A/N: Huge thanks to Sue Shay, Water-please, Mossi.b, Tina, , Guest, xanderseye, Lalalupin and Jisbon8D for leaving a review for the last chapter - I really appreciate it :)
April 8th – 11.10am
"Care to make a little wager on that, Lisbon?"
The words are said in light enough tone but I can see the challenge bright in Jane's eyes and glance around the bullpen at the rest of the team who are watching us with great interest. He's done it on purpose because he knows I won't back down…especially when there's an audience. Besides, this case is a done deal, there's no way he could possibly win.
"You're on," I say, meeting his gaze unflinchingly.
He plasters one of those diabolically irresistible smiles on his stupidly handsome face and clasps his hands together as he bounces up and down in barely contained glee.
"Excellent! Name your culprit," he instructs, jabbing a finger in my direction.
"Are you serious?" I query in disbelief. "Victoria Henderson was found with the gun that was used to kill her husband. She confessed to shooting him, Jane."
"So you're saying Mrs. Henderson killed her husband?" he clarifies, his grin not diminishing one iota.
"Yes, Jane, that's what I'm saying," I concur sardonically as I fold my arms.
"OK," he comments with a nod of his head. "Well, it's a good deduction but you're wrong, Lisbon. It was Quince."
"The dog?" I splutter out incredulously before I let out a snort of laughter.
"You may mock, but trust me, behind those pleading soft eyes of his there's a natural born killer."
I chuckle again and shake my head. "Fine, Jane. You stick with that. I'll see you later after I win. I just hope you remembered your wallet for once."
His grin widens, if that's possible, and at the risk of my legs giving way at the sight, I decide it's best to go back to my office now.
Once there, I sit at my desk and firmly put Patrick Jane and his damn smile out of my head while I work diligently on finishing up a couple of overdue reports. A little over an hour and a half later, I receive the autopsy results for the Henderson case and place the file to one side until I've finished up what I'm doing.
After twenty more minutes I'm done and it's only then that I realise the time. My office door opens just then and in walks my still smiling consultant with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and a sandwich in the other. He must have read my mind.
"Thanks," I say gratefully as he puts them down on my desk. "I was just going to stop for lunch."
He nods then glances down at the file that's perched on the edge of the table.
"Is that the autopsy results for Henderson?" he asks curiously.
"Yeah, I haven't had a chance to read it yet," I reply before taking a bite of the sandwich. It's chicken salad and it's good.
He looks at me searchingly and I know he's trying to work out if I'm lying or not. I gaze back at him and he eventually nods.
"OK, well, I'll be waiting outside when you do," he tells me affably then leaves my office and goes back to his couch.
I finish my sandwich then pick up the Henderson file and begin to read. I'm so certain of what the contents are that it takes me a few seconds to fully process what I'm actually seeing.
Cause of death is listed as an epidural haematoma from a blow to the head several hours prior to time of demise.
I can't believe it. There must be some mistake.
I close the autopsy report with a snap then pull Henderson's case file out and open it up. I quickly scan through the family statements of the events leading up to Victoria Henderson shooting her husband and let out a low groan as it merely confirms what I'd thought. An innocuous accident was behind his death. Who knew that tripping over your dog and banging your head on the kitchen counter corner could have such dire consequences?
I let out a sigh. It's good news for the wife, but torture for me because I know I now have to face Jane and his gloating…but not just yet. I'm sure I've got other things to keep me occupied for a little while.
I manage to hole myself up in my office for another hour or so but there's a report I need to give back to Van Pelt. I can't hold onto it any longer so I finally get up and leave the sanctuary of my office.
"Ah, Lisbon, there you are. Have you taken a look at the Henderson results?" Jane asks me as soon I walk into the bullpen.
He's staring at me expectantly and I'm not sure if it's the fact that he's so damn cocksure of himself or that I'm too damn stubborn to admit defeat, but the lie trips out of my mouth before I even realise I'm saying it.
I drop the folder on Van Pelt's desk and turn to leave.
"Yes, you have," I hear him contradict lightly.
I stop dead in my tracks and turn to look at him. I feel my face start to grow hot but tell myself it's down to anger that's he's actually calling me out on it in front of everyone and not guilt over the fact that he's correct.
"What did you just say?" I ask, going on the offensive.
"Oh, please, it's been over an hour since I brought you that coffee and sandwich. You honestly want me to believe that you haven't read through it at least once since then?" he points out in such a reasonable tone that I want to punch him on the nose.
"I don't give a rat's ass what you believe," I retort angrily.
