Authors Notes: A little idea for an AU I came up with after listening to Taylor Swift's new albums for the hundredth time... I highly suggest you go listen to Seven before (or during or after because it is just beautiful and you should listen to it), but some of the story might make more sense if you've heard the song.
Juliet O'Hara sits in the window seat of the plane, watching the sporadic lights of the cities she passes over dance below her seat. Anxiously shaking her leg, she picks up a magazine and flips to a random celebrity interview, attempting to keep her mind occupied.
So, tell me? The interviewer asked whoever the hot celebrity of the week is With all these amazing love songs, you must have been in love before. Who was your first love?
See my first love was actually when I was much younger. I had a crush on the boy next door. We were going to fall in love and get married- until my family moved away. I know that sounds crazy…
Not at all. Juliet thinks, her mind wandering to her first love. Images flash across her mind of the boy she left behind. She can't quite remember his face, years of memories clouding the days she lived in Santa Barbara. But she remembers him, and the love they had.
"Mr. Spencer?" Juliet asked, knocking on the white door with the red trim.
"What do you want, Juliet?" she heard the loud man yell through the door. His heavy silhouette sat on the couch, feet up on the coffee table, a half empty bottle in his hand.
"Is Shawn home?"
"Shawn can't come play right now!" his angry voice scratched at her ears, and she took a step back to put more distance between them.
But she knew what that meant. Sneaking around the back of the house, she climbed up the tree leading to her best friend's room. It was a maneuver she had become comfortable with, using the window more often than she used the front door to find Shawn. And he always left his window cracked, just for her.
"Shawn?" she whispered, taking light steps on the bed. She surveyed the room, from the toys thrown on the floor to the twinkle of light that appeared under the closet door.
She tiptoed over to the door, her toes dancing around the creakiest spots in the floor to not alert the angry man downstairs of her presence.
"Shawn?" she whispered again, pulling the closet door open to find him sitting in the back corner, his long brown hair just barely sticking out over a pile of jackets and blankets.
"You came!" she watched his face light up, illuminated by the glow of the flashlight. Closing the door behind her, she slid next to Shawn under the pile of clothes, securing him tightly to the corner of the closet. If the old man came back, she could protect him. She would hide him, keep him safe.
"Of course, I came," Juliet said, putting her arm around his shoulder. "I saw the bat signal."
"He was really mad," Shawn said, pulling his knees up and dropping his head into them. "He gave me a case to solve and he said that I had until he got home from work to solve it and I didn't do it. He said how am I ever going to be a good cop like him if I can't solve easy cases like that in a day."
Juliet watched as Shawn's eyes got red, a single tear sliding down his cheek. She reached her hand out and caught it with her finger. "It's ok, Shawn. You'll still be a good cop. We both will, and we'll fight bad guys. And we'll be big and strong- stronger than him."
"But what if I don't want to be a cop?" Shawn whispered. Juliet shrugged, draping her arm over his shoulder. "Then I'll be the cop and I can find my dad. And you can stay at home and make dinner for me and our dogs."
"You're so lucky that you don't have a dad," Shawn sighed. It always made Juliet's heart hurt when he said that. She knew that his dad was mean sometimes, but at least he still had one, right? Her dad just up and left one night and then her mom moved her and her brothers from Kentucky to California to be with her family.
"But at least you have two parents," she offered, thinking about her mom sitting alone at the kitchen table, crying into a glass of wine when she would sneak downstairs after bedtime.
"But they're always yelling at each other," he said. His hands had subconsciously traveled up to her pigtails, twisting her long blond hair around his fingers. "Or at me…"
"You want me to teach you how to braid it?" Juliet asked, trying to get her friend's mind off the dull rumble that always poisoned the air of the house. "Your hair is long enough! I can do yours and you could do mine."
"Ok," Shawn said, turning to face the wall. Juliet turned, brushing her hand through his hair and splitting it into three sections between her fingers. She was about to begin twisting it into place when they heard heavy footsteps echoing up the stairs.
