Disclaimer: okay, let's go through the motions again: I don't own anything related to psych, I'm borrowing these characters with no evil intentions, and Bob's your uncle, even if he's not.
Rating: T (but will get sMutty later on).
Summary: I've previously written about Lassiter leaving, and I like the theme (trying to move on), but then it occurred to me it's possible to leave without leaving. In other words, Lassiter tries to make changes in order to deal with (what he thinks are) his unrequited feelings for Juliet. Set during S6, but no Marlowe. If you've read me before, you don't need to be told this is LASSIET.
. . . . .
. . . .
. . .
Sometimes a long memory is a good thing.
Lassiter remembered the day she said it; their one-year anniversary as partners.
"Chief Vick says molding young officers is your duty."
Well, this one is molded. It's been over six years.
That's a perfect excuse for separation.
. . . But you don't really want to be separated.
Well, I need to be.
. . . .
. . .
He went to Vick's office, tapping on her door lightly.
"Yes?" she inquired with only a brief glance up from her laptop screen.
"I've been looking at our lineup of detectives now that Barnes is retiring, and I want to run some changes by you. It doesn't have to be now, but it won't take long."
He remained in the doorway until she nodded for him to come in.
Placing a sheet of paper in front of her, he said noncommittally, "Most of the partnerships will remain the same, but I'd like Garrison to be with Inman, Collins with O'Hara, and I'll take the rookie we're getting in two weeks."
Vick looked at the names for a moment until the penny dropped, and her look upward was sharp. "You want to split from O'Hara?"
Not want to. Need to.
"My job responsibilities include training new detectives. It's time for me to take that up again, wouldn't you say?"
She frowned, leaning back in her chair, still holding the paper. "Detective Lassiter, you were in here a few months ago asking for a new partner and you never once mentioned training new detectives as a reason. Is there a problem between you and O'Hara?"
"Absolutely not," he said, and it was true, at least the way she meant it. "But in order for both of us to keep—and possibly improve—our skills, change is necessary."
"Huh," she said, obviously not entirely satisfied with his perfectly logical answer. "And what does O'Hara say about this?"
Lassiter paused and then said flatly, "With all due respect, Chief, you've left me in the position of Head Detective so I can organize the squad the way I see fit, according to protocol and with your approval. What she has to say about it, or for that matter, what Garrison, Inman and Collins have to say about it, doesn't need to factor into any decision about what's best for the squad as a whole. O'Hara and Collins are a good fit, Collins already meshes well with Spencer, and we're all here to do good police work, aren't we?"
Her eyebrows shot up. "Spencer? We make partnership assignments around Spencer now?"
He took a breath. "We might as well. He seems to own the place."
Vick sat up straight. "I can't help but take offense at that, Detective."
No doubt, although offending her hadn't been his intention. "Tell me he doesn't do whatever the hell he feels like, on any case, whether it's here or at a crime scene."
For a few moments she just glared at him. "So you're proposing O'Hara lead all the cases Psych's hired for?"
"That's actually your call, but why not?"
"How about appearance of impropriety? I've been looking the other way on this, but it's not exactly a good thing, departmentally, that one of my detectives is dating the consultant she regularly works with, and who happens to be the most media-attention-focused one we've got."
"Well, it's also not exactly a good thing that the man in charge of hiring consultants is his father, either, but that's gone on a while, hasn't it?"
She glared at him anew, but didn't argue the point; she was the one who'd asked Henry to take the job in the first place. "Look, all I can tell you is that I'm not fooled by the apparent reasonableness of your request. You don't just decide to split from the best partner you ever had, your partner for over six years, so you can keep up with your job skills."
Lassiter looked at her steadily, choosing and setting aside a number of responses which could get him reprimanded and/or fired. "Chief, let's not waste each other's time. I'm trying to improve the squad as a whole. Either approve the changes, or don't. I won't question your decision." He walked out rapidly, and she didn't call him back in.
. . . .
. . .
Juliet was on her way into the ladies' room as Vick was coming out, but Vick turned around and followed her in.
"O'Hara," she said too casually. "Everything okay here at work for you?"
"Sure, Chief. Why?"
"No problems, no interpersonal conflicts, no... trouble of any kind?"
Juliet knew she was giving her a funny look. "Well, the new station manager makes lousy coffee, everyone I've arrested this week has smelled really bad, and I got a paper cut while unjamming the copier, but other than that, things are pretty normal."
Vick hesitated. "Everything okay with your partner?"
