Title - Chicory

Author - Kourion

Summary: "Chicky, come sit down here," Jane calls to the little dog, patting a section of space by the sofa. "You stay right here, Chicky-chick. You sit. Sit. Be good boy. I get you treat." Amazing. Jane has reverted to using baby-speak. He doesn't even use baby-speak with babies. / Developing-Jisbon.

A/N: this wee bug crawled into my brain and took up residence, demanding to be written. :)

I don't think I will be turning it into a WIP, just yet, however (at least not until my other WIP's are wrapped up.)

Spoilers (absolutely) for the ending of Little Stars. You might smack me for the summary, in a minute. (You may also be a tiny bit confused at some of the references if you do not read that story first, but you'll probably still be able to read along, for the most part).


Lisbon's POV


"The fate of animals is of greater importance to me than the fear of appearing ridiculous; it is indissolubly connected with the fate of men." -Émile Zola


Blue-grey pools stare down at me. Begging for my help.

"Now THINK Lisbon...what else? Are we missing anything?"

Intensely serious. I've rarely seen Patrick Jane look so focused. Even when formulating some master-plan for catching a murderer. Then he smiles, and the illusion of seriousness quickly drains away.

"The very quality of this most precious life will be forever impacted by the decisions we make here today. These are the formative months, Lisbon, for which the entire foundation of his life will be determined."

He gives me an exuberant grin, and I roll my eyes. Smirk.

"'Forever impacted'? Don't you think that's just a teeny bit melodramatic, Jane? Even for you?"

Jane's grin widens, apparently not at all put off by my comments, and he rests his hand against my shoulder, tapping his fingertips against the base of my neck.

Tap, tap, tap...

"I am not an accordian, mister. Despite what you may think of my gender. Some people aren't accordians, or toasters, you know."

I highly doubt Jane would be a toaster. A male that could be activated in any sense by the push of a single button.

But he's nothing if not a haptic, meddling creature. I should get him one of those squish balls that he can fiddle with. They're small too, so he can keep one on his person at all times.

"Melodramatic?," he quasi-frowns, ignoring my previous comment. "Meh. Probably. But in all seriousness now, do you think I'm forgetting anything? Anything at all?"

I try not to laugh and bite down on my lip - motioning to his cart a second later.

"This dog very likely has more toys than all three of my brothers did growing up - and you're asking me if you are forgetting anything? Are you for real?"

Yes, I most definitely have not been trying to laugh at Jane.

I want to, almost.

To lessen this restless, nervous feeling that's recently come to call my internal chest cavity its home. That moth-flittering burst of adrenalin deep in my belly, as if I am perpetually stuck on a roller coaster.

Especially since we've somehow - and I'm not even precisely certain when it happened, really - entered a strange relationship limbo. Something so much more intense than anything that I've experienced in all my 39 years. In fact, I almost have to shelve my emotions and pull each one out like a jigsaw puzzle. One at a time, during a period in the day when I am alone.

Slow, but mangeable. Not as overwhelming that way.

"But we're watching movies tonight, right? I don't want us to have to come back because we forgot something basic," Jane states suddenly, frowning at the back of a package of jerky dog treats. Pretend-reading the contents, although I can tell that he's really waiting for my words.

'But we're watching movies tonight, right?'

Movies.

Movies. We've done that four times in half as many weeks. Three times at my apartment. Once at the theaters. Popcorn and drinks. Horrible chocolate malt things that stuck in my teeth.

Jane's hand finding mine more than once, too, almost distractedly. But not. I could tell.

Basic?

Jeesh.

Nothing in Jane's cart is basic, with the exception, perhaps, of one leash, food bowls and requisite dog food.

"Basic" certainly doesn't begin to describe the plush, downy blankets in so-called 'boy' colours.

Nor the ridiculously detailed stuffed toys that make noises when you shake them and proceed to light up in various neon colours (Jane has so far selected a mini Godzilla that glows from the eyes and roars, a robot that has red eyes and makes a mechanical chittering sound when you squeeze it, and a space alien.)

