Disclaimer: Own nothing psych-ish, claim nothing psych-ish, know nothing in general.
Summary: The return of the Lassiet Contrived One-Shot! Number Six: a little contrived neck-rubbing leads to hormonal mayhem.
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It had been five hours. Five hours spent in the conference room poring over documents retrieved from the basement of a suspected murderer, and Juliet had the most jabbing spasming neck-ache she could ever remember… at least since the last time they'd spent this much time hunched over papers and photos.
Across the table, Carlton's frown seemed to be permanent, his so-blue eyes focused on the scrawled notes in front of him. His sleeves were rolled up, his tie off, the top button undone. She could see that ever-tantalizing tuft of chest hair and with that thought, she straightened up and tried to change the channel in her mind because she did have a boyfriend, after all, and it wasn't the lean coffee-swilling cop in front of her.
"Dammit," he suddenly snapped, "I'm going blind over here." He leaned back hard in his chair, rubbing his face.
"I'm going quadriplegic," she muttered. "My neck is killing me."
"We have to stop."
"You say that, Carlton, but I know you. You'll talk me into quitting and then as soon as I've gone home you'll just come back in here and work until midnight."
"I can handle it." The frown was in place.
"And I can't?" She threw her pen down and tried to knead her own neck. "Forget it. We're suffering together, partner."
"I didn't say you couldn't handle it, O'Hara. You're no hothouse flower."
"Agreed." She glanced at him; he was smiling oh-so-slightly. "Why isn't your neck hurting you?"
"Because I'm made from sturdier Irish stock." His tone was challenging.
Juliet laughed. "Don't you erin–go-bragh me, potato-boy. You've got nothing on my sturdy Scots heritage."
"Yeah? Then what's with the lame neck, lassie?"
"It's not lame, it's just—" She stopped, gasping as her movement caused a stabbing pain between her shoulders.
Carlton was out of his chair in an instant, unmistakable concern on his face. "Promise me you won't sue for sexual harassment and I think I can help."
"Anything," she moaned, holding still.
He stood behind her and put his warm hands on her neck and upper shoulders and began massaging.
What have I done…? he's probably about to freak from touching me.
But she forgot that, because within a few seconds the spasm eased, and then as his long fingers continued to work her muscles, she began to feel not only better, but actually… good.
She managed, "Oh my God. Have you always known how to do this?"
"Yeah, I guess." He was still at work, and his smoky voice was oddly calming, along with the pressure of his fingers and palms. "Victoria used to ask for neck massages."
"I can see why." Juliet felt a little like gelatin from shoulders on down, and it was so very very nice. It was the best she'd felt all day, in fact.
Victoria should have stayed married to you just for this.
"You have no idea," she sighed. "But honestly I don't want you to stop yet."
Behind her, his laughter was low and warm and that was part of the experience: to hear him sounding relaxed and obviously glad to be doing this for her. She always felt beyond privileged that he seemed to tolerate her better than anyone else.
His hands were marvelous, really; she'd never dare to tell him they were long and graceful but they were, and feeling them on her neck was far too… inappropriately… delicious, and this was through the fabric of her blouse.
Imagine if he…
She was glad her head was down, because suddenly she knew her cheeks were flaming from a very specific image which had just popped into her head, an image which could get her into very serious damn trouble with the League of Good Girlfriends not to mention blow Carlton's mind completely.
Must be time to stop, if it felt this good.
"You okay now?" he asked, easing back.
"Yes. Wow. Thank you so much, Carlton." She hurriedly patted her cheeks—a little harder than necessary, hoping it would slap some sense back—while he moved back to his chair. "But you know what, I think we should both quit for today. Seriously. It's after seven and we're both wrecked."
"I hear you." He yawned, stretching out his arms, and she thought, bet you could use a massage too and damn my wandering mind you are a bad bad woman, Juliet O'Hara. Very bad.
"Enough," she said sharply, more to herself than him. She stood up. "Come on. We're out of here."
Lights off, door closed, back to their desks, collect what they needed, and then out to the parking lot. Carlton walked her to her Beetle.
