-with thanks to lgmtreader-
I Never Promised You a Rose-Garden (IV)
Sam is shutting the front door, the receding noise of small voices.
"Carl is taking Lucy and the big boys out, and Robbie has a playdate with C.J. I thought we could all do with a quiet morning." Lowers her voice. "Is he...okay?"
"For now." Lisbon is frank. "But this isn't new. I'm so sorry, I should have said. We can go..."
"Don't even finish that sentence, Teresa Lisbon." There is pity in her face, for more than Jane. "Does this happen a lot?"
"Less than it used to. We thought we could risk it." A little shaky herself. "He's in so much pain, sometimes, and I don't quite know what to do to help him."
"I'm married to your brother, I know all about strong, silent and stubborn. Tell you what, you want to take the dogs out for a run, vent a little?" Smiles. "We'll leave the guys to grunt at each other in a manly fashion."
She isn't sure about leaving Jane, but Sam is used to dealing with the mulishness of the Lisbon family, and really, the temptation to talk to someone, another woman, is overwhelming.
She doesn't talk about herself, her feelings. Not quite as hostile as Jane to the thought of therapy, but she is a private person, always has been. (As a teenager, tongue-tied mutiny in the confessional, half her mind on the groceries and had she remembered to put the laundry on? God's love too far away, empty words that withered away in the face of harsh reality.) Most of her friends are in law enforcement, people she cannot reveal her relationship to, with all the repercussions. Besides, this is no longer merely her feelings, her pain, but his, too, and she will defend him fiercely, will not expose him, them, to the prurient curiosity or the pity of others. But here, there is nowhere to hide any longer. No need to hide. Nothing but gentle concern for them both. This isn't therapy, this is – family. She takes a breath, lets it go.
"I think I'd like that."
Jane really wants his suit. Wants to be able to put on that practised shell. Feeling raw and exposed and hideously ashamed of himself. Can't even meet his own eyes in the mirror this morning as he shaves.
Rather dreads facing Sam, who will be torn between treating him as if he were Michael, and trying not to treat him any differently. Aware that he wants to snap out barbed comments, prevent anyone seeing that frightened, pathetic inner self he keeps hidden, that now seems intent on breaking free. No way to assert his usual measure of control over this situation, can't use any of his normal techniques to distance people. Does not normally concern himself with such things, but Lisbon is so very important to him, that everything that is important to her is making a way into his life, his thoughts and heart. And these people are fundamentally kind and decent, nothing of the ghoul about them, and he can't hide from them any longer.
Tense with embarrassment, he manages a small tight smile in the face of Niall's quiet greeting.
"Jen's turn to have the kids this morning. And the dogs have taken the girls for a brisk walk."
Jane's smile widens a little at the appropriate phrasing of that. Relaxes slightly. Niall, as easy to read as his sister, same strength and unflinching honesty. Won't pretend there's nothing wrong, but respectful of his privacy.
Sitting with tea, in the room that is Niall's 'den'. Basically, a small office cum sitting room that is supposedly a dog and child-free zone. (There's a discarded chew-bone under the desk, a couple of stray pieces of lego, a wobbly painting on the cork board amongst the bills.)
His work space had always been very cool, very serene, designer furniture, slimline laptop. His business manager had ruined a very expensive pair of pants sitting on a discarded candy once, so the door was always kept shut after that. That memory comes smashing out of nowhere. No, that sterile stage-set is no loss, shameful reminder. Prefers a shabby brown couch, scarred wooden desk, the hum of people around him...
"Are you serious about her?"
He finds he's been waiting for this. Puts his cup down with a steady hand.
"Yes." Doesn't need to think twice about that. "But...we have some issues to sort out."
Not going to elaborate. Not bringing that into this house, bad enough that it has touched them as it has. Niall simply nods.
"Smash a bottle near any of us sometime." Something flickers in the back of his eyes for a moment. (A glass knocked off the counter, once. Lisbon's face, rigid for one instant.) "She's serious about you."
"She'd have to be." Words come unbidden. Gives a slightly twisted smile. "She deserves better."
"But she wants you. So you better step up." Niall points. "She's also got brothers. Remember that."
He never thought he'd be so happy to be politely threatened. They exchange wry grins, both aware that Lisbon alone could take him to pieces any time she chose to do so.
