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Field Test no. 9: Progress or Lack Thereof


He works at it: even thrusts, even tempo, everything he knows is good, knows that Jane loves. But it’s off, he’s off. Somehow connected and not connected and it’s never been like this, even during those first hesitant times. 

The knowledge twists in his belly, makes him angry, makes him grip tighter and drive deep. When Jane arches back with a gasp of surprised lust, Cho’s not ready for it and he falters.

Because his head is empty, his hands are empty. Even though he’s holding on to Jane’s shoulders. Even though there’s nothing wrong, not really, and he thrusts again, this time ragged and sloppy. What he really wants to do is to grab Jane’s hair, pull his head back and—

‘Wait,’ he thinks. Wait…

~~~~~~~~~~~~



1.


Cho turned and hurried across the parking lot to his car, already planning the route. 62 to 10 to 210 and then on to the 101. It was early enough to miss the heaviest rush-hour traffic, which meant he could probably beat Van Pelt by ten, maybe fifteen minutes. There were some advantages to not traveling with Lisbon and going twenty miles over the speed limit was one of them.

Behind him, Rigsby followed Lisbon, muttering, “If she had a million bucks, why would she live in a dump like this?”

Good question; no doubt they’d find the answer soon. What with Jane on the case and all. 

His last case, of course.

Cho jabbed the remote with a little more force than necessary and the alarm double beeped, unlocking and locking the door. He did it again, this time softer and the door unlocked. He got in. He turned the key and looked over his shoulder; Lisbon and Jane were standing next to the van, talking. And, judging by Lisbon’s growing frown, by Jane’s fluid, careless gestures, the conversation was going downhill.

Sure enough, after only a seconds, Lisbon slammed the van door closed before Jane could get in, then climbed up, leaving Jane standing there. She shot him a quick glance and locked the doors. A few seconds later the van peeled out with Jane still standing in the parking lot.

Cho sighed and thumped his head against the headrest. 

He should do the same. Just leave and let Jane deal with the consequences. He deserved it, after today. And Van Pelt would only be a few minutes ahead; he could still beat them if he tried.

He turned the key, put the car in reverse and backed out, not surprised when he kept backing up, using too much gas and breaks, just to scare Jane a little.

Jane jumped back and even from inside the car, Cho could hear his surprised, “Whoa!”

He put the car in drive with a sharp jerk and leaned over. “What did you say to them?”

Jane bent down, already shaking his head in false puzzlement. “Oh, nothing, really. Total overreaction.”

Cho tightened his lips. Yeah, right. But he didn’t lock the door and he didn’t drive away. He just gazed at Jane steadily when he got in and waited for some explanation.

Jane peered out the window and announced absently, “We need to find a house for sale.”

So, no explanation, only more mystery. Which figured. He muttered, “Okay,” and pulled out of the parking lot, still driving too fast.

***

By the time he logged out and shut down his computer, the office had emptied of everyone but the diehards. Rigsby had already left; Lisbon and Van Pelt were at the conference table, waiting for the Dunningers to arrive. Jane was on his couch, reading. Or pretending—the lights were off and it was too dark to read without a lamp, so really, he was waiting.

Cho didn’t know why—Jane usually ran and hid when the victim’s family came by for the wrap-up. Maybe this case was different because the victim was the mother. But that didn’t make sense—they’d had more than a few cases where the mother had been the victim and/or perpetrator.

Whatever. Cho cleared off his desk, then switched off his lamp.

Jane didn’t look up when he asked quietly, “You taking off?” 

“Yes.”

“I’m gonna hang out here for a while.”

“Okay.”

“You’re quiet tonight. I mean, more than usual.”

Cho didn’t know what to say. Jane was right—he had been quiet. Odd, because the day had been good; they’d gotten the bad guy—or in this instance, the bad woman—and justice had been served.

He should’ve been happy. The team should’ve been happy. They should’ve gathered round the usual case-closed pizza and gone over the details of the investigation, bit by bit.

But, as if by mutual consent, they’d just gone back to work and at the end of the day, no one had offered to call for delivery.

It was all because of Jane’s announcement, Cho figured. No one had said it, but he knew they were still mad. Rigsby and Van Pelt because Jane thought so little of what they did. Lisbon because she hated it when Jane got all high and mighty. And himself?

He wasn’t sure what he was feeling. It wasn’t anger, wasn’t fury. It was too subtle for that, too indefinable. Too frustratingly familiar.

“You okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“Sure?”

“Yes.”

Jane finally glanced over. “Because you don’t sound fine.”

A surprisingly vicious, ‘what the hell do you expect?’ was on the tip of Cho’s tongue, but he swallowed it whole. “No. I’m fine.”

Jane went back to his book. “Okay,” he said mildly.

Cho stood up a little too fast, wondering whether he was ready for this argument and had stepped forward, when the elevator chimed and the Dunningers stepped out. They came down the hall; even from the distance he could see that they looked lost and apprehensive. He turned. “Van Pelt?” 

She looked up. He jerked his head.

She followed his gaze. and jumped up with a little, “Oh,” and hurried out to meet the family.

Cho didn’t want to see this. He and Lisbon had already reviewed the DVD and he didn’t want to see the father’s reaction, the daughter’s remorse, when they found out why Monica Dunninger had done what she’d done.

He picked up his stakeout book, nodded to Lisbon and ignored Jane as he edged by the Dunningers on his way to the elevator.

***

He wasn’t asleep when he heard the sound he’d been waiting for: a click followed by a feeble screech as the front door was opened. Another screech and click as the door was closed, louder this time because it was still sticking and needed a good shove to get it closed. The property manager had promised that it would get fixed days ago. Cho was going to have to give him another call. 

He turned to his side and reached for his watch, noting that his heart had started to beat faster, a dull thumping that echoed in his ears. He tilted the watch face to the light—eleven forty-two. If it were any later, he could pretend that Jane had woken him up, then pretend to go back asleep.

But Jane knew his habits by now. Knew that he never went to bed before eleven, that he liked to read for at least a half hour before he turned off the lights. Besides, he’d never played those games in the past and he wasn’t about to start now.

So he waited and listened as Jane tiptoed across the floor to stand in the doorway. 

Without turning over, he muttered, “It’s late.”

There was a slight pause and he could hear the smile in Jane’s voice when he said, “Do you want me to go?”

“What do you think?”

“I think, no.”

“No.” Because it was true. Even after all that had gone on today, he didn’t want Jane to go. He was so fucking whipped.  “How’d it go?”

“The Dunningers?”

“Yeah.”

“Like you’d expect. They all cried, the daughter more than the others.”

“She has more to cry about than the others.”

“I suppose so.”

“Did Lisbon say anything about Bosco?”

“No.”

“What happened this afternoon?”

“You mean when Bosco patronized me and I patronized him?”

“I mean when you cornered Bosco and he responded as you expected him to respond.”

“Corner is such an ugly word. Appropriate, though.”

“What happened?”

“Nothing. Other than a feeble attempt at psychoanalysis. On his part, of course.”

Cho knew what that meant. He sighed and turned over. Jane was leaning against the doorframe, hands in pockets, a darker shadow against the dark night. “Jane—”

“Ah…” He waved away Cho’s objection and straightened up. “It’ll be alright. He’s just a bully.” He took off his jacket and tossed it on the chair, then toed off his shoes.

Cho’s heart began to pound harder and any thoughts of sleep disappeared because Jane had jumped on the bed and was crawling to him,  pretending to stalk him like a big cat. He should look ridiculous, but he didn’t, and when he leaned down to kiss Cho’s chin, whispering, “Too sleepy?” Cho’s dick woke up as well.

He wanted to answer, ‘what do you think’ or, ‘yes.’ But even in the dark, Jane would know—especially in the dark, Jane would know—so he just reached up and pulled him down.

Jane smelled of the night, tasted of tea and Cho pushed away his fugitive anger. He kicked free of the covers and Jane slid onto him, heavy and warm. At least they had this.

***

His arm was painfully numb and he should move, but he stayed still, staring up at the ceiling.

“Are you okay?” Jane murmured into his neck.

“I’m fine.”

Jane hesitated, long enough that Cho wondered if he’d given himself away, but all he said was, “I need to run by the library tomorrow.”

“Okay.”

“So I’ll take my own car to work?”

“Okay.”

Jane fell asleep first. Cho pulled free and turned to face him. He was smiling softly, like he was dreaming of something nice.

Maybe of his family or catching Red John, and Cho felt it return, the knot of cold anger, and he finally, finally let memory intrude: of Jane, book in hand, announcing matter-of-factly to the people he supposedly trusted the most, ‘There’s not a whole lot here for me.’

 


