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FIVE DAYS BEFORE THE INCIDENT

“Do you really think that’s going to help us solve this case, Shawn?” She crosses her arms, smile betraying how seriously she’s not taking him, but asking all the same.

“Well, yes.” He leans his hip against her desk and mirrors her expression. “I’m having a little trouble seeing right now. I think things will be clearer once I get closer to the scene, but that zoo’s hiding something from the department― I can feel it . They’re not going to let me near if they find out I’m working with the police.”

“And your solution to that is to go undercover.”

“Exactly! I knew you’d get it.”

“Shawn, you don’t even have to go undercover.” She shakes her head and starts cleaning up the files on her desk, not noticing the way he tilts his gaze curiously at the papers. “All you have to do is walk in and act like a normal civilian, which you are aside from the psychic consultant part.”

“But there’s no fun in that! I made up a whole scenario and everything, listen,” he insists, edging closer. “I’ll be James Roombaloo and you could be Ophelia Roombaloo and we’d be tourists visiting the area for our anniversary. Of course, we’d wander the place and spend an extra long time in front of the giraffe area because how could we not when the animals were our wedding motif?”

“Giraffes. Really.” She raises an eyebrow.

“What? Giraffes get girls.”

“Why can’t you bring Gus?”

Shawn snaps his fingers. “Jules, you’re a genius. He can be our nephew Terrence Rompalooza, a less distinguished but still highly reputable branch of our lineage.” At her amused gaze, he backtracks. “Our brother? Our cousin? ...oh, Jules, you can’t be suggesting that he’d be our son , though I’d love the idea of a James Roombaloo II.”

“No,” she laughs, “I meant let Gus be your Ophelia.”

“What part of ‘giraffes get girls ’ was unclear to you? Besides, he thinks the name’s too old fashioned. C’mon, I know for a fact that you’re off that day, even without the psychic powers. You really gotta stop leaving your planner open on your desk every time you get coffee.”

“Shawn! Stop looking through my things.” She throws her jacket over her shoulders and brushes past him to leave, sending one last smile his way.

“Give me a call when you have your answer?”

“...Sure.”


 

TWO DAYS BEFORE THE INCIDENT

It’s been three days since Shawn asked Juliet to the zoo and he’s beginning to think that she’s ghosting him―which is silly because she knows he can march into her open floor office at any time.

“Hey, Gus, what do you think of the name Ophelia ?” Shawn asks, swiveling around in his chair to face his partner. “Specifically Ophelia Roombaloo .”

“I told you last time, I think it’s ridiculous,” Gus says with the slight twinge of snark that keeps Shawn grounded. “Whatever plan you’re cooking up, I’m not going to be a part of it. You know I have my event coming up soon.”

“Yeah, I know, the annual Battle for the Clients. It’s fine, I already, uh, asked someone else.”

This admission makes Gus pause, fingers hovering above his keyboard, before he finally caves and peers over his laptop with suspicion. “...who?”

“If you’re jealous, just say it now and I’ll give you the other ticket instead.” He fishes two paper tickets out of his shirt and flashes them. “Santa Barbara Zoo. Undercover work. You sure you don’t wanna come?”

“Shawn, I said I’m not going.” But his eyes dart from his screen to Shawn’s hand until the slips disappear into his pocket.

“Well, I tried,” Shawn shrugs. “I ended up asking―oh, hey, Jules! No, no, you’re not bothering me. I had a vision that you were going to call anyway.”

Gus’s eyebrows shoot up. He didn’t even hear the first ring and the call had already been picked up. Totally against typical Shawn Spencer protocol; he always waits until the second ring. Gotta add suspense , he’d say with a confident wink and classic shit eating grin. Speaking of Gus, his gaze is burning a little too much into the back of his head right now, so Shawn gets up and takes the call over to the next room. Doesn’t help his case.

“I hope you’ve called to tell me yes?”

“I’m not calling to tell you no ,” she says. “I wanna know more about this...operation of yours.”

“It’s not anything more than what I’ve told you. We’ll be going in undercover so I can get close to the pens.”

“Does the Chief know about this?”

“No, but that’s part of the fun.”

There’s silence on Juliet’s end as she considers. “Okay.” She finally gives in, probably rolling her eyes at his sounds of celebration. “Sure, why not.”

