Disclaimer: yadda yadda non-ownie psych stuff.

Rating: T

Summary: Yet another conversation between Juliet and Lassiter about her relationship with Shawn. One-shot. Takes place after and includes very minor spoilers for S6's Shawn and The Real Girl.

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Juliet was seething. Lassiter could see it—hell, he could feel it; there wasn't enough A/C in the car to cool her down.

They had been out to talk to witnesses in a series of car thefts inside a gated community, and Spencer & Guster showed up to interfere. Pardon me, Detective, I'm quite sure the word you meant was 'assist,' or so Spencer had said.

Yeah, but only if you pronounced 'assist' as 'ass-ist.'

After all these years, what Lassiter most wanted to do was tell Chief Vick that the minute those two barged into an investigation, he ought to be allowed to move on to another case—with or without Juliet—because since there was no controlling Spencer by legal methods, and he would inevitably grandstand his way to closing the case at hand, why bother having cops on the scene at all?

However, Juliet was only seething because one of the rich ladies behind the gates had laid hands on Spencer.

Camilla Bryant was well-kept, maybe mid-fifties, actually rather attractive, and either a cougar in training or really bored, because she couldn't seem to stop touching Spencer, who neither encouraged nor discouraged her.

Either one of Spencer's reactions could have been the reason for Juliet's ire. Lassiter had seen this most recently when Spencer went undercover on the reality show where the target girl took a liking to him, and given that he was undercover and couldn't declare himself off limits, and apparently wasn't reciprocating, Lassiter—who really hated to take Spencer's side on anything—thought Juliet had overreacted.

Not that he hadn't enjoyed it a little. She was fun to watch when she was fiery mad (at someone other than Lassiter).

Today it was the same, and Spencer was either clueless or had a death wish. Juliet actually reached for her weapon once when Camilla ran her fingers down his arm, but what Lassiter noticed was that she was glaring at her boyfriend, not the woman.

"Lunch?" he ventured.

"I'm not hungry," she said icily.

If that had been directed at him, he'd have been cowed. As it was, he was hungry, and he knew one or two things about her that Spencer didn't.

"I was thinking El Cielo." It was a calculated move, since he knew she could not resist their fried ice cream.

Juliet closed her eyes and breathed deeply. "Okay."

He turned the car at once, and although she didn't talk much during their enchiladas and taquitos, her mood improved dramatically once the cinnamon-scented treat was in front of her. She had said initially she wasn't going to get one, but Lassiter told the waiter firmly to bring two anyway (only make his a little smaller).

Juliet took her first spoonful and sighed, a slight smile brightening her lovely face even more.

"Better?"

"God, yes," she admitted, and had another.

"You're welcome," he said a bit smugly, and she narrowed her eyes at him. "Hey. You in a bad mood is never good for either one of us."

"Sorry," she muttered, but relaxed again with her third spoonful of heaven. "I shouldn't let it get to me like that."

"No, you really shouldn't."

Juliet looked up again. "Wait. What?"

He opened his mouth to defend Spencer but then thought better of it. Something else had been bugging him about this situation for awhile anyway, and if he was going to piss her off, it might as well be for something he really wanted to know.

She was semi-glaring at him between samples of her ice cream. "Well?"

"Okay," he said, pushing the rest of his own fried ice cream aside (and watching her eye it; if the waiter came along and tried to take the dish, Lassiter was confident Juliet would draw her Glock in an instant). "We're cops. We deal in facts. Hunches are good, and lead to facts, but without the facts, nobody goes to jail. Right?"

"Riiight," she said, frowning a little.

"So bear with me. I'm going to list a bunch of facts. Not opinions, not deductive reasoning, just facts."

Juliet took another spoonful. "You're about to ruin my good mood, aren't you?"

Lassiter sighed. "Yeah. But I promise that the question all these facts lead up to won't be why you're with him." Because half the time lately, he wasn't sure she knew.

"Go on, then."

"He lies." There. First one out of the way. Juliet remained impassive. "Lies of omission, lies of commission, but lies any way you slice them. He lies to get on cases, he lies while he's on cases, he lies about what he knows, he lies about when he knows it, he lies about why he—"

"I get it," she interrupted. "Next?"

