A/N: Final chapter!
The Effect of Ricin
Abigail wouldn't confess, and by the next morning she'd hired a lawyer to help her out. He spent an hour talking with her in private about their options, and when we were finally allowed in, Jessica was no longer speaking directly to us. And I hated talking to lawyers. So I left Cho to the interrogation and went back to my reexamination of the other suspects, enlisting Van Pelt to help me sift through information.
We sat in silence in my office, both typing away at our laptops, revisiting every file we had on this case. I'd told Rigsby that Jane had woken up and was having hallucinations, and he promised to relay it to the doctors. He didn't pry for details, and I didn't offer, but I was a bit more relaxed knowing the doctors would record the symptom. Hopefully they could help Jane.
I refocused on what I'd been reading, frowning slightly at the screen when Van Pelt asked, "Do you think Jane's going to be okay?"
I glanced up and met her gaze, nodding, "Of course. He's tougher than you think."
She bit her lip, "But what if he decides that the CBI is too dangerous, and finds another job after this?"
"That would probably be wise for him," I said honestly. "He never listens to protocol anyway; something like this was bound to happen sooner or later."
Van Pelt stared at me, brows furrowed in confusion, "You think this was inevitable?"
"All I'm saying is that you can only play with fire so many times before you get burned," I replied. He was an idiot for eating anything at that restaurant, even though I'd explicitly told him not to. But since I couldn't yell at the consultant himself, I was forced to resort to cursing his name any way I could.
But I could tell I'd offended her. She snapped her laptop shut and stood, barely looking at me, "I'm going to take over Rigsby's shift with Jane. He needs support from his friends right now." I could clearly hear her omitted sentence: "Which obviously isn't you, Lisbon."
I watched her storm out, surprised and a little hurt at her harsh reaction. This wasn't good. Van Pelt didn't know me well enough to realize that calling Jane all kinds of a fool was my coping method. And with her unfocused on the task at hand, my team was one person weaker. And that was something we couldn't afford right now.
I was still scouring documents pertinent to the case when Rigsby knocked on my door about two hours later. I glanced up and closed the case file, meeting his gaze, "How's Jane doing?"
"Better, I think," Rigsby replied, taking a seat on the other end of my small office. "The doctors think he's going to pull through."
"Of course he is," I replied, as if there were no other option. Which, in my mind, there wasn't. I simply couldn't imagine a world without Jane, and the fact that I'd been so close to just that scared the shit out of me.
We sat in awkward silence for a moment, and then Rigsby rubbed the back of his neck, "Boss, I know you're dedicated to finding this guy, but you should take a break. You're wearing yourself to the bone."
"You've been at the hospital with Jane the last two nights. How much sleep have you actually gotten there?"
I mentally calculated, but decided the resulting number wouldn't satisfy him, so I responded, "Enough. The first night they kicked me out around four, so I got some sleep at home."
Rigsby stared at me in disbelief, then shook his head, "I don't want to know."
"Good, because I wasn't offering to tell you."
He moved right along, getting to the real issue on his mind, "Grace told me you don't care about Jane." I raised an eyebrow, and he hurried to assure me. "I know that's not true, but that's what she thinks."
"She's wrong," I muttered, debating on whether or not now was the time to pull the bottle of bourbon out of my desk drawer and down a shot or six.
"Then you should have told her that," Rigsby said, reminding me of a stern parent. I rolled my eyes, but he spoke before I could defend my actions. "She doesn't know you as well as Cho and I do, Lisbon. You're not an easy book to read, especially when it concerns Jane. And Grace needs to know that you care about him as much as the rest of us."
"I—" I stopped, realizing that he was absolutely right. We couldn't solve this case without Van Pelt, and I needed to know my team had my back 100%. So I sighed and said, "I know. I'll give her a call."
"You should tell her in person," Rigsby said. "I think that's what would help the most right now."
I knew he was right about that too, so I mumbled under my breath and stood, "See if you can get Abigail to confess. Cho hasn't had any luck." I knew Rigsby wouldn't fare any better, but they needed something to do while I was gone, and that was the best I had. I didn't want to let on about my hunch of Abigail's innocence, not until Van Pelt or I found something that supported it.
When Rigsby was about to disappear into the interrogation room, I put a hand on his shoulder. He looked back at me, and I gave him a half-smile, "Thanks."
