CHAPTER TWELVE

[The finale – rated M for a little smut.]

. . . .

. . .

It was all over but the paperwork.

Harry Fisher had been taken off in an ambulance—Juliet's shot clipped him in the shoulder and he would be fine except for his temperament (which would most likely not improve during incarceration)—and Pat Fisher was arrested in relatively good health. She had tried to escape Harry in the attic and he'd accidentally back-handed her, which had left her too dizzy and disoriented to be a danger to anyone.

Shawn had been pulled out from under the rugs, complaining the whole time, and Juliet had personally applied a small bandage to Lassiter's forehead while the EMTs were busy. She whispered to him that he could have gotten killed with his stunt up in the attic and she wasn't going to tolerate that crap, and hidden behind the open ambulance door (meaning, while Shawn had his back turned, pontificating to the newly-arrived cops about his considerable assistance during the arrest), he pulled her to him and kissed her hard. Not long enough, but there was time for that later.

Harry, Pat explained down at the station, was a seriously grumpy guy who mostly had no use for her but even less use for anyone interfering with his sense of how things should be, and how things should be pretty much never included cops or men who sniffed his wallpaper.

She had become 'close' to Phyllis—that was her wording, never more specific than that—a few years earlier and could not bear the thought of Jim Napoli's plan to move across town to a condo nearer the university. Harry could barely stand to let Pat go to work, so she knew he'd never allow her to visit Phyllis.

She didn't deny anything, waived her right to an attorney, and admitted to stealing enough succinylcholine from the hospital to do the job on Jim. Harry was away acquiring more junk, Phyllis had fallen asleep on the sofa in her sewing room—one of the few places Harry's hoarding hadn't touched—and Pat snuck over to the Napoli house. Jim let her in when she explained Phyllis wasn't feeling well, and while he looked for their doctor's phone number, she jabbed him in the thigh and managed to get him over to his uneasy chair to die.

Terribly ashamed, and tearful, Pat also admitted her chief regret was that going to jail meant not seeing Phyllis as much; but on the upside, she'd be away from Harry.

Her phone call wasn't to a lawyer; it was to Phyllis. Juliet wasn't surprised when Phyllis turned up later hoping to post bail.

Lassiter gave his statement and somehow a moderately accurate one was wrested from Shawn, who had yet to make any comment about what he overheard in the attic.

But Shawn was known neither for patience nor subtlety. He came up to Juliet's desk while Lassiter was in Vick's office, pulled up a chair and asked outright, "So. How long have I been flirting with you in vain?"

She was tired. "Pretty much from the start, Shawn." When he looked wounded, she hastily amended her answer. "I'm sorry. You know I don't really mean that. You and I just always had bad timing, that's all."

"Uh-huh. So how long have you and Lassie-face been a united front?"

We've always been a united front, she thought. "Since he went on leave. It's complicated, but the truth is, it was a long time coming."

Shawn studied her. "Yeah. Okay, I see that. Partners get close."

"Like you and Gus," she said lightly. She didn't want him to be hurt by this. She didn't want to be arrogant enough to think he would be, either.

"Not funny, Jules." He was still looking at her curiously. "Lassie can make you happy?"

Juliet smiled slowly, and answered from her heart. "He is making me happy."

"No doubts?"

"None."

He nodded. "I missed a lot of cues, didn't I."

"You saw what you wanted to see. And we were being discreet while we figured things out."

"And you figured out you love him?"

Juliet nodded. "I did. I do."

"Then… then I'm okay with that, Jules." He held out his hand, and when she took it, he leaned in and kissed her cheek. "I know he'll take care of you. More than anyone else on the planet, Lassie will take care of you."

"Thank you," she whispered.

Shawn got up. "Of course, without a Glock at his side I dunno how macho he is anymore. After all, I had to save you up in the attic."

Gus appeared and said, "Even I don't believe that, Shawn."

"You never believe anything, Gus."

"Actually, Shawn did help by distracting Harry enough to let us get into the attic."

Gus gave her a look. "And after that?"

She shrugged. "He was taken out by a stack of carpets."

Shawn protested, "I was nearly smothered! I was shot at—twice! If it hadn't been for me, you—oh, hell. Just take me home, Gus. I think I have a carpet beetle problem."

Before Gus could answer, McNab and two other officers came to Juliet's desk and looked expectantly at Shawn.

"Hey, guys," he said uncertainly. "What's up?"

"We were wondering if you'd give us a critique," McNab said hopefully.

"A critique?"

"Yeah, we're thinking about activities for the office picnic on the fourth of July and wondered if you'd let us know how we sound."

"How you sound," Shawn repeated.

Lassiter strolled out of Vick's office and joined the three other men. "Let's go, boys."

And they sang. Oh, how they sang.

"Turn around; every now and then I get a little bit lonely and you're never coming around… turn around; every now and then I get a little bit tired of listening to the sound of my tears…"

Juliet burst out laughing, delighted beyond belief both by how good they sounded and how stunned Shawn was, and soon there was quite an audience, including Chief Vick, and three or four other cops joined the choir as well, along with Gus, who provided some excellent harmony. She couldn't believe Lassiter was singing with them, and was utterly charmed that he'd obviously been part of setting it up.

Shawn finally found his ability to speak, but it was only to yell, "All damn day! All damn day it's been this song! What in the hell is this about?"

Chief Vick intervened despite her own obvious amusement. "Everyone, get back to work please." As they dispersed, she explained to Shawn, "I've been told you put on quite a show last night, Mr. Spencer."

"I did? Where? Where in the hell did I put on a show?"

Gus and Lassiter glanced at each other, trying not to laugh. Gus said, "Shawn. That bar we went to. Circles? You don't remember?"

