Disclaimer: nothing psych-ish is mine, just like always

Rating: T … a little M-ish… but mostly T

Summary: (Established) Lassiet, of course. If you've shamelessly read my smutty Juliet On The Edge smutfest of smut, you can consider this a smut-lite continuation of sorts, which at two chapters (probably) seems worthy of separate posting. Plot suggestion courtesy of the inestimable Lawson227, this features our Lassiet duo in a social setting neither of them wants, and about six paragraphs in, you'll figure it out.

. . . .

. . .

Carlton Lassiter had never heard anything as awful as the words which came out of Karen Vick's mouth that afternoon.

Never.

He glanced at Juliet, and she seemed horrified too.

Karen went on talking, saying terrible, terrible things, and he felt himself shrinking into a small thin shard of ice, far too easily breakable.

The words… the sheer evil of her words…

Charity ball… all single police staff… bachelors and bachelorette auction… not mandatory but strongly encouraged… mayor very anxious for full participation… represent the city well… please don't bother asking to get out of it without a damned good reason…

Then she whisked herself off to her office and left her troops awaiting an email which would explain in more horrifying detail what they were expected to do.

Lassiter sank down into his chair.

He shouldn't feel this way.

He knew it was ridiculous. Paranoid. Crazy.

But he knew: he was going to lose Juliet.

Some rich and irresistible friend of the mayor's was going to bid on her, win her, take her on a fantastic date—probably to Paris in his Learjet—show her a world apart from him, and he would lose her.

Never mind they'd been together for nearly a year. Never mind how completely and utterly right things were. He knew. He knew she could do better.

Not that she could ever find anyone who loved her more—there was no man alive who loved Juliet like he did, who would do anything for her the way he would.

But love didn't always conquer all, did it? And she could certainly find someone who fit in better with others, who wasn't so… him. And she was adaptable, so willing to see the good in people. How could she fail to see she'd be better off with another man?

And oh yeah, he'd have to be auctioned off himself, which would be humiliating. No one was going to bid on him. He'd probably get a bid from that idiot Spencer, and end up on a three-way date with him and Guster watching 80s sitcoms or something equally idiotic.

Steaming crap on a soggy cracker.

He was so lost in his funk that he never noticed Juliet going into Vick's office.

. . . .

. . .

Karen had figured it would be Lassiter who came in first, so she was surprised to find Juliet O'Hara closing the door and facing her with anxious determination.

"You'll be fine, O'Hara," she said soothingly. "It's just one date."

"Chief, you know I'm with Carlton."

"Yes, but by some miracle no one else does. As far as the mayor's office is concerned, you're available." She gestured for her to sit, because she wasn't in the mood for hoverers.

Juliet sat, but she didn't relax. "I don't care about my own date. I'm worried about Carlton."

"He'll be fine, too," Karen said, albeit with less conviction.

"That's what I'm worried about," Juliet said unhappily. "Chief, if some gorgeous rich woman bids on him…"

Whoa. "I'm sorry, are you actually insecure about his affections?"

Judging by the young woman's expression, she was.

"O'Hara, you can't be serious. Listen, as discreet as you two are, it's obvious at least to me he's been besotted with you for years. No way is one charity auction date going to change his mind about you."

"How can you be sure?" The question was quiet.

She tried unsuccessfully not to laugh. "Please. That man is yours, body and soul. He'll probably piss off his date in under twenty minutes, I'll get a call from the mayor after the woman complains, and if we're lucky, that'll be a completely separate issue from him breaking up your date by faking a police emergency."

Slowly, Juliet smiled. "You think so?"

"Yes, but please note, I don't actually want any of that to happen. I want you to dress him well that night, send him out to make nice to a donor, and be done with it. Same for you. No trouble. No calls from the mayor. Just be nice."

"He's just so… amazing," Juliet said plaintively. "I just think that if another woman sees him the way I do, he might… I don't know… want to explore other options."

Karen suspected that the private Carlton Lassiter probably was amazing, but she had to bring Juliet back to reality. "Listen to me, O'Hara. Carlton's got everything he needs in you; even I can see that. And honestly, there's only a few ways out of this. One, you bid on each other—but be warned, the opening bids are $500. That's a thousand dollars right there, assuming no one else bids, and you know both of you will do better than that. The other option is to come out as a couple, but are you sure you want to take that risk right now, in this particular way?"

