A/N: Hello again :) Wrote this because I had a very similar experience a couple of weeks ago, and so it inspired me. It was finished before I posted the other one, in case you're wondering if I just wrote this in a day lol, I didn't. Please bear with me characterization-wise, I'm still getting the feel of the characters. Therefore, it will probably not be completely in character (apologies in advance), as it's a type of AU fic. Or future fic, I don't really know since it's hard to describe heh. You'll just have to read and make up your mind as to which category it should be under.
A huge thank you to Autumn, for being my beta on this! :D
Disclaimer: I do not own anything even remotely related to The Mentalist. Or the lyrics. Those belong to KT Tunstall.
Suddenly I see
This is what I want to be
Suddenly I see
Why the hell it means so much to me
Jane stood up from his couch reluctantly, not wanting to leave his comfort zone just yet. He was feeling particularly exhausted today, well aware that it had been ages since he'd enjoyed the luxury of a decent night's sleep. He hated slow days like these.
Stretching on his way to Lisbon's office, he passed Grace, who was rifling through the file cabinet. Walking past the break room, he suddenly did a double take and went back to her.
She looked up questioningly.
Jane frowned and walked around her. "Did you get a haircut?"
Her long auburn locks had been drastically shortened and instead she had now opted for a shoulder-length, layered hairstyle. Somehow, it made a huge difference; she looked a little older, but it suited her very well.
Before he found the time to compliment her, Grace furrowed her eyebrows and shot him a weird look.
"No," she simply replied, shutting the file cabinet and going back to her desk. He saw her look at Cho, who just shrugged and turned his attention back to his computer.
Jane shook his head, slightly confused about that little exchange. He headed for Lisbon's office again, pausing when he noticed her door was open. He just stood there for a moment, simply staring at her as she sat behind the desk filling in all sorts of paperwork. He noted with some relief that she still looked exactly the same, her hair down and curly at the ends, which was how he secretly preferred it. Noticing there were more photo frames on her desk than the last time he'd been in there, he briefly wondered what pictures she'd decided to put up.
She was writing furiously, stopping every few seconds to swipe her bangs out of her eyes. He was momentarily dazed by how beautiful she looked in the soft glow of the late afternoon sunshine, before realising he had been thinking that on more than one occasion lately. The stirring in his stomach became harder to ignore with each one of those moments.
As if on cue, Lisbon became aware of his gaze and looked up.
"Hey," she smiled, "come on in."
He closed the door behind him and sat down on the side of her desk.
"Van Pelt said she thought you were actually sleeping, so I had her wake you up. I'm sorry, but I figured since we don't really need you today, you might as well go home if you're still not feeling well. Are you any better?"
There was evident concern in her eyes, pen thrown down and paperwork forgotten for the time being, giving him her undivided attention.
Jane grinned and wondered if this was her maternal instinct kicking in, finding it quite adorable. Although it was a strange thing to ask since he'd never felt better.
"Aww, Lisbon, are you worried about me? That's very sweet of you, but I'm perfectly fine." He said with his usual charming smile in place, but she frowned and pondered his reply before she cleared her throat and spoke up.
"Okay...," she gave him an odd look but whatever she said next didn't register in his mind.
He could see her lips moving, knew words were being spoken that should trigger a reaction but he didn't hear any of it. His attention was being drawn to the one single object that had suddenly caught his eye from its prominent place on her finger.
He stood up abruptly, visibly shaken and walked in front of her desk, running a hand through his hair while his mind was racing, trying to understand. He felt nauseated all of a sudden. His head was spinning, and when he turned around, he was surprised to see her standing right in front of him. He hadn't even heard her approaching. Those green emeralds shining, eyebrows furrowed, a worried look meant for him.
"Patrick, are you okay?"
She put her left palm up against his forehead to check his temperature, her other reaching for his. He looked down at her soft, small hand in his bigger one and swallowed. This couldn't be happening.
