Disclaimer: Um, nope. If they were mine, this would have happened instead.

Author's Note: So, I didn't hate the episode, but I didn't love it either. Except for the Cho/Lisbon moments, which were adorable. But if this is the new Jane/Lisbon dynamic, then we're gonna need more fanfic!


Habit, Patrick Jane knew, could be a dangerous thing. It could lurk in your unconscious mind, betraying you in a moment of inattention. It could become a tyrant or unhealthy dependency so slowly and insidiously your life could be ruined before you realized it. He'd seen many people undone by their own habits. He'd caught countless criminals by exploiting their habits. And he'd taken great care not to let his own become a problem.

Or so he thought. Until it occurred to him, squishing along after the trio of FBI agents who were annoyed at the way he'd solved their case for them, that Lisbon might have a point. She had been practically begging him to give her more warning for pretty much the entirety of their acquaintance. He'd rarely given it to her, for a variety of reasons. But there'd been no real reason this time. Had it been habit? Had his long hunt left him with a habit of secrecy?

Well, of course it had. And Cho's pointing out his reluctance (because it wasn't inability) to communicate was part of that. But he'd mostly been grandstanding for the FBI's benefit. Fischer needed to realize whom she was dealing with. He'd been proud of himself for single-handedly cracking the case until he'd seen the worry on Lisbon's face. That was not the look he'd fantasized about seeing again during those long, lonely island nights.

He could change his habit, he knew. It would be difficult but not impossible. And Lisbon was always happier when she was in the loop; he knew that from past experience. But then, she seemed plenty happy these days anyway. She was thriving, glad to be working with Cho again, finding her way with their new colleagues. She didn't seem to need him at all.

Possibly, he realized, he was acting out to get her attention. It was a depressing revelation.

He was so deep in thought that he hardly noticed the other three had reached their SUV and were having a discussion until he nearly bumped into Cho. The agent gave him a look and turned to Lisbon. "Draw straws?"

"No, I've got this," she replied. "You're going back to the office?"

"Yeah. We can drop you off," Fischer put in.

"No need," Lisbon said. "Jane's car is around here somewhere. See you guys back at the hotel." She looked at Jane. "Come on, drippy."

"Insults, Lisbon? That's a fine way to repay all my hard work," he complained as he trudged after her.

"Oh yes, all your hard work going out to dinner and drinking wine on a boat," she scoffed. "Oh, and hanging up on me when I tried to warn you. That was a nice touch."

"I already knew she was Mr. X," he pointed out. "I just didn't want her to know I knew."

"Or me, apparently."

"I would have told you if I'd had the chance." Jane paused to sneeze miserably. "I've hardly seen you, this case."

"That is not my fault. I don't run this unit, Jane. And I can't blame Fischer for wanting to keep a close eye on you, since you're her responsibility now."

Jane pondered the idea that Lisbon used to keep him with her out of a sense of responsibility. In the beginning, yes, certainly. But later, he thought it was at least partly enjoyment of his company. She liked to watch him work, he knew. The pleased smile she'd given him when he found the intact third camera was proof of that.

But he couldn't resist saying, "I guess nobody will blame you if my next brilliant ruse goes fatally astray. Since you're not responsible. That must be relaxing."

"Oh, it is. I filed my nails while Fischer nearly killed us trying to get here on time," she shot back, giving him a white-hot glare. "When you do finally get yourself killed, I imagine it will come more as a relief than a shock."

"Ouch." He put a hand over his heart.

For a second, Lisbon looked stricken, as if she felt she'd gone too far. Then she sighed. "I'm always going to bust my butt to save you, Jane. I just don't understand why you have to make it so hard. And so painful. I was scared tonight."

"I'm sorry." He gave her his best sincere look. "I'll try to do better next time."

She didn't respond, and he hoped she wasn't rolling her eyes.

They reached his rental car, and he handed over the keys before she asked. He in no way felt like driving, and the control would help her feel better.

