It's Just A Little Friendship Envy
Juliet – here's the thing – Juliet has always been sort of a loner. Not like, huddling in her room fearful of socialization, not like that kind of loner. But she's never really been a Shawn&Gus type of person. She's never had that connection with someone else. She's always been "too boyish" for the other girls and "too girly" for the guys. Like, what does too boyish or too girly even mean? She's always thought: why does it matter? Why shouldn't she like baseball and shooting things? And why shouldn't she like kitties and prom dresses?
It's not just that she has brothers. If she'd been more willing to use that as an excuse, maybe she'd have had more friends because it could be seen as a circumstantial consequence of growing up with some sort of permanent contact testosterone high. No, she likes baseball. She likes the rules, the regulations, being able to quote statistics at a speed worthy of some kind of Guinness World Record (she and Carlton have already started training during stakeouts, and Carlton's planning on contacting the Guinness Record Committee or whatever it's called sometime during the week).
But it's not just baseball. It's everything. She likes cats, which is Girly. She likes reassembling her sidearm for fun, which is Boyish. She owns shirts in nearly every conceivable shade of pink, which is Girly. She thinks romantic comedies are degrading and stupid and all the same, which is Boyish. And for some reason people are like all freaked out by the fact that she can balance that, or whatever (and so maybe she's a little standoffish and awkward and that might have something to do with it, but it's so much easier to blame the rest of the world for being small minded)
So it's always been kind of a problem. Not something she actively thinks about, but sometimes if she's hanging out with the aforementioned being that is Shawn&Gus, she'll start wondering where she went wrong. Like, why doesn't she have a best friend forever?
And in hindsight, it's a little ridiculous that she thinks calling Janey Smithson, her only friend from high school who lives remotely in the same area, is a good idea. But Shawn thinks it's smart, Gus is coolly neutral but warmly emphatic that his friendship with Shawn is awesome (too emphatic maybe, and after all Shawn is standing in the room with him so it's not like he has a choice or anything), and when Carlton looks at her with a confused expression and a litany of warnings, she just sort of ignores him because two out of three ain't bad.
She calls Janey, who is thrilled (thrilled! So thrilled, Juliet! I'm just thrilled, and that's going to get annoying real fast) and offers to meet her for lunch at this little café Juliet knows. So they meet, and Juliet sits in her most casual of casual outfits (Carlton has been having some sort of influence on her, because she had to dig through a tsunami's worth of professional clothing to find a suitable pair of jeans. She's not sure yet if that's bad or just different in a good way, like Thai food).
"It's so terrific to see you here," Janey says, dumping lump after lump of sugar into her coffee and smiling in that manic sort of way that freaks Juliet out like nobody's business.
"Uh, yeah! I know. I was thinking, uh, I was bummed out that we hadn't kept in touch. I don't talk to many people from high school."
"You don't? Oh, there's so, so, so much to tell you!"
Juliet tries – she really tries – to tell Janey that she's actually not interested in the thrilling lives of the people she left behind (that's kind of why she left them, after all), but Janey will have none of that. She doesn't want to talk about Juliet or herself. She wants to talk about those girls who exist in Juliet's mind as perfectly cryogenically frozen blurry myths. Girls who will never age beyond eighteen or twenty-one or whenever she saw them last. And Janey is destroying the illusion. Juliet wants to hit her. Or at least get her to shut up in a less violent manner (but only because there are witnesses. And two surveillance cameras, which seems a little excessive for a café on the boardwalk).
"We all missed you at the reunion. That's when I got caught up. They've all had such interesting lives so far. Fingers crossed for more good stuff to come! By the way, what do you do? How do you like it in Santa Barbara? My husband and I are thinking of moving here. It's got so much life. Oooh, Juliet, are you married?"
Thank God for Shawn. And that's such a rare thought these days that she can't even believe she's thinking it, but he and Gus appear at just the right moment (i.e., just as she's starting to realize how sharp and potentially fatal her steak knife really is).
"Hey, Jules!" Shawn exclaims, sidling up with a smoothie in one hand and Gus's arm in the other. "Fancy meeting you here! Crazy, right? I was just following some psychic vibrations. Really strong positive vibes flowing in this…general area."
He waves his hands directly in Janey's ecstatic face.
"She's married," Juliet deadpans.
