"Oh, boy," Jane muttered, figuring out the gag a split second before the dead body woke up and had the audacity to kiss Lisbon. She did not take it well.
"Happy anniversary!" the man yelled, cueing a round of applause and cheering from the hidden assembly, people rising from the stairwell and coming in from the backroom to fill the bar.
"What's going on?" Lisbon asked in a daze.
"Come in, everybody," Rigsby encouraged, saluting her with a beer. "Ladies and gentlemen, ten years ago, Teresa Lisbon left the San Francisco Police Department to join the California Bureau of Investigation. Today she is without doubt the rootinest, tootinest, sharp-shootinest cop in the whole state of California. Happy anniversary, boss."
"Hear, hear," added Cho as the crowd applauded again.
"If we could start the music, please!" Rigsby called out. An upbeat song started pulsing through the speakers.
Jane held up his hands in a manner of denial. "I had no idea," he insisted, holding her slightly panicked gaze, willing her to believe him.
The first well wisher approached her to give his congratulations. Lisbon accepted graciously, then looked accusingly at Cho. "Why did you do this?" she sounded lost.
His phone rang, but he placed the blame securely with Rigsby before taking the call.
The actor playing the part of the dead body - a cheap ploy to lure her out of the office - started to tug at his tie and undulate to the music. Lisbon closed her eyes. "Is he taking his clothes off?" she asked with apprehension.
"He is," Jane confirmed.
Ray Haffner stepped in to congratulate her and she turned her back on the stripper. After securing an opening for a follow up call, Haffner moved on and Jane stepped in, trying to keep her at ease. He pointed out the amenities of her party. Lunch and a bar had to count for something in it's favor. Behind Lisbon, the stripper was now shirtless and looked like he was on a mission. "Oh, lookout," Jane warned.
He was way too close to her. "Okay, that's enough. Shoo. Okay?" The man was relentless, invading her space. Lisbon dashed to the bar, failing to get any distance from him.
Cho came back, tucking his phone in his pocket. "We caught one. The team that was supposed to cover us got another case."
Jane gestured towards the bar where Lisbon had managed to get a beer, but couldn't get the stripper to back off. "Well, I don't think we can drag Lisbon away from this," he said, only half joking. The stripper was a step too far, but a little forced downtime could only be good for her.
"No," Cho agreed.
"Hmm... If she catches wind of a case, she's going to be a runner. This idiot will buy you some time, but the fallout..." He winced at the thought. "Can you and Rigsby cover it, Cho?"
"Yeah. It's not high profile and it's local. We just need to release the scene."
Cho went in search of his partner while Jane watched Lisbon try to shrink away as the well muscled man had her pinned against the bar, dancing. "Where did you find this guy?" he muttered.
A couple hours later Lisbon had talked to everyone currently in attendance and desperately wanted a break. She got a drink at the bar and turned to observe the room. Jane soon appeared at her elbow and sipped from a mug.
"I see you lost your shadow," he observed, nodding towards the stripper. The man in question was wearing a shirt again, unbuttoned, and was chatting with a couple of ladies from media relations.
"He tried to follow me to the bathroom. We came to an understanding."
"You finally threatened to punch him."
"Something like that." Lisbon smiled easily.
Jane chuckled. "No finesse, that guy. I'll have to give Rigsby some pointers for next time."
Her smile disappeared. "No next time. This can never, ever happen again."
"Oh, come on, Lisbon. This is obviously a side gig for this guy, he's putting himself through college. Step it up a notch, get someone who knows what they're doing —"
"I wasn't just talking about the- wait. Are you really critiquing the quality of the stripper?" she raised her eyebrows at him. "Did you ever… you know?" she mimed unbuttoning her top button.
He grinned. "Are you visualizing me taking my clothes off right now?"
Lisbon turned bright pink and started to protest, but Jane kept going.
"That's quite flattering, my dear, but no. However, any carny worth their salt knows that it's the anticipation that provides the best payoff. If you make your audience run away — or want to do you bodily harm, you're doing something wrong."
"I'm just glad he kept his pants on," she said firmly. "I don't know what Rigsby was thinking."
"Hey, boss, you having a good time?" Van Pelt joined them. "It's a good turnout."
"The entertainment wasn't very inspiring." Jane answered.
She grimaced. "Not my idea."
Lisbon bumped his shoulder. "Hush. The party is very thoughtful, Grace. Thank you. Where did Cho and Rigsby run off to anyway? I haven't seen them in awhile."
"Something must have come up," Van Pelt offered.
"I think they're planning a dance number." Jane took another sip from his cup, then grimaced and set it aside.
Lisbon narrowed her eyes at him. "We caught a case, didn't we?" She put down her drink and straightened her shirt, ready to go. "Give it up guys."
"You're the guest of honor, we cleared you for a day off." Van Pelt looked at Jane a little panicked.
