AN:

I've promised myself I won't work on any multi-chapter projects until I have good momentum on my main fic, Reality. But sometimes negative emotions bubble up and writing dark stuff is one of my favorite ways of dealing with them. This might continue as a series of connected one shots connecting to Lassiter's fear/hatred of snow globes and the story behind that fear.

This is not a NICE story. This is pretty brutal and deals with severe and prolonged child abuse, though this particular installment deals only with one particular instance. It came out a lot darker than I had originally intended. Kinda once i got started with purging negative emotions I couldn't stop.

TRIGGER WARNINGS for this fic include drowning, ice baths, physical and mental abuse and flashbacks to said abuse. The victim here is an adult in the present but a child in the flashback when the abuse takes place.

If any of this upsets you, please don't read on. I don't want to cause anyone any distress.


Carlton Lassiter stared down at his desk. He had work to do, a lot of it in fact. Files were stacked high onto the furthest corner of his workspace, the piles growing by the minute. It was a symptom of the time of year. While nearly every other profession had were taking their well earned breaks, Lassiter and his colleagues were still hard at work and would be for a while. There was something about Christmas time that seemed to bring every lowlife in the city to the surface and sharpened their desire to cause trouble and ruin his day. The station was facing an absolute onslaught of cases; from junkies and vandals through petty thieves, tax evaders and muggers all the way to barely human scum like drink spikers and murderers. There was no end to it and he really, really needed to get to work. Which was why it was such a problem that someone had seen fit to cover his entire workspace in snow globes.

The little glass and plastic baubles gleamed unassumingly from where they sat, arranged in a festive display before him and caught the eye of various passers-by with their bright colours and cheerful little dioramas that were dusted with tiny flakes of glitter and confetti just waiting to swirl up at the slightest touch. They were gifts, gestures of goodwill from various folks around the station. They were not remotely threatening. There was nothing about them that should have raised concern, nothing that should have raised anything more than mild irritation at the inconvenience of having to find a place to put them all and yet…

The sight of them was quickly turning his blood to ice.

It had been bad enough when Spencer had deposited that huge one in his hands and he'd had to spend humiliating seconds stumbling over his words and gingerly balancing the wretched thing on his fingertips as though it burned while the fraud psychic gloated. And then when he'd finally brushed past the man and found a spare spot to dump the snow globe and gone through his stupid breathing exercises to slow his stupid heart rate get his stupid hands to stop shaking and finally finally gotten himself back into a head-space where he could productively work he'd returned to find more of them at his desk.

"Alright, who keeps telling people I want snow globes for Christmas?" he had growled.

It was a pointless question. This was all Spencer's doing, no doubt about it, but how had he known? Every gift he'd given, and was continuing to give, had been literally perfect for its recipient, every one except for Lassiter's. Somehow the man knew about his nightmares. Lassiter didn't buy for one second the whole "psychic" schtick, but he must have found out somehow. And like the child that he was, Spencer had been unable to just let it slide. No, he hadn't been able to resist putting Lassiter's phobia on display for the whole station to see.

Were the nightmares all he knew about, though? Lassiter hoped so, desperately. Spencer was immature, careless and a world-class thorn in his side but he'd never known the man to be intentionally cruel.

Regardless of whether the snow globes were just a bad-taste prank or proper malicious jab, Lassiter had to get back to work. Briefly he contemplated just grabbing the files and heading off to find an empty desk but then people would see him and see the snow globes and remember his outburst and make the connection and he'd never be able to live it down. No, he'd have to move them, and move them alone because admitting that he couldn't lift a few paper-weights was equally unacceptable.

Chewing his lip, he surveyed them all spread before him. There was no use in delaying. Heart pounding in his ears, he selected the smallest one, the least threatening. He ignored the instinct that screamed in his ears don't touch, don't touch, don'tTOUCH and, with a hesitant and shaking hand, lifted it off the table.

He held it gingerly, shifting it as gently as possible as the snow within menaced him, threatening at any moment to lift. Then a tremor ran through his arm and it did. The little flakes swirled up at the jolt and suddenly he was scrambling to drop it but also not let it fall because it burns oh god help me but also what if he dropped it and it broke that was even worse and the flakes would suddenly be outside the sphere and could touch his skin and burn and burn and then it clattered onto the desk and rolled once before coming to a stop, wholly undamaged.

