Here we have the final chapter of 'Denim Dilemmas,' Jane and Lisbon's much-anticipated date.
I must say that this chapter was surprisingly difficult to write. It was a real challenge keeping them both in character while having them do such an out-of-character thing, but I had a lot of fun trying.
Names of establishments and such are all figments of my imagination and any similarity is coincidental.
I really hope you enjoy it.
I can't sleep. The clock says that it is just past two in the morning. Ever since I went to bed I've done nothing but toss and turn. It's not that I'm not tired; I'm exhausted, but for some reason I just can't seem to settle down. Stupid as it sounds, my bed seems strangely empty without Jane next to me.
It's pathetic. For years I've had no problem being alone, and now it's like I'm turning into one of those needy people who can't sleep without their partner around. And I don't even have a partner!
Well, not yet anyway…
Though all that might change in approximately seventeen hours when he comes to pick me up for our date.
Our date. The last time I went on a date was when I was visiting my brother Tommy and he set me up with his wife's cousin.
Long story short, it didn't go all that well.
That was over a year ago. Yes, it has been that long since I, Teresa Lisbon, have been on a date. And God only knows how long it's been since I went out with someone who might actually mean something to me.
I feel like I'm about to either make the best or worst choice of my entire life. Our entire relationship, past, present and future, hangs in the balance.
It's a slow day at the CBI. As usual, the others all have post-case paperwork to tackle today and I don't bother myself with such mundane tasks. It's as good a time as any to catch up on my sleep.
Lisbon is discussing something with Rigsby, and as I watch her, she stifles a yawn. I'll bet she was up all night worrying about our date, going over every possible outcome in her head and just plain overthinking things, like always. She really needs to stop thinking so much. All the stress is going to send her to an early grave.
I reach for my phone and send her a quick text message.
You look a little frazzled, my dear. Not going to chicken out on me are you?
Her phone chirps as the message arrives. She smiles a little as she reads it. She taps away at her phone, presumably composing a reply. Within moments, it arrives.
Not on your life, Jane.
Her phone chirps again, and Rigsby looks across at her in confusion.
Sure? This is your one and only chance to back out. I won't even tease you about it…much.
She walks back into her office, with her phone in her hand, texting as she goes.
The message comprises three words.
Bring it on.
I chuckle as I read this.
"You know, she's right across the room Jane," Cho deadpans, not even glancing up. "Save yourself some time and money and go and bug her in person."
"Yeah," agrees Rigsby. "Face-to-face is definitely the way to go. Twice the irritation in half the time."
"Thanks guys," I laugh. "But I think I'll just take a nap instead."
I send out one last text message and then settle back on the couch and close my eyes.
The message tone rings out once more.
I accept that challenge. Looking forward to tonight. ;)
The clock display on my phone says it's 10:30 am. Nine hours to go.
The rest of the day passes in an uneventful and subsequently, boring manner. I alternate between Sudoku and catnapping on the couch, rising every few hours or so to deliver another coffee to Lisbon, who hasn't come out of her office all day.
It's 5:00 and everyone is putting away their files, rinsing out their coffee cups and turning off their computers. They all look tired and I can tell they're all dying to get home and start their weekends.
In turn, they each poke their heads into Lisbon's office and bid her goodnight before heading out.
Once they've all gone, I duck in there myself.
"I'm heading out," I tell her. "Have to change. Got a hot date tonight."
"Don't stay back too long," I say to her, mock-sternly. "I'll know if you do."
"Fifteen minutes, tops."
"Yeah right. Knowing you, fifteen minutes will turn into at least forty-five. I'll see you soon."
After about an hour's worth of deliberation, I've decided on a straight black skirt that falls just above my knees, a blue blouse and a pair of low, slingback heels. But when I look in the mirror again, I look more like I'm going to a business function then on a date. The problem with working as much as I do is that one's off-duty wardrobe tends to get neglected.
It makes choosing outfits somewhat difficult when half the clothes you have don't fit you anymore, and half are so out-of-date that they shouldn't be anywhere but the reduced-to-clear rack in a thrift store.
Rifling through the rack for what feels like the hundredth time, I happen across a top I'd forgotten I had. It's a halter-top made of satin in a similar shade of red as the dress I wore to the party the other night.
It's sexy, without being overly skimpy, and I already know Jane likes the way I look in red. Why not use that to my advantage?
I glance at the clock. He'll be here in half an hour and I've done nothing with my hair or makeup. I need to make a decision now.
Impulsively I seize it from the rack and exchange it with the blouse.
As I prepare to leave my house to pick up Lisbon, a photograph of my wife catches my eye from where it sits on the table by the door. The camera caught her as she laughed, a moment frozen in time. I pick it up, and trace my fingers around her face.
"Please don't hate me for this," I whisper, even though I know she can't hear me. "I'll never forget you."
The knock at the door comes just I'm giving myself a final once-over in my bedroom mirror. I take deep breath. Here goes nothing.
He's standing on the threshold in his usual three-piece suit, though admittedly, different to the one that he had on at work today. His gaze sweeps up and down my body appreciatively, and I breathe an internal sigh of relief as he smiles at me.
"You should wear that outfit to work sometime," he says. "Criminals will be queuing up to confess their sins. You'd probably close all our outstanding cases in one day."
"Funny," I say, sarcastically. "Although, then we wouldn't need you, so I could fire you." I pause, thoughtfully. Maybe I will give it a try."
"Right. Let me know the day you're going to do it. I'll be sure to bring a camera."
We both chuckle.
"Seriously though," he says after a little while. "You look wonderful."
"So, I bet you've been wondering where I'm taking you tonight."
"Just promise me that whatever you've got planned isn't dangerous or illegal, and I'll try and go with it."
He smiles. "Actually, I haven't got anything planned."
"I've filled my car up with gas, I figured we could just take a drive and see where the night takes us."
"So this is your big surprise?" I ask, grappling with the idea. "Nothing?"
He shakes his head. "You're controlling by nature, Lisbon. A little spontaneity will be good for you."
I can feel myself starting to get mad at him already. "If this is going to turn into one of your mind-game sessions you can count me out."
He actually looks a little hurt at this accusation. "This is exactly what I meant. You need to relax and enjoy yourself a little. We just closed the case, you deserve to have some fun."
There's a lull in conversation as I consider this.
"No mind games?" I ask eventually.
"No mind games," he says, firmly. "Tonight, my only function is to make you happy. Your wish is my command."
I reach out, and take his hand in mine for a brief moment.
His face lights up. "Then let's not stand around here wasting time. Let's go."
I fumble with the keys a bit as I lock the door, wondering what exactly I have let myself in for.
We've been driving for about ten minutes. There's a comfortable energy in the car as we wend our way through the streets of Sacramento. She giggles as I serenade her with a rendition of the Michael Buble song on the radio. The light in front of me turns red, and I ease to a stop just outside a restaurant with a blue awning and stylish chrome furniture.
"That's Carmenett's," Lisbon says presently. "To get a table you have to book a month in advance."
"Have you ever eaten there?"
"No, but I've always wanted to. My brother took his girlfriend once while he was in town. They both said the food was incredible."
The light turns green but instead of proceeding straight ahead I turn a corner and park outside the restaurant.
"Are you hungry?" I ask her.
She scoffs. "You've got no chance of getting us in there without a reservation."
"So little faith," I say, in mock-hurt. "I'll be back soon."
"I'm going to enjoy watching them kick you out on your ass. Do you think if I give them a tip, they'll rough you up a bit too?" She grins, mischievously.
"We can only hope," I say as I walk up the steps into the restaurant.
It takes a minute or two until a staff member appears, a young blonde girl.
"Welcome to Carmenett's. Do you have a reservation?"
"Actually, I don't. I was hoping you could squeeze me in."
"I'm sorry sir, but we're fully booked tonight."
"Look, if you can see fit to find me a table, I promise I won't say anything about you having sex with the boss's husband in the stockroom just now."
The girl turns pale. "H-How do you know that?" she stammers.
"It's obvious from your whole demeanour," -I glance at her name tag- "Kelly. You weren't at your post, and when you were on your way over, you kept looking over your shoulder like you were scared of something. Also your shirt is crooked and your skirt's on back to front, like you pulled it on in a hurry."