"It's the job. Keep the alcohol flowing and no one's going to complain that I'm not here. They'll understand."
"Not today. No one's going anywhere." Jane squared himself with her and reached out gently to touch her wrist, but she jerked away from him.
"You are not hypnotizing me to get me to stay at a party, Jane."
"Of course not." He kept his voice calm and even, soothing. "I checked in with the guys and the case is already stalled out. They described the scene to me, and forensics are crawling all over it now so you'll get all the photos you need. Victim is a 32 year old woman. Her husband is on a white water rafting trip with no cell service, so he doesn't even know about it yet. Tahoe PD is tracking him down, and Cho and Rigsby will be back here in two shakes of a lamb's tail. We'll pick things up first thing tomorrow."
"There's always someone to interview," she was losing steam. "Family? Neighbors?"
"It'll keep. What are you drinking?" he asked as an offering.
"Coffee." He raised an eyebrow at her. "It's my party, I want coffee. You're one to talk," she indicated his own mug.
He looked at it mournfully. "They make a lousy cup of tea."
"They can't mess up coffee."
"It wasn't a challenge. Just bring me a large, black."
He nodded. "You have a lighter?" She looked at him blankly at the change of subject and he rubbed his fingers together, then shifted away from her. "Never mind, I'll ask around."
"What do you need a lighter for?" Van Pelt ventured.
"This party needs a little something if it's gonna stay lively," he called over his shoulder.
"Jane!" Lisbon warned.
He wiggled his hips slightly and smiled back at her. "Don't worry, Lisbon, I put on a good show." His smile widened at her expression.
Van Pelt raised her eyebrows at the gesture. "What was that about?"
"Do you think if I asked nicely he would stick to card tricks?"
"What is it with the shoes?"
"Hmm?" Jane deflected.
Lisbon was used to not knowing all of the details, but Jane had adopted this case as his own and ran with it. Maybe he was initially trying to fast track things since half the team started the investigation with hangovers, but they had found an early lead and were already neck deep in one of his schemes. Judging by the plot he was cooking up, he was close to fingering the killer and she was still pretty much clueless. Their line of investigation and their location narrowed it down, but she couldn't see any motivation for the suspects he was pursuing.
Usually she got upset when he started directing the team without her input, but the way the Red John case was going, it was almost a relief to see him invested in their present case instead of skulking about in his attic like he was wont to do lately.
"Spill. You had Rigsby and Cho scouring the victim's shoe closet, then you buy Van Pelt a fancy pair to wear to this... whatever this is... radio thing tonight. You really think Buddy Hennings has something to do with this case?"
They were outside a radio station, hiding out in her car, waiting. They had been talking a lot with this radio show host who was counseling the couple both on and off the air before the wife was found murdered.
"It was in the webcast. She wore a very sexy pair of shoes on the show, and now they're missing. Dozens of pairs in her closet, but not this pair."
"It proves nothing. That was a month ago, those shoes could be anywhere. Maybe she let her sister borrow them, or a friend..."
Jane sighed theatrically and Lisbon braced herself for the tirade. "I know it's hard when your favorite celebrities fall, Lisbon, but the signs are there. He's a very qualified therapist, all sorts of diplomas in his office, but he's working a seedy little radio program —"
"Not seedy," Lisbon interjected.
"'Prescription for Love,'" he scoffed. "And his wife is his manager, always looking over his shoulder. No way this was his aspiration in life."
"He helps people."
"He's very successful. He has a good time slot on a good station - the few times I've heard it, I didn't hate it."
"Please. You are obviously infatuated." He held out a finger to prevent her from interjecting. "Keep lying to yourself, Lisbon. You can't lie to me."
He had been teasing her about her apparent attraction to the show since they discovered this lead two days ago and she already knew who Buddy Hennings was. She was surprised he didn't, the show was advertised all over town. Anyway, it wasn't going to distract her now. "You still haven't answered my question. Shoes, Jane. Why are the shoes so important?"
Some motion outside caught his attention and he reached for the door. "There's our happy couple."
Lisbon conceded and switched to the more pressing matter. "So what's your play here?"
"No play. I'm gonna help 'em." Jane hurried to intercept the couple who were on their way to star on the radio show. He had met them briefly the day before, and now he needed to convince them to walk away so Rigsby and Van Pelt could fill in to get their own undercover help from the love doctor.
"Right." However he did it, she was confident he would succeed.
Another case solved. Jane was only a little sore that it wasn't the radio host. But his trick had still worked. After the show, while the host sweet talked Grace and openly admired her beautiful feet, Mrs. Hennings had shown up to threaten them at gunpoint. Apparently Buddy had a weakness, which led to a few infidelities over the years. His wife was tired of him fixing every relationship except his own. Now she was in holding, waiting to be processed.
