Written for the Jello-Forever Big Bang. Here it is, my monster fic. Thanks so much AlamoGirl for the wonderful beta, and for listening to me whine about this thing for literally months. Thanks to kathiann for her enthusiastic cheerleading and to my wonderful artists. And lastly, thanks to my perpetual fic cheerleaders, yaba and spyglass, who also encouraged me for months.
I hope you guys enjoy this. I'll put up chapters relatively quickly. And I had tremendous fun writing it.
How Lisbon got her Groove Back
"We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden"
-Johan Woflgang Von Goethe
Teresa Lisbon stormed out of the local police station.
No one got in her way. Even though at least three quarters of the people in the room didn`t know her, it was obvious that the furious looking brunette wasn`t someone that you got in the way of.
She didn`t slow down until she felt fresh air on her face. Taking three deep breaths Lisbon tried to get her temper under control.
He'd manipulated her. He'd deliberately and knowingly manipulated her. And yeah, okay, that was pretty much par for the course with Jane some days, and yeah, she should be used to it by now, but this time he'd gone too far.
Maybe her anger would surprise him, but she didn't care. Because this time his stupidity hadn't just affected her, hadn't even been limited to just the team or the killer either. Okay, the criminal was involved, but so were the victims. This time Jane had involved the murdered woman's family in his insanity.
In Lisbon's mind that took everything too far.
The CBI was supposed to be trying to protect those affected by violent crimes, not exposing them to more pain.
And now she wanted nothing more than to yell at him until a fraction of the things she was saying actually permeated his thick skull. Well, either that or find a local gym and use him as a sparring partner. And since Jane had all the hand-to-hand training of a three-toed sloth, she was using the term 'partner' loosely. Really she meant 'punching bag.'
The overwhelming frustration was not an unfamiliar feeling by any means, but it was one that Lisbon'd been experiencing more and more frequently. She didn't know what to do about it. Jane seemed to be getting more and more outrageous, sometimes for no good reason. Most of the time, her team seemed to go along with him. She supposed it was because she didn't put a stop to it, either because she couldn't be bothered or because she didn't know how. But how could she stop the insanity? Nothing she did seemed particularly effective. Jane never even apologized, just brushed off her concerns with a wave of his hand. She'd gotten so tired of yelling at him and trying to make him change. He clearly had no intention of actually doing so. And the fact that members of her team seemed to back him up just irritated her further.
She hoped this particular debacle didn't get back to her boss. A victim's family caught in the crossfire of one of Jane's little traps might be one of the things that set Hightower on a rampage and landed Lisbon with another suspension. But then she couldn't be sure. It was always hard to tell which way her boss was going to come down on any particular issue. Well, other than Jane equals good, solved cases equals better… any mess equals Lisbon's job.
Which was tiring; there was always a mess. And she was so sick of being diplomatic and cleaning it up.
Well not today. Jane could figure his own way out of this one, damn the consequences.
Except that Jane couldn't do that, because Lisbon would bet everything she owned that at that very moment Jane was chasing after her in order to ask why she was so upset. Because really, what possible reason could she have to be annoyed with him?
As if on cue she heard the sound of someone jogging up behind her.
"Left the room a little quickly there Lisbon, don't you think?" Jane asked. "I'm surprised; the victim's family wants to talk to you."
She whirled on him. "Oh do they?" she snapped. "That's a shock. And what exactly am I supposed to tell them Jane? What would you like me to say? 'Sorry we had to put you through even more hell after what has probably been the worst week of your life, what with the loved one being murdered and then my telling you she was an embezzler and a fraud. But hey, we caught the killer so I'm sure you'll get over it.'"
"Well that seems a bit harsh," Jane admitted with a shrug. "But if you want to go with blunt then what about, 'Okay we lied, but we did catch your mother's killer and in the end isn't that all that matters?'" Jane suggested. His version may have been just as blunt as hers was, but it somehow seemed a little less likely to make the family angrier than they already were. It also struck him that it probably wasn't a good sign when his suggestion was the more tactful of the two.
"Yeah, that sort of logic may work with Hightower, Jane," Lisbon bit out. "But I think you'll find that people who are emotionally involved won't give a damn that lying to them helped catch a killer. They're just hurt and angry. We're the CBI, we're supposed to be the ones who come in and fix things! And we're supposed to be reasonably sensitive. It's why we get all the high profile cases in the first place!"
"This one wasn't particularly high profile," Jane couldn't help reminding her.
"Thank god," Lisbon muttered. If it had been she'd have been fired for sure. Oh lord, what if Jane had managed to trick her into telling a politician or an important businessman that their deceased family member was a crook?
"We did catch their mother's killer," Jane pointed out a second time. "Maybe the family just wants to thank you."
"Hah," Lisbon scoffed. She'd seen the family from across the room just before she'd stormed out. They hadn't been coming over to thank her.
