Disclaimer: I do not own Blindspot. More like it's the other way around… I've come to realize that THEY own ME. :)
A/N: Once again, I've been inspired to write an entire story just from a song, which seems to be happening to me a lot lately. This time, the song made one particular scene pop into my head (it's not in this chapter, so you won't find out which one it is yet) and the rest of the story just grew from there. I was feeling stressed about the holidays and all the things there are to do in December, so I had decided that I wanted to write a holiday themed Jeller story to get myself in the spirit – so far it's working! There will be quite a few chapters (I'm not sure how many, but I've written the whole thing already, for once, so I just need to break it up into chapters as I go), and I hope you enjoy it. This first chapter is mostly Patterson, but there will be a lot of Jeller, I promise.
Patterson had been quiet for weeks, maybe longer. Too quiet. Everyone had noticed – it was hard not to, after all, when she was usually so bubbly. None of them had ever known her to be so quiet, so withdrawn. Even after David had been killed, there was still a fire inside her to find his killer. After they'd found his killer, Patterson had confessed to Jane that it hadn't made her feel better, but even still… the fight hadn't left her completely. Lately, however – in the months since Sandstorm had been crippled and the team had almost been killed, and most importantly to her, Borden had been exposed as a mole – well, Patterson hadn't been the same person since then.
They understood why, of course. When the job that you love more than anything else in the world leads one boyfriend to be murdered, well, that would be enough to undo anyone. And then, when you finally begin to heal from that and take a chance on someone else, a coworker, which is in and of itself always risky… then you find out that he was a mole with the very organization that you were trying to fight all along? They weren't sure how long it would take her to come back from that one, but the assumption was that it would be a long time.
To make things worse, Patterson wasn't the only one on the team who was an emotional mess, of course. It went without saying that Jane had been having it rough – to put it mildly – as far back as when she'd first met Oscar and found out that she'd done this to herself, and it seemed that it had only gotten worse from there. After she'd escaped from the CIA black site and ended up back at the FBI – against her will… well, she wasn't quite in a position to help herself, much less anyone else. Most days, she was lucky to be standing, though she never complained, unwilling to admit weakness of any kind.
Weller was also in rough shape in the aftermath of his discovery of the multiple deceptions in his life, and he coped by focusing on work, just like he always had in the past. Patterson was like a sister to him, but as much as he wanted to, he was simply not in a place where he could help her. Again, like Jane, he really couldn't even help himself, much less anyone else.
Reade and Zapata had their own issues going on as well, of course, though no one else knew about their connection to the whole Coach Jones murder, or why they were suddenly so often huddled together talking about something that appeared to be life or death. It helped them that the rest of the team was so distracted by their own issues, because normally someone probably would have picked up on the fact that something was going on with them quickly. The pair did notice that Patterson had been down – it was hard not to, of course – and they each tried to support her as best they could, but just then they had only slightly more to give her than Jane and Weller, which was still almost nothing.
And so the team floundered on, doing the best they could through it all, stumbling blindly toward the holiday season without giving the impending holidays a thought. After all, they were all just barely hanging on enough to work on the cases that came up – and they continued to come up. It was true that none of them were at their best, but ever so slowly, day by day, things were getting better. Separately, each of them just tried to hang onto that fact, and to give what little support they could to each other. Their best might not have been very good, but it was all they could do.
Then on December first, a switch suddenly flipped in Patterson's head. She'd been talking to the newly appointed bureau psychologist nearly every day, and at some point one of their topics of conversation was how much she was dreading the holidays this year. Their new psychologist, Dr. Mary White, a tall brunette with a calm demeanor, had listened to Patterson at length on the subject and suggested that she find one specific thing to look forward to about the holidays – maybe a project, or something that she could be proactive and do, something that would make her happy.
