Disclaimer: I claim no rights to psych. I also claim no rights to rule the world, but if I did rule the world, I'd claim rights to psych.
Summary: Carlton learns something about Juliet during a non-routine arrest, and Valentine's Day will never be the same. A Valentine's gift for my tiny tiny group of fellow Lassiet fans.
. . . .
. . .
Grabby McRipperson, as Carlton preferred to think of the suspect, was not going down easy. He was part hyperactive triplets, part over-sugared Shawn Spencer, part octopus and part Freddy Krueger.
His main defense against being arrested was in clutching at every bit of fabric he could reach on the officers coming at him, and counting on them to pull back when their sleeves and pockets tore. It was pretty effective, too, especially when he added the occasional wild kick, high-pitched scream and random punch.
Carlton no longer even remembered what they were arresting him for; he just wanted him stopped.
Juliet was in the battle at the moment, with a nice headlock on the guy, but he reached behind him and yanked hard at her slacks, and Carlton wasn't the only one who heard the fabric rip.
Full of fresh ire, he leapt in and pulled Juliet free, but Grabby kicked out in the middle of being restrained by McNab and two other officers, sending Carlton sprawling gracelessly down on top of Juliet.
Or at least half of Juliet; his face ended up level with the skin revealed by the torn fabric.
In a matter of half a second he'd registered the smooth creamy expanse of her exposed hip, light green lace… and a tattoo.
Later, he realized the placement of the tattoo meant it was probably normally covered by those green lace panties, but at the moment he was staring at her nearly bare hip. And her panties. And the tattoo.
Juliet was trying to scramble out from under him—she was pissed off now, see—and he regained his focus enough to let her get up but not rejoin the fray. He had her by the waist, her soft hair in his face, while she said most unladylike things to McRipperson and demanded to cuff him herself.
Carlton let go of her abruptly when she belatedly realized she was 'undone.' Another unladylike remark hit the air as she futilely tried to yank the torn fabric back into place, and then she stopped suddenly and gave Carlton a panicked look, flushed either with the battle or with embarrassment.
Because… he'd seen her tattoo? Or her panties, most likely. The display of underwear was not part of their normal interaction.
More's the pity.
He jerked his head toward the Crown Vic, back at the curb. They both had changes of clothes in the vehicle, although she might just opt for a safety pin.
Juliet headed away quickly and he forced his attention back to the completion of the arrest of Grabby McRipperson, whose crazy-ass antics had just revealed to him three things he never expected to see: one, Juliet's nearly bare hip, two, that she had a tattoo on it, and three, that the tattoo—a small, delicately drawn heart—was overlaid with a set of initials.
And those initials, quite inexplicably, were his.
. . . .
. . .
He'd never wanted a tattoo, considered excess tattoos a clear sign of mental illness, and generally questioned the wisdom of having ink injected into the skin in the first place. Never mind that tattoos didn't hold up over time and the day would come when nursing homes would be full of senior citizens bearing tattoos on their legs which had started out on their upper bodies. Besides, visible tattoos were against regulation anyway, and what was the point of laying down serious cash for something no one would ever see?
That being said, he was cautiously tolerant of the discreet, hidden tattoo a person might obtain to commemorate something private and personal. Of course he would never admit this to anyone—better to maintain a hard-and-fast position against them.
Juliet's tattoo was pretty and professionally done, and the letters 'CL' were crystal clear.
Now, he knew better than to think they represented his name.
Why the hell would they?
He sat out on his patio in the dusk, sipping a beer and trying to unwind.
She was younger than he was. It probably represented something from her college years. A boyfriend. A sorority? Courtney Love.
Get serious, dumbass.
Crime… the actor Carl Lumbly. Wasn't he on a cop show? What was it… Cagney & Lacey!
There ya go…. moron.
Carlton sighed. Because yeah, how likely was it for Juliet to put either Carl Lumbly or Cagney & Lacey on her hip—with a heart?
Cops and… lobbers.
He took another swig.
"Chicken Little," he said aloud. "She could have a thing for Chicken Little."
