Title: Still (with Hearts Beating)
Spoilers: AU after Black Hearts.
Word Count: 1, 489
Summary: In which Lisbon moves to DC, Jane has a hard time adjusting, and everyone else makes a lot of phone calls.
He's on a beach.
White sand, blazing sun, salt on his tongue.
She's sitting behind him, facing the ocean, a small sand kingdom spread out around her.
"Charlotte?" He stumbles toward her, kicking up sand and almost falling flat on his face. She's here. He had hoped, but he couldn't be sure. He didn't know-
She laughs, the sound half-carried away by a sudden ocean breeze, then frowns in mock seriousness the way she used to before (when he had dared to fudge the ending of a bedtime story or jokingly snag some food off her plate). "Don't ruin all of my hard work," she says, holding her hands out protectively in front of her sandcastles.
"I won't," he swears, the promise thick on his tongue. "I won't."
She nods once, scooping away sand to make a moat. "Good." Then she tilts her head, curious. "Why are you here?" she asks.
Jane tries to smile through the pain in his chest. "Aren't you glad to see me?"
"We said goodbye." It's not sharp or mean, just true. She's stating a fact.
"That doesn't mean I can't want to see you again."
Charlotte's hands still in the sand, her fingertips resting on a half-formed wall. "Dad," she starts reprovingly, as though she's about to launch into a lecture.
He cuts her off. "I miss you. Every single day. I want you to know that. And since Lisbon-"
"What happened to Lisbon?" She's looking at him like she knows exactly what's going on but she wants him to admit it out loud. Then he remembers that of course she knows what's happening because she's a part of him. A figment of his drug-induced state, created and sustained by no one but him.
The air around him fractures, smelling less like ocean and more like antiseptic.
He's on his feet, terrified, reaching down to take Charlotte's hand in his. He tries to memorize the way her smile looks like Angela's. "Promise me you'll stay with me." It's too much to ask of a child. He does it anyway. "Even when I wake up. Promise."
Sunlight sets her hair alight, and it's too much and not enough all at the same time. When she was little he would take her down to the beach early on Saturday mornings and they would play in the receding waves, making sea foam hats and chasing birds.
Jane can feel every grain of sand between his toes.
Charlotte nods, eyes crinkling, and she would have been the most important woman in his life. "I promise."
Something moves just behind him, brushing along the planes of his shoulder blades and then waiting. For some reason, he knows. "Lisbon?" Jane turns, catching dark hair and pale, pale skin just on the reaches of his peripheral vision, but as he reaches out to grab at the image it slides away, moving behind him again.
This time it blows across the back of his neck.
"Lisbon?" His voice sounds brittle in his ears. He wants to see her. When he spins around the same thing happens again and he wants to scream. He looks up from the ground. Charlotte. Charlotte will know what to do.
But she's gone, her sand castles swallowed up by incoming waves and the place where she sat erased.
He doesn't know what to do.
The waves lap at his knees and the shape behind him stays still, watching. Jane spins around one more time, knowing it's pointless but doing it anyway. The waves are up to his ribcage, frothing and dark blue. He can't do this, he can't do this, and he wants-
There's something next to him. Something dark and warm that occasionally brushes against his fingers. He can touch it. Relief fills his chest, buoyant and fizzing. He’s okay. He’s safe.
Jane opens his eyes, startled when instead of the interior of his airstream, he’s met with an overload of clean, white light and the smell of medicine. What happened? He turns to ask Charlotte, but finds Lisbon next to him instead. He says the first, most idiotic thing that comes to him. “You’re not Charlotte.”
Her brow furrows, gaze skirting away from his. “No. No, I’m not.”
They’re holding hands. They’re holding hands and she’s not in DC. Jane swallows around the lump in his throat. “I dreamt about you,” he says, and the words hurt. “I wanted to see Charlotte again, but you were there too. Just waiting.”
He can’t tell if she’s about to cry or if she’s contemplating punching him.
“That’s my Lisbon,” he says knowingly, because she has always been a puzzle to him. All soft curves and sharp edges. Gun metal and curls and a walk that made him stare. (He only ever wanted to understand her.)
She pulls her hand out of his grasp, shoulders going up at severe angles and her mouth straightening into an angry, angry line. "You don't get to say that to me. You don’t get to be an idiot and then expect me to just forget-” She backs away from him, shoes squeaking against the linoleum floor. “No. I’m not doing that. I’m done.”
Jane gapes at her, mouth going dry. What did he do? His head pounds painfully and his fingers and toes feel kind of fuzzy. He wants to go back to the beach, wants to leave this too bright room with a Lisbon he can’t quite wrap his head around.
Then he understands. This is just like the beach with Charlotte. It’s a fever dream within another fever dream. He lets his eyes slip closed and tries to let the uncomfortable weight of his own limbs drag him back under. Maybe he’ll wake up in his poor excuse for a home, alone, with an awful headache and cramped muscles. He’d like that-
He wouldn’t like that. But it’s a better alternative than lying helpless next to a Lisbon that rages and frowns and carries DC on her breath.
“Jane?” He can feel the air shift as she moves back in toward him. Despite everything that just happened there’s a strain of concern in her voice. He wants to go home, he thinks, realizing belatedly that when he thinks of home he still pictures the CBI bullpen with golden dust motes suspended in the air.
“You’re right,” he admits softly, slowly. Everything suddenly moves like molasses. “You’re not my Lisbon.” Her fingers catch on the sheets of his bed, pulling the starched fabric across his arm. It feels so real. “You’re just another hallucination.”
He wakes up again, several hours later, confused by the shadows spilling across the hospital room.
“Oh,” he gasps, “it’s real.”
Next to him, a chair scrapes across the floor, long and loud. The lights in the room flick on.
He groans, throwing an arm across his eyes. The other person huffs out a sound almost like a laugh and then moves back to the chair. Jane peeks out from under his arm, squinting. “You’re here,” he says.
Lisbon rolls her eyes and his chest cracks open at the familiarity of the mannerism. He’s missed her so much. “Of course I’m here.” Her tone carries a note of where else would I be? but all he can think of is how she lives in DC now, working in an office he’s never seen and talking with people he’s never met.
His arm falls back to his side. “I thought I had dreamt you.”
She freezes, fingers clenched tight and eyebrows going up. Her cross looks dull in the fluorescent light. “No,” she says carefully, “you didn’t.”
He can’t mess this up. Everything he says needs to be perfect, syllables and intonation combining into something beautiful, something meaningful. “Thank you,” he blurts out. She stares at him and he can’t think of anything else to say. All his words are gone, gone, gone. “Thank you.” He sounds mildly unintelligent, he decides, so he shuts his mouth.
She picks up as though he hasn’t just spoken. “The doctor said she would be back to check on you in the morning and maybe okay your release then. But I think first you’ll have to swear up and down that you’ll never do such a stupid thing ever again.”
He wants to tell her that it was for her. That he missed her and that getting high on belladonna just seemed like the easiest way to see her again and also, that he’s in love with her. It scratches at his throat, the possibility of finally admitting everything out loud. Instead he says, “When are you headed back to DC?”
The wrong thing. That was the wrong thing to say.
Her face closes off. “As soon as you’re released,” she replies, and then she stands up and leaves the room, the door shutting silently behind her.