Disclaimer: The Mentalist is not mine. But oh if it was.
A/N: This is my new story...obviously. Lisbon centric. Basically it's my Secret Santa gift for everyone but it's not really much of a secret. I felt really bad for having to back out of Secret Santa on Jello-Forever and yet still receiving something when I didn't actually give anything so this is for everyone. :D I hope you guys like it. I wasn't going to post it until New Years but then I thought what the hell, I don't really want to do that so I posted it.
Teresa Lisbon had never been one to party. Growing up with three younger brothers, and then later on having to raise them, hadn't really given her the chance to be a party goer. It wasn't in her blood and yet on this night she was contemplating stepping outside of her comfort zone. Not necessarily to party but she was thinking about going out, maybe having a drink. She'd stay sitting at a table no doubt, socializing wasn't really a strong point for her but she thought she might enjoy a little time out of the house. She wanted something else in life besides just work and home. She was a woman not a robot. It was already getting close to Christmas, less than a month away and the only plans she had were to watch TV and stuff her face in the process. Same thing she'd accomplished on Thanksgiving after calling each of her brothers.
The latest case had her slightly shaken, a woman around her age had been brutally beaten to death. That wasn't necessarily the part that had her worked up. The fact that their victim had no friends outside of work and no personal life whatsoever was what had her feeling the need to get out of her apartment. Even though she hated public places, she didn't want to die like that. She didn't want to be alone. Sure she had her team but she wanted someone she could open up to. Somebody she didn't have to remain professional around and though she knew she wouldn't trust anyone until they earned it, she wanted to have someone who she could laugh and joke with. Someone she could talk to that didn't deal with death everyday. Was that too much to ask for? To be able to spend some time talking with someone who didn't have such a depressing job or the weight of the world on their shoulders, was it too much?
A few minutes in her lonely apartment had her standing in front of her closet in just her underwear, trying to decide on what to wear. This wasn't usually her thing. Most days she just threw something on, as long as she looked professional and tonight she was going for the opposite. She wanted to look approachable yet respectable. She was hoping to make a friend tonight. Honestly she didn't care if the person was male or female although she definitely would be apposed to male company. It'd been ages since she'd let herself enjoy a man but there was no way she was going out tonight with the sole purpose of picking up some random guy. She wasn't that type of woman. She was just hoping to take her mind off of the job, off of Jane. No, she refused to admit that he had anything to do with this. She was strictly worked up about the case, nothing he said made a difference and it was time for her to try something different.
After Bosco had died she was left with an ache in her chest, and maybe she was hoping a tiny bit to meet someone who could spark her interest. Falling for a married man had never really been a part of her plans when she'd worked with him and now so many years later she was doing it all over again; falling for yet another married man. It didn't matter that this one was widowed, the wedding band still reminded her of every reason she had to stop herself now before it was too late. So yeah, maybe she wanted male company more than female. She had to start moving on or she never would. Bosco was gone, it was never meant to be with them anyway and even though she did still love him it hadn't been the same as when they'd worked together. Jane was completely off limits in every way, she couldn't let herself go there and if tonight was a bust then she'd go out more often. How did her thoughts lead back to Jane?
Two loud groans of frustration, a few pairs of jeans and two shirts later and she was putting on some light make up, then heading out the door. Dark jeans and a white feminine top equaled approachable yet respectable in her book. She had to physically restrain herself from hooking her holster to her hip which only served to remind her why she was doing this. Now she just had to figure out where she intended to go.
A half an hour passed and she found herself sipping a steaming cup of coffee in her favorite booth of her favorite coffee shop. She liked this place, it was very much a hole-in-the-wall type place. You wouldn't know it was there unless you knew it was there. She'd stumbled upon it a few months ago and fell in love with the family feel. So here she was. She'd given up, this wasn't her. Maybe the job was all she had and maybe she should be okay with that. She had been up until tonight or maybe she'd just pretended she was. That was probably the right way to put it. She pretended that it didn't bother her to go home to a lonely apartment, a phone with no messages and neighbors who knew of her but didn't know her. Well a few did, but she didn't exactly consider the cat lady one door over to be her best friend nor the little old man who called her 'Sis'. Yet here she was, content to sit alone and accept her lack of a social life while the couple at the next table joked and stole kisses over a shared latte. Great, the world was now mocking her. She couldn't help but watch the pair, they looked so happy. She couldn't remember the last time she'd been happy like that. Just watching them interact had a soft smile tugging at her lips.