~~~~~~~~

 

2.

 

The denouement, as Jane called it later, was simultaneously a letdown and a shock. A letdown because Cho had really thought they were a step ahead this time. Harlan McAdoo was the perfect suspect—greedy and cruel, no matter all his talk about family and loyalty.

The shock came later after Lisbon called him at eight-thirty to tell him that the CBI’d had a break-in, when Jane had gathered them around and outlined his plan to catch the real killer.

And that was the shock—that it was Melinda Batson the whole time. 

Cho knew that women were more than capable of murder but she looked like a brisk breeze would knock her over. And when Jane had told them the reason why she’d murdered her intern, he chuckled at Cho’s expression and asked him if his gaydar was broken.

A pretty insulting comment, considering. Cho had pursed his lips and got on with the program of setting up the corpse to look like a living, breathing, informant. 

By the time the sting was complete, the body was stiffening, and Cho was getting fed up with trying to hold it upright. When Jane popped his head in the interview room and told them it was over, Cho muttered to Rigsby, ‘He’s all yours,’ and left to go wash his hands, wondering as he scrubbed his hands over and over, whether he really meant the body or Jane.

 

~~~~~~~~

 

3. 4. 5.

 

The following weeks were busy. There was the thing with Lisbon, the bikers, and then the haunted house that turned out to be a fake. The latter two being almost a relief because they stopped Cho from worrying about Lisbon. 

Whenever he asked, which was only twice in the two weeks, she said she was fine, that the whole thing with Carmen had been no big deal, and to just leave it alone.

So he left it alone. Sort of. He got Jane to admit that he’d hypnotized her, that even with the drugs she was like a tough-skinned onion—almost impossible to peel open without tears.

Jane was more than a little nonchalant about it. He assured Cho that if Lisbon said she was fine, then she was fine. Not an answer that pacified Cho and he told Jane that. They even had an argument about it in front of the eleven o’clock news over a dinner of take-out because they were both too tired to make anything. 

Cho accused Jane of messing around with Lisbon’s head. Jane argued that Lisbon could take care of herself. Finally, when things actually looked like they might get out of hand, Jane asked Cho who he was in love with: Lisbon or himself.

The question was ridiculous and Cho told him that if he had to ask, then he didn’t want to know the answer. Jane took his food away and tackled him. 

They had sex on the couch as the news ended and the David Letterman show started. And when Cho came, it was to the contrary sounds of Jane’s breath, heavy in his ear, and the tinny laughter of the studio crowd.


~~~~~~~~

6.


“Yes, sir, I put it on your desk,” Rebecca murmured as she gave Bosco a sheaf of papers. “And this is the report you asked for. Should I—?” She gestured to the hallway.

Bosco looked up from the report and shook his head. “No, thanks, Rebecca. I’ll take it with me.”

She left with a little smile, hurrying away efficiently. Bosco stood there for a moment, still reading, then looked up at Cho and closed the file pointedly. As he left the room, Cho thought, ‘ass.’ 

As if he would do anything so stupid as try to spy on Bosco’s case. He might do other stupid things, but not that. He hoped.

He hit print with a grim smirk and got to his feet. Lisbon was with Van Pelt, going over their notes for the Gerber interview. Rigsby was off who knew where and the rest of the crew were busy with their own work. No one was watching and he told himself to stop being so paranoid. As he casually strolled to the printer. As he quickly gathered up the printouts before anyone could see them. As he hurried back to his desk and stuffed them into the file folder.

“That the paperwork on the case?”

He didn’t jump. He answered Lisbon without turning around, “Yes.”

“And the copies of Hines’s notebook?”

“Yes.”

“Do you want me to go along?”

Cho turned. She was standing in the doorway, hands on her hips. “If you want.”

She shrugged. “No, it’s fine. I was just asking.” She shrugged again, a questioning look on her face.

They hadn’t talked about it, and if Cho had his way, they wouldn’t. He slid the folder into an envelope, silently willing her to just leave it alone. 

Which wasn’t going to happen, he thought, as she walked over to him. “You all right?” she asked softly.

“I’m not the one in jail.” And crap, he hadn’t meant to say that. He frowned and reached into his desk drawer to scoop up the extra change he had tucked away for emergencies.

Lisbon crossed her arms. “You know what I mean.”

Cho shrugged. “I’m fine.” About four dollars in change. That should do.

Lisbon paused, then said abruptly, “He needs this, Cho. He needs to learn that there are limits.”

Cho closed the drawer and pocketed the money, reminding himself that she felt she was doing the right thing. That she saw this as a unique opportunity to teach Jane the value of obedience. But this was why he’d wanted to avoid the subject—he didn’t want to hear any justifications, any excuses, not from her.