Shawn was exasperation personified. "Gus. If I could remember anything about last night, I would have cut this performance off after the first verse." He gestured at Lassiter. "He can't even carry a tune."

Lassiter grinned. "Oh, I think a sober me singing outclasses a drunken you singing any day."

Gus nodded. "It's true. You were pretty bad, Shawn. But damn if you didn't have a death grip on that microphone."

"But—wait. Is this why I woke up fully dressed in my shower?"

"I wasn't about to undress you. I have my limits."

"That's fair."

Lassiter peered at Shawn. "Your eyes—they are kind of bright." His smile was only barely in check.

"Oh, God." Shawn turned away. "Take me home, Gus. For the love of God, just take me home."

There was a round of applause as he walked down the hall, and bless his heart, he couldn't even enjoy it.

Lassiter sat down in the chair Shawn had vacated. "The Chief and I think you need to take off work early."

Vick was smiling benevolently. "You have plenty of leave and Lassiter has assured me you would benefit from some down time. See you Monday, O'Hara—and if you could, try to talk him into coming back to work, okay?"

. . . .

. . .

Lassiter followed her home in his car, with a side trip to pick up an early dinner, but when she met him at the door, she took the bags without a word, shoved them in the fridge and started undressing him. Because, duh.

"Oh, hi," he murmured as she pushed his jacket off his shoulders.

"Hi." She kissed him, unbuttoning his shirt.

He started unbuttoning hers, and they advanced toward the stairs.

After tugging his shirt out of his pants, she allowed him to slide her blouse off, and by then they were four steps up.

His shirt landed on the sixth step, his belt on the eighth.

Her bra on the ninth, and then a considerable pause while he investigated her bare breasts with his lips.

Juliet really, really, really needed to be fully naked with him, so she pulled him the rest of the way to the bedroom rapidly, stopping when she saw the bed. It was neatly made—and had not been such that morning. "You did this?"

He hesitated. "I found clean sheets in the closet. Is that okay?"

Juliet pressed her bare torso to his and kissed him seductively. "Yes," she whispered. "Now let's mess them up."

Turned out there was still a lot left from last night. A lot of passion. A lot of heat. A lot of pleasure. Juliet learned every inch of his body—every glorious hard inch—and was driven mad by his exploration of every soft, yielding inch of hers. She hadn't known she could make sounds of pleasure that intense. She hadn't known she could even feel pleasure that intense.

Only one pillow and the bottom sheet remained on the bed when they were finally—for the time being—spent. They lay side by side on their backs in the falling light, hands clasped.

"Yeah," Lassiter said, still breathing hard, "that was pretty good."

Juliet laughed. "I'd smack you but my arm is dead."

"Don't bother. I'm about to dissolve into ash." He managed to roll over, and scooped her damp body close. "You're so damn beautiful."

"So are you."

"Not me."

"It's in your eyes."

"I'm a mess, O'Hara."

"You're a work in progress, Lassiter."

"I'm yours," he countered simply, and silenced her with a fierce kiss, His mouth was hot and sexy and his hands were everywhere and all she could do was feel, and respond. He pulled back, ragged, and she touched his face, his temple, his hair. "I liked working with you today. I liked being in the field again."

"Even without your Glock?"

"Even without."

"Even with Shawn interfering?"

He shrugged. "That's nothing new." He nuzzled her deliciously, entangling his legs with hers.

"True. Any chance you'll come back to work?" She didn't know why she said it.

He lay half on her, his hands in her hair, staring down at her as if he'd never really seen her before.

"What is it?" she asked. Breathed.

"You... this is real, isn't it?"

"What?"

"That you love me."

"Yes." She reached up and kissed his open mouth. "I love you."

For a few seconds he hungrily returned the kiss, then withdrew. "But I can't go back, Juliet. I don't want to go back. Please understand that I would. I would do it for you, if you asked me. But I don't want to go back to that anger, to that need to be the best, to never fail. I don't want to be like that again."

Her blue eyes locked to his, and she saw he was afraid. "Carlton, you won't be like that again. You won't be because now you know you don't have to be, and I will do everything I can to keep you whole. I promise. It's going to be okay."

"How can you be sure?"

She kissed him again, desperate to make him believe. "I'm sure I love you. I'm sure you love me. I'm sure we're a great team and I miss having you at my side out in the field, or even just glaring at me from your desk."

He was silent, searching her face. "I need more time." He kissed her lips, her cheek. "I want more time. I'm asking for more time."

Juliet pushed him onto his back and straddled him, leaning down close, her hands next to his shoulders. "I will give you all the time you need, as long as you're only talking about being a cop, and not about being with me."

His warm hands slipped between them, cupping her breasts, and he smiled. "I will never let you go, Juliet. You'll have to shoot me to get me out of your life." She arched against his hands, and he yanked her closer for a deep and unhurried kiss, moving one hand to stroke her bare back and slide down to the silky curve of her hip.

"There will be no shooting," she murmured against his jaw. "There will be love, and sex, and more love and sex, but there will be no shooting."

"Tell me more about the sex," he suggested.

"How about I show you instead?"

"Mmmmmmm..." was all he managed before she began the demonstration. She started with touches to his chest and arms, then lower on his stomach, then lower still, and he made different sounds, those of intense pleasure. She loved him up and down, tenderly and with passion and need, and whispered things to him which made his ears go pink, but when he rolled her onto her back and took over, she gave herself up to his driving hunger and the rest didn't matter. The rest faded away.

There was just Carlton, and Juliet, and the night, and love, and the future, and the only certain thing about that future was they were going there together.

But what more did either need to know?

He whispered that he'd given her his heart after all. She whispered back that he had hers.

Most likely, Daniel Grenovich would have been very proud of himself.

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FINIS

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[I think maybe there's a sequel in here somewhere… what do you think?]