You Wash Me Clean (I Dream of Blood)

Disclaimer: I own nothing related to The Mentalist, just the thoughts in my head.

Summary: 'Whether you like it or not, I'm here to remind you of what really matters.' - A rough trip puts some things into perspective.

Spoilers: Post-ep Devil's Cherry

Author's Notes: Better late than never, right? I started this right after Devil's Cherry had aired, but life being what it is these days, kept me from finishing it until now. It's been a few years since I've written a Mentalist fic and it was nice to get back to it, despite the challenge of finding my way around Jane's head again.

Thanks, as always, to my incredible beta and best friend, Joy for playing through the pain of a cold to get this edited and for coming up with a title after I'd been banging my head against a wall trying to think of one for weeks. You truly are a marvel :)


'She's dead, has been for over ten years. You're chasing an illusion.'

He'd been repeating that mantra for hours now, trying to appeal to the logic that normally governed his mind. However, as the first sweet taste of belladonna slipped past his lips, Patrick Jane knew it was no use.

He needed to see her again.

He needed to hear her voice, to bask in the warmth of her smile, to get to know this bright, young woman his daughter had become, even if it was only in his own mind. If it took ingesting a dangerous and potentially lethal hallucinogen, then so be it. He could understand now how people succumbed to a drug habit. Jane had always arrogantly believed that it was a vice that afflicted only the weak-willed; he was now willing to admit, however, that if it could bring him his daughter every night, he'd happily become an addict.

The poison moved quickly, perfusing his arteries and seeping into the crevasses of his brain, forging new pathways into his subconscious before it pulled him under completely.

Charlotte wasn't there.

Actually, no one was there to meet him in this dark, forgotten corner of his memory palace. Whispers brushed his skin, clinging like cobwebs as he stumbled through the inky shadows, trying to find a way out. Dragging his fingers over ridges of cracked and peeling paint, Jane inched forward, trying to regain some sense of direction. Endless moments of fumbling finally paid off as his wedding ring clinked against the cold metal of a doorknob.

The whispers grew louder, seeping under the door that he could now make out in front of him. The sound resolved into the din of his youth: barker's calls, clanging bells, grinding gears and the ceaseless chatter of the crowds. The doorknob rattled as he gripped it, protesting loudly as Jane forced it to move, grating against years of rust. Jane could relate to its reluctance, he could feel it in every bone in his body. Pitching forward until his forehead rested against the weathered wood, he sucked in a lungful of musty air, trying vainly to steel himself.

'Nowhere else to go but forward.'

The light on the other side of the door stopped him in his tracks like some soon-to-be roadkill, limbs rigid as he tried to focus past the blinding spotlight to the seats beyond the stage. The whispers were shouts now, words hurtling towards him like missiles from the darkness.

"Liar!"

It was a glancing blow, but it still sent him back a step.

"Cheat!"

The next volley hit him square in the chest, knocking loose the armour that had held him up for so long.

"Murderer!"

The voices multiplied, quickly becoming a roaring cascade of noise. Still, he could pick out some he recognized. He could hear his team, Van Pelt, Rigsby and Cho, adding to the chorus of derision that tore him down, bit by bit. His legs finally gave out under the weight of their hatred and his regrets.

"Monster."

They were barely above a whisper, but those two syllables wrapped in his wife's voice sliced through the cacophony, a coup de grâce that left him crumpled on the dusty floor as the room was plunged into darkness, light and noise extinguished as one.

Jane pressed his face into the dusty plywood, dragging in a shaky breath at the sudden relief. Eyes closed, he rolled onto his side, drawing his knees up into his chest as he wished for oblivion.

It didn't come.

The whispers returned, like sewer rats scuttling across the floor, tiny icy feet trailing over his outstretched arms, sending sickening shivers along his nerves. He just didn't have the strength to recoil.