Taking her palm off his forehead, he looked at the very hand that had distracted him moments before, certain that his eyes were deceiving him. His thumb traced the thin, delicate silver wedding band around her left ring finger, and to his surprise he felt a lump in his throat. This didn't make any sense; when had she gotten married?
Surely he would've known if she had been seeing someone, especially if it was serious enough that it would turn into marriage. This was absurd. He'd always known Lisbon was a private person and she hadn't often divulged any details of her personal life, but this was completely ridiculous. Impossible, even.
They were more than just colleagues; at the very least, he had always thought of them as good friends. If she had gotten married, wouldn't he have known about it? There's no way she would've been able to hide it if she had been in love, he reasoned. Then again, he'd always been curious to get to know her better outside of the office but never actually made the first move. And now it was too late.
He moved his eyes from her wedding band, blue eyes fixating on hers.
"Lisbon...," there was that frown again. There was desperation in his voice, and if he could hear it then she certainly could, but he didn't even bother disguising his distress.
"When did you get married?"
Her frown disappeared and she let out a short snort of laughter. "Ha ha, very funny," she said playfully. Her features softened into a smile.
She pulled her hands from his and started walking back to the desk. "Look, I still think you should just go home. It's a slow day and you could use the rest. I know you claim you never get sick, but I'm not convinced this time."
She sat back down and picked up her pen, glancing over at him before adding, "I'll be stuck here for a little while filling out these forms from the Robertson case, so could you go pick up Noah?"
He hadn't moved an inch. He was still standing in the middle of her office, looking bewildered, confused, and lost all at the same time. He didn't understand anything of what she was saying, because none of it was making sense. And the case they'd last solved was the Murray case, he suddenly remembered.
He took a tentative step towards her, not sure of how to explain his momentary memory loss or the fact he seemed to be going crazy, when his eye fell on his own left ring finger. His wedding band was gone. He stared at his hand, at the new ring that had apparently replaced the one he knew so well. It was a silver band, slightly wider and thicker than his gold one had been. He almost slipped it off his finger to look for an inscription, some form of clarity or explanation, when the photo frames on her desk caught his attention again, setting off a chain reaction in his brain. Patrick...go home...not feeling well...the wedding band...Noah...
He snapped back to attention and walked forcefully over to her desk, picking up one of the frames that he was convinced hadn't been there last week. His breath caught as he looked at the picture before him.
It was a portrait shot of Lisbon, him, and a little dark-haired boy who couldn't have been more than 3-years-old. Jane had his arm around Lisbon, giving her a kiss on the cheek. She was smiling wholeheartedly, but her gaze wasn't directed at the photographer. Instead, she was looking up at the boy who was perched on Jane's shoulders, beaming at the camera. The loving glint in her eyes, her happy smile; she was absolutely radiant in this photo. But that's not what made him run his finger over the glass softly. The little boy in the shot was happily sitting on his shoulders, hands clasped under Jane's chin, head resting on top of his. He had dark brown hair and a pair of inquisitive, sparkling blue eyes. His eyes. And his smile, Jane noted.
Out of nowhere, his vision clouded over, tears welling up in his eyes. For all his clairvoyant skills, he felt pretty blind right now.
He looked at Lisbon, who was watching him curiously. Stripped of conscious thought, he walked around her desk, pulling her to her feet. He saw the surprise in her eyes as she came up flush against him. Before she had time to ask him anything, he pressed his lips softly to hers, pulling her closer, his arm nestled comfortably around her waist. He half expected her to push him away, slap him in the face and demand to know what he was doing. To be honest, it would've made a lot more sense to him if she did exactly that, but instead her entire body responded instantly, deepening the kiss.
Her fingers threaded through his hair, sending shivers down his spine and igniting feelings within him that had been absent for too long. His tongue traced her bottom lip, slipping inside gently when she opened her mouth, granting him access. His hand moved to the back of her neck, twisting a soft curl around his finger. All he could focus on was her; all he felt was the fast beat of her heart beneath his fingertips. Her entire being was intoxicating.
He'd imagined kissing her far more than he cared to admit, but this exceeded any expectations he might have had. It was a slow, sensual kiss that seemed to stretch on forever, neither of them wanting to break it. It felt so right, he couldn't for the life of him figure out why they hadn't been doing this all along.
When they pulled apart, out of breath and flustered, he saw everything he hadn't dared dream of in her eyes. Another chance at love. At life.
This had been right in front of him the entire time, but he'd been too blind to see it. His redemption, his afterlife. He was such a fool.
He captured her lips again, sharing several short, tender kisses. When he released her, he gave her his warm signature smile. There was a peculiar expression on her face, her eyes never having lost their earlier concern. He knew she was about to ask him again if he was feeling alright, so he took a step back and looked down, uncharacteristically shy under her curious stare. Being this close to her was doing all sorts of strange things to his body.
"You have no idea how long I've been wanting to do that," he muttered softly, giving a short laugh.
"Well, it can't have been that long." Her smile turned mischievous, making her look like a naughty schoolgirl and he almost pinned her to the wall right then and there. "Your goodbye kiss at home this morning was pretty memorable too, if you ask me."
One word and his heart constricted, a familiar ache he usually associated with something else entirely.
A million emotions coursed through him as that word fabricated a collection of images of him and her, her and him, together, happy. He glanced to the left to see the other pictures staring up at him. Next to the one of her brothers he knew had been on her desk for years, there was a photo of the two of them sitting on someone's lawn. They were both laughing, most likely because she had attempted to take the shot herself; her outstretched arm was clearly visible in the corner of the frame. She was seated comfortably in between his legs, his arms wrapped around her from behind, chin tucked into the crevice of her neck.
An intimate moment she had wanted to make a memory of.
He shook his head, not knowing how to explain any of this to her. Instead, he chose to just ignore the turmoil in his head.
"Lisbon, I -"
"Why do you keep calling me that?" She cut him off, scowling.
He laughed in spite of himself, in spite of the situation and placed his hands on either side of her face.
"My sweet, sweet Teresa..."
He trailed off, his smile slowly vanishing, features turning serious as he tried to communicate just how much he meant what he was about to say.
"I love you."
On impulse, he wrapped his arms around her and enveloped her in a tight hug. He knew this would end, would be over all too soon, and he was desperate to make it last just a little longer. He was hanging on for dear life now that he was grasping what this would most likely turn out to be.
After a couple of minutes, he heard her muffled voice from over his shoulder. "Honey? I love you too, but you're kind of squeezing the life out of me," she joked.
Offering up a sad smile, he released his hold on her, brushing her bangs out of her eyes affectionately. He pressed his lips to her forehead, softly kissing her goodbye.
"I'll see you at home, then?" he asked for good measure, indulging in this fantasy until the last minute.
Her smile lit up her face. "Yea, I should be home by 6 at the latest."
He squeezed her hand one last time and walked back out into the bullpen, thoughts and theories running through his mind. When he passed Rigsby's desk, he saw a blond-haired man he'd never seen before sifting through some papers who greeted him with a casual, "Hey, Jane."
He didn't even bother asking who this man was or why he was sitting there acting like he belonged. It didn't matter now. He should have figured out this was all a dream the minute he'd walked into Lisbon's office and she hadn't glared at him because of some complaint they'd received.
His thoughts were in disarray, and he quickly walked back to his couch, his own personal safe haven. The minute he laid down, images started flashing before his eyes of what he imagined a life with Lisbon would look like.
He hated when this happened. Realising you were in a dream halfway through and consequently willing yourself to wake up never worked. He should know, having tried it countless times before when he was stuck in another one of his nightmares.
He always became conscious at some point that none of it was real, but no matter how much he willed himself to wake up, it never worked. Not until the very end when Red John was through with tormenting him, did he snap back to reality, usually disoriented and drenched in sweat. But this was different. This time, he'd wanted it to last.
