Disclaimer: all the usual psych isn't mine stuff and no copyright thingamajiggy is intended.

Rating: T for now, M in later chapters for smut.

Summary: [Slightly AU; Lassiet; post-clock tower but well before Shules.]

I have watched many a TV show where one person's life is adversely and permanently skewed by the actions of others in the name of comedy (or drama) – think Everybody Loves Raymond: why the heck didn't the Barones just MOVE? – think Two & A Half Men: Alan was a trained chiropractor; come on, he HAD to live with his brother and put up with the treatment he got from brother, mother and maid? Stay with me now—yes, I hear you saying that they're sitcoms and if people behaved logically the shows would fold after three episodes. It's just that I can't help wondering every now and then what might become of an unhappy person's life if he or she simply… changed it. That's where this story comes from.

More specifically, Lassiter makes some drastic changes after an epiphany. And it's just a story, folks.

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Juliet was tired. It had been a long week, on multiple aggravating cases. She was already planning a bubble bath, and it wasn't even noon yet.

Inside the interrogation room, Lassiter sat with their chief suspect, Daniel Grenovich. Grenovich was leaning back, garrulous, having a great time pontificating about people and their motivations and how the world worked. She was surprised Lassiter hadn't pistol-whipped the guy by now, if only because Grenovich had a far brighter outlook on society than he did.

But Lassiter, when she took another look, was surprisingly relaxed. He seemed to be listening, letting Grenovich ramble; only occasionally would he tap his pen on the table or shift in the chair. Nice-looking man, she thought idly. One of those men who, feature by feature, wasn't perfect—slightly crooked nose, ears a little too big—but overall, quite attractive. The big blue eyes had a lot to do with it, and nothing topped a smiling Lassiter; the perfect image of a canny, charming Irishman. He was slim and strong, and she liked his lean hands, and suddenly it occurred to her that she was daydreaming about her partner (again), and pulled herself together with a start.

Grenovich was suspected of absconding with $47,013 dollars' worth of supplies from an Office Depot, mostly paper clips, bulldog clips and paper fasteners. It was a ridiculous crime, but it was theft, and she and Lassiter were poking around trying to figure out if he was part of a larger resale ring as well as trying to get him to admit he'd done it.

He pointed his finger at Lassiter. "You're wasting time asking these questions, you know. Whether or not I stole anything is beside the point. The point is, what am I going to do about it?"

Lassiter tilted his head. "Excuse me?"

"Well, that's what life is, you know? Deciding what to do with the information you have? What am I going to do about the fact that you're accusing me?"

Lassiter said in a tone she knew all too well as menacing, "You're going to admit to the theft, be arrested, and face the consequences."

"That's one course of action. But how am I going to handle it?"

"I honestly have no idea how you're going to handle it. I don't even care how you handle it, although I certainly hope you handle it in a way which doesn't cause me to reach for my weapon. I just want you to admit it."

"If I did it, of course." Grenovich smiled lazily. "Here's where I'm coming from, Detective."

Lassiter flipped open the folder. "Ojai, it says here, with a few years in Summerland before taking the Office Depot job two years ago. That's where you're coming from. And yet I don't care. Don't want to try to pretend to care. Just tell me—"

"I'm telling you!" He scooted his chair closer to the table. "Listen. We go through phases in our lives. First, we're whatever our parents tell us we are. Then we develop our own minds and personalities and think we're completely unique, though of course we're not, because we're really more like stupid sheep. You know what I'm talking about." He waited for Lassiter to nod, and Juliet was amused that he managed to do so without visible derision. "Then we get a little older, and especially if our upbringing was iffy, we start to understand that we are what we were made to be. Who we are is a direct result of how we were raised, whether by the Cleavers, the Bundys, or hell, by wolves." He leaned across, staring at Lassiter intently. "Now here's the thing. Here's the most important thing, Detective." He stopped and stared at her partner closely.

After a second, Lassiter said "Yes?" in that same menacing tone. She wondered if he was thinking about his own upbringing.

Grenovich went on, almost triumphantly, "Once you know—once you accept—that you are the product of your upbringing, then your upbringing can no longer be held responsible for what you do."

Juliet frowned; glancing at Lassiter, she saw him frowning too.

"You see?" Grenovich asked, as if it were obvious.

Lassiter said, "Wait..."

"No, no, it's so simple. Think it through. Think it through. Once you know why you are what you are, you can no longer blame those who made you what you are, and every decision, every action, every choice you make from then on is all you." He sat back in the chair, triumphant. "All you. You can't blame anyone in the past for what you do in the now. It's all you. So if you screw up, it's your fault. If you succeed, it's your credit. And if you keep doing all the things you think you're supposed to be doing even though you're only doing them because you think you have to, because those people in the past told you they would make you happy, and it turns out they don't make you happy, well, it's not their fault anymore. It's your fault. Because once you understand why you are what you are, it's only your fault if you keep on being someone you don't like."

Lassiter's expression was curious, and Juliet found that as interesting as the speech which had caused it. After a few more moments, which Grenovich smiling and nodding and waiting for the 'aha,' he said smoothly, "Do you like yourself, Grenovich?"

"I love myself!" He laughed. "I'm my favorite person!"

"So," Lassiter persisted, "you're okay with the choice you're making now, which according to your own philosophy is, if I may quote, all you?"

Grenovich's smile faltered. "Well..."

