**Lisbon. Can we talk?**
She blinked. "Right now?"
"Yes. I'd like to."
"All right," she nodded once. "I was already thinking I may be past the point where I can easily fall asleep tonight."
Jane was trying to decide something. Finally, he blew out a breath and let go of the door, drawing a chair close to where she was sitting on the edge of the bed.
"Your nose is red." He sat down and faced her.
She laughed at him, quirking an eyebrow. "So is yours." He didn't smile back, and she couldn't read the expression he was wearing. "Such a serious face, Jane." She knew something was troubling him, so she didn't say anything more.
"Lisbon, I did of lot thinking tonight. About Red John, and -"
"I know what you thought about. I thought about it, too."
"You did?" he seemed genuinely surprised - and possibly... nervous?
"Yes. If we hadn't gotten out of that room, you would never have had the chance to catch Red John."
He folded his arms and shook his head. His forehead crinkled. "I don't know what Red John's plans are. I don't know if he's designed a particular role for me, or if he's just been acting according to his whims. I don't know if anything I say or do... or don't say, or don't do... will have any bearing on that."
Unused to showing velnerability, he frowned down at the bedspread. "I'm not sure I could have this conversation with anyone else."
Lisbon stood and motioned for him to stay put. She picked up a couple of paper cups from the nightstand and sidestepped his chair on her way to the bathroom. He heard the faucet start and stop, and when she came back into the room she handed him one of the cups and sat back on the bed with one foot tucked underneath her.
Jane rolled his cup between his hands. "I don't know if he's watching me out of purely sociopathic interest... I don't know what move I have to make that will get him to reveal his location to me. But I feel like he's trying to control that situation, too. Like maybe he is controlling it."
"Because he's crazy," she interjected, emphasizing the last word.
"I tried to draw him out, Lisbon. I tried. And I thought... I was afraid that if I didn't distance myself he would come after you - or Cho or Rigsby or VanPelt..."
"Well, that didn't work - did it?" she chided him, her voice rising. "The next time you have a plan, you've got to let us know. That way we'll have time to shoot it down if it's flawed like that one was."
He tilted his head and squinted sideways at her. "Flawed," he repeated.
"Yes, flawed. Red John knows you'll never come around to his way of thinking, whatever that is. Or at least he knew you weren't ready to yet. All those months you stayed away from everyone, he was toying with you." She lowered her voice. "You can pretend to be an island all day long, but that's just not true anymore. And he knows it."
Jane looked away from her.
"When I let people in, I put them in danger."
"Yes;" she hesitated. "maybe. But that doesn't mean you should go on friendless for the rest of your life."
He was touched by her sincerity, but he brushed it off. "It isn't practical anyway. I can't get to him and stop him by myself."
"Jane - I think it's more important for you to understand that you do have friends, that you don't deserve to be isolated." She sighed. "We've been over this before. If we have to go over it again sometimes, we will."
Jane had heard that speech more than once, but he could tell she was leading up to something new.
"Don't get me wrong -" she said hotly. "We're all still pretty peeved at your little stunt this year. It was worse than all the other ones put together! Because you let us think you had given up. That you were hurting yourself and you wouldn't let anyone near you who cared about you."
He didn't dare to look at her.
She was clearly warming up: "And you didn't consider how it would affect the team at all. Or if you did, you chose to ignore it. Which is horrible. You didn't tell us the plan until things had gone too far. Cho, Rigsby, VanPelt - they all understand why you did what you did. But they don't trust you anymore because you showed them that you don't trust them."
He cleared his throat uncomfortably. "I should have let everyone in on it. Even if you had tried to talk me out of it, at least you'd know exactly the kind of selfish I was being."
"Hindsight, Jane." She was through guilt-tripping him. Her voice softened. "I know you've spent years searching for Red John and plotting your revenge. I know what you went through with your family was terrible."
He quickly changed the subject. "Lisbon." Sort of. "What if I had died; before catching that depraved psychopath?"
