Disclaimer: psych belongs to other people, none of whom are me

Rating: T

Summary: One-shot. Juliet thinks. Lassiet. The end.

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She'd been thinking about Carlton a lot.

She wasn't sure exactly when she'd fallen in love with him.

It wasn't when she first came to the SBPD.

She was far too uncertain of her new role, and being partnered with the head detective was intimidating enough, never mind that he was intimidating all on his own. He was attractive, but as soon as she heard the rumor about his involvement with his former partner, a lot of doors slammed shut in her mind.

First, she already had black marks against her for being young, female, and—she hated to think it because it seemed egotistical, but she'd heard it enough—pretty. With those factors working against her, the last thing she needed was speculation she might be advancing her career by way of an entanglement with her partner.

Then, too, he was married, and in the throes of a difficult separation. She wasn't sure why he was trying to preserve the marriage; what she gathered from his side of their phone calls didn't suggest there was much to be saved.

Another 'then' was his absolute over-the-top driven obsessive dedication to the job. She liked to think of herself as dedicated too, but this man seemed to have no other joy in life, and not much joy at that.

She developed a little crush on him halfway through her first year, when he was more comfortable with her, trusted her more, let her know he thought she was doing a good job. He did have such marvelous eyes, and the more she came to know him, the more she understood what he didn't show the world.

Over time the crush faded—familiarity will do that to a crush—but at the same time, Shawn Spencer was always around, and he was different from anyone she'd ever known before, as well as a big bold vibrant distraction from the often-depressing reality of police work. It was easy to suppress her inappropriate interest in her partner, because that was the best thing for both of them.

Time passed.

People... soften. They sharpen. They see things differently. They feel things differently. They don't change, exactly, but they do.

Her relationship with Shawn, or rather, the beginning of her relationship with Shawn, had many false starts and abrupt stops, and up until the very moment he said he was thinking about buying a car, she was pretty sure it wasn't meant to be—and she was okay with that—except for a nagging feeling that it would be akin to quitting to give up on it untried... but then he said it, and the door opened, and they fell into step.

Except they didn't, really; Shawn walked alone and that by choice. He was no different after the relationship started than he had been before, and he certainly never bought a car, and so after a time the only difference between the before and the after was that she was sleeping with him.

She started to feel like a fool.

Then Carlton found out about them on his own, because she'd been too cowardly to tell him, and he asked for a new partner.

Wrapped up in her anger about his anger was a steel strand of certainty that losing him as her partner would be a very bad thing, but she was too... proud, too misguidedly stubborn about having kept it from him that she wanted him to be the enemy—it's none of your business who I date; how dare you—except it was his business, because it was Shawn, not just some guy she met somewhere, Shawn, who could not let Carlton just do his job, Shawn, who brought out the worst in Carlton for no other reason than he could.

She started to look at Shawn differently. She started to understand... he wasn't changing. He wouldn't be changing. Change was what he scrounged from the sofa. Adapting was right out, too.

What had drawn her to him in the first place was his irrepressible charm and intelligence and persistence, and it was easy to put aside the fact that he lied to everyone, stole from Gus, played "clever tricks" on people, ate more than the Miami Dolphins, and continually undercut them during cases—mostly Carlton, but sometimes her (and always her by extension since she was Carlton's partner, and they stood together).

It was ironic, of course, that what was driving her from him now was the "irrepressible" part.

Because, see. Yeah.

That's the thing.

It worked for him.

Then one day, on a case, after Shawn did something cavalierly boneheaded and she told Carlton, he only looked weary and said, "That's your boyfriend."

With startling clarity, and almost instantly, she wished he wasn't.

It wouldn't have prevented Shawn from doing the cavalierly boneheaded thing, no.

But it would have prevented that twist to her heart knowing Carlton might think she was boneheaded herself.

Because Carlton's opinion mattered. A lot. She was long past being a rookie he was training; she knew they were friends and knew he felt their bond, too.

It hurt... and she thought about why it hurt so much.

The next day, over a particularly good cup of coffee, he'd smiled at her about something; feeling good, feeling settled, feeling... right.

And it hit her, slowly, revealing itself carefully and gingerly lest she slap it away like a gnat... she seldom felt that way with Shawn. With him it was a matter of waiting for the next Shawn!Show to start. Or more likely, the next Shawn&Gus!Show.

She could seldom just BE with Shawn because Shawn could never just be.

Being with Carlton, even on a bad day, was... what made for a good day.

When Chief Vick shot down his request for a new partner, she'd felt a gloat coming on; a smugness which for a moment she didn't conceal from him because she was still telling herself he was the one with the problem and he was the one who was out of line and he was the one who just needed to deal with it.

However, she was the one who had bad dreams over the next few weeks, ones in which she was alone in the station, or on stakeout, or at a crime scene; either alone or with some faceless shadowy person she couldn't talk to, couldn't connect with, didn't know... and who wasn't Carlton.

Now she looked back at those dreams and understood what they really meant: subsconsciously, his importance to her was making itself known.

Women think about things. A lot.

So she thought about this. A lot.

But thinking accomplished nothing. What did accomplish something was the day they were in pursuit of a suspect who led them into a warehouse and started shooting and Carlton nearly got himself killed when he jumped the guy for coming at her, and she could see the look in his eyes and after they subdued and cuffed the perp she pulled Carlton away into the shadows and said, "I love you," because there was simply no sense leading up to it any other way after all this time.

He blinked at her. "I... okay."

He thought she meant it like, "... for bringing me coffee," or "... for finishing my paperwork," or, you know, "... for saving my life."

So she said it again. "Carlton. I love you."

His blue eyes were huge and he was clearly at a loss but then she saw it... shifting across the blue sea, subtly.

"I love you," she whispered.

He lifted one slightly unsteady—and warehouse-dusty—hand to touch her cheek. "You can't."

She smiled. "Never tell me can't."

Stepping up closer to kiss him, to whisper the words again, there was no doubt in her mind about whether this was right, or practical, or professional, or sensible, or wonderful, because it was. All of those things. And more.

Carlton stared at her, slowly accepting—for now, at least—this surreal but real moment. "Okay then," he whispered.

"Better than," she whispered back.

He nodded, and bent his head to kiss her, and somewhere behind them the cuffed and face-down perp began to squawk about being left alone, but neither of them cared much, or, to be honest, at all.

Later that night she broke up as gently as possible with Shawn—who told her, "You can't"—and went to Carlton's place and knocked on his door.

That was where she'd belonged the whole time, after all. And there was no more thinking to be done about that.

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