Maybe he shouldn't have the rest of that bottle.
Cutaneous leishmaniasis. Because everyone loves a good sandfly bite.
Okay, one more swig.
"Crap," he echoed his brain, as he realized what other name 'CL' stood for.
He sat up straight, massaging his temples with one hand.
They hadn't dated more than a few months, but Juliet had admired him. Luntz was persuasive, and if a tattooed girlfriend was his thing, Carlton could easily imagine him working to convince Juliet to go under the needle.
But that was the problem, see. He could imagine Luntz working for it, but he couldn't imagine Juliet going through with it unless she really wanted to. Further, he couldn't imagine her being ready to ink up for a guy she hadn't been involved with all that long.
So it had to be something else.
Cat Lady? No… Cop Lady. No, and you're stupid.
Can't Lose. Cheesy Lasagna.
Okay then, Craig's List.
Uh… on her hip? Did that perp hit you in the head today?
Common law. Continuous learning.
Noble, but idiotic.
Excellent goal, that.
Oh, so it could be for Spencer. That works. Certainly it was the reason for their breakup a few months ago.
Still his addled mind raged on.
Centiliter… for when you've just got to keep those metric units close.
Now you're talkin'.
Carlton rapped his forehead sharply—just once—with the beer bottle and got up. He was never going to figure this one out, and it wasn't his business anyway. The letters probably represented a high school or college boyfriend, and he would just have to forget he'd seen anything at all.
. . . .
. . .
The store had been robbed by a woman wearing a pink wig. Carlton and Juliet were with the clerk who'd been on duty, because the pink-wigged woman or someone dressed like her had also robbed a jewelry store last week, using a pink-glitter-covered handgun.
This store—obviously the woman was planning ahead for a big Valentine's Day—was a lingerie shop. She'd gotten away with three hundred dollars, a dozen lacy bras, four pairs of silk panties, eight pairs of expensive pantyhose, four black garter belts and a deep red corset.
Carlton glanced at Juliet.
No, you may not imagine your partner in any of the above garments.
The clerk said worriedly, "Do you think the manager's going to take this out of my pay?"
"Did you help the thief commit the crime?" Carlton asked dryly.
"Of course not!"
"Well, if the manager tries to penalize you for being robbed at gunpoint, sue him and get a new job. Where's that security video?"
The clerk summoned the manager, who led him to the security closet. Juliet stayed in the store proper, and while Carlton waited for the manager to retrieve the disc, he idly scanned the monitors, watching Juliet wander from display to display.
She is so pretty, came the thought, and he couldn't help but think of the green lacy panties and her smooth curvy hip.
But behind that pleasant image always lay the memory of the tattoo.
The CL tattoo. With the heart. And the CL. The damned CL.
It probably was Cameron Luntz, damn it all.
Nothing to dwell on, of course, since that relationship was dead and gone, but still he couldn't let it go.
The manager handed him the disc and led the way back into the store, and Carlton caught up with Juliet over by a display of negligees.
Her expression, as she eyed the filmy fabric, was admiring, and for an up-close-and-personal moment, he allowed himself to admire her. And imagine….
She turned, blushing very briefly. "Ready?"
That blush did him in for some reason, and he could only manage a nod.
In the car, he still couldn't talk to her, but she seemed equally disinclined to talk to him. A few blocks out, he stopped the car for a red light. The truck next to them was blocking a "Clearance" sign for a furniture store, and only the letters 'CL' were visible.
At the same time, Juliet said with interest, "Cherry limeade!" She was gesturing to a vendor on the sidewalk. "Oh, please pull over. It's almost lunchtime and I haven't had a cherry limeade in forever."
He did as she asked; she hopped out and stuck her head back in to ask him what he wanted.
You, of course.
Without thinking about it, he said, "Coke with lime."
When she returned to the car a couple of minutes later, he reached for his wallet.
"Put that away," she said cheerfully. "My treat. Besides, I owe you."
"For pulling me off Chuck Lofton yesterday before I got written up for police brutality."
