Disclaimer: No part of psych is mine except my Carlton Lassiter talking bobble-head.
Rating: T, with discussion of M.
Summary: Truthfully? I was looking for an excuse to vent about bad writing, so I contrived this workplace scenario where Carlton and Juliet could discuss erotica. No Shules, no Carlowe.
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It seemed like a simple task.
The suspect, Elaine Sikes, was playing coy. She said everything they would need to know about how she committed the murders—or whether she committed them—was detailed within her journals. If they went through her writings, they would have the answers.
Thus Juliet and Carlton were planted in the conference room, a dozen leather-bound journals on the table between them. They contained Elaine's musings, her essays, her erotica—a lot of erotica—her recipes, and occasionally an entry on embezzlement tips as well as how to hide bodies. There was no rhyme or reason to any of it, so they both trudged through, ready to make note of pages and sections where crime-related details appeared.
Three hours later, four journals finished (turning up one chatty note about her favorite poisons and another about the rate of corpse decay), Juliet had grown incredibly tired of Elaine's unwieldy and amateurish prose. Most of the journal presently in her reluctant hands was erotica, and while she had no problem with erotica itself, what she was reading wasn't even good erotica.
(She was also a bit… overly aware… of reading said erotica in the same room with her partner, who was also reading erotica. Along with recipes for casseroles.)
Impatience won out. "Shoot me already," she snapped. "I'm not sure how much more of this I can take."
Carlton's cool blue gaze met hers, and he gestured to the journal he was reading. "It's not any better over here."
"Seriously. How many references to moist cores and velvety sheaths can there be? Not to mention throbbing members," she added grimly, and then looked down at once, realizing her reserved partner might not be ready to hear her say anything at all about throbbing members.
But he inquired smoothly, "More than one at a time?"
She had to laugh. "Not so far, thank God." She was pleased he could joke about it. She was also pleased she hadn't spent more than a few seconds thinking about his throbbing member.
"I'm having trouble," he said as if this were a normal chat, "with all this biting. I'm not talking love-bites, either. Elaine has everyone biting hard. I keep expecting some guy to end up with a piece of ear between his teeth and start screaming."
"Well, I might start screaming if I read about one more wet nub." Crap, she'd done it again.
To cover her fear of Carlton's reaction, she slugged back the last of her cold coffee. Stealing a glance at him, she was relieved to see he only seemed amused, his gaze back on the journal. "What she needs is a writing class."
What I need is to quit throwing phrases like 'wet nub' out there.
"Maybe she can find one in prison. Ah, finally something relevant. I found a great price on lye in a little out of the way garden shop today. I wonder how much I need to cover an adult male's body?" He jotted it down, along with the entry date. "That's the first useful thing in eighty damn pages."
Juliet was instantly cranky again. "You're lucky. All I've got is a lot of crappy porn where everyone whimpers or snorts dialogue. Or they state and reply—the two most boring words ever. When she's feeling wild, they gasp or laugh dialogue. Or hiss it. Or even pout it. I don't think she knows the word 'said.'" She stared at the page in frustration. "Oh my God, now here's a line where the guy smirks softly. What the hell? Can you smirk loudly?"
Carlton laughed. "In Elaine-ville you can. Maybe we can turn this into a poker game, O'Hara. For starters, I'll see your smirks softly and raise you one stated passionately along with a hissed hotly."
"Call," she challenged. "Show me what ya got."
Seriously? Show me. Right here in the conference room. C'mon.
"I don't think so," he said, and his smirk (which was soundless, as smirks should be) made her laugh. Once again she was glad he could joke about this. Not too many years ago he'd have been out of the room red-faced after the first fifteen minutes.
Reading resumed, but Juliet found herself in a situation she wasn't ready for: this sex story featured a long-fingered man.
What Elaine wrote about this long-fingered man doing to the heroine was, if awkwardly written, fairly specific and not without erotic merit. Given how she'd admired Carlton's similarly long-fingered hands over the years, today was really not the day to be (re)considering the things she was considering. Especially with him sitting across the table, top shirt button undone and tie loose, black and silver hair tousled and looking much too touchable.
Stop it. Stop it. Stop it.
Fortunately, Elaine's low-quality writing helped snap her out of this mood, and she was annoyed again, enough to break the silence.
"Another thing I hate: thought to myself. I know people say it all the time but it's dumb, and it's all over her stories."
Carlton frowned in mock surprise. "What if it's a paranormal story? Where she can think to someone else?"
"Then it would be a mediocre paranormal story, instead of mediocre porn."
"Ah." Before she could answer, he went on with puzzlement, "What I want to know is, what's with all the lip crushing?"
Juliet looked at him blankly. "The what?"
"She keeps describing kisses as lips being crushed, crashed, smashed and mashed together. I don't know about you, O'Hara, but I've always thought lips should remain intact while kissing."
She laughed. "Like earlobes."
"Exactly!" he agreed with a grin, but he looked away from her, and she couldn't blame him. This was by far the most unexpected conversation they'd ever had in all their years together.
Overdue, too. If he only knew. . .
. . . then he'd have reassigned me to another partner a long time ago.
"Violent encounter," she said, "if he bit hard on her earlobe and then crushed his lips against hers."
Carlton smiled wickedly. "In real life, she'd sue for damages, but the jury would say his permanently crushed lips were punishment enough, and he'd die a lonely man."
"Whereas she'd just wear her hair long on that side for the rest of her life," Juliet countered, and they both laughed.
They read on, and Juliet tried to keep her mind on the journal rather than the idea of discussing erotica so casually with Carlton. Or, needless to say, experiencing erotica with him. He was, after all, a rather attractive man, lean and strong, and she wasn't even going to let herself imagine his very remarkable blue eyes expressing passion.
Any more than she already had, that is.
Which was, um, a lot over the past few years.
You're actually learning a bit about his tastes. Ever think of that?
To get her mind away from that topic (although in retrospect she realized her next question didn't exactly help), she jabbed her finger at an annoying paragraph and demanded, "Why are all these women announcing their orgasms? Geez. If your partner can't tell, he's not doing it right."
Carlton didn't even hesitate. "Well, if she's a moaner he might need a little help telling which one is the last one, but what gets me is when the man has to announce it." One eyebrow up, he seemed to be challenging her to argue.
She did not, and hoped she wasn't pink of cheek right now. "Hey, a recipe for blancmange."
"Ooooh," he said dryly.
"There's more!" She picked up a pen and wrote down what she found in the middle of the recipe, reading it to him after. "Ten paces behind the oak tree looks like a great place to bury Harold. There's even a smiley face."
"Cheerful killers make me nervous."
"Cheerful people make you nervous."
It was a compliment, despite the dismissive way he said it. "I did when I first got here."
"Yeah, maybe. But I had a lot to be nervous about back then."
True, she thought. In the throes of a separation, in the aftershock of an exposed affair with his former partner, dealing with the newfound nuisance of Shawn Spencer, and then a new young inexperienced partner who happened to be female and single? Her good cheer must have seemed more assault than balm.
"You don't anymore," she assured him.
He shrugged. "It's all in the eye of the beholder." Returning his attention to the journal, he muttered something about porn with doilies (doilies?) and Juliet had no choice but to pick up where she left off with hers—because she really, really didn't want clarification on his.
Elaine carried on awhile about growing seasons and her troubles canning beans, threw in a remark about Harold having resisted valiantly, moved on to her list of the best places to buy plastic sheeting, and then went back to erotica.
Which was bad apart from being, well, bad, because this tale involved a man with black hair and blue eyes, and Juliet could not help but see Carlton in the role of Seamus.
Seamus was very good with his tongue, so it seemed, and Kelly, his maiden in the story, was reduced to an understandably quivering heap before he was done with her.
Juliet was trying hard not to shift in her chair—be still, be STILL, and control your breathing—as she read. The writing was still clunky, but the unbidden imagery of Carlton doing these things to her (not Kelly, God forbid) was making her feel things she shouldn't be feeling on a workday afternoon.
