Why am I not surprised that Chibs has managed to prompt one of my more romantic Holiday/December fic? Seriously, this is completely expected at this point. So, this is for chizuru_chibi, who prompted Secret Drawer. Or possibly Secret in a Drawer originally, but that's basically the same thing. And also, I find this awfully appropriate, given the subject of last night's ep. Really, it's just a coincidence, since this has been in the works for weeks and weeks, but still.
It was the first thing that sprang to mind the second Lisbon first heard Jane explain a memory palace to Van Pelt.
The cupboard in her grandparent's living room.
It was huge, this massive piece of turn of the century furniture. She remembers it came to within a foot of the ceiling. (Her grandfather always joked that they'd never move it again. It'd just have to be sold to with the house. Lisbon remembers the swearing involved when they finally transferred it to their brother's when the time came.) But the cupboard's sheer size wasn't the best part. The best part was the sheer amount of storage it contained. It was a multitude of shelves and cupboards and drawers. It even had a little fold out writing desk on one side.
It was something she could summon up in her memory at a moment's notice, the smells of remnants of spices and pot pourri, the worn sections of wood around the corners. But the completeness of her memory of that specific piece of furniture wasn't the only thing that made it ideal as a memory palace. The compartments did that. Each compartment for a given set of memories.
The shelves on the top half housed the things everyone knew about her. One side for her career, her job. The other for her brothers and the rest of her family. Each of her brothers and their families had their own shelf, all proudly on display for all to see. An older sister's pride and joy, though she didn't always tell them that. They were irritating enough already.
The other side her team. Her second family. Their accomplishments, their pain, their flaws, she kept them all catalogued, filling her cupboard with objects to remind herself of them.
The drawers underneath? Those were for the things not quite so easily accessible. Her time in San Francisco, with Bosco. Especially that last year was tucked away in the back corner, hidden under a pile of successfully solved cases.
Her childhood. Before everything changed. The memories in that drawer weren't painful, exactly. But she didn't want them exposed to just any prying, curious eyes. They were too precious to her for that. Too sacret.
Then came the drawer for her time at high school, filled with the awkwardness of adolescence, the desire to fit in and all the insecurities that came with that. Images of teams and dances and school projects swirled around in a sea of colour, with the pressure from her home life pushing in on all sides.
But that had its own separate drawer, her home life before she moved to California. The top one on the right, the one with the lock. That drawer was absolutely not for public consumption. It was dark and frightening and sometimes dangerously close to despair. Lisbon didn't look in that drawer unless she absolutely had to. She'd already gone through its contents once, she didn't need to again.
There were other things of course, tucked away in the various cubby-holes. All around the writing desk were her friends from college, her professors, her hobbies, her trips. Things that she didn't want to forget, but which also weren't part of the day to day. Things that didn't need extra security.
Security her memory cupboard was more than capable of providing.
You see, it didn't only contain the usual drawers with keys; it had other secrets.
There were at least three secret compartments in her cupboard that Lisbon was aware of. Her grandfather had showed them all to her one day, when she was spending the afternoon.
One was obvious, a false panel above the already locked drawer. (The night she drove Tommy to the hospital clutching her rosary and praying for his life was stored there.) The second was concealed behind the writing desk. One of the dividers intended to store letters was removable, revealing a second false back. (That was where Lisbon kept a few wild nights in college that she'd rather not have to explain.)
Then there was the third one. The one Lisbon wasn't even sure James knew about, in spite of the fact that the real cupboard was sitting in his living room. Lisbon had never told him, didn't want to tell him still. There was nothing in it apart from a few old letters from her grandfather to her grandmother. And it was her secret with the grandfather she'd always adored. Maybe she'd tell her niece one day, but not today. Now it was just hers. The shallow secret drawer was hidden on the left-hand side of the cupboard, just below the top, its seams concealed almost flawlessly by a piece of decorative wood and the way the boards were cut. It was easy to miss, unless you knew exactly what to look for. But the drawer would slide out easily if you knew the particular trick of opening it.
She knew the trick.