"It's possible," Jane told her. It wasn't likely, but there was always an outside chance he'd read the situation wrong and the husband wasn't coming over to make the usual litany of threats in Jane's general direction, followed by a demand to speak to someone's superior, all done with as much bluster and pompousness as possible obviously.
"It's not," Lisbon disagreed. "I wouldn't be thanking me if I was in their shoes," Lisbon said. "I'd want to kill me if I was them."
Jane looked shocked at that suggestion. He honestly hadn't been expecting her to react so strongly to his little plan. Usually she was reasonably easygoing about his little tricks. Especially recently. But maybe that was the problem. She'd been too subdued. The frustration had just been bubbling up inside of her and now she'd finally exploded. "Lisbon..." he said, suddenly worried.
But Lisbon didn't want to hear what was almost certain to be Patrick Jane's opinion on her current mental state. And she didn't want to watch him attempt to feign concern. Probably easier to just explain why she was mad in the first place since her reasons obviously hadn't occurred to him. Then he might leave her alone. "Jane, we've just tainted their last memories of their family member," she told him scathingly.
"But they have a lifetime of good memories," Jane reminded her. "And their last memory can now be knowing that justice was done."
Lisbon sighed, deciding to just skip pointing out the irony of Patrick Jane advocating forgetting your final painful memory of a person and taking comfort in justice being served. "Jane, sometimes the thing a police officer says to the victim's family is one of the last memories they have to associate with that person," she snapped. "And now Mrs. Cosgrove's family is going to remember that I told them she might have been involved in fraud and money laundering because you thought it would be a quick and easy way to weed out the real killer. Don't you get that? I'm forever going to be the cop who used their grief to solve a case," she exclaimed, finding that she was getting angry all over again just thinking about it. Really angry. "How would you..." she started to ask.
"How would I what?" he repeated when she didn't finish the question.
"Nothing," she muttered, glad she'd stopped herself just in time.
"No, say it," he prodded.
"No," she said with a shake of her head.
"It's obvious that you want to," he replied.
"I don't," she insisted. "Which is why I didn't say it."
"Fine," Jane replied. "Then I'll say it. How would I like it if the police investigating my family's death had done something similar to me? What if they'd told me my wife had died because of something she'd been involved in just to see how I'd react?"
"Jane," Lisbon said tiredly.
"No, it's a fair point Lisbon," he admitted with a nod. "I'll have to think about that. I imagine I'd be furious, and take some sort of appropriate revenge. Of course I would point out that in this case one member of the family was actually guilty. It's not like they were all babes in the woods, snowy white and pure. If Neil Cosgrove had come forward about his role in his mother's murder then I wouldn't have had to put his whole family through what I did. And he was guilty of murder after all Lisbon."
"Yeah, but his entire family wasn't," Lisbon pointed out caustically.
"Well, no," Jane admitted. "But I'm sure that when they look back on this they won't remember that you misled them," he assured her. "They'll remember that you put their family member's killer behind bars."
Lisbon scoffed. "Yeah," she said sarcastically. "Plus I locked up another one of the family members. But you're right. I'm sure they won't remember a single thing I said to them. Things that I only said because you lied to me and told me they were true, after planting fake evidence in the victim's house."
Jane paused, watching her face. Yes, he'd lied to her. But he doubted she'd have gone along with the plan if he'd told the truth, a conclusion her current reaction firmly supported. Besides, he'd wanted her reaction to be genuine. Still, she was really, really angry. He went over what she'd already said in his head. "Do you remember what the police officers said to you?" he asked after a moment.
Lisbon turned confused. "What?"
"When your mother died, or was it your father?" he asked slowly. "Which police officers do you remember? Which ones affected you so much?"
She flinched, and then her face hardened. "Drop it Jane."
"Lisbon I'm not..." Jane started to explain.
"I said drop it," she snapped.
Angry all over again, Lisbon huffed in irritation. "I'm going back to the hotel," she bit out. "You'll have to catch a ride with Cho."
She walked to the SUV as fast as she could without actually running. She knew leaving Jane behind was petty, but she didn't care. She couldn't deal with him at the moment.
Besides, as always, he was right. All she could think about was the fact that after her father killed himself the officer in charge of the investigation had pushed a cup of hot tea into her hands, sincerely apologized for her loss, told her what happened and then assured her that she and her family would get through it. Because her brothers needed her, she was tough, and she could do this. And then the woman had slipped the cards for various local support groups into her hands.
She remembered everything that had happened that day and those last thirty seconds with that female officer had been the only moment where she felt like things might be even a little bit okay. Now, whenever she could Lisbon tried to be that moment for the grieving family members. Or at least to try not to add to their grief.
Today she'd left Mrs. Cosgrove's family with a sense of fear and betrayal.
Jane solved cases, but she always had to remember that he'd lie and cheat his way through basically anything to get what he wanted, which was generally the craziest possible solution to any problem.
