"Love me when I least deserve it. . . because that's when I need it the most".
She didn't know how long she had been sitting by his bedside, the days and evenings had begun to blur together his seventh night in the hospital. The only time she really left his side was to grab a bite to eat in the cafeteria or shower, and even then she only stayed away for a few minutes. She wanted to be there when he woke up, not because of some deep-seeded romantic feelings she harbored towards him, but because she wanted him to know that she was angry.
"Jane, you're awake!" Lisbon replied, suddenly very aware of her thoughts. She pushed them back and got to her feet. "I'll be right back, I need to go get the doctor, he'll want to check on you now that you're awake."
A half-an-hour later, the emergency room doctor had thoroughly examined him and given him a clean bill of health.
"How long was I out?" Jane asked, rubbing the hand that had the IV snaking through it.
She shrugged. "I don't know. About fourteen days, I guess."
"And you've been here the whole time? What about work?"
Lisbon shrugged again. "I was worried about you."
"What happened exactly?" Jane asked.
"You don't remember?"
"Vaguely," he replied. "The details are a little fuzzy."
"For some reason, he sent you a message about a murder he was going to commit, and you got it into your head to go to the location he mentioned. I told you – I begged you – not to go. I said it was a trap, but you wouldn't listen to me because you didn't want me to be right. So, you went anyways and the next thing we knew, we were getting a call from somebody in the neighborhood telling us that you were going to the hospital because you had been in a car wreck—"She paused at this point in her story. "Is this jogging your memory at all?"
"Everything you mentioned," Jane answered. "And I think I can remember waiting hours for Red John to show up. I remember thinking after six hours that you were right; Red John had just sent me on a wild goose chase. So, I called it a night and had just gotten into the car when a large car ran into my Citroen, but after that it's all blank."
"You were pretty beat up that night. I was so afraid I was – we were. . ." Lisbon trailed off and looked at him uneasily. "Jane, I have something to tell you. . . it's bad news."
He laughed wearily. "Don't tell me that as we speak Red John is in a maximum security prison somewhere."
"No, we haven't caught him," she answered uneasily. "The night you had your accident, there was a murder and Red John is responsible for it."
Jane's jaw tightened before he let out a long breath. "It was all set up, wasn't it? It was all set up and I fell for it. I feel like an idiot Lisbon."
Lisbon bit her bottom lip; her anger leaving her like air left a deflated balloon. The, I told you so, that had been on the tip of her tongue disappeared, and suddenly she didn't know what to do anymore. "Maybe I should go home so you can get some proper rest," she finally said.
"I don't want you to go home," Jane whispered.
"Then what do you want from me Jane?" Lisbon demanded, her anger coming back in a rush. She threw her hands up in the air helplessly; she faltered and uttered a sad little laugh, sitting down in the chair heavily. "WH-what do you want from me?"
"I don't want anything from you," Jane answered; he flexed his fingers before balling them up into fists. "It's what I – very selfishly – need you to do for me."
Her shoulder's slumped dejectedly. "Don't—"
"You don't even know what I'm going to ask," Jane said, suddenly on the defense. "Since when have I ever asked you to do anything that you couldn't do?"
"Is that a rhetorical question?" Lisbon retorted. "Or do you really want to know?"
He released a long breath. "Fine, I retract my last question then."
She sighed. "Jane, what am I going to do with you? You could have died, and then where would we be?"
Jane licked his chapped lips. "You know how I feel about that. Do you really want to talk about it again?"
He didn't answer her, they had already had thatconversation once upon a time ago, and nothing had changed in three years. He didn't care if anything happened to him, as long as they got Red John in the end. She let the subject drop, and they sat in silence for a while, both of them lost in their own thoughts, the slow beep of hospital machinery lulling them in and out of sleep.
Finally Lisbon opened her eyes and spoke. "What is it that you need me to do?"
"I could use a drink of water," Jane answered, offering her a weak smile.
She nodded and poured him a cupful of water from a plastic pitcher that sat on the nightstand next to his bed. She helped him sit up and slowly brought it to his lips, trying carefully not to spill any on his hospital gown. When he had drunk the whole thing down, she crumpled the cup in her hand and studied him carefully.
"You don't just want me to give you a drink of water, do you?"
"I almost can't ask you to do it for me. I told you, it's too selfish, it's too. . . too impossible," Jane answered softly.
Lisbon shook her head. "Since when do you care about being selfish or not?"
He looked out of the hospital window pensively, his chest rising and falling slowly. Finally, he looked back at Lisbon, who was watching him anxiously, and took her hand. "I-I need you to love me—"
She gasped slightly, taken aback by his request. She was finally seeing the side of him that she had always known existed deep down somewhere.
"I know I don't deserve your love, I don't deserve anything from you really, but that's why I really need you to-to love me," Jane continued, oblivious to her shock. "I can't promise that it'll keep me from doing something terrible when we finally do find Red John. But I know. . . I know that it'll keep me alive until that day finally comes."