Lisbon cranked the heat up, and by the time they reached the hotel, he'd stopped shivering. He was still feeling a bit miserable, though. And he wondered if his shoes would ever be the same. He followed her upstairs, and they paused at his door while he hoped his wet plastic key would work.

It did, so Lisbon said, "Get dried off and get some sleep. Call me if you need anything, okay?"

"Come in," he urged, yielding to impulse. "Just for a minute. Please."

Lisbon looked at him, then said, "Fine. Just for a minute."

Jane made it as far as the chair by the door, then sat heavily, gathering the strength to toe off his shoes. Lisbon folded her arms and frowned at him. Then she went into the bathroom and emerged with a towel, which she applied vigorously to his hair. It felt nice, he thought, leaning forward toward her warmth. Eyes closed, he didn't realize how close he was until his forehead met skin, and he rested his face against her chest.

She stiffened, and he dropped his blanket to move his hands to her waist and keep her from moving away. She drew in a quick breath. "Jane?" she said uncertainly.

"You always smell so nice," he murmured. "Even after a long day, when you've been running. You always smell great, never sweaty or stinky. How do you do that?"

"Magic," she said, her tone dry. Her breath stuttered a little as he turned to nuzzle the top of one luscious breast with his nose, sliding it under the edge of her blouse. "Jane," she reproved, recovering her usual bossy tone. "What are you doing?"

"Comforting myself. I almost died tonight," he replied.

She put her hands on his shoulders and pushed him away from her. "It was your own damn fault. Go get out of those wet clothes, and I'll get room service to send you up some tea. I'll see you in the morning."

His hands tightened at her waist, though he knew she could pull free if she really wanted to. He looked up at her, seeing the emotion in her eyes. Swallowing against the sudden lump in his throat, he whispered, "I know I'm a mess, Lisbon. But you'll wait for me, won't you?"

Her eyes went almost comically round, her mouth falling open for a second before she shut it with a snap. "No."

"No?" he repeated, frowning. She never said no to him. Well actually, she said it a lot, but usually he just ignored it or took it as his cue to go behind her back.

"No," she confirmed. "Jane, I've already waited long enough. Too long. I'm done. You get your head together, do what you need to do for your sake. Leave me to do the same, okay?"

"But." He was aware he was staring at her in consternation. "You don't want...us?"

"I want to be with someone who is ready to be with me, and won't play stupid games or string me along," she said. She didn't sound angry anymore, but she did sound like she'd made up her mind. "If you get to that point, let me know. If I'm not seeing anybody else at the time, we'll talk about it. Otherwise, I'm going to go about my life as I see fit."

He was dimly aware he had no right to be hurt by that, but it didn't stop the hollow ache setting up residence in his chest. "But you were in love with me," he said before he could stop himself.

"When you left, yes, I was. A little." She couldn't help the blush that spread over her lovely face, but she kept her expression neutral. "Two years is a long time."

"You stopped loving me?" He felt like someone had just stopped the world from spinning and he was staggering, trying not to fall on his face.

Lisbon sighed. "I'll always care about you, Jane. Of course I will. I'll always be here for you, as your friend. I'll save you from yourself if I can and take care of you when you're hurt if you need me to. But I'm tired of being alone, so I'm going to do something about it."

"You already have a date." He could tell from her confident stance that this wasn't all hypothetical.

"Friday. With Hughes, over in white collar."

"And when were you going to tell me?" he demanded, only belatedly aware that she would view that as hypocrisy.

"I thought you'd figure it out. Since when do I need to tell you things?" she retorted.

He bowed his head, acknowledging, if only to himself, that her ire was justified.

"Get dried off and get some sleep." She handed him the towel and left.

It was a long time before he got out of the chair, feeling tired, old, and defeated.