This set off several alarm bells. Truth was, everything was not okay with her partner. He'd been distant, quieter than usual, more remote than ever; but he was treating her perfectly well and there wasn't any one thing she could point at to tell Vick about, even if she were willing to confide uncertainties to her in the first place. Juliet never liked to help anyone find fault with Carlton. He was misunderstood and underrated by far too many people who would never get a chance to know him the way she did. "So far as I know, everything's as it should be, Chief. Is there something in particular you're concerned about?"
She still hesitated. "No, I guess not. You would tell me if there was a problem, right?"
Would she? Well, yes. Karen Vick was definitely A Good Egg. "If there was a problem I couldn't solve on my own or with Carlton's help, absolutely."
"All right then." Vick smiled brightly and left the room, and Juliet pondered over this until the next copier jam.
. . . .
. . .
The sheet of assignments dropped to the blotter atop his monthly statistics close to six, when Vick was on her way home. He looked up at her, trying to judge her expression.
"I'll approve this, Detective, because I do trust your judgment and I do believe you have the best interests of the department at heart." Lower, she added, "I don't, however, believe it's that simple, but the greater good is worth pursuing. You can put this into effect as soon as you like."
"Thank you, Chief." He moved the paper to his top drawer, and told her good night.
Now he had to tell O'Hara.
. . . .
. . .
He did seriously consider telling her at the same time everyone else found out, but the words "coward" and "uncool" and "roadkill" kept swirling in his head, and honestly he knew she deserved better and certainly he'd have shot dead anyone else who gave her news like this, devoid of personal communication, devoid of any recognition of the time they'd spent together as partners.
So he was only half-cowardly.
He went to the coffee bar while she was getting her first cup of the day and said quietly, "I'm making some partnership reassignments ahead of the new guy coming in. You'll be with Collins starting next week so I can train the rookie."
"Oh, I... what?" She turned so fast, her blue eyes startled, that she almost spilled her coffee. "What?"
"Collins needs a little more direction than he got from Barnes and you're just the ticket." He explained a little more, adding details, but he wasn't sure she was focusing judging by the stunned look on her face.
In fact—to his shock—her hand seemed to be shaking, and she carefully put the cup down. "Carlton, I don't understand. Why are you doing this?"
"There's nothing to understand," he said calmly. Not at all calmly. "It's for the good of the squad. Plus, Spencer doesn't have issues with Collins like he does with me, so things should go a lot more smoothly whenever Psych's involved."
She was staring at him, obviously shocked and confused. "We've been partners for over six years. Why are you... breaking us up?"
We were already broken.
He bit back impatience, because, again, she deserved better, and he hated having put this hurt look on her lovely face. "O'Hara, we each have jobs to do which surpass our personal preferences. And you're ready."
"I don't feel ready. I don't feel ready at all. Don't I get a say in this? About keeping the partner I have?"
"It's not about having a say," he tried again, thinking of his words to Vick, and knowing better than to use them here.
"Then what is it about? Because I thought I had the best partner and unless you don't think I was the best partner for you, I'm beyond confused." Some ire had crept into her tone, and unexpectedly, it made him relax a little.
"If you're the best partner for someone like me, O'Hara, then imagine how much more of a best partner you'll be to someone who actually fits in better with humanity." He turned away, but she followed him to his desk.
"What the hell does that mean?" she hissed.
"It means you're overreacting to what is, at most, a fairly simple change of routine. Starting next week, you work cases with Collins. I'm still here, the coffee will still be bad unless we can shoot the damned office manager, and life goes on. I'm not doing it to hurt you."
Juliet's gaze was fierce and actually made him a little nervous. "And I have no say."
He said dryly, "At the moment you look as if I'm the last person you want as a partner."
"At the moment, you are," she retorted. "But after I get over wanting to kill you, you're the partner I want most."
Such sweet words, spoken so angrily. "Then I'll have to make sure you go on wanting to kill me, won't I?"
"I guess you will. You've just ruined my morning, so you're already ahead of the game." She strode back to the coffee bar, heels clicking on the tile floor.
Lassiter sighed. He knew he was doing the right thing for himself, but that didn't mean it would be smooth sailing.
. . . .
. . .
Juliet had listened, astonished and then stunned and surprisingly hurt, as he explained rationally that his job was to train new detectives, and with Barnes retiring and a rookie coming in, he thought he should take the rookie under his wing and assign Juliet to Barnes' young partner, Collins.
He said, with perfect good sense, that she would then be a senior partner, which would be good for her resume as well as enriching her experience, plus she was more than ready for it after six years with him. He then had the nerve to apologize for "holding her back" too long.