A sudden flash of light warmed his eyelids before the ensuing roar of thunder jolted his reluctant muscles into a fetal position, eyes squeezed even tighter as the whispers coalesced into one voice. Thin and reedy, it wrapped around him, a strangler vine cutting off his air.

"Come on, Mr. Jane," it crooned. "Open your eyes."

As much as he didn't want to yield to the voice that had taken up residence inside his head since he'd first heard it a few years ago, reciting Blake on an endless loop, Jane knew it would only get worse if he didn't relent. Reluctantly, he let his eyelids slip open.

There was nothing to see.

The blackness, as deep and impenetrable as if he'd kept his eyes shut, scrambled his senses, leaving him vaguely nauseous and disoriented. His fingers clenched reflexively against the floorboards, trying to maintain some sort of anchor in the abyss.

"Oh, come now, Mr. Jane," the voice hissed. "You should be used to this. After all, darkness is an inextricable part of your soul. It follows you everywhere. It's a cancer, infecting everything and everyone you touch." The words sunk into Jane's skin, permeating his being even as he tried to shake them off.

"It's the darkness that binds us, Mr. Jane, and one day it'll be too much for them … too much for her. They'll all leave you in the end, you know, whether it is by my hand or yours."

Lightning once again burned a white path through the room, illuminating glimpses of the expected blood-red smiley faces now adorning the walls before lighting upon his worst nightmare.

The scream that tore from his throat as he met Lisbon's lifeless eyes drowned out the thunder.

The thick stench of blood overwhelmed his senses and Jane recoiled violently, scrambling away from where what was left of her body lay crumpled. Darkness returned as the storm moved away, but nothing would scrub the image from his retinas as he screwed his eyes shut, forcing out the tears that had gathered there. The last rumble of thunder faded into the distance, the remaining silence broken only by his quiet sobs and whispered apologies.

Suddenly, the sharp rapport of purposeful footsteps against the wooden floor dragged him out of his catatonia, tugging solidly at his chest with something that felt like hope, pulling the tattered pieces of his heart back together. He knew those footsteps.

"Lisbon?"

The room was warmer and he could feel light filtering through his eyelids, daring him to wonder if he'd finally come out on the other side of this ill-fated trip.

"Nope, sorry, though you might want to examine why she's always the first person you think of in times like this."

Jane sighed. He was still under, though having his daughter close again took the sting out of the disappointment. With a heavy groan, he rolled over in the direction of her voice. Cautiously, he cracked open an eye, still a little afraid of what he'd find and unable to erase the memory of Lisbon's broken and bloody body from his mind.

"She's not here, Dad," Charlotte whispered, confirming his suspicions. "She never was; but you knew that. I'm sure Agent Lisbon is as fine as when you left her in her office a few hours ago."

It might be all in his head, but Jane couldn't help the overwhelming relief that washed over him with the knowledge that Lisbon was still alive. Swiping at the stray moisture on his cheeks, he pushed himself up, muscles vehemently protesting the movement, to sit cross-legged on the stage as his daughter joined him on the floor, her pose a mirror of his own.

Every cell of his being vibrated, oscillating strangely between exhaustion and excitement. He also couldn't help feeling exposed and defenceless under his daughter's gaze. Desperately, he tried to drag what was left of his shields around him, to be some semblance of the Patrick Jane he presented to the world.

"So, do I have you to thank for the welcoming committee?" he asked, arching his eyebrow in the closest thing he could get to fatherly disapproval these days.

Charlotte only smiled sadly.

"Dad, we've been over this. Figment of your imagination, remember?" she replied, pointing to herself. "That particular horror story was all you and I gotta say, that was some pretty freaky stuff you dug up there."

Jane deflated instantly, his hastily reconstructed walls crumbling in the face of her honesty.

'You can't even be real with somebody who doesn't exist.'

He wanted to. Jane knew it was ridiculous to keep trying to hide behind his well-worn masks in the face of his own subconscious. He'd just never been very good at dropping the act.