"Well Jules, that hardly means she isn't a kind and gentle soul, now does it?" Shawn asks, patronizing with a glint of good humor in his eye. Janey beams brighter and Gus winces at her pep.
"Oh, who's this lovely friend of yours?" Janey asks. And for three, maybe four (all right, five) seconds, Juliet is tempted to answer that he's her husband or fiancée or boyfriend or something. Casual interest, even. Because her current lack of a love life is distressing now that she's heard all about how happy her friends are in their prospective relationships. And, sure, she was never really into the whole marriage thing, but that doesn't mean that she's immune to peer pressure.
But no. She can sense even without Shawn's psychic powers what a disaster that would be. Shawn's already lost his train of thought twice during the current conversation to ogle other women, and Janey doesn't really seem like she'd be down with Juliet's personal policy of "look, but don't touch" when it comes to dating and appreciating the physical attributes of other members of the human race. Plus, she'd kind of like to keep Carlton as a backup option for boyfriend if the peer pressure becomes insurmountable. He's all older and successful and distinguished (if you only talk to him for a few seconds), and he would hate Janey. Plus, she owes him a miserable afternoon after he coerced her last week into meeting his mother face-to-face and making a good impression so his mother could stop bitching about that one phonecall they had (the one where she maybesortakinda destroyed the illusion of perfection that Mrs. Lassiter had about her son's marriage).
Yeah, in the way of impressing former classmates, Carlton is completely the way to go in terms of boyfriend material.
"These are my friends," she says brightly, and Shawn frowns at the missed opportunity and possibly because he can read her train of thought. "Shawn Spencer and Burton Guster."
"Actually, we're more than just friends…" Shawn starts, but Juliet cuts him off smoothly with the sort of check-and-mate expression that she knows drives Shawn wild. Which was totally not on purpose or anything. Definitely not.
"We're co-workers. Shawn here is a consultant for the police department."
She smiles expectantly at him and he laughs a little, faltering for his footing for a moment. Fortunately for him, and unfortunately for everyone else, Janey beats him to the verbal punch.
"Oh my goodness! Juliet! You work for the police department? What do you do there? Are you the receptionist?"
Juliet stammers something unintelligible but definitely indignant, Gus looks vaguely taken aback, and Shawn laughs.
"Janey! What a joker! I get your humor, although I find that jokes about women are becoming a bit tired considering it's not the fifties anymore. Hey, maybe she works in the kitchen! Just kidding. You're a peach, and your jokes! So fresh."
"I don't think she was joking, Shawn," Gus says, and he tries to tug Shawn away to avoid the resulting explosion, but Juliet just smiles calmly.
"I'm a detective," she says. Firm, professional, coolly condescending. It's her best Carlton Lassiter impression, and she can tell from the horrified expression that bursts across Shawn's face that it's working.
"Oh!" Janey exclaims, none of the embarrassed awareness in her tone that usually accompanies the realization that one has made a faux pas. And actually, she sounds sort of patronizing. And actually, she reminds Juliet of her great aunt, and that's really scary. And really annoying. "Well, hey! How modern of you! You go girl!"
Gus groans and tugs Shawn more sharply, but Juliet keeps smiling. Admittedly (and she will only admit this under pain of death, or maybe later to Carlton because she's gotten into this habit of telling Carlton everything, especially the things she knows he won't listen to, because even though it's totally cheating she still likes to get stuff off her chest), she entertains the brief idea of punching Janey right in the fucking face.
"Well, we can't all be so traditional like you, Janey," she says instead of taking advantage of her woefully underutilized training. "Otherwise, the world would get nothing done!"
She laughs like Janey laughed a few seconds earlier, possibly with a little more bite – possibly, though. Just possibly – and leans back to take a sip of her coffee. She feels positively diabolical, and she can imagine her father's proud high-five and her mother's disappointed shake of the head. Whatever, mom, she tells her hypothetical mother. She started it.
Because there are very few people who can talk down to her and get away with it (and usually even those few people will suffer later consequences, like when she took her sweet time getting to Carlton's house with his extra key when he lost it the day after he made some snippy remarks about her apparently-irritating empathy). Janey certainly does not have that right.
And it's around right now that she realizes that this whole idea is going to shit, but she's too proud to be the first one to call it.
"You haven't changed all that much, have you?" Janey asks brightly.
"I think I've changed a lot. I'm stronger, more thick-skinned…you know, grown up."
