So, final part. It took a little longer than I thought it would, but here it is.
Thanks so much to all the people who commented, followed, and favorited this. I owe you all. You made my first real attempt at a multi-parter enjoyable and not at all scary.
the end comes near,
Pearl Jam, 'The End'
Lisbon comes home that night to the smell of spaghetti and freshly made garlic bread.
"Wow," she says, leaning against the entrance to her kitchen and watching Jane handle some pots and pans. "He cooks."
He wipes his hands on a towel and turns around to face her. "What can't I do?" he asks, reaching behind himself to produce a bottle of wine and two glasses with an exaggerated flourish. Lisbon raises an eyebrow as he grins cheekily at her. "You had a tough day," he says with a shrug, pouring a generous helping into one of the wine glasses and handing it to her.
Lisbon rolls her eyes. "That hardly means-"
"Shh." He waves a hand at her. "Drink your wine, dear."
She rolls her eyes again, but takes a sip of wine and slides into a seat at her kitchen table. With a pleased nod, Jane turns his attention back to mixing and straining things, and Lisbon suddenly finds herself able to watch him without being watched in return. Her gaze slides thoughtfully across the backs of his shoulders and down his arms to where the cuffs of his shirt are rolled.
He's different. Everything he says, everything he does, is somehow freer and lighter, unclouded by nightmares and revenge. Like he's at peace with himself, like a heavy, sickening weight has finally been lifted from his shoulders. But it's not just him, she realizes as Jane throws her a smile over his shoulder. They're different. There's something inevitable in the way he moves around her now, in the way they are constantly drawn back together.
It sends something tingling down her spine and straight to her toes.
A plate lands on the table with a dull thump, making Lisbon flinch.
"It's just spaghetti," Jane whispers into her ear before moving to sit down across from her. He smiles, gesturing to the plate in front of her. "Go ahead, Lisbon, experience the wonder of my cooking talents."
She scoffs at him and pokes dubiously at the food with a fork. Jane doesn't even give her the satisfaction of pretending to be offended; he just sits patiently and waits, a small smile chasing its way across his face. Eventually, Lisbon takes a small bite, trying to hide her reaction when she discovers just how good the food really is, and forcing herself not to devour the whole plate all at once.
Jane smirks. "That's what I thought."
They eat mostly in silence after that, and Lisbon, lulled by the good food and Jane's solid presence, drinks slightly more than is probably a good idea with said man around. He doesn't make any move to stop her either. If anything, he continues to refill her glass when it's only half empty.
She frowns at him between sips. "I know what you're trying to do."
He raises his eyebrows at her in a look that should be innocent, but comes off as anything but. "What are you talking about?"
Lisbon sets her glass down and picks up a forkful of spaghetti. "You're trying to get me drunk to lower my inhibitions, and then you're going to do something stupid which I wouldn't normally stand for." She says it casually, as though she's known all along that drinking with Patrick Jane would lead to such a scenario.
Jane smothers a laugh. "No, no, no. I don't want a drunk Lisbon on my hands," he says pleasantly, his hand sliding across the tabletop to gently brush against hers. "What I want is a warm and slightly happier Lisbon."
She arches an eyebrow and gives him a disapproving look.
He backtracks, recognizing his misstep. "You had a tough day at work, and I don't like when you're unhappy."
"So the solution is alcohol? And who told you I had a bad day at work?"
Jane shakes his head, ignoring the last part and focusing solely on the first question. "The solution is this," he says, standing up and moving toward her.
"What are you doing?" Her voice comes out a touch too high and she realizes that, ridiculously, she sounds terrified.
"Dance with me," he says, voice low as he takes her hands and tugs her up out of her seat.
The suspicion drains out of her, replaced by a warmth that sits high in her throat and tickles her tongue. Lisbon shakes her head at him, but doesn't resist, allowing him to pull her toward him and settle his hands on her waist. Around them, the glow of the lights in the room paints everything rich and golden, and above her are Jane's bright blue eyes, watching steadily. (She has never seen anything so beautiful.)