Lisbon shook her head and slid her hand from his. "You're right. . . that is selfish of you. I-I can't love you! Loving you will only. . . it'll only hurt me in the end."
Jane nodded. "I understand. . . I really wasn't expecting you – you must be exhausted Lisbon, how long have you been here? Maybe you should go home and get some rest."
Guilt sliced through her, cutting her to the very center of her soul. But she couldn't grant his request, her heart was already scarred and tattered enough, allowing herself to love him would be like rubbing salt in the wound. She couldn't love somebody who was going to go off and do something stupid every time a shadow of a lead came up on the Red John case. She knew in the end, she would walk out of the relationship more broken and more scarred than before. He was on a quest for revenge and there wasn't any room in his life for her.
"I'm sorry Jane," she whispered.
"Don't be. . . I'm sorry that I asked you to. . ." He trailed off, another round of uncomfortable silence filling the tiny hospital room to the ceiling.
Lisbon couldn't bear it anymore, the look on his face, the ache in her heart, the overwhelming silence. So, she snatched up her overnight bag and fled.
In their relationship they both had become masters at fleeing and skirting around issues that involved the two of them. They had become experts at covering things up, and deflecting from the subject at hand, pretending that nothing had ever happened between them. This time it wouldn't be any different. He was deflecting, and she was fleeing.
She tossed her overnight bag in the passenger seat of her SUV and fumbled for her keys, her mind still reeling from Jane's request. She gave up the search for her keys and rested her arms on the steering wheel, burying her head in the crook of her elbow. She took deep breaths and tried to relax. But his words kept playing over and over again.
I need you to love me. . .
He might as well of asked her to go swimming in the ocean while there were shark warnings at the beach.
She sat in her car for a while longer, listening to the sound of her heart drumming in her ears. She thought about Jane lying all alone in his hospital room, breathing in deeply, she opened the car door and slid out, taking small determined steps to the hospital doors.
Jane sighed in frustration as he watched her leave, He hardly ever regretted his actions, but this was one of the times that he did. How could telling somebody how you really felt about them be this complicated? This was one of the handfuls of times that he wished he could go back in time, reverse his actions, and do it all over again.
But real life wasn't a science-fiction novel or a hokey time travel movie, there weren't any time machines, and you couldn't go back to fix your mistakes. For better or for worse you had to live with your mistakes and (hopefully) learn from them, and if you learned from then, hopefully you would never make the same mistake again.
If the events from the past fourteen days proved anything, Jane lived with his mistakes, but he didn't learn from them that well.
He sighed again and was just about to call the nurse to ask if he could get a cup of decent tea, when the door to his room opened and Lisbon slipped in. She didn't even glance at him as she took the seat furthest away from his hospital bed and drew her legs up to her chest, resting her chin in her knees.
"You came back," Jane said.
"I always come back," Lisbon replied. "Just like I always go along with one of your stupid ideas."
He flexed his jaw. "But. . . why?"
She shook her head and said in a voice so low that he had to strain to hear her. "Because, it's just what I've always done when it's come to you. I don't have a logical explanation for it."
After a couple more days of observation, Jane's doctors gave him the okay to leave the hospital. Lisbon came to sign the release papers and take him home.
The drive was the hardest part; the only conversation they made was Jane's giving her directions to the place he lived. Jane's request still hung over them – as dark and threatening as the clouds in the sky that afternoon – this was the moment they could speak about it, or forever hold their peace.
Or maybe save it for another day, a day that wasn't so rainy.
Finally, the awkward ride was over and Lisbon parked the car, unbuckling her belt she slid out of the car and went around to the passenger's side to help Jane out. He leaned against her for support, and she almost lost her breath. Not because of the close proximity of their bodies, but because of how light he felt, because he was still too weak to stand on his own.
She slid an arm around his waist - steadying him – and closed her burning eyes for a second to will away the tears that were pricking at the corners of them. She was a dam ready to burst the past sixteen days had been too much for her.
She knew, in a way, Jane was responsible for his actions; he shouldn't have been so stubborn, he shouldn't have been so intent on finally catching Red John, he should have listened to her when she said it was a trap. But if there was no such thing as Red John, none of this would have happened.
Lisbon was ready for a place where the serial killer didn't exist.
It all came rushing over her in a moment; she was swimming in the shark-infested waters already, because she did love him. The realization made her want to shove Jane back into her car, and drive until California was just a memory, and both of their pasts didn't exist anymore. She wanted to go to a place where having the sappy, cliché, romantic comedy ending was possible for the both of them.
But she knew Jane would never go for it. And as it went, she wasn't the kind of girl that fit the bill for a romantic comedy ending.
So, she closed the car door and held onto him a little more tightly as she walked with him to his hotel room. For now though, she would love him – even when he didn't deserve it – because, like he had said, that's when he needed it the most.
And maybe one day, when there wasn't a Red John anymore, and Jane had found the closure he was looking for, when he finally stopped blaming himself for his wife and daughter's death, and started to remember only the good things about their lives; they could have the slightly fractured, absolutely beautiful version of the cliché, Hollywood ending.