"This is so bad. Shawn, we gotta go," Gus insists. Shawn is grinning ear-to-ear and watching the exchange with something like arousal.
"No way. This is awesome. It's like the beginning of every porno I've ever seen."
Finally, Janey and Juliet agree on something. They both turn to glare at Shawn with creepily-identical expressions of disgust on their faces.
"Shawn!" Juliet snaps, just as Janey agrees, "Gross!"
"What? Oh, come on, Jules. I was…"
"Shawn, could you behave for three seconds? God."
"He reminds me of your old boyfriend, Peter Finney. Remember him?"
Juliet laughs and says, "Oh, God, how could I forget?"
"He would always say things like that, just to make us girls uncomfortable. And you would always just roll your eyes and fire back something completely dirty and humiliating to him. Shut him up like that. So amazing. I have no idea why you ever agreed to go out with that creep."
"Ugh, I know. Neither can I."
"What is happening right now?" Shawn asks frantically, but Gus finally manages to pull him away, leaving Janey and Juliet alone.
And, okay, so the whole Janey thing didn't work out. It was okay to catch up, even though it was sort of a waste of time because there's no way in hell she's ever going to let Janey be her Shawn or her Gus in the Shawn&Gus equation. And actually, her other high school friends are out of the picture too. She needs a single girl, and all of the girls she hung out with in high school and college are married, out of the country, or annoying. One's divorced but she lives in Boston, and Juliet doesn't like airplanes enough to try and establish some kind of long-distance thing. Still, she initiates contact through Facebook and hopes for the best.
And then she sort of starts stalking the chief.
It's not like she planned it or anything (she sort of did, but only sort of, and she never let herself really consciously think about it, because she's pretty sure Shawn's been psychically spying on her or whatever. If that psychic thing is even real).
Because the thing is, Chief Vick is a badass, and Juliet looks up to her more than almost anybody else. She's so strong and capable and happy. Just always happy, and since Juliet's happiness revolves too much around her work and the occasional opportunity to slam a perp's head into the car and pretend it's an accident, she could use some pointers on the happiness front.
So she starts looking for excuses to weasel her way into the chief's direct line of sight. Like she starts taking on Carlton's paperwork because it gives her a chance to talk to Vick, even though she hates paperwork. She hates paperwork and looking at papers and reading papers and filing reports and jumping through hoops and going through channels and all of it, but she's willing to make some amendments to show Vick just how dedicated she is.
And okay, so maybe Carlton's happy smile every time she offers makes it a little less insufferable, because Carlton is decidedly unhappy most of the time, and she really likes turning frowns upside down. Especially when it's him, because he's got those sad puppy dog eyes even if he doesn't realize it.
In hindsight, the paperwork thing is a bad idea, because Vick takes notice. And finally one day on the fifth time in three hours that she's been to the chief's office, Vick sits her down and levels her best I'm-concerned-with-your-recent-behavior face in Juliet's direction.
"Detective O'Hara, are you stalking me?"
"What? No. Of course not. Why would you say that?"
But Juliet knows she's got her guilty face on, and Vick narrows her eyes.
"Is this about Lassiter's precious copy machine? Tell him once and for all, I am not spending taxpayer dollars for my own benefit and we still cannot afford the new machine. Especially not one that costs more than a thousand dollars!"
"Oh, no, this isn't about that. I mean…if I was stalking you, it wouldn't be about that."
"What's it about then? Because I have to say, I've been a little disturbed by your recent clinginess."
So, sure, maybe Juliet shouldn't have said that thing about how she knows Vick likes to read while taking bubble baths, but that was totally Shawn's insight and not hers.
"The truth is…okay, this is going to sound weird."
"Detective O'Hara, anything you could say to clarify at this point would help make this less weird than it is right now. I suggest doing it."
"Right. Okay. Well, see, I started thinking a few days ago about how I don't have a Shawn or a Gus…"
"Well, no. I mean, a girlfriend. You know, a best friend. And I actually don't really have many friends at all, because I sort of lost interest in other people during college when I was trying to graduate early and it just never came back. Of course I have Shawn and Gus and they're wonderful friends, but they have each other, you know? And trying to get between that would not only be impossible, but extremely cold hearted. So I figured that since you're sort of my mentor and you're a really nice and happy person… maybe we could be friends?"
