Thanks For The Memories
"What's in the box?"
Jane looked up, not startled by the question but startled by the presence that he hadn't noticed before. He'd not heard footsteps, and the voice was a little far off, and when he glanced up he saw that Grace was looking at him curiously. While the rest of the CBI building had turned into Santa's Grotto (mainly Grace's fault), he had agreed with Lisbon and remained quite Grinch-like. He always was at Christmas, though. He didn't see the need to make an effort anymore. He never put up a tree, he never bought decorations. He never played Christmas songs, he never walked through the house whistling them and singing them out loud.
He used to love Christmas. He loved covering his house in decorations. Moving to the Malibu house had given him an excuse to buy an extensive amount of Christmas decorations, and it would take him several days to put them all up before the holiday season. On the last Christmas he had spent with his family, his daughter had become quite distressed that Santa would arrive before the decorations were finished and because of this, he wouldn't be able to find his way to their house properly – he'd worked through the night on the exterior lights just to make sure that when she awoke the next morning, her fears that Santa might forget her were gone.
It had been a really long day for him, visiting people's homes, giving them false hope that their loved ones were in a better place. He always wanted to believe that they were, just as faithfully as his customers did, but they were looking for hope in the wrong place. If they wanted that kind of reassurance, they needed to figure it out for themselves, but he wouldn't get paid to tell them that. And he needed to get paid. It wasn't that it was a way of making an absurd amount of money as word of his talents was spread between neighbours, girlfriends, social groups, but more the fact that it was dependable. He knew he could do it convincingly enough to get by. He knew that no matter what, he could find a way to convince them and in return, they would hand over money.
He wasn't sure how to do anything else. He never went to school, never received any formal qualifications, never achieved any work experience – nothing that would get him a job outside of the carnival, anyway. That was all he wanted. He wanted out of the carnival, he wanted a better life for him and his family than travelling around in caravans, never making friends, conning people out of enough money for them to move on to the next town, the next city, the next state, and do it all over again. Despite the close extended family his father and himself had created for themselves, it was a very lonely way to live, and no way for his daughter to grow up. So he used his efforts in a public manner, used his talents to draw money from the willing to keep his family.
That didn't mean he didn't feel bad about it though.
He remembered coming home at 8 o'clock on December the eighteenth, only to find that his five-year-old daughter was sill awake. Now that she'd started school her bedtime was seven-thirty on a school night, eight o'clock on weekends, but he aimed to be home to tuck her in and kiss her goodnight every day. Tonight he'd been worried he'd miss it, but she was still sat in the den, wide awake and concentrating hard on something. She looked a lot like him most of the time, with her blonde hair and blue eyes, but with that look of concentration on her face she was the image of her mother. She wasn't aware that her father was watching her, so continued with her task. All the while, he watched her with pride.
"Oh, this?" he asked innocently, looking down at the decorated box in his hands.
Grace nodded. "Is it for the Secret Santa?" she asked.
He laughed. "No, it's for me."
"I thought you weren't doing Secret Santa?" Rigsby had asked him, when he decided it was time for him to comment on Jane's box.
Jane smiled to himself, shaking his head. It wasn't that strange that Rigsby and Grace had come to the same conclusion as to what his box was for, obviously sleeping together on a regular basis was starting to make them think alike. "I'm not," he confirmed.
Rigsby frowned. "Then what's the box for?"
The mess around her looked like a disaster zone, but still the little girl carried on with her arts and crafts session. Why it was happening quite so late at night he wasn't sure, but she did look a little tired. She must have been playing for a while now. She was already wearing her pyjamas, though, and her hair was braided ready for bed – a few stray ringlets escaping to frame her face. He wasn't sure if she noticed the star-shaped sticker that had taken residence on her cheek.
A presence appeared behind him, and he turned towards it. His wife wrapped her arms around his waist from beside him, smiling up at him and greeting him with a kiss. "You're late," she scolded him.
"I'm sorry," he smiled, kissing her again. "How come our little angel is up so late?" he asked, as they both turned their attention back into the den.
"I didn't have the heart to pull her away from it," his wife explained in regards to the mess. "She's working so hard."
"What's she working on?" he asked.
His wife looked up at him, while he instead concentrated on the little girl. "Your Christmas present."
"Jane?" Rigsby questioned, startling him out of his thoughts. "What's the box for?" he repeated.
Smiling again, he placed his hand on the lid of the box. "It's for me."
"Are you ever going to put that box down?" Cho had asked him.
