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31 July 2012 @ 12:27 am
Fic: Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder [The Mentalist]  
Title: Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
Fandom: The Mentalist
Summary: "Love you." Two words. Just two words. But their weight was amazing. If he were being completely honest with himself, he'd known it for some time. In fact, it was so blatantly obvious now that even Red John knew it. [Post Crimson Hat, of course. And spoilers.]
Rating: PG
Pairings/Characters: Jane/Lisbon
Length: 3,800 words
A/N: So, months after the Crimson Hat aired, many of us are still writing fanfic inspired by it. Proof it's one hell of an episode. In fact, it inspired me to start writing Mentalist fanfic (yes, this is my first foray into the fandom), even though this turned out way more rambly and aimless than I intended.

"Love you."

Two words. Just two words. But their weight was amazing.

Just because they were spoken in haste didn't mean they weren't true.

If Jane were being completely honest with himself — and honesty with oneself made lying to others easier, something he was very good at — he'd known it for some time. The signs had become more and more difficult to ignore, and he was perceptive. The signs had been glaring to him far before they were glaring in general.

But, Jane mused, it was in fact so blatantly obvious now that even Red John knew it. Otherwise he wouldn't have asked for her head as a sign of good faith. He could have asked for anyone's murder, but Red John had asked specifically for hers.

If Red John had figured it out, she was a target. Red John knew he could use her death. Jane didn't want to think about that right now, so he didn't.

Did she know? Despite his attempts to read her, he genuinely didn't know. He knew she was more observant than she often let on. She should have picked up on the cues by now. Not just on the same signs that had tipped him off to their shifting relationship, but also the numerous veiled hints he had dropped in the weeks before his… departure.

And then, of course, he had come back and told her. Point-blank.

It hadn't escaped his notice that she hadn't responded to him. Sure, it had been a rapid moment. Charged with emotion and urgency and fear of being caught, just like he had told her in an attempt to explain away the moment.

But whatever the moment was, she hadn't responded to his professed feelings. He preferred — wanted, if he were being honest — to believe she simply hadn't been prepared, but he'd be lying if he said he was confident in that.

And when she asked hesitantly about it later… He hadn't been ready to talk. The threat of being killed or caught hadn't been sitting on his chest, insisting that he tell her his feelings before it forced the life from him.

Now, standing in his attic nursing a cup of tea, he had some time to contemplate it. After six months away, the familiarity of this dusty space was soothing. But many, many other things were not quite so familiar or welcoming after his absence. Namely, people. Perhaps the entire CBI. Part of him wanted to go and take refuge on Lisbon's office couch, to reclaim a spot he'd missed for six very long months, but logic reminded him wasn't a good idea.

And it wasn't just the somber tone of the office after Wainwright's death, the glares and stares from the others, that he was fleeing. He had retreated here away from her. The way she held tightly to his hand in the field, the flicker of jealousy in her eyes during their interrogation of Lorelai — both had given him hope. The ensuing look of hurt and the way she retreated to her office and paperwork had all but quashed that hope.

He didn't think he could — or should — face Lisbon until he had sorted things out, and in solitude was the only way to peel away layers of defenses he'd buried things beneath.

In solitude, he could decompartmentalize the feeling of admitting his emotions, the power of confessing what he felt for her. It was something akin to relief — he felt that emotion in abundance since they'd come through this disaster relatively unscathed — but more satisfying. It was absurd, he knew, but rationality didn't stop the feeling.

It was ridiculous, he thought now, how long he'd denied it and avoided admitting it. How reluctant he'd been to verbalize it to her, how afraid. When in fact it was such a liberating action. He wondered if she knew how freeing it could be or if she thought putting emotion to words would hurt.

That was, of course, assuming that she felt the same way.

Wondering whether or not she knew or felt any of this was driving him absolutely mad. He wasn't used to not knowing anything he wanted to know.

With a sigh, he raised his tea cup to his lips.

He found it empty.

He wasn't one to believe in signs, but if one existed, that was it.

He had decided that another cup of tea was a good idea. And bringing Lisbon fresh coffee seemed like a good pretext. He was sure she needed it. For stimulation. For comfort. For relief.

With his tea set aside to steep, he was pouring her coffee when another person entered the break room behind him. He glanced over his shoulder to see Cho, who had frozen in place halfway across the room.

"Jane, what are you doing?"

He offered a small smile in return. "Making coffee for Lisbon."

Cho shifted almost imperceptibly. "We need to talk."

Jane almost responded with a breezy, "About?" But he could guess what about. No one on the team seemed particularly happy with him at the moment. For numerous reasons, of course. But one in particular was predominant, even over Wainwright's death.

So instead he calmly said, "So talk."

Still Cho paused, though not for long. "If you ever hurt her like that again, I will kill you." True to Cho fashion, there was no hint of irony in his tone. He was 100 percent serious.

