Until the Red Light of Dawn
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to The Mentalist, just the thoughts in my head.
Summary: Somehow he'd needed to be here tonight, in the rooms warmed by her presence, lulled by the soft cadence of her breath, reminding him that not everything that meant something to him died.
Spoilers: Intended as a post-ep to Redwood.
Author's Notes: My first Mentalist fanfic, but hopefully not my last. I'm finding them to be fun and challenging characters to play with. I started this immediately after seeing the re-airing of Redwood. I'm just a rather slow writer.
* Again, a big thanks as always to my dear friend and editor "Eagle-Eye" Buchkowski, who can shoot down an unnecessary comma a mile away and find all the spelling mistakes that turn serious moments into silliness. You have an incredible eye for detail and your comments are always informative and sometimes hilarious. Thank you for your really quick turnaround and making it look like I know what I'm doing :)
The digital clock on her microwave glowed twelve twenty-four when CBI Agent Teresa Lisbon stumbled over the threshold of her apartment. Not bothering with the lights, she dropped her luggage in a heap in her tiny foyer and bent down to fumble with her bootlaces. When her tired feet were finally free of their confines, Lisbon struggled out of her light blazer, wincing as the movement added insult to the injury to her left shoulder.
The sudden sharp pain dragged her back to the dark, abandoned building where she'd hit the ground, hard, to avoid a hail of bullets a little over twenty-four hours earlier. Leaning heavily against the wall, Lisbon fought back a shudder as the memory overtook her. Blinding muzzle flashes and the acrid odour of gunpowder mixed with the heady aroma of moulding leaves was almost all she could remember of those split seconds before she'd crashed to the ground. For that moment, nothing had really registered, not even sound. She couldn't remember hearing the sharp rapport of the gunshots, nor the rasps of her ragged breathing. For that moment, she'd been trapped in a vacuum of fear and adrenaline until she'd heard Jane's voice drifting through the muffled speaker of her cell phone.
She'd never been so glad to hear his voice. Patrick Jane's assignment to her team may have often seemed like more of a curse than a blessing, but his words in her ear last night had been a surprisingly enormous comfort. He'd let her know that she wasn't alone.
Teresa Lisbon had long-since learned what it was like to have no one but yourself to rely on. She knew that she could've taken down Kyle by herself last night and had been completely prepared to do so. However, knowing that there were people who cared about her nearby and on their way had bolstered her courage and determination to get out alive.
And apparently Jane really did care. She'd heard it in the unadulterated concern in his voice. Most days, Lisbon was lucky if she caught even a glimpse of the real Patrick Jane. Working with an expert mentalist had given new meaning to the phrase 'pay no attention to the man behind the curtain'. Jane was a master at manipulation and misdirection and Lisbon knew that any emotion or 'slip-up' she'd seen in him over their time together were carefully considered so as best to serve his purpose, whatever that happened to be. Sometimes she really wasn't sure just what his ulterior motives were.
But last night had been different. Last night, she was sure that she'd really heard 'Patrick' during those few precious seconds. She might not be a mentalist herself, but Lisbon was still a skilled investigator and she'd had no trouble picking up the unmasked fear in his voice. It had been that, more than anything, which had snapped her back to reality. Now that she'd had a chance to look back on things with some objectivity, she was still struck by just how un-Jane-like he'd sounded. The consultant had always approached even their most dangerous situations with an almost child-like excitement, as though what they did was a game. It drove her nuts, but she'd gotten used to it. So the sudden concern had been a bit of a shock; knowing that his concern had been for her sent a familiar warmth spreading across her cheeks.
Lisbon forced herself back to the present with a solid shake of her head. The damn man wasn't even in the room and he still managed to get under her skin.
Dropping her badge and gun on the hall table, she stepped over her bags and made her way deeper into the apartment. Passing through the living room on her way to the ultimate destination of her bed, she leaned over and switched on the table lamp next to the couch.
The scream that tore from her throat almost certainly woke the neighbours. It took a full seven seconds for the initial shock of discovering a man in her living room to subside enough for her brain to start working again. It was another three seconds before her terror-clouded mind registered that said man in her living room was, in fact, Jane. It then took only half a second for that terror to morph into anger.
