A/N: So this fic is in the "Restraints" universe. It's a oneshot that comes an indefinite amount of time after. Maybe a month? You don't actually need to read the original story. Basically, I've had various incarnations of this fic bouncing around in my head for at least a year now. It just required an established relationship. I wrote in a way of doing it into Restraints in hopes that it would mean the one-shot eventually got written (I've included the relevant exerpt). For those who haven't read the original, it's a post-Red John universe and J/L are in an established relationship already. Pretty sure that's all that you need to know.

This was written for redjohnlovesyou on LJ.

xxxxx

Reminiscing in the Rhododendrons

xxxxx

"Still need to figure out what to put in the big empty spaces. I was thinking maybe a few vegetables in the one corner, some sort of ornamental tree over there, but I'm not sure about the corner by the deck,"

Jane admitted. "I was thinking something with more colour."

"You could always plant rhododendrons," Lisbon suggested without thinking. "They're nice when they're in flower."

Jane glanced at her. The suggestion had come apparently out of the blue, especially for someone who said they didn't garden. Then he noticed Lisbon had tensed up again, and he decided not to pry. "That sounds like a good idea; I'll think about it."

Lisbon shook herself slightly. "Don't feel obligated or anything," she murmured.

"Nonsense," Jane said briskly. "I have no idea what to plant there. You like rhododendrons. They'll be colourful, and about the right size. Why wouldn't I plant one, or even two? Problem solved."

-from Restraints

xxxxx

Patrick Jane was worried. Worried and trying not to be. But it was no use.

He was worried.

Lisbon had already left work. That was worrying enough given that she'd left fifteen minutes early. Although, Jane could have dealt with that, he really could have.

If that was all that was amiss.

But it wasn't; there was more. And that more was what he was having trouble dealing with.

He also couldn't find her.

Lisbon left work early and she wasn't at home. She also wasn't at the shooting range, the park by her house or even her local ice cream place.

Jane got slowly more and more concerned the more places he searched.

He'd even checked her local grocery store.

And she wasn't answering her phone. It kept going straight to voice mail. Jane was pretty sure she'd turned it off.

Well, he wasn't calling it anymore. Anyway, he refused to leave a third message.

If Lisbon wanted to shut out the world there was nothing he could do about it. He wasn't going to chase her like some obviously unwanted lunatic. She could be stubbornly independent all by herself. Clearly that was her intention anyway.

Let her bottle up her pain and hide it from the world if she wanted to. He wasn't going to force comfort on her.

So there.

He knew when he wasn't wanted.

Jane turned forcefully down his street, telling himself that Lisbon was probably perfectly fine. She could take care of herself. Hadn't she said as much when she'd shut him down every time he tried to talk to her about what was bothering her? He'd known their last case was hard on her. He'd known she was taking it badly. The whole team knew it.

Now she probably wanted to lick her wounds in private. That was understandable.

But understandable or not, Jane still didn't like it. He just wanted to make sure she was okay. He didn't want her curled up in a corner. Alone.

And why not? They were involved with each other. He cared for her. And he was worried.

But apparently Lisbon wasn't worried, at least not about how he might take her flight. Probably hadn't even occurred to the woman that he'd give her disappearance a second thought. Instead she'd disappeared and turned off her phone without bothering to tell her partner where she was going or even if she was okay. Which she obviously wasn't.

Jane pulled up to his bungalow, irritated at the stubbornness of his intensely private partner.

Only to see her SUV in his driveway.

He parked behind it feeling confused. Then he jumped out of his car and strode up this front path at double his usual speed.

"Lisbon?" he called the second he opened the door.

There was no answer, though Jane did notice her bag and jacket tossed onto his couch (same as she always did at her place, a part of his mind couldn't resist gleefully pointing out).

Then he remembered he still hadn't found her.

"Teresa?" he called again, ducking into the bedroom.

Trying not to let the familiar worry resurface, Jane pulled open the screen door to the garden.

And there she was.

Curled up on a lawn chair staring at his flowering shrubs.

She hadn't been curled up in a dark corner after all. She'd been in his (reasonably bright) garden.

He'd been frantically searching for her for over an hour while she'd apparently been sitting in his backyard.

Jane felt a surge of irrational irritation at both her for not picking up the damn phone and calling him and at himself that he hadn't been able to guess that she'd be here.

Then he got a better look at her face and his irritation quickly faded into concern.

"Lisbon?" he asked softly.

"Hi," she whispered without looking at him.

"Hi," he said taking a step towards her.

"I wanted to look at your rhododendrons," she explained, in answer to his unspoken question.

"Okay. Well… That's fine," Jane assured her, not quite sure what was going on. Had she really been here for the past hour, sitting in his garden, staring at the blooming rhododendrons? If so, why hadn't she waited for him at the CBI, waited for him to come with her, or at least told him where she was going?

