Author's Note: This was meant to be a drabble, actually. Funny how stories sometimes run away with you, isn't it? Review please!
Disclaimer: The Mentalist and all of its characters are not mine. I only wish.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
It's hard to tell whether the sound of the heart monitor is driving Lisbon or Jane more crazy. To Lisbon, it's the ticking of a clock, counting how long she's been here and drawing out time so that she feels she'll be stuck in here forever. To Jane, it is a constant reminder of just what happened that made her need to be in here, a reminder of her own frail mortality and the fact she had come this close to losing it.
"You're doing it again."
Cho's voice comes from somewhere off to the side, and both of them turn their heads to look at him. He's sitting in a hard plastic chair, the ankle of one foot resting on the knee of his other leg. There is an open book laying against his shin, but he's not reading it; he's looking at them with his typical blank expression.
Lisbon has always had a sort of raw voice, but now it's even hoarser than usual, and Jane grinds his teeth together.
"Glaring at an inanimate machine," continues Cho, deadpan.
Lisbon's face blanches. "Oh. Sorry," she says quietly, but there is a hint of a smile tugging at her lips.
She coyly glances sideways at Jane, expecting him to find the humor in hating an inanimate object. He's looking straight at her but, instead of the expected smile crinkling his eyes, his face is set like stone. In fact, he hasn't smiled once since he's been in here, she realizes suddenly.
Cho just shrugs, and returns to reading his book. Lisbon thinks he looks totally at ease and is grateful for that, but Jane knows that his one silently tapping finger proves his anxiety and concern (not to mention the fact that he hasn't turned a page in almost twenty minutes).
Lisbon goes back to trying to ignore the beeping, trying not to count the seconds (because everyone knows that makes time seem to stretch on endlessly), and Jane returns to watching her like a hawk. She must be on a lot of pain medication, because she hasn't even noticed his staring.
Cho has, though. And, when Rigsby and Van Pelt enter the room not a second later, he can tell that they too are bewildered by his sudden change in character. He knows that Cho and Van Pelt are beginning to suspect why, if they haven't figured it out already, but poor Rigsby hasn't got a clue. Jane tries to analyze whether their knowledge of his feelings should scare him, but just ends up with more questions - such as whether the feelings themselves should scare him. They thrill him, sure - but he can't quite figure out whether it is due to fear or excitement. As he looks back to find Lisbon regarding Van Pelt with a hopeful expression, he decides it's a bit of both.
"Well?" demands Lisbon, still (perhaps even more strongly than before) trying to assert her authority.
"The doctor says the last X-Rays were fine," starts Van Pelt, smiling slightly, "and you're good to go. There was some sort of emergency -"
"Car pileup on the highway," adds Rigsby helpfully.
"- and he's needed in surgery, but you can wait for him to get out if you have any questions."
"No, I'm good," declares Lisbon determinedly. She starts to sit up and swing her legs over the side of the bed, attempting to ignore the sudden spinning of the world and the sharp pain in her chest. Jane sees her vacant eyes and slight swaying and, alarmed, jumps up to place a hand on her shoulder for balance.
It's the first time he's touched her since the accident, she suddenly realizes. She wonders what that means - if anything - and then promptly tells herself that of course it doesn't mean anything.
"Slowly, slowly," he says, ducking a bit so that he's more at eye level with her.
She shoots him another sideways glance, knowing that if she turned to face him they would be much too close, and she sees him smile for the first time in weeks. It's the smallest smile she's ever seen from him, so slight she can hardly see it, but just the fact that it's there makes her want to smile back.
"I'm fine," she says, and he respectfully takes a step back from her personal space and removes his hands from her shoulder.
"Are you sure you want to go home already?"
Van Pelt sounds a bit panicky, but Lisbon just raises her eyebrows. "I'm fine," she repeats, looking a bit amused at all of their somber expressions.
"You could at least wait until you can speak to Doctor Mallory," pushes Van Pelt, and Lisbon shoots her a look conveying that she does not like to be given orders.
"Oh no," she says, shaking her head. "I've already been here for two weeks -"
"Most of that spent in a coma," mutters Rigsby, and Lisbon spares him a quick glare.
"Trust me, I'm ready to get the hell out of here. Now where are my clothes?"
She pushes herself out of the bed and finally stands up. Jane, standing quietly at the side, is tempted to help her but imagines she'll bite his head off. He quite likes his head where it is, thank you very much. He looks up to find Rigsby handing Lisbon a bag with her change of clothes, and Van Pelt reminding her that she's supposed to have someone looking after her.
