Lovely As You Are
Disclaimer: Don't own anything.
A/N: In my attempt to work on another plot bunny, I had the urge to write some much needed fluff. This was supposed to be a one-shot but midway I decided I wanted to turn it into a series, so expect more soon. I want to thank my beta for this, Duppy Conqueror, for her invaluable advice and great editing skills. Also, I'd like to dedicate this to hardly loquacious who wrote me an amazing Christmas fic and has been waiting patiently for hers, thank you!
"The most important things are the hardest to say, because words diminish them."
- Stephen King
She watches the few brave souls scurrying along the nearly barren rainy streets and sends a silent prayer upward that she made it home in time to escape the worst of Sacramento's annual winter rainstorm.
The house is strangely quiet, a little like it used to be, back when she lived alone. Back then she would have dreaded the all too deafening silence, but this afternoon she welcomes it, relishes it almost, as she leans further into the loveseat. The steam from the mug in her hand pleasantly warms her chin as she closes her eyes and wills herself to clear all other thoughts from her mind, leaving work and other nuisances behind.
It's not that easy, especially not for someone in her line of work, but somehow after a few moments, she actually manages to push images of crime scene photos, triplicate forms and the anxiety inducing reminder that she has court tomorrow out of her mind.
However, that doesn't alleviate the pressure building in her chest and she tightens her fingers around the mug, taking a long sip of the herbal tea, if only to calm her frazzled nerves. She wonders in retrospect how she managed to close a case and sign off on both Cho's and Rigsby's reports in time to clock out at a reasonable hour.
She realizes now, in the quiet solitude of her home, that while work may be stressful at times, at least today it provided a much needed distraction, thus staving off an in office panic attack. For, as cool and calm as she is usually, her current predicament is exactly the type of situation that could make the usually level-headed Special Agent Teresa Lisbon lose all her composure.
Damn him, she thinks, wishing she could take the edge off with something a little stronger than tea, but realizing that given their impending conversation, that may not be such a good idea.
Of course, the fact that soon the silence around her will surely be disturbed doesn't quell her worry either. For the first time in over two years, knowing that at any minute now he'll come barreling through the front door, shaking the remnants of heavy rain both from his golden curls and the fine thread of his suit doesn't make her smile, doesn't tug at her heart the same way it has for as long as there have been two toothbrushes at her bathroom sink.
Instead, Lisbon finds that she's nervous, even a little terrified, attune to every sound around her as if she can somehow prepare herself for when she hears the faint sound of footsteps on the porch, and the scratching of a key in her front door.
If she takes a moment to reflect, which she really hasn't since she left for work this morning, she would probably be unable to identify the specific reason she is so afraid. Despite halting her distraction, she's far too scared to actually consider the situation, worried that with just an ounce of contemplation, she will change her mind…and that's not something that's an option now.
It hasn't been an option for a long time, probably not since that fateful morning so many moons ago when she stepped into her supervisor's office to find that an infuriating consultant, of whom she had up until then only heard slightly terrifying stories about-but hadn't officially met- was being assigned to her team. She probably should have fought harder against the decision instead of accepting it as complacently as she did, but even now she doesn't regret it. She can't, because regardless of how much grief he has caused her and how many years he's probably shaved off her life, she can't imagine her life without Patrick Jane in it.
Especially the last two years.
The thought makes her smile unwittingly. Flashes of memories that she's never shared with anyone else seem to be the only force capable of dissolving the pressure in her chest and before Lisbon is even aware of it, she feels the same sense of anticipation bubbling inside her. It's then that she realizes her own foolishness.
It's amusing really, that while others would be ecstatic right now, unable to keep the news bottled up inside, she's sitting in the dark brooding, nursing a cup of lukewarm tea while attempting to keep the anxiety at bay.
And what for exactly?
She shudders to think that her past experiences could still weigh so heavily on her that she can't even allow herself to be happy in those rare, precious moments reserved for such unadulterated joy and excitement.
The realization seems to spur her into action, causing her to abandon her post by the window and retreat into the kitchen, a plan already taking root.
Later, if anyone asked him whether he had anticipated what transpired when he got home that evening, Jane would probably dazzle that person with his brilliant smile and answer that of course he'd expected it, because frankly there's no way something like this would have slipped his focus.
However, as he pushes open the front door to find several dozen candles strategically placed around the living room, Jane realizes that he's both a little nervous and surprised.
The delicate flames flicker in response to the gust of wind barreling into the room and he carefully shuts the door behind himself, afraid to disturb the tranquility around him. He's so focused on absorbing the scene, he doesn't realize he's not alone in the room until a soft and familiar voice diverts his attention to the kitchen.
"You sort of caught me off guard last night. I figured it would only be fair that I return the favor."
There's a hint of mirth in her tone, but one look into those expressive green eyes and Jane knows that above all else, Lisbon is also nervous but trying to hide it extremely well. For some reason, that seems to sooth his own anxiety enough for him to take a few steps towards her, lips curving into a smile.
He teasingly trails off, feeling slightly more in control as he crosses the threshold into the kitchen, the familiar scent of Lisbon's perfume chasing away any lingering doubt. Ever since he posed the question, he's had difficulty affecting his usual persona of imperviousness. However, being this close to her again, in the solitude of their home, without any distractions both validates the reason for his earlier proposition and reminds him that he's doing the right thing.
There's no guilt and if he's honest with himself, there hasn't been in quite a while, and this knowledge propels him forward, his hand reaching up to tuck a loose strand of hair behind her ear. If Lisbon seems surprised by his action, she doesn't give any sign. Instead, she smirks, revealing the familiar dimple that's begging to be kissed.
