They met at Jane’s house in Malibu, out on the veranda overlooking the ocean. Lisbon had wondered at the choice of location, but Jane insisted. Xander was leaning heavily on a cane, but walking much better. The scratches on his face were healing well and would disappear entirely in time. She herself had been lucky. Her broken nose had been easily set and would heal without leaving a noticeable bump, or being crooked.
Jane was looking far better, the bandages hidden under a loose shirt. He still looked tired and went pale if anyone mentioned Drusilla, so Lisbon was content to leave the subject for now. That could wait until he came back to work. She still didn’t know exactly what had happened that night in his hospital room. Buffy had only said that Drusilla had come back and been dusted and Jane had looked so shaken at the topic that Lisbon hadn’t had the heart to press for more details.
The afternoon was turning into a bit of picnic, she thought lazily eating a strawberry as she watched Jane produce a strawberry out of Willow’s ear, to the obvious delight of the witch. Lisbon shook her head fondly. If he was back to doing silly magic tricks, he was going to be fine.
She looked around as she heard a van pull up outside the house. A quick glance around showed that everyone who was expected was already in place, and she frowned. Who was arriving?
Jane caught her frown as he said, with the widest, brightest smile she had ever seen, “Decorators. They’re here to repaint the place. I thought it was time for a new look.” Buffy and her friends clearly didn’t get the significance of that remark, but Lisbon exchanged startled looks with the rest of her team. He was finally painting over the smiley face?
“I’m pleased for you,” Cho said sincerely.
Jane shrugged. “Red John’s dead and gone now. It’s over.”
“But you are coming back, aren’t you?” Van Pelt sat forward, suddenly concerned. “I mean, I know that the Red John case is closed, but you are coming back to the CBI, aren’t you?”
“I’m not sure.” Jane looked away for a moment, and then smiled again. “But I have made one decision. Buffy, you’re always in need of more accommodation for all those baby Slayers, right?”
“Oh yeah,” she said with a sigh. “We’re always running out of space.”
“Then it’s yours,” he said, nodding towards the house. “Once I’ve had it redecorated, anyway.”
Buffy stared at him, dumbfounded, before flinging her arms around his neck and hugging him tightly. “Oh my God! Thank you! This is fantastic, brilliant, amazing!” She kissed Jane’s cheek. “You’re unbelievable!”
“By my count, every time we’ve met up, either you or Faith or Xander or Willow has saved my life. It’s the least I can do.” He shot a sad smile at the house. “It doesn’t matter that Red John is dead. I still see… Well, you all know what I see when I walk in there. But that shouldn’t stop other people enjoying the place.”
Buffy hugged him again and then turned to face Xander and Willow with a grin. “I totally call dibs on this place.”
“What? No way!”
“Uh huh fair,” she countered. “But if you’re very good, I might let you come and visit. In fact, I’ve just had a brilliant idea. As soon as I get the keys, I’m hosting the First Annual Slayer-tastic Beach Party. And you’re all invited.”
“But what will you do if you don’t come back to the CBI?” Van Pelt wondered.
When Jane didn’t speak, Xander said quietly, “My offer still stands.”
“Oh, Xander asked Patrick if he wanted to be a Watcher,” Willow explained. “You know, what with the Holy Water Pistols of Doom idea. I still say it’s mainly because Xander’s sick of being the one the girls all crush on, so he’s just trying to bring in some eye-candy.”
“Damn, you’ve seen straight through my evil plan.”
“Could we change the subject please?” Jane pleaded.
“Not until I remind everyone that the first time we met I said that you were clearly of the yummy salty goodness,” Buffy said, noticeably enjoying teasing Jane.
“I’ve saved your life way more than three times. You’ve never offered me a house,” Lisbon pointed out, wondering why she was saving him by changing the subject.
“You can have my car,” he offered with a sly grin.
“That old thing? I’ll pass.”
Patrick took Buffy aside for a quiet word later on that afternoon. They walked down onto the beach, below the veranda where Xander was telling increasingly bad jokes and seemed to be in a competition with Rigsby as to who could make the worst puns. Xander was winning, Patrick considered.
“They’re good friends. You should hang on to them, whatever you decide to do,” she told him. “Remember, when it came down to it, they all ran into a nest of vampires. No superpowers, no spells, but they ran in anyway. You don’t meet people like that very often,” she said, looking up at Xander’s silhouette with an affectionate smile.
“No you don’t,” he agreