Disclaimer: I don't own the Mentalist.

There are times where he comes close to breaking the surface that keeps him under. Things like flashes of light, or snippets of sounds. A few words here and there, but none of it makes any sense. There's always a general feeling of discomfort, of something that should be pain, and would be pain at any other time, but not currently because truth be told, everything is foggy. But the sensation closest to pain is the one he feels strongest.

Time had lost meaning, along with everything else. He sometimes how long he'll remain in this limbo. Sometimes he wills himself to wake soon, and sometimes he appreciates the solitude.

When he awakes fully for the first time, it is gradually.

First, a slight falling sensation, but when he lands, it's like he was placed down, gently. He orients himself, eyes closed, to figure out which way is up. Once he gets that figured out, he realizes what is down and that he's very comfortable. He realizes that he's lying in a bed. There's an odd feeling in his shoulder, not pain, but a bit of pressure. He doesn't try to move. Instead, he opens his eyes.

The ceiling is made up of square panels. They're a light gray color, with a rough texture. Not very attractive, and lacking in cracks that form images in the minds' eye. Before his eyes can explore much further, he fears a sharp intake of breath that is not his own.

He turns his head and grins.

Lisbon rises from the plastic chair to get closer to her colleague's bed. A styrofoam cup lays abandoned. "Hey," she says in a relatively level voice. "About time you woke up."

If it had been any other time, he would have shrugged. But his shoulder was bandaged and wrapped in a bright blue sling that was secured so he couldn't go flailing around and reopening the wound. Instead, he answers, "Oh, you caught me."

He's alright. He's fine. He's totally okay. She let's herself a small smile. "How you feeling?"

An interesting question. He feels like he could sleep for a few more days. He's too doped up on pain killers for it to register. He feels heavy. "I'm getting along," he says. "What was the damage?"

"Through and through." She sounds entirely too cheerful. "It didn't hit anything major. You'll be fine."

He frowns. "Well, I could have told you that. I had never doubted I wouldn't be okay. You, Lisbon, overreact entirely too much."

"What, so I'm supposed to let it slide when one of my men gets shot? It's not a big deal?"

"I told you back at the scene that I was going to be fine. You wouldn't stop fretting."

"What!" He is utterly ridiculous. "The bullet might have nicked an artery, or punctured something, or––"

"Ahh, but it didn't."

"But you wouldn't have known that till after the fact!"

"Lisbon, it was my body that was shot. I'm sure I would have known if something was mortally injured."

"No you would not have! You would have no idea!"

"I can't believe you are arguing with an injured man. That is low, even for you, Lisbon."

"Oh my gosh," he mutters under her breath. "Whatever. It doesn't matter. You're wearing a vest for now on when we go to scenes."

"No! You can't make me!"

"Oh, yeah? Watch."

"That is completely unjust, I will be having none of it."

"And I won't be having you getting shot on my watch anymore."

"You treat me like a child."

"You act like one."

There's a standoff and they glare at each other.

It's Lisbon who breaks first. She's just happy to have him back. So, incredibly, happy. She grins and shakes her head. "I'm done."

"Aha! Quitter."

She just smiles and throws out the styrofoam coffee cup. "I'm gonna get out of here."

"Yes, go home. No need to watch over my lifeless body any longer."

She rolls her eyes. "Get some rest, and don't be too difficult."

"I can't make any promises."

Bullet wounds are not only extremely painful, but very inconvenient.

You're not allowed to move your shoulder very much for the first week, so you can't drive, and even making a simple cup of tea is difficult enough. If you move a certain way, you risk ripping out the stitches and reopening the wound and you'd ruin yet another outfit with all this pesky blood.

And, damn it, they hurt. I mean, imagine it, a hole in your body, just held together with some stitching? It's through and through, as well, so you have to be careful about leaning against things, too.

And everyone looks at you with all this pity. It's pathetic. It's just your shoulder, after all. No vital organs. I don't understand what the big deal is.

But wait, was it worth it? The pain and pity and inconvenience and blood? Because you didn't wear a Kevlar vest?

Well. It was just your shoulder. The vest couldn't protect that anyway.

Next time, you'll just have to move faster.


A/N: Hurrah, it's done! Thank you to all who reviewed and supplied their feedback, it was great hearing from you! This was mighty fun to write, even being longer than I first thought.

Oh, Jane, just wear the vest xD

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