A/N: The title of the story comes from the song "As the World Falls Down" (1986) by David Bowie, which I do not own, nor do I own Psych, Shawn, Jules, or anything else.
I noticed while watching "High Top Fade Out" that I don't think I've ever read a fic that references the fight Shawn and Jules have in that episode, so I thought I'd write a little something about it. It turned out longer than I expected, but I hope you enjoy it anyway!
It's been a long day at the SBPD, and Juliet is ready for it to end well before Shawn and Gus show up at the station. The Chief has been particularly harsh today, reminding her and Carlton that they are completely overloaded, both budget-wise, and time-wise, and that there is not a minute of wiggle room in their schedule.
Of course, Shawn and Gus dismiss this concern immediately after arriving at the station, insisting that the case they've taken is far too important to be restricted by budgets and time.
Juliet backs Carlton up in his dismissal of them, which is unusual for her, but they have so many cases and so little time that even she can't entertain the theory they're putting forth about the death of Gus' college friend.
It's not a surprise that Shawn doesn't actually give up when Lassiter shoos him out, but Juliet still feels uneasy when she sees him walk into the bullpen. It's been hard, lately, to be around him. Seeing him with Abigail is hard, and pretending to be happy is hard, and she doesn't have the energy to do it today.
She has work to do anyway, so she sits at her desk, ignoring him. She doesn't even need to look behind her to know Shawn is approaching, and sure enough, he pulls a chair up next to her. She looks at him.
"Alright, Jules," he says, "I'm now entering our cone of confidentiality." He makes a cone shape with his hands, and she tries not to smile.
Instead, she gives him a look. "Get to the point, Shawn, I'm really busy." It doesn't sound entirely convincing, even to her, but it is true. Whatever scheme Shawn is planning, she really doesn't have time to indulge it today, and yet, she's not going to tell him to leave without hearing whatever it is. Clearly, turning him away earlier in front of Lassiter wasn't enough for him to leave her alone.
"Let's be honest with each other," Shawn says, shaking his head a little. Juliet frowns, confused about where this is headed.
Shawn continues, "This is you paying me back for the awkwardness and tension that I have allowed Abigail to cause between us."
Juliet is stunned for a second, but she shakes her head to clear it. She doesn't have time to be stunned. Sharply, she responds, "Contrary to what you may think, Shawn, it isn't always about you. When I open an investigation, I have to answer to people in authority above me." She starts to turn back to her desk, hoping he'll take the hint that she's not interested in getting involved with this case he and Gus are on, and she's even less interested in talking about Shawn's relationship with Abigail.
Shawn sighs. "I think I understand."
She looks at him in disbelief. That was way easier than these things usually are with Shawn.
Of course, it's not that easy. It never is.
He continues, "Especially if by 'contrary to what I believe, it isn't always about me' and 'when you open an investigation, you have to answer to people in authority above you,' you mean," he pauses, giving her a pointed look, "this is because of Abigail."
"Is this the part where I'm supposed to giggle because your boyish charm is just too irresistible?" Juliet asks, sarcastically. She can feel the angry blush starting to creep up the back of her neck. It's been so hard, lately, with him, and he clearly knows why, and the fact that he's going to use this conversation—a conversation that they probably, in reality, actually need to have—just to get information he's not supposed to have is making her blood boil a bit.
"Almost," he says, looking at her, "I was going to bring it home doing both sides of the conversation using my," he raises his voice into his cartoonish falsetto impression of her, "high-pitched eighth grade Jules voice."
The voice usually makes her laugh, but not today. He's not getting out of this one that easily. Juliet closes the file on her desk, turning back to Shawn. "I'm sure that your girlfriend appreciates you using her as a tactic to scam information."
It comes out sounding defensive, but she can't help that. It does the trick. It's an old piece of advice she learned at the academy: if you feel yourself becoming emotionally involved, find a defense, and stick to it. It works, most of the time.
Only, lately, that tip hasn't been working as well, and that's probably because the only time that tip seems to pop into her head is when she's looking at Shawn, and by then, it's always too late.
It's not the failure of the defense mechanism itself, see, it's just that it's much easier to use that defense when she feels like a cop. But right now, she doesn't feel like a cop. Right now, she just feels like a woman-a woman who has fallen for one of her best friends and is watching him love someone else.
And it is much harder to stay in defensive mode when she is just a woman, looking at the man she loves, than it was when she was at the academy learning how to crack a criminal.