"He steals."

Juliet stared at her ice cream for a moment. It seemed to melt faster.

Lassiter went on. "He steals food, from the station, from crime scenes and witnesses, from you and Gus. He steals things he calls souvenirs. Nothing big. Not like he'd steal a car or anything—oh wait, he did do that, never mind—but little things, usually to satisfy some temporary whim, or because he thinks it's funny. Like anything off my desk, for example. He also steals Gus's credit card regularly."

She drew in a breath, and resolutely had another spoonful of ice cream.

"The thing about the credit card," he said very carefully, in a way he was never careful with anyone else, "isn't just that it's theft. It's also that it really upsets Gus, but Spencer does it anyway."

Another slow spoonful, dark blue eyes downcast again.

Lassiter had to reiterate. "He knows it upsets him, but he does it anyway. Most people would think—hang on, that'd be opinion, not fact."

"Say it," she said tersely, not looking at him.

Okay. "They'd think it was cruel. Manipulative. A character flaw."

Juliet glanced up at him too-briefly, and then away again. "Move on."

"Narcissistic to the point of… well, you know." Yeah, no need to dwell. "And it means you always do what he wants to do. I'm just guessing here, but somehow I don't think a bounce house was on your Top 50 list of birthday wishes."

She mumbled something which could have been no but could also have been you're being mean and I might have to kill you later but don't you think for one minute that I wouldn't kill you right in this booth just as soon as I finish every last spoonful of this ice cream.

Except it was probably just the "No."

"He…" Choose the right word, asshat. This one's about both of you. "He disrespects us at crime scenes. He behaves… unprofessionally, and makes us look like we work for him, and I don't know about you, O'Hara, but having my salary provided by taxpayers doesn't mean they get to call the shots during an investigation."

Shake of the head, which was still down. Not much left of the ice cream. He'd have to go faster.

"Numerous laws broken, chiefly trespassing and illegal entry, which we know because of complaints filed and… hell, common sense. Even if I did buy the psychic crap, you and I have both heard him say a thousand times that he has to be at the crime scene to 'divine' anything, and unless you've been escorting him privately all these years, he's getting in where he has no right to be. The law just doesn't seem to mean much to him, even when breaking it means putting the resolution of a case at risk."

Juliet sighed. "Can we get to the question already?"

He braced himself. "Okay. With all that going on, can you tell me why the one thing which makes you mad—apart from how angry you were when he threw your father at you—is when women flirt with him, even when he doesn't respond?"

Her head snapped up, and her gaze fixed on him in consternation. "What?"

"You seem to take the lying, stealing, fraud and narcissism in stride, but it takes another woman batting eyes at him to really get your attention? Why? Why don't those other things bother you as much—or more?" Like they should, he left off.

She shoved her empty dish away abruptly; he just barely caught it before it could slide off the table. Her face was pale except for two spots of color on her cheeks, and she held her arms tight against her chest.

"O'Hara," he sighed.

"Okay. Okay," she said tightly. "Be quiet a minute, please."

He knew how to be quiet, and he proved it. He sipped iced tea, studied her, and remained silent.

Finally, she relaxed a little and released her stronghold on herself. "Shawn is like a… greased piglet."

He nearly spit out his tea.

She rolled her eyes. "Meaning, yes, everything you said is true. Factual. But…" Her arms crept back around her middle. "I mean… look. Those things do bother me. They do. He's completely unmanageable and I don't like what he does but… it's just…"

Lassiter took another quick sip, hoping to get this one down without incident.

"I know I can't count on him to be predictable. Or even much like an adult. But for years I have been able to count on him caring about me. Pursuing me. Making me feel like I really was the one he wanted."

An inkling…

"So," she went on unhappily, "when I see a woman coming on to him, it makes me question the one thing I didn't think I had to question. I know it's not his fault if a woman's interested—like it's not your fault when women fawn all over you because of your eyes—and if he's working, like on the reality show, I do know he can't push them off. But I can't help it, Carlton. I just go… stupid."

