Author's Note: This is either angsty fluff or fluffy angst—it's hard to be completely fluffy with these two these days, try though I may.
It was late, and they were tired, so after they caught a ride to CBI, Lisbon said, "I'll take you to get your car in the morning. Are you staying here, or can I drop you at your motel?"
"Motel, please," he replied. His adrenaline rush had faded, leaving him weary. She had no doubt he'd be back to himself in the morning, though.
They were silent on their way down to the garage and during the short drive to the extended stay motel. Lisbon pulled into a vacant parking space and waited as Jane undid his seat belt and reached for the door handle. "Good night, Lisbon."
Typical, she thought. Hightower got a kiss and I can't even get a "thanks for coming to save me."
Jane paused, frowning. "What was that?"
"What? I didn't say anything."
"You rolled your eyes. What about wishing you a good night made you roll your eyes at me?" he asked, sounding more curious than offended.
She was too tired to get into this, she thought. Then she decided that it was now or never. By the morning, he'd be off on some other tangent, probably involving a wish to interrogate Kirkland, which would involve pissing off federal agencies right and left. If she wanted to air her grievances, now was her chance.
"I was just thinking that a 'thank you' wouldn't be too much to ask of any other person," she replied, trying to keep her tone even. "After leaving me in complete ignorance about your whereabouts and intentions, worried sick but with no clue where to start looking, you should be grateful I was willing to help a dead woman with a trunk full of illegal assault weapons help you keep your thumbs."
If Hightower hadn't had an attack of conscience, Kirkland would have tortured and then killed him while Lisbon sat helplessly waiting for the phone to ring. She would have found herself looking down at his burned face and thumbless hands, just like Marx. The thought made her want to throw up.
"I am immensely grateful," Jane said. "But I wasn't worried. I knew you'd find some way to track me down."
"How, Jane? How was I supposed to do that? If Hightower hadn't called me, I wouldn't have had the first clue where to start looking for you! A BOLO wasn't going to turn up your car parked in the Homeland Security parking garage. You say we're partners, but you're still running around with your secret fake lists and meetings with a dead woman and interrogating Red John suspects without telling me!"
She gripped the steering wheel and tried to calm down. Yelling at Jane rarely resulted in anything but him avoiding her for a while. Under the circumstances, that was the last thing she wanted.
Jane let out a short sigh. Then he said, "Come in and have some tea."
Lisbon stared at him, replaying the words in her head to make sure he'd said what she thought he'd said. Had he really just invited her up to his room? Yes, he had.
Well, that was new.
She should go home. She should have a drink and try to forget this day ever happened. But this was the first time Jane had ever invited her into his home, such as it was. How could she resist her curiosity?
"Okay. Just for a minute," she said, turning the car off.
He smiled at her, a touch of gentle mockery in his tone as he said, "Yes, just for a minute."
When they entered the room, Jane went immediately to the electric kettle over on the small counter, leaving Lisbon to take in her surroundings. If he hadn't let her in, she would never have guessed that he lived here. There was nothing of his personality in this space—nothing of anyone's personality in it. He could pack up his clothes and leave with no trace that he'd ever been here, which she supposed was the point.
She was sure he had a picture of his family somewhere, but it wasn't on display. On second thought, that wasn't surprising. He was intensely private, maybe even more than she was. And he was on a mission that he didn't expect to end well. She should be grateful that if he ended up in prison or worse, she'd only have to deal with packing up his clothes.
"Have a seat," Jane invited, glancing over his shoulder at her. She looked again and saw the small table with two chairs, so she sat down in the nearest one. A few moments later, Jane put a cup of tea down in front of her. It smelled enticingly of vanilla, which was strange because he didn't like strongly flavored tea.
"Thanks," she said, just to fill the silence. She took a sip and smiled. It was vanilla chai, definitely not something he would normally drink but that she was known to have when she thought her coffee consumption was getting excessive. It was nice to think he might keep some on hand in case she dropped by.
"I should have told you I was going to talk to Kirkland," he said in a thoughtful voice. "But I just meant it to be a quick encounter, so I thought there wasn't any need to argue with you about it."
"What did you think I would argue about?" He was so not making this her fault.
"You would have wanted to come."
"And then he wouldn't have been able to kidnap you," she retorted.
"True. But we wouldn't have found out he was the one who'd stolen the fake list."
She was so tired of how he justified putting himself in danger by citing what they'd learned. "And if Hightower had just gone back into hiding, the team and I would have gotten a call and come out to find your dead, tortured body in a ditch somewhere. We still wouldn't have known about Kirkland, and we'd sure as hell not be any closer to Red John." She set down her teacup and folded her hands in her lap to hide how they shook. From anger, she told herself firmly.
