A/N: What can I say? You guys are absolutely amazing! Obviously my shameless (or should that be shameful?) begging for reviews at the end of my last chapter worked! I'm completely blown away by all your responses and ego boosts and pep talks - you are all truly fantastic :) THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH!
Without further ado...here's September...
"The way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed"
~ What Makes You Beautiful ~ 1D
September 18th – 1.00pm
I've been feeling very unsettled and out of sorts lately. My moods seem to be all over the place and I'm having a hard time internalising everything and keeping myself on an even keel.
I don't think Lisbon or the rest of the team suspect anything. I'm quite adept at hiding my emotions, which is good, because inside I'm a writhing mass of guilt and indecision…and some of it is down to the fact that Lorelei wants me to go and visit her.
I've been getting calls from the prison every week since the anniversary of Red John's death just over a month ago.
I haven't told Lisbon. I know she won't agree to my going and I've been undecided what to do…because part of me wants to see Lorelei one last time. Not because I have any feelings for her, on the contrary, but just to get some kind of closure I guess. She's one of the last things about my past that I haven't really dealt with and I honestly think it's something I need to do.
Don't get me wrong, I feel guilty about it. I hate keeping things from Lisbon and it's really starting to weigh me down because I'm beginning to realise that it's a no win situation. I should have just said something when I had the first call but now…I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't.
If she ever finds out there's going to be hell to pay, mainly by me, because she won't understand why I feel the need to go. I just know it. She still thinks that there was something more emotional going on with me than just using Lorelei to get to Red John. There wasn't…not on my side anyway. I simply did what I needed to do in order to get her to betray that maniac and all I ever briefly felt for her was pity when I found out about her past. We were both victims of Red John in our own way. I just chose the better path…although there are those out there that would contradict me on that, I'm sure.
To add to my discomposure, my realtor called and told me they had a buyer for my house. Someone from out of state who doesn't know the history and simply likes it for what and where it is. It's quicker than I expected but I'm pleased nonetheless. It's as if a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders in that regard. I hadn't realised just how much of a burden it's been all these years but even so, I can't quite quell the slight pang of remorse I feel over actually letting it go.
I was going to mention about the house while Lisbon and I had lunch but we've been called out on a case instead. A woman's body has been dumped by the side of a road near a popular picnic spot about forty minutes away. Rigsby and Cho get into their car while we get into the SUV and she drives as usual. I really don't mind, it gives me the welcome distraction of openly staring at her while we travel. I keep it professional in the office and at a crime scene…well, as professional as I can being me, but here I can forget about everything else for a little while and just feast my eyes on her loveliness to my hearts content.
"Quit staring, I can't concentrate."
"Spoilsport," I mutter and turn my head just enough to seem as though I'm not looking anymore.
"I know what you're doing," she points out wryly a few seconds later.
I roll my eyes and let out a very melodramatic sigh. The hell with it.
"Meh, you're just going to have to put up with it," I reply with an unconcerned shrug of my shoulders and openly resume my perusal.
She tries not to smile but I know she enjoys the attention really. I let my gaze run over her hair; it's fast becoming my new obsession along with those incredible lips of hers. I seem to have a constant need to touch the soft waves whenever I can and when she has it up in a ponytail, like now, my fingers literally itch to let it down.
I think that's why she wears it like that. She definitely knows I have a thing for her hair and it seems to amuse her no end that it frustrates me when she puts it up like that for work where I can do nothing about it. Little minx.
I prefer it down where I can feel it surrounding my hands as I hold her head still to kiss her. Just as I had last night. I shift a little uncomfortably in my seat and turn to gaze out of the car window as I recall how heated it had gotten before I'd forced myself to slow it down. It's not that I'm not interested. Lord knows, I am. After years of self-imposed emotional celibacy I'm more than ready to express my love for her in any sense but…it's just, while I'm still wearing my ring it doesn't feel right. Not with her. It wouldn't be fair and I want our first time to be free of any of my encumbrances. I don't want her wondering afterwards whether it really meant anything because I'm still displaying what is, in her eyes, devotion to my dead wife and child.
My ring isn't that at all though. I realised that some time ago. Yes, I still love Angela and Charlotte, I'll never stop but the ring is a reminder of my guilt not my affection. And it's that that I'm finding the hardest to let go of or, at the very least, come to terms with and until I can do that, I have a very real fear that I may never take it off.
"Everything OK?" she suddenly asks casually, breaking into my inner turmoil.
I glance over at her and see her gaze dart briefly to my hand then back to the road. I look down and find myself absently fiddling with my ring and let out a small, agitated sigh as I abruptly stop. I don't even realise I'm doing it any more.
"Just thinking about last night," I reply with a tight smile. It's not a lie. Not completely anyway.
"I told you, I'm OK with taking it slow if that's what you want," she says in reassuring tone.
"I know. Doesn't make it less frustrating though," I answer with a slight grimace.
"You're always frustrating," she tells me meaningfully then, in a rare display of affection, she reaches out across the centre console and takes my left hand and raises it to her lips to place a brief kiss on the back. "But I'm used to it."
I have to smile at her and wonder what, in my very chequered past, did I do to deserve her? Unsurprisingly, I can think of nothing.
She releases my hand only when we get to the scene and I relish the illicit taste of intimacy we shared on a workday. It's nice to know she's happy to bend the rules when it suits. Makes it easier for me to get away with a few things too.
We alight from the SUV and wait for Cho and Rigsby to catch us up before heading over to an officer to find out who's in charge. He points to the Sheriff who is standing by the dead body we've come to investigate and we walk over. The first thing I notice about him is that he's in his late thirties and really quite tall. The second thing I notice is the way his eyes light up and his polite smile widens into an appreciative grin when he sees Lisbon.
She introduces us all to him but I shove my hands deep into my pockets and merely give him a slight nod of acknowledgement in response to his courteous greeting before turning away. I don't like him.
He gives us all the usual information on our victim, which in this case is nothing much as they haven't found a purse or any I.D. on her person.
Rigsby and Cho head off to do…whatever it is Lisbon tells them to do. I wasn't listening. I'm too busy checking over the body while covertly watching the Sheriff blatantly checking out my partner. Well, blatant to me anyway. In her defence, Lisbon seems unaware of the subtle indicators that I find so obvious.
His whole body language fairly screams its interest and I can feel something start to bubble away deep inside of me before suddenly bursting forth to pound heatedly through my veins.
It isn't jealousy. Oh, no, no, no. This is something far more primitive and basic. It is possessive and territorial and I've never felt like this about any woman before in my entire life.
I think I was so certain of Angela's feelings for me and mine for her that I never had need for this kind of emotion. With Lisbon it's different. I feel vulnerable. I only have a memory from a time I was heavily drugged to cling to after all. What if I misheard? Or worse, made it all up in my head because I so badly want it to be true?
I try and dismiss my negative thoughts and determinedly look back down at the dead woman in order to get this case solved so that we can leave. I manage to last a few seconds before I can't help but glance up at them again and my jaw clenches painfully when I see him smile, remove his hat then pull back his shoulders and straighten up to his full height, puffing out his chest like a proud peacock trying to entice a mate. I swear to God I think I'm going to see a fan of feathers sprout out of his ass any second now.
Unable to watch anymore, I stand up suddenly and Lisbon looks over at me expectantly.
"You got anything?" she asks with interest.
"Maybe," I reply non-committedly as I gesture at a nearby copse of trees then look back at her. "I just want to take a look around first though. You coming?"
She joins me by the body and I head over to the wood with her following close behind. Her easy agreement at accompanying me should soothe my almost feral urge to stake a claim on what I consider mine…but it really doesn't.
"So what are we looking for?" she asks when we've walked deeper into the wood for a couple of minutes in silence.
I stop and turn to face her. A quick glance around tells me that no-one can see us and on pure primal instinct I grab her by the arms and push her back up against the closest tree. She lets out a little cry of surprise but before she can object my lips are roughly on hers and I pin her to the abrasive trunk with my body. It's urgent and passionate and my hands automatically go to her head where I work that damned band from her hair. I had been prepared for her to resist but instead she lets out a small groan of capitulation and her arms go around my neck almost immediately. Kiss for kiss, she matches me, fire with fire and the realisation of just how good we'd be together if I could just let things go merely ignites my ardour further.
I can feel my control slipping away and I know I have to stop this before it goes too far. That fleeting thought brings me to my senses just enough for me to finally tear my mouth from hers. I stand and stare at her as I take in deep ragged breaths while I try and get a grip on my turbulent emotions.
I don't even really understand what this is about. I'm not used to feeling this out of control. But with my ring, the house, Lorelei…the guilt…my insecurities about the Sheriff…I think it just all suddenly got too much for me. I guess I just snapped.
But I'm back in control of myself now…kind of.
I take a shaky step away from her and see that she's almost slumped back against the tree. Her eyes are still closed and she's breathing just as heavily as me. Her hair is wild and beautiful about her face and even though I know she's going to be as angry as all hell with me for doing this, the egotistical side of me can't help but be highly satisfied at the result.
She looks positively ravished.
Her eyes flutter open and she stares at me dazed for a few seconds before slowly straightening up and smoothing down her clothes.
"What the hell was that all about?" she asks, genuinely confused but not particularly upset. I'm surprised.
I stall a moment by clearing my throat and rubbing a hand over the back of my neck as I try and come up with a plausible reason as to why I've just acted like a caveman…other than telling her that I had an irrational need to remind her we're together. Somehow I don't think that would be received too well.
I rapidly run through the list of things that are swirling around in my head and pick the one that's least likely to myself shot…and garner most sympathy. At least I have the cold comfort of knowing it's not a lie.
"I'm sorry, Teresa, I just…the realtor called before we left. There's a buyer for the house and it's all happened so quickly that I didn't…I don't know…look, there's no excuse and I'm sorry."
I feel like such a heel when I see her expression soften and she nods her head in apparent understanding. Of what I have no clue. I have no idea how she rationalises my actions being in any way linked with the sale of my house and I'm at once humbled and a little ashamed that she is so ready to keep taking this crap from me. I really need to get my head and my own personal demons sorted out as soon as possible.
"Damn it!" she suddenly exclaims holding back her hair with one hand while slowly turning around in a circle as she looks down at the leaf covered ground.
"What's wrong?" I query with a frown.
"I've lost my hair band," she answers, so engrossed in the fruitless search that she doesn't even look at me. If she did she'd see that I still have it in my hand and I'm about to give it back to her until she adds, "If I go back with my hair like this people are going to think we were up to something."
"Well, we were," I point out reasonably as I surreptitiously put the band into my pocket.
I may not be particularly proud of myself at the moment but it's not enough to stop me from wanting that Sheriff to back off. This will be perfect.
"Jane!" she hisses out, obviously annoyed that I'm not in the least bit bothered. "You did this so just help me find it."
I huff out an exasperated sigh and make a show of walking about and kicking at leaves.
"No one will even notice, Teresa," I say dismissively.
"Cho will," she retorts irritably.
She's right of course, he doesn't miss a trick.
"But he won't say anything," I counter calmly. "Come on, let's just go back. I need to have another look at that body."
I smile as I watch her pat down her hair then flip it back over her shoulders as if it'll fool people into thinking it's still up. All she's managed to do is fan the flame of my desire once more and I quickly turn and walk away before I give in to my salacious thoughts again.
Much like the time a few months ago when we dealt with a body missing some limbs, she trails after me out of the wood. The Sheriff is still standing where we left him and as I approach I pull the elastic band out of my pocket. I make a show of rolling it 'absently' over my forefingers as I crouch down to check over the body…properly this time.
I feel Lisbon come to a stop behind me and glance up just as the other man's smile fades a little as he looks at her then down at me. I raise my eyebrows and give him a pointedly smug smile. With a resigned look, he puts his hat back on his head, offers a token nod of acknowledgement then stalks away.
