Title - Atonement
Author - Kourion
Summary: "Eeyore," Gabe monotoned, his whole body trembling. "Dad's dead." His t-shirt was coated with blood. / "The only other person I've ever loved as much as him, is you. And it's not even the same type of love. Don't you get it?"/ Major Jisbon overtones. Hurt/comfort. Character death. Warnings for child abuse.
A/N: I'm giving Lisbon a tentative birth year of 72/73 (keeping it in line with Robin Tunney's DOB).
If someone had told me early on in my partnership with Patrick Jane that I'd one day...fall in love with the infuriatingly glib maniac, I would have laughed.
Long and hard. A deep belly laugh, probably.
And after that, I then would have turned back to my reports, my files, shaking my head in wonderment of how dim some people can be.
Or...if not dim, then perhaps...crazily romantic.
Van Pelt would fit in the later category. She's certainly not dim. She's sensitive, empathic...but smart as a whip.
She is also, no disputing it, a hopeless romantic. (The notion is confirmed when I catch her and Jane watching Days of Our Lives one early Friday morning - Jane having taped the whole thing on TiVo, then copied the crap to a DVD).
That's not to say I don't appreciate a romantic spirit, or gesture. I do.
My first boyfriend, in high school - Bobby Bauer - was nothing if not romantic. As romantic as a 17 year old debate team member can be, I mean. But he tried, sweet Bobby tried. Getting me tickets for a massively huge U2 concert. Writing me dizzyingly intense love poetry. Yup, Bobby stuck with me through thick and thin. He didn't care about the world of the sexual. About one upping his rival alpha-teen males.
He just cared about me.
Which - at one time - would have been enough.
Would have been everything, really.
But now...I'm not so sure.
Now I'm leery to trust and all too cautious to hope.
I've lost too much, and I've had too most stolen away from me.
And maybe that's why, out of any one I could ever fall in love with...
I'm most afraid of falling in love with Jane.
Because Patrick Jane is broken. More than I am. More than I've ever been...
And that says...a lot. Too much.
Scarily too much.
To know and understand, truly, that his past is filled with even more blood and gore and ghosts and pain than my own?
That terrifies me, that knowledge.
That sickens me, for him.
And to know I do, in fact, love him?
So I'm confused.
And I'm kicking myself.
For falling in love with another hurt character. A character this damaged.
But maybe, just maybe - I was drawn to him for that very reason.
Because...so very often when someone is damaged, I find myself drawn to them.
Needing to help them.
And deep down...yearning to fix them.
It's an age-old thrum in my heart.
Going back to Gabriel. Going back to my little brother, and when I found him coated in blood.
It's a weak, weak version of atonement.
Because I can't save Gabbie.
When my father shot himself in the head on December 6th, 1989 - Bobby was the first one I called. Before 911. Before the cops, even.
He came to the scene, all British pallor, shakily grasping our red 80's phone, rambling my address into the receiver to whomever the first responder on the line happened to be. Holding me, rocking me, telling me over and over again, "Teresa, we have to get them out of here."
My little brothers, of course, had been home at the time.
I had been at band practice strumming out a bad rendition to Hey Jude on the guitar.
hey jude, don't make it bad/ take a sad song...and make it better
My horror show of an alcoholic father had, indeed, shot himself in the head just one room over from his three small sons.
James was still lingering around when I finally got to our bungalow - Bobby trailing behind me, dragging that old green bike behind him.
And down the street, as I ran frantically home...I could see him.
Not Dad, of course.
The eldest of my three brothers.
James Gregory Lisbon, normally so stoic - had been crying hysterically.
I still recall how white he looked. How his freckles stood out in exaggeration due to the bloodlessness of shock. His dark hair contrasting with his skin.
Just 13 years old - and normally this tough as nails little kid - that was James...
But now...now he was sobbing. Standing outside of the house, sobbing, his house keys swinging around his neck as his raced for me, panic gripping his lithe body (still outfitted in his track and field gear). His green sweat pants. Running sneakers. A yellow Hanes sweatshirt that read Bentley Badgers.
He wasn't wearing enough warm clothes for such a brisk day in suburban Chicago. Not when the temperature had been hovering around freezing.
I remember faintly thinking, 'that's why he's so white' - still not understanding that our father was actually dead.
I had heard, but it hadn't kicked in...
It hadn't kicked in that he had actually had committed suicide.
"T-teresa!," and James never called me Teresa. Always Tessie. While Gabe called me Eeyore - and had for years. Tommy, only 7 then, called me sissy. Never anything else. Sissy or bust.
"I'm here, I'm here," and I had pulled James to me tightly, shaking in fear as to what I'd find.
"Gabbie...Gabbie found Daddy. He said...there's stuff on the wall. Blood all over the wall," and Bobby just stared at the two of us, at James - now eclipsing me in height, but still so young, before he turned to look at me - his girlfriend of two years, shaking, ill.
And I, in shock, remember talking, taking the reigns... but not feeling. Not feeling anything but a distinct feeling of disconnection. If that can be called...a feeling.
"Go to Mrs. Finnigan. Don't tell her Dad's dead. Tell her there has been an accident," I said, trying to be logical, cool... collected.
Mrs. Finnigan was 91. She had four cats who she called by the singular name of sweetikins. I didn't want my brothers to shock her into having a heart attack. I couldn't handle...any more death.
"No...no...I'm not-," and James had panicked, not wanting to go. Terrified to go. Terrified to let me out of his sight.
Because he knew, and I knew, if I had been home...that this would never have happened.
When I finally extricated myself from James, and went inside, I saw Tommy first. Not Gabbie...who I thought would run to me, cling to me.
He was still wearing his velcro shoes, his bugs bunny t-shirt, his faux fur hunting cap pulled down low on his head. A human-child version of Elmer Fudd, lisp and all.
"Where's Gabbie?," I staggered, feeling sick, not wanting to know where the most sensitive and thoughtful of my brothers was...
Tommy, like James, was crying. Fat hot tears. But unlike James, Tommy's face was a bright tomato red. Screaming-crying.
I cursed my father for his thoughtlessness, then. For not even waiting until the kids were out of the house before he took his own life.
I didn't hate him for taking his own life, though...
I didn't really hate him at all, deep down.
I loved him in the strangest, saddest way.
But I hated what he had done in scarring my kid brothers.
I could never forgive him for that...
And I could never forgive God for taking my mother away from us.
For letting everything unravel in the first place.
Tommy continued to cry. And when I came over and shook him - all ridiculous bones and Lisbon-skinniness (and worse - an underweight shell of a second grader who just wasn't eating much anymore) - I actually yelled. I yelled because I couldn't deal with any more. I couldn't deal with the fact that my back had scabs running the length of my spine where Dad had thrashed me not even two weeks back. I couldn't deal with a body that was criss-crossed in bloody sores and scars. I couldn't deal with the fact that James had asthma, and was probably off having an attack right now as Tommy continued to shriek and cry and scream.
I couldn't deal with the fact that Dad had - apparently - shot himself in the head with his fucking hunting riffle.
But most of all... I REALLY couldn't deal with the fact that I still didn't know where Gabriel was...
And Tommy wasn't responding. Wasn't speaking. In the back of my mind, I knew that was bad. Very bad. That the little guy might just be MUTE for fucks sake, but I was more terrified by the dismal quiet coming from the rest of the house.
Gabbie was not my favorite brother, per se.
After all, I - Teresa Lisbon - didn't have favorites.
I loved all my brothers.
But Gabbie was the brother I was the... closest too.
And on that day, I had been more scared for Gabe, than I had been for mute little gap toothed Tommy.
Gabbie...with his dark blond curls only now starting to edge into something distinctively brunette.
Gabbie...with his ice blue eyes, that shone with a knowing and deep intelligence, whereas the rest of us had whimsical green.
Gabbie...with his stockier build that Dad always criticized. Not husky, not pudgy. Just not lean, not skinny like Tommy, like James.
My Tigger looked as if he had been plucked out of an orphanage. He certainly didn't look like a Lisbon, nor act like one...all zen freakishness. Those long staring episodes. His odd little excursions to the backyard, where he'd sketch birds for hours at a time (whereby I'd lose interest in any task that required concerted devotion... after a few minutes).
And maybe that was part of the bond.
I was his ying, he was my yang.
So when he carefully picked slugs out of the garden, stroking them, calling them pet names - whilst James and Tommy laughed...I always came to his defense.
When he freaked out when Dad got beer, salt - and killed half the slugs in the garden - I had held him, not teased.
When he came into the house one cold November evening - crying when he came across two dead ones, Binky and Barney - I had offered him a hug.
And when he deliberately went around hiding my dad's hunting riffles, or littered pamphlets on Jainism - I indulged him.