"I hope you don't mind," Lisbon added turning towards him for the first time since he'd arrived and feeling suddenly self-conscious and out of place. After all, she had basically invaded his garden without telling him. She hadn't thought to. He'd given her the key after all and she'd just wanted some peace and, and it'd been the first place that popped into her head. And she'd just wanted it.

She didn't know why. And now Jane had every right to be annoyed with her. She knew very well her actions hadn't been sensible.

But it had been such a long day.

"Don't be ridiculous," Jane told her, brushing off her attempt at social convention. "I already said your being here was fine. It's why I gave you the key. You're welcome to come and go as you please."

Lisbon exhaled and leaned her head back against the back of the chair, shutting her eyes. "Thanks."

"I wasn't expecting to find you here today though," he admitted, approaching her tentatively.

She still didn't look at him again, a blush rising on her cheeks. "I know I left work earlier than usual, but I had to get out of there."

"Perfectly understandable," Jane assured her, wondering if he should reach for her before deciding against it. She was obviously feeling vulnerable already. He didn't want to spook her.

"Today sucked, Jane," Lisbon said after a moment.

He winced in sympathy, "I know."

"I mean it really, really sucked," she repeated, wondering if the world would go away for a while if she just didn't open her eyes.

"I know," he whispered, inching closer.

She turned towards him, eyes wide and guilty, "I know you tried to ask me about it earlier, but…"

Jane's expression softened and he tangled his fingers lightly through hers. "Don't even worry about it, Teresa."

"It's just," she said, trying to explain. "You asked me at the office, and I couldn't, I can't…"

Jane shook his head to cut her off. He was beginning to understand. "I said don't worry about it." He'd thought she hadn't been hiding how upset she was well, but it turned out she had far better control over her emotions than he'd thought because she'd also been far more upset than he'd realized. The only way she'd maintained that much control was to hold her boundaries. Even if that meant keeping absolutely everyone away.

And she'd done that. Really well. But Jane thought he could live with that if it only extended to the office.

Lisbon sighed. "I can't talk about it there."

"I know that now," he assured her. "I was just..."

"I know," she assured him, squeezing his hand briefly. She had known, on some level. She'd known that in his way Jane had been trying to help. And while a small part of her had been sorely tempted to just fling herself into his arms, a far larger part of her had been far too wary, not to mention too professional.

"Good," Jane replied.

"I do like your rhododendrons though," Lisbon said after a moment, cocking her head towards the colourful shrubs in the corner of the garden.

"I didn't realize you liked them so much," Jane remarked with a grin as he drew patterns on the back of her hand with his thumb.

Lisbon turned away, staring at the flowers. "Well, actually it was my mother who liked them so much."

Jane cursed inwardly. He'd known there was something about Lisbon and rhododendrons. She'd been the one to suggest that he plant them in the empty chunk of his garden in the first place, and he'd thought the suggestion a bit out of place from a woman who probably hadn't planted a seed in a decade. Turned out her unexpected but apparently off-the-cuff comment hadn't been casual in any way. Jane slipped a hand through her hair, resting it on the back of her neck.

To his surprise she leant into the touch.

"I'm sorry Teresa," he said after a moment.

She shrugged, her arms tightening around herself. "There's nothing to be sorry about."

Jane tried again, "I'm sorry today was a bad day for you."

"Today wasn't good for anybody. I don't imagine it was a picnic for you either," Lisbon said dryly.

"But it was worse for you," he pressed.

"Yeah," she agreed after a minute.

"Let me get you a glass of wine," he all but pleaded.

She turned towards him, her eyes guarded but hopeful. "Do you have red?" she whispered.

"Of course," he assured her. "I may even have some of that Shiraz you like."

She exhaled in a sort of relief. "Please."

"I'll leave you with the rhododendrons then," Jane murmured.

"Okay," she said with a nervous smile.

Jane stood up, his eyes never leaving her face. "You're welcome in my garden any time, Teresa," he assured her a second time.

Lisbon's smile turned slightly more genuine. "I know."

"Good," he said before turning back towards the house.

Lisbon closed her eyes briefly, letting the peace of Jane's garden soothe her again.

It was a good place for quiet, to gather your thoughts. She shifted slightly in the chair, trying to relax. Trying not to worry about all the questions Jane would eventually ask.

After a minute footsteps interrupted her reverie, though they weren't coming from the direction she'd expected.

"Hi Teresa. I thought I saw you here. I hope I'm not interrupting."

Lisbon turned towards the voice breaking the quiet. For all that it wasn't unwelcome. "Hi Barb," she said, greeting Jane's friendly if occasionally nose elderly female neighbour. "How are you?"

"Oh you know how it is, keeping busy. You?" the woman asked, sitting in the chair opposite.