She knew him. But he knew her too. Knew her too well. He knew that if he talked to her in that charming voice of his sometimes she'd forgot that she couldn't trust him. She forgot that she probably didn't mean anything at all to him, and she forgot that once he got caught up in his plans he'd forget to consider anyone else's opinion on the matter, let alone hers.
To top it off, each time that happened, Lisbon knew she'd have to pick herself up off the ground. No one else was about to do it.
Lisbon smacked the steering wheel of her SUV. She didn't trust one of the members of her own team. Great.
Jane might say she trusted none of them, but that wasn't true. She trusted the others, most of the time. And she also tended to know when she couldn't trust them. With Jane (except for the obvious scenario) it was unpredictable. She just got continuously blindsided by his insanity.
Not that there was anything she could do about it.
About an hour later Lisbon had changed into more casual clothes. Technically the case was closed. She'd checked in with her team. Apparently after she'd stalked out of the precinct Rigsby had gone to talk to the victim's family.
Lisbon'd breathed a sigh of relief when she heard that. Van Pelt could be too understanding sometimes while Cho would be completely tactless. Rigsby was the best of the three at dealing with the families. Apparently her team wisely hadn't let Jane get anywhere near the grieving family again. Which was good.
The case may have been closed, but Lisbon didn't feel like driving back to Sacramento in the dark. So she'd decided that they'd stay in the local hotel for one more night and head out in the morning. Lisbon idly flipped through the hotel brochure and toyed with the idea of ordering room service. Or baring that, maybe just pizza. She wasn't in the mood to go out at all.
Clearly that thought was a cue for a knock on her door.
Lisbon groaned. She knew exactly who this was going to be.
"Hello Jane," she said slowly as she opened the door halfway.
"Hello Lisbon!" he replied considerably more cheerfully.
"What do you want?" she asked.
"I was wondering if you wanted to grab some dinner," he told her. "I was thinking about what you said, and you're right, I probably shouldn't have done what I did and it was never my intention to make you upset or uncomfortable. Why don't you let me make it up to you? I heard that there's a restaurant not far from here that you'll really like, but I can't tell you anything else about it other than that because I want it to be a surprise," he explained brightly.
Lisbon sighed mentally. Great. Now Jane was going to behave like a child goading her to go out and get dinner with him while he entertained her with some sort of nonsense when all she wanted to do was curl up in bed with a pizza. She smiled slightly at him, determined to at least be polite. "Y'know Jane, I'm actually really tired so I just thought I'd get something in my room. But thanks for the invitation. I'm sure the rest of the team's still around if you're looking for company though."
Jane looked crestfallen. "Come on Lisbon," he wheedled. "I don't want to get dinner with the others. I want to get dinner with you. It'll be good for you, better than spending your evening cooped up in here alone. We could talk. I know something's wrong. And I'm, well, I'm willing to listen. If you want."
"Sorry Jane," she repeated. "Not tonight."
"Jane, just go," she told him, finally giving up the pretence of good humour. "I'm off duty. I'm tired. You're not my responsibility anymore. We closed the case; I know why you did what you did. I don't know why I was even surprised about it. Luckily it doesn't look like the family's going to sue the CBI or complain or anything, so hey, you're off the hook. You don't need to take me to dinner."
"I wasn't going to take you to dinner just so you wouldn't be mad at me," Jane told her. "I want to..."
"Maybe another time," Lisbon interrupted. "I really am tired."
"Okay," he said after a second, his tone now overly bright. "Another time," he promised. "I hope you feel better soon."
"Goodnight," she said, before practically shutting the door in his face.
Yeah, maybe she'd been a bit harsh, but when they were on the road she had to deal with that man for at least sixteen hours a day for a minimum of three days. She was tired, she was still cranky and she just wanted to be left alone. Was that too much to ask?
In the next room Jane was pacing around the bed in distraction. Lisbon appeared to be genuinely annoyed with him. And this wasn't in an "I'm annoyed with you because when we get back to the CBI Hightower's going to call me into her office to have a discussion" kind of a way. It definitely wasn't in an "I'm not really annoyed with you but I'm going to pretend I am because I feel like you deserve it" kind of a way. It also wasn't in a "Something else is going on in my life that is making me unhappy and so I'm in no mood to put up with any of your nonsense Jane" kind of a way, though he suspected that elements of the last one were involved.
Jane wasn't a doctor or anything, but if he had to guess he'd say that Teresa Lisbon was hovering around the edge of depression, had been for months now.
He supposed she had reason to be. After all, her job was hard. She chased down killers all day, got shot at and threatened. She'd lost people she was close to, was trying (and so far failing) to find a notorious serial killer. Her boss was always breathing down her neck, and then there was all the public relations stuff. In Jane's opinion that was almost the worst. He'd rather get punched in the nose than have to deal with a self-important politician.
Which was why it was such a good division of labour that he got repeatedly punched in the nose while Lisbon dealt with the politicians.
He was glad that was Lisbon's job. She always picked up the pieces. Well, usually anyway. Today she'd stormed away, leaving Cho to do it. Always a risky move as public relations was not known to be one of the strengths of her second in command. Luckily Rigsby had stepped in.
Something was wrong.
Something other than him, though Jane would concede that he probably didn't always help matters. But Lisbon also tended to be surly on days that the team did nothing but sit around the office doing paperwork. Jane hardly doubted that his tendency to waste entire afternoons had drawn her ire, especially if he kept to himself and didn't distract the rest of the team (or wreak havoc elsewhere in the CBI).
He'd been noticing for a while that Lisbon was more subdued. She spent more time in her office with the door shut. She wasn't smiling as much, she wasn't as playful. And she'd basically stopped going on any team outings Van Pelt tried to organize. The redhead had been particularly disappointed that Lisbon always managed to find an excuse to get out of their monthly team bowling night.
Still, Jane had to admire Van Pelt's tenacity. Like clockwork the rookie agent asked their boss to join them every month. Every month Lisbon politely declined with a vague excuse.
It was small comfort to Jane that Lisbon was apparently shutting everyone out, not just him.
He'd tried to reach her. He'd planned several elaborate schemes designed to make her laugh. Pranks, gifts, snacks. Admittedly he had some success. She had enjoyed when he'd folded an entire origami Noah's Ark for her, and she'd chuckled along with everybody else when he'd hypnotized one of the mail guys into reciting nursery rhymes for a good half hour. It would have been longer but Hightower had put a stop to it. On the other hand, other ideas had been less than successful, like when he'd told her he had a lead on a case and took her to a petting zoo. Or the time he signed her up for yoga lessons and told her she needed to find her centre. And even the times that his attempts were successful, they didn't seem to have any kind of permanent effect on her mood.
He was getting frustrated, and more than a little worried. Which surprised him. He'd never expected to worry about Lisbon. Not for long periods at a time anyway. She was always so self-contained.
And today she'd basically slammed a door in his face and told him to get lost.
Well, that and she didn't trust him. Another area that he never seemed to make much headway on.
He wasn't stupid; he knew that lying to her didn't exactly help his case there. But, but... he'd explained to her time and again why he did that. He lied when telling her the truth might get her into trouble. At least this way she could plead ignorance. And he lied when Red John was involved. He was trying to protect her. Red John wasn't her fight. He was Jane's.
Jane scowled to himself. The infuriating woman never appreciated anything he did. He didn't know what to do about it.
He'd thought maybe they were on their way to becoming friends, and now she was pulling away.
Although, maybe he should count his blessings there. After all, look what had happened to the last woman he'd tried to befriend. Okay, maybe he hadn't exactly been thinking about friendship with Kristina Frye. He had no idea what he'd been thinking exactly to be honest. And now she'd just disappeared. Lisbon kept insisting that they didn't know it was Red John. But Jane knew. It was absolutely Red John. No question. He also knew that he absolutely couldn't bear if the same thing happened to another woman in his life, to Lisbon. Maybe he should pull away from her too.
But if he did that then who was left to make sure she was okay? Like he'd said, Van Pelt was trying, and her team was worried, but nothing was working. Jane kept thinking that maybe if he just tried hard enough he could reach her. Or, maybe just make her smile.
She hadn't smiled much in the last few months.
If he pulled away from her now, he might never get her back. He'd just make sure she was okay; then he'd figure out the whole Red John issue.
Jane sighed and looked around his hotel room. Well, Lisbon might be inclined to spend her evening alone in a hotel room brooding, but he wasn't. He was going to go get some dinner, though not at that restaurant he'd wanted to take her to. That would just irritate him. He'd be alone of course; the rest of the team had headed out to an Italian place about half an hour ago. Jane had begged off, saying he was going to make sure Lisbon ate. The rest of them had left him to it.
Yeah that had worked out well for him. Now he just wanted to go somewhere quick and easy for a bite. And then maybe he'd indulge himself with a drink. The case was done after all. And he wasn't planning on getting fall-down drunk.
At a bar he might be able to distract himself with some pointless conversation with a similarly lonely soul.
He'd figure out his Lisbon problem later.
Lisbon sat on the bed in her hotel room flipping through the channels, trying to figure out how she felt. She wasn't sure if she felt guilty about Jane, or pleased. In fact, she didn't really know what she thought about much of anything.
She felt off.
Everything felt out of control. She was irritable, more so than usual some people might say. And those people could do with a swift kick in the shin in her opinion. But then, that was the problem wasn`t it? She felt downright angry sometimes. Sometimes she just wanted to say screw it and scream. She, Teresa Lisbon, who prized herself on her professionalism occasionally felt like throwing a temper tantrum to get her own way. At least thus far she`d managed to keep the ones she did throw behind closed doors.
But maybe she wouldn`t feel the need to throw temper tantrums if things ever did actually go her way.