The silent exchange only lasts a few seconds but I think I can safely say that I got my point across. He's gracious in defeat but I still don't like him.
"Is that my hair band you're playing with?"
I quickly stand and look down at the offending piece of elastic I'm holding in studied surprise.
"Oh, is that what this is? I just found it in my pocket."
She stares back at me suspiciously and I can tell she's trying to figure out just what exactly is going on. She glances over at the retreating form of the Sheriff then back at me and I can see the moment everything clicks into place by the slight widening of her eyes and shake of her head. With an irritated scowl she steps forward and reaches out to grab the elastic. Before I can relinquish my hold, however, she pulls it away from my hand then lets it go so that it snaps back against my fingers with a soft slap and a sharp sting.
"Just get on with your job," she orders curtly before snatching the band from my still smarting hand.
I think it best to do as she says and diligently go about my business. By the time I have anything to report, her hair is neatly tied back once more and she's got a full steam on barking out instructions left, right and centre.
I tell her my thoughts but when she merely nods to indicate that she's heard me, I know I'm in the metaphorical doghouse. I decide it's probably best if I go and help Rigsby and Cho. They give me questioning looks but don't ask. They're good friends. After an hour or so, Lisbon tells us that we're all to go back to the office as there's nothing more we can do until we find out the identity of the dead woman.
I fully expect her to send me on my way with the other two men but when she doesn't I follow her to the SUV and we get in. Once we're under way, she glances over at me and I brace myself for the tirade I'm positive is about to begin.
As usual, Lisbon surprises me. After all the years I've known her you'd think I realise she would by now.
"You know, right at this moment it's a toss up between wanting to strangle you for making me look unprofessional again or kiss you because I know how upset you must be about your house," she informs me quietly.
I stare at her in amazement then give her a small smile.
"I know which one out of the two I'd prefer," I reply, just as softly.
She looks over at me and sighs before turning back to the road.
"I thought that now we're together you'd stop hiding things from me," she mutters with a tinge of frustration.
For a horrible moment I wonder just exactly what she means. Does she somehow know about Lorelei?
I search her face avidly for any sign that she's found out my secret then, when I realise what I'm doing, I quickly turn away, angry with myself for even entertaining the idea of any subterfuge on her part. It's my own guilty conscious that's really to blame.
"I'm sorry," I apologise sincerely.
I've said that a lot today but I think it's best that I don't say anything more. No making promises of never hiding things from her, no assurances that I'll always tell her everything because I'd only be lying and I really don't want to do that.
The rest of our journey is made in relative silence only talking to each other when discussing the case. She's not really angry with me, more like sad and disappointed and to be honest that bothers me much more than when she yells.
We get back to CBI and as we head towards the bullpen my phone begins to ring. I pull it out and look down at who's calling and see that it's the prison again. I belatedly remember it's been a week since the last call and as I continue to stare at my phone I know I have a decision to make.
And it's really quite simple when I cut through all the emotional crap and come right down to it. I suppose I didn't want to acknowledge it to myself but at the end of the day I have to make a choice between Teresa and Lorelei.
Does my personal need for some closure outweigh my love for Lisbon?
"Aren't you going to answer that?" she inquires impatiently from beside me.
I look up and gaze into her beautiful stormy green eyes and smile back at her warmly as my decision becomes clear.
"No, it's nothing important," I reply as I cut off the call and place my cell back in my pocket.
She gives me a curious look then gestures to the break room.
I nod my assent and follow her in amazed at how much better I already feel from just one simple act of decisiveness.
I don't know how long it will take me to assuage my guilt but I console myself with the belief that when I finally let this debilitating emotion go, at least it now won't come at the expense of the woman I love.
And although my unsettled feeling still lingers, I'm truly grateful for that.
END CHAPTER 9
A/N: Thank you for reading and please let me know what you think :) On a side note, can you believe it's just over three weeks until Christmas now? Where has this year gone? I'm so behind!