She surreptitiously glanced at him. He was half-frowning at the page, but after a moment she realized he was restless too.
Perchance his color was a little high, even.
Maybe, when he suddenly raked a hand through his hair, his breathing was a bit faster.
"More coffee," he said abruptly, flipping the book over and standing up, leaning over to collect her mug—suddenly in her space—his vivid blue eyes briefly giving a glimpse of something which wasn't a need for caffeination.
"Okay." Did she sound shaky?
Carlton strode out, and she instantly reached across the table and picked up his journal. It only took a few seconds to see what might have caused his sudden departure: the first paragraph she read featured a man doing to a woman what Seamus had just been doing to Kelly, and the woman was a blue-eyed blonde.
Oh come on, he probably didn't even notice. There are lots of blue-eyed blondes out there.
Except the character's name was Julie.
Juliet flipped the book over just as he'd done and slid it back to where he'd left it. Yes. Leave it alone. Dwell on it later.
Forget coffee… she needed cold water.
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Carlton pulled himself together (or so he hoped), drinking half a cup of fresh coffee rapidly before refilling it along with Juliet's.
His reading tastes were of a historical/strategic/military/police code bent. With the exception of the police code, the authors of the books he read were eloquent, precise, and well-edited. So even though—like many men—he responded to visual/physical triggers more than text when it came to the erotic, he was able to recognize that Elaine Sikes was not a good writer, and it affected the readability as well as the potential enjoyment of her erotic ramblings.
On the other hand, reading even bad erotica about oral sex with attractive blue-eyed blondes named Julie while he sat just a few feet from his attractive blue-eyed blonde partner Juliet was bound to have an effect on a man already in love with the aforementioned partner.
That, on top of casual remarks about ear-nibbling, kissing and orgasms, meant coffee wasn't going to do it. He wondered if he could explain a brief absence while he went down to the locker room for a quick icy shower.
Just go do your job.
Steeling himself, Carlton carried the mugs back to the conference room. Juliet was unaffected by all of this, and so could he be.
But when he handed her the mug, she was decidedly pink.
He hesitated: was it warm in here?
"Thanks," she said, a little unsteadily.
Damn. Whatever she was reading must be good stuff.
Stop it. Do NOT think about Juliet being aroused.
Crap; too late.
He took his seat, hurried through the last of the story about Julie, and moved on to Elaine's pontifications about her neighbors. Some of her remarks about the mysterious lingering illness of Larry Porter, five doors down, seemed unnecessarily coy. "We need to check out the Porters. Elaine may have been about to make Larry her next victim."
Juliet wrote it down on her pad. "The Porters were the ones in the brick house, right? Larry tried to pinch me while you were talking to his wife."
Carlton instantly despised the man, but controlled himself. "If he'd tried to pinch Elaine, she'd have a sex story in here about him."
"Good point. Maybe he didn't try to pinch her, and that's why she wants him dead?"
"Could be. Elaine touched me a lot when we first interrogated her. If she touched Larry the same way and he didn't reciprocate, she might have taken it personally."
Juliet scowled. "I noticed her touching you."
He was surprised by the heat of her words. "She only wanted me for my big ears."
She continued scowling. "They're not that big, and she was out of line. Desperate, even."
"Thanks, O'Hara," he said without emphasis. "Nice to know you think a woman has to be desperate to touch me."
Glaring at him directly, she retorted, "That's not what I meant. I meant she's so desperate for any kind of male contact that she'd even come on to the man who arrested her. It means she thinks you're desperate. That you'd circumvent justice for her simply because she batted her eyes at you."
Carlton stared at her, trying to make sense of the anger in her tone. "Well. I didn't."
But she wasn't finished. "It meant she thought you were just a typical stupid man, instead of taking ten seconds to figure out you're anything but that."
She went back to her journal with a decided huff.
He marveled at what had just happened, not that he understood it, and finally just muttered thanks before getting back to his own bit of leather-bound drivel.
After awhile, McNab came in to offer them the last of the cookies his Francie had brought to the station, and Juliet's mood lightened considerably once a chocolate chip treat was in her grasp.
"How's it going in here?" McNab asked curiously. "I heard these were kind of…" He trailed off, suddenly nervous.
"Boring? Tedious? Badly written?" Carlton supplied.
Juliet continued, "Unlikely? Implausible? Mind-bendingly tedious?"
"He already said tedious," McNab pointed out helpfully.
"It bears repeating."
"It does," Carlton agreed. "This woman's whole journalistic life is about imagining having sex."
McNab blushed. "Oh."
"It's graphic," Juliet said. "She's very clear about what she wants. Or what her so-called characters want. But the way she describes it is so clunky. It's like she's never actually had sex, but needs to convince everyone she's an expert. I figure that's why she goes on and on about cores. I don't know about your wife, Buzz, but I don't have a core. A core is what you find at the center of a mostly-eaten apple."
The only thing which stopped Carlton from spewing coffee across the table was seeing how incredibly red McNab turned in the one second before he stammered, "Oh. Well. Um. Okay."
He nearly left burnt shoe-sole rubber on the floor in his hurry to exit.
Carlton wiped coffee off his chin and grinned at Juliet. "I think you scarred him for life."
Possibly me too.
She shrugged. "Not as much as if I'd read to him this paragraph here, where Mindy and Marcus try having sex on a riding mower. While it's moving, by the way."
"Oh, I'd like to see that lawn when they're done. Actually, I'd like to see the look on the ER doctor's face when they explain their injuries."
While she was laughing—seemingly torn between titillation and amusement—he added with irritation, "Something else driving me crazy is why in the hell she can't just use their names. Take this paragraph here." He pointed to the page. "We've got Lily, a redheaded cook, and Luke, a blond busboy."
Juliet interrupted. "Wait—let me guess—she put blonde with an e, right? The feminine spelling? She never gets that right. Same with brunette used for men, when it should be b-r-u-n-e-t. Drives me nuts."
"Blonde with an e, yep. Maybe she means Luke has a feminine side." He grinned at her eye-roll. "Anyway, listen to this. Lily pressed herself to the busboy. His green eyes reminded the cook of an emerald. Luke kissed the redhead's neck, and Lily moaned while running her fingers through the blond's hair. When the busboy ripped open the cook's blouse, Lily had to stop and ask when the hell all those other damn people got there." He threw the journal down and rubbed his face. "We don't care what they do for a living—just use their freaking names already!"
"But not too much," Juliet amended after her laughter subsided. "I've got a good one. Spyke invited Cyndi—and that's Spyke with a y, by the way—to sit in his lap, and Cyndi agreed. Spyke undid the bow in Cyndi's hair and Cyndi sighed as Spyke ran his fingers through her tresses—seriously? tresses?—and teased Cyndi's throat with his kiss. Spyke murmured Cyndi's name while Cyndi said blah blah blah. For the love of God, she and Spyke might be idiots, but the reader isn't going to forget their names, so why can't she just say he and she?"
"That's another thing—if you're going to use their names, use them consistently! Imagine if Lily and Luke's surnames were mixed in with their first names along with their occupations and hair colors. It'd sound like an orgy."
"Hang on, you're reminding of another story—" She thumbed back a few pages until she found what she was looking for. "Okay, here. This one's about two men. One older, one younger; the older one is taller. So in every paragraph there's references to the older man, the younger man, the taller man, the smaller man, their different hair colors and their occupations. So that's like eight guys, plus the rare times she actually refers to them by name. Exhausting!"
Carlton grinned, and she grinned back. He really liked that grin. It lit up her lovely dark blue eyes.
Again, moron, don't go there.
"Then there's physical improbabilities," she said. "Like this one—her head tossed wildly about."
"Ow. Sounds like a problem for a chiropractor to solve."
"Before or after she does him?"
"During," he suggested. "Saves time. I'll go you one better, though. It says here her nipple fell out of his mouth."