"You should go!" Shawn said urgently, grabbing her hand and pulling her out of the closet and to the window.
"Shawn!" the loud man shouted, his feet hitting the floorboards of the hallway outside his door.
Juliet quickly turned and gave Shawn a kiss on the cheek before slipping out the window. She was still on the roof right out of eyesight when the door flew open.
"Shawn! What did I tell you about leaving the window open?" the voice shouted, and Juliet's heart raced faster as she listened to Shawn try to sweet talk his way into his father's good graces again.
"Well don't do it again!" there was a loud thump on the top of the dresser.
"My army men!" She heard Shawn cry, just before she slipped off the roof, sliding quietly down the tree and rushing back home.
Juliet closes her eyes, still haunted by a fear that never went away. Fear for the boy next door, and what would happen to him when she wasn't there.
Thinking back, she smiles in her seat, memories of their adventures in the closet washing over her. With her mom working two jobs to support the family and her brothers out dating high school girls every night, Juliet would sneak into Shawn's room most nights after his lights went out.
She would run across their yards, up the tree and into his room, careful to replace the window behind her before gently climbing over his headboard, using her toes to tickle his stomach. Together they would sneak into the closet pretending it was a rocket or a pirate ship or a race car- anything that could get them out of there, and fast.
Even after she would return to her bed for the night, she would stay up late, watching angry shadows arguing in the downstairs rooms. And when the lights turned off and the shadows disappeared, she would watch the curtains rustling with the wind and listen to the tiles creaking and the house settling, burdened by the ghosts of the picture-perfect family.
"C'mon Jules!" Shawn said, taking her hand and pulling her gently through the small forest that lined the park.
"Where are we going?" she followed closely behind him, swerving to avoid low-hanging branches and emerging roots.
"You'll see!" Shawn said, making a sharp turn and pulling her into an opening between two trees. He quickly whipped her around before she could see anything. "Close your eyes." He instructed, putting his hands on her shoulders and watching her closely. Juliet could see his eyebrows dancing with excitement before she sighed and closed her eyes.
"Now you have to promise not to tell anyone about what you see here."
"Why?" Juliet asked, crossing her arms.
"Because this is my special place and no one knows about it. So you have to promise that you won't tell anyone."
"Fine. I promise."
"Cross your heart."
Juliet took her finger with her eyes still closed, tracing it across her chest. "Cross my heart and hope to die. I promise I won't tell anyone."
She could feel Shawn slowly twisting her around so she was facing away from him. His hands tightly squeezing her arms, he led her a few steps forward, twisting her back and forth slightly to keep her from tripping on rocks.
"Ok. Open your eyes now."
Blinking into the bright summer sun, her eyes focused on a secluded creek in an opening in the forest. Green moss-covered rocks lined the water and flowers sprouted out from the cracks. A rope swing hung off a nearby branch, hanging over a break in the rocks.
"It's so pretty!" Jules said, breaking free of his grasp and running towards the creek. She grabbed a rock off the ground and hurled it into the water, satisfied by the heavy echo it made as it fell into the water.
Shawn came up behind her, grabbing a rock of his own and tossing it sideways. Juliet watched in amazement as the rock danced across the top of the water, bouncing one, two, three, four times before dropping to the mud below.
"Come on!" Shawn said, grabbing her hand again and walking her along the side of the water. The rushing of the water got louder as Shawn lead her down a pile of rocks, making sure to hold a hand out for her with every big drop or slippery step.
"What is it?" Juliet asked, finding herself having to nearly yell over the roar of the creek.
"It's a waterfall. Watch this!" Shawn said. He bounced down the rocks to the base of the waterfall and yelled at the top of his lungs.
Juliet giggled as the sound of his screams dissolved into the water.
"You try!" Shawn said, running back up the rocks to help her down. She followed him to the base of the waterfall, cupped her hands around her mouth, screamed as loud as she could.
