Alright, so here it is, the first of this year's December/January holiday fic! I'm quite pleased to have one to kick off the month, particularly since there won't be another one this weekend, I am certain. I am also quite pleased with this one though. Although it's odd. It came out in the present tense. I almost never write in the present tense. Just thought I'd share.
For Mossi.b, who requested Jane/Lisbon – Dancing
She feels the hand on her waist second.
The tug of her fingers comes first as he slides behind her and pulls her right hand with his left. And somehow, someway the momentum of that simple impulse causes her to spin right into his arms.
And that's when she feels his hand on her waist.
She puts her hand on his shoulder a second later.
To steady herself.
She looks up at him then, and he's smiling at her. He's smiling, and she's sputtering.
"Jane!" she almost-snaps, remembering at the last second that maybe the corporate fundraiser Bertram insisted they both attend isn't the most appropriate place to raise her voice. So instead, she slides into Jane's lead, following the simple steps (out of habit, obviously). "What do you think you're doing?"
Jane doesn't even flinch at the accusation in her tone. Of course he doesn't. "I needed to talk to you," he explains.
Lisbon raises an eyebrow, not quite buying it (not yet, maybe not ever, she'll have to wait and see). "You needed to talk to me?" she double-checks slowly. "Now?"
Jane nods once. "Now."
She decides she's unimpressed with him (his dancing ability doesn't swing the balance in his favour at all, doesn't even enter into it). "Here?" she asks.
This time Jane can't keep the twinkle out of his eyes. "Yes," he confirms.
Lisbon still isn't sold. She tilts her head to the side, judging. "You couldn't think of another way we could have had this conversation?"
Jane ignores her mild irritation, pulls her closer, leans down next to her ear. "I needed to make sure we weren't overheard," he finally explains. "It's important."
And with that, she gives up the fight, relaxing completely (albeit slowly). Because he might have a good reason, it is a possibility (albeit a slight one). And he is a good dancer after all. She still has to question him though, for obvious reasons. "Alright then Jane, what is so urgent that you couldn't even take the extra five seconds to actually ask me to dance?"
She can't see his face, but she knows he's smiling when he answers. He tells her with the tone of his voice. "I'll make sure I ask you next time," he promises.
"Hmm," she hums, in a way that could be taken as either criticism or approval (even she's not quite sure which).
Jane's only answer is to increase the pressure of his hand on her back, taking control. He seems to have decided that she's committed to the dance, in spite of how it began. Her hand sliding slightly up his shoulder in response probably tells him he's right, but she doesn't care about that for the moment.
"Jane?" she asks when he doesn't continue the conversation.
"You never actually answered my question," she reminds him.
"Which question?" he wonders. And if she didn't know him as well as she does, she'd think he was genuinely puzzled.
But she does know him as well as she does, so instead of giving him the benefit of the doubt, Lisbon briefly considers stomping on his foot in her ridiculously narrow heels (which have to be good for something, even if it's only inflicting pain to the feet of insufferable consultants who sometimes sweep her off onto the dance floor, unasked). But she doesn't stomp, because it might cause him to topple, and depending on his mood, he might decide to take her with him. So she simply sighs and repeats her question. "What was so important that you had to talk to me right away? In the middle of the dance floor?"
"Oh," Jane says, sounding almost distracted. Like he's just remembering that little detail. Lisbon doesn't know why he bothers with the act. There's nothing that interesting to distract him on the dance floor at the moment. Jane does answer her question though, "I caught a glimpse of Bertram. I think he's considering trying to coerce one, or both, of us into making a speech."
She swears under her breath. And her night had been going so well too. "Seriously?"
"We did just catch a serial killer," Jane reminds her.
But she's in no mood to concede the point. "That was ages ago."
And he's smiling again. "Barely a month."
Lisbon starts grasping at straws for an alternative explanation. She knows better than to dismiss Jane's opinion about his sort of thing. She keeps him around because he reads body language better than anyone else she's ever met. Still, she's desperate (and trying to be optimistic). "Maybe Bertram was just thinking about how to make people give us more money."
"I agree. He definitely was. He had his, I've just had an idea that will be excellent PR for the CBI face on. And Brenda was standing beside him," Jane explains. "They were scanning the crowd, and I thought I caught my name."
Lisbon swears again. "Well, I hope it's only you they want. It'll probably be you." She knows very well that she's considered terrible on television, though she's not entirely sure why. She tells herself that she doesn't really care anyway. (And mostly she really doesn't.)
But Jane is shaking his head. "I doubt it. Not after that press conference with the swans. Brenda doesn't trust me in front of a camera alone anymore. Which means it's probably both of us that she wants. Us, and Bertram."