The fall had shaken the snowglobe up in earnest and now the flakes were properly roiling around as though driven by a brutal and unseen wind. The effect was hypnotic and for a moment, Lassiter found himself unable to look away as the tiny trinket seemed to expand, drawing him in and filling his entire vision, plunging him into the world of his nightmares. Terror gripped his chest like a vice. He tore his eyes away, barely managing to replace the whimper that bubbled up with a curse. This wasn't going to work. He couldn't even look at them without losing his shit. Across the room, O'Hara and Spencer were looking at him, their faces bemused. This couldn't go on. He had to get them off his desk, now.

His jerky movements starting to approach hysterics, he tried to use his tie to pick up another. It was a worthless plan, he knew it but he had to do something and covering up the snow globes meant he couldn't actually see the snow lift when it moved and didn't have to touch it so maybe, just maybe he could move each globe away from his workspace without having a full on meltdown.

And like most worthless plans, it failed miserably. The slick fabric of the tie offered no traction, his hands were shaking and this snow globe was larger and heavier than the previous one. It slipped out of his grasp the moment it was no longer resting and dropped and the snow was whipped up and Lassiter couldn't breathe and a large hand pinned his flailing arms to his chest and forced him down into the water. He scrabbled to keep his feet under him but they were numb and burning and the tub was slippery and within moments he was plunging backwards and the water swallowed him up. The shock of the cold made him seize up. It was frigid, oh mommy please the cold was biting him like teeth. Ice cubes, trapped beneath him, dug into his little back as he hit the bottom. It burned, how did being this cold actually burn? He arched his body forward, desperate to get his head to the surface. For an instant he managed but his lungs locked up when he tried to take a breath and then another great big hand was in his hair and forcing him back down under. He kicked out, trying to use the bottom of the tub to twist himself out from under the hands but his legs were weak and they hurt and the bottom of the tub was just as slippery as before. All he achieved was churning up the water and the ice cubes clattered painfully against his skin as he flailed uselessly.

His body burned and burned with the cold. His chest constricted with every moment and his lungs started to spasm. Just when he couldn't keep his breath anymore he was suddenly lifted up and out. As soon as his torso cleared the water he took a gasping breath but his lungs were still tight and the breaths quickly turned to hyperventilated, choked sobbing.

"Stop crying!"

He was hanging there, trembling violently, suspended by his wrists and hair and it should probably have hurt but he was so cold and numb and just relieved to be out of the icy water that he just didn't feel it.

"Stop cr-damnit Carlton look at me!"

He did his best to obey, blinking water out of his eyes, and found himself staring into the furious face of his father.

Another sob bubbled up and the man shook him viciously.

"Shut up and look at me Carlton"

Carlton grit his teeth and forced the next sob down. He wouldn't cry because only babies cried, that's what dad said. Carlton was six now. He wasn't a baby. He could take this like a man.

"Why did you do it?"

What could he say to that? He didn't know what the right reply was or what would only make his dad madder. It didn't matter anyway. Even if he'd known the perfect words, his breathing was still too fast and hitched and his jaw too locked and numb and his shivering too severe to get any words out. He tried anyway, because if he didn't then his dad might think he was ignoring him and that was much much worse.

The man scoffed at the feeble croak he managed.

"That all you got for me, boy? Really? You destroyed my fucking ship and that's all you got for me? 'Urghk?' That's it?" his dad was sneering, "Pathetic, you're fucking pathetic Carlton."

An image flashed through Carlton's rattles brain; a miniature ship, mounted on a mantelpiece. His family collected models and nik-naks and this one in particular was his father's pride an joy, an exact replica of some famous old ship that once sailed the seas but was long gone now days. The masts were straight and fine, the sails creamy linen, the wooden slats were small and precise, stained a rich amber. Tiny cables spiderwebbed across the top, supporting the masts and sails. The hull even had tiny barnacles and sea damage stuck and painted on. Carlton often admired it from the sofa, imagining he was a brave captain on its deck, heading out to explore the ocean and fight pirates and find treasure. He'd never touched it though, that was strictly forbidden. 'Look but don't touch' his mom and dad would say.

Then another image, one from this morning. The beautiful ship was destroyed. It lay on its side, on the floor, having fallen a good four feet. The hull was cracked into three pieces, the masts snapped and skew. One of the sails had torn free of its fastenings and the intricate web of gye-ropes was a ruined tangle of thread. Carlton's heart had seized in horror as he'd walked in on the carnage and there, huddled next to it behind a tipped chair…

"You're a disgrace, you know that? I thought I told you not to touch it! Why? You've never messed with it before, you knew it was off limits! You knew!"