Yes , Jules, I promise you won’t regret it.”

“I hope not! I’m excited to see the giraffes. I’ve never seen one before.”

“You...wait, you what? You haven’t seen giraffes before? Mrs. Roombaloo, you better brush up considering this was your wedding theme.”

“So the job comes with homework,” she says with feigned disappointment.

“What, you thought this was going to be easy ? O’Hara, I thought you were supposed to be top of your― Gus, I’m a little busy right now. Can’t that wait til later? Well, can you make it wait til later? Oh, alright, fine ―I’ll see you then, Detective O’Hara.”


 

FOUR HOURS BEFORE THE INCIDENT

Juliet does another spin around her mirror and decides that no, this isn’t the one either . She peels off the dress with another dissatisfied groan and throws it on the growing pile of garments by her bed.

She knows she has no reason to be this nervous; it’s just an undercover job with Shawn. Y’know, only normal work with the guy that she’s seen everyday for the past few months. It’s not supposed to be this big of a deal.

It’s not a real date , she reminds herself, but still, she can’t help the butterflies as she picks out another outfit.


 

THREE HOURS AFTER THE INCIDENT

“O’Hara, Spencer, my office. Now .”

The door closes as soon as the two enter, and Chief Vick closes her blinds with a quick snap.

“Listen, Chief, this was all my fault. Detective O’Hara didn’t want to go through with it at first, and I just kept bugging her until she went with me.”

“Save it, Mr. Spencer.” Vick tosses the closed file onto her desk. Her tone is icy, eyes drowning the two of them in shame and dismay. He finds himself flinching and knows without looking that Jules did the same. “I don’t recall authorizing this.”

Or a lot of the things I do , Shawn thinks, choosing wisely to keep that out of her knowledge.

Vick takes a deep breath and contemplates the sight before her. Shawn tries his best to look sheepish―maybe if he plays it up, he could at least get his partner out without trouble―

“What I want to know is...did you solve the case?”

Wait. “I’m sorry. Huh?”

“Mr. Spencer, I’m asking Detective O’Hara, not you.”

Jules throws him a quick glance before nodding firmly. “We did, Chief.”

“Then, I have nothing more to say,” Vick’s facade breaks, and she lets a smirk slip through. “I am a little annoyed that you were ignoring protocol, but I trust in my officers and I guess that means in turn, I trust in your...less than desirable methods. I’ll figure out something to say to the others.”

“You mean it?”

“Don’t look so giddy, O’Hara; this is a one time thing, and it won’t happen again, understand?” Yes, Chief! “Good. Leave my office pretending I gave you both the lecture of a lifetime.” She unlocks the door and, eyes twinkling beneath a composed face, yells after them, “Now, I hope you’ve learned your lesson! If you’re gonna go on any more dates, stay away from areas under investigation!”

“Yes, chi―w-wait a minute―!”

Everyone in the hallway heard that one. They turn to stare at the psychic, who takes Juliet’s hand and leads her away despite her flustered protests. He waves back to the suited woman crossing her arms with a smug smile. “Of course!”


 

TWO DAYS AFTER THE INCIDENT

His blonde partner is a force to be reckoned with. Behind her sunshine smile lays a cold professionalism and robotic efficiency that places her, he begrudgingly admits, leagues ahead of half the department. Never mind her age or her looks or any of those things jealous people attribute her success to―no one can really deny that Juliet is good at what she does.

Usually, anyway.

Lassiter noticed that her performance these days has been less than stellar, and he’s set on knowing what, or who , is causing her unease. So he’s been giving her menial tasks― pass this off to the chief! let McNab know I have his case file! tell Delaney that his tie is crooked! ―to observe her reactions, and there were only two people left on his list.

“O’Hara, remind Burton Guster that he still owes me parking money,” he spits, thinking back to that day. “And Spencer that they can just leave it in my mailbox. I don’t want to give him an excuse to saunter into this place more than he already does.”

“Carlton, can’t you do these things yourself?” She spins back in her chair with a sigh, but pulls her phone out anyway. “Give me a second, I’ll let them know.”

Ah, Juliet. Her response was smooth, but Lassiter didn’t miss the tension in her shoulders when he mentioned the (fake!) psychic’s name. Bingo . He’s not very pleased to find out the other involved party, but he’s gotta know what happened between them to get his partner back to working condition.