"Busy's an understatement," Lisbon said dryly. "I'd love to just be busy."

"That bad huh?" the older woman asked.

"Nah, it's okay," Lisbon said in an attempt at reassurance. "Just some days, y'know?"

"So to translate your tact, things are piling up on your shoulders," Barb guessed, ignoring Lisbon's feeble attempt at denying that fact. "Is Patrick around?"

"He just went inside," Lisbon replied. "Getting drinks. I'm sure he'll be out in a minute. Did you need him?" Lisbon really hoped the answer to that was no. She knew that Jane did things for his neighbour from time to time, and that was really lovely of him, but for just one night Lisbon was feeling a little… selfish.

"Not particularly," Barb assured her. "Just curious."

Lisbon laughed softly. "Fair enough."

Barb leaned forward in her chair, about to say something else when she was interrupted by Jane's arrival.

"Here you are Teresa," he said, handing Lisbon her glass of red wine. "I'm sorry Barb. I didn't see you there, or I'd have brought you something. Did you want a glass?"

"Of course you didn't see me," his neighbour retorted with a smirk. "You were distracted by someone else. But no, thank you Patrick," she declined politely. "I don't want a glass of wine."

"Are you sure?" Jane prompted. "It's no trouble."

"No, it's fine," Barb said with a wave of her hand. "I don't want to intrude on your evening. I was just chatting with Teresa."

"You're not intruding," Jane assured her. "Actually, I was just going to go back inside and see if I could whip us up some dinner, but if you ladies want to continue enjoying the garden…" He tried to telepathically send Barb a message through the air while Lisbon wasn't looking.

After a second, Barb got it. "Well, then I may take you up on that offer of a glass of wine," she told him. "I'll sit and keep Teresa company while you go and do all the work."

A ghost of a smile appeared on Lisbon's face at that suggestion.

"I'll get you a glass," Jane smiled in relief.

"Oh, I can get it myself," Barb replied. She was already halfway to the house before Jane could open his mouth to object.

He watched her practically march across his garden, wondering for the hundredth time what branch of the armed forces she'd served in when she was younger, and making a mental note to ask her one day. Then he turned back to Lisbon. "Dinner isn't going to be a particularly fancy affair," he said apologetically. "I need to go shopping. Anyway, I figured I'd just make something quick."

"That's fine," Lisbon told him. "I did just kind of drop in on you without telling you what I was doing. Do you need my help with anything? I could…"

Jane growled at her, then seemed about to reply before thinking the better of it. Instead he tipped up her chin and kissed her quickly but firmly. "You're allowed to drop in unannounced," he told her. "And I don't need any help. I'm perfectly capable of heating up leftover chilli and tossing a salad, which is what we're having by the way. You relax. I'll have something ready in no time."

"You really don't have to make me dinner Jane," she said softly, her resolution crumbling even if part of her was uncomfortable with having him basically wait on her.

He ignored her, instead walking towards the house in search of his favourite neighbour. He met Barb on her way out of the kitchen carrying a glass of wine.

"Is she okay?" Barb asked in concern.

"She will be," Jane replied. "It was a tough case."

Barb winced in sympathy. "Well, I'll sit with her while you're cooking."

"It's just, I don't really want to leave her alone, not right now," Jane explained, running a hand through his hair, temporarily succumbing to the concern lurking in the pit of his stomach. "But she needs to eat something. Damn woman probably hasn't eaten anything substantial all day."

Barb placed a hand briefly on his shoulder. "I won't let her kick me out, Patrick. I promise."

Jane smiled in relief. "You're one in a million Barbara."

"We all are," his neighbour said with a shrug. "And anyway, I like her."

"Yeah, I do too," Jane murmured, glancing back in Lisbon's direction.

"I figured," Barb said dryly.

Jane smirked, but conceded the point.

"Now go and make her dinner," Barb ordered. "That woman looks like she could stand to be spoiled a little."

"Yes ma'am," Jane said with a mock salute. Before turning on his heel and walking inside.

Barb shook her head at him, before taking a deep breath and turning back towards the garden. She had a feeling the conversation she intended to start wouldn't exactly be simple. "The garden is beautiful, isn't it?" she said casually as she sat down.

Lisbon smiled. "Yeah, it really is. Jane did a nice job."

"He's got a bit of a knack about him," Barb agreed.

"That's one way of putting it," Lisbon said rolling her eyes. Sometimes Jane's eclectic skill set got a little irritating. Thankfully there were several things he was terrible at to even things out.

"That red rhododendron is particularly lovely," Barb added, gesturing in the direction Lisbon was still watching.

"My mother loved rhododendrons," Lisbon said softly.

Barb looked over sharply. "Did she?"

"Mmhm."

