In Lieu of Retrospection

Disclaimer: Don't own anything.

Rating: T

Spoiler: Six months after 2.22 (Red Letter)

A/N: So here's the final chapter! I hope you guys all like it. Thank you for great amount of feedback I've received. It's made me contemplate doing a sequel to this. I'm kind of excited about planning another case and continuing exploring Jane and Lisbon's relationship, as it progresses from here on out. As always, thank you Rach for the awesome inspiration and Grace for betaing this entire story in less than two weeks. You guys have been incredible and the readers have been so supportive, I couldn't ask for anything better. Enjoy!

xxx

Part IX

His hand hovers over the doorbell for a moment, and it's really no surprise because he just spent about fifteen minutes sitting in his car, contemplating just turning around and driving back to CBI.

He's not even sure why he's here, but ever since Lisbon's comment over dinner several nights ago, he's been mulling over the same question in his head, unable to come up with a response even now.

Thus, although he's never one to admit defeat or expose a fraction of vulnerability, especially in front of the person he's about to see, Jane finds himself depressing the button that signals his arrival without another thought.

Despite his observation skills being his niche, he's aware that not everything is within his realm of comprehension, and some things, like relationships, are better understood by a woman. He'd never resort to this but he simply has to know, and the not knowing is making him a little crazed.

He's deep in thought, but as soon as the door opens, he tears his eyes away from the floor, meeting a soft but amused blue gaze. It should annoy him that she doesn't seem the least bit surprised to see him, but then again, feigning psychic abilities really forces one to practice one's poker face.

And Kristina Frye has one of the most impenetrable poker faces that he's ever encountered.

"Patrick Jane." She says in a smooth, controlled voice, arms crossed comfortably over her torso as she leans against the doorway, "I'm assuming you're not here because you have finally surrendered your cynicism, so to what do I owe this pleasure?"

"You're the psychic," Jane says cheekily, though there's no smile on his face. "You tell me."

Kristina chuckles softly before stepping back into her house, expecting him to follow, "I communicate with the dead, Patrick. The living, well, they're not my greatest area of expertise, but I can definitely try."

She says this to him over her shoulder as she passes the large foyer into the living room, and Jane has no choice but to close the door behind himself and follow. During their brief courtship, he'd been invited here for tea once, but he never took her up on her offer.

Now as his eyes sweep over the modern d├ęcor and floor to ceiling windows, he can't help noting how vastly different this place is from the one Kristina was living and working in when they first met during the Rosemary Tennant case.

"I'd ask how you're doing, but I think I can gather that for myself."

She turns around to look at him, the same confident and self-assured expression on her face and this time Jane lets himself smile at her, realizing with some measure of assurance that Kristina Frye has not changed at all.

"Well thank you, Patrick. Would you like some tea?"

"No, no." Jane declines as he steps over to a bookshelf. "I won't be long." He adds, though he doesn't appear in a hurry to ask the redhead what's been bothering him for days now.

He slides his hands into his pockets, trying to give off an air of nonchalance as he scans her reading material, most of which is psychically oriented. However, despite his focus, he still feels Kristina approach until she's leaning on the bookshelf, right in his line of vision.

"Patrick, what are you here for?" She asks quietly, revealing just a hint of vulnerability as she searches his face for answers. "We haven't spoken in months."

Jane stops his perusing to look at Frye. Discounting the complete awkwardness of their first date, this is probably the most honest interaction they've had, and it makes him let down at least a bit of his defenses. After all, if he's here, looking for answers, he should at least acknowledge that he may be at fault for the abrupt way they ended things.

"I am sorry about that, Kristina. I should have called, or done something." He doesn't like exposing uncertainty but the words are sincere and so they tumble out of his mouth before he can stop them.

"Don't worry about it," She says, lip curved slightly upward, "I had a great time with you, Patrick, but no offense, I wasn't expecting much." Her eyes fall not so subtly on his wedding band before she pushes off the bookshelf and walks over to the couch.

"So how is Agent Lisbon? How is the rest of the team?"

He meets her gaze right away and hopes his surprise goes undetected. He's not sure if she's just being polite or if there's more to her comment, and that thought leaves him amused and slightly uncomfortable. Two emotions he's always associated with the woman watching him expectedly.

"She's fine; they're fine." He says, stepping closer to the middle of the room where Kristina sits perched on the arm of a love seat. She's still looking at him, expecting him to say something, and Jane shuffles his feet and glances down at the polished floor with a new found interest.

This certainly isn't his usual demeanor.

Normally, he's more composed, suave, and relaxed; never so nervous about anything. However, Frye's allusion to his wedding ring has given him something else to think about, bringing old issues to the forefront of his mind and making him question the legitimacy of his newly uncovered awareness.

Running his thumb over the wedding ring once more, Jane meets Kristina's gaze.

"Is that why nothing materialized from us dating?" He asks, searching her expression for any telling signs.

"Well it definitely didn't encourage things." Frye admits, shrugging her shoulders as she speaks, "but it's not really the cause of anything, Patrick. I understand why you, why we both lost interest. For you, I represent everything you still can't come to terms with about your past, and it makes you uncomfortable. You don't see me as being on your side. As much as you appeared to enjoy our time together, you were constantly on guard, and that's not conducive to any relationship."

Jane listens to her mutely, words seeping in and triggering a swirl of thoughts in his head. She makes incredible sense, not that he ever doubted that she would, and yet her explanation is so clear, so simple, he wonders how he ever missed it himself.

