Title - Redress - Chapter 7
Author - Kourion
Summary: Sometimes the most innocuous events can signal brutal happenings. Such as a telephone ringing once in the night, and then abruptly stopping. Warnings: for violence and sensitive subject matter.
A/N: the last few months have been intensely busy, and draining, so I apologize for the delays! I will try to have updates for my other WIP's soon. Thanks for your patience, you guys :) This chapter of course, takes place exactly where chapter 6 left off. I probably should warn everyone in advance - this chapter is likely to be the most tense. But I wanted to advance the J/L friendship and get a bunch of unresolved issues out of the way. Moving forward, things will start to look up.
I can deal with quietude.
Sometimes it's...soothing. It gives you the necessary time to gather your thoughts.
Sometimes it's needed.
In Lisbon's case, certainly. She spends so much time staying busy - always busy - filling up her time with noise and work and everything else...
Sometimes I want quiet, for her.
And yet, right now, the quiet is unnerving.
"Lisbon," I test gently, almost feeling like I'm four years old again. That terrified four year old who had to test the bathtub water with my hand. That little kid who couldn't have bubbles in the tub no matter what. Who always, without fail, had to see all the way to the bottom. It was never just the water (although the depth of the substance scared me enough). It was not being able to see to the bottom. To see what was lurking.
I've always wanted - no, needed - to know what is lurking at the bottom of the waters.
"I think you averted that one," I say softly, referencing her dropping pulse, her freshly skirted panic attack.
Which - through force of will alone - she has. Amazingly.
But just barely, so I oh-so-carefully reach for her, still not really getting a solid read on her emotions, or what she *wants* right now. From me. She's...guarded a lot of the time, for sure. And maybe that's why I reach for her with hesitation now. Because her guardedness makes these physical connections harder for me to attempt.
Even when she needs them. Those touches. Those little motions of support.
"I...," she starts, awkwardness clearly present in her voice, before she stops speaking altogether for a moment. "I'm sorry."
"No," I insist, though I strive to keep my voice light. "No apologies. None. None. Certainly not about this. Not about anything that stems from this..."
I see her cheeks flush, and she wraps her hands around her midsection in response.
So much shame.
As she moves, now, the gown she's wearing stretches slightly around her frame. A moment later, her body shifts back against the couch, although I can clearly see the motion is a forced type of so-called calm. There is nothing naturally calm and at ease in her form. Not in her rigid back and the tension of her hands as I see her pick up a fork, and push at her pasta, disinterested.
Lisbon's weight is down a few pounds, I'm sure of it. I highly doubt she's eaten much of anything in the last few days, and the woman has a speedier metabolism than even Rigsby, if the slight gaunt look of her face is any indication.
"Think you can eat a bit?"
With the ulcer, with her personality...with her willingness to push away things that upset her, I don't want this to become a habit. Not this, not on top of everything else.
"I'm not really hungry...," she trails, not meeting my eyes.
"Few bites, mmm? It'll settle your stomach. You can't take your ulcer meds without a bit of food anyway, can you?"
I am not completely suicidal. I don't mention any other type of meds. The ulcer meds are open for discussion, though, in a sense. They are safe ground. Familiar. Her ulcer predates the current upset, the current pains. And I know Lisbon will grab onto discussions that rid herself of the current topic, however unhealthy that blatant denial is for her. Of course, from that understanding, I am proud of how much she's already revealed on her own. The inherent trust it implies, in me. And for now, I'd be happier having her speak freely with me about anything than clamming up and remaining stone-cold silent.
"I cooked you fetuccini and clams and stuff. Your favourite...," I sing-song, while fiddling around with the television remote. Trying to find something both interesting, but also lacking in violence, gore, or general best-to-avoid-at-dinner-time grossness.
"'And stuff'," she whispers, almost to herself, a smile playing on her lips. "I'll have a bit, sure" she agrees a beat later, not even arguing against my assertion of her food preferences. Probably more out of exhaustion than anything else.