She sighs when she finishes, because she can already tell from the look on Vick's face that it's a resounding hell no with a dash of get the hell out of my office.
"I know, I know. I'm being too intense again. I do this a lot. I'm not used to doing things halfway, you know? I threw myself into college because I set a personal goal that I would graduate with my master's before anyone else my age. I threw myself into work because I wanted to get promoted before anyone else who started with me. And then I threw myself into being your friend by the end of the week."
"O'Hara, I'm your boss. I'm not your friend."
Juliet sighs, reluctantly chastised, and says, "Yes, ma'am."
Juliet knows – she just knows – that Carlton is dying to say "I told you so". He's just dying. She's told him all about Janey and her stupid comments and her stupid smiley face, and Carlton's being all quiet and smirky like he gets when she's done something he thinks is stupid. Or at least UnProfessional.
"Go ahead, just say it," she finally sighs as he hands her a cup of coffee and sits down on the edge of her desk.
"I'm not going to say anything."
"You want to, though."
"Maybe a little."
"It was a dumb idea. You just can't compete with the kind of friendship that Shawn and Gus have, you know? They're all…close and happy and they finish each other's sentences. And Gus always knows when Shawn's having a bad day even though Gus isn't a psychic. It's not even psychicness. It's BFFness, and I'm jealous. I'll admit it! I'm jealous of Shawn Spencer and Burton Guster."
"You really think their friendship is that awesome?" Carlton asks incredulously.
"Well, yeah. I mean, sure, sometimes Gus probably wishes he'd never met the kid, but most of the time he's thrilled to have Shawn in his life. And it has to be so gratifying, you know? To know that you can hold on to a friend for that long. Maybe it's a guy thing. Do you keep in touch with any of your high school friends?"
Carlton shrugs and plays with his coffee mug, spilling a little coffee on his hands. Juliet pretends not to notice because she knows he'll get all embarrassed and angry at himself for letting her notice, but he'll pretend to be angry at her, and it'll just be a mess for like ten minutes until he forgets about it and comes wandering back over with another case as an apology.
"I don't know. Not much. Not more than most people. Spencer and Guster are freakshows, O'Hara. Total, complete freakshows. The only way you're going to have a friendship like that is if you have the IQ of a small baby animal."
"Are you saying their friendship is cute and cuddly?" Juliet offers with a sly grin. Carlton narrows his eyes at her.
"Not in a million years, O'Hara. And if you tell them I said that, I'm reassigning you."
She just smiles at him, and he frowns until her smile creeps him out too much, and then he darts away, leaving her laughing behind.
She heads to work the next day and tells herself to not try and make friends with Buzz McNab, because that won't even be an accomplishment (she's always prided herself on being nice, but Buzz takes it to a level unheard of). She also vows not to start stalking any of the female officers even though she might have that urge because Officer Faraday has a really fun laugh that makes her seem like she'd be a good friend and Officer Dickens is always going out to get coffee for everyone else and since Juliet loves coffee it's like they already have something in common.
She has really strong willpower most of the time, but it's a serious struggle not to spark up a conversation with Vick on the way in, because she sort of had a seven day plan going. And this day was going to be all about polite and hopefully not too intrusive questions about the baby.
But she bypasses the chief while digging her fingernails into her palms, and then she sits down at her desk with an epic pout on her face that she doesn't even try to ward off. Because no matter what Carlton says about Shawn and Gus being freakshows, she doesn't think that's true. She thinks that it's awesome, and she wants to be a freak if they are, in fact, freaks. She wants to finish someone's sentences. She wants to say stupid things and have the other person laugh along. She wants to be able to call someone in the middle of the night and not have them get pissed at her.
She wants everything too much. She knows that. But she's never wanted anything as much as she wants this.
And that night, it's the middle of the night, and she figures it out. She just suddenly clicks as she's lying in bed watching Cops (her DVR is completely packed with reruns, so she figures she has to start watching them before Law and Order: SVU comes back). So she picks up the phone and dials Carlton's number, grinning but also slightly afraid/sure that he's going to flip out and tell her to stop deluding herself or whatever. He says things like that a lot, usually when he knows she's right.
But when Carlton answers, he sounds like he's halfway through getting dressed and he says, "What's wrong, O'Hara? Are you hurt? What's your location? Should I bring one or two firearms?"