Cautious of the agent's use of the past tense, Barb tried to find the right words, "I'm guessing she… I mean, is she…"

"She died when I was twelve," Lisbon explained, knowing what the other woman was driving at.

Barb winced, though the answer wasn't all that surprising. "I'm sorry."

"S'okay," Lisbon muttered.

It obviously wasn't, but Barb let that slide. "How did she die?" she asked instead.

"Drunk driver. Idiot didn't even see her," Lisbon said bluntly.

Examining her companion's face, Barb decided a slight change in the subject was in order. "Do you have many younger siblings?"

Now it was Lisbon's turn to look over sharply.

Barb smiled. "Yes, it is that obvious that you're the oldest."

Lisbon sighed, but conceded the point. "I have three younger brothers."

"Oof. Bet they were a handful."

"That's an understatement."

Barb took a sip of her wine, knowing that if the woman sitting across from her hadn't wanted to talk about this they wouldn't be. "You took care of them afterwards?"

"Tried to," Lisbon acknowledged. She hadn't been entirely successful on that front.

"You did," Barb said with a smile that was almost indulgent.

"I guess," Lisbon said, glancing down.

Barb set her wineglass on the table and decided to just bite the bullet. Otherwise the two of them would be circling around the major issue for twenty minutes. "What happened today, Teresa?" she asked firmly.

"A killer was targeting nurses. Four nurses dead in the last thirty-six hours. Three of them young, with families. Young kids," Lisbon explained, her tone clipped.

"I heard about that on the news," Barb said neutrally. "It sounded awful."

"It was," Lisbon sighed.

And Barb made a guess at something else. "Your mother was a nurse?"

"Yeah," Lisbon admitted, staring determinedly at the rhododendrons.

Barb watched in silent sympathy, "You catch the guy?"

"Sort of," Lisbon hedged.

"Hmm?"

Lisbon explained. "My second in command shot him before he could kill his fifth victim." Their killer hadn't been caught, but he had been stopped. And that was better than nothing. Better than a lot of things actually.

Barb floundered for something to say in response, "Well, that's…"

"Yeah."

"At least he's gone?" she suggested.

"I know, but it all seems so pointless sometimes," Lisbon admitted.

Barb figured that a lot of that world seemed awfully pointless a lot of the time. "To be perfectly honest, I have no idea how you do what you do."

Lisbon shrugged. "You have to be born for it, I guess."

Or something happens that makes you suited for it, Barb thought, but didn't say. "Still, it's a lot of responsibility, leading a team."

"I don't mind that part," Lisbon admitted.

Barb smiled softly. She bet that Teresa Lisbon didn't mind being in control. "You're used to being in charge."

"Yeah."

"Good for you," Barb said with a decisive nod. "Here's to strong women," she added raising her glass.

Lisbon smirked, and raised hers in turn.

"Thing is," Barb continued. "That doesn't mean you can't let other people do all the worrying from time to time."

Lisbon didn't reply though her grip on her wine glass tightened.

"Take Patrick," for example, Barb continued blithely. "That man absolutely adores you. He'd do anything you wanted. He's desperate to take care of you, you know."

Lisbon blushed.

"You could let him do it," Barb pressed.

Lisbon looked away.

"I'm sorry, Teresa," Barb said. "It's none of my business, I know. It's just…"

"This garden really is beautiful," Lisbon interrupted softly. "I thought it would be a nice place to just… sit, y'know?"

Barb stared at the woman across from her, then cursed her own blindness. "Tell him," she said after a moment.

Lisbon bit her lip.

"He'd do everything he could to catch you if you fell," Barb pressed. She knew she was pushing. She knew she was intruding on something that was really none of her business. But she couldn't help it. She liked both of them, and they needed each other. Any fool could see that. They were good people, even if they were both idiots from time to time.

Besides, Patrick was going to dissolve into a bundle of worry any second now, the way things were going.

"He planted the rhododendrons," Lisbon said after a minute. That had been something. Even if Jane hadn't known it at the time.

"Yes he did," Barb agreed.

"I like it here," Lisbon added after a moment, more to herself than anyone else.

Barb smiled to herself, "Then I guess it's a good place to relax after a bad day."

"It is," Lisbon murmured, leaning back into her chair lost in thought.

"This wine's good too," Barb said, turning the conversation to a slightly more neutral topic now that she'd achieved what she'd intended.

"Absolutely," Lisbon agreed.

"You want another glass?" Barb checked, not minding stepping in as hostess while Patrick was busy.

"Maybe in a little while," Lisbon said.

"Okay," Barb said easily.

"You don't have to sit with me you know," Lisbon said after a minute. "If you have things you need to be doing. I'm perfectly fine by myself."

Barb shook her head. She knew when she was needed, and she could be as stubborn as the best of them. "I've been staining cabinets all day. I could use a break and some conversation. Unless you'd rather be alone."