Grabbing a couple throws, I toss a maroon one her way, knowing her desire to feel covered is trumping her desire for physical closeness. Even so, I ease down beside her, and with a slightly larger throw, cover us both, only briefly allowing Lisbon to raise her bowl of pasta before tucking the corners of the blanket underneath her snuggly.
Out of the corner of my eye, I catch her certain studiousness - a look that passes so quickly from incredulity at my boldness, that for a second I'm almost convinced I've imagined it. But then, slowly, the startled look is replaced with a knowing shake of her head and a small, quickly tempered smile.
Lisbon leans sidelong into the cushions, pulling her legs up and under the gown, then crossing her arms as best she can with the cast, before letting her head loll into her hands. And while part of me just wants to reach for her, and pull her down to lay against me into a less strained position, I quickly banish that idea from consideration. I've already taken more than my fair share of liberties with her space tonight. Any more, and I could do more harm than good.
"ET is on?," I hear Lisbon mutter, which jolts me from my musings.
"Poor ET," Lisbon starts. "You know...I never liked dogs when I was a kid. I mean, I was scared of them."
I try not to chuckle.
"You? Miss Dogs-are-better-than-People Lisbon?"
Lisbon nods. Yawns. Nods again.
"We can always watch this another time. You're tired," I add.
She sits up a bit more firmly then, rousing herself to an alert state.
"No. I'm not. I like this movie."
I squash down an impulse to tell her that liking a movie and being tired are two very different things.
I squash down an impulse to move a tendril of hair out of her eyes.
"You're falling asleep, Lisbon. Maybe we should turn it off... get some shut eye, yeah? We can rent it tomorrow or something."
And there we have it.
That momentary flash of fear.
She doesn't want to sleep. She doesn't want to be alone.
And she's too proud and too self-restrained to bring those issues up herself.
So instead, she bites her lip, considers her options. "If you want to sleep Jane, I can watch this with headphones on."
I rub my eyes, not knowing how I want to play this. Not knowing how I should play this.
"Hold on," and I rise quickly, pad to the guest room that Grace has designated for me, and promptly return with four pillows and two duvets.
I don't miss her look of suspicion, but I don't comment on it, either.
The couch is large enough for Lisbon, herself. But there's also a pull out loveseat nearby which handily enough seems to be just big enough for me, too.
It's really...not too bad a plan. It covers the necessities: watching her, making sure she's okay, not leaving her alone with her fears.
It also lacks any sort of intimacy that could unnerve her.
Just two friends, crashing on couches, watching ET. And if we fall asleep, we fall asleep.
"We'll convert these into rest stops, and then if we fall asleep here it'll be better than the alternative."
Lisbon nods and tries to hop up and help me make the 'beds.' I redirect her back to the couch.
"Good girl. Now... Stay."
I receive a half-hearted glare, and this time I do laugh stopping only when a new idea hits me.
"Oh no, wait," and I gently ease her up from the space, propping two pillows behind her head, feeling like I'm manipulating a wooden doll.
She mouths a nearly inaudible thank you, looking suddenly embarrassed.
"And now, just so you don't freeze to death...," and I wait until Lisbon has stilled.
"You're...cocooning me in, Jane," she quips.
And I sort of am.
"Well. Yes. Of course. I don't want you rolling off the couch," I respond immediately, flashing her a smile.
But I give her a knowing smile, and nudge her bowl of pasta closer to her lap now that she's all tucked in - trapped under two throws and a duvet.
"Oh, good plan! Very smooth," she laughs lightly a moment later.
"Yup," I add, distractedly, trying to determine the best way of rearranging the much smaller loveseat into a makeshift bed that will accommodate my height.
"Oh, heck," I mutter pulling off the couch cushions, pushing back the loveseat several feet. "I'm just sleeping here," I state, staking my spot on the floor which conveniently can be created just a couple feet away from Teresa. If I nudge the coffee table and other needless room accessories out of the way first, that is.
"You...you don't have to do this...Jane," and Lisbon's mouth puckers inwards, unsure.
