Under My Feet Grass is Growing
Following Vick's directive, Juliet sets Lassiter up on a date with her friend. This takes place during and after S3X3, "Daredevils." This was meant to be a brief little fun episode, but turned into a whole-ass story.
I'd planned to hold off on posting this until it was completely done, but hey, it's Tuesday the 17th, and it's been about a month since my last story, so what the hell?
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After the stakeout, after checking back in at the station and depositing the film negatives with Evidence, after signing out with a somewhat awkward farewell to O'Hara, Lassiter finally trudged home as it neared three in the morning. He couldn't remember how many hours he'd been awake, but rather than exhaustion, he felt a little wired, a weird course of adrenaline surging through his body. Probably too much caffeine and too little food.
During the investigation stage of a case, both he and O'Hara tended to forge ahead unceasing, driven by little more than coffee and pure determination. She had taken to stocking healthy snacks in the car to keep them going – mixed nuts, dried fruit, sunflower seeds. Eventually though, energy drained, Lassiter needed a substantial meal, and all too often that meant whatever burger joint was open when mealtime presented itself. It was something they bickered about often. Cop life involved too much fast food, O'Hara claimed. While she wouldn't turn down the occasional burger and fries, she preferred to avoid it more often of late, in the interest of maintaining her figure. He knew better than to comment in any damn way on her figure.
He opened the freezer and grabbed the first box in reach. What did it matter? Lasagna or mac and cheese. Every trip to the grocery store, he filled up his basket with the same thing, a week's worth of each. Lasagna this time. He ripped open the packaging, having long since memorized the instructions, and took grim satisfaction in stabbing vent holes into the plastic with a fork. Seven minutes in the nuker, which was just enough time to pour himself a whiskey and swallow it. And then pace around for the next six minutes.
Why should he feel so agitated right now? Stakeouts were one of his favorite cop activities. There was something almost relaxing about them: he didn't have to put on a fake smile for a traumatized witness, or even steel himself for a confrontation with a suspect. In short, his time could be spent lying in wait, in blissful solitude and silence.
Well, except for O'Hara. It was a testament to their partnership that he now thought of working with her in the same way as being alone. Most of the time, anyway.
The microwave beeped, and he pulled the container straight from appliance to kitchen table, soldiering through the pain of hot plastic on his fingers. Then he peeled back the film cover, releasing a thick burst of tomato-scented steam. With a sigh, he settled into a chair, wondering why he owned a table with four chairs when he always ate alone.
Lassiter revisited their embarrassing conversation from earlier that evening, the one where, believing O'Hara to be expressing a desire for a romantic connection, he tried to let her down gently, only to face her apparent disgust at the very thought of him. He'd undeniably stuck his foot in his mouth on that one. Long ago, she'd told him she rejected interoffice romance, so he should have known better. He'd been offended by her audacity then, assuming this rookie partner was probing for details from his private life (and let's face it, she definitely was).
It wasn't completely out of the realm of possibility that a partner might find him more than tolerable, right? After all, Lucinda had. Granted, she left with hardly a word of goodbye except clear instructions that they would not remain in contact, so maybe their so-called mutual attraction was more one-sided than he'd thought at the time.
Why else would O'Hara ask him so many questions about his dating life, if it wasn't out of personal interest? That wasn't his ego talking, that was pure logic. Nobody had ever cared as much about his business as O'Hara did, and that included Victoria.
Victoria. Things were not looking great on that front. His last phone conversation with her had gone poorly – well, about as poorly as the previous ten. She had long since ceased in-person contact, though he failed to understand her reasoning for that. If only he could sit down and speak with her, he was sure they could work out their differences.
It wasn't his fault he caught her in the grocery store with her new boyfriend. Sure, he'd spotted her car in the parking lot, but he was already there himself, for Chrissake. And okay, he'd used his advanced surveillance techniques to trail them through the aisles, from the bakery all the way around to the produce section, tracking whether they put any known aphrodisiacs in the cart. And yes, maybe he'd lurked behind the sweet potato display, watching that blond bastard groping grapefruit so sensually with his wife, and maybe he'd knocked over an entire pyramid of root vegetables, but that was an accident and who the hell stacks things in a pyramid shape anyway?