When they got up to leave, Lisbon found herself doing the same. She wasn't going to follow them, she was simply going to go back home, take a hot shower and crawl into bed. Tomorrow she'd get up and do some Christmas shopping, might as well do something productive with her day off. Grabbing her jacket and her coffee, she stood from the booth hastily just in time for something to collide into her. She didn't have much time to react before hot liquid seeped down the front of her shirt right into her skin, burning its way all the way down to her navel.
"Shit, that's hot!" Hands clasped around her elbows, as she grimaced from the burning sensation and her word choice in such a public place.
"I'm sorry, I wasn't watching where I was going, I'm sorry." Dropping her jacket in the process, Lisbon grabbed the front of her shirt and tugged it away from her body. She was staring down at the darkened wet spot when a hand full of napkins appeared.
"You should pay more attention." Setting her coffee down on the table of the booth she'd just vacated, she grabbed the napkins from the outstretched hand and started wiping furiously at herself. Just her luck. "Dammit, this was my favorite shirt."
"Yeah, I should. I really am sorry." The figure stooped to pick up the jacket she'd dropped and Lisbon finally got a look at the person responsible for her ruined shirt and burning skin. She'd known from the voice that it was a man, but she hadn't expected a handsome face and soulful dark eyes.
"I uh, I didn't mean to sound so rude."
"Completely understandable. I ruined your favorite shirt. Did it burn you?" A charming smile flashed across his face, causing a shy one to appear on her own. Maybe it hadn't been such a bad idea to go out tonight. Taking her jacket from his grasp, she set it next to what was left of her coffee and continued wiping the stain down her front. Though now it was more out of embarrassment than anything else. "Can I get you another cup of coffee?"
"Don't worry about it, it's fine. I'm fine. I was just leaving."
"Are you sure you're not burnt? At least tell me how much the shirt cost, I'll cover that." Tossing the used napkins in the nearest trash bin, she smiled back at the man's offer and shook her head.
"That's very nice of you but really it's fine."
"Mark, I need a coffee. Uh black right?" It took Lisbon a second to realize he was asking how she liked her coffee. She'd give him points for being persistent.
"Yeah." It had her slightly shocked that he knew the name of the man who worked behind the counter when she didn't even know that and she frequented this place. This was proof that she needed to pay more attention for two reasons. One being that she didn't know that Mark's name was Mark, probably never would have and two being that she'd never seen this man here before. She thought about telling him to just forget it so she could go but then she weighed her options instead. She could leave, go home to an empty apartment or she could let this man buy her a coffee. It wasn't a hard decision. Without much reluctance she found herself seated back in the booth, a new steaming cup in front of her and a good looking guy across from her. She was a woman, she couldn't help but notice how good he looked. It was the same reason she noticed that Jane was rather handsome. Why did her thoughts always lead back to him?
Pushing the consultant from her mind, she offered a quick smile to the dark haired man who still looked like ruining her shirt had been the ultimate sin.
"Teresa." Her agent mode had her wanting to introduce herself as Lisbon but the woman in her won this round. She would accept a simple cup of coffee, talk to the man and then go home. This is what she'd wanted after all, well minus getting a hot beverage dumped down the front of her shirt. "Thank you for the coffee."
"You don't have to thank me, I think it's safe to say I owe you that much and technically I'm not even paying for it."
"Mattie, is that the only way you can get a woman to talk to you?" The outside voice caught Lisbon's attention as Mathew smiled and pointed at the young man behind that counter. The man she now knew was named Mark. "You're losing your touch."
"Hush Mark." Judging by the fond look on his face, she figured they were friends or something along those lines. "Sorry about him, sometimes he doesn't know when to leave it alone."