"Obviously," he agrees with a nod of his head as he gets up from his couch and walks over to me. "That's why you're not even attempting to give me a credible excuse."
He's so close that I catch the scent of his aftershave. It's the same one he'd had on when we danced together at the auction and I'm immediately reminded of how it felt to be held in his arms.
"I was right, wasn't I?" he says breaking into my reverie. "The dog did it."
I take a step back and shake my head. It's more to dispel the memories in my head than disagree with what he's said. Why do I keep doing this to myself?
"Get lost, Jane," I mutter as I turn and walk quickly away. It's wishful thinking on my part to hope that he won't follow me but I've always been an optimist.
"Lisbon, just admit you were wrong!" he all but shouts down the corridor as he hurries to catch me up. "Come on, you'll feel much better, I promise you."
The heck I will.
"Lisbon," he whinges in a most childishly annoying way.
"Shut up!" I tell him as I enter my office and shut the door with a resounding slam.
It feels good to vent a little anger and I take a deep steadying breath only to let it out sharply when I hear the door opening behind me. I turn quickly and my irritation increases a notch or two as I see him blithely walking in.
"If the door's shut you're supposed to stay on the outside," I tell him angrily.
"Since when?" he asks, looking genuinely surprised.
I barely restrain myself from wringing the insufferable man's neck. I don't know why he gets such pleasure from aggravating me so much. I don't know why I keep letting him.
"Since forever, Jane," I retort dryly.
Nice come back.
"It doesn't matter, I'm here now and we're alone so you can just admit that I won. None of the team need ever know if that's what you want. My lips are sealed. I promise," he assures me then raises his hand to his mouth and pretends to lock it before throwing away the key.
If only it were that easy. I'd give a million bucks to the first person that could make that dream a reality.
"Oh please, don't make promises you can't keep," I tell him as I sit down on my chair. I need to maintain some distance. "If you kept your mouth shut more I'd have a lot less paperwork and a whole lot pleasanter life."
"I'm wounded, Lisbon, truly," he says, doing his fake hurt routine. "Is it just that you don't want to pay me the forfeit? Because I haven't even told you what it is yet. You might find you like it."
I doubt that.
"No, it's because there must be some mistake," I retort, finally having enough of this conversation. I don't even care that I've tacitly admitted that he was right. I just want him gone from my office. I deliberately turn my back on him and look at my computer before ordering sternly, "Now, get out!"
He does as I ask and opens the door, but too late I realise that he's leaving too easily.
"Alright fine, I'll go, but your refusal to admit you're wrong doesn't set a good example to the rest of the team. I'm disappointed in you, Lisbon."
His voice is so loud I just know it carries to the bullpen. I turn and give him my most threatening glare and he simply smiles back at me unperturbed. He's lucky he leaves just then because I have a heavy stapler to hand that would make an excellent projectile.
I stare blankly at my computer screen for a few minutes while I slowly calm down then let out a sigh. I know I'm going to have to suck it up sooner or later and just go out there and pay him his stupid forfeit. He's such a kid at times.
My eye catches the stack of files I have yet to sign off so I pick up the top one and read the name. McLean. My stomach rolls a little as I immediately recall what the case was about. An abusive father. There were so many echoes of my own youth that there were times I wasn't sure if I'd be able cope until we broke the case.
Jane noticed of course. He kept hovering around me like I was a piece of china that was about to crack and shatter at any moment. And he was right to be concerned. Some days were tougher than others, but as much as I would have liked to have leaned on him, he still has so many issues of his own that I just couldn't bring myself to burden him with mine as well. It wouldn't have been fair. So I did the only thing I knew how; I closed myself off from him. The more he concerned he got, the more I pulled away. I know it bothered him, but it was necessary.
I quickly flip to the back page then sign off the end of the report without reading through it again. I know what's in there; I really don't want to dredge up those unhappy feelings once more.
I place the folder on the other side of my desk, starting a new pile then grab the next folder from the stack. I try and concentrate but Jane's words keep ringing in my ears and I know I won't get any work done until I've paid my dues. A bet is a bet after all, even if I have ended up looking pretty stupid.
I stand up and leave my office then march along the corridor to the bullpen. I ignore the rest of the team and come to stand in front of Jane who looks up at me with a friendly smile…the jerk.
"OK, you were right. I don't know how you figured it out but apparently tripping over the dog the day before and cracking the side of his head is what ultimately killed him," I say, unable to keep the embarrassment out of my tone.
"Which means?" he prompts.
Ass. He's going to make me say it.
"Which means, you win, Jane," I reply, trying to keep the annoyance out of my voice but I don't think I succeed too well.