Teethers, well, I guess those are perhaps more necessary. But I don't know if the puppy needs 12 of them.

Nor a bed that was bigger than my eldest brothers crib, for heaven's sake. (It has a built in cooling pad that can be inserted under the main frame on hot days, and an overhanging unit for "privacy". Not that a puppy needs privacy, really.)

Let's not also forget the bandanas. Or the four different leashes, with different collar sizes ("he's going to GROW Lisbon. Children grow!" And in that moment, I knew at least part of his comments were just thrown out there to get a response from me. But it wouldn't work. I was finding his extreme concern over every single facet of this little animals health utterly endearing. And he probably knew that too.)

But let's move on, as the cart still holds a multitude of puppy treats, such as 3 different Kongs, two of which can be filled up with peanut butter treat stuff.

As well as a mishmash of both semi-required but also totally superfluous additions: holistic dog treats in flavours such as "carob chai" (really Jane? "carob chai"?), 5 bags of premium dog food, 4 different styles of feeding trays, 10 cans of puppy milk, 20 cans of wet dog food ("He has sensitive gums, Lisbon. You can't just start him out on hard dog food! I'm not some sort of ogre, woman!"), flea and tick guard spray, a rain coat, matching rain boots, chlorophyll water tablets, a small dog carrier for the car...

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

So now I pick up a royal blue container marked by milliliter etchings and smirk at the description on the back on the box.

Baby bottles?

Something definitely not needed for an 11 week old puppy that is already eating solid food, buster.

"Thinking of opening up your own animal clinic for orphaned animals, Jane?"

My brain suddenly, stupidly, supplies me with a mental image of Jane wearing a wool sweater, blue jeans, hiking boots. His hair messier than normal, but somehow suiting him simply because most carefree elements in life do suit him.

Jane, who took to the city at 18, 19, and married young. Jane, and his fascination with the museums and the libraries and the cafes and civilization, because he felt so far away from anything lasting, anything permanent - as a kid.

Yet that same childhood of unpredictability, of chronic moving, of nothing solid, nothing stable - also shaped him into the man he became. The man who seems at his happiest when eating eggs at some unknown cafe at 6:30 am in the morning, in some podunk town that's not even on most maps.

The man who could live at the beach - and not a beach of artifice and tanned bodies - but a craggy beach of rocky edges, sea foam, driftwood. A beach so stoney and natural that there's hardly anyone else around for miles. Rain, thunder, and Jane - walking along, poking at seapods and shells on a drizzly electric day.

For all his so-called fussiness, he does appreciate nature. Trees, streams, sunlight shafted through a multitude of bowed plant arms, the scent of peat moss and earth.

Yes.

I could see Jane bottle feeding a baby fox.

"Orphaned animal shelter? I have criminals to help catch alongside you, Lisbon! I don't have time to be a nanny to a bear cub or a fox, or something."

I try not to let my surprise show.

I try to silently remind myself that Patrick Jane is not, in fact, a mind reader.

Jane shakes his head back and forth for good measure, then pauses as if indecisive.

As if contemplating the idea.

I remove the bottle from his cart, and put it back on the shelf.

"Chicory doesn't need to be bottle fed, Jane. And you are right: you don't have time to be a nanny."

I quickly manuver him out of the newborn puppy care aisle.

Damnable man gets too many rogue ideas for his own good.


I've tried to call him Patrick in the past.

I have. Seriously.

I've tried to work it into normal conversation. It never really 'took.'

But at least we're at this weird-nervous stage together. It would be so much worse if I was going through this all alone. God knows Jane would do everything in his power to embarass me, then.

In fact, even though we are not really (quote unquote) together at all, we are both the single most awkward semi-couple I've ever seen.

It's not like the banter is gone. No. It's back, triple-fold. But the sheer frequency of our quips back and forth could also be seen as just one more little neon sign to the rest of the team that things are shifting.

I gently finger a teal blue collar, feeling Jane's gaze upon me.

Thank you, peripheral vision.

He's smiling.

Quite a bit.

Almost softly.

Don't look up.

I've been doing that a lot lately too, though.

