Hello, everyone. The final chapter! Wow, it's been a long time. No excuse, really, but this last quarter of school was insane—due to some very uncomfortable and awful situations with a certain Professor, I think I've decided to finish this degree and change careers…but anyway, so sorry for the absolutely crazy wait for the final chapter. Hope it's okay... Not quite was I was expecting, but I think it works.

Thanks to anyone who comes back to read this!

Chapter Twenty-four: Put it this way

A few months ago

Patrick Jane stared at the wooden door in front of him. He noticed that the paint was a bit cracked, chipped even over there by the doorknob. Hmm, did that mean someone had tried to jimmy the door? He wracked his brain, trying to remember—maybe someone trying to pick the lock. He never left a door in that condition when he picked a lock. Of course, not everyone could be as skilled as he was…

He shook himself back to the moment; he was getting off track.

His eyes flew from the peephole to the door bell button and back again. He sighed.

Okay. So he knew what he wanted—her—now he just had to figure out a way to tell her (to make her want him back). He took a deep breath, pasted on a serene expression, and rang her bell.

He waited for a few minutes (twenty seconds) before ringing it again. "Lisbon."

Again, an interminable amount of time passed (maybe fifteen seconds) so he knocked firmly on the door. "Lisbon!"

Finally, he heard movement from within: rushed feet…a collision? Something tumbling about and the sound of her voice (cursing). Yes, a collision.

He tried not to grin. The door flung open, revealing Lisbon in sweats and a loose t-shirt, hair cutely mussed. She glowered at him.

"For God's sake, Jane, give a person a minute to get to the door!" Her scowl did nothing to lessen his innocent gaze. "What do you want?"

"Just checking on you, boss lady." He stepped forward, knowing she had just gotten out of bed and her reflexes likely wouldn't be as honed as they usually were. Sure enough, she automatically stepped back to give him space, thus allowing him to smoothly enter her home. She blinked, bewildered, as she realized he had predicted her movements to the letter. Another glare as she shut her front door—perhaps harder than she meant to—and the slamming of the door jarred her shoulder. She flinched and Jane's carefree gaze disappeared to be replaced by concern.

"You okay, Lisbon?"

He moved close, hands on her body as he turned her and pushed the neckline of her loose shirt to the side to check the bandage. It was only after assuring himself that the bandage was firmly adhered and still a pristine white (not that hideous red) that he realized that she was still. Too still. He looked to her face, which was turned away from him and obscured by her hair, which had fallen against her cheekbone.

He couldn't help himself. His hand reached up as if of its own accord, brushing her silky hair off of her skin, tucking it behind the delicate shell of her ear. It was a battle for him to not lean over the few inches and press a kiss against the skin in front of her ear.

He knew he should back up, give her some space, but…he hadn't been this close to her in a few days. Not since they had been picked up by Cho, taken away from that nightmare, that house in the woods. He hadn't realized how much he missed the warmth of her body, the soothing presence of her. He closed his eyes, breathing her in—that cinnamon body wash she used to pamper herself mixed with a scent that was purely her.

He saw them in his mind's eye, sprawled on the dingy bed in that dank hole. He reminded himself that it was a horrible experience. Awful. Chained like animals. Forced to perform like pets.

But, for some reason, at that moment all he could remember was the gentle weight of her body against him as she slept. The warm breath of her on his neck. Her soft hair cascading over his arm.

He ignored the fact that Lisbon's gaze was still fixed on the floor and that she hadn't moved (at least she hadn't pushed him away…). He put his arms around her and pulled her fully against him, bending his head to bury his face in her hair.

"I've missed you."

He didn't mean for his voice to sound so husky, so intimate. He wondered if she would skitter off like a spooked animal. He was a bit surprised that she didn't push him away. In fact, she still didn't move. He was getting a little worried by her continued silence and passiveness.

"Lisbon," he breathed into her hair. Her head turned slightly—away from him. He eased back and used both hands to cup her face and turn it to his gaze. He searched her eyes and studied her features. She looked tired. Dark bags under her eyes made the green of them seem shadowed, unsure.

Or maybe she really was shadowed. Unsure.

"Lisbon," he said again, more insistent as if he were asking her a question. Even he didn't know what he wanted from her. Her brow furrowed and he continued. "Are—are you okay?"

She opened her mouth to speak. Words seemed to fail her for a second so she cleared her throat, looking uncomfortable. "I'm fine, Jane."

He was about to challenge her, to make her convince him, when she pulled back firmly and headed to the kitchen. Her voice carried back to him. "Would you like some tea?"

He followed her. When he entered the kitchen, she was busily moving things about. "Lisbon, stop."

She ignored him and grabbed a mug, carefully rearranging the remaining mugs so there was no gap. She turned to fiddle with the kettle.

He stuck his hands in his pockets to keep from touching her. "Please."

She froze at his plea, hands abandoning the kettle and grasping the edge of the counter. Her chin dropped against her chest and he watched her take a deep breath. The curve of her back was tense. He wished he could see her face. He wished he knew what to say, how to convince her not to ignore the feelings that had risen during their capture.

She spoke first, surprising him. "I don't want to miss you, Jane."

His heart clenched, stealing his breath and any words that may have been on his tongue…did she mean…?

"I want this all to go away. To go back to what it was."

Finally—finally—she turned around, leaning back against the cabinets. "You're going to break my heart, Patrick Jane."

The conflict in her eyes tore at him. He wished he could deny it, that he could say he wanted her more than anything on the planet. More than life (which was true). More than revenge…but he couldn't. At least, not yet. He wasn't even sure of that himself.

"I don't want to break your heart, Lisbon."

He took a tentative step towards her. She watched him silently. "I don't want to break you at all."

Another step.

She started to relax, her hands clenching and unclenching as if deciding what they wanted to do. He wondered if she wanted to hold him as much as he wanted to hold her.

One more step and he was in front of her.

He reached out and gently grasped her upper arms. His hands slid down her smooth skin until he reached the fidgeting hands. Ever so slowly he twined his fingers with hers, feeling the slight calluses that created warm sensations along his nerves.

For a moment, he just reveled in the feel of their tangled hands. He didn't want to lie. He didn't want to promise her forever. Didn't want to hurt her. He wanted to…he wanted to—

"I want to love you."

Her eyes widened. He knew she was surprised by the candid statement—seemingly so sudden. He was, too, if he was honest. But it had slipped out. And tasted so right on his tongue.

A smile started to spread on her face. "What's stopping you?"

It would have been so easy to lean forward, kiss those beautiful lips, and forget that there was anything in his way. So easy.

But he couldn't.

His eyes were solemn. "Lisbon—Teresa—I don't know if I…that is, when Red John…I—"

She lifted up onto her toes and pressed her lips against his in an almost chaste kiss, falling back as quickly as she had risen. "I know. We'll deal with it when it happens."

His eyes were regretful. "You deserve—"

Her eyes sparkled impishly as she used the same technique to shut him up—this one a little longer. He was the one to blink at her in bewilderment this time, trying to focus on the conversation and not the delicious way her lips slid against his.

Her words were wry. "How about I be the judge of what I deserve?"

He wanted to say more, opened his mouth to protest, to point out all of the options she had besides him. She rolled her eyes and beat him to it.

"Patrick Jane. Why the hell did you come over here, push your way into my apartment, and confess your feelings if you were going to try to talk me out of mine?"

He shut his mouth and looked at her sheepishly. Well, when she put it that way…

It was a long time before they spoke again.

THE END! Whew, made it…