Disclaimer: even Santa would not let me own psych.
Summary: Christmas is approaching, and Juliet and Carlton get caught up in the season in an unexpected way. Was supposed to be a two-shot... then a three-shot... now a four-shot! Here's part one.
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"Look, Carlton," Juliet said with a laugh, "It's a Partridge. On Peartree Road."
He didn't mean to, because he was in a foul mood, but he felt a smile coming nonetheless. Things were looking up anyway; part of his mood was due to Juliet having been away all morning testifying in court just when McNab was at his Christmas cheeriest.
Carlton didn't do Christmas cheer. He liked Christmas just fine, but not the cheer part. Or the incessant TV ads part. Or the carolers part. Or the trying to get around shoppers part. Or most any other part. But he liked the lights, and he liked midnight Mass even if no one knew he went, and he liked the idea of it (not the commercialism, but the real idea behind it all), and he liked seeing Juliet at this time of year, because she loved Christmas and it made her glow all the more.
They were looking at the list of residents in a neighborhood seemingly targeted for pre-holiday burglaries, and she had spotted the name before he did.
"Be funnier if his first name was Keith," he suggested, only to be met with a blank stare. "Danny?" He sighed. "I suppose Reuben Kincaid is out, too."
Juliet laughed. "I guess so. Is this one of those rare times our age difference is at work?"
"Looks like." He hadn't exactly been a fan of The Partridge Family, although he admired Reuben Kincaid's weary determination to contain the madness, but it was on most afternoons after school when he was a kid and he couldn't help but sort of… accidentally… watch it. A little.
But Juliet had moved on, gesturing to the calendar. "Look! It's actually twelve days before Christmas."
"The twelve days start on Christmas, O'Hara, and end on January 6."
"I know, Carlton, but it's still funny."
He glanced at her, and dammit, smiled again. "You're funny."
Juliet grinned. "You're going to end up liking Christmas, you know."
"To which I say bah, with an extra humbug," he retorted, and resisted the impulse to tell her he liked her.
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. . .
She handed him a large mug of coffee along with an updated stack of the witness statements, and he offered her the box of chocolate turtles Sergeant Allen had foisted upon him when he came into work.
"Ooh, thanks. I love turtles."
He knew; it was one of her weaknesses. He suspected Allen knew it was one of her weaknesses too and also knew Carlton wouldn't toss it for that reason alone. However, he wasn't sure why Allen, who spent most of her time glaring at him, would deign to give him any kind of gift. He'd considered it might be poisoned, but if that were the case, she was more likely to start with his coffee than a sweet.
Juliet was happy anyway; and after wiping a stray smear of chocolate from her lovely mouth, she looked into the box as if contemplating a second treat. "Ha," she said. "Don't those look like doves?"
Carlton studied the two oddly-shaped turtles she was pointing to. "Not really."
"Come on, not even a little?" Her expression was slightly wicked.
"O'Hara, are you trying to get me to identify two turtle doves? On what you'd call the second day of Christmas?"
She smiled innocently. "Did I say that?"
"Let's just look at the statements," he said firmly.
"Okay! We'll start with the Partridges," she said blandly, and Carlton rolled his eyes, but couldn't help being amused.
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Juliet walked alongside her partner down Peartree Road while he went over what they knew of the last burglary—a case in their hands because the homeowner had walked in on it and gotten shot as a result.
Carlton was in a fairly good mood. She stole a glance at his profile and was relieved that so far this Christmas season hadn't driven him to any homicidal rages (although she'd had to warn McNab to dial "the Christmas cheer" back several notches).
In fact, she'd collected a delightful number of smiles from the blue-eyed Irishman, and those were his Christmas gifts to her whether he knew it or not.
They passed the Partridge house; she gave him another glance. He glanced back, a reluctant smile warming his face, but he said nothing and she kept quiet too. Best not to press her luck.
Their target was the next home, that of Pierre and Marta DuBois.
Marta DuBois led them to the bright kitchen overlooking the back yard, its lovely landscaping setting a tranquil mood. Juliet made a sincere remark of admiration, and was transfixed as several very interesting creatures ambled across the grass.