"There's no music, Jane." There's a laugh in her words, bubbly and wonderful, and it makes Jane grin in response.
"We could always put the Spice Girls on."
She smacks his shoulder lightly before letting a hand rest there, just above his heart. He pulls her in even more, impossibly close, and starts swaying slowly.
"See?" he asks after a moment. "This isn't so bad."
"Hmm," she hums noncommittally. Her head seems to have shifted so that it is pressed against the juncture where his neck meets his shoulder, and nothing in the world could make her move. She likes this Jane. She likes this Jane a lot. He's close and smiling and he smells so deliciously like home cooked meals. Lisbon skims a hand over the back of his shoulder, laughing at his startled reaction when she comes in contact with the heated skin at the back of his neck. She can feel his sheepish chuckle resonate deep in her bones and slip between the spaces in her chest.
And then suddenly she's back in the dark warehouse, his blood slick between her fingers and his skin cold against hers. Dimly, she's aware of Jane saying her name and oh God, she can't breathe. A picture abruptly falls into place, too bright and sharp-edged against the muted colors of her present. It's of her and the team, surrounded by the emerald green grass of the cemetery, standing in front of a granite headstone. They're saying their last goodbyes, but the sun is all wrong and Lisbon doesn't understand why no one's crying.
"Lisbon." Jane's hands are warm against her cheeks.
She gasps for breath, and somewhere in the back of her mind she is vaguely aware of her crushing grip on the front of Jane's vest. His hands move from her face up into her hair, gently rubbing soothing patterns against her temples.
"It's okay," he whispers. "It's okay."
They're no longer dancing, and for some reason this strikes Lisbon as unmistakably sad.
"I can't-" Her voice is hoarse, and the words die in her mouth, rough and unpleasant tasting.
"I know," Jane says, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear, and something in his eyes tells her that he understands. "It's okay."
Lisbon leans forward, pressing her forehead against his collarbone and trying to breathe normally for what seems to be the hundredth time in the past year. She's finally stopped shaking when Jane maneuvers her over to the couch and pulls her down next to him.
She falls asleep with her legs tangled between his and his voice soft in her ear.
Lisbon doesn't see him the next day or the day after that. Pretty soon a week passes without any sign of him and she starts getting anxious. She tries to remind herself that Jane is a grown man and that he can take care of himself. (But a part of him is still a shiny, golden haired, little boy and she will always want to protect him.)
Nothing really works.
One night in bed she accidentally lets her mind bump into the question of how she'll know if he dies during his quest, miles away from her in some anonymous town. The thought is horrible and morbid and she shies away from it quickly, but it's already too late. The images come fast and furious then. Jane in his ridiculous death trap of a car, the seats streaked with blood. Jane in the gutter, his face black and blue and unrecognizable. Jane on a dirty motel bed covered in red, red, red.
(She's already lived his death once. It's not too hard to imagine it a second time.)
She stops sleeping after that.
She knows the team can tell. Her eyes become sadder and more bruised looking by the day, and she no longer has the energy to chase murderers, let alone fill out the mind numbing paperwork that goes along with everything they do.
Van Pelt tries to talk to her about it first.
They're reviewing ATM footage in her office between bites of lunch, both hunched forward and squinting at the computer screen, trying to ID their man. After playing the video for the fifth time, Van Pelt leans back in her chair, stretching, every line of her body screaming weariness.
"Boss," she says after a moment, her voice quiet in the still air of the office, "are you all right?"
Lisbon doesn't look at her; instead she hits the play button on the video again. "I'm fine." She brushes a hand across the keyboard absently, her gaze fixed on the grainy black and white images in front of her. "Just frustrated that we can't tell if this guy is Noam or Asher Rosen."
Van Pelt shakes her head sadly, but Lisbon pretends not to see it. "That's not what I meant."
