Link to art: HERE
Word Count: 3051
Summary:She won’t acknowledge the question in his eyes until he answers it for himself. In the meantime, he brings her coffee.
Disclaimer: They do not belong to me, but I sure have fun playing with them! There is a little language. Not much. Spoilers up through Season 4.
Notes: Written for the Reverse Big Bang challenge on the mentalist_bb Community on LiveJournal. This piece was inspired by a fanmix (Waiting for Forever) made by the lovely browneyesparker. IMPORTANT: My original story that was planned for this collaboration wasn’t finished in time. The good news is that there is already over 10,000 words written, so I’m going to start posting it on FFN as I finish it. I didn’t want to lose the quality by rushing in order to finish, so Holly was very kind in working with me to develop a backup piece! I would also like to thank her for having awesome taste in music! I love this playlist!
Notes from browneyesparker: Holly would like to thank her parents and 2 of her sisters for their encouragement with her art and listening to her gripe! She'd also like to thank tromana and Paint it Red for the screencaps!
“Can we last forever, do we fall apart?
At times it's so confusing, the questions of the heart.
You followed me through changes, and patiently you'd wait
'Till I came to my senses, through some miracle of faith”
-The Search is Over, Survivor
He brought her coffee sometimes. Despite his predilection for encouraging the team to drink tea- after all, it has calming properties- he knew when she needs a stronger jolt of caffeine. He never asked how she took it. It was one of those things he just knew. Black with one sugar. Real sugar- not that artificial crap. There were times when he wondered if she even liked it that way. He always wondered on the days he realized she wasn’t as transparent as he thought. Maybe she really wanted milk and three heaping spoonfuls of sugar. After all, she did have a sweet tooth. Maybe she was too polite to tell him that he had been fixing her coffee wrong all these years. He didn’t think so. She wouldn’t have been able to hide a small detail like that for this long.
He sank deeper into the hard plastic chair. Hospital furniture never seemed to be designed for comfort. He took a small sip of the steaming beverage a nurse placed into his hands and grimaced. The bitterness washed over his tongue, and he held back a shudder.
He didn’t know how she could stand drinking the stuff.
He continued to wait.
He lingered by the door, not wanting to announce his presence just yet. After all, many things could be learned by waiting outside of doors. He had already pulled everything he could find on one senior agent Teresa Lisbon. He’d read about the accident that claimed her mother’s life, seen her high school graduation picture, viewed her police service records, and even found statistics of her team’s closure record. In short, he knew almost everything he could about his new boss and how to manipulate her, but nothing took the place of analyzing the tones and behavior of someone before the first meeting. He wasn’t ashamed. It was necessary.
Know thy enemy.
He leaned closer to the door frame.
“Teresa, your team’s new consultant will be arriving shortly-,” Virgil Minelli trailed off.
“I thought we agreed that he was going with Ramirez’s team,” the woman replied.
Jane could hear a faint trace of a whine in her tone. That told him she obviously felt close with the director when they were on a one on one basis. Ordinarily, he expected this woman didn’t let anyone in.
“I’m sorry, Teresa, but Carlos’ wife is about to have her baby. I’m expecting him to put in for some personal time soon, and there’s no one else who can handle Jane. Just consider it a trial period.”
“I don’t know why we put up with the manipulative bastard,” she answered sullenly. “You’ve told me about the disasters he’s caused.”
“Consider it a personal favor to me then, Lisbon.”
“You know I would agree anyways,” she muttered after a moment’s hesitation.
“I know,” Minelli responded with a chuckle. "You're a great agent, Teresa. This is no reflection on you or your team."
Jane decided it was as good a time as any to enter, and he loudly knocked on the barely cracked door. The CBI director told him to enter, and he swept into the office. He plastered his most charming smile on, knowing Senior Agent Teresa Lisbon would see right through it. He watched as the brunette’s eyes narrowed and her jaw tightened imperceptibly. The second he grasped her hand in greeting, he knew he would enjoy this much more than he anticipated.
What he hadn’t expected was how often he’d bring her a beverage he detested just to make her smile. He found himself bringing her more and more: little presents, hypothetical scenarios, jewelry, small snacks, meaningful conversations, and trouble among other things. Somewhere along the line, they had begun to depend on each other, and he wasn’t exactly sure when it had happened. It was a gradual thing: a feeling that slowly took root and sprouted until he could no longer control it.
It was no longer about manipulation. Now it was about the two of them.