And there we have it: her anxiety, her misplaced guilt, her clashing feelings of fear and pride.
The fear, I suspect, is slightly trumping pride tonight or else she would have picked up on my movements, and their meanings, far sooner.
"You have a perfectly good bed."
"Meh. This is fine. It'll be like...camping," I trail off, unzipping a blue and red checked sleeping bag as case in point.
"Camping," Lisbon begins. "Have you ever been camping?"
I don't need to give that any thought.
"That's that activity with those...whachamacillits?...tents?"
I hear Lisbon laugh softly, her breath coming out in a wheeze.
And another yawn, again.
"No...seriously. Have you?"
She seems suddenly quite interested in my woodland adventures.
I rise, remove the bowl of barely touched pasta, and deposit it onto the coffee table.
"No. Not really. Why? Is it a pre-requesite for being your friend or something?," I ask glibly, only half paying attention to the movie now.
"Absolutely. You must like dogs, and you must like camping. Otherwise I'm delisting you right now."
"Boot me out of your Facebook Top 8, will ya?," I start, amused, as Lisbon grins against her pillow, which is now flush against her face.
Poor woman's exhausted.
"I know better than to play with fire, Jane."
Raven hair has spilled over the percale pillowcase, drying in waves. From this angle, I can't see the horrible bruising. The staggering pallor. The...woundedness.
It's really bizarre how much more relaxed I feel, when I can't see the injuries. I gulp down my anxiety, and address her statement.
"You really think that I'd go out of my way to embarrass you? How little you think of my character, Lisbon!"
"My brothers would. And with you? They'd tota..."
But she stops then.
I bite down on my lips to keep from smirking, suddenly interested in this new information.
"Nuh uh. No way Jane...," she starts, her voice quickly losing its amused edge.
"T'sk t'sk Teresa. So paranoid."
I turn back to the screen, trying to school my expression into something resembling... innocence. It's not something I need to attempt a moment later though, as Lisbon's voice takes on an incessant sort of urgency, leaving me suddenly confused.
"Please promise me! Promise me you won't pester them..."
"Oh come on, Lisbon! They're probably just proud of their big sister. And why shouldn't they be? I mean-..."
"No, Jane. They'd freak. James would just drop everything. And Tommy, when he's stressed he just...he gets so worked up...please. Don't. Please."
What does she think I'm going to say anyway? Or do?
My heart is thundering away now - beating double time.
"Wait...you think...you I'd tell them about this?"
Finding the remote, I quickly hit the power button, effectively darkening the room, but shutting off the noise and distraction of the film concurrently.
It scarcely matters, as Lisbon barely moves. Instead she turns further towards the back of the couch, and away from my line of sight.
Her voice sounds small.
I'm not trying to be jerky. I'm just trying to get my mind around Lisbon's fear.
"You can't...hide things from them, Jane. They always...figure it out."
I shift in the sleeping bag, and try - unsuccessfully - to catch Lisbon's gaze.
"So you think...they'll manage to somehow...read my mind, huh?"
The words sound facetious, and I kick myself mentally when Lisbon goes quiet.
"No...of course not," she says numbly, more breath alone than anything else. "I just can't...lie to my brothers. I won't, Jane."
My confusion is growing by the second.
"But I can't...tell them about this either. I won't..."
At this rate Lisbon's going to work herself up into a frenzy.
Or trigger an ulcer attack.
So I rise from my makeshift floor-bed, and amble on over to the couch, taking up a bit of free space besides her.
"Calm down, and scoot over," I start lightly, my voice barely louder than a whisper.
Lisbon does, cast and all. Hair now fully dry and splayed out in darkest waves. Darker too, for the relative blackness of the room. I reach over and light a vanilla candle with the nearby clipper lighter, though I'm only minimally soothed by the gentle glow that now emanates from the center of the room.
I notice that Lisbon immediately focuses on the flickering flame.
"Ok...so your brothers don't know. Anything. And you have no intentions of telling them," I start. The words are not questions, just basic summation.