God. Now she sounded like a spoiled toddler. Well, wasn`t that just great.
Some CBI Agent she was. And they let her lead a team?
And that sounded like self-pity. Oh wonderful. Why not just break out the alcohol and call it a banner day?
She sighed, the mental sarcasm taking a bit of the edge off of her annoyance. She rubbed a hand over her face, deciding to take comfort in the fact that at least she had enough sense to know that turning to alcohol right now would be a bad, bad idea.
She'd take her little victories where she could get them.
She was just so tired of everything sometimes. Maybe it was a mid-life crisis. But wasn't she too young for that? Too old for a quarter-life crisis... Could a person have a one-third-life crisis?
And Jane had wanted her to open up to him.
Yeah, that would go over well.
She'd have probably tried to deflect him, while he poked and prodded until she lost it and just screamed at him.
Then he'd probably have the nerve to stand there in that superior way of his looking completely unaffected, while she felt like a fool. And to top it off he'd probably have some sort of patronizingly superior advice to give her in the end. Something that he could do (he was Patrick Jane, he could solve all the world's problems) to make her feel better.
Sadly the only thing Jane-related that might make her feel better was if she kicked the crap out of him. And that brought with it its own problems.
Why couldn't he just leave her alone?
Didn't he realize that sometimes she needed time alone to pull herself together? That she didn't always need him prodding?
Okay, so he didn't just prod. Actually, he'd been behaving a bit strangely himself lately. But she was still damn mad at him so she was going to pretend he had no good qualities at all.
It would serve him right.
Lisbon blew her bangs off of her face in irritation.
She was just going to order room service and then try for an early night. She'd feel better after more sleep.
Lisbon flipped through the channels on television a half-eaten room service tray beside her. She hadn't been all that hungry but she had tried to eat something.
After managing to finish half of a relatively tasteless sandwich she was looking for a distraction. Why was there never anything on television? All the channels seemed to be either unfunny comedies or police procedurals. She already spent enough time dealing with crime to want to use it as a distraction after a long day. Finally she settled on a movie. It was a silly romantic comedy and mediocre at best, but it was better than the alternatives. At least it was mindless.
On the other hand, maybe mindless wasn't distracting enough. She kept flashing back to her day, to the faces of the victim's family when they realized that they'd been used. To her own anger when she'd realized what Jane had done. To Jane's attempt at making things up to her, something that didn't really surprise her. He was great at doing something wrong, making her angry, and then trying to win her over afterwards. Apparently the man had never heard that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure.
She did feel a twinge of guilt when she remembered the expression on his face after she'd told him she didn't trust him and basically ordered him to leave her alone. That might have struck a nerve. But he drove her crazy. And she was tired. She just wanted to be left alone. And she was sick of trying to figure out when Jane was being genuine and what she could actually tell him without him using it against her later.
She knew her team was getting concerned about her. She wasn't an idiot. But she didn't want to deal with that either. She just, she wanted time to herself. For things to be simple, to feel like people weren't expecting things or judging her.
Lisbon watched as the movie finally wound down to its predictable conclusion then shut off the TV. It was almost eleven o'clock, but she didn't feel like watching the news. She decided to get an early night. They'd be leaving in the morning anyway, and it was a long drive back to Sacramento. Maybe she'd let Jane drive part of the way. That might make him feel better.
There was no point in scolding him after all. It just rolled off him like water off a duck's back.
Shaking her head Lisbon resolved not to think about Jane anymore and started getting ready for bed.
Just as she was crawling under the covers she thought she heard a noise. She reached for her gun while simultaneously turning on the light.
To her credit Lisbon managed not to scream, but it was a near thing. She'd seen some strange things in her time, but this took the cake.
"Mom?" she asked in disbelief. It shouldn't have been possible. Scratch that; it wasn't possible. But it was true. Someone (or more frighteningly, something) that looked exactly like her mother was standing at the end of the bed watching her, her (its?) expression half affection, half worry.
"Hello Teresa," the thing Lisbon was going to refer to as her mother (for the lack of a better alternative) said softly.
"Wha... how?" Lisbon asked just as softly. "But you're..."
"Dead," her mother confirmed with a nod. "Yes, I know that sweetie."
"Oh god," Lisbon murmured. "I've died, or been kidnapped, or drugged. Or maybe I've fallen into a coma. Is this where you tell me to walk towards the light?" She asked, oddly calm about the whole thing. Although that was probably because the shock hadn't warn off yet, so panic hadn't yet had time to set in.
"You're not dead Teri," her mother told her softly. "Trust me on this one. I know what that's like. You're also not in a coma, or drugged. You're still in your hotel room."
"Please tell me I'm asleep," Lisbon whispered, torn between wanting to shrink back as far away from the apparition as possible and wanting to run and throw her arms around it. The fact that her mother may not be solid enough for that was more than enough to keep her from moving.
"Can't do that," her mother said gently.