"Sure, boss," he smirked at me, and we went our separate ways.
Van Pelt was typing on her laptop when I entered Jane's hospital room, almost hesitant at facing my newest agent. She glanced up when I closed the door behind me, and for a moment she appeared unsure of what to do. Then she smiled slightly and inclined her head towards a second seat underneath the window, "Care to join us?"
My gaze flickered to Jane, no better or worse than he'd been last night, and I nodded, "Yeah."
Once I'd taken the seat, Van Pelt looked away, obviously embarrassed, "Lisbon, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply that you don't care about Jane, I was just—"
"Based on what I said earlier, that was the right conclusion," I interrupted, and she stopped short, staring at me in shock. "Jane irritates the hell out of me. He's arrogant and self-centered and blatantly ignores my orders. But he's also the damn best consultant the CBI's ever seen, and somewhere along the way he's become one of my closest friends." I leaned back in my chair, studying Jane's face. If he were awake, he'd be grinning right now, pleased at the compliment. But his features stayed smooth, so I felt safe to continue talking, satisfied that he was still unconscious.
"I don't know what our team would do without him. I can't imagine a day where I walk into the CBI and he's not lying on the couch, or tricking Rigsby out of some cash, or talking with you in the kitchen," I drew in a breath, swallowing a few times to keep my voice steady. "That's why I'm so angry with him. I'm furious that he'd put himself in this position, and make me face the possibility that my worst nightmares could become a reality very soon."
Van Pelt let out a breath, expression pained, "I didn't know… I'm so sorry, Lisbon."
I smiled halfheartedly, "I should have explained better in my office. You can thank Rigsby for talking some sense into me."
She smiled, and I knew we were okay again. We sat for a few minutes, looking at Jane and thinking, and then her expression brightened somewhat, "Oh, Lisbon, you have to see what I might have found."
I stepped over to her chair, peering at her computer screen. I skimmed the words, "It's Cho's notes on Jeff's financial records. I sent him to the restaurant to see if Jeff owed money to anyone else. What about it?"
She pointed to a footnote, reading it aloud, "'Eliza was turned down for a liquor license by the state.' That struck me as odd, since she's obviously a talented chef. So I did some more digging, and look what I found," she closed out that document and pulled open state files, pointing to an online record of Eliza's declination.
I gaped at the name, and the obvious conclusion that followed, "Julia's father made sure that Eliza didn't get her license. Then she'd have to go back to Jeff's restaurant and work for him."
"Exactly," Van Pelt closed her laptop. "I was double-checking my sources when you walked in, otherwise I'd have called you with the information."
I grinned for the first time in a long while, "Let's go." We couldn't waste any more time bringing in the person who'd poisoned Jane and killed two others.
"Fine!" Eliza screeched, face splotched red as she glared at us in fury. "I did it, okay? I went to Jeff's room, and when he wasn't looking I put ricin in his gin. And then I put some in that bitch, Julia's, spice for good measure. Do you know what they cost me? I've worked hard all my life, dreamed of opening my own restaurant, but all it took was one phone call to daddy and my dream was ruined!" She was practically sobbing by this point, livid at her old boss and his secret mistress.
Cho didn't hesitate to put her in handcuffs, his face impassive. It had taken three hours of interrogation to get to that point, but he'd finally worn her down. Rigsby and Van Pelt stood off to the side, watching Eliza with disgust. I stood, walking calmly over to her, "Thank you for that confession. You're going to be locked away for a long time."
Then I raised my hand and slapped her across the face. I'd have punched her, but I didn't want to risk leaving any evidence of violence, lest the court catch up on it and sink its vicious teeth into me for police brutality. Eliza's face whipped around from the force of my hand, and when she turned back to me, she had angry tears in her eyes.
I leaned down to her level, my face inches away, "You'd better hope he doesn't die, Eliza. Because if he does, some ricin might accidentally slip into your food."
She let out a shaky breath, and I straightened, meeting each member of my team to see if they had anything to say about my actions or words. But they simply watched me, loyally waiting for orders. Rigsby had a smirk on his face, and I could tell Van Pelt was rather proud of my threat, despite how unethical it was. Even Cho looked pleased.
"We're done here," I said. "I'm going to see Jane. Get a written confession, then go home and get some sleep. Good job, team."
