look. Carlton caught the man's eye and glared at him, projecting a message of 'back off, he's mine'. Shawn never even noticed the by-play, too busy yammering on about being a showman, an entertainer.

"Yeah, I'm sure you can pull bunnies out of your ass on demand," Carlton said to shut him up. "Save it, Spencer. I know just what you are and it isn't entertaining unless they've redefined the word." He hesitated. "You really want to... hang out?"

"Lassie-babe, I want it all," Shawn said and snapped his teeth. "Big bites. It's the only way to taste life."

Carlton resisted the urge to cover his cock protectively and stood. "Fine. You can come back to my place, which unlike yours doesn't require monthly fumigation."

"I haven't finished my drink," Shawn protested.

Carlton glanced at it and then back at Shawn. "Yes, you have," he said and watched Shawn go quiet and still for a moment, his tongue flicking out to touch his lips. Annoyed, turned on? Carlton couldn't tell. He knew that Spencer hated getting bossed around by his dad, but giving orders came naturally to Carlton. He was about to compromise and tell Shawn that he had thirty seconds, no more, when Shawn jumped up, a wide, fake smile on his face.

"So I have."

For that small obedience, Carlton kissed Shawn in the first alleyway they walked past, dragging him sideways into it and shoving him roughly up against the wall. He'd done this before to Shawn and told himself that was in pursuit of his duty as a police officer, but he'd lied. He'd done it, each and every time, because he couldn't keep his hands off Shawn and now he could admit that openly, not with words, but his mouth.

Shawn let him do it, not struggling, not fighting back. Part of Carlton missed the struggle, but he'd already subdued Shawn once that evening and there was something sweet about the way Shawn took the hard wall behind him and the littered ground at his feet without complaint just to get Carlton's mouth on his.

The sidewalk was quiet, but they couldn't stay in the friendly shadows for long. Carlton made every second count, grinding against Shawn shamelessly, half-hard already and feeling every inch of Shawn's matching interest in the proceedings. He kissed Shawn without a shred of consideration, the same way that Shawn had teased him so often, licking deep inside Shawn's mouth, invading it, biting hard at Shawn's lips until they swelled hot against his, bruised and tender.

"Gonna do me here, Lassie, up against this wall?" Shawn whispered, inflicting some damage of his own, sharp teeth digging into Carlton's neck. "Then arrest us both later?"

"You make me want to," Carlton said, honesty the best and only gift he had. "God, I do want to, but I can't."

"I know, Lassie," Shawn said and patted his cheek before pushing Carlton back with a reluctant hand. "Doesn't matter. Your place has walls, doesn't it?"

Carlton grinned, already picturing Shawn against the one in his bedroom. "Yeah, it does. Let's get moving, Spencer. Now."

He'd only had one scotch and two sips of whatever hell brew Spencer had ordered, but he felt drunk and reckless. If this was how Spencer felt all the time, it was no wonder the man was always smiling.






Carlton walked into his apartment with Spencer close at his heels. The place wasn't as spotless as usual -- it'd been a busy nightmare of a week, with no time to do dishes or put away the scatter of incidental objects that even an organized man accumulated -- but he didn't apologize.

Victoria always had. She could spend hours preparing for visitors and then usher them into their house saying things like, "Please excuse the mess." It had never made sense to him. When it came to Spencer, a cardboard box next to a Dumpster was a step up from the chaos he lived in and Carlton wasn't about to get self-conscious over cereal dried to a bowl in the sink and a half-empty cup of coffee on the table, long since cooled and skinned over.

It was his place. His. He'd regretted the loss of her company bitterly when Victoria left, but at the same time, living alone had brought with it some small satisfactions to offset his sense of failure.

Like being able to do just what the hell he wanted with the place. If he wanted to paper a wall with mug shots, he could do it. If he wanted to leave the walls the bland, nondescript beige they were when he moved in, he would.

The only feature he'd been unable to tolerate was the floral wallpaper in the small bathroom. As a child, his bedroom had been the former spare room and his mother had refused to redecorate until the flower-bedecked wallpaper had faded. Carlton had gotten so used to waking to bunches of roses that when he'd made a friend in second grade and invited him over to play, he hadn't bothered to explain that the pink comforter and matching walls weren't his choice. The play date had gone well, or so he'd thought, but at school on Monday he discovered that Judas, formerly known as Charlie, had spread the word. He'd spent recess surrounded by young boys chanting, 'Carlton's a guh-hurl' at him until a teacher had sent his tormentors running away to find new ways to amuse themselves.

That night, he'd sat on the edge of his bed, filled with a mute, uncomprehending bewilderment, the echo of their jeering voices loud in his head. Cruelty was new to him, even if loneliness wasn't.

He'd taken matters into his own hands, painting over the walls as high as he could reach using the remnants of three cans of paint that he'd found in the garage. His mother had screamed at him and dragged him over her knee, applying a hairbrush with the same grim determination Carlton had felt as he painted, but the wallpaper was history.

Until he'd come home from school two days later to find his room repapered, this time with pansies and daisies in a violent clash of purple and yellow.

A therapist would've paid him to discuss the effect it'd had on his character, but Carlton had never bothered to share the memory. He liked flowers just fine, real ones anyway, with soft petals and sharp thorns, but they didn't belong on walls.

"Want a drink?" he said, flinging the words back at Spencer ungraciously as he walked to the sink to run some water over the dishes. He didn't want to play the host. He wanted to strip Spencer bare again and this time get to know him better.

"Nope," Spencer said. There was a muffled, quiet slither and thud, barely audible over the brief rush of water. Carlton turned around to see Spencer's jeans around his ankles, with Spencer fighting to kick them off without bothering to remove his sneakers first.

Typical.

"Not like that," Carlton snapped and walked over to him, dropping to his knees without thought and grabbing Spencer's foot. "Here, let me --"

He froze, his hand half on skin, half on a grubby white sock that needed bleaching. It was probably clean, but it didn't look it. Carlton didn't care. He only had to tilt his head back a little to be able to mouth at the swelling length of Spencer's cock because Shawn still wasn't wearing anything under his jeans. Carlton could see the marks the button and zipper had made against Shawn's stomach, reddened skin, indented, chafed. The marks would fade soon, but Carlton didn't care. He hadn't made them, after all.

Without speaking, he eased Shawn's sneakers off and worked the tangle of denim free of Shawn's ankles.

"Take off your shirt," he said, his voice hoarse. "I want you naked."

"You're not," Shawn pointed out.

"I will be," Carlton promised, rocking back onto his heels. He didn't feel a supplicant, even on his knees. Spencer -- Shawn -- was already peeling off his shirt and tossing it aside. He put his hand on Shawn's thigh, high up, and spread his fingers wide, enjoying the convulsive shiver from Shawn, the helpless thrust of his hips.

Shawn wanted this, was as greedy for it as if he hadn't already come once tonight, bucking and jerking in Carlton's grip, his eyes wide and startled and so very fucking grateful.

Carlton kept his hand where it was, even when dragging it just a few inches would let him grasp Shawn's cock again and own it completely.

"This -- this works better when you touch me." Shawn sounded gratifyingly desperate already. Talk about a hair-trigger. Carlton was hard -- each breath brought him the scent of Shawn's skin, sweat and spunk combining to make Shawn smell like the dirtiest kind of sex, the kind you paid for.

Carlton had never paid for sex. Not with money, anyway, but he would have paid for Shawn, shoving dollar bills down the back of his tight jeans and rubbing them over Shawn's tight, sweet ass until they smelled like him, were as creased and used as him. He'd wrap a bill around Shawn's cock and bring him off like that -- a twenty maybe -- working the thick hardness through the crinkled paper until Shawn came, a rush, a gush, soaking the money until it shredded to the touch.

It could be his tip.

"I am touching you," he said. "Just not where you want me to."

"That was kinda my point, yes."

"Are you whining, Spencer?" Carlton moved his hand around to Spencer's ass and slapped it, just once, just hard enough to make some noise and leave a sting. "Don't."

Shawn gasped, his hands flexing as if they wanted something to hold but hadn't been given permission to touch. "Not whining. More pointing out something --"

"That I'm already aware of," Carlton said. He found that he liked being on his knees. The view from here wasn't trying to deceive him, the way Shawn's face and talkative, lying mouth often did. Face to face with the one honest bone in Shawn's body was illuminating. That slap had gotten a reaction, a tightening of Shawn's balls, a drop of clear fluid pearling at the tip of his cock. Carlton filed that discovery away for later. "You like touching people, but you don't like being touched back all that much."

He'd seen Shawn eel away from a friendly hand aimed at his shoulder, go out of his way to avoid a hug. Some people got inside his barriers, but not many. Mostly, when it came to touch, Shawn was a one-way street.

"I don't mind if it's Gus," Shawn said, sounding defensive, "and I hug my dad on his birthday."

"But Gus doesn't do it often." Carlton put both hands on Shawn's thighs and dragged them down slowly. "I will. You've used my body as your own personal playground and I figure it's time I returned the favor. If you've got a problem with that, better tell me now."

"I just asked you to touch me, remember?"

Was that an irritated snap? Carlton smiled. "No, you just said it worked better if I did and I pointed out that I was. If you want to be more specific, Shawn, go right ahead."

Interesting; using Shawn's first name got almost the same reaction as spanking him.

"Specific?" Shawn laughed. "You mean you want me to beg."

"Do I?" Carlton wondered. "Maybe I do."

"'Fess up, Lassie. You're going to use this thing we've got going, this tango for two, as a way to get your revenge on me for, oh, just about everything I've ever done to you."

Carlton stood and began to unbutton his shirt. "Did the spirits tell you that? Because for once, they're spot-on." He shrugged out of his jacket and shirt at the same time and let the floor be his hanger. This suit was heading to the dry cleaners so it didn't really matter what happened to it.

He pointed at his bedroom door. "Get your ass in there, Shawn. Something tells me that we're going to have a really long conversation."

Shawn raised his eyebrows. "And here I thought you were going to fuck me."

Carlton raised his eyebrows right back. "Isn't that what I just said?"

He watched Shawn walk away and saw the faint smudge of pink on the cheek he'd struck, barely visible. God, he'd do just about anything Spencer wanted if Shawn would just let him put a mark on him that would last a few days. He could handle any amount of Spencer's sass in public if he knew that under the scruffy clothes that golden skin was darkly bruised from his mouth.

He touched the pocket of his pants, where the small bottle of lube and the strip of condoms had ended up, and followed Shawn into his bedroom. By the time he got there, Shawn was already on the bed, lying back against pillows he'd disarranged to suit himself, totally at ease. With any other man, Carlton would have looked for the signs that the ease was pure bravado, but with Spencer, most often it wasn't. He really didn't care what people thought of him -- most people -- and it was virtually impossible to embarrass him when he did such a good job of that himself.

