And I Wondered How You Knew

Summary: You seemed to know exactly what I needed, every step of the way. When I needed to break down, you let me and even comforted me. When I needed to feel strong again, you reassured me that I was. Tag to Mr. Yin Presents. Juliet POV, centering on a strong Lassie/Jules friendship because it's what I love best.

A/N: When I began this, it was a spur of the moment idea. It came out really easily for awhile, then I hit a pretty major roadblock with the ending. It was tweaked a thousand times over, but I think it came out the way I wanted it to now. I was really motivated to finish before the new season hit. :) As mentioned, this is a tag with spoilers for Mr. Yin Present, but there is ALSO A SMALL SPOILER FOR UN-AIRED EPISODES. It's a spoiler that's been bouncing around the fanfiction sites anyway, and is minor (no plot lines or Yin secrets), but it's only fair to mention it if you really don't want to know *anything* about the new season. Juliet POV, directed at Lassie.

I've always been strong enough to carry myself. I've never been one for vulnerability or helplessness, never been the kind of girl who waits for others to sort out her messes. I am capable and independent. And, for the most part, I can hide my emotions well.

It's something the job calls for every day; all the best detectives have learned to detach themselves from the horrors they see, in order to move past them and focus. Focus on the details that will incriminate the murderers and rapists and scum of the earth. Focus on the evidence.

And I know my role well; I do not cry and though I do have fear, I do not let it show enough to matter. As a woman in this line of work, I am well-aware of the fact that I must match the 'boys' punch for punch. If only to prove that I can. I can keep calm in the face of danger. I can shoot as well as any of them. I can suppress fear if that's what it takes to save lives and gain respect.

I am not fragile, by any means.

Not usually.

But that night was different.

That night was my own personal form of Hell. I've never been so terrified in all my life. To see the world below me, to hear the clock tick away my time, to feel the cold air settle over me and into my lungs...

You saved me with not a second to spare. Not just you, I know. I'm indebted forever to Gus; without his steady hands and strength and determination, I would be gone. And the whole of the police force, too, was on their way to my rescue.

But you were there first and last and during the in-between. Since the ordeal, I've heard what you did and said upon figuring out where I was. You were borderline insubordinate, but you never hesitated to come to my aid.

And while I'm of course grateful beyond measure that you saved my life, I know it's just par for the course. As partners in this dangerous line of work, we have saved each other too many times to count. If there's one thing I trust you with, it is my life. This is our unspoken and implicitly understood responsibility to each other: when the bullets start to fly or when the time comes ticking down to zero, we will lay our own lives down for one another.

It just comes with the job.

It's what you did after that night that went above and beyond what I had any right to ask of you, and for this...there are no words to convey my gratitude. You were more than a partner. You were more than my friend. In those minutes and hours and days and weeks after...I came to realize that you have become my first and most essential family.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to need you as much as I did. It was nothing to do with you, of course. I just didn't want to feel that desperate or broken or vulnerable.

I tried hard to keep up my calm demeanor, tried to act like it was no big deal. Oh, sure, I had just been forced to contemplate my own grisly death for at least an hour, and sure, it was sick and terrifying, but no. I was supposed to be okay. Professional. Strong.

I'm always supposed to be strong.

I'm fine, Carlton. Totally fine, totally okay.

That's what I told you.

But like any good detective, you saw the truth.

I wasn't, and you knew it.

And you told me it was okay if I wasn't fine.

I never expected you, of all people, to tell me – in not so many words – that it was okay to cry. You always expected me to be as strong as you, but that night...you knew I couldn't.

It was your permission, it turns out, that allowed me to break. And even though I still look upon those moments with shame, I know I needed that release.

You let me cry into your jacket, held me close, comforted me. I never expected to see this gentleness from you, but then again, it wouldn't be the first time I underestimated you.

Your solid, reassuring presence was all I needed to piece myself back together.

And then, when the storm of emotion had passed and left me drained, you acted as though it was no big deal. As though it was okay that I had just fallen so hopelessly apart in your arms.

Later, when I admitted to being afraid of going home alone...you didn't blink at the admission. Didn't make me feel like I was weak or that I was disappointing you by not being able to...brush it off. Instead, you welcomed me into your home. You gave me all the space I asked for, and comforted me again, later, when you found me crying on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

And you didn't mention it the next morning.