She goes an even more sickly shade of white and snatches up the phone. "One moment."
I know I promised Lisbon that there wouldn't be mind games, but what she doesn't know can't hurt her, right? Anyway, I only agreed not to screw around with her head. I never said anything about anyone else.
Kelly puts down the phone. "As it happens, we've had a cancellation tonight. Table for one, Mr-?"
"Jane," I supply. "And no, someone will be joining me."
"Very good. Your table will be ready in two minutes."
Triumphantly, I return to the car and open the passenger side door. Lisbon smirks at me. "That didn't take very long. I guess the people here know an asshole when they see one."
"Maybe. But I still got us in."
Her jaw drops in surprise. "Really? How the hell did you manage that?"
"Let's just say it was my powers of persuasion, along with my classic good looks."
"Well it certainly wasn't for your modesty, because I'm pretty sure that doesn't exist."
I offer her a hand to help her out of the car and she accepts it. Neither of us bothers to let go until we walk inside.
Kelly is waiting for us, holding two menus.
"Right this way, Mr Jane," she says with a very forced politeness, and leads us to a partially secluded table near the back of the restaurant. She waits impatiently as I pull out Lisbon's chair for her, and wait for her to sit, before taking my own seat. She hands a menu to each of us.
"Someone will be by soon to take your order," she says. "In the meantime, would you like anything to drink?"
"How about a cabernet?" I suggest looking sideways at Lisbon. "I know it's your favourite."
"Sounds good," she smiles.
Kelly nods once and then sweeps away, leaving the two of us alone.
Surprised as I am to admit it, this date is going really well. We've just spent an hour eating some of the most delicious food I've ever tasted and so far, Jane has been a model citizen.
People keep looking at us strangely because we're laughing so hard at stories he's been telling from when he worked at the carnival, and he didn't mind at all when I stole a few bites of his lamb cutlets when I realized the Caesar salad I'd ordered for entrée just wasn't going to cut it.
It's been disturbingly easy to forget all the reasons why I was against going out with him before now. Worries about work have all but disappeared as I'm having so much fun in his company.
"What shall we have for dessert?" he asks.
"I don't know if I can handle any more of this high-end stuff," I say, scanning the menu. "You know what I'm really craving right now?"
"A bear claw. Marie's is only a couple of blocks from here and she usually stays open late on Friday nights."
Jane starts to snicker.
"What?" I demand.
"Lisbon, only you could be sitting in one of the top restaurants in Sacramento and still not be satisfied. You're a hard woman to please."
"Got a problem with that?"
"Not at all. You're challenging. That's what makes your happiness more worth the earning."
I feel a familiar warmth spreading right through my body as he smiles at me. As we gaze at each other, I'm struck by how much I'd like to kiss him right now. He seems to be thinking along the same lines as he brushes my hand with his lips, reminiscent of the night of the party.
Just then, a waiter approaches the table, shattering the moment. "Any dessert or coffee?" he enquires in a bored voice, flipping open his order pad. His nametag reads 'Lucas.'
"No thanks," says Jane. "We'll just have the bill. And can I say, the lack of bear claw on your dessert menu is extremely disappointing. You should really do something about that."
He grins at me and I have to bite my lip to stifle my laughter.
"Whatever," says Lucas. "I'll get the cheque."
When he delivers it to the table, Jane seizes it at once and pulls out his wallet.
"Don't even think about it," he says to me, as I reach for mine. "This one's on me."
"Jane, have you seen these prices?" I ask incredulously. "Even if we split it, it's going to take up every cent of our next three paycheques."
"I can cover it. Look this is my one chance to impress you…"
"And if you think you're going to score brownie points just by flashing your cash then you're wrong. Just because you're the guy doesn't mean I can't pay my own way."
He sighs. "Look, call me a traditionalist but I thought that since I asked you out, I would pay. That's all. I'm not trying to imply anything or assert some kind of control. You're already the strongest person I know. You don't have to keep proving it to me. All right?"
"Good. Now will you please let me pay the bill so we can get out of here?"