"Then is this the part where I try and claim you're a bit of undigested beef?" Lisbon asked.
"Teresa Anne, don't talk about your mother that way!" her mother admonished. "I can assure you that I'm really here. Well, a part of me anyway. I'm a ghost, or whatever you want to call it. My spirit is visiting you."
"How do I know you're really you?" Lisbon asked. "I mean, if you are a ghost then how do I know you really are my mother and not something else trying to trick me?" It was a valid point, she told herself, trying to avoid panic with a bit of logical thinking. And after all, if ghosts really existed then who knows what else could crop up.
Her mother sighed, but she smiled as she did it. "Always so sceptical weren't you Teresa? Alright then, when you were six years old your favourite book was The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The first boy you had a crush on was little Stevie Mason who lived across the street and you cried for half an hour when his family moved away, even though you tried to hide it. Your favourite meal used to be spaghetti and meatballs as long as there were absolutely no vegetables in the sauce. I had trouble even sneaking in minced onions. The last vacation we took as a family was that trip to Disney World which you pretended to be too cool for until it came time to meet Pluto. I gave you that cross you're wearing for your confirmation. I got it from your grandmother on my confirmation and I'm still hoping that you might get to pass it on to your own daughter on hers, though it's okay if you don't. I can go on and on dear. I know later things too. I've kept my eye on you."
"Oh god," Lisbon gasped. "This is really happening isn't it?"
"Yes," her mother said gently.
"How?" Lisbon asked almost frantically. "Why?"
"I think you know why Teri," her mother said gently.
"Trust me, I don't," Lisbon said with a shake of her head.
"I'm here because mothers always want to look out for their daughters," her mother explained.
"And you think I need looking out for?" Lisbon asked, just a hint of irritation in her tone.
"Everyone needs looking out for," the ghost said easily. "Maybe you especially, since you always were too stubborn to let anyone else do it most of the time."
"Hey! I..." Lisbon started to object, or maybe just to defend herself.
"You don't Teresa," her mother told her. "It takes a particular kind of stubbornness to get close to you. Always has. And to make things worse you've been looking after everyone else since you were a teenager. I know part of that's my fault."
All the irritation disappeared from Lisbon's face. "Oh Mom, it wasn't your fault."
"Well, maybe not fault then," her mother acknowledged. "That wasn't the right word. But it's because of me. Because I was killed. I'll admit your father certainly didn't help matters," she muttered, before shaking her head and changing the subject. "It's why I'm here, why I haven't moved on. Like I said, a mother always looks after her children."
"Will you be checking in on the others then?" Lisbon asked. "I bet the boys would love to see you."
"No, just you," her mother admitted. "We only get to make visits for very special occasions and you need me most."
"Hey!" Lisbon objected again. "It's not that I'm not happy to see you, but I'm think I'm doing alright."
"Yes, but Steve and Jimmy have families," her mother explained. "Not that I'm saying you necessarily need a family obviously. Unless you want one of course. But even Tommy has a couple of good friends who support him. You on the other hand have nothing in your life but a job you've become completely frustrated with while letting it nearly consume you. To make things worse, you're even shutting out your colleagues now, the people who you used to trust at least a little. Why not let them in?"
"Mom, I'm their boss, it's a bit unprofessional..." Lisbon started to explain.
"Teri, I'm your mother, do you really think that'll work on me?" the older woman asked, hands on her hips. "Especially since I've already told you that I've been checking up on you from the afterlife. One thing death does give you if you want it is an excellent view of things that're happening on earth."
Lisbon huffed in irritation, and tried to defend her decisions, "I've got a new boss who's breathing down my neck, looking for breaches in protocol. She's already spoken to two of my team members about an inappropriate relationship."
"I'm not suggesting you sleep with any of them Teri," her mother said with a roll of her eyes. "Though I'm also not necessarily ruling it out. But you could start with letting them be your friends. You need friends. How many other people do you socialize with, do you think?"
Lisbon wrapped her arms around her chest defensively. "I don't have a lot of time..."
But her mother waved that off, "Terrible excuse. You could make time."
"My job keeps me busy," Lisbon tried again.
"Your job functions as a convenient excuse," her mother corrected.
"Mom..." Lisbon said, pinching the bridge of her nose.
If her annoyance had any effect on her mother it certainly wasn't noticeable. "You're shutting people out and I'm worried. You need something else in your life other than a job that stresses you out and makes you miserable."
Lisbon resisted the urge to crawl back under the blankets. "I'm not miserable," she insisted.
"You're not happy."
"Yeah, well, that doesn't mean I'm miserable," Lisbon muttered, mildly embarrassed by the observation. Even if it was being made by her mother's ghost. She was the responsible one, the one who took care of things. She was the one who was supposed to have her life together for crying out loud.
