Disclaimer: if psych were my show, I'd be rich, but it's not, so I write fanfic.

Rating: T

Summary: In my Lassiet Contrived Cliché One-Shot series, this one tackles temporary blindness… but I can already tell it's going past one chapter. So here we go with the first round!

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. . . .

It was nothing like a typical Thursday afternoon, Lassiter knew that much.

For one thing, Juliet was in a direct line with their suspect, who had a gas canister containing something he'd cooked up in his home lab, and he sprayed it in her face.

She screamed in pain—Lassiter's heart just about split in two—and the suspect took off running.

This marked the first time Lassiter had ever not chased a bad guy, because there was no way he was leaving Juliet.

He cradled her in his arms, letting someone else go after Vandiver, yelling for EMTs. Juliet's hands were on her face as she sobbed, her shoulders shaking. He held her tight; whether she took any comfort from this he had no idea, but he only knew he had to stay with her.

Stay with Juliet.

Vandiver was taken down and the EMTs rushed in and whisked Juliet off to the hospital.

Lassiter stood in the rapidly emptying office complex, his mind and heart racing in keen competition.

. . . .

. . .

Hours later at the hospital, he was one of the few allowed in the room when the doctor gave his pronouncement to Juliet.

She was small and frightened in the bed, her eyes bandaged, her hands trembling as she clutched the sheets.

Chief Vick was at Lassiter's side and Spencer and Guster were in the corner. Spencer looked shaken, and Gus looked, as ever, like he was about to be sick.

The doctor asked Juliet if she wanted the room cleared and she said no, relatively firmly. "These people are the closest I have to family here."

He talked matter-of-factly and Lassiter tried his best to listen—damn him, why couldn't he concentrate? he excelled at concentrating under stress—and what he came away with was that her eyes were to remain bandaged for 72 hours, and she should return Monday morning at 8:00 for the removal of said bandages. Most likely the damage was superficial and would heal if she took good care of herself, and, the doctor added, she should expect to use eyedrops and wear very dark glasses for the next few weeks.

Juliet asked quietly what would happen if 72 hours wasn't enough. The doctor said she should worry about one thing at a time. She had not lost her vision, but the surface of her eyes had been damaged and that would take time to heal properly lest there be scarring.

Her eyes are so beautiful, Lassiter thought. They go with the sunny smile. They have to be all right.

Thank God she's all right.

They'd been in danger before; they'd each been injured before, but this was different. The doctor was even saying she was probably going to be just fine.

So why was it different?

Because he'd only held her as she cried one other time, after Yin. Because she'd only clung to him like that one other time.

Because Juliet in fear and distress was more painful to him than the prospect of being gut-shot himself.

Patting Juliet on the arm, and adding that she'd be discharged in a short while, the doctor left the room after nodding at the others.

"I'll take good care of you, Jules," said Spencer with confidence. "We'll set you up at the Psych office on our best sofa, and—"

"We only have the one sofa," Gus reminded him.

"Gus, I can't do this with you right now." Spencer advanced to the bed and took Juliet's hand. "You'll be in good company with us."

Juliet sighed. "I'm sure I would, but I'd rather not stay at Psych."

Asshat. He shouldn't need to be told that.

"But Jules, we can keep an eye on you—ha, get it? An eye?—over the weekend. We have a fully-stocked fridge, some good TiVo, and—"

"She can't watch TV, Shawn, and the fridge is empty. You've been promising to refill it all week. Plus I have to work tomorrow." Gus joined Spencer at the side of the bed. "But Shawn can stay with you."

"Can stay? Gus, I will stay. That's not even in question. The will is there, man. The way is there. Everything's there. And that's why Jules needs to be there too."

"Shawn," she said very firmly—and Lassiter marveled that he could detect her resolve without actually seeing it in her eyes—"I want to go to my own place. If I'm going to be essentially blind for the next three days, I will be much more comfortable in my own surroundings."

Spencer hemmed. "But you can't see them, Jules. And in the dark, a bed's a bed, right?"

"There's no bed at Psych, Shawn," Gus warned him.

Chief Vick asked carefully, "Is there a reason she can't stay with you, Mr. Spencer?"

Because he's an asshat.

"Me? Well. I don't know, Chief. I'm not sure she'd be—" He hesitated. "But I'll tell you what. Gus' place is good. Gus, you have clean sheets on the bed, right? And—"

Gus cut him off. "Take her to her place."

