Title: Limits of Sight

Author: Kourion

Summary: Red John is dead, leaving uncharted paths and a new world for Jane and Lisbon to explore, together. If only change were easy. / Post - Under the Veil.

A/N: In my little cluster of Mentalist fics, this addition takes place immediately after Under the Veil. It actually is occurring RIGHT after the events of that story, but given the fact that I currently have two on-the-go Mentalist fics, I wanted to continue writing one-shots for the next while. If you guys like this, I'll add on to it later though...

The poem, of course, is by Stephen Crane.

As always, reviews are my protein-cookies-of LIFE. My brandy beans in nibbly word format! Reviews are super!appreciated :)


Lisbon's POV


I've always craved what I've feared the most.

And I've feared a lot.

Not criminals or cuts, nor being tossed about like a rag doll, or being roughed up by a suspect - or even bloodied by an alcoholic father (which is somehow both better and worse, as twisted as that sounds. A case of dealing with the devil you know, versus the devil you don't, I suppose).

Cold threats of physical pain cause me to flinch, or sometimes (rarely) to cry out in basic shock, or in unconstrained alarm. But I am familiar with physical pain (and my bodily responses to such pain) well enough to know that I prefer pain of the body to pain of the mind.

I certainly prefer pain of the body to emotional pain - which is the worst form of pain in its harrowing nature. Its heart-constricting fear. After all, the worst physical pain can never really touch upon the inconceivable anguish of emotional devastation. It can never begin to match that gutting reality. That potential for horror.

Horrors that Jane has experienced. Experienced, and survived.


Survival of The Event forever splinters your life into sharply delineated sections.

The splintering process is immediate. The cutting is like glass. It is unfeeling and quick, and shocking more so for the fact that the cuts themselves occur in a section of time where all feeling has died.

It's a temporary absence of pain, however.

The feeling always comes back.

And when it does, it is all the stronger, for the reprieve.

You don't even feel it at first - just as you are unlikely to feel the depth of a razor cut until the skin starts to pull away several seconds later... You can see it - the damage - sooner than you can feel it. The cuts will well up with blood. The skin will pucker and pull apart. The blood will course down your arms, your legs. And the cuts will be numb, at first. The skin, hot, but unresponsive. Insensate.

You may even bleed for a long, long time before you realize...

this hurts.

God this hurts.



The Numbing always comes first.

It's the first stage of The After.

Because your life will never be the same again.

Not ever again.

It will always and forever be sectioned into the before-life, and the after-life.


There is, of course, no alternative.

No one chooses it.

That life of befores, that hurting life of afters.

It's just what happens.

It's just the natural end result of missing what came before. Missing that before-life, and all the before-people, so much and so badly that some days - most days, if you're honest with yourself - you don't even want to consider them at all. Because to consider them is almost worse. To consider them - to remember them - is to inflict pain. You might as well take a knife, and slice a section of your heart off, now.

If you could physically achieve it, the pain would be the same.


I will never tell Jane these thoughts.

These ruminations.

I will never tell Jane that I love him so much - so, so much - that I would give him back the people he misses from his before-life.

Return him to that time, that place.

I will never tell him that if I had the power, I would blot out his after-life.

Even if that means it would blot me out, too.


That's when I realized that I loved him.

When I realized, when the thought came to me, that if I could do that - I would.

And that's why love will always equal loss, to me.

Because somewhere down the line, you'll be tested in that way.

To lose the one you love.

Possibly forever.

To let them go.

To let them go, so they will be out of pain.

Not you.

Never you.

Never you first.

That's love, in my estimation.


Sometimes I cannot wrap my mind around the horror that Jane has experienced.

I've known shock myself.

Shock when I lost my mother.

Shock when my father hit me so forcefully one afternoon, when I was 14, that my wrist bone broke through the confines of my thin teenage flesh. Broke through and stood out in mute accusation:

one day he's gonna kill you, tessie.

one day he might just do it.

But the worst shock was less familial than that, and occurred when I came home less than two years previously - to an apartment that wasn't exactly... empty.

The worst shock of all was in that evening, when I came home to an apartment that wasn't safe and white and warm - but a snake pit. A rattle snake den, where two men waited, and rose up like serpents sensing flesh. Serpents needing to bite, needing to have a meal.

It had found me unprepared. So unprepared that I didn't even have time to grab my gun - too far away. A whole room away.

It might as well have been a whole PLANET away.

My cell phone had been closest. My cell phone had been what I had grabbed, when I had knocked it down from the metallic stand of neatly folded towels and toothbrush holders. Grabbing that black Nokia, and hitting the #1 on auto-dial. Holding it and holding it, waiting for Jane to pick up and hear and KNOW.

And come.


That had been my greatest shock of all, maybe.

That had been My Event. My trigger point that took my life - even more than the death of my mom, the death of my dad - and had segmented my world into a memory scrapbook of befores and afters.

And still, despite that shock, that fear...when I think of Jane, and what he found in his home (a wife, murdered, his tiny little daughter, murdered) I can't even feel it at all.

I can't take it all in.


I try sometimes.

I really try - to take it in.

To know.

So that maybe - just maybe - I can say the words that will reach him, and help him, and take away just a little bit of his pain.

But I never can grab hold of it all. Not quite.

The idea that Jane came home one night, and found a house full of blood, and corpses. Bodies, but no child, no wife.

The ties of child, and wife die out when the spirit occupying those bodies die out. The bodies themselves were just leftover husks. Just EVIDENCE of what had been done in Jane's absence.

I can't even comprehend that sort of trauma, that sort of event. It's far too much for any one person to undergo, to survive.