Lisbon shook her head. "No," she admitted. "This is nice. I just thought…"

"You need to stop worrying about things," Barb interrupted bluntly. "Everything's fine. We've both worked hard. We deserve to enjoy a glass of wine."

Lisbon smirked in reply.

Barb smiled. "Now tell me about your first case with Patrick. I've been curious ever since I met you and I imagine that must have been a bit of a tale."

Lisbon chuckled and started the story. "It was an experience all right. I can't say that I'm sorry those early days are over. What happened was…"

xxxxx

Jane walked outside, his hands in his pockets, looking casual. It was imperative that he look casual. Because what he was really doing was closely examining Lisbon's facial expression and Lisbon couldn't know. She might get defensive about it, and that would be bad.

So it was very important that his amble look just casual enough that she wouldn't suspect, but not too casual. Because then she would.

He watched her eyes closely.

They looked a little lighter.

She was almost smiling.

Barb looked like she was in a good mood too.

Jane had a sneaky suspicion it was at his expense. But he didn't care about that right now. "I hope you ladies are enjoying your wine," he murmured, sliding a hand back on Lisbon's shoulder.

She glanced up at him, and just for a second something in her eyes broke, ever so slightly. Before Jane could examine it further, her walls were up again.

"It's good," Lisbon replied, tipping her head against his arm, which was still conveniently located for that function.

Jane had to hide his shock when she left it there.

"I don't think I've had this one before," Barb added, to fill the resulting silence.

"I can give you the name if you want," Jane said absently as he watched the top of Lisbon's head. "The bottle's inside."

"Maybe later," Barb replied. "You just left your kitchen."

"You didn't want a glass?" Lisbon asked, tipping her head towards him.

Jane let his eyes twinkle at her. "I left it inside. Too curious about what you two were up to out here I guess."

Barb smiled. "Teresa was just telling me about your early days at the CBI. How you didn't end up in prison is beyond me Patrick."

Jane smiled. "Must have been my protector," Jane said, squeezing her shoulder.

Lisbon shut her eyes for a minute. "How's dinner coming?"

"It's actually ready," Jane admitted. "Or it will be in a minute."

"That's my cue to leave then," Barb said standing before either of them could object. "It was lovely talking to you Teresa, as always."

"You don't have to…" Lisbon started to say, as she sat up.

"Yes, there's more than enough if you want chilli, Barbara," Jane assured her.

Barb shook her head. "Actually, I've already eaten and I've probably interrupted enough of your evening."

"You weren't interrupting anything," Lisbon assured the older woman, standing up.

"Well, anyway," Barb said with a wave of her hand. "I should be getting back. If you need anything, you know where to find me."

"Good night Barbara," Jane said.

Impulsively Barb squeezed Lisbon's hand.

Lisbon and Jane watched her go.

Jane realized his arm was around Lisbon's waist. He wasn't sure how it had gotten there, but she seemed to like it. To be honest, so did he. So he left it where it was.

"You ready to go in?" he asked.

"Yeah," she replied softly.

"Oh," he said suddenly. "Unless you want to eat in the garden."

Lisbon bit her lip, suppressing a smile. "No," she told him. "Let's go in."

"Whatever you want," he told her.

"Inside is fine," she said again.

Jane ushered her back into his kitchen.

"Do you want another glass of wine?" he asked, picking up the half-empty bottle, and walking over to the table.

Lisbon hesitated.

"You've only had one," Jane told her. "And it'll help you relax, so why not? Unless you're planning on driving somewhere tonight?"

Lisbon found and held his eyes. She pushed her glass across the table.

Jane somehow managed to refill her glass without looking at it.

The wine suddenly didn't matter anymore.

All that mattered was that he couldn't quite read the expression on her face. Except that she was obviously upset. But that wasn't all. He was fairly certain she was trying to tell him something, that she wanted… something.

"You only set the table for two," Lisbon said after a moment. "Barb could have accepted that dinner offer."

"Barb wasn't going to accept my dinner offer. I know it, and so do you," Jane said, his voice matter of fact.

Lisbon walked past him, brushing her hair behind her ear and knocking into his arm in the process. "Yeah," she said softly, as she sat down.

"Did you want her to stay?" Jane asked softly, his fingers threading around her elbow.

Lisbon shook her head. "I mean, I like Barb, don't get me wrong…"

"I know you like Barbara, and so do I," Jane interrupted.

"But it's been a long day," Lisbon finished, meeting his eyes again.

"How're you doing?" Jane asked cautiously.

To his surprise Lisbon smirked. "You're actually asking me that question?"

"I thought I'd give it a try," Jane said dryly.

"How about we stick with the usual, Patrick," Lisbon said with a smirk. "Why don't you tell me, how am I doing?"