She giggled again.
"No one can hear you when you scream down here." He yelled to her, squinting as water splashed into his face.
"Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" They both yelled, collapsing in laughter until they ran out of breath.
Juliet still remembers every inch of that creek. They used to spend every day there while Shawn's dad was at work. They would jump off the rope swing into the deep opening of the creek, scream into the waterfall, pick flowers for each other and play house. Shawn taught her how to skip rocks. She taught him how to braid hair.
He gave her a ring that had made out of twigs and she would wear it every day, pleased with how the twisted shoots would tickle her fingertips and she traced it around her finger. Even now, she still has the ring tucked safely in a special box with the rest of her jewelry, where she had kept it since the day it broke off her finger.
There the summer days would pass around them, safe from the outside world that teetered on a pin, troubles threatening to come crashing down around them at a moment's notice.
But then it did.
Juliet shifts in her seat, her last day in Santa Barbara flashing through her mind, the memory thick in the air around her, suffocating her every breath.
"What is this?" Shawn asked. They were sitting in the branches of the tree with the rope swing. Juliet pulled out a bottle and handed it to him.
"Sweet tea," Juliet explained, "try it. It's good. We used to drink it in Kentucky."
Shawn opened the lid and took a careful sip before spitting it out. "That's disgusting!" he cried. "It tastes like dirt!"
"You have to add sugar," Juliet said, pulling out a few packets of sugar and pouring one into the bottle, shaking it up and handing it back to him.
"Add all of it!" Shawn said, holding it out for her.
Once all the packets of sugar had been added, Shawn carefully tipped the bottle back up to his mouth and cautiously took a second sip. "It's good!" he said.
He took a few more sips as Juliet sat quietly, watching him. Her heart was beating rapidly in her chest, fear and sadness making it impossible to inhale.
"Jules, what's wrong?"
"They found my dad," Juliet said, tears prickling her eyes.
"Where?" Shawn asked. Juliet could feel him studying her face. "Why aren't you excited? Isn't this what you wanted?"
"He bought a house for us. We're going to be a family again…" she sighed, hesitant to speak again, "in Florida."
She watched Shawn's face drop too. "You're moving?"
"We leave tomorrow."
They sat in silence, passing the bottle of sweet tea between them, both lost in their own delicate world.
"You could come with me!" Juliet said suddenly, excited by the idea.
"No, I couldn't. How would I come with you?"
"You can sneak in the car with us! I'll hide you in my toys!"
"Really?" Shawn asked, his face lighting up with hope.
"Yeah! We can run away together and you won't have to worry about your dad anymore. You can borrow my dad. He's going to stay this time. That's what my mom says."
"But what about my dad?"
"Don't worry about him! I'll protect you. Pack your bags and I'll come get you tonight."
Juliet shutters, thinking about that night. She wanted to protect him. She wanted to take him with her and keep him safe. But she had failed. Even now, with time and rational thought on her side, she still wishes she could have saved him that night.
"You ready, Shawn?" Juliet whispered, tickling his nose with her finger from the windowsill. His eyes opened, a sneaky grin already formed on his face.
"Here, take this," he said, reaching under his bed and pulling out his school backpack with some clothes in it. He dropped his stuffed rabbit into the top and zipped it, handing her the bag before tiptoeing to the corner of the room for his shoes.
"Let's go!" Juliet said. Together, they silently slid down the tree, snuck across the lawn and out the gate to the side of the ocean.
"We're free!" Shawn said, running through the sand by the ocean. The moon light up the water and Juliet could see his face smiling in the reflection. They ran along the beach for a while, Juliet doing cartwheels in the sand until they both collapsed, using Shawn's getaway bag as a pillow.
"When we get to Florida, we can go play in the ocean whenever we want. And we won't have to ask your dad first."
