A/N: I'm so sorry this chapter is a bit late this week but one of my little boys has been off school sick and as of Thursday morning I only had about four lines written! Anyhoo, he's much better now and I've finally got this finished.
Big thank you to all who reviewed, it's much appreciated as you all know :)
I just wanted to give a shout out to Judy who's unable to login but has left the most amazing reviews as a guest! Thank you!
"Everyone else in the room can see it,
Everyone else but you"
~ What Makes You Beautiful ~ 1D
July 14th – 11.25am
It's a long drive from Sacramento to Malibu.
Especially in my Citroen. It's not built for fast speeds for extended periods of time. I love my car but there are times like these that I wish I had a newer one.
It's been a while since I last made the trip and I'd forgotten just how tedious the journey can be without someone to talk to. When I say someone, I mean Lisbon of course. Who else is there?
She's the reason I'm here. Back at my house. I'm not running away, although I can see how it could look like that. I was just made aware that I still had some demons to put to rest once and for all.
It's been an odd couple of days. I've always prided myself on being able to control my emotions. I'll even go so far as to say that I can discard the fruitless one's at will. The kinds of emotions that don't really help you in any way but merely hinder and drain you. Like jealousy. That's a really pointless emotion. It doesn't get you anywhere and in extreme cases you can even hurt the one you love through your own stupid, childish behaviour.
Like I have.
It all started two days ago when a delicate case involving high profile philanthropist, Abigail Grant, was handed over to us. She's an acquaintance of Bertram's so he wanted it dealt with quickly and quietly.
Quick I can do. Quiet? I'm hardly the poster boy for keeping things low key but if he was willing to take the chance, what the hell.
It was all to do with some priceless jewels that she'd had stolen. I worked it out pretty fast that the perpetrator was likely to be a man called Marcus Greening and the culmination of our investigation is going to happen tomorrow tonight all being well.
During our enquiries, however, a link had been found to Walter Mashburn and naturally we had to follow it up.
I was pleased to see him…at first. It's been a while and if it hadn't been for his interest in Lisbon in the past, I might have been more inclined to pursue a proper friendship.
"Patrick, it's good to see you again," he'd greeted with a smile and an enthusiastic shake of my hand.
"Walter," I'd acknowledged with a nod.
He'd turned his attention to Lisbon and I'd tensed as alarm bells started ringing in my head. His smile had softened slightly and he'd clasped one of her hands in both of his. It was an oddly intimate gesture that I wasn't entirely happy with and although I didn't realise it at the time, the first little insidious seed of jealousy was sown.
"Teresa, how have you been?" he'd asked in a low voice that really, really irritated me.
She's been with me I wanted to tell him. Well, not with me per se, but I'm working on it.
"I've been good, thanks," she'd replied a little stiltedly. She'd given me a glance reminiscent of when she'd had that dream about me then extricated her hand from Walter's no doubt sweaty grasp. "You?"
Obviously that had been an invitation to tell us every little thing that had happened to him in the past few years and he'd taken the seat next to Lisbon, sitting just that little bit closer than necessary.
As I'd listened to him talk, I noticed the way he directed everything to her, his smiles, his explanations. The familiar way he casually touched her arm or leg. It soon became blatantly obvious to me not only that the interest he'd shown in Lisbon the last time we'd crossed paths hadn't really abated, but that they had been intimate in the past too.
Not that Lisbon seemed to reciprocate at all. She was professional as ever. But that didn't stop my jealousy sprouting.
I'm honestly not bothered by any of Lisbon's other former dalliances. She's an adult for heaven's sake, there are going to be men in her past and I'm hardly one to criticise considering my own choice of bed-mate. But knowing she'd been with Walter and watching him turning on the charm right in front of me…just really pissed me off.
Don't get me wrong, I like Walter. He's a great guy. But for a few minutes there, a man I used to consider a friend of sorts was now the competition. And a strong one at that. He is everything Lisbon could want from a man and although it pains me to admit, albeit to myself, he's the kind of man she deserves as well.
All that wealth, good looks, charm and, most importantly, no baggage…he's perfect. Really.
And it suddenly got me wondering what I truly had to offer Lisbon that wasn't in some way detrimental to her life. I came up empty. It was a sobering realisation.
If I'm honest, I gave up the fight there and then before I'd even tried. I'm not proud of myself. Perhaps if I'd been more secure in her feelings for me, I would've felt differently. A few kisses hardly means she's in love with me. I mean look at Walter; she slept with him.
In hindsight, I should've just got up and walked out there and then. But no, not me. Years of putting myself into a situation where I could torture myself about it afterwards was a hard habit to break…and obviously I needed a fix.
Our 'interview' with Walter finally came to and end and we said our goodbyes then headed out to the SUV. I could tell she wasn't quite sure of my mood and to be frank, neither was I. My emotions seemed to be getting a little out of my control by then. I was swinging between feeling resentful of Walter having shared an intimacy with Lisbon that I never have and being angry with myself for not being the kind of man I think she deserves.
Naturally, me being me, I verbally took it all out on Lisbon with snippy little replies and jealous fuelled innuendo's so that by the time we reached the CBI she wasn't talking to me anymore. I regretted it immediately but offered no apology.
Not my finest hour by any means. I'm having a few of those lately.
We spent the rest of the day avoiding each other then this afternoon Walter came by the office to propose a plan. He'd wangled an invite to a party Greening was having and there was a good chance that the gems, amongst other things, would be available to the highest bidder. We were all in the bullpen when Lisbon came out and told us about the party and she'd said that Van Pelt should go along with Walter.
I'm not quite sure whose face was most disappointed. Walter's or Rigsby's. Anyway, I decided to play devil's advocate and suggested she go herself…being the team leader and all. I'd then added that considering their obvious history together, they'd make a more believable couple.
You could've heard a pin drop in the silence that followed.
I guess a warped part of me wanted her to deny everything. To prove to me I was wrong about my supposition…but she didn't. She just gave me one of those 'you hurt me but I'm damned if I'll let it show' looks that I'd come to hate so much during the Lorelei days. I felt like such a bastard.
I'd broken eye contact and sipped at my tea, my heart sinking as she announced that she would indeed accompany Walter instead. I didn't look at her again, I couldn't. I'd just sat and feigned interest in my drink until she and Walter went back to her office.
"Public humiliation…that'll win the girl every time," Cho had suddenly said wryly from right by my side.
I'd looked up in at him in surprise. He was sat on the arm of my couch, arms folded, and as I gazed around the rest of the bullpen Rigsby and Grace stared back at me from their desks, sporting faintly accusing expressions. It'd seemed pointless to deny what they'd apparently already guessed.
"I was never under any illusion that my methods were perfect," I'd admitted with a shrug.
"Good. They're not," Cho had concurred brusquely. "You're an idiot."
I very much doubt truer words had ever come out of the stoic Agents' mouth.
"Yeah, what's your problem? You were practically pushing the boss at him," Rigsby had piped up.
"No problem, I just think they make better sense," I'd answered as impassively as I could muster.
"I don't believe you," Grace had countered bluntly with a shake of her head. "That night Rigsby and I had dinner with you two we could see there was more to it than the just you paying out for that flimsy excuse of an auction."
"You all had dinner together?" Cho had asked, somewhat put out. "Without me?"
"It's a long story, Cho. If it makes you feel any better, I'll treat you to dinner next week, OK?" I'd offered hoping to steer the conversation away from Lisbon and my obvious failings.
"OK," he'd answered. "But you're still an idiot. If you're not careful you'll lose her."
With that he'd gone back to his desk and Rigsby and Grace went back to work.
It was nice of them to try and hold an intervention…however poor. Still, although I understand Cho's concerns, I can't actually lose what I've never really had. Can I?
Not long after that, Walter had emerged from Lisbon's office and come back to the bullpen to say goodbye. The team murmured out a few grunts in reply and then he'd stared at me and held up his phone before giving me a quick nod.
I'd watched him go then heard my own phone chirp as a new text came in. I'd checked it out and saw that he wanted to meet up an hour later. My interest had been piqued and so I'd dutifully done as he'd asked and met him at a small coffee shop around the corner from the CBI.
We'd indulged in idle chit-chat while awaiting our drinks but once they'd been brought to our table, he'd got straight to the point.
"How long have you and Teresa been together?" he'd asked curiously.
I have to admit that I was surprised at his astuteness. I could understand the team having an inkling there was something evolving between us…we worked with them every day. But, Walter? Really?
"We're not," I'd refuted lightly. Not officially, anyway. There's still so much left unsaid between us.
"You won't be if you keep pulling stunts like that one today," he'd pointed out blithely. "She was upset."
"Meh, that's standard behaviour for Lisbon. I would've thought, given your past, you would know that," I'd goaded, forcing a small smile.
I knew I'd hurt her, I didn't appreciate the reminder.
Walter had merely chuckled and shaken his head.
"It was one night, Patrick. Teresa wasn't interested in anything more…although I did try," he'd admitted wryly.
"I'll bet that was a blow to your ego," I'd said mildly, secretly pleased that Lisbon had been the one who'd chosen not to continue their acquaintance.
"She is quite a woman," he'd commented a little wistfully.
"Yes, she is," I'd agreed softly, no doubt sporting my own dreamy expression.
His gaze had sharpened on me and he took a sip of his coffee before leaning back in his chair and staring at me in contemplation. I saw his eyes drop down to my left hand then back up to my face.
"I'm glad you got Red John finally," he'd said with a small smile. "How long has it been now?"
"Eleven months," I'd replied automatically, wondering at the sudden change of topic.
He'd nodded and grinned ruefully.
"I bet you can tell me the days, hours and even the minutes too?" he'd ventured quietly.
I'd felt my jaw tighten at the faintly accusing tone I could hear seeping through. I did know as a matter of fact but I wasn't about to tell him that.
He studied my face and let out a heavy sigh.
"I can't even begin to imagine what you've been through, but surely his death has given you some kind of closure? Some peace finally? Enough that you can at least start moving on with your life again, no?"
"I am," I'd said flatly.
He looked pointedly at my hand again then queried dubiously, "Really, Patrick? Because it doesn't look like it from where I'm sat."
"Maybe you'd better view it from some place else then," I'd retorted, my irritation at his comments beginning to show.
"OK, OK, I'll back off," he'd said, raising his hands in a gesture of surrender. "I was just trying to offer some friendly advice that's all. I like you and I like Teresa but you two won't get anywhere until you've dealt with your past, Patrick. You're still clinging on…how do you think that makes her feel seeing you still wearing your wedding ring after all this time?"
I hadn't actually given it any thought. I'd clenched my hand and moved it off the table to rest upon my thigh. My wedding band suddenly felt heavy on my finger, the weight of my residual guilt for my family dragging it down. I'd imagined myself to have put everything behind me but in those few moments it became frighteningly clear to me that I hadn't. At all. They were simply on the back burner waiting to be addressed while I happily convinced myself I'd 'moved on.' It was a hard thing to process all at once and I determinedly pushed it aside to ruminate on later.
"I thought you said you were going to back off," I'd reproached, but I know my tone had no real bite to it.
Walter had smiled benignly then nodded and leaned forward conspiratorially.
"I've just bought a new Bugatti," he'd revealed with a grin. "Want to take it for a spin?"
I'd smiled back at his obvious ploy and nodded my assent. By the time we'd parted company later that evening, we were friends…of sorts…again. I'm glad about that.
I'd gone back to my motel room and looked around the sparse furnishings as if seeing them for the first time. Was this the extent of all I could offer a woman like Lisbon? An old tea maker, a hard bed and a rickety little table and chair? Or was it the alternative? A beat up old couch and a musty attic in a government building.
When I stopped to think about it, it was a toss up as to which one was more pathetic. And I also wondered why I hadn't yet bothered to do anything about it. Why after all these months, even though Red John was gone, was I still living exactly the same way as before? Still punishing myself. Still letting him win…
Was this really what my existence had come down to? Living in limbo where I'm still, as Walter said, clinging on to the past? Using it like some kind of anchor because I'm too damn scared to cut the rope and just go with the flow of life again?
It began to dawn on me then that all this 'baby steps' rubbish I'd been spouting to myself in regards to pursuing Lisbon wasn't about her at all…it was about me. About my fears of not only loving someone but actually having them love me back and all that it entails. About having a home…maybe even a family again one day. Was I really, truly ready for that?
As my mind wandered to Lisbon I couldn't help but smile and I found that the answer came swiftly and easily.
Yes. I was ready.
Once I'd acknowledged that fact, I'd made the decision there and then that things would have to change. If I wanted to move on with my life, I had to cut that damn rope and start actually building a new one.
Knowing I couldn't leave without at least offering some kind of an apology for my behaviour earlier, I'd got my phone and texted a simple, 'I'm sorry,' to Lisbon then I'd gotten together a few of my things and headed back out to my car. Forty minutes later with a tank full of petrol and a ready-made sandwich, I was on my way to Malibu.
I had plenty of time to think on the journey and by the time I'd reached my house I'd already decided that I was going to sell it and look for a place in Sacramento. It was where my home was now.
My wedding ring, however, was a different matter. Although I was eager to lose the anchor, I apparently still needed a buoy…metaphorically speaking of course. My ring was far more personal than the house; meant so much more. It wasn't guilt exactly that had me leave it on…more like how wrong it felt when I tried to take it off.
It's one of those things I'll have to look at more closely when I'm not so tired that I can hardly think anymore.
I got to the house in the early hours of this morning and the first thing I did was crash out on the couch for a while.
I awake to the sound of my cellphone ringing and blearily check the caller ID. It's Lisbon, probably wondering why I'm so late.
"Hey," I greet warmly.
"Where the hell are you, Jane?" she demands, obviously well on the way to a full-blown rage.
"Malibu," I reply, stifling a yawn. She doesn't say anything for so long I think we've been cut off. "Lisbon, are you still there?"
"Yeah, I'm here," she says, her tone more subdued now. "Are you OK?"
"I'm fine," I say soothingly. "I just need to take care of a couple of things then I'll be back tomorrow. There's something I have to tell you…but I prefer to do it face to face."
"Really?" she queries, sounding a little worried.
"Don't panic, woman, I'm not leaving if that's what you're thinking," I assure her, grinning to myself.
"I know that," she retorts dismissively but I detect an undertone of relief.
Such little faith, but I understand why now.
"Did you get my text?" I ask softly.
"I meant it, Teresa, I was an ass yesterday and I'm sorry," I tell her contritely. "I hope you catch Greening tonight. Give me a call and let me know how it all goes, OK?"
"OK," she agrees. There's another pause then, with the most awful attempt at being casual, she adds, "So…I'll see you tomorrow then?"
"You will," I reiterate firmly. "Goodbye, Teresa."
I end the call and smile to myself. Just hearing her voice makes me homesick.
I get up and go to the bathroom then have a quick shower . When I've finished, I stand in the hallway for a moment just staring at my old bedroom door. I know what's behind there now and I'm ready to face it for the last time. I go in and come to a stop in front of the grisly drawing that has haunted me day and night for over a decade. The blood is brown with age and I reach out to touch it gently with my finger.
So much anger, so much heartache, so much grief. I let my hand drop to my side and glance around the rest of the room. The house seems to have an air of peace about it now that wasn't present before…or perhaps it's just the fact that I've reached a decision about my life that makes it seem so.
I leave the room without a backward glance then get dressed and go into town. I get something to eat then call in at a local business to arrange for someone to come out and redecorate the bedroom. It's not something I have the time or inclination to do myself. I then go to see a local realtor and we make arrangements so that they can keep the keys and oversee the decorator and any possible viewings.
From there I go to the local store and buy some groceries for this evening. It's not until late afternoon that I finally head back to the house. I plan to stay tonight then drop my keys off and go back to Sacramento in the morning.
I pull up then get out of my car and look out across the ocean. The beach is empty and I feel the urge take a walk along the sand. I grab the groceries and take them into the house then shed my jacket, vest, shoes and socks and leave them in the lounge before heading off out along the shoreline. I roll up my trouser legs and stroll through the shallows. There's something very soothing about the ebb and flow of the tide on one's feet and by the time I return from my amble I feel completely relaxed.
As I approach my house it takes me a moment to realise that there's a woman sitting primly on my front steps with a small overnight bag beside her. I'm shocked when I recognise whom it is.
"I don't think you're going to make it back in time for the party tonight," I say with a shake of my head as I come to a stop in front of Lisbon.
"Van Pelt's going," she replies with a careless shrug as she stands up and shoves her hands into her pockets. "Cho's taking lead. They'll be fine."
I notice her looking at me with some trepidation, no doubt second-guessing what I'm certain is an impetuous decision on her part, to come here and I give her a reassuring grin. I may not have expected her to be here but I'm not about to pass up an opportunity like this. I glance around and when I see no sign of her car I look back at her quizzically.