Smiling, I mean.

Especially these last two weeks. Because things are okay. Or rather, things are going to be okay. Even though I didn't think things would ever go back to being so okay, so quickly.

Not after what happened.

The relief-factor is through the roof astronomically high right now.

I didn't think things could ever be this okay again.


Not that things are going to necessarily be easy now, no.

And there's still a lot of weighty stuff we both have to get past, and I know it's round the corner. But I feel as if we are on the precipice of something insanely huge.

And we both know what this is too. This edge.

I almost wonder why I am not more nervous.

"Do you think I should get Chicory vitamins for his coat?," Jane asks me abruptly.

We've been doing that a lot lately, too.

Asking one another pointless, silly questions that almost don't really matter. I suspect it's just to fill up the intense quiet that descends arounds us, letting us think too deeply about what's happening.

I look up, wanting to almost say something snarky, sardonic - just so we are back on familiar ground.

Then I see Jane as he was at the end of our last case.

Jane in the hospital.

Jane in white clothing with blue dots - hospital clothes - blue-purple markings under his eyes, hair damp against his skull.

"Sure," I relent, finally. "Why not?"

Vitamins would be good for the puppy, and if Jane wants to spend his money treating a sickly animal, I'm not going to tease him about it.

Besides, his chatter has just reminded me to make him a salad or something, tonight. Not that I 'cook' (if you want to call making a salad cooking, which I guess might be better termed "assembling"), but at least I know how to make something reasonably healthy.


I watch Jane from the corner of my line of sight while he reads the back of yet another bag of dog treats, his teeth nipping into his lower lip as if he's reading a book on astrophysics.

We've been at the store for over 2 hours now.

I'm starting to get restless.

"The store is closing in 10 minutes, Jane," I call to him, while he holds up a finger but continues to read.

"I'll take this stuff to the check out line, okay? Get a spot?"

He absent-mindedly nods his head.


The girl looks about 17.

Her hair is a multi-coloured blue and green geometric puzzle, all scalene angles, bangs perched ridiculously high and perfectly straight across her forehead.

Her face and ears have more holes from piercings than my stomach has from stomach ulcers, I'm sure. Strangely, her clothing choice is some cutesy rainbow sweatshirt dotted with teddy bears.

Go figure.

"And have you found everything you need today at The Animal Way?," she recites from memory.

"Good lord, I hope so," I mutter, as Jane finally meets up with me, depositing several bottles of liquid vitamins onto the counter, nodding to me as if to say "that's the last of it."

His eyes instantly focus on the girl's torso, and it takes me a second longer to realize that Astrid's shirt (according to her nametag) is actually depicting a bear jumping off a rainbow. My eye catches sight of the words "I'm so happy I could die."

Hopefully it's just part of her punk style and not some actual twisted cry for help.

"Have you seen our delightful assortment of new "Playful Puppy Hammocks"?," Astrid continues to state, sounding about as interested in the spiel as a kid stuck in a remedial statistics class parroting equations.

I don't even know if she's addressing me, Jane, or the both of us, as her eyes continue to stare at each item as she scans in the products and puts them in a thick plastic bag.

"What's a "Playful Puppy Hammock"?," Jane quips.

"Our "Playful Puppy Hammocks" are hand woven hemp design, perfect for playful pooches. Non-toxic and hypoallergenic fun for the whole family. Won't you consider a "Playful Puppy Hammock" today?"

That same dead voice.

The girls hands are moving like lightning, quickly BEEPing! each item past the scanner, and depositing it on the other side of the countertop. She works quickly for such a depressive seeming individual.

"Fun for the whole family, huh?," Jane suddenly asks, causing the girl to slightly slow her motions. "Like me, and another adult. Maybe a child too? What's the weight limit on these puppy hammock things? We all need to fit, so we can make use of it."

The girl looks thrown off course, as if not expecting the blond man in front of her to be anything more than a mischevious looking manequin. She then quickly reforms into a somewhat disinterested, brooding teenager.

Impressive.