It wasn't something she looked into all that often in her memory cupboard. Most of the time she tried to forget it was even there, hidden in the corner on the side of the cupboard where she stored things related to her team, just above the visible shelf that she'd long ago reserved for Jane.
Jane. Her troubling and troublesome consultant.
Somehow this most-secret drawer had become his too.
Or rather, it was still hers, but he was the one filling it.
There was any number of things in the drawer, tucked away in the corners.
Sometimes Lisbon pulled out the black square box in the bottom, simple and understated. It faded into the corners of the dark drawer with ease.
The necklace inside it did not. Covered in emeralds and diamonds, Lisbon didn't even want to think about what percentage of her yearly salary this single piece of jewellery represented. Nor did she want to know how much money Jane had won to buy it.
It was beautiful.
It wasn'ther, and god knows she'd never have had anywhere to wear it even if she had kept the real one, but it was beautiful.
And it had been hard to give up.
Especially since hidden along with the memory of the box was the memory of his face when he'd been watching her wear it.
There was her collection of paper animals.
The ones that appeared on her desk on days when Jane was being particularly annoying, but always seemed to disappear again a day or so later. Lisbon wasn't sure how he retrieved them, or even why, but the originals were all long gone.
Now she just had the memory, and the paper frogs that leapt out of her secret drawer, every time she opened it.
The red bow, the one he stuck on her birthday present.
After all, an entire pony wouldn't fit in the drawer of a cupboard, even if the drawer was only imaginary.
She still remembers the day like it was yesterday.
She'd been annoyed with him. Not that she'd ever admit that to him, but it was true. Not really because he hadn't gotten her a present (okay, a little), but because he'd teased her about her birthday for probably a week beforehand. So yeah, she'd been expecting him to at least acknowledge it, and then he hadn't (apparently). That had irritated her a little. After all, if he was going to amuse himself teasing her about the stupid day, he could have at least made a little effort.
Turns out he had.
Turns out Jane had dragged a farm animal up the stairs (or possibly the elevator, Lisbon isn't sure about the logistics) and somehow coaxed it into her office.
It'd been insane, and impractical, and a bit nuisance. After all, she'd had to figure out how to get the poor animal out of there again. Lisbon had been expecting a gift ofmaybe some bath stuff, not a living thing.
Really, the whole thing had been so very over the top.
So very unexpected.
So very unnecessary really.
And so very Jane.
She'd loved it.
An unnecessary amount of trouble, but in the end something that made her feel special (and important).
Everyone needed that from time to time, especially on their birthday.
She didn't want to forget that feeling.
The drawer also contained a bear claw, in a white paper bag. It wasn't a particularly inspired choice at first glance; after all, she'd been given (and eaten) dozens of bear claws. But this was a specific bear claw.
This was the one Jane had given her when she'd been unpacking her office after he'd helped her clear her name and survive a false murder charge. She'd thought she was going crazy and he'd helped her uncover what had really happened.
Lisbon had always hoped he was beginning to develop relationships with the team and she'd always known that she cared about him and his well being, but that had been the first time she'd been genuinely sure that he cared about her back. It was the first time she'd been sure that he cared about her, Teresa Lisbon, as a person, and not just as his boss who allowed him access to the Red John case files.
That day Jane had also reminded her of how liberating it could be to break the rules sometimes. Not that Lisbon was advocating it in general, but he'd let her feel free, for just a little while. After that, she'd promised herself that she'd let herself shake off her rules every once in a while and really let her hair down.
It was why she was annoyed that she'd lost her damn Spice Girls CD not long afterwards. She'd had to buy a new copy and everything. Thank goodness you could order them online. Guilty pleasures were bad enough without everyone knowing about them.
It was ridiculous for a woman her age to be buying that CD. But sometimes a girl just needed to dance.
She figured Jane would approve.
Her drawer also contained a small, stuffed, purple unicorn.
A common item in most people's memory drawers, obviously.
But then, Lisbon had never been most people. (And most people didn't have to deal with Jane.)
The two of them had been at a county fair. Their victim had last been seen on his way to get cotton candy, and then had surfaced dead in a ditch ten kilometres away the next morning.