He was an animal lover to the extreme, just like our mother. But Gabbie went even further - and his compassionate spirit reached out whenever he found a creature in pain. Always taking home strays, rescues. Keeping dying baby birds in shoeboxes under his bed. Feeding them with eyedroppers, cow's milk from the fridge - his solid little frame, his curly hair and Campbell soup kid grin always breathing out words of encouragement for the animal infants he was nursing back to help.
"There you go buddy. Eat it. Eat it all up."
Even if Dad was out of work then, and we were living off tomato soup and kraft dinner.
Even when each glass of milk was rationed, and he went without dinner to feed one of his rescue critters...
I admit it. I had a soft spot for him. Always had. Even if Gabriel was, indeed, a quirk. All pacifistic gentleness and exceeding patience.
He had also been diagnosed with epilepsy the year before, which didn't reduce my overall anxiety for the kid. Nor my overall feelings of near-maternal protection...which blossomed whenever my brother argued with the doctors about eating meat. Argued with the doctors that he wouldn't go on their "stupid" ketogenic diet. When he asserted with - finally! - classic Lisbon stubbornness - asserting that he was a Buddhist (in a family of Catholics), even though he had only been 8 years old at the time.
"Undeniably gifted, extraordinarly different", his third grade report card had said. Because, outside of his atrocious lack of physical agility and prowess, it was true.
"Gabe!," I called out - not wanting to walk into the bedroom. Not wanting to see.
At the time, I had hated my father. I had hated him for whipping me a week back. For breaking my ribs in the summer. I hated him with utmost passion for striking Gabbie when the kid brought home a D on his report card - in fucking gym class, like THAT mattered.
And I wanted to kill him when he knocked out my little brothers tooth.
Sure enough, the bastard had killed himself.
Saved me the trouble.
Without Tommy's hysteria, the house was...deathly calm. Deathly quiet.
Like a grave yard.
I remember pushing against the door leading to my dad's bedroom. The whole room was dark. No lights.
"Gabe?," I hissed, a raw sense of panic edging into my voice.
And then I saw him.
The little guy, just standing there, light chestnut curls clinging to his forehead - matted down by sweat. His whole body...trembling.
Like one of his freaking birds.
I recall...he was wearing his god damn perfect Give Peas a Chance t-shirt.
His eyes vacant. In shock.
I turned, looked where he looked, tried not to vomit.
Brains splattered on the wall. Blood arcing out in a too-pretty mist.
"Eeyore," Gabe monotoned, his whole body trembling. "Dad's dead."
His t-shirt was coated with blood.
His Give Peas a Chance t-shirt was coated in blood, too.
It was karmically sick to behold: the vegan kid, coated in blood.
I had rushed to him then, my hands touching his shoulders, his belly, lifting up his shirt.
"Are you HURT? Did he hurt you?"
Gabbie just stared, didn't reply.
"Did Dad TOUCH you?"
A slow and horrid blink, unfeeling.
A small hand - pointing.
"Daddy's dead, Eeyore."
And his voice sounded too old.
Too UNDERSTANDING of death and loss and pain.
Even as he calls me Eeyore.
I was his Eeyore, and he was our Tigger. James was our Owl, and Tommy was our Piglet (afraid of everything, even thunder, even mice).
Mommy was Kanga, though long gone and buried.
Dad didn't live in the 100 acre woods at all.
"I checked to make sure. I tried to wake him up. He's dead, right?"
My hands still pat over my little brother's body, a cursory job to see if he's telling me the truth.
Knowing he's lied before - many, many times - about injuries.
Knowing that we all have...just to stay together.
Just to stay a family.
Recalling, then, horribly, the year before when I found him in the bathtub, the water pink, a gash from where Dad's belt buckle had entered into his leg and cut open a shard of tissue so deep that the ankle bone glistened sickeningly pale. Bone white.
Except now...his whole body is bone white.
Rigsby, Cho, Van Pelt - they leave suddenly.
I'm gonna puke.
"Boss, I'm so sorry," the auburn woman tries, while I hear Cho tell her, "not now, Grace."
When they go, finally, I take a breath, try not to scream.
Fight off the familiar soft hands as they reach for my shoulders, as they take my body, force me into a hug.
"Let me GO!," I rage against Jane, my pain, my grief pushed down to my depths of my bowels.
Only a queasy sort of sickness remaining.