Honestly, Patterson hadn't been interested at all when Dr. White had suggested it, but when she'd thought about it later, an idea had occurred to her. If there was one thing Patterson loved about the holidays, it was the chance to get together with the people she loved. Her family lived far away, of course, so she didn't see them as much as she would have liked (though in the case of her mother, small doses were better), but her FBI family were right here in New York, and yet she felt like they hadn't seen each other in ages – despite the fact that they worked side by side every day. Realizing that this was in part because she had been so preoccupied with herself, and in part because the rest of her team was hurting so much over their own problems, Patterson, ever the problem solver, suddenly had a renewed determination to help herself and the rest of her FBI family all at once. Suddenly, she had a purpose again.
And so she decided, early in the morning on December second, that this year, there would be a holiday party in their office. Not just for her team, but for the whole department. The more the merrier, and all that, after all. If there was one thing Patterson loved to do, it was organize things, and this love of organization spread to planning events as well. Finally, she had a renewed determination to accomplish something, and this even helped her focus more on her work, as well.
The change in her didn't go unnoticed by the team, either, and not only was she able to better focus on their current tattoo case, but she began to reach out more, little by little, to the members of her team as well. It was as though the world around her was slowly coming back into focus after she'd been walking around in a haze for the past few months, and she had to admit that now that she could see how down she had been, she could understand why it had been so strongly recommended that she seek professional help. She wasn't out of the woods, but at least she could now see enough light from beyond the trees that she was reminded that the woods didn't go on forever.
At mid-day on December second, after several hours of brainstorming and some extensive Google searching, she had a tentative plan, and she approached Weller. Standing in his office, she was full of nervous anticipation. His temper had been short and he'd been extra gruff with everyone for months, though the edge was finally beginning to soften, albeit very slowly, on his demeanor. If she had to peg the gradual change to one thing, she would say that it seemed to be proportional to the change in his interaction with Jane. She couldn't be sure the two were related, but knowing both of them as she did, it seemed like it would have made sense. There seemed to be less animosity between the two of them now, a few months after Jane had resurfaced, but neither of them had found the light that had once been in their eyes.
Probably because it shone for each other, she thought sadly as she waited for Weller's attention. Then something occurred to her. The party that she was about to propose would be not only a chance for the team to relax, spend time together and possibly mend fences, but maybe it would be an excuse for Jane and Weller to be in the same room without the pretext of work, to talk about something, anything else… Her excitement about her new pet project was now growing by the minute.
When she finally got to voice the idea to Weller, he told her gruffly that he'd think about it. While it wasn't the immediate yes that she'd hoped for, it wasn't a no, either. She knew how her boss' mind worked, and he needed time to digest a new idea, to chew on from all angles. She had presented the party as a benefit to everyone in the office, a chance to relax after the past few months, which, she reminded him, hadn't been easy on any of them. As she said that, she tried to bring out her biggest, saddest puppy-dog eyes, knowing that an emotional expression from her might not work as well as Jane's once had, but that he was not immune to the image of a sad woman, especially one that he cared about.
Before the end of that same day, Weller could tell that Patterson wasn't going to stop giving him the sad "I've lost everything so can't I please plan this party" eyes until he said yes to her idea. He'd checked into the discretionary funds account, and they'd actually still had money remaining – which was unheard of for the end of the year. It seemed that there had been no time for staff development while they were spending all of their time on cases that had constantly threatened their lives, and so before she'd left for the day on December second, Patterson had the go-ahead.
"Yes, we can have a party. Yes, here in the office. This is how much money I can allocate to it…" Weller had told her. Thinking back on it the next day, and in the days that followed, she still couldn't quite believe that she hadn't had to beg him to say yes. Damn, I'm good, she'd thought to herself. And so, the party planning began in earnest. She had three weeks exactly to get things organized, and that seemed like plenty of time to plan something really special.
