AN: Wow. Okay. WOW. I promise to write a longer tag or a multi or something later, but I just needed this to get my brain working again because literally all I've been doing is fangirling for almost a solid 48 hours. And by fangirling, I mean watching them kiss over and over and over again. Hallelujah!

Epiphanies and Ever Afters

After Abbott sprang them, they took a cab back to the Blue Bird. His things were still there, and he probably owed money for his gratuitous use of the minibar.

Lisbon kept close to his side, and he laced their fingers together in the backseat.

He had to keep looking over at her to assure himself that this was real, that this wasn't some elaborate fantasy his brain had cooked up as a way of dealing with her departure.

But, no. She squeezed his hand, smiling, and he felt his eyes prick with tears. Again.

He had cried more in the past twelve hours than he'd done in years.

Lisbon snuggled into him, and he rested his cheek on the top of her head, their joined hands on his thigh.

This was happening...they were really doing this.

He had actually kissed her. In a TSA holding cell.

It seemed absurd, and yet, it was no worse than the idea that he had chased down a plane on the runway. Which had certainly done.

Absolutely worth any repercussions the FBI or the FAA or whoever threw at him.

He felt strange, like he was having an out of body experience. He'd told her he loved her (more than once), thought he'd lost her, realized he hadn't, kissed her, and now was on his way back to the hotel he'd planned on seducing her at to make her stay.

Yes, he'd certainly had that planned. Adjoining rooms. Evening wear. He'd intended to quite sophomorically seduce her over a meal like he said he never would, and then make her forget there was someone named Marcus Pike in her life.

She'd never go after she'd been in his bed.

Somehow, it seemed like an easier plan than telling her his feelings.

He peered down at her. Her eyelashes were closed, expression peaceful. In fact, he'd never seen her look so at ease with the world as he had these past few hours.

It was difficult to believe that it was because she wanted him, and was now actually going to have him. He shouldn't have been worth that, not to anyone, but especially not to Lisbon, whom he had hurt and betrayed and had made cry.

And yet, here she was. She'd passed up a life with a man who was dependable and kind and honest and fairly undamaged to be with him.

He kissed her hair. Because he could.

When the cab stopped, he tipped the driver lavishly, then pulled Lisbon out.

Her phone rang.


He was close enough to her that he could hear the conversation. Their flight left in six hours. At an airport so small, it was to be expected.

She ran a hand over her face when she ended the call, and he noticed the shadows under her eyes. It had been a long few days for both of them, probably a long few weeks, and he knew neither of them had slept in almost thirty hours.

Slowly, slowly they climbed the stairs, shoulders and hips bumping.

There was yellow crime scene tape across his door, and she stared.

"Jane, what the hell happened?"

It took him a second to remember. "Uh," he began. "Oh. We solved the case. I'd almost forgotten."

"Solved the case in your hotel room?" Her eyebrows were raised.

"Long story," he said, pulling the plastic tape down and digging his key out his pocket. "Let's just say there were a couple of trigger happy idiots here."

"Tell me you weren't one of them," she begged as she followed him in. The trashcan was full of tiny liquor bottles, and he hoped she didn't notice.

"I wasn't," he promised. "I was trying to talk everyone off the ledge."

Lisbon shook her head, eyes still wide. "Jesus, Jane. I leave you alone for two hours..." Her speech was interrupted by a yawn, and he smiled affectionately.

If she was half as exhausted as he was, he wasn't sure how either of them were still on their feet. No sleep, and utterly emotionally drained.

But happy. Stupidly happy. Unbelievably happy.

"Let's go to bed," he said softly. "Just to sleep," he tacked on, noting her cheeks coloring. "While I'd love to be with you that way, I'm afraid I'd fall asleep if we tried right now."

Still blushing, she smiled, then nodded.

He shed his jacket, then his shoes (well, one of them; he'd never put the other back on), then pulled back the duvet cover.

Lisbon slipped between the sheets, and he took a full minute to appreciate the sight of her in his bed before he joined her.

Her arms went around him as soon as he was close, and he involuntarily shivered. It had been so long since he'd been touched this way...

He shifted, pulling her further across his chest, one hand in her hair, her knee hooked over his legs.

When they settled, he found he was smiling.

She was warm, soft, all dark curls and pale skin.

And she was his.

One of these days I might surprise you, she'd told him, just a few weeks ago.

Well, she had.

When she walked into that holding cell and sat down across from him, she had shocked him beyond words. Because he had already lost her; he had been slowly trying to come to terms with that.

He'd told her what was in his heart and he'd been too late, and he was making a valiant attempt to be okay with it.

It had been so liberating to be able to say the words to her this time, to put it out there in the light with no more hiding and no more secrets.

Almost twelve years had passed since he had willingly shown anyone what was truly in his heart. It was heady, a rush.

The truth of how I feel.

When he was escorted off the plane, he'd thought that it had been the end. That she would go, fly out of his life. Be with someone whole.

And then, then she had proved him wrong.

He would never, never forget the second when he began to believe that maybe, just maybe he wasn't going to have to be alone anymore.

Their kiss had been sweet, soft, but laced with a thread of passion and more than a little restraint. It was how a first kiss should be, just a touch of her tongue against his lips, just a taste of her mouth.

Teasing, he had hovered above her, until she'd taken matters into her own hands, leaning forward to breach that last, crucial distance between them.

He had barely touched her, fingers under her chin, tilting her up. She was precious, and he was so afraid of breaking her.

Her fingers had trailed down his jaw as they broke away, and for a second, he had desperately fought against the urge to beg her to hold him and to bury his face in her neck when she did.

Lisbon burrowed deeper into his embrace, arm around his waist, and her warm weight pulled him under.

He slept until the alarm on her phone went off, a reminder that they had a flight to catch, and the smiled at her grumpy, disheveled form as she tried to snuggle back into his arms.

He let her.

In the end, they nearly had to run for the plane, and as Lisbon handed the boarding agent her ticket, laughing, he was struck by how light he felt.

Since he lost Angela, he'd never actively searched for this with anyone else. He'd found it anyway. Found it with someone who had seen him at rock bottom and had protected him and taken him back. Someone who knew all about the bad things in his life and loved him still.

By some universal coincidence, she was in seat 12B again.

Head on his shoulder, she looked up at him with a small grin.

"I love you," she almost whispered. It was the first time she had actually said the words, said those specific words, and his heart stuttered for a beat.

He leaned down, kissed her, fingers tracing her jaw.

Then, "Say it again," he murmured.

So she did.

And again.

And again.