Niall is all the things he is not. Reliable, steady, decent, honest. Husband. Father.
And - it's a long time since he had male friends. It had taken surprisingly little to shed his old life, so many people who had dropped away. Unclean, pariah, nobody wanted the taint to touch their lives, his fall from grace terrifying. 'Rehab' would have been acceptable, the euphemisms of 'stress' and 'exhaustion', but an utter catatonic breakdown – he did not live in a milieu that had time for sympathy, and once he flew over the cuckoo's nest, his absence had excised him cleanly from that world. He is friendly with Cho and Rigsby, they have got under his guard a little, but there is an element of restraint, a lack of openness – too many problems in discussing relationships, for obvious reasons.
To just sit, chat about sports, tv, everything and nothing – hasn't even realized that he has missed it. No bragging about top billing, percentages, name-dropping and the whole shabby glamour. It's a chance to simply be...himself. And this version might be able to be a better man than he was before.
She feels...lighter. Being able to voice some of the fear and frustration to someone – well, she understands confession, after all. Not that she has shared some things. There are things (dark, violent, primitive) that are not for anyone else but the two of them. But the everyday aggravations, male stubbornness and her purely female concerns about where they are going...those she can share.
For the first time, she states out loud that she wants a future with him. Something she has discovered in herself, and not dared to admit to or share before. Nothing but nebulous intent, no idea how they will work it out, if they can. But she wants something with him, even if it will never be the white picket fence and this gentle suburban existence. She's a big city girl and a born cop, and he's...him, after all.
The house is ominously quiet (at least until the dogs are let free) and the washing-up pixie has been conspicuously absent in the kitchen. Muffled thump of some form of beat, odd electronic noises. Sam looks around, and sighs.
"Oh, dear. I was afraid of this..." Beckons Lisbon down the hall, and they peer round the door.
Jane, hunched on his chair, engaged in ferocious competition on a games console with the similarly crouched Niall. Male bonding at its very finest. Soda, chips and a chance to slaughter innocent pixels. Bless them. Something explodes, and Jane whoops. Lisbon has to laugh. He gives a wide, delighted grin, but doesn't turn his head.
"I'm going to beat Niall's hi-score." He says, with deep satisfaction. "We have to get one of these things."
"You've created a monster." Lisbon tells her brother, who merely growls, intent on retaining his supremacy.
Jane has lost some of the tension around his mouth, though his eyes show the effect of a rough night. She realizes with a pang how much healthier he has been looking, that this reversion is so obvious. But the grin is infectious, unforced.
"I will kick your ass at it." She promises him.
"Bring it on, woman...argh! Bastard!"
"Eat it, dude..." Niall's smirk falters, "oh, crap...."
Sam shakes her head, fond resignation.
"They don't ever grow up, do they?"
"Considering you have...argh...the second hi-score on here..." Jane breaks off, as something violent happens on screen.
"I let her win..." Niall says, deliberate and cheerful provocation.
"Right, you are sooo dead, mister..." Sam marches in. "New game, and we'll kick your butts."
The washing-up does not get done.
When the boys are delivered back, they have no doubts about their welcome, blithe assurance in them as they impart garbled and self-important versions of their morning. Lucy is with them, disconcertingly direct stare through those glasses. Then a gappy smile, and a third voice joining in. Jane actually seems to be following the chatter, nodding carefully.
Lisbon herself retreats from the kitchen, and the struggle to get food applied internally, rather than externally, to Robbie and C.J. She likes her smallest nephews, but not enough to watch that. (And she's not helping Niall with the washing-up, either.) And she's not sure about the wisdom of leaving Carl and Jane to talk to each other. Not a lot in common, and Carl can be a little tactless at times. There tend to be jovial comments about her biological clock, and she doesn't want that repeated in front of Jane, not today. Not sure how he's going to be handling the children anyway.
However, it turns out that all the kids old enough to be out of high-chairs are young enough to be totally entranced by a few simple magic tricks. Lisbon is persuaded to be his 'lovely assistant'. Lucy frowns.
"Why does Aunt Tree have to be the assistant? Why can't she be the magician?"
"It's a secret." He beckons her close, leans forward. "She's the one who really makes sure that the magic works. Without her, I'm just a silly man showing off."
He can see Lisbon biting back a laugh, eyes shining, grins at her.