Nevertheless, having her so clearly but casually explain her perspective on it lifts the weight he's been caring for several days from his shoulders.

"Yes." He says, a wan smile tugging on his lips, "I do suppose you're right."

"No hard feelings, Patrick, I mean it." Kristina assures after a moment of Jane shifting awkwardly in her living room.

Jane opens his mouth to speak, but the loud chiming of the door bell halts his train of thought.

Kristina glances at her wrist watch with a hint of recognition, "Oh that must be my 7 o'clock."

"I won't keep you then."

Kristina smiles before walking him out of the living room.

They bid each other good bye in the foyer before Frye opens the door to reveal her next client. Jane nods his greeting to the elderly man before escaping into the cool evening air.

He can feel Kristina's eyes on him, but he keeps walking to his car. He still has a lot of thinking to do, but at least he's gotten some clarity now, and most definitely closure.

He knows what he wants and it's not the woman watching him from her porch, so there's really no reason for him to turn around.

xxx

He spends most of the night driving around, trying to make sense of all the thoughts keeping him awake, the talk with Kristina Frye weighing heavily on his mind.

Every so often the moonlight reflects off his wedding band, making him question yet again whether he is ready to explore his newfound feelings for another woman, when he isn't sure he is over his late wife.

That's probably why he hadn't seen this coming. He couldn't possibly have predicted that while he'd been so focused on executing his plans of vengeance against Red John, someone could slip so deeply past his defenses that he would be rendered powerless in the aftermath.

Kristina Frye had been an experiment, a test to see if he was still a man underneath his layers of baggage, guilt, and self-loathing. In the end, however, Jane knows the chemistry wasn't there; Frye's carefully measured words were just additional proof of that.

By early dawn he makes his way into his apartment, finding it just as cold and impersonal as ever. Besides his impromptu breakfast here with Lisbon two days before, over the weekend he's only ever come here for a change of clothing and a quick nap.

He remembers how nervous he felt letting her in here, letting her see where he went outside of work. He'd done it because he wanted her to know that their friendship wasn't one-sided. It must have taken a lot on her part to start inviting him over to her home, especially after the doubt cast on their relationship by Hightower's machinations.

It's close to 8 am when he pulls into the CBI parking lot. He finds a parking spot easily, and when he gets out of the car, his eyes fall on the one person who has been occupying his thoughts all night.

If possible, Lisbon is a greater creature of habit than he is, and Jane knows that on Tuesday mornings he can always find her at the coffee cart outside their building. The weekday pastry special is a bear claw, and she does yoga on Monday nights so she can afford the indulgence.

Now, she's standing in the short line, nose buried in her Blackberry, oblivious to the world around her. It gives him a few moments to admire her. She's wearing black pants and a dark blue shirt, reminding Jane that the color compliments her lovely green eyes and pale complexion. Her hair is long and curly, twisting in the wind as an early morning breeze sweeps past her.

Eventually, the line advances, and she must feel his eyes on her because as she looks up from her phone, her gaze instinctively falls on him. The moment their eyes meet, Jane feels a tug on his insides, a flicker of warmth that he's certainly never felt around Kristina Frye.

He returns Lisbon's smile and walks towards her without hesitation. She's already putting in her order when he sidles up to her, and his hand finds its way to the small of her back of its own accord.

Without a word, Lisbon orders a medium Earl Grey tea and asks the vendor to pour the milk in first.

"That's very generous of you," Jane leans in closer, whispering in her ear teasingly.

"Least I can do since you treated me to breakfast Saturday morning." Lisbon quips back, eyes glinting with mirth as she hands him his tea.

Jane takes a satisfied sip before replying, "Meh, that was nothing; you had to cook your own. I'll have to treat you to a real Jane breakfast one of these days."

Lisbon ducks her head for a second, before looking up again, a little uncertainty swimming in the jade of her irises, "Is that an invitation?"

With a thrill, Jane realizes that this might actually be Teresa Lisbon flirting with him, and his smile only widens.

"Only if you say yes." he replies cheekily, but the message beneath his lighthearted words is clear.

"Then you've got yourself a deal," Lisbon smiles back, recognition flickering in her eyes as she accepts her coffee from the vendor.

"Shall we?" He asks, gesturing towards HQ, and Lisbon nods, already falling into step with him.

As they reach the front door, Lisbon can't resist and takes a small bite from her pastry, sighing in satisfaction.

"You know, it's quite rude not to offer me some." Jane comments, feigning disappointment.

Lisbon rolls her eyes at him in response, "Oh please, I already bought you tea, and you don't even like bear claws."

"Oh really? How do you know that? Maybe you're just using that as justification to cover up your lack of manners." Jane says matter-of-factly, and Lisbon narrows her green gaze at him.

"You're annoying, you know that?"

"You wouldn't have it any other way." Jane declares, grinning widely as they walk into the security check line.

"You're also childish and attention-seeking." Lisbon continues, facing him.

"But you love it." Jane counters just as swiftly.

"Oh yes, your petulance excites me so much. I'm left bereft without it." Lisbon deadpans, taking another bite of her pastry if only to spite the blue eyed man besides her. "Can't you go annoy someone else?"

"Never."

Lisbon scowls in response, shooting another retort his way, which Jane deflects with expert ease and a teasing grin; neither one notices that the line has moved a long time ago.

END