Wallet - Chapter Eight
Thank you so very, very much for sticking with this story. After I'd posted chapter seven, there'd been only a couple of reviews. I'd like to think it was just the site being up then down then up, etc., or was it something I said? Please review this final chapter and tell me nice things, if you're so inclined (or not nice, I value your input). It makes Lyle feel better, (and more co-operative). Thank you to all those who reviewed, favorited and alerted. You guys are awesome!
Disclaimer: I only borrowed them for a little while and I have returned them in good-working-order. I don't own them and I don't have enough money to buy them. If I did, they could come stay at my house.
It had been six weeks since he'd almost died. He was bored now.
His team had regularly stopped bye to bring him food, books, dvd's and gossip. They tried to entertain him as best they could; but, enough was enough.
He'd read until his eyes blurred and there was a huge stack of books and magazines next to his sofa. There was only so much daytime TV a man could take. He clearly didn't care who's 'baby daddy' it was for the umpteenth time or who had stolen who's boyfriend, girlfriend, mother-in-law, whatever.
He'd even begun to watch the over-the-top-Mexican soaps. He'd never seen so many heaving bosoms and flaring nostrils in his life.
Eventually, even Oprah had lost her charm.
He had to get out of here.
Hightower wouldn't let him come back until he'd been cleared for duty. He'd finally talked the man he considered a self-important, tax-sheltered, little quack into signing off for light duty if he complied with the stipulation that he 'behave himself'. As Cho was fond of saying 'like that's gonna happen'. He made the promise but, as to actually following the edict, it would depend on what was going on.
Cho had stopped bye to pick him up and he breathed a sigh as they pulled into the CBI lot. The sun had already made its appearance above the line of hills behind the HQ building.
As the two emerged from Cho's sedan and walked across the parking lot; Jane stopped and looked upward. The sunlight seemed brighter; the air cleaner; the sky bluer. He supposed it was another of the after-effects of almost croaking on the parkway in front of Keplovich's apartment. Some memory of that experience had returned. He'd have been happier if it hadn't.
This was home; more so than the little efficiency apartment where he kept his clothes and sometimes slept, (and in which he'd been nearly imprisoned for the past three weeks).
The pain was mostly gone. Only a twinge remained when he moved the wrong way or inhaled too deeply.
As the two of them exited the elevator, Jane was greeted by a chorus of "Hey, glad you're back", "Look what the cat dragged in", "Glad you could finally make it " and one "You look like shit".
He smiled his broad, sunny smile to acknowledge the greetings and walked to his couch and lay down with a deep sigh. He'd missed it and he was sure it missed him.
Lisbon came into the bullpen and stood looking down at her long absent consultant as he lay with eyes closed; breathing evenly as though asleep. He still looked a little pale and needed to gain back some weight but, overall, he was still in one piece, albeit a slightly tattered piece.
"Why are you staring at me Lisbon?" he asked without opening his eyes
"Just glad you're back. We missed you. Our daily quota of bullshit wasn't being filled."
"I just got back, you're already dissing me?"
"Well, have to get a head start in case we get busy. I'm sure that Cho, Rigsby and VanPelt will appreciate that I've kept up the tradition."
"Woman, you established the tradition." Jane softly laughed as he opened his eyes, swung his legs to the floor and, she thought, somewhat carefully, sat up.
He'd learned as he was recuperating that sitting up too quickly would, usually, result in severe bed-spins. Having a couch-spin in front of Lisbon wasn't going to look good and he didn't want to be sent home for face planting in the carpet.
She extended something toward him, "Here, you shouldn't be driving without this." She knew he'd done worse things than driving without a license . . . way worse.
"I wondered where it was" he said, taking the wallet from her. (Two weeks ago, when he'd gone for an illicit drive, he'd attached notes to his keys and rear-view mirror with the reminder to not to lock himself out of his car. He really needed that plastic emergency key).
"I thought it might turn up. Checked with the credit card companies and there didn't seem to be anyone using them."
"Sorry, I've been meaning to get it back to you. I just never seemed to have it with me when I visited after you were discharged from the hospital . . . or shall I say thrown out of the hospital?"
He chose to ignore the remark. After all, everyone knew how he felt about hospitals.
"Do I need to check if my money's still in it?" he asked, raising an eyebrow in mock concern.
"Yeah, you might wanna count it. You know, I've been wanting to take that trip to Barbados and your money might get me as far as . . . Bakersfield?"
He set the wallet next to him on the leather cushion. It felt subtly different somehow. It had a slightly different weight to it. He'd check later, not wanting to insult her by doing so in front of her.
In the hospital, when he'd finally become somewhat aware of his surroundings, one of the first things he noticed was that his left hand felt different. With greater effort than it should have taken, he'd managed to raise his hand close enough to see through through the blur, confirming the gold band wasn't where it had been for most of his adult life.
He knew he'd tried to tell them about the ring. Well, OK, he'd kind of freaked, to be honest, but, it had only gotten him another dose of meds and he went out again. He hated hospitals.
The next time he remembered waking, the ring was back. He'd felt it on his finger and didn't need to go through the herculean task of trying to lift his hand. He'd just sighed and fallen back to sleep and dreamt of Angela. It was a good dream this time, not a nightmare. No blood, no pain, just Angela smiling at him while Charlotte played in the sunshine.
He realized he'd drifted off and looked up with his lazy smile.
"Sorry, just thinking about Barbados, I guess."
"You sure you're ready to be back?"
"Hey, doctor 'don't-feel-so-good' cleared me to come back."
"Yeah, if you behaved yourself. Like that's gonna happen." Cho had apparently rubbed off on her.
"Well, dear Lisbon, I don't have the energy to get into too much trouble. It seems that getting shot and almost dying can take a lot out of one."
"Well, we've missed you around here. I'm sure everyone is glad you're back."
"Well . . . most of us."
"Yes, I'm sure that everyone's missed the 'pain-in-the-ass' as I'm usually called."
"What? Who calls you that!" said Lisbon, trying to sound indignant that anyone would dare insult him so.
"Oh, come on Lisbon. I'm very aware of my nicknames. They are as follows: Pain-in-the-Ass, That Little Bastard, Charlatan, Troublemaker, Snoop . . . I could go on."
Lisbon looked at him with slightly widened eyes as he smiled up at her.
"My current favorite is "Boundary-less Baboon'. It's a little more creative and I like the alliteration. Besides, I'm sure you've thought it yourself from time to time and have probably even said it."
He saw her eyes falter for the briefest moment before denial escaped her lips.
"No I haven't" she said a little too emphatically, her cheeks beginning to pink up. He loved to make her blush.
"It's OK. " he chuckled laying back with his hands behind his head even though it seemed to make his chest ache and pull slightly.
His smile faded as he said "I know I'm a fucked up mess."
Lisbon looked down at him; her eyes losing their twinkle and her expression softening.
"Yeah, but your our fucked-up mess."
"Why thank you . . . I think. I guess ownership can denote caring . . . in some twisted Kathy Bates kind of way".
"Well, Princess. You're a lot tougher than you and everyone else may think."
"You're still alive." she said softly as her eyes began to fill with unshed tears.
His crystalline gaze locked onto hers and he said, just as softly. "I'm sorry I scared you Teresa. You know I couldn't leave you. Who would make you origami frogs?"
She stood looking at him intently for a moment and then making a sound somewhere between a huff and a snort turned and walked back to her office; calling over her shoulder, "Well, you're grounded for now Buster. Just rest until you're needed. That means don't call us, we'll call you."
He smiled as he looked at her retreating back and picked up the wallet lying on the cushion next to him. Its heft was still off. He opened it curiously and flipped through the plastic windows until he came to something unfamiliar. It was a photo of the five of them taken at a function he'd not even bothered to remember. They were all dressed for a special occasion. He wasn't even wearing his three-piece suit.
The five of them were standing, arms around each other and looking at the camera. Obviously, at least a couple of them had to be somewhat tipsy to look so relaxed but, it was a nice photo.
He saw himself standing behind Lisbon with his arms around her shoulders and her hands resting on top of his. She was nestled into his chest and seemed comfortable in his embrace. Yeah, someone was tipsy. The other three were standing with arms linked and looking as though they were laughing, even Cho.
He stared raptly at it awhile longer before turning to the next sleeve. It also held something new. There was a laminated card with a prayer printed on it. It was one of the psalms, the twenty third, if he remembered the correct number. It was the one about walking through the valley of death and having no fear. OK, he knew that was from Grace, obviously, she still hadn't given up on him. She was persistent, he'd give her that.
He flipped to the next pocket and there was a gift card for Mrs. Sees chocolates. He and Rigsby shared some of the same addictions, (but he always thought his own were a little more discriminating, he drew the line at gummy worms). He'd make good use of the card.
The other side of the plastic window held a 'Get Out of Jail Free' card from a monopoly set. The note written on it in Cho's neat printing: "Just call me. I'll bail you out."
He folded the wallet back up and tucked it into his pocket.
He lay back down on the couch and closed his eyes. He drifted off with a serene look on his face thinking . . . the wallet's heavier now, it'll take some getting used to.