Simple, harmless little tricks, reaching back over the years to remember, some of the very first things he learnt, cards and coins and toothpicks. Slightly disconcerting to think that he was the same age as them, the first time he had performed in public. Playing then, not realizing what he did, his father's assistant. But this is clean and innocent, and afterwards, the kids sit at the table with their sandwiches, and Michael informs his father that he doesn't want to be a pirate when he grows up, he wants to be a magician like Uncle Patrick.
(...though, twenty years later, it will be an illusionist who calls herself Lux Diamond who will win awards...)
He's survived another day. Now he has to face the night.
He has debated over the pills. He doesn't like to take them, they slow his mind, blur the edges of a world already under siege, new experiences and old emotions. Packs them whenever he travels, but denies them, his penance. But he no longer has only himself to consider. He can punish himself, but others do not deserve to suffer through it. She watches him, the little shrug, the grimace as he knocks them back. But she holds him, then, fingers tracing idle patterns on his shoulderblade as he drifts...
Brave show of the little lamp in the corner of the room, a beacon of innocent belief, dim glow touching the contours of their faces.
In sleep, they turn to each other, will wake tangled gently together. She has grown used to being engulfed by his body, her own petite frame folding into his arms. Defiance now in the way she drapes herself, leg and arm, barrier against whatever would harm him. If she could march into his dreams, battle his demons, she would. He holds her, beast in the cage quiet, knowing its mate to be safe.
Vile, insistent, evil ringing of the phone. A pale arm reaches out from under the covers, pats about to locate the offending object. Lisbon sits up, blears at the screen.
"I am not going to ask you why you have Jane's cell at this time in the morning. I am sure that I wouldn't like any answer that you could possibly give me."
She stares at the phone as if it's bitten her. Oh, crap. Puts her face in her hand and groans. The quilt beside her hunches slightly, and a sweetly dishevelled blond head appears.
Wide green eyes look at him through her fingers.
"Minelli. On your phone."
"Whoops." His amused grin fades at the sight of her distress. He takes the phone out of her nerveless fingers.
"Virgil, what can I do for you this morning?" His tone is all cheerful business, but an arm snakes out, prevents her escaping, "Colorado, we're flying back tomorrow. They will just have to start without us...just think, it gives them a chance to find out how indispensable I am..." Pulls the phone away and looks at it. "He hung up."
"Oh, hell..." She chews her lip.
"Don't look so tragic, sweetheart. It was only a matter of time." He seems remarkably unbothered, either by their discovery, or by whatever the case was. She doesn't know which one to fret about first. "Too far away to be our problem. Any of it."
"It's going to be awkward..."
Actually, he's furious. The world intruding in on their time away, causing that little line of worry to appear between her beautiful eyes again. Rolls over suddenly, pinning her beneath him.
"Not giving you up." He says against her skin. "Mine."
She pulls his head out of her cleavage by his ears.
"So am I." Settles on his elbows, nose to nose. Gentle smile, but his eyes intent. Soft kisses to punctuate his words. "We are entitled to a private life. And we are not responsible for solving every crime in California. I mean, I'm good, but I'm not that good."
Making her smile in spite of herself. The sheer arrogance of the man. Sensing that he is winning the argument, he starts to kiss her more deeply...
Scuttering outside the door.
He rests his head into her shoulder with a quiet groan. She laughs.
"Uncle Sean has definitely lost his title. Go deal with your adoring public."
"Can't you adore me?"
She smoothes back his curls, kisses his nose.
"I do." She admits. "Now go play. And get me some coffee."
Minelli stares at the handset with seriously mixed emotions.
It's not unreasonable for Jane to not be at the beck and call of the CBI 24/7. The man is not an agent, there is no legislation, nothing in his contract to say that he cannot be with whoever he wishes. But the inevitable has happened, and Minelli really didn't want to ever have to know about it.
He's been trying not to notice, doesn't wish to have to take notice. It isn't even that he disapproves of the relationship, totally – unguarded moments when he has seen them look at each other, and nobody could doubt that the slick, cynical Patrick Jane has lost whatever battered remnants of his heart remain. Somehow, together, they are stronger, a team, their unorthodox working relationship producing results. It is simply that Teresa Lisbon is only human, has only a finite amount of strength, and she will push herself beyond all limits for him. The balancing act – is she strong enough to draw Jane back from the brink, or will he take them both over? On past showing, that persuasive charm is winning, and Minelli knows that the man is not rational on certain topics, that however much he may truly care for Lisbon, his judgement is unsound. And that Lisbon can be wilfully blind to danger when she is intent on saving him.