Never mind his AFTER life. Never mind all the rest that had to follow.

Funerals, and a re-worked motivation to choose life once he bypassed the purgatory of the psychiatric hospital. Once his surface wounds healed enough that he was allowed to leave the confines of the clinic. Fresh clothes, trimmed hair, the daily banality of a razor, soap, the whole shower scene. And in those daily events, those sensoral events, life would clamor on and on and on.

Inexorably.

His heart would beat, his blood would pulse, he'd sleep, rise, drink tea, eat food, read, take his prissy sounding constitutionals... And somehow, SOMEHOW, he had found enough energy to fashion an 'after.'

Somehow he had been strong enough to try. To try for himself, alone. Whereas I had always had another life to look after, a mouth I was responsible for feeding, a little brother that depended on me. I always had at least one person in the world that I needed to be strong for, needed to support.

Jane...did not. He had himself. He had his quest. Which became his raison d'ĂȘtre. His odyssey to find some sort of illuminating meaning in an event so evil partly because it stripped all meaning away from life and living and everything that came Before.

Before The Event.

That was, perhaps, the very worst aspect of his destruction.

Not just that they had died.

But that there was no meaning to be found in their deaths.

Not as grey and incomprehensible as an accidental fall, or a tragic car collision. No - someone had purposefully murdered them. Purposefully drawn up blood, like I might draw a bath. Sunk a knife far, far beneath the surface of their skin, and had tugged.

A body box electrician, cutting off the electrical power. When we talk of the living body box, we talk of blood. But there's still the electric. It keeps the brain firing, the eyes seeing. It's only when we cut off the power that the person that was, dies.

No normal person prepares to find that degree of destruction.


I fear love.

Not love alone. But loss of the one I love. The inevitable end result.

And yet, Patrick Jane has still bypassed my guarded state. He has somehow, somewhere, found the chink in my emotional armor. The weakness in what I had hoped had been a tall and intimidating emotional fortress. He's scampered past my scowly glances, my irritable sighs - ignoring everything I do to routinely keep people from crossing over moat and scaling the studded walls...

...and now he's gone and made me feel.

Really feel.

Which always creates a mess.

Jane has gotten through. Not through force; in his natural, almost photon-lifeform way. As if he were a ray of light and not a man at all. A rising sun, spilling over, spilling over the walls and lighting up a part of myself that I thought I wanted to keep in the dark.


Even though we've never really slept together, Jane has taken to lying besides me in a way that traverses the sexual.

He's taken to lying besides my heart.

Taken to breathing when I breathe. Or worse: taken to MAKING me breathe, or making me stop breathing whenever he's struggling, or hurt.

So while we may not have progressed to anything skirting the romantic just yet, we do seem to interact in a way that people assume is of that form and shape and consistency.

But romance and lust and everything associated with the linear sexual arena is a relatively unimportant feature, here.

Especially when it comes to us. Especially when it comes to our strength of bond, our degree of connection.

Or maybe it's because I care for Jane so much more than anyone I've ever had a physical connection with, but have never learned ways of schooling my features to cover up my reactions.

...I have never learned ways to make those feelings private.

So maybe Jane is right, and I do wear my heart on my sleeve. Maybe I am transparent when it comes to him.


Feeling.

The idea of being in love, or more accurately - of falling in love - has probably scared me for about as long as I've known that people CAN and DO fall in love.

To love, to me, is to fear. They are nearly simultaneous; emotionally they truly synonymous..

To love.

To fear.

Love.

And fear.

Can you ever truly differentiate between the two?


Falling in love seems out of control and wild. Untamed. Bestial in its raw power, a power that almost always is expected to move towards the physical. And while I'm pretty far from being what anyone would call a prude... physicality tied with emotionality has never been something I've experienced. The idea of opening myself up emotionally is where the fear starts. The exposure that I'd feel by adding a horridly complex layer of physicality makes it almost chocking, incapacitating.

And to be made to feel that way - to have my feelings of congenial, platonic warmth depart and change to become this passionate is terrifying.

It means that I, Teresa Lisbon, have become possessed by feeling. No longer constrained by logic. No longer ruled by anything that I can know, or study.

Rely on.


Being in love means surrendering control.

It means giving up the certitude and solidity of feelings that are constant - yet safe.

Maybe this confirms just how damaged I was made by my mother's death, my father's alcoholism and abuse. Because while I DON'T trust easily, I've always craved connection. That's the so-called hilarious irony of it all. The bitter irony of me being me, in my mind and body, with my cravings for connection [and my never ending fear to do just that].

So that's where I'm at now. Moving out of that first bland unreality of earlier night, through a buzzing hysterical unbelievability of THIS BEING IT! - the end of an era [the era of Red John in our lives]. Followed by the culmination of shock, and my relief, so strong and unguarded that my affection for Jane pulsed out in my (sadly public) display of emotions, kisses, touches.


Que the present moment.

Que the feeling of those spindly roots of fear that have come to push through the rough tissue of my heart, the slippery bundles of veins, right down to my fingertips. Que the tingly, queasy feeling of being overwhelmed in a way that I've truly never been before.

But most of all?

Que my predictable flight response - which is currently making me want to jet out of this hospital like an Olympian sprinter - even though I KNOW that behind all of my responses is a very disturbed outlook on life, and especially love.

And *especially* love as it relates to Patrick Jane.

It's not as if he's a crush, a toy, something shiny and bright that's just grabbed my attention for the moment. There is no...moment, here. There's only this...timelessness. This feeling that's completely consuming, and equally inescapable. I'm not surprised when I consider how confused I feel when I consider that I could have Jane in the everyday. Any placid moment. A glance, a laugh, a twinkle of expression, the crack of a grin.