They'd only really been there to rule out carnival employees as suspects. It'd really been just a matter of course, since Jane already had his theories about who the real killer was. Still, it wasn't exactly something they couldskip.
Not that Jane wanted to skip the outing. He was always one for a little extra excitement. And he didn't mind police procedure, when it suited him.
Besides, he'd really just wanted to drag Lisbon to the fair.
She'd resisted of course, but he'd persisted.
Lisbon remembered it well.
"Come on Lisbon," Jane cajoled. "Just one carnival game."
"Jane! We're supposed to be investigating a murder!" she'd reprimanded immediately.
"And you know as well as I do that this fair had nothing to do with it," Jane replied.
She sighed. "I don'tknow that."
"I do," Jane countered. "And you strongly suspect it's the case. So clearly we have time for just a little break."
"What?" he asked mischievously. "Are you afraid I'll win?"
She turned sharply at that. "What?"
Jane smiled lazily. "Well, you're very competitive dear. And I grew up in this environment. If that intimidates you…"
"It doesn't intimidate me," Lisbon interrupted quickly.
"Well, good. Anyway I understand. That's fine. I was even going to let you pick the game, try and even the odds," he added casually.
Lisbon shook her head and moved to keep walking. Then she paused, and turned towards him. "So I can pickany game?" she double-checked, a hint of a smile playing about her face.
Jane grinned. "Any game offered here at this lovely touring fair."
She smirked. "Follow me."
Jane's smile grew several sizes as he fell into step with her. He'd known goading her would get her eventually.
The smile slipped off his face when Lisbon led him to the booth with the basketball nets.
She smirked at him, her expression triumphant. "You up for it?" she asked with a single raised eyebrow.
Jane resisted the urge to scowl. "I assumed you played basketball," he muttered.
"Right through college," Lisbon confirmed cheerfully. "I still play recreationally at my gym when I can. I'm on a pretty casual team."
"Right," Jane muttered.
"You ever played before?" Lisbon asked.
Jane scowled at her.
She laughed. 'Right, well, we don't have to this," she reminded him. "You could always just concede."
He growled at her. "Let's go," he said, trying not to smile at her. She just looked so adorably pleased with herself.
Lisbon laughed again, and took the first shot.
Now, Jane was by no means completely incompetent at basketball. He did have a natural grace after all. But Lisbon knew what she was doing, and had experience on her side.
Needless to say, she kicked his ass.
Jane took it all with as much grace as he could manage. Really, he found himself more impressed with her ingenuity than anything else. The smug expression on the carnival employee's face when he handed Lisbon her prize was another story. The guy seemed to know exactly what was going on, and Jane didn't like his superior attitude. After all, there was nothing in the least bit shameful or embarrassing about losing to a Teresa Lisbon on the top of her game.
Lisbon caught the scowl Jane sent the teenager's way.
She patted him on the shoulder. "Come on Jane, we should get back," she told him.
He smiled slightly. "And here I was hoping we could go double or nothing."
"I could win you one of those giant teddy bears," Lisbon replied.
"Hush," Jane replied good-naturedly. "I guess we don't have time."
"Nah," Lisbon agreed. "But you can have this," she told him, presenting him with the cheap plush unicorn she'd received for her efforts.
The creature's uneven craftsmanship and crazy eyes made Jane smile. "Thank you, Lisbon," he said dryly.
"You're welcome," she replied.
"You're going to tell everyone all about this when we get back, aren't you?" Jane asked.
"Absolutely!" Lisbon said cheerfully.
Jane shrugged. "I suppose that's fair."
With that, he put his unicorn in his vest pocket. The last Lisbon saw of it, the head was still poking out back at the CBI. She assumed it had ended up where 95% of carnival prizes ended up, in people's trash.
The real one at least.
An exact copy was located in a drawer in her memory.
After all, it was important to celebrate one's victories.
A small blue flower. Jane had told her it was blue-eyed grass, and she believed him. She had no reason not to, and it was the sort of the thing that Jane would be irritating enough to know.