He does find the thought that she has taken that erratic personality to a family gathering rather surreal. Much easier to think of Jane doing something insane and life-threatening than anything as normal as sitting down to a family dinner. Because Virgil Minelli remembers the haunted wreckage who had first come to the CBI, forcing his way in with a savage, charming persistence. He has his own reasons for letting the man work with them, for allowing him leeway, his own balancing act, navigating between policies and obligations.
With the long holiday weekend, the CBI offices are manned by the unclubbable, the anti-social and the unlucky on whom the lottery has fallen, quite often due to junior status. So Grace Van Pelt is at her desk, again. She likes Thanksgiving, her family. She would really have liked the chance to visit. Not that she begrudges Lisbon a vacation – she has rarely known the woman to take a day off in the time she has been at the CBI. Cho had offered to trade, but his mother had cornered him with family obligations. Rigsby's on call, but out on a barbecue with some of his buddies. One slightly wistful glance, and he'd shifted awkwardly by her desk, before he ran away. So she's not happy, on many levels. Shoots an irritated glance at the empty couch. It's far too quiet without Jane, and experience has taught them all that his absence can often have disturbing consequences.
Sam Bosco puts a cup of coffee down on her desk, makes her jump. But he gives her a smile.
"Agent Van Pelt. You drew the short straw this time?"
"I'm used to it." Flushes. "I mean...being the rookie, and all."
"You've been here over a year. I hardly think you still count as a rookie."
Walks over, and sits down on the couch. Van Pelt blinks. They are so used to thinking of it as Jane's couch. Strange to see someone else sitting there, regarding the knitted comforter and the esoteric collection of paperbacks with a quizzical eye. Half-played chess game left on the desk. It doesn't look like a professional work space.
Everyone knows that the two men do not like each other. Most of them have an idea of why. And a select few suspect exactly how justified Bosco's dislike is...
Minelli winces inwardly when he sees him sitting there. But the work comes first, and whilst nobody else voices knowledge of the situation, he can ignore it. Speaks to Van Pelt.
"Call what we have of the team in. Sounds like the holiday cheer ran out for someone near Rocklin. I guess I'll have to call in Cochrane..."
"I can ride herd on this one." Bosco says, abruptly. "Hold the fort until Teresa gets back." Quick smile and nod to Van Pelt. "She's trained her team well."
Minelli eyes him narrowly. Bosco is a good agent, though, and his training was a big part of Lisbon's early success. And, most importantly, he's here, which gives him a distinct advantage. Reluctant, he nods.
Van Pelt can see one outstanding problem looming here, and in her innocence, has to voice it.
"Sir, what about...?" Stops, suddenly, horribly, unsure of where that sentence is going.
Minelli looks rather sour. (That transparent honesty. She's going to have to learn to curb that.)
"He's in Colorado."
Damn. He should have been less specific. Because Bosco looks like someone has handed him his own liver. And Van Pelt ducks her head.
It isn't against the letter of the law for Jane and Lisbon to be together. They haven't flaunted it, but the team have suspected for a while. One of the open secrets in their little world. The romantic part of her is thrilled, hopeful they can be happy. The human part is jealous and miserable. She's stuck here at her desk, stuck with procedure and paperwork and an awkward office crush.
Oh, she knows that every circumstance is different. She could choose to ignore the rules, but she wants to impress, to succeed. She has to decide if she wants to explore the possibilities of Rigsby's crush being anything more, with all the implications for their work, or their friendship. And she likes her job. She is ambitious. Would like to make Senior Agent by the time she's thirty.
But the fact that they have gone away together, a family occasion...
Bosco swallows unexpected bile. He knows the significance of the location. (So does the red-headed agent, by her expression.) How could she be so blind? So stupid? He'd thought she was smarter than that, hoped that all the rumours, all his fears were wrong. All that promise, thrown away on that...batshit crazy bastard.
Three very uncomfortable people. But Minelli has been a political animal nearly as long as he's been a cop, catches Bosco's eye. The other man, also a shrewd mover, holds his gaze a moment, sick anger in him. But then he simply turns to Van Pelt.
