Title: Scenes from the 'Verse Next Door
Fandom: Psych
Genre: Gen (mostly, with some mention of canon pairings)
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: Up until the end of Season Three
Words: 2884
Summary: The more things change, the more they stay the same. Kinda.
Author's note: This is a Psych AU written for the [community profile] cliche_bingo prompt, 'genderswap'. Most of the dialogue comes from various episodes from seasons 1 and 3.



Carla had spent most of the morning dodging calls from Victor’s lawyer and trying to track down witnesses to a particularly messy hit-and-run case, so she was already in a shitty mood when Luke strolled over to her desk and told her that the tip woman was back again.

“Who?” Carla said, without looking up from the open file. Luke had turned down her suggestion of a quickie during lunch, and she could feel her shoulders tensing up merely at the sound of his voice.

“You know, that woman you were going on about a couple of months ago, the one who keeps calling in very accurate crime tips? She’s in the station to pick up her reward for the tip about the stereo robberies. Figured you might want to talk to her,” Luke said, and Carla glanced up in time to see him raise an inquiring eyebrow at her, all cool blond confidence. She fought down the familiar urge to either slam her lips against his or kick him in the shin.

“Yes,” Carla said, pointing decisively, “I do want to talk to her. Tell McNabb to bring her down to the interrogation room in ten minutes, and I’ll meet you there.”

Luke nodded and turned away, and Carla did not – did not – watch him walk back across the bullpen.


It wasn’t as if Carla was Miss Congeniality on her best day, but she did think that it was fair to blame at least part of that disastrous first meeting with Spencer on the combination of mid-divorce rage, useless witness reports and sexual frustration that were burning through her that afternoon. Of course, over the next few months, and then the next few years, she found out how incredibly talented Spencer was at the art of being obnoxious, and figured that Spencer was just lucky that Carla hadn’t tried to arrest her sooner.

She didn’t know exactly what kind of person she was expecting to see following McNabb to the interrogation room, but Shawna Spencer was definitely not it. Carla was skimming through the file one more time when Luke muttered, “Showtime,” from where he stood by the door. She had just enough time to pop a piece of gum in her mouth and put on her best cop-face before a petite brunette with tight jeans and faux-messy surfer girl look that had probably taken a hour to achieve bounced into the interrogation room and asked for her money.

Carla said, “Why don’t let you let us ask the questions for a while?” and stood up, circling around the table to pull out a chair for Ms. Spencer. She exchanged a quick look with Luke, already re-assessing the interrogation. Judging from Spencer’s past arrest and patchy job history, Carla had figured her for a petty criminal or the girlfriend of one, and had been expecting some variation of sullen defensiveness. That was still probably the case, but if Spencer could keep up the excellent innocent act, they were going to have their work cut out for them to get any kind of information out of her.

Spencer sat down in the chair, folding her hands in front of her and leaning forward expectantly. Her lime-green nails were decorated with tiny pineapple stickers. “So which questions might those be?”

Carla strolled around the table, brushing a sly hand along the back of Luke’s shoulder as she moved behind him, and decided to lean against the wall to stare down at Spencer. “Oh, I don’t know, like – where were you the night of the last robbery?”

Spencer blinked big green eyes and immediately started mouthing off, and Carla ground her teeth together and tried to stop her hands from curling into fists. Vick – now Interim Chief Vick, and didn’t that still burn – had already warned her twice this week about losing her temper while interrogating suspects, and Carla really didn’t need another patronizing talk about how everyone was trying to give her leeway because of her “marital issues”.

It didn’t help that Luke was watching Spencer thoughtfully as if he was actually buying into the “I just solve crimes off the news broadcast!” bullshit that Spencer was pushing. Carla had always thought that Luke was sharp enough not to be distracted by a pretty face and a partially unbuttoned pink polo shirt.

She did pause for a second when she made the connection between the last name and the fact that Spencer’s mother had been her arresting officer. This slacker beach bunny was the former Chief’s kid?

Spencer grimaced, looking truly serious for the first time since sitting down. “She was trying to teach me a lesson.”

“Didja learn it?” Carla asked, spinning the question with as much sarcasm as she could manage.

Spencer tilted her head, staring at her. “I learned that I hated my mother, so – sure.”

Carla wondered if another arrest could actually make family dinners more tense, or if they were already at critical capacity. Or maybe mother and daughter didn’t talk anymore, something Carla could understand.

Spencer’s seriousness lasted for less than a minute, unfortunately, and by the time she stood up and made for the door without even checking for an okay from Carla or Luke, Carla snapped. There was no way this ditzy smart-ass was solving crimes by watching TV interviews, and a few hours in a holding cell might scare her into coughing up the source of her information. Luke gave her an uncertain look but backed up her move without any hesitation, putting the pressure on Spencer to confess.