Sourly, but with a reluctant admiration, Carlton decided that Shawn would've been able to pull off a bedroom decorated with My Little Pony wallpaper at the age of sixteen. He was just that indifferent to what he was supposed to do and be. Once, Carlton would've seen that as cool and edgy. Now, not so much. Shawn's world was an eternal visit to Disneyland and that place was Carlton's idea of hell.

Shawn had flicked the light on, bathing the room in too much brightness for Carlton's liking. He turned it off, walked over to the bedside table and switched on the lamp there, illuminating the bed and Shawn. That was all that Carlton needed, or wanted, to see.

Shawn had been quiet for a full thirty seconds; unheard of. Before he could speak, Carlton dropped the lube and condoms next to the lamp and began to undress, never looking away from Shawn's flushed face.

"You work out," Shawn said as Carlton, naked, his skin craving what was to come, thirsty for a touch, got onto the bed beside him. "Nice abs."

Carlton examined the sentence for an insult, then decided that it didn't contain one. "It's part of my job to be fit."

"Well, I'll give you a shiny gold star, Detective," Shawn told him.

The longer Shawn was allowed to talk, the more likely it was that he'd say something to piss Carlton off. With that in mind, Carlton reached out and ran a finger over the head of Shawn's dick, working the gloss of pre-come around until Shawn was biting his lip. Curious, he brought his finger to his mouth and tasted. It'd been a long time since he'd had that particular taste in his mouth and he savored it almost as much as the reaction it got from Shawn.

"God, Lassie, you're like something out of a porn movie. Tell me your handcuffs are nearby."

"Always," Carlton said and licked his finger clean before putting it back on Shawn's dick to tease him some more.

"Does it -- do I taste good?" Shawn asked as curious as Carlton had been.

By way of an answer, Carlton just swiped his finger through the wetness again and held it up to Shawn's mouth, far enough away that Shawn would have had to move his head or stick out his tongue to get a taste. Shawn hesitated and Carlton rolled his eyes and took the decision away from him, rubbing his damp finger across Shawn's lips, then, when they parted for him, pushing it inside.

Shawn showed what a quick learner he was, using his teeth carefully this time, when it didn't matter as much, sucking Carlton's finger with an assiduous, praiseworthy attempt to recreate a blow job.

Carlton played along, sliding his finger in and out slowly, grinning at the sparkle in Shawn's eyes, but aware of just how much this was turning him on. His cock was throbbing, envious, demanding, but it would be its turn soon enough.

Carlton drew his finger out. "Well?"

Shawn shrugged. "You taste better. Or maybe I'm just not that into me."

"I sincerely doubt that." Carlton looked Shawn over, taking his time. Naked, Shawn had more muscle tone than a man who lived on junk food and smoothies deserved, but Carlton suspected that Shawn exercised more than he let on. He'd been driving home once, so late that it was early, and seen Spencer jogging, his T-shirt dark with sweat, his pace unfaltering. It figured that Spencer would hide his virtues and flaunt his faults.

Shawn let him look his fill and then, without being told, rolled over to his stomach. "This always was your favorite view of me, right?"

Carlton stroked Shawn's back, long, unhurried strokes that ended at the base of his spine. He wasn't sure where his self-restraint was coming from, but Shawn's impatience was dying down, along with any nerves he might have had. Carlton could feel it seep away, leaving room for arousal and need. He waited until Shawn's ass was rising off the bed, instinctively pushing up into a touch Carlton wasn't giving it, and then curved his hand around air, waiting for Shawn to fill the emptiness.

When Shawn felt Carlton's hand, he sighed, an exhalation that was as eloquent as anything he'd ever said.

"Good boy," Carlton said softly, sincerely. Shawn tensed up and then sighed again, his hands easy against the sheets.

"Are you going to fuck me now?"

Carlton bit his lip. Knowing that this was new made him want to let Shawn be the one in charge, but God, he wasn't sure his ass could take it. He genuinely didn't care if he was the one getting fucked or doing the fucking, but it'd been years for him and even if his mind knew exactly what it felt like, his body had forgotten.

"If you want me to, I will. Or…you could do me."

Shawn turned his head, rolling onto his side, surprise vivid and bright on his face. "Lassie, you're a toppy cop. No way you're going to let me do that."

Carlton frowned. "Why not?"

"Because!"

"I like it," Carlton said. He considered that. "Well, I did. It's been a while for me, remember?"

"And I'm not Lucy. I get it."

"Don't call him that," Carlton said automatically. "Fine, I'll show you what it's like. If you enjoy it, that's good, if you don't, you tell me, understand? I don't want to hurt you."

Shawn reached out and patted Carlton's chest. "You're probably not going to believe me, but I don't think you could if you tried. You're a marshmallow. Soft and sweet."

"Not all of me," Carlton said and drew Shawn's hand down. "See?"

Shawn smiled at him, his eyes hazy, his hand exploring. "God, I could get used to you like this."

"Don't," Carlton said and meant it. "Outside here, it's not going to change. I can't let it. This gets out and I'm --"

"I get it," Shawn said. "Don't think it doesn't work both ways. Gus is going to freak out. Or he would if I told him, which I'm not going to," he added hastily.

Carlton groaned. "Can we talk about this later?" he begged, giving into his need and pulling Shawn close, touching him without restraint. Shawn muttered something that sounded like agreement and fitted his mouth to Carlton's with all the finesse of a barnacle on a rock.

They lay tangled and wrapped around each other, kissing until Carlton's face was burning from the scrape of stubble over it, his lips numb and spit-slick. He couldn't decide what was more fun to play with, Shawn's dick, which fitted so well into the circle of his fingers, or Shawn's ass. Shawn was pressing close, shivering when Carlton's fingers skated along the crease of his ass, delving deeper each time, mewling out a startled yelp when Carlton grabbed the lube.

"Tell me how this feels," Carlton said, without letting go of Shawn. He flipped the bottle lid, one -handed and got some on his fingers, dripping plenty on the bed, too. With a kiss as a distraction -- and because he couldn't seem to stop kissing Shawn -- he circled a finger around Shawn's hole and slid it home with the help of a lot of lube and Shawn's assistance.

"Feels -- God…" Shawn's eyes closed and he looked like a man tasting an oyster for the first time, unsure if he liked it or not. "More," he said.

"Like this?" Carlton said and began to finger-fuck him, aware of the need to monitor Shawn carefully. He didn't want Shawn to come from this. It might relax him, but it could also leave him not interested in more, his itch scratched enough for one night.

Shawn's skin was damp with sweat, his hands tight on Carlton as he bucked and writhed against him. Carlton couldn't wait to feel all that restless movement around his dick. He'd have to hold Shawn down, pin him to the bed….

"I want you," he said, abruptly aware that Shawn wasn't the only one who might blow early. "Now."

"All yours," Shawn said. "Do what you want, Lassie, just don't get dressed and walk out on me while I'm still hard."

"I live here," Carlton reminded him, wondering who'd done that to Shawn. It'd sounded like a memory, not a theoretical situation. He thought back. His first time, he'd been on his hands and knees to begin with. It'd helped knowing that his face was hidden and he could screw it up and grimace silently through the pain -- and it had hurt, more than it ever had again because neither of them had anything but hard dicks to guide them. Did he want to give Shawn that privacy, or did he want to see exactly what Shawn was feeling?

"On your back," he said, not giving Shawn any choices. Kinder that way and look at that, Spencer was doing just as he was told.

Getting the condom on was difficult. His fingers were slippery and shaking and he made a mess of it and cursed, tossing the ruined rubber aside and grabbing another.

"Let me do it," Shawn said, coming to his knees in a languid roll.

Carlton handed the condom to him reluctantly, embarrassed by his ineptitude. He half expected Shawn to come up with a flourish, like putting it on using his mouth, no hands, like a prostitute, but Shawn just eased it over Carlton's erection and smoothed it down, before placing the lube in Carlton's hand.

"I don't know how much you need."

"Plenty," Carlton said. He put it beside him and gave Shawn another kiss, his hands roaming over Shawn's stomach and the jut of his hips. "Tell me to stop and I will. I don't care if I'm about to come, I will, understand me?"

"Will you stop talking and just do me if I ask for that?" Shawn said with an eye roll.

Carlton slapped Shawn's ass lightly, just to see the knowing, anticipatory glint in Shawn's eyes -- oh, yeah, they were going to go there, they really were, assuming this lasted more than this one crowded, busy day -- and pushed Shawn to his back again.

He got Shawn slicked up deeper and tried not to let himself think about what he was doing because the hot cling and squeeze of Shawn's ass was eroding his ability to hold on as much as that stunned, blissed-out look on Shawn's face.

Shawn was helping him out, instinctively pushing and breathing just right, encouraging the thrust and press of Carlton's fingers, two now, which was more than enough.

"You've done this before," he said.

Shawn blinked up at him. "Told you I hadn't."

"To yourself, I mean," Carlton clarified, and smiled, all teeth, when Shawn blushed. "Thought so."

"Yeah, well, accept no substitutes, you know?" Shawn said, rallying. "I can take you. You're easily an inch shorter than the Orgasmatron and I ride that bad baby like a rodeo clown."

"You made that name up," Carlton said with certainty, "but fine, you think you can take me, Spencer? Let's test that theory."

It wasn't easy, but after a brief moment when Carlton saw stars and Shawn's hands were everywhere trying to help out, which was touching in a way, annoying in plenty of others, Carlton was an inch or two in and heading for home.

Everything soon began to blur. Slow, sweet rocks of his hips, gaining more ground each time, Shawn's gabble of words assuring Carlton that he was fine giving way to a language Carlton understood, all gasps and groans, with his name scattered around next to 'God' and 'fuck', a blasphemous linking that the rebellious choirboy in Carlton got off on.

When he was in as deep as he could go, Shawn's legs high, resting on Carlton's shoulders, though that probably wouldn't last long once they really started moving, Carlton paused.

"If you ask me if I'm okay, I'll clench every muscle I have and break your dick like a dry twig," Shawn said levelly.

"Ouch," Carlton said, wincing at the image. He  pulled back far enough to make Shawn's eyes roll up when he slammed back in. It might have hurt, just a little, but Shawn went wild, his hands slapping and clawing at Carlton's back and hips, trying to make Carlton move at his pace, which wasn't going to happen.

"When it's your turn to drive, I'll let you break the speed limit all you want," Carlton said between his teeth. Sweat was cool on his back and his balls were tight enough to be throbbing with every thrust. "Now it's my turn, so shut the fuck up and stop scratching my back."