Chuck L… oh hell. Figured!
"I should have let you at him," he muttered. "No one would have written you up."
Her laughter was light, and he let it soothe him as he sipped his soda and moved out into traffic. Soon after, they passed a billboard for upcoming lectures at the university.
He scowled. "Charles Lindbergh. Figures."
"What?" she asked.
Juliet wasn't fooled. "You have a problem with Charles Lindbergh?"
"Not just him. Cleo Laine and Cheryl Ladd, too. Also 'Canto Libre' and Cyndi freakin' Lauper." He clenched the steering wheel with one hand and drank deeply of the Coke and lime with the other.
He couldn't look at her.
"Carlton, you would tell me if you've lost your mind, wouldn't you?"
"How the hell would I know?"
"That's fair." She sipped her own soda. "Still. What do Cyndi Lauper and Charles Lindbergh have in common which torks you off?"
"They're in cahoots with Fate."
Juliet turned and stared at him. "Come again?"
Reluctantly he met her persistent gaze. "I'm just having an episode."
"Um, is that supposed to make me feel better?"
He shrugged and drove on.
But she said, "Since we're talking about crazy stuff… it's only underwear."
"What?" He gave her a startled glance.
"Underwear, Carlton." She seemed patient. "You've been pretty squirrelly since we arrested Lofton. You know, since he tore my slacks and you got a close-up view of my undies."
Carlton was speechless, and clearly felt his face flooding with heat. "O'Hara, come on."
"No, you come on. You've hardly been able to look at me. Do you think I'd be this freaked out if I'd seen you in your boxers?"
"Maybe you wouldn't," he sputtered, "but I would have been. And they're not boxers."
Juliet laughed, and her grin was feline. "Oh, really?"
"O'Hara—" he began.
"Don't you dare tell me to shut it." She was still laughing.
And damn her, it made him laugh too. But he didn't answer her question, and having her mention the undies certainly didn't drive the image from his mind, either.
. . . .
. . .
Valentine's Day generally filled Carlton with dread. When he was married, and during those rare other relationships which were in existence on February 14, he was always sure that no matter what he selected for his significant other—even if she said she wanted it—it would be wrong. The wrong size, the wrong color, the wrong wrapping paper, the wrong restaurant, the wrong damn day.
Even without a significant other he couldn't escape unscathed, because it was just everywhere. All the ads. All the images of couples. All the damned togetherness.
Juliet was his partner and friend and the first woman he ever genuinely wanted to give a little memento to on that day, even though they weren't now nor ever would be together. Some years he gave her a little box of chocolates, or bought her lunch; she usually gave him a card—something cute, non-threatening—or treated him for coffee and a muffin.
She made it painless for him as much as she could, and it was one more reason he loved her. And it wasn't as if loving her made him an idiot. It only meant he had very good taste when it came to unrequited romantic interest.
Today he'd put a box of Godiva chocolate truffles on her desk. She'd know they were from him because she'd been waxing poetic about them last week, and he predicted she'd even be glad it was a small box, so it was win-win.
He was glad Spencer was out of the picture. The asshat and his BFF came around for cases regularly, but once Juliet had axed their doomed romance, Spencer had surprised everyone by backing off and leaving her alone.
Chronic Liar, he mused. He'd rejected it before, but hmmm….
No, dumbass. You don't get a tattoo to commemorate a failed relationship.
Juliet breezed in and came immediately to his desk, bright and pretty and smiling. "Hey, partner. Happy Valentine's Day." She thrust a card at him with one hand, a Starbucks venti with the other, and when he had both, she said hesitantly, "Are you doing anything for dinner tonight? Because I thought we could have dinner, if you don't already have plans."
He stared at her. "It's Valentine's. Of course I don't have plans. But you do."
Juliet blinked. "I do?"
"Well… don't you?" He set the coffee down, but hung on to the card. "Have plans? With friends? Or… a date?"
Her expression cleared. "Oh. No, I don't."
"Someone cancel?" he asked without thinking, inappropriately relieved she had no date, but still certain this was a mistake of some kind.