The man didn't even have the common decency to look apologetic for the years he had most certainly shaved off her life. At the very least he could've appeared as shaken as she was by their unexpected encounter, but no, the damn fool hadn't even opened his eyes. Jane was sprawled across her couch in much the same way he usually occupied the leather sofa in the office; one arm was slung up over his head and his stocking feet hung over the arm nearest her.
He looked peaceful and it only served to fuel her ire. Before she even realized what she was doing, Lisbon yanked a throw cushion out from under his legs and hurled it forcefully at his face.
Jane literally didn't see it coming and she took some small delight in his startled sputtering and indignant, "Hey!"
"Dammit, Jane!" she fumed. "You scared the shit out of me!"
Jane simply closed his eyes again and leaned back against the armrest, a smug smile creeping across his features. "I must have for you to start swearing like a sailor," he tisked. "Such language, Lisbon."
She swiped another pillow from under his legs and flung it at his head. This time, however, he was ready for it and caught the projectile in mid-air, quickly stuffing it back under his knees.
Squaring her stance, even though he still wasn't looking at her, Lisbon tried another tactic.
"I could've shot you, you idiot! What if I hadn't realized it was it was you? I could've shot you." Her voice trailed off a little as she realized just how easily that scenario could've played out.
Jane, however, didn't see it that way. He adjusted his position, sinking deeper into her couch, seemingly unbothered by how dangerous sneaking into her apartment might have been.
"No, you couldn't have," he answered, his eyes still closed. "You left your gun on the table in the hall, like you do every night."
The fact that he'd divined her habits correctly only managed to make her even angrier. Unable to contain her nervous energy any longer, Lisbon paced the small space between the couch and the loveseat that graced the opposite wall, her fury building with every step.
"You know what, Jane? That's it! I've had it!" she raged, her pace quickening in the cramped room. "This time you've gone too far. How the hell do you even know where I live?"
Eyes opening slightly, Jane made a move to answer her, only to be cut off by the dismissive wave of her hand.
"Never mind, I don't want to know." She stopped pacing, but her body was practically vibrating with energy and Jane couldn't help the grin that twitched at the corners of his mouth. There were few images that he found more alluring than an angry Teresa Lisbon. Of course, she caught his smirk.
"Wipe that grin off your face. This time, you're way over the line. I've had a hellish couple of days, no thanks to you. I nearly got my head blown off and I just wanted to come home to a quiet house and get some rest. Instead, you're here, violating my personal space, ruining what's left of my night–"
Jane laughed outright. "I hardly think I've violated anything. I'm just lying on your couch, I swear I –"
Lisbon silenced him with a glare before launching back into him. "No, Jane, you've invaded my privacy, my home. I didn't ask you to be here. I don't want you here."
Jane was sitting up straight now and his ever-present grin had faded from his face as she wound deeper into her ranting. In her haze of anger, Lisbon thought she'd actually detected a faint flinch at her last words, but she quickly brushed it off. If she'd seen anything, it was most certainly because he'd wanted her to. Still, she almost hoped she'd hurt him, made him realize that there were consequences to his actions.
She'd run out of words and the moment had dissolved into a silent standoff, their gazes locked as she all but willed him to just go away. It was a battle Lisbon knew she'd never win.
Sighing heavily, she tore her eyes away from his and slumped forward, exhaustion in every line of her body. "Why are you even here, Jane?"
He didn't blink. "I couldn't sleep."
Lisbon barked a humourless laugh. "You couldn't sleep. That's just great, and what? You figured you'd sleep better on my couch?"
Jane didn't answer with words. He merely snagged her eyes with his and fixed her with a look she had never seen before. Lisbon was stunned into silence. His gaze was raw, stripped of his normal veil and what she saw behind his eyes left her breathless. It was as though he'd drawn back the curtain, revealing more in a single look than she'd managed to glean their entire time together. It was overwhelming for a moment and she struggled to make sense of the pain, fear and myriad other emotions she read in his expression, but his answer was very clear.
"Oh," she whispered.