"Go to hell," Shawn snarled at him and managed, God alone knows how, to arch up and bite Carlton's shoulder. "Make me come, Lassie."

Carlton shoved Shawn back down and leaned over him at the cost of a few inches of penetration. "Do that again and I'll make you wait for hours," he said. Sex had never been a fight before. With Victoria, if they were arguing, sex was never a way forward to peace, just something she could withhold until he behaved.

It was oddly exhilarating. He didn't mean his threats, and Spencer wasn't really causing much damage with his nails, but it was all adding a spice to what was mouth-burningly hot already.

Shawn bared his teeth and reached down to grab his dick, defiant and desperate.

"Oh, no. Not like that," Carlton growled and knocked Shawn's hand away before it could do more than grip and jerk once. "You can come when you're begging for it and you're not there yet."

Shawn's mouth closed tightly and Carlton smiled at him. "Yeah, like you can ever keep it zipped for long."

"You want to hear me beg?" Shawn asked, proving Carlton's point. "Fuck me harder. I can take it."

Carlton remembered that certainty, that craving -- and he remembered regretting it the next day, too.

"It's your first time. I don't want it to be your last." He reached out and stroked Shawn's damp hair back off his forehead, his legs trembling with the effort it took to move deep and slow. "Let me do this my way, Shawn. Please."

"I thought you wanted me to beg," Shawn said and that was nearly all it took, but Carlton had spent months being goaded by Spencer and he'd learned how to count to ten in seven different languages.

He settled into a rhythm, maybe a little faster and harder than before, but not much, and ignored everything Shawn flung at him, because none of it sounded like 'stop'. Shawn broke eventually, as Carlton had hoped he would.

"God, okay! I'm begging. Please, Detective Lassiter, please, Lassie, please, please, please --" Shawn took a deep breath, his eyes screwed shut. "Carlton. Please. Let me come."

Carlton grabbed Shawn's hand, put it on Shawn's dick and covered it with his hand, for the few strokes it took to send Shawn over. He hung on for long enough to miss nothing of the show Shawn put on for him, howling at the moon and coming in messy, thick spurts that went abso-fucking-lutely everywhere, and then gave himself the treat of nailing Shawn's ass to the bed, hard and fast and merciless, just the way Shawn had wanted it. From the way he was sprawled out, panting, he was past caring that he was getting his wish.

Carlton's climax was intense enough to leave him incapable of movement, speech, or the ability to remember his own name, but Shawn was saying it to him, over and over, punctuating it with kisses so that was okay.

It was still early, but all Carlton wanted to do after he'd eased his way out of Shawn's tender, raw ass and cleaned them both up with a handful of tissues, was sleep.

"You've got popcorn, right?" Shawn said brightly. "And something we can watch on TV?"

Carlton groaned and waved his hand in the direction of the kitchen, his eyes closed. "Help yourself. I'm going to take a shower once my legs work again."

"You're not throwing me out?"

Carlton forced his eyes to open. "What? No. Of course not. Unless there's somewhere you need to be, in which case I'll call you a cab."

"You walked out on me before," Shawn said. "Just walked out the door. Just turned around now, because you weren't welcome any more."

Carlton sat up, which took a real effort of will. "Yeah, well, sometimes I'm an idiot. And stop humming that song."

"My lips are sealed," Shawn said solemnly. "Now tell me where you keep the popcorn."

Carlton sighed. "Cupboard to the left of the sink. Don't burn it."

"You can burn popcorn?"

"I can."

"Tragic, but no longer a problem for you," Shawn said. "Anytime you feel like popcorn, night or day, just call and I'll come and make it for you."

"Thanks," Carlton said dryly. "Appreciate the thought."

He heard the microwave signal the end of the popcorn cycle just before he turned on the shower, but when he emerged from the bathroom, damp and wearing a towel because he'd forgotten to take a change of clothes in with him, the popcorn was in a bowl on the table, fluffy, golden white, perfect, and Shawn had left.

Carlton looked around for a note, checked his phone for a message, even peered out of the window, ducking back when a neighbor walking her dog spotted him and shook her head reprovingly because he was still only wearing a towel.

Nothing.

A burn of anger replaced his bewilderment. He tossed the popcorn in the trash without tasting it and went to strip his bed and clean up the mess Spencer had left behind, refusing to think about what it was going to be like the next time they met.

***

"You and Lassiter," Gus said flatly and for the seventh time. He was varying it with 'Oh my God! You and Lassiter?' from time to time, but Shawn was counting those separately.

He reached out, making Gus's bed creak, and tapped the side of Gus's head. "Are you stuck on repeat? Yes, me and Lassie. It can't be a total shock; you must have seen the way he looks at me, all those longing glances, that pent-up passion. He totally digs me."

Saying it in the present tense was helping to fool himself that nothing had changed if he didn't let himself think about it much.

"Lassie and I," Gus said primly, pedantically, predictably, "and from where I was standing, he was only ever longing for you to leave."

Shawn rolled his eyes. "No, silly Gus, silly, sweet Gus. Not you and Lassie. Me and Lassie. You're not into naked men, remember?"

"You know what I meant," Gus said. There was a distinct chill to his voice. "And don't start telling me about how liking Billy Zane proves you swing both ways because it doesn't. Everyone likes him. You're into guys, too. Potentially. Technically. You told me that in eleventh grade and then never did anything about it. I'm cool as long as you never, ever, give me any details. What I'm not cool with is you waking me up at two in the morning when I've got to get up at seven to do my real job and telling me that your latest victim is Lassiter. Lassiter. What did he ever do to you?"

"I'm sorry about the two o'clock deal," Shawn said. Victim? That was harsh. He'd spent the last four hours staring out at the ocean or driving around aimlessly. Which meant that he kept finding himself outside Lassie's place every twenty minutes or so. The lights had been out every time so Lassie was either out shooting someone or asleep. He'd headed for Gus's when it had occurred to him firstly that he was acting like a character in a chick flick and secondly that after the reaming it'd gotten, sitting on a motorbike wasn't his ass's first choice.

Gus acknowledged the apology with a sniff that signaled grudging acceptance, no more than that. A woken-in-the-middle-of-the-night Gus was a grumpy Gus.

"And since when were you President of the Carlton Lassiter Fan Club?" Shawn demanded. "You don't even like him. He's mean to us both all the time."

"He's not that bad to me," Gus said. "Mostly, he just ignores me." He gave Shawn a pointed look. "And he's had a lot to put up with at work the last year or so."

Shawn didn't let the fact that Gus always looked extra-cuddly in his fire truck PJs distract him from the real issue here, which was Gus's incredible disloyalty and lack of support. Where was the ice cream? Where was the shoulder offered for Shawn to soak with manly tears? Where was the sympathy? "So you're best buds now, is that it?"


"We talked. Last month," Gus said as if that happened all the time, which it didn’t, just like unicorns on the beach and men on the moon. "You said you were dying with the flu -- and don't try and resurrect that fake cough you used, because I didn't buy it then and I'm not buying it now -- "

Shawn coughed anyway, to cover his grin. Gus was, as ever, completely correct about the fakeness, but if you couldn't call in sick when you worked for yourself…

"So I went out of my way to swing by the station and get our check. I couldn't claim for that mileage, Shawn! I did it because some of us realize that bills don't get paid with anything but money -- and don't ever try and use chocolate coins again at the coffee shop, no matter how many you stocked up on in the Christmas sales, because no one wants them and it's just embarrassing."

"They're chocolate, Gus," Shawn explained patiently, on familiar territory again. "They're money you can eat. It's the perfect solution to all the economic issues and world hunger, and we both know it."

"Whatever." Gus pulled the sheets higher and confessed the rest in a rapid gabble. "So I bumped into Carlton and we chatted over coffee in the break room."

"You did what now?" Shawn stuck a finger in his ear and wiggled it. "Am I hearing you right? You and Lassiter? Chatting? Doing the chatty thing?"

Jealous. He was lime-green jealous. Which was ridiculous but it didn't stop him from being it. Unless Lassie had been trying to pump Gus for details of Shawn's love life? That might work. He'd let it go. For now.

"He's a more interesting man than I'd realized," Gus said in his most aloof tone. He came down off his high horse almost immediately, though, a reminiscent smile on his face."Well, okay, he's also strange and obsessive, but after being friends with you all my life, my tolerance level's pretty high for weirdoes."

"No, it isn't," Shawn said, needing to correct Gus's peculiar misapprehension. "You hate weird people apart from me. I'm special. I use up all your tolerance. The rest of your friends are normal."

"I never introduce you to them unless I can't avoid it, so how would you know?" Gus said, which was cruel and wrong on every single level. "And you still haven't told me why you ran away after doing the nasty without saying a word to him. What are you, twelve? That's immature, Shawn, even for you."

"I didn't run -- Run away? Me? That's so funny." Shawn tried to laugh and discovered a lump in his throat. Awkward. He gave up on the airy merriment and went for sincerity instead. Compassion. "I just decided that the man needed some space, a time to recover from the awesomeness that is me. It was a kindness really."

Gus looked supremely skeptical. "Uh-huh. So you did leave him a message?"

"I left him a bowl of popcorn. If he examined the kernels on the top layer, they spelled out, 'Call me!'," Shawn said.

"You can't spell with popcorn on popcorn, Shawn. Did you even text him?"

"No," Shawn said, giving up because Gus was looking so fucking disapproving and disappointed with him right then. Didn't Gus know how much that hurt? "I didn't leave a message, I didn't text him, I didn't do anything, Gus. He went into the shower and I could hear him whistling -- he was happy, Gus -- and I just -- I can't be responsible for someone being happy. I always let them down."

"You know that's right," Gus said, "but it sounds like you were doing okay up to then."

Shawn looked at the pillow that Gus hadn't rested his head on yet. It lay there, fluffed up, pristine, cool and welcoming. His head was aching. He'd wanted to lie in the bed with Lassiter for hours, cuddling, saying stupid stuff in husky whispers, maybe fooling around some more in the middle of the night with both of them waking at the same, turning to each other, all silent and needy, kissing each other, hands going places --

Making popcorn and watching a movie had seemed like a good escape route from something he wanted so much it dried his mouth with fear.

Now he just wanted to sleep and forget what he'd done.

"Can I grab a pillow and crash on your couch?"

"No," Gus said and pointed at the door. "You have man cooties and I don't want them on my couch. Go home. Or call Lassiter and grovel."

"Wake him up?" Shawn said dubiously.

Gus snorted. "I doubt he's asleep, Shawn. Knowing Lassie, he's cleaning his guns and trying to decide which one to use to shoot you with."