"I'm not denying that I could have done things better," he said after a moment. "I didn't tell you about Hightower because she asked me not to. She specifically mentioned that I shouldn't tell you. I wanted to, though."
"And you couldn't think up a reason you wanted to talk to Kirkland without telling me about Hightower?" This from the man who made up stories as easily as he breathed, she thought sourly.
"You were already unhappy about the fake list. I didn't see the need to start another argument."
"That is just bullshit, Jane. You enjoy arguing with me, because you think you always win," she snapped. "You didn't tell me because you thought you wouldn't get caught. You thought this whole thing would just pass under my radar while I was busy cleaning up the mess you made."
"Fine," he said, sounding tired. "Yes. I didn't think you needed to know."
"How many times do I have to tell you, Jane? You don't get to decide what I need to know. You need to tell me everything. You especially need to tell me where you're going and why so I can judge the risks."
"Fine," he said again, sipping at his own tea.
"Which means you're tired of talking about it but you have no intention of doing anything differently next time," she said bitterly.
"Drink your tea. You'll feel better," he said, just as she was about to get up.
"No, I should go. It's going to take me some time to figure out what to put in the report," she sighed, standing.
Jane's expression was unhappy, but at the moment she really didn't care. When he looked up at her, though, she was held in place by the intensity in his eyes. "You know why I do this, Lisbon. You know there's a good reason for it. This isn't going to end the way you want, and we both know it. The least I can do is try to make it so you keep your job."
Haffner's words from months ago popped into her head, his picture of her job without Jane, how boring and depressing it would all be. "I don't want it."
Jane's forehead creased, and she thought she'd truly surprised him. "Of course you do. Your whole identity is bound up in being a cop."
"Yeah, that's going to be a real comfort to me in my old age," she muttered. "Which I'd like to live to see. Catching Red John will probably be the end of my time at CBI, Jane. You're determined to make such a huge mess that I'll have to fall on my sword to save Cho, Rigsby, and Van Pelt. And I'm okay with that. But I don't want to go to your funeral in the middle of it all."
"I will try to live, Lisbon." He stood up, moving a step closer to her. "But I doubt CBI is going to want me around after I kill Red John. My best-case scenario is that I run off to a beach somewhere afterward and live out my days as the weird americano in the shack who never gets any mail." He tried to inject some humor into his words, but she found herself blinking back tears.
"And I'll never see you again," she whispered, looking down.
"Well, if you're still speaking to me when it's all over, you're welcome to visit anytime." He laid a hand on her shoulder, his thumb stroking along her collarbone, and she was suddenly aware she was so tired she could just drop back into the chair and fall asleep.
"Come here," he murmured, drawing her into his arms and hugging her.
She left her arms pinned between them and stiffened, as she usually did when he hugged her. If she let her guard down for even a moment when they were this close, she might do something they would both regret.
"You need a hug," he said into her hair. "And so do I. Why do you always act like it's taking every ounce of your self-control not to knee me in the groin when I hug you?"
She swallowed and shifted back a bit so she could unfold her arms and slide them around him. "It's not that," she said. "I'm just trying to figure out if you're picking my pockets."
He chuckled, tightening his hold for a moment. "I assure you I'm not. Though I'm tempted to relieve you of your keys, since you're obviously too tired to drive home."
"I'm fine," she said into his shoulder. She knew she should step back, but it felt really good to rest against him. If their time together was coming to an end, what was the harm in indulging herself this very little bit?
After a moment, he said, "I don't kiss you because I'm afraid you'll punch me."
"Hm?" she said, not really paying attention.
"I saw the look on your face when I kissed Hightower's cheek. You might as well have been holding up a sign saying 'When's my turn?' But I didn't want to distract you from Kirkland, and I knew you were mad at me, so I was afraid you might punch me if I got too close."
"Sheep dip," she muttered, which made him chuckle again.
"Okay. Maybe I just didn't want an audience."
"It's fine, Jane," she sighed. "Hightower's the one who saved you. I was just the frontman for the operation, as usual. No reward necessary."
"But you are the one I was confident was coming through that door any minute now." He used his fingertips to brush her hair away from her cheek and pressed his lips against her skin, lingering just a beat longer than he had with Hightower. "Thanks for coming to get me."
She stopped breathing, trying not to tremble as something fluttery erupted in her chest. She couldn't let him know the power he had over her, because he would use it against her and she would never, ever have the upper hand in their working relationship again. And if he were in a reckless mood, she'd be waking up next to him, naked, before her brain started working again.
"I'm not going to seduce you," he whispered into her ear, sending shivers down her spine. "You deserve so much more than that. But right now you're tired, and I want you to lie down and rest your eyes for a little bit while I sit and drink my tea. When you wake up, you'll feel rested and able to drive home."
