Boring Disclaimer: I stole these people again.

Rating: T

Summary: The third of my completely ridiculous and clichéd Lassiet one-shots: here, what I consider the granddaddy of all bad (but alluring) plotting: amneeesia! MUAHAHAHA!

. . . .

. . .

When the bomb went off, Juliet and Carlton were both knocked clear, flung into the recesses of the warehouse. Everything was falling, tumbling; it was all noise and dust.

She came back to her senses after a few seconds, reviewing her various limbs and parts and deciding she was uninjured beyond a few cuts and probable bruises. Carlton was not in sight, neither lying near her nor heading right back into the melee (which was more like him), so she sat up gingerly and looked around.

Other voices rang out, voices of rescue, and she called to them that they were back here... but where was Carlton in the 'here'?

The dust and smoke combined to make visibility very poor, but she spotted his leg first, and then the rest of him, in a heap against a cement column.

"Carlton!" she cried out, trying to get there faster.

He stirred—thank God—but when he did he also fell to the left, and her heart clenched in fear at the sight of the blood on his face.

Almost screaming for the medics, she made it to his side and tried to rouse him. "Carlton. Carlton, it's Juliet. Wake up, partner. Come on..."

She found a tissue in her pocket and wiped the blood from his temple and cheeks carefully.

The medics yelled back that they were on their way, but she went on dabbing at Carlton's lean face, almost crooning at him to wake up, to talk to her, to be okay…

Because he had to be okay; he was the most there of anyone in her life and she needed him more than she wanted to admit to anyone, so if he wasn't okay, then nothing would be okay again, ever.

Ever.

She whispered, "Come on, partner. Don't bail on me now."

Slowly, he opened his brilliant blue eyes, cloudy with pain and confusion for a few moments.

His gaze settled on her after a bit, and she smiled, unutterably relieved to see the blue she'd come to admire so much over the years. The best blue. Even when he was cranky as hell or low on caffeine, his were the very best blue eyes she knew.

He smiled. "Wow, you're pretty."

Juliet blinked. Okay.

Wincing, he put one hand up to his temple, getting fresh blood on his fingertips. "What happened?"

"The bomb went off," she said simply. "Other than your head, how are you? Arms, legs?"

Carlton looked down at his dusty suit and pants. "I seem to have them." He shifted, and Juliet helped him up to a sitting position again. "What bomb?"

"What... what bomb?" They'd been in the warehouse for hours, trying to get Courtland to surrender, and the possibility of a bomb—his specialty—was the undercurrent for every minute of it. "Courtland had a bomb, just like we were afraid. Carlton, what's the last thing you remember?" She found her hand on his arm.

He glanced at her hand and smiled. "Ah... waking up to the sight of a beautiful worried woman. I must be Carlton. You are?"

. . . .

. . .

Juliet hovered in the hallway outside Carlton's hospital room.

Before she could answer his seemingly simple question, the EMTs got through to them. And before they could ask him anything of their own, he passed out again.

She told them he seemed to have no memory, and then got out of their way.

Now it seemed he was in relatively good shape, all things considered, but the doctor wanted him to stay overnight for observation because of the head injury, and he definitely couldn't go home without his memory, let alone back to work.

At the moment she was only waiting for the nurse to come out of there, and then she was headed in. Vick was on her way, and probably Shawn and Gus despite her pleas that they stay away until the evening.

Finally the nurse exited, nodding to Juliet that she could enter.

Carlton's eyes were closed, but as her heels tapped on the floor he looked up and immediately smiled. "Hey. My beautiful worried woman. Still worried, and damn, still beautiful."

She felt herself blushing—this kind of compliment from Carlton was new. "How are you feeling?"

He tilted his head to one side; he'd been cleaned up, the dust was gone from his black and silver hair and only the pale white bandage at his temple remained as proof of what happened. "Are we friends?"

Juliet swallowed. "Yes. We're best friends. We're partners. Cops. They told you that, right?"

Just the basics, the doctor warned, don't feed him information; he needs to remember naturally. But she wanted—needed—him to know (to remember… to feel) the level of their connection.

"Best friends," he repeated, smiling, and God, it was so rare to see a truly relaxed smile from him; he was so attractive. "That means we're not involved. Too bad." He touched the bandage lightly.

If she'd blushed before, she must have looked like a roaring fire right that second.

"You don't remember me at all?" she managed, coming close enough to grip the rail on the bed. Why did it hurt that he didn't remember her?

"I'm sure I will. The doctor said this ought to pass pretty soon if everything goes well." He suddenly looked embarrassed. "Crap, then I probably just screwed up the partnership by saying I think you're hot."

"Hot," she repeated dazedly.

He grinned. "Well, you are. I assume by your expression that I haven't said so before."

"Uh, no, you haven't."

"But then," he reasoned, "since we're partners it's probably been for the best. I further assume you have a boyfriend, because duh."

"Well, no, I... I... no."