"When we get to Florida, we don't ever have to worry about my dad again," Shawn said. Juliet felt pleased with herself, for helping her best friend escape. For setting him free.
"Shawn," Juliet said, propping herself up on her hand to get a better look at him.
"Yes Jules?" he asked, his eyes closed, basking in the warm breeze of the summer night.
"I love you, Shawn."
He opened his eyes and smiled at her. Propping himself onto his hand so he was closer to her, he said "I love you to the moon, Jules."
"Well, I love you to Saturn," she replied, quickly moving her face forward until their lips were touching. It was a just quick peck. His lips were warm and tasted like saltwater.
"That was my first kiss," Shawn said, smiling at her.
She wanted to do it again, but their quiet moment was interrupted by a loud voice echoing in the distance.
"Oh no!" Shawn whispered, grabbing his bag off the sand and pulling her into a nearby patch of weeds, "My dad found me."
"That's my mom," she said, her eyes wide with panic. Shawn took her hand in his as they shrunk down as deeply as they could into the tall plants, hearts beating rapidly in sync.
"Shawn!" the voice was getting closer "Where the hell are you?"
Juliet looked over and saw tears collecting in Shawn's eyes, fear washing over his face.
The voice got to the edge of the weeds. "Get out here!" he bellowed, hands reaching blindly into the thick plants.
Juliet couldn't take it anymore. She couldn't take seeing her friend in fear. She couldn't take him bullying Shawn. She started to stand up, Shawn's grip still tight on her wrist.
"You leave him alone you bastard!" Juliet screamed at him, her head just barely poking out above the weeds.
"Juliet!" she heard her mom yell, rushing over to them. But Juliet didn't notice her. She was too busy staring down the beast, his heavy breath and twisted features blowing sour air in her face.
"You listen to me, you little-" but Juliet didn't hear the rest over the screams she didn't realize were coming from her lungs. She had been picked up and watched in horror as the angry man picked up Shawn, their hands still tightly locked together.
"No! Let me go! Let me go! No! No!" Juliet screamed, trying to kick herself out of her mother's grip. She reached out, desperately trying to reinforce her grip on Shawn's arm, who was flailing to reach her better.
"No!" Shawn cried, trying to kick free. "Let me go with her! Please!"
"What the hell were you thinking? Going out alone in the dark?" Shawn's dad yelled at him, ignoring his plea. "Don't you know that's how kids get kidnapped! Have I taught you nothing, you idiot?"
With that, he twisted quickly, breaking Shawn's grasp from Juliet's hands.
"Let's go," he said, ignoring the cries of his son and marching away quickly, Shawn still held securely by his father.
"No! Shawn!" She cried, watching him go. Her wrists were still warm from where he had been desperately clinging to her just moments ago. And now he was gone.
Juliet breathes deeply to calm her racing heart as the plane hits a few bumps in its descent. That was the last time she ever saw Shawn. She had tried with every fiber of her being to stay awake that night, go get him in the morning before they left so they could run away together. But when she woke up, she was already in the car, squished between her brothers, driving east.
She cups her wrists in her hands remembering the bruises that had lingered on her arms for days after they arrived in Florida, a tattoo of the boy she couldn't save. She never moved on, never stopped thinking about him. How could she? How could she be happy when there was so much sadness in his eyes? How could there be beauty in this world when he spent his nights hiding from his father? How come she couldn't save?
Her thoughts are interrupted by the plane bouncing off the ground before slowing to a stop at the gate.
"Good evening folks," the pilot's voice rang over the loudspeakers, "Thank you for flying with us, and let me be the first to welcome you to Los Angeles."
Juliet lays in bed awake that night, exhausted by the long day of traveling but unable to ease her mind. When the opportunity to transfer to the SBPD as a detective had come up in Miami, she couldn't say no. Despite her worries that Shawn's dad would still be there, she couldn't help but hoping she would find him again too.
So, in less than a week, she had packed up her small apartment into a few suitcases and left, only having her mother to say goodbye to.
