Title: Still (with Hearts Beating)
Spoilers: AU after Black Hearts.
Word Count: 1,662
Summary: In which Lisbon moves to DC, Jane has a hard time adjusting, and everyone else makes a lot of phone calls.
“Now,” Abbott says, the sound of his voice drifting over the bullpen just loud enough that Jane can’t ignore it and continue pretending to be asleep, “as you all know, Senator Poole’s wife went missing from their home in El Paso exactly twelve hours ago. So far there’s no word of a ransom demand, but we should expect one soon; most estimates put Poole’s net worth at close to twelve million.”
Jane rolls over, his back to the bullpen in silent protest. They gave Shaw Lisbon’s empty desk and today is the start of his first official case as a member of their team, so Jane is boycotting everyone and everything in the office but his couch. (Because it’s more comfortable than anything in the airstream, and if he closes his eyes and breathes just so, it’s almost like he’s back in the CBI waiting for Lisbon to come wake him up.)
Depressingly, no one seems very concerned by his refusal to acknowledge them.
As if emphasizing this, Abbott continues speaking. “In terms of suspects right now we don’t have much. There are rumors circulating of the Senator being involved with some rogue elements. Foreign mercs, gang members. That kind of crowd. So we're going to need..."
Jane tunes him out again, focusing instead on opening his eyes just enough so only the light from the window over his couch filters in. The sunlight in Austin is so different from the sunlight in Sacramento. It has a stark, almost blinding, quality to it. When Jane thinks of California sunlight he thinks of honey and warmth and the green of Lisbon's eyes.
He startles, moving so he can squint over his shoulder. It's Abbott.
"Will you be joining us on this case or are you just going to sleep all day?"
Jane looks thoughtful for a beat, as though considering his options. "The second one," he says. "I'm just going to roll back over-"
Abbott shakes his head. "That was a rhetorical question. You're going out to El Paso with Cho and Shaw to interview the Senator, his mistress, and anyone else who might be a promising lead." Jane stares blankly at him for a second too long and Abbott sighs the kind of sigh that Jane hates, the kind of sigh that makes him feel like an unwelcome burden. “If you had been paying attention to the briefing,” Abbott says tiredly, “then you would know that we learned about Poole’s mistress from the housekeeper we already interviewed.”
Jane glances over at Shaw, who’s still in his seat and going over the notes he took while Abbott was talking. “If I had paid attention to the briefing I would actually be asleep.”
Frustration pinches the edges of Abbott's mouth. "Just go to El Paso."
"Jane, Shaw, let's go," Cho calls from across the bullpen, already halfway to the elevator.
As he gets up from his seat, Shaw flashes Jane a lopsided smile. "Let's saddle up, teammate."
Jane swallows down a groan, settling instead for glaring daggers into Shaw's back as he slowly stands up from his couch. He's going to make this experience as awful as possible.
Jane starts off their drive to El Paso by trying to figure out Shaw's worst fear. Two phobias in and he finally makes Shaw flinch when he mentions a snake charmer he knew a lifetime ago while he was still the boy wonder everyone adored.
"Did you know," Jane says from the backseat, "that the world’s largest snake can grow up to thirty feet?” He can see Cho’s look of confusion and the way Shaw’s face pales in the rearview mirror. A voice that sounds suspiciously like Lisbon’s keeps echoing through his head. This isn’t right. You’re better than this. This isn’t everything-
He tells the voice to shut up.
“Cho,” he says casually, “have you ever held a snake? Madame Lulu let me hold some of the snakes that she used in her act one time.”
Cho’s brow furrows. “Why would I want to hold a bunch of snakes?” he asks, but Jane continues over him.
“You know that commonly held belief that snakes are cold and slimy?” When Cho doesn’t give him any response Jane turns to Shaw. “You know what I’m talking about, right Shaw?” The man half nods, knuckles going white as he clutches his seat. Jane keeps going, unrelenting. “Lots of people think that snakes are the exact opposite of humans in terms of temperature and skin condition because that’s how we want to think of things that scare us. When, in actuality, snakes are quite smooth and dry to the touch.”
Shaw looks like he might pass out.
Cho glances at Jane in the rearview mirror. “What’s with all the useless snake trivia, National Geographic?”