Jane smiled. "Not yet."
"Are you at least going to open it?"
He lifted his daughter up from the mess, watching coloured clippings of paper and stray stickers that had lost their glue tumble from her pyjamas onto the floor. He smiled as he peeled the star sticker from her cheek and stuck it to the end of her nose instead. She giggled. "Daddy!"
"Did you finish what you were making?" he asked, even though he'd already watched her bundle something into her arms and scamper between the den and the kitchen, no doubt using the same secret hiding place that her mother used - the one they obviously both assumed he didn't know about.
"Yes," she smiled.
"Good, because it's time for bed," he told her, heading towards the stairs. He forgot about the mess in the den, that could be cleaned up later. For now, he was going to put his little girl to bed.
"I made it for you," she told him. "It's a secret surprise."
Secret surprises. She liked them. Much better than secrets, so much more exciting than surprises. "When do I get to open it?" he asked her.
"Not yet, silly!" she scolded him. "You've got to wait until Christmas and it's not Christmas yet."
"Not yet," he answered Cho's question.
Cho continued staring at him with his ever-present poker face. "So, you're going to carry it around all day and not open it?"
"That's right," Jane nodded.
Jane looked at him as if he were stupid. "Because it's not Christmas yet."
The voice interrupted his nap, and he opened his eyes. He'd been lying on the couch, the box carefully balanced on his chest with his hands keeping either side of it supported. It wasn't heavy, but he didn't want it to tumble over and for the lid to fly off. It would ruin it. Instead, he was content just to hold it, feel it close to him.
"Jane, what are you still doing here?" Lisbon asked, from where she was stood above him.
"Napping," he said simply.
She looked around them both. "It's eight-thirty. Christmas Eve. Don't you have anywhere you want to be?" she asked him.
"Don't you?" he challenged her with a gentle smile.
She didn't take the bait. She didn't need to tell him, but he knew that her Christmas plans involved a fake apologetic phone call to each other brothers, wishing that she could be there with them even though she was lying about having to work just to avoid the dramas that would unfold if all three brothers were in the same room together. He knew that they didn't get on well with the youngest brother, Tommy, the one that Lisbon obviously fought hardest to protect and to care for, but he only knew that because he'd eavesdropped on her phone calls.
"You should go home," she told him.
"I should, but I don't feel like it," he pointed out. He moved to sit up on the couch, readjusting the position of the box so that it was safely in the centre of his lap. "I might as well keep you company, if you're not leaving yet."
"I just have paperwork, nothing worth waiting around for," she told him, still urging him to leave.
"No one should be alone on Christmas," he whispered, looking down at the box.
Come Christmas morning, his curiosity had grown tenfold as to what was in the box. He knew his daughter better than anyone, even better than his wife, who spent her days at home with her, but he couldn't work out what she had placed in the box. On Christmas eve, 'Santa' had moved the presents from the various hiding places throughout the house to underneath the tree, all wrapped carefully by 'Santa' the night before. 'Santa' was even considering changing his name to 'Mommy' this year, according to his wife.
Christmas morning ran as usual, him and his wife relaxing in bed in the early hours of the morning. The sun hadn't risen yet, but they couldn't sleep. They were just as excited about Christmas as when they were young children, and still woke hours before the rest of civilisation, itching to go downstairs and start the Christmas dinner, play the carols loud and cover the living room with wrapping paper. As the sun rose, they heard the tiny patter of feet down the hall, heading towards their bedroom. As they had done for the past few years, they closed their eyes and pretended to be sleeping as their daughter crept into their room, climbing up on their bed before jumping up and down to wake them up, chanting "wake up, it's Christmas!" until her father had pulled her onto the mattress with them and tickled her until she screamed.
They went downstairs to the tree together, all wearing their bathrobes against the early morning chill. The little girls hair was still tangled from the night before, her eyes still filled with sleep. She often woke in the early morning to go to the bathroom and then go back to sleep, but on this day she'd been too excited to get back to sleep once she remembered what day it was. Still, even with her tired face and her knotted curls, Patrick thought she had never been more beautiful than she was on that Christmas morning, standing up close to the Christmas tree, her face illuminated by the fairy lights and her smile brightening as she saw how many presents had her name on them. Not one for material goods, though, she was quickly distracted by how the fairy lights changed colour from blue, to pink, to green, to red...
"You ok?" Lisbon asked. "You're suspiciously well-behaved today."