I nod, and he tucks some bills into the folder. Lucas returns and Jane hands it to him. "There's a tip included for you," he informs him. "And could you see that Kelly gets this, please?" he requests, handing over a twenty.
"Sure," says Lucas, a little taken aback.
"Tell her I appreciate what she did for us, and her secret's safe with me."
Lucas simply shrugs and puts the bill into his pocket. Jane pulls out my chair for me once more, and we leave the restaurant.
When we get outside, I intend to walk straight to the car but Lisbon pulls me back.
"It's a nice night, and we're not in any hurry. Let's just walk."
"Anxious to start burning off all that 'high-end' food?" I ask. "Probably a good idea, it'll be going to straight to your thighs."
She swats at me, playfully. "Oh, shut up."
We begin to stroll down the sidewalk. Since it's still early, the nightlife hasn't really kicked in as yet, so it's relatively quiet on the streets tonight. Our hands keep brushing against each other as we walk, so to combat this, I take her hand in mine and interlock our fingers together. To an outsider, we just seem like an ordinary couple, taking a walk through town.
I can't speak for Lisbon of course, but I could get used to this newfound intimacy of ours very easily. I'd almost forgotten what it was like to have somebody with whom I want to spend every waking minute, and who makes my day brighter just be being around. I squeeze her hand in an attempt to convey to her just how wonderful this feels. Maybe she understands, maybe she doesn't; but she squeezes back.
We get to Marie's just as she's about to close up shop for the night and with a little sweet-talking on Jane's part, convince her to sell us a bear claw (for me) and a chocolate frosted doughnut (for Jane) at half-price.
She smiles at us as she's ringing up the sale. "So you two are an item now, are you?" she asks.
Jane and I exchange glances. "We're not sure what, if anything, we are yet," I answer, truthfully.
"What's stopping you?"
"Several things," Jane says, vaguely. "But primarily, our work. CBI employees aren't supposed to date."
She waves the argument away as if it's a particularly irritating fly.
"You two wouldn't be the first to break that rule and you wouldn't be the last ones, either. "
My mind immediately flashes to Rigsby and Van Pelt.
"And if I may say something," she goes on. "Ever since the two of you first walked into my shop three years ago, bickering like an old married couple, I had a feeling something like this would happen."
"Seriously?" I ask, dubiously.
"Absolutely. You've got this energy around you, like you're in your own personal bubble and the rest of the world just watches from the outside. I've never seen anything like it before."
She hands over the bags with the food in them.
"You've definitely got something between you. All you need now is to decide what you're going to do with it."
The walk back to the car is somewhat less comfortable then before. Luckily, the food gives us an excellent excuse not to talk to each other and I find myself taking smaller-than-usual bites, to better prolong the silence.
Marie's words keep going around and around in my head, like an antique record player that I can't turn off. Never before has someone else directly questioned us on our feelings for each other. People at work have hinted at it, speculated about it and danced around the subject but I never took much notice of it.
Someone who draws as much attention to themselves as Jane does is a veritable goldmine for gossip, and seeing that I'm the one who always has to take him to task about his varying levels of stupidity, it makes sense that I'd come in for my fair share as well.
Do they see us like Rigsby and Van Pelt, two people who have done everything but blatantly announce that they're together?
This 'energy' Marie says we have, do they all feel it too? Or is it just a figment of her imagination?
Either way, it's certainly given me a lot to think about.
My doughnut runs out just as we come up on my car, as does Lisbon's bear claw. Suddenly faced with the prospect of having to talk to each other again we both seem to come to the same decision not to mention what Marie said.
"So, where to next?" I ask, making my voice sound as cheerful as possible.
"I don't know," she says. "I'm not good at this whole 'being spontaneous' thing."
"I think you're doing very well, for a beginner."
"Thanks. I think."
"OK, here's what we're going to do. Let's leave it up to chance." I pull a coin from my pocket. "If it's heads we go right at the next intersection, if it's tails we go left. We keep doing that at every one and see where we end up."
"That's insane! We could end up anywhere."
"That's the thrill of it, Lisbon. Where's your sense of adventure?"
