And we'll all float on
Disclaimer: Don't own anything. Lyrics by Paramore, title stolen from Modest Mouse.
Spoiler: None, just set in the future.
A/N: This is my submission to the Jello Forever August Challenge. The prompt is "past tense" and this could be considered a figment of my imagination that veered severely off course (as usual). It's also maybe a little AU, but you can be the judge of that. This is a two-parter, and I will post the conclusion shortly. Thank you to Five Roses for doing such a great, meticulous job editing this so quickly for me, I really appreciate it! I hope you guys enjoy.
"I've got a tight grip on reality
But I can't let go of what's in front of me here…"
The sun beats down on her and the sand burns her bare feet, but the breeze, carrying with it the scent of the ocean, trumps her discomfort. Therefore, when he finally notices her, dark blue eyes squinting in her direction, she's wearing a peaceful smile, soothed by the sweet smelling air around her.
Still, the moment passes swiftly, calm replaced by a flurry of nerves and apprehension as she sees him halt at the sight of her. She hasn't seen him in a while, but regardless the unadulterated surprise on his face makes her even more anxious. A bead of sweat travels down her back, but she can no longer blame the heat.
Her feet prickle but she makes no move to come closer, and neither does he. Instead, they stand yards away from each other, separated by nothing but the breeze that blows loose strands of hair into her face and toys with the loose tail of his shirt.
She's not sure what she expected to find, but the absence of his three-piece suit unnerves her, throwing into stark relief the memory of how everything turned out, what they went through. If there's one piece of advice she's always held onto it's that it's useless to ignore or try to outrun the past.
It always catches up.
And isn't that exactly why she's here in the first place?
The thought propels her forward.
Imbued with newfound courage, she takes a few steps, closing the space between them. She doesn't tear her eyes away from his and in them sees a flicker of irony, the same she's feeling right now.
It's inescapable that between the two of them, she's the one who always makes the first move, the one willing to step in and effect change; the one willing to fight.
He's the runner.
His gratitude and shame are unmistakable but she ignores them; the novelty has worn off. Besides, she can't deny that she's missed him, which is even more apparent now by the way her heart begins to beat more rapidly as she comes closer, until she's certain he can see it beating out of her chest as she stands right in front of him.
He still hasn't moved an inch, just stares intently at her and for some reason the pure concentration etched on his face, creasing his forehead and tightening his mouth, is so familiar, she can't help cocking her head to the side, and smiling at him.
"Surprised?" she finally asks, bemusement coloring her words.
He doesn't respond, but the twitch of his lip is enough indication that he's slowly recovering.
"What? Did you really think I wouldn't be able to find you?"
The teasing paired with her dancing smile seems to rouse him from whatever comatose state he was in previously and the moment he breaks out into a full blown grin, she feels a surge of comfort so potent it's almost like being inebriated against her will.
His eyes rake over her for a moment, reacquainting him with the features that used to be familiar but have faded from his memory over time and she feels scrutinized under his stare, also impossibly inadequate.
Even his suits couldn't conceal his kinship to the beach bum lifestyle, but barefoot in ripped jeans and a shirt, he looks like he's lived in this bungalow his entire life. The realization is painful, because she knows she doesn't belong here. She belongs in one place and one place only.
Back in Sacramento, in her air conditioned office, behind her desk with a badge and gun at her hip. She certainly doesn't belong here with him, not anymore and the overwhelming urge to flee makes her limbs twitch, flight instinct so intense she nearly flinches when he touches her.
She looks at him stunned for a moment, almost prohibiting herself from indulging in the pleasant roughness of his skin as he runs his thumb over the inside of her elbow, but she doesn't fight back, can't because it feels so good to be this close to him again.
And he knows she won't back out now, because he can't either. Regardless of how much distance he puts between them, she's still the last person he thinks of when he falls asleep and the first face that flashes in his mind when he wakes up.
And just like that, his resolve breaks and she finds herself crushed against his chest. He smells like soap and sea salt and she inhales deeply, committing the scent to memory as he holds her close.
Comfort seeps through her bones and spreads like anesthetic, muscles instantly relaxing in this embrace. The feel of him so strong and solid paired with the muted thump of his heart against her ear prickles her eyes, but she resolves not to cry, not even from relief.