Juliet looked him in the (ocean blue) eye(s) and said, "Promise me you will go home and sleep. Do not come back here. Do not even think about coming back here. Promise."
He looked down at her, both annoyed and amused—but he couldn't hide his tiredness either. "I promise. Do you want to get some dinner first or…" he stopped. "You probably have plans."
Shawn, he meant. But Shawn was always very hard to find when there was paperwork to be done. Or any other kind of work, she thought uncharitably.
She and Carlton used to have dinner on a semi-regular basis after long days, always casual of course, and generally spent talking about whatever case had them preoccupied, but it had been awhile. It had been since she started dating Shawn. She wasn't sure whether it was chance—a normal falling away from routine, or that he didn't feel right about it anymore, but she wished it wasn't like that. He was her partner and friend and she'd never intended to give him up just because she was dating Shawn.
"Dinner would be great. In fact, if we don't eat, I'll probably just stuff my face in a Pop Tart and you'll… what?"
"Frozen pizza? No wait, I have some leftover Chinese."
She rolled her eyes. "Come on then. Let's get some proper food."
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Lassiter let himself into his dark condo. Another night home alone—one of many, over many years—and yet he felt pretty good.
Tired, bleary and overstuffed with pasta, but good. He and Juliet had a nice dinner, Italian followed by gelato with only minimum case discussion, and he'd gotten her back into her car in time for them both to still get home and in bed by a decent hour.
Not that he would be able to fall asleep. Not while he could still feel her responding to his hands as he soothed her neck and shoulders earlier.
He really didn't know what possessed him to make the offer, but he was definitely and unduly glad he had. It was just that the sudden pain in her dark blue eyes had startled him into a feeling that he must help her at once, and if that meant putting his hands on her body and she was willing and it was between friends, by God, that was all there was to it.
And despite his expectations, he fell asleep… smiling… almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.
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Day three of studying faded old documents: but they'd been able to put together an impressive pile of evidence supporting their belief that the suspect had been involved in at least three other murders over twenty years.
They moved out of the conference room and to Juliet's computer to look up current data on other players in the case, and Lassiter stepped away to refill their coffee cups.
When he returned to her desk, she was rubbing her neck again, wincing.
"We need to wrap this case up," he said. "Before your neck gives out completely."
Juliet turned her head slightly—which obviously hurt—and smiled. "I'll make it. But, um, feel free to offer another 'treatment,' doctor."
"Out here?" He looked around the room warily. It was mid-day, with half the squad out to lunch.
"I'll pay you twenty dollars," she said grimly.
"Not necessary," he said, setting the mugs down. "I'm on the job."
She was already sighing gratefully, and he was much too happy to be doing this until the second his hands touched her skin… her bare skin.
Crap, she was wearing a scoop neck blouse today; no collar. Yesterday he'd never touched her skin because he worked through the back of her blouse, but today… well.
Still, she wasn't shying away.
And he did want to help her.
And he did want to touch her.
He touched her.
She let out a deep breath, and stayed put.
He kneaded her shoulders and her neck, concentrating on the places where she reacted the most, where the cramping was. Her skin was damnably soft and warm, and he felt like either the biggest perv or the luckiest man ever or, okay, both, to be allowed to have his bare hands directly on her skin.
Imagine if the dress was off too….
Lassiter jerked himself back to attention, massaging her steadily and wordlessly, because that was what she needed, not him drooling on her.
A few of the other detectives passed and glanced at them oddly; Miller started to say something and Lassiter gave him his patented death glare—but Miller was looking at Juliet when his expression changed to one of alarm, and he went away in a hurry.
"Did you just give Miller a dirty look?"
"Yes, I did," she said with satisfaction.
Lassiter laughed. "That's my partner."
By the way, your hair smells wonderful.
No, moron, you cannot say that.
"How's it feel now?" he asked.
"It feels like heaven has been served to me on a—"
"What the hell?" The voice was incredulous, disturbed and belonged to Shawn Spencer.