While she was staring at him in utter shock, he said the most hurtful thing of all: he wanted her to change desks, to sit nearer Collins on the other side of the room. Logically—for all of this was soooo damnably logical—it would be easier for both the rookie and Collins to not be overly intimidated by their former partnership, and to solidify their new partnerships more quickly.
There wasn't a thing she could say other than to ask him why repeatedly, because none of this sensible crap made any damned sense, and she knew it was crap because while he was explaining it all so calmly, his sea-blue eyes were hiding so much.
"I'm not doing it to hurt you," he'd said.
But you are hurting me. What did I do? Why don't you even want to have to see me anymore?
. . . .
. . .
It was done. He'd told her what he'd decided, and it was done.
Lassiter stood at the window of his condo, looking out at the flowerpot on the patio table, waiting for the rain to fall. Waiting to feel 'good' about his decision.
It had been the right one; he knew that. But it still felt like a jagged wound, a wound acquired a few weeks earlier which showed no signs of healing.
He'd been at the counter in Booking, head down while he puzzled over a particularly bizarre arrest report (peanut butter? feathers? mimes? microwaves?), and heard Spencer and Guster coming in, having one of their frequent heated-but-not-really-whispering arguments about some crap he already knew he didn't care about. He turned slightly, hoping to stay off their radar.
It worked, except then he heard something he wished he hadn't heard.
"Did you give the ring back to your dad yet?"
"Gus, I told you I would."
"Yes, Shawn, you told me you would, but you didn't tell me you did. You have to give that ring back, because if you don't either he's going to figure out you stole it, or Juliet's going to find it in one of your damned toys."
"Look. I… I may not be ready to postpone this whole marriage thing yet. I'm not saying I'm not, but you know, I'm not saying I am, and I just think maybe I should hold on to it and…"
Their voices faded as they got further away, or maybe just because Lassiter was turning to a block of aching ice.
The moron was going to propose to Juliet.
Juliet was going to marry Spencer.
. . . because of course she would.
And Lassiter wouldn't survive that. His heart wouldn't survive that.
So the idea had come to him; how to logically, cleanly, professionally and seemingly impartially separate himself from the woman he loved but could not have, the woman who inexplicably loved Spencer and would in all likelihood marry him.
Having her change desks was the best—'best'?—part of all. Now he'd only have to see her in passing or during briefings, or at the coffee bar. Time only for pleasantries. And since he was notoriously bad at pleasantries, those would go by the wayside soon enough.
He was moved by her clearly unhappy reaction to the news… yet at the same time knew she'd quickly become too busy with Collins to make any polite attempts to remain close to her old partner. She was a nice person but she would let him go, because they were so different, and she would enjoy a less stressful partnership with the more mild-mannered Collins.
Raindrops began to hit the patio table.
. . . .
. . .
Juliet was at a loss. She felt as if she were wandering around in a daze, uncertain of the most basic foundation of her life.
She went to see Vick while Carlton was out of the station, and closed the door behind her.
The Chief gave her a raised-eyebrow look. "Yes?"
"This change of partners," she began.
"Is there a problem?"
"Yes. No. I mean, yes. I have a problem." She sat in one of the chairs, hands in her lap.
Vick put her pen down. "I admit I was surprised when Lassiter proposed splitting you up, but it's a sound plan and seems to benefit everyone."
"I suppose it does," Juliet answered, feeling small.
"But I don't want a new partner." There. She'd said it.
Leaning back in her chair, expression speculative now, Vick asked, "Are you saying there are reasons Lassiter didn't give me for this change? Personal reasons, for example?"
"I'm saying I don't want a new partner, and that I know Carlton well enough to know he'd never make a change like this unless there were personal reasons."
"But you can't guess what they are?"
Wait… why use the words "can't guess" instead of "don't know"?
"Does that mean you do know what they are?"
Vick sat up straight, not amused. "I'm not in the habit of playing games with my employees, Detective. Lassiter's stated reasons for the shakeup are valid and logical. If you can present any information which contradicts that, feel free to share it."
But she couldn't. Suppositions wouldn't cut it. Feelings certainly wouldn't.
. . . .
. . .
On Monday of what would be the second long lonely week without O'Hara, Lassiter was looking forward to the new junior detective starting more than he'd expected.
James Grimaldi, twenty-six, from Ventura, buzz cut and no-nonsense manner, was purported to have an eye for detail and a patient manner which his previous commanding officers thought would serve him well with the painstaking detail work of what Shawn Spencer called 'detectivosity.'