She's shed far too many tears for him already.
Still, the sting doesn't disappear as he whispers in her ear, breath warm and voice slightly teasing.
"Of course I knew you'd find me. I never had any doubt in your abilities, Agent Lisbon."
Laughter is her response, a quiet chuckle laced with sarcasm, but it's contagious and he can't help smiling as well.
And for a moment, the heat isn't so stifling.
As soon as they break apart, Jane ushers her inside. Lisbon notices that despite his attempt to conceal it, he can't stop smiling and she can't help being relieved.
Away from the glare of the blaring sun, she can see more clearly how age has touched him, but despite the added creases around his eyes and the laugh lines around his mouth, she's never seen him look younger, or livelier.
For an instant her heart twists painfully, but she pushes the ache aside, resolving to relish the moment. She waits patiently as he prepares tea, and even though it's nearly a hundred degrees outside and she's drenched in sweat, she welcomes the steam rising from the mug after Jane places it in front of her.
They sip it in silence for the most part, exchanging small talk occasionally, but mostly just taking in each other's presence. He seems genuinely glad to see her and it warms her. It doesn't burn like the sun does, but instead makes her feel cozy, comforted, fills the void she's tried hard to ignore.
She knows they have much to talk about, but as usual, with them it's always about everything that remains unsaid, so she doesn't even push it and can tell that he's thinking the same thing. Eventually, the fatigue from her journey catches up with her and the thin cotton dress begins to stick to her skin, making her feel unclean.
She's just about to ask where his bathroom is when Jane unexpectedly swipes her cup off the table and tells her that she should take a shower while he makes dinner. The security of his hand wrapped around hers and the promise of cold water dispel any resistance from her.
The water feels heavenly on her skin, nearly cleansing her not only of the dirt, grime, and sweat of the last few days, but also of any anxiety she might be feeling. Being here, surrounded by his things, using his shower and his shampoo, fills her with contentment.
When she steps out of the tub to find that her dress has been replaced by a t-shirt and shorts, she's immediately transported into the past. Flashes of him in her apartment, invading her personal space despite her objections, being fully aware that letting him anywhere near her would be dangerous, blurring the lines between friends and…
Still, she smiles fondly at his persistence and even more at the t-shirt he's chosen for her. The logo of the movie Police Academy is nearly faded but she gets the subtle tease and quickly puts it on. She leaves the heat of the bathroom not even thinking twice about the fact that she didn't lock it while she was in the shower.
"Funny." She gestures toward her t-shirt upon entering the kitchen.
He turns around, leaning against the counter. "Yeah? I thought you'd appreciate it."
Instinctively, she rolls her eyes, then slides back into her chair and rests her chin on top of her one knee. With dripping hair and a face devoid of makeup, she's never looked younger to him or more vulnerable. The urge to pull her into his arms again hits him unexpectedly and he turns around before she sees the fracture in his armor.
Lisbon doesn't notice his consternation, still taking in her surroundings; there are so many questions lingering in her head, but she barely has time to sort her thoughts before Jane's sing song voice breaks through her reverie.
"I hope you're hungry," he chimes, placing something steamy and spicy in front of her. She inhales the potent aroma, senses awakened by the smells mingling in the air; her stomach growls in response.
"Actually, I know you're hungry, I just hope we don't have to go through the usual denial, because you will inevitably eat this."
The food is way too tantalizing for her to be annoyed by his comment, so she simply smiles and picks up her fork, stabbing a shrimp purposefully in response. Jane merely smiles self assuredly and begins to eat.
The Cajun stew is spicy and delicious, and they split nearly a whole loaf of bread mopping up the sauce. They end up sitting way too close to each other, stealing glances and talking quietly, but every so often he looks at her in that way and she once again finds herself catapulted into the past. Memories of dinners in her kitchen, quiet talks, him walking her to her car, fully aware that they were constantly pushing the line between what was acceptable and…
Once deeply embedded in her mind, these recollections refuse to leave and not even the inebriating pull of the strong local Bourbon tumbling in her mug can stave off the stark sobriety that slowly creeps up on her.