The drive back to Austin the next day seemed endless. Jane sat in back with Cho, who had his nose buried in The Brothers Karamazov, an impressively thick book. "You're going to hate the way that ends," Jane warned.

"Tell me about it and I'll break your nose," Cho said.

Fischer glanced over her shoulder as if worried there might be actual animosity involved, but Lisbon, in the passenger seat, snorted in amusement.

"No need to worry, Agent Fischer. Lisbon finds me getting beat up hilarious."

"That is so not true," Lisbon said in an offended tone. "How many people have I arrested over the years for punching you in the nose?"

Jane started calculating, but Cho said, "Seventy-two."

Lisbon glanced at him. "Really?"

"No. But it sounds about right," Cho said, eyes never leaving his book. Lisbon smiled at him and turned back to the road.

Jane abandoned counting the nose punchers. He decided not to mention the time Lisbon had done it herself, in case it gave Fischer any ideas.

He needed some thinking time, he admitted. Lisbon had a point about not waiting around for him anymore. He'd fallen back into old habits with her so easily, but that wasn't what she wanted. And there were plenty of single guys in the Austin office who'd be only too happy to ask her out once they realized that she wasn't with him after all. If he wanted to pursue her, he didn't have much time to get his act together.

Trouble was, he wasn't sure what getting his act together would look like. Oh, it would involve new clothes and probably new shoes (ugh) and getting rid of his beach bum look. Probably a haircut and beard trim. And, he realized with a sinking feeling, it would involve taking off his ring for good. Lisbon wouldn't be impressed by small changes, but she would recognize his bare finger as something major. A declaration, in fact.

He realized he was fiddling with it and grimaced. This was going to be tough. The ring was more than a talisman to him; it was a big part of his identity. Husband. Father. Widower. Victim. Hunter. Avenger. It was a way for him to let people know what had happened to him, when he wanted. If he left that all behind...then what?

Was this what moving on meant? Shedding his identity, the way he saw himself, and donning some new guise? Going out into the world as just Patrick Jane, period? He wasn't sure he knew who that was. FBI consultant and hopeful suitor? Scourge of criminals everywhere? The man who put the sparkle in Teresa Lisbon's eyes?

That last one sounded nice.

Jane slid the ring off experimentally. He'd done without it for his evening with Kim, after all. He could do it again, get used to it. Do it in stages if necessary.

He looked out the window and sighed, holding the ring tightly in his closed fist. He'd become the man he needed to be to catch Red John. He could become the man he needed to be to win Lisbon, too. He wanted to bury his face in her breasts again and this time have her run her fingers through his hair in encouragement. He wanted to lose himself in her softness and scent.

Whoops. He should wait until he was in private to have thoughts like that. He did some breathing exercises to calm down.

When he opened his eyes, he noticed Cho glancing his way, gaze finding his ringless, tightly closed left hand. After a moment, their eyes met, and Jane was surprised to find sympathy and something like hope in his friend's eyes. Cho nodded almost imperceptibly and went back to his novel, leaving Jane alone with his thoughts.


Gradual change was most convincing, Jane decided. He kept his ring on at work while he addressed some of his wardrobe deficiencies. Buying new shoes was painful, but the stunned look on Lisbon's face when she noticed was worth it. So was the smile she gave him after she got over her surprise.

New suits and shirts were thrown into rotation. He even bought a tie in case he needed it, though he refused to wear it to work, just on principle.

The hardest part of the "gradual" plan was watching Lisbon date. As he'd predicted, once word got around she was available, men were lining up with offers of dinner, sporting events, barbecues, and who knew what. A few brave souls even asked for his advice, no doubt assuming that if he was interested, he'd have made his move by now. He mostly told them the truth about what she might like, because for some reason he wanted to win this contest fair and square. That might make him a sucker, but he knew how Lisbon felt about him interfering with her choices.