Taking a deep, steadying breath, Jane closed his eyes, severing the connection before redirecting his gaze to the floor, unable to bear her scrutiny, figment of his imagination or not.

"The things I've seen, the things I've done ... it leaves a mark."

"Then, why do you do it?"

Anger suddenly burned white-hot through his veins at her pointed question. Ten years. Ten years he'd been on this mission, a mission at the exclusion of all else, to avenge her loss, and she had the gall to question him?

"You know why I do it," Jane seethed, still avoiding Charlotte's gaze, holding tight to the reins of his emotions. He hadn't lost control since Sophie Miller had given him his walking papers and he wasn't about the start now, definitely not in front of his daughter.

Charlotte, however, had reached the end of her rope.

"Yeah, Dad, I do, but it's not for the reasons you think," she threw back at him, his little girl's blue eyes flashing with a very adult fury. "You only think you know why you do it, Dad. You've been telling yourself that this crazy obsession is for Mom and me, but it's not. We're dead! We don't care and you know that!"

Jane opened his mouth, not sure if it was to protest or to admonish, but she cut him off before any sound passed his lips.

"Maybe it was at the beginning, but it's got nothing to do with us now, not really. It's really all about you, Dad, about the game. Red John is one of the only people you've never been able to beat, and you can't stand losing."

"That's not true," his whispered tightly, a knee-jerk defense. However, horror warred with revulsion, both of them churning Jane's stomach as the righteous veneer faded from him his decade-long quest. She'd dragged his motives out into the harsh light of day and they just didn't measure up anymore.

His daughter, however, seeing the sick look of realization that spread across his features, eased up a little.

"Not entirely, no, but it must be at least a little bit true, or else we wouldn't be having this conversation."

Jane sighed heavily as the reality of his life slowly unravelled in front of him. He'd become so good at painting pictures of what people wanted to see that he'd managed to fool even himself. While he'd always held no illusions when it came to the depths to which he'd sink to reach his goal, Jane wondered when had it stopped being all about his family?

Sure, he still loved them and missed them and thought about them daily, but somehow they were no longer the driving force behind the bloodlust that pushed him to hunt, to stalk to kill his mark, no matter what the cost. Somewhere along the way, the pull of finally beating Red John had overtaken the push of honouring his lost life.

'Revenge is a poison. Revenge is for fools and for mad men. '

It had just been lip service when he'd said it all those years ago, but Jane was starting to see the wisdom in the words. Revenge was a poison that infected not only the mind, but the soul, whittling away at the tethers that held him to the world.

'If you truly want revenge, you have to be hard. You have to be dishonest and devious and cold. You can't let people see what's in your heart.'

He'd lived by that mantra for years, barricading his heart behind walls so high that it likely would've atrophied years ago had Lisbon not periodically chipped her way through to let in a little light.

Lisbon. His judge, jury and redeemer, all in a tiny spitfire of a package, and while he'd once promised that he would always be there for her, every time Red John resurfaced all Jane ever did was let her down. The only person left in his life that truly mattered, and he risked losing her every day.

Shoulders sagging under the weight of his regrets, Jane finally met his daughter's eyes and took comfort in the warmth of her gaze, finding the strength to push past the walls he'd been hiding behind for so long. After all, there was no point in lying to himself anymore.

"I'm not proud of what I am," he choked, "of what I've become."

A rueful smile tugged at his daughter's lips.

"It doesn't have to be this way, you know. You just have to make different choices." Her blue eyes lit up with a memory. "For as long as I can remember, you always said to me, 'Life is what you make it, Charlotte. Your only limit is your imagination.' I don't know anyone with a better imagination than you, Dad."

Jane snorted a derisive laugh.

"This is starting to feel like some sort of warped version of A Christmas Carol. Who are you playing, the Ghost of Christmas Present?"

She took his hairpin mood swing in stride.