The sun is far below the horizon when they make it out to his porch and Jane refills her after dinner spirit without asking. It's been hours since she laid eyes on him for the first time in a little over a year and he still hasn't asked her any questions that a normal person would.
How she found him.
Why she found him.
What she came here for.
And suddenly, no amount of jambalaya or heavy liquor can put off her irritation with him. The location and the people may have changed, but he's still just as infuriating as ever, waiting for her to bring it up, refusing to be the one to make the first move.
As if it hasn't been clear already that he never does. It grates her, makes her simmer with anger. Isn't it enough that she sought him out? Isn't it enough that she never told anyone where he was hiding? Shouldn't that be enough for him to give her the answers she needs without having to pose the questions?
She wants to scream at him and yell, unleash all the pent up hurt and frustration she's bottled up inside for so long, but she doesn't.
Instead, she drains her glass and throws him a cold look.
"I should go."
But she makes no move to leave.
He looks a little surprised but is also probably aware that she's not going anywhere and that this is a slightly amateurish attempt to let him know that she is peeved with his silence.
"Nonsense, you're staying here."
"No, I'm not. I have a room booked in the city."
He chuckles at her, takes a sip of the bourbon and shakes his head. "Liar."
The blue stare doesn't unnerve her as much as it informs her that there's no room for arguing so she relents begrudgingly.
"Fine, but I'm sleeping on the couch."
She looks ahead so she doesn't notice Jane smirking at her triumphantly, considering her agreement a small victory. He studies her face only a moment longer before shifting his eyes to the horizon.
Later, after he hands her the bedding and linens, there's a brief awkward moment of silence where neither knows what to say. Eventually, he bids her good night and walks towards the hallway, but hesitates at the last moment and turns around.
Lisbon is too busy arranging the blankets to notice him so his voice comes as a surprise, especially in the dimness of the living room.
"I don't know how long you plan to stay, but I'm glad you're here."
She barely has time to register his words or meet his eye before he's disappeared down the hall, and she realizes with a chagrined gaze at the lumpy sofa that any chance of sleeping tonight has just been shot to hell.
Only half an hour later, Jane reaches the same conclusion as he lies on his back, staring at the ceiling. His insomnia has become less severe since he moved down here, but tonight his mind will not relax long enough for him to fully sleep. He'd promised himself that he wouldn't allude to anything important, waiting for her to make the first move, whether it's justified or not, and now he can't help regretting his slip up.
Still, despite the baggage that comes with her unexpected arrival, he can't deny that a part of him is pleased. After all, how many times has he wished for her presence in this house, the sound of her melodic voice lingering through the rooms, infusing them with laughter and excitement?
The thought fills him with a contentment that he hasn't felt since the last time he saw her and despite being unable to sleep through almost the entire night, the knowledge that Lisbon is in the next room, warm and solid and real, gives him all the rest he needs.
It takes a whole day for reality to disrupt their perfect existence. At some point before sunrise, Jane manages to doze off and wakes up to unfamiliar smells wafting from the kitchen. It's been so damn long since someone has cooked for him, least of all Lisbon, so he steals a few forbidden moments to watch her from the safety of the hallway as she hums to herself, scraping the rest of the eggs onto a plate.
Lisbon seldom cooks but when she does, it's delicious and he savors the time they have over breakfast, entertaining her with stories of the locals he's met here and drawing comparisons between life here and in California.
He's careful to avoid any heavy topics and Lisbon is more than happy to follow along, still not brave enough to pursue what's really on her mind. She's still holding on to the faint hope that he will broach the subject first, take the first blind step, so she chooses her words meticulously, asking neutral questions that can't possibly connect to what they both need to address but still can't.
They spend the afternoon outside, first at the beach, then the local farmers' market, where Lisbon notes that Jane is a regular judging by all the greetings he receives from vendors. Two-thirds of them are women and she has to smile inwardly when she realizes that regardless of where he is, or how he's dressed, the man still has the same affect on the opposite sex.
The looks she gets are almost comically envious and a flutter of excitement settles in her stomach; she tries to ignore it as best as she can but even she's not immune to female pride.