"How did you get here? And so quickly come to that?"
"Walter lent me his private jet to fly down here and then I got a cab from the airport," she explains a little defiantly.
No doubt wondering if I'm going to have another jealous fit over the millionaire.
"Were you really that worried that I wouldn't come back tomorrow?" I ask in amusement, letting her know it doesn't bother me.
"No. I just thought you might need a friend," she replies defensively. "You only ever come here when you're…troubled."
Really, could the woman be any sweeter? Or more caring? What have I been thinking taking it slow for so long?
I step up and surprise her by placing a firm, quick kiss on her lips.
"Thank you," I say sincerely. She gives me an awkward nod of acknowledgement and I take hold of her hand then bend to pick up her bag.
I pull her into the house behind me and lead her to the lounge. I drop her bag on the floor and gesture for her to sit down.
"Let me just get cleaned up and I'll make us some dinner. Are you hungry?"
She nods and I quickly go upstairs then wash off the sand from my feet and come back down still bare foot.
"How does pasta sound?" I ask, noticing that she doesn't seem to have moved an inch from where I left her. She's so adorably uncomfortable in these kinds of personal situations.
I busy myself preparing our meal and she eventually gets up and walks over to watch what I'm doing.
"I've put the house up for sale," I say casually as I put the pasta into the boiling water and turn to face her.
Her eyes widen in surprise.
"Yes. It's time."
She nods and for the first time ever I notice her gaze dart to my left hand. It's only brief but now I'm more aware of how she might be feeling, I wonder how many other times I've missed that telling action in the past.
"I'm happy for the house to go but…I'm not quite ready to take my ring off yet, Teresa," I say quietly.
"I didn't say you should," she replies a little self-consciously. "It's nothing to do with me anyway."
"Oh, Teresa," I say with a shake of my head and an indulgent smile. "Haven't you realised by now? It's got everything to do with you."
She looks at me in shock and as I'm about to swiftly close the distance between us the water from the cooking pasta boils over the top of the pan with a loud hiss. While I quickly attend to the food, she moves away from me back into the lounge and begins to pace. I can see her agitation in the way she runs a hand through her long hair and the jerkiness of her walk. Apparently my little revelation hasn't gone over quite the way I'd hoped. That's Lisbon for you. Can't take a compliment even if you hit her over the head with it.
"You know what?" she suddenly says irately as she stops to stare at me with a frown from across the room. "You are driving me crazy! You say things…then deny it. You kiss me…then nothing. You get jealous for no reason…and now you tell me this? What are you doing, Jane? Do you even know? What am I supposed to say to that?"
"Thank you?" I suggest helpfully.
She lets out a growl of frustration at my flippancy and turns to pick up her bag.
"You know what? This was a bad idea. I knew I shouldn't have come," she says as she stalks angrily towards the front door.
"Lisbon, don't go," I call after her urgently. She pauses mid stride for a second then continues on and my heart drops like a stone. I catch up with her just as she's at the door and plead softly, "Please, Teresa. Stay."
My hands are at my sides and I'm itching to reach out and touch her but I know she'd resist me further. She looks down as if contemplating my request then her head lifts and she turns to face me.
"Only if you stop playing games, Jane," she says defiantly. "I'm not going to be your next shiny new plaything just used to fill up your time because you're bored now."
I'm speechless. Is that really what she thinks I'm doing? I shake my head in negation long before I can find adequate words.
"You're not a game to me, Teresa," I refute intently. "You never have been. I'm just trying to deal with my emotions the best way that I can and even though I'm not ready to say the words yet, it doesn't mean that I don't feel the depth of them any less." I pause and give her a small smile. "You just have to face it, Teresa, you're stuck with me. When I look into the future, all I see…is you."
She searches my face for the truth of my words and her expression softens just a little bit.
"Do you really mean that?" she queries, her voice barely above a whisper.
"Yes," I answer just as softly.
I know I'm not alone in understanding the importance of this moment as she takes her time to decide whether she believes me or not. Whether she's willing to give us a shot or not. The seconds stretch out as we continue to stare into each others eyes and I hope…I pray, that she puts me out of my misery soon.
She blinks and after another moment of hesitation she finally gives me a curt nod.