"I tried to raise you to have some balance," her mother said again, not feeling at all bad about using subtle guilt. After all, a good parent would do almost anything for their child's happiness. "You always used to have lots of friends Teri. Even when you were out in San Francisco, or even two years ago. And now you're shutting yourself down and I feel like there should be something I could have done. So I've decided to do something about it now, rather than spend the rest of the afterlife worrying about you."
Lisbon's irritation faded immediately (as her mother had known it would). "Mom, I'm fine. You don't need to..."
"You're obviously not fine," her mother snapped. "You barely even bother to have dinner with your team anymore. Look at what happened tonight."
"I was tired, needed a break," Lisbon said wearily.
"And what about that Jane fellow?" her mother asked.
"Jane?" Lisbon asked in shock. "What about him?"
"He seems to like you," her mother pointed out. "He dropped by specifically to invite you to dinner."
Lisbon let out a mirthless laugh. "Jane likes when I'm on his side so he can get away with whatever he wants," she explained.
Her mother tutted in displeasure. "Well, we both know that's not true."
"Do we?" Lisbon asked sarcastically.
"Yes," her mother told her definitely, ignoring the sarcasm. It was a common family defence mechanism. She knew it well. "We most certainly do. Even if you're being too stubborn to admit it."
Lisbon ran a hand over her face, "I can't believe I'm sitting here arguing with my mother's ghost about Patrick Jane."
"Oh, get over it Teri," her mother shrugged.
Lisbon almost laughed. "You can't honestly be suggesting that I open up to Jane?" she asked with a grin.
"Uh, for one, he enjoys picking through people's minds and I'd rather not have him in mine. He lies constantly. He never follows a single rule. Basically I absolutely can't trust him." Lisbon told her. "And every time I think I can, well, he goes behind my back and does something totally destructive and then the mess is my problem."
"Is this in your working relationship or your personal one?" her mother asked innocently.
"We only have a working relationship!" Lisbon snapped.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Lisbon demanded.
"Nothing," her mother said with a grin.
"No, that tone was the one you always used to use when you thought you knew something I didn't. It always drove me crazy," Lisbon told her mother in irritation. It was one thing for her mother to say that she'd been watching her life from beyond the grave. But even watching Jane's antics was a far cry from actually having to deal with them. Besides, Lisbon'd always figured that if someone was going to be on her side in this argument it'd be her mother.
"There was no tone Teri," her mother said with a grin.
"I interrogate people for a living now Mom," Lisbon reminded her. "I may not be as good as Jane, but I know a tone, and a lie, when I hear one."
"Have it your way then Teri," her mother shrugged.
Lisbon shot her mother a look that she knew was both petulant and immature, but she really didn't know how to react to this situation. Her dead mother drops by for a visit and decides that of all the things the two of them should talk about, Patrick Jane was the most important. Lisbon almost laughed to herself at the thought. Jane'd certainly enjoy that. His ego would be well pleased.
"I'm just saying," her mother added. "For all his faults, and yes, I'm willing to agree that he has a few, from what I've seen Patrick Jane seems to be at least as stubborn as you are. After all, you keep pushing him away but he's still trying to get you to open you up."
"Yeah, it's become a game for him now!" Lisbon muttered peevishly.
"You genuinely believe that don't you?" her mother asked, half to herself.
"Alright," her mother said softly. "I get it. Enough. I just... Looking back there are so many things I wish I could have said to people, darling, while I had the chance. I don't want you to wake up one day and feel the same way, especially since you're still alive. At least I have a better excuse."
"Well," Lisbon said softly. "At least you can tell me whatever you want. And I can always take messages."
"Messages aren't the same," her mother said with a shake of the head. "Plus they're not allowed. But I've been trying to tell you what I'd say to you for a good ten minutes now. You're just too stubborn to listen."
"I'm listening now," Lisbon promised.
"Then listen closely," her mother said seriously. "I love you Teresa. I always will. It's great to see be able to talk to you again, even if it's only for a few minutes. And I'm sorry if it sounds like I'm nagging at you, but I want you to be happy. That's all I ever wanted. And I'm sorry if I've upset you, but I'm just worried"
Tears pricked in the corners of Lisbon's eyes, "Mom, you don't have to worry about me..."
"Can't help it," her mother told her softly. "And I think you'll find I'm not the only one," she added as almost an afterthought.
"I hope that's not true," Lisbon said trying to hide her mortification at the thought.
"It's nothing to be ashamed of. People care about you. That's a good thing," her mother reminded her.
Lisbon sighed. "It's great seeing you too," she said softly. "Really great. I've missed you."
"I know, and I'm sorry," her mother said.
"It was never your fault," Lisbon replied.
"Doesn't mean I'm not sorry."
"Anyway, the reason I'm here is to tell you," her mother started to explain.
"Oh you mean you didn't come just to scold me?" Lisbon said with half a grin.
"Not scold, prod. Just a little," Mrs. Lisbon corrected. "And sadly I can't stay much longer. I wish I could, but this is already pushing it. I just get to tell you that tonight you're going to be visited by three spirits."