"What kind of chickens are those?" They had creamy chests and bellies, with coffee-colored top feathers.
Marta came to join her. "They're Faverolles. My husband gave them to me last year to decorate the yard. The one on the left is Claudette, the one in the middle is Henriette, and the third one is Musette."
Carlton, somewhere behind Juliet, cleared his throat. "Three French hens, in other words."
Marta gave him a beneficent smile, and Juliet—who was laughing—a puzzled look. "So they are. Just in time for Christmas, yes?"
He took pity on Juliet's temporary lack of self-control and focused Marta's attention on the case, but it was a while before Juliet could focus on it herself.
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Another day, another development in the case: the homeowner, out of the hospital and inspecting his house more thoroughly, was able to produce a more complete list of what was missing.
Sitting next to Carlton on Mr. Carroll's leather sofa, Juliet tried to put out of her mind that the the faint scent of his aftershave was rather pleasant. The Christmas season was making her feel unacceptably warm and fuzzy about her partner, and she needed to resist that.
Mr. Carroll explained, "They were crystal sculptures, in the back of my wife's china cabinet. Our friend made them. They're worth several hundred dollars each."
"You've had them assessed?"
"It's what he could easily have sold them for. They're each about six inches tall. Very detailed. He once designed for Swarovski. Beautiful work."
"You have photos?" Juliet asked, and Mr. Carroll immediately handed them across to her.
"They had to move the china to get to them. It's like they knew what they were looking for."
"They may have," Carlton agreed, leaning in closer to see what Juliet saw. "Birds?"
"Yes. Dove, eagle, heron, owl. You can have those photos. I've got copies."
"Who knew you had them?"
"Well, my wife and I, and some of our family. And our friend who designed them, of course. We didn't display them because they're fragile. But no one we know would need to steal them," he said.
"This name here," Juliet said, pointing to the back of the photos. "Who is this?"
Mr. Carroll took a look. "Oh, that's James. James Colly, the designer."
Juliet felt Carlton tensing beside her. "I see."
"Colly birds," Carlton managed.
"Four," Juliet said helpfully.
He had to excuse himself, ostensibly to make a phone call.
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"It's funny. Admit it."
Carlton would not admit it. Well, except for the laughter he muffled with his napkin—which she saw—he would not admit it. "Freaky coincidences. But not funny."
Juliet was smug. "Come on! Four Colly birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge on Peartree? With only eight days to go before Christmas?"
He put his napkin down. "Coincidence."
"Carlton," she said, and her voice was sing-song. "I see that light in your eyes. You are trying not to laugh. You're trying not to give in, but I know you. I know you better than anyone, and you know I know you better than anyone, and any minute now you're going to start laughing and not be able to stop."
"Then you'll call 911," he said firmly. She did know him better than anyone else, and certainly better than he wanted her to know him.
"Not immediately." She sipped her tea. "After lunch let's check out a few pawn shops to look for items from the Carroll house."
"No way." At her surprised—and all too innocent—expression, he elucidated, "Tomorrow. We are not running the risk of you spotting any clusters of gold rings today." He'd won, because she giggled, delightfully pink.
"I guess that would be too easy," she admitted. "Random is so much better."
The waitress appeared, somewhat frazzled, and set down Carlton's BLT and fries. To Juliet, as she set down a plate with a club sandwich, she said apologetically, "I'm sorry, but there was an incident in the kitchen. We only have some of your side, but I'll have the rest out in a minute."
She hurried off again while Juliet grinned at her plate.
"Random really is so much better," she repeated.
There were only a few onion rings alongside her club sandwich. Five, to be precise. But they were definitely golden.
Carlton gave in and laughed, and that seemed to be all Juliet needed.
It was heartwarming to feel that something as simple as laughing with her would make her happy—that anything he could do would make her happy.
For sure, it made him damned happy to see Juliet happy because she had five gold rings with her lunch on the (sort of) fifth day of Christmas.