It took nearly two weeks before Jane felt confident enough to walk into work without his ring. To make himself feel better, he wore a sharp new black suit and crisp white shirt, which would have made him look regulation FBI if he'd worn a tie. He wore shiny new black shoes and a spicy cologne, and he turned heads from the moment he entered the building. Even Fischer did a double-take. Wiley flat out stared. Cho looked him over once, slowly, and smirked.

But the person for whom all this was meant was nowhere to be found. "Where's Lisbon?" he asked Cho after it became clear she wasn't just running late.

"Training seminar off site. All day. Nice timing, Romeo," Cho replied.

"Meh. There's always tomorrow," Jane said, putting on a big smile to cover his disappointment.

As the day wore on, he noticed women smiling hopefully at him. There was even some whispering in the breakroom that stopped abruptly when he walked in. He briefly considered doing some practice dating, but dismissed the idea. He needed to keep his eyes on the prize. Besides, Lisbon would no doubt classify that as "playing games."

How's the training going? he texted Lisbon around 3 p.m. She was probably ready to start taking hostages, he calculated.

Looks like we'll make it out alive, she responded.

Good. Dinner? We could grab a pizza, he suggested. She'd been to enough fancy restaurants lately, he knew, and after a long day she'd just want to kick back and relax.

Okay. Pizza sounds good. As long as you're not up to something!

She could be so suspicious, he thought, chuckling. Pizza, no plotting. Got it. I can pick it up and swing by your place.

Okay. I'll text you when we're done here.

He put his phone away, grinning. Perfect. She'd be more relaxed in her own space, ready to be amused and entertained after a long, boring day. He would feed her an excellent pizza with her favorite toppings, pick up some of her favorite beer, and lead her down the more scenic parts of memory lane. He would give her the kind of evening only he could, because only he knew her this well. He would demonstrate his superiority over beefy men with football season tickets and suave guys with expensive cars. He'd remind her why she fell in love with him and try to measure the distance he needed to cover to lure her there again.


All went according to plan. They had a lovely evening, the kind that had been the highlight of his former life, enjoying each other's company and leaving everything else aside. He felt more relaxed and happy than he had in years.

It led him to a realization: he was most truly himself when he was with her. He wasn't worried about keeping up an act or manipulating her into a course of action. He could just do what came naturally. Now he didn't even have to consciously avoid flirting with her; he could just enjoy her sparkling eyes and rosy cheeks.

"You are so full of it," she said, laughing as she finished her third beer. "Hightower did not send you flowers."

"She did. While I was in detention, so I didn't actually get them, but she mailed me the receipt two weeks ago to prove it. She said she'd buy me dinner next time I was in Sacramento, but not to come crying to her when the FBI came to its senses and kicked my smart ass self to the curb." He sipped at his tea and smiled. "She said to tell you hello, too, and congratulations on the new job."

"I'll have to send her an email," Lisbon said. "She contacted me after I moved to Cannon River, asking if I knew where you were. I told her no, of course. But while you were in detention I let her know. I figured she might have some pull, and even if she didn't, it seemed like the more people who knew where you were, the better." She frowned. "I still hate that they did that to you. They could at least have let you have my letters."

"Meh. Any half decent profiler could have told them isolation wasn't the way to break me. I can live quite happily in my own head."

Lisbon shook her head, smiling ruefully. "You really don't need the rest of us, do you?"

Jane shook his head back at her. "Not true, Lisbon. You have no idea how much your presence adds to my life. I always appreciated your company, but I didn't learn to truly value you until I couldn't see or talk to you. Everyone needs someone who understands them."

She laughed. "I understand you, huh?"

"Better than anyone alive," he said.

She sobered, taking in his expression. Then she tilted her head. "I did know you suspected Krystal Markham of something other than being a scintillating dinner companion."

"See? You do know me." He smiled tenderly at her. "I told her that I never tell anyone who I truly am. But that wasn't true. Over the years I have told you more than anyone. And you've deduced the rest for yourself. I would venture to say that I have very few secrets left from you."