There was a lengthy silence.
"That could still happen, Jane."
Neither of them spoke for a moment. Then he asked her, "Do you think I got Wainwright killed?"
His voice was rough. Her face was a mixture of pity and queasiness. "I have no idea, Jane. The only one who knows is Red John." She sighed heavily. "You know we all want to catch him. We were chasing him before Wainwright came to us."
He was looking pensive again, so she waited him out.
"I'm so sorry I brought you into this."
Surpsised, she opened her mouth to argue; but he waved her off. He steepled his hands around the cup and leaned forward to rest his chin on them. "I know you're a cop. I know what you do for a living. I know you protect other people and I know you can protect yourself. But there is someone out there who would use you to get to me." He faltered. "It's something I've feared for a long time now, and what happened a few months ago... might have just been his way of showing he could read me, of messing with my head." His next words were more for himself than for her: "I don't know if he was measuring something or if he knew it all along."
He closed his eyes and admitted: "I am terrified that he will get to you."
Lisbon seemed affronted. She looked at him like he was crazy. "Not that way!" he clarified quickly. "Not 'bring you over to his side.'" He shifted nervously in his seat. "You know what I mean. You're much stronger than the people he finds to carry out his orders. I'm afraid he will decide he needs to..." he couldn't bring himself to say it, so he said the next worst thing: "hurt you." It was Lisbon's turn to close her eyes, to shut out the verbalization of one of her gravest fears. He said softly, "I know you worry about that, too."
Jane wanted to touch her, reassuringly, but he knew she needed words right now. "Sometimes I wonder why he hasn't tried to kill me yet - whether he plans to do it at all or if he hasn't made up his mind." It had been one of the first questions he had asked after becoming acquainted with Red John.
"Lisbon, I know you haven't been been sleeping well since you found out you were on his radar. I can see it."
I wasn't sleeping well before then, she thought, recalling their conversation a few months prior. She thought he was remembering that, too, but she chose not to bring it up.
"You're right," she offered, staring down at the cup in her hands. "Sometimes I can feel him watching me. I know it's probably paranoia, but even when I'm locked inside my house..." She rolled her eyes as if that were ridiculous, and he knew she was trying to stay in control of her fear. She took a small sip of water and continued: "Anyway, I couldn't help dwelling on that when we were stuck in the freezer. I've been trying to get through my days without thinking about being a target for a serial killer. I don't want to give him the satisfaction of knowing he's gotten to me. I don't want to spend my life looking over my shoulder."
He regarded her with concern and more than a hint of pride. He tried to keep the guilt from his face because he knew it would make her angry. "I don't want you to live that way, either," he declared.
They looked at each other, and she shrugged. "All we can do is what we've been doing from day one: keep looking for him and be prepared to be taken by surprise." He blew out a sigh. "And," she added, nodding emphatically until he nodded also, "we agree that right now that's all we can do." The statement between-the-lines was loud enough: So. Don't ever pull a stunt like that again.
Jane grimaced. He would take it under advisement.
He sat up abruptly, and brightly proclaimed: "Well. The air is cleared! I feel lighter now, Lisbon. Don't you feel lighter?" He rolled his shoulders and beamed at her.
She stared at him as though he had just turned into someone else. "Do I -?"
"I know I still have some amends to make with Cho and the others, but you and I are friends again, aren't we?" He spoke frankly, and she realized he was asking her forgiveness.
"Lisbon?" he inquired hopefully. "Are we good?"
She was still trying to figure out his instant mood change. "We're good, Jane."
His forehead crinkled again, but his eyes smiled back at her. "Good." He was trying to keep it together. "Now that we've established that... There's something else we need to discuss."
Lisbon had the familiar feeling that she'd been led someplace without being told. She immediately braced herself for one of Patrick Jane's signature curve-balls.