Her voice broke the spell and Jane blinked, dropping the veil back into place as he fixed his gaze on some spot on her area rug. Suddenly unable to find her footing in her own living room, Lisbon cleared her throat.
"I'm, uh, I'm going to get ready for bed," she muttered, before ducking out of the room as quickly as possible and making a bee-line to her bedroom.
Jane let her go without comment. When he heard the soft snick of her bedroom door closing he let out the breath he'd been holding for what felt like forever. Blowing the air in a steady stream past his lips, he turned and slowly lay back down against the sofa cushions.
He'd just tipped a large portion of his hand and while it had been a calculated risk, the feeling of vulnerability that went with it rattled him just a little. What he found the most unsettling was why he'd done it. Somehow he'd needed to be here tonight, in the rooms warmed by her presence, lulled by the soft cadence of her breath, reminding him that not everything that meant something to him died. He was even more surprised by how far he'd go to convince her to let him stay.
Lisbon had locked herself in her office upon their return from Redwood, ostensibly to start on her reports. Jane knew better, though. He'd felt the tension stringing between them their entire drive back. He'd thought about calling her on it, but he was still having a hard time settling himself. He had tried to catch a nap on the office couch, but every time he'd come close to nodding off, the sharp crack of remembered gunshots had snapped him awake.
Fleeing the office, he'd tried driving the highways surrounding Sacramento, putting his Citroën through its paces. However, his mind kept flashing back to a dark forestry road with a scared young woman beside him and terrifying silence on the other end of a phone line.
Those few seconds of silence ate at his mind, running in a continuous loop, even now, over a day later. In those few seconds, his heart had lodged in his throat and he'd struggled to breathe, straining his ears for a sound, any sound, to let him know she was still alive. In those few seconds of silence, he'd realized just how much he cared about what happened to Teresa Lisbon.
Damn, he should've seen that one coming.
Despite his considerable talent for feigning empathy while holding everyone at a distance, Lisbon had managed to duck under the curtain. Jane was pretty sure that she had no idea of the power of her hold over him. The CBI was a means to an end, but Lisbon was different. Both mentor and student, she had this uncanny ability to challenge him while keeping him grounded. He found himself seeking out her company, trying to find ways to alternately make her smile and rage with frustration. It was being faced with the possibility of losing that and, well, a lock pick, which had resulted in his current situation, sprawled across her couch.
It settled him, the simple hominess of her living space. He felt peaceful for a change, surrounded by her things and enveloped by her scent, much more peaceful than he felt in that shell he called a home. For the first time in as long as he could remember, Jane didn't analyse the feeling. He simply let his eyes slip closed as he laid back against the cushions and enjoyed the moment.
Lisbon's mind was a mess.
She sat slumped at the end of her bed, cradling her head in her hands and wishing fervently that she'd wake up to discover that the last twenty-eight hours were some sort of dream. Rationally she knew that wasn't going to happen, but her brain was looping from furious to anxious to genuinely concerned and the roller coaster ride was making her sick. She wasn't sure what was bothering her more; the residual distress of having faced down the gun of a killer, or the fact that Patrick Jane was in her apartment unsupervised.
Anger flowed through her anew, spurring her up from the mattress and setting her prowling around the room. She couldn't believe his audacity, breaking into her apartment; well actually she could, but she'd hoped he would've had the sense of common decency to understand that this was one line she hadn't wanted him to cross. She couldn't help feeling just a little bit trapped, knowing that her last refuge had been breached. She had nowhere to hide from him now.
Sighing, Lisbon braced her hands on her dresser and forced herself to take a series of deep breaths in an effort to calm her racing heart. Leaning forward, she pressed her forehead against her mirror, relishing the feel of the cool glass against her overheated skin. She just didn't have the strength for this tonight.
On a good day, Lisbon had to work hard at keeping Jane where she wanted him, where she kept all of her friends and colleagues, at arm's length. Of course, Jane just wouldn't stay there. He kept pushing and prodding, looking for any crack in her armour he could find. Tonight, she just didn't have the strength to fend him off. Tonight she couldn't even completely convince herself that she wanted to fend him off.
Once she'd gotten over the initial shock, Lisbon's treacherous heart warmed to the idea of coming home to someone.