That I could hold him in a kiss, chaste, yet somehow deeply penetrating in its chasteness, sweetness, truth.

A chaste kiss would be just that: a kiss for the sake of a kiss. Not for the sake of lust, or sex. But a kiss full and real with undeniable reality.

The undeniable reality that I LOVE THIS MAN.

And now - right this second - I'm nearly immobilized as I stare at the large print ad that's succumbed to exclamation point overdose on the elevator doors: "Sunday Brunch Special: $5.99! Until 11 am! Crinkle cut carrots, mashed potatoes and gravy! Plus YOUR CHOICE of grilled tuna or vegetarian lasagna! Coffee or Tea included in purchase price!"


To love someone, to really love them - shouldn't cause anxiety.

But it does, for me. It is my issue, it has always been my issue and the primary reason why I've cut off connections with old lovers, or discouraged past boyfriends from getting closer. It's what I do.

Evade.

Run away.

Flee.

And when that doesn't work?

Deny.

Deny anything strong, and real.

I avoid emotion. I avoid relationships. I avoid love.

Or, I have.


I hold onto the memory of his touches in the ambulance.

I hold onto that feeling of buzzing warmth - not scary at all, then.

No more of this! Stop avoiding him. This. All of this!

Bottom line: it's not fair to him.

Not after everything we've gone through, lived through, together.

Not after everything we've both lost.

It's not fair to run away from it...from...

...the heated way my skin came alive under Jane's fingertips as he drew out his ridiculously touching heart...

...a tactile heart replacing words...


I don't have to say a thing.

They let me enter cleanly, easily. No badge pulling is needed. No weaponry threats are required.

The roan blood coating the collar of my t-shirt and the dried blood leftover on my hands (you really need to wash your hands! Jesus, Teresa!) and the look of fierceness I know my face conveys has caused even the most rule-bound of nurses to look the other way.

"Patrick Jane, please," I curtly inform the skinny desk receptionist.

I'm not asking, I'm telling, and expecting full passage.

Unconstrained.


I knew better than to think that Jane would have a private room.

When I get to his door - having navigated the mint green wasteland [decked out in unfortunate morgue colours] - I know my intuitions are right.

In black sharpie marker someone has written out a large loopy JANE, P. next to a PAHLO, G.

A room mate.

Jane has a room mate.

The idea, in my sleep deprived stupor, is hugely amusing. Although, I really hope there won't be a problem; Jane can be rather fussy at the best of times, and has a horrid track record in hospitals settings.

I listen quietly for a moment, feeling a modicum less stressed when I hear chuckling a few seconds later. There it is - that familiar peal of laughter (Rigsby's), and familiar voices (Cho's, gruff but amused, Van Pelt's - soft, and almost pleading in her admonishments: "shush, be quiet. You'll wake him up, Jane!")

Jane?

He's up?

"That, or else I'll get kicked out. My all time best is 6 hours, so I really need to step up my game if I want to beat my PR...," I hear Mr. Infuriating quip as I enter.

I suddenly see that he's been freed from the confines of his oxygen mask.

Too bad.

He was much more docile when he couldn't speak...

Sweeter, too, when he had to express himself through a touch, or a glance...

I decide to brave the room - my own wimpy fears be damned. Rigsby turns abruptly, warmth infusing his features when he sees me.

"Hey Boss! Where you've been at?"

I frown, dazedly, and look at my watch. Hit that special little LED feature and wait to be informed that...

... it's 3:44 AM?

Damn it.

Chilled, I pull my blazer around my midsection with renewed force, and try to decrease the fresh wave of jitters that assail my frame. In this compressed space - only lit with mediocre bulbs - it takes a few moments before my eyes adjust and I can make out an elderly gentleman resting in a clump a few feet off to the side of Jane's bed.

G. Pahlo looks stone-cold dead to the world, but even so, I pull the curtain around the frail man and say a quick mental apology.

Looking back, I study Jane. His lips are nearly back to their original rose flesh state: healthy and oxygenated by fresh blood. Blood that wasn't his own - more poignant, perhaps, in this fact. The fact that many, many people came together tonight to take out a monster, and sustain the life of the man before me.

Reconstruction is always a million times harder than destruction...

He's just lucky to be breathing...

Don't forget that...

Jane, understandably, is still inordinately pale as he fiddles around with a capped pen and a piece of loose-leaf with a scribbly looking brontosaurus etched over the lined sheet.

"Good. I wanted to wait until you got here to show everyone my newest trick!," Jane rambles, further heightening the sensation of being trapped in a very bad episode of The Twilight Zone.

He does, thankfully, lower the items when he sees me approach - his features flashing from concerned to happy so quickly that I almost doubt what I've seen familiar guilt gnaws at my belly.

This is your fault, Teresa.

Jane wanted to come to the stake out.

Cho, then: "Jane's not exactly dazzling us with his magical abilities tonight."

This is your fault...

He almost died...because of YOU.

"I'm a MENTALIST, not a magician!," Jane huffs in good-natured exasperation, while he tries to complete a new paper trick, none too badly from what I can tell. A book - no doubt purchased from the hospital gift store - rests in his lap, in that open faced and cracked spine way that would drive any librarian nuts.

He's lying in this bed because of you.

Because he trusted you and listened to YOU!

"That's what you say now," Rigsby laughs. "But we all know better, Jane. In a week, you'll have "100 Amazing Magic Tricks for Kids!" memorized, and you'll be baiting us, betting against us and pocketing our hard earned cash!"

"I listened." That's what he said.

That's what he did.

He listened to you.

He trusted you.

I blink into this all-too-cold room (why is no one else cold? why am I so cold?), suddenly feeling woozy.

You asked him to stay behind...

Words and sounds all mingle together now, flow over me in a wave. I'm struggling beneath a current, a tide that's just too strong.

An emotional tide... and the water is completely over my head now.

"Lisbon?," I hear Jane question softly, in that careful testing tone of his, before I feel Van Pelt's gentle grasp steer me to the closest chair.

Suddenly...I can see stars.

This is your FAULT!

Everything is black stars on an all-too white canvas.

Red John cut him, and hurt him!

Held him down and tortured him...

"Lisbon?"

...all because you doubted him...

And is that Jane's voice?

You saw his shoulder!

You saw how much blood he lost!

YOU did that!

That voice that sounds like a bell?

All rippled and warped?

Is that really Jane?

"I'm okay," I struggle weakly, tell the little bell-voice.

"Lisbon? Guys...she's white as a ghost...I think...she's...Grace!"

Hands hold me steady now, help me nestle down into the crappy plastic chair.

"Gotcha," I hear Grace say uneasily. Uncertainly. Her hands are warmer and smaller than Jane's.

More tentative. Less familiar.

I push her hands away.

"Put your head between your knees, Boss," she tries again, not off-put by my resistance.

I can smell Grace's Angel perfume. Notes of chocolate and caramel. It's hard enough to breathe tonight, and now all I can smell is the cloying aroma of sweet perfume.

My head hurts. The blood is pounding so forcefully against my skull that I want to open up a little hole and let the pressure out.


Paper-thin walls wilt around me.

The view is fractured and strange - as if someone has smashed a camera, and I'm being forced to look out through a cracked lens.

If I didn't know better, I'd be worried about having been drugged, so I sit down gingerly, still pushing away Grace's arms (let me go!).

"Stop it!," I let out quickly - too quickly.

I'm not angry with her, especially since I know that she makes an easy scapegoat at the best of times. I'm simply mortified in my dizziness.

My mortification, however, laps into irritation when I hear her mumble something about panic to the others.

As if I can't hear her. Can't hear them, whispering.

I can feel (rather than see) when Jane sits up, worried.

For me!

"I'm not having a panic attack, guys," I add a moment later, willing my voice to come out in boss-like tones of authority and control.

I don't want their kindness. Not after tonight.

Not after how horribly I screwed up the operation...

By leaving him alone.

By asking him to stay behind.

This is your fault.

"Boss...," Grace still sounds concerned. Her voice still teeters on that 'let's be careful with THIS one!' precipice that I've come to associate with victims.

All at once, I want to vomit.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry; just...ignore me, I'm fine," I say just as quickly as before, but with even greater insistence.

Jane was stabbed for God's sake! Whereas nothing happened to me, and yet I'm the one crouched in a dingy hospital chair, my head between my knees, trying to make this embarrassing lightheadedness depart.

Heat prickles my face as a fresh blush rises to my cheeks, my ears.

I can FEEL the heat, for God's sake!

I'm sure I look like a human cherry tomato.

Traitorous body...

I look up and focus on anything - even if it's the overpowering (read: slightly nauseating) scent of Pizza Hut fast food leftovers that have mingled with the otherwise sweet notes of Van Pelt's perfume.

Sure beats hospital food, I guess...

"Low blood sugar?," Rigsby helpfully suggests a moment later.

It's an idea, low blood sugar.

Because...it's possible, isn't it?

Maybe?

Maybe.

"Hypoglycemia? Probably. Whatever. Doesn't matter much, at any rate," I supply, trying not to look at Jane. His face is still etched in concern, and it's making the guilt even worse.

"I just need a coffee...," I trail off, suddenly feeling an overwhelming need to cry.

The realization makes me feel disgusted with myself. Jane is alive, and Red John is dead. I've told him I LOVE him, and he's told me in his own special way that he loves me, too.

That's pretty monumental. Never mind the fact that the team knows AND they are being supportive. Or that Jane is recovering well, looking better and so freshly pink compared to his previous blue-lipped state that I should be doing an Irish jig or something!

So why do I feel like I need to cry?

To cry and cry and cry?

I look down at my hands, at the dried blood I haven't washed off (in the nearly three hours) since we arrived at the hospital...


I never REALLY cry.

I don't think that I could, even if I wanted to.

I dig around in my blazer pocket instead - the coldness suddenly unbearable - and extract my wallet. I hand the wallet to the air, not really caring who takes it - so long as someone DOES.

"Can one of you guys do me a favour and grab me a coffee, please? It's freezing in here."

I'm not surprised at all when Cho - stoic, calm (SOME LEADER you are, Teresa!) Cho takes it silently, his eyes boring holes into my skull as he takes in my lack of professional comportment.

He's probably just as disgusted with you, too...

"Extra sugar. Extra strong. Thanks Cho...," I trail off - my voice scarily hollow underneath that awful shaking timber. And before I can stop it... wet rivulets have made their way down my face. I lap at my tears with my tongue, tasting the saltiness, the smarting evidence of the fact that some part of me has just gone ahead and caved... despite my express permission.

Jane was tortured and here I AM crying? If I can't get this under control NOW, I'm leaving, finding a bathroom and stopping this - show - using every means possible. I'm certainly not going to stand here like an idiot and-

"Boss?," Rigsby sounds as equally uncomfortable as Van Pelt did not moments before, so I bite down on my lip and will away the sudden pressure that's clawing at my throat, at my esophagus.

I shouldn't FEEL LIKE THIS.

I should FEEL HAPPY.

"Maybe someone should check you out?," Van Pelt supplies before she reaches out tentatively to touch me again.