They bid me goodbye, and I started for elevator. Before I'd walked ten steps, Abigail caught up to me, obviously still filling out papers regarding her release. She scowled at me, "You held me here while you followed up on other leads. You knew I wasn't guilty."
"I had a suspicion, yes," I replied steadily.
She glared, "Then why keep me for a day?"
"I had more evidence against you than anyone else," I said, choosing my words carefully to keep from enraging her further. "You were the logical option. I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience."
She took a deep breath, obviously trying to calm down somewhat, "I'm trying to understand your perspective in all of this. But that's not as easy as you'd think, so you'll forgive me for thinking that you're a mean, irresponsible sadist."
I almost laughed at the insult, "Of course. I am sorry about all this."
Abigail glanced down at the papers in her hand, "I'm almost done with this paperwork. Then I'm going to go home and start picking up the pieces. I hope we never meet again, Agent Lisbon."
"As do I," I inclined my head, and she turned away. Suddenly, I remembered something one of the suspects had told me during the beginning round of questionings. "Ms. Barge?"
She paused, looking over her shoulder at me, waiting.
"Living with an alcoholic is hard. Some never change… they don't even want to," I remembered my father turning to the bottle, resorting to abuse as a channel for his overpowering grief. I squared my shoulders against the memory, "But your husband checked into treatment two weeks ago, right after you told him about the baby. I think he wanted to be there for you and your child. That's why he ended the relationship with Julia. For what it's worth… i-it seemed like he wanted to change."
Abigail stared at me for a moment, searching my face, before finally whispering, "Thank you." Then she walked away, and I headed to the elevator, thoughts of Jane mixing with memories of my past.
It was ten thirty before I managed to get past the night nurses, but once I was in Jane's room I relaxed. It was almost over. We'd caught the culprit, solved the case a full day before the deadline, and now the only piece left was Jane's recovery. I dropped into the chair by his bed, sagging as I rubbed my temple with two fingers to ward off the headache that always seemed to come hand in hand with ongoing sleep deprivation. I was looking forward to taking a personal day sometime soon, sleeping in and relaxing for a bit before returning to the hectic life as a CBI agent.
I heard a chuckle from the bed, and my eyes snapped open, noticing with surprise that Jane was awake and watching me with apparent interest. I was instantly on my guard, knowing that he hadn't quite cleared three days yet, so it was very possible that he still retained symptoms of the ricin poison: namely, hallucinations. I really didn't want to assume the role of Jessica again; that felt… wrong.
"I could have sworn I told you to get some sleep," he remarked, voice light and amused as it always was. I was grateful he sounded so much better, but his comment made my heart fall. He'd told Jessica to sleep, not me. Which meant that he still thought I was his deceased wife.
"Jane, I'm not her," I said carefully, not wanting to break his heart. He looked confused, so I clarified. "I'm not Jessica."
"I know that, Lisbon," he replied, watching me like I was the crazy one.
"But last night, and the night before…" I hesitated, not sure if I should bring up the kiss he'd given me that first night in the hospital. What sort of mind game was he playing, here? He was going to drive me insane, I just knew it.
Jane looked a bit disconcerted, which was certainly a new expression for him, "I know, and I'm sorry. I was confused, but that's no excuse for my actions."
I waved off his apology, studying him for a moment, "What made you realize?"
"Jessica," he replied simply, smiling at the mention of his wife. But he didn't elaborate, and I didn't question. Instead, I steered the conversation in a different direction.
"How long have you been awake?" I didn't think his eyes were open when I walked in, but maybe I'd just overlooked it. I wasn't exactly top-form right now, so it wouldn't have surprised me. I could practically feel the dark bags under my eyes, and I was sure I didn't look much better than Jane did at the moment.
He shrugged a shoulder as best he could while lying on the white hospital bed, "A few hours, on and off. I was surprised that no one was here when I woke up."
"Sorry about that," I replied, my voice wry in response to his hurt tone. It was a relief to fall back into our old habits, him complaining and me rolling my eyes and dealing with it. It made me feel like it was just another normal day. "I called the team together to get a confession from the woman who poisoned you."
"You mean poisoned Abigail," he corrected, and I was impressed that he seemed as sharp as ever. I relaxed a little bit, pretty certain by this point that Jane would clear the three day mark without any more problems.