Juliet pursed her lips. "You mean are you my second choice? No. But if you have to be talked into it, then forget it."
He got up in a hurry. "No, wait. I'm sorry. I just… come on, O'Hara. I'm not usually anyone's first choice on Valentine's Day."
Looking up at him sternly, Juliet was silent a moment. But finally a small smile returned. "Well, you're my first choice." She went to her desk, cooed appreciatively over the chocolates—opening the box to sample one immediately—and went on with her day as if she hadn't just blown his mind.
. . . .
. . .
The biscuit lady, Juliet explained, had a sister whose friend's brother had just opened a new restaurant a few blocks from the ocean, and was still trying to drum up business.
It was good for them, because it made getting a table on the date night of the year a lot easier. That the connection between the owner and the police station was so very nebulous made it better yet, at least for Carlton's peace of mind. He still didn't understand why Juliet had suggested this.
They'd gone straight from work, but Juliet took off her jacket and revealed her smooth bare arms, and he took off his tie and undid the top two buttons of his shirt, and although it was probably his imagination, he thought her gaze wandered more than once to the bit of chest those undone buttons exposed.
The waiter assumed they were a couple and for once, if only to spare her the experience of his discomfort (and certainly not because he was simply so happy to be with her), he didn't contradict the man, and even went so far as to choose a wine for their dinner.
Juliet seemed very pleased, and he was a sap because that pleased him.
She only had one rule, she said: no talking about work.
No problem. They compared college years—he listened closely to see if she mentioned anyone who could be 'CL'—and then their first apartments; they argued about TV shows and movies, and there were times during the evening when he thought he was actually on a date.
A really, really good date. With a sweet, beautiful woman who was acting as if she genuinely liked him.
He and his heart were toast.
Therefore, dessert was a must—chocolate sorbet—and she sighed with each spoonful.
Then of course there was another bottle of wine—the first one had gone down so easily—but he reminded himself they had to go to work tomorrow, and no matter how entrancing she was, this really wasn't a date.
"This has been so nice," Juliet said, smiling with genuine pleasure.
"Yes, it has."
"I knew it could be."
He hesitated. "I knew too, but I didn't think you'd feel that way."
"Why wouldn't I?"
"Because… because it's me sitting here. Not…" He couldn't finish it. He felt ridiculous. It was a warm, glowy sort of ridiculous, but ridiculous nonetheless.
She shook her head, amused and… tender? "You're exactly who I want sitting here."
Before he could even react to that rather amazing statement, she went on.
"So are you going to admit you were freaked about my undies?"
He nearly knocked over his water glass. "I was not freaked about your undies."
"Carlton," she cajoled.
"Juliet," he retorted, and for some reason she blushed. "No. I was freaked by your tattoo."
Words he had specifically intended to never utter aloud to her, and that's why the second bottle of wine had been a bad idea.
Juliet's dark blue eyes widened. "Oh… I didn't realize you saw it."
"Yeah. I've been trying to figure out what the letters stand for." Because why not admit everything now, you tipsy idiot?
She was puzzled. "CL?"
He took another slug of wine. "I ruled out Charles Lindbergh and Cyndi Lauper. Got it narrowed down to either Chicken Little or Cameron Luntz."
Juliet started to laugh. "That explains today in the car, but really? Cameron Luntz?"
"Why not? You did date him, and I assume you cared about him."
"I did care about him, but a tattoo with his initials? I don't think so."
He began to find her direct gaze a bit unnerving. "Then… you know what, I should stop speculating. Not my business, and forget I mentioned it."
She studied him a while, an odd light in her eyes, and set down her wine glass. "Maybe I should just tell you the story."
"You don't have to, and you probably shouldn't."
Because I probably won't like it.
"Oh, I think I do. In fact, I think this might be the perfect night to tell you." She put her hands in her lap.
Carlton found he was holding his breath.
"This goes back a few years, to when I was on stress leave after Yin strapped me to the clock tower."
"As you can imagine," she said slowly, "I had a lot on my mind. It was my first real taste of my own mortality, for one thing."