Of course, like an idiot... I break away. Just leap out of the chair and frantically wipe at my face like a snotty street urchin. I'm sure I look as messy as one, too. Worse, even - as fresh tears and old blood = big mess.

Although this fact only clicks a second later when I look down at my hands and catch the brilliant infusion of tears to blood. That fresh spotted pink of rehydrated blood: truly perverse in its prettiness. I shake my head in alarm.

That's JANE'S blood on your hands.

Your hands are stained with his blood.

"Excuse me," I rasp, fleeing the room.


When I come back a few minutes later, Cho and Rigsby and Van Pelt are gone.

Jane, however, is still wide awake, his face open and honest in his compassion. I try to push away the hot surge of shame that is renewed when I catch his gaze, full of concern.

"Where'd the team go?," I try - suddenly not just ashamed, but also a little afraid.

Afraid?

"My guess is to get you a triple mocha whatchmacallit with enough sugar and cream to put a diabetic into a carb coma for a month," Jane states, tone plainly obvious. Only the curl of his lip outs his slight amusement as he speaks.

"Carb coma," I mutter, before speaking at normal volume. "Something constructive then. Good to know."

Jane's eyes flash at my self-deprecating humor before a deeper feeling surges through to the surface. It's a seriousness I rarely associate with him.

And I still feel like crying.

What is WRONG with me?

"C'mere," Jane states, his command gentle.

I shiver, but comply, moving towards his bed, my eyes trained on the floor, not knowing what I'm feeling - only knowing that I'm feeling countless emotions right now, and can't make heads or tails of anything.

Jane takes my hands in his own, then.

"You're too cold Lisbon. You feel like ice. You could be in shock."

Jane was stabbed, he was tortured, and *I* could be in shock? What insanity is THAT?

He releases my hand temporarily, then cups his own, watchful of the IV still feeding fresh blood into his body before he blows, rubs, and then blows into his cupped hands yet again. He then cups my hands instead, trapping the hot air from his lungs, his mouth, right next to my skin. A slight tingle, rushed, floods my system at the gesture, his sweetness.


I don't cry easily.

I never have.

"Warmer?," Jane's voice filters through to my ears, cutting through the pounding surge of blood in my eardrums.

"Better, thanks," I croak, knowing that's all I can say right now. I will my heart and body and mind and everything else to get a grip before I reach for him again. Higher up this time. His arm, not his hand.

He lets me touch his skin, and is soundless when I roll back his hospital pajama top sleeve, cursorily inspecting the relatively shallow cuts Red John made along Jane's forearms. I count six marks, savagely purple-red in this soft light, and rapidly pull back down the bleached white cotton top.

Sickened.

"How are...?," and my words trail off into something dull. Insipid. "What...-"

"Look at me, Lisbon," Jane states strongly. His voice is far too strong for someone whose been so violently attacked. But I can't deny him this request. So I do. I look at him. In his general direction at any rate.

I'm too ashamed to meet his eyes.

"I'm okay Lisbon. You're okay. Everything is going to be okay."

Okay.

Okay?

What does that even mean any more...okay?

He gestures with his hands, firmly and with certainty. "WE'RE FINE. Actually...we're...so much better than 'fine', wouldn't you say?"

His responding smile is brilliant, intense...loving.

Mine is shaky, weak...pallid.

He deserves so much better than you, Teresa.

"Nothing bad will happen in realizing what we feel for each other. Or how we feel about one another."

I nod dully, to show that I am paying attention. And really, what else can I do?

This world - this new world, this new dawn - is unfamiliar and off.

Scary.

Scary because I've already relinquished my daily quota of control, and I'm losing ground very quickly now. Emotional ground that I can't afford to lose.

"Nothing bad will happen if we talk about how we feel. You know that, don't you?"

It's a copied world, but one not quite copied correctly...

"Lisbon...please look at me. I want to know that you're...hearing me. Not just nodding your head and tuning me out because you feel overwhelmed."

I turn. I look at him. I do, but I don't want to. I don't want him to see how weak I am.

"We've talked about stuff before. All kinds of stuff. Hard stuff. Ugly stuff. But this doesn't have to be unpleasant. It shouldn't be. It's neither hard, nor ugly. The very opposite, in fact. This is...good."

What it comes down to is this: I don't want Jane to see this gummy, horrible weakness.

MY gummy, horribly weak self.

"I'm not scared of this," Jane adds, gesticulating between himself, and me. "You don't have to be scared of this, either. This doesn't have to be so scary for you."

My mouth forms a word then. An "oh?" or possibly a "right", in agreeance. My back has solidified into rigid metal beams, and my limbs are fraught with ice blood.

"I don't want you to be afraid of this sweetheart," he adds tenderly. "Not of me. Never of me."

Jane can SAY that I don't need to be afraid...

...but I FEEL afraid.

"Lisbon? This is the part where you say "I will never, ever be afraid of the notion of "Us" - notice the capitalization here, Lisbon, cause that's important - again. Thank you for showing me the error of my ways, Patrick.""

I snort, despite myself. "My emotions don't work that way, though. They go haywire and crazy when I let them register. Punishment for cutting them into..." I trail off into oblivion, profoundly tired with myself, and my stupid little-girl reactions.

Jane's fingertips were stroking my knuckles, but they stall for a second now as my words register in the otherwise horribly quiet space.

"And that's...every time, isn't it? Do you ever deal with them when you have the choice?"

Of course I don't.

I'm not even going to try to defend myself.

"That's because my emotions suck," I say, with certain finality, my breath heavy and acrid in my throat. "They don't make sense, so why would I entertain such...nonsense? Like this, now, right now! It doesn't make any sense - to feel afraid - so why do I want to talk about something that doesn't make any sense?"