"Being adventurous and being stupid seem to fall into the same category when it comes to you. What if we get lost?"
"We won't. I have an excellent sense of direction."
"Rubbish. It took us an extra hour to get to Nevada on the Meyer case because you insisted that taking the back roads would be quicker. And don't even get me started on the San Diego fiasco…"
"Will you relax? My cell phone has GPS. We'll find our way back easily."
I hold out the coin to her.
"This is crazy," she says, tossing it into the air.
I've let Jane talk me into a lot of dubious schemes over the years, pretending to be a lunatic and blackmailing a wealthy government figure to name only two, but this is without a doubt one of the craziest things I've ever done.
Jane's little coin-flipping trick soon sees us out of Sacramento and onto the open road and I have to admit, I'm kind of enjoying myself. Jane is entertaining me with stories and jokes and I'm excited to see where we're going to end up. Many minutes and innumerable coin flips later we pull to a stop.
"I don't believe it. Sausalito?"
"I guess fate is trying to tell us something. This is the area where we found Justine. We've metaphorically come full circle," he says, getting out of the car.
We walk to the edge of the marina and sit down on a wooden bench overlooking the ocean.
"It's beautiful," I say after a while. "You don't get views like this in the city."
"And just think, if you hadn't gone out with me tonight, you wouldn't have seen it."
"Of course, at the end of the day it all comes back to you. Should have known."
A slight wind blowing in from across the ocean plays havoc with my hair. Jane's of course looks even better when it's been tousled. He brushes away the stray ones that have settled over my face and doesn't take his arm away when he's done, instead leaving it draped across my shoulders.
I let it stay.
"Do you regret it?" I ask him, presently.
"Coming to the CBI. Do you ever wish you hadn't needed to get revenge so much?"
He sighs. "This is hardly good date talk, Lisbon."
"Seriously, I want to know."
"Sometimes I regret it. We try so hard and every time we get close to catching Red John, he slips away again. Sometimes I think if I just stop looking, he'll come and find me instead. And I regret it when I see cases like Justine's, people killing each other over such petty things."
His grip tightens on me a fraction.
"But for the most part I'm glad that I joined the CBI. It feels like I'm undoing some of the wrongs I committed while I was a psychic."
"And to try and get revenge on Red John."
"Yes. That too. But do you want to know the main reason I'm glad I joined the CBI?"
He pauses, looking like he's steeling himself up for something big.
"If I hadn't come to CBI, I would never have met you."
"Yes," he says, fervently. "If it weren't for you, I'd be dead by now, either by Red John or by being eaten alive by my own demons. You saved me from that."
"Get out of here."
"You never let me wallow in my misery. You challenged me; you made me want to try again. I'll always be grateful for that."
I'm not sure how I feel about this. Jane is never this candid, least of all about his feelings.
He seems to sense my discomfort and gives me a little squeeze. "Sorry to dump all that heavy stuff on you, but it's just the way I feel."
"It's okay. I asked." I rest my head on his shoulder, and he automatically reaches up and starts to play with my hair.
"So, while we're in a sharing mood, why don't you tell me something about yourself that I don't know yet…if there is anything."
I scoff. "I know you think you've got me all figured out, but in reality, the things you don't know about me could fill a book, Jane."
"Really?" he asks and I'm relieved to see him smiling again. "Well go on then, dazzle me."
"Fine. You want dazzle?" I ask. "I bet you didn't know that I was eleven years old when I helped catch my first criminal."
He smiles. "Sounds about right. Teresa Lisbon, fighting crime and kicking ass right from the word go. So what happened?"
"I went to the mall one day after school to buy a new pair of sneakers because mine were falling to pieces. I went into a shoe shop and started to try some on when I heard the girl at the cash register scream. There was a guy standing there with a ski mask and a knife and he told her to hand over the money. When he reached for it, his shirt lifted up at the back just enough for me see he had a tattoo of a lion. I remember the cashier was in hysterics when the cops got there. She was so upset that she couldn't even answer their questions."
"And so naturally, 'Mother Teresa' stepped in," says Jane, smiling fondly.