"I'm so sorry, Teresa," Jane says against my hair. It tickles.
It shouldn't be so light, so carefree.
It shouldn't tickle.
It should hurt.
It should stab me.
That would at least be appropriate.
Stabbing pain, and rain.
Not this gorgeous weather.
Not this fucking SUN.
"Don't you...don't you DARE say you're sorry!," I near-scream, because something wild and bestial is threatening to tear out of my chest.
Jane watches me as if I'm...a ticking bomb. I find it patronizing. I find it insanely irritating.
I want to punch him.
I want to punch the walls.
And I do, and he's at my side then, pulling my arms back.
It's deja vu, from two years back, when I was in the clinic. After I was hurt.
He had prevented me from punching the walls then, too.
"Hurting yourself won't take away the pain," he whispers, and my arms frantically search my office for signs that this...is...not...real.
And then I see it again.
The letter. The awful hand written letter.
'Tessie...I'm so sorry to have to write to you, tell you...'
"It's...it can't be true," and I plead with Jane to agree with me.
A brother wouldn't tell a sister something like that in a letter.
He'd come on a plane.
He'd come to her home.
He wouldn't let her melt down in her office, in the god damn fucking CBI.
Jane ushers me to the sofa, shuts the doors to the room.
Locks the doors.
"What are you doing?," I wheeze, a renewed sense of despair clutching my organs and squeezing.
I feel as if I might black out.
"You don't need to deal with anyone else right now. Nothing else."
He pulls down the blinds. Twirls the plastic knob until the office is made...completely private.
He then comes back to my side. Makes me lie down.
I feel cool fingertips reach over my face, rest against my temples, come to my eyes, encouraging me to close my eyes completely.
"I'm going to help you. I'm going to help take away some of the pain," he whispers.
I turn towards the brown leather and let out a sob.
"You c-can't. You can't fix this. This is...unfixable..."
I grasp for the leather, pull it into a bundle. Squeeze.
My Tigger is dead.
I bite into the leather and sob.
I feel Jane's hands roam over my hair, stroking the strands in a very rhythmic pattern.
It makes me want to go to sleep.
"How long had he been like this, Teresa?"
I feel his hands brush across my face, wiping my tears away. A second later, I feel something lighter and softer press against my skin.
It smells like...tea. Like bergamot tea.
A frenetic, crazy emotion bubbles up in my lungs, and makes me want to laugh.
"Lisbon?," Jane asks. His voice is tinged with...worry. Concern.
"He...he...I called him Tigger."
I think it's because I haven't answered his question.
"How long has he been depressed, Teresa?"
I just continue to cry, so Jane doesn't say anything else.
He just continues to stroke my hair while I cry for my Tigger.
And then the stroking...stops.
I turn to him, stare, open bleary eyes.
Everything is blurry.
Everything is fake.
He seems to make the connection.
"Eeyore...," he breathes...his voice cracking, recognizing the term of endearment from random stories I've shared with him when he helped me recover from the attack.
"Gabe," he adds a moment later. "It's Gabriel?"
I nod dully.
"I love all my brothers, but..."
I can't finish that.
"You were closest to him," Jane supplies, knowing what I'm thinking.
He sits by me on the couch, righting my position, and when I struggle against him, he stops.
Brings my head down to his lap instead.
"Tell me about him."
He grabs my hand, holds on.
"Tell me...good things about him."
I take Jane's hand. Trace a line around the fingertips.
Notice a strange purple scar on his wrist.
Feel some twinge of fear surge through my limbs.
I meet his eyes.
"He...he was a lot like you. And nothing like you. Gabe was the ultimate paradox."
Jane gives me the saddest, briefest smile.
I think, try to remember the good.
Before the bipolar.
Before the day I found my little brother coated in blood.
"He...he loved...everyone. If you hurt him, he would forgive you."
I feel Jane stiffen, but he makes no move to get up. He's not...offended.
He knows I'm...calling him on his...so-called duty of revenge.
"He loved animals. He would draw them, sketch them. He would hide my brothers BB guns. Pelt them with gravel from the driveway if he thought...they were going to hunt something."
Jane gives a ghost-smile, lets his fingers travel up to my upper arm, and squeezes. Encouragement to go on.
I sit up fully now, blink back remnant tears. Back handedly wipe at my eyes.
"He was this rebel, in a sense. Because other than me, my whole family hunted. And I hated it, but I had to pretend to NOT hate it."
