Disclaimer: HOW many TIMES do I have to TELL you I claim zilcho where psych is concerned? :-)

Rating: T

Summary: Juliet goes away for a while. The two men in her life ponder her absence in their own styles. This will be Lassiet, and you can blame Lawson227 for that. (Plus, this plot was her idea, so, uh, yeah.) Unless I totally fizzle out, in which case this opening chapter will soon disappear without a trace.

. . . .

. . .

Lassiter got in Monday morning and draped his jacket over the back of his chair, then went to the coffee bar for his first cup of the day. Glancing at Juliet's desk, he noticed it seemed unusually neat. Almost too neat.

Back at his own desk, he sat down and started to look at the mail in his inbox, and the small sealed envelope at the top caught his eye. Addressed to him, in her handwriting.

Carlton, I'm taking a few weeks off. I'm sorry to leave you in the lurch. I finished up what casework I could this weekend and I'll be in touch soon… Juliet.

For awhile he stared at it, puzzled. She hadn't mentioned any plans, or even any hopes for plans. Her family was coming out this summer and she was scheduled to go to Miami for Thanksgiving, but both of those were months away.

A mental inventory of her behavior lately told him nothing. She'd perhaps been a little more irritable with Shawn and a little less irritable with him when he'd been irritable with Shawn, but the latter was most likely due to the former and as to the former, well, it was about time. In his opinion, anyway.

Maybe she had been a little… quieter when they were alone together, in the car, at lunch, or just having coffee. Maybe a little slower to respond, and a little more thoughtful. She'd seemed to look at him more, as if she were trying to figure him out. He'd assumed he was annoying her, but then again, he was second-guessing a woman here, which was entirely pointless.

Of course, Juliet wasn't a woman.

Well, she was a woman, all right. A hell of a woman.

She was also someone else's woman, he reminded himself, so shut it.

For her to take off suddenly, for such a long period of time, without any explanation… it wasn't like her. At all.

Not that she owed him any explanation.

Except she did, because she was his partner. Plus, he knew her, and if she'd known she was going away, she'd have said something. She was conscientious and considerate.

So… she hadn't planned to go away.

Which meant something could be wrong.

And he didn't like that. He didn't like the little niggle of worry forming at the back of his head. He didn't like that something might be wrong with his partner.

But then…

Oh, no.

Oh, no no no.

Oh, holy freaking anti-gun lobby flower-tossing vegan hell-squirrel crap on a flaming cracker of everlasting despair.

He put his head in his hands, trying to breathe, trying to fight back the edge of nausea and the twisting in his heart.

Dammit. Dammit. DAMMIT.

She must have eloped with Spencer.

. . . .

. . .

Karen Vick looked up when Lassiter tapped on the door. Her head detective's eyes were huge blue beacons of concern, horror and confusion. "Um, I'm a little afraid to say this, Lassiter, but can I help you?"

"O'Hara," he said without preamble, advancing to her desk but not sitting. He was tense. He was tension, period.

"What about her?"

"Where is she?"

"On leave. You didn't know?"

Lassiter's jaw clenched. "No. When did she ask for it?"

"Actually, she called me at home yesterday. She apologized for the late notice, she said it was important, and I was in a good mood, so I said yes."

He stared at her, and she felt as if she were being searched from head to toe.

"Detective?" she prompted.

"Spencer," he said, his voice harsh. "Did she elope with him?"

"God, I hope not," she said, and it was heartfelt.

He just…breathed for a moment. "She didn't… drop any hints?"

"Not about that, and Lord have mercy on us all if you're right." When this didn't calm him, she added, "Relax. I seriously doubt O'Hara is quite that impulsive." And surely not that insane.

"Is she okay?" Now he sounded worried, as if her simple statement was all he needed to brush away the fear of Juliet turning up in a few weeks as Mrs. Spencer.

"I… guess so. She sounded all right to me, but Lassiter," she pointed out, straightening up, "keep in mind that even if she wasn't, I'm really not at liberty to say."

Lassiter was perfectly still, but his blue, blue eyes showed an inner turmoil which surprised her with its intensity. "Chief. Please."

Oh, hell. He's in love with her.

Karen sighed, thinking of a dozen administratively sound reasons to send him away unanswered, along with a lecture about getting involved with your partner, but at the same time she knew that no matter the depths of his feelings for Juliet, he'd clearly never acted on them, and likely never would. He just wasn't built to make the same mistake twice professionally, and beyond that, he'd never move in on another man's girlfriend.