'No,' she thought, forcing herself to be honest. 'Not someone ... Jane.' No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't picture Rigsby or Cho or any of the other men in her life in the role.
Lisbon blew out a breath in frustration. She was being ridiculous. These were dangerous thoughts ... Jane was a dangerous man. He was a manipulative narcissist, hell-bent on revenge. Hell, half the time she questioned his stability altogether. But he had this way of making her feel like she was the only person in the room. Even his constant probing was strangely attractive. It was as though he really wanted to know what made her tick ... to know her. No one had tried to get past her defences in a long time. No one had cared enough to try and Jane's unwavering attention could be very addictive.
Still, Lisbon wasn't stupid. She might not know all of Jane's tricks, but she had a pretty good idea of how he operated. She'd seen him turn on the charm with countless other women to glean information or simply for his own amusement. She was certain that she was just another diversion for him.
But then he'd given her that look. For a brief moment, he'd pulled off the mask and exposed the maelstrom of pain and anger simmering beneath the usually calm façade. She had been shocked by the force of emotion radiating from him without the filter of his charming smile. However, he hadn't done it to show her what he carried with him from the death of his family. He'd done it to show her one particular emotion ... fear ... fear for her. Patrick Jane had been scared for her. Apparently she hadn't lost her touch when it came to reading voices. She just didn't know what to do with this sudden insight.
Her sense of self-preservation demanded that she roust him from her sofa and see him out the door immediately, but she just couldn't imagine herself actually doing that. Would it really be so bad if she let him sleep on her couch? If it meant he would actually sleep for a change, Lisbon didn't think she could deny him that one reprieve.
Pushing herself off from her dresser, Lisbon yanked open her pyjama drawer. She might as well get comfortable. It was going to be a long night.
He was just drifting off into his first restful sleep in days when a shadow fell across his eyes. Time was up.
"Alright, Lisbon," he muttered, stretching languorously, his eyes still closed. "I'll be going now."
"Get up," she replied and Jane tried not to acknowledge the small stab of disappointment that nicked his heart. He'd really hoped he'd convinced her to let him to stay. It was all forgotten, however, when he opened his eyes.
Lisbon was standing over him, as expected. What he hadn't expected was to find her arms full of pillows, sheets and a neatly-folded blanket. He let his trademark grin spread across his face as he took in her bare feet, pyjama bottoms and well-worn t-shirt. He couldn't help himself.
"Aw, Lisbon, come to tuck me in? How sweet."
Lisbon refused to rise to the bait, forcing herself to simply quirk an eyebrow in response.
"C'mon, Jane, get up so I can make up the couch. And you're not sleeping in a three-piece suit."
If possible, his grin grew even wider as he pushed himself up into a standing position. "Now you're trying to get me out of my clothes. My, aren't we moving fast."
It was much too late and she was much too exhausted for any verbal sparring. Reaching the end of her rope, Lisbon unceremoniously dumped the bedding onto the coffee table before turning on her heel. "Fine, Jane, make your own bed."
She was almost to the hall when he stopped her in her tracks. "Oh, hey! Lisbon, wait! I'm just kidding." His voice held his usual amusement, but there was something else colouring his words and it was that undertone which had her turning back around so quickly.
She found him adding his carefully-folded waistcoat to a pile, next to the bedding, which included his jacket, shoes and belt. Despite her best efforts, her eyes were drawn to his hands as he worked a few more buttons free on his dress shirt, revealing the collar of his undershirt. Lisbon couldn't help but wonder, not for the first time, how he survived the California heat wearing so many clothes. This thought, of course, led her to wondering what he would look like with fewer clothes, an image she frantically tried to drive from her mind's eye before he picked up on her train of thoughts. She didn't realize that she was staring until his laughing voice dumped the mental equivalent of a bucket of ice water over her head.
He'd stopped at the fourth button. "From the blush that's slowly creeping down your neck, I'd say that's as far as either of us is comfortable with tonight."
She didn't dignify him with an answer, forcing herself to shrug off any implications of his use of the word 'tonight'. Instead she fixed him with a glare and busied herself by scooping up the discarded sheets and setting about making her couch into something resembling a bed.
