Rating: T.

Disclaimer: don't own psych, no copyright infringement intended.

Note: One-shot Lassiet. Pre-any-Shules (sorry, Shulesians, but Team Lassiet won't go down without a fight). Lassiter was present at the birth of Karen Vick's baby back in S1. Now, five years later, he meets Iris again, and their visit makes a big impression on Juliet. Thanks to Lawson227 for the prompt! (Now go read her Lassiet stories—she is awesome-tastic.)

. . . .

. . .

Juliet O'Hara had a problem. She had already admitted it to herself, which supposedly was "half the battle," but she didn't care about the battle so much as solving the problem, and she had no idea how to solve the problem.

The problem was that after several years of letting Shawn Spencer try to inch his way into her life (and sometimes she was okay with that), she had come to accept that the man she really wanted was… dammit… her blue-eyed, irascible partner.

At the moment, said partner was glowering at a pedestrian in the police station lot who was taking too long to move herself out of the way of his parking space. Juliet stole a glance at his profile and wanted to soothe him (and maybe kiss him), but today that wouldn't work. Today had been a bad day for Lassiter; starting with a coffee spill to his jacket and leading up to a suspect punching him in the gut, which incident didn't end well for the suspect, but would also put a black mark in Lassiter's record.

He was about to honk the horn when she spoke up gently. "Don't do it, Carlton."

Lassiter sighed. Juliet rolled her window down and called to the pedestrian, flashing her badge and the smile she reserved for people she wanted to shoot. The woman, who had begun to apologize, stopped in mid-grovel and hurried out of the way.

"Thank you," he said grimly, pulling in.

"How's your stomach?" she asked, in a tone which matched the look she'd given the pedestrian.

He leaned back against the headrest, weary. "It's okay. It's better."

"You're too tough to feel pain," she suggested more lightly, and earned a half-smile.

"What gets said in the car, stays in the car," he countered. "I'm just glad he didn't kick me in the groin."

"Me too. You might have pistol-whipped him and then I'd be assigned a new partner."

"God forbid."

Indeed, she thought. She didn't want a new partner. Ever.

He was walking a little slower than usual, she noted as they entered the station; he probably was in more pain than he'd admit even to her, and she knew full well he would say more to her than to anyone else. His trust was something she treasured. "You should take the afternoon off," she advised.

Lassiter shrugged. "Miserable at home, miserable at work; what's the difference?"

"Well, for one thing—"

"Detectives!" called Chief Vick from her office as they passed.

Juliet went in first, spotting the anomaly before Lassiter could. Karen nodded to them both, and gestured to her daughter. "Say hello to Iris."

She was a sweet little dark-eyed girl, happy in her blue dress with the silver ribbons. Juliet couldn't help but smile at her, perched upon her mother's desk, legs swinging. "Hello, Iris. I'm Juliet."

Lassiter was silent at first, and Juliet thought oh hell, he feels like crap, and now he has to be polite to his boss' child?

But then he too smiled at Iris Vick. "Hey, Iris. That is a very pretty dress."

Karen said, "Iris, do you remember asking me about when you were born?" Iris nodded. "And I told you I was away on a business trip, so your daddy couldn't be there, right?" Now she pointed at Lassiter. "This is Carlton. I told you about him. He was with me in the delivery room."

Iris turned her solemn dark gaze to Lassiter, and the two of them studied each other. Then she smiled. "You helped my mommy."

Lassiter held out his hand. "I did. You were a beautiful baby, Iris."

"He held you before I did," Karen added, and Juliet thought she looked proud rather than envious. "I'm afraid I wasn't very nice to him."

Dark eyebrow up, Lassiter kept silent, but Iris let him help her down off the desk. "Your mother was as nice as she could be under the circumstances."

Vick glanced at Juliet sheepishly. "Poor guy never stood a chance."

Lassiter took a seat over by the table, and Iris kept her hand in his, looking him over carefully. He seemed perfectly at ease, and Juliet was surprised for a moment, but then remembered that several years ago during the disaster which was his introduction to her family, he had been just as at ease with her nephews. Sure, he'd inadvertently traumatized them, but he'd been comfortable. He never talked down to them and seemed right at home in their company.

He'd said he liked kids and wanted some of his own, but it was nice to see he meant it.

"Today is Iris' birthday," Karen said, watching Lassiter with amusement. "She's five, and we're on our way to have a girls' day out."

"I have a birthday party tonight!" Iris exclaimed. "With cake and presents. I want a pony."

"A pony," Lassiter repeated, as if this were very important news. "Do you think you'll get one?"

Iris frowned at her mother, who was shaking her head. "Mommy says no but my grandma says all things are poshible."

"Possible," Lassiter corrected her with a smile which took years—and tiredness—off his face, and lit up his remarkable blue eyes. "What kind of cake are you having for your birthday party?"