Lisbon then, sounding years younger. "No."
"You don't think they could help? That they'd...not be supportive?," and I squint against the words, against her fear.
She pulls the duvet up further. Up to her throat.
"They'd try, Jane. But I can't...I won't..."
"You trust them. But not enough to tell them?"
I know that's not it at all.
I also know that it will get her to talk. Will get her out of her fog. This... spell.
"That's not fair. You know... you know that's not fair!"
"No. None of this is fair. But I was under the impression that you could tell them anything."
"If I wanted them to know, they'd know! It's not too hard understand, really. I don't want them to know, Jane!"
"Don't you get it, Jane? I didn't want anyone to know! Not even you! Especially not you."
I try not to let her words hurt me. I know they aren't meant to hurt. I know this isn't about me.
"'Even me.' You'd rather...struggle alone with this, then rely on anyone else? Trust someone else?"
I gulp down a razored, hot feeling. The soreness that only seems to hit me when I'm pushing down emotional pain.
"This isn't about trust," she intones, deadly. Her words are brittle as she stares at her lap.
Ready to fall apart...
Almost anyone could muster up more insistence than that though; all of a sudden my throat feels swollen with a pain akin to rejection.
"Are you sure? Because, I know I haven't always been as forthright with you as I should have."
Lisbon seems to squirm in her seat then, unable to deny my words.
"But you know I'd never betray you...you know that, right?"
My voice drops away to nothingness, and my sense of sadness increases as she rigidly fixates on the candle. The floor. The table. Anywhere but...me. Of course, I know I need to get a grip. I know that I'm being ridiculous.
"This isn't about trusting them, Jane. Or...you. It's not...," and she exhales shakily, "Goddamnit," she hisses, more to herself before taking a deep breath, "you...you pick up on everything ELSE, Jane. Why can't you pick up on this?"
I blink then, feeling horrendously daft. For a woman who I once claimed was so transparent, I can't seem to string her thoughts together or make sense of much right now. I do sense the honesty behind her assertions, however, and maybe that alone is what is giving me the courage to continue speaking with her about this.
But before I can respond, she adds, almost shyly, "This isn't because I don't trust you. It's because... I do."
And again, I feel somewhat lost. I clear my throat - the surface hurt being displaced by confusion.
"You trust me, but not enough that you wanted me to know?"
"I asked you not to tell the team either, remember? And I trust them!"
"Yes. You do. So...explain this to me, because I don't understand how that works."
She gives a strangled laugh. Well, it's not quite a laugh, actually. There's nothing humorous in the sound. And suddenly - starkly - I get it.
"Wait... You think this changes...how I see you? That I've lost respect for you?"
She doesn't speak for a full twenty seconds. Just busies herself with more picking at imaginary lint, and then: "I know it change things. I know that it must."
"How can you even think that for a second? How did that thought even enter your mind?"
"I'm not weak, Jane. And I told you! I told you what I did! How I let-"
With two fingertips at her lips, I stop her from speaking.
I feel sick.
"What you did?," I choke out, feeling nauseous. Feeling nauseous that my best friend is full of such pain, and I can't seem to reach her.
"What the hell do you think you did wrong anyway, Lisbon? Trust that you were safe in your own home? Not double check your alarm system? Get a bath and leave your gun in the other room? Which terrible crime did you commit? What?"
In the relative darkness, I don't miss the swallow. The sound of compression. The rapid intake of warm hot breath.
I will myself to calm down, and count back from ten before continuing on.
"Where do we...go from here, then?," I start tentatively once more, feeling only slightly more composed. "You're obviously hurting, and I want to help you."
She presses against her eyes with one crumpled fist. Her bad arm lays by her side, useless and rejected.
"Please don't ask me any more questions about it, Jane. I just want to forget it ever happened."
"Lisbon, you can't...run away from something like this..."
"I just want to forget that I let it happen," she whispers. "Can't you get that?"
Even under the duvet, I feel terribly cold.