"It was my first taste of your mortality too, and I hated it." This was something else he hadn't meant to say out loud, but he'd learned a huge lesson that night about where exactly his heart lay, and this knowledge had colored every day with her since then.
Juliet sighed… a happy sigh. "I can't tell you what it means to hear you say that."
He nodded, because if he said anything else she'd find out more than the wine alone could explain.
"Anyway, I thought about friends and family and life and love and yes, mortality, and fear, and how to stop men like Yin, and…" She trailed off, and shook her head. "You know."
He nodded again. Still couldn't trust himself.
"Well, after a few weeks, some friends of mine came up from Miami to visit. Mandy and Susanne. College buds." She smiled. "Great, lively girls. I was really happy to see them, and one night, we did a little too much drinking and they got me to go out with them to see about getting Mandy a tattoo. She'd been saying she wanted a rose on her ankle for years."
He could imagine them—he could imagine her—relaxed and happy and reliving old times, and he was glad she'd had some moments of joy during that dark period.
"When we got to the tattoo parlor, of course they started trying to talk me into one too. I wasn't really interested; I mean, I've seen too many bad tattoos and besides, it's not like we can show them on the job, and I could have used that fifty bucks on something more sensible, right?"
"Peer pressure," he suggested with a faint smile.
"Something like that." She smiled back. "They said it would be a way to leave the past in the past and say hello to the future. So I started looking through the design books while one of the tattoo artists went to work on Mandy, and then of course Susanne decided to get one too, and there I was still turning pages."
. . . .
. . .
The man who approached her was the shop owner, David. He was a big burly guy who'd probably seen a lot of drunken people leave his place with fresh ink, she decided, because the look he gave her was both weary and practical.
"Let me tell you two things," he began without preamble. "First, if you gotta spend that much time looking for the right tattoo, you most likely don't want a tattoo at all. It ain't gonna hurt my feelings if you just close the book and move on, no matter what your giggling friends over there say."
She felt the need to reassure him. "I'm not that easily influenced."
"Good for you. The second thing is what you gotta know about tattoos that we don't put on the warning sheet. Especially if you're thinking you should get a tattoo to represent a person."
She hadn't been, but before she could say so, he went on.
"A tattoo, like a relationship, changes over time. Even a good one looks a little different over the years, because we all change, and sometimes those changes aren't what we think we signed on for. You with me?"
David tugged at his beard. "You gotta be sure that you want to see that tattoo every day. Every year. In every form. That means if it represents a person, you gotta want that person, or that relationship, every day. Every year. In every form. It's gotta be so damn important that having it means more than whether it still looks the way it did the day you got it—whether it's your boyfriend, your mama or your best buddy. Or hell, your cat."
As she met his dark brown gaze, absorbing his words, a feeling overtook her—something slow and certain and right.
"That kind of relationship," he concluded, "just like the right tattoo, is something you don't ever want to lose. Something part of you forever. So take the time to be sure. I mean, I'll take your money any night, but I don't like people to have regrets and say I didn't warn 'em."
She let out a deep breath.
He eyed her. "Yeah?"
She closed the book. "Yeah."
"You've got the look of a woman who's had a revelation and made a choice," he said judiciously.
She had. She knew exactly what to do.
. . . .
. . .
"Two of the other things I thought about a lot on my stress leave were you and Shawn," Juliet said quietly. "I'd been on the edge of a relationship with him for a while and it seemed like we were never going to have our chance. And I'd been partnered with you for enough years to show me what kind of man you were, and you… you saved my life, Carlton. On the clock tower. I heard you disregarded a direct order to come for me. You destroyed your gun to stop the clock. For me." She smiled, and her eyes were misty. "And you were there for me in the morning, when I fell apart."
Carlton swallowed. "I wanted to be there."
"I know. I thought about my time here in Santa Barbara, what I'd learned and who I valued and who I expected to be in my future. Who I wanted there." Her smile was tremulous. "Even though I did go on and start a relationship with Shawn because I naively thought it would work out, that night in the tattoo parlor, I knew I couldn't make Shawn or any mere… boyfriend… a permanent part of myself."