Jane's hand is motionless, as if he's processing what I'm saying.

"You talked first, though. About us. About, more specifically - you. Your feelings. That counts for something," he states calmly.

A second later, the motion of his hand resumes. Back and forth, back and forth.

"'I talked first'? You make that sound like someone tort..."

I'm not finishing that sentence. Not with everything that has happened tonight.

How can you be so thoughtless?

Jane seems to get it though - of course. He would. He always does. He seems to get it - and even more outrageously - he doesn't seem to care. In fact, he seems to find amusement in my words.

His tone is warm when he continues on a millisecond later, "You told me first, Lisbon. That was pretty fearless. THAT'S what would have terrified me, really. Talking first. Just in case you didn't...feel the same way. So what's this, now, huh? Why this fear, now?"

And his fingers, butterfly light, soft and tender reach over to my face, under my eyes, smudge a bit of the tears away.

"Hmm? What's generating all this fear, now? All the tough stuff is behind us," his hands brush away more tears with every touch. But his smile is smaller now. His eyes are watchful.

He's...concerned.

"What's got you so scared, Lisbon?," his voice is a feather as he nudges me with his arm. When words don't work...he uses his body. He knows it has greater power over me. Because I might be able to tune out his voice, occasionally. But his warmth, the gentle feeling of soft hands on my own. That connection? I can't really tune that out at all.

Not that haptic, tactile, kinesthetic reality.

He's knows that, and that's why he nudges me, letting his arm press into my side for just a tad too long.

He really wants to know why...

He really does...care.

"C'mon honey. Please just... talk to me, Teresa. I feel as if I'm losing you to... yourself here."

I can't tell him why.

I can't tell him what I don't know, myself.

"I'm sorry," I manage to get out before I force myself to pull back inwards, go deep inside.

"Why? What on earth do you have to be sorry about? In a million years, what have you possibly done to make you feel this badly?"

The words sound too passionate for a man who is so white, so weak.

"I don't know. I feel...awful. For you. I...because...this is my...," and damn it to hell, my voice is so tangled with tears that I AM going to cry if he keeps pressing with his words, keeps pressing at me with his glances and his touches, the stroking of my hands.

I'm going to flat out start bawling.

I can't...have that.

Not now...

Not ever.

I pull back suddenly, my voice closing in upon itself. Suddenly, I am a matryoshka doll, a Russian doll. Many layers, each outer layer harder and firmer than the one before. The smallest one is real and true, and messy. That's the one I need to cover up, now.

The messy layer.

"Please, Teresa. Please...face this...face...us," Jane whispers.

Face this?

Us?

No.

I can't.

Not now.

Not in front of everyone.

I just need to pull back, restock, reform. And then take everyone out again once I get home, and can squish my face into my down pillow, and scream into the feathers if that's what's needed.

But right now I am a useless corded tangle of emotions, all knotted up. A thick, throbbing knot.


I have a thousand mantras.

I just need one.

I just need one. Any one at all will do.


'In the desert...'

'I saw a creature, naked, bestial...'

'Who, squatting upon the ground...'

'Held his heart in his hands...'

'And ate of it.'

'I said: "Is it good, friend?"

And even though something is still ripping in my chest, and I WANT to cry, I can't.

The tears come, the feeling is pulsing. This hurts. This foreign, unfair pain.

"It is bitter-bitter," he answered'

"But I like it...'

I force down a red hot mass. I feel like something is burning my heart.

This pain isn't going away.

I want this pain to go away.

'Because it is bitter...'

"It sometimes helps. To get it out," Jane whispers - so lightly that it takes me a few seconds for his words to register. For me to realize that he's actually talking. I grasp him softly; something desperate and haunting moving into my arms, my limbs, my throat.

I'm so far past embarrassment now.

"I...c-can't..."

"I'm not going to judge you, Lisbon. I'll never see you as anything other than strong; you know that, don't you?"

Why can't I explain?

Why can't I let myself feel when I need to feel? I force myself to push back, hold his hand, study the warm lines, the healthy fingertips, the heated assurance of life, sustained.

"It never comes out. It just sits in my throat until I want to scream. I can't...I can't make it happen. I can't control it at all... It's all screwed up inside, Jane. I'm all screwed up inside. I can never...do it right. Any of it...right."

And then, steel girders, emotional blinders, come down...and the emotional seesaw, the panic, the pain...all of it...fades into the background. As if the last 10 minutes were a wacky, scary, unimaginably upsetting dream. Nonsensical and strange.

But just a dream.

'Because it is bitter...'

'And because... it is my heart...'

my heart

my heart

my heart...

I have a thousand mantras.

I just need one.


Jane's eyes have become firm.

Not harsh, but firm.

Unhappy.

"What did you tell yourself, Lisbon? Right now? Your whole demeanor has shifted. It shifted in a very short period of time. NO one gets over pain like that - not that quickly."

I zip my blazer up, block out a bit more of this god-awful cold.

"Maybe I was having a panic attack? Maybe Grace was right. And maybe it's just gone...," I try.

Confused.

I'm better now, Jane.

Can't you see that I'm better now?

I always feel so damned confused after it's over.

After the crying-feeling leaves and all I feel is n u m b.

"You KNOW what I'm talking about. Lisbon...please, please tell me what happened."

Jane looks even more upset now. Which only increases my confusion, and my dread.

My guilt.

Looking down, I realize the shaking in my hands, my limbs, has stopped. Impressively so, in its suddenness.

I'm back.