By the end of the day the following Monday, December fifth, she'd cornered each of the members of the staff personally, either in small groups of individually, to make sure that they knew about the festivities, scheduled for December twenty-third, beginning at 6:00 pm. She hated to try to predict when get-togethers would end, but there was equipment to be rented, so she needed a timeframe. In the end, she decided on 6:00-9:00, and that was the time that she gave each of her coworkers. She'd even printed out business card sized Save the Date cards on her computer at home, decorated with a cute little picture of a snowman, despite the fact that there probably wouldn't be any snow by then. It didn't matter. It was just one more thing that got her excited about what was to come.
Patterson had purposely saved talking to Jane about the party for last. There were several reasons, but the biggest one was that she just wasn't sure how best to get her interested in it. With everything Jane had been through over the course of this year, Patterson felt like a holiday party would seem trivial to Jane. For most people, there would be the nostalgia that the thought of such a party would evoke, other happy memories that the idea would bring back, and hopefully it would spark something in them, too. That seemed to have happened so far, even in the other members of the team. Jane, however, was obviously a special case. While this wasn't the first Christmas that she could remember, to her knowledge, Jane hadn't been involved in any big festivities last year.
On the contrary, at this time last year Jane had been reeling from so many things that they hadn't even known about at the time – or at least Patterson hadn't known about. Oscar. Carter. You did this to yourself. The team had only learned about all of this much, much later, of course. Last year now felt so far away, it was hard to remember the details clearly. Suffice it to say, that Jane was a special case, and getting her interested in this party that meant so much to Patterson might not be as easy to sell as it had been to the others. Still, she was determined to try her hardest, and to make it a prolonged campaign to convince her to attend, if it came to that, if for no other reason than that Jane was her friend, despite everything, and she wanted her to be happy. Jane needed something to hold onto at least as much as Patterson did, if not more.
She found Jane in a conference room late that afternoon, sitting with a laptop and appearing to work on something but seeming distracted. Watching her through the glass for a few minutes before opening the door, she saw the other woman finger the neck of her black shirt absently, as if she was missing a necklace that she would have otherwise played with unconsciously. Patterson recognized the gesture because she, too, did the same thing with a necklace that David had given her what felt like long ago. She hadn't worn it for a long time after his death, but she had recently taken to wearing it again, finding that it brought her a strange sense of peace.
Hadn't Jane had a necklace at some point? Patterson , now that she thought about it, she had seen her with one that had a small, flat circular pendant. It had appeared not too long before… Oh, Patterson thought in alarm, making the connection between Jane's arrest and the fact that she no longer wore a necklace. They probably took it from her… and never gave it back. Once again, she was sad for this woman who had lost everything, twice. It had taken Patterson a while to make peace with the things that Jane had done, but who was she to judge her? No one made all of the right decisions, certainly not her, and she believed now that Jane's heart and her intentions had been in the right place. Some of the time it felt like she was the only one who believed this.
Gathering her courage, Patterson pushed through the glass door into the conference room and walked slowly towards Jane, a small, nervous smile on her face. "Hey," she said to her friend, who looked very surprised to see her there. "I was looking for you all over."
Jane's face reflected the confusion that she felt. Why was Patterson looking for me? "Is something wrong?" Jane asked. She tended to camp out in the conference room late in the day so that she didn't have to watch everyone – though if she was being honest with herself, mostly Kurt, leave for the day and save them the trouble of deciding whether or not to acknowledge her as they left. Once upon a time, she'd often left with Kurt, even if they only went as far as the locker room together, and these days she was doing everything she could to ease the pain she felt at losing those little signs of familiarity, of closeness, with him.
He'd actually remarked the other day about how he'd been looking for her when he left the night before, but she'd just shrugged noncommittally and said she wasn't sure where she'd been when he was looking for her, even though she knew perfectly well. It was easier this way, she told herself. She was saving them both the awkwardness, the trouble of having to pretend. Even though Nas was no longer around, so there was no chance for Jane having to watch the two of them leave together, the mere idea of which had been like a body-slam to her heart, she remained steadfast in her new pattern. It still made sense to just stay out of sight.