"I know," replies Lisbon glibly. "I called my brother. He'll be here tonight -"
"You're lying," interrupts Jane mildly, hands in his pockets and the hint of a smile on his face.
Lisbon doesn't know it, but Jane is supremely comforted by the fact that, even after everything, Lisbon is still a terrible liar. It lets him know that some things never change, and reminds him that she's really here, alive and well and still translucent. It's... reassuring. He actually can't believe how good he suddenly feels, as if the hovering black cloud has finally left.
"No, I'm not," denies Lisbon indignantly, but she has to struggle to keep the sides of her mouth down.
Jane pushes off from where he's leaning against the wall and takes a step closer to her. Her eyebrows are raised in a challenge, her chin pointing up so that she can try (and fail) to look down on him, but he simply smiles at her.
"Yes, you are." He leans down closer to her, and whispers confidentially, "Your nostrils flare when you lie."
He stands straight again, and actually laughs at her reaction.
"They do not!" Lisbon states in disbelief, but she also automatically places a hand over her nose.
They don't, of course (how cliche would that be?), but she doesn't have to know that.
"Oh, I think you'll find they do," he says with a grin, and then keeps talking without giving her a chance to interrupt. "Now, which one of us is going to be taking care of our dear Lisbon here?"
It ends up being him, of course, just as he'd - well, not planned, exactly, but definitely expected. The three agents are all much to wary of their boss to directly oppose an order - so when she orders them to go home, they briskly scurry away like frightened rabbits. Not Jane, though. Lisbon doesn't frighten him. She only wishes, he thinks with a grin.
She puts up fight, claiming she is perfectly fine on her own, but Jane isn't having any of that. She glares, whines, and complains, but eventually gives in. And now she's staring out of the passenger window of his car, silently watching the view blur by, and stoically ignoring him. If Jane didn't know any better, he would say she's sulking.
She's not, though. Sulking, that is. Instead, she's furiously thinking about how in the world she's going to survive the next few days with Jane's constant hovering and snooping around in her apartment and incessant mindless chatter. Although... actually, he has been very, very, quiet the last few days. She's actually beginning to think the accident has had more of an effect on him than it has on her. She's never seen him like this, and she's actually concerned. Typical of him, she thinks, to make her concerned about him when she's the one that was nearly shot to death just two weeks ago.
Even now, he's silent, which is unusual for him. She remembers the last time they drove along in the dark, how he had forced her to talk to him (not that she was really complaining...), and the only small talk she could make was about the lack of good movies recently. Even that conversation was better than this, though. This silence is putting her on edge, and she's worried about him.
"Hey," she says, and he briefly takes his eyes off the road to look at her. "You okay?"
"Hmm? Oh, yeah. Just... thinking."
"Thinking? Now that scares me," she teases.
He looks at her again, very briefly, and a slow, tender smile starts to spread across his face. She really is very cute, especially since she thinks she's being subtle about trying to cheer him up. He thinks about taking her hand and threading his fingers through hers, and imagines the blush that would undoubtedly rise to her cheeks, but he refrains. He doesn't think either of them are ready for that.
Instead, he makes some sarcastic comment back, and they banter and tease each other until they reach her apartment. It's like they're back to normal; this is how they have always acted around each other. The only difference is, this time, he realizes with a jolt what they have been doing all along: flirting. The thought actually stuns him into silence for a while. How hasn't he noticed this before?
And, now that he has... why doesn't it feel weird?
She lives in a small, cozy apartment. There is very little furniture and few decorations, but he can't imagine her being the overly decorative type anyway. She's much too practical. There are little touches here and there, though, that help him flesh out her personality, like the delicate gold chain necklace on the coffee table, or the handful of photographs scattered around in mismatched frames, showing a smiling Lisbon with various other smiling people. Relatives, he surmises, unwilling to even consider the fact that she might have a boyfriend.
It is late when they arrive, and Lisbon, still recovering and very weak, is exhausted, despite her protests. Jane quickly figures out that the only reason she's trying to stay awake is because she just doesn't want him trying to read her through her apartment. After promising not to snoop through her things, he ushers her into her room, where he makes sure she's in bed before setting himself up on the couch in the living room. He isn't expecting to really sleep much, so he doesn't bother trying to find a blanket or pillow.
He simply sits there, instead. He keeps his promise and refrains from going through her belongings, even though he's never felt the urge quite this strongly. There's just so little he knows about her, which drives him insane.
