Summary: Because there was no way she was going to set him up with one of her friends and not give him a substantial amount of dating advice. Strong Lassie/Jules friendship and Lassie/OC.
A/N: If you already read Let's Get Alphabetical (and the chapter notes) you'll already know that this is a longer version of the "Try" chapter. I normally don't write OC, but I need Lassie to get some love in his life...oh, and I get to satisfy my total adoration for Lassie/Jules friendship. Talk about killing two birds with one stone, right?
CHAPTER ONE: The Set Up
"He's a great guy," Juliet assures her friend over the phone, a mere two hours before the date was scheduled.
Elizabeth sighs in response. "I'm sensing a 'but' in there somewhere. As in, he's a great guy, but...?"
Juliet hesitates. "He's rough around the edges."
"Juliet." says Elizabeth sharply. "How rough are we talking here?"
"He's a great partner!" Juliet defends immediately. "I wouldn't want anyone else, ever. But he's a cop."
"Is that all? I told you I didn't mind."
"But he's really a cop. It's his life. He finds it hard to relax and he's bad at small talk. And flirting...and dating..."
"Oh, God. Why am I doing this again?"
"Because he's a really sweet guy, underneath it all! Plus, I think you guys could seriously hit it off if you gave him a real chance. Once you start to understand him...well, you'll see."
"Juliet, if this is gonna turn out like the time you set me up with Alan..."
"No, I swear. This will totally work. You'll like him. Promise."
"Okay. I'll trust you. For now. But do you think he'll like me? I mean, really?"
Juliet smiles. "Yeah. He'll like you."
Juliet doesn't call beforehand; she gets the distinct feeling that if her partner knew precisely what she had in mind, he wouldn't let her anywhere near his apartment. So it's with surprise that he opens his door to find her there, smiling sheepishly at him and asking politely if he'll let her come in.
He steps aside smoothly, wonderingly, and it's only then – when she knows that he won't be able to refuse entrance – that she lets herself show her true intentions.
He closes the door and she scrutinizes his appearance. "O'Hara, what are you...?"
"Is that really what you're wearing?" she interrupts, not bothering to make any actual explanation of her visit.
He looks down at his shirt, then back up. "Yeah. What's wrong with it?" he asks defensively.
She sighs. "It's a first impression, Carlton. So, let's impress. We'll see if we can't find something a bit nicer for you." She takes his hand and leads him down his own hallway, and he trails behind her like a bewildered child.
And then they're in the bedroom, and he's sitting on his bed, staring at her with astonishment as she rifles through the clothes of his closet.
She frowns at his selections, shakes her head a bit, then finally smiles. She pulls out a dark blue button-up shirt. "Try this." she orders, casually passing it back to him.
"O'Hara, there is nothing wrong with the shirt I'm wearing!"
"Nothing wrong with it, but nothing right with it. I like the dark blue on you, though. It sort of makes your eyes stand out more. And you've got really pretty eyes. Bet you anything that's the first thing she notices about you."
She turns away from the closet to face him. He recognizes that look immediately. She is fiercely determined in a way that Carlton has only seen a few times, and for just a second, he's almost afraid of her. When she speaks, though, her voice is soft and reassuring. "I know her, Carlton. I can help you with this. I can give you all the advice you'll need. You want to give this a real shot, right?"
And the thing is, he actually does. He's moving on from the divorce, and he'll never admit it, but he's tired of feeling so alone.
Before he knows it, he's voluntarily wearing the shirt that she picked out.
From that moment on, he decides not to argue.
They go back to his living room and sit on his couch. She begins to offer a never-ending stream of advice. He tries to remember it all.
"Let her talk about herself. Listen and ask questions. Smile a lot. Make eye contact. Don't get bossy with the waiters. Leave a good tip. Don't talk about your ex-wife or any previous relationships. If she asks about them, which I'm sure she won't, don't go too into detail. Skate over everything. That's not proper first date conversation."
"Damn, O'Hara, is it even worth it?" asks Lassiter, suddenly overwhelmed and annoyed. Dating should not be this complicated, in his mind. "How do you know we'll even like each other?"
A little grin turns up the corners of her mouth. "I wanted it to be a surprise but..."
"But...?" he prods wearily.
She leans in close to him, as if to share a precious secret. "She loves guns." she whispers, and he raises an eyebrow.
"What do you mean she loves guns?"
"Exactly what I said, Carlton. Her father owns a gun store. She was raised off guns. She's a good shot. She could have been a cop, if she had ever wanted to be. She goes to the public shooting range every few weeks. In fact, if this goes well, maybe you guys can go shooting together. I think she'd like that."
Carlton runs fingers through his hair, and a far-away look comes into his eyes. "God, she sounds perfect."
Juliet laughs. "That's why I thought you'd like her."
"Do I really look all right?" he says, suddenly much more concerned with his appearance.
"Perfect." Juliet answers. "Now, you're taking her to a restaurant without crayons on the table, right?"
"Right." he confirms. "Reservations at Mario's, at your suggestion."
"And you'll listen and ask her questions about herself?"
"Yes. Of course."
"And you won't tell the dead clown story...?"
"I still say it's funny!"
"Totally is not!"
He looks at her pleading expression, and although he still thinks he's right, he'll trust her – for now. "I won't tell it." he concedes. He looks at her anxiously. "Think she'll like me?"
Juliet smiles hopefully at her partner. "I'm sure of it."
A/N: Oh, Lassie...I love you entirely too much. Reviews are awesome. Next chapter begins the date; more to come soon. :D