Carla was riding on the surge of triumph over the growing panic in Spencer’s eyes as the handcuffs appeared and she finally dropped the comedy routine, when Spencer went and pulled a game-changer out of her ass.

“I got the information because-” Spencer paused dramatically, “I’m psychic.” Allen dropped her handcuffs, Luke raised his eyebrows, and the course of Carla Lassiter’s life changed for the much, much worst.

*

Julian came back to the bullpen from the file room to find Shawna sitting on his desk waiting for him in full bonneted and hoop-skirted glory.

“Why I do declare, Miss Spencer-” Julian started, grinning, but Shawna held up her hand to cut him off.

“Every possible ‘Gone With the Wind’ joke has already been made during the last five minutes I’ve been sitting here, trust me. Even Buzz wailed something about not knowing nothing about birthing babies,” Shawna said, grabbing a file off the desk and fanning herself with it.

“Okay, fine,” Julian said, taking the file away from her and placing it back on the pile. “So what can I do for you?”

Shawna fluttered her eyelashes at him. “Well, I was wondering if you would be so kind to oblige a lady and agree to sleep in my tent tonight? I need an upstanding young soldier to protect my honour from any marauders.”

“No, no, no. Trust me, Lassiter’s already given me a really rousing recruitment speech today, and I’m sure you can find someone else to protect your honour,” Julian said. Or not-protect it, considering the looks you and Sally Reynolds were giving each other earlier, he didn’t add. It wasn’t any of his business, and he’d just sound like a jerk.

“Oh come on, Jules!” Shawna whined, and hopped off the desk to sashay closer to him. He cleared his throat and looked away when her hoop skirt bumped against his legs. “Gus won’t come because she says she has a strong aesthetic objection to bonnets, and can I point out that it’s really unfair that Lassiter bullied everyone into letting her be a colonel but the rest of us have to be nurses?”

Julian shrugged. “I think everyone’s afraid that she’d arrest them if she didn’t get to play her own great-great-grandfather.”

“Yeah, or shoot them,” Shawna said, and then winced at Julian’s stern look. “I guess that’s not very funny under the circumstances, huh?”

“Not so much, no,” Julian said, biting back a smile. Shawna always got under his skin somehow, and he could admit to himself that the attempting to stay professional around her was pretty much a lost cause at this point.

Shawna looked up at him, clutching her hands to her chest. “I’d really appreciate it if you’d do this for me, you know. And I bet you’d look fantastic in uniform.”

For a second, Julian was seriously tempted, but then imagined spending the night sleeping on the hard ground in itchy pants while Shawna flitted off with Sally, and shook his head. With his best Southern drawl, he said, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

*

Gus had hors d’oeuvre trays to arrange, audiovisual equipment to set up, and folding chairs to unfold – or at least she has to supervise while her assistants did those things, because apparently everyone at this reunion but her was incompetent – and yet, here she was, standing outside in the drizzling rain staring at a patch of empty grass while Shawna babbled on about murder. It was gloomily reminiscent of just about every event that she’d ever planned that Shawna had attended, up to and including their graduation from third grade, when Gus’ plans for a make-your-own-ice-cream-sundae party had been twisted by Shawna into an ice-cream based food fight. Gus had picked sprinkles out of her hair and ears for weeks afterwards, and her mom had been really pissed about having to drive Trish Connors to the hospital to get treated for frostbite.

“Are you doing this to me on purpose?” Gus asked, watching Shawna suspiciously. “Are you fabricating some kind of foul play just to mess up the night for me?” Gus wouldn’t put anything past Shawna once she got bored enough, and Gus hadn’t forgotten about the fake haunting that Shawna had concocted at her boss’ house last month.

Shawna tossed her head, flipping her hair behind her shoulder, and wow, Gus hadn’t seen her pull that move since her Valley girl phase in freshman year. “Yes, Gus, I killed someone right here at our high school reunion just so I could foil your thirteen-year retrospective on best pep rally moments.”

Abigail looked back and forth between them, and right there was another possible motive for Shawna to decide that the middle of their reunion was the time to play psychic detective. Shawna’s crush on Abigail had been legendary, and the subject of many angsty late-night monologues during their sleepovers in senior year. Gus had put up with Shawna’s endless mooning over Abigail’s exquisiteness mainly because it meant that she wasn’t complaining about her mother instead, which had been the other main topic of Shawna’s diatribes that year. By the look in Shawna’s eyes when she’d first seen Abigail in the doorway, Gus figured that her crush hadn’t faded into the mists of time along with Deep Blue Something.

Suddenly Abigail’s eyes widened, and she said, “Oh, wait, I get it. You guys are dating! You’re together! Everything makes sense.”