Lassiter stopped kneading for only one second. A perverse sense of "try and stop me" overcame him.
"Hi, Shawn," Juliet said semi-brightly, keeping still under Lassiter's hands.
Spencer was staring at the two of them. "Why are you mauling my girlfriend?"
"He's not mauling me." To Lassiter, she said, "Please don't stop."
Lassiter hadn't intended to.
"Jules, no way! Isn't there some rule about partners not being allowed to touch each other?" He glared at Lassiter. "In fact, isn't that what got you in trouble with your last—"
"Shut it, Shawn," she snapped.
"It's all right, O'Hara. If he wants to take over, he can." He stepped back.
"I should say so," Spencer huffed, moving behind Juliet. He'd have jostled Lassiter deliberately if Lassiter hadn't seen the intent and stepped aside in time.
But nearly as soon as he started, Juliet jerked away with a hiss of pain. "Ow, Shawn, not that hard."
Lassiter saw the frown and couldn't help but feel a flush of told-ya-so.
Spencer apologized. "Sorry, Jules. I was just warming up."
Sipping coffee, Lassiter watched as Spencer tried, but Juliet was not doing well under his 'ministrations.' After a minute or so of more wincing she finally said, "You know what, I think that'll do," and got up quickly, rubbing her neck as if it hurt all over again.
"Better?" Spencer asked hopefully, sure he'd nailed it.
"Uh, yeah," she mumbled, giving Lassiter a look which advised him to shut up.
Interesting. As if she felt guilty?
Spencer immediately forgot the whole thing and started asking questions about the case, and Lassiter decided it was time to wander off back to his own desk, because Psych hadn't yet been hired to consult and he was under no obligation to be forthcoming.
Still, he didn't miss Juliet's plaintive glance his way when he sat down, and that she kept enough distance between her and Spencer to be sure he didn't try to resume his attack on her neck.
Forget it, Lassiter. Just stick to the job.
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For the next week, Juliet was in a strange place psychologically.
She made an appointment to see a doctor… but didn't ask to get in quickly.
She wore collar-less or scoop-neck blouses most days, because… because Carlton's hands on her skin without the barrier of fabric had only enhanced the way his massage made her feel.
A completely backless dress and some body oil would do wonders too, said her Inner Hussy, but she couldn't make that work with the department dress code.
Her neck was actually much better, but every other day she succumbed to the urge to ask Carlton to lay hands on her again.
Shawn, she didn't want anywhere near her. He'd been so anxious to out-do Carlton that she'd had a headache all that night. Carlton's touch left her relaxed and dreamy.
Hussy-dreamy, for the most part, but that could be considered a technicality. Couldn't it?
Part of her simply didn't care. Her relationship with Carlton was complete in a way it could never be with Shawn, partly because they'd known each other for so long, and partly because Shawn didn't really want to be half of a united couple. He wanted to be the star in all things. He'd never even asked her once about her neck after that first time.
So, yeah, every other day she asked for a neck rub and Carlton would oblige. She tried to keep it to the conference room, but it was starting to not matter to her whether anyone saw or not. One day she nearly broke down and asked him twice.
He always said yes and his hands were always just right on her skin, kneading and massaging and soothing away everything except her growing need for more. For much more.
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They were waiting. They had a three p.m. meet with a potential whistleblower for an embezzlement ring, out in the back of nowhere on Friday afternoon.
Lassiter took his jacket off and rolled up his sleeves, and Juliet tossed her blazer in the back seat before she got out to pace the area in front of the car.
He noticed she was wearing another blouse without a collar. He was surprised she had so many; but he didn't mind. It made his illicit enjoyment of the increasingly regular neck massages all the more delicious.
Her skin was always so soft, and he enjoyed the close-up fragrance of her hair and light cologne. Lilacs, sometimes peaches… faint roses, all sunshine and good things.
He'd been having some incredible and altogether X-rated dreams about her but hoped, as he always hoped, that it didn't show at work in how he treated her, let alone during massages in how he touched her.