Lassiter stabbed a chunk of lasagna onto his fork and shoved it in his mouth, reliving the anger, which outweighed any embarrassment he might have felt, as Victoria shouted at him and the produce manager subsequently ushered him out of the store. Somehow, the same bite of pasta burned his tongue while simultaneously remaining half-frozen. Just his luck. He dropped the fork in disgust and got up to pace again.
Later, Victoria had called him at the station to chew him out further. "Why were you stalking me at Gelson's?"
"I wasn't stalking you. I was buying groceries. Why were you cavorting with a Sears catalog model?"
She sighed. "Dirk is a perfectly nice man, and he works at his father's firm."
He pressed his lips together, biting back his first retort. She'd grown up with money, so of course it made sense that she'd gravitate toward the country club types her father knew. Their vastly different upbringings had always been a source of tension between them.
When he didn't answer immediately, she added, "You need to recognize that we're living separate lives now. You don't get to have input on what I do anymore."
"If that's true, then what are we waiting for? Where are these divorce papers you keep threatening me with?" It was a bluff, to be honest, and one that he hoped she wouldn't call. For as long as she didn't pull the trigger on that one crucial, final step, he could still hold out hope that she would reconsider this separation that had now lasted almost half as long as their marriage.
Victoria was unimpressed. "Is that what you really want, Carlton?"
"No, honey, no." He was a little ashamed of how quickly he capitulated, but then, he couldn't seem to help it with her. "Listen, why don't we get together and talk things over? I can buy you dinner, or," and here he was hit by sudden inspiration that he thought would seal the deal, "we can go see that marriage counselor again. I promise I'll follow her suggestions this time."
A heavy sigh filled the receiver, and he almost felt the breath of it in his ear. "Don't you think we're past that stage?"
He glared at a passing officer, taking at least some small measure of satisfaction as the young uniform skittered away. His voice chilly, Lassiter asked, "So what stage are we at, then?"
Bitter chuckle. "Why don't you figure it out?" She disconnected the line, and Lassiter only managed to restrain himself from slamming down the handset when he caught O'Hara watching him, perched on the corner of her desk. An expression he couldn't identify rested on her face – pity? – and he turned away rather than hear whatever saccharine reassurances she might think to share.
For the rest of that afternoon, dark thoughts assailed him concerning Dirk the Jerk. Uncovering his full name and address was child's play for a seasoned detective like Lassiter, and by the time he went home that evening, he'd devised a plot that, while technically illegal, would result in Dirk the Jerk being arrested and eventually prosecuted and thus, out of his hair.
Lassiter looked down at the unevenly heated lasagna, debating whether to consider it a lost cause. His stomach roiled in protest, empty but for the whiskey. Resigned, he mixed up the pasta with a ferocity that left it a red mess resembling some of the more gruesome crime scenes he'd seen that week and chucked it back in the microwave for another minute.
Recently, he'd decided to try dating again – openly, with women who had no affiliation with his career. Yet, at the same time, he held onto the arguably unrealistic dream of reconciling with Victoria. Some, O'Hara included, might posit that his ambivalence meant that neither route would result in happiness. But when had he ever known happiness, anyway?
The microwave beeped, and Lassiter removed the finally-fully-heated lasagna. Though his body craved food, he'd lost his appetite, and mechanically lifted fork to mouth over and over just to finish the job.
O'Hara wanted him to date her friend. Against his better judgement, he'd agreed. What was he thinking? Then she'd ask him about it, just as she'd asked him about his other dates, and eventually she'd wear him down and pry information from him about Victoria and, God forbid, Lucinda.
The lasagna sat heavy in his belly. If he couldn't get out of it, how was he going to get himself through it?