"Yes, please." Juliet was relieved.

"But—"

"Spencer," Lassiter snapped. "Your girlfriend is asking you to take her home, so take her the hell home!"

He instantly thought he'd get in trouble for that, but Juliet smiled with obvious gratitude. "Carlton! I thought you left." She held out her hand, and he went over to take it, noting Spencer eyeing him suspiciously.

"Of course I'm here, O'Hara. I don't walk out on my partner." He was gruff, but knew she could see right through him, bandaged eyes or not.

Her hand was cool and her grip firm, and he was surprised at her fervor. "Thank you. And thank you for before."

Spencer immediately asked, "Before? Before what?"

"When it happened," she said softly, still squeezing Lassiter's hand, her head down. "He took care of me."

"Well, I'm taking care of you now," Spencer declared. "And if you want to go home, I will take you home, because that's the kind of guy I am."

"Glad to hear it, Spencer." He couldn't keep the acid out of his tone.

If you consider me taking care of my partner something you have to get puffed up about, fine—as long as she gets home where she most wants to be.

Chief Vick must have sensed matters deteriorating, because she stepped forward. "Carlton and I are leaving, Juliet, but call if you need anything. I'll check in tomorrow and I'm sure Carlton will be in touch as well."

"She'll need to rest," Spencer informed them somewhat haughtily.

The Chief raised her eyebrows. "Right. Like I said, we'll be in touch."

Lassiter allowed himself to briefly cover Juliet's hand with both of his, and she smiled in his direction. "Anything you need, partner, just call."

"Thank you, Carlton. So very much."

"She won't need anything from you so long as I'm there, Lassie."

Vick was on her way out and Juliet couldn't see, so Lassiter gave him the finger before he left.

. . . .

. . .

"Lassiter," he barked into the phone, not looking away from the TV, where John Wayne was explaining things to Kim Darby.

But that was forgotten once he heard Juliet's anxious, "Carlton?"

"O'Hara. What's wrong?" He was already judging how fast he could get her back to the hospital and what kind of medical personnel would be working at 8:20 in the evening. Were they end-of-shifters, mid-shifters or fresh on the job?

"Would you come get me and take me home?"

"Yes," he said automatically. Then, "Wait. Where are you?"

Unhappy sigh. "I'm at the Psych office. Would you come get me? Now?"

"I'm on my way, but why the hell are you there?" He was on his feet, finding his shoes, looking for keys.

"I'll tell you when you get here. Please, just… I want to be gone before they get back."

"They left you?" It was nearly a roar, and elicited from her a small laugh.

"Just hurry."

"I'll be there in thirteen and a half minutes," he said grimly.

. . . .

. . .

Juliet sat in the chair closest to the door, unsettled and exhausted and pissed off.

I will not cry. Crying is bad with bandaged eyes. Carlton will be here soon.

He didn't even knock on the door; she heard—felt—him stride into her black world, his voice anxious and yet determined. "O'Hara."

"That was less than thirteen minutes," she commented, feeling his hands clasping her arms, already calming down.

"Twelve," he admitted. "I used the siren half the way over. Are you okay?"

She felt a smile at the idea of him racing to get her. "Is my Beetle out front?"

"Yeah, I saw it." He was close; his warmth bathing her in unexpected comfort.

"Then unless Gus has my keys, they should be around here somewhere. And my overnight bag, the one I keep in the car—it should be here somewhere too." She hadn't moved since she'd called him. The office, in her memory, was a minefield of furniture and toys and little shifting oddities and she had no intention of falling and disappearing into the madness.

Carlton let her go and went looking. "Got the keys. This light brown bag is yours, right? Yeah, your nametag's on it." He came back to her, hand on her arm again. "You ready?"

Juliet stood up, shaky despite everything, and didn't have to say anything; Carlton carried her bag and firmly grasped her elbow to lead her out.

The cool air was refreshing and yet nothing was as nice as being in his car, door locked, seatbelt on, knowing she was finally going home.

"How did you end up there?" he demanded after he got in beside her, and somehow his ire was comforting too.

"Well, I thought he was taking me to my place. Gus followed in my car, and I had no idea we were coming here until I was inside and could smell the Doritos."

Even Carlton's faint sound of disgust made her feel better. "What was his reason for going against everything you emphatically wanted and which he'd promised to do?"