He tries not to think about the last few weeks, but he has never been particularly good at dealing with memories. Moments come back to him in flashes that he wishes he could shut out; little details that he wishes he could ignore. The gun in the attackers hand, his finger poised on the trigger, shaking but determined. The hard rope securing Lisbon's hands and feet to the chair, and the fear on her face. The blast from the gunshot, and the sound of his own voice, nearly unrecognizable with panic. The blood - the blood - everywhere, pooling on the floor beneath her, soaking her clothes and his hands, warm and wet and sickening. The ashen pallor of her face, her bloodless lips and faint, thready pulse -
He screws his eyes shut to force the images out. He never thought anything would ever compare, but somehow these memories are just as bad as the ones Red John has given him. He's not entirely sure what that means.
He needs to distract himself. He knows he won't sleep. He figures he could sneak into Lisbon's room to watch over her, but he's been doing enough of that in the hospital over the last two weeks; he thinks that maybe she deserves a bit of the privacy that she seems to cherish.
He wants to rifle through her apartment, to sort through her things and learn little bits and pieces about her, fragments that make up her personality. He's made a promise, though, and he intends to keep it. He remembers when she told him she didn't trust him, and then he smiles when he realizes that deep down she does. She trusted his promise, after all, and the trusts him to be here tonight. Maybe she doesn't fully trust him about the little things but, when it comes to the important ones, she does, and he figures that's all that matters.
He jolts to attention when he hears a crash coming from inside her bedroom, the sound loud and sharp and crystal clear in his ears. The shattering of glass. His heart racing, Jane rushes to her room, throws the door open without knocking, and then stops.
He can actually feel his heartbeat slow down as he realizes she's alone, and she's still safe. His eyes need a second to adjust to the pure darkness, but when they do he feels something in his stomach drop at the look on Lisbon's face. She's sitting up in her bed, one hand stretched over her night table, and her eyes are wide, frozen with fear. There's a broken lamp on the floor, bits of shattered glass coating the wood, glimmering dangerously, but he ignores it. He takes a few steps in and, when Lisbon still doesn't move, starts to become concerned again.
"Lisbon?" he asks.
She blinks, and seems to come out of whatever trance she was in. She shakes her head slightly and pulls her arm back to her side.
"I'm fine," she says. "Sorry."
If she was really fine, though, she'd look embarrassed. He knows this. Instead, she still looks frightened. She tears her gaze away from him and it flits nervously about the room, lingering for a second too long on the window. Almost as if she doesn't realize she's doing it, her fingers come up to place gentle pressure against the stitches on her chest and, though he has to squint in the darkness to see it, Jane notices she's actually shaking slightly. Trembling.
He's never seen her like this, and the thought scares him.
"I knocked over a lamp." She attempts an embarrassed laugh that Jane sees right through, followed by a brief upward tug of her lips. He assumes she meant that to be a smile. "Go back to sleep."
"I wasn't sleeping," he tells her as he walks further into the room.
She's about to make a reply when there's a loud, dull thud outside of her window, and she flinches almost imperceptibly. It's followed by muted laughter; drunk teenagers coming home, thinks Jane. He realizes what she reminds him of - his daughter, waking up in the dark after a nightmare. The thought tugs at his heartstrings but, for once, he doesn't try to push the memories away. They could be useful now.
Normal Lisbon would be embarrassed, scoff at him and push him away, but the irrationally frightened, nightmare-driven Lisbon just watches him in confusion as he goes to sit at the edge of her bed. She still looks skittish and, when there's another loud bang outside of her window, he sees her flinch again.
"Shh," he soothes, taking one of her hands. "It's okay, it's fine. You're okay."
He moves his index finger so that it is resting over her pulse, which is still much too fast, and much too erratic. He uses his free hand to gently brush her hair away from her face, ignores the way she's frowning up at him, and waits until her pulse starts to relax.
His palm is hot against her skin, his fingers soft; she has forgotten how soothing human contact can be, she realizes. His voice, too, is remarkably comforting. Smooth and soft, it is so calming that she half-wonders whether he is hypnotizing her. But no, she trusts him. He wouldn't do that against her will.
She should feel embarrassed about having him in her room, she knows, and very, very awkward but, somehow, she doesn't. They are colleagues, she is technically his boss - but, somewhere along the line, they've become more than that. Not friends, exactly, but something... more. Closer. Something undefinable, something without a name. She doesn't think she has ever felt this way about anybody. She's loved people, she has even been in love once, but this is... different.