Shawn closed his eyes and pictured a driven, tense-mouthed Lassiter deftly reassembling his gun and spinning around to aim at a picture of Shawn with a target over it. Ouch. Or was it hot, too? He couldn't decide.

"I blew it," he said aloud, just to give Gus something to contradict.

"Totally," Gus agreed. "You got him to trust you, and I bet that didn't come easy, then when he did, you kicked him in the teeth. I bet you're mean to kittens, too. And bunnies. I bet they run when they see you coming. Animals always know --"

"Not helping," Shawn cut in before Gus could warm to his theme.

"Why him?" Gus asked curiously. He might say 'no details' but that didn't mean that he wasn't interested. "I don't get it."

"Have you seen his eyes?" Shawn took a deep breath. "No, cancel that. I've seen all of him now and his eyes are the least of it."

"Shawn --"

"I don't know, okay? He was in the men's room and I was there, and there was this thing with his tie…He slammed me against the wall and it was hot, dude, it was like this erotic charge that started at my toes and went all the way up to my -- Hey, don't do that, Gus, I'll fall off the -- ow!"

Shawn landed with a thud on an ass that was going to be demanding danger money if he bruised it again and gave Gus a reproachful look. "You asked."

"Not for details," Gus said. "You need to think about your next move, Shawn and you can do it someplace else. I'm going back to sleep."

Shawn stood with as much dignity as he could muster. "Fine. Thanks for being a friendly, listening ear. Oh, wait. You weren't."

"And don't make it up with him if you're just going to kick him again," Gus said, his voice muffled by the bedclothes he'd pulled over his head. "Clean breaks are kinder, I guess. You were always going to break his heart."

"I don't want to break his heart, I just don't want this -- thing -- with him. I can't cope. Thought I could, discovered I couldn't." Shawn paused. No more Lassie looking at him with a warmth that held no anger, no more panting and moaning as Lassie's dick taught him new ways to scream? He hadn't even gotten around to taking Lassiter up on that astonishing offer to return the favor and fuck him . All good reasons to cajole Lassiter into forgiving him. He had half a dozen lies ready, some involving Gus and an emergency that only Shawn could talk him through, like no clean shirts for the morning, one centered around a kitten stuck in a tree on the other side of town, meowing piteously, its distress causing vibrations on the astral plane that -- no, forget that one, Lassie would never buy it. A suspected heart attack for Henry was safer. Shawn quite liked the idea of himself as a dutiful, concerned son rushing to his father's side.

On second thought, the kitten story was safer. Lassie knew Henry.

"I don't know what I want," he discovered with some surprise. "Maybe just a second chance?"

"I want to sleep," Gus said. "Good night, Shawn."

Shawn left a few minutes later, too dispirited to make Gus suffer through more than a few back and forths of 'Good night, John-Boy' which just showed how upset he was. That was usually good for at least fifteen minutes and something thrown at his head by an enraged Gus.

He drove by Lassie's on the way home. It was only six miles out of his way.

Still dark. He pulled over at the steps leading up to Lassie's place, took off his helmet and took out his phone.

Lassie answered, just like any good cop would, probably groping for his phone in the dark, and grunting out his name in a sleepy growl.

"Lassie, it's me. It's Shawn. Look, I'm just outside and I wanted to come in. Do the groveling thing. Explain why I ran on my icy cold feet. You just -- you overwhelmed me, Lassie. For real. I thought I knew you and turns out I didn't. But I want to, I just -- Let me come in, make it up to you? Please."

He paused. He hadn't really expected to get this far and he'd run out of rehearsed, if sincere words.

A complex click from behind him brought his head around sharply. He knew what a gun being cocked sounded like and it wasn't a sound he wanted to hear on a deserted road in the middle of the night.

Lassiter was behind him, fully dressed and aiming a gun at him. "Go home, Spencer," Lassiter said softly. "Before I shoot you."

"You wouldn't," Shawn said, automatically trying to defuse the situation because, God, Lassie looked pissed. Tired, sad, pissed. The sadness was the hardest to spot and the one that hurt Shawn most. The guilt he'd been denying for hours was slamming into him like a fist, over and over, until he couldn't breathe. He'd made Lassie look like this. Defeated. Homicidal. He'd done worse than that in his life, but not often. "You'd wake everyone up."

"I don't get on with many of my neighbors," Lassiter said evenly. "Even if I did, it'd be worth it."

Shawn moistened his lips and started his bike, the sound of the engine loud, but not loud enough to drown out the way his heart was thudding. "I'll -- you know, I think I'll go home now."

Lassiter nodded as if that was what he'd expected Shawn to say, the same way he'd known that Shawn would come back and had been waiting for him. Maybe Lassie was the psychic and that's how he knew that Shawn wasn't one. That would be funny, except nothing was funny right then. "Don't come back."

"Lassie, just listen," Shawn said, putting everything he'd got into it even if the gun trained on his heart -- nice target choice -- was unwavering which was freaking him out. "Let me come in and we can talk this over, because we're not done, you know that --"

"You're not welcome in my home," Lassie said with cold finality and stepped back. "Go. Now."

Shawn shoved his helmet down over his head and did as he was told. He looked back every few yards, but Lassiter had gone inside and the street was empty.

Everything was empty.

***
"I'm just saying that I prefer not to work with Spencer again." Carlton's mouth was dry. Every time he said Spencer's name, he thought about the man -- hard to avoid under the circumstances, but he'd been doing his best all day. Spencer had at least shown a vestige of self-preservation and stayed away from the station. Carlton didn't think that he would have shot him on sight, not in front of witnesses, anyway, but it was a theory he didn't want to test.

"So you've said in the past," Chief Vick pointed out. "Many times, in fact. Mr. Spencer's file contains no less than three lengthy letters from you detailing your misgivings about his ability and -- though I can't see the relevance -- his appearance."

"He's scruffy," Carlton said defensively. "This station is filled with men and women who wear their uniform with pride or make an effort to present an appearance that does the police force credit. If Spencer was on an undercover assignment as a vagrant, his appearance might just possibly be acceptable, but -- "

"He's a consultant," Vick said, rising to her feet. "He can dress how he pleases and as long as it doesn't affect his contributions to your solve rate, which is admirable, I don't care what he puts on when he gets up in the morning."

"I doubt he crawls out of bed before noon," Carlton said bitterly. "Chief, I'm serious. I can't work with him again. I won’t. This department managed fine before he came on the scene and we can go back to that arrangement quite --"

"Why?" Vick interrupted him to ask, leaning forward, her hands pressed against her desk. "You've had your difficulties adjusting to each other, but overall, I'd say you and O'Hara have worked well with Mr. Spencer and Mr. Guster, even become friendly."

"Huh?" Carlton said, his heart pounding with fear that she knew, that Spencer had told her, told everyone. There was a burst of laughter from the bullpen and he spun around, glaring, only to see McNabb pick himself up from the floor, shaking his head ruefully and rubbing his butt. He tried to regulate his breathing to something less like a man at the end of a sprint. "I've done no such thing."

"Whatever," Chief Vick said. "Unless you've got something concrete to base your sudden change of heart on --"

"It's not sudden. I've never liked him." Carlton took a deep breath, feeling the nervous sweat prickle along his spine. He could smell himself, rank with apprehension and shame at his gullibility. Believing Spencer when he'd said it was more than a fling, that he wanted to stick around… Oh, he could just imagine how Spencer and Guster had snickered over him like the immature idiots they were.

"Detective," Vick snapped. "Has anything changed in your relationship with Mr. Spencer that I should know about? Have you discovered something to his detriment?"

Short of pulling down the collar of his shirt to show her the bruise Spencer's mouth had left on his shoulder, there didn't seem to be anything he could do to persuade Chief Vick to ban Spencer from entering the department unless he was being arrested.

Defeated, Carlton shook his head. "Nothing new," he said dully.

"Then the arrangement will stand," the Chief said. She pointed at the door. "I think that's all, Detective Lassiter."

He walked out with his head high and his face scarlet. He got a few curious looks from people who probably assumed he'd had his ass handed to him by Chief Vick, but he sneered at them until they looked away. That worked on most people. There was one exception, one man who just smiled at him or threw an arm around his shoulders when he was scowling, but come to think of it, last night he'd managed to make Spencer drive away, his shoulders slumped, with just a few words and a loaded gun.

Everything had changed and as it usually did, for the worse.

***

Spencer walked in mid-afternoon, jaunty, already babbling, his gaze darting around the room, a jittery energy filling him. Carlton had seen Spencer like this before and thought of triple espressos and cuffing him until he stopped fighting and calmed down, but today he busied himself with the papers on his desk after that first glance. The need to walk over, put his hands on Spencer, turn him, shove him away, hard, so that Spender stumbled and fell, sprawled gracelessly at Carlton's feet, supplicant, humbled was strong enough to taste, his mouth dry with it. He wanted to break Spencer the way that Spencer had shattered him.

He knew when Spencer was walking toward him, even with his back resolutely turned. He could feel the wake the man created in what had been a calm sea, the ripples smacking into him, boisterous and cold. Across from him, O'Hara was smiling a welcome, her fingers twirling a pen. Carlton followed the loops it made as intently as if it mattered, tuning out her cheerful greeting and Spencer's flirtatious response.

Without a word, not caring that O'Hara had asked him a question -- he hadn't been listening, but she'd said his name on a rising note so he assumed she had, anyway -- Carlton shoved back his chair and walked away.

Spencer didn't follow him. Carlton could tell because it stayed quiet and no one grabbed his arm. He found himself outside, the sun shining down placidly, the city going about its normal business. He'd left his desk, left the station, just to escape Spencer. Disgust at his weakness curled through him like a hair in a drink, revolting him. He took a deep, slow breath. That station was his. Spencer was the intruder, not him. He was going back inside and he was going to look Spencer in the eye and --

"He's really sorry."

Carlton had his hand on his gun before he identified the speaker. Shooting something would be such a comfort, but he'd already spent two hours at the range before his shift began and his hands ached from gripping his gun. Pretending the targets were Spencer hadn't been as therapeutic as he'd hoped.

Guster flinched. "Whoa! Don't shoot the peacemaker."

"He told you what happened?" Carlton demanded incredulously. He shook his head. "What am I saying. Of course he did. Too funny to keep to himself, right?" He was smiling now, the manic grin that had made Victoria shudder.

"Shawn didn't think it was funny," Guster said with a precision that got Carlton's attention. "He woke me up to tell me about it, yeah, but neither of us were laughing."

The steps leading up to the door were empty, but it wasn't really the place for private conversations. Carlton grabbed Guster's arm and walked him over to his ridiculous little blue car, resisting the urge to slam Guster up against it.