She stands up, looking coldly at him. "Gold star, Shawn. Really."
With that, she walks off towards the conference room, leaving Shawn frowning behind her.
She hadn't walked away a moment too soon, since as soon as she's out of Shawn's eyeline, she feels hot, angry tears start to form in her eyes. She passes Gus outside the conference room, but she keeps looking down at the floor, hoping he doesn't see the look on her face.
She puts her files down on the table in the conference room and then immediately heads off towards the women's bathroom, hoping she can make it before the tears start to fall. Once inside, she shuts herself in the furthest stall from the door, closes the toilet seat, and sits down, her face falling into her hands and her chest heaving with sobs that she's trying her best to silence.
She can't articulate exactly what she's feeling. Anger, certainly, that Shawn had been so careless about her feelings to bring Abigail into his quest for information, but there was sadness under the anger, encompassing it, because she felt like she and Shawn had been so close to figuring things out, just a few months ago, and now here they were, and he was happy, and she should be happy for him, but instead she's crying in the bathroom at the station.
For the thousandth time since she'd walked away from him at the drive-in, Juliet berates herself for having waited so long to muster the courage to ask him out. If she'd just stepped forward a little earlier, they might be happy now. And there was no use in thinking about that, she knew, but it hadn't stopped her from regretting it every time she saw Shawn since that night at the drive-in.
It's just that she hadn't meant to fall for him in the first place, and by the time she'd realized she had, she was in way too deep to shake it off. After he'd turned her down that night, she told herself she'd be able to brush her feelings away, move forward, forget about him.
Only Shawn has never been one that was easily forgettable, and she should have known that by then.
So instead, here she was, crying in the bathroom, and every day it was getting harder to look at him, to be around him, to see him with Abigail without falling apart. And that was why it had made her so angry for him to be so bold about his relationship with Abigail, almost as if he was mocking Juliet for the jealousy she did everything to hide, for the pain that seeing Shawn and Abigail together caused her.
She closes her eyes, tries to take a few deep breaths. She had known for a while that some sort of meltdown was building in relation to her and Shawn, but she hadn't expected it to happen here, in the middle of her workday, and frankly, she doesn't have the time for it to go on much longer.
She dabs her eyes with some toilet paper and blows her nose, standing up. She doesn't have time to keep crying right now; she can cry it out later, when she gets home, if she needs to. She giggles, softly, in spite of herself, at that thought—a "to be continued" is usually reserved for an exciting TV show episode, not a break in her meltdown.
Going over to the sink, she splashes some water on her face, continuing to take deep breaths until her breathing has totally evened out. She wipes at her eyes again, pressing futilely at their swollen shape. She closes her eyes and leans back against the wall of the bathroom for a few minutes, trying to pull herself together.
Finally, she checks her reflection in the mirror one last time to ensure that her eyes are close enough to normal-looking, having finally lost some of their puffiness, and leaves the bathroom. As she steps out the door, she almost bumps right into Gus, who jumps up from the bench he was sitting on outside the bathroom doors.
"Gus!" she exclaims, surprised.
Then something dawns on her. "Are you kidding me? Did Shawn send you to wait for me to try and get information on this case?"
"Of course not!" Gus cries, looking a little offended. "Besides, this is my case. Well, mostly. He was my friend, after all."
She nods. "Okay, so why, exactly, are you staking out the women's restroom?"
"I saw you go in there earlier, after you talked to Shawn." He says.
Juliet sighs. She has no idea how long she spent trying to pull herself together in the bathroom, but regardless of how long it was, it's embarrassing.
"I just wanted to say that I don't hold it against you," Gus says, "this whole not-helping-us thing. Or, I guess I should rephrase, I don't hold it against you."
Juliet raises an eyebrow at him.
"Look, Lassie's always trying to keep us from working on cases," Gus says, "so I'm not all that surprised to get this reaction from him, even though he's definitely wrong about this one. But you never let us down, Juliet, I know this call came from higher up."
"Thanks," she says, smiling at him. "Try telling that to Shawn."
"Shawn is an idiot," Gus says.
She raises her eyebrow at him again, but doesn't say anything.
"Oh, he's brilliant when it comes to solving cases," Gus says, "and I'm sure we'll solve this one, hence why I'm not blaming you for not getting involved. But," he pauses, giving her a meaningful look, "he's an idiot. Okay?"