Jane lifted an eyebrow at him. "Noted." He would have added I don't plan to do that, but he hadn't planned to hurt her so much the first time either. Remembering that dealt a blow to the confidence he'd been building.

With just a curt nod, Cho silently marched to the fridge, retrieved something and left.

"Good talk," Jane called flippantly after him, but he grimaced when he turned back to the coffee. He couldn't remember what he'd added to it or to his tea, but with a shrug, he decided it didn't matter that much. After a quiet, extended — not necessarily deep — breath, he grabbed both mugs and moved out of the break room.

He was nothing if not a performer. This latest performance for Red John proved that he still had it in him even now.

And it was showtime again.

Still, moving across the bullpen toward her office was difficult. Everyone who wasn't a member of the team stared at him with anger, resentment, disbelief, a hundred different things — all negative. Van Pelt and Rigsby were each on the phone, and both avoided looking at him. Cho, now back at his desk, stared at him like a cold predator.

At least a dozen pairs of eyes followed his movements to the office with the open door but closed blinds. She hadn't had a chance to — or hadn't wanted to — open the blinds since he "shot" her there.

He didn't bother to knock but strode in anyway.

She looked up at him from her desk almost immediately, looking nearly every bit as forlorn as he felt.

"I brought you coffee," he said simply, raising the mug. He spotted on her desk another mug, nearly empty but with a touch of cold coffee lingering in its depths. "You look like you could use it."

She accepted it from him wordlessly, and he sat down with his tea after pushing the door to. For a moment, he thought she would let them go on comfortably in silence. But he should have known better.

"What do you want, Jane?"

"Hmm?" he said, sipping at his tea.

She raised an eyebrow at him. "You came in here for more than coffee delivery."

Very astute powers of observation, he thought, but it hardly seemed like the time for such praise. She even dropped her gaze back to papers on her desk, seemingly taking the pressure off of him.

He wasn't quite sure how to answer her question, so he said instead, "Well, Cho just threatened my life. I'm considering alerting the proper authorities so that should I go missing, someone will know to look for a body." His tone was lighthearted but not joking. Much like Cho had not been joking.

"Jane, aside from the fact that no one would ever find a body Cho didn't want found, we'd be the only ones looking for you anyway." Her tone, too, was not harsh but certainly not joking. "Every other law enforcement agency in the state of California hates you."

"Ah, touché."

She looked back up at him, and the look she gave told him she was still waiting, but she didn't press. Instead, she lifted the coffee mug to her lips. Almost immediately, she made a face and spat it back into the cup. "What did you do to my coffee?"

He shrugged. "I was distracted, I suppose."

After raising an eyebrow and setting down her mug, she watched him intently, though not intrusively. Waiting.

Avoiding looking at her, he slowly set his tea cup on her desk. It was amazing how his hands had suddenly felt like shaking. He had to consciously still them.

He started to take a deep breath, but he controlled the reflex. "I remember, Lisbon," he said simply.

The momentary twitch of her features told him she knew what he meant, but she didn't acknowledge it in any other way. She wouldn't let him off that easily.

"I remember what I said before I shot you," he went on. "I never forgot."

She leaned back in her chair. "I could've guessed." She quirked an eyebrow at him. "Your 'memory is a mighty fortress from which no fact ever escapes once committed.'"

He smiled. "As is yours, I see."

She simply nodded and continued waiting, but this was an active waiting. The silence was like a palpably heavy thing sitting on his chest. Dropping his eyes, he tried to clear the pressure with a subtle deep breath, but it didn't help.

"We don't have to talk about this if you don't want to."

The way she said it told him she didn't really want to talk about it, and that brought all of the questions from earlier crashing back around him — did she feel the same? Did she understand, really understand, what he felt?

And suddenly he knew he had to speak again. "No, I wanted to say that... I meant it." He paused to gauge her reaction, but still she was waiting for him to say more. "I've suspected it for some time, and I don't know when exactly it happened, but it's become so blatantly obvious now that... it's practically an elephant in the room." He shot a glance around the room. "And your office is far too small for an elephant."

"Ha-ha," she deadpanned.

He waited for her to say more, but she didn't. His chest was feeling increasingly tight, and he was on edge despite trying to calm himself down. "Lisbon, please say something."

Her lips tightened. "I don't know what you want me to say, Jane."

"I'm a little out of practice, but I believe 'I love you too' is still the standard response."

The flash of a smile that crossed her face was quickly killed by something more pained.

He was unable to stop his own expression from falling. The tightness in his chest became sharp. The logical conclusion from her behavior and reaction was not one he wanted to reach. "You don't feel the same," he said simply and evenly.

"I didn't say that," she responded quickly.