"I'm going to say this once," Carlton gritted out. "What happened yesterday didn't happen. None of it. It's in your best interests to help me believe that, because if it did happen, I'd have to shoot your friend and leave his limp, bleeding body on --"

Guster's face twisted with disapproval and he pushed Carlton away with more strength than Carlton expected. Tweaking his pale lime shirt into place, Guster said sharply, "Believe me, if they made an amnesia pill, I'd be trampling over your lifeless body to get it. The thought of you and Shawn getting naked and freaky is just…" He shuddered. "Hell, no. But it happened, and we all know it did, so stop hiding from it -- or Shawn. You know what he's like. Run away and he'll chase you. It's what he does."

"He was the only one running away last night," Carlton said bitterly. "Running off to laugh at how he'd fooled me."

Guster sighed. "You scared him."

Carlton gaped at him, guilt rendering him momentarily speechless until common sense returned. Some of his fantasies about Shawn had been born in the darker, kinkier corners of his mind, but he hadn't done anything to Spencer that Spencer hadn't begged for. "I did no such thing. If he says I did, he's lying. He asked me to -- "

Guster yelped and levitated a few inches. "No! No details! Ever!"

Carlton shoved out his lower lip. "Fine. I'm just saying, he seemed to be enjoying it."

"Not the point," Guster said. He glanced over Carlton's shoulder. "Shit, he's coming. Look, he ran out on you because he's a commitment-phobic asshole, we both know that, but take it as a compliment."

"Why?" Carlton said, too lost in confusion to register that Spencer was heading over which meant that he needed to be someplace else.

Guster pushed his face closer. His breath smelled of root beer and vanilla, and his eyes were as innocent as a kitten's. "Because he runs with everyone, but you're the only one he went back to. You got an apology. Shawn never does that."

Carlton remembered Spencer's voice on the phone, hesitant and rushed at the same time, stumbling through something that, yes, just about qualified as an apology. He swallowed and stepped back, away from the one friend Spencer had, something a lot of people overlooked. Spencer might be popular but not many people wanted to hang around with him for long. "I don't care. I can't trust him again. It's over."

"But we'd only just started," Spencer said.

Carton turned on his heel and found himself entirely too close to Spencer, who'd stopped vibrating enough for the cracks to show. His cat-green eyes were shadowed, sleep crusting the dark eyelashes, and the tooth fairy wouldn't approve of the way Spencer had apparently skipped on floss, brush, and mouthwash that morning. He smelled rough, he looked unkempt, and Carlton wanted to shove him under a shower and hold him there until Spencer's skin was rosy with heat and scrubbed clean. Then he'd drown him in the spray.

He rubbed his hand across his forehead. Okay, he had to stop thinking about different ways to kill Spencer. They both knew that he never would, so it wasn't as if voicing them would make Spencer do more than smile.

Guster popped up at Spencer's side which was obscurely comforting. Without Guster, Spencer looked…lop-sided. "You two have stuff to talk about."

"We really don't," Carlton said coldly.

Guster sighed. "Please. Talk. Or he'll talk to me and I can't take much more and stay sane."

"If you're still friends with him, I'm not sure you qualify as sane or even adult."

"Ouch," Shawn said, a flicker of hurt showing. It killed Carlton that he could see it, identify it, know it to be genuine. He didn't want to be like Guster, attuned to the wild oscillations of Shawn Spencer's metronome.

He didn't want to know what it was like to hold Shawn, feel him break apart as he came, put him back together with his hands and mouth, piece by piece until Shawn was Shawn again.

He didn't.

By the time he'd collected his thoughts enough to come up with the perfect combination of words to make time go backward to about 11.00 A.M. the previous day, at which point he would not go into the men's room, would not meet Spencer, not be seduced, not kiss him at work -- at work -- Guster had jumped into his car and driven away fast enough to have earned a ticket if Carlton had still been working Traffic, which was where he deserved to be.

"Talking sounds good," Spencer said, his voice quiet, even reasonable, which was scary coming from him. "Or I could hold still and let you hit me, which is what I'm sensing you want to do."

"I wouldn't do that, " Carlton said. A fair fight, yes, but punching Spencer knowing that he wouldn't hit back? That didn't do anything for him. "Spencer, I said everything I wanted to say last night --"

"What's really making you angry?" Shawn asked, his head tilted slightly to the side. "That I left, or that you thought I wasn't coming back?"

"They're the same thing!"

"Not really." Shawn yawned, wide and uninhibited. "Sorry. I didn't get much sleep last night. Think I might go and catch up if you're sure you don't want to yell at me or skip to the part where you forgive me and we have make-up sex, the really hot, passionate kind, all moaning and licking and maybe you bite my ear and I --"

"Spencer!" Carlton took an unwary step forward and collided with an unmoving object. Spencer felt warm and familiar when Carlton grabbed his arms, but that didn't stop him from pushing Spencer aside once he'd regained his balance. "We are done."

"I'll catch you later, then," Spencer called after him.

Unbelievable. Carlton shook his head as if a persistent fly was buzzing around it and stalked back into the station and over to his desk, his head throbbing.

When he sat down, he realized that he was half-hard, his dick as confused as the rest of him. Peachy.

***

His place was going to need fumigating to get rid of the memories, but as Carlton pushed open the door that night, his overwhelming desire was for a shower and sleep. He'd taken care of food at the station, chewing unenthusiastically on a stale sandwich and a granola bar O'Hara had given him. He'd stayed at work until he was down to organizing the paperclips in his pen tray at which point he'd given up hoping that something exciting was going to break that would need him awake and alert.

He was so tired that he wasn't even sure he could aim his gun straight.

The shower, as hot as he could take it, helped. He turned his face up to the spray and closed his eyes, letting the water wash away his thoughts, his regrets, the ache of longing. It didn't do a very good job. He'd wanted Spencer. He'd loved every fucking minute of Shawn's clumsy, calculated seduction and it wasn't the hot water making him sweat, but the memory of Shawn's mouth on him, shaped around Carlton's erection so perfectly.

Part of him was screaming that it wasn't fair to give him that for a few hours, then snatch it back.

He slammed his fist against the tiled wall and panted out a litany of curses aimed at Spencer, himself, the whole crappy mess, the hiss of the water dulling the sound of his words.

When he was done, emptied out and hollow, he turned the water off, got out, and rubbed himself dry, lassitude making him fumble and drop the towel when he tried to wrap it around his waist.

The hell with it. He was only going to bed.

He walked through his apartment, turning off the lights as he went, and into his dark bedroom where the bed was waiting for him, freshly made, a door to oblivion. He closed his eyes, walked forward, and fell onto it.

He was expecting smooth sheets, a soft pillow, a gentle give as the mattress took his weight. He got a squirming body, a yelp of surprise, and an elbow in the face.

"What the hell?"

"Don't shoot!"

"Spencer, what in the name of God are you --"

Carlton got off the bed, heedless of his nudity, and turned on the lamp. Spencer was handcuffed to his bed by one wrist, as naked as Carlton, his clothes…Carlton glanced around the room and saw them in a heap on the floor. Typical.

"You're later than I expected," Spencer said reproachfully before Carlton could continue questioning him. "I really need to pee, so could you find the key -- I threw it over there somewhere -- and let me out for just long enough to take care of that, then I swear I'll let you cuff me again."

"I'll unlock them," Carlton said, trembling with anger and shock, unable to look away once he'd made the mistake of letting his gaze linger. Spencer was leaning back against the headboard, his cuffed arm crooked awkwardly, but Carlton wasn't looking at the metal circling Spencer's wrist, tethering him in place, or the faint lines discomfort had drawn around Spencer's mouth. He was looking at Spencer's dick, hard, flushed dark, waiting to be touched. Had Spencer made it look like that deliberately, working it through the hole his fist made as soon as he'd heard Carlton's footsteps, the grate of his key? Or had he been lying here like this for hours, aroused by the waiting, the anticipation? Carlton wanted to know but he couldn't let Spencer play him like this. "I'll unlock them and use them to beat you to death with, you arrogant little shit. This is my house and you had no right to walk in and --" He paused. The towel had been damp. The soap had been slick to the touch… "Oh my God. You used my shower."

"You wanted me to cuff myself to your bed all sweaty?" Shawn pursed his lips. "Kind of kinky, but I'll bear it in mind for next time."

"There won't be a next time," Carlton said and started to look for the key. If he didn't find it in the next thirty seconds, he'd just tear the cuff off Spencer with his bare hands.

"You're not asking why I did this."

"I don't care," Carlton snapped, craning his neck to look under a chest of drawers. Nothing. Was that something glinting by the baseboard? "And it was a stupid thing to do. Suppose there'd been a fire?" Bondage wasn't something he'd ever experimented with, but he was fairly certain one of the rules was that you didn't leave someone alone if they were tied up. He was also certain that it still applied if someone abandoned themselves.

Spencer sighed as Carlton got to his feet. "Only if my naughty thoughts set the bed alight. Come on, Lassie. Let me tell you. And ooh, is that for me?"

"I'm angry," Carlton said coldly, not bothering to hide the fact that he was aroused, if not as much as Spencer. Kind of pointless to try when all that he was wearing was air and Spencer had seen, touched, and tasted every inch of his dick the night before. What did Spencer expect when he was flaunting himself like this, anyway? "That's all."

"You mean that all the times you're yelling at me, you've got one of those tucked away in your shorts? Nice. I can't wait for the next time I'm a bad boy."

"Save it, Spencer," Carlton said, not caring that his weariness was showing. "I'm tired and I need to sleep. I don't know what perverted games you're playing, but I'm not interested."

"Not a game," Shawn said. "Just a bright idea. Last time, I blew it by…well, we both know what I did. I said I was sorry and I meant it, but everyone gets a second chance and this is yours."

"You mean yours."

As soon as he said it, he knew he'd been trapped. Spencer beamed at him. "I knew you'd forgive me."

"I didn't --"

"Lassie, you're not going to be one of those boyfriends who keep bringing up the past, are you? I hope not." Shawn rattled his cuffed wrist. "This is how you can make sure I stay put until you're ready to kick me out."

"I'm sorry," Carlton said with exaggerated politeness. "Are you seriously suggesting that I fuck you and then chain you to my bed?"

"Yes," said Shawn and produced a key from under the pillow, making Carlton's mouth fall open in disbelief. "What? You said yourself you'd have to be an idiot not to keep a key in reach."

"You had me looking for it and it was under your -- my pillow the whole time?"

"I said I threw it. I didn't say I didn't catch it."

Carlton took a step forward, intent on wresting the key from Shawn, even if that made no sense at all, just so that he could be the one to release him, but it was too late.

"Really got to pee," Shawn said apologetically and undid his cuff. "Aiming might be a problem, but I'll try not to sprinkle when I tinkle."