Gus stiffened, smoothing down the wrinkles in her grey pencil skirt. “We are not dating.” Not that it was the first, or even the twentieth time that someone had made that assumption.

She turned to look in surprise at Shawna when she replied seriously, “Are you kidding? She was voted Most Likely to Succeed, you think she’s going to date me?”


They had made a strange pair in high school, that was for sure: despite telling everyone to call her Gus like Shawna did, Gus had felt her most Bertha-ish during her high school years, all ironed jeans and Peter Pan collars, AP classes and the sinking conviction that she would never lose her virginity, at least not to someone who wasn’t desperate or a dirtbag. Shawna, on the other hand, had managed to move smoothly from her pink lipsticked, short-skirted freshman year – once it had fulfilled its purpose of pissing off her mom something awful – to being one of the cool, grungy girls who smoked up under the bleachers and talked about bands from Seattle that no one else had heard of. Shawna hadn’t lost her virginity until after high school either, although no one believed that but Gus after Dave Vernon told half the school that Shawna had given it up in the back seat of his car during the Fourth of July fireworks show.

Gus had always thought that after the awkwardness of high school was over, she would really come into her own. She’d somehow turn into a sophisticated professional woman, probably a research scientist, and end up living in a gorgeously decorated home with her lawyer (or banker, or psychiatrist, or CEO) husband like in some dumb life insurance commercial. She wasn’t exactly disappointed with the way her life has actually turned out – if there was one thing that being best friends with Shawna had taught her, it was that things didn’t always go the way she planned, and that – well, that wasn’t always a bad thing.

Still, it was hard to remember that little bit of wisdom when the cute guy she was trying to chat up was squinting at her and saying, “Wow, I thought you would have become, like, a doctor or something like that.”

So Gus both cursed and thanked Shawna inwardly, took a gulp of her punch, and said, “Did I also tell you that I have a side psychic detective business that I started with my friend?”

*

Helen was moseying around her kitchen, clearing up the dishes from breakfast, when Andrews called from the station to tell her that the Yin Yang killer was back.

“And Ch – Spencer? He included a picture of Shawna in his note. I think she’s supposed to be his next challenger,” Andrews said grimly.

Helen dropped the phone without bothering to hit the power button, grabbed her keys and headed out the door. No frigging way was Shawna getting involved in that mess. She restrained herself and only ran a few stop signs on the drive over to the station. She strode in the door and made a beeline for Vick’s office.

“Caleb, you are not going to use my daughter as a pawn in a serial killer’s twisted game,” she bellowed as soon as she made it through the doorway.

Caleb Vick didn’t intimidate easy though, never had, and even though that was part of what made him such a good cop, just at this moment Helen wished that he was a pushover, if it meant getting Shawna safe. Caleb spun away from the telephone and glared at her, his sharp foxy features tight with worry and anger.

“Oh, I’ll advise you to proceed with caution,” he said warningly, and didn’t back up with Helen crowded him, trying to use her extra inch of height to best advantage.

“Need I remind you what happened to the last detective that went head to head with this sick bastard?” Helen asked, even though she already knew that it was pointless. Caleb always did the best possible job he could, and right now, that meant using Shawna. And wasn’t it a weird, horrible little head trip to hear Vick say that Shawna was the only chance that they had? Well, I guess we’re all screwed then, Helen didn’t say, because that wasn’t necessarily true anymore, and hadn’t been true in a while. It was just hard to work up much maternal pride when her stomach was twisting and something like panic was rising into her throat. She had to talk to Shawna.

Helen found her in the bullpen, standing next to the overhead project screen that was displaying the murderous freak’s newest riddle. Shawna looked small and fragile standing there surrounded by cops, staring up at the words of a killer, and Helen called her over with a brisk, “Shawna!”

Shawna was as infuriatingly stubborn as ever though, and the panic was choking Helen now, leaving her to stare in silence when Shawna told her to go home. “I’ve got this,” she said, her face calm and serious, for once actually looking her thirty years.

And isn’t this what you wanted, some tiny voice whispered in the back of Helen’s mind, sounding a lot like Mark at his most coolly professional. Wasn’t that the point of all those skills you taught her, all the times you drilled into her head how to be such a good cop that even with half the men on the force watching and waiting for her to make a mistake, she’d still succeed? All those times you criticized her for being selfish, lazy, shiftless – isn’t this kind of commitment and courage what you wanted her to learn? Isn’t this who you wanted her to be?

Yeah, Helen would yell back, if Mark were here, as she had during so many arguments in the past, but I wanted her to be a cop. With training and back-up and a gun on her hip, ready if she needs it. But Mark was only in town for work these days, and her fake psychic detective daughter was watching her with steady eyes, waiting for her to leave. So Helen turned and left the station without looking back, and drove home to sit and wait by the phone, and pray that her lessons were enough.

~/~
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