Be Still, My Troubled Heart
Disclaimer: Don't own anything…quote by British author Douglas Adams.
Spoiler: Bleeding Heart
A/N: Huge thanks to forthecoast for doing impromptu betaing for me. I appreciate it! So I'm leaving tomorrow and this feels like a parting gift for you guys, haha. Thank you so much to everyone who read and reviewed the first part and I sincerely hope I do not disappoint with this one. Enjoy!
Part II: Sweet Distraction
"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be."
It's not a dive bar, not like she was expecting one anyway, but it's not a posh, pretentious lounge either.
It's somewhere in the middle, and she's pleasantly surprised at the warmth she feels as they step inside. However, she's not really certain if it's the atmosphere or the fact that Jane's hand is poised at the small of her back that is responsible for this foreign feeling.
Jane leads them to two empty stools at the far end of the bar. Lisbon immediately sheds her coat and sits down on the one nearest to the wall, reclining against it as Jane takes his time sliding off his blazer and rolling up his sleeves.
She looks at him with amusement at first, but then can't help noticing the definition of his arms, muscles moving imperceptibly underneath the tanned skin. The realization that she likes what she sees makes her throat a little dry, so she immediately diverts her attention elsewhere, hoping her easily flushed skin doesn't give her away.
Instead, Lisbon notices that despite the soft music playing in the background and the chatter around them, the place is best suited for quiet, intimate interaction. It's somewhere to go with a person one could spend all night talking to, where the conversation is comfortable enough to survive silence. Her stomach sinks a little under the weight of anxiety, but there's a flutter in her chest, a hint of anticipation and hope.
The consultant does nothing without purpose, and if he has chosen to bring her here, that means he's willing to talk and that's a step forward. She's not sure what she interrupted earlier, what was bothering Jane, but the desire to be a friend to him, especially after how she acted earlier, feels stronger now more than ever.
Jane catches her wandering eye as he sits down; his knee brushing against her breaks her concentration. He notices her jolt just a little, and Lisbon is certain he's about to say something to rile her up judging by the bemused glint in his gaze. Thankfully, however, the bartender sidles up to them, saving her from any possible embarrassment.
He lists off the specials and gives them a minute to decide, but Lisbon doesn't even pick up the offered menu, catching Jane's attention by clasping her hands over the bar top and admiring the impressive array of liquor bottles on the other side of the counter.
Jane raises an eyebrow at her over his menu, "aren't you even going to look at menu?"
He gestures towards the laminated booklet, but Lisbon shakes her head, "nah, I'll let you order. This way I can tease you mercilessly if I don't like something, while you can practice your mind reading skills on me."
He leans back, blowing out a puff of air, an almost whistle, "that's a lot of control you're relinquishing there. Are you sure you're not ill?"
Lisbon has the urge to roll her eyes, but just shakes her head again, not missing the way Jane's eyes follow the movement of her hair as it flows around her. A flicker of appreciation, barely detectable, yet it leaves her feeling strangely flattered and even a little confident.
"I'm definitely not ill, but thank you for your concern." She replies sarcastically, "now, humor me. Tell me what you think I'd like."
Jane narrows his eyes at her, but she maintains her playful smirk, never wavering, not even when his expression turns somber for a moment, and she wonders what he's thinking. Then it's gone, replaced by a wolfish grin, his best façade.
"Alright," He says, shutting the menu, "I accept your challenge, Agent Lisbon. Prepare to be amazed."
Lisbon smiles in spite herself and Jane returns it, before leaning over the counter to catch the bartender's attention.
It's then as she surveys the room again that she concludes that she's in deep, deep trouble. She shouldn't be feeling the burst of pride in her chest when she realizes that almost all the women in the bar are capriciously eyeing the man sitting besides her, and he seems to be perfectly oblivious to anyone other than her.
She's not surprised in the least bit when Jane guesses her favorite drink from the first try.
When the bartender comes back with two low ball glasses, one with amber liquid and one with clear, Jane just smiles at her wickedly, raising his glass of scotch and toasting her.