In that moment, something in his dad's expression changed. The fury faded a little, replaced by suspicion and no small degree of concern.

"It was you, right? Carlton if this wasn't your fault then you shouldn't be punished. I don't want to punish you for something you didn't do. That would be unfair."

Carlton said nothing, just hung there. His shivering was starting to fade, but not in a good way. He just felt dead.

"Just tell me what happened, my boy, did your brother do this? Because if he did I'll let you go. He deserves this, not you."

...behind the tipped chair was another figure, one even smaller than Carlton. The tiny boy had a bloody nose and was shaking like a leaf.

"What did you do?" Carlton whispered harshly as though what he felt was anger instead of numbing terror.

"I-I didn't m-mean to," the four year old boy hiccuped, tears and snot streaking his face, "I j-just wanted to play. B-b-but the chair-the chair fell and I fell and the boat got smashed and I didn't mean to!"

"Nathan you moron!" Carlton snapped, mind churning as he desperately tried up with a plan. There was no way he could fix the boat, that much was obvious. Even if he did a really, really good job, his dad would notice. His dad noticed everything.

"I don't know what to do. Dad's gonna be so mad," Nathan wept, "Carly help me, please."

"Don't call me Carly. Just shut up, I'm trying to think!"

Just then, they heard the worst sound in the world, their dad's car pulling up into the driveway. They froze. It had to be their dad, their mom was away on holiday with her 'special friend' Alice which left the two boys alone at the mercy of their father's temper.

Nathan let out a terrified keen.

"Stop crying, you're being a baby," Carlton snapped, making his decision "just shut up and go hide in your room. I'll clean this up."

"B-but Carly…"

"Go!"

Nathan bolted, clomping up the stairs as fast as his little legs could carry him. Carlton fell to his knees, scrambling to pick up all the tiny bits and pieces that had fallen off the ship as it broke. He'd just dropped the last of them into the hull when he heard the front door open. Frantically he picked up the whole mess and dashed into the back room, searching for a place to hide it. The room was sparse, occupied only by a washing machine that was on, a top-loading dryer that was too high for him to reach and the spare freezer which was locked.

"Boys? Where are... what the fuck?"

Of course, even if he hid the ship, his dad would still see it was missing. Carlton sprinted on into the spare room, fear pushing him even though it was useless. He was in the middle of trying to shove the boat under the guest bed when his dad found him. Large hands wrapped around his middle and flung him away into the wall. When he looked up, his dad was crouched by the bed, holding the pieces of the ship and turning them over. Then he closed his fists around them, crushing what little structure remained.

"It's ruined" he muttered, wiping a hand across his eyes which were glistening more than usual. Then he turned to Carlton, still slumped against the wall and there was something dark in his face that was all too terrible and all too familiar.

Carlton was brought back to the present by a harsh yank of his hair. He was so cold.

"Well?"

Carlton looked down at the tub. His feet were still dangling in the water, ice cubes gathering around his ankles. He couldn't feel them beyond a dull ache. They looked almost green they were so pale.

"Carlton?"

Carlton forced his jaw to work

"T'was me" he whispered, "'broke when t-th'chair fell. N-Nate's'in his room"

His dad's expression changed back again and suddenly Carlton was plunged back into the ice and yanked out again.

The shock sent his body back into spasms and he gasped desperately, writhing weakly in his father's hands. What followed was a blur of screaming, spittle flying into his face, being backhanded and repeated rapid dunkings and the cold chewing deeper and deeper into him. Carlton hung limply through it all,his mind sinking further and further into a fog. He hurt, he hurt more than his six-year old mind could handle and so it was just shutting down.

He didn't know how much time had passed when he was plunged once more into the frigid tub. For a few seconds he just lay there, feeling the ice cubes bouncing off his skin and his skin burning more and more while aching numbness crept through his hands and feet and ears. But then his lungs started to clench again and his dad wasn't pulling him up. Panic pierced the fog and he began to struggle again, pushing weakly at the bottom of the tub and trying to shake his wrists free. Though his dad's hands must have been just as freezing, they were still far stronger than he and he struggled in vain while his dad tried to force him to hold still. Suddenly the hand in his hair yanked up and for a moment Carlton felt hope that he was being brought up for air but then the hand slammed back down, cracking Carlton's head against the bottom of the tub.

The blow knocked precious air out of his lungs and all the fight from his limbs. He went limp below the water, still caught in the clarity of panic but unable to summon the strength to fight anymore. The surface of the water above him roiled briefly and then, with nothing to churn it more, the ripples died out and it turned glassy smooth. The frenzy died out and an eerie stillness settled over.