Juliet smiles softly at him, nodding a little. She understands now. Gus clearly knows what Shawn had said to her, and this is his way of apologizing for Shawn's behavior. She appreciates that about Gus—even though Shawn is, Lord knows, old enough to be cleaning up his own messes, Gus knew why Shawn's words had hurt her, and though he wasn't going to make her talk about it, he also wasn't going to dance around and ignore it.
More than once, Juliet had gotten the sense that Gus could tell her true feelings for Shawn, even though she tried to hide them, and she appreciated the way he acknowledged them gently, without prying, just giving her a knowing look that somehow reassured her, communicating without words that he believed she and Shawn would figure it out someday.
"Thanks, Gus," she says. "And keep us posted, okay? If this turns into something a little more concrete, we might be able to get it approved."
Gus smiles. "Will do," he says. He pats her awkwardly on the shoulder—some kind of odd, half-grateful, half-comforting gesture, she guesses—and heads toward the door.
As Gus disappears, Carlton suddenly appears out of nowhere. "O'Hara!" he says, "don't tell me you've been indulging this crazy theory of Guster's all this time! I've been waiting for you in the conference room, we've got real cases to work on."
They head back to the conference room, back to work, and it's almost enough to forget how she's feeling. Being busy helps, and by the time she leaves work that night, she's so exhausted that she doesn't even let herself think about Shawn again, instead falling asleep as soon as she falls into her bed.
But the next day, Shawn and Gus's case returns to the forefront of her mind. She wants to help them, still, especially after Gus' kindness towards her yesterday, so as soon as she gets to work, she goes to Carlton and asks if he thinks there's any way they can find some way to help them.
As expected, Carlton initially thinks she's joking, and laughs, but seeing the sincerity on her face, he stops. "You know we can't, O'Hara," he says, "even if we had the budget, which we don't, or the time, which we don't, those two goofballs have nothing but a crazy hunch and we both know it."
Juliet lets the subject drop until Shawn and Gus show up, but when they again come to her for help, she's forced to repeat Carlton's words back to them, insisting that the SBPD cannot be involved.
She tries to do it with as much sympathy as possible, but still, they don't take the news kindly. They protest loudly, as expected, and she begins to lose her patience. She wants to help Gus, but she knows she can't, and she certainly can't now, in front of Carlton, even if she had something to offer. And besides, she's still annoyed with Shawn, since the only apology she's received after yesterday was from Gus. Still, getting something out of Shawn is the only way to possibly get her and Carlton involved in the case, so she puts her irritation aside for a moment, and demands, "Shawn, if you're feeling anything on this, you better tell us right now."
Okay, so maybe the irritation wasn't exactly all the way aside, but there's no time to worry about that now.
Shawn's irritation clearly isn't all the way aside either, and he snaps in response, "Oh, really? Would that be useful? I think I'm gonna put all my energy into making sure my best friend isn't the next domino to fall, since that seems to be the least of your concerns."
Juliet softens. As usual, she can't stand to think her behavior is hurting him, and she definitely doesn't want Gus to think she doesn't care either. "That's not true," she says softly, "we just—"
But Carlton, true to form, doesn't care what Shawn or Gus thinks of them, and cuts her off. "Just nothing. Time is wasting. Let's go, O'Hara."
Once again, as she walks away, she feels a little burned by Shawn. It's not her fault that they can't get involved; she would help if she could, and he gave no sign of even acknowledging the way they'd left things yesterday.
She doesn't feel much better until Shawn and Gus get scooped up at the warehouse that night. Even knowing that Shawn was left in the dark in the interrogation room afterward doesn't help, although it does serve him right for never, ever thinking before he acts.
She does start to feel better as she watches Shawn do his usual dance, the pieces of the case coming together in his mind, this time complete with a four-part harmony, and by the time they're making an arrest, she's ready to put all the stress and anger and sadness of the last several days behind her.
"Nice work, guys," she says to Shawn and Gus. It comes out a little begrudgingly, but that's the best that she can do for now.
"No thanks to you," says Gus, but he's not looking at her. He looks at Lassiter, "especially you."
Shawn shakes his head at Lassiter. "I can't believe you didn't let us in on this, man. I thought we were all on the same team here."
Lassiter rolls his eyes at him. "You are not a cop, Spencer. And you never will be." With that, he walks away, expecting Juliet to follow as usual.
Juliet looks at Shawn, who looks a little stunned by the comment, and her heart softens a little, wanting to comfort him, say something to take the edge off a little bit, but she's still hurting too, so she just half nods at him and follows her partner out of the office.