Jane watched her for a second searching for an assurance that she was serious before he took the bait, "You're quieter than usual, slower to smile, but you are still smiling. Sometimes. Still, you're trapped in a memory, of what I'm not sure. But you're trapped there alone. Plus you're sad. And guilty. You feel like you should have done more, saved those women.. Even though you know none of it was your fault. Unfortunately, that has never made any difference to you where your guilt is concerned."

Lisbon dropped her eyes. "Yeah."

"Yeah?" Jane asked in surprise. He hadn't expected her to actually admit it.

"I hate days like today Patrick," she confided.

Jane sighed inaudibly. "I know."

"Thank you for making me dinner," Lisbon told him a second time.

Jane noticed. "You said that already."

She caught his eye, "I know."

Jane still couldn't help feeling like he was missing something. Something she wanted him to know. "Maybe we should start eating it then."

Suddenly her eyes were laughing at him, though just for a second. "Maybe."

They lapsed into silence. After a few minutes Jane decided to just approach at least one of the issues head on. "So your mother liked rhododendrons?"

Lisbon froze, then nodded. "She loved them. They've always reminded me of her."

"Yet you don't have any of your own," Jane remarked casually.

Lisbon sighed. "I don't have a garden."

Jane blinked.

Lisbon continued after a moment. "She liked that they were difficult. That they took work. That you couldn't just plunk them in the ground and hope that they bloomed. At least not in the way that you wanted them to. And sometimes they needed to be babied along when the weather was uncooperative. She cursed them every year, but she still loved them best."

Jane smiled. It seemed that quite a few traits ran in the Lisbon family. "I'm glad you suggested them to me. Though I haven't had much trouble with mine yet."

Lisbon shrugged. "The climate in California's probably better for them than in Chicago. Anyway, they just popped into my head when I saw the hole in your garden."

Jane let her little white lie pass. "What was she like?" he asked instead.

Lisbon's fork stilled in mid-air. To both their surprise, she answered the question. "I idolized her, so much. She was so strong. She was the one who fixed everything. And did it with a smile. I never understood how. She was the rock. We all worshipped her really. She worked crazy shifts at the hospital half the time, but she still found time for my brothers and me. She was funny, smart, strong, beautiful. I used to think she could do anything. She was the type of person who walked into a room and you felt like nothing horrible could happen. You ever know anyone like that?"

"Yes," Jane said without hesitation.

Lisbon smiled, leaning towards him. "Yeah?"

"Must be hereditary," Jane said matter-of-factlly.

After a second realization dawned on Lisbon's face. Her eyes widened then narrowed at him, her expression half disbelieving, half amused.

Jane kept his expression deliberately blank, at least until she let out a whoosh of near-silent laughter.

Then the smile slid off her face. "Then, one day it all went away," she said softly.

Jane's hand slid towards her automatically. "I'm sorry you've been reliving that all week," Jane told her.

She nodded sharply. "What about your mother?" she asked suddenly.

Jane shrugged. "She died before I turned two. I never really knew her. In some ways I think that was probably easier. Besides, my life has hardly been traditional."

"No, it hasn't," Lisbon acknowledged. "But still…"

Jane reached for her hand, grabbing it this time. "Don't worry for me Teresa. I had people. And I got out of it alive."

"So did I!" Lisbon said indignantly.

"Of course you did," Jane agreed softly. "Do you want any more chilli?"

Lisbon shook her head almost violently.

"Salad?" Jane asked.

She shook her head more slowly.

"Something sweet?" Jane double-checked. "I may have chocolate chip cookies."

She shook her head normally, rolling her eyes. Then she stood and carried her dishes to the dishwasher.

Jane was beside her in a second. "You don't need to do that," he objected, trying to take the plates from her.

Lisbon ignored him, taking his plate from his hands she put it beside her own. "I'm not so broken that I can't load a dishwasher Jane."

"I never said…" Jane objected indignantly.

"You implied," Lisbon shot back, feeling suddenly exposed.

Jane grabbed her shoulder, turning slightly towards him. "No I didn't!" he insisted. "Stop it."

Lisbon sighed and dropped her head to her chest, "Whatever."

"I just, you're my guest," Jane explained in frustration, squeezing her shoulder slightly.

"I have a key!" Lisbon said, irritation surfacing again, though she wasn't sure exactly why.

"Yes you do!" Jane agreed readily, not sure what point that proved.

"Exactly!" she replied forcefully.

Jane took a breath and tried again. "Teresa, I…"

"People have been looking at me like I'm defective all day!" Lisbon interrupted suddenly.

"They have not!" Jane insisted, trying to catch her eyes.

Lisbon shook her head almost frantically, "Oh, they have!"

"You're being ridiculous!" Jane told her, throwing his hands up in the air.