Silence.

It seemed to go on forever, like someone had taken the moment and stretched it ice cubes still drifted and brushed against his skin and his lungs screamed helplessly and his whole body burned and burned like slow cold fire and through it all he saw, staring down at him through the water, his father's face, twisted with cruelty and those two brilliant blue eyes. People always insisted they shared their eyes.. Right now, though, that brilliant blue may as well have been ice itself.

And so the slow moment went on, stretching and screaming and burning and silent.

And then Carlton couldn't hold his breath anymore

He didn't know how much later it was when he woke, wrapped in blankets and in his own bed. He didn't know if he was hot or cold, the warmth of the blankets seemed to cook against his skin that had been so cold for so long but he couldn't stop shivering and the ice seemed to cling below the surface of his skin. Pins and needles prickled his fingers and toes as he tried to shift them and he whimpered.

"Carly?" Nathan's voice piped up at his slight sound and suddenly the mattress dipped. "Carly are you awake now?"

A small hand grasped his shoulder and he pulled away from it, huddling deeper into his warm cocoon.

"You are! You just moved I saw you!" Nathan tugged more insistently on his shirt.

"G'way Nate" Carlton mumbled miserably.

"Can't," declared Nathan, "Mom came home. She and Dad are fightin' and they sent me here."

"Oh"

"What happened to you?"

What had happened? Carlton tried for a moment to remember but images of water and swirling ice and burning and his dad's cold eyes flooded his mind and he panicked and shied away from them. He didn't understand what he was seeing, the trauma of the last few hours blurring it all into an ugly haze of terror and pain that hurt to look at.

"I-I don't...What do you have there?" he asked, hurriedly changing the subject and noticing for the first time the large object tucked under his little arm.

Nathan perked up, forgetting his question and shoving a large snow globe under Carlton's nose.

"It's from Mom! She brought it back from her holiday. She was only meant to come back next week but when she heard you were sick she came rushing back and brought this for us! Do you like it? I want to keep it in my room but I guess she came back for you so I guess you can keep it if you want. It's really cute though, I like the little scene inside with the birds. I especially like the little yellow one. It's the coolest. Which one is your favorite?...Carly?...Carly which one's yours?"

Carlton wasn't looking at the birds. Carlton wasn't looking at the little white tree or the decorative base. Carlton's vision was entirely taken up by the swirling snow that had been kicked up by Nathan's jostling. It whirled around inside it's container, gently kissing the little diorama and settling on surfaces. The surface of the globe was polished and clear, like looking through clear, still water. Sensation flooded him, the icy cold, the feel of suspended ice brushing against his skin, his father's face sneering down at him through the glassy water and above it all, the inescapable, excruciating burning that seemed to eat away at his skin. His heart pounded and he couldn't breathe.

"Carly?"

The smaller boy moved and whipped up the snow and Carlton screamed and the snow globe crashed against the far wall before dropping to the floor.

"What did you do that for?" Nathan yelped and leaped off the bed, dashing over to pick up the fallen toy.

He turned it over in his hands and then laughed with relief. "It's okay, it didn't break. That was silly Carly, it could have got broken too and then Dad would be mad all over again."

Carlton hadn't been listening up toll that point, too caught up in the overload of sensation and memory, but the words "dad" and "mad" broke through and he trembled, new fear washing over him. Nathan looked at him with concern and approached the bed, still holding the snow globe between his slightly pudgy hands

"Carly, are you okay?"

"D-Don't bring that thing any closer."

Nathan stopped, confusion evident on his face.

"Carly what's wrong with you?"

"Don't call me Carly," he cried, "Just take it away! You can have it, I don't want it here please."

"O-okay, if you're sure…"

Nathan quietly let himself out, sneaking away as the open door let in the sounds of the screaming match downstairs. Carlton huddled in his blankets, the icy tub and glass bauble merging together in his brain. The truth of what had happened was too much, too powerful, too inescapable. His little mind couldn't handle it. His dad had been rough before, but this was a whole new level and he didn't at all know how to cope with it. But what if it hadn't been his dad at all? What if there was no broken ship, no icy tub, no cold, cruel eyes glaring down at him? What if the glassy surface above him had been actual glass, the suspended bits brushing his skin had been the snowflakes? What if they were what bit, what burned at his skin as he lay trapped with no way out? What if-

"Carlton?"