"Our "Playful Puppy Hammocks" are not designed for human useage. We do not recommend more than 85 lbs of animal weight on our "Playful Puppy Hammocks"."

I can almost hear the silently added "you freaking moron" tacked on at the end.

Jane helps the teen scan in the awkwardly shaped puppy bed. He doesn't get a thank you, but I highly doubt he was expecting one.

"Oh Astrid, Astrid, Astrid. You just said that these Hammock things were fun for the whole family?"

The girl just shrugs. "You can push your dog on the "Playful Puppy Hammock." Like it's a swing or something. Lotsa fun."

Her face has taken on a look of whaddja expect from a hammock, you weirdo?

"But-"

"Jane," I sigh, "leave her alone."

The girl then picks up a $30 collar with mock jewelry that reads 'My Little Prince,' - barely casting a glance at the collar again before adding, "Our "Playful Puppy Hammocks" are perfect for your little Prince. All puppies love the "Playful Puppy Hammock.""

That does it.

I know it's ridiculous. But just so well improvised. Hell, I can feel the redness infusing my whole face, streaming through to my ears. But I haven't laughed this hard in months, if years. Just the image of Patrick Jane, wheeling around an overpriced animal boutique-slash-pet store, picking up items for a puppy that read as "My Little Prince"?

Does the man have absolutely no sense of how completely nitpicky he already comes across in his three pieces suits, walking around, drinking his tea? Actually-

How the heck is he going to drink his tea all the time with a puppy being carried about?

Some spoiled Chinese Emperor canine-child?

This time the laughter bleeds into my lungs, and within two seconds I'm sucking in huge droughts of air, a little dizzy.

A nanomoment later, I can feel the pounding warmth of Jane's hands, loosely fisted, lightly tapping against my back. It seems to help and I suddenly feel the excess heat leave my face.

"You okay there?," Jane smiles, his face suddenly looking so amazingly free that something very full of hope breaks apart in my brain.

Astrid's voice tidily moves into our emotional space.

"Well, your order comes to $1463.89 - would you like to pay by credit card, debit credit card, debit card or cash? We do not take personal cheques."


"I can't believe you spent almost fifteen hundred dollars on puppy toys, Jane! And you better check your receipt. That sounds like an insane amount of money for chew toys and vitamins. That kid could have overcharged you."

Jane shrugs his shoulder, like he really doesn't care, one way or the other. "I don't think she overcharged me, Lisbon. Astrid and I - we are like two peas in a pod."

"Just so close in every way," I quip, amused. "Mannerism, dress, way of speaking. A long lost relative, perhaps?"

"It could be worse, Lisbon. I could have spent closer to $1600 with the Playful Puppy Hammock added to the bill," he grins.

I nod. "Yeah. And did you see that girl? She didn't even seem phased. She even worked "Your Little Prince" into her selling routine. I was impressed."

Jane actually chuckles at that, his eyes fond. "Yeah, sweet kid," he finally adds, almost wistfully.

Of course Jane would find her 'sweet'.

She's a snarky sourpot high schooler who probably drinks cough syrup in her off time.

"She looks like a lawn mower attacked her hair, Jane!"

Jane puts on his blinkers, readying to merge into a different lane.

"Nah, that's just part of her style, Lisbon. I bet you anything that kid is much more balanced than any overly complacent, cowed adolescent. Or, worse, one of those super popular teenagers. If they're too popular, they're probably cuttingly aggressive, and if they're just too self-critical, they'll probably be a bag of neuroses by second year university."

His eyes suddenly are watching the road with a renewed and exceptionally intense concentration.

It doesn't take a genius to know that he's thinking of Thea Castleton.

"You know the little guy's name isn't Prince, don't you?," I add, to reign Jane back into the NOW and the GOOD.

"He needs to be built up, Lisbon! He's funny looking now."

I snigger, despite myself. "That's awful! He's not funny looking. He's a perfectly adorable little dog."

"He is, Lisbon. Funny looking, that is. Not that any of it is his fault. Still, if I had more sense, I'd change his name to Wobbly-Bobbly or something. Because he wobbles and he bobbles when he walks. So that works. A name should fit, you know?"