“...hey, Carlton, are you okay?”

He looks up and starts. When did she approach his desk? Concerned hazel eyes meet surprised blue ones as she leans into his space.

“I’m serious. You’ve been assigning me such random things for nearly a week now.” Her eyes are bleeding with sympathy. How does she do that? “I just want you to know that I’m here for you, okay? If you need anything.”

He tries to choke back a flustered growl. “I’m fine. What about you ? Your head’s been in the clouds lately and, no offense, it’s not a great look.”

She laughs easily. “Just been thinking about things, that’s all. I didn’t realize it was starting to affect my work.”

“This thinking wouldn’t be about Spencer...and a certain zoo date?” He notes the way she glances away abashed, stuttering out that it wasn’t a date . On the battlefield and the crime scene, she has no trouble keeping her expression impassive, but here at the office, in front of her partner, she wears her heart on her sleeve. “Back to your desk, O’Hara. I need that report finished by the end of the day.”

He got what he was looking for anyway.


 

TWENTY MINUTES BEFORE THE INCIDENT

Nathan helps him smooth out the picnic blanket and then extends a hand to the pretty lady. Just to help her down the steps, he swears! But her husband reaches for her first.

“Thank you so much , Nathan. You have no idea how much this means to us.” The husband peeks at his wife, barely concealing a puppy love grin. A light blush blooms across her cheeks.

“No problem, Mr. James!” He mock salutes the older man. “Thank you for...for your words! My uncle’s passing has taken a toll on me lately, but I’m glad to hear he’s doing okay. I-if you manage to get through to him again, can you tell him that I promise I’ll study hard and get into that program? And that I’m sorry I gave up so early?”

“Nathan,” James murmurs and places a comforting hand on his shoulder. “I don’t need to tell him anything. He’s watching over you and your efforts; you’re just going to have to show him.”

“You’re right.” Nathan wrings his hands. “I’ll do my best! Enjoy our lunch!”

The Roombaloos wave goodbye as he leaves the room. He knows that technically the place is reserved for only the highest VIPs, but the couple are so kind―they were so nice to him, and they exude so much love for each other. Giving them the room for their first anniversary lunch (James packed a basket ! How cute!) was the least he could do. Before he closes the door behind him completely, he sneaks another look.

James offers up his fork and tries to guide food into Ophelia’s mouth, but she giggles and shoves his shoulder, saying something like Don’t be silly and You’re gonna drop it everywhere . Which he does, but catches the fallen food right before it hits her dress.

Nathan smiles. He wishes to find his soulmate one day, too.


 

ONE DAY AFTER THE INCIDENT

There are only a few things in this world Burton Guster doesn’t understand, and his best friend shouldn’t be on that list. Sure, sometimes Shawn does things Gus has trouble understanding or agreeing to, but for the most part, the psychic (pun not intended) connection between the two of them, created from decades of friendship, is unrivaled.

So to be held in the dark, to see that unreadable mask on Shawn’s face...it doesn’t sit well with him.

“Don’t even think about opening that lunchbox,” he calls into the kitchen. He hears the fridge door shut, and Shawn emerges without a hint of humility. “I told you, Shawn. Stop stealing my food.”

“How’d you know I was gonna take your food? I could’ve been pouring myself some juice.”

Gus gives him a pointed stare. “Cuz I know you.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Shawn trills his lips and sinks into his seat with a loud sigh. He whips out his phone and quickly calls up the nearest takeout place.

Gus waits for the call to be over, pretending to be busy on his laptop, before starting his interrogation. “That undercover mission, I heard you went with Juliet.”

Easy smile, calculating eyes. His friend’s guard is up. “Hey now, don’t be jealous. I did offer you the spot, but you decided to ditch me for suit wearing business men and senile old ladies,” he jokes.

“They’re not all senile,” Gus snaps. He reminds himself to calm down; Shawn’s riling him up to deflect, to change the subject. He can’t lose his head. “Why’d you take Juliet, though? Why not someone else from the police department?”

“Do you think I could pretend to be married with McNab ? He was probably going to break character and ask me to debrief every few minutes. And trust me, Lassie was my second choice after you, but I believe his words were, Spencer, if you don’t get out of my sight, I will murder you .”