Carlton stepped aside wordlessly, defeated and confused, and let Spencer go. At least it left him an empty bed to lie on. He fitted his body into the patch of warmth Shawn had left behind and closed his eyes. Maybe when he woke the world would start making sense again.







Carlton opened his eyes to a dark room, but the door was cracked wide enough to allow in some light from the hallway. He frowned, listening to the muted murmur of the TV in the living room. It didn't tell him if Shawn was still around or not. Shawn was more than capable of walking out leaving the plug in a bath and the water running.

He got out of bed, naked but no longer damp, and put on a pair of shorts and a robe. The clock by the bed was insisting that it was midnight so there didn't seem like much point in getting fully dressed, not when he'd spent the last few hours sprawled out for Spencer to ogle at will. The thought of that made his skin feel itchy and warm.

Shawn was on the couch, wearing shorts and a white T-shirt, eating popcorn and watching some mindless pap on the television. Carlton sat down beside him with a grunt that meant 'move over' and scooped up a handful of popcorn.

Sleep was still with him, a fog of it graying out his vision and making him want to tilt his head to the side and rest it on Shawn's shoulder. He yawned widely and took some more popcorn instead.

The silence between them stretched out like chewed gum but Carlton didn't feel the need to speak. Shawn had stuck around after what passed for an apology. Right then, it was enough to buy him some measure of forgiveness. Ground had been lost, but not much. Trusting Shawn had never come easily, so Carlton was willing to slip back into watchful waiting again.

They finished the bowl down to the last un-popped kernels, left to roll around with a dusting of crumbs for company, and Shawn set the bowl on the floor.

"I didn't know if you were going to wake up."

"Do I look like Sleeping Beauty?" Carlton inquired. "Don't answer that."

"Happy to be Prince Charming and wake you with a kiss," Shawn said. "Close your eyes again."

Carlton almost fell into the trap of obeying him, but if this was going to work -- and he'd been unhappy enough when he'd thought that it wasn't to know that he wanted it to -- then he had to at least try to fight back. Shawn controlled situations, always, sometimes obviously, blatantly, sometimes with a subtle touch that verged on Machiavellian. He needed to be taught that it couldn't always be like that.

Without thinking past the desire to kiss Spencer's salted, butter-slick lips, Carlton turned, moved, and let his weight bear down on a startled Shawn. Pinned under him on the couch, Shawn was all wide eyes and fake startled splutters, but Carlton ignored him. He settled himself comfortably, cupped Shawn's jaw in his hand to hold him still, and kissed him.

Shawn didn't stop talking for an endless five seconds or so but his hands were sliding over Carlton's shoulders before Carlton's mouth had even touched his. Shawn wanted this. Carlton wasn't sure he'd ever get used to that, but he wasn't sure that he wanted to, so that was okay.

"You taste good," he said, kissing his way down Shawn's throat.

"Lassie, you have no idea how much better I'll taste when you cover me with whipped cream and make me into a sundae that you slurp up with a straw."

That made about as much sense as anything Shawn said -- in other words, very little -- but Carlton was learning how to interpret. Maybe not up to Guster's standards of fluency -- no one ever would with the head start Guster had -- but he was learning. Straws and cream meant…Shawn wanted a blow job? Probably so that he could pick up some tips as much as for the pleasure of the act itself. Shawn had to hate being the newbie. Carlton had no problems at all with that. He couldn't think of an easier way to reduce Shawn's assurance to a whisper and dial up the volume on the begging for more.

Carlton really wanted to hear Shawn beg. It didn't have to be fancy, Shawn's verbal equivalent of a steamy tango. "Please, pretty please, Lassie, God, yes, please…" would do nicely, but Carlton just wanted to hear a 'please' and a 'thank you' afterward wouldn't come amiss either.

He toyed with the idea of insisting that Shawn write a bread and butter letter after sex just for the hell of it then realized he'd lost his mind. Lack of sleep and emotional turmoil did that to a man.

So. A simple blow job to seal the truce. On the other hand, there was a can of whipped cream in the fridge and a jar of cherries around somewhere. Carlton's young nephew Peter liked to drop them into his ginger ale on the rare times that he visited and pretend that he was drinking a cocktail. Carlton had his own opinions on that kind of behavior, but he kept his mouth shut. His sister didn't take helpful criticism any better than the normal kind.

The cuffs Shawn had taken off -- something that still made Carlton want to grind his teeth even after a restorative few hours sleep -- were on the coffee table. Carlton reached out and grabbed them, then dangled them by one finger in front of Shawn. "You want to wear these when I blow you?"

He felt the heat rush through Shawn as his words sank in. That Shawn liked the idea wasn't in doubt, but Carlton needed to hear him say it. Flushed cheeks, dazed, glazed eyes and a confused, cute pout just weren't enough. The jab of Shawn's erection wasn't either.

"Use your words, Shawn," he said with a sardonic grin he didn't keep private.

"Yeah," Shawn said on a long exhale. He shook himself like a wet dog and achieved a visible measure of composure that Carlton bet was skin-deep if that. "Sounds good, Officer Lassie. Bring on the bondage."

Carlton stood and moved the coffee table aside, then pointed at the rug. "Down here."

"Huh?"

"I need to cuff you to something," Carlton explained, making sure that he had a nicely impatient frown on his face. "I haven't got all night, Spencer."

Slowly, sneaking glances at Carlton as if he expected to be told that it was a joke, Shawn slid off the couch and onto the floor, landing on his ass. Carlton stayed on his feet, staring down at Shawn and making the most of his height. He waited for Shawn to protest or even get up again, but Shawn, after a silent moment, shrugged and extended his hands up to him. "Do it."

"Lie down," Carlton said getting out of his way. "Hands over your head."

"God, you're really getting into this," Shawn said with a grin. "Dom Lassie. Do you come with a matching whip and a choice of leather boots? Because if you do, I know what I'm asking Santa for when he tells me I've been a bad boy."

It didn't sound like a complaint, but Carlton answered it as if it were one. "This was your idea. I'm going to teach you to be more careful about what you ask me for."

"You don't always have to give it to me." Shawn lay back, wriggling into place, arms over his head, positioning himself so that the cuffs could be looped around the leg of the couch. Initiative. That was good to see.

Carlton crouched down beside Shawn and ran a finger across the inside of his right wrist. The cuffs were heavy in his hand but even without them on, Shawn didn't move. Carlton liked Shawn's obedience, temporary though it probably was, but he wanted to make it impossible for Shawn to move. He wanted to hold the only key. With a flash of honesty, he admitted to himself that he really wanted to hear Shawn beg. "No, but usually I want to if I'm…with someone. It's part of my job"

"Not just with me?" Shawn asked with the suggestion of a pout. "And it's not supposed to be hard work, you know. Fun. It comes just before 'Funyuns' in the dictionary."

Carlton shook his head. "I tried with Victoria," he said. "I always try. It just doesn't always work out the way I want it to."

He hated that. He succeeded. It was what he did. When he didn't, when his best efforts were flung back at him…

Shawn sat up and Carlton was startled out of what he had to admit was a brooding silence by a kiss, messy, hot, and hard.

"Stop thinking," Shawn said, the earnestness in his green eyes as new to Carlton as the kissing. Spencer. Kissing him without smirking afterward or hesitating before. It had been a strange few days. "The scowling's hot, but it's giving you frown lines and I'm guessing you won't take my advice and get a facial any time soon."

"You've got that right," Carlton told him. He ran his tongue over his lips, tasting Shawn. "I was going to tie you down, strip you, and cover your dick with cream," he said. It wasn't a confession. More of a warning. Except now that he'd said it aloud, it sounded stupid.

"Pouring cream or the sort you squirt out of a can?" Shawn asked, sounding interested in the answer.

"Can."

Shawn considered that for a moment and then shrugged. "Sure. Go for it. Watch out for hairs though. There's always one or two loose ones down there."

"And now I'm crossing that off the list of things I want to do," Carlton said pulling a face. "Thanks for spoiling the fantasy."

"You wouldn't have done it," Shawn said with an annoying assurance. "Too messy. Too silly. Too much cholesterol. No, wait, you're the man who takes coffee with his cream and sugar, not the other way around. Cancel that last bit."

"I guess I'm just not the adventurous kind of man you're used to," Carlton said sarcastically. "Oh, wait, I'm the only --"

"You get off on handcuffing me, so I wouldn't say that," Shawn interrupted him to say, settling with his back against the couch and looking as comfortable on the floor as he had on Carlton's bed. "You've got kinky depths. Who doesn't?"

"So tell me one of your kinks," Carlton said. He propped his elbow on the couch cushion and rested his chin on his hand. "Something real," he added when Shawn's mouth popped open immediately, ready to spill some bullshit bit of esoteric erotica. That closed Shawn's mouth, but not for long.

"Spanking," Shawn said. "A girlfriend spanked me once and it was…well, it was a disaster, but it felt like it should've been really, really hot and I keep remembering it how it should have been and ooh…"

His eyes closed and he writhed, the effect sensual enough to dry Carlton's mouth. "Spanking isn't sexy," he managed to say. "Believe me, it isn't."

Shawn opened his eyes and stopped squirming. "That sounded heartfelt. Dish the dirt."

Carlton shrugged one shoulder. "No dirt. Just a few nuns with rulers. Sorry to disappoint you, but those ladies weren't anything I want near my sex life."

"They came at you with rulers?" Shawn said, his eyes wide. "Jesus."

Carlton smiled grimly. "Yes, they mentioned him a few times when they were turning the palms of my hand red."

The humiliation had been worse than the pain. The rest of the class snickering behind their hands, no sympathy evident, the ritual 'Thank you, Sister Maria' at the end, choked out of a tear-tight throat, the way his palm felt stiff and hot and shiny for hours, no matter how often he ran cold water over it or pressed it against the cool wood of his desk…

"So I'm guessing…"

"Not up there on my to-do list."

"It's still on mine," Shawn said. "Nameless girlfriend I won't name did it all wrong. She giggled and she tapped at my ass, then she giggled some more."

Carlton's attention sharpened. Shawn sounded pissed off and frustrated, his mouth tight, his fingers drumming against his thigh.

"It was like a place on me was itching and I wanted her to scratch it, hard, and she was tickling it with a feather instead," Shawn continued, and look who was brooding now. "You wouldn't do it like that."

