Carlton's torn the muscles in his right shoulder and he's wearing a sling and a black eye. He's apparently a hero, with a commendation on his record.
He doesn't feel like a hero. People are still dead, just less of them than there would've been if Carlton had caught the killer on Wednesday, not Thursday. That's not cause to break out the champagne and balloons. He didn't save the Saturday victim, now, did he? Susan Sakers isn't toasting him up in heaven for getting to her torn-up body while it was still warm. Close doesn't cut -- no, not that word. Jesus.
Spencer arrives just as Carlton is dressing for his return to work -- the day off hadn't been his choice -- still feeling like shit. He walks in without knocking after a brief scrape of something in the lock. Key, probably, not lock pick, though Carlton hasn't given him one officially. What's the point? Spencer wants in, he gets in. Doors, cases, Carlton's mouth…
Carlton eyes him with a dull curiosity he tries to perk up to interested just to prove that he can. He can't. Spencer hasn't been around much lately which doesn't help his mood. Something about a vacation trip with Guster, though Carlton's seen Guster's car around so he doubts that's true. Shawn's probably just looking for space or something equally flaky.
Spencer doesn't speak, no greeting, no facile, glib excuse for his presence -- or absence -- just walks up to Carlton in quick, long strides and stops, too close for comfort, his gaze fixed on Carlton's bruised face.
Carlton's sick of being told he's courageous, tired of being cooed over, but he's not sure he's in the mood for Shawn's brand of comfort, either. Shawn makes Carlton's world easier for small chunks of time, in a dark, fucked-up kind of way, but it's early morning and his mouth tastes of coffee and burned bacon. He's on edge, yes, but this isn't the time for games that leave him relaxed enough to sleep, his body humming with satisfaction, his mind flinching away from certain memories, dwelling fondly on others. He has to work and anger and discontent make him sharp, efficient, at least he tells himself that often enough to believe it. Shawn's usually good at reading him so Carlton waits for his blank expression to sink in and Shawn to leave.
Instead, Shawn runs his fingers over Carlton's chin. "Bristles. Blood. Scraps of tissue. The dapper detective after a night on the tiles. I could pull it off, but I'm not sure you can, Lassie, though you've got a certain rugged appeal with those bloodshot eyes of yours. They really match that tie -- no, I think that red on it is blood. Or jelly."
"Yeah, well, you try shaving one-handed -- oh, wait, you're permanently scruffy," Carlton snipes back after brushing futilely at his tie, a knot of tension loosening as he finds himself on familiar ground -- or at least it used to be. He still gives as good as he gets in public, but in private, not so much. Shawn gets his whimpers, not his wisecracks, his eyes lowered, not challenging.
"Designer stubble," Shawn corrects him. His fingers are still warm against Carlton's face. Habit holds him still for Shawn's touch but it's weirdly uncomfortable to be touched so gently. They don't kiss, there's nothing said about feelings -- what they've fallen into is a lop-sided symbiotic relationship with Carlton unsure of what, exactly, Shawn gets from it. Beyond the sex and the license to indulge himself in belittling Carlton as much as his sadistic little heart desires.
Which has probably robbed it of its tang, and if so then why does Shawn keep coming back for more --
"Bathroom," Shawn says and Carlton digs his heels in for just long enough to make Shawn roll his eyes and add, "Not for anything kinky, Lassieshowers. Not today. You missed bits. Lots of them. I'll take care of it. Standards must be maintained, isn't that right?"
Carlton flushes, stumbles over his own feet as he follows Shawn. What follows is disconcerting. Shawn hums to himself as he scrapes Carlton's razor over tender skin with a slap-dash flair that's surprisingly effective, but it's not until Carlton's submitting to having his face wiped with a wet sponge, squeezed-out but still adding water marks to the tie he'd fought to fasten for five fucking minutes, that Shawn says something.
"Nice black eye, Lassie. What happened? Walk into a door?"
There's an edge there now and Carlton knows, hates himself for it, but knows, that if Shawn wants to take this further, he'll go along. He's going to be late for work, but there's only a desk waiting after all, and it's been ten days --
"Shots were fired and I took the appropriate evasive action."
"Ooh, Lassie, straight from the official report," Shawn says and leans in to brush his lips over the dark, bruise stained skin under Carlton's eye. There's no comfort in the kiss. As light as it is, it still hurts, a throb of pain that writhes through Carlton's body and finally makes itself at home in his balls. He's getting hard, he's close to begging. One kiss that wasn't even a kiss and Shawn owns him again.
"I read the report," Shawn adds. "Now, tell me what happened." The anger in his voice may be banked down, smoldering, but it hooks the words out of Carlton.
"Bullets flying, you hit the deck, Spencer. You don't think or you're dead. I got this --" He doesn't raise his hand, can't, not with Shawn still crowded in close -- "instead of a bullet hole."