"Time to pay the forfeit," says Cho suddenly.
I shoot the traitor an angry glare but he remains unmoved as usual. Still, he has a point, so I pull my wallet out of my pocket and open it up with a sigh.
"OK, how much?" I ask, resigned to the fact now.
"Oh, I don't want your money," Jane tells me slyly and all the alarm bells labelled 'Arrogant Ass' start clanging loudly in my head.
"What do you want then?" I query, absolutely sure I don't want to know the answer.
"I'll have a think about it and let you know later," he says with a grin before turning his back on me and settling down on his couch to sleep.
I guess this is payback for chucking him out of my office.
"Jerk," I mutter before I walk away.
I go back to my office, stopping to get a coffee on the way. I sit down at my desk and look at the pile of files without enthusiasm. My mind wanders to what Jane could possibly be planning then I shake my head and tell myself firmly that I'm not going to think about it anymore. With renewed vigour, I grab to top file and begin to read.
I work methodically and am quite pleased that my thoughts don't keep straying to Jane…much. It's not until Van Pelt and Rigsby pop their heads in to say goodnight that I think to check the time. It's later than I expected and I begin to wonder why Jane hasn't been in to see me yet. He's not one to let humiliation of another person pass him by.
"Goodnight, Boss," says Cho from the doorway and I look up with a smile.
"Night, Cho. Don't forget we've got that meeting with Dooley tomorrow morning. Nine o'clock, OK?" I remind him and he nods.
"Sure thing. I'll see you tomorrow."
He leaves and I resume my work, only to be interrupted moments later by Jane coming into my office. I curse myself for automatically tensing then force myself to relax and continue writing.
"Don't you ever knock?" I ask by way of acknowledgment.
"What is it with you and doors today?" he retorts indignantly. "First I'm meant to stay outside and now I'm supposed to knock? It's like I'm in The Twilight Zone."
"It's not the door I have a problem with," I answer airily as I sign another report.
Out the corner of my eye, I see him walk around to my side and then he unexpectedly holds out his hand. I stop writing and look at it in confusion. What the hell's he playing at now? I look up at him and he grins back then waggles his fingers. Realising what he wants, I contemplate the foolishness of my actions even as I put my pen down and clasp his hand.
"What?" I query dubiously as he pulls me up out of my chair.
"I've decided on your forfeit," he tells me delightedly and my stomach drops like a stone.
"What is it?" I ask warily.
I swear to God if he wants me to do something illegal, I'll kill him.
"Dinner," he says to my relief but then he suddenly points to his lips and adds, "And one kiss…right here."
Although my heart skips a beat at his demand, I find I'm so shocked at his gall that I can't help but laugh.
"You're kidding, right?" I enquire in disbelief. Damn cheek. "No! I won't do it."
"The dinner or the kiss?" he questions seriously.
"You do disappoint me, Lisbon, I never figured you as someone to renege on a bet," he comments nonchalantly.
I know what he's doing but he's not going to win this battle.
"I don't renege on bets unless they're used to coerce me into doing something I don't want to do!" I retort sharply.
"Oh, come on, where's the harm? Live a little. It's not as though it means anything…right?"
Not to you, maybe. But to me?
"…No," I belatedly assent when I realise I've not answered straight away.
I can feel a betraying heat invading my cheeks at my lie but I refuse to look away. Hopefully he'll just think it's a little warm in here.
"So what's the problem?" he queries softly.
Oh, God. Where do I even start?
"I'm paying for dinner and a kiss won't cost you anything," he adds as he takes a small step closer to me.
"Except my dignity," I automatically retort. If I insult him perhaps he'll drop this whole stupid idea.
"You know, Lisbon, I'm beginning to think that your refusal to kiss me is because you know that once you start, you won't be able to stop," he suddenly challenges.
Conceited a comment as that is, it's just close enough to what I fear is the actual truth that my face flames and my internal defences spring right back up into place.
"Go to hell!" I snap, pulling my hand from his grasp.
Instead of backing off as I expect, he takes another step nearer to me. The smell of his aftershave wraps itself around my senses again and I have to physically force myself to stand my ground. The air seems to crackle between us with something I'm too scared to put a name to right now and although I don't move, I need to look away.
"Do you want me to take my toothbrush this time?"
I've never been so grateful for his levity than right at this particular moment. The tension drains slowly away from my body, leaving me feeling tired and achy. I return my gaze to his and can't help but respond to his disarming smile.
"Maybe an overnight bag?" I suggest wryly.
His smile widens and then he says, "About dinner…"
"I'm sorry but I can't tonight, Jane, I've arranged to meet up with an old friend," I cut in with an apologetic smile.
