Lovely As You Are

Disclaimer: Don't own anything.

Rating: T

Spoiler: None

A/N: Huge thanks to hardly loquacious and forthecoast for helping me on this one. Honestly, it was the most difficult chapter to write and without them, I probably would have either posted something ridiculously out of character or scrapped the entire concept! That said, I really hope you guys enjoy this and since I've been a bit cruel with the mixed up chronology, I will remind you all that this takes place a little bit before J/L's first date, which is chapter 4 in this series. As always, thank you for reading, reviewing, putting me on favorite lists and alerts, I appreciate it more than you know.

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"Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves - regret for the past and fear of the future."
-Fulton Oursler

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January 2012

She knows that she's not alone, knows that there's a steaming cup of coffee in her hand and that Jane is sitting besides her, ready to cater to her every desire. She's grateful and maybe even a little warmed by the fact, but she simply does not have the energy to even lift her head up and say thank you.

Luckily, the usually restless consultant doesn't seem to mind and sits quietly besides her, as though he's keeping vigil at her bedside. The irony of that particular thought doesn't escape her, and her eyes unconsciously flicker to the double doors separating the ER waiting room from the rest of the hospital.

In the process, Jane catches her glance and Lisbon finds herself staring into incredibly concerned blue eyes, ones that as of late have been far more expressive and honest than in the many years she's spent looking into them.

However, right now their newfound closeness makes her uncomfortable so Lisbon looks sharply away, avoiding his worried stare.

Jane doesn't say anything, doesn't even flinch and Lisbon momentarily wonders how much she can actually push him before his resolve weakens and he says something.

After all, he's already done so much.

From the moment he arrived on scene, he'd been the stable rock she didn't know she needed. She's still not sure how he figured out that she was so affected by what happened; somehow he did though. And despite still feeling like she might collapse from worry at any moment, Lisbon knows she would be far worse off without Jane by her side.

The revelation prompts a fresh wave of anxiety, threatening to divest her of the little control she has left; so she takes a deep breath and closes her eyes, leaning her head against the wall behind her. But it's not until she opens her eyes and finds Jane looking at her with a non-pitying smile that she realizes that his presence relaxes her more than anything else at the moment.

Jane doesn't keep his gaze on her, somehow instinctively knowing that it would overwhelm her right now. Instead he takes a sip of his tea and mimics her position, reclining against the wall – though his body is slightly turned towards her. A part of her yearns to accept the quiet comfort he is offering, but her responsible, professional side is acutely aware of their surroundings. She doesn't run her hand along his arm like she so desperately wants to or rest her head on his shoulder, regardless of how inviting it is.

Lisbon realizes immediately that the very difficulty of restraining herself discredits the reluctance she's been carrying around since they kissed. She's never been an open person, experience teaching her from an early age that sharing your feelings meant exposing a weakness and that being in control of your environment did not go hand and hand with emotional vulnerability.

It's why she's secretly always admired Jane's resilience in that respect. The damage Red John did to his family left deep and dark holes in Jane's heart but between the two of them, he has always been the more unguarded person, even when he was wading through the darkness. Lisbon remembers specifically the numerous nights spent talking either in her office or up in his attic, more so during the Lewis trial and after. She remembers the way he was so quiet at first, simply needing her presence; then how he opened up bit by bit, sharing with her memories both from his childhood and his past.

It's almost cliché that the revelation comes under such duress but Lisbon pushes that thought aside, focusing instead on overcoming her innate desire to keep everything locked away. Although Jane has been remarkably undemanding and supportive, having this awareness has given her clearer picture of everything, including the tiny cracks in Jane's façade. Despite affecting an air of absolute calm, she can see the way his fingers tap occasionally against the Styrofoam and the way his own eyes periodically dart to the double doors.

The fact that he's trying to conceal his own worry and possible confusion over why she has shut down during a time when she would usually take charge gives her the strength she needs to break the silence between them.

"The only time my father ever raised a hand on me was the night of my junior prom. A group of us went to a friend's house afterwards and I'd gotten home kind of late."

She knows it might seem a little insane to bring something like this up right now, but it seems like the most natural thing to do. The way Jane looks on so encouragingly, just a glimmer of surprise in his expression but nothing more, keeps her going.

"He'd been drinking obviously but I'd been having so much fun that night that I didn't think about it at all. I hadn't realized he was in the living room waiting for me until it was too late."

She detects Jane's first sign of anger right away. It's subtle but the way he sets his jaw and momentarily diverts his gaze to the floor betrays his outward calmness. The observation gives her pause but Lisbon realizes that it's a little too late to stop and that frankly she doesn't want to. Even divulging as little as she has now has given her an overwhelming sense of lightness, and she wants to keep going, partly to unburden herself and partly to clear up Jane's well concealed confusion at her state of mind.

"He was acting completely irrationally, accused me of sleeping around and pinned me to the wall. There was a near empty bottle of whiskey in his hand and when he raised it, I knew he was going to hit me with it. I prepared myself for it."

Unlike her previous lack of awareness, when Jane's hand gingerly covers hers, Lisbon feels every point of contact, every ridge on his slightly calloused fingers as they settle on top of hers, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. The touch soothes her, preparing her for what she knows is the most difficult part of the story.

"Neither of us noticed Tommy coming down the stairs until he shoved my father out of the way, which only made my father even angrier and he…"

Lisbon doesn't notice her own voice breaking until Jane cuts her off, turning completely towards her with determined but sympathetic eyes. "It's okay," he says encouragingly, words as smooth as velvet and equally calming to her nerves.

"He broke the bottle over my brother's head and he spent two days in the hospital. It was the closest my father ever came to losing us, but when CPS came to interview us-…"

"You covered for him." Jane finishes her thought and Lisbon nods her head, refusing to feel shame about it, even after all this time. She's seen first hand what children in foster care go through and looking back on it now, she doesn't regret it, not that. Not when she has so many other things she wished she had done differently, like had the strength to shove her father off before he nearly killed her brother.

"You know it wasn't your fault, right?"

At another time, it might have been irritating that Jane was so attuned to her train of thought, but right now it gives Lisbon a strange sense of clarity. Jane rarely, if ever, feeds her any platitudes so she can't help but take notice of this, even if a part of her refuses to believe it.

"I know that," she whispers half-heartedly, staring at their intertwined hands, "but witnessing Rigsby getting shot, because the perp drew his gun on me and Rigsby tried to distract him…it just…"

Her voice trails off, but this time Jane doesn't interrupt her, knowing in his painfully intuitive way, that she needs to be the one who reach the conclusion that neither of the situations, although carrying with them many parallels, are her fault.

Teresa Lisbon, the Senior Agent knows that.

But Teresa Lisbon, the loyal friend and protective sister is another matter entirely.

As a result, she struggles to articulate herself, unable to put in words what she feels.

"It brought you back to that moment." Jane fills in for her.

"Yeah," Lisbon nods in relief, as if hearing the statement out loud is exactly what she needs to snap out of her catatonic state. Jane seems to notice the transformation even before she does. And when she looks back at him, encountering warmth and understanding, she finds herself smiling almost involuntarily.

"You know Rigsby's going to be okay," Jane says, reminding her that if it were anyone else saying this, she wouldn't believe it.

But with him, it's different.

She knows he wouldn't say that to her unless he meant it. He's lied to her numerous times before about a lot of things, big important, life changing things, but never about her feelings. He wouldn't offer cold comfort, wouldn't say anything just for the sake of saying it especially in this situation. Instead, if he thought Rigsby was truly in trouble, he wouldn't say anything at all, maybe just hold her hand a little tighter.

The thought takes her back to the Christmas party, how he'd stood underneath the garland lights, looking eerily calm as he leaned in and kissed her. She remembers being absolutely stunned by the action, even though a part of her had anticipated (even wanted) it. Afterward, he had stepped away from her, even though she could see that was the last thing he wanted to do. Still, he gave her the space he knew she needed, but not before letting her know that he wanted to take her out to dinner at some point.

Something about the way he looked at her as he walked away told her that he'd thought about kissing her for a long time, but despite how close they had become, it was much too new for her. Still is. She hadn't given him an answer right away, needing time to process both her confusion and the exhilaration she felt at the possibility of saying yes.

Jane didn't seem too surprised by her decision, expected it even, and a part of her was warmed by his patience. He understood that she is a person who considers the pros and cons to every situation, carefully weighing out each option. She knew that she had feelings for Jane for a long time, but Red John had been too great an obstacle to overlook. Jane's pursuit of revenge made it impossible for her to acknowledge whatever she felt for her consultant, because as long as the serial killer existed, Jane would never be able to move on. But now…

Well now, she knows she is just scared and maybe it's time not to be.

However, before Lisbon can say anything, the double doors fly open and the nurse who initially checked Rigsby in walks towards them. Lisbon doesn't even realize she's holding her breath until the nurse tells them that Rigsby is going to be okay. Instinctively she turns to Jane, a wave of regret pouring over her as she thinks about what she wanted to say, but he doesn't look the least bit perturbed.

"I-…" She starts, but he places a warm hand on her shoulder and nods in understanding, "go see him, I'll call the others."

With that, Jane flips his cell phone open and walks away, leaving Lisbon staring after him until the nurse ushers her away.

xxx

Aside from the thick bandage covering his upper arm and the tiredness in his eyes, Rigsby looks as normal as he did this morning when he and Lisbon left CBI to pursue their lead.