He smiled up at her. "Forget the paperwork," he told her, patting the empty spot on the couch beside him. "Come sit with me."
She did so, and the two of them sat in silence for a few minutes before she gave in. "Ok, I have to ask," she announced. "What's in the box?"
"My Christmas present," he said softly.
Once all of the gifts were opened, Patrick watched as his daughter let out a shrill shriek of recognition, knowing that she hadn't given her father his present yet. She went off to her hiding place, and came toddling back over to him with the box she had been decorating last week. He could see it properly now, as she placed it in his hands with a "Merry Christmas, Daddy". It was a pink box, but you could barely see the colour of it because of the amount of gold and silver stickers that she'd stuck all over it – stars, snowflakes, snowmen, Christmas trees, reindeer.
He smiled, kissing his daughter as she sat down in front of him, mimicking his cross-legged position on the floor. Her eyes grew wider as he reached for the lid of the box, revealing what was inside...
"My daughter made it for me," he revealed quietly.
"Oh," Lisbon whispered, at a loss of what else to do. "It's beautifully decorated," she noted.
"She liked stickers," he nodded. Lisbon realised this was the first real thing she'd been told about Jane's daughter. She'd seen the Red John case files, she knew that she had blonde curly hair, like his, and blue eyes, but she didn't know anything about her personality. She never wanted to ask. But now she knew something – Jane's daughter liked stickers. But his melancholy expression gave her insight to the real story behind this box. "This was the last gift, wasn't it?" she realised quietly.
He nodded. "She made it all by herself," he whispered. "She was so proud of it."
And then, she wanted to know what it was. She wanted to know what this creative little girl had made for her father. She thought that asking might upset him, but when she opened her mouth, he began to explain it to her.
"I came home and she was busy making it, my wife said she'd been working on it all day, so she was up past her bedtime. When she was done, I took her up to bed and she told me that I wasn't allowed to look at it until Christmas," he said. "On Christmas morning...the last Christmas morning...she gave it to me."
He looked in the box, knowing that it had been very lightweight, and found that the box was empty. He couldn't stop the confused look, aware of his wife's grin behind his daughter's shining face. "Is it invisible?" he asked her.
His daughter laughed. "No, silly!" she told him.
"It's empty?" Lisbon asked, when he had told her. Her confusion must have matched his, he noted.
"No, not empty," he told her. "It's full."
"Full of what?"
He carefully lifted the lid of the box, just enough to hide some of his face for a moment when he ducked down. When he straightened up again, he closed the lid, and placed his lips on Lisbon's cheek in a soft kiss.
His daughter jumped into his arms, putting the lid back on the box. "You'll let them out!" she scolded him. "You have to be careful with them!"
"Them?" he asked.
"Yes," she told him. "It's a box for kisses," she explained. "And I blew lots and lots of kisses in there all for you until there wasn't any room left. But if you leave the lid off then they'll blow away and there won't by any left."
"It's a box of kisses," Jane told her. "My daughter's kisses. She blew kisses and filled up the box until there wasn't any room left. And every Christmas, and on her birthday, I take out a kiss."
Lisbon touched her hand to her cheek, where his lips had been moments before. "So, really, your daughter just kissed me?" she realised.
"No," he shook his head. "I kissed you, but I think she would have wanted me to." He stood up, carefully making sure that the lid didn't fall off the box in the meantime. "I should go home. Do you have plans tomorrow?"
"Yes," she lied. He stared her down. "Okay, no."
"Then I'd like to make you dinner," he offered. She looked him in a mild shock. "No one should be alone on Christmas, and it's...it's been a while since I've had to make a Christmas dinner. I miss it."
She smiled. "I'd like that," she nodded.
He leaned boldly down, putting a kiss on her other cheek – one that was definitely from him, no confusion this time. "Merry Christmas, Teresa."
She smiled back at him. "Merry Christmas, Patrick."
Patrick smiled, and put his arms tightly around his daughter, the little girl with a heart of gold that somehow – he'd raised to be this way. Tears sprung to his eyes, but he fought them back. Christmas was not a day for tears of any kind, so instead, he focused on the smiles. He enclosed her in his arms, tightly hugging her until she giggled again. "Thank you, sweetheart," he told her.
"Do you like it?" she asked.
"I love it. It's my favourite gift I've ever had."
She smiled, putting her hand into the box, fishing out a kiss and putting in on his cheek, kissing there properly afterwards. "I love you, daddy."
I know it's not Christmas yet, but I thought this might make you all smile :)