She doesn't bother asking how he figured it out, but after taking a satisfied sip, Jane tells her anyway,
"Vodka soda. Sophisticated, but unassuming, and definitely to the point."
Lisbon raises an eyebrow at him, savoring the drink under his watchful eye,
"Are you implying that this drink and I share similar qualities?"
Jane pretends to think for a moment, but Lisbon knows him well enough to know that he's had a response ready from the get go and is just toying with her for effect.
True to his form, Jane takes a long sip before replying, "Nah, the drink isn't quite as stubborn."
"Hey! I resent that,"
She retorts, swatting him on the shoulder. A second later, she takes another self-satisfied drink as she watches Jane rub the sore spot on his forearm, frowning dramatically,
"It also doesn't want to cause me bodily harm every chance it gets."
"Oh save me your sob story. Don't tease me and I won't hit you."
Lisbon warns, but Jane immediately spots the playful glint in her eye and the slight curve of her lip, confirming that she's merely teasing him right back.
He wants to tell her that he sees many qualities that are uniquely tied to her, like beauty, grace, loyalty, but selfishly he doesn't want to dampen the mood. Invariably, such a comment would create tension between them, because for as long as he's known her, Lisbon can never take a compliment. She will immediately become skittish and uncomfortable, and he quite likes how openly she's smiling at him now, how her body is half turned towards him so invitingly, as their knees brush together. She's so rarely carefree and relaxed like this that he wants to savor the moment.
So he swallows what he really wants to say, instead cataloging it to the back of his mind, and takes another hefty sip from his glass, before leaning in close enough to smell her tantalizing scent again,
"Well what would be the fun in that, then?"
Thankfully, Lisbon doesn't have time to reply before the bartender arrives with their food because he's certain she would proceed to show him just how much fun it would be to hit him again.
Some time later, Lisbon excuses herself to the restroom, leaving Jane alone with his thoughts for the first time since she found him in the bullpen, and he finds himself actually smiling as he reflects on the evening so far.
Initially, he felt incredibly guilty for sabotaging her plans for the night, though he was a little surprised that she'd actually taken the journalist's words to heart. But now he's sort of glad he did because, as their night out together has proven thus far, there is no better distraction or better way to improve his mood than spending time with Lisbon.
With her, he can let his guard down, just enough to have easy conversation, interspersed with teasing and banter. Even though they haven't talked about anything substantial, not even touching on the reasons why she seemed to think he was in need of company earlier, Jane finds himself liking the easiness between them.
There really aren't very many people he can enjoy himself with and as he watches Lisbon make her way back from the bathroom, he realizes exactly how valuable she is to him, how important her companionship is.
He also realizes that she looks incredible in purple and it doesn't escape him that he's not the only one who thinks so.
Out of the corner of his eye, he spots a dark haired man watching Lisbon as she approaches the bar again. A quick once over tells Jane that this man is single, no imprint of a wedding band; he has a good job that lets him dress tastefully and unpretentiously; and he seems extremely laid back. All of these observations deepen the scowl on Jane's face, because he can't detect anything off about Lisbon's admirer, and thus has to try very hard to contain the flicker of jealousy that sparks inside him.
"What's wrong?" Lisbon asks, thigh gliding against his as she slides into her seat.
Jane blinks, then quickly recovers, smiling at her before signaling the bartender for another scotch. Lisbon gives him a slightly worrisome look but he waves her off.
He doesn't answer her, instead looks over her shoulder again, to find the booth the man was occupying with his friends empty, and he feels almost uncomfortable when the feeling of relief washes over him.
He doesn't like thinking about other man ogling Lisbon. It's not that he's not used to it, because he is. But when it happens during cases, Jane is reassured that nothing will come out of it because Lisbon would never let herself break any sort of professional boundaries or rules, regardless of how badly she wants to.
However, when they're off duty, and the opportunity presents itself, the possibilities are endless.