Lisbon lets the sentence hang in the space between them, glittering and untouched. (She can't do this. She can't talk about it.) Eventually, Van Pelt slides forward, moving back to her original spot at Lisbon's side and leaning in to focus on the video.
They do, after all, have a job to do.
Rigsby asks next.
Lisbon's standing in the kitchen making coffee when he appears next to her, swinging the refrigerator door open and reaching inside.
"You okay, Boss?" He's talking to the inside of the refrigerator, his voice nonchalant and half-muffled. It sounds so ordinary, like a question about the weather, that it catches Lisbon off guard. The pause between them says too much, and for a moment, there in front of Rigsby, she is all sorrow and bone crushing exhaustion.
And then everything snaps back into place as quickly as it fell apart.
"It's nothing a little coffee can't fix," she says too brightly, lifting her mug up to show him. His head is no longer shoved into the refrigerator, and there's something terrifyingly sad about the way he's looking at her. "I'm fine, Rigs. Really." She winces at the way her voice sounds, like she's neck deep in denial.
He notices, but doesn't call her on it, simply nods and then walks back toward his desk.
Of course, it's Cho's turn after that.
Lisbon's sitting in her office late one night, bent over some unfinished paperwork, when he walks in and stops right in front of her desk. She looks up at him reluctantly, her gaze slowly snagging on the illegible lettering of the papers around her. (She's so sure she knows what's coming next.)
"You need to go home and sleep."
She should have known that Cho would be the one to take the straightforward approach, and yet it still surprises her. Lisbon shifts in her chair uncomfortably, half heartedly rearranging her desk just for something to do with her hands. "I know."
He watches her thoughtfully, something in his face softening imperceptibly. "You can't," he says, realization curling its way into his voice.
"I can't," she echoes.
Cho pauses to think this information over, then he nods once, sharply, and reaches forward to sweep all the papers on her desk into his arms. "Go home. I'll finish these."
The look on his face says that he doesn't want an argument, so she obeys.
Later, when she's laying on her couch, trying to fight off the images of a battered and broken Jane that flit across her subconscious, it hits her just how much she loves her team. They have done so much for her in the wake of Jane's death and sudden reappearance, and...They are family. Without a doubt.
At some point, in the middle of this thought, she drifts off to sleep, her fingers wrapped around a blanket and a half formed plan to buy doughnuts for the team settling in her head.
Lisbon doesn't know how Jane knows, but he manages to call her on the day she finally reaches the end of her rope.
She's sitting on her couch, distractedly flipping through infomercials late at night, when her phone rings.
His voice is like a punch to her gut, and it's not until this moment that she realizes how homesick she's felt since she last saw him.
"Jane," she says, on a sigh that's full of relief. For good measure she says his name again, and the word crackles in her mouth, sharp with something she can't quite put her finger on. "Where are you?" she asks. For a moment, she pictures him in some remote, dusty town, wearing a cowboy hat and slouching against a telephone booth, trying desperately to look like anyone but himself. She almost laughs. He'd look ridiculous in a cowboy hat.
"You know I can't tell you that," he says, and Lisbon pictures him tugging the brim of the hat down until it sits just above his eyes, all mystery and danger. "I know you. You'll just come running after me and that can't happen. Not yet." He pauses, and somewhere in the distance behind him she can hear the low rumble of thunder. "Three," he says eventually. "Just three more people, Lisbon."
She runs her fingers along a crease in her couch, trying not to clutch the phone as though it will somehow bring him closer. "How will I know?" she asks, surprised when the question comes out sounding almost hysterical. She swallows roughly, counts silently to five, and then tries again. "How will I know you're not dead?"
The other end of the line goes completely silent, and when Jane finally does speak, his voice is solemn. "You're having trouble sleeping, aren't you?"
Lisbon doesn't say anything, and he takes that as a confirmation. "Okay," he says. "Okay. I want you to push everything away. All the thoughts about work and the worries about me. Just push them away."
She knows what he's doing, recognizes the warm and gentle tone in his voice.