"And how many of those are work related?" she challenged.

"Oh, one or two." He grinned. "I'll tell you a secret if you like. You can choose: personal or work related."

Lisbon studied him, trying to figure out if he was serious. He held his smile, concealing his suspense at which she would choose. If she was still even a little interested in being with him, she'd choose personal. Come on. Please.

She bit her lip. "I don't know. Are these secrets I might actually want to know, or am I going to want brain bleach afterward?"

He laughed. "So suspicious. I'll confine myself to things I know you are curious about, how about that?"

"What is this going to cost me?"

"Nothing. You really don't trust me, do you?" He pouted at her.

She smiled, shaking her head again. "I trust you in certain well-defined areas."

He sighed. "All work related, no doubt."

"No, actually. I probably trust you least at work, where you're messing with Fischer and making power plays on Abbott and trying to make Cho laugh."

"Wise of you. So what are these well defined areas?" He was curious how she saw her trust in him.

"I trust you won't let me be hurt if you can help it," she said softly. "I trust you won't let me lose my job. I trust that when you see that I'm unhappy, you'll do something about it, even if it's just a soft shoe routine. I trust that you will never let me go hungry or under caffeinated or let me stew about things without trying to make me talk about it. I trust that you will only let me win at poker if you want something. And I trust that if I ask you for help, I will get it."

He nodded, touched. "All true. Also, you can trust that I will always keep my promises to you. So, pick a secret."

"Obviously you have one you want to tell me," she said, turning to face him on the couch and pulling her knees up. He was momentarily mesmerized by how adorable her sock-clad feet were.

"I'd like to tell you all of them," he said. "Well, nearly all. Not all at once, of course, don't worry."


"Really. It's the new me, Lisbon."

"I can see that." She eyed his left hand again, as she'd been doing all night. He waggled it at her. "Does your secret have to do with taking off your ring?"

"It's related, yes."

"Hm. Not work related, then. Unless your secret is that you're desperately in love with Kim Fischer."

He chuckled. "Not even close. She's not my type."

"Was she your type on the island?"

Jane couldn't help but grin. She came by those green eyes honestly. "She was someone I could talk to and be understood by. It seemed like a great thing at the time, but it paled in comparison to how it felt to see you again. That was like coming home."

She dropped her gaze, taking another sip of her beer. "Okay, fine. Tell me your personal, non-work-related secret."

He beamed at her, keeping quiet until she peeped up at him. She looked for all the world like she was expecting something in her immediate vicinity to explode. Him, maybe?

Leaning back into the corner of the couch, Jane rested an arm along the back, opening his posture to force himself to relax. He hadn't been this nervous in a very long time. Smiling to reassure Lisbon, who looked nearly as nervous as he felt, he said, "I'm in love with you."

Lisbon's jaw dropped. She stared at him with wide eyes and a stunned expression that he found less amusing as the seconds ticked by.

Finally she swallowed and managed a skeptical expression. "You're in love with me?" There was a definite "yeah, right," in her tone.

"Yes." He held her gaze, then sighed, rubbing at his jaw. "I admit I hoped that would be less shocking and more welcome."

"You're surprised? Exactly what clues did I miss that would have prepared me for this?" she demanded.

"My letters? The fact that I demanded to see you as soon as I got back to the States? That I stuck it out in detention so they'd make you a job offer?"

"Oh, you mean your efforts to upend and dictate my entire life?" she retorted.

"Okay, so it wasn't hearts and flowers exactly," he admitted. "But come on, the letters have to count."

"Fine. I guess I could have read between the lines of your descriptions of sunsets and dolphins and seen some vague romantic vibe. But as far as I knew, I was never going to see you again, so it was meaningless." She took a swig of beer and continued, "And if you forced the FBI to take me on so you could make a move on me, why the hell didn't you? Instead of flirting with Fischer and dating suspects?"