"I wouldn't do it at --"

"You'd commit to it," Shawn went on, ignoring Carlton completely, his voice low, intense, utterly focused. "If you thought I needed it to calm down, chill out, drive me insane with lust, whatever, you'd just grab me, no fuss, no talking, and put me across your knee, hold me down with one hand, take down my pants with the other, and then wham --"

"Jesus, Shawn." Carlton put out his hand and covered Shawn's mouth before it could say anything else. He felt Shawn's lips move, shaping a few more words, but he didn't try to decipher them. "I'll do it. You won't like it as much as you think, but I'll do it. Just not now."

Shawn turned his head and Carlton let his hand fall away. "Why not now?"

That was so very Shawn. He was as willing to wait for what he wanted as a toddler offered ice cream. "Because…because I'm still not sure I'm over what you did yesterday."

An expression Carlton couldn't pin down flashed over Shawn's face, but he answered lightly. "So? You're angry. Perfect time."

"Wrong time," Carlton said tersely. "If I ever do it -- yeah, okay, fine, I said I would, I will -- when I do it, you'll know I'm in a good mood and you're not on my shit-list. That's not going to happen tonight after that stunt you pulled with the key."

"But you were going to do something to me," Shawn said and all his attention was on Carlton now, which was unnerving. "With the cream and the cuffs."

"I told you. I was going to blow you," Carlton said and marveled again at how surreal this all was. Maybe he was hallucinating the whole thing. Spencer had probably slipped something into his coffee and he was on a wild trip over the rainbow. That made more sense than a world in which he was telling Shawn Spencer that he'd been a squirt away from sucking his dick. "That's all."

"So even when you're pissed at me, I get a blow job?" Shawn whistled. "Okay, having you for a boyfriend comes with some serious perks, Lassie."

"The moment's passed," Carlton said, fighting the urge to correct 'boyfriend' though he was damned if he knew what word fit better. "I don't want to do anything to you right now."

"Lassie's lying," Shawn sing-songed. "How can we tell, boys and girls? He turned down awesomely hot sex with me."

"I'm not in the mood to give you another tutorial," Carlton said with a brutal frankness he didn't regret even a little. "There's an art to getting blow jobs. You'd probably choke me to death and not notice."

"Hate to burst your bubble, Professor, but I've been on the receiving end plenty of times and never gotten complaints."

Oh. Right. Carlton had been so focused on Shawn's inexperience with men that he'd forgotten the many women who'd fallen into Shawn's bed and probably rolled out of it soon after. He'd wanted to forget them.

He shrugged, covering his mistake with a glare. "Fine, so you wouldn't ram your dick down my throat. Good to know. It doesn't mean that I want to --"

"Then stop talking about it," Shawn said, as close to annoyed as Carlton had ever seen him. He knelt up, one hand on the couch, and stabbed at Carlton's chest with his finger. "You come in here, wave those cuffs at me, get me to tell you about something I want, then tell me you won't do it, say you were going to blow me and back off --"

"If you don't like it -"

"Like it? Like it?" Shawn shoved his fingers through his hair, leaving it sticking up. Carlton couldn't help sneaking a glance down. It wasn’t the only part of Shawn standing tall. "Lassie, I'm sexually frustrated. Ask Gus what I'm like when I get this way."

"I'd rather shoot myself."

"I get manic." Shawn stood and Carlton automatically rose with him. Shawn's eyes were narrowed and his teeth looked sharper than usual. His hands sliced at the air, broad gestures, wildly exaggerated. "I get impulsive. I watch marathons of shows I know aren't good for me and I eat candy until my teeth stick together and I lose the ability to tell if a jelly bean is lime or apple."

"Me, I just jerk off," Carlton said and watched Shawn pause mid-diatribe, his mouth hanging open. "A lot since I met you," he added.

Shawn visibly preened. "You jerked off? Over me?"

"Not literally," Carlton said with an attempt at humor.

"You could," Shawn offered with commendable generosity or desperation, Carlton wasn't sure which. "That could be kinda hot."

Carlton visualized Shawn tied to his bed, his tanned skin splattered with trails of white; across his rigid cock, drops of spunk decorating it from balls to tip, or coating his face, pure porn, that last image, with Shawn's tongue flicking across his lips to taste what he'd been given. He shuddered. "You put ideas into my head. Strange, off-putting ideas."

"I know," Shawn said with a fond, proud smile. "I just wish you'd let some of them out to play for the day, Lassie."

Carlton sighed and massaged his forehead with the tips of his fingers. "You're hard work, you know that? You're a roller coaster ride. A tornado. A plague."

"Hmm. Interesting range of options there and one that says more about you than me, but I'm resisting the temptation to analyze when I could be doing other things that start with the same four letters."

It took Carlton long enough to work that out and roll his eyes that Shawn had time to move closer. Shawn pressed up against him like a licked stamp on an envelope was distracting. When he had a hard-on, and he very definitely did, distraction turned to temptation without breaking a sweat.

"I'm right here," Shawn said, enunciating the words carefully. "I'm ready and raring to go and I'm not going to take 'I'm tired, let's just cuddle' as an acceptable substitute for 'Ass up and get ready to scream, Shawn, I'm going in.' If you don't want me, I'll go home, but -- okay, that last bit was a lie. I'm not going anywhere."

"Shawn --"

"Aaaand I'm moving to pitiful face," Shawn interrupted him to say. "I can get Gus weeping with this one and he's had years to get used to it. You'd be toast. Soggy toast. I'm going to count to three and then the lip-quivering will commence. One…two…"

"Don't," Carlton said and held up his hand to forestall whatever tactic Shawn was about to unleash. "I'm going back to bed. You can…you can join me if you want. To sleep. Nothing else."

"I'm not tired," Shawn said and managed to sound like a six-year-old avoiding naptime. It wasn't without its appeal, but on a whole different level than Shawn probably intended.

"Well, I am. I didn't get much sleep last night after that little trick you pulled and --"

"Fuck you," Shawn said evenly, his voice chilled to the point where Carlton expected to see icicles forming on Shawn's lips.

"What?"

"That's the second, maybe third time you've brought that up. You're just like Henry," Shawn continued.

"I am nothing like --"

"You expect me to be perfect and when I'm not, when I maybe get just a little concerned about what's expected of me and take a break to think it over --"

"A break? You walked out on me --"

"You get bent out of shape, like I let you down, like I failed you and you never let it go, never, no matter how much I try to make it up to you, how many times I do it over and over and get it right, you just focus on the one time I blew it."

The ice was melting now, but the raw hot fury replacing it wasn't an improvement. Carlton didn't step back from the threat Shawn posed, never had, never would with anyone, but he did spare a moment to wonder how they'd gotten from point A to B and another to wish that he had Henry Spencer in his interrogation room for an hour. The man cared about his son, anyone could see that, but mixed in with the love was one hell of a lot of resentment, and it wasn't news to Carlton that what went for the senior Spencer also held true for the junior.

"Stop it, Shawn. Just calm down and we can talk --" He put his hand on Spencer's shoulder, the muscles there taut and quivering.

He was clearly in a hell where he never got to complete his sentences, but this time Shawn chose a different way to interrupt him.

Carlton didn't have any choice about stepping back. The fist in his mouth forced him to, making him stagger, and he was lucky to stay on his feet.

"I'm leaving," Shawn said, breathing fast and shallow. "I'm done here."

"You even try to walk out of that door and I'll arrest you for assaulting a police officer," Carlton snapped. "Then you can leave in cuffs and we can take a nice trip to the station. That what you want, Spencer?"

Shawn brought the hand he'd hit Carlton with up to his mouth, wiping it across lips that were trembling. He looked lost, as dazed as if he'd been the one sucker-punched. Carlton licked at his lip, stinging, wet with blood, and sighed. "Fine. If you want to go, I won't stop you, but for what it's worth, I'm sorry."

"What for?" Shawn said, his voice muted now, the violence drained out of him. "I'm the one who hit you."

"Yeah, you did. Because of a bunch of issues I could care less about, and for the record, you hit like a girl."

"I dare you to say that in front of Jules. She hits like a girl, too."

"She hits like a cop," Carlton corrected him. "I'm not your goddamned therapist, Shawn, and I'm not standing in for your dad, either. One, we're nothing like, beyond the cops who like to fish deal, and two, that's beyond kinky and into sick and I don't like that. It makes me uncomfortable."

"But spanking me doesn't?"

"Is that something Henry did?" Carlton asked, a cold shiver wriggling down his back.

Shawn shrugged. "Mostly he was a big fan of the punishment fitting the crime. Amazingly, often yard work or washing his car was the perfect match."

Carlton couldn't help smiling. "Sounds like he'd get on with my mother -- no, forget that. He wouldn't. No one does."

Shawn eyed him doubtfully. "I should go. I don't mean forever if you're not ready to call it quits, just for tonight."

"Forget about it," Carlton told him. Like it mattered what he wanted. Shawn had shown him today that if he was still interested, he'd just keep on coming after Carlton no matter how much Carlton shoved him away. "If you disappear on me now, the next time I see you, we'll be back to pretending these last two days never happened and I don't want that."

"You should," Shawn said. "I'm hard work."

Carlton grunted an agreement. Privately, he thought that it was worth it, but that wasn't something that he wanted to share just yet. Shawn hadn't earned it. "Hit me again, and I'll hit you back," he said and took Shawn by the arm, leading him to the bedroom without much resistance. "Leave me tonight for anything short of a fire breaking out, and I'll take away your library card."

"Now you're just being really, really mean. Not to mention, twenty years too late. I got banned for life for reorganizing the books in the children's department by color one rainy afternoon. I think they're still looking for The Bobbsey Twins in Rainbow Valley."

"Is that so."

Carlton kicked the bedroom door closed and ended their journey at the bed. He was tired, exhausted even, and he'd eaten too much popcorn. He wanted to use Shawn as a pillow and sleep, no more than that, but even to his eyes Shawn was a twitchy, jittering emotional wreck. Carlton didn't feel responsible, not really. Shawn was the one who'd seduced him, used him, left him, and punched him all in less than forty-eight hours. The only point in Shawn's defense was that apparently he hadn't been able to resist Carlton's charms any longer and couldn't help himself. Or something like that. Which made him unique since everyone else in the world appeared to have no trouble doing that at all.

Either way, when you started to feed a stray kitten, you couldn't stop, not if you wanted to be able to look in the mirror without seeing someone ugly.

"Spanking or blow job, Spencer. Pick one," he said gruffly.

Shawn's eyebrows rose along with the hem of his T-shirt as he wriggled out of it. "Pick one? Are you insane? Did I knock some brain cells loose when I hit you?"

"I'm tired," Carlton said, taking off his robe. Ungrateful brat. "Take it or leave it."

Shawn gave him a calculating look that he smoothed out into a reasonable, let's be adults here, smile when Carlton growled at him warningly. "How about I get the spanking and you get the blow job?"