Lisbon (barely) resists the urge to drop her forehead onto Jane's shoulder (not that it's that far to fall at this point). Instead she just angles slightly into him, instinctively trying to block out the rest of the world for a minute. "No," she insists. "I refuse."
"You see why we need to strategize then," Jane murmurs against her ear, slowly leading her deeper into the crowd on the dance floor. She hopes he's hiding them from the notice of her boss. "We need to come up with a plan," he tells her.
Those words should make her nervous, but this time she's one hundred percent on his side. "We definitely do," Lisbon agrees, trying to subtly scan the ballroom, trying to get the lay of the land. Bertram (probably) won't come drag her off the dance floor, but anywhere else is fair game, and she needs to be prepared. Then she remembers something, and precedent makes her nervous. "Hey. You're not going to pretend to come up with a plan that includes both of us, but then, at the crucial moment, disappear, save yourself, and leave me to clean up the mess?"
The hand around her waist tightens in protest. "When have I ever..."
She silences him with a glare.
Jane scowls. "Fine. But if I was going to do that, why would I have dragged you onto the dance floor to tell you about the plan in the first place."
Lisbon's glare flips to a smirk. "For fun?"
To her surprise, he smiles back. "I promise you, I'm looking for a co-conspirator, not a fall-guy."
She watches his face for a moment, swears he starts stroking her back slightly, to soothe. "Okay."
"Not that I have any ideas on how to avoid Bertram and Brenda, not any you'll like at least," Jane admits, after shifting so her head is almost leaning against his shoulder again.
"Try me," she murmurs, trying to block out her panic s she slides back into the slow spin of their dance. She doesn't need to agree to his plan, but she will at least listen.
She knows he's smiling again. "Hm, desperate to avoid the limelight, are we Lisbon? Okay, how do you feel about sneaking out?"
She shakes her head slowly. That won't work. Well, it will, in the short term, but it's not a viable solution really. "I was ordered to be here. So wereyou."
"Hiding?" Jane suggests.
She shakes her head again. "Too childish."
"I know a really good spot." His voice is wheedling, and very near her ear.
She kind of likes it.
But that doesn't mean she can agree. Even if the idea does make her chuckle. Just for a second.
"Bertram will just think we've left, so it's effectively the same as your first plan," she counters.
Now she hears and feels Jane's harrumph against her hair. "Oh, you're just being difficult."
And it's her turn to shake her head. "No, I'm... Hey. Is that Collins dancing with Lopez?"
Jane spins them, so he can see in the direction she was looking. "Yes."
The pair of agents is an unexpected sight. "I thought they hated each other."
"They did," Jane confirms.
This time his tone of voice tells Lisbon that he knows more than he's saying. "And?"
Even as he pretends not to. "And?"
It's a good thing she's learned to prompt him years ago, irritating as the necessity sometimes is. "And what else do you know?'
Jane leans slightly closer (even closer than he had been). His mouth barely an inch from her ear. He whispers, "I heard someone told Collins that the only reason Lopez was so rude to her when she first started was because he was overcompensating for his attraction to her, which he felt was unprofessional."
The laughter chokes in Lisbon's throat. "Jane!"
"It's true," he says indignantly. Like she's doubted him. She's absolutely sure he did tell Collins that.
Lisbon's reprimand is mostly out of habit. She doesn't really care. But she feels it needs to be given. "You can't match-make in the CBI!"
He has the nerve to look innocent. (Or as innocent as he can, which isn't very.) "Why not? They're on different teams."
She doesn't really feel like arguing with him. She really just wants to dance with him, as he spins her slowly in little circles in the centre a group of people who aren't really paying them any attention. "Oh, never mind."
"I was bored." He explains.
She tries to hide her smile, but is sure he knows about it anyway. "I'll bet."
They lapse into silence. She breaks it first when something else catches her eye. "The colour of Stanfield's dress is... interesting."
Jane shifts, and slowly spins them again to get a better look. The action gives Lisbon another viewpoint of the dance floor. "In all honesty, I thought Carmichael's was the real stand-out," he replies neutrally.
Lisbon winces as a second dress comes into view. It's a rather striking shade of lime green. "I hear ya." It might be uglier than Stanfield's dress, actually. Jane is known for being observant after all.
"You look lovely, by the way," he murmurs above her head.
She doesn't look at him. She is far too busy trying to figure out if Carmichael's dress also has shoulder pads. She couldn't possibly look at Jane. "Thank you."
She's not sure he hears her.
But maybe he does.
He spins her around rather suddenly. And she laughs before she can help it.
"It's been a while since I've gone dancing," he explains.
"It doesn't show," she admits. She's never thought of herself as a particularly good dancer, but at least with him, well, she doesn't feel like disaster is only a beat away.
He's obviously pleased by the compliment, and somehow seems to be following her thoughts. "You're a good dancer," he tells her gently, maybe even sincerely.