Juliet stared at him. "Did she know it was missing? Or was it an extra one she kept in a jar or something?"
"Doesn't say. All I know is, he'd better give it back to her quick. She's gonna miss that sucker."
At that, they both lost it, laughing themselves silly and totally ruining any chance of continuing this ridiculous task for the day. The laughter also covered, for Carlton, a sudden image of what Elaine had meant to express—and this image was accompanied by an image of Juliet's no-doubt perfect breasts—and the less he thought about those, the better.
"Let's get out of here," he said emphatically. "We've suffered enough."
Juliet didn't bother answering; she just stood up and started gathering the journals and their notes. "I'm not ready to go home. How about some dinner?"
Carlton agreed, although he shouldn't have in this mood, and they settled on a Mexican place not far from the station.
He drove them to the restaurant, glad for the chance to be with her (weekends were sometimes so very very long), and when they walked in, they were just in time to hear from the overhead speakers Jason Mraz singing "don't ya want to come on scooch on over closer dear, and I will nibble your ear…"
Carlton looked down at Juliet, who was grinning.
"See," he said, "even that guy doesn't want to chew off his girl's earlobe."
"Nibbling is definitely better." She seemed a bit breathless suddenly, but he told himself it was because they were both tired.
Except he knew it wasn't. He knew it was inevitable their reading material this afternoon was making her think things as inappropriate as the thoughts he'd had himself. Most likely she hadn't imagined him the way he'd imagined her, but then he was a besotted idiot.
But then again, it was Friday night and he was glad to be with her, so he smiled and murmured, "Yes it is," and something promising about her return smile made him want to slap the hostess for approaching at that moment to seat them.
Nothing was going to happen, or even should happen; they were partners and definitely not interested in each other (liar) and this was just another long work day capped by a shared meal.
However, ninety minutes later they were still sitting in the round booth, half-snockered on margaritas. They'd gravitated toward the middle—ostensibly to hear each other better over the noise—and Juliet was definitely in a great mood, very relaxed, making him simultaneously more relaxed and more unrelaxed than he'd been in a good long while.
She smelled good. He figured she'd taste good too, and then took another rapid slug of margarita.
Juliet laughed, and he realized the song somewhere overhead was Mary Chapin Carpenter's Shut Up and Kiss Me. He felt a blush warming his cheeks, and Juliet's intent gaze—and continuing amusement—made him feel a little reckless.
No. Keep it light.
"Anything about lip-crushing in those lyrics?"
"Don't think so. Nothing about earlobes, either," she teased. "You going to show me your technique?"
Carlton nearly dropped his drink, turning to gaze at her in utter surprise and sudden intense arousal. "Come again?"
"Haven't come the first time yet," she said with a knowing smile, and moved even closer to him on the seat—he could feel her thigh warm against his.
Holy. Ever. Lovin'. Crap.
He managed, "Uh… have we had enough to drink so we can forget this conversation before Monday morning?"
"Nothing to forget yet, is there?" Now she leaned against his arm as well, looking at him with undisguised interest.
"O'Hara." He couldn't detect in her eyes any sign that she was joking, or insane, or even drunk enough to be incoherent.
"Carlton. Listen to the lady." Her voice was low and seductive, and she was so incredibly close, close enough for him to feel her heat… and want her so very, very badly.
Mary sang "Talk is cheap, and baby, time's expensive, so why waste another minute more… life's too short to be so apprehensive, love's as much the symptom, darlin', as the cure…"
"Hell," he whispered, suddenly parched, and when Juliet deliberately tucked her hair behind her ear, he was done for.
She sighed deeply when he nuzzled that perfect earlobe, when he tasted her warm soft skin. He felt her shuddering and was emboldened; he kissed the sensitive skin behind her ear and moved his mouth lightly down her throat, his hand slipping into her silky hair. Her right hand settled on his thigh, but before he could register that, she'd turned her face to find his mouth with hers.