In her memory, she'd pressed it in a book before slipping it into the drawer.
In reality, he'd slipped it into her button-hole after half a day of traipsing around the fields of small-town California. Jane had spotted the small, but striking blue flower and, with a charming smile, tucked it into her jacket, just above her heart. And there it had stayed for most of the day, until Lisbon had gotten back to her office and draped her jacket over her chair. In her haste to get to interrogation she'd forgotten about her little star of blue.
She'd always assumed it'd fallen out and gotten swept up by the cleaning staff.
Luckily she had a duplicate, of sorts.
Often the objects themselves weren't the most important part of the memory. They simply acted as touchstones.
There were the two hairclips her sister-in-law had given her.
They were really quite pretty. Connie had bought them as a part of a Christmas present one year. They weren't the sort of thing Lisbon would have ever bought for herself. They'd been small and delicate, with little sparkly butterflies on one end.
She'd used them to pin her hair back one day at work. Of course that was the day they got called out to a case in the mountains.
To say it'd been windy was an understatement. Lisbon had forgotten about the pins the second she arrived at the crime scene. Unfortunately the weather hadn't.
Turned out little decorative hair clips weren't designed to withstand what felt like gale force winds (at least in Lisbon's opinion. Jane told her she was exaggerating.)
Before she'd even realized what was happening, both pins had been swept up in the wind. She'd tried to catch them, but it was no use. All she'd ended up with was a near mouthful of hair. Tossing her head, she'd tried to tame it with the two bobby pins she found in her pocket.
When that didn't work she went for an elastic.
Jane's hand on her wrist stopped her.
"Leave it loose," he all but pleaded.
Lisbon froze. "What?" she asked stupidly.
"Your hair," Jane told her, an odd expression in his eyes. "Leave it loose."
She watched him in silence, as he tried to blink the oddly intense expression out of his eyes. It didn't quite work. "You may as well, Lisbon," he said, his voice low (and her heart skittering in her chest). "This wind'll just pull sections of it out of an elastic anyway."
"Please," he said softly, stepping ever so slightly closer.
She remembered agreeing. She remembered feeling confused, unsure. And she remembered the warmth of his fingers around her wrist.
That was the feeling she'd tucked away in her secret drawer.
She had no idea what to make of any of it.
She'd just known that she wanted to save it all.
There were lots of things in the drawer, really.
One of Lisbon's favourites would have disintegrated long ago, had it been real.
Cupcakes didn't tend to last long after all.
It'd been Jane's birthday. He always told the team not to make a fuss, that it was no big deal, but Lisbon knew he was also secretly delighted when they did.
Usually the celebrations were fairly low-key. Usually it was a few drinks after work, or maybe the team bought him dinner. Gifts were usually a part of it, but weren't a big deal. After all, what on earth could one get Patrick Jane? Rigsby always searched, but usually ended up falling back on some kind of alcohol while for the last five years Cho had been giving Jane a gift certificate to the same restaurant. Van Pelt's gift was always different, but also always generic. Lisbon herself went with something small and quirky, mugs, gloves, little toys for him to occupy himself with at work. This year she'd bought him a 3D puzzle to occupy himself with. He'd just laughed and rebuked her for encouraging him to goof off on company time.
She'd shrugged and said he'd do it anyway.
He didn't bother denying it.
But then his smile had turned suspicious.
"What else did you do?" he asked slowly.
"I don't know what you're talking about," she told him, deliberately innocent.
Jane smirked. "Lisbon..."
She grinned. "Jane..."
"Out with it," he ordered.
She walked over to the cupboard in the corner and pulled out the Tupperware container. Opening it, she held it out to him.
Jane stared at its contents. "They're pink," he said after a moment.
Lisbon grinned and nodded enthusiastically. "Yes, they are."
"Bright pink," Jane said after a moment.
"What colour should they be?" she asked innocently.
Jane smiled in spite of himself. "Well, I believe brown is the traditional colour for chocolate cupcakes," he reminded her.
Her smile widened. "The cupcakes themselves are brown," she assured him.
"So was there a reason for the pink icing then?" Jane asked.