He knows it's irrational to feel this way, especially since with everything that's happened to Lisbon in the last couple months, she deserves a good time, a chance to unwind. More than that, a woman like Lisbon deserves to be loved and appreciated, and even though he knows he can't really do that for her wholeheartedly, at least not yet, selfishly he yearns to be the one to give it to her anyway. He can't help the flutter of warmth in his chest when she places a soft hand on his arm and looks at him concernedly,
"So are you ever going to tell me what's bothering you or do you plan to get me drunk enough that I don't remember?"
Though the image of Lisbon completely without inhibitions is tempting, Jane pretends to be offended at her suggestion, "I'm shocked that you would think so little of me. My intentions tonight have been nothing but pure."
He doesn't miss the smirk on her face as she rolls her eyes and takes a sip, "Yeah right. Now c'mon, don't make me confiscate the tape and book you for tampering."
Surprisingly for her diminutive stature, Lisbon holds her liquor remarkably well, but when she waves a finger at him warningly, Jane is momentarily sidetracked by the light flush on her skin and the sparkle in her green gaze. The dim lighting casts a pleasant glow around her, making her appear warm and inviting. Jane can't discern if the alcohol is having an affect on him as well, but finds himself wanting to tell her everything he feels, divulge all his insecurities, trust her with them.
He looks into the bottom of his glass, ocher liquid swirling around the ice cubes, as he speaks,
"Do you ever feel like you're just standing on the outside? Not really enjoying life, but simply existing?"
Jane ventures a glance at Lisbon, but if she seems at all taken aback by his candor, she hides it extremely well because all he sees in her eyes is compassion and a flicker of, dare he say, understanding.
She purses her lips for a moment, catching the drops of precipitation on her glass with her finger, before looking back at him, "sometimes, but I think everyone feels like that at one point or another."
Jane shrugs, bringing the lowball to his lips, "it's a pity really, life should be savored, treasured."
It's weird for Lisbon to hear him speak this way, but she conceals it well, choosing instead to focus on the slight bit of satisfaction she feels. Despite the oddity of it, Jane's confession reminds her that even in his darkest hour, even when he was so adamant about making sure she knew he would sacrifice himself for Red John, she believed otherwise. She believed that he would choose life, and even though it worries her that he's thinking such morbid thoughts, she can't contain the seed of hope that sprouts at his words and the joy she feels at knowing that her faith in him is justified.
"Is that why you were watching the tape?"
It's clear by the uncertainty in her voice that she's trying to make the connection, and Jane can't help but feel a twinge of appreciation at her efforts. There's no way he can keep anything hidden from her now and it's rather ironic that the self proclaimed hypnotist feels himself so deeply drawn in by someone who despises the very idea of mind manipulation.
"I guess I was just intrigued by the opportunity. It's been so long since I've been on camera; I kind of wanted to see what others see, I suppose."
He looks straight ahead, feeling unusually uncomfortable about divulging even that little tad bit of information. Yet, the light pressure on his arm reminds him that Lisbon hasn't removed her hand from him and that's a very telling sign for the brunette so he forces himself to turn his body back towards her, willing himself to relax.
It's not hard to do when he encounters soft green eyes staring back at him, calm seeping in past his rigid defenses,
"And…" Lisbon's voice trails off, trying to coax a response out of him, though not as insistent as she is usually, suggesting that she understands how impossibly difficult it is for him to be that honest, even with her.
Jane exhales, deflating slightly in his chair, before frowning over the rim of his glass at her, "I look old."
Despite the seriousness of their talk, Lisbon can't help the burst of incredulous laughter that escapes as Jane looks at her like a sulking child, and she almost feels bad when surprise flashes across his features, but she can't help it.
God, this man can be so oblivious when it comes to himself.
"It's not funny," He adds petulantly, still looking slightly miffed by her reaction.
"Yeah it kind of is." She counters, "Considering half the women in this room are dying to trade places with me."
Jane perks up considerably, letting out a thoughtful "hmm", before taking a sudden interest in his surroundings, and though Lisbon feels just a hint of jealousy, the twinkle in his eye suggests that he's merely playing around. Then, something shiny catches her eye and Lisbon realizes that if his previous lack of attention to the occupants of the bar doesn't reveal his utter lack of interest in other women, then the wedding band certainly does.
