Change Doesn't Have To Suck

Summary: Carlton Lassiter was conflicted. On the one hand, he loved kids and had grown to love Juliet as a partner and friend. On the other hand, celebrating the news of a Spencer kid seemed like a crime against humanity. Established Shules, strong Lassiter/Juliet friendship.

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters.

A/N: I love Carlton Lassiter...

The three of them – O'Hara, Spencer, and Guster - announced the news this morning at the station. They beamed and smiled like true, proud parents – even Guster – and there was cheering, hugging, and an impromptu celebration. At lunch, someone got pizza and someone else got cake and though there was still work to do, most of the day somehow revolved around the news, and the atmosphere was relaxed and cheerful all day long.

I did my best to keep out of the way. I paid the obligatory congratulations, and then concentrated on case reports and other paperwork. I saw O'Hara try to come my way a couple times, but she was always bounced back by some new officer offering congratulations, taking bets on gender, and asking about name possibilities.

For goodness sake, it's still months away!

There's this part of me – an illogical part that I can't really understand – that wishes they had told me first. Well, not first, exactly. I certainly never expected to be told before family. I just wish I could have known before the whole department did. It might have been nice to have time to adjust to the idea.

Honestly, I'm excited – not noticeably so, of course - for the couple. No matter what she may have said otherwise, about marriage and baby raising being designed by the system back when women were still property, O'Hara was made for motherhood. I always suspected that she'd end up with a bouncing baby on her lap. And Spencer – whatever he may say about kids being too 'sticky' for his taste – well, he'll make a half-way adequate father, for the most part. Maybe.

But this is a big deal. This is change. For everyone.

And this might be the end of our partnership.

O'Hara will be doing only desk work now that she's pregnant, then maternity leave, and maybe more kids will come along and she'll be caught up in doing the mom thing. I'd like to think that she'll come back the first chance she gets, but priorities change when you have kids. Maybe she'll be class mom, soccer mom, and maybe that'll be enough to keep her away from the job for good.

It's just as likely as not.

I hate change.

It's not that I didn't see this coming. I knew this would happen. I've expected it since their first date, since their engagement, since the wedding. It's just happening faster than I realized possible, that's all.

I'm caught up in these thoughts all day long. My case reports and other forms get filled out, thoroughly, I might add, but my mind wanders back and forth between names and dates involving criminals and wondering if the baby will have O'Hara's eyes.

The end of the work day comes and I'm at my desk, getting ready to leave. My partner comes over, like I knew she would. She loves making us 'talk' about feelings and she's been trying to get me to 'open up' since the minute I met her.

She hasn't done too well on that front, but she also hasn't failed miserably. Which, let's be honest, is a lot better than most people will ever be able to accomplish with me.

She must know, to some extent, that I'm not entirely as happy as I want to be.

And then she's at my desk, leaning against it, half sitting on it, and staring at me with this look that says, "I know what you're thinking."

I wait for her to start the conversation, but she doesn't. I usually prefer silence, but she stares me down until I feel so awkward that I have to open my mouth. She's gotten pretty good at that silent, tell-me-the-truth stare – I like to think that maybe she learned it from me.

"Congratulations again, O'Hara." I say politely.

She gives me a small smile. "It's been Spencer for awhile now, Detective."

"Yeah...I'm not going to call you that. Ever."

"Fair enough." she replies with a grin. "So...what's up?"

"Nothing more than usual." I say, staring at my fingertips and wishing I was somewhere else.

She sighs at me. "Carlton."

She uses a tone that means business. I look up, give her my full attention, lest I want her to draw her weapon on me.

O'Hara looks into my eyes, holds my gaze. "Look, I know it's a big deal for you, too. I know how you feel about this sort of thing..."

I scowl. "I'm probably going to have to work with a new partner, you know. They'll probably stick me with someone useless."

"Yeah, I know. But you'll whip them into shape, I'm sure."

"Maybe."

"Of course you will!" she says, suddenly much more optimistic. "If anyone can make a person shape up, it's you."

There's a pause and it's awkward, and I can tell that there's more she wants to say. But she's nervous, for some unfathomable reason, so I take it upon myself to move this conversation along.

"I really am happy for you." I say, and am only somewhat surprised by how much I mean it. "Don't ever think that I'm not, because, truthfully, I want this for you. Because it makes you happy."

There's sincerity in my voice, and she must hear it, because she immediately brightens up. She no longer looks nervous – just excited, and when she speaks, she sounds hopeful.

"And hey...I have something I wanna ask you." she says.

"And that would be...?" I prod, more gently than I'm accustomed to doing.

It opens up floodgates, and suddenly, she's rambling to me and I'm trying my best to keep up.

"Well, I'm not sure how you would feel about it, or whatever, but I was just thinking that maybe...well, I've been thinking it for awhile now, actually. I just want you to be...involved. If you want, of course. I've talked it over with Shawn, and he actually really likes the idea. And I don't know, maybe it's weird, and all, but we've been there for each other so much over the past few years. I mean, you're my partner. And my friend. And I just want you to be... anyway, what I'm trying to say is, maybe you could be, like, an unofficial uncle."

She pauses for a breath and stares at me. She looks hopeful and nervous again.

"I don't quite follow." I say finally.

"To the baby." she says firmly."You can be strong, cool, Uncle Carlton. If you want."

It takes a moment for me to understand, really understand, what she's asking of me. When it does register, it breaks down a barrier between us. There are walls that I've kept up between us for far too long, and I suddenly feel them crumbling down around me. And surprisingly, I'm okay with it.

Uncle Carlton.

With those words, she melts me.

I can't believe how easy it is for her to get right down to the heart of a matter, and make something that seemed like an end feel like a beginning. I don't know how she does it, how she gets me so well, but she does.

And for this, I've never been more glad that she's my partner.

She melts me down, and for just one moment, I don't care about being tough and strong and put together. I stand and hug her on impulse, and this is one of those rare times when I let my emotions control me completely.

"Uncle Carlton. I like the sound of that." I say, half laughing. It feels unfamiliar to be this excited, but I like it.

It's only a quick and fast embrace that we share, but she still looks mildly shocked when I pull away. Then she smiles.

"Uncle Carlton it is."

- Epilogue -

Two and a half years later and I feel somewhat shortchanged. I am the uncle, but not Uncle Carlton, as promised.

Due to Shawn Spencer's persistent determination to continue with the nickname he gave me years ago, little Elodie Marie Spencer knows me as "Uncle Lassie."

But I guess that's okay.

It's cute when she does it.

A/N: Trying to make this in character was...tricky. Lassiter is supposed to be a tough guy, but we all know there's a softer side to him. I hope I didn't do too terribly at making him – and the situation – believable. I have a funny little futuristic sequel to this already in this works and will post it soon. Anyway, reviews are amazing and greatly appreciated.