Disclaimer: standard yadda yadda about owning nothing of psych and taking no credit for Steve Franks' creations.
Summary: Lassiet. This one-shot popped into my head today and insisted on being written and posted. Lassiter & Juliet discuss what they're thankful for this holiday. Happy Thanksgiving, my tiny little group of fellow Lassiet fans.
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When Carlton Lassiter entered his adult years and was first introduced (by way of a girlfriend's family) to the concept of sitting at the Thanksgiving table and having everyone go around and specify what they were thankful for, he thought it was both ridiculous and hypocritical. He already knew from his girlfriend how messed up her family was (a girlfriend-selection habit which followed him into his doomed relationship with Victoria and later Marlowe), and to hear them give thanks for each other was just... phony.
He understood intellectually, and even emotionally, why it was important to know what you had to be thankful for (back then, he was thankful to have a girlfriend at all), but to be expected to say it front of others was too much. It was nobody's business, after all.
But age, time and accrued wisdom does tend to soften outlooks, and he had reached the age of 43 with more to be thankful for than he'd ever expected.
He had a job he loved despite the aggravations it brought (or which were brought to him by way of Shawn Spencer).
He was in pretty good shape despite having been shot a few times.
He was a crack shot and an excellent profiler.
He had a great partner, even if things were not as... good as they should be.
He'd survived being dumped by Marlowe (who had figured out her time in prison called for more time on her own readjusting).
He didn't have to have regular contact with his mother, and his sister still loved him.
Best of all for this year, he'd arranged to work on Thanksgiving, so he wouldn't have to go make nice with anyone inclined to take pity on "the poor single guy." He'd never been so happy to dodge what he perceived to be well-meaning but ultimately only polite invites from McNab, (God forbid) Woody Strode (not polite so much as creepily interested in his doings), and even Henry Spencer, who was hosting an all-out post-shooting-recovery dinner at his house. Juliet was going there, of course, trailing along behind Spencer Jr. as always. Guster had even talked his parents into joining the Spencer festivities, so pretty much everyone was going to be in that spot.
And honestly, he was thankful he would not be there with them, with all those people who had someone else.
When his shift ended, he would turn his phone off and go home to finish cooking his own little dinner of a large turkey breast, vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy, and he already knew the pecan pie he made last night was going to taste damned good after a long day. Maybe a hot toddy later, and it would have been a pleasant Thanksgiving after all.
Mid-afternoon, he called his sister and then his mother (who grumbled about his absence), made convincing statements about having to hold the fort down for the good of the city, and settled in with fresh coffee and a stack of stats to review. Crime was taking it easy today, and the bullpen was quiet for now.
He sensed her before he saw her; looking up from the stats he watched Juliet coming down the hall. She must have left something here—camera, a gift—although he'd thought the big dinner was at three, and it was only four now.
"Hey," she said with a smile.
"O'Hara. What brings you to my kingdom?"
She made a show of looking around the nearly-empty room. "I heard you needed more serfs."
He started to say something witty about minions in revolt but was struck by her appearance. She was, as ever, lovely, but she looked tired—not upset, but bone-weary. "Things wind up at Henry's so soon?"
Juliet sat in her chair and turned it so she could see him. "I don't think so. They were just clearing the table for dessert when I bailed."
Carlton again studied her. "Why did you bail? And why in the hell did you come here on your day off?"
Her smile was curious. "I wanted to see you."
He frowned. "Why?" Then he got it: she was the emissary. "Really, O'Hara, I'm not up for any big gathering, so if you were sent to drag me over there, thanks, but I—"
"I said," she interrupted smoothly, "I wanted to see you."
"Why? What's wrong?"
Now she laughed. "Nothing's wrong. It's Thanksgiving. You're a key part of my life. I wanted to see you, today of all days."
He puzzled over this, realizing after a few moments that he'd gone absolutely still.
"Carlton," she said gently. "I'm thankful for you."
Flashing back to all those holiday meals with hypocrites, he simply couldn't make their insincerity mesh with the simple honesty evident in her tone.
Still... she was a very, very nice person. A lovely, lovely, nice person who probably couldn't stand the thought of anyone being alone on a people-oriented holiday.
"Did you... did you leave your friends to come tell me that?"
Now she was still. "I didn't leave them to tell you that. I wanted—needed—to tell you that anyway, and I was ready to leave there. Truthfully, I was ready to leave there before I even arrived."