"What does it matter? I felt...off and strange, and like I wanted to cry, and couldn't. And now I don't feel like that, and that's GOOD, Jane."

"Lisbon..."

"I HATE crying Jane! And here you've been hurt so badly tonight, and *I'm* the one near tears? I'm GLAD that it's gone. Those feelings. Those feelings were all screwed up, so what does it matter if they went away too quickly? I shouldn't have had them in the first place!"

Jane's breathing has increased. His chest is rising and falling with greater rapidity. He doesn't look...angry, per se. But he definitely looks worried and conflicted and...

"It matters because YOU matter, Lisbon! You matter to me! And no one should be that scared! That scared of being seen. Of showing that they can cry, that they NEED to cry! How many years have you pushed everything away, when you felt like crying? How long have you denied yourself to feel anything, even if it was love? ESPECIALLY if it was love?"

I love him - that is true.

But this isn't the night to talk about me, and my fucked up childhood.

"Jane...stop it. YOU were hurt tonight. Not me! I don't want the focus to be on me. It feels...perverse and wrong. It's...don't you see? You stayed because I asked you to stay."

I look away, so I don't have to look at those lost, grey-blue eyes.

"This ISN'T your fault, Lisbon."

...storm cloud eyes, filled with unfathomably deep empathy...

"That need, Lisbon? To cry? That need you feel? That need is still there. You can squash those emotions down for only so long but they WILL be expressed one way or another. Getting angry isn't an adequate means of venting pain! Anger doesn't replace sadness. They aren't the same thing!"

His eyes are sad.

So sad.

I just can't have it...

"I ASKED you to stay behind, and like you said - You listened. You were attacked because I ASKED you to stay! This is my fault."

His hand - his relatively uninjured arm - comes around and finds my neck, the crook of soft flesh, the nap of soft hairs, and slowly tilts me forward to him as if I'm a useless, bloodless doll.

When he pulls me forward, he brings my face to his chest, and I immediately reach out and wrap my arms around him, carefully. Aware of his wounds. The motion, the action, the heat of his body is...transfixing.


Jane's heart makes the most beautiful sounds imaginable.

thhhaa thummmp thhhaa thummmp thhhaa thummmp thhhaa thummp

And his body makes the most beautiful comforter; if I knew I wouldn't be atrociously mortified later, I'd just lay here by his side all night until I fell asleep.

I'd let myself drown in his thrumming heartbeat, his almost liquid warmth. I'd just relinquish control and let myself be plowed under his heat and hold and touch, and drink in that earthy scent of him, of Jane. That lightest scent of something pine. Aspen fresh, maybe, as if he's lived and breathed in fresh soil.

Bergamot, perhaps?

Possibly.

He does drink a lot of tea. (Maybe it's seeping through his pores? I wouldn't be surprised).

His pajama top is also scented - and this scent is stronger and ever-present, as the garment has recently been bleached. But even that scent isn't bad, isn't overpowering. It's crisp, and makes my nose crinkle upwards, but it's also sort of bright and jolting. Like an ammonia shot, waking me up. A pinch to the olfactory senses, that fortifying antiseptic quality which so wholly rejects pain and blood and everything horrible.

It means someone is tending to his wounds, cleaning him, making sure he's...okay...

Free from infection, sickness.

Or anything worse...

"Feel better?," Jane murmurs somewhere between blink-of-an-eye and eternity later. Time sort of falls apart, disintegrates, when you're being held by him. All you know is that you feel very, very safe. Which is sort of a bitterly hilarious thought, given the fact that he's currently in the hospital for stab wounds and blood loss.

The very notion that he can continually offer such resolute comfort is a little mind blowing.

It makes me want to shake myself.

"Hmm?"

"Yeah," I manage to get out before I feel his hands roam over my back, circle down to cover small of my spine - the region where flesh dips into a delicate pocket. A pucker of indentation. It's the same area that Jane so often reaches out to touch in our day-to-day interactions - brushing my jacket against his palm as he guides me through a bustling crowd, or reaching for that small space of skin whenever he holds the door out for me.

He's always been very hands-on - very drawn to touch. Reaching for my hand when I've scattered case notes in the bullpen. Or pushing hair beneath my ear when it has messily come undone from a tie. The motions, the touches, always safe enough, that everything else that was deeper and fuller was simply denied. Then.

But now...tonight...everything has changed.

"Do you still feel like crying?," Jane whispers abruptly, the noise barely registering over the far more exotic (and infinitely more soothing) beat of his heart.

I shake my head against his chest, not wanting to speak. Simply wanting to listen to the sound within his chest.

The music of him, alive.

"I'm not squishing you, am I?," he asks again, not a moment later.

I shake my head once more, even though the pressure of his hands against my body is, indeed, quite taut. It's also what I crave right now. That pressure, that force. A living touch, a recuperating Patrick Jane.

"I like it," I breathe, my voice faint - even in my own head.

As I speak, his fingers lightly tap out soundless notes against my spine. The touches - random and childlike, as if my vertebrae were fancy bone keys to some imaginary and makeshift instrument.

"I like holding you," Jane confesses in a rushed response, realizing I'm not about to add anything more to his conversation.

"I like...holding you next to me. You make me feel safe, Lisbon."

I make HIM feel safe?

The thought departs when a new feeling comes. And, like a Ouiji board, I'm not sure if Jane was the instigator here, or if I was. But suddenly, my face is by his face. Suddenly, my lips are on his lips - or his lips are on mine, his hands cradling my head as he holds me to him. His mouth finds mine softly, sweetly and when his tongue hits the front of my lips, the motion is very careful. Requesting passage, but not intruding.