At the moment he was at his desk—Juliet's desk—looking over the current casefiles, and as if summoned by Lassiter having thought his name, Spencer himself bounded down the main hall—Gus at his heels, of course.
"Ju—" he began, stopping when he saw Grimaldi. "Well, hello there. How nice of you to keep Detective O'Hara's chair warm."
Grimaldi eyed him suspiciously (good call, Lassiter thought). "May I help you? Civilians aren't supposed to be in this area."
"I'm no civilian," Spencer said magnanimously. "I'm SBPD's head psychic. Shawn Spencer. You know."
"Actually I don't, and I didn't know the city employed psychics." He glanced at Gus. "Are you the junior psychic?"
There was just enough 'tone' in his tone to make Lassiter proud.
"I'm Burton Guster, and we're—"
Spencer interrupted. "Where's Juliet? Detective O'Hara?"
Grimaldi pointed to the northwest corner of the room. "Her desk is back there."
So smug was Spencer. "Au contraire, my not very good man. It is you who must be the civilian." Turning, he spotted Lassiter and pointed triumphantly, as if about to announce a major clue in an unknown investigation.
Lassiter cut off whatever he'd been about to say. "O'Hara's out of the building until after lunch, Spencer. You're more than welcome to get out of the building too."
"Like that ever works." He bounced his way closer to Lassiter. "So why's this guy sitting at her desk?"
"He's not. He's sitting at his desk."
It was entertaining to watch the man puzzle over this, but not as interesting as Lassiter's sudden realization that Juliet must not have told him about the partnership change.
Psych hadn't been called in last week (or this week, for that matter), but for Spencer to still be unaware was unexpected. (Truthfully, for them to not have come scrounging around for work was also unexpected.)
"Detective Grimaldi," he said, gesturing. "Grimaldi, Spencer and Guster are among the more notorious of our consultants. They have no title or rank on the force; they merely get paid when they get results."
Grimaldi nodded. "Understood. Shouldn't they be wearing visitor badges?"
"Yes, they should," said Henry Spencer, breezing past to his own desk. "Shawn, what have I told you about that?"
Gus made a point of adjusting his clearly visible badge.
"Forget the badge. What haven't you told me about Juliet's desk being moved? And why the hell would anyone put partners in opposite corners of the room?"
"We didn't," Lassiter said coolly. "O'Hara is seated near her new partner, Detective Collins. Now unless Henry has a case for you, you're excused." He strode off, pretty damned sure he was under no obligation to explain anything of any sort to Juliet's future idiot husband.
. . . .
. . .
Juliet returned from the dentist's office with a slightly sore jaw—overenthusiastic hygienist—and under the same cloud of faint despair she'd been dogged by for well over a week now.
It should have pleased her to see Shawn and Gus coming out of the police station as she walked from her car, but it didn't.
"Jules!" he yelled when he saw her, and she squared her shoulders. There was no way he didn't know now what she'd avoided telling him so far.
"Hi, Shawn." She didn't invite a kiss, and not just because Gus was there. "Was I expecting you? I've been to the dentist."
"Teeth are important," Gus said knowingly. "I'd brush after every meal, but since we eat constantly, my toothpaste budget would go through the roof."
"He speaks the truth," Shawn agreed. "But Jules—what the hell's up with you not being partnered with Lassie anymore?"
"Change is inevitable." She spoke lightly, as if it were no big deal, instead of the big damned deal it felt like.
"But you've been partners for three years now."
"Six and a half," she said patiently. "But I'm not a junior detective anymore, and it's time for me to get more experience."
"So this was your idea?"
It was Gus asking, and she glanced at him. "No."
Shawn was surprised. "It was Lassie's idea? What happened?"
"Nothing happened," she lied, because even though nothing had happened, something sure as hell must have happened.
"I mean, of course it's good news, but still—"
"It's not good news," she snapped, which made her jaw hurt. "It's just change."
"Then why all the secrecy?"
"Because I knew you would act like this, and I wasn't in the mood." She brushed by him, but he came after her; Gus wisely hung back.
"Act like what? Myself?"
"Yes," she muttered, still walking.
"Jules," he coaxed, "I'm just surprised you didn't mention it. I know you and Lassie have a thing, and…"
She had no idea what the rest of the sentence was. She stared at him blindly, seeing his mouth moving, but deaf to whatever he was babbling.
… a thing…
A partnership, best-friend thing. Yes.
A why-can't-I-stop-trying-to-figure-this-out? thing.
A why-do-I-feel-so-rejected? thing.
A why-do-I-miss-him-so-much? thing.
Shawn had stopped speaking, and was waiting for some response.