Juliet was laughing in the observation room. She loved Lassiter's "gotcha" smile.

"And you're okay with the consequences of your choice? If you confess, we get on with things swiftly and you might not even do time—although you should—but if you're lying, then we keep pushing, things get uglier, they take longer, and you probably will do time, because I promise I will personally petition the judge assigned to your case."

Grenovich stopped smiling completely.

"Of course you could be innocent. But then you'd be deliberately wasting our time, which makes cops like me cranky. My partner's a lot nicer than I am, but I assure you, you don't want to make either one of us cranky."

Grenovich sighed. "Oh, shiitake. Yeah, I took the crap. I have storage space over on Catalina in my mother's maiden name." He gave the address somewhat sullenly.

Lassiter made a note in the file. "Just out of curiosity, what were you planning to do with thousands of cases of paper clips?"

"Make dresses," he mumbled.

"What? No... don't answer. I don't need to know that." He got up, stretching his long legs. "I'll be back either in a minute or when hell freezes over."

He came through the door into the observation and high-fived Juliet. "You'll take it from here? Please?"

"Gladly," she assured him, "and not just because you said please and that I was nicer than you."

"You are nicer than me." He paused in the doorway, and turned back to give her a wry smile. "You're nicer than pretty much anyone I know, O'Hara."

She was still smiling when she went in to talk to Grenovich.

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When Juliet got back upstairs, Grenovich processed and paperwork ready to be filed pending the confirmation of the location of the stolen supplies, Lassiter was at his desk, musing.

At least, she thought he was musing. He was seated and staring at his monitor, but there was a faraway look on his face.

She watched him from her own desk for a minute, a little worried. He'd been very dark lately. This session with Grenovich was the most even-tempered she'd seen him in a while. She hadn't been able to figure out what was bothering him, and of course asking was no good because the answer was always the same: "I'm fine, O'Hara." Sometimes he'd say thanks as well, but mostly he just said he was fine and then for a brief period he'd be better, but she suspected the 'better' part was an act for her benefit.

He was a puzzle, her partner, and she very much wished she could somehow ease his path.

As she watched, he suddenly got up from his desk, an expression on his face which she associated with just having figured out who the bad guy was. She quickly joined him. "I know that look," she said with a smile.

Lassiter glanced at her as if he didn't quite recognize her. "I don't think so. I don't think I could possibly ever have looked this way before, and I don't even know how I look." He stepped back from his desk, staring at it as if it were foreign and vaguely evil. "This—I don't know. I can't deal with this anymore."

"With what?" She peered at his desk and computer; everything looked all right to her.

"O'Hara," he said rapidly, a slight smile on his face, "I know what I have to do." He started away from the desk, then turned back and gestured to it again. "You can go through that. Anything you think I want, box up for me and I'll get it… I don't know when but I'll get it."

He grabbed his jacket off the back of the chair, and Juliet yanked on his arm when he started off again. "Carlton, wait! What are you talking about?"

Lassiter turned his vivid blue gaze on her, and his smile was broad now. "O'Hara, this is all good." He gently removed her hand from his arm, and strode toward Chief Vick's office.

Juliet hurried after him, because she was confused now and starting to feel alarmed. He tapped on Vick's door. "Chief," he said rapidly, "sorry to interrupt. A couple quick things."

Karen didn't seem to believe him; her body language suggested even one quick thing was too many and wouldn't be quick at all. "What is it?"

He handed her his badge. "First thing, here. I quit."

"You—what?" She stood up, shocked.

Juliet grabbed his arm again. "What? You can't quit. Why are you quitting?"

Lassiter grinned. "Actually, you're right. I have about a year's worth of leave, so really my last day will be sometime next May. We'll work it out. I gotta go." He turned to Juliet while Vick was still trying to form words, and grasped her upper arms firmly. "Second thing for you. Juliet, sweet beautiful Juliet, I love you. I've loved you for years. You've been the one light in my life for a damned long time, and I thank you very sincerely."

While she was staring at him, completely stunned, he leaned in and kissed her, kinda hard, kinda nice she thought dimly, and then pulled back again.

"Detective Lassiter!" Vick nearly shouted. "What the hell is going on?"

He was surprised. "You mean Mister. Mr. Lassiter. Oh, hang on; third thing." He removed his gun from its holster, put it on her desk, and then unhooked his shoulder holster to remove it altogether. "I won't be needing these. And I'll turn in my other guns. You can destroy them or sell them or… I don't know. Whatever you think best. Though that one's kinda sweet," he said, giving his beloved Glock one last look.

"Carlton," Vick tried again, coming around the desk as if that would help. "What is happening here?"

Juliet couldn't take her eyes off him. He was the most mesmerizing thing she'd ever seen, she had no idea what was going on, that kiss had been titillating, and his eyes were so blue right now they seemed to have absorbed all the other blue from the room.

"I'm happening," he said simply. Then he swooped in and gave Vick a hug. "You've been a good chief for me, Karen. Thanks for your support over the years, even when it was reluctant." He turned while she was recovering, but Juliet put herself squarely in his path.

"You are not leaving here without some kind of explanation," she said firmly.

Lassiter looked down at her, smiling. Then he put his warm hands on either side of her face and kissed the hell out of her. Juliet completely forgot where and who she was, and just as her arms were snaking around his neck, he let her go. "Goodbye," he said briskly, patted his pockets for his car keys, and bounded out of the station.

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