Patterson smiled sadly at Jane's misreading of the situation. Does she honestly think that I would only come looking for her if I needed something? Patterson wondered. She made a mental note to try to make more of an effort with Jane, who clearly hadn't been spending enough time with Dr. White. It would be just like Jane to resist therapy, resist every attempt to help her and to just insist that she was fine, even when it was obvious to anyone who paid even a little bit of attention to her that she was anything but fine.
Smiling at Jane, she was glad to be able to come to her with something that wasn't work related, even if she had a sneaking suspicion that Jane was going to hate the idea. "So, I know that this may sound silly to you," Patterson began, suddenly nervous, "but I'm planning a holiday party. For the whole office. And I'm telling everyone in person, because…"
Everyone? Or just me? Jane wondered. It seemed like the kind of thing that would have been just as easy to send an email about. So why was she doing it in person? Yes, Patterson liked people, but lately she'd been anything but excited about talking to people. So what was this all about?
You're so suspicious, the voice in her head told her almost immediately. Maybe this is how Patterson is getting herself back out there, into the world of functional people. Maybe you should try that.
In her head, Jane scoffed at the voice. What was the point, anyway? It was all meaningless, ridiculous, a waste of time. Didn't they have better things to do? She certainly did.
"So, it's going to be on Friday, December twenty-third, after work. 6:00-9:00. It seems crazy, but that's just a few weeks away. It'll be right here in the office. Oh! And the dress is formal. So, everyone's going to dress up." She paused, watching Jane and knowing that she was hating the idea already. Still, Patterson wasn't one to give up… And besides, if anyone needed a chance to unwind, it was Jane. She was the most tightly wound person that Patterson could think of – tied with Weller, of course. How appropriate, she thought.
"And I know that you hate the idea, because it sounds stupid, like a waste of time," she paused, waiting for Jane to focus on her again. Her eyes had been darting all around the room and knowing Jane as she did, she knew that that meant she was trying to avoid even having to listen to her. When Jane did look back at her, looking slightly guilty and giving away the fact that she did hate the idea of the party, Patterson continued. "But… I really need this. Not just planning it, though that, too… I think we all just really need something to look forward to, a chance to relax, to do something together. You know, something besides hunting down criminals." She smiled weakly at Jane, hoping to at least elicit a hint of a smile from her at that last part.
Jane looked back at her and did indeed give a tiny smile, though Patterson swore that she could see sadness in it, and wished that she could read the other woman's thoughts so that she could provide some sort of reassurance. It was so obvious that Jane needed someone to lean on, and yet, other than the occasional minute long exchange, Jane never really seemed to talk to any of them. Patterson knew that she shouldn't expect too much too fast, but it was heartbreaking to remember where they had all been earlier that year, before everything… There had been her girls' nights with Jane and Zapata, and then of course, watching Jane and Weller look so happy even just standing near each other… And now it was all so far beyond messed up, and Patterson worried that they'd never see anything resembling those things again.
Jane just nodded at her, and seeing that Patterson seemed to be expecting a verbal response, she told her, "It sounds nice, Patterson." Jane actually didn't think it sounded nice at all – she could think of a hundred things that she would rather do – but there was no reason to say something like that to Patterson. Yes, Jane knew that she wasn't a good person, but she also knew that she didn't have to act like a monster. This was obviously important to Patterson, and the least Jane could do was say a few kind words to her. After everything she had done to this team, she owed all of them a lot more than that.
Patterson was still watching her, still waiting for a commitment, an agreement, waiting for Jane to say that she'd be there. That much was obvious. With a heavy sigh, Jane said, "I'll try, okay Patterson?"
The look in Jane's eyes had changed, and Patterson could see that while Jane obviously hated the idea, despite saying that it sounded "nice," she really would try to be there. At least, she hoped that that was what Jane was thinking, and that it wasn't just her overactive imagination and her desperate hope that Jane would be there. But she supposed that only time would tell.
"You said that it's going to be a, uh, dress up party?" Jane asked, saying the words as if they tasted bitter.