"Stop this. Please. You don't have anything to be ashamed of Lisbon," and I rapidly try to sort anger from sadness, anger from insistence. I try again.
"You didn't do anything wrong."
"I let them-"
No. Not this again.
"Damnit Lisbon! You didn't let anyone do anything!"
Her eyes barely catch mine, and then, quickly, are back down to her lap.
"You weren't there, Jane," she insists miserably. "You weren't there."
Her voice chokes up into a strangled cry. And in the back of my mind, I can sense the double meaning in that statement. I also know that now is not the time to address that issue.
"I'm so sorry. I know I wasn't there." It's all I can say before my voice runs hoarse.
If she had any idea how much I wish I could turn back time...
"No! I didn't mean it like that...," but those green eyes stare at me in pain all the same, and I can't help but feel accused.
I know that it's not her intention. I also know how much guilt I feel over this nightmare.
"Jane," and even that much comes out with a panicked edge.
Calm her down, before she has another panic attack, genius.
"You...Jane...you don't even know what I let them do..."
I resist a sudden impulse to reach for her. Hug her. At this point, it would just be selfish. It would benefit me more than her.
"Lisbon...please stop talking like this. Please... stop this honey. You were attacked. You were hurt. You didn't want it and you didn't ask for it, and you certainly did everything in your power to stop it from happening."
The woman has a broken arm! How can she be blaming herself for anything?
"You wouldn't be talking to me like this if you really knew! You would...you..."
"I'd what?," I begin, not wanting to let her off the hook just yet. Not wanting to let this subject just drop.
Not given the enormity of what she's implying here. About herself. As if she's...complicit. As if she is guilty in the proceedings.
"I'd what?," I try again, when she says nothing. "Come on...finish that thought."
But apparently she can't finish that thought. Apparently this was not a thought she had intended to vocalize at all, because all I get in response to my question is a rapid succession of head shaking, her eyes wide and full of horror. When she tries to pull away, I resist... but only slightly.
"Please stop fighting me, Lisbon. I can't...do anything if you won't talk to me..."
"You can't change it Jane! You can't change what I did!"
And that self-loathing, again. So strong and rancid, the words spewing out like acid.
"Then tell me! Tell me exactly what you did! What you did wrong!"
Her eyes meet up with mine, sensing the challenge. And she's so worked up and upset that for a second I think she might actually say something, however impulsively it would be, that might allow for me to put her shame some kind of context.
Her mouth, then: opening and closing, as if trying to articulate the swirling thoughts, the thoughts that are keeping this hell ongoing for her.
There is no event, no participation, nothing that she did in and of itself that would have counted as being willing or participatory. Following basic orders of ceasing movement, staying still...with a knife to your throat...doesn't count as a choice. I remind her of this, hoping she'll hear me this time.
"So you didn't move. They threatened to take your life, and you didn't move. And this is what you did wrong?"
A hiccoughed breath. Her fingers contort into a tight balled fist.
"Not just...not just that. I did more than that."
I stifle down an impulse to tell her that 'more' only has any meaning if she had, in fact, done anything wrong. If I said that, however, she'd take it as a critique and all communication would very likely come to an abrupt stop.
"Then tell me. We'll get rid of this... poison. Together."
That movement, again: the third time in as many days. That odd striking, lap pressing movement. As if there is too much tension in Lisbon's body, and she's trying to crack the confines of her physical self.
I touch her knee, wanting to keep her in the here and now.
"They made me, Jane...," and the voice is...plodding. As if each word is a thousand tonnes, and she doesn't have the energy to speak.
"I know...," I try to console her wordlessly, and without physical touch. I restrict myself from reaching for her.
"No...they made me with my..." and her hand is wrapped around her mouth now, as if trying to keep something inside. A scream, perhaps. The motion isn't lost on me. What she's implying. What she's indicating.
It was something I had considered, of course. It was also something I didn't think she would ever talk to me about, however veiled. I close my own eyes then, and struggle not to get up and punch something. The wall, presumably.
When I open my eyes, I see that hers have now closed.