"Chocolate! Ice cream too!" She spontaneously hugged him, and he looked surprised as he hugged her back.

"So what brings you to the station on girls' day out?" Juliet asked, if only so she could stop staring unabashedly at Lassiter.

Vick grimaced. "I have to be in on a conference call which they swear will only take ten minutes." She looked past Juliet into the hall. "Oh, they're ready for me—would you stay with Iris for just a bit? Please?"

"We'd be happy to," Lassiter answered. "Take your time."

Vick thanked them and hurried out after assuring Iris she'd be back soon, almost running into Shawn and Gus on their way in.

"Well, who's this?" Shawn exclaimed, eyeing the little girl. "And why is she talking to Mean Mr. Mustard?"

"Shawn," Juliet admonished him. "This is Chief Vick's daughter Iris."

"Aaaaand again, why is she talking to Mean Mr. Mustard?" he repeated. Lassiter didn't rise to the bait, but Iris stared at Shawn suspiciously. "Hi, Iris. Remember me?"

Gus scoffed. "Shawn, you haven't seen her since she was six months old. Why would she remember you?"

"Oh, I don't know, Gus—the hair? The joie de vivre? The essence of Shawnness?"

"What's your name?" Iris asked.

Shawn was magnanimous. "I'm Shawn Spencer, and this is my friend, Wallaby Overbi—"

"My name is Gus," Gus interrupted. Iris smiled at him, but the smile faded when she looked at Shawn again, and she stayed close to Lassiter, who put his hand on her back protectively.

"Hi," she said uncertainly.

"They work with us," Juliet explained.

"Well, I do. Gus here is just a—"

"Shawn! First you lie about my car, and now you're telling a sweet little girl I don't do as much as you do?"

"She's, what, three? She really doesn't care about your car, man."

"I'm five," Iris declared testily.

"Pardon me. Five." He half-waved and resumed, "Gus, don't be a broken Pringles chip. You know I won that bet fair and square."

"It wasn't a bet, Shawn. You said you were going to wash my car and I said you probably weren't because you hardly ever do the things you say you'll do."

"That's not true, and you're just grumpy because I got the last scoop of M&Ms for my ice cream."

"If you were my friend," Gus said meaningfully, "you would have shared those M&Ms with me." He nodded. "After washing my car like you promised."

"You're mean." This abrupt declaration, aimed at Shawn, was made by Iris.

Shawn was taken aback. "You're talking to Gus, right?"

She shook her head.

"I'm not mean!" he protested. "I'm very nice."

"You're not that nice," Gus muttered.

Shawn dropped to one knee in front of Iris, smiling innocently. "He just doesn't understand me sometimes."

"No one understands you," Gus muttered again.

"I'm very nice, and I do nice things."

"Like what?" she challenged.

"Yeah, Shawn, like what?"

Shawn pulled the glass fish off of Vick's desk. "Like give sweet fish to sweet little girls."

"That's my mommy's fish."

He put it back at once, and held out his hand to her. "Gimme five?"

Iris put her hands on her hips. "No."

"Four?"

She stared.

"A hug?" He reached for her as if she had already agreed, but she backed away.

"You smell funny," she announced.

He was appalled. "I do not."

"Do too."

"Listen, Iris, I happen to be a very clean person. My hair smells nice and my clothes smell nice and—"

Gus sniffed his own sleeve. "Actually, we smell like old fajitas. I told you Carmela's was a bad idea for lunch."

Iris was shaking her head.

Shawn, batting zero, did what he did best: he turned it on Lassiter, who'd been quietly enjoying the show. "Well, I smell way better than Lassie."

No you don't, Juliet thought. Lassiter always smelled good, and never like old fajitas.

Iris went back to Lassiter and sniffed him. "He smells nice. He smells like my daddy." She put one possessive hand on his arm and glared at Shawn.

"Then your daddy smells—" Shawn stopped, obviously thinking better of it. "There is no way I don't smell better than Lassie. He's using cologne from 1983. Probably stored in mothballs."

Iris was looking at Lassiter again, curiously. "He has pretty eyes." She turned another glare on Shawn. "And his name is Carlton." She crossed her arms. "And you're mean."

Lassiter smiled lazily and held out his hand; Iris took it and beamed at him.

Shawn was speechless.

Juliet was entranced.

Gus rolled his eyes. "Come on, Shawn."

Shawn slowly got to his feet. He was clearly flummoxed. "This isn't happening."

"Yes it is, Shawn. Let's go."

"Gus, no. I can't let this... this travesty remain unfixed."

"Shawn, you've been smacked down by a five-year-old. You can't fix that. You can only make it worse. Let's go." He clutched Shawn's arm and started to drag him out.