Juliet sighed, and crossed over to sit in the chair by his desk. Her scent—half lilac, half just Juliet—wafted over him like a gentle balm. "Shawn and I broke up a few weeks ago, but I'd already committed to going to Henry's because I knew it meant a lot to him, this year in particular, to have everyone together."
Carlton's mind raced in all directions: why hadn't he known? Spencer had been scarce recently but she'd seemed okay.
What he didn't wonder was why she hadn't told him; that needed no explanation at all: the distance between them the past year had been enough of a clue.
He actually had no idea what to say.
But Juliet always did. "It's okay, Carlton. You can whoop it up if you want, you can ask me if I'm all right—I am, by the way—or you can just pretend it's business as usual. I'll understand all of those reactions from you."
"I wouldn't whoop it up," he said somewhat stiffly. "I know what it's like to have a relationship end suddenly."
Her dark blue gaze was steady. "Marlowe."
He nodded. All he had told her two months ago was that Marlowe had changed her mind. Juliet had said with quiet conviction that Marlowe was making a mistake, and then she'd gone down the hall to Booking, and he'd never had the nerve to ask her to clarify.
"Are you okay?"
Carlton was startled. "Me? Yeah. What about you?"
"I told you. I'm all right." She pushed her hair behind her ear (he liked her new, shorter cut, except it made him want to run his hands through it even more than ever). "We were falling apart for a long time."
He thought maybe he'd seen it, but he also thought it was wishful thinking: not for her to be unhappy, but for her to see how unhappy Spencer made her by disregarding her every request, her preferences, her wishes.
"You noticed," she added calmly, her gaze still fixed on him.
He couldn't lie to her. "I wondered. It wasn't my business to ask."
"I knew you'd think that, and I'm sorry I…broke your trust in me."
Oh, no; he had to cut that off at the pass. "O'Hara, if you're talking about me stepping way the hell out of line and getting in your business, you can stop right there." He wasn't going to listen to her defending him on the topic of polygraphing her rather than simply coming out and asking her to explain what he'd seen in Interrogation that (awful) day.
She paused, and finally said slowly, "I stepped out of line, too. Maybe we can just agree neither of us handled it well—but you have to let me take the blame for not telling you in the first place." She held up a hand when he started to protest. "Partners don't lie, and they don't keep secrets from each other. You said it yourself that day, and you were 100% right. I screwed up. You'll never convince me otherwise, so don't try."
For a while they just looked at each other, and Carlton could see how serious she was. He knew of the two of them, he was and would always be the first to blame for anything which screwed with their partnership—it was his mutant superpower—but he also knew to let this one be.
Juliet took his silence as acquiescence. "You're here until five?"
"Yeah… Tarlek and Nessman are coming in to get away from their respective in-laws."
"What are you having for dinner? And please don't say you're sawing a frozen lasagna in half." She was teasing… mostly.
"Actually, I'll have you know I'm putting a turkey breast in the oven when I get home."
"Ooh, good for you. Anything else?"
"I've got a little menu worked out, don't you worry."
Her eyes got big. "Did you make a pie? Oh, Carlton."
This amused him. "What are you getting so excited for? You just had a big dinner."
"Well… not exactly. I didn't have much of an appetite so I put a lot of salad on my plate and then kept finding excuses to get up and fetch things for everyone."
This was a sort of candor he hadn't expected. "What… what did you tell them when you left?"
He meant, what did you tell Spencer?
And she knew. With a faint smile, she leaned back in the hard wooden chair. "I told him I was grateful for the invitation, but I wanted to come see you."
Carlton's jaw dropped. "That can't have gone over well."
Juliet shrugged. "He took it at face value."
"He never takes anything at face value. Wait. Was there another value?"
"No. I wanted to come see you. Haven't we been over this already? Anyway, I said goodbye to Henry and Gus and drove over here as fast as I could."
He was shaking his head. "I've definitely screwed with your head if you thought of me as an escape from people who are ten times nicer than I am."
Her laughter was musical, even at his expense. "You have no idea."
"No, O'Hara, I really don't."
She only smiled. "What else are you cooking?"
Before he could stop himself—and it came out half-tartly—he asked, "Do you want to come over and see for yourself?"
And before he could even really register that he had asked, she answered, "Yes. I would love to. In fact, I have a great idea; how about I go on ahead of you and put the turkey in the oven, and maybe get started on whatever fixings you had in mind?"