He held her as she crumbled against him, her walls falling as she drowned in self-doubt. It scared him to see her so vulnerable. It was a far cry from the sarcastic Lisbon he first encountered in Minelli’s office that clearly stated her displeasure with his presence. And yet, not even a year later, he found himself waiting for her to let him in and trust him. He wanted to beg her to let him hypnotize her. Of course, she refused. Unable to grasp onto the thin thread of hope he offered in case it was a ruse. Not that he blamed her.
He wondered when her trust became so important to him.
He knew it was the coffee. She had complained about the taste when she normally drank anything with caffeine. It reminded him how much the smallest detail could affect a case and his life. Eventually, she goes along with his plan. She’s so convincing that his heart almost shattered along with the glass window. For the first time, he wanted to break character. To tell her they didn’t have to pretend, and publicly acknowledge he believed her innocence and to yell at everyone else for ever doubting her at all. But the price of deception was necessary to ensure her freedom.
He’s relieved when the case is over.
He wanted to make her endless pots of coffee- anything to get things back to normal. His desperation was almost laughable, but she was too wary to accept anything from others- even her team, even him. Her acceptance of the situation made him furious. He wanted her to be angry, to fight for the peace of mind she’d once had in her own office. Now everything was tainted, and she resolutely accepted the change and the increase in her own paranoia. It spoke volumes to the jaded outlook of her life, and he clung to the small fragment of trust she’d extended to him. It was the one thing that wasn’t yet broken. He wanted to pull her close to him once more and rest his chin on the top of her head. He could still feel the warmth of her body against his when she trembled. He wanted to make things right.
He knew it was only a matter of time and stupidity before he broke her trust in the end.
But it didn’t stop him from buying her a new insulated travel mug while she made her own coffee at home.
She cracked again when Sam Bosco died, and he wondered how much the world could pile on one woman before she spiraled out of his reach.
In her despair, she accepted the hot cup he brought and he hoped her favorite beverage- with extra chocolate- would bring some light back to her eyes. She gave him a small smile in return, but her heart wasn’t into it. She maintained her façade well, but he knew her she wasn’t okay. Her smile didn’t quite meet her eyes, and her once playful tone was flat and hollow. He wanted to keep her from reaching towards the tequila bottle. He’d do anything in the world to keep her from turning that self-hate inward. His gifts increased in urgency. Part of him hoped it would make up for his jealousy towards her fallen friend, and the other part of him wanted to dance inappropriately with glee that she’d accept anything from him at all.
But then he would come crashing down to Earth and remembered that Red John had been closer than even he had realized. Despite the small voice inside him that told him there was nothing more he could do. If Red John wanted her, then Red John would take her. That’s what the attack on Sam Bosco was about. No one was beyond his reach. Jane stepped back from her, closed himself off a little more, and tried to ignore her questioning glances that slowly turned to hurt. It was for her own protection.
The tenuous thread of trust between them began to unravel and fray, but he continued to bring her coffee.
There were times when we wondered if she realized how much of his personality was an act. She had been the only one to slip under his defenses and catch glimpses of the darkness that threatened to overwhelm him. When she wasn’t around he could easily convince himself and others that he was a cold, heartless bastard and still a grieving widower. He tried to make her understand that that’s who he was- who he needed to be to take down Red John. But his lips against her cheek lingered a fraction of a second too long, he had memorized her seasonal coffee flavorings years ago, remembered her fondness for strawberries and bear claws far too easily, and his hand subconsciously reached for hers after a disaster- even if it was of his own making.
She was his pillar- his tower of strength.
He knew she returned his interest. He could feel her eyes roam over him as if to reassure herself that he was still there. She couldn’t hide her concern, and her quickened pulse and dilated pupils prevented her from hiding behind the caring boss persona she used with the others. Kristina, Erica, and even Susan Darcy had meant nothing. He only hoped to use them as a foxhunter lays scent for a mock hunt. So, he smiled and oozed charm while she honed her glares and gritted her teeth all while pretending not to care. If he could flirt and charm enough to make Teresa Lisbon visibly jealous then maybe he could keep her safe. Maybe he could drive her away from him before he pulled her down fighting with him. He never meant to involve her in this. Hell, he never meant to care that she was involved in this.
But it had happened.
And now all he could do was backpedal.
Firing a gun once in his life was enough for him. But he’d do it again in a heartbeat if it would save her life. It was in that moment that he realized he would always choose her over Red John, and he hoped he hadn’t revealed his hand. The speed with which he grabbed the gun surprised even him, and it wasn’t until her liquid gaze locked with his that he remembered to continue breathing.
It was only a few years later when he was seating in the mall across from a coffee cart and drinking a hot cup of tea that he realized it was much harder when he wasn’t there.