"You did the right thing," Shawn says and there's something so weird about the way he says it that Carlton's mouth dries up. It's not praise, in fact, it verges on a question, as if Spencer's puzzled by something.
"Unless you'd have preferred I stayed on my feet and gave them a target," Carlton says, and yeah, he's snapping, but he's achingly hard and arousal doesn't mix well with the more mundane twinges from his arm and his eye.
Shawn's eyes glaze over, a protective film of indifference. "Target, schmarget," he says dismissively and steps back.
Carlton reaches out with his good hand and grabs Shawn, rough with him for the first time in a long time. "Are you telling me you don't care if I got shot or not?"
Carlton knows that's not true. Even without what they've got between them, Shawn's not a monster. He cares. Carlton just wants to hear him say it.
Shawn licks his lips and nods, slowly, as if he's giving the matter his consideration.
"You're so fucking stupid sometimes, Lassie," he says and it's a sting, a slap, said in that flat, cold voice. Shawn's not playing now. Then Shawn's expression dissolves, a grimace wrenching it into new shapes. "God, you're so fucking stupid," he repeats and one arm's not much to hold Shawn, when he's trying to get away, and hide the emotion scrawled on his face in plain print, easy to read, but Carlton's strong when he needs to be and he offers his shoulder as a place for Shawn to lean against.
Shawn's hair's soft against his hand when he strokes it, made clumsy with longing and fear.
He gets a minute, maybe two, then Shawn struggles free and they stare at each other, the silence growing, filling the room, choking Carlton.
"I can't do this," Shawn says. "The other, yeah, but not this. It's too hard."
Carlton nods and stares down at the floor. Of course Shawn can't. Why would he want to? The two of them, it's ridiculous, a freak show. The fucked-up kinky sex matches it perfectly, but worry and comfort, kisses and hugs, they clash terribly. Carlton's never been good at decorating.
"I don't know why you did any of it," he offers, just to say something. He raises his eyes and frowns. No harm in asking now. "Why did you, anyway?"
Did. Past tense. It's over. He's broken the fragile soap bubble just like he knew he would.
"Stupid," Shawn says for the third time, but almost fondly now, indulgent with Carlton's failings, something that Carlton's never wanted him -- anyone -- to be. "You really don't know? Because it was the only way to get you, Lassie. What, you thought I got off on it, too? No. Your freak, not mine."
Carlton's licked Shawn's ass, his tongue wet, adoring over all that musky, secret skin, but that's the most humiliating moment of all. He refuses to accept it.
"No. You liked it. You did."
"I liked being with you," Shawn corrects him. "If you wanted me to be the one on my knees, I'd have done that. If you got off on me in a feather boa and thigh high red leather boots, I'd have used Gus' credit card to buy them. I was desperate, Lassie. You weren't letting me in."
"You --" The blood rushes to his face, hot and heavy, until it feels swollen. His eye's going to burst, a stamped-on, over-ripe plum splattering juice. "You were being nice to me? No, using what I -- what we -- " He can get the words out past the outrage. Clever Shawn, crafty Shawn, spoiled, never-denied Shawn, watching Carlton for an opening to wriggle a finger into and ease wider…
"And now what?" He's yelling, the words bouncing off the spall, tiled space like bullets. "You've fucked me, seen me cry, heard me beg, and you've lost interest now? You made me fall in --"
"You don't love me." Shawn sounds very certain about that. "You kinda even hate me. I know too much about the way you tick, Lass."
"I never minded," Carlton says, genuinely bewildered by the way Shawn thinks, not for the first time. "Not when I thought it was what you wanted, too. God, Shawn, why didn't you just ask me?"
Shawn blinks at him. "Where's the fun in that?"
Carlton sighs. He's in love with an idiot. So Shawn wants games and fun and everything balanced on a razor-edge of insecurity, does he? "Should've known you're incapable of doing anything the easy way," he says. "Okay, tell me what you like."
"Tell me what you get off on. You gave me what I wanted, and that means I owe you. I was brought up to pay my debts." He taps his arm. "You'll need to wait for this to heal if it's something energetic like spanking your ass to match a --"
"Red-hot chili pepper?" Shawn suggests, a spark of interest in his eyes.
"Maybe," Carlton says cautiously. He's not like Shawn, who divined Carlton's needs so easily. Carlton's going to need to feel his way.
If that means his hands on Shawn, testing, probing, exploring every reaction, he thinks that he can manage it.
"Maybe," Shawn echoes. "I'll make a list, Santa Lassieclaus. For when you're back on the mean streets, righting wrongs and fighting evil." He brings his hands together. "Time-out for now."
It's not over. God knows what comes next, but for the first time since Shawn walked in, Carlton can breathe easily.
And, as Shawn fastens a fresh tie around his neck, the tip of his tongue protruding like a kid asked to do long division, contemplate with a dawning wonder, the fact that Shawn's hands are shaking, and that he's as relieved as Carlton that it's not over yet.
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