The bullpen was nearly empty at this hour, and Jane and Lisbon moved together around the small break room with a comfortable synchronicity.
"That was a weird one," Lisbon broke the silence.
He studied her. "You have that squinty look in your eye. You want to talk to me about the whole foot fetish thing..." he sighed. "But the catholic schoolgirl in you tells you that it's not necessarily appropriate."
"You're right. Look, I don't get it. I can't wrap my head around it."
"Well, I mean, 'fetish' is a strong word, but everyone has that thing. It's just... It's human nature. There's gotta be something out there that works for you, that flips your switch."
"I don't," she insisted, almost too easily.
He cocked his head at her, watching her closely with a slight smirk. Lisbon tidied up a few things, but couldn't shake his gaze. She crossed her arms and shook her head in challenge. Jane shrugged lightly and finished steeping his tea. He left his cup steaming on the table and shrugged out of his suit jacket, tugging it gently down his arms. He draped it over a chair and brushed past Lisbon to get a water bottle out of the fridge. He rolled it between his fingers with a delicate precision. He unscrewed the cap and took a long pull from it, then wiped his mouth.
Two strides took him to the sink. He set the water bottle aside and flipped on the tap, then rolled his sleeves up past the elbows and put his palms down on the counter, his arms spread out to the sides, his head hanging down. His posture created strong lines, Lisbon couldn't help but notice the muscles pulling along his arms and shoulders. He was acting strange.
"You okay, Jane?" Lisbon asked.
He rolled his neck slowly. "It's hot in here," he said. "I can feel the heat pooling on the back of my neck. Aren't you hot?" His voice was low, warm. He flicked a hand under the stream of water and drew it up through his hair, teasing the droplets into his curls. He shut off the water and grabbed the bottle again. He handed it to Lisbon and started to unbutton his vest.
"Oh no. No. Too far, Jane," she warned as she caught up with his game. She stepped back away from him, but he didn't pursue her.
"Even my feet are hot, Teresa," he whined, then turned his back on her. He toed off his shoes, then bent down to retrieve them, giving Lisbon an unobstructed view of his perfectly tailored rear end. He stood slowly, then spun again. He gave his shoes to Lisbon and took back his water bottle. A little belatedly she realized what she was holding and let them drop.
"I don't want your shoes, Jane," she stated flatly.
He smiled gently and took a slow drink of water. He pulled the bottle away and paused there, a satisfied smile on his lips and his eyes closed. He was standing too close to her, but he looked so peaceful, unguarded. Lisbon took the opportunity to take in his appearance, drawn in against her will. His vest hung open and he had popped another button on his shirt, revealing a broad glimpse of smooth chest. Up past his inviting lips to his disheveled hair. She lingered there. It was starting to dry and was all out of place, but still managed to look sinfully good. She trapped her bottom lip in her teeth, her thoughts floating, distracted.
She blinked, like coming out of a trance. Jane was looking at her, studying her reaction to him, eyes twinkling with amusement.
Her brow furrowed, anger rising both at his manipulation and her own betraying thoughts. She reined it in, knowing he would only turn it against her. Teasing - even a little flirting - was comfortable, familiar. But there was a line, and he was so close to crossing it. This damn case. "Platonic, I believe was the word," she referred back to an earlier conversation, when the receptionist at the radio station assumed they were a couple.
He shrugged. "You like that rough around the edges look." His eyes went sideways as he thought back over their relationship. "That explains a lot actually."
"Right," she huffed in denial, desperately trying to keep things light. "Whatever this display was," she gestured to indicate his earlier movements, "you should definitely keep your day job."
He was grinning at her now, "Oh come on, Lisbon. Don't deny yourself that freedom. We're good friends, aren't we? You're a beautiful woman. We keep it professional."
Why was he still talking? "What is happening right now?"
"Better than something mundane, like turtlenecks."
She straightened and tilted her head away in dismissal. Time to go. "This whole conversation is inappropriate. I have paperwork to do."
She turned and stalked away.
"Not that turtlenecks are bad," Jane called after her. He took up his tea and lounged in the doorway, watching her over the rim of his cup. She had done well to hide it, but her anger made her movements choppy. Her hips swayed back and forth in a very pronounced way.
"Flip," he muttered to himself.
As she rounded the corner into her office out of sight, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He drained his cup, wishing for something stronger. He went to his couch and dropped his shoes, then let the couch embrace him. Laying down, he craned his head back to look towards her office, then settled in with a sigh.
That woman was definitely doing non-platonic things to him. Maybe he had pushed it too far, but to have her look at him like that... He got up and moved briskly towards the stairs to the attic, buttoning his vest as he went. He had enjoyed this case, a fun diversion. But now he needed to refocus. Needed to put a name to the monster that haunted his nightmares. There was too much at stake.