"I think that pasta's done," she says, dropping her bag and moving past me to head back into the kitchen.
My relief is almost overwhelming. I may not have openly said I loved her but she can be in no doubt of my feelings now…and she didn't leave. I am amazed and happy…and just a tiny bit humbled. I take a few seconds to bring my emotions back under control then join her in the kitchen. We work together in silence, sharing small smiles as we fill our plates then take them into the lounge with a glass of water each.
I put the TV on and we watch a well-known cop film as we eat, laughing at the obvious flaws in the plot line. We finish our food and place the plates on the small table in front of us and it's the most natural thing in the world for me to casually drape my arm around her shoulders as we watch the end of the movie.
I feel her tense slightly, then relax and lean into me a little more before resting her head on my shoulder. I can feel her hair tickling my neck and the fruity scent of the soap she uses infuses my senses so that I barely even register the film after that. It just feels so nice to sit with her like this and not think about things for a while.
The film ends and she lifts her head to look at me. I guess she wants to say something but when I turn to gaze back down at her we are so close it'd almost be an insult not to kiss her.
I dip my head and tentatively touch my lips to hers. With my veiled declaration still ringing in my ears, this feels different now. She responds almost immediately, her hand reaching up to grasp the back of my neck, urging me closer as she opens her mouth to deepen the kiss. Compared to this all our other kisses have been chaste. My tongue seeks out hers and they glide together in an erotic dance as I tilt my head to gain a better angle. I push my free hand into her hair at the back of her head, holding her in place until I suddenly feel her pushing firmly against my chest.
"Phone," she gasps as she tears her lips from mine and stands up to answer with a curt, "Lisbon."
I draw in greedy gulps of air and try to calm down my clamouring body as I sit and watch the play of emotions on her face. I assume it's Cho and the news appears to be good. She finishes the call, puts her phone away and looks down at me with a grin.
"That was Cho. The bust was success and Greening is in custody."
"That's good," I reply with a smile of my own as I stand up and take hold of her hands, gently drawing her back towards me.
"I…uh…I should go," she says still looking a little flushed. "It's getting late."
"You could stay here tonight," I suggest softly as I lean in and place tiny kisses along her jaw line.
She lets out a tiny whimper as I brush my lips over a certain part of her neck and I do it again just so I can hear that delightful noise once more.
"I don't think that's a good idea," she says, her breath hitching when I find another particularly sensitive spot. "Neither of us is ready, Patrick. Not yet."
As much as I want to ignore her and just continue indulging in eliciting those wonderful little moans, I know she's right. It is too soon and, really, when we finally make love it's not going to be on a couch in the house where my family was murdered.
That thought is as effective as a dousing of ice-cold water and I immediately pull back. My breathing is a little unsteady but after a couple of deep breaths I can manage a rueful smile.
"You're right," I say, putting some distance between us lest I give into temptation again.
"I am?" she questions curtly, obviously surprised and a tiny bit miffed that I've agreed so easily.
I gaze tenderly at her face, lips slightly swollen from our kiss, hair tousled from my hands and an expression of annoyance slowly blooming on her features. She certainly does know how to test my self-control.
"Yes; it shouldn't be here," I say with an apologetic smile.
I can tell she understands immediately and she glances towards the stairs before nodding. I put on my socks and shoes then grab my keys while she gets her bag and we go out to my car.
She tells me the name of the motel she's booked a room with and, as I know it well, it doesn't take long for me to get there. I wait while she registers then walk her to her room. She reaches up and pulls me in for another heated kiss that quickly re-ignites my desire but I determinedly pull back and shake my head at her seductive look.
"I'll be by to pick you up in the morning," I say firmly.
"Night," she replies, casting a quick look down my body then up again to give me a knowing smile. "Sweet dreams."
Little devil knows exactly what she's doing to me.
"Touché," I acknowledge as I chuckle at her cheeky echo of my taunt a few weeks before. I take my leave of her as she shuts the door then go back to my car still grinning to myself.
I've taken a huge step today, not just with Lisbon but with my life too. It's a little daunting to be honest but thrilling as well and for the first time in years I look forward to what tomorrow may bring.
END CHAPTER 7
A/N: As always, please let me know what you think! It was a bit of a monster chapter, I know, but I hope you all enjoyed it.