"I'm being ridiculous?" Lisbon said, furiously beginning to wipe at the counter with a dishcloth.

"Yes, and you know it," Jane snapped. Her hands stilled on her counter. "What's going on, Teresa?" he asked gently.

"I don't know!" she hissed.

He stepped behind her and put his hands on her forearms. "Okay."

"I just," she whispered. "I hate when people start walking on eggshells around me. I hate when they know and they pity me, and patronize, or treat me like…"

Jane spun her around so that she was facing him. "I wasn't pitying or patronizing you, Teresa. You don't need my pity, and I'm certainly not stupid enough to patronize you."

She dropped her head again, this time against his chest, "I know… I'm sorry. I just… And after you were so sweet and made me dinner and…"

Jane wrapped his arms around her. "Would you stop thanking me for making you dinner?" he asked. "I wanted to."

"You did?" she asked hopefully.

Jane felt a familiar burst of sadness that she never seemed to be able to see how much he liked doing little things for her. "I just wanted…" he trailed off.

"What?" Lisbon prompted slightly breathless.

He took a deep breath, "I just wanted to make things less hard for you, for a little while."

Her fingers instinctively tightened in his shirt. "Patrick…"

"I want you to trust me, to feel like you can talk to me," Jane continued. "I wish you'd called me when you were so upset. Just let me know somehow. Even if you don't want to talk. That's fine. Just let me know where you are. Send me a text message. 'Jane, had a rough day, need some time alone. Jane, am tired and want to collapse into bed for the night. Jane, have left office so don't worry. Jane, went for ice cream. Jane, I'm at the shooting range blowing the targets off the face of the earth.'"

"Jane, I'm at your place, why aren't you?" Lisbon whispered with her own suggestion.

Jane closed his eyes briefly. "I was too busy running around searching for you," he replied, tightening his hold.

Lisbon sighed against him, slipping her arms around his waist. "Probably driving way too fast," she murmured. "As usual."

He pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "I was concerned," he admitted.

"I'm sorry," she apologized feebly. "I should have called. I didn't even think…"

"Yeah, well, It didn't even occur to me that you might be here," Jane said dryly, cutting her off.

"I was."

He knew that now. But he hadn't at the time. It was hard sometimes. They'd known each other over a decade, but they still played things so close to the vest. Both of them. Jane knew it wasn't only Lisbon. It was just… He wanted to make things easier for her. He wanted to make her feel better, to… to protect. He wanted to protect her and he wanted to take care of her. She took care of everyone around her all the time. All the time. He just wanted to return the favour from time to time. Her family may have been torn apart by her mother's death, but that didn't mean that she needed to be alone forever. He didn't want to take over her life. He just wanted to stand beside her. He needed her to let him comfort her.

He needed to be a place she felt comfortable, safe.

Jane froze.

She'd camped out in his garden; she'd been hovering near him since he'd gotten home. She'd been pushing him away, but she'd also been reaching for him.

She'd come to him. Because she'd been upset.

"I thought you wanted to be alone," he whispered against her ear.

Lisbon shook her head, burying it against his neck.

Jane leaned his chin on the top of her head. "Oh Teresa… My Teresa… Dearest one..."

"I'm not very good at this," Lisbon told him, feeling compelled to explain.

"Hush. You're fine," he assured her, his hand running around her back.

"I wanted you to make me dinner," she choked out suddenly. "I wanted to come here and… You have the rhododendrons. And I didn't want to worry for one day. Just once I wanted…"

"I wanted that too," he whispered against her ear when she trailed off, his heart thumping at the idea that she'd wanted him that much.

"I just," Lisbon continued, making another attempt at an explanation. "I'm really not good at this."

"You're lovely," Jane replied. "And for the record, I can't imagine that I'm particularly easy either. I certainly don't have any complaints with how things are going so far."

He felt her take a deep breath against his chest. "You're very sweet sometimes."

"Meh."

She smiled.

"You sure you don't want dessert?" Jane prodded, taking advantage of the lift in her mood. "Although, apart from the cookies, I'm not sure what that would be… Can you have cake delivered? I don't know, but I'll try if you want it."

Lisbon shook her head.

"Do you want another glass of wine?" Jane checked.

She shook her head again.

He paused. Then inspiration struck, "Do you want to go back outside?"

She shook her head a third time.

"Do you want anything?" he asked in confusion.

She smirked. "Sit."

"Ah," Jane nodded. "I see. So you want to give orders. I should have known."

Lisbon shoved him lightly onto the couch in response

Jane looked confused until she sat down beside him, wrapping her arms back around his waist. She waited until his arms were back around her. "I just wanted to sit," she explained. "It's been a long day."

"Right."

"I just wanted someone to sit with me," she added.

"I'm glad you came here," Jane murmured, trailing his fingers up and down her spine.