"You don't believe in ghosts, Dad. You know what I am. I'm that little part of your brain that you've managed to ignore until now." She laughed as a sudden thought crossed her mind. "Bet this little heart-to-heart wasn't what you had in mind when you decided to take another trip with Belladonna?"

Jane grew still, instinctively schooling his expression as she dug a little closer than he would've liked, hoping she wouldn't notice his discomfort and move on.

He should've known better.

Charlotte regarded him carefully, head cocked to one side, such a vivid reminder of her mother that it filled his heart with a familiar ache.

When he didn't answer, she dropped it and pushed forward. "Whether you like it or not, I'm here to remind you of what really matters."

A sudden shimmering drew his gaze to the rest of the room. The image wavered, fading in and out of focus like the end of an old film reel.

Heart hammering in his chest, Jane glanced back at his daughter. He wasn't ready to let her go again. He was relieved to see that she was still in front of him, her body solid and very real as the rest of the room dissolved around them, the mist clearing to reveal his attic.

He was seated at his desk, back to the window. Scanning the room, his eyes lit upon a figure in the dim light he'd know anywhere. Lisbon was slumped in a chair next to his cot, every line of her body screaming with fatigue. Still she was very much alert, and although he couldn't see her face, Jane knew where that intense focus was directed. The subtle movement of her right hand drew his attention to her fingers running lightly through the curls about his forehead where he lay peacefully before her.

"Is this real?"

"Looks real to me."

Jane started at Charlotte's voice in his ear and turned to find her perched beside him on the desk.

"How? I'm unconscious."

"Can't you feel her?"

His eyes were once again drawn to the rhythmic sweep of Lisbon's fingers.

He could feel her; the ghost of her touch warmed his brow, settling the turmoil within his heart.

"See, Dad, there are people who care about you. She cares about you. You could let her help you."

Charlotte's words were an eerie echo of Lisbon's own from what felt like a lifetime ago. Unfortunately, he didn't have a different answer than what he'd given his boss in that dark cellar.

"Some things you just can't fix."

His daughter's fingers slid across the top of his hand, drawing his gaze away from the tableau she'd put before him.

"Do you really believe that? If you do, why would your mind have sent you me to argue this with you?"

Jane sighed, running his free hand through his hair, shaking off the sensation of Lisbon's ghostly caress.

"Because I'm tired, and I'm weak."

Charlotte's fingers wove between his own and she squeezed tightly, the feeling heartbreakingly real.

"Because you're human, and because deep in that heart that you may not always want to acknowledge is still beating, you know what Mom and I would really want. You know that even though you'll never give up the hunt, we wouldn't want you to give up your life along with it."

Jane's heart threatened to burst under the swell of pride and love that overtook it at her words. Figment or not, the mark she'd left on his soul was very real and one he'd treasure for the rest of his life. Reaching over, he tucked a stray curl behind her ear, noting sadly that she was beginning to fade, their time nearly up.

"When did you get so wise?"

His daughter smiled warmly.

"I got it from you."


As the first tendrils of consciousness wove their way into his ravaged mind, Jane immediately became aware of two salient things: one, his knuckles ached from clenching the bed frame in a death grip and two, he was missing his pants.

Curious.

He also wasn't alone.

Her fingers were no longer threading through his hair, if indeed they ever had been, but Jane could feel Lisbon's warmth pressed comfortably against his side as she sat perched on the edge of the narrow cot. The subtle aroma of cinnamon surrounded them like an aura, soothing nerves left ragged by his encounters.

For the first time in a very long while, Jane felt safe. It was a feeling he hoped he'd be able to get used to one day.

He measured his breaths carefully, employing all of his skills at manipulating biofeedback loops to maintain the façade of sleep. If Lisbon knew that he'd regained consciousness, she'd have ten feet between them before he even opened his eyes, and Jane wasn't quite ready to break the spell just yet.

Still, even with all of his years of practice he couldn't modulate his breathing forever, and Lisbon sensed the change, shifting off of the cot to a nearby chair, leaving him to mourn the loss of her soothing warmth.