Morning finally creeps slowly through the window and Juliet dresses quickly, anxiety fueling her movements. She's in Santa Barbara. She'll find him again. He has to be here, somewhere in this town, right?
But what if he's not? What if she just uprooted her life and moved all the way across the country and he already left? It's not like she could blame him, after having to grow up the way he did. What would possibly be keeping him here, in this city?
She drives into town, recognizing the red bricks of the police station from the time Shawn's dad had brought them there years ago. He had been giving them a tour, showing them where they would work once they grew up and became cops. It had been the only time she had ever seen the man smile.
"Juliet O'Hara," she says to the woman at the front desk, "it's my first day."
"Detective O'Hara," a bold voice says from behind her. She whips around to see a blond, very pregnant woman standing down the hall, calling her name. Detective. She liked the sound of that. "Follow me."
Juliet walks quickly to catch up to the woman who is holding out her hand, beckoning to her office. There is already a tall man sitting in one of the seats at the desk.
"Carlton, this is your new partner, Juliet O'Hara." The woman, who she's assuming is the chief, takes a seat across from them. "Juliet, Detective Lassiter."
"Hi," Juliet says warmly, sticking out her hand, "It's nice to meet you."
"Hm," he mumbles, nodding at her, his arms remaining crossed.
"Carlton," the chief warns, about to say more when the door flies open and a young man bursts into the room, his arms flailing around him. A quiet man follows behind him unfazed, watching the scene unfold from the doorway.
"Pineapples! Honey! Bananas!" He yells, his eyes closed as he twists around the room. Juliet watches him in amazement and confusion, unsure what to make of the sudden disturbance.
"Mr. Spencer, we're in the middle of something, can we please do this later?" the chief asks, motioning to the door. Juliet's heart stops. Mr. Spencer? She stares at his face, searching for the features of the boy she once knew.
"What could you possibly be in the middle of that is more important-" but he stops, midsentence, his eyes meeting Juliet and she knows, in that moment, that he knows too.
"Mr. Spencer, I would like you to meet-"
"Jules-" The words fall out of his mouth softly, and for a moment time stands still. He is ok. He made it through. And not only that, he's here. Right now. Looking at her. And she is looking at him.
"Oh, um, do you already know each other?" the chief says, slightly thrown off.
"We uh…" Shawn stutters, not breaking eye contact, "use to be neighbors."
"I um…" Juliet adds, disbelief still holding her tongue "we used to live next door."
"Well, Mr. Spencer is our resident psychic," the chief says, ignoring the scoff coming from her new partner.
Psychic? She mouths softly to him, watching his cheeks get red.
"And this is his partner Mr. Guster," she says, nodding to the other man, still watching them from the doorway. He is staring at her too, his eyes darting back and forth between her and Shawn.
The office phone rings loudly, interrupting the moment.
"Oh, I need to take this," the chief says, nodding to excuse the group from her office. Lassiter walks out of the room quickly, still not making eye contact with her. Not that she notices. As soon as they leave the office, Shawn grabs her hand just like he used to do when they were younger, pulling her out the front door of the station, wrapping her up in a hug as soon as the California sun hits their faces.
She feels light in his arms, the weight of twenty years of worry lifted off her shoulders.
"You're here!" he says, his hands cupping her cheeks in disbelief. His palms feel warm against her face and she beams, happy to replace the memory of the last time he touched her.
"You're here," she exhales, still unable to trust her eyes.
"But how-" he starts to say, cut off as she closes the gap between their faces, her lips brushing his gently before she could back down.
"Jules," he breathes, studying the love in her as he pulls away momentarily. But he doesn't say anymore, pulling her face close to his, and kissing her for the twenty years that he didn't get to.
Maybe there are still beautiful things.
Authors Notes: I hope you enjoyed it! This was my first AU but I am so pleased by how it turned out! Let me know what you think!