Those first few weeks after were admittedly hard. I wanted to bounce back immediately, would have given anything to be automatically okay again, but I couldn't manage it. I was still afraid. I was having nightmares. I was seeing him everywhere. After awhile of everyone looking at me with cautiously concerned glances, I got sick of being the girl they were worried about. I know you were worried too, and I don't blame you for it.

But I didn't want to be that girl, that damsel-in-distress anymore.

So I changed. Both consciously and subconsciously. Maybe I was a little more reserved, a little more no-nonsense, a little more willing to fade into the background.

And everyone saw and worried more.

Shawn, Gus, Buzz, the Chief.

And you.

I came into the station that morning after I made my drastic (or at least to me, it felt like a big deal) change to my hair, expecting anything and everything. Strange looks, check. Surprised but complimentary comments, check. Oh, and Buzz, for a fraction of an instance, looked as if he didn't recognize me.

Your reaction was the first that I could really catalog as funny, however.

You did a double take when you saw me, then your eyebrows shot up, almost into your hair. You opened your mouth, sputtered wordlessly like a fish, then closed it again. Tightly. You refrained from commenting on it at all, which didn't really surprise me. You never usually comment on my appearance, unless it's a matter of my physical well-being. When you recovered from the initial shock, you frowned slightly, and I could tell you didn't like it.

Secretly, I was slightly happy to realize that you didn't like the "me" I was forcing myself to become.

I expected the matter to be dropped entirely between us, until just before shift ended, when you casually asked if I'd like to go out for drinks after work.

"We haven't done that in awhile," you said, tone markedly light. "I'm going out anyway, and I could use the company."

I knew your motives were different than what you implied, and I was actually very impressed by your graceful tact. You did not say, as you could have done, that "I looked like I could use a drink," or something that implied that I was the one in need.

And I agreed, because it was better than going back to an empty home.

You didn't really drink much at all: only one beer, and for a guy your size, that's really nothing at all. I had two, even though I generally don't like it much. It calmed me, though; I felt looser and lighter than I had since before that night.

After awhile of easy conversation interspersed with comfortable silences, you leaned in against the bar counter, and turned to me with curious eyes. "Why'd you dye your hair, O'Hara?"

I shrugged at first, then smiled a little sadly. I trusted you enough to answer. "I dunno. I just don't want to be seen as...that girl anymore...that one who needs to be saved. This seems better. I want to be...stronger..."

You snorted derisively. "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard, O'Hara."

"Why?" I demanded, insulted and annoyed.

"Because you're already the strongest damn person I know." you said simply.

A wave of disbelief washed over me. Ever since I first met you, I admired your strength and aspired to be like you. How could you call me strong, after everything?

I turned my head to look into your eyes, to see if you meant it. "Really?" I asked.

You took a sip of your beer, then gave me a tiny smile. "Really. A thousand times stronger than me, I'll tell you that much."

I can't tell you how proud I felt at that moment. I was instantly hit with the memories of our first year together. I remembered how stubborn you seemed, and how hard I worked, not to impress you, but to simply prove to you my worth. For so long, I didn't think I was getting through at all. And then, there we were, four years later, and you were praising me and saying I was strong, even stronger than you.

I didn't believe it (I'll always see you as the stronger one of the two of us), but you seemed to mean what you said – and that was enough for me to hold onto and appreciate.

It hit me, then, that I'd never officially thanked you.

But I didn't know how.

I didn't know how to say thank you for everything you'd done for me, for saving my life and being there for me afterward, for reassuring me of my own strength. I didn't know how to say it in a way that could convince you just how much I meant it. Mostly, though, I didn't know how to say it without earning a guaranteed eye-roll from you.

"I'm really glad you're my partner, Carlton." I said finally, allowing that to stand in for everything else.

You allowed yourself a rare smile. "Me too, O'Hara."

After that night, you were the first person to stop treating me as though I was fragile and helpless. You stopped shooting me concerned looks, and never asked if I was okay in that tone of voice that implied that I wasn't. You treated me as you always had – as though I was capable and strong. It was strange to think that the person that saw me break down the most was also the first person to accept that I was finally okay (or that I could be okay, with just a little support).

Sometimes, I wondered how you knew exactly what I needed, every step of the way. Was it intuition brought on by partnership? By friendship? A combination of both?

But in the end, I don't think the how matters much at all. What matters is that we're both still standing, moving forward, and I know without a doubt that I can always, always count on you.

And in every moment we have together, I hope you know that you can always expect the same from me.

A/N: Haha, I can make even stories that aren't about Lassie about Lassie. The obsession continues. Reviews are loved. ;)