"Jane?"

The gentle cadence of her voice inspired him to play up his return to wakefulness to best take advantage of Lisbon's innate need to nurse the weak and the wounded. He hoped that with her concern for his wellbeing being foremost on her mind, she might forget just how furious he imagined that she probably was with him.

"Lisbon?"

As it turned out, he didn't have to fake the rasp in his voice, which left him wondering just how much of his trip had manifested externally and how much Lisbon had witnessed.

From the darkness he found haunting her gaze when he finally met her eyes, Jane gathered that it was more than either of them would have liked.

"Can you sit up?"

Her hands were hovering over him uncertainly as he edged himself into a sitting position, as though she was willing him back from the dead. If he'd been in better sorts, Jane would have teased her about taking her faith healer act on the road. Instead, he groaned as his brain shifted within his skull, setting off excruciating flashes of light behind his eyes. Untreated, belladonna apparently left you with one hell of a hangover.

"Are you okay?" she asked quietly as he dug his fists into his eyes, trying to stamp out the burning.

"Yeah," he croaked, blinking rapidly until her face came back into focus. "Never better."

"Good."

She hit him – hard, a solid jab to the shoulder that set off the fireworks in his head anew.

"Ow! What the hell was that for, woman! Can't you see I'm suffering enough already?"

Lisbon's eyes flashed dangerously, her right arm cocked for a second round. "I'd hit you again if I thought it would do any good, since nothing else seems to get through that thick skull of yours."

He flashed her his most pathetic puppy dog eyes in a last-ditch attempt to spare himself another jab.

She dropped her arm and flew up out of her chair in a flurry of indignant frustration, to begin pacing what little floor space was available like a caged grizzly.

"What the hell were you thinking?" she groused, building herself up into a full-fledged Lisbon rant. "You not only illegally purchased a controlled substance, but then you smuggled it into the CBI offices and proceeded to get yourself high in a building full of cops!"

Despite the throbbing between his temples, Jane had to fight to keep the smile that was tugging at his lips in check as he basked in her righteous indignation. Lisbon's endless obsession with rules and protocol always managed to bring him some warped form of amusement, especially when she fell into it as a way of avoiding the real reasons she was upset about something.

"Of course, that's the part of this whole scenario you're mad about."

Lisbon whirled on him, her green gaze pinning him to the bed with the force of the raw fear she'd been trying to hold back behind her veil of anger.

"You could've died." The words were a near-whisper as the fury leeched out of her and Lisbon visibly deflated before him.

Jane's heart clenched painfully as he realized the true depth to which he'd hurt her, both tonight and over the last several years.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, before he uncharacteristically felt the need to explain himself, at least his behaviour tonight. "I just –"

"Yeah, I get it," Lisbon replied, hastily brushing him off, though he couldn't tell if it was because she was tired of his rationalizations or still upset by the danger he'd put himself in. Her impatience, however, was short-lived, and the edge had left her voice when she asked, "I take it things didn't go quite the way you'd planned."

A shudder raced down his spine as Jane was momentarily assaulted by the memory of Lisbon's dead eyes staring sightlessly back at him.

"No, not exactly."

A pained smile that was really more of a grimace creased her lips. "Well, I hope you found what you were looking for."

From anyone else, that question would've sounded spiteful in light of his current condition, but Jane knew that Lisbon really meant it; that despite the danger he'd put himself in and the emotional trauma he'd put her through, she would always want things to be better for him. It was a humbling realization, and one he couldn't let pass unnoted. Still holding her gaze, Jane blinked slowly, dropping his shields completely, hoping that his partner could read all of the words he still couldn't quite say.

"Yes, Lisbon. I think, ultimately, I did.

Tension strung like a bow between them as Jane tried to sort through the myriad emotions that were swirling behind her stormy eyes. The pulse in her throat beat strongly, a counterpoint to his own.

