Carlton is in the process of lathering his hair when he notices it.
He pauses mid-scrub and looks up into the spray of water, steam clouding his vision and soap stinging his eyes. When it clears, though, the thing is still there, clinging to the basket above his showerhead. Not a hallucination, then.
Carlton takes in the beady black eyes, the button nose, the tag on one ear bearing the legend “FluffyFriendz!” He can’t help noticing that the dot of the exclamation point is shaped like a heart.
There’s a big red heart on the bear’s paw, too, embroidered with the words, “Press Here”. Against his better instincts, Carlton does.
“Love me!” it says.
What. The hell.
“What the hell is this supposed to mean?”
Carlton slams the newspaper, already open to page C-3, on O’Hara’s desk. She carefully slides her coffee mug off to the side.
“Um. There’s a sale at Sears?”
“No, not that,” Carlton snaps. He jabs a finger at the offending article. “This.”
O’Hara wrinkles her nose and reads. “‘Aries: Clint Eastwood is a vegan. Just thought you should know.’ Um. Very upsetting.”
“Do you believe that for a second?” Carlton demands.
O’Hara shrugs. “I don’t know, Carlton. He is an actor. My friend Bobby is an actor, and he’s a vegan.”
Carlton lets out a furious snarl and snatches the paper back up, crushing it into a ball and disposing of it in the wastebasket next to O’Hara’s desk.
O’Hara looks mildly alarmed. “I mean, I know it’s not very horoscope-y, but I don’t really see what’s all that offensive about it,” she protests.
“You wouldn’t,” Carlton growls. Something on the opposite side of the bullpen catches his eye, and then he’s striding away, leaving a bemused-looking O’Hara in his wake.
“I know you’re behind this,” Carlton snaps, poking Spencer in the chest with as much force as he can muster.
“Hi, Lassie, good to see you too!” Spencer says, grinning up at him. “Also, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Carlton snorts. “Is that so?”
“You bet,” Spencer tells him, not even having the decency to look guilty. “Anyway, I just stopped by to give you a present.”
“I’m sure you did,” Carlton mutters, crossing his arms.
Spencer is, unsurprisingly, undeterred by his lack of enthusiasm. “Well, it’s more a token of thanks. Not from me, though. You remember that tiny blonde lady from the last case we solved, with the flowery blouses and the sweet little purse-poodle? Adorable! Anyway, she gave these to Gus and me for our work on the case – we’re sort of flexible with what we accept as payment from our clients – and wouldn’t you know, Gus said he didn’t need his!” He waves the envelope in his hands with a flourish. “But it did make me think of you, Lassie, so: enjoy!”
He thrusts the envelope against Carlton’s chest, turns away, and struts off in the opposite direction all in the space of one fluid movement. Carlton glares at Spencer’s retreating form.
Once he’s gone, Carlton looks down at the envelope in his hands. He can’t help being just a little curious about its contents. So he opens it.
Inside is a coupon for complementary harp lessons.
“Goddammit,” Carlton hisses. He crumples the paper in his fist.
Carlton isn’t exactly sure why he shows up on Spencer’s doorstep several hours later, but he does.
“Lassie!” Spencer greets him when he answers the door, by all appearances in a positively jovial mood. He’s unnaturally happy, if you ask Carlton, for someone who lives alone in a former dry-cleaner’s and hasn’t had a steady relationship since…ever, as far as Carlton’s aware. “What, no flowers?”
“What?” Carlton snaps. “No! Why would I bring you flowers?”
Spencer shrugs. “It’s Valentine’s Day. I got you presents.”
“Yes,” Carlton says dangerously. “You did.”
Spencer beams at him. “Did you like them?”
“I don’t believe you,” Spencer says, and Carlton is absolutely ready to correct that misapprehension when Spencer throws his arms open wide. “Maybe you’ll like the present I haven’t given you yet! It’s a manly hug of manliness,” he says, sotto voce, as though that really needs to be explained.
“Spencer,” Carlton begins, his tone threatening many, many unpleasant things, “I would rather…”
“Go on, think of something,” Spencer interrupts, his grin growing maniacal. “I promise I’ll make it happen!”
That gives Carlton pause; if today has proven anything, it's that Spencer is definitely not lying about that. He thinks for a moment. “All right,” he decides, and Spencer’s eyebrows fly up in surprise.
Carlton takes a step forward and crosses the threshold of the apartment, invading Spencer’s personal space. Spencer quickly takes a step backward, like he thinks Carlton is going to kill him or something, but Carlton isn't about to let him get far.
“Spencer,” he says again, stepping on the other man's toes as he moves in, predatory, "I would rather - "
He fists a hand in Spencer’s collar, yanks him closer, and leans in until his lips are brushing Spencer’s.
“…do this,” he growls, and kisses him. Hard.
And Spencer, it seems, would rather do this, too.
“Oh,” Spencer says when he pulls back, slightly breathless. He’s looking up at Carlton with glassy eyes, his mouth swollen and red. “Why didn’t you just say so in the first place?”
Carlton can’t think of anything to say to that, so for the first time that day, he just grins.
Spencer leans back in to kiss him again, and Carlton kicks the door shut.