That loosened the constriction. He wouldn't say his heart suddenly flew, but it was pretty damn close. Hope was pushing around in there somewhere, even though he wished it wasn't. "Well then, do tell me how you feel."

She shifted in her chair and dropped her eyes. "Jane, I don't want to talk about this." Her eyes flicked suddenly to the door, which was not quite closed, as if it offered a means of escape.

Reaching behind him without taking his eyes from hers, he slammed the door shut, though doing so reminded him sharply of the moment they were now discussing, of pretending to shoot her and carrying her "lifeless" body out of here. "Well, we need to talk about this. This," he gestured awkwardly between them, "has become so blatantly obvious that even Red John knows. If he didn't know, he wouldn't have asked me to kill you to prove that I'd changed."

He hated to bring up the ever-looming specter of Red John in a moment like this, but he knew he had to. For his argument and for the sake of remembering what they faced. Jane watched a mixture of emotions conflict on Lisbon's face.

"If Red John knew," he added softly, "surely you knew too."

His words impacted her — he could see it — but she tried to contain and conceal her reaction. If she were talking with anyone else, her stoic act might have worked. But Jane knew better, though he didn't know why she was bothering with this facade at all.

"Lisbon," he said pointedly, and that was all it took for her to understand that he was calling her out, chiding her, begging her all at once. What a reversal, he thought. That he was the one having to badger her into speaking instead of vice versa.

She heaved a heavy sigh, a long, exasperated sound. "I suppose I suspected, but I never know how to take what you say or do, Jane."

He shot her a glare. "That is a lie, Lisbon."

"It is not," she responded sharply. She paused for a deep breath before continuing. "Jane, it's all very confusing. You left. And I worried and hurt and couldn't sleep. And I know that means something. But then you came back, and despite all the hell you'd just put me through, I dropped everything — risked everything — to help you again. Against my better judgment."

She fidgeted uncomfortably and finally met his gaze. "Jane, I think that means I love you too, but it's not healthy."

"You think you love me?" he echoed in disbelief, but inside he was jumping for joy. His tight chest had loosened and his nearly strangled heart felt like it was now beating double time. The specifics of what she had said meant little to him. She had given voice to the emotion. And, like he had dared to hope, she reciprocated his feelings. It was a relief. It was comforting. It was elating.

"I know it's not healthy," she reiterated. "Not, of course," she continued, "that you're any better. You up and left. You didn't answer or return a call or text in six months. You..." She paused, obviously wrestling with anger, though to her credit her voice came out only a little accusatory. "You abandoned me. A very fine way to say you love someone."

He bristled. "I did what I had to do."

"I know you did what you thought you had to do, but that's the problem," she said. She shook her head. "For someone who understands people so well, you sure don't stop to think about them very often, and they end up hurt."

His hands clenched in his lap. "Lisbon, that's not fair."

"Not fair?" Her voice rose, but her eyes flicked to the closed door, dropping her voice back to a strained but relatively normal level. "Jane, what's not fair is that you don't tell me anything and it's my neck on the line. What's not fair is that I trust you when you do nothing to earn it. What's not fair is you expect just words to change that. What's not fair is that Wainwright is dead and we still don't have Red John."

He sat back sharply in his chair. Guilt washed over him not for the first time that day. He'd already added Wainwright to the ever-growing list of tragedies he was responsible for, but Lisbon laying the blame on him was something new. And that hurt more than the guilt.

She dropped her gaze from his and drew a shuddering breath. Aiming to regain her composure, no doubt.

His guess was right. When she spoke again, her voice was much more even.

"I'm sorry, Jane, I shouldn't have said that," she said. "Wainwright is... not your fault. I didn't mean to imply that he was." As he avoided responding to that lie, she carefully folded her hands on the desk and leaned back. "My point is there's a hell of a lot that's unfair going on here. And forgive me if, given your recent track record, I doubt the sincerity of your 'love.'"

The last she said so viciously it might have been akin to murder, let alone lying.

It stung, and he found the sensation perplexing. Annoying. It wasn't a real pain — he'd known plenty of that. But he should have expected this, he knew. She was, after all, the pragmatic one here. But behind her tough exterior, she was also emotional, and emotionally manipulable too, but he'd perhaps been counting too heavily on that to work in his favor.

"You're doing a fine job of expressing love yourself, you know." He didn't mean for his voice to come out quite so testy, but it did.

Luckily, she just responded with a loud, "Ha!"

He stared at her. "What do you want me to do, Lisbon? Prove it to you right here and now?" He lifted his arm to sweep her desk clean—

"You slept with someone else!"

The outburst seemed to stun them both.

His arm halted in midair as they stared dumbly at each other. He was actually glad they were having this discussion from opposite sides of her desk. Despite her slightly stunned expression, she looked like she could have hit him in that moment, professions of love or no.