Well, she was at least pretty sure about the latter.

"Lassiter," she finally said, because it wasn't in her to prolong his fear. "So far as I know, O'Hara is perfectly fine. She only said she wanted some time away. We talked about how hard it is for cops to plan time off—you know it's true. As soon as you formalize the details, someone else gets murdered or kidnapped and the hell with a vacation. I think she just decided to act on the impulse."

It was sort of a marvel how he so very visibly calmed down, at least as much as it was possible for Carlton Lassiter to calm down. But the fear went out of his eyes, and his posture relaxed, and he took a deep breath before saying, "Thank you, Chief," very quietly and leaving her office.

Leaving her to wonder for the first time since Juliet's call exactly what was going on with the young woman.

. . . .

. . .

Lassiter never knew there would come a day when he'd be happy—relieved—damned near ecstatic—to see Shawn Spencer.

Out of his chair and halfway to meet him before Spencer had even finished fist-bumping McNab, Lassiter grabbed him by the arm and pulled him over to the coffee bar. "Where's O'Hara?"

Shawn looked him over with a frown. "Why are you asking me?"

Gus caught up. "We came to take her to lunch."

"You mean you didn't know she was taking off?" This was inexplicable.

"Taking off what?" he leered.

"Spencer. I am talking about my partner taking time off from work."

"Oh, yeah? When will she be back? Like, later this afternoon? Because Gus and I were hoping she could take us to Funkytown."

Gus started up the chorus, and Shawn danced, and Lassiter considered shooting them both.

Throttling was an option, but he didn't want to actually touch him, because that could lead to Spencer's death and then to Lassiter's immediate dismissal (he didn't mind the thought of jail time, just the loss of his job).

He did spare a moment's thought for the possibility of this being a scam on Spencer's part, trying to make him believe he knew nothing... but why? On Juliet's behalf? She would never let him do that.

Lassiter turned his attention to Gus, who most likely would tell the truth or lie so badly that the truth would be evident. "Guster, did you know O'Hara was going to be away for a few weeks?"

Gus stopped dancing before Shawn did. "What? No. Really?"

Shawn reared back exaggeratedly. "You're on crack, man. Jules hasn't gone anywhere." He glanced at her desk, and Lassiter could see him instantly noticing precisely what he had noticed this morning: how neat it was. Neat in a won't be back for awhile way.

"You really didn't know." Lassiter stared at him, not quite believing it. Juliet had at least left him the short note. "No call, no email, no text?"

Shawn patted his pockets, his frown coming along, and fished the phone out of his back pocket.

"What's going on, Lassiter?"

Lassiter ignored Gus until Shawn had looked through all his messages and texts.

"Nothing," Shawn said, surprised. "Nothing from Jules."

Gus persisted, "Lassiter. Juliet's really gone?"

"Yeah. For a few weeks." It seemed so unnatural. Even when she'd worked City Hall in the weeks after Yin tried to kill her on the clock tower, at least she was reachable. Findable. There.

"A few," Shawn repeated. "What does that mean? Two?"

"Few usually means more than two," Gus mused. "Two is two. Few is three or four."

Shawn stared at Lassiter, and for a moment, Lassiter could completely relate to his confusion. "Seriously? She's gone for three or four weeks?"

"I don't know, Spencer. I can't believe you don't know."

"I can't believe I don't know either."

"Well," Gus suggested, "it's possible she told you and you didn't hear."

Shawn rolled his eyes. "Gus, I wouldn't forget my girlfriend telling me she was leaving for two months."

"Few doesn't mean eight, Shawn, and I didn't say you forgot. Probably you just weren't listening."

"I always listen!"

"No, you don't. You certainly don't listen to me. Just this morning, I told you not to iron the breakfast burrito, but did you pay any attention?"

"I paid attention, Gus. I just ignored you. You were using the microwave and I couldn't wait anymore for cheesy eggy goodness!"

Gus glared. "We need a new iron now."

"You need a new iron now," Shawn scoffed. "I've never needed an iron."

Lassiter sighed, hearing we hold these truths to be self-evident in his mind. He was just so damned glad Juliet hadn't married the idiot. While Shawn and Gus argued about the effects of breakfast burrito cheese on irons, he went back to his desk.

It wasn't until after they had wandered away to find lunch that he realized Shawn had never once uttered anything along the lines of I hope she's all right… which was the only thing in his own damnably muddled head.

And heart.

. . . .

. . .