This is #3 and the final installment in a series, following "The End of the Beginning" and "Somewhere from There".



"Get your hand off my back."

"I'm just steadying you as we're walking over this uneven terrain."

"Then stop moving your fingers and keep your hand on the outside of my shirt."


"Jane?" The note of warning was unmistakable.

"It's called compromise, dear." His hand was on the outside of her shirt, but his fingers hadn't stopped moving.

She was in a bad mood. This wasn't her "Marie's-was-out-of-bear-claws" mood or the "Hightower's-breathing-down-my-neck-again" mood or any of her several other work-and-public-life-related bad moods. This was plain and simple not-enough-sleep grumpy. He was glad he wasn't the only one. He had spent a restless night himself after what happened between them the previous evening.

They were on the couch at her house. Everything was progressing in a definitely desirable direction. His left arm was wrapped around her waist, his right hand stroking her neck—and lower—as he kissed her. He had drawn his arm across and to the small of her back, centering his hand there then sliding downward, pulling her tighter against him as he ground himself into her. She had stiffened suddenly and pulled back, whispering a strangled "Sorry".

It was always the same. They would get to a certain point, and she couldn't go any further. He was patient and would be for as long as it took. They'd only been together for six weeks after all. But the cold showers weren't working, and they were extremely uncomfortable. He winced every time he passed a public fountain. He had hugged her to him tightly, and she had clung to him, grateful for his understanding. After a while they had mutually agreed that they needed to get some sleep, and he had kissed her goodnight and driven back to his apartment to shower and lie on the couch wide awake all night. He knew there was a reason, but he couldn't figure it out. It's not as if she was a cold fish—quite the contrary. She was warm and responsive and generous with her affection, matching his heated touches. She offered no explanation, and he wasn't sure she even had one. He just trusted that time, patience and tenderness would work it out.

As they walked, he started remembering everything that had led to that point. Her taste, her hands, her breathy moans, her gasps when he surprised her. And she did this thing with her tongue . . .

"Jane!" Her voice was low and breathless yet still managed to sound threatening.

His breathing was ragged, and his hand had wandered up her back, pressing into her firmly enough to have worked his fingertips up under her bra strap pushing the fabric of her shirt with them. He lowered his hand, pulling her shirt down at the same time, smoothing it back into place.

They were all walking away from the crime scene in Muir Woods, and he looked back over his shoulder at the three agents silently following a short distance behind them. One side of Cho's mouth curved up to expose a rarely seen dimple. Grace's eyes were open wide—her eyebrows almost raised to her hairline—and she was doing a terrible job of suppressing a smile. Rigsby's face was pinched in a pained expression. All three seemed engrossed in the movements of their feet. As they neared the parking lot, Lisbon stepped sideways out of his reach.

"Van Pelt! You're with me!"

She headed to her SUV with Grace following hard on her heels, and the three men all sheared off to the other vehicle. Jane didn't even attempt to mount a protest. He knew he was in dutch.

After Lisbon and Van Pelt took their respective seats, the boss switched on the ignition and grasped the steering wheel at the four and eight o'clock positions. She knew better than to look at the agent next to her, but—obviously having masochistic tendencies—she couldn't help herself.

Grace still wore the same expression Jane had seen earlier, but now her lips were pressed so firmly together to suppress her smile that they had disappeared completely, forming a thin line across her face. Feeling Lisbon's gaze on her, she slid her still widened eyes sideways at her.

"Wow." Grace said as she rocked forward once in her seat.

Lisbon's hands slid upward and around the steering wheel meeting at the top center. She leaned her forehead on them and groaned.

"Did the guys see?"

"I only noticed because Cho elbowed me."

Lisbon considered this, not lifting her head. The longer she could put off walking into the bullpen and seeing their faces, the better.

"Um . . . Boss?"


"Don't worry about it. We're all happy for you."

At that, Lisbon's head shot up.