The thought actually pops into her head as they walk back home, but she waits until they've eaten, the dishes have been washed, and they're once again on his porch. It's the second sunset she's witnessed here but the novelty hasn't worn off yet. She wonders if it ever will but swallows the idea and concentrates on how beautiful and peaceful the horizon seems, trying not to think about how she wouldn't mind spending the rest of the foreseeable future watching this every evening.
"Why here, why this place?" She breaks the silence and Jane immediately looks over at her, wearing an expression of contemplation before he shrugs and tips the beer bottle to his lips.
"I don't really know, to tell you the truth. But I'd been here once before, after Katrina, and I saw how devastated it was, yet how tenacious the people were-…"
"So you found that it was a good place to rebuild?" she cuts him off only because she knows where this is going and can't quite figure out how to restrain her anger.
It becomes suddenly clear to her that he has no intention of coming back and the realization stabs her like a knife, then twists slowly, painfully in her chest. In the silence that follows, Jane tracks her thoughts, aware of her discovery but incapable of feeling guilty for it, regardless of how selfish that may make him.
"Yes, perhaps that was part of its appeal," he confirms and feels his own nick of discomfort at the flash of hurt and betrayal on Lisbon's face. It becomes a test of wills, them staring at each other without uttering a word, but eventually his tenacity weakens and he leans forward, grasping her arm like he's reaching for his last lifeline.
Lisbon flinches away.
"Don't," she cautions sternly, green eyes suddenly cold and guarded. "This was a mistake."
It's just a murmur but the hurt she tries so hard to replace with anger is now completely on display. Despite his desire to change though, a part of him is still arrogant, still sadistic, still yearning to get a rise out of her.
Jane doesn't physically stop her when she tries to go inside the house, but he's always known that words are his most valuable asset.
"What was a mistake? You never did tell me why you came here."
Her body stills immediately and the look she throws over her shoulder lets him know that she's well aware of his taunting, but the resolve in her posture also indicates that she's not going to let him break her…not this time.
"It doesn't matter why I came here."
Lisbon has one foot inside the door when he appears by her side, gently taking her hand off the knob. The contact sends a line of goose bumps up her bare arm but she ignores it, stares at him instead, willing him to try anything else.
As the detective in her reasserts herself with a cold jade stare, Jane feels an unmatched rush of adrenaline.
"Yes it does matter. I didn't ask before, but I'm asking now."
His voice is softer now, seemingly more vulnerable, but she knows him, knows to keep her defenses up. Instead of granting him an answer, she shrugs his hand away and enters the house, headed straight to the bathroom to grab everything she's left there.
Jane realizes what she plans to do and feels the first real stirrings of anger penetrating his calm façade. He knows he has absolutely no right to be upset with her; moreover, he has no claim on her and thus should let her do as she pleases, but damn it, he's a selfish bastard and she just got here.
He can't let her go.
So he doesn't.
She's strong, but he has height and weight to his advantage so he somehow manages to trap her in the hallway, arms on either side of her, warm breath skirting her cheek as she stares at him in defiance. He knows she's not scared of him. If she wanted to, she could have him tackled to the floor in a matter of seconds. No, the fear lurking in her eye is completely different.
She's not afraid of physical harm.
She's terrified of him breaking her, tearing down her character, disabling her defenses as he's been known to do. His remorse is unexpected but not enough to make him stop.
"I told you, it doesn't matter why."
Jane steps away only slightly and Lisbon takes the opportunity to reach the bathroom, pulling her toiletries out of their resting place. He's never felt quite the desperation he does now, as if he's watching something unstoppable unravel. For a moment, he realizes why his father always preached the importance of not forming attachments to people; much less falling in love…it makes you weak and irrational.
"Of course it matters. You can't just come here and then decide to run when it's convenient for you."
Lisbon freezes at his words, her toothbrush clutched in her fist as she gives him one long, icy stare before smirking humorlessly. "Why not? You did."
For a moment, he feels like a trapped fly in a spider web, the sting from her words hitting him hard. A part of her feels terrible for needling him, but it's rare that someone gets to one up Patrick Jane and she absolutely cannot resist.
"Don't preach to me about running away when you're the one who's perfected the art."
"Don't say that," Jane counters, jaw clenched and eyes blazing at her, but beneath his stern mask, she sees the effect she has on him, is aware he hasn't quite confronted his own issues yet.