Note to self: next time Shawn asks you out, tell him no and not to ask you again.

"That's decisive." He was teasing. Carlton was teasing. "Do I have any other friends besides you?"

"Of course you do," she said at once, but... did he?

His ocean-blue eyes were on her, missing nothing. "So I don't. Except you. Am I your charity case?"

Juliet snapped, "Certainly not. You're my partner and my best friend, and I wouldn't say that if it weren't true."

He was amused. Amused. Who was this man?

"Relax. I'm sure I already knew you were a fireball."

"I certainly hope so." Her tone was tart, and he laughed at that too.

"Shame," he said sadly. "I have a feeling that when I remember, I'm going to find out I'm pathetic and screwed up."

"No, you're not. You're... reserved. Private. But you're not pathetic."

One eyebrow raised. "But I'm screwed up?"

"I didn't say that. You're a little paranoid, maybe. And you have this thing about squirrels. And Olympia Dukakis. But you're not—" Juliet stopped, because he was laughing, and his gorgeous eyes were alight and his smile was genuine and he was all at once the most attractive man she'd ever seen and the next thing she knew, she was bending over the rail and kissing him.

Carlton sighed and put his hands to her face, drawing her in for a longer kiss, and he didn't know her—this Carlton didn't know her—but he certainly knew how to kiss her.

(She was certain the Carlton who did know her also knew how to kiss her, but would simply never allow himself to make the move.)

The main thing was, wow, she could have gone on kissing that warm seductive mouth for a lot longer, and had his hands always been that gentle?

Regrettably, she had to pull away when someone tapped on the door behind them. Her shaking fingers to her lips, she retreated from the bed and turned to see the visitor—Karen Vick.

Carlton didn't remember her either (Juliet would have been insulted if he had), but his relaxed manner (despite occasional deep blue glances Juliet's way) obviously made an impression on the Chief.

Although, Juliet judged, he was not quite as laid-back now, post-kiss—which she hoped was a compliment. She was gravely disappointed when Karen said, "Detective, I think we should let Carlton get some rest, and I do need you back at the station to tie up a few loose ends before you go home for some much-deserved rest yourself."

You think I can rest now?

She returned to Carlton's bedside briefly, trying not to get caught ogling the chest hair made visible by his hospital gown's scoop neck. With Karen behind her, and unlikely to see, she reached out and squeezed his hand, smiling. "I'll come by first thing in the morning to see how you're doing."

"So far, so good," he said with a quiet smile.

Yes indeed, as well as confusing.

Karen Vick only made it about ten feet down the hall before saying, "I can't for the life of me remember a time when Carlton didn't pitch a royal fit about being hospitalized, and for damned sure I've never seen him mellow."

"Kinda nice," Juliet agreed, but she never minded Carlton's irascibility much because he would always settle down when she told him to. Unlike certain other people.

As if thinking of those people too, Karen mused, "I wonder if this version of Carlton would hold up better in the presence of Shawn Spencer?" Then she grinned. "On the other hand, maybe we need Shawn in there stat to drive our Carlton back to himself?"

"The doctor said no aggravation," Juliet countered firmly. Actually he'd said 'excitement' but that only made her think of kissing him again, which no doubt qualified as excitement (it certainly had for her).

For a moment, she wondered if she should have had her own head examined.

. . . .

. . .

She lay in bed a long while before she slept, thinking over the odd events of her day.

Why had she kissed him?

How would that—not to mention his frank admiration—affect their partnership? Their friendship?

She didn't want to lose either of those very important facets of her life.

But she couldn't deny how thrilling it was to see his attraction, and nothing could detract from the power of that kiss.

It was true he remembered nothing, and it was true that as a semi-blank-slate he was probably the 'real' Carlton, the core Carlton, and yes, it would be nice to have that charming blue-eyed Irishman around on a regular basis. But for all she knew, despite their years together, maybe he was like that all the time, on his own, in private… or maybe he would be if he were… she hardly dared think it… if he were in love.

In love.

Oh, stop, she told herself. Carlton Lassiter, for all his pluses, was pretty tightly wound and it didn't matter if he had those feelings for her or not. He wouldn't act on them and he wouldn't trust her if she acted on them herself.

He'd been hurt too many times and he hadn't been raised to believe in hope or contentment or even in second chances. He lived in black and white because gray was where the heart was most easily trampled.

She found tears on her cheeks, because deep inside—no, actually, not very deep at all; it was just under the surface and it was starting to encompass her whole being—she knew she was 'settling' for the partnership and friendship because that's where he was most hers.

All the same… maybe it wouldn't be so bad if his memory didn't exactly rush back.

. . . .

. . .

She was nearly ready to leave in the morning, lacking only her shoes and the rest of her cranberry juice, when someone started pounding on her front door.

Do not delay me, whoever you are; I have to go to the hospital to see Carlton and I do not have time for obstacles.

But when she peered through the peephole, there he stood.