Jane keeps going. "It'll be hard, but I know you can do it, Teresa. Once your mind is clear, you're going to breathe in and count one, then breathe out and count two. And then repeat. One, two."
One, two. Her eyes slip closed. "Jane?"
He sounds wistful. "Yes?"
"Come back soon." It takes everything she has to force the words out. She's so tired, and somewhere in the back of her mind she knows it's Jane's fault, but everything is fuzzy and spinning, and she can't remember why.
He keeps talking after that, nonsensical, soft things, but they only push her deeper into sleep, and she hears none of it.
Days later, she walks out of work at a decent hour for the first time in forever and slides into her car, humming to herself and trying to remember if there are any leftovers hidden in her fridge. She's just turning the key in the ignition when Jane's grinning face appears in her rearview mirror.
Her yell is mostly incoherent, drowned out by the car horn when her hand accidentally slams down onto the wheel.
"Jane, what the hell?" she gasps, turning around to glare at him when she finally manages to get her breath back.
His grin stays firmly in place. "I missed you." That earns him a sharp punch to the shoulder. "Ow, what was that for?" he all but whines, rubbing his arm.
"What was that for?" Lisbon repeats, heat spreading quickly up the back of her neck. "You scared the life out of me, and it's been weeks," she says, the words bitter in her mouth. "I haven't seen you in weeks."
His smile falls, and he leans in close to her, eyes serious. "Three weeks," he says, holding up a hand to stop her when she starts to speak again so he can continue, "two days, fifteen hours, and three minutes. Give or take."
That doesn't fix everything, but it does knock some of the anger out of her. Sometimes, when he really tries, he can be so ridiculously sweet. She frowns at him, fighting to tamp down the forgiveness that's unfurling in her chest.
"And I'm sorry," he says, looking properly sincere. "I should have done more than call you the one time."
Lisbon crosses her arms. "Yes, you should have."
Jane's gaze drops to his lap. "I'm so close, Lisbon. So close to being done with this whole mess." He holds up two fingers. "One more and then it'll be over. And we-" he cuts himself off, glancing up at her almost shyly. "I need you to forgive me."
She sighs tiredly. "Jane, you weren't there-"
His hand slides along her wrist. "But I'm here now," he pauses, tugging at her elbow, trying to loosen her up with his touch, "and I'll always come back to you, dear."
She bites her lip to maintain her frown, but she knows he can tell from the way her shoulders relax that she's almost forgiven him. His smile is back, bright and charming.
"Now," he says, changing the subject deftly, "can we talk about your proclivity for violence? Some people might find it off putting that you meet every obstacle with a punch. Personally-"
Lisbon rolls her eyes. "Shut up." And she kisses him.
She puts what's left of her anger into the kiss, dragging her teeth along his bottom lip until she pulls a groan from the back of his throat. He tastes like tea and mint, and just knowing that sends Lisbon's pulse rabbit thumping through the roof.
After a moment, Jane rests his forehead against hers, breathless and suddenly so cheerful that she can feel the excitement buzzing just beneath his skin. He swallows. "Believe me, it was not my intention to seduce you when I hid in your car this afternoon."
Lisbon scoffs. "You did not just seduce me."
He smirks. "Didn't I?"
Somehow his fingers have found their way under her jacket, and he toys with the hem of her shirt, tracing a fingernail along the skin underneath. Lisbon leans forward to kiss him again and steer them away from what will no doubt end up being an infuriating argument, but Jane moves at the last minute.
"Is this going to be your new tactic?" he asks, hand tightening on her hip. "Throwing kisses instead of punches when something's not going your way? I can't say I'd complain. I just hope you don't start using it on suspects-"
There's a mischievous glint in his eyes. "Hmm?"
A week later, she's doing dishes in her sink, bubbles and hazy afternoon sunlight catching in her hair, when she hears the door open.
Something light and utterly perfect slides into her veins, coiling low in her stomach. It's him.
Jane's head pokes around the entrance to the kitchen, an infectious smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "Lisbon, I'm home."