Unexpectedly, the jealousy morphs into something else entirely, an emotion she can't identify but that suspiciously feels like disappointment, and Lisbon finds herself trying to shove these thoughts to the back of her mind.
She probably doesn't do a very good job, because when she meets Jane's eye again, he looks a little concerned, but there's something else beneath his look, an intensity she rarely sees.
It's very brief, just a flash, but all of the sudden she feels like he's read her thoughts and shifts uncomfortably in her chair, willing the heat that's undoubtedly rising on her skin to go away.
Jane senses her discomfort and tries to break the tension,
"Why the frown, Lisbon? Upset to realize other woman want me?"
The snort that escapes is completely inconsistent with the graceful and ladylike image she projects but that's what makes Jane grin so widely, because she has let her guard down somewhat, and there's nothing more pleasing to him than that revelation.
Lisbon rolls her eyes, unable to conceal her smirk as she finishes off her drink, "oh yeah, you know me. I'm just so hot for you. You know honestly, I don't know how you can feel even a little self-conscious with an ego that big."
"Oh, no need to get defensive, woman. We both know I only have eyes for you."
He leans over when he says this, hand falling on her wrist in what he expects to be an innocent squeeze, but he doesn't anticipate the inviting heat of her skin or the way her pulse escalates slightly under his touch when he speaks.
Jane also can't deny the little bit of truth in his statement and his already frayed heart chips a little more when Lisbon's eyes unconsciously dart to his wedding band.
He carefully moves his hand away, and Lisbon lets out a breath she didn't know she was holding.
Suddenly, the air between them is filled with tension, and she bites her lip, unsure of what to do.
She wonders how it's possible for things to change so quickly between them, but figures when there are so many underlying feelings, it can't be easy to take certain jokes lightly.
However, this isn't about them together as an entity. She reminds herself that her aim for the evening was to be a friend, provide some source of comfort to the man who rarely opens up to others, and no matter how ridiculous his words sound to her, Lisbon realizes she needs to make him understand that he can talk to her, that he can count on her to be there, even just as a distraction.
The irony that throughout their relationship it's always been Jane who has tried to prove that she could trust and rely on him, doesn't elude Lisbon, but she ignores it. Instead, she gets off the barstool and grabs her jacket,
"Lisbon uhh, where are you going?"
Jane asks, slightly surprised, but she just fixes him with a pointed stare, "I don't recall you telling me where we were going tonight, so don't expect me to tell you either."
She has her hands on her hips and she's looking at him with a raised eyebrow and pursed lips, so very reminiscent of how she is at work, and Jane finds himself liking it.
He doesn't hesitate in throwing down a few bills to cover their tab and following her out of restaurant.
It's only when they make it outside that Jane remembers that he drove them to the bar, and he already dreads Lisbon's next question before she turns around to him, extending her hand and smiling impishly,
He's not sure why he does it, maybe it's because actually he can't predict her next move. Maybe it's because she looks so unbelievably attractive with such a devious glint in her eye, or maybe he just likes the way he feels when she's smiling like that.
Whatever the reason, Jane drops the keys into her open palm without much of a fight, for the first time this evening wondering what the hell he's getting into.
There's something particularly alluring about watching Lisbon handle his precious Citroën with such expertise and effortlessness, that Jane doesn't even notice when they reach their destination because he's trying to come up with possible ways of getting Lisbon to drive his car more often.
She interrupts his scheming by cutting the engine and dropping the keys in his lap before announcing that they've arrived and slipping out of the car.
That's when he looks ahead and realizes with some measure of confusion where they are.
He gets out, locking the car before walking up to Lisbon, who stands leaning on the hood, waiting for him.
"A bowling alley?"
He doesn't mean for it to come out as harshly as it does, but he's genuinely flabbergasted by her decision and desperately wants to know why they're here, which causes his speech to come out rough and uncontrolled.