“He’ll stay there a few days and when he’s learned his lesson, we’ll get him out.”

And, damnit, he just couldn’t stand it. He straightened and turned. 

Her face was flushed, angry, but the guilt and remorse were there, clear as day and his anger faded. 

He couldn’t answer like he wanted, couldn’t say that he’d done his research, that he knew that Jane’s cellie was in for rape and murder. That Jane would be the one to suffer for her unwillingness to force the issue with Bosco. And that despite all the skills he’d picked up over the years, he wasn’t made for jail.

He nodded shortly and said, “Okay, boss.” 

He thought that would be the end of it but she called out as he got to the door, “Let me know what he says about the notebook.”

“Will do.”

“In the meantime, I’m going to check out the father-in-law. He was pretty hot under the collar. He might have something to say.”

Cho waved the envelope without turning around.

***

The guard looked Cho up and down, then muttered, “Wait here.” 

Cho nodded and stood back as the buzzer sounded and the door slid back.

“You know your way?”

He was stony-eyed, like every prison guard Cho had ever come across, in jail or out. “Yes.” 

And then the guard smiled; it wasn’t a nice smile. “Bet you do.” 

Whatever that meant. Cho just tightened his lips and brushed by the guard, making sure to walk a little too close. He smiled when the guard growled and backed up.

The visitor’s room was at the end of the corridor, a depressing, plain room with big windows, tables bolted to the floor, and too many guards.

He flashed his badge, went inside and found a seat in the back.

He hadn’t lied; he’d been here before, but never to see anyone other than an inmate, someone who deserved to be behind bars. 

The place smelled like all prisons—an unpleasant mix of sweat and disinfectant and an underlying hint of darker things. He told himself that it was his imagination, that there was no possible way to smell fear and anger and pain. 

He sat back and scanned the room. It wasn’t crowded, but all the tables were occupied. Women mostly, and one family on the far side—the boy looked like he wanted to be anywhere but where he was. 

Cho couldn’t blame him. He wanted to be anywhere but where he was.

A young women who’d seen better days came in and made a beeline for his table. She started to sit down but he gave her a look. She chose another table and Cho shrugged, satisfied. He didn’t want anyone overhearing their conversation—who knew what Jane would do or say?

He had to wait another twelve minutes. He knew it was twelve because after five minutes had passed, he kept looking at his watch. Like that would make Jane come any faster.

The double entendre made him wince and he shifted on the hard seat. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea. Maybe he should—

His thoughts were cut short as the cell doors opened and Jane walked through, followed by two guards.

He was dressed in a blue. The color suited him and he smiled when he saw Cho. He even held out his hands as if he was greeting a long lost friend.

Cho’s stomach twisted and he stood up. When Jane got nearer, he thought for a minute he’d do something stupid, like reach out and hug him. But even he had some sense—he went around to the other side of the table.

Cho gave him the folder as he sat down. Distance had been a liar—up close, he looked tired and worn, his face drawn as if he hadn’t slept in days and Cho’s stomach twisted again. This was so damn wrong. Lisbon should do something about it.

He just nodded to the folder and muttered, “That’s the case paperwork, so far. And that’s a copy of the victim’s notebook.” He hesitated. “And those are some Sudoku puzzles.”

Jane looked at the printouts and smiled softly, but all he said was, “Still like Luscom for it?” 

Around his right wrist was a booking bracelet. It was one of the new kind, no-tear, with his name and a bunch of other crap on it. It even had a bar code. Cho wanted to rip it off. “Yeah, he’s got attitude and motive. But the coroner says Kirby Hines was badly beaten up about a month ago, at which time Luscom was in custody on a DUI and a resisting arrest beef.”

“Could’ve been one of Luscom’s friends that did it.”

Cho shook his head. “Yeah, only Hines never reported the beating. Didn’t go to the hospital and his wife denies any knowledge of it.”

“Think Kirby and his wife could’ve kept quiet about the beating because it was a family matter?”

“Yeah, Lisbon’s with the father-in-law right now.”

“Wonder what she’ll find?”

Cho thought about it. “He was pretty angry. According to Luscom, there’s been bad blood between the two families for a while now.”

Jane turned his head towards the opaque windows. “Hmm.”

Cho watched him for a moment, then, because he couldn’t help himself, he murmured, “How is it?”

“Fine,” Jane answered softly, still looking up.

“Do you need change for the telephone?”

He started to get the money he’d brought, but Jane shook his head. “No, don’t worry about it. Lisbon set me up. I’m fine.”

Cho leaned forward. “How’s your cellmate?”

“Boo?” Jane shrugged dismissively and turned back to Cho. “He’s just a big kid with father issues.”

Cho leaned closer. He wanted to touch the Jane’s hand, which was absolutely insane. “Make sure you—” He stopped himself just in time. Jane wasn’t an idiot. He knew that a man who’d raped and killed could easily do it again. Saying, ‘be careful,’ and, ‘don’t turn your back,’ wasn’t going to make him feel any better, make him any safer.

He sat back, forcing a calm he didn’t feel. “You need anything else?”

“A cake with a file?” Jane answered cheerfully, some of his unquenchable good humor returning.

“Yeah, Lisbon would love that. Two of us in jail.”

“Ah, but then you’d be locked up with me.”

“No such luck. They’d put me in the Federal pen, in maximum security so the rest of the population couldn’t get at me. Or not, depending on how much the warden hated me.”

“Still,” Jane whispered and leaned closer, “If you were here, you’d fight for me, right? You’d make sure I was safe?” His smile changed, became the one he usually gave Cho when they were home, or at the very least, by themselves. 

Cho smothered an answering smile, telling himself that it wasn’t funny. That it wasn’t hot. “You wouldn’t have anything to worry about.”

He’d meant to joke, but he screwed it up. A mistake, and Jane picked up on his transparent worry right away. He lost his smile. “I’m okay, Cho. I’m fine. I’ve got them eating out of my hand. Seriously.”

“Okay.”

“So, you won’t worry, right?”

“No, I won’t worry.”

“Besides,” Jane shrugged, “I’ll be out of here in a few days and this’ll all be a fond memory.”

“Right.”

“I’ll look over your notes,” he tapped the folder with his finger, “do a little Sudoku, and figure this thing out before you know it.”

“Fine.”

“And when I get out, we’ll make up for lost time. Okay?”

“Okay.”

Jane picked up the folder and got to his feet. “Tell the gang I said hi.”

“Will do.” Cho stood and followed him to the door.

He watched Jane go, telling himself it was a mistake, that the guards couldn’t know that he and Jane were together. Because if they knew, then the other inmates would know—it was how things worked. 