Her anger was still boiling, he could see, but she worked to regain control. But even as her expression regained normalcy, her tone was still venomous. "All this time that you waited, and it was for that? For a tawdry, manipulative, brainwashed...devotee of Red John."

He quirked an eyebrow at her, seething with barely contained emotions. She'd certainly wanted to call Lorelai something more than a Red John devotee.

"Jealousy, Lisbon?" His tone was light. Maybe he could ease her out of this... tempestuous mood she'd settled into. "There's no need. I didn't tell her I loved her." He was loathe to mention her name or even bring her up at all, certain that Red John's disciple — and the particular ways in which he'd used her — would be a sore point between himself and Lisbon for some time. "And as for the other... You and I will have plenty of time for that, my dear."

She blushed profusely, and he grinned.

"I would love to show you just how much I've missed you in six months."

She blushed again as her eyes flicked to the door, conscious of the co-workers beyond, but she responded with a disbelieving, "Hmmph!"

"Lisbon." He said it seriously and waited until her eyes turned back to meet his. "I'm here again. And I don't intend to leave any time soon." He smiled softly. "I missed you too much."

Disarmed, she returned his smile. "I missed you too, Jane."

His smile turned to a grin. "Ah-ha, so you do love me."

"I didn't say that."

"You didn't not say that either," he pointed out. "And you did say it, earlier."

She widened her eyes. "Did I really?" she asked with feigned surprise. "I really can't recall."

Rising to his feet, he couldn't help but grin at her sarcasm, conceding in his head that it was a point well-played. "Woman, will you ever let me live that down?" he said aloud.

Her eyes, trying their best to hold a haughty, firm stare, followed his movement around the desk. "That's very, very doubtful," she said.

Reaching her side of the desk, he put a hand on either of her desk chair's armrests, spinning her to fully face him. "Not even if I do this?" he breathed, inching closer to her.

She flinched back in her chair, but she had nowhere to go.

He paused inches from her face, relishing the way she inhaled sharply and held her breath. He held back, teasing her with a smile at first. Then when he could resist no longer, he moved in closer. It was simply a brush of lips at first, a nudge almost, gentle with none of the force of the moment in it.

But years of waiting, of restraint, were bound up in this moment. Her lips came up to crash against his as a hand around his neck suddenly dragged him closer to her. He kissed her hungrily, as only a man who had willingly starved himself for years could.

He could feel the exact moment that her level head and good sense won out. Her lips slowed against his, then with one last press, withdrew gently as she pushed him back with a hand to his chest. He had her pinned against the chair with nowhere to run, but he knew that didn't hamper her ability to hurt him six ways to Sunday. So he withdrew, albeit reluctantly. Opening his eyes with a quiet sigh, he studied her face.

What he saw there told him she wasn't ready for this in its entirety. Trust, he acknowledged sadly, would need to be rebuilt or maybe even built in the first place. He'd have to redeem himself slowly.

"Should I leave now?" he asked quietly.

"No!" she answered too quickly. She looked away, conscious of her own error. But still she kept him at arm's length. More firmly, in her boss tone, she said, "Just park yourself on that couch so I can keep an eye on you."

Unable to stop his smile, he tossed her a mock salute and did as he was told, settling himself into the comfortable, familiar place that smelled of leather and her and felt like home. He'd missed this more than he cared to admit. "You know, Lisbon, there's plenty of room here for two."

"Maybe you should leave," she retorted, but there was no bite to her tone. Neither of them had any real intention of his leaving.

He simply shifted on his couch, turning away from her to hide his smile in the cushions. "Remember, dear, you said you love me. And you can't possibly take that back."

She made an exasperated sound, followed by a huff.

It only made him smile more. "Lisbon?" He waited for her acknowledgement or encouragement, but he got nothing. So with a grin, he called, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder."

"Shut up, Jane."

Like it? Love it? Friend lady_nerca for more.

Mood: tiredtired
Lisalzod on July 31st, 2012 05:34 pm (UTC)
oh this is an excellent piece! Love it!
justlook3 on August 1st, 2012 06:35 am (UTC)
And that's the way it should be, he's gotta earn his way back into her good graces! Lovely story.
ds_pallas: photo identitéds_pallas on August 7th, 2012 09:21 am (UTC)
You're right, this "Love you" thing was an inspiring moment in this episode! Great little story, well written. Bravo!
icarus: everybody liesicarus_abides on August 31st, 2012 03:03 am (UTC)
Just stumbled on this one! Great read, I really liked it :D

Can't wait for the new season!!
bookish327: B&B kissing (white frame) (animated)bookish327 on February 9th, 2013 02:35 am (UTC)
Very well-written and great characterization. You did a great job of getting into Jane's head, which is not an easy nut to crack. I also love how you wrote Lisbon here. Also, you captured the subtle bits of humor and cleverness that always occurs in their moments together. Great fic!