He woke up with a start as he heard Grace's voice cut through his reverie, seemingly coming from far away, but he stubbornly refused to open his eyes. He didn't want to be pulled back out of this. He didn't want to face reality.
"Jane!" she said a little more forcefully.
He sighed, slowly opening his left eye to look at her, already knowing what he would see. She leaned over him, an amused smile playing on her lips, her long hair spilling over her shoulders. The disappointment he felt was so overwhelming, it rendered him speechless. He must not have been hiding it very well, as even Grace noticed the change in his demeanour instantly.
"Are you okay?" she asked quietly. "You look a little..." Sad was the word she wanted to use, Jane knew, but she didn't finish her train of thought.
No, he wasn't okay. He hadn't been okay for a long time, if he were being honest. He almost said this out loud but thought better of it at the last minute and put on his usual charming mask.
"I'm fine, Grace, thank you. I appear to have dozed off for a minute."
"I didn't know you actually slept on this couch," she smirked.
"I do on occasion. Though I was pretty far gone now," he admitted softly.
"Lisbon asked to see you in her office."
"Okay, thanks. Just give me a minute."
He remained quiet, staring at the ceiling. There was an actual ache in his heart, a hollow feeling that he hadn't experienced in this context for a very long time. Usually the feeling was associated with something else entirely, the tragedy that had become his life.
Even in his sleeping state he'd realised at some point that he'd been dreaming, but selfishly, he hadn't wanted it to end. It had just been too vivid, too wonderful. Of course, now he had to suffer the consequences of that particular decision. It hurt all the more knowing that none of it was real, all just his subconscious playing tricks on him. Or perhaps trying to tell him something.
He'd been thinking about Lisbon outside of the office far too much these past few weeks, which had only intensified after their last case, when she'd been shot. Sure, it wasn't anything serious; a bullet had just grazed her shoulder, but while everyone else remained calm his immediate reaction had been blind panic. Reminding him all the more that Lisbon was human after all, no matter how tough she was. No one was larger than life, and the one minute he'd thought she could be fatally wounded was enough to send his mind spinning out of control.
Still, he hadn't actually ever acknowledged his feelings for her. This had stopped being a mere platonic relationship a long time ago, but his refusal to take a chance had prevented it from leading to something more.
Maybe it was time to change that; time that he stopped being a coward, hiding behind his grief and his overpowering self-loathing. Because each and every time he caught himself thinking about Lisbon, he felt a little less guilty about it afterwards. It would never fully go away; he wouldn't let it. But lately, the thought of actually allowing himself a second chance had started to manifest itself. And there was no doubt in his mind who he'd want that with.
He slowly sat upright on the couch, stretching his legs in front of him. He didn't know if he'd ever reach the state of happiness he'd had in his dream. He didn't know what would happen when Red John reared his ugly head again. Most of all, he didn't know – or couldn't be completely sure, at least – if Lisbon even felt the same way or where they would go from there if she did. But he did know that if there was even a small chance of a future with her, he owed it to himself to at least come clean about his own feelings. He was tired of living with regrets, and he couldn't bear to add one more to that already growing list.
It wouldn't be easy - nothing ever was where he was concerned - but the desperation he'd felt in his dream-state when he'd thought, even for a second, that it was too late and that she'd found someone else, was simply too intense to be ignored.
He stood up from his couch reluctantly, smiling to himself as he saw Grace by the filing cabinet, papers in hand. The sense of déjà-vu was enormous and as he passed her, he held still for a moment, and she looked up questioningly.
"Grace, have you ever thought about cutting your hair? You'd look great with layers."
He didn't pause to see her reaction, merely turned around and headed straight for Lisbon's office. But he heard her question to Cho, "What's wrong with my hair?" and he could imagine the other agent shrugging and returning to the task at hand.
When he reached the door, he quickly knocked and opened it, not bothering to wait for an answer. He'd waited long enough.
"Lisbon? We need to talk..."