Once again, his jaw dropped—but he regrouped faster this time. "I can't let you do that."
She was disappointed. "You don't trust me in your condo?"
"I don't trust you with my pecan pie," he said smoothly.
Juliet grinned. "I promise not to touch it."
"Well, there might be a small slice missing already. But seriously, O'Hara," he went on over her laughter, "you must have better options than dinner with me."
"Nope. Dinner with my best friend sounds perfect right now." She stood up. "Don't be late."
He could barely form a goodbye before she was gone.
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It was slightly embarrassing how impatient he was for Nessman and Tarlek to roll in at five. He was civil to them—today was not a time to be snarky—and expressed relatively sincere greetings, and was in his car about ten seconds later.
The idea of Juliet cooking dinner in his kitchen was startling. He couldn't have told anyone what the hell he did in the hour since she'd left, he was so distracted.
She'd been in his place before, but not like this. Not alone. Not doing something really nice for him, specifically and deliberately intending to spend time with him of her own free will.
But it was such a nice feeling, the anticipation, and when he opened the door to his condo and smelled the turkey, saw the table already set and candles lit (not the grenade candles, either, but the real deal), he took a moment to just…
Oh hell. He was thankful.
Juliet popped out of the kitchen. "Hey! Go clean up. I'm almost done in here."
God, she was beautiful. She looked happy and relaxed, and also damned good in his apron.
Bemused, he followed her orders, going down the hall to take off his jacket and holster and tie, wash up and return to the main room, where she was just putting the turkey breast on the table. "You don't mind slicing it here?"
"No—O'Hara, I didn't expect you to do everything. Sit down."
"But I'm done," she said cheerfully, and undid the apron. "Oh, one more thing—what do you want to drink? I saw you have some wine, but—"
"Sit," he commanded, tempering it with a smile. "I'll get it."
Juliet returned the smile, and he pulled out her chair partly to be sure she would actually sit down. "You were the one working all day. I've only finished up what you started."
"It was a slow crime day," he called back, collecting glasses and the wine he'd been chilling. Returning to her, he filled her glass, and she took a sip while he sat across from her. "Thanks," he added. "I'm still not really sure why you want to be here instead of with more social friends, but…" He hesitated. Today was a day for truth, no? "But I'm glad you are."
Juliet beamed. "Me too. Now slice the turkey, Carlton. I'm famished."
"What about that plate full of salad you had a few hours ago?" he challenged.
"Oh, please. I'm a growing girl."
He raised his eyebrow at her, and she laughed. "How's the breakup going, really?" It sounded blunt, but it was too late to take it back.
"Fine, really. I mean, Shawn's not happy about it and he's tried to get me to reconsider but he knows it's over. It wasn't being around him which made me uncomfortable today."
He deposited a turkey slice on her plate, and then one on his, and as they served themselves potatoes and peas and green beans, he worked up the courage to follow through on her leading remark. "What made you uncomfortable, then?"
First she took a bite of turkey. "Mmm, that's good. Henry deep-fried one of his but I wasn't up to it."
Carlton wasn't going to ask her again; Lord knew he'd evaded his share of questions over the years and she usually let him be.
But after a taste of potatoes, she spoke. "The reason I was uncomfortable was…" She sighed. "I didn't feel right without you there."
"Feeling sorry for me is completely unnecessary," he said sternly. "You know I'm a borderline misanthrope."
"You are not. That's just what you want people to think. And I didn't feel sorry for you. I missed you."
"You… what? But—" Crazy talk.
"I missed you, Carlton," she repeated. With a broad smile, she explained, "I've had thousands of meals with you in the last seven years. A million cups of coffee. More hours than either one of us can count spent at your side. You're a part of me, of my life, of who I am."
She'd made him go still again—dammit.
"And I missed you. I know we've spent a lot of other holidays apart but this year… I don't know. Maybe because we took a wrong turn. Maybe because I took a wrong turn, with Shawn. Maybe because you getting involved with Marlowe shook me up. Maybe because Henry getting shot was a wake-up call for a lot of us about valuing what's important. All I know is that I never felt right about going over there without you, and I never felt like anything was going to be right until the moment I made up my mind to leave and come find you."
He tried to move his hand, even to pick up his wine, but he couldn't do it.
Juliet gazed at him solemnly. "You could say something."
Carlton was still immobile. But he managed, "I'm at a loss."