When Angela and Charlotte were murdered, he arrived home too late to be of any use. He found it was much different when he had time to act. Time was a precious thing. Hearing Lisbon on the phone and not knowing until later the extent of her injuries filled him with guilt. He should have been there. He should have been on the couch with Lisbon when O’Laughlin showed up with Grace. He had replayed it several times in his head. Craig would level the gun at him, and Lisbon would spring to duty and save the day like always.
But he was too stupid, too wrapped up in his own quests that left him riding after windmills and putting her in positions that she didn’t deserve.
So he tried going off on his own.
He made a clean break, and broke her heart. Broke every promise he made to himself about sinking back down to a world of charlatans and charades. He lasted a little over six months, and all that he accomplished was seducing- or allowing himself to be seduced- a woman he couldn’t care less about other than her connection to the serial killer, killing Luther Wainwright, getting Lisbon and her team arrested by the FBI, and reminding Red John that she was the one who could break him.
The next year was hell, but he found he had actually missed the smell of coffee.
The numerous cups of styrofoam were more than worth the time and money it took to earn back her smiles- and slowly her trust.
When they finally got Red John there wasn’t much of a celebration. It was hard to celebrate even the demise of a man who had taken so much from of all them.
When they found the serial killer he was in the throes of kidney failure due to complications with diabetes. It was hard to imagine that the man hooked up to a dialysis machine was the man they had been hunting for so long. Evidence had been found on the laptop by his bed- the laptop he had used to orchestrate all of his schemes. Jane found himself staring at the man and shaking his head at the spectacle. It was almost fitting that the murderer was in fact dying a slow and painful death, and Jane wasn’t sure he wanted to kill a man lying in a hospital bed. Lisbon had rushed in at that moment and her face gave way to shock and surprise when she comprehended the situation. She pulled Jane from the room, calling for backup and not knowing how to feel.
In the end, Red John took his own life. Neither he nor Lisbon had gone close enough to find the concealed weapon under the dying man’s pillow. The case was closed quickly, and the notorious serial killer was swept under the rug only to be remembered in made for television movies and in the hearts of the victims he left behind.
Several months passed and many meals were shared. Jane continued working with the CBI because he didn’t know what else to do with his time. He had never made plans for after. In all honesty, he hadn’t expected to still be here. They still hadn’t acknowledged what was between them. It had been so long, that neither knew how to push past the familiar border and just say the words that needed to be spoken. Instead, they reveled in the safety of witty banter and furtive looks.
He almost missed his chance.
A single stray bullet from a terrified suspect caught her directly in the chest. She didn’t have her vest on. After all, they were just processing a scene. There wasn’t supposed to be anyone of consequence nearby. But the tides can turn quickly, and a single moment almost meant he was waiting for forever.
She fell slowly. Her knees buckled as her eyes widened with surprise. The sight of her blood stirred him into action and he cradled her in his arms. Her pulse was thready and the others looked on in shock. Her eyes fluttered, and she tensed: angry at her inability to speak and at the pain wracking her body. When the ambulance finally arrived, no one protested his decision to climb in after her. He was turned away when they wheeled her to surgery. A kind nurse fetched him a cup of coffee and led him to the waiting room after giving him scrubs to change into. He couldn’t find the words to ask for tea. Suddenly, he wanted nothing more that to revel in the comfort of her preferred drink.
He raised the cup to his lips, and took a sip of the beverage she was so fond of.
It was bitter.
He continued to wait.
Out the outside everything is back to normal. She is healed, but still moves gingerly. They still exchange witty banter and furtive looks. Only now his eyes actively seek hers, and she creates excuses for her hand to brush against him. They’re both finally on the same page, dancing the same dance, but she won’t acknowledge the question in his eyes until he answers it for himself. He assumes it’s because she wants him to live through a fraction of what she’s been through the past several years thinking her crush went unnoticed, unrealized. She never knew that he had been the one to fall for her first. But he lets her have her revenge, and he tries to plan the words in his head. After all, they’ve almost waited too long.
“We should have dinner,” he blurts out one evening when they’re alone at the office. “Together.”
“We always have dinner together,” she offhandedly responds not even bothering to look up from the case file in her hand.
“I meant together-together,” he clarifies.
“Do you have any place in mind?” she questions still engrossed in her work.
He smirks. He should have known she wouldn’t make it easy for him. Then he hesitates and wonders if her seeming disinterest means she has given up on him. She lets out a sharp laugh. He looks up and meets her eyes.
“How about my place?” she replies taking pity on his sudden nervousness.
“Tomorrow evening?” He answers with a wry grin.
“Tomorrow,” she says with a musical lilt, and her eyes shining.
He sets a steaming hot cup of coffee on the corner of her desk before flopping down on the couch.
She reaches for it with a smile.