She shrugged. "Just fun, really. It seemed appropriate somehow," she told him.
Jane shook his head, taking one from the container. "I feel like I should almost be insulted."
"But you aren't," she replied.
Jane stared at them. "You really made me pink cupcakes."
She nodded, passing them around to the rest of the team, all of whom looked extremely amused.
"I didn't know you baked," Jane added.
She shrugged. "Sometimes. On special occasions."
Jane's smile widened again. "I suppose I can live with that, pink cupcakes and all."
The cupcakes had all been eaten that day (baked goods didn't stick around long at the CBI). And while the cupcakes may have been a little lopsided, they'd tasted good, pink icing and all.
Lisbon kept the memory. She liked keeping all of the memories when Jane allowed himself to relax,
Plus, for a little while, he'd been wandering around with the smallest speck of pink frosting on his cheek.
She also has a photo in there. For some reason it was in a frame, something she wasn't always sure she was comfortable with (she almost never bothered putting things in frames after all).
It was a CBI fundraiser.
Jane was wearing a tux.
She was wearing a dress. She liked her dress. She thought she looked good in her dress.
She thought maybe Jane had thought so too.
It was always hard to tell.
Usually when he didn't make a big deal about it, it meant his reaction was more genuine.
That night he'd simply smiled and told her she looked lovely.
And then Lisbon caught him looking at her more than once.
Maybe it was because she was wearing red. Red drew the eye.
Or maybe it wasn't just that.
They'd danced together. He'd asked her to dance again. He'd smelled good. She'd felt safe.
She wished she had an actual picture of it. But she didn't. So the one hidden away in her drawer would have to do. After all, it's not like she could ask anyone if they actually took one.
There was also a notebook full of doodling. The notebook itself didn't even exist in reality, but all its pages had at some point or another, all loose and separate. She'd just bound them together in her memory.
Nearly a decade. They'd been chasing Red John for nearly a decade. Clearly the two of them needed to come up with methods of just dealing with the stress, the anticipation, the waiting, whenever the serial killer cropped up on their radar.
There wasn't a decade worth of scribbling. That had happened more in the last couple of years or so.
She'd taken to joining Jane in his attic. To keep her mind occupied while they waited for information. To watch over him while they wracked their brains for clues, hints of where or who the serial killer could be. Sometimes to talk over the case with him again, or sometimes just to sit with him, to try and stave off the frustration and despair.
He'd been the one to start scribbling.
They'd begun with hangman.
Sometimes it was tick-tack-toe.
Sometimes it was a drawing. Jane was a surprisingly good artist. Or maybe it wasn't surprising, Lisbon wasn't quite sure. Sometimes she even joined in.
Once, between the two of them, they'd drawn an entire Noah's ark scene on an 8 and a half by eleven sheet of paper.
Other times it was stick figures usually making slightly impolite gestures or doing ridiculous things as they tried to make each other laugh.
Or when they were tired, it was just doodles. Lines and shapes. Apparently random.
But most of the time it was hangman.
Somehow the simple game was soothing, amid the chaos.
Lisbon hoped Jane was comforted too.
It made her sad that the book didn't really exist.
Then there was a photo of her and James. Her oldest brother.
He'd been rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery after collapsing on the job. Heart attack.
She couldn't fly out until the next morning.
Her brother, sick, in the hospital.
She had no idea what was happening. Someone was supposed to call her, to keep her updated, but they got busy. And she didn't want to worry them. They had enough worries.
Even if it was killing her that she wasn't even able to sit and wait with everyone else.
She was halfway across the damn country.
She had to sit, and wait, and panic all on her own in her condo. There wasn't even anyone to lie to her and tell her everything was going to be okay.
At least, not until Jane showed up.
To this day she's not sure how he knew to come. Maybe it was just a coincidence.
He took one look at her, throw draped around her shoulders, clutching a picture of herself and James when they were kids, and then the next thing Lisbon knew his arms were around her.
And that was better.
He stayed the whole night.
She would have protested, but she'd learned long ago that often had no effect with him.
So she let him sit with her.