"Says the man named after a Patron Saint." I make a face. Oh the irony. "Besides, that's just cold. He's not wobbly. He's perfect just the way he is."

Jane's smile slips into something bordering amused.

"Even with the seizures, you're going to declare him perfect?"

"He was trying to save a little girl's life, Jane. That makes him pretty awesome, in my eyes. And Wobbly-Bobbly is just an awful name, period."

Jane's whole face suddenly seems so much more brighter than it was a moment before.

"Goodness, no wonder you're so babbly around babies. It's all of them, isn't it? It could be this wrinkly, ugly little Sharpei-looking baby, and you'd think it was "adorable.""

"Nice," I groan. "Real nice," while Jane holds up a finger, not done.

"A kid could look part alien, part spider-monkey and you'd probably call it "darling", darling," he says affectionately.

He then gives me a far too lasting smile, and I feel my stomach lurch around in a pleasant jolted rush.

Turning back to the road, he excitedly honks twice before waving at Van Pelt - who has seemed to come from nowhere.

I hadn't realized we were this close to my condo already.

Jane's smile grows even larger when he sees his little 'Wobby-Bobbly' Prince, lazing out on a ribbon of grass, tongue lolling out in the heat.


Jane's staying with me until - well, we haven't really put a precise end date on anything yet. But basically until he's feeling 100%.

Part of it is his doctor's recommendation, while he recovers. Part of it is the fact that Jane has taken on the very pressing responsibility of tending to Chicory. A responsibility that has put Jane in a bit of a bind, given his tendency to stay at hotels half the time, and to squat in the CBI attic the other half.

The dog, obviously, couldn't go into a shelter. No one on the team would have allowed for it. It just would have been wrong on so many levels. But Dorothea Castleton's extended family didn't want to take on the seizing Cocker Spaniel pup as added responsibilty either.

Maybe not ever, but certainly not now. Not given the tasks of upcoming memorials, legal matters, and their own grief.

'Perhaps', they said, 'it would be kinder if Chicory was put out of his pain. Thea wouldn't want this for him. He can't even eat properly.'

The dog also couldn't control his bladder very well. It wasn't deliberate. But it could happen at any time, an accident.

So Jane suggested diapers.

And off we had gone to get said puppy diapers.

The three quarter full shopping cart was just what developed afterwards.


"It sure took you guys a long time," Grace says warmly. "What did you do, anyway, Jane? Buy out the store?"

Even from her placement on the curb, Van Pelt can probably see the mass of bags and purchases junking up the back of Jane's Citreon.

"Just picked our lad here a few more things he needed," Jane grins, moving on down to the grass and patting his lap, calling the dog over.

The little dog does indeed wobble.

And bobble.

Chicory comes to rest on Jane's legs, his scarred face looking up at his new guardian in adoration. He licks the side of Jane's face, and Jane breathes out a hushed, "hey buddy, how you doing?" to the animal, not at all off-put by the slurping, slopping kisses.

"So how was he, Grace? Well behaved?," Jane states softly, rubbing the puppy's ears. It works, and a few seconds later, the animal yawns and slumps down into the grass, his eyes starting to shut.

"He's so sweet. Gets distracted easily, but you already knew that."

Jane nods. I feel myself nodding as well. It's not exactly a surprise, after all. The dog had a rock the size of a lunchbox smashed against his head.

Distractable is going to be the least of his concerns.


The left side of Chicory's mouth will probably never close properly again. That's what we were told.

"So, we put his food dish in the kitchen. Feed him on the linoleum," Jane had insisted in that 'Easy, Peasy' way of his. His simple pronouncement of Problem Solved.

But the problem is certainly not solved, because whenever the dog eats - half of his food falls onto the floor.

"That's what brooms and spades are for, Lisbon," was the immediate response.


In fact, Jane kept a washcloth with him at the CBI for the first few days, toting the animal around like it was an extention of his own body. He even started calling the pup "Chicky."