Touching the gauze over her eyes lightly, carefully, Juliet let out a breath. "He was sure I would be more comfortable there, curled up on their sofa while they watched TV I couldn't see and ate food I didn't want."

"Asshat," he grumbled. "So why did they leave you alone?"

"In a nutshell, there was a long stupid argument about the empty fridge and the fact that Shawn was supposed to buy groceries but didn't have any money and Gus wouldn't use his credit card because it was Shawn's turn, but he also wouldn't let the fridge stay empty with me there, and there was a side discussion about what food Shawn wanted to buy, and what Gus thought he should buy, and Shawn wanted to take the card and go but Gus didn't trust him to give the card back, so in the end, they had to go together."

"That was a nutshell?"

"Actually, yes. What time is it now?"

"8:36."

"Good," she said with relief. "Plenty of escape time. They were coming back before nine so they could start watching a Rockford Files marathon."

Carlton snapped, "Asshats. Colossal, monumental, gigantor asshats. Leaving you alone and blind in their rattrap office just hours after a potentially serious injury—my God, I should write them both tickets for—"

Juliet reached over and found his arm—so tense—and he immediately relaxed and went quiet. "I'm safe now, thanks to you. And to be honest, at the end I was encouraging them to just get out already, because I knew the second they were gone, I could call you." She couldn't bring herself to let go of him: he was the anchor she'd been looking for, ever since he'd first held her in the office complex.

He sighed now, and let her pull his hand from the steering wheel so she could hold it. She'd never done that before today, and easily imagined his frown, but felt no tension in his warm hand around hers. Despite his seemingly remote exterior, he was a man who knew a lot more than he realized about just… being still. And after a year of Shawn, she really appreciated a man who could be still.

"I'm sorry I didn't think to ask you this on the phone, but will you stay tonight? I have a spare room and you probably have your own overnight bag in the trunk and I know it's an imposition this suddenly but I'd really appreciate it—"

"O'Hara," he said sternly, squeezing her hand firmly. "Yes. I wasn't about to leave you alone, even if you made me sleep on the doorstep."

"You'd make a most excellent guard," she agreed.

"How are you feeling?" His question was abrupt.

How was she feeling… "The gauze itches and my eyes… they burn. Like I'm in heavy smoke. I need to take another pain pill in an hour—my head is killing me." She was tired, too. So tired. "I just want to take a shower and change into my softest jammies and lie down and sleep. For like, two days."

He squeezed her hand again. "You're almost there, O'Hara."

She believed it now. She knew she could believe whatever he told her, and he'd take care of her.

Why couldn't I get this from Shawn?

. . . .

. . .

Lassiter guided Juliet up the stairs to her apartment and unlocked her door.

The second she stepped inside, he could tell she felt a hundred times better; her stress seemed to dissipate. "Thank God," she murmured. "Thank you, Carlton."

He made her sit down while he went to get their bags, and when he returned, she was slumped against the sofa cushions, looking every bit as vulnerable as she had in the hospital bed this afternoon.

"O'Hara," he said softly. "You okay?" He knelt before the sofa, not touching her but wanting to.

Straightening up immediately, she assured him she was… and then her stomach growled.

"When's the last time you ate?"

"Shawn brought me some cookies from the snack machine at the hospital."

"You say that like…" He stopped. No need. "And he's been with you the last four hours?"

Juliet smiled slightly. "I'm okay, Carlton. I was a little too agitated to want anything earlier. He's the one who insisted I have the cookies."

One point for the nimrod, then. "Well, before you do anything else, we're getting you fed. What's in your kitchen? What are you in the mood for?" He headed that way, and when he glanced back, Juliet was following. "Easy there, O'Hara—"

"I can walk," she reminded him, "and I do know this place in the dark." She moved carefully around the sofa and end table, reaching out to find the back of the chair as she passed, and caught up with him in the doorway.

"Very nice. Can you find your kitchen table?"

A cheeky grin—adorable, he thought, and he didn't use words like adorable—somehow made the eye bandages looked almost comical, but when she stumbled against the closest chair he forgot that and stepped over to get her to her destination.

"Not without incident," she laughed. "You know what I'd like? Ham on rye. I have some marvelous sliced ham in the fridge and the rye's from that bakery near the station."

Lassiter inspected the fridge, but found no ham. "Is it in a container?"

"Yes, one of those clear plastic ones with a light blue lid."

He caught a glimpse of the lid… in the sink. Near the empty container. "When's the last time you had any of it?"

"I made a sandwich for my lunch. There was plenty left. You don't see it?" But before he answered, she exclaimed, "Dammit! Is the container in the sink? Shawn said he was coming by this morning to pick up his Belvedere DVDs. Did he eat my ham?"

The tone in her voice was part outrage, part woundedness, and he studied her body language with some trepidation: all the tension was back. Her hands were in fists and her mouth formed a mutinous line and he needed to get her under control no matter how much he wanted to go punch Spencer for yet another careless act.

"You have eggs and cheese. How about I scramble some up and make toast to go with it? Got any jam? How about a cup of tea?"

"Oh," she said, deflating. "That sounds wonderful. Especially the tea and toast."

He found her cookie tin—thankfully Spencer had spared that—and waved a chocolate chip cookie under her nose. "To tide you over."

Ah… there was the smile. Lassiter felt better and hoped she would pretty soon.

. . . .

. . .

Well fed—Carlton was highly skilled at egg scrambling, as it turned out—and after a large mug of tea to soothe her frazzled nerves, Juliet allowed him to guide her to her bedroom.

His smoky voice—unexpectedly calming up until now—took on a bit of an edge. "I'm sure you can find everything you need just by touch but don't spend too much time in the shower, all right? I'm likely to freak out if I don't know you're okay in there."

Juliet smiled, and patted his hand where he grasped her arm. "I promise. I just want a quick rinse and then I'll be out."

"Okay," he said reluctantly. "I'll be pacing nervously in the hall."

It was on the tip of her tongue to joke that he could come in and supervise but she held it back, pretty sure he'd run out in a panic.

Although… maybe not…

She moved carefully in the persistent dark. She knew her apartment well, and told herself her eyes weren't really bandaged, that she merely had them squeezed shut for a late-night trip to the loo, unready to face the light and fully wake.

The shower was marvelous. Warm water, soothing, refreshing. She stayed in probably longer than Carlton would like, but it was just so very damn nice, on top of a good meal and the lovely tea, and how much better she felt just being home.

Away from Shawn.

Juliet…*tsk, tsk*

Shawn. Crap. He'd be calling—or worse, showing up—any second now. This motivated her to finish up, to dry herself off and find those soft comfy flannel pajama pants and her old U of Miami tee—she knew it by its very threadbareness—and her favorite soft green robe. She'd washed her hair, careful not to get the bandages wet, and finger-combed it while calling out to Carlton that she was fine and would be with him in a second.

But when she opened the door to the hall, Carlton thrust her phone into her hand. "Spencer just called. I didn't think you'd want me to talk to him."

It rang again immediately, and some of her new good mood vanished.

With a sigh, she felt for the 'talk' button. "Hi, Shawn."

Letting Carlton steer her back to the kitchen, she listened to Shawn carrying on about where she'd gone and why she hadn't left a note, and oh yeah she couldn't see where the paper and pens were but still, she could have left some message, maybe spelled out with Cheerios from the box on the desk, no wait, she couldn't see that either, and come to think of it, the box was empty, and seriously, Jules, seriously, "Where are you?"

"I'm home. Where I wanted to be the whole time."

Carlton was doing something at the sink… refilling the kettle, she decided, and maybe one more cup of tea would be nice.

"Jules, I was worried! I thought you'd been kidnapped. Wait… you're home? How did you get there? Your bug's still out front."

"I called Carlton to come get me."

Carlton was still for a moment, but then she heard him move again.

Corresponding pause from Shawn. "Lassie? You called Lassie."

"Yes."

"Jules, why? If you wanted to go home, all you had to do was—"

"Oh for the love of God, Shawn, how the hell many times did I tell you I wanted to go home?"

Carlton muttered something. Most likely 'asshat.'

Shawn protested. "I didn't know how serious you were! I just wanted you to be in good company. If you'd just given it a chance, really—and you still could, you know."

Asshat.

"No. I am home, and I am here to stay. I've been well fed, I've had my shower, and I'm ready to go to sleep."

"You can't stay there by yourself, Jules. Let me come get you and—"

"I'm not by myself. Carlton is staying in the guest room tonight."

"What?" he screeched. "No way, Jules, that's going above and beyond the call of partnership."

Juliet thought, you don't know what partnership is. Even with Gus, you have no idea. "I disagree profoundly, Shawn. Now, I apologize for leaving you wondering and I do appreciate what you were trying so very misguidedly to do for me, but I'm really tired and I have got to sleep. I'll call you tomorrow." Click.

"Well done," Carlton said mildly. "Cookie with your tea?"

She was so proud of him. She might not have been proud if she could see the look in his eyes or the frown on his face—because she knew damned well they were there—but he was keeping most of the fury out of his tone, and for that, she was grateful. And impressed.

. . . .

. . .

Lassiter was turning the pages of one of Juliet's books when she made her way out of her room carefully.

"Carlton?"

"O'Hara," he said, getting up. "You all right?"

"Yeah…" She touched her temples. "Can't sleep. My head's killing me. Is it time for me to take another pain pill?"

He guided her to the sofa. "It's nearly one. Close enough."

She plopped down, and immediately lay on her side, yawning. "Why are you still awake?"

"Been a crazy day. Hang on while I get the pill." He went to the kitchen for a glass of water and the pill. He'd tried sleeping in the guest room but after a couple of hours gave it up and returned to the living room. Maybe he'd sensed she'd be out herself.

Juliet was still yawning when he sat down beside her, and agreed to sit up enough to take the glass and pill from him.

"You sitting out here reminds me of when I was a kid and couldn't sleep. I'd come out and always find my mother awake and reading."

"And what would she do for you?" he asked, taking the glass when she'd finished.

"Well, today she'd say that if I were already married, I'd only have to pretend to have headaches."

Lassiter laughed, and her grin was worth much of the stress of the day.

"Oh," she said suddenly, the smile gone. "You have to work tomorrow."

"I can stay. You know I have plenty of leave time." He hesitated. "Unless you want to give Spencer another chance."

He suspected she was frowning, but the bandages hid her eyebrows.

"I don't know about that," she said slowly. "I suppose I might have to."

No stress, he reminded himself. "You can decide in the morning. I'll call Vick and tell her I'll be late if I do come in. You won't be by yourself, and I don't mind staying."

"Thank you." She relaxed again. "You have no idea. I know he's my boyfriend and he means well but he's just so exhausting and I don't need that this weekend."

"No, you don't." That was as neutral as he could make it. She already knew he had more to say on the subject of Spencer.

"Not that I expect you to wait on me the whole time, either." Her tone had a but I won't mind if you do aspect.

"O'Hara. Partner. I'm here until you throw me out. Besides, you know I'm obsessive. I won't think anyone can do as good a job as I can watching over you."

Juliet smiled again. "No one can, I suspect." She rubbed her temples again, and he wished to do that for her. "Were you reading?"

"Yeah—a book about a boy and his horse."

Juliet tilted her head. "A boy and his… My Friend Flicka?"

"That's what it's about, right?" he asked somewhat defensively.

"Oh, I love it when you're open-minded," she said with a laugh. "It's a wonderful story." Sighing, she lay back down on the sofa, her head almost brushing his thigh, and he fought the urge to stroke her hair. "You should read it to me."

"I don't think so, O'Hara."

"Why not? You have a really nice voice when you're not barking orders or yelling at Shawn." Another yawn.

Thank God she couldn't see his blush.

"I could sleep here," she mused.

"Well, you're not going to."

She was disappointed. "Ohhhh… why not?"

"Because I don't want you to be totally disoriented when you wake up the next time. Come on, let's get you back to your room."

"But I'm comfortable."

"You'll be comfortable there, too." He took a chance. "Tell you what—I'll read you to sleep. I think I have parts of the California Penal Code memorized."

She laughed, and not for the first time did God I love you flit through his mind and heart.

"It's Flicka or nothing," she argued.

"Just get back to your room and we'll see."

With a moue of protest, she got up and let him herd her back to her bedroom—how odd to think he'd touched her more today than he had in a year—where she crawled back into her bed after slipping the green robe off. "Don't leave me," she said sternly.

"I won't." He settled into the rocking chair after turning on the bedside lamp. "Do you want me to start with felonies or—"

"Carlton!" But she was amused. "Flicka. Chapter one. Go."

And damn him, he could not say no to her. Not today. Maybe not ever again.

He opened the book, and began to read. "High up on the long hill they called the Saddle Back, behind the ranch and the county road, the boy sat on his horse facing east, his eyes dazzled by the rising sun."

. . . .

. . .

. .

My Friend Flicka, by Mary O'Hara, c1941.