"Well, Barb's nicer than Mrs. Chen," Lisbon said, referring to her Chinese neighbour who never gave more than a curt nod any time the two women happened to meet, despite the fact that they'd been each other's closest neighbour for almost a decade.

"Mussolini's nicer than Mrs. Chen," Jane said dryly.

Lisbon didn't deny it. Sitting with Barb had been lovely. It was nice having neighbours who actually knew who she was. Even if they were Jane's. She wasn't used to having people like that. And it was nice having a place where she could hide from the world. "Your garden's nice too," she murmured.

"Hmm," Jane hummed into her hair. "Do you want me to plant more rhododendrons?"

"There isn't room for them," Lisbon pointed out logically.

But Jane was never one to capitulate to mere logic. "I could rip more stuff out."

His suggestion made her grin. "Thank you, but no."

"Are you sure?" he asked.

"Yeah," she said with a little laugh.

"Because I'll rip out the whole damn…" Jane started to promise recklessly.

"No. No," Lisbon shook her head. "Two is enough. Besides, a whole garden of rhododendrons might look a little strange."

"Okay," Jane agreed after a moment. He did kind of like his garden the way it was anyway.

"Jane?" Lisbon said tentatively.

"Yeah?"

"I don't just like your garden," she whispered.

He turned towards her in surprise. "What?"

Impulsively she kissed him. "I really didn't want to go back to my place tonight," she murmured against his mouth.

"Stay as long as you like," he offered, before moving to recapture her lips.

"M'kay," Lisbon sighed, finally just letting herself start to relax against him.

"Actually, stay longer," Jane suggested after a moment.

"M'kay."

That got his attention. "Really?"

"Mmhm."

"I like having you here too," Jane whispered.

"Oh."

"What do you usually do when the cases are bad?" He asked after a moment. "You always disappear from the office without a word to anyone."

Lisbon shrugged and dropped her head against his shoulder. "Nothing too exciting. Maybe a run, or the shooting range. On rare occasions the nearest bar. Usually just a glass of red wine and stupid TV."

"Staying strong?" And alone, Jane thought.

"Well, it's not like I can rush out and fix the world after hours," Lisbon grumbled.

"No, that's your day job," Jane replied.

She jabbed him in the ribs with her elbow.

He winced. "Ooh."

She ran a soothing hand across the spot she'd just abused and leaned against him again. "Drama queen."

"You know you secretly like it, having to keep me in check and alive," Jane told her.

"Lucky for you," Lisbon huffed.

"It is lucky for me that you like me," Jane agreed. "Otherwise this arrangement would be either coercion or some sort of strange false imprisonment."

"Well, handcuffs were originally involved," Lisbon pointed out.

Jane let out a huff of irritation. "Are you ever going to let that go?"

"Of course not," Lisbon replied cheerfully.

"Hmm," Jane began idly playing with her hair and surreptitiously rubbing some of the tension out of her neck.

Lisbon sighed in contentment.

Then she tensed, hiding her face against his neck. "She'd have liked you. Oh, she'd have liked you." she whispered hoarsely.

Jane tightened his arms around her again. "Thank you."

"Hm."

"Although, are you sure?" he asked lightly. "In the past I haven't been all that popular with the Lisbon women upon first acquaintance. As I recall, you didn't like me when we first met. And a surprising number of other people don't either."

Lisbon disagreed, "She'd have seen though you in a minute."

"So did you," Jane replied. "Actually, that's exactly my point."

Lisbon shook her head against his chest. "No. She'd have… She'd have seen how I am with you."

Jane's brain actually stalled for a moment. If she meant that... "Darling…"

Lisbon lifted her eyes, her admission somehow releasing a weight from her chest.

Jane was relieved to see a hint of a smile lurking on her face.

"Hi," he whispered, the corners of his mouth quirking up.

Lisbon bit her lip then stretched up and kissed him.

Jane felt her push him firmly (albeit gently) back on the couch.

He briefly wondered whether or not he should be concerned about the change in her mood until he felt her shift until her thighs were on either side of his.

Then he felt her hands on the back of his neck, pulling him closer against her and deciding her current mood was just fine with him. "Have I told you how very glad I am that you came over?" he asked, sliding her sweater off and helping her get rid of his vest and jacket at the same time.

Lisbon bit his lip lightly. "I'll bet you are," she said, her tone seductive.

Jane suppressed a groan when he felt her shift even closer. He was so glad she'd come to his garden. He was so glad she'd decided not to be alone.

He found one particular spot on her neck just below her ear and revelled in her soft moan.

Only to bite back one of his own when he felt her hand travel down his chest.

Jane tightened his hands around her waist and pulled her more firmly against him.

They were in this together now. And he had no intention of letting her go.

xxxxx

The end