"No! No, Carlton, I'm fine. Don't get dressed. Sit back down in your recliner and chill. I just wanted to talk to you for a second."
"What…you…are you serious?"
She can tell that Carlton is getting dangerously close to I'm Your Direct Superior and You Will Obey Me territory, so she figures she's going to have to talk as quickly as possible. Both because it will give her an opportunity to get the whole thing out and because he's usually too overwhelmed to interrupt once she really gets going.
"Look, the thing is, I've been sort of obsessed with this whole best friend thing. And I know you're probably sick of hearing about it at this point, but I'm kind of hoping you won't be too annoyed about this."
"About a highly unprofessional phonecall in the middle of the night? Why would I be mad about that, O'Hara?"
"Well, that's the thing. We're not professional, are we? Because you say things that you would never say to someone you didn't think of as a friend. And I don't listen to like half of the things you say to me, which I absolutely would not do to any other sort of boss."
"Did you just call me to insult my authority, or do you have an actual point?"
"There's totally a point. Because I've been so obsessed with the whole Shawn and Gus thing, and I just realized that I don't need a Shawn or a Gus. I have you. And sure, we haven't known each other from kindergarten, but that's okay! That's fine! I hated those little bitches in my kindergarten class anyway! You were right. Shawn and Gus are freaks of nature. I don't know anyone more willing to drag his friend through a bed of hot coals than Shawn, and I definitely don't know anyone willing to put up with the kind of crap that Shawn puts Gus through except Gus. But then I realized that you totally throw me to the wolves on like, a bi-daily basis, and I put up with it because I kind of like spending time with you. And part of that is because you're my boss, but mostly it's because we have fun, don't we?"
"Aw, O'Hara, do I really have to be Spencer in this equation?"
"I'm sorry. But you have to admit the parallels do exist."
"And you realize that this is highly unprofessional?"
"We're partners. There's no reason we can't be friends, too. Firstly, because we're already pretty much friends and I just sort of wanted to make it official with this whole late-night phone call thing. Secondly because Chief Vick seems to think that a superior cannot respect a subordinate enough to be friends with them, and I know how much you secretly love proving her wrong. And thirdly because Shawn and Gus are always so smug, and if anyone wants to smack those smug 'I have a best friend and you don't' expressions off their faces more than I do, it's you, and I know you'll take this mission exactly as seriously as I need it to be taken."
"It's a mission, now?"
"Yes, Carlton. Can you handle that?"
"Of course I can handle it. When you put it that way, I guess it's the only logical course of action. It's like undercover work."
"Right. Except, you know, real."
"Well…all right. I still don't see why this couldn't wait until morning."
"Because I have a mental checklist, Carlton."
"I don't follow."
"A mental checklist of all the things that friends should do for each other, especially Shawn and Gus type friends. One of those things is not being angry when I call in the middle of the night. But don't worry, I will limit myself. It will only ever be to talk about a case. See? I can be flexible! I'm a great friend! Please don't hang up on me."
"For future record, if you call in the middle of the night I have no choice but to assume that you are stranded somewhere in some sort of immediate danger and have no way to contact emergency personnel."
"That doesn't even make any sense. If I couldn't contact emergency personnel, why would I be able to call you? What about your number is less complicated than nine-one-one."
"It's three in the morning, O'Hara. I don't have the energy for breathing, let alone basic mental functions."
And Juliet can't help but smile before she says, "Goodnight, Carlton. Remember, tomorrow we brag and act like this isn't the stupidest conversation either of us has ever had."
"This is far from the stupidest conversation I've ever had. Spencer takes the Billboard One Hundred in that category. Still, I think you're right. We should play it up. Make it seem far less like a slumber party hotline and far more…I don't know, badass. I'm thinking we both wear light blue shirts with black blazers tomorrow. Both get large coffees, both wear sunglasses. Really blow them away with our synchronization."
"I can just imagine the look on Shawn's face when I call you 'friend'."
"And Guster will be giving us that bug-eyed look of concern he always has on every time he's confused."
"And Shawn will try to make some joke about us being robots or something, but he'll be so freaked out. It's going to be hilarious."
At some point they both realize that they're giggling like schoolchildren (and that it's three-thirty in the morning and they have to be up so soon that it almost hurts to think about), so they awkwardly say their goodbyes and hang up. But Juliet figures that since they're friends now, they can sort of pretend that it didn't happen.