Carlton sighed, sat down on the bed, and hauled Shawn down and across his knee. It took a small amount of adjusting to get Shawn settled, but overall, the maneuver went smoothly. Most things did when Shawn was cooperating. "You won't like this as much as you think you will, you know," he said, echoing his earlier words.

A spanking. That was done to hurt. What the hell Shawn hoped to get out of it was beyond Carlton, but he could do one better than the girlfriend and deliver something that deserved the name -- until Shawn stopped him and began to complain vociferously, that was. Carlton made a bet with himself that Shawn wouldn't take more than five slaps before bailing.

"Yes, Sister Lassie."

"You're going to hell," Carlton said with conviction, and pulled Shawn's shorts down to mid-thigh. Something told him that Shawn would need to save him a seat, because the sight of his handprint, faintly pink, on Shawn's ass a moment later had him achingly hard. It wasn't that he enjoyed hurting Shawn, it was the simple fact that Shawn was letting him do this and the way that Shawn tensed then relaxed with a sigh, his ass lifting up a fraction of an inch, asking for more. Carlton obliged with a second slap, holding nothing back, shocked with his reaction but too aroused to stop until Shawn told him to.

"God, that hurt," Shawn said after a high-pitched yelp. "What happened to warming up and starting slowly?"

"I didn't say anything about that and shut up unless you want me to stop," Carlton told him, running his hand possessively over all that pale, unmarked flesh. "In which case, a simple, 'Carlton, please stop' will do nicely."

"Yeah, I'm not going to say that," Shawn told him.

Carlton paused, mid-spank, which left him feeling on edge. "Then we stop right here, right now." Limits. He had to set some.

"Then I start calling you Sarah after she who once was nameless but I guess that's out of the window now."

Carlton pinched a patch of pink skin between two fingers. That didn't count as going back on his word and it was vaguely soothing to be doing something beyond staring. Shawn's ass, in this position especially, cried out to be touched. He'd fucked it, driven his fingers and his cock deep inside Shawn's hot, hungry hole, but that was yesterday and this was now. "You want this, Shawn. And I…don't mind delivering, but we do this properly and that means you do as your told when you're ass up over my fucking knee, are we clear on that?"

"Sir, yes, sir," Shawn said smartly. "Spank me some more."

"When you tell me what it takes to get me to stop."

"Lassiebear, stop making me squeal like a piggie?" Shawn wondered.

Carlton brought his hand down, the lightest spank imaginable, and heard Shawn hiss with frustration. He wanted to add his own dissatisfied grunt, but he held it back. "Nope."

"Master of Pain, please have mercy?"

"Shawn, I'm waiting to paddle your ass as red as a hand can get it, but waiting is all I'm going to do until you behave." Shawn's hands were out of sight near the carpet, but Carlton heard a muffled thud as if Shawn had hit out. Temper, temper. "Say it and you get what you want. Keep me waiting much longer and we move on to my blow job."

"You want to do it," Shawn argued. "If it gets too much, I'll just tell you, Lassie. Stop being a pedantipuss."

"Stop fighting me and say it my way." Carlton was prepared to be inexorable, immovable. It was for Shawn's own good. He ran his hand through Shawn's hair, gripping it roughly, moving Shawn's head from side to side. "Just say it," he murmured, hearing how raw his voice sounded. "Say it and I start, Shawn."

"You're telling me to do it," Shawn said. "Why not try asking me?"

"I already did," Carlton said, refusing to get trapped inside Shawn's maze. Before he knew it, he'd be the one begging and that just wasn't going to happen. "You gave me some back-talk I'm going to remember very clearly when I bring my hand down on your ass, but --"

"Carlton, please stop."

"What?"

"That's what you want me to say," Shawn said. "I said it. I didn't mean it. Get on with this before I start making clucking noises."

"I wouldn't," Carlton said. "I won't do it if I'm pissed off, remember."

Before Shawn could reply -- which meant his hand began to move while he was still speaking -- he gave Shawn the third slap and kept it hard but not full-strength. Shawn turned his head and their eyes met for a long moment.

"You know what to say," Carlton said, speaking quietly into the dense hush around them. "Until then, eyes down, mouth shut, and just…enjoy it."

Carlton didn't really expect Shawn to do the first two, but Shawn surprised him.

He made it to the point where Carlton's hand was flinching away from each blow, his palm sore and hot, until he gasped out the three words Carlton had been waiting to hear. By then, Shawn's endurance was less of a surprise. Carlton wasn't sure that Shawn was getting what he'd expected from the spanking, but Shawn was sure as hell getting something. Shawn's back was glistening under a coat of sweat, desperate, incredulous sounds accompanying each slap, but he was hard as a rock, the damp tip of his cock brushing Carlton's thigh and leaving it streaked. His shorts had ended up on the floor at some point, but Carlton couldn't remember it happening.

When Carlton drew back his hand with a heartfelt, "Son of a bitch" as he shook it in an attempt to cool it down, Shawn went limp and heavy. Recalled to his responsibilities, Carlton ran his hand down Shawn's spine, stopping short of the scarlet ass and thighs. "Okay, it's over," he said, his voice sounding strange. He'd been making some noise himself during the spanking, but it hadn't really been talking. His eyes stung. Not as much as his hand, but still. "You did good."

He wasn't sure what qualified as well-behaved when someone was getting spanked, but Shawn had done what he was told and that was enough to make some positive reinforcement due.

Shawn didn't answer and Carlton sighed and carried on awkwardly stroking Shawn's hair and back with his left hand, his right hand cupped loosely at his side. Comforting words didn't come easily to him, but he did his best.

"You said them. Good for you. I didn't think you would. I was hoping you would, because quite frankly, my hand hurts like hell, but I figured if you could take it I could. I hope that wasn't why you kept going, Spencer. That kind of macho posturing is just -- well, this isn't the time or the place for it. Next time, not that there has to be a next time, don't think I'm saying there does, because there doesn't, I think we should go into it with a number in mind. I tried counting, but I uh, lost count around --"

"Fifty-four," Shawn said and squirmed off Carlton's knee and onto the bed, all without letting Carlton see more of his face than a red cheek, suspiciously damp. "Yeah, maybe we should. I don't know."

"Do you want me to --" Carlton trailed off mid-question. They might have both been hard, but sex was the last thing he wanted right then, which made no sense, but what about any of this did?

He got off the bed, patting Shawn's calf reassuringly, and went to the bathroom. Before he ran his hand under the cold water, he took off his shorts and wrapped his fingers around his cock, the heat soaking into his skin. It felt too good for him to be entirely comfortable doing it. Jacking off with the hand he'd just used to…

He realized his hand wasn't just holding his dick and snatched it away, thrusting it under the water. It helped a little, but his palm still felt tender, still looked swollen.

With a cold, wet washcloth in his hand, he went back to the bed. "You might want to bite down on a pillow for this."

"Huh? What --" The sound that ripped out of Shawn when the cloth was draped across his ass verged on unearthly. Carlton was reminded of cats battling it out in the moonlight. He put his hand on top of the wet cloth and held Shawn down.

"Stay still. It'll help."

"Now it hurts!" Shawn bellowed at full volume. "Don't ever try and help me again!"

"I will if you will."

"That's different," Shawn snarled. "You need my psychic visions."

"And you need this," Carlton told him and flipped the cloth over, drawing a violent shudder from Shawn, but thankfully a silent one. He had neighbors to consider, after all. "Let me take care of you."

Shawn sighed and turned his head. "You're a man of surprises, Carlton. I expected you to freak out over this and you didn’t."

Carlton shrugged. "You wanted something. That's not new. You want a lot of things, Shawn."

"Don't always get them."

"If I'm one of them, I've got news for you, you do. Have." Carlton grimaced and took the cloth away. It was practically steaming. "Let me rinse this out again."

"Leave it." Shawn nodded back over his shoulder. "I can't see all of it, but it looks…wow."

Carlton ran his finger over a particularly vivid splash of color. "Too much," he grumbled. "You should have stopped me."

"Why didn't you stop?"

"I was going to, but…"

"Enjoying it too much?"

Carlton was long past blushing. "Enjoying it, yes, but I'd gone past that. I wanted to stop. My hand hurt and you were -- I could see what I was doing to you."

"But you didn't stop." Shawn's eyes saw too much. Always had.

"You needed it. How the hell could I?" Carlton cleared his throat. "You're an idiot, Spencer, but I trusted you to know when to say three simple words."

"I love you."

"Not those three."

"But, Lassie, I do," Shawn said with a perfectly straight face. "You're third on the list after Gus and pineapple."

Carlton turned Shawn to his back, ignoring Shawn's completely genuine whimper of agony, and wrapped his red, stinging, hurting hand around what was left of Shawn's erection, pinning him down with the other.

"Pineapples have flowers, did you know that?" he said conversationally.

"If I say I did will you move your hand? Up and then down again, and don't be afraid to speed up."

"Lavender, light purple, red…kind of like your ass right now."

"Astonishing coincidence."

"Isn't it?" Carlton squeezed his hand and smiled when Shawn said "Lassie…" imploringly.

"Some get pollinated by bats in the wild," he continued, trying to remember the details he'd read online after the third time Shawn had left a beribboned pineapple on his desk. He'd assumed it meant something rude, but apparently there was no deep significance to the gift of a pineapple beyond 'welcome' to anyone but Spencer and since it was his desk and Spencer was the guest, that didn't work.

"Bats!" Shawn said, his voice skidding higher when Carlton relented and began to jack him slowly. "I like bats."

Carlton let go. "Enough to put them above me on the list?" He didn't mind fitting in behind Guster, but he was damned if he was worth less to Shawn than an Ananas comosus.

"How about I make a new list of people I'm dating and put you right at the top with a lot of blank space underneath and absolutely no need to write P.T.O. at the bottom?"

Carlton lay down next to Shawn and tugged Shawn onto his side. He could still jerk Shawn off like this, but it would ease the chafing on his well-spanked ass.

"I want that list on my desk first thing tomorrow," he said, not meaning it, his attention on the way Shawn's cock slid through his hand, the flushed red crown appearing and disappearing.. Mesmerizing.

Shawn's eyes gleamed. "Oh, it will be. In triplicate. In fact, I'll make lots of copies for everyone."

Fuck.

"Spencer…"

"Or you can cuff me to your bed, where I can't get up to anything naughty without you being able to deal with it on the spot with a firm hand, and take the day off," Shawn said with a nibble at Carlton's ear lobe. "That's going to work much better than putting an 'out of order' notice on the copier."

"Don't tempt me," Carlton growled and went back to what he was doing. "And if you go near the copier, I'll shoot it," he added, but Shawn had stopped listening to him.

Carlton could always tell when that happened.




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