His pulse was starting to feel a lot like a drum.
"I told David I wanted a heart, because a heart represents all kinds of love, from friendship to family to romance. And I told him I wanted the initials 'CL,' because the relationship which both meant the most to me and which I hoped would always be part of my life was the one I had with you. As my partner, as my best friend, and now, I hope… more."
Forget drum: utter cacophony in there.
"O'Hara," he said, and it sounded like a gasp, because that was all his beleaguered chest could manage.
"So 'CL' doesn't stand for Chicken Little, or Charles Lindbergh, or Cyndi Lauper and certainly not for Cameron Luntz. It stands for you. Carlton Lassiter. Impatient, thoughtless, arrogant… dedicated, devoted, wonderful Carlton Lassiter." She was whispering, and when she moved her hand across the table toward him, he could not help but grasp it tightly.
Juliet scooted her chair closer and kissed his cheek, which flamed under the soft touch of her lips.
He polished off his wine to the sound of her quiet laughter.
"I've stunned you."
"You have." But he kept hold of her hand anyway. "I'm going to have 'J' tattooed on one side of my butt and 'O' on the other."
Now she really laughed, hiding her face in her napkin until she settled down. "That," she gasped, "is so not necessary."
"Don't think I wouldn't do it."
"I believe you would, but please don't." Her eyes were so beautiful, shining dark blue and radiating all good things.
"How the hell did you explain it to…" Carlton hesitated. "To anyone else who saw it? Or even your friends that night?"
"I told Mandy and Susanne the truth. But I think you're really asking about Shawn." She grinned. "I told him it stood for Cagney & Lacey."
"And he bought that?"
Juliet shrugged. "It involved TV, so he was sold."
Idiot. But then look who's talking.
"O'Hara… Juliet." He tried to calm down, but her pleased glow at his use of her first name set him off again. "Dammit, you are so freaking pretty. Could you dial it back?"
Her glow intensified, and she kissed his cheek again, smiling. "With you, I don't want to."
Dear God, this was actually happening.
The waiter walked by and smiled knowingly at them, and Carlton was so flabbergasted he actually smiled back like a lovestruck idiot, which is exactly how he felt.
They were still holding hands, and his gaze wandered to their linked fingers. This all felt far too… right. And terrifying. But mostly right.
And that couldn't be right. Juliet confessing how much value she placed on their relationship didn't mean she saw it as the kind of relationship his stupid heart wanted.
"If you…" He paused, then started again. "If you didn't know I'd seen your tattoo, then why did you suggest dinner tonight? On Valentine's?"
She blushed again. "Well, I… the truth is, even though I accused you of being freaked about seeing my undies, in actual fact, I was kinda freaked about it too. Because I… I liked the idea. I asked myself why I was so titillated, and that night, I looked at the tattoo and thought about you and a lot of things sort of came together in my mind. And my heart. Would you have dinner with me again soon? Like tomorrow?"
Carlton stared at her in wonder, trying to keep up. "Are we done with dinner tonight?"
Juliet glanced at the table. "Dinner, maybe, but not the night. I just want to be sure I have a chance to monopolize your free time. That is, if you don't mind." She peered at him now. "If you'd… like to be monopolized by your old familiar partner."
Her fingers tightened around his, and he wondered how he'd gone the past ten minutes without confessing his feelings.
"Juliet," he said gently. "There is nothing old or even remotely familiar about you, and I would like nothing better than to be monopolized by the most lovely, kind-hearted woman in the world."
"Cheryl Ladd," she said, straight-faced.
"She's not available."
Without hesitation, Juliet said, "I am."
Without hesitation, he countered, "Not anymore."
She smiled, whispered, "Good," and lifted her face to his.
And he kissed her…
… because that's how a Valentine's Day should end.
. . . . .
. . . .
. . .
[A/N: Lawson227 gave me the suggestion of a tattoo, and I went rogue for the 'holiday.']