disclaimer: i own nothing

author's note: this is the third and final part of my trilogy which consists of "It's Beautiful Here" and "Sam I Am, Home." Read those first.

How Quickly Life Can Change

Of all the ways Patrick Jane had imagines his first 48 hours back in the states ending up, eating take-out in Teresa Lisbon's bed had not even been a consideration. But lying there, slightly propped up against the headboard, he realized that is was the best possible end to his year-long journey.

Clothed only in his boxers, Jane was a little chilly as he took another bite of Kung Pao chicken. But when he looked over at Lisbon who sat cross-legged at the foot of the bed wearing only his dress shirt, he didn't mind being a little cold. He smiled when he realized that they had been so intent on not breaking their kiss as they stumbled through the house, shedding clothes as best they could, they he had no idea what Lisbon's house looked like apart from her bedroom. He was brought out of his thoughts by the sound of Lisbon's chopsticks clicking together. Her eyes were focused on her carton of Lo Mein noodles so Jane took the opportunity to study her face.

He hadn't known until that moment he'd seen her in her office, just how much he'd missed seeing her face. It was like a string that had been wrapped around his ribs was all of a sudden loosened. It seemed almost too good to be true that he got to see her like this, touch her, kiss her, and make love to her. A part of him wondered if it was more that he deserved.

As he studied her face, he realized that along with excitement and happiness, there was fear lying just beneath the surface. Placing his leftover food on the bedside table, he reached over and placed a hand on her bare calf. "I'm not going to leave again," he said softly.

Lisbon looked up in surprise. She had almost forgotten what it could be like with him. How it could feel when someone knew what you were thinking. She wasn't sure how she should respond. He had read her correctly. She was scared he'd leave again. Or that she'd wake up and realize this was all a dream. Having him back was like a warm day in the middle of winter. It felt too good to last.

"I had to leave," Jane explained when it was clear she would not speak. "If I'd stayed, I would have ended up resenting you. It would have destroyed me. I had to let them go. And leaving seemed like the only way to do that."

"I know. I understand. I've always understood that." She didn't tell him thatwhen her mother died, she had hitchhiked from San Diego to New York. Only fifteen years old at the time, it wasn't until she jumped into the chilly Atlantic waters that she felt stable enough to go back home.

Jane could see the wheels of her memory turning but he didn't ask what it was she was remembering. He would at some point. And she would tell him one day. Learning new things about her and her past was something he was looking forward to immensely. Still sensing her hesitation he sat up and tugged on her arm until she, rolling her eyes slightly, placed her food next to his and sat down between his outstretched legs, her back against his chest. He kissed her neck and smiled when he felt her shiver.

"I promise you," he said, wrapping his arms tightly around her, "that I won't disappear on you against like that, at least while I'm alive."

Lisbon leaned her head back against his shoulder, hoping gravity would stop the tears in her eyes from falling.

"I can't promise you a lot," Jane continued. "You and I both know how quickly life can change. But I can promise you that." He felt a drop of wetness on his clavicle and reached up to brush her tears away.

Lisbon covered his hands with hers and brought his arms back to wrap around her again. "People I care about...people I love, they tend not to stick around very long. So it might take me a while to really believe you. But I'm trying."

Jane felt a sense of guilt come over him. He let out a breath and spoke softly against her shoulder. "I know it doesn't make it better, but I'm sorry that keeping my sanity required me to hurt you."

"You don't have to apologize."

"I know I don't. But I want too anyway. I am sorry. And I'm grateful for what you did, not only on that roof but at the cemetery. You deserved better than what I did. And I'll try to do better by you from now on."

Lisbon said nothing. There was really nothing to say. And the feeling of him pressed against her made it difficult to speak. There were just much better ways to pass the time. Turning in his arms she gently traced the lines of his face with her fingertips. She marveled at how there seemed to be fewer now, though he was a year older.

"You really let them go didn't you?" she asked.

"Yes, I really did."

She ran a hand through his hair. During their time working together she had always wondered what his blond curls felt like, though she would never have admitted it. She was happy to know that they were as soft and fine as she had imagined. Jane leaned into her touch and she thought that if he'd been a cat, he'd have purred. "And you're really here," she whispered.

He grinned at this. The grin she always associated with him. "Of course I'm here. Where else would I ever go? You can't get rid of me now my dear." He kissed her nose. Then his face turned more serious. "I've seen the whole world Teresa. But it was your face I couldn't get out of my head."

She kissed him then, long and slow. Jane decided there was something better than seeing her in his shirt and he began undoing the buttons. There would be time for more talking later. There would be time to go through the postcards and Jane's second journal and place them all safely in a shoebox to remain in her closet forever. There would be time for facing the team and resuming work. There would be time for repeated confessions of love, for discussions of cohabitation and marriage. There would be time for children with dark curls and bright blue eyes. There would be time for a life.

For the moment, however, they were content to allow the healing properties of human contact to wash over them and let them awake in the morning ready to face the world together.

The End

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