Patterson smiled back at her, trying to remain positive. Dressing up was one of the things she'd always enjoyed about the holidays. The chance to look a little bit glamorous and get together with friends. "Yes, I mean, it doesn't have to be black tie, exactly, I guess…" Really, she would love it if everyone came that dressed up, but she couldn't exactly force them. And she'd rather that they came, and looked nice, than worried about their exact level of formality.
Biting her lip unconsciously, Jane nodded slowly, the wheels turning in her head. Not only did she have to go to this party, but she had to find a dress for it. The prospect of finding a dress had been intimidating before, and thankfully for the undercover missions where she'd needed one so far, the Bureau had supplied them to her. But now she needed to find her own… and something equally non-revealing as the ones she'd worn before. If it had only been a matter of her tattoos, at this point, and for this function, she would have just said, To Hell with it, and bought a regular old simple black dress, cut however, no matter how many tattoos it showed... because at this point, who cared? It wasn't as though everyone there didn't already know that she was a tattooed freak, anyway.
Stop it, the voice in her head told her. You're not a freak, and you don't actually think that about yourself. You're just in a bad mood. Ignoring the voice, her thoughts continued to spill forwards like waves rushing toward the shore. She felt very little control of them just then.
But of course, it was no longer a matter of just her tattoos. Now in order to find a dress that she was willing to wear, she had to contend with the reality of finding something that would cover the scars left on her by Keaton and his CIA goons – the physical ones, anyway. The emotional ones would probably never heal – but at least you couldn't see them when she wore a dress.
It was obvious that Jane was unhappy not only at the prospect of the party, but at the level of formality of the party, and it took Patterson a few minutes to figure out why. She was tortured by the CIA for three months, idiot, she suddenly realized. She's not exactly loving the idea of wearing a dress.
As much as she hadn't been sure of Jane's reaction to the idea of the party, other than that she wouldn't like it, Patterson really wasn't sure what Jane would say about what she was about to say next, but it seemed like the right thing to do. After all, they were friends… or at least, Patterson hoped that Jane still considered her a friend, at least as much as she was able to just then.
"If you, uh, want some company… or help… or whatever… to go shopping for a dress… you know, for the party… I mean, just let me know, okay?" she managed to stammer out, suddenly nervous. It wouldn't have been like Jane to lash out at her, not in this situation especially, and yet, she'd had to force the words out anyway.
Jane nodded only very slightly, looking pained, and whispered, "Thanks," then her eyes darted away from Patterson, as she was clearly growing more and more uncomfortable. Patterson decided to take pity on Jane then, and let her digest the information she'd given her. "Okay, well, that's what I wanted to tell you, so… I'll see you later." Turning to leave, she stopped at the door and turned around.
"I mean it Jane, if you need help, call me." Jane just smiled weakly at her, nodding. "Oh!" Patterson added, suddenly remembering the other thing she'd wanted to mention. "I meant to tell you… Weller was looking for you before he left." This was both true and not quite true at the same time, but Patterson wanted to see Jane's reaction. She'd been watching the two of them – well, when she hadn't been preoccupied with her own problems, which had been most of the time until recently – and now that the fog was lifting, she was noticing things again, and trying to do what little she could to help the people around her. After all, doing things like that made her feel better – just knowing that she could help them.
The difference that she saw in Jane's expression after she said that Weller had been looking for her was immediate and frankly, surprisingly dramatic. Jane had worked so hard to be guarded, and while her face didn't change dramatically, Patterson saw the spark in her eyes. Interesting, she thought, filing the information away for later. It didn't matter that Weller hadn't actually asked anyone where Jane was… he had been looking for her, even if he didn't realize it. She'd been talking to Zapata and Reade by their computers, and she'd watched him stare at the workstation that Jane normally sat at for ten minutes before he'd gotten up to leave, at which point she'd gone in search of Jane herself. In her mind, that made it pretty obvious, as far as she was concerned.
If she didn't know better, she would think that just maybe, there was still hope for those two yet.