"Right," I said.
"I'm rather impressed that you managed to catch Eliza without my help," he smiled at me, obviously intending his statement to be a compliment, but I just stared at him.
"You knew it was Eliza? And you didn't think to tell me?" I wasn't surprised that he knew it was her; I'd always suspected that he knew who the murderer was from the first meeting, and spent the remainder of the case proving it to the rest of us. But I was irritated that he'd known and didn't fill me in sooner.
Jane rolled his eyes, "You're right, my fault. I suppose I was too busy being overjoyed at seeing my wife again to think about the case." Sarcasm dripped from his words.
I cringed slightly, almost embarrassed that I'd forgotten about his hallucinations so quickly. I hurried to move past my blunder, "Well, we got her without your help. See, good old fashioned police-work does actually get results."
He laughed again, "Yes, but it took you two days longer."
"Aren't you supposed to be recovering from a poisoning?" I demanded, deciding he was entirely too arrogant for having almost died just days earlier. "There's a nurse who's going to be very angry with me if she finds I've been keeping you up."
Jane obviously didn't care about the angry nurse, although he replied, "Well, then, you should really get back to your house and leave me in peace. And get some real sleep while you're there."
I knew he was worried about my current state, but I didn't need people fretting over me. Especially people who were still recovering from ricin poisoning. So I squared my jaw and said, "I'm fine."
"Sure you are. Did you know that sleep deprived people are more prone to hypnosis than someone who got a good night's rest?"
Warning lights flashed in my head, and I narrowed my eyes at him, "You wouldn't dare."
He grinned a typical Jane grin, "Not if I don't have to."
I tried to think of another reason why leaving would be a bad thing. It wasn't that I wanted terribly to stay with Jane—now that I knew he was all right, and thinking clearly, I was confident he'd be back to normal in a few days. But since he'd all but threatened me to go, I knew I had to stay just that much longer.
"I can't go home," I said, blinking tired eyes. "I can barely see straight. I'd be a hazard on the road."
Jane chuckled, obviously amused, "I'll reimburse you for a taxi."
I stared at him, my sluggish brain working to find another angle. But before I could come up with one more reason, he scootched over a few inches, freeing up some space on his bed, "Or, if you're so insistent to stay, you can sleep here."
I faltered, thrown off guard at the sudden invitation. It seemed harmless enough, but I remembered Jane's smile when he'd thought I was Jessica. He obviously couldn't let the memory of his wife go so quickly. That image in my mind, I knew I couldn't accept his offer, so I shook my head slowly.
"Why not?" he seemed genuinely curious.
"Well…" What was I supposed to say? I don't want to push myself on you when you're clearly still in love with your dead wife? I had more tact than that. But my mind stayed blank.
Luckily, Jane had always been excellent at mind reading. Understanding flickered over his face, and he gave me a different kind of smile, one all my own, "Theresa, it's true that I still love my wife. But she wants me to move on, and I love her enough to honor her wishes."
"Who said I was even considering sleeping with you?" I asked, then winced at how that statement unintentionally sounded. "I mean, sleeping in the same bed as you."
Jane shrugged, "I could see you contemplating. Come on, we'll just say it's nothing more than a guy offering his friend a place to sleep for the night."
I knew it wouldn't be just that with us, but I was tired… Tired of pretending I didn't care, tired of acting strong, tired of taking charge. I rubbed my eyes, and suddenly the bed seemed like the perfect place to take a quick nap. But to keep anyone from getting any ideas about Jane and me—something I wasn't sure I was comfortable handling just yet—I resolved to wake up in an hour and slip out before anyone noticed.
So I laid down on the bed beside him, over the covers since getting underneath them seemed too personal, and relaxed, closing my eyes as I turned my back to him. Jane's arm draped over my waist, pulling me closer, and he placed a kiss on the back of my hair. His quiet voice whispered in my ear, "Get some sleep, Theresa. Tomorrow will be better."
I had to disagree with him. Today seemed pretty damn good.
A/N: Again, bits of dialogue are taken directly from the episode, but the rest is mine. :) Hope you enjoyed this story--I tried to throw some Jane/Lisbon fluff in the end, even though I don't really like them as a pairing.
I'd love reviews, if you all can spare a few minutes of your day to give me one! :)