Summary: Temptation comes in many forms, all of them Patrick Jane. Post episode 2x07.
Characters: Jane, Van Pelt
Every breath hurt, every step as she made her way to the door where an insistent knock broke the silence in her apartment. She paused before she checked the peephole, breathing through the pain and delaying the inevitable awkward small talk before Rigsby revealed the real reason he was there. He loved her. He wanted to protect her.
Van Pelt knew she was lucky. Knew she should be grateful that he cared. Knew that he just wanted to reassure himself that she was okay, and may be seek some sympathy over the fact he had shot and killed someone that day. Van Pelt knew the least she could do was give him that.
Thus resolved, she leaned forward to look through the peephole to check before opening the door. But she didn’t see Rigsby’s tall, dark frame. Instead a bag of grapes obscured her view until they were replaced with Jane’s face, grinning at her.
The pang she felt had nothing to do with broken ribs and bruises. It went deeper. And she hated herself a little for it.
“What are you doing here?” she asked suspiciously, after opening the door only a crack.
“I called the hospital and they said you checked yourself out,” he replied. If he felt any concern for her he wasn’t showing it. He smiled again and held up the bag. “Fruit. It’s good for you. Better than flowers.”
She smiled reluctantly and opened the door a little wider to accept the bag.
“Is that it?” asked Jane, which caused her to frown.
“What do you want?”
“I don’t know, an invitation to come inside, a cup of tea, some indication that you’re feeling all right after being shot at point blank range... That sort of thing.”
Jane cocked his head to one side, studying her, when she still didn’t let him in. She held his gaze as long as she could before sighing.
“Jane, I’m tired. I should be resting. You should go.”
His eyes narrowed slightly. “Or maybe you’re expecting someone.”
Van Pelt didn’t bother replying. She knew that Jane knew about her and Rigsby, though he had yet to bring it up in conversation. And Jane knew that she knew that he knew. She sighed again, exhausted by the mere thought of it.
“Come in then,” she said, with a hint of defiance in her voice. If he was expecting her to try and cover up her connection with Rigsby he was in for a surprise. “I’ll make tea.”
She didn’t wait to see if he followed her inside, and heard the door close softly. Van Pelt grimaced as she reached for a couple of mugs from the kitchen cupboard and flinched again when Jane was suddenly behind and took over. He filled the kettle without a word then glanced around, fingers outstretched, as if divining which cupboard would be holding the teabags. He smiled slightly when he met her eyes, with all the pretense of reading her mind.
“Above the microwave,” she said, not interested in playing along.
“You’re no fun anymore.”
That did elicit a small smile from her after he turned to retrieve the teabags. He took his time making a selection, long enough for the kettle to boil. He made no attempt at conversation while he made the tea, and nor did Van Pelt. She was determined not to give him an inch.
“So,” Jane said after he handed her a steaming mug.
“So.” She leaned against the counter, making no invitation for him to sit down. Jane mirrored her action across the kitchen.
“What’s it like being shot?”
She let out a sharp breath that tweaked her ribs and forced steam from the tea to make her face flush. She lowered the mug. “That’s it?”
“What do you mean?” he asked, innocently sipping his tea.
“No misdirection, no small talk? Just cut to the chase?” Van Pelt shook her head. “You’re no fun anymore.”
Jane smiled, even though there was no sincerity in her voice. “I figured I owed you a break.”
Van Pelt’s expression darkened immediately, which did cause him to react. “You figured that’s what you owed me?”
“Don’t ‘Grace’ me. Why did you come here?” she spat angrily.
Jane’s blue eyes were wider than normal, his face devoid of any levity. “I wanted to see if you were all right. That’s all.”
“And you couldn’t wait until I came back to work?”
“I didn’t know when that would be.”
“Suddenly you’re impatient?” she snapped.
“I know that you’ve been through a traumatic experience...”
“Shut up, Jane! I’ll get all the counseling I need at the office, thanks all the same.”
He opened and closed his mouth without replying, the first time she had seen him rethinking his strategy. Van Pelt’s anger cooled a little, but not enough that she gave in.
“Really, you should go,” she said evenly.
“I’m sure Rigsby would understand my wanting to check on a colleague,” Jane offered.
She smiled bitterly, wondering if he really thought that’s what she was worried about or if it was just his way of covering. “Maybe. I’m just not sure that I do.”
Van Pelt set her mug down and walked back towards the door.
She turned around, eyes blazing.
“He loves me.”
Jane stepped towards her. “As he should.”
“He told me he loves me.”
“As he should,” Jane repeated, quieter this time.
Her resolve crumbled swiftly as they stared at each other. The ache in her throat as forced herself not to cry replaced the pain in her ribs.
“I didn’t say it back,” she admitted eventually.
“Maybe you should.”
“Yeah,” she agreed, letting out a breath and a weak smile. “Maybe I should.”
Jane kept looking at her, kinder now.
“I was scared to death,” Van Pelt whispered, her throat making it difficult to talk. “I saw the gun and before I knew it I was on the ground.”
Jane came closer.
“I knew I had the vest. I knew I was all right. But after... after I couldn’t stop shaking.”
She was thankful that he didn’t try and explain away her admission with a description of shock. He gave her a nod of understanding.
Van Pelt indulged herself in his sympathy a moment longer before clearing her throat. “But the doctor said I’m going to be fine. I’ll be on restricted duty but–”
She could finish before Jane gently wrapped his arms around her and held her gently. Surprised by the gesture, she didn’t respond at first. Then she remembered the last time she had hugged him, after Jane’s close call with Red John in Tijuana. She remembered where that hug had led and wished it would again.
But she knew Jane wouldn’t. Not now. Not with the likelihood that Rigsby would be turning up at her apartment at any moment. So Van Pelt withdrew from his arms before he had the chance to break the embrace. She planted a fake smile on her face.
“Thanks for stopping by.”
The impersonal tone caused him to frown, but the smile did not waver.
“And the fruit,” she continued. “You’re right. Better than flowers.”
Jane opened his mouth to speak again but she opened the door before he had a chance. She glanced quickly at him when he didn’t leave, not trusting herself to look any longer.
“Goodnight, Grace,” he replied quietly.
She felt a flood of relief when she pressed it closed behind him, but didn’t let go of the doorknob. Her knuckles turned white as she squeezed.
A different pain to focus on.