There was no lip crushing, smashing, crashing or mashing. There was the taste of lime and the heat of desire, and her mouth was as divine as he'd long imagined.
Juliet curled herself against him in the booth, arm around his neck, drawing him ever closer, and Carlton stopped being able to hear or see or sense anything other than the warm and beautiful woman in his grasp.
He'd have to have a lot more to drink if he was going to forget this.
But then, who the hell would want to?
Juliet drew back, and traced his lower lip with one warm fingertip. "That didn't hurt, did it?"
He searched her face, her eyes, for any sign of reality.
"Elaine doesn't know a damned thing," she said, her smile seductive again.
"No, she doesn't."
"Shall we go back to my place and rewrite some of her stories?"
Carlton's heart stopped.
"With our tongues?" she added.
Carlton's heart turned into a jackhammer.
"O'Hara. I'm half-drunk and you're gorgeous. You keep talking like this and I'm going to—I'm going to—"
She pulled him to her for another kiss, whispering against his mouth, "Then I'll stop talking. Can we go home now?"
He whispered back, quite earnestly, "But you're not interested in me, O'Hara. You're just… it was an afternoon of erotica and a few margaritas and you're confused and..."
"I'm only confused about why it took me so long to make a pass at you." She nibbled his earlobe, then, and he let out the sigh of a man who understood he'd just lost his last shred of willpower.
"I just… I just need to know you're still going to be willing to speak to me on Monday," he tried one last time, but his beleaguered heart wasn't in it, because her fingers were sliding under his collar, loosening it and teasing his chest while she licked his lower lip. "You're the best friend I have, Juliet, and I can't lose you. I can't."
She moved her hand up to touch his face, her expression startled. "You're never going to lose me. Don't you know that?"
"Carlton, I've had three job offers in the past two years. I turned them all down because I don't want to work with anyone but you."
He was momentarily stunned. "But I'm a jerk. An angry, paranoid jerk. You know that," he protested, at the same time appalled at how easily he might have lost her without even knowing it.
"You're my jerk, though, and you're never a jerk to me. I can handle the rest; I've been handling it."
He could only stare at her in wonder.
"So," she prompted him. "Unless you're not attracted to me—and I mean to the completely sober me you've known for seven years, not this half-drunk version—is there any reason why we shouldn't go home and find out just how much more complete our partnership can be?"
Dear God in heaven. He sank back into another hot and sensual kiss as a voice in the back of his head said if she changed her mind before dawn, he'd still have two days to pack up and leave town rather than face her on Monday.
The hostess came to stand in front of the table, shaking her finger at them.
Carlton was beyond being embarrassed. He threw some money down on the table, ignoring the woman's persistent frown, and pulled Juliet out of the booth. Keeping firm hold of her hand until they were out in the street near his car, he also ignored her laughter until he could turn and press her up against the Fusion, wrapping his arms around her tightly.
"You want me, you've got me. All of me, Juliet."
He kissed her hard—still not crushing or smashing—tasting again her equal hunger for him.
Somewhat raggedly, she said, "You've got me too, Carlton." She hooked her arms around his neck, grinning wickedly. "And I mean it."
"Yeah?" He was kissing her earlobe again—couldn't resist now.
"Oh, yeah. Right down to my… core."
Later he couldn't remember how long it took him to stop laughing enough to get in the car and drive them both to the next chapter of their lives—one written a damn sight better than Elaine Sikes could ever have managed.
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(A/N: to those of you who might leave anonymous 'reviews' telling me how mean I am about other folks' writing: I edit for a small publisher, so I actually do know what I'm talking about. And I'm serious about using 'said' instead of 'pouted' and 'smirked' and other ways dialogue CANNOT be spoken. Stop doing what you're doing. Embrace 'said.' Embrace 'he and she.' Stop finding sixty ways to refer to two characters in a scene. Believe it or not, the reader is not going to forget their names or genders, and their occupations are totally irrelevant in a sex scene. Seriously. Just stop it. Even if it's a Shassie. It's okay to just use their stinkin' names. Okay, I'm done.)