A hand on his elbow

Lassiter jerked away in alarm, his arms automatically coming up to protect his head as he whipped around to face his attacker, only to come face to face with his startled and obviously very worried partner. He quickly tried to turn his flinch into a hair-brushing movement but it felt lame and she wasn't fooled. It probably didn't help that he was trembling like a leaf.

"Easy Carlton. Are you okay?" she asked and her voice was so gentle and intentionally soothing he appreciated and resented it at the same time.

She shouldn't be seeing him like this, his pride couldn't take it. Especially not at work...his heart clenched and he glanced around nervously, but thankfully it didn't look like anyone had noticed or were paying attention to his mini meltdown. With a quick thanks to Sweet Lady Justice, Lassiter turned his attention back to his partner.

She was still looking at him with that terrible concern. Damnit, he didn't want her to think of him like this! This wasn't a side of him she needed to see.

Hoping his voice was steady enough, he growled "I'm fine, O'Hara. I just have to…"

He looked down at his desk and trailed off. They were still there, glinting maliciously at him and filled with those awful little white flakes that could at any moment leap up and send him careering down a memory lane he'd much rather forget. He must have stared a moment too long because she spoke up tentatively again.

"Wow, those things really freak you out huh?"

His only reply was a grunt as he frantically searched for a way to salvage this situation. A time machine, perhaps, or a sudden hole in the ground he could jump into. And all the while the ornaments on his desk mocked him.

"Would you like me to move them?" she queried, reaching for the nearest one.

"No!" he knocked her hand away, terrified that she'd disturb the snow and send him spiraling again, right here in front of her and besides, what sort of man would he be if he needed his partner to clear the snow globes off his desk because he was too scared? "I-I can do it"

O'Hara looked him up and down, taking everything from his pallid expression and slightly wild eyes to his shaking hands and knees that looked like they were about to fold out from under him.

"Carlton…"

"I can do it O'Hara!"

"I know you can," O'Hara said quietly, "but you don't have to."

He tried to protest but she cut him off, "Go make us some coffee. I promise, by the time you get back, they'll all be gone."

"Wha-" he stood there, dumbfounded.

"Oh come on," she admonished, suddenly grabbing his arms. He twitched at the contact, but she said nothing and steered him towards the coffee stand, "What kind of partner makes their partner go without caffeine? That's cruel, Carlton."

"Y-you're right, sorry O'Hara," Lassiter said, pulling away from her and straightening his jacket, "I'll get right on that."

"Thanks!" she called after him as he hurried away, mind racing.

He'd never...he'd never had something like that happen before. His partner had caught him in the middle of a full-on flashback. He was sure he looked like shit and she was obviously concerned but once it had become clear that he didn't want to talk about it, she hadn't pushed. She hadn't asked leading questions, she hadn't tried to force him to tell her anything. She'd just accepted it, realized the source of his distress and engineered a situation that not only spared him the ordeal of cleaning all of the horrible objects off his desk, but that had also allowed him to get away from everyone and compose himself and even tried to stick a band-aid on his wounded pride by making it seem as though he was doing her the favour. It was bizarre and he had to pause for a moment. No-one had ever done anything like this for him, not since...he frowned. In the year and a half since they'd been partnered up, had O'Hara-Juliet actually become his best friend?

He stopped at the restrooms to splash water on his face and get himself looking presentable before heading out. Going through the familiar motions of making coffee for the two of them calmed him more than he cared to admit. He took special care to get her coffee exactly the way she liked it, even using a napkin to wipe away the tiny droplet that splashed onto the rim of the cup as he stirred and putting a couple of the Christmas tree shaped sugar biscuits on a little plate for her. By the time he was heading back to their desks with a mug in each hand and the biscuits balanced on top, no-one other than Spencer or O'Hara could have told that he'd just suffered a proper post-traumatic episode. Though he still felt hollow inside, he was able to plaster his usual scowl on his face and nearly all would be fooled.

He found her at her own desk, diligently filling out reports.

"Thanks, Carlton!" she said he set the mug down and grinned when she saw the biscuits.

His own desk was clear of snow globes and a scan of the room failed to locate them. He had no idea what she'd done with them but he felt a grateful plume of warmth start to fill the hollow in his chest.

This Christmas was going truly terribly and somehow, he felt it would probably get worse before the end of the night but O'Hara had somehow managed to make at least one part of it a tiny bit better.

Still, he might just bend Spencer's finger the wrong way next time he saw him. Whether or not he knew what consequences his prank would have, the fake psychic deserved that much at least.