"Call Rigsby in, and I'll call in Sperro from my team. She's not got your IT smarts, but she's got a few more years forensic experience." An unexpectedly charming smile. "We'll try some old-fashioned police work on this one, huh?"
Dedication and ambition. He can see it in her, the way he saw it in young Teresa Lisbon. Perhaps they can be useful to each other.
She is able to accept the idea of cases happening without her, has long since come to terms with the fact that she cannot save everybody, however much she would like to, but their own personal situation worries her. Jane will not allow her to fret about it, though, points out with what she has to admit to be perfect truth, that a great number of people had suspected something was going on long before they even admitted it themselves, so it won't be a shock. Forced to admit to herself that she would be glad to be able to be open about them as a couple. (Guilty thought that it might give him the impetus to move forward, too.)
They have a leisurely family brunch at the Dushanbe Tea House. Both Sam and Niall are entertained by the fact that the service becomes quite attentive once Patrick turns on the charm. Even more entertained by Teresa's mix of indulgence and hidden irritation. She turns to Sam.
"Honestly, he'll flirt with anyone to get a decent cup of tea."
"It works." Inhales the steam, with a beautific smile, eyes closed. "You need to cut back on the caffeine, woman. It makes you grouchy. Besides," opens his eyes, "only you make me perfect tea."
Niall, mindful of his copy-cat children, does not mime throwing up, but does snigger at his sister, who is actually blushing.
They walk through the park, along the creek, for a while afterwards. She and Sam have Rob between them, his wobbly little steps slowing their pace. Ahead of them, the menfolk are dealing with the havoc that the usual combination of small boys and sticks can provoke. Michael has asserted the right of a big brother to first dibs on a piggy-back from his father, and Daniel is on the verge of an outburst. Jane crouches down.
"Will I do instead?"
Daniel nods eagerly, tantrum forgotten. Uncle Patrick is nice.
This is a moment she really wants to remember. A short, sweet glimpse of life as it could be. And Patrick, smiling back at her, fond resignation in his face as he is swarmed by an excited and muddy child, hefting the slight weight up.
A solid warm little body, stranglehold of small arms. You don't forget.
His jacket is never going to be the same after this visit. He's not sure he will be, either. The growing conviction in him, that he's got more than one Lisbon on his side now. A whole clan are closing in around him. Family.
Later in the afternoon, and nap-time has worn off, but the weather has closed in, so they're watching a movie. 'Jurassic Park', and the fat thief has just been pounced on by the little dinosaurs. There is some masculine whispering and sniggering going on, sideways looks. Michael snitches.
"Uncle Patrick says you're like that." he says. "All small and cute, and then you get all mad and bite."
"Do you bite him?" Daniel asks, with interest.
"Maybe later." she mutters, glares at Jane. He tries to look appropriately terrified. Niall is choking with laughter, and she knows that this will be passed onto Sean. She can foresee a future of 'T-Rex' jokes before her.
"Told you, I like dinosaurs." Grins, whispers in her ear. "So, are you going to bite me?"
Her teeth graze his earlobe, playful little nip that bypasses his brain.
"Luckily, the T-Rex is ticklish..."
She squeals, laughing protest. Agent Lisbon can put a man twice his size out flat, but Teresa the woman puts up a rather unconvincing show of resistance. Unfortunately, this seems to be a trigger for the boys to want to play dinosaurs, too, and the movie is neglected in favour of jumping and yelling and general mayhem...
"I had forgotten how exhausting small children can be." He speaks without anything but amusement in his voice, and she stares at him. A frank gaze back, weary but oddly peaceful. "Thank you."
"Letting me in."
"It works both ways." Smiling back him. "Lisbons come in packs, you know."
Niall and Sam have insisted that they have an evening to themselves, recommended a good restaurant. Not something they have a lot of time for. Most of their eating out is communal, after a case. To be out as a proper couple is rare.
Looks across the table at her, happily chasing the last of her crème brulee around her dish.
"I'm not giving this up." he says suddenly. She looks up, startled, and dab of cream on her lower lip. He reaches out a thumb, allows the gesture to linger. "I'm not giving you up."
Tip of her tongue retrieves the stolen cream. Her eyes dark, and a mix of worry and laughter.