"And I think that despite your attempt to conceal it, you are at least a little surprised." Lisbon asserts over-confidently, brushing away a nonexistent speck of lint from the lapel of his suit.
She's not sure if that's what gives her away, but when she looks up again and catches the flicker of worry in Jane's eye, she knows that this playful teasing has been merely an interlude, that he deserves an answer and she plans on giving him one.
Sensing her tension, Jane draws her closer, pressing against her as he inhales the calming scent of her shampoo, "Perhaps I am. Or perhaps I'm just surprised that you still haven't given me an answer."
The warmth of his breath against her ear, paired with the thickness of his tone sends a shiver down her spine, but Lisbon resists, sliding her hand into his and stepping away from their embrace.
"We should sit down." She suggests, already pulling him towards the couch, but Jane doesn't follow her. Instead, he tugs on her hand until she turns around to face him again.
"You know this doesn't have to be a big deal." He cautions her and for the first time since he stepped through the door, Lisbon realizes that not only is Jane nervous but he is also uncertain. The expression on his face tells her that for once in his life the man who predicts people's actions for a living has absolutely no idea what she's going to say.
The part of her that's been waiting for years to get one over him should be jumping for joy, but the revelation tugs unexpectedly at her heartstrings, prompting her into action.
"But it is a big deal," She counters, hoping to find the words to eloquently communicate how she feels.
"I know. I just don't want you to think that I'm going to walk away if I don't get the answer I want. That's not an option for me anymore. It hasn't been for a long time."
The gravity of his words resonates deep within her, only amplifying the urgency she feels. Still, a part of her is slightly amused by the fact that even someone as attuned to others as Jane would be so certain, and yet so incredibly wrong, about her decision.
Despite the fact that she's spent hours trying to figure out what to say to him, the words flood her mind with ease, spilling from her lips with a certainty she's only begun to feel now.
"You know for someone who claims he can read people pretty well, you're not doing a very good job right now."
She's not sure what makes her abandon her original tract, but the expression on Jane's face seems worth it. He doesn't tear his eyes away from her, but she can see that he's at least a little amused by her train of thought. Some of the intensity lifts from his gaze, replaced by a more relaxed interest, which only encourages her further.
Her own nervousness seems to all but evaporate as she tugs him closer, watching the flicker of candlelight dance across his eyes.
"What are you trying to say?" He finally asks, curiosity overpowering the confusion she knows he probably feels right now. Lisbon resists the urge to run her finger along his cheek, flatten those same creases around his eyes that were probably part of the reason she's always been so attracted to him.
She gives him a wider smile instead, squeezing his hand as she looks briefly around the room before turning her attention back to him, "it means that a girl doesn't spend half an hour lighting a bunch of candles around her living room if she plans on rejecting a proposal."
There's only a hint of anxiety as the words hang suspended in the air between them, but when Jane's face lights up in recognition and he smiles, Lisbon realizes there's a reason why all she ever needed to do was just say yes.
As if there was ever any other option.
"Are you surprised now?" She manages to ask before Jane pulls her towards himself, precipitating a very un-Lisbon like shriek of surprise from her as he lifts her slightly off the ground.
"You little minx," He threatens playfully before burying his nose in her hair, arms tight around her, "it's not healthy to keep a man my age guessing for so long."
"Oh ya? You're one to talk. Springing something this huge on me during one of the rare evenings we actually get to have dinner at home together, from something that doesn't come out of a plastic container," Lisbon counters, only realizing midway how ridiculous she sounds.
Jane catches her eye as soon as the realization settles, but the blush that crosses her cheeks deters him from pointing out the obvious flaw in her argument. And besides, he may actually be the happiest that he's been in years and he won't ruin that by arguing over some trivial technicalities.
Still, after a moment, Jane realizes that Lisbon is less likely to let her comment go without an explanation.
"I'm sorry." She sighs, finding a sudden interest in the carpet, "it's just that I figured that one of the things I'd be sacrificing when I let you in would be marriage. I never thought you'd want to do all this again and I realized that as long as we were together, that would be enough. I just wasn't expecting it ever, I am sorry."
"You have nothing to apologize for," Jane promises, smiling wistfully as he captures her cheek in his palm, "I realized a while back that there are certain traditions that you gave up for me and I didn't think it would be fair. You deserve so much more than me already and-…"
"But you said yourself nothing will change, if you don't-…"
But Jane doesn't let her finish her thoughts, refusing to let that practical and sometimes overly cautious mind of hers infringe on their moment, especially when there's really no cause for her concern. Perhaps a few years ago he would have been hesitant to take this step with someone else again, but everything has changed since then.
He'd never contemplated a life after Red John but he is lucky to have had such a fulfilling second chance and if he's honest with himself, he would admit that the idea of Teresa Lisbon being his wife is something that fills him with a sense of purpose and belonging that he hasn't felt in a very long time.
"Trust me, dear. There is nothing I want more than to be married to you."
Lisbon's sigh of relief is barely audible and Jane has to smile, because only his Lisbon would have doubts in this particular moment after everything they've been through together. Still, instead of it angering him, her strange practicality warms his heart, reminds him why she slipped past his defenses so easily, why he fell in love with her without even meaning to do so.
"Good," Lisbon whispers, resting her forehead against Jane's shoulder, "but I do have one condition." She adds after a while, the gravity of her words betrayed by the flicker of mirth in her eye.
"Oh yeah? What's that?" Jane asks, amusement underlining his query.
"I'm not changing my last name." Lisbon warns seriously, but her expression soon dissolves into a smile and Jane just pulls her even closer, capturing her lips in an overdue kiss.
The last thought that crosses Lisbon's mind before she loses herself in the embrace is whether it would a horrible fire hazard if she didn't extinguish all the candles before taking her fiancé upstairs.