"Why not?" Her lips curve into a somber smile as she narrows her eyes at him.
"It's the truth, isn't it? You ran because you were too afraid to face the consequences of what you did, and you left all of us to deal with it. Well, in case you decided to come back, which I now see you won't, I came to let you know that you're a free man again. It was ruled self-defense."
She doesn't wait for him to say anything and rushes past him out of the bathroom, leaving a gust of wind in her wake. It only takes a moment for everything to click and he finds her in the living room, hurriedly stuffing her duffel bag.
"Is that why you came here?" he asks quietly, realizing that anger isn't the best course of action with her, not after what she has revealed.
Lisbon stops folding, "I came to tell you that the investigation was closed, that's it."
It's a blatant lie, she won't even look at him as she says it, but instead of it infuriating him, it nearly disarms him as the full implications become clear to him.
The urge to touch her, confirm that she's indeed real, is too much and Jane reaches out. It's only a featherlike brush on her shoulder but it's enough to induce a shiver from both of them. Lisbon drops the t-shirt she's holding and turns to him.
"You're a sensible soul, Lisbon. Don't expect me to believe you came all the way here just for that."
"Don't expect to know who I am now."
She jerks away from his touch again, but it's a lackluster attempt and she only backs away enough for her legs to hit the couch, peering at him with indignant eyes.
Jane isn't daunted. Instead of shying away, he pulls her even closer, wrapping one arm around her waist until her breasts are pressing against his chest. He runs his other hand through her hair, no longer concealing his adoration, his gratitude for her presence here.
"I'll always know you," he whispers against her lips and in an act of final resignation, Lisbon rests her forehead against his chest, letting all her well crafted defenses melt away. He doesn't say it in a condescending or pedantic way; neither does he want to get a rise out of her this time.
Instead, his words are spoken as if they're a fact, something as obvious and unchanging as the color of the sky. Their pure honesty softens Lisbon completely, crushing her entire arsenal of resistance.
She can't stop it, doesn't think she even wants to, because being in his arms again, especially after everything that's happened, is too good to pass up, and isn't this why she came in the first place?
A tiny part of her was impossibly curious and intrigued by the opportunity to see him, be this close to him without the specter of their past demons looming overhead. She has wanted to experience this since the second the Red John case was closed, and now, despite her anger and her anguished acknowledgement that this very likely will not last, she doesn't stop herself from succumbing.
Instead she fists his shirt and melts into his embrace, letting Jane support all her weight.
They don't say anything for a long time and Jane doesn't push her, aware that it's taken enough out of her to even let him hold her like this, but with every passing second, his desire to tell her how he truly feels and has felt about her for a while prompts him to break the silence.
He's just about to finally tell her everything, let it all out regardless of the consequences, when Lisbon beats him to it, with words designed to melt his heart.
"I missed you so much."
It's just a whisper, spoken into his chest, but it resonates deep within him and when she lifts her head off his shoulder, peering at him with shy green eyes that sparkle with unshed tears, he knows that no amount of words can ever suffice.
So he does the only thing that makes sense in the moment.
It's actually not their first kiss, no, that title is reserved for a messy, half inebriated lip lock from years past, but that seems almost frivolous now. No previous kiss could ever feel as good and as unburdened as this one.
As his tongue swipes her bottom lip, seeking entrance into her mouth, Lisbon responds without hesitation, because she knows regardless of what happens now, it won't be an external force standing between them but issues of their own making. While the thought would terrify others, Lisbon feels nothing but sheer joy at the prospect.
The moment Jane kisses her, all his control vanishes and years of shunned desire spill out of him, attacking with a force that leaves both of them shaking. He wants to stop at least for a moment, just to make sure he's not misreading her, the least he can do after everything, but his common sense is rendered completely useless as she deepens the kiss. All thoughts of restraint and concern and hesitation disappear, leaving nothing but Lisbon behind, the way she smells, the way she tastes, the way she shivers in his arms.
And it's as if the last year never happened, as if the entire time they worked together he wasn't plagued by a vengeful quest, as if right now, nothing exists or matters besides them and the sound of the waves crashing and the last streaks of orange sunlight spilling across the horizon…