It's a surprise, later, when Shawn finds her at the station. It's not a surprise for Shawn to show up uninvited and unexpected, but he usually does so with much more fanfare. She certainly hadn't expected him tonight, when it's early evening and the station is mostly empty.
"That quartet thing is a little sexy, Jules, admit it." He says, smiling, as he approaches her desk.
She's not going to let him off the hook that easily. "Shawn." she says, sharply.
He sighs, his face softening. "Look, that's not what I came here to say."
She looks at him, waiting.
"I'm sorry for snapping at you earlier," he says, and she can tell that they're both trying not to think about the last time he said those exact words to her.
It's been a few months, and yet, if she closed her eyes, it's like she's right back there at the drive-in.
It's been a few months, and yet, nothing has changed at all. She still feels the same desperate hope she felt as she walked in those doors to ask him to dinner every time she looks at him, and he still chooses Abigail at the end of the day.
"I'm—I'm sorry about yesterday, too," he says, "I shouldn't have projected that whole Abigail thing on you, that wasn't fair."
"Don't mention it," she says, waving her hand, and she means it, because if they keep talking about it, she'll keep reliving it, and those angry, sad tears will come rushing back.
He shrugs, nodding. He's silent for a second, picking up the nameplate on her desk and turning it over in his hands, looking down at it instead of looking at her.
Juliet waits patiently. She knows him well enough to know that when he stands around fidgeting like this, he's debating whether to say something else. Shawn gets nervous sometimes, even though he doesn't like to show it in front of a lot of people. In spite of herself, it still gives her a little thrill to think about the fact that he doesn't seem to mind being nervous in front of her, but now she's nervous, too, wondering what he isn't saying.
"Jules," he says finally, still not looking at her, "are things different? With us? I know I said I refuse to feel uncomfortable around you, and I don't want to, but are we…okay?"
She sighs. "I don't know, Shawn," she says softly, after a moment.
"I meant what I said, though," he says, "you mean too much to me."
Juliet looks at him. He's looking sadly into her eyes, and suddenly she's not entirely sure whether he means that she means too much to him for them to be awkward around each other, like what he had said on that bridge in Canada, or that she means too much to him, full stop, like they can't keep spending time together, because it's too much when he still has a girlfriend and she still has feelings for him.
He clears his throat suddenly, startling them both, and Juliet finds herself unsure exactly how long they'd been staring at each other, their faces somehow closer than they should be, though, she thinks, almost bitterly, that it's not like they were close talking, or anything like that. Still, though they hadn't opened their mouths, that moment of looking at each other, before being pulled out of the trance they'd fallen under, had communicated quite a bit.
"Well," he says, a blush creeping into his cheeks, "I miss it. The ways things were." He's no longer looking at her, his eyes on the floor. "I mean," he continues, "someone's gotta keep Lassie in check, Jules. You saw him this week. A power trip like that? That kind of thing's got serious consequences. Even our sweet, sweet melodies in Quarter Black can't save Santa Barbara from that."
"Your melodies?" she asks.
He nods, solemnly. "Unchained. Like Django."
She wants to laugh, but instead she just rolls her eyes, trying to let that be enough, even though she wants to grab him by the shoulders and shake him, wake him up, make him understand. Look at me. I love you.
He replaces the nameplate on her desk, looking down at the floor. "I should probably go," he says, "but think about what I said, Jules. Lassie on the prowl?" He makes a swirling motion with his finger around the bullpen. "No one is safe."
He smiles at her, turning to leave.
"Shawn?" she asks, as he walks away.
He turns, looking at her.
"I—I miss it, too." She says.
He nods, his eyes softening as he looks at her, and they spend another moment just looking at each other, and Juliet can't put her finger on it, but the air seems to shift a little around them, the tiniest surge of hope enveloping them.
"'Night, Jules." He says, finally, smiling at her before he turns to walk away.
She can't help smiling too. Shawn is still with Abigail, and that still hurts, and that's not going to go away for a while. But he misses her, and he's sorry, and for right now, that's enough.
A/N: Django Unchained actually came out in 2012, so it's a bit anachronistic to put it in there, but it DID seem like a joke Shawn would make, had it been out at the time, so I put it in anyway.
Thanks so very much for taking the time to read this! I really appreciate any feedback you might have; this one was harder to write than I expected it to be! I always very much appreciate comments, but I also just really appreciate the fact that people are reading my work! :)
Have a lovely week!