Still, when Lisbon first steps into the room, she has a brief flash of brother's small bandaged body surrounded by wires and beeping machines and she has to reassure herself that everything is okay.

"How are you feeling?" She asks in lieu of a proper greeting and edges closer to the exam bed Rigsby's sitting on. The bullet was a through and through and didn't require surgery but her guilt amplifies as she glances at the spot of blood seeping through the gauze.

"It's not that bad." Rigsby replies quickly, as if picking up on her train of thought. And when he looks at her, all sheepish eyes and hopeful smile, he does indeed look like a younger sibling who hopes he isn't in trouble. The comparison is too much and Lisbon shuts her eyes, willing her mind to stop playing tricks on her.

Her expression must betray what she's thinking, because Rigsby looks positively startled when she looks at him again.

"It's really not that bad, Boss. I barely felt anything." He tries to convince her and after a moment, the internal guilt fades away just enough for concern to take precedence, weighing her down as she leans against the wall opposite the bed.

"You know I can't even yell at you, because you basically did nothing wrong."

"You can if it will make you feel better." Rigsby supplies somewhat cheekily, and successfully coaxes a smile out of her.

"I won't." Lisbon shakes her head, a low chuckle escaping as she glances down at the floor, "I'm glad you're okay though, Wayne."

"Oh me too, Boss." He agrees enthusiastically, with just the right bit mirth in his tone, reminding Lisbon once again that while other people may underestimate Wayne Rigsby, she never has. She knows he's not all brawn, that he's actually extremely intelligent, has an eclectic taste in music, and a wry sense of humor.

But most importantly, he is fiercely loyal and respectful of women, reminding her distinctly of her middle brother. It breaks her heart in a way, because before her sits an example of what Tommy could have become if he had chosen not to let his past haunt him.

Still, Lisbon is also grateful that she works with people she can admire, who have been through difficult times and didn't crumble under pressure. In the end, it gives her hope that eventually Tommy will be okay too, and that one day he won't be haunted by the specter of their father.

"Thank you," She says, smiling wider at Rigsby's confused expression, "for having my back today." Lisbon elaborates, feeling a swell of emotion as Rigsby's expression changes from confusion to disappointment.

"I should have anticipated that Rodriguez is the type to retaliate not surrender when he has another gun pointed at him." He counters disapprovingly.

"Yes, and as your superior, I should be pissed as hell at you right now, but I'm not." she persists, an assertive edge to her voice as she tries to make him understand.

Rigsby doesn't say anything, whether out of respect or fear, Lisbon isn't sure but she refuses to let him be disappointed in himself.

"I'm not angry because you put the team before yourself and I'm proud of you for that." She finishes with a soft smile and a squeeze to his good shoulder.

At first, Rigsby looks like he's going to argue but after she fixes him with her patented stare, his face relaxes into a bashful smile and he glances down at the floor before saying, "thanks, Boss. That means a lot coming from you."

"Anytime, Wayne. Just don't ever do it again, okay?" Lisbon asks in earnest, and Rigsby nods in response, a lopsided grin on his face.

"I'll definitely try." He vows and Lisbon can't help but share in his light laughter.

That's how Van Pelt and Cho find them a few minutes later, both looking slightly winded but immediately relieved upon realizing that their friend is okay.

"Grace." Rigsby's attention is immediately consumed by the redhead and the way he breathes out her name makes it seem as though no one else is in the room.

"We drove straight from Oakland as soon as Jane called, are you alright?" Van Pelt asks in turn, obviously shaken but trying very hard to conceal it. Although the two haven't dated in over a year, it's very clear to Lisbon that they care deeply about each other. Thus, she ignores her role as their superior and merely shares a knowing look with Cho, whose stoic expression shifts just a little when he sees the two talking.

Their quiet conversation reminds Lisbon of the person missing from the room, which in turn fills her with a sense of urgency. Now that she's confirmed that Rigsby will be okay, her stomach twists with anticipation as she realizes that she can't put it off any longer. She has to talk to Jane, and she has to do it now.

She mumbles some excuse about getting some coffee for everyone and while Rigsby and Van Pelt dismiss her quickly, too engrossed in each other, Cho stops her on her way.

"He went down to the gift shop, probably determined to buy Rigsby the biggest and most obnoxious stuffed animal in the store."

It's his turn to smile knowingly at her but Lisbon is far too preoccupied to be either embarrassed or annoyed by her transparency. Instead she nods a quick thank you and slips out of the room, walking as swiftly as she can towards the elevators.

There is a mountain of paperwork waiting for her back at the office, as well as a dozen phone calls from her superiors inquiring about today's situation, and she will deal with all of that as soon as she can. But for right now, she has an entirely different goal in mind, and a long overdue dinner invitation to accept.

xxx