"Wait!" Shawn broke free and went back to kneel before Iris. "Iris, sweetie, I'm sorry. I really am a nice person. I promise. You can ask anyone. Ask Lassie—I mean—ask Juliet. Gus is just mad because—" He stopped. "Well, he gets mad a lot."

"Prob'ly because you're so mean," she said archly.

That was it for Lassiter; he laughed out loud, and Iris looked at him delightedly. So did Juliet; my God, she thought, he's just so damn attractive when he's happy.

"Had enough?" Gus inquired.

Shawn was beaten. But as Gus dragged him out, he caught Juliet's arm and dragged her out into the hall with them. "What the hell just happened?" he demanded.

She shrugged. "You can't wow them all, Shawn."

"Yes, I can. I always wow them. I wow like nobody wows. I am a veritable Wowmaster of wowism."

"The barista at Java Mama hates you," Gus pointed out.

"Your dad finds you extremely annoying," Juliet added.

"Most of your ex-girlfriends took you right the hell out of their phone books."

"Not helping!" snapped Shawn. "I should be able to wow a four-year-old!"

"She's five. Today's her birthday."

"So? That's practically four."

"Actually, Shawn, since today's her birthday it means she's finished her fifth year and this is the first day of her sixth year."

"Gus, don't be a crazy math milk-drinking baboon geek."

"I'm going back to work," Gus said huffily, and headed out. Shawn had to follow at a sprint, and Juliet started back into Vick's office, pausing in the doorway to take in the pleasant sight of her blue-eyed partner smiling easily at the charmed little girl.

Except she was scowling. "He wasn't very nice."

"He's all right," Lassiter assured her, and Juliet was surprised. "Everyone around here likes him a lot. More than they like me," he added, and his tone, oddly, was not one of either envy or bitterness. It was simply a statement.

Iris didn't believe him. "Even my mommy?"

He paused, and Juliet knew he was pondering how much Iris was likely to parrot back to her mother. "Your mom's the boss, so she likes everybody equally."

Eh, it sounded good.

She tugged at his tie. "What about that other lady?"

"Who? You mean Juliet?"

A shy nod.

"Oh, yeah, she likes Shawn more than me."

Juliet felt her heart twinge—ache—but she couldn't break in now.

Iris's sweet little face scrunched up. "She's silly."

Lassiter chuckled. "No, Juliet is a very nice lady. She's as nice and pretty as you are. It's okay if she likes Shawn more than me. What do you like best, vanilla or chocolate ice cream?"

"Chocolate!" she said at once, grinning.

"But some people like vanilla ice cream best, right?"

"I like you best," she declared, and hugged him. Lassiter hugged her back, and Juliet felt misty seeing how relaxed he was with this little child.

"That's because you're the best," he told her, and earned another squeeze. "I hope you have a really good birthday, Iris."

"Thank you," she said with a smile. "Do you think my mommy and daddy will get me a pony?"

He smiled back at her. "Do you have room for a pony in your house?"

Iris considered. "Well. Maybe a little one."

"Maybe?"

"I've been really good," she pleaded, as if he were Santa or the Make A Horse-Wish genie.

"I'm sure you have, but a pony takes up a lot of space, aaaaand..." He leaned in close and whispered something Juliet couldn't hear but which made Iris dissolve into giggles, covering her face with her hands.

"Eewww!" she said, but was happy nonetheless.

"You don't want that in your room, do you?" His grin was delightful. Juliet wished he were looking at her like that. She liked him best, too.

"No!" She laughed happily, and Lassiter set her in his lap to spin the chair around. At some point 'around the world' he spotted Juliet in the doorway, but it didn't seem to faze him, and Iris loved every minute of it.

So did Juliet.

And now she not only knew it was time to solve her problem, but she also knew how.

. . . .

. . .

End of the day, his gut still aching, Lassiter was in the observation room jotting down some notes on the last guy they'd talked to about a credit card scam.

He was still in a good mood regardless of the morning's events, for two reasons. One, because of his time with the little girl whose birth he had witnessed, and two, because all day long, Juliet had been making him feel better. She'd eased his morning more than she could ever know, and having her in the room later when they were with Iris Vick had somehow conjured up secret little daydreams of the two of them as parents… together.

But Juliet, he reminded himself with irritation, was still a fan of Spencer's. Not to mention his partner. Daydreams were meant to be squashed, and he would start squashing anew as soon as he got home… at least until he was in bed and the darkness of the night would lend itself to dreams he was helpless to resist.

Lassiter closed the folder and turned to leave, but Juliet was standing there, giving him an odd look. She pushed the door shut and folded her arms across her chest.

For a few seconds she didn't speak, and he waited, because he'd learned that's what you had to do sometimes with women.

Then she asked quietly, "Why did you say that to Iris?"