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He was pretty confident there'd be no run-ins with geese today. Just a feeling. The Carroll neighborhood—French hens notwithstanding—wasn't a geese sort of area, and he had no plans to visit any farms or even any reason to expect to see geese flying overhead, let alone depositing eggs anywhere.
Juliet pretty much admitted their streak was over, too.
"I'm not giving up all hope," she said somewhat defiantly. "But yeah, I'll be pretty surprised if we get goosed today."
"Let alone six times."
She laughed, suggested he stay away from Miriam in the Business office just in case, and they went on working.
Mid-morning, on their way back to talk to Mr. Carroll about his Colly birds—one of which had been discovered in a pawn shop across town—Carlton stood with Juliet in line at Starbucks.
"Didn't you once tell me cops didn't wait in line, even at Starbucks?" she prodded.
He maintained what he hoped was a Sphinx-like demeanor. "It's Christmas. I'm being kind to the strangers in front of me."
"That's very generous of you," she said mildly.
Of course she had long ago put a stop to him barging to the front of the line for coffee or anything else not directly crime-related. She'd either stand firm where she was and quietly make him feel guilty for being an ass, or she'd call him back with a sharp tone he was powerless to resist.
What he would never tell her was that even when he was on his own, he rarely cut in front of anyone anymore with a flash of his badge. Unless he was homicidally caffeine-deprived, he waited (im)patiently in line behind everyone else.
Today he was oddly mellow, and he was going with the flow. He was also enjoying standing so close to her, not just because he was a perv but because she smelled so nice, all lilacs and golden-haired warmth.
Juliet struck up a conversation with the young woman in front of her. "Is that a Kindle Fire?"
"Yes, I just got it. Early Christmas present." The girl smiled. "I'm making sure all my favorites are still here in my library."
Juliet sighed. "I don't get to read as much as I'd like. I usually fall asleep in the middle of a book."
"Try short stories," the girl said. "I can recommend about a million of them. You like Sophie Kinsella?"
"She wrote the Shopaholic series, right?"
"Yep. Last year she put out a short story only in e-book format… here it is." She showed Juliet the screen.
Carlton admired the curve of Juliet's smile, but wasn't prepared for her to turn and catch him in the act. Her deep blue eyes were lit with great amusement. "Look at this, Carlton."
"Is it a story about coffee?" he inquired.
"Better," she assured him.
"It's a Christmas story. Only 28 pages," the Kindle girl said. "You could probably read it while we're waiting."
He shook his head warningly at Juliet. "We don't have time for that."
"You have time to read the title." She clasped his arm to draw him closer. "Look."
It only took a second to see why she was so amused.
He glared at her.
"Say it, Carlton."
"I will not."
"Say it," she cajoled.
The girl was confused. "What is it?"
"Six Geese-A-Laying." Juliet was giggling again, and he wanted both to shake her and squeeze her. And maybe kiss her, but that was only because he was in a funny holiday mood.
"Stop laughing." He tried to be stern.
She couldn't, however.
The girl was next at the counter, and Juliet turned to face him. "You know what this means, right?"
"No, O'Hara, I do not know what this means, except fate is playing tricks on us."
"Exactly. Fate is sending us a message."
"What the hell kind of message is planting lines from an old Christmas song into our daily lives?"
"It means it's just for us, Carlton!" She was beaming, face aglow and smile wide. "It's our Christmas."
He was just about unable to stop himself from bending to kiss her. Swallowing hard, he asked evenly, "But what does that mean?"
Juliet reached up to touch his warm face—something she had never, ever done before and which immediately caused him to feel even more heat there. "I don't know exactly. But isn't it special?"
Yes. Yes, it was. Just like she was.
"Don't you feel it?" Her voice was soft and persistent. "It's kind of wonderful."
"Yes," he managed, missing her touch the instant she dropped her hand. "It kind of is."
Juliet was gazing at him intently, and he couldn't quite decipher the light in her lovely eyes. "This is going to be a good Christmas, Carlton. Maybe the best ever."
As far as he was concerned it was already the best—and there were still six days to go.
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