"I just felt so sorry for her and I thought about how scared she would have been. I told them about the tattoo and everything I could remember about what he was wearing, and how his voice sounded."
"So did they get the guy?"
"Yes. A week later I got a call from the police saying that they had him in custody. The lead investigator told me that if it hadn't been for me, they would never have caught him."
He sits in silence, digesting all this.
"But you know what I remember the most?" I go on. "About six months later I went back into that shop and the same girl was there. As soon as she saw me, she came around and she hugged me. And that moment, just knowing that I had helped her, was when I first knew I wanted to be a cop."
"Wow. I always assumed…you know, your mother…" He doesn't go on.
I ignore the cold stab of pain that occurs at the thought of her. "No. That just made me even more certain."
A yacht glides across the horizon, so tall it momentarily blots out the moon.
"I'm sorry," he says after a time. "I shouldn't have brought her up. Guess that means I broke my good-behaviour bond. I'll understand if you just want to take the car and leave me here."
"I think I can let you off the hook just this once," I say, trying unsuccessfully to stifle a yawn.
Jane tilts his head to try and see my watch. "It's past midnight," he remarks. "I think it's time to get you home, Cinderella."
"But I'm not tired," I protest. I don't want to go home, because then this wonderful evening will be over and reality will set in once again. I know real life has to come back eventually, but does it have to be now? Can't I have just a few more hours?
"Your lips say no but the bags under your eyes say yes," he smiles. "Come on." He slowly stands up, pulling me along with him.
She falls asleep in the car on the way back to her apartment with her head against the window. I switch the radio off so it won't disturb her and silence reigns for the rest of the journey.
I walk her to her door. She unlocks it, but doesn't go inside.
"You survived the night," I point out, grinning. "I think we can call it a success."
"I didn't even need to bring along my off-duty weapon," she smiles. "I never know what to expect with you," she adds, in response to my questioning look.
"I guess the only thing left to do now is a good-night kiss."
Somehow it feels appropriate to ask her permission, even though we've crossed this threshold before, as well as others beyond.
I wrap my arms around her waist, drawing her close to me. The kiss is brief but tender and we both emerge from it with a smile on our faces. The smiles gradually fade as we gaze into each other's eyes. The tension is palpable, the air buzzing with electricity.
"I want this," I whisper to her. "I can't predict what will happen next year, or next month or even tomorrow but I can promise you that no matter what, I will always care for you, I will treasure you and find some way every day of showing you just how much, whether as your friend or something more. It's up to you."
There's an excruciating pause. I can almost hear the cogs working overtime in her mind as she processes all this.
"So," I say when I can't bear the silence anymore. "What do you say to giving us a shot?"
She takes a deep breath. Another. Another.
And then she says it. The single greatest word known to man.
Joyfully, I pull her towards me to kiss her again, but she pulls away.
"Cool your jets, Romeo," she says, smirking. "We need to set down some guidelines here."
Typical. Straight into the rules. Ah well, that's the woman I fell for.
"Number one. Nobody finds out about this. And I mean nobody. Not even the team."
"Number two. When we're on a case, we don't see each other outside of work."
"And number three?"
The smirk turns into a full-blown smile.
"And number three, please don't ever wear jeans to work again. Otherwise I can't be held responsible for my actions."
"Done and done. And now it's my turn to lay down a rule."
"Oh really? And what's that? I have to stop yelling at you?"
"I have to let you run any idiotic scheme you want?"
"No. Though that would be useful. My request is a simple one."
"Let's hear it."
I pull her towards me once more and this time she doesn't resist.
This rule is surprisingly well received, though that may have something to do with the passionate kiss that accompanies it.
One day, I might be able to pluck up the courage to tell her how deeply I love her, but today is not it.
Today, just this enough.
We are enough.
So that's all folks! Thank you all so much for reading and especially to those of you who stuck with this story until the end. I can't believe my little one-shot turned into a project spanning nearly five months and countless hours on the computer, but it's been worth it.
Thanks to everyone who reviewed especially those of you who took the time to review each chapter. Much appreciated.
Now I've been bitten by the multi-parter bug, I've already started planning my next fic and I hope some of you will want to read it once it is published!