Luckily, Jane was already head-deep in the folder and didn’t look back. And that was a good thing.

***

Cho stood in the hallway and watched as Lisbon and Jane talked. He couldn’t hear what they were saying, but he could see. Jane was supposed to be thanking her for her intervention; at least, that’s what he promised he’d do when Cho’d picked him up.

But it looked more like he was lecturing again, gesturing with one hand, pointing his finger. She just sat there with a blank face.

Cho crossed his arms over his chest. He better not blow it. They both knew what she’d done, the talk she’d had with Bosco, even though they didn’t know the specifics.

His hopes were in vain; as Jane was leaving, Lisbon leaned over and whispered loudly, “I should’ve let you rot in jail.”

Jane just smiled brilliantly and left. His smile broadened when he saw Cho, but he didn’t say anything. He just jerked his head to the bullpen. 

Cho followed.

When Jane got to his couch, he threw himself on it and sighed, long and deep. “I missed my couch.”

“Hmm.”

Jane looked up at him, backwards, and grinned again. “Don’t be grumpy. I missed a lot of other things as well.”

Cho put his hands on his hips. “You were only in there for two days.”

“Yeah, but they were two long days.” His smile died and he crossed his arms behind his head. “Two very long days.”

Cho nodded absently—he was still wearing the prison I.D. wristband. They must have forgotten it in the rush of the sudden release. He got out his pocketknife and said quietly, “Give me your hand.”

Jane raised one eyebrow. “Do I want to know what you’re going to do with that knife?” 

Still, he raised his arm and Cho carefully cut off the tag.

“I’d forgotten all about that,” Jane said, watching him intently. 

“Hmm.” Cho ran the strip of paper through his fingers, then crushed it. 

Jane was still looking up backwards. “Are you okay?”

Cho hesitated, then shrugged. “I’m fine.” He threw the wristband away and went back to his desk.


~~~~~~~~


9.


He looked at his watch and muttered, “Damnit.”

He unlocked the door, kicked it open, kicked it closed. He shouldn’t have taken the time for a run. He should’ve just picked up the suit from the dry cleaners like he’d planned and gone straight home. Because he was late. Late, late, late, and Lisbon was going to kill him.

He ignored the mail and tossed his gym bag and keys on the kitchen table. And stopped short.

He’d left the kitchen as always—food put away, dishes washed, spotless. Now, the morning newspaper lay on the table, opened to the puzzles page. Next to it sat a pencil and a coffee cup. He shouted, “Jane?”

No answer, and he hurried to the rear of the loft. As he got closer to the bedrooms, he could hear the faint hiss of water, the muted rumble of the plumbing—Jane was in there, taking a shower. 

Cho went to the bathroom door and stood there, weighing his options. He needed to get cleaned up and on the road. Lisbon had been very clear about that: ‘if I have to go to this thing, so do you. You better not be late.’

But in the aftermath of Bosco’s death, Cho had been traveling, in one meeting after another, one task force after another. With almost every Federal agency from Sacramento to Los Angeles. It hadn’t helped that Jane had been just as absent, holed up in Bosco’s office, going over his files on Red John. He’d even been sleeping there, against Lisbon’s advice and Minelli’s orders. 

They hadn’t seen each other in eight days. 

Eight days.

Cho hung the suit on the bedroom doorknob, toed off his shoes and socks, and padded to the bathroom.

The place was white with steam; he could barely see the shower, much less Jane. “I hope you didn’t use all the hot water.”

The curtain jerked back and there was Jane wet, happy. “Hey! When did you get back?” His hair was a glossy dark brown, slicked back from his face.

“A few hours ago. Lisbon said you were going straight to the party.”

“I was, but…” He shrugged and then looked Cho up and down, leering exaggeratedly. “I changed my mind.”

Cho hesitated and looked at his watch. It was fogged up, but he could still see the time—he had ten minutes, give or take.

Jane leered again and said, “C’mon. The water’s still warm and so am I.”

Cho rolled his eyes and for a split second considered leaving, just to drive Jane nuts. But who was he kidding? He began to strip.

“Now that’s what I’m talking about,” Jane murmured as he watched Cho pull off his t-shirt, step out of his shorts.

Cho snorted again. But he let Jane pull him in, shivering at the sudden heat. And he let Jane push him up against the wall, shivering again because Jane, seal-slick and so damn beautiful, was kissing him, murmuring over and over, “I missed you. I missed you.”

And he must’ve because he was on his knees in a moment, sliding down Cho like something from one of Cho’s fantasies—clever hands everywhere, cleverer mouth following the trails of warm water.

He looked up, one long, wicked look, then mouthed Cho’s dick, fumbling a little because he still wasn’t very good at this. But, Christ, Cho didn’t care and he moaned softly as Jane showed him how much he’d been missed.

***

“We’re really late,” Cho said for the third time as he stood before the mirror, trying to hurry. He tucked his tie under the back of his collar the same time he tried to finish buttoning his shirt. 

Jane was already dressed. Of course, he’d had a head start. It had taken Cho a while to recover from the sex, a while to wash and shave. “She’s going to kill me.”

“Eh.” Jane stepped up behind him and made a face in the mirror. “Here, you’re making a mess of that. Let me.” He took the strip of silk, adjusted it, then quickly knotted it into a flawless bow. His hands were still warm from the shower and he smelled good. “There you go. Perfect as always.” He eyed Cho critically and patted his shoulders in satisfaction. “Anyway, she’ll be late.”

“No she won’t.” Then, because he had to ask, “How do you know?”

“Because she doesn’t want to go and so she’ll unconsciously dawdle.”

Cho tightened his lips because he was the one who hadn’t wanted to go. Lisbon’d had to practically order him when he’d objected at the waste of time. They had more urgent business than making a show for a bunch of people with too much money. “Do you know what you’re going to do?”

Jane picked up his watch and put it on, his head bent to the lamp. His hair was almost dry and the gold curls caught the light. He was calm and Cho remembered that he was used to being in front of a crowd, that he liked it. 

“Jane?”

Jane shrugged. “Just a little boring magic.”

“Is magic boring?”

“It is when you’ve been doing it all your life. What I’d really like to do…” He picked up Cho’s cufflinks and crooked a finger. “Give me your…”

Cho lifted his right arm.

“Thanks. What I’d really like to do is something a little more fun.” He fastened the other cufflink.

Cho frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Relax,” Jane said with a little laugh. “I won’t do anything to embarrass you in front of all those people. I promise.” He straightened Cho’s tie one more time and grinned. “C’mon, we’re late.”

***

“Some promise,” Cho muttered breathlessly. “I thought you said—”

“I’m not embarrassing you in front of all these people, am I?” Jane interrupted as he nipped the rim of Cho’s ear, laughing when Cho shuddered and tilted his head to the side. “No one’s around.”

“Don’t you have to get up there soon?”

Jane pushed him back over the countertop, carefully though, and murmured, “A tenor is on before me. He’s all dressed up—looks like a over-grown boy scout. No one knows where we are. And you can’t blame me, can you? You look fantastic.” His breath smelled of the mint he’d popped in his mouth as they pulled into the parking lot.

Cho tried again. “Lisbon’ll be waiting.”

“No, she won’t.” Jane kissed Cho’s cheek, the curve of his jaw. “She’ll be in the bathroom, staring at herself in the mirror, trying to convince herself that she’s as lovely as she so obviously is.”

“No she won’t,” Cho repeated, “she’ll be calling—”

“Hush.” Jane moved to Cho’s neck, not really biting, just nuzzling and somehow that was even more sexy and Cho didn’t want to, but he pushed Jane away one more time. 

“Anyone could some in, anyone could—”

“No one uses this cloak room anymore. It’ll be fine. Besides, the entertainment isn’t over. They’ll be stuck inside that ballroom for another half hour, at the very least. Poor slobs.”

“What about the security cameras?”

Jane unbuttoned Cho’s jacket and snaked his hand around his waist. “Already checked that out. Now, hush.

Later, Cho wondered how far they would’ve gone because he was a little off his head, what with all the stress at work, with the eight days thing, but suddenly, Jane pulled back and stilled, head cocked. 

Cho looked around. “What—?”

“Listen.”

Cho listened; all he could hear were the faint strains of a violin.

“Oops. That’s my cue.” Jane gave him a lightning fast kiss, then pushed away and adjusted his jacket, his cuffs. “I won’t be long. Just need to do my thing, then we can take up where we left off.” 

And he was gone with Cho still bent back over the counter, gaping like a fish. 

He straightened, groaning a little because his back hurt, because he was pissed at himself for letting Jane talk him into this. Anyone could’ve come in.

Hoping he didn’t have any telltale creases, he dusted himself off, buttoned, smoothed, and straightened, then left.

He was coming down the stairs when he ran into Van Pelt and Rigsby. They’d just arrived, obviously together. Cho wanted to tell them that they weren’t fooling anyone, that Jane had been talking about it for weeks. But it was kind of funny, watching them squirm.

Rigsby looked around and saw Cho; his face lit up. “Where’ve you been? The boss is looking for you, and boy, is she not happy.”

Damnit. “Where is she?”

Rigsby jerked his thumb. “Waiting near the metal detectors.”

Van Pelt added, almost apologetically, “She thought you left something in your car.”

“Damnit.”

She nodded. “You better hurry.”

Cho pushed by Rigsby and as he was hurrying away, Rigsby grabbed his sleeve. “Hey, what’s back there?”

Cho said over his shoulder, “An old cloak room.”

***

Thomas Doverton put a gentle arm around his aunt and pulled her close. She buried her make-up smeared face in his shoulder and Cho thought sourly, ‘there goes the night.’

A simple burglary would’ve never warranted the CBI’s attention, but when it happened to a rich donor? 

He sighed and clasped his hands tighter.

Lisbon turned to him. The minute she’d heard the words, ‘burglary,’ and ‘gunshots,’ her whole demeanor had changed. Gone was the fake smile—in its place was the steely intelligence and professionalism Cho’d always admired. “You and Rigsby head on over to the crime scene. Take your car. I’ll be right behind you.” She scanned the packed ballroom, then raised her arm and signaled.

Cho looked over his shoulder. Rigsby and Van Pelt were on their way, trying not to jostle the crowd as they hurried forward.

Lisbon waited until they got closer and said quietly, “Rigsby, you’re with Cho. I’ll meet you there. Van Pelt, get back to the office and start digging.” She turned to Esther Doverton and laid a hand on her arm, saying gently, “Why don’t you have someone drive you to the hospital. I’ll need your nephews to give me some background.”

Doverton nodded through her tears and looked around. A man stepped forward, probably the bodyguard. He took his place behind her and they hurried away.

“Jane?” Lisbon murmured with a small frown.

Cho turned to find Jane staring at the Doverton brothers, a small smile on his lips. 

“Jane?” Lisbon repeated.

“Hmm? Oh, yes.” He raised an eyebrow and looked around, saying mildly, “Am I going with you?”

Cho could see the words, ‘what do you think?’ in Lisbon’s eyes, but all she did was turn to the doors. 

He exchanged a quick glance with Jane and they began to push through the crowd, Lisbon in the lead. As they reached the double doors, there was a confused shuffling about as they tried to get through at once; even so, Cho was pretty sure it wasn’t an accident when Jane’s hand landed on his ass.