Jane licked his lips. He remembered when they were leaving the car earlier - how he'd only meant to tell her goodnight, but somehow he had reached for her hand. He'd done that once before without thinking about it, when she had sat down next to him on the side of a dusty road. It had just felt right. He wasn't ready to think about what else he felt until an hour ago when he'd stood under her shower and decompartmentalized.
Lisbon eyed him suspiciously, but he noticed her breathing had grown shallow. He was glad he wasn't the only one who was nervous. He slowly set his cup on the floor by the bed.
"What is it, Jane?"
He moved to the edge of his chair and took the plastic cup from her hands. Her pulse raced inexplicably.
"It's the elephant in the room, Teresa." She raised an eyebrow. "The elephant in every room."
He swallowed, placed her cup on the floor next to his, and reached out to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear.
"When are we going to stop avoiding the issue here?"
"What issue?" she fairly squeaked, unaware that she was holding her breath.
"This one - " He leaned forward and gently took hold of her hands.
"Jane, are you -?"
"Yes," he whispered, and kissed her.
It was an experiment; an expression, slow and soft. A light, lingering brush of his lips on hers.
At first she was completely in shock. A million thoughts raced through her head, and then there was only one. When he pulled back, she sat dumbly until he called her out.
She shook herself out of the stupor, and said the first thing that came into her head. "Wow."
He knew he had taken her by surprise, but he wasn't yet sure if that was a good thing.
"That's what you wanted to talk to me about?"
He looked down at their joined hands. "I, uh... Yeah."
She watched his countenance for any sign of mischief, and found none. He looked as terrified as she felt. Among other things. A tug at his hands brought him to the edge of the bed, next to her.
She turned her body toward him, facing his right side. Both of his feet were on the floor, and one of hers was tucked beneath her. Squeezing his right hand, she reached for his face and brought his mouth to hers. This kiss was passionate, fervent, but undemanding. Their fingers were actively entwined as delicious shivers raced up their spines. Lisbon's thumb brushed across the gold band on Jane's left hand, and she softly broke away.
"Jane. What does this mean?"
"Well," he said finally, still reeling a bit. "I think it means we need to talk some more on the subject." She straightened the lapel on his pajama collar.
"But not tonight," he yawned. "What do you think?"
"I'm all for tabling the discussion - " she laughed at his shell-shocked expression and quickly continued, " - until we've both had a lot more sleep and a few days to think about it."
A few days? Jane knew he didn't need a few days to think about it, and he suspected Lisbon didn't, either.
She wanted to give him time to be certain of things before continuing this 'discussion.' To her way of thinking, it had been long overdue. But if he changed his mind before they left for Sacramento, she would always be able to tell herself that their actions tonight were solely caused by exhaustion and adrenaline overload. Yeah, right.
Jane sensed her reluctance. He hoped he was hitting the nail on the head here: "Lisbon, you know I'd never trifle with you - not about this kind of thing. I value your friendship too much."
She searched his expression once more and saw that he was perfectly serious.
"But if I could just kiss you again -" he took her face in both his hands and tried to convey all that he was feeling for her. Fiercely tender, joyful excitement, and lots of heat. When they finally broke apart, it was for oxygen. Her heart was hammering so wildly she thought he could hear it.
Jane pressed his forehead to hers and spoke without a trace of mockery. "We'll talk some more when you're ready."
She relaxed her hold on the front of his shirt and smoothed the wrinkles down. Jane realized in an instant how little clothing stood between them, and he quickly got to his feet and headed towad the door.
"Rest well, Teresa!" He was grinning like a little boy.
Lisbon wore a goofy smile as she waited for her legs to obey her addled brain. She finally stood and mechanically tossed the paper cups; moved the chair back to the table; and pulled the chain on the door.
She still had a smile on her face when she turned out the light.
SO... I reviewed this story and decided we're at a natural ending point here.
Thank you for following it with me, and thank you for your praise and criticism. All of it is welcome! I hope to write another little episode for our team (new plot, etc.) one day soon. This one's gotten me through the summer hiatus, but I expect I'll be bitten by the bug again shortly! :)