"I'm not giving you up either." And she means it. She will fight more than bureaucracy for him.
Sparking between them, desire and affection and all the things they have, that they will not relinquish. He stretches a hand across the table, and she links her fingers with his. Prepared to fight, now. Prepared to dare the world.
Sunday morning, and the family go to church. Teresa doesn't, claims that they need to pack since they are leaving after lunch, a graceful get-out clause before Jane can be offensive.
Predictably, the packing does not proceed very far once the car has left the driveway.
The bedroom door shuts behind her.
"No small children in the house any more..." he says, meaningful.
Deliberately, elaborate unconcern, she continues to pack, bends over the case.
His lips at her throat, and his hands roam, hard and confident, sliding her jeans down with determination. She grins, arches her back. Neither of them in the mood for gentle seduction this morning, if he wants to be primal, she's happy to oblige. Sometimes, she wants to be caressed and worshipped. Sometimes, she just wants him.
"I really hope you brought protection with us about now..."
His frustrated pause is just long enough before she waves her fingers at him, prize between them.
"Do not tease me like that, woman." Growls. "Awful things will happen to you."
"I'm counting on it."
"This Thanksgiving I am extremely thankful for lapsed Catholics with filthy minds and peachy little bottoms..."
Sliding his hand down her thigh, coaxing her knee up onto the bed, and she's already anticipating him, ready, grinding that delectable bottom back against him. He doesn't even bother to take off her top, simply pushes her bra up out of the way, his hands cupping her breasts, as he moves urgently inside her, breath hot on the back of her neck. Something particularly exciting in the thought that so many other people are engaged in a very different form of worship. Bites her lip, relishing the feel of him, laughing as he makes her cry out in pure pleasure, his own groan.
"Good thing the house is empty." he pants, "You are a very noisy woman."
"Your fault. And I wasn't the one grunting." She teases him. "You really are an animal."
"Didn't want to wait until we got home to our own bed."
Her breath catches a little, as she turns in his arms. He looks down at her, blinks as he processes his own words. Realizes the truth of them. When he thinks of home, now, it is that crowded, chaotic little apartment. She tangles her fingers in his hair, eyes wide with surprise and suppressed laughter.
"You didn't want to wait at all." He still has his jeans and underwear round his ankles, and she really has to laugh. Gives her a crooked little grin, tumbles her back on to the bed where he can kiss her deeply and properly. Been on his best behaviour for what seems like eternity, and he wants her to know, to understand, that she is his. They may have to go back to face all sorts of trouble, but they will face it together, and if anyone tries to take her away from him, he will fight.
Genuine affection in the farewells, whole family waving them off, and in some ways, he's very sorry to be leaving it all behind. Even manages some adult conversation in the car with Niall, though he is still a little dazed.
He feels like he has reclaimed something in himself, not completely sure how else to explain it. Another subtle internal shift, no longer quite so hollow. The beginnings of new memories, new experiences. Some of it hurts like hell, but he can live with the pain. He'll live through the pain.
The flight home is quiet, and Teresa is able to catch a little sleep. He's going to have to start thinking of her as Lisbon again, remember not to call her 'sweetheart' in public. Though it seems that the need for secrecy might well be at an end, depending on how Minelli chooses to handle the situation.
He's not worried about censure in the workplace. What can they do, after all? It really isn't anybody else's business. He's spent the last couple of years bending the rules, creating his own brand of havoc, whilst she tried to control him – they haven't changed, just because they are in love. In a relationship. But the fact that it will be known, acknowledged, accepted...Brings its own worries, its own fears, but no shame.
He's terrified of happiness, that he does not deserve it for himself. But he finds that he can be happy, with her, because of her. And he wants to be able to think of a future. Just a small, cautious future at the moment, to simply be able to be with her, one day at a time.
He could give up his room at the hotel. He barely spends any time there any more, has even left a late poker game and driven across town to sneak into bed, to be greeted with a grumble and a protest, and warm limbs wrapped round him. He could give up the room, and move in with her.
Thought is there in his mind. And there is no thunderbolt. The world doesn't crack around him.
Rests his cheek against the dark head nestled on his shoulder. He could be with her, to protect her, to know that she is safe. Closes his own eyes, and dares to dream. He'll discuss it with her. Ask her. When they get - home.