"I can't talk now," she said, and turned away.
. . . .
. . .
Collins was genial, but sharper than his mild manner indicated. He was happily—and newly—married, so he didn't have any ideas about Juliet (she didn't know why having Shawn as a boyfriend wasn't barrier enough in her mind, except that for all his 'show,' Shawn didn't come across as much of a threat). He was willing to work hard and he was good with witnesses.
She liked him. They could learn from each other, and he was safe.
But he wasn't Carlton.
Middle of the third week.
She was thinking of The Break as a discrete point in time at which her life had changed.
She was also drinking a lot more coffee. Actually, she wasn't drinking more; she was just getting more. Going to the coffee bar allowed her a glimpse of Carlton.
Occasionally he would look up and smile at her—cautiously—and it was startling how much that smile meant to her, especially when his blue gaze was steady and yet still hinted at what he wasn't saying.
It bothered her that sometimes she planned her coffee run to coincide with him heading that way himself.
It bothered her that he spoke politely to her but of nothing in particular—how are things with Collins, what's the latest on your sushi chef homicide, damn this coffee's bad.
She was so shut out. So completely shut out.
Only those smiles when he looked up from his desk were real.
And once… once she had gone for coffee and not looked his way, but felt him watching her. The station was quiet, Grimaldi away from his desk, and she felt Carlton's attention.
It was unnerving… not because it was creepy or weird, but because she…
Well, because she liked it.
She found herself making coffee more slowly than she ever had before, simply to prolong the sensation that he was curious about her too. That he might miss her.
It didn't last—his phone rang—and she didn't dare look his way before heading back to her desk. But she knew she hadn't imagined it.
And this awareness was doing some funny things to her late at night.
. . . .
. . .
Lassiter seldom slept well as a general rule unless he self-medicated, but he didn't like to have to have a drink to get to sleep, so many were the nights he lay awake a long time hoping sleep would find him.
It wasn't finding him much these days.
He believed—he had to believe—he would feel better in time. It was still early in the break, and nothing was 'normal' yet.
But he couldn't help but watch Juliet at work; he couldn't help but follow her movements in the station. If Collins had been single—Spencer be damned—he'd have been jealous beyond belief… yet he was jealous anyway, because Collins got to talk to her, ride to crime scenes with her, talk to witnesses and suspects with her. Collins got to stand at her side during briefings and was the first to know her mood for the day.
Collins got her at work, and Spencer got her at night.
And Lassiter got out of bed and poured a drink because he was an idiot.
But at least he was an idiot with hope… however faint… that he could get past this.
. . . .
. . .
Henry Spencer came to Juliet's desk at the end of the third week when Collins was down in Booking and Carlton was out with Grimaldi on a call (she always knew when he was out; she sensed it) to ask for some information on the sushi chef case.
She handed him the case file. "Collins spotted the discrepancy in the wife's alibi. I don't know where my head was."
"Really?" he asked too casually, his eyes on the file.
Juliet didn't miss it. "You have an opinion?"
"Is the Pope German?"
Sighing, she tossed her pen on the desk. "Okay, I admit it. I'm still… rattled by this business with Carlton. I guess I'm not handling it very well."
Henry peered at her over the tops of his reading glasses. "Everything okay with Collins?"
"Yeah. It's working out great."
"No, it is. He's great. No complaints about him at all."
She met his unwavering gaze, and crumbled. "I don't get it. I know all the things Carlton said about why this was a good thing but I can't help but feel like there's a lot more he's not saying."
"Do people still use the word 'duh'?"
"Henry! Don't be Shawn."
He grinned. "Low blow, detective." He took off his glasses and sat in the chair next to her desk. "Look. It's safe to say that after all these years, you know Lassiter better than anyone else here. Probably anyone else in Santa Barbara, including his mother."
"Probably." No, she knew he was right, and took a certain amount of pride in the knowledge.
"So… you're the one he has to work the hardest to hide from."
Juliet stared at him. "But… but why does he have to hide anything? I know I'm his best friend. Why can't he just tell me?"
Henry's expression was wry. "He's a man, Juliet. Do the math. More importantly, he's a very private man whose last real relationship blew up because Shawn outed his affair. The last thing he's ever going to do is let Shawn—or anyone else—near even the remotest opportunity to out anything else about his heart."
She was still staring at him, his meaning sinking in slowly.
"Or to put it another way," he went on, getting to his feet as he handed back the case file, "if you know him better than anyone else and you can't see the problem?" He smiled gently. "Then your eyes are closed."
. . . .
. . .