There is fear in me, sure, but I push it away when I feel one of his hands skirt down to my arm, my hand, entwine, squeeze. Hold for a moment, then release.

Assurance.

And I don't have to do much. He's not asking me to do much.

I just have to open up to him a little bit - just a little bit. So I do, and Jane turns slightly in the bed, so that I suddenly occupy about half the space.

The movement as he turns me, and helps me slide next to him, is just as calm on his end as when he presses more of his body into mine to deepen the kiss.

And there we have it: something instinctive and raw causes me to push back, and meet him movement for movement. A blinding need to feel him is all that matters now. To physically connect with him. Feel his heart, his warmth.

To know he's alive. To know it in my cells.

Several moments later, he pulls back, and gives me a shy grin - before reaching out and kissing me modestly on the lips one last time.

"That was sorta fun, huh?," he stammers, voice rushed. He sounds out of breath, and I mentally berate myself for letting the moment get the better of us.

He had an oxygen mask on less than an hour ago, you dolt!

"Why didn't we do that sooner? I really liked that," he grins at me, while I look on, momentarily at a loss for words, so I grab his hand and play with his fingers, study them, and fight down an inappropriate urge to laugh at what we've just done together.

"I don't think we should try that again Jane. Not here, anyway. You're still a little too worked up, aren't you?," I smirk, pointing to the heart monitor, while Jane looks over at the machine and flushes.

Ah ha, so the tables have turned now...haven't they?

"Well, I mean...well...yeah," he admits quietly.

He's silent then, looking at our hands, but not at me - and in that moment I am convinced that Jane, shy, is as equally endearing as Jane, confident.

Maybe moreso.

"Of course, you'd be much more cuddly if you were warmer, woman! You're not normally this cold, are you?"

I turn to him rapid-fire now, and almost groan when I take in the sight of his wide goofy grin.

"What are you talking about?"

Jane laughs so softly that the hoarse rush of his strangled trachea bleats through, and he suddenly begins to choke in his amusement.

"Easy there, partner," I smirk, my arms still wrapped around his middle.

What IS it about Jane that makes me want to hold him next to me?

I'm not...like this. I never have been.

"Partner?," Jane takes a few breaths, syphons off some of the intensity, then adds, "Oh, you reminded me, Lisbon! We have to go through the all important "are you compatible?" questions. Because even though I think you would make an amicable snuggle partner, partner...it's pretty foolish to make a blatant assumption that we'll be snuggle compatible..."

What the hell?

"Snuggle compatible?"

I suddenly have a mental image of a fawn coloured bear running around in ecstasy, smelling fluffy towels and jumping about on "botanical breeze" scented pillows.

As if my 80's recollections weren't traumatic enough, before...

Jane seems to miss my nostalgic musings, and carries on - more animated now than I've seen him all evening.

Only Jane can go from serious, sweet...to this sort of clownish imp act in under thirty seconds.

Of course, I know what he's doing.

He's trying...to take away your fear.

He's trying to show you that everything is familiar.

That's he's still Jane.

That you're still Lisbon.

That you don't have to be afraid, just because you want to be closer to him.

Just because he wants to be closer to you.

Never mind the fact that I'm too amused to be made nervous by the somewhat sexual undercurrents of his ponderings.

"Well, I just want to know if you are one of those hoarder people. It's a valid concern."

"'Hoarder people?' What in God's green earth are you talking about, Jane?"

Jane gestures with his hands, causing the IV line to swing about in a low oblate motion.

"Oh, you know," he eyes me with mock suspicion. "A blanket hoarder. Or a pillow hoarderer. There no good, either. Worse, maybe. Cause I do like me some fluffy pillows."

"Forget your helacious grammar, Jane. "Hoarderer?" Seriously?"

"Of course, seriously! I have to check. I mean you are soft and all, and you have very silky hair, and you smell like cinnamon - a personal favorite, if you want to know the truth. But I gotta know in advance if you are the type to steal pillows and blankets and everything else..."

I'm about to respond, when I hear a rapid rap rap rap rap at the door.

Jane's eyes flitter up and over - away from me, a dying response on his tongue as he catches sight of Grace from the small glass partition of window.

Rigsby and Cho swim into view not a second later, and I barely catch his final words as the door creaks open. "Take that, fear," he mumbles, catching my eye. Giving me a slight, tentative smile. A half smile.

A knowing smile.

A we'll...get through this one way or the other, smile.

I pull back from Jane, pull back from our grasp, as if burnt. No pain, just...startled. The speed of my action increases the throbbing, and tingling, where he's held me, and kissed me.

"Everything ok?," Cho asks briskly, his voice not holding much room for a response, even though Jane looks flushed. And I probably do too.

I eye the proffered coffee with feigned enthusiasm, waving an impassive whatever as I grab hold of the insulated brown cup.

"That's double sugar, extra strong, yeah?"

Cho gives me an odd look, but nods.

"If by extra strong you mean I asked for whatever coffee they could serve that hadn't been made yesterday - then yeah."

When Jane speaks to the world next, he sounds like a tease.

"There you go, Cho. Word power. I knew you could do it! It's all about taking baby steps, pal. Baby steps."

Cho snorts, cracks a smile to me, asks, "Codeine, morphine or naproxin? What's he on?"

Jane sing-songs his response overtop mine, winking at me as he talks, "Is that like coffee, tea, or me?"

I choke on the swallow of coffee that had been half-way down to my belly at that point.

Gag into the paper cup.

The rascal.

And ignore him.

"Coffee fixes everything, doesn't it Lisbon? Definitely will heat you up, though. Always a plus."

Little flirt...

Aggravating little flirt!

I can only pray that I'm not blushing.