He grimaced. "I wasn't planning any moves, Lisbon. I just wanted to be with you again. And I did not flirt with Fischer!"

"Oh, so all that talk of how you understand her better than she does herself was just friendly chit-chat?"

"No. It was a warning. She needed to know her tactics weren't going to work. I wasn't going to allow her to tyrannize us."

Lisbon rolled her eyes.

"And Krystal was part of the case. I needed to get her to talk."

"Uh huh. And you couldn't be bothered to let me know."

"I didn't think I needed to tell you. You know how I work."

"Well, as it happens, I did figure out you were up to something. That's why we were tracking your phone and found you in time." She looked proud of herself, but then she frowned. "If you loved me, why would you put me through that? Why not spare me the panic?"

Jane sighed. "Because Cho was right: I am a terrible communicator. But I will do better."

"I'd appreciate that."

An awkward silence descended. Jane decided to make things easier for her. "Do you have questions, or should I leave so you can think in peace?"

She shook her head. "I have questions."

"Fire away."

"When did you decide you were in love with me?" Her tone implied she still didn't believe it.

"It wasn't a decision. It was more a realization." He sighed a little, thinking of how to explain. "I knew I cared about you years ago. You were kind and honest and did your best to help me, so how could I resist? I'd come to terms with the fact that I loved you by the time I shot Timothy Carter, but I could no longer pretend it was just a friendly love when I was in Las Vegas pining for you."

Her outraged glare was not what he was expecting. "Let me get this straight. You were in love with me when you slept with Lorelei. When you let her blindside me in interrogation. When you ignored everything I had to say so you could track her down and break her out of federal prison, then nearly kill yourself making it look like you were her victim. Jane, where the hell in all that was even the tiniest bit of consideration for my feelings? Is that what you call love? Because if it is, I don't want it."

"No, of course not!" He was getting frustrated, but he tamped it down. "That was about finding Red John. It had nothing to do with my feelings for you. Except that I needed to make everyone believe I was willing to ignore you and even hurt you so that Red John would believe he'd been mistaken. He asked for your head, Lisbon! What was I supposed to do? The only way I could keep you safe was to hide how I felt. And even that didn't work. When he took you and painted your face and called to let me know he had you...Lisbon. It nearly killed me. In that moment, I would have given up everything to have you back. And he knew it. I had to keep you away from him, and that meant keeping you away from me when I got close. I know you hated it, and I'm sorry. And I didn't want to leave you afterward but I had no choice. With the Blake Association out there I would never have made it to trial. I let you know I was safe as soon as I could."

Lisbon's eyes were focused on her beer bottle, but when he stopped talking, she glanced up at him. "Yes, I guess you did."

Jane calmed himself. "My point is, while he was alive I wasn't free to do what I wanted. I couldn't show my feelings. Now I can. But it takes time to unlearn habits. And though I'm trying, I still have some that you hate. All I'm asking is that you give me a chance to show you what I'm feeling now." He paused, then decided nothing ventured, nothing gained. "You loved me when I was unloveable. Let me try to win that love back now that I don't have to be."

Her gaze was fastened on his bare left hand. "And you really think you're ready to move on? You aren't just panicking because you're counting dates and figuring I might start sleeping with someone?"

He'd been painfully aware of the three-date tradition and the fact that Lisbon was approaching that milestone with at least one of her suitors. "I never panic," he said. "And yes, I'm ready. I did have two years to think about all this, Lisbon. I just needed to learn some new habits."

"Mm hm," she said, unconvinced. "So, since we're well past all the introductory chit-chat, I'll just ask you: what do you have to offer me?"

"Besides my undying love and admiration? My deep knowledge of how you take your coffee?" He grinned.

"Yes. Besides that. I'm not a fan of obsession or game playing, and those are the two traits I most associate with you."