~~~~~~~~


10.


Cho was struggling to finish his report when his cell rang. He glanced at the caller I.D., then hit ‘talk.’ “Hi, there.”

“Hey. Just wanted to let you know I’m on my way back.” 

Lisbon’s voice was thin and high; she must be tired and he checked the clock—four-thirteen, long past the time he’d expected them back. “What happened?”

“You mean did Jane piss off the doctor? Did Jane try to make a break for it?”

When Cho didn’t answer, she sighed, “No, he’s fine. They think. The doctor told me to take him to the hospital for observation. You can guess how that went over.”

Cho sat up straighter. “They want him to stay the night?”

“That’s what they said.”

“And he agreed to that?”

“Yep.”

“Huh.” If Jane was willing to stay the night, even he knew there might be something wrong.

“Yeah, well, he got hit pretty hard.” Lisbon’s voice faded out, then in. “The doctor said he was lucky the ball hit him where it did or we’d be having a different conversation.”

She said it casually, like it was no big thing. But Cho knew what happened when a baseball hit the human body; he’d seen the results more than a few times. Hell, he’d felt the results more than a few times.

Which meant he should be taking this in stride, right? Not freaking out like he seemed to be doing, like he’d been doing all afternoon. Trying to work only to see Jane clap his hand to his head. See him fall to the ground with an astonished look of surprise; see him come to with a dazed smile.

And, who did that, Cho thought with a twinge of anger. Who smiled like that after getting beaned on the head with a baseball that had to doing eighty miles an hour? Give or take, because the ball’s velocity—

“Cho? You there?”

“Yeah.” He cleared his throat and added, “Sorry. Just reading my email.”

“Listen, I told him I’d get his Sudoku book. Can you bring it with you?”

“Well, I…” Cho paused. He was going to the hospital. Of course he was. 

Wasn’t he?

“You’re going, aren’t you?” Lisbon was frowning; he could hear it in her voice.