“Why not some random chick then?” He shrugs. Nonchalance, nonchalance, nonchalance. “You’d score a date and get the job done.”

“Yeah, but then I wouldn’t be able to snoop like I did. I managed to get us into a super seclusive VIP backroom―”

Gus bristles. He wants to snoop a super seclusive VIP backroom. He imagines crystal chandeliers and champagne made with real crushed pearls and crimson velvet upholstery.

“―and we both did our jobs. Another girl would’ve expected me to actually be on a date. Plus, she’s never seen giraffes before. Why’re you asking so many questions anyway? Like I said, Gus, don’t be jealous .”

“I’m not,” he bites back in a tone that means he totally is. “I’m just curious about what happened. Nothing wrong with that. What’d you two do?”

“Nothing much. Went in to see the animals, played it up to some kid with access to keys he shouldn’t , got into the VIP room, and found evidence against our bad guys.”

That’s not all that happened , Gus knows. Something... something! happened between his friend and Jules. Shawn might be able to hide it now, but Burton Guster is here for the long haul. He’ll get the secret out. He crouches in the metaphorical tall grass of Shawn’s mind and waits.


 

ONE HOUR BEFORE THE INCIDENT

His Juliet senses are tingling.

“Shawn?”

Shawn looks up. Yup, there she―oh. Oh, wow. “Jules! You...look great. What’s the occasion?”

She’s beaming as she smooths down the dress. Her slightly curled hair spills over her shoulder, and Shawn finds that as much as he likes the tight updo she rocks during work hours, he’s much more a fan of off hours Juliet. “I don’t know, I thought I’d dress a little nice considering it’s my first wedding anniversary, honey .”

“Wonderful choice, sweetheart .” He offers her his hand, and, after a deep breath and a glance around, she takes it. “You really like pink, don’t you? When you taught us our dance routine and when you infiltrated that sorority. You wore pink both times.”

“It’s a pretty color,” she says with a suspicious side-eye. She’s probably wondering where he’s going with this, so he’s quick to nod his head.

“Pink’s a good color on you.”

She gazes away. Crisis averted.

“When do we go to the giraffe enclosure? And do you have a picnic basket ?”

“Slooow down there. What is this, 20 Questions? I did tell you the first day that we’ll ‘wander the area’ and then get to work?” He whips out a map and hands it to her. “Wife privileges. You get to choose the order we go today.”

“And the basket?” she murmurs, already opening the brochure and scanning the tiny markers.

“That’s an anniversary surprise. Where to, Mrs. Roombaloo?”

She points to her left. “To the Asian small-clawed otters!”

God, was she beautiful.


 

FOUR DAYS AFTER THE INCIDENT

Henry adores the blonde detective. She’s sweet (always takes the time to ask him about his latest fishing adventure), respectful (lets him finish a goddamn sentence unlike some people he knows), and an absolute badass (he’s seen her “aviator sunglasses and death stare” combo and decided long ago that he never wants to be at the receiving end). He would never admit this to Shawn, but when he envisioned his son with a girl, he envisioned someone like Juliet O’Hara. Not to say that the other women his son’s been with haven’t been wonderful―most of them, at least. It’s just that Shawn’s pick up methods often involve lying about his identity, making him cooler than he actually is, and what he has with Juliet is so much more real . Then again, she’s still under the impression that he’s a psychic, so he’s not completely honest with her, but still

“You noticed it, too, huh?”

Henry looks at the man on his left. Sorry? The characteristic deep set frown marring Lassiter’s features deepened. “O’Hara and Spencer. Something’s strange between them. They still exchange pleasantries, but they seem...more professional. Polite. Curt. I don’t understand.”

“Join the club,” the boy― man , Henry reminds himself, Burton Guster isn’t a kid anymore ―to Henry’s right scoffs. “I’ve been trying to get it out of him for days now and he’s not budging. And get this: he declined not just one date offer., but two.

Lassiter doesn’t look very impressed, but Henry rubs his chin thoughtfully. “Shawn never declines a date if he can help it. Whatever happened with Detective O’Hara was big enough to steer him away from his ways.” He shrugs. “Maybe it was a good thing.”

“Maybe for you, but I’d rather have my partner not distracted all the time,” the dark haired detective growls.

“And I’d rather have mine not acting more reckless than he usually does during investigations.”

