Disclaimer—Characters belong to Steve Franks. No copyright infringement intended. Any similarity to events or persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Author's Notes—For my birthday, I got a coffee mug with an Alice in Wonderland quote that has become the motto of my life. It would be so nice if something would make sense for a change. Truer words were never printed on a mug.
Also, I reallllly should be working on NaNoWriMo instead of this, but... ah, well. Unbeta'ed.
Alice—Juliet wonders how her journey down the rabbit hole will end. Post-ep for In Plain Fright.
Down the rabbit hole.
Carlton's words kept coming back to her all weekend. Had she fallen into Wonderland? Was it all some kind of dream? Some kind of idealized life that wasn't reality at all?
Shawn had always been persistent in his pursuit. From the very start, from the very moment they had met, he'd employed the classic elementary school way of annoying someone, pestering someone to show interest. She hadn't been sure what to think then, especially after Carlton's harsh words of warning to her about the psychic all those years ago.
But the continued flirting had worn down her defenses over time. He had become more and more creative in his attempts. But, it seemed like every time they got close, something got in the way. When she was serious about giving "them" a shot, he had a girlfriend. When he realized he'd made a mistake and wanted to try with her, she had a boyfriend. It was a never-ending, vicious cycle until now.
But now was different in good and bad ways. She wasn't sure why she felt waves of nausea. She wasn't sure why she wondered if she'd done the right thing even when she was so happy that she and Shawn were finally together.
The whole internal struggle kept her awake most of the weekend. By Monday, she was nearly dead.
But everything became crystal clear when a coffee cup appeared on her desk from a fast moving blur caused by a tall, gangly man.
She'd essentially promised him last week that they were still good. That their partnership was strong, that she wouldn't back Shawn more than him. But, would her heart let her? Could her head prevail when she knew that Shawn was wrong? Could she still remember that their romance was second to the safety and security of Santa Barbara while on duty? More importantly, would Shawn let her?
One thing she'd learned-that Carlton had helped to teach her-was that the truth eventually came out. Someone would break. The logic would track. The house of cards would fall down. That was life. That was reality.
Carlton never looked back at her as he crossed to his desk and sat with his own cup of coffee. He had known her well enough to tell the exhaustion under the makeup, the fatigue beneath the smile. He had known her well enough to know when something was wrong.
More than that, he had trusted her enough to come to him when she was ready. With her, he wasn't pushy. He'd let it, whatever it was, develop in its own time unless he felt that it was potentially dangerous or damaging to them, particularly to her.
With that knowledge, the guilt she felt was overwhelming. She couldn't trust him, though, could she? It was against the rules, her relationship with Shawn, and Carlton was as by-the-book as they came.
It was just astonishing to her how right he'd gotten the situation. She did feel like Alice, trying to find her way home, with peculiar cakes and potions,with mad hatters and caterpillars.
The state of confusion she found herself in was frightening. Even the coffee almost seemed to mock her.
She would've loved to tell him. To come clean, to confess. But she and Shawn had made a deal, a pact. Her relationship with Shawn was affecting her work already, clearly. Even Carlton knew she was different, in need of some kind of care.
The worst part was knowing now that someone would get hurt in the end. Either Shawn or Carlton. One or the other would be potentially devastated. The fallout would be so much more disastrous the longer the lies and subterfuge and hiding continued.
And if she was already in such agony over it, would she even be able to survive the rest of the trip through Wonderland?