He leaned back in his chair and glanced over at Van Pelt. She’d stopped working and was staring at him. He looked over his shoulder. So was Rigsby.

He cleared his throat and muttered, “We’ve got a lot on our plate.” The wrap-up of the current case, the other on-goings, and, of course, the Bosco investigation.

Still it was an excuse and Lisbon made it clear she knew that when she snorted gently and said, “Oh, please.”

“Boss—”

“Did you tell him that? That you’re not stopping by? Because he thinks you are.”

“No.”

Lisbon paused, long enough that Cho thought they’d got cut off when she said gently, “Cho.”

She didn’t say any more, and she didn’t have to. She was right; all the work could wait. Besides, it wasn’t like he’d get a lot done in forty-five minutes. “Yeah, okay.”

“He’s in room 320. I’ll see you in the morning.” She hung up without saying goodbye.

Cho pocketed the phone and waited for the questions.

“He has to stay?” Van Pelt and Rigsby said at the same time.

“Yeah. Just for the night.” He stood up and felt for his badge, his weapon.

“They’ll probably take a brain scan or something,” Rigsby intoned gravely.

Cho didn’t roll his eyes or say, ‘like you would know.’ He was in an oddly bad mood and it would come out wrong.

Van Pelt nodded in agreement. “Like they should have done with that actress. The one who died after that skiing accident. That was so sad. One minute she was all right, the next…”

She trailed off with a soulful sigh, the one that made Rigsby all goofy and moony.

Cho tightened his lips and ignored their twin looks of concern. He went to search for the Sudoku book; it wasn’t on the side table and it wasn’t on the desk. He was trying to remember if Jane had left it at home when he saw it, stuck between the couch’s back and cushion. He dug it out and turned to find Van Pelt right behind him, gripping her hands.

She hesitated, then blurted out, “Do you want some company?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?” she said quickly, “because—”

Cho shook his head. “No, that’s okay.” He didn’t know what his expression said, but whatever it was, her frown only deepened. 

They stared at each other, then she said a quiet, “Okay,” and went back to her desk.

Cho glanced at Rigsby. He was sitting there, glancing back and forth between them, obviously confused. 

Wanting to growl, ‘don’t look at me, man,’ Cho just grabbed his stakeout book and left.

He decided he’d take the stairs. His bad mood was only getting worse—maybe a little exercise and the drive would work out some of the anger.

***

It took him twenty minutes to get to the hospital and another five to find a parking space. Not enough time for the knot of anger to dissipate. In fact, it seemed to be growing, which was weird. 

He sat in his car, debating whether or not to read a little before going in; it would give him time to cool down, time to think of something to say to Jane other than, ‘Hey brainiac, next time you get hit in the head with a baseball, maybe you should see a doctor before you faint three times.’ 

Of course, Jane would only argue that he hadn’t fainted at all, and then Cho would have to argue that, yes, he had. They’d go back and forth until one of them gave in and experience said that the one giving in wouldn’t be Jane.

Cho picked up the books and got out of the car. 

He was striding to the hospital’s main entrance, watching the reflected sunset get bigger as he got closer to the doors when a perfectly formed memory intruded, ‘There’s not a whole lot here for me.’

He stopped dead in his tracks and frowned up at the hospital, shocked, unhappy. Where the hell had that come from? He thought he’d gotten rid of that a while ago.

“Excuse me?”

He turned.

A kid in a pink-striped shirt with an armful of stuffed toys and a couple balloons was standing behind him, obviously wondering if he was okay.

“Are you all right, sir?”

Cho shrugged and answered shortly, “Yeah, I’m fine.” He went through the doors with a muttered, “Thanks,” and hurried past the main reception area to the elevator bank.

He pressed ‘up’ almost savagely. When the doors opened, he stepped inside, grateful that no one else got in or out. He was in no mood for chitchat.

The third floor was quiet. He nodded to the nurse standing by the main desk as he passed by; she gave him a brief smile. Near room 320, a large Korean family was gathered in the corridor. Like the candy striper, they were loaded down with flowers and gifts. But, they were smiling, so, good news, apparently. 

One of the young women turned as he walked by. She smiled a little too warmly and he jerked his head up and down, hoping she wouldn’t take it as an invitation.

He didn’t give her time, though. He found Jane’s room and went inside without knocking. 

The room had two beds, but only the one nearest the window was occupied. Or would’ve been if Jane was using it—he wasn’t. He was sitting on the window ledge, pressed up against the glass as he peered down. He was dressed in the clothes he’d been wearing earlier; a pale blue hospital gown lay across the foot of the bed. 

Without turning around, he murmured, “It’s about time. I’ve been going crazy here.”

Cho made a useless gesture that Jane wouldn’t see. “I was working.”

Jane looked over his shoulder. He seemed okay. A little tired, a little down, but then, he’d had a hard day. “I know. I’m not complaining. Did you let the groundskeeper go home?”

The groundskeeper had left right after the interview—Jane had been there, had probably even seen him leave. Cho just said, “Yeah.”

“Hmm.” He turned back to the window.

There was a chair in the corner. Cho dragged it closer to the bed and sat down. He tossed the books on the tray next to the bed and waited for Jane to ask about Sloop’s wife, about Snake’s dad. But he didn’t. He just sat there and looked out the window. 

Finally, when he couldn’t stand it anymore, Cho asked abruptly, “Are you all right?”

“That’s the fifth time you’ve asked me that today.”

“Which makes it the fifth time you haven’t answered.”

“No, it makes it the fifth time that I haven’t answered you the way you want me to answer you.”

“Jane—”

Jane slid to his feet and came around to sit on the bed. He was barefoot. Cho opened his mouth to object because that couldn’t be sanitary, could it? Missy always said that hospitals were basically germ factories and that if you weren’t sick when you went in, there was a good chance you’d be sick when you came out.

He swallowed his objections because Jane looked strange. Strange and a little sexy. Like he didn’t belong to the modern world at all with its concrete and glass, but instead should be out in a forest, running around half naked, and Cho remembered him lying on the grass at the Academy, little bits of gold and green leaves caught in his hair. 

And that smile, the murmured, ‘Hey…’

It was a good thing no one else had been around. Jane’s sleepy-eyed air, his low, low voice had been too intimate, too obvious.

Cho cleared his throat and crossed his legs. “What did the doctor say?”

“Lisbon already told you, right?”

“Yeah, but I want to hear it from you.”

Jane lay back on the bed and turned on his side. He tucked his hands under his cheek and smiled at Cho. “You’re wearing jeans again. That’s the third times in two weeks. You never used to do that. No longer the young, go-getter CBI agent. What should one make of that?”

Cho frowned, utterly confused. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“Oh, I’ve just been thinking.”