His mind raced. What had he said? What could have been misinterpreted? Sometimes he thought there was a filter between him and the rest of the world (read: women) which translated his perfectly reasonable, rational statements into words which were inevitably used as weapons against him. He cut to the chase. "Why did I say what?"

Her voice was soft. "That I like Shawn better than you."

For a second he was embarrassed, but quickly and ruthlessly shoved that feeling back, realizing she was more concerned about what Iris might repeat to her mother. "Don't you?" When she didn't answer, he added, "I wouldn't worry too much about what a five-year-old thinks about people she may never meet again."

Juliet was still. "I'm more concerned about what you think."

Lassiter stared at her, keeping his expression blank while his pulse went a little nuts. "O'Hara, she's five. It doesn't matter." He started briskly toward her and the door.

But she spread her arms wide and blocked his exit.

"O'Hara," he said again.

"Carlton, this conversation is not about Iris."

"Then what's it about?"

"It's about you. Me. And incidentally, Shawn."

"Well? Haven't you spent the last few years flirting with him?" He most certainly did not intend to discuss her feelings for Shawn. He'd rather give himself separate paper cuts for every sheet of paper in the folder.

She frowned. "It's more like he's been flirting with me."

"You don't exactly send him packing."

"He works with us. And I like him. Of course I like him. But Carlton—"

He raised his hand before she could finish. "Stop. I don't need to hear this. I have to—"

Now she stood firm again in the doorway. "No."

"What do you mean, no?"

Her tone was even. "Whatever you were about to go do, you can't. We're not done here."

"O'Hara, I don't know what you want from me." He still couldn't tell whether her manner was one of anger, but he didn't want his good mood to be killed so quickly.

"That seems obvious," she said dryly. "Okay, look, here it is. If you want to leave this room, you're going to have to put your hands on me."

Lassiter froze, except for his eyebrows, which he knew had shot up.

"You should know, I will resist." She smiled faintly. "So… there'll be a struggle. I'm kind of a squirmer, by the way."

His heart was doing funny flipping things.

"And at some point during this struggle," she said so softly that it was almost a whisper, "even if you end up moving me out of your way, I'm pretty sure my mouth is going to come into contact with yours. In fact, you can count on it."

Instantly he was unable to not look at her lips... already imagining kissing her. What the hell was she doing?

"And then, Carlton, then I think just maybe you'll figure out whether I like Shawn better than you."

With great effort, he dragged his gaze back to her eyes. If she was saying what he thought she was saying, he'd lost his mind and/or his ability to understand English.

"You're an intelligent and perceptive man. It's part of why you're such a good cop. But if it only took a five-year-old thirty seconds to size you and Shawn up, why the hell is it taking so long for you to size me up?"

Pause. Pounding heart (his). Uncertainty and certainty battling for control.

Lassiter took a step closer—more accurately, his body moved without his permission and he had no choice but to follow it—close enough to feel her heat and smell her intoxicating scent. Lilacs. Lovely. "O'Hara," he breathed.

She just looked at him.

With his cop brain, he knew he could put his hands on her waist, lean in, and as soon as she let her guard down, easily lift her out of the way and run like hell.

Probably straight to hell.

But instead, he heard himself ask, "This… struggle... is it mandatory?"

Juliet shook her head, smiling. She was so beautiful, her blue eyes guileless and her skin flushed a delightful pink, and he'd wanted her so long that for a moment he understood like never before that if he were dreaming—hell, if he were wearing a straitjacket right this second in a padded cell somewhere—he was okay with that. Bring on the lobotomy. He could already die happy.

Still, as long as this was such a good hallucination…

He put his hands on the door, under her outstretched arms, and bent his head to do something he'd thought about approximately eight and a half million times since she'd come into his life: he kissed his lovely, charming, sweet partner right on the mouth, tasting her lips, feeling her actually kissing him back.

It was true. Juliet O'Hara was kissing him back, her lips warm and soft and deliciously sexy against his.

She let go of the door and brought her cool hands up to cup his face. She was smiling again, and kissed him once more, lingeringly. "What do you think now, Detective?"

Honestly? "I think I'm an idiot."

She laughed and wrapped her arms around his neck, draping herself against him. "Kind of, yeah."

Lassiter held her close and stared at her. "Why did you just let an idiot kiss you?"

"Because you're the best idiot there is, Carlton. I've wanted to tell you for a long time."

While he was deciding this was a compliment, Juliet kissed him again, flavoring his reverie with illicit thoughts.

"I should point out that the squirming part of the struggle could be kinda fun," she said softly.

He let out a deep breath.

"And if you'd just stop thinking for a few seconds and kiss me back, you might find out just how much fun."

He was pretty sure he already knew. "Okay," he growled, "but afterwards, and I don't care what her parents say, I'm buying that girl a damn pony."

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