However, as she shook out the blanket, a sharp pain rocketed through her shoulder, drawing a hiss from her lips and freezing her in place.
He was behind her in an instant, his hand hovering over her shoulder as though he'd only just managed to stop himself from giving into some sort of instinct.
"I'm fine," she answered through gritted teeth, carefully rolling her muscles and trying to work through the pain.
Jane's hand did drop to her shoulder then, the warmth of his skin at the same time startling and soothing.
"You're most definitely not fine." His voice had dropped an octave and Lisbon fought hard to suppress a shiver as his breath feathered through her hair.
"It's nothing," she deflected, forcing herself to shrug off his hand. She needed to put some distance between them and quick. Taking a step forward, she turned to face him, unconsciously crossing her arms across her chest. However, her thoughts were derailed momentarily when she found him much closer than she'd expected, his deep blue eyes boring into her. She backed up another step and he followed her, refusing to let her hide. Finally relenting, she continued, "Alright! I fell last night. There, are you happy?"
Something indefinable passed across his eyes at her mention of last night's standoff, but it vanished into the shadows before she had a chance to even wonder about its presence. A muted version of his normal grin suddenly softened his features, erasing the darkness.
"C'mon, sit down," he offered, sweeping his arm out in a gallant gesture. "I know just the thing."
Lisbon eyed him dubiously, prompting him to really lay on the charm.
"You needn't worry. I wouldn't seduce you under the guise of a massage. That would be so clichéd."
She fought the smile that tugged at her lips, though she knew that it was futile. She was sure he could see the amusement in her eyes.
"Just who are you trying to convince?"
"For God's sake, woman, just let me help you for a change?"
Lisbon's smile won out this time at his feigned exasperation before simply answering, "Fine."
Jane watched her carefully as she sat on edge of the couch and turned to present him with her back. He hadn't expected her to give in so easily and as a result, his first touches were more tentative than he would've liked. He gently swept her hair to one side, deliberately slowing his movements in an effort to ease the rigid line of tension that ran up her spine. She was strung tighter than a piano wire and Jane wasn't completely certain that she wouldn't bolt out of the room. Instead, however, she did what few could; she surprised him, softening under his touch and surrendering to his ministrations. Jane knew very well the magnitude of what she'd just given him and it stirred something deep within the darkness, setting alight a tiny flame of hope.
Lisbon tried to resist, she really did, but exhaustion and the soothing warmth of Jane's hands drowned out the warning bells in her mind until all she could hear was the seductive call of sleep. His strong fingers skated along her skin, sliding under the collar of her t-shirt, lighting a smouldering awareness in their wake. He dug into her muscles and Lisbon bit back a moan as he confidently worked each fibre, slowly easing the pain and tension that had settled there. The gentle cadence of his breath against her ear rocked her like a lullaby as every pass of his palms drew her closer to slumber. She knew she was wading into dangerous waters, letting her walls down like this around Jane. She knew that if she didn't hold tight to what tethered her in her life that he could easily sweep her away in the dark undertow of his pain. However, she couldn't remember the last time anyone had ever really touched her, let alone soothed her so completely, and Lisbon found that just for tonight she was willing to take the risk.
Jane counted silently down from ten as he methodically worked the knots out of her shoulders and back, breathing out the number one as she went limp in his arms. Carefully, so as not to jostle her, he slid back against the pillows she'd placed on the couch, gently pulling her down with him until she was settled with her head in his lap. It wasn't a completely comfortable position for him, but her warm weight over his legs left him willing to suffer a little backache. A tender smile, softer than the one he used every day, bloomed across his face as Lisbon settled into him, tucking her hand under her cheek. Stretching over her body, Jane tucked the blanket around her slight frame. Content that she would be able to sleep comfortably, he settled himself back into the cushions and absently ran his fingers through her dark hair.
He knew that he couldn't be there when she woke up. He knew that in the light of dawn she would remember all the reasons why she didn't trust him and the chord of their already tenuous relationship would snap. It was a risk he just wasn't willing to take. Still, there were several more hours until sunlight. Lisbon was safe and he was sleepy and he intended to enjoy it while it lasted.