"Don't hypnotize me," she sighed, strangely unable to pull away and punch him in the shoulder as he deserved.
"It's just a suggestion, my dear," he said, amused. He started to move, and she went with him, not wanting to give up the warm shoulder she was resting her head on.
She made a little unhappy sound—not a whimper, because she didn't whimper—when the shoulder went away and was replaced by a cool, soft pillow. But by then she was too close to sleep to protest any further, and when she felt his lips brush against her cheek again, she wasn't sure if she was already dreaming.
The next morning, Lisbon woke slowly, the scent of coffee pulling her out of her deep sleep. Opening her eyes, she saw a paper cup of the delicious-smelling brew and a bearclaw awaiting her. Wait. Why had she slept in her clothes? Where the hell was she?
The pair of worn brown shoes sitting beside the door helped her remember she was in Jane's motel room, and the sound of the shower told her where he was. Okay, that was the major mystery solved.
The shower shut off, and she tried very, very hard not to imagine him toweling himself off just a flimsy wall away. She took a careful sip of coffee and then tore into the bearclaw, which was delicious. Dammit, he had to have stolen her keys to have gone to Marie's and back before she woke up.
He emerged a few seconds later, pants on and buttoning his shift. He grinned when he saw her. "Hey, you're getting crumbs in my bed. That's what I get for buying you breakfast?"
"Apparently." She was unrepentant; a few crumbs weren't nearly as annoying as the ulcer he was surely giving her.
The way he was looking at her made her wonder if her hair was doing something outrageous. She reached up with her free hand to try to pat it back into place, but it would need a good brushing. Then something occurred to her. "Didn't you sleep?"
"I did, and very well too," he replied, heading back into the bathroom.
She looked around the room, trying to figure out where he'd slept. The chair? The floor? Next to her in the bed, which would explain the indentation on the other pillow? Oh God. She hoped she hadn't talked in her sleep, or snored, or any of the other things he teased her about when they were on stakeout together and she dozed off.
"You were exhausted. Haven't you been sleeping?" he asked, re-emerging with a fresh towel to dry his hair.
"Yes. Just not as much as usual."
"Which was never enough to begin with. Nightmares?" He stopped drying his hair and looked closely at her.
What was the point in lying to him? "I think that's only to be expected when a serial killer paints your face with blood."
"I think you're right," he replied. "Why haven't you called me when you can't sleep?"
"Why? So you can hypnotize me?"
"No. Given our situation, I'd never put you into a trance without being there to rouse you if something were to happen."
Like a serial killer breaking into her house to cut her up, she finished his thought.
"Sometimes it helps to talk about it. Or talk about something else," he said. "And you know I don't sleep much. So why haven't you called me?"
She'd thought about it, of course, but it seemed like a weakness to reach out and possibly interrupt his rare sleep. "I've been fine. I just get up and distract myself. My house has never been so clean."
"Next time, call me. I'll bring some groceries and cook you a midnight snack guaranteed to send you back to sleep," he promised, hanging the towel on the back of the door and reaching for his hairbrush.
"I'll make you a deal," she said. "You tell me where you're going from now on, and I'll call you when I have a nightmare."
"You drive a hard bargain, Lisbon." He leaned over and quickly snatched a bite of the bearclaw in her hand.
"Hey!" She took a step back and held it away from him. "Get your own."
"I already had a lovely muffin," he said after he'd chewed and swallowed.
"Don't think I don't know what you're up to. You're trying to distract me from the fact that you aren't agreeing to the deal," she said, narrowing her eyes at him. "If you're finished preening, can we go? I'd like to go home and change before work."
"Drink your coffee, the entire point of which my going to get was to avoid suffering from your morning crankiness," he replied. "Ow! There's no need to kick me!"
"The best way to avoid my morning crankiness was to let me go home last night," she pointed out, going over to retrieve her coffee.
"Yes, I'll be sure to do that next time," he grumbled, sitting down to put his shoes on.
Lisbon insisted on driving him into the parking garage to retrieve his car under her eye. "I'll follow you back out," she said as she put the vehicle in park. She was done trusting federal agencies, especially after the call from Agent Smith telling her Kirkland had been "shot while escaping." Yeah, right.
Jane rolled his eyes at her, but then he grinned, leaning over to plant a quick kiss on her cheek before getting out of the car.
"You don't need to make a habit of that," she said, blushing hopelessly despite her best efforts.
"Thank you for bringing me to get my car, Lisbon," he said cheerfully, closing the door behind him.
Sometimes, she reflected, you really should be careful what you wish for.