Until she eventually fell asleep against his shoulder sometime after one.
He woke her up the next morning with coffee well in time for her flight. Just before her sister-in-law called, relief in her voice.
She apologized for not calling earlier. But said things had just gotten so crazy... But none of that mattered really. Because James was going to be fine, with a few lifestyle changes.
Lisbon reached for Jane's hand instinctively.
He let her.
And before she left to hug her brother while she still could, first she hugged him.
Over the years, she and Jane had created so many memories that Lsibon didn't want to forget. She might not share them, she might hoard them, keep them locked away, a secret.
But that wasn't because they weren't important. It was for protection.
She needed to keep them safe. From what she wasn't exactly sure.
All kinds of memories. Shared ice cream, later shared meals. Impromptu shopping trips or planned outings.
Some serious, others silly. All important to her.
She's lucky her drawer is nothing but a memory. She's lucky that it doesn't have actual dimensions. It wouldn't hold everything in reality. Especially since lately the drawer's been filling up more and more quickly.
Much as she tries to pretend it isn't.
(And she's not sure it's even worth pretending she doesn't know why anymore.)
Good idea or not, healthy or not, she's going to keep filling her drawer.
Because it's important to her.
She wants to make sure she remembers.
Jane found himself from time to time back in his little hideout in the attic.
He spent less time there than before, but sometimes he needed to be alone with his thoughts. It was still a good place to go to get away from the world.
It was still a good place to hide.
The mishmash of abandoned furniture may not have been have been attractive, but it served a purpose. Most of it was unassuming enough that no one would ever think of searching it for anything important.
That was the true key to hiding something after all, make it look like something completely different.
Like the bottom drawer in the little wooden table in the corner, relegated to this mostly unseen space long ago and covered in scratches. Had anyone ever bothered to look in it, they would have found nothing but a bunch of junk. Things that looked like they belonged in the trash, with the rest of the table.
But Jane knew appearances were often deceiving.
There was nothing careless about the drawer's contents, not to him at least. Inside he'd hidden a sales receipt for a ridiculously expensive necklace bought on a case in Nevada (and the memory of her eyes when she was wearing it), a collection of origami frogs of varying sizes, a large and gaudy red bow, one pilfered Spice Girls CD, a small stuffed purple unicorn (and again, her eyes when she presented it to him), a hot pink cupcake wrapper and the ridiculous matching party hat she insisted on strapping to his head. One of her hair clips. (Jane had told himself that if he'd found both he'd have returned them, but what good was one hair clip? He didn't know why she clipped it back anyway. It'd looked so lovely blowing around her face).
Which he could prove, because he also had a snapshot of her at a CBI fundraiser. When she wasn't looking, not directly at him at least. She was looking to the side, her head slightly ducked. He could see her profile though, and her eyes. And that soft little smile, because someone had paid her a compliment. And why shouldn't they? She'd looked gorgeous in that dress.
Then there was a sketch of her profile. He'd done it himself. She'd swatted him in the shoulder and blushed crimson when she realized. But he'd rather think about her jaw line then whether or not they'd actually catch the serial killer. She hadn't stopped looking self-conscious until he'd started the game of hangman underneath. It had taken her surprisingly long to fill in, "Stand by Me." Which was weird, because usually she was pretty good at the 80s movies (check it's 80s. It might be 90s).
He hadn't meant to collect the memories, but he couldn't help himself.
Not that it would matter, since no one would ever find them. And if they did find them, they wouldn't know what they were.
Except for maybe her.
He wondered whatshe'd do if she found them. He wondered if they'd make her uneasy. He wondered if she'd care.
Some days he desperately wanted her to find them.
Most days he didn't. He knew it was a bad idea. A very bad idea.
But he still kept filling the drawer. His little secret.
Just in case there was ever a time when hecould show it to her.
He wondered if she'd understand.
He wondered if she'd remember…
Alright so this is the temporary end. But guess what Chibs, you're getting two fic this month. Because it was important to me that this end here. This is where the story ends. This is a complete one-shot (at least in my head). There is just also a sequel. So there.