Jane shrugs, trying to look as nonchalant as possible. “I don’t know. Just thought I would share some information. It might come in handy one day, you know.”
“Mhmm.” Cho sounds unconvinced, and as Jane opens his mouth to discuss another snake fact, he becomes increasingly aware of Cho’s suspicious frowns.
But that does nothing to stop him.
When they arrive at the Poole's home, Shaw bolts from the passenger seat as if there might actually be live snakes in the car with them. Jane has to hide his chuckle behind a coughing fit. Cho turns around to frown at him. "If you even think about slipping a rubber snake into his coat pocket I will personally see to it that your couch is removed from the bullpen and replaced with a desk that sits right next to Shaw's."
Since Cho’s threat only includes the rubber snake scheme, Jane decides that he’s perfectly free to make quiet hissing noises every time he happens to pass near Shaw. The sound is low enough that Cho can’t possibly hear it, although Shaw’s reactions are pretty blatant. His face tightens in a telling way, like he’s gritting his teeth, and he tends to flail a little bit, to lash out as though trying to hit the source of the noise. Adding to Jane’s fun is the discovery that Senator Poole has a snake of his own, a boa constrictor named Bubba.
“Has Bubba ever escaped?” Jane asks innocently, interrupting Cho’s question about when the Senator last saw his wife.
Senator Pools holds up a finger. “Once, and you should have seen how fast my staff moved. I swear, they got more things done that day than they had all year.”
Next to him, Shaw almost knocks over a vase of flowers, catching it only at the very last minute and badly bending one of the stems. Poole frowns. “Be careful, son,” he admonishes.
After an hour of questioning, Cho thanks the Senator for his time and shakes his hand. As Shaw moves to do the same, Jane hisses softly, making Shaw clamp down too hard on the Senator’s hand, as though he’s clutching a lifeline.
“Ow, geez, that’s quite a grip,” Poole says, pulling his hand away and massaging a few of his fingers. “Maybe in the future we’ll just nod at each other or something. I need this hand to sign bills.” He laughs, and Shaw turns bright red.
Jane gives them both a smile that curls sarcastically at the corners. “Shaw doesn’t know his own strength," he says, and then, "I’m sure it won’t be a problem in the future." When Shaw turns toward him, Jane's surprised by the look of complete betrayal on his face, because they are not partners. He doesn’t owe this man anything.
The voice starts up again. You complete ass, you're so much better than this. I believe-
He tells it to shut up.
They finally get back to headquarters later that evening, and the first thing Shaw does is head for Abbott’s office. Cho shakes his head, and the disappointment that shadows his face makes Jane’s throat tighten. There’s no yelling though, no sharp words. Just quiet resignation. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Jane,” he says, and then he’s gone.
Jane turns his attention back to Abbott’s office where Shaw is gesturing angrily and talking a mile a minute. Once or twice, Abbott glances over at Jane, his frown making the creases between his eyebrows more pronounced. He waits for the man to come storming out, to discipline him, to tell him that he’s being selfish and childish and he needs to stop. But Abbott just continues sitting and listening to Shaw rant.
Eventually, Jane gives up and moves to his couch. If he’s going to wait out Shaw’s tirade so that Abbott can come yell at him he might as well be comfortable.
But when Shaw does finally leave the office in a huff, Abbott stays where he is and reaches for his phone. Surprised, Jane watches him carefully, wondering if maybe his punishment will come after the mysterious phone call. Then he sees Abbott say Hi, Lisbon and everything stops.
He has to get out of here.
He has to get out of here otherwise he might run in and take the phone from Abbott and pour out everything. All the pain and loss and love caught inside his chest. It’s eating him up from the inside, and he needs someone else to hold on to it for awhile, to bear the weight and give him time to breathe.
She deserves so much more.
Jane’s not sure how he ends up sitting in his airstream with small bag full of belladonna, but he thinks it feels right.
He wants...He wants to see Charlotte again. He wants Lisbon. He wants California and the CBI and a bullpen full of warm sunlight and closed case pizza. He wants the stretches of deep green forests and the comforting still of Lisbon’s office. He wants his family back.
He wants too much.
This is a bad idea. The voice is dimmer now. He's gotten better at ignoring it.