He needed to break the moment before he said something neither of them were ready for.

"Lisbon," he whispered.

"Yeah," she replied just as quietly, edging closer to the cot, almost within reach.

"Why am I not wearing any pants?"

He could almost hear an audible snap as the moment collapsed. Lisbon's eyes went wide and she suddenly looked apprehensive, tightening the already well-established knot of dread in his chest.

It took her a few tries to find her words.

"I'm not sure what happened. I can only assume that whatever you saw, or experienced … I don't know what it was, but it must have been bad. I was on my way up to check in before leaving for the day. I could hear you through the door." She swallowed heavily, the clouds behind her eyes darkening as she revisited the memory. "You sounded like … well, by the time I got into the room it must have been over, but I couldn't just leave you like that."

Jane rolled his eyes skyward before shutting Lisbon out completely as a wave of supreme humiliation crashed over him. It had been a long time since he'd sunk so low and then he'd had at least the excuse of being locked in a padded room. When he finally opened his eyes, Lisbon gaze had softened to one he knew well. The unspoken offer was clear, but she voiced it anyway.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

What was he supposed to say? 'Well, Lisbon, the sight of your lifeless and brutalized body horrified me so badly that my own body lost control.'

That wasn't going to happen.

Instead, he tried for a more comfortable route and changed the subject.

"You know, Lisbon, I do keep a change of clothes up here."

Her reaction was instantaneous and exactly as he'd hoped. Lisbon's hands settled firmly on her hips as her brilliant green eyes flashed and her brow furrowed deeply with irritation.

"Do you have any idea how much of a dead weight you are? Dragging your sorry ass over to the cot and getting everything off was enough of a pain. You can damn well put your own pants on."

Jane took a moment to bask in the display of exasperation he'd come to love so well before recapturing her gaze, bringing her back to the more serious side of their conversation. As much fun as it was to rile her up, there were still a few things that needed to be said.

"I'm sorry, Lisbon."

She brushed him off almost instinctively.

"Yeah, well, after basically raising three teenaged brothers, I can say with absolute certainty that this wasn't the worse 'morning after' I've had to deal with."

The guilt that had been bearing down on his chest since he'd awoken to find Lisbon hovering over him now threatened to crush his heart as he fully understood his place all these years. He was just another in a long line of takers in her life, drawing from the seemingly endless well of her goodness, but never even thinking of filling the voids they left behind.

'She cares about you. You could let her help you,'

'I'm always gonna save you Lisbon, whether you like it or not'

It was a promise he'd made to her years ago, and it was high time he started living up to it during something other than life-threatening situations. He'd always known that Lisbon cared about him, from almost the moment they'd met; he was equally aware that she wasn't really sure about where she stood with him.

That ended now.

Jane reached for her hand when Lisbon passed through his orbit as she fussed about his lair, curling his fingers into her palm.

"Lisbon."

Startled into stillness by the contact, she met his eyes, her gaze wary.

Now that he had her full attention, Jane found himself, for the first time in a long while, well and truly without words. Behind her guarded eyes he caught a glimpse of a tiny flame of hope, hope that this time things would be different, this time they'd cut through the lies and misdirection that had coloured their partnership for years, this time they would move forward.

He knew that hope because it lived in him, too.

Sucking in a deep breath, Jane forced out the words that had been building up behind the lump in his throat.

"I know at times, I can be difficult…."

One delicate eyebrow arched towards her hairline and Jane couldn't help the laugh that bubbled up from his still parched throat.

"Okay, more often than not."

The eyebrow returned to its usual resting place and a soft smile tugged at her lips, encouraging him to soldier on. Sharing had never come easily for him.

"I also know that you feel like you've been banging your head on a brick wall all these years when it comes to me and this … well, everything, and I just need you to know that, whether you realize it or not, … you've made a difference … you make a difference everyday and I don't think, no I know I couldn't do this or try to be the man you think I am without you."