"Have I terrified you? Would you like me to leave?"
"God, no," he said at once, already thawing. "Please stay."
Her smile was back. "I will. Because I really am famished, and this is very good turkey, and I intend to eat that whole pecan pie before I leave."
"I believe I can retrieve my service weapon faster than you can eat my pecan pie, O'Hara."
"We'll see about that, Lassiter." She tucked in, as if she hadn't just said incredibly sweet things to him, and Carlton found his appetite soon enough.
It was a marvel, really. She was a marvel.
Juliet had always been a marvel to him.
They moved on to coffee and shared the pie without violence, although she did beg for a second slice (and one to take home) (and honestly he'd have given her the whole thing—hell, he'd have baked another one—if she asked).
But after dinner and dessert and cleanup, she didn't make a move to leave, and he didn't want her to leave, so that was good. They had work in the morning and it was getting late, but there was still some wine in the bottle and they settled on the sofa (Juliet choosing the middle instead of the far end) to argue about a case and jointly bash the new assistant D.A.
After awhile, she turned to face him, cross-legged and apparently utterly at home, and he heard himself say, "I'm thankful for you, too, you know."
She might have gone a little pink. Her eyes may have been a little misty. "You are?"
"I cannot imagine," he said, his voice low, "what my life would be like without you."
Her lovely eyes grew wide.
"What I would be like. I don't think you know how you've… changed me. Kept me sane. Made me… better."
"Carlton," she said, almost in a sigh, gaze fixed on him.
"Juliet." Yes. He could say her name, and it did sound natural. It felt natural. "Juliet. You're… the absolute best thing in my world."
Her mouth opened slightly, but try as he might, he couldn't see fear or revulsion in her expression.
"I want to…" She stopped, swallowing. "What I mean is, I would really like to…"
He waited her out.
"Oh, hell, Carlton," she finally said, and moved smoothly to straddle his lap. "You're about to get kissed, okay?"
"Okay," he said readily, and her mouth found his as she pressed close to him.
There was an awful lot of sensation to take in all at once: her warmth, the pressure of her thighs against his, the sheer heat of her mouth, the fact it was crazy, the fact it was perfect, the fact he wouldn't stop this for anything.
Not today. Not tonight. Maybe not ever.
He wrapped his arms around her, seeking more from the kiss. Possibly everything.
And it was there.
Juliet murmured something soft against his lips, sliding her fingers into his hair and tickling his scalp, sending delicious new sensations through his overloaded system.
He went on kissing her—really, was it possible to stop?—and she went on kissing him back, and it got later and they got closer and her top came off and his shirt got unbuttoned and then he was carrying her to his bed and nothing was more right than that.
Somewhere in the middle of the night, Juliet trailed her fingertips down his bare chest and sighed out his name again. "You know I'm having the rest of that pie for breakfast."
Carlton laughed. "I'll make you one every week."
She nuzzled his shoulder. "I knew everything would be right if I came to find you. I knew it."
"You were always smarter than me."
"Yep," she agreed, and he tickled her in revenge until she threatened to wriggle away from him, and he couldn't have that.
Holding her gently, still amazed at the feeling of her soft nude flesh against his, he reminded her of something important. "I might still find a way to screw this up. Make you sorry you left Henry's today."
"Mmmm, I don't think so." She kissed his cheek, and then his ear. "I don't think that'll ever be true, my love."
"Am I really?" he asked in wonder.
"My love? Yes, you are. Took me a while to see it, but it's true." Her voice was calm, sure; her eyes were clear and he knew she had no doubts. "What about you? How do I top someone like Marlowe?"
Carlton stroked her hair back. "Marlowe could never top you. You had my heart years ago."
Juliet kissed him again, smiling. "Then the least I could do is heat up dinner for you tonight."
"I know you really only wanted the pie."
She laughed. "No reason I can't have both, right?"
"You, my Thanksgiving feast, can have anything you want," he growled as he rolled her over and covered her body with his.
"Perfect. I want you."
"So shall you have me, then." He planted a trail of kisses from her throat down to her breasts, and she trembled beneath him.
They trembled together as the night went on, and in years to come whenever he was asked at the holiday what he was thankful for, he always said, "Juliet," no matter who was asking.
When Juliet was asked, she usually said "Carlton's pecan pie" first (with a grin), but it was just their private code, conjured up in love.
One more thing to be thankful for.
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