She opened the door at once, saying his name with surprise and puzzlement (and feeling pleasure mixed in).

He had on his dusty jacket from the bomb site, over a hospital-logo t-shirt, and both the jacket and the slacks would need to be retired. His bandage was in place and the way he looked at her said he was back. Carlton was back. Her Carlton.

"Your memory," she breathed.

"You kissed me." It was blunt. He wasn't smiling. He wasn't relaxed. He was tense.

"I'm sorry, I don't know what came over me." Except she wasn't sorry and she did know.

And she'd said the wrong thing—because his jaw tightened, his eyes darkened, and he only said, "Okay," and turned to leave.

"Wait, Carlton. Wait." She grabbed at his arm, standing in the sunlight with him. "Please. When did you get your memory back?"

The jaw was still clenching. "During the night. I dreamed about Courtland and when I woke up I remembered everything." He glanced down at his clothes. "I checked myself out from the hospital."

"You have a concussion," she said. "You should go back—"

"You kissed me," he repeated. Not angry… yet somehow accusatory.

She countered, "You told me I was beautiful."

The blue changed again, lightening to an ocean calm, but she knew he was anything but that.

"Look, I was scared and confused and worried about you. I wasn't thinking straight. I didn't mean to confuse you. I wasn't thinking that far ahead."

He stared at her a long time, then said flatly, "The guy you kissed isn't me. I get it."

This time he moved fast enough to make it down several steps.

"Wait! Wait wait wait, Carlton, no. Wait!" She clutched his sleeve and pulled him around; he nearly lost his balance but she held on tight until he had turned, two steps below her, so they were at eye level.

She held on to his jacket lapels; he was not getting away again.

"Carlton, I wasn't thinking straight, but I wasn't thinking wrong."

He was mute, angry, embarrassed, defiant.

"I wasn't thinking anything I hadn't thought before. In private. In my heart of hearts," she added in a whisper, and released one lapel to touch his face.

For a moment he didn't react, but then he sighed, and leaned in against her hand, and she felt a little as if she were in the process of taming a wild animal… one not used to human kindness.

"I'm not that guy," he muttered. "Last Night Carlton."

Juliet smiled. "Yes you are. You're all versions of Carlton, and I've seen most of them over the years."

He hesitated. "But you kissed me."

"You told me I was beautiful," she repeated.

"That's too easy," he said dismissively. "Don't patronize me and don't make yourself out to be shallow."

"Let me rephrase, then. Or reemphasize. You told me I was beautiful. That's what counts."

After a pause, Carlton frowned. "You know what, let's just skip ahead to the part where you ask Vick for a new partner because I'm an idiot, and I'll—"

Juliet cut him off with a kiss.

Followed by a "Hell, no."

She drew back, but kept his lapel firmly in her grip.

He was still skeptical. His eyes blazed I want more but clearly his head wasn't willing to trust yet. "I've had a blow to the head, O'Hara. Spell this out for me."

Tugging at the lapel, she urged him back up the stairs and into her apartment, closing the door against the outside world.

"After the bomb went off," she said carefully, "you told me I was beautiful. You looked at me from the perspective of a man with nothing to hide. You had no emotional pain and no distrust. It was natural and it was you in a way I'd never seen you before. It woke me up."

His gaze was intense, a mesmerizing shade of blue, and he was still, absorbing her words.

"I kissed you because I wanted to. I couldn't help it. But if you think I was just kissing some guy who paid me a compliment, then maybe you don't have your full memory back, because the Carlton I know knows me better than that. He knows I wouldn't lie to him."

"He does know that." His voice was low. "He does."

"You do."

"Yes. I do." Carlton took a step closer to her, shaky hand touching her face gently. "I want to kiss you again."

"Good," she breathed, and enveloped herself into his warmth. His arms wrapped around her and he lowered his head and the kiss was gentle and delicious and knowing.

She was going to be late to work.

So.

The kiss stopped being gentle and started being hot-damn even before he had her up against the door, pressing hard to her body, and she understood how long and how much he'd wanted her… and how much time they'd both wasted. She should never have let him hide from the possibilities. She should have gone for this sooner.

Definitely late for work.

Yeah. So.

"I know who you are," she whispered.

"You're the only one," he whispered back.

"So are you," she said deliberately. He meant "who knows me."

She meant something else.

He understood, because his eyes grew wide and she could feel his hands trembling against her back. "Okay."

Juliet smiled. This was going to be an interesting… process. "So will you go back to the hospital until the doctor officially clears you?"

"Give me a minute," he said, and pulled her close again. "I want to make sure I'm not still dreaming."

She pinched his butt while he was kissing her, and he let out a hiss of surprise. "If you're dreaming, there must be a big ole bug in your bed."

"Don't put yourself down," he countered with a smirk.

Juliet laughed. "Careful, boy. You're not in bed yet."

But it wouldn't be long.

It might even be before she got him back to the hospital.

. . . .

. . .