Her pulse has slowed down to a normal, steady heartbeat, but it skyrockets back up again at the sound of footsteps against the landing. The drunk teenagers must have finally made it up the stairs. She's watching the doorway with wide eyes, suddenly terrified again, and Jane has had enough.
"Scoot over," he says quietly. She doesn't move. "For God's sake, woman, just listen to me for once."
She shoots him a sideways look and an actual, sincere smile, and shifts over on the bed to give him more room. He inches his way closer, and leans his back against the headboard, stretching his legs out in front of him.
"What are you doing?" she asks, and he's relieved to find that her voice is almost back to normal.
"Shh," he admonishes with a little grin. "Lie down."
She does as she's told without question, which shows Jane just how affected she has been by everything. She scoots down the bed, turns on her side and presses the entire length of the front of her body against him, needing human touch. She places her head by his stomach, curling into him, and rests one hand just above his hip. She closes her eyes, and the room falls into silence, broken only by her soft, erratic breathing.
Jane freezes for just a moment, not used to having a woman touch him this way, then places one hand on the top of her head, using the other to monitor her heart rate. He strokes her hair, runs his fingers through it and plays with the ends, and hums a lullaby that he's surprised he remembers. Lisbon's breathing evens out, her heart rate steadies, and Jane knows that pretty soon she will be asleep.
She feels like a child. She drowsily thinks that this should bother her, but she's too warm and comfortable to care. She can feel his heartbeat under her ear, steady and reassuring. She feels... safe. Like nothing can harm her here. She shouldn't be surprised that Jane can easily calm people down from nightmares.
"You must have been a great father," she murmurs sleepily, without thinking.
Jane's hand abruptly stills in her hair, and she can feel his breath catch. Lisbon suddenly realizes what she's just said, and her eyes pop open in horror. She squeezes them shut, wanting to kick herself - she can't believe she has just said that...
"Oh, God," she whispers, trying to draw away from him. "I'm sorry - I didn't mean..."
His fingers resume running through her hair, and his other hand maintains his grip on her so that she can't pull away. She's scared to look at his face, but then his thumb starts tracing small circles against her wrist, and she risks a peek.
"No, it's alright," he replies, and grants her a small, sad smile.
She says nothing, just looks back down and closes her eyes. She is about to drift off when Jane unexpectedly says, "Thank you." She doesn't ask what for, she just nods her head against his side and lets herself fall asleep.
He waits until she's sound asleep, then slowly inches his way down the bed, careful not to wake her, until his head rests against a pillow. Lisbon, who hasn't moved, now has her face just above his shoulder, breathing onto the junction where it meets his neck. Jane turns on his side to face her and brushes some hair out of her face. Then, deciding to just go for it, he shifts even closer and tucks her head under his chin, placing one arm around her, and carefully tangles their feet together. The feeling of being this close to a woman is almost foreign, it's been so long. It doesn't feel wrong, though, he realizes with some surprise. It's actually... nice.
The room is dark around them, with only a hint of eerily blue light coming from the moon outside. The darkness is somehow comforting, though. In the light, the harsh imperfections of reality can be easily seen; but here, under the cloak of shadows, it's easy to pretend that it's just him and Lisbon, with no worries in the world.
Actually, he becomes aware that it's like that a lot with them. When it's just the two of them, he sometimes feels as if there's no one else in the world. He thinks about the day he was blind, when he reached out to touch her smile. He had forgotten that they were actually at work, surrounded by colleagues; it had felt as if it was just the two of them, and he had actually been caught by surprise when Rigsby interrupted them.
He thinks about other memories, other cases involving her. He remembers the look on her face when he handed her the jewelry from the casino, the way she'd gasped as he had made the paper frog move. He remembers her trying to cheer him up after they had just missed Red John, remembers her teasing him about kissing Sophie on the cheek. He thinks about just seeing her everyday, thinks about how she compensates for being a petite woman in the police force by using a manly swagger and constantly having her face tilted upwards to show her boldness and authority. He thinks about her decidedly feminine blush, how he loves making it appear on her face, almost more than anything. Then he thinks about one of their recent cases, about the woman who said that when you find happiness, you have to cling on to it, and he tightens his hold around Lisbon.
Sleepily, his eyes half-closed and his breathing slowing down, he thinks that maybe there are things more important in this world than revenge.
Then, before he knows it, he's not thinking at all. For the first time in over five years, Patrick Jane sleeps like a baby.