"Happy for me! What do you mean?"

Grace arched an eyebrow and tilted her head, sporting a smirk that couldn't have said "You've got to be kidding" any plainer than if she'd actually spoken the words.

"Who all knows?"

"Just us. You've actually done a pretty good job of being discreet. Says a lot about your influence over Jane. And about how important you are to him."

Van Pelt sat there looking at her, eyebrows still raised as if waiting for Lisbon to share. She felt fairly comfortable with her boss these days. The two had continued their every-Wednesday-women-only lunches over the past few months, and they had become friends.

"So . . . anything you want to talk about or tell me? Anything at all?"

"No, there isn't anything to tell. I mean there's plenty to tell. All good. All very, very good." Lisbon's voice went low and husky, drawing her last words out. Grace nodded at her encouragingly, wanting to hear more. Lisbon didn't know exactly how to continue.

"The pre-game is great and half-time is even better. We just haven't scored."

"Oh . . . " Grace's brow furrowed then she gasped in understanding. "Oh-h-h-h."

Lisbon sat staring unseeingly at the radio as Grace tried to process this bit of information. Lisbon was still somewhat of a closed book, but Jane had certainly seemed . . .

"Why not?" Grace blurted out without thinking. "I mean . . .", she realized it was too late to back pedal. Best to just forge ahead.

"I can imagine it's hard for him. But he's come so far in the past few months. I'm sure if you just give him a little more time—"

"Oh, it's not him. It's all me. If I gave him the sign, he'd take me in the bullpen."

Grace frowned at her lap. She guessed that meant Cho would have to give Wayne's fifty back. Looking back at Lisbon, she asked, "What's the problem?"

"Grace. If I knew the answer to that question, you'd be in the other car and Jane and I would be heading off to chase down a 'lead'."

And with that, Lisbon threw the gear shift into drive and propelled the SUV toward the main road.

Cho, Rigsby and Jane rode back to the CBI in silence. Jane was thoughtfully looking out the window at nothing, and Rigsby drove as fast as traffic would allow, desperately trying to make it back before anyone felt it necessary to begin a conversation. For perhaps the first time in their working relationship, Cho was the one who could barely contain himself. If it had been just him and Rigsby, he wouldn't have hesitated to talk about what had happened on the trail, relishing his partner's discomfort with the subject. But with Jane in the car . . . well, that would make it too personal. And he just couldn't be that disrespectful to Lisbon. He had to content himself with the sure and certain knowledge that Jane would be heading into Lisbon's office as soon as they were back. That would give him even more juice to make Rigsby squirm.

Jane and Lisbon's friendship had come through the fire when she hunted down and killed Red John eight months previous. It was one of the many secrets they shared now—one he would never tell for fear of what might happen to her. Since then, he had come to trust her implicitly, and while he knew she still had certain reservations in that area, he liked to think she was coming closer to one day feeling the same way about him.

Then, six weeks ago, they were called in to investigate the murder of a young mother Lisbon had befriended. Tina Landry's husband had been killed a few months before, and when the young woman was found shot to death in her car with Lisbon's business card and directions to the CBI in her glove compartment, the SCU had driven to Bishop to unravel the mystery. During the course of those few days, Lisbon had discovered that she was named the guardian of Landry's baby son, Will, and Jane had ended up in the hospital. The case had been difficult to say the least.

Oddly enough, the easy part had been realizing their feelings for each other. Jane had always thought the idea of "falling in love" was ridiculous. Why did people say that? He had only been in love really one time in his life. There had been stops and starts, and they had to be sure of how they felt before they left their lives and families and their whole world behind, and he had needed to know how to make his way without ever having learned anything of the sort from his father. But with Lisbon, he had simply fallen. Like love was a vast lake that had been lying clear and sparkling at his feet, waiting for him to realize he had to be submerged in it before he could really breathe. Lisbon had fallen, too. She just wasn't willing to get her hair wet. Yet.