A text beep got his attention: their whistleblower was going to be twenty minutes late. A second text: Spencer and Guster were meeting them too.
Crap on yet another cracker. Getting out of the car, he stretched his legs and went around to Juliet's side to tell her they had another twenty minutes to go.
"Great," she said, and rubbed her neck.
Lassiter felt a familiar prickling. But he never offered: given his prurient thoughts about her of late, offering a neck rub was borderline creepy.
He leaned against the hood of the car, waiting. Hoping. Yes, he was.
"Carlton," she sighed. "Would you?"
Juliet did not hesitate. She came to him at once, turning her back, and because he was leaning on the hood he was eye-level with the back of her lovely head.
He spread his feet apart and suggested she back up further.
She did, again without hesitation, and he went to work. The inside of his knees brushed her legs from time to time, but he didn't do it deliberately, and she neither reacted nor moved away.
He kneaded her shoulders, dipping down just a very little onto her shoulder blades this time as well as her neck, and her sighs of contentment were all he needed to feel right about how unacceptably arousing it was.
"Lower," she murmured.
Lassiter complied, covering the entire breadth of her slim back, moving his hands up and down from neck to mid-back, frankly afraid that if she said "lower" again he'd end up in serious trouble.
"Lower, please," she whispered, almost too softly for him to hear. "More."
He swallowed, and God forbid she should turn around right now and look down. "O'Hara."
"Please. It feels so much better."
Hell yeah it did, and he wasn't even the one getting fondled.
Hands down to the small of her back, and up again. Slow stroking. Her shivers incredible to feel under his palms. He put his hands on her waist and slid them up, not so far as her bra line but close enough. If she leaned back suddenly he would find himself cupping her perfect breasts—he didn't need to see them to know they were perfect—but she stood still, and she had to know this was dangerous and they were entering a very gray area.
Returning his hands to the relative safety of her back, he contemplated the zipper of her top, and undoing it with his teeth.
Hmm. No. Save that for a daydream.
"Carlton." Her voice was a caress. He was both glad and disappointed he couldn't see her face, but mostly he was glad because if their eyes met, she would see what he couldn't afford to have her see.
She reached down and behind herself and clasped his hands, and he let her—heart pounding—draw them back to her waist.
All the way up.
She stopped when his fingers were on the underside of her breasts, and her hands over his were trembling.
All he could think was Oh, God do I want her.
A horn honked: the Blueberry trundled into view.
Juliet stepped away rapidly but stumbled against his outstretched foot, and he caught her arm to stop her falling. This turned her to face him, and her eyes were as wide—as desperate—as he felt his probably were too.
"Easy, girl," he murmured, and held her gaze until slamming car doors broke the spell.
Except it wasn't easy at all, was it. And that was the last time she was going to invite him to touch her. He knew it like he knew his own name.
Shawn approached rapidly, leaving Gus in his dust. "Was that another neck rub?" he demanded.
"Don't even start, Shawn," she warned.
"What? Don't start what? I keep finding your partner's hands on your body and you tell me not to start something?"
Lassiter reached into his pocket for his sunglasses, which he put on unhurriedly.
Juliet was glaring at her boyfriend. "It's not like that and you know it."
Gus caught up. "What's going on?"
Because he wanted this to end quickly for Juliet's sake, Lassiter said acidly, "Spencer caught me ripping his girlfriend's clothes off."
Gus' jaw dropped, and Spencer turned on Lassiter. "More like you had your hands on her lower back and unless I'm very much mistaken, that is not where the neck is!"
Thank God… they must have been in the process of making the last turn when his hands were most definitely no longer on her back.
"Shawn, enough. My neck pain extended down and I asked Carlton to massage lower. Stop already."
Cover-up. Guilt. Should I feel encouraged?
Didn't matter… he knew there'd never be another opportunity for Spencer to get bent.
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Juliet didn't sleep all night. She picked a fight with Shawn in the evening when they were over at the Psych office—well, honestly, another Friday watching Saved By the Bell with Gus, and the pizza place on speed-dial?—but wasn't sure he even noticed.