Lisbon seems to have mistaken his sharp tone for disapproval, because the flash of hurt that crosses her gaze doesn't escape him, neither does the sudden hunch of her shoulder as she wraps her arms around her torso, staring straight ahead,
"You said you felt old, and if there's one place where I always feel young, regardless of my age, it's definitely a bowling alley."
She halts for a moment, brushing her bangs from her face, before finally looking at him, "I thought it was a good idea, but we don't have to-…"
"No, I want to. I didn't mean to sound rude. You just genuinely surprised me and you know how rarely that happens."
There's a long stretch of silence before Lisbon's expression finally relaxes, giving way to the softness of her face. Jane is very much relieved when he notices the solitary dimple on her cheek, evidence of a smile,
"You must be off your game then." She teases and he beams at her, unable to contain the feeling of relief that he didn't mess this up.
The consideration in her action makes his heart swell in a foreign way, instilling within him hope, possibility, and most of all appreciation.
All of the sudden, for the second time tonight, he's overcome with gratitude for this woman, for her unwavering support, loyalty, and desire to be there for him, even though he's only superficially confided in her.
Even though he makes her job twice as stressful, even though he causes her pain indirectly through his obsession with a serial killer, even though he makes others question her credibility and probably makes her question her own sanity.
Despite all that, she's still here.
Still standing next to him, still willing to take responsibility for him, and most importantly still willing to share a bit of herself with him in hopes that he'll do the same.
The mix of emotion in him is indescribable. He can't decipher its complexity but knows that for the longest time, he thought he was numb, impervious to any real feelings, but whatever is brewing in his chest right now, challenges that notion, reminding him that he's just as capable of feeling as ever.
The thought not only makes him smile, but also makes him breach the proximity between them, and slide his arms unexpectedly around Lisbon, catching them both off guard with his sudden desire to show her how thankful he is, something he can't articulate verbally.
At first she's rigid in his arms, but soon relaxes, even lets herself hug him back, even though she's confused as hell.
After a second though, she no longer allows her thoughts to distract her. Instead, she takes a moment to indulge in the feel of his warm, strong arms around her, the hardness and heat from his body, radiating a level of protection and security that she hasn't experienced in years.
She lets her guard down just a little, and shock reverberates through her body when she feels the softest brush of lips against her cheek as Jane pulls back.
The tingle is back, generating heat, anticipation, and a whole slew of sensations she hasn't felt in far too long.
It's her turn to look at him with surprise coloring her emerald gaze, but Jane just smiles wistfully at her, swiping her bangs from her face like he's been dying to ever since she changed her hair months ago.
At first, Lisbon can't read his expression, but as he squeezes her shoulder before stepping away completely, she understands that this is his way of saying thank you and her uncertainty melts away.
She knows that they both have trust issues, especially with each other, but something has shifted between them tonight. It's difficult for Jane to open up, to admit that he might need someone, but the look he gives her says it all. Though she's still a little disappointed that he hasn't told her what's truly bothering him about the tape, this won't be the last conversation they have and the night is still young.
Feeling newly optimistic, Lisbon breaks the silence, gesturing towards the entrance of the bowling alley.
Jane doesn't say anything, just nods, before following her in.
It's only later on, when Lisbon rolls a strike and lets out an uncharacteristic squeal while beaming at him with a childlike essence he seldom witnesses, that Jane allows himself to indulge in the fantasy of a possible future with her, seeing her smile like this more often, with him as the reason behind her happiness rather than her frustration.
And what surprises him most about the daydream is that it's devoid of pain, of guilt, but feels incredibly natural to him.
He's not wondering what his wife would think of this, isn't ashamed picturing his little girl, instead he feels elated, optimistic, intoxicated by the desire to make his thoughts a reality.
That's the moment when everything clicks into place and he revels in the fact that somehow this spitfire of a woman managed to unknowingly slip past his defenses and he finds himself no longer standing on the outside.
Instead, when she walks up to him, playfully challenging him to beat her, he realizes that he may not be all the way in just yet, but at least he's got his foot in the door, and he really shouldn't be surprised that Lisbon was the key all along.