Juliet said nothing.

Curious now, Karen persisted, "Actually, how have you kept it quiet so long? I'd think by now you'd have been caught out, if not by chance then by someone nosy like Shawn Spencer."

"We're… discreet," Juliet said.

"You don't go out? I know you filed an address change for personnel." It had been about six months ago, if she recalled, but she'd guessed they were together before learning they shared Carlton's condo.

Shrugging, and smiling a little, Juliet explained, "We work long hours, so at the end of the day we just want to be home. Together." The faraway look in her eyes suggested she was very happy with this arrangement. "We've gone away for the weekend a few times, and we do go out, and of course we keep up with our own interests, but mostly… we just like being together, and home is the nicest place for that." She cleared her throat, perhaps aware she was speaking too much of personal things. "As for Shawn, I tell him I move a lot, and honestly, I don't think it would ever occur to him I'm with Carlton."

Probably not. Shawn would have to consider Carlton 'a contender,' and he was generally in the habit of overlooking most of Carlton's skills and abilities in all areas—except when he needed his butt saved after some stupid stunt.

"Even so… it's been awhile, and not that I don't appreciate discretion when my detectives are blurring departmental guidelines, but why are you still undercover after all this time?"

Juliet's smile was more open now. "Privacy's a good thing, Chief. And besides, the longer we go on proving we can work together well despite our relationship, the better it looks when it does come out."

"Privacy is a good thing," she agreed. "And certainly coming out ahead of this auction would blow that right out of the water. So my advice is this, Juliet: find a nice dress. It's just one night for both of you."

She could almost hear Juliet thinking this sucks.

. . . .

. . .

Dinner was quiet. Lassiter didn't feel like talking because he knew he'd sound like a whiny, insecure ass, which—while certainly he admitted to being a whiny, insecure ass—he didn't think would do him any good here.

He stole glances at Juliet as they washed dishes; she seemed unusually subdued, and while she gave him the occasional brilliant smile, it was quick to fade when she thought he wasn't looking.

She was probably thinking about the kind of man who was going to win the date with her. His one consolation was that it probably wouldn't be Spencer, as long as Gus kept hold of his credit card for a change.

Of course, that meant Spencer wouldn't bid on him, either, but then again he was just as likely to drag some senior citizen or ex-wrestler or squirrel-adoring vegan in to wreak bidding havoc in his stead.

Yet what if Spencer did manage to bid on Juliet? And took her on a real date? And won her over with his easy charm once he had her up close and personal—never mind that she'd resisted him so far; what if after nearly a year with Lassiter, she was ready for something lighter?

He slammed the silverware drawer shut, annoyed, and Juliet looked up from washing a pitcher, startled.

"I hate this," he snapped. "This stupid auction is screwing with my head."

"Mine too," she said grimly. "I already hate whoever wins you with a blinding white passion."

Lassiter blinked. "You... what?"

She put the pitcher away and faced him. "I hate her. I don't even know who she is, but I hate her. I don't hate easily, Carlton, and I've never hated someone I don't know, but I assure you, I hate this woman."

Gears were shifting, grinding, clashing, crashing, as he tried to adjust his brain to her words. "You're… you're jealous of… that's insane. Jealous of someone dating me? Me?"

"Yes, you! Why wouldn't I be? Some stupid woman's going to get a look at your eyes and drag you off to her lair and what chance have I got?"

Dear God, she was serious. Lassiter took a step closer and said, "O'Hara, as long as I carry a Colt 45, no one's dragging me to any lair except yours. Even unarmed, I won't go without a fight, and I'll never succumb to anyone but you. Ever."

Juliet stared up at him, her blue-gray eyes filled with emotion. "Oh."

"The bigger problem," he went on quietly, "is how to keep you from succumbing to a better man than I am."

The emotion turned to puzzlement. "Who's better than you?"

"Juliet…"

"Carlton, who's better for me than you are?" She closed the distance between them, sliding her arms around his waist. "I've seen what's out there. You're the best man for me. The only man." Her frown returning, she added, "You're my man." She squeezed him hard, unsmiling, but it wasn't unpleasant.