“Of what?”

Jane closed his eyes. “Fathers. And sons.”

“Jane.”

“I mean, take Snake and Scotty. Do you think their fathers know they’re lovers?”

“What?”

“All that talk about sliders and practice…” Jane smirked. “I bet if their dads knew, they wouldn’t be practicing at night on their own anymore.” He opened his eyes and squinted at Cho. “You didn’t know? I figured you’d pick up on it.”

“I was a little busy with a murder investigation.”

“No, you were a little busy being fine.”

Cho’s heart jerked because what the hell did that mean? “Jane.” He started to push to his feet, but Jane waved him back with a small smile.

“No, it’s okay. Really. The doctor was just here.”

“What’d he say?”

She said that I banged my head so I have to be careful.”

“Really?”

“No, just kidding.” Jane smiled briefly. “She says the swelling is already going down. That I don’t exhibit any of the classic symptoms resulting of trauma to the head. Yadda, yadda, yadda.”

“Can you go home?”

“No. They want me to stay the requisite twenty-four hours. Apparently, they need their pound of flesh.”

Cho ignored that. “Why’re you still dressed?”

“They tried to get me to wear that ridiculous thing.” Jane lifted the gown with his foot. “I told them that my own clothes were more sanitary and more comfortable. They’re waiting until one of the night staff comes so he can make me change.”

“Jane—”

“They’re afraid of me.”

Cho frowned and leaned forward. It wasn’t an unusual circumstance, but still… “Why?”

“Because I told the nurse in the pink sweater set that she was going to get a divorce within the next two weeks and apparently I was right and now they all think I’m a witch.”

“They’re—” ‘doctors and nurses and medical people’ Cho started to say, but didn’t. People rarely reacted well when Jane did his thing, no matter their profession, and few people had an immunity to superstition and fear. He knew that better than most.

He stood up and said quietly, “C’mon.”

Jane looked up at him, bemused. “Huh?”

“You’re going to change. Now.”

He waited for Jane to argue; he just rolled to his feet and began to unbutton his vest.

Cho pushed his hands away. “I’ll do that.”

Jane smiled and raised his arms. “I’m all yours.”

Cho ignored that as well. He stripped Jane of his vest, shirt, belt, trousers, quickly and efficiently. Not really letting himself think about what he was doing because they were in a hospital and there was a big, curtainless window just eight feet away.

Jane took it all with a lazy kind of grace. When Cho leaned down to help him step out of his trousers, he stroked his head and murmured, “You’re pretty good at this.”

Cho straightened. “Yeah, well don’t get used to it.”

“Too late,” Jane said with another small smile.

And Cho couldn’t help it—his anger muted and he smiled as he hung the clothes in the closet. When he turned around, Jane was in the gown, trying to reach the ties. 

He muttered, “I’ll do that,” and knotted them in a neat bow, telling himself that Jane wasn’t infirm, he could do all this himself. Still, he guided him into bed with one hand on his back and even drew up the covers.

Jane settled in and looked up at him, eyes too blue in the half-light. “Will you stay?”

“Yeah, if you want.” He sat down in the chair again.

“Of course I want.”

He was asleep within minutes, his head turned towards Cho.

Cho got up. He’d let the nurse know that Jane was in bed, asleep. Then he’d come back, make himself comfortable and catch up on Bleak House.

***

Jane was released from the hospital exactly twenty-two hours after his admittance.

By then Cho and Lisbon were at the Capital, updating the task force on the progress of the Bosco investigation. They spent the day in meetings, then were called in on a double homicide. Lisbon didn’t notify Jane, saying it was routine, nothing he could help them with. Cho agreed and they got to work. 

The homicide turned out to be a little more than routine and they ended up in Ridgecrest, following a lead. The lead was good and Rigsby and Van Pelt joined them that night. Jane called Lisbon at three, wanting to know how it was going. They were at the local sheriff’s office and Cho, sitting right next to her, waited for her voice to rise, waited for the argument to start.

When it didn’t, when he realized that Jane was actually going to stay put, he sat back, not sure how he felt about this new-found common sense.

By the end of the second day, they cornered their suspect in an abandoned farmhouse just outside of the China Lake facility. The guy turned out to be a weapons junky and it took a couple hours to convince him that giving up was better for his health than dying in a hail of bullets.

At two in the morning he came out with his hands up and they delivered him to the sheriff for safekeeping. Cho and Rigsby were all for heading back that night, but Lisbon vetoed the idea, saying they were all too tired to drive the seven hours. They returned to their motel and called it a night. 

Cho thought about letting Jane know, but didn’t. He was simultaneously too exhausted and too wired from the standoff. Besides, he and Rigsby were sharing a room and he didn’t want to be overheard. He went to bed and lay awake, reliving the day, finally falling asleep around four.

***

When they got back to Sacramento a little after three in the afternoon, Lisbon told them to go straight home. Cho hesitated and looked up at office windows, then nodded and got back in his car.

***

He worked at it: even thrusts, even tempo, everything he knew was good, knew that Jane loved. But it was off, he was off. Somehow connected and not connected, and it had never been like that, even during those first hesitant times. 

The knowledge twisted in his belly, made him angry, made him hold Jane tight and drive deep. When Jane arched back with a gasp of surprised lust, Cho wasn’t ready for it and he faltered.

Because his head was empty, his hands were empty. Even though he was holding on to Jane’s shoulders. Even though there was nothing wrong, not really, and he thrust again, this time ragged and sloppy. What he really wanted to do was to grab Jane’s hair, pull his head back and—

‘Wait,’ he thought. Wait…

“Wait,” he muttered as he took a deep breath and then another. Instinct and the growing anger urged him to keep going, but he didn’t listen to them. He stopped and rested his forehead on Jane’s back, wishing he’d stayed at work, wishing he hadn’t come home to find Jane relaxing on the bed with the Red John file. 

“Cho?”

“I’m fine.”

Jane elbowed him, not gently. “Get off.”

Cho pulled out carefully, and lay there, half on Jane, half off, tangled up in the sheets and Jane’s legs. It wasn’t comfortable; he slid onto the bed and took a deep, unhappy breath.

“This is it, huh?” Jane asked, his voice muffled by the pillow.

The late afternoon sun had turned the room orange and gold; it glanced across Jane’s back, highlighting the curve of his spine, his shoulders. Cho reached out; in the bright light, Jane’s skin was almost the same color as his own. “What is what?”

“The talk.”

“What’d you mean?”

“Don’t.”

Cho rubbed his forehead. “I don’t know what you mean.”

Jane rolled to his back and stared at him. “Yes, you do.”