Her eyes glistened like wet emeralds in the low light of the dusty attic even though the uncertainty didn't clear. Hope still flickered in the back of her gaze, but she eyed him consideringly, like she was assessing a potential suspect. It was a kick to the gut when he realized when she was doing. Lisbon was looking for the game, trying to divine the motive for this apparently sudden aberration in his behaviour. Nearly ten years together, and she still couldn't take his honesty at face value.

'You've never really given her reason to,' he reminded himself.

Jane was going to have to come out from behind the curtain a little further if she was ever going to believe he was letting her in.

Leaning in close enough to share her cinnamon-scented aura, Jane slid his palm into her hand bringing her fingers over to his other wrist, pressing them against his pulse point.

Her eyes went wide with realization as she sensed the steady thrum of his pulse under the thin layer of skin and realized just what it was he was giving her.

"I meant it," he whispered, his lips only a few inches from hers.

"I know," she breathed back in wonder as she wrapped her hand around his even pulse, affirming the truth of his words.

Silence hung heavy and rich between them, and Jane's nerve endings crackled with an awareness he hadn't felt in a very long time. Their heartbeats rose in unison, as together they careened toward the edge of the cliff they'd been dancing along for years. He marvelled at her softness as the hand that wasn't still wrapped around Lisbon's at his pulse point trailed up along her cheek to tuck a long, dark curl behind her ear. Her quiet gasp drew his gaze back to her eyes in time to watch the glittering abyss of her pupils swallow up what was left of the green.

Then he saw the exact moment Lisbon's brain caught up with her heart. Discomfort suddenly wormed its way onto her features, pulling at her brow and pinching the bridge of her nose. She beat a tactical retreat and slowly drew away.

She wasn't ready to jump.

Then again, if he were being honest, neither was he.

Settling back onto the bed, Jane suppressed a grimace as the cold metal springs running along the edge of the cot dug uncomfortably into his naked thigh. However, it was just the opening he needed.

"So, are you ever going to bring me my change of clothes?"

A wicked smile chased away the intriguing mix of relief and disappointment that had coloured her features, an expression he'd file away to dissect another day.

"I don't know. I kinda like having you at my mercy. You can't get into much trouble like this. My paperwork load would be reduced exponentially."

Jane simply met her grin with one of his own, feeling the ground solidify again under his feet.

"Interesting idea, Lisbon. However, there's a fatal flaw in your plan."

"Hmm?" she replied, her tone deceptively sweet.

"You're working under the assumption that I have any significant sense of modesty."

Jane drew his right hand slowly across his lap, fingers reaching for the edge of the robin egg blue blanket that had shielded him since he'd woken up. Lisbon tracked every inch, her gaze anxious, though he actually couldn't tell if she was dreading or anticipating his next move. When she showed no signs of caving, he upped the ante, grasping the ratty flannel tightly in his fist.

"Okay, if you're going to be that way about it, I'll go get them myself. I mean, it's not like you haven't seen it all before, right?"

For a half second, Jane truly thought that she was going to call his bluff, but just as his muscles tensed in a precursor to whipping the blanket from his lap, Lisbon finally balked, spinning around in a flurry of chestnut curls and indignation.

"Okay, okay! Fine! I'll get you your damn pants! Just stay there."

A bright smile lit up his face as Jane watched her stalk across the room, the vice around his heart easing just a little at the welcome familiarity of her grumbling under her breath.

Everything and nothing had changed. He wasn't Ebenezer Scrooge. One bad dream was not going to set him off shouting from rooftops and blessing everyone. Red John still lurked in the shadows and Jane was still fundamentally damaged. However, as he watched the light of the desk lamp paint Lisbon's hair with copper, he allowed himself to believe for the first time that maybe that damage could be repaired, that maybe the process had already started. Ten years ago, he never would've imagined that he would even still be alive, but here he was. Maybe it was time he started living.