And that's how this entire evening feels, truthfully. As if we've been just missing one another. Just barely making the necessary connection.
So close, and yet...
Even from this distance, I can see that her lashes are wet against her cheeks.
"Okay," I exhale. "So they made you...touch them?"
A nod, and her head comes to rest over the cast, despairing. And for everything I knew about the repercussions of rape, I hadn't expected Lisbon's primary response to be this...self-hatred. Fear, anger, depression. Those would all be...understandable given the circumstances. But I never expected this.
And if her hands were bound. That only leaves... her mouth.
Yet they bruised her throat.
There is so much more to this story than I can even imagine. I'm sure of it.
"Why did they do this, then?," I clarify, only letting my hands briefly touch her throat. With very little strength. A ghost of a touch, just to bring her back. "They...choked you."
She nods briskly, swallows. As if indecisive as to whether or not she should speak or not.
Come on Lisbon. You can do this...
"I wouldn't...at first. I wouldn't. So they made it harder for me to refuse."
I take a deep breath, will away the shuddery feeling in my stomach.
"No...they made it impossible for you to refuse."
I take a deep breath, and quickly clasp Lisbon's good hand, waiting for her to speak again.
"Lisbon...you said that you trust me..."
A nod. Barely noticeable.
"You still do?," I clarify, not knowing what I will feel if her next words aren't in the affirmative.
Thankfully her "I do" - also barely audible - comes without pause. Without hesitation, which causes something to flutter in my chest that feels a lot like...
"I care about you, Lisbon. I care about you so much. You're my...," I swallow, hoarsely, wondering why I suddenly feel shaky. "You're my best friend."
I feel the impact of my words hit her as I take in her slight pulse quicken beneath my fingertips. The rushed increase of blood moving faster through her veins. The contortion of her features into something rawer, too. Something almost broken. Which is not want I wanted to see at all. Not what I expected. I had wanted to...console her. To make her feel somewhat secure. To make her feel loved, even if I can't say the word.
I'm more off my game than I had ever realized.
"I care about you more than...anyone...since they...my family...since they died. I care about you more than I thought would be possible, Lisbon."
Her arm pulls back quickly at that - as if burnt.
And only Lisbon would be able to fill my name with so much feeling. So much emotional depth.
I know I need to stop right now, but I can't.
"I didn't think I would be able to care about anyone so strongly again."
These words have a power and a life of their own. I don't even try to reign them in. Not tonight.
And it's unmistakable. That note of fear, quickly trumping shame.
"Please don't tell you the truth?," I ask cautiously.
She looks so torn. And confused.
"I'm...tired, Jane. I can't...talk about this. Not this and everything else. I'm...I..."
Her hands flex in the air as I try to fully understand what Lisbon categories as 'this' here. Some worry regarding our friendship? About us being too close, rather than not close enough?
Something else I missed, apparently...
"Alright," I murmur, ready to shelve this discussion for now. Knowing we'll have to come back to it soon, though.
Just not tonight.
"You need to sleep, Lisbon. You haven't been sleeping enough."
"I don't want to sleep," she mutters, the tension - and the fatigue - evident. "I don't want...I don't want to see..."
I take her hand gently.
"I know. But I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to be right here."
Her cheeks flush slightly - but enough that I catch the additional colour even in the darkness. This woman is far too used to doing everything on her own.
"I'm sorry Jane," she whispers, before turning slightly, easing herself against the pillow.
"You have nothing to be sorry for," I restate. I'm obviously going to have to remind her of this point often. And I'm going to need all my patience to effectively send the message home. Because, if I have to say it a thousand times...I will.
"Thank you," she tries again, looking even more awkward if possible, the words sounding more like a question than a statement.
"You know you don't need to thank me for just behaving like your friend. I am your friend."
She nods then, barely, and goes to say something else, before stopping. Battling with herself, I catch it. That small voice. But I catch it.
Even though she sounds congested as she speaks. Full of unshed tears.
"You're my best friend too, Jane."