“Jane, seriously—”

“This is when we talk about how you’re fine and how you’ve been fine for,” Jane held up his hand and counted, “eighty-four days, give or take.”

Cho stilled. 

Jane nodded. “Yeah, you might as well not bother to lie.”

“I wasn’t planning on it.” ‘Because I wasn’t planning on this conversation.’

“Good idea.” And when Cho didn’t say anything, he turned on his side, one hand under his cheek, like back at the hospital. 

“At first I thought it was because of Hardy,” he said, almost musingly. At Cho’s look of confusion, he shrugged. “Because, according to Lisbon, I was stupid enough to think my death would’ve at least meant we got Red John.”

Cho had forgotten that. He and Lisbon had briefly talked about it a few weeks after the incident. She’d still been furious with Jane, furious that he was so blind and selfish. Cho had understood, though. Understood that when it came to Red John, Jane had a one-track mind, kind of like a bull and a red flag, or a dog with a bone.

“And then I thought it was because Lisbon told you how I was held hostage by the janitor slash fixer that Batson had hired, and I know how much you hate that. The held hostage thing, I mean.”

Cho grabbed Jane’s shoulder and shook him. “What?”

Jane grimaced. “Er… Oops?” 

Cho clenched his jaw, forcing back the words because, hell no, Lisbon hadn’t told him, hadn’t even— “I take it this was during that sting, the one where it was just you two when you didn’t bother telling anyone about it until it was too late?”

Jane patted his arm, like he was touching wood for good luck. “See, this is why I didn’t tell you. You’d just fret about it and drive yourself crazy and—”

“Go on,” Cho interrupted. They’d talk about it later.

“Yeah, okay…” Jane narrowed his eyes. “Where was I? Oh, yeah. So, it wasn’t Hardy, and it wasn’t the janitor, and it wasn’t about the diamond I gave to Rigsby—

Cho sighed. “What diamond did you give to Rigsby?”

Jane quickly waved the question away. “Never mind that. So,” he brought his finger to his lips, typically dramatic, “the only thing it could be is the Bosco incident. I mean that day I threatened to quit. Right?”

And when Cho didn’t answer, he asked again, softer this time, serious, “Right?”

Cho tightened his lips.

Jane nodded. “Yeah, I thought so.”

“You did?”

“Well, yeah. I’ve been waiting—”

“So you knew you pissed me off, but you—”

“I was waiting for you to call me on it, to act like a man and not—”

“Jane,” Cho muttered, grimly serious, “don’t. Just don’t.”

Jane’s eyes widened. But after a moment he nodded. “All right. You’re right. And I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that, about quitting. But I really didn’t think you’d think I meant…” He made a gesture between the two of them and his voice deepened, “Kim, how could you think that?”

When Cho didn’t answer, Jane took his hand and laced their fingers together. “Did you really think I meant that?”

Cho shrugged. Now, eight-four days later, he wasn’t sure. “Maybe. I don’t like you criticizing what we do.”

“When did I do that?” And before Cho could answer, Jane shrugged and added, “Okay, but you do it to me all the time.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Well, not all of the time, but some of the time.”

Cho just looked at him, caught, because it was true—their relationship didn’t blind him to the fact that Jane had faults, that sometimes his schemes weren’t so bright. Usually they weren’t so bright. They did, however, get results.

Jane nodded. “Yeah. The thing is, you call me on my shit, but when I need it. And that’s a good thing.”

It took Cho a second to get what he meant, and then he understood. He’d always tried to let Jane have a certain amount of latitude, tried to help him out when he needed it. But he also was there to pull him back when he needed that.

It was a delicate balance, one he wasn’t sure was necessary or even effective. But it was something he did, something he couldn’t help doing.

Jane began stroking his fingers, one by one. “Didn’t you think I knew that? That I know the difference? That you’re there when I need you, that you could easily just stand by and let me fall, over and over again, but you don’t?”

Cho had nothing to say to the words that were almost the duplicate of his own thoughts, so they lay there, staring at each other. 

The sun had dropped enough that the light hit high, striking the angle where the wall met the ceiling, turning the brick a brilliant rust-red. It threw them both in shadow and when he tugged his hand free and touched Jane’s shoulder, the difference in skin tone was obvious.

Jane watched, patiently waiting, Cho knew, for the anger to die out, once and for all. 

And when it did, he rubbed his face. How could he be so worn out when it wasn’t even six o’clock? 

Jane slid a leg over his hip. “Are we okay?”

“Yeah.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“I want to know because the next time—”

“Jane,” Cho broke in, “if there is a next time, just give me a signal or something, all right?”

Jane wrapped his leg tighter and tugged. “Okay.”

“There’s not going to be a next time, is there?”

“Who knows? It worked so well the last time, maybe I’ll keep it handy, just in case.” 

“It won’t work. Next time you pull that stunt, Lisbon will be the one calling you on it and you’ll be out the door before you know it.” He ran a finger over Jane’s temple to soften the words.

“It wasn’t a stunt, not really.”

“I know.” And Cho did. Even back then, eighty-four days ago, he’d realized that Jane’s reaction was the result of anger, frustration and a certain amount of panic. Because he never responded well when someone caged him in or caged him out. If Bosco’d had any people skills, he would’ve realized that from the start. If Jane had been included, if the team had been included, he’d probably still be alive.

Too late now, he thought sadly. He kissed the corner of Jane’s mouth and repeated, “I know.”

“Are you okay? I mean, really okay?”

“I’m fine.”

Jane snorted. And then rolled over, pulling Cho on top. “Well then, can we get back to business? We’re not getting any younger.”

Cho kissed him. They still had a lot to talk about—fathers and sons and janitors—but those were topics for another time.

Because his body was hungry again, this time familiar and welcome. He grabbed a pillow and slid it under Jane hips, then leaned up to kiss him again. He wasn’t ready and he had to wait, a long moment of pushing into Jane’s stomach until he was able to lift Jane’s hips, able to slide in, slick and sweet.

And then he had to take another moment because he wanted it to last, wanted to take his time.

Jane stroked his arms, his shoulders, frowning. “Cho?”

“I’m fine.” Cho kissed his worry away and began to move, slowly, gently.

And that would’ve been it, but he had to have the last word—it was important. “And I do wear jeans,” he muttered as he nuzzled the inside of Jane’s arm, an awkward angle and he had to stretch to do it. “A lot.”

Jane caught his breath in complete surprise. But then he just hooked his ankles around Cho’s waist and laughed.



fin

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Story notes:
Patrick Jane/Kimball Cho
The Mentalist
10,600+ words
Episodes referenced: all episodes of the second season.
All characters belong to organizations that are not me or mine.
Thanks to Dlasta for the read-through!