Henry shrugs again. “I just want to be released from the scene so I can go home and make dinner.”

“Oh, what’s for dinner?” Gus’s eyes light up, and even Lassiter gives him a questioning eyebrow.

“No can do, buddy, I have enough ingredients for one dinner. For me . Hey, no exchanging looks! What are you two thinking about! ...Oi, that’s my car ―Get out of my groceries!”


 

SIX DAYS AFTER THE INCIDENT

“Knock knock.” Someone raps the pillar beside her desk and sets a pineapple, stalk tied with a satin pink ribbon, down on the corner. She recognizes the hands and the telltale fruit offering but keeps her gaze focused on her paperwork.

“Shawn...what are you doing here?” Her brow furrows, and she pretends not to notice as her co-workers lean into the conversation.

The man before her sighs. “I came to...apologize about what happened.”

Her eyes snap to him. His shoulders are down and his eyes...he’s feeling remorse and maybe...regret? Her arms tense. If he’s feeling regret for what happened...her chest tightens, and she knows―she knows she has no right to feel disappointed―really, she shouldn’t have expected otherwise, but the revelation still hurts.

She presses her lips together, trying to push down the memories of that VIP room and how softly he kissed her when no one was looking...it was a mistake on both their parts. They were playing up the role of a happy married couple and he gave her such gentle smiles and teasing tickles that for a second, she forgot Shawn Spencer was just being James Roombaloo, a man hopelessly in love with his wife. The snuggling and the spoon feeding and the shared laughs were for Ophelia Roombaloo, not her. The way his fingers threaded through her hair and the way her fingers drifted along his jaw...all an act. All an act, she reminds herself, commanding her cheeks to lose their rosy hue.

“It’s, um,” she clears her throat, “it’s fine, Shawn. Really. I appreciate the apology, but it’s okay.”

“I haven’t even apologized yet, Jules. Just let me talk, alright?”

“...alright,” she murmurs, sitting back in her chair but flying her eyes around the room―anywhere but on him. “Go on then.”

He waits to see if she’ll look at him, but she doesn’t , so he sighs, “Listen, I know I have a lot of things to say sorry for, okay? I’m sorry for dragging you out there on your off day. I’m sorry for getting you in trouble with the chief. I’m sorry for...some things that will probably be taken the wrong way by all these eavesdropping people! Jeez, don’t you guys have some cases to work on? Anyway, I’m really sorry, I truly am, for upsetting you, but the thing I can’t, or rather don’t want to, apologize for is what I did. Unless it made you really uncomfortable because if it did, then oh my God, I am so, so, so sorry, but I think you...you wanted it, too? So I can’t say I regret what I...what we did. But I do regret how awkward it’s made us, so here.”

He takes the pineapple and nudges it into her hands.

“You can make a bangin’ upside down pineapple cake in an Easy-Bake oven,” he jokes, and she can’t help the little snort that escapes her. She’s tried his before and bangin’ isn’t the word she’d use for it. “It’s both...a peace offering and a bargaining chip. How would you feel about reprising role of James and Ophelia Roombaloo, but as Shawn Spencer and Juliet O’Hara this time...for dinner on Thursday?”

There’s a hopeful lilt to his voice, and she finally allows herself to meet his eyes. His hands are stuffed in his pockets, but beyond the nonchalant slouch, she sees vulnerability and ‘ hey, this is my heart, please be gentle with it ’. Something about the sight of him approaching her so forwardly makes the Yes tumble from her mouth before she could stop it.

A buzz starts up in the office―she forgot they had an audience.

“Nothing to see here! Get back to work!” she snaps and waves her hand in dismissal. The younger officers at least duck their heads respectfully and scurry back to their positions, but her older coworkers continue their snickering and whistles. Her face flushes. “I said, back to work !”

Beside her, Shawn waits patiently for her answer, but he’s getting more nervous by the second. He’s tapping his foot now, and she’s never seen him do that. “So, um, Jules?” he ventures when the spotlight is off them.

Is Shawn Spencer flustered? She smirks to herself. Did she make him flustered? It’s so rare for Shawn to not know what to say, not know how to control the situation, and she admits that she’s enjoying this more than she probably should be.

“...Dinner on Thursday sounds great.”

Yes !”

“What can I say, Shawn?” She rests her chin on her palm. “Giraffes get girls.”