"I've seen you in here before, usually you don't stay very long. Wait did that sound too creepy?"
"A little, how do you know I come here?" Despite the way she'd been feeling in the last few hours, days, months even she couldn't help but feel a tiny spark in the pit of her stomach. "I've never seen you."
"I'm usually in the back."
"You work here? Oh then this must come out of your check, I can't let you do that." She didn't want to get him into any trouble but he stopped her from digging into her pocket for cash with a quick wave of the hand.
"No, I don't work here well not really. I own this place, Mark over there is my little brother. Family business. You're in law enforcement yes?"
"Uh, yeah, how do you know..."
"You usually have a gun and a badge." A simple nod was the only reaction she gave him for a few seconds until the battle in her mind ended and a teasing smirk played at her lips.
"You stalk your customers often?"
"I just try to be observant, get to know the regulars but you never stay long enough." Normally a statement like that might have sent her running or reaching for her gun but she knew this place was never very busy, only a few people lingered and most of the time, she was always the sole customer in the mornings. So really it wasn't surprising that he knew how long she stayed and he knew she was in law enforcement so she felt a little at ease.
"I..." She was about to tell him that her job usually kept her from staying anywhere very long but her phone chirped signaling she had a new text. She ignored it for the moment, it was rude to text in the middle of a conversation. "I'd like to stay longer in the mornings but my job doesn't really take coffee breaks."
"You're never in a uniform, so not a patrol cop. A detective of some kind?" Oh god, he sounded like Jane right then. Always back to Jane, she had to stop. That's why she was doing this, part of the reason anyway.
"I'm a CBI agent."
"Ah, agent, wow. And I thought owning a coffee shop was something." For the first time in days, Lisbon felt her shoulders shake as a laugh bubbled up from her lungs. Leaving the house might have been a good idea after all, and she didn't even have to go anywhere out of her comfort zone which was an even bigger plus. Her phone chirped again which made it harder to ignore. "You can answer that, I don't mind a bit."
"Sorry," She knew it wasn't too important, it was just a text but it still irked her. She wanted to know what it said so she looked. Two messages from Jane. Really? Did the world hate her that much right now? She couldn't even get one night. Reading it quickly, she tried to bite back the smile that lit up her face. The first message told her to check her top right desk drawer on Monday and the second simply stated that he'd got her a little gift.
"Boyfriend missing you?"
"What? No, I don't have...it's work. Someone from work."
"Someone from work makes you smile like that?"
"He's a funny guy." Lisbon knew that wasn't what Mathew had meant but it was the best explanation she could come up with and with an arched eyebrow he pretended to buy it. As much as she'd been enjoying the conversation and Mathew's company, Jane's texts had managed to ruin it. He always had the worst timing. "Thank you for the coffee, but I really should get home."
It was actually pretty late, so she could use the excuse and get by with it. Standing carefully, she slipped her arms into her jacket and offered Mathew a soft thanks when he disposed of the empty coffee cup.
"Oh Teresa, to make up for the loss of your favorite shirt, your coffee is free for a week."
"I can't accept that, I'm sorry."
"I won't take no for an answer. That's a really nice shirt and I feel horrible because I know that had to be hot." Sighing in defeat she just nodded and brushed her bangs out of the way. "It was nice to meet you."
"You too." Before she could say anything stupid, Lisbon made herself leave but the whole way home there were two things on her mind: Jane and free coffee. More like the man behind the free coffee but she didn't know him well enough to admit that yet. Although talking with him had taken her mind off of the past few weeks. Off of Bosco's death and her lonely existence. She found it funny that she'd actually gotten all dressed up only to end up talking to someone who had seen her in her work attire in a place that she frequented when she needed some real coffee instead of what the CBI kept in stock. She'd be sure to stop by on Monday morning. She might as well take him up on the free beverage offer, besides Jane had apparently left her a gift. She might need a good cup of coffee to deal with that.
a/n: This is just the beginning of something that will probably be pretty lengthy and range from fluff to angst. I probably won't update until I finish one of my others but I just wanted to give you this. :D Merry (Early) Christmas...Happy Holidays. :D