"I can't promise not to play games anymore, but I can promise to let you in on them more often," he replied. "I can promise you my absolute loyalty, which you've had for years. My understanding of your heart, which I will use to make emotional situations as painless for you as possible. My knowledge of your mind and body, which I will use to show you new realms of ecstasy and fulfillment." He was pleased when she swallowed hard, and he knew without looking that her pupils were dilating.

"Okay," she said after a moment. "The flip side of that question: what are you looking for from me? Besides getting me into bed, which I assume is your immediate goal."

It occurred to him that her harsh tone and job interview demeanor were merely clumsy disguises for the real emotion he was evoking in her. Maybe she wasn't as far out of love with him as he'd feared.

Maybe she wasn't out of love with him at all.

"Getting you into bed isn't a goal," he replied, pleased to see he'd guessed right about her pupils when she gave him a startled look. "Though I won't deny that I'm hopeful it will be one of the early steps toward my goal."

"Which is?"

He smiled lovingly. "Ultimately, to die of old age in your arms. Along the way I'm aiming for lazy weekend mornings in bed, a quiet wedding somewhere secluded, fierce makeup sex after our inevitable arguments, babies if you want them, and waking up with you every single day for the rest of my life. In no particular order. But first, I'd like to start with a kiss. I've wanted to taste your luscious lips for years. I hope my wait is nearing its end."

She didn't seem aware that she'd run her tongue along her upper lip as he mentioned kissing her. He took that as a very hopeful sign. She was staring at him as if mesmerized.

He could have her, he realized. Right here on this couch, right now, if he chose. His entire body felt like an electrical current was running through it, as if he'd been struck by lightning.

But no. He had to move carefully. This was too important to do otherwise. And rushing Lisbon would be a very bad idea. She needed time to let herself believe that he loved her.

He got to his feet, despite the protests of prominent parts of his anatomy. He was gratified that Lisbon's gaze dropped to his pants, causing her pupils to dilate even further.

She looked startled when he said, "I think a period of reflection is in order."

"Yeah," she said hoarsely. Then she cleared her throat, blinking. "You've given me a lot to think about, that's for sure."

He couldn't help a smirk, but he kept it short. "Thanks for letting me come over."

She got up, responding, "Thanks for the pizza. And beer." She paused, looking as though she wanted to say something, then led him to the door.

"Will you go out with me this weekend?" he asked.

"Oh. I have plans Saturday night." Lisbon frowned a little.

"Sunday afternoon, then. After Mass. I'll take you to lunch. Maybe we could drive down to Lake Travis; I hear it's beautiful."


"It's a date," he confirmed, delighted when she blushed a little. He couldn't resist leaning a little closer. "I look forward to it."

Her quick intake of breath was his only warning before she bounced up on tiptoe to give him a quick kiss on the lips. Later he would realize she'd mostly been curious, but for now he was shocked at the jolt the contact sent through him. Of their own free will, his arms wrapped around her, and he pressed his lips against hers, lingering while he savored the taste of beer and Lisbon, parsing out each element and committing them to memory.

When he was nearly finished, he felt her fingers slide into his hair, scratching lightly at his scalp as she slipped her nimble tongue into his mouth, and his brain shuddered to a halt. When it started working again, he realized he was pressing her against the wall and devouring her like a starving wolf. One of his hands had abandoned the silk of her hair for the delirious softness of her breast. Hadn't he intended to take things slowly? Well, screw that.

"Stop, stop," Lisbon breathed, pushing at his chest.

He managed to, but it was the hardest thing he'd ever done.

"Too fast," she panted.

"Sorry," he murmured, taking two steps back for good measure.

They looked at each other, stunned at how powerful their flare of passion had been. When they finally came together, he thought, it would be...explosive.

"See you tomorrow," he said, a little breathless.

"Yeah," she whispered back.

He managed a smile as he opened the door, then let it stretch into a grin as he walked to his car. Kissing Lisbon goodnight was better than he ever could have imagined.

He intended to make a lifelong habit of it.