Jane takes his hands in my own, entwines his fingers with mine.
I let out a shuddery breath.
"Because...we had to be strong. Because...you know."
I've told Jane about the beatings.
He watches me, the most serious expression filling his eyes.
"And your mother?"
I wave my hand, dismissively.
"She loved animals, too. But she died when Gabbie was four, so...he did it on his own."
"His rebel act?"
I laugh, though it comes out more like a choking-wheeze.
"He was...," I stop, stare, "he was special, to me. He...reminds...reminded me...of you."
I've said that before, but it's true.
Jane, and Gabbie...shared a lot in common. Not just physically, though there is that, too.
I pick at the lint on my blazer.
"He had bipolar," I state.
Jane nods, his eyes holding no surprise.
"I suspected...from before. I suspected when you told me about what he was like..."
I reach out, and grab Jane, and let my hands travel up to the crook of his arm, where I feel the scar.
"Promise me you won't hurt yourself again. Not for Red John. Not for ANYONE. Please. PLEASE. Promise me."
"Lisbon...I...don't know if I-"
I can't hear him say this. I can't hear him say he can't...promise me that.
Not after everything we have been through this year.
Not after everything we've essentially admitted to one another.
"I can't lose someone else to suicide."
His eyes turn dark.
"I am not going to kill myself, Lisbon. Why would you even think that?"
"You...go after him, Jane. You touch him...and it's just the same as suicide-"
"It's not the-"
"YES IT IS! It's the exact same thing, to me. I'd feel the exact same way! Because you'd...they'd take you away from me!"
Jane looks...as if I've slapped him.
His eyes are wide and strange. His mouth is forming words that he can't speak.
"What are you saying, Lisbon?"
I stare at the blinds. At the closed blinds. And feel the empty, strange silence.
The CBI is usually bustling.
And now it just seems...dead out there.
I wonder if Hightower knows anything.
I wonder if she's cleared out the entire department.
I wonder if Rigsby told her I was shouting, or if Cho told her I was punching at Jane when he tried to calm me down.
He's recaptured my hand again.
Suddenly...my heart is pounding through my chest.
I can hear my pulse in my ears.
I shouldn't be talking about this right now.
Not when my brother is dead.
Not after I've just learned that my baby brother has...hung himself.
Hung himself in his god damn monkey lab.
"I loved him Jane. Out of everyone I could possibly lose..."
A small boy calls out.
duck duck goose
Eeyore...wanna play duck duck goose?
And they had the same smile, the same curly hair.
The same resounding gentleness. Even when angry, even when hurt.
"I LOVED him," I say again.
I shake my head, frustrated, frantic for him to know.
Right now. Before he goes out into that violent world. Before something happens to him, too.
"No, you DON'T know. You can't know what I mean. What I'm...trying to say."
He backs away slightly.
Gives us space.
"What are you trying to say, then?"
I see him lick his lips.
Intrigued, but scared.
I close my eyes, just as I did on the day when I entered my fathers bedroom.
Grabbed Gabbie to me, felt for wounds, felt for sources of injuries.
Tried to feel if he was hurt, if he was bleeding.
When the truth scares me, I always close my eyes.
"The only other person I've ever loved as much as him, is you. And it's not even the same type of love. Don't you get it?"
He stands up, looking stricken.
His eyes...swollen with tears.
"Lisbon...you're...you're in shock. You don't know what you're saying..."
My eyes are no longer tearing, because the numbness has advanced over me, blotting out the pain.
"I know EXACTLY what I'm saying, Jane! I know exactly how I feel about you! What I feel for you!"
His eyes are swollen with tears...
But he's not...crying in the truest sense. Not making any sound, anyway.
"Please...don't... Don't say what you don't mean. Just because you're hurting, please-"
"I can't...recall the last time I told Gabriel that I loved him, Jane. I'm not...repeating the mistake. Not with you."
"Lisbon, please, please stop-," and his voice sounds haunted. Pained.
Why does he sound so scared?
"You don't have to...feel it too. Just know it. Just *know* it in your heart."
I don't have to say anymore.
Not, "I love you."
Certainly not, "I'm in love with you."
Because I can see the awareness in his eyes.
I can see the indisputable flash of truth, absorbed.
So he nods brokenly for a moment. To confirm he's heard me.
Jane brings one soft digit to my lips.
His cheeks are wet.
I wonder if he even knows that he's... crying.