He had a dozen more questions… What's it going to take for you to 'go stupid' for the law? Why the hell do you put up with the other crap at all? Where do you see this relationship going? Why are you clinging to it? Don't you see how much better you could do? How much more you deserve?

(He wasn't sure what to make of the comment about his eyes because if he interpreted it one way, she meant it bothered her when other women remarked about them, and why would that bother her?)

"You're not stupid," he said. "You're just…"

When he didn't finish, she laughed a little. "Yeah. You can't even argue."

"No. I just figured out part of the problem here. It's your father."

Juliet looked up sharply, her eyes misty. "What?"

He felt the weight of his own 'father issues' settling down over him. "You held on to the idea of your father loving you for a lot longer than you had any proof that he did. Every time he sent you a card, left a gift—even though you never saw him, you told yourself it meant he cared and was coming back."

The color was completely gone from her face, and he knew he was right: it didn't matter what Spencer did as long as she could believe he really cared about her, but once that certainty slipped, all bets were off.

"You lived like that for years, didn't you? Until the day you figured out that really, down at the very heart of things, it didn't matter whether he loved you or not, because he wasn't there. That's the day you became your own person, O'Hara." He ran a suddenly restless hand through his hair, because if he followed his own logic, he'd say she stopped being her own person again when she hitched her wagon to a SpenStar. "I'm wandering from my point, and my point is, look. I don't know how I rank in your list of friends, but you're the best friend I've ever had and I want you to be happy. I want you to be happy in your choices. I can't make them for you and God knows you can look at my screwed-up life to see I don't have all the answers, but I know you deserve, at the very least, to feel no less than eighty percent good about the man in your life, and…" He hesitated.

Oh, go on. You've already spewed the worst of it.

"And I don't see it," he continued heavily. "What I do see is you turning a blind eye to crap you wouldn't tolerate from anyone else, but losing it when another woman even looks at him. I see you…" Settling. No, he couldn't say that. "Not happy." Yeah. That would do.

She brushed tears from both cheeks and closed her eyes for a moment, breathing deeply.

He felt terrible. But he'd needed to say these things and he hoped to God it wasn't just his ego which thought she needed to hear them.

The waiter approached and Lassiter held up a hand—and shot him a glare—which sent the man scurrying.

Juliet sniffled a little and asked very softly, "Do you believe people can change if they want to badly enough?"

"No."

Her head was down again; her shoulders slumped.

"I believe people can change their behavior. How they act and react. But it's difficult. Ask an alcoholic or a smoker." Or a con artist.

"It's not impossible," she whispered.

"No, it's not impossible." People did quit drinking and smoking … but a narcissistic con artist was a narcissistic con artist for life.

It was much easier to quit the drinker, the smoker… or the con artist. And 'easy' in this case meant 'as easy as voluntarily slamming your fingers in a door.'

Wiping another few tears off her cheeks, Juliet said tremulously, "Carlton, I am so sorry if I've ever given you reason to doubt that you're my best friend."

He was touched and pleased—and damned honored—but he couldn't bear to see her cry, especially since he'd caused those tears. "Even though I just destroyed the good mood I so carefully restored with the fried ice cream?"

"I'll take the rest of yours." She didn't wait for agreement; she reached across the table and snagged his dish.

Lassiter had to smile. She was coming back.

"You really are my best friend," she added. Looking up, she gave him a clear, dark-blue gaze. "That'd be what we cops like to call a 'fact.'"

He felt his cheeks warming, and she smiled—just a little, but it was like the sun coming out.

"My relationship with Shawn is complicated and maybe even nonsensical but it's not going to be this way forever."

"Oh no?"

"No. It'll either get better, which I know means I'll have to push for it, or it'll end." Her focus was ostensibly on the last of the ice cream, but her tone was firm.

"Because you are your own person," he murmured, feeling a touch of pride in his partner.

"Yeah." She sat up, meeting his gaze directly. "And because my best friend is willing to take a chance and push me."

She held out her fist.

With a grin, he bumped it with his own.

"But you're buying lunch. And coffee for the rest of the week." She dabbed at her mouth, took a final drink of tea, and got up from the table, walking off without even one look back.

"I probably should have seen that coming," Lassiter muttered aloud. But even so, it was a damned good deal.

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