Which didn't matter, to tell you the truth, since Jane was off all cases. He was technically ordered to be on bed rest but keeping him where I could see him was better for us both. So I did my part and supplied him with mass quantities of tea, fruit, freshly laundered blankets and Sudoku books. In return, I got my consultant to lay out on the couch for a solid 8 to 12 hours a day, listening to music, reading here and there when he wasn't sleeping.

He had never been less trouble.


Even our boss knew better than to ask Jane to abide by CBI's "no animals" policy.

Jane would tenderly see to Chicory's face, lovingly wiping away the drooly mess that remained after meal times, while the puppy drowsily sat on Jane's couch. No doubt wondering why he couldn't swallow his food.


A couple times, after checking on them both, I had found the puppy asleep on Jane's stomach and Jane asleep on his couch, head rolled back, arms protectively wrapped around the dog.

Cho had even stopped once to take in the scene.

"Mmm. How cute," he had commented, before removing his cell phone and snapping a shot.

"You don't want to play this game with Jane, Cho."

I had blinked back my surprise when my second in command had then asked if I wanted a copy printed, or sent to my email address instead.

"I can send it as a PDF, or a general JPEG," he had said without a trace of a smile.


"Please tell me this is the last of it!," Grace huffs, helping Jane navigate up the back stairs with the puppy bed.

"I think there's another bag or something," I laugh, while Chicory continues to yelp-barking in excitement, walking back and forwards in excitement and effectively tripping us up as we work the large animal bed into the apartment.

"Chicky, come sit down here," Jane calls to the little dog, tapping a section of space by the sofa. "You stay right here, Chicky-chick. You sit. Sit. Be good boy. I get you treat."

Amazing. Jane has reverted to using baby-speak.

He doesn't even use baby-speak with babies.

I don't miss the kiss he smooshes into the animals head, either, ruffling the pup's ears as he does so.

Amazingly Chicory does sit, watching as Jane pulls in the last two bags, and asks where he can put the tins and bags of dog food.

Even without looking at Grace, I can tell she is trying not to laugh.

"Chicky-chick?", she whispers to me.

"Don't say anything. He was going to re-name the little guy Wobbly-Bobbly or something equally silly."

Grace rolls her eyes. "He was not."

"He most definitely was, Van Pelt. I wouldn't test him on that, either. You know how Jane likes to shoot our pre-conceptions to hell."

The little dog is now crunching up something dark and messy, his face eagerly trying to lap the remnant pieces from the burber rug.

"Not on the carpet, Jane!"


"You sure you don't want to stay, Grace? We're watching - what are we watching anyway?," I holler over at my guest.

Jane pulls out six different discs and lays them side by side on the coffee table for our choosing.

"Whatever the lady of the manor prefers," and he bows slightly. "So I got a few different selections."

He proceeds to - of course - lay them out in alphabetical order. Blade Runner, Constantine, Narnia, The Professional. A couple of foreign films which I really have no idea how to pronounce, either.

"I should be getting home," Grace smiles, adding, "but if you guys don't watch this one tonight, I'll see it with you another night? If it's okay, boss?," and my youngest agent holds up the box for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

"We'll have to have a team night," I agree, and put aside Narnia for a later viewing. "Mention it to Cho and Rigsby if I forget, okay?"

"I will. Have fun, guys," Grace mutters softly, petting the puppy's head softly before leaving, "you have a good night too, buddy," she says tenderly to the smallest new member of the household.

Chicory lets out a strangeled little bark in resounding agreeance.


I hear a mewling whine, and call Jane to come take care of his dog while I make stove top popcorn.

"Your dog needs to use the bathroom, Jane!," I call.

Chicory waits patiently by the door, pawing a couple times more with his little feet indicating his need to go pee.

"I know, sweetie. Patrick will take you outside in a minute."

The 'My Little Prince' collar dangles low on the small animals chest, still too big for his tiny frame.

When Jane finally trots downstairs and comes into the kitchen, he's wearing his pajamas.

"It's only quarter after 6, Jane," I say, pointing to his outfit. "You're already getting ready for bed?"

He doesn't seem concerned. "Are we going out later tonight?"