She couldn't get her mind off of Carlton. Off of what she'd done. Off of what she'd encouraged him to do... off of the feeling of his knees against her legs, his breath faintly brushing her neck, his fingers on her… his hands so very close to cupping her breasts: and how desperately she'd wanted and craved all of it.
What a selfish bitch she was. She knew it.
There was only one thing to do. Well, there were two, and she took care of the hard one first.
The scary one was second. On Saturday morning, she went to Carlton's condo. She didn't call to warn him she was coming over. She knew he'd be there, and if he wasn't, that would be a sign she should just leave things alone.
Except she probably wouldn't.
He opened the door after her first knock. In his dark gray tee and worn jeans, hair tousled but so soft-looking, he was as attractive to her as ever. Actually more.
"Come in," he said, gesturing, and she went as far as the dining table. "What's up?"
"My neck hurts." Her voice was small. She was losing her nerve.
A faint scowl crossed his face. "O'Hara. You can't… I can't…" But he trailed off.
He thought she was using him.
"Carlton, please. I just… I need this. I need… you."
He ran his hands through his hair roughly. "Look, this isn't right. I… dammit."
"Carlton," she said again, pleading. She just wanted him so and…
He advanced on her abruptly, almost backing her into the table, taking her breath away. "You know I don't have any trouble making decisions on the job, whether it's about drawing my weapon, judging probable cause, or figuring out when a suspect is lying—it's easy. So when it comes to women… to you… I need to be just as decisive if I want to keep my sanity."
Sanity was overrated.
His blue eyes were dark with… God, it was amazing, whatever it was. "I have to decide, O'Hara. I have to decide whether to throw you out of here—to a chiropractor and to your boyfriend—or whether to… hell, whether to do this." He grasped her upper arms and pulled her to him, and the next thing she knew, he was kissing her.
His mouth was hot and ardent and dear God, perfect, and Juliet didn't even consider not kissing him back with as much passion as he was showing her. His lips, his teeth, his tongue—meeting hers, hungry for hers, perfect for hers.
Then he nearly shoved her away again, although he didn't back up. She was still hemmed in between him and the table.
His eyes were the deep blue of a thousand languorous nights in bed.
"So what's it going to be, O'Hara? The boyfriend, or my hands all over your damned body?"
"Like that's a choice," she muttered, and flung her arms around his neck, kissing him with pent-up ferocity.
It was hard to tell who was more desperate for whom, and when he lifted her to sit on the edge of the table, her legs automatically wrapped fully around him and there was no air left between them at all.
Damn, the man could kiss. She felt naked already.
His mouth on her throat, she managed to gasp out, "I ended it with Shawn before I came over. Now will you please, please, please take me to bed?"
"Yes," he growled, already tugging at her shirt, pulling it over her head and making short work of her bra while she shimmied out of her jeans.
They didn't make it to the bedroom, however. Not the first time. The first time was right there on the table.
The second time was on the loveseat.
The third time was in the shower.
The fourth time—and it was dark now—was in his bed.
... after a lovely, lovely massage, his hands all over her body just like he'd warned her.
Juliet sighed against Carlton's furred chest. "I hope you don't mind if I still have trouble with my neck now and then."
"Nope." He stroked her arm. "Any time is good for me."
"You do know I'd be happy to rub any part of your body which gives you trouble, right?"
Carlton laughed. "I appreciate that."
"I should probably admit I sometimes didn't really need a neck rub."
"I should probably admit I suspected that," he countered. "But I was too busy enjoying pawing you to say so."
Juliet purred, "I was too busy enjoying being pawed."
Carlton kissed her, kind of hard, and she already felt as if this was exactly where she should always have been.
"We've just complicated a lot of things," he murmured, fingertips trailing along her earlobe tantalizingly.
"I can take it. Remember, I'm a hardy Scots lass."
"So you are." He smiled as he kissed her again.
"More importantly," she whispered, "I'm your hardy Scots lass."
For that, he offered to massage her with only his tongue.
Juliet said yes, of course.
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