"Oh you've got to be kidding me," Lisbon said rolling her eyes.
Her mother shook her head, the hint of a smirk on her face. "Starting at midnight, and one every hour after that," the elder Lisbon told her daughter almost cheerfully.
"Please tell me it's not Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future," Lisbon groaned.
"No. Why would that be relevant?" her mother asked. "You're not a crotchety old man against the holiday season. You'll be visited by three people you'll know well, all three from the one aspect of your life you haven't ignored. And all three of them will have things to show you, things that they think are important."
"And what lesson am I to learn from this?" Lisbon asked, her heart thumping.
"I can't tell you that Teri," her mother said gently. "You've got to figure that one out for yourself."
"Of course I do," Lisbon muttered. "And why is that exactly?"
"It wouldn't have the same impact otherwise," her mother pointed out.
Lisbon barely stopped herself from letting her head bang against the wall in frustration, and maybe a little fear.
"I've got to go," her mother said softly.
"Wait!" she cried. She may not have been thrilled by the idea of more ghostly visitors, but, but... The woman in front of her was still her mother. And there were so many things she wanted to talk to her about.
"Sorry Teresa. I do," her mother said regretfully. "But remember, I love you, and I'm looking out for you."
With that her mother's ghost was gone.
Lisbon leaned back against the wall, unsurprised to realize that her hands were shaking. She wasn't sure what to think. Part of her was inclined to write the last hour off as either food poisoning or exhaustion. But on the other hand that was what people always did in movies and books, and then they looked like idiots when this sort of thing turned out to be genuine. But if it was genuine... Oh god. She'd just spoken to her mother's ghost in a hotel room in the middle of California. What was going on? Whatever it was, she supposed there probably wasn't anything she could do about it. And if her mother had been real then it was unlikely any of the ghosts meant her any harm.
Deciding to use her usual method of trying to ignore things she didn't want to deal with, Lisbon turned the light off beside her bed. After all, if she was going to be meeting a ghost in half an hour it wouldn't be the worst idea in the world to try and catch a quick nap. If it was all a dream, well then, no harm no foul.
It was the only sensible thing to do under the circumstances.
Because the only other option, option B, was to find someone and tell them about her evening. It'd almost have to be one of her team members because who else would she tell? And telling them what had happened was a no go. Even if she'd wanted to. Jane was really the only option and even he wasn't ideal. He probably wouldn't even believe her. If he did he'd probably dismiss it just like he did whenever Van Pelt started talking about things beyond what could be explained by pure science. And Lisbon couldn't stand the idea of the mockery right now. Besides, she'd already talked to Jane that evening and it hadn't exactly gone well. Of course, the idea of telling the rest of the team was even worse. Van Pelt would be overly sympathetic, have some crazy story about a relative with a similar experience, and insist on sitting up with her, which... if Lisbon had to be visited by ghostly apparitions intent on poking into her life she'd rather do it alone. Cho would either dismiss it like Jane would, or get really, really jumpy. It was hard to predict how her second in command would react to the supernatural. And as for Rigsby, well, Rigsby probably wouldn't know what to do. Lisbon almost laughed to herself picturing the expression on Rigsby's face if she told him. Oh, she was sure he'd try and help her if she asked him. But he'd be absolutely terrified the whole time.
No, better to deal with it alone. And if she did have to be visited by three ghosts, probably best to just get it over with and get on with her life.
With that Lisbon decided again to just sensibly go to sleep.
Needless to say she didn't get a wink of sleep in the next half hour.
Every creak, every passing footstep in the hallway was an impending visitor from the spirit world. And even if she could forget about the ghosts (fat chance), Lisbon still would have been haunted by the things her mother had said her.
Because whether she wanted to admit it or not, her mother was right. She had been shutting everyone out lately. Not just Jane, which might be justified. But she was constantly trying to find excuses not to spend any personal time with her team. Telling them she had plans, or work to catch up on, or that she just needed sleep. She wasn't sure they even believed her anymore, but she could tell they were all getting frustrated. Van Pelt was still hopeful and they always still asked her as a manner of course, but how long would that last? Even Jane and Van Pelt's patience would wear thin. Lisbon knew they'd started a monthly team bowling outing a few months ago as a means of decompressing. She'd never been, always finding an excuse not to go. It just seemed easier.
Avoiding her team would have been one thing if she had a social life of any kind to fall back on. But she hadn't been on a date that had gone well in about six months. Part of it was the job, part of it was the fact that she'd let a few acquaintances with questionable taste in men set her up on blind dates, and part of it was that she just couldn't be bothered.
But how bad had she let things get if she was getting an intervention from the great beyond? Ugh. The idea really was mortifying.
Unless it was all a hallucination, in which case she had some sort of severe mental problem.
Neither option was particularly palatable to her.
Lisbon buried her head under the scratchy hotel blankets, hoping to hide from the world.