Lassiter couldn't help but smile. "I am." He brushed his lips against hers, and she sighed, opening her mouth to his kiss, sweet and loving.

But only for a moment, because she abruptly pulled back. "I want you out of this auction."

"And I want you out of it, but how?"

"Well, Vick said the starting bids are $500, so unless you've got a hell of a lot of change under those sofa cushions, that won't work. We could come out," she added softly, looking up at him carefully, "but that might not work either." She let out another large sigh. "Short of running off to get married, which is hardly an option, I don't see either of us escaping this stupid, stupid thing." She closed the dishwasher forcefully and stalked off down the hall.

Lassiter was still.

What had she just said?

Marriage.

Not an option.

No, wait. Wait, he thought.

They had never talked of marriage. They had been so busy being happily wrapped up in each other that the specific topic of marriage had never come up. He'd assumed, because he wanted it. He wanted her to be his wife, but every day that passed in their cocoon had seemed to be taking them in that direction and he'd never really needed to bring it up.

Now she had… as a non-option.

Maybe it was because of their jobs, or maybe… he remembered now, something from the investigation into the nanny agency years ago, something Spencer and Guster had babbled, about Juliet being opposed to the idea of marriage.

Buck up, man. For damned sure she loves you, and you could go on like this for freakin' ever without a ring, and you know it.

Still. It gave him pause, considerable, frown-inducing pause, to think she might already have closed the door to the progression of their relationship.

Idiot. Ten minutes ago you were worried about a charity date taking her away from you. Now you're sure she won't leave but still freaked that she won't marry you.

Not that you've asked her.

So…

He opened a drawer just to slam it shut again.

. . . .

. . .

Juliet came to bed after he did, showered and smelling delightfully of peaches and cream, wearing a little filmy nightie along with a real smile and nothing else.

"Hey," he murmured, closing his book as she approached.

"Hey," she murmured back, effortlessly straddling him in one easy motion. "I decided."

He couldn't resist sliding his hands up her smooth thighs. "About what?"

"I decided," she said, easing his t-shirt up, "that if I'm going to be a jealous bitch, I should at least give you a good reason to want to stick with me."

Lassiter sighed at her touch, and gasped when she shifted, putting her knees between his legs now and pulling at his flannel pajama bottoms. "I have plenty of good reasons."

"Nevertheless," she almost purred, exposing him and bestowing a light kiss to his already heated flesh, "I want to stake my claim tonight."

"Ohhh," he groaned.

"And if later I should happen to get… staked… well, that's okay too." She did something wicked with her tongue, making him arch closer. "I'm going to stop talking for awhile, okay?"

No problem. He was speechless too.

. . . .

. . .

"I want O'Hara excused from this auction," he said firmly to his superior officer, who looked up at him quizzically from her fresh cup of coffee.

Which he had just brought her. Unasked. Because sometimes, it didn't hurt to have backup.

"Detective," she began, and then smiled. "Close the door."

He did and then returned to stand behind the chair, gripping its back firmly. "I mean it. I will do whatever it takes to get her out of it. I'll work triple shifts, I'll take a pay cut. Whatever has to be done, I'll do."

"Lassiter, this is not that big a deal. Honestly, I don't see how you two can be so insecure. It's obvious you're crazy about each other."

For a moment he felt rather warm in the face, as well as the heart, but he remained focused. "It's not about insecurity. It's about what she's having to put up with now."

"Come again?"

"Chief, in the week since this stupid auction was announced, O'Hara's been hit on twenty-three separate times—fifteen of them at City Hall and the courthouse. She's handling it but it's starting to get to her, which means it got to me after the first one she told me about. I want her off the menu."

That seemed to get Vick's attention. She set the mug down firmly. "Where is O'Hara now?"

"At her desk, but Chief… she doesn't know I'm talking to you about this." He understood full well that he was risking Juliet's wrath, but this was too important. Her pride—wanting to handle everything herself—wasn't enough reason for him to stand down.

Vick gave him a knowing smile. "Should have thought of that before you came in, then." She picked up her phone and called Juliet, asking her to join them in the office.

