We Were Made To Never Fall Away: Tales of the SBPD
A Psych Story
Tag One: You're Coming Back For Me
Time had, somewhat ironically, stopped moving for Juliet in the seconds her partner told her softly that she didn't have to be fine. Her feet were planted on the ground, her arms free and if she had wanted to scream, she could have, though only in her throat were gurgled noises. There was no time. And when she drew to him and he held onto her as she proved she was not fine, time passed in bubbles, surreal and staggered.
He hadn't, not once, encouraged her to stop crying, though he told her firmly that it was all going to be okay, and he held on to her tightly. When it was time—on her time—to walk down the clock tower's steps, Lassiter kept his arm around her shoulder as if she had been injured and needed assistance walking.
Lassiter idled by her, waiting for Juliet to tell him to go. No longer did she pretend she was okay, or put on a mask which found her to be unaffected, or worse, over all of it already.
Juliet sat in Vick's office, feeling disheveled, though her appearance belied her. Only her eyes, swollen and red, revealed concerns. "Chief . . . I want to take some time, I . . ."
Karen nodded. "Of course, of course. After you hand in your paperwork tomorrow—"
Juliet shook her head slowly. "I don't want to—go home. It's morning. I want to stay here, within these walls . . . but, when I do leave—" She broke off, trying to iron the tears from her voice, trying to halt the shaking in her hands. "When I do leave, I can't come back. Not right away."
"O'Hara," Karen said gently, "I understand." She looked over Juliet's shoulder through the half open blinds. Lassiter was hovering outside the door, waiting for the outcome. Lassiter, who had, for the first time since Karen had known him, disobeyed a direct order—and may have been correct to do so.
The idea of it should have vexed her more, since as police officers, they were meant to first serve and protect the general civilian public, but perhaps her Head Detective had thought it more of a public service to save the life of one of their own, a Junior Detective that he himself had mentored for the past four years—and one that he would be damned to lose.
If only not to lose all of his determined efforts and hard work shaping her into a good and better detective day by day.
Vick sighed to herself and turned back to Juliet. "Are you sure you want to stay here the rest of the day?"
Juliet, her eyes full of shine, mumbled, "I don't want to be alone."
* * *
She was more of a marble statue posed at the end of his couch and less of a real live woman hunched over her knees, not daring to breathe or move or cry.
"Carlton, he's still out there," she had told her partner in the station, moving stiffly down the hallway as if her bones had changed to lead.
"Where are you going?" Lassiter asked, following at her elbow.
"To my desk."
"Your paperwork is done, O'Hara," he informed her without even needling her that next time she would owe him. Juliet kept walking as if she hadn't heard him. Lassiter huffed and stepped quickly to keep up. He touched her elbow and she froze.
She was empty from crying and moved about like an insomniac. He held onto her. "I didn't have your back because I was trapped in that car."
Juliet shook her head slowly and turned her face toward his. "Carlton, it's not your fault. I thought . . . I thought I knew what I was getting into too."
She had no blame for him and somehow this made Carlton's chest hurt.
In the end, neither was quite sure how or why he gave her the invitation, but now his partner was in his apartment and he'd made a promise of sorts to her that tomorrow would look different. Today was still linked with yesterday, but tomorrow would be another day.
"I already told the Chief," Juliet began quietly, holding the cup of hot coffee Lassiter had made for them, "that I want to take some time off." She looked at him, sitting across from her, really looked at how dark the circles under his eyes were, how stark his blue eyes still appeared to be, watched him sipping his own coffee and realized that it had been a long time since he'd slept. She herself had only gone to sleep unwillingly, sometime after falling through the trapdoor. "Now I'm telling you," she added dully, unnecessarily.
Carlton swallowed a hot gulp of the black coffee; he had been uncharacteristically distracted as he'd made it, watching his partner sit motionless in his living room, and had forgotten to add milk or sugar. It was bitter enough and seemed about right; he didn't think either of them could stomach sugar anyway. "Right," he answered, just as dully.
Juliet smiled at him; it looked pinched when her eyes were so puffy and red, her hair so out of place and her skin as pale as his. "You sacrificed your Glock. I saw it, what was left of it, mangled in the gears."
She wondered if he was thinking the same thing she was— You are a lucky girl. Juliet sat back, feeling breathless. She was no longer smiling.
"When we figured out where you were, I told the Chief I was leaving to get you," Lassiter told her quietly, his mouth in a tight line. "She tried to stop me. Because of Abigail Lytar," he added to her questioning look.
Juliet nodded with understanding. Without wanting or meaning to, she was again looking down that slanted view from the top of the clock tower, into the night lit only by a few lights in the city's buildings, a few windows bright and oblivious to the world outside. No one could have seen her anyway, not even her dangling feet.
She would had have no chance, when that chair fell. She might not have even been seen then, tumbling too fast for recognition. She had hoped, if had come to it, that she would die of fright in midair, that it would be quick and painless.
"I told her that she had plenty of other detectives," Lassiter was saying, bringing Juliet from midair where she was only a pawn to gravity to the edge of the Lassiter's furniture, where her feet were pressed into the floor. "I told her I was going to get you, and that was that."
Juliet's eyes filled with tears. She remembered Lassiter's voice in her ear, his fingers squeezing her shoulder when it was all over. Carefully, she set her cup on the table and pressed both palms to her mouth. Her tears now were less of terror and more of gratitude and when she bent forward again, her hands over her eyes, Lassiter heard her whisper, "Thank you for my life."
Lassiter scooted forward, setting his cup near hers. He took a seat next to her and offered her his arm because his arms had a steadying effect for her. "So you're going to take some time," he said over the shaking of her shoulders, over her streaming tears.
"Yes," she answered when she was able.
"But not too long?" Lassiter asked.
"I . . . I don't know." Looking forward beyond these days made Juliet's head hurt; it was all she could do to remind herself that her feet were touching solid ground.
"Not too long," Lassiter said, trying to be firm. "If it's too long, I'll come looking for you."
Juliet raised her head, staring at Lassiter. She wiped her face with the back of hands, wondering what he was asking of her. "Carlton . . ." Did he think it was black and white?
"I was going to die, Carlton. I was so sure of it," Juliet said, staring unfocused at his wall of mugshots. "I was that close to death."
"I know," Lassiter said, squeezing her arm. "I know what it's like." He stood up. "More coffee? Before it gets cold?"
Juliet swallowed, watching him. "Okay."
* * *
Juliet thought about those hours she spent at Lassiter's apartment as she sat at her desk in City Hall, about his promise to go looking for her if she were gone too long.
He'd made good on it just a few minutes ago, in spite of Shawn showing up shortly before him, convinced she could help with a new case involving a kidnapped girl and rival Chinese gangs. Carlton had figured the same, even bringing photographs and almost respectfully asking her opinion.
Though they hadn't talked about it, Juliet knew Lassiter hadn't taken any leave following his near murder at the cemetery, but then Lassiter couldn't have felt that he could fall at any moment since the man stalking him had been caught. He didn't know what it was like for her, knowing that Yin's real identity was secret and that he still walked about freely, planning his next move.
Her time here in idle was running out.