I shake away my confusion, "Probably not, but your dog-"

"So it doesn't matter," he smiles, quickly lacing up his shoes.

"You're taking him out in your pajamas?"

Jane shrugs his shoulders, seemingly not caring at all who would possibly see him in his blue silk night clothes.

"Come on, Chicky," he pats his pant leg, which is probably stock full with biscuits, and the pup trots over eagerly, his tongue hanging out.

"At least wear a jacket," I huff, drapping his peacoat around his shoulders for cover. "I have some of the nosiest neighbours in the state, I think. All I would need is for Ms. Jeffreys to think you came from my apartment..."

"I am coming from your apartment, Teresa."

"I'm sure the woman was a nun-reject," I continue on, needing something to be made absolutely clear to Jane right now. "She makes Sister Merryn from my fourth year look like an absolute, non-judgmental delight."

Jane nods, smile slipping slightly from his face.

"I think I understand. Don't want to give Ms. Jeffreys the wrong idea, and have her Bible-bash her fist against your door, the old coot. We might not get to watch any movies if that happens."

"Jane," I huff.

"But really, what's wrong with my pajamas? They're very presentable, I thought."

I roll my eyes. "Just take this little guy to the washroom please, and get back before my nosiest of nosy neighbours can grill you."

Jane does a little salute with his hand.

"Yes coppa!"

Chicory barks in strident alarm, almost seeming to play along.


I sit on the floor, dragging a couple fluffy pillows towards me to act as back support, while Jane stretches out on the couch, grabbing a blanket and wrapping it further around his body.

"I feel like I'm kicking you off your own couch. We can share the couch, Lisbon," Jane pleads.

"Don't be silly. I always watch movies on the floor. Puts me that much closer to the screen."

"You're such an atrocious liar," the man laughs, nudging my skull forward softly with his hand before the dog takes a running leap up onto the sofa, and trots around several times before depositing himself on Jane's belly. I hear the 'oof' sound of rapidly forced air expunged from Jane's lungs and snort. Then I dim the lights.

A few moments later, I pause our film.

"Don't feed him popcorn, Jane!"

"I'm not feeding him popcorn! Jeesh, Lisbon. You think I'd feed a dog popcorn? What sort of person feeds buttered, salted popcorn to a dog, anyway?"

A few moments later I hear smacking, slurping noises coming from the edge of the sofa. A second later, Chicory hops down and comes over to where my own bowl is resting on the floor, whinging for the food.

"Shoo, Chicory," and I raise my bowl far above the head of the animal, who squeals from the carpet. "Jane! This dog smells like a movie theater! Now whose an atrocious liar?"

"He just stuck his little face into my bowl of popcorn and ate it! I mean, what am I supposed to do to stop him? Say "no"? That doesn't work too well. I already tried that."

"You're serious. You're completely serious. You really don't know what to do?"

Jane just stares back at me intently.

I pick the Cocker Spaniel up, and make our way to the kitchen, finding Chicory's kennel and depositing him inside. I ignore the somewhat guilty feeling inside when he starts to whine and paw at the gate.

"Oh, Lisbon - come on. Have a heart! He doesn't have to go into the kennel. The movie's not even over yet! Let him finish watching the movie."

"Stop complaining, Jane. He's not even watching the movie. We are. And popcorn is not good for him. The kernels are hard for him to swallow. If you start with popcorn, next it's going to be your sandwiches, and then he's going to be jumping up on your kitchen table when you're not looking. You got to put your foot down with puppies. The sooner, the better."

Jane's smile is magnificiently large.

"Or else they will walk all over me?," he asks sweetly, eyeing his popcorn suspiciously. "Me and my non-existant kitchen table?"

I take the bowl away from him, and likewise take it into my very-existant kitchen where I dump the contents into the garbage, and wash my hands.


"I feel badly kicking you out of your own bed, Lisbon."

Jane still looks pale and drawn.

"Don't be silly. The couch isn't long enough for you to properly stretch out. You need to get a proper night's sleep to start recovering."