Lassiter steeled himself and went to open the door, meeting Juliet's questioning gaze impassively. He loved her, and she could probably kick his ass, but this had to be done.

"Detective O'Hara," Vick said briskly once the door was closed again and both of them were seated. "Have you been receiving unwanted attention because of the upcoming auction?"

Juliet instantly shot Lassiter a glare he felt down to his coccyx.

"O'Hara? Don't look at him. I want your answer."

She composed herself (meaning he would be in for it later). "It's nothing I can't handle."

"Uh-huh. Is the number twenty-three accurate?"

Juliet flushed. "Twenty-nine. There were a few I didn't tell him about."

"Dammit, Juliet!" He turned in his chair to face her. "This has got to stop."

"Lassiter, be quiet. O'Hara, listen to me. I'm no stranger to unwanted attention, though granted there was more of it when I was younger and still single, and I'll be honest with you both, in confidence—" She paused to give them a steely glare. "I don't think much of the mayor's plan. 'Strongly encouraging' female officers to allow themselves to be sold, even for charity, even for so-called harmless dates, doesn't really set well with me. We urged him to make the damn thing entirely and truly voluntary, but he wanted to be sure to get enough participants."

"Chief, I don't want to make any trouble for you." Juliet hadn't looked at Lassiter since that first glare, but her voice was steady.

Crap. He was going to have to buy either a sofa or a guest bed, since the loveseat looked to be where he'd be laying his head tonight.

Vick was dismissive. "It's my job to handle trouble, and in my opinion, there are enough participants already. While men are now and have always tended to be pigs, I don't need you to put up with it." She glanced at Lassiter. "No offense."

"None taken." He completely agreed that most men were pigs.

"Good. You're excused from the charity auction, O'Hara. That's all." She lifted her coffee mug, as if the conversation was over.

Juliet hesitated. "What about Carlton?"

Vick sighed. "Have you been hit on this week, Detective Lassiter?"

He was puzzled. "Women don't hit on me."

"Yes, they do!" Juliet snapped. "They do all the time, only you can't see it."

Lassiter stared at her. No way, he was thinking. I'd know if a woman was interested, wouldn't I?

Hell.

I'm an idiot. I don't know a damned thing.

Vick rolled her eyes. "Look, I know it's sexist of me to assume it's different for a man than a woman in this sort of situation, but you know what? It's different for a man than a woman. If women are hitting on you and you're oblivious, then there's really no problem, is there? So we go back to what I said a week ago: unless you want to make your relationship public, then you, Carlton Lassiter, are going to be auctioned off next Friday night." She gestured to the door. "Out you go, sucking it up."

. . . .

. . .

Juliet went to her desk without a word to Carlton, who knew better than to mess with her right now.

She was annoyed. It had been a rough week, true; apparently her name being on the auction list had given every man in the county free license to make remarks worthy of pistol-whipping, no matter how 'delicately phrased,' and she'd had to hold Carlton back from popping a couple of lawyers on Monday.

But being off the auction block didn't solve her real problem, which was her simmering rage about Carlton still being on it.

Oh, what is your deal? You know he loves you. You know he really is totally oblivious to women flirting with him. You know that short of a bidder dropping trou on her way up to claim her prize, he won't be thinking of anyone but you. Especially since you've gone nuts on him this past week.

It was true. She blushed, feeling the heat of it in her face as she logged back into her PC. She had been on Carlton like white on rice. They had an active sex life to begin with, but this week she'd managed to maul him in every room in the condo, including the shower—twice—and once in the Crown Vic during a stakeout, his hands firmly on the steering wheel while hers were firmly on… well, never mind, she warned herself, because if she dwelled on it they'd be meeting up in the janitor's closet again and he'd sworn that was a one-time deal.

Not that he was complaining. But they both knew something else was driving her.

It was that another woman was going to get to look at him, talk to him, possibly touch his hand or his arm. Smile, be smiled at.

He's mine. I don't want any other woman near him. He's mine.

She turned in her chair to glare at him, and his blue gaze was uncertain, and crap, she wanted to go over there and kiss him and tell him she was sorry for being a jealous lunatic.

But first she had to figure out how to raise enough money to outbid every other woman who might want to get her skanky grubby paws on Juliet's man.

. . . .

. . .