It's a complete lie but I can't face being on my own with him tonight. There's only so much resistance I can put up on any given day and I think mine is pretty much tapped out.
"Oh?" he comments lightly.
"Yeah, I haven't seen her in months otherwise I'd cancel. Can I take a raincheck?"
I'm concerned that he might see through my deceit so I busy myself tidying up and turning off my computer so that he can't get a good read on my face.
"Of course. What's one more?"
There's something in his tone that brings me up short and I turn to look at him curiously. He seems a little…hurt. I feel bad for refusing him now but I can't go back on what I've just said because I know he'll try to find out why…and I don't want him to know.
"I do want to have that dinner, Jane," I hasten to assure him. "I know it didn't happen last time, but that McLean case…it got to me and I just…"
I trail off unsure how to put into words what I feel about that whole mess of a case without getting too upset.
"You don't have to explain, Teresa, I understand. Really."
And he does. I can see it in his eyes. I give him a quick nod then go back to sorting out my desk. I feel, rather than see, him leave my office and let out a quiet sigh of relief. I finish what I'm doing then look at the three remaining files that are still waiting to be signed off. I know I should go now if I'm to continue my ruse, but the senior agent in me can't leave those reports unsigned…especially when I know I'm really going home.
As quick as I can, I read through and sign them off then head out of my office.
"Goodnight, Lisbon, enjoy yourself this evening," Jane calls out to me and I turn to see him lying down on his couch, obviously settling in for the night.
Seeing him there all alone sends another wave of guilt crashing through me. It's my fault he's on his own this tonight. I wasn't even brave enough to have a simple dinner with him. Being his friend, I should have at least agreed to that.
And as for a kiss…well, a bet is a bet after all and if this is the only time I'll ever get to feel his lips on mine, maybe I should just take the opportunity when I've got the perfect excuse to do so.
Without even realising it, I'm halfway to the couch before I've even consciously made my decision. His eyes are closed so I let my gaze roam avidly over his reclining form while I have the chance. I can feel my heart start to speed up the nearer I get as the enormity of what I'm about to do hits me. At least I can blame my folly on the wager…even if I know I'm lying to myself.
I come to a stop by his couch and he suddenly opens his eyes. He looks surprised and before I can talk myself out of it…or he opens his mouth to spoil it, I bend down and touch my lips to his. It's quick and it's sweet and when I pull back, it seems like the most natural thing in the world for me to lean back in and taste him again.
His hand goes to the back of my head, gently holding me in place as he returns this kiss with more ardour than the first. My heart seems to be beating out of my chest and my body ignites into instant arousal. I want him. Badly. But as much as I want to just lay down next to him and stay all night, I have to remind myself that this is just payment for a bet. Nothing more.
I break away and stand up, trying to gain control over my breathing and wayward thoughts. I'm gratified to see that he looks as flushed as I feel and his soft, full lips are parted slightly inviting me back in again. And God, I want to do it…so very much. I want to muss up his hair and kiss him senseless; touch his body and make him know he's mine.
But then I'm brought back to earth with a resounding bump as I catch sight of his wedding ring and realise my dreams will never become a reality. Oh, I'm sure I could sleep with him if I set my mind to it, but he'd never be mine. Not really. Not ever. And as much as I respect his feelings for his dead wife, I don't want to be second best.
I gather my wits about me and belatedly realise he's looking at me expectantly; awaiting my next move.
"I…uh…I told you that I don't renege on bets," I finally say, wondering if it sounds as trite to his ears as it does to mine.
"And I told you that you wouldn't be able to stop at just one kiss."
Apparently it did. But I welcome his arrogance; I know how to deal with that. It's safe ground. I frown then give his couch a half-hearted kick for good measure before I turn and walk away. It's what he expects from me, after all.
"Goodnight, Teresa," I hear him call after me brightly.
His tone just confirms to me that our…moment didn't affect him nearly as much as did me.
"Ass," I retort unhappily.
I reach the elevator and press the call button then wait impatiently for the door to open. When it does I glance over at him one last time and he gives me a wave. I get into the cabin and all but collapse against the side as it begins its descent.
My body still tingles and I press my lips together remembering how wonderful it felt to finally kiss the man I've secretly loved for years.
But for my own self-preservation I know this is as far as it can go.
I've sated my curiosity and now I can forget it and move on.
Except, I know I can't and I won't and for the first time in my life I honestly don't have any idea what the hell I'm going to do.
END CHAPTER 4
A/N: Thanks for reading! As always, please let me know what you think :)