"But you need to get a proper night's rest to chase after bad guys that are more than double your size or to be fast enough to duck bullets," he volleys back.

I don't bother arguing with him, just cocoon him in further with another duvet. From the ground floor, we can still hear Chicory crying.

Mehhhwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

"Lisbon. Please?"

"No. No way, Jane. That dog doesn't even have proper control of his bladder anymore. I'm not letting him sleep in my bed!"

"That's what those puppy diapers are for! They say "guaranteed to work, or your money back.""

A little too late, after the fact. Especially if a puppy wets your entire mattress. Not that most people would set the stakes so high, because most normal (aka SANE) people would keep a puppy in a kennel.

"Besides," I continue on, as if he has not spoken, "you are still pretty exhausted. What if you turn in your sleep? Chicory is small. You could smother him."

"I pose absolutely no threat to him whatsoever, I promise you. I am a light sleeper. If he even made the slightest sound, I'd wake up."

"Another very valid reason why he should sleep downstairs in his perfectly cozy dog kennel with his toy store equivalent of plushies and blankets, and why you should sleep up here away from your newest distraction."

"I'm cold, Lisbon. He's like a little jiggling hot water bottle. With a white-noise snoring machine built in."

"Then I'll get you an actual hot water bottle. One that won't leak urine in the middle of the night."

Mehhhhhwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

Meeeeehhhhhhhhhwwwwwwwwwwww

"He's going to do that all night. You know he is. Can you sleep with a puppy crying all night long? Because I'm pretty sure my heart can't take it."

Jane's eyes are so patiently hopeful, that I can feel myself caving.


I try not to laugh at the sight before me. The puppy already curling up into a little ball, face smooshed against Jane's neck.

"You know, you can join us. We'd all get a better sleep in a proper bed."

"Yes. Nothing like sauteeing in puppy urine all night to let one wake up refreshed and ready for the world, is there?"

"He won't wet the bed, Lisbon. His diapers are on tight. He'll be fine."

I zip up my hoody, feeling awkwardly exposed.

"Oh come on. You're already cold. Plus we'll help heat you up, and you'll help heat us up. Win win."

Any other man on the planet? Those words would be linked to something sexually suggestive.

But not Jane.

Howsoever did I luck out?

"There's a perfectly good half-bed here, Teresa. Such a shame for it to go to waste."

"Good grief! Fine, Jane, fine! But you have to go straight to sleep. No chattering at all. I mean it."

"Cross my heart," he stresses, then pulls back the bedding, making a space for me.

I grab a pair of track pants and put them on underneath my Chicago Cubs Jersey. Jane, smartly, doesn't say anything.

I ignore the pounding in my chest and tell myself I'm being ridiculous. Nothing with Jane has ever been typical, and he's the most comfort-seeking person I know. In the tactile sense, sure, but Jane is Jane. He might be a bit of a kook. But I can't really envision him doing anything inappropriate. Not in the only sense that a single, unmarried female would ever really be concerned about. After the case we have had, it only makes sense that he'd want to be close to another human being. Close to another person whom he knows cares about him.

Whom he knows, must know, cares about him?

Right?

If I were being honest with myself, I'd be requesting the very same things. The big difference often between Jane, and myself, is one of pride (or some would call it sheer nerve). He'll simply come out and say what he'd like, or what would make him feel better.

I rarely do.

"We have a deal?," I state evenly.

"No chattering. Abso-posee-tive-ly. I promise."

"Okay then. I'm holding you to this."

I get under the blankets and, surprisingly, there is more than enough space for the two of us.

He moves slightly towards me a moment later, and I will myself to untense when he softly pats my ear a second later.

"What, Jane?"

"I, uhh, just wanted to wish you a good night's sleep."

Then, almost too fast to feel real: a featherlight pressure of lips against my temple.

"Goodnight, Lisbon. Sleep well."

Oh.

Well.

Heck.

That was actually sweet.

"You too, Jane. Now get some sleep before I'm forced to resort to threats with a service revolver."

I don't do sweet.

I'm not even going to try.

He laughs.

Chicory barks.


fin?