She doesn't bother arguing. She's too busy following his footwork (which has suddenly gotten complicated), and trying not to laugh because she's having fun. "Thank you. I don't dance much either though."
"I know," he assures her.
She frowns, and almost misses a step. After all, he's just told her that she's not too bad. Now he's telling her that it's obvious she hasn't been dancing in the better part of a year. "What's that supposed to mean?"
The hand on her waist is trying to soothe her (again), as is the tone of his voice. "Just that I know the hours you work."
His answer makes her feel foolish. Particularly since he keeps trying to get her to leave the office earlier. They've had the conversation more than once, about what she will and will not regret later in life. He seems to have more opinions on that than she feels is strictly necessary. This time she may have misjudged him though. It's true. She doesn't really have time to go dancing. "Oh."
His eyes are smiling at her again. "Yes."
And she feels small. "Sorry."
"It's okay. You ever think about stopping that?" he wonders.
That makes her smile. "Working?"
"Well, sixteen hours a day at least," he explains.
The exaggeration annoys her for some reason. "I don't work sixteen hours a day!"
"Sometimes you do," Jane points out, slowing his steps until they're really mostly just swaying together.
Lisbon doesn't back down. Because while she has worked a sixteen hour day or two in the past, sometimes they're necessary. More importantly, sometimes they're worth it. Either way, they're definitely the exception. "Rarely."
"Alright, I was exaggerating slightly," Jane concedes. "You still know what I meant."
She does, but that doesn't mean she has an answer. "Hm."
"Do you regret your hours?" She's not sure why's he's pressing her, but he is.
So she gives another noncommittal answer, this one slightly more verbal. "Maybe."
And the jerk calls her on it. "That's not an answer."
"That's all you're getting." Because it's not like he answers every question she asks in anywhere near a satisfactory answer. She almost stiffens in his arms.
He ignores the shift in her body language, simply carries on dancing. "Maybe means yes."
She shakes her head. "No it doesn't. Maybe means maybe."
And with that, he's smiling again. "In this case, maybe means yes."
Not for the first time, she wonders why he bothers asking her questions he's decided he already knows the answer to. "Says who?"
Only one answer to that type of arrogance of course. "Shut up."
He chuckles, and they spin around again as he changes the subject. "Cameron and Truscott are pretty good dancers."
"They've known each other for ages," Lisbon tells him, glancing at the middle-aged couple on the floor. "Going on fifteen years." They've known each other even longer than she's known her current partner.
"I would have guessed," Jane observes quietly. And Lisbon wonders suddenly how the two of them appear to the outside world. After all, she and Jane are approaching the decade mark. She decides that she doesn't care, and before she can ask Jane his opinion, he's continuing his previous thought. "They're not awkward with each other. Not like Scaglione and Jones. Don't know why they're even bothering to dance with each other. Neither of them looks like they're enjoying it."
"Maybe they're not dancing," she jokes. "Maybe it's a ruse while they concoct a scheme, like us."
She pleased to see him smile again. "They don't have that kind of imagination."
Even if he makes her feel the need to defend her fellow agents. "You could be underestimating them."
"I'm not," Jane assures her.
And she's actually having a lovely time dancing, so she decides to concede the point. "No, I doubt it."
Then his smile turns wistful as the music winds down. He draws her close one last time "Thank you for the dance, Teresa," he whispers in her ear.
She smiles. "You're welcome. Even if you stole it." He did steal it, and even though it's a petty crime, it's still one he should be reminded of.
Her comment causes his smile to widen. She likes it.
They almost separate. It's time for her to move away now. But she doesn't; she hesitates.
Bites her lip.
"Yes Teresa?" For a second she thinks his expression is hopeful.
"You know, we didn't actually talk about ways of avoiding being caught by Bertram and asked to speak." It's true. They didn't.
She sees him pause. Then the hand on her back is holding her firmly in place again, just as the music starts up. "You're right, we didn't."
Lisbon meets his eyes, her expression serious. "Which means we're still vulnerable to Director-led ambush."
Jane doesn't even hesitate. "Can't have that."
She nods her agreement. "And since, according to you, the only place to plot privately is on the dance floor..."
"I guess I'll need to steal a little more of your time," he finishes for her with an exaggerated sigh.
"Guess so," Lisbon agrees with a sigh of her own.
Jane pulls her deeper into the crowd of dancers.
She turns her face slightly into his neck to hide her smile. "Jane?"
"Yes dear?" he murmurs.
Suddenly both of them are smiling. "This doesn't count as you actually asking me either," she explains. She's quite sure about this, knows she's in the right.
She swears she feels him smile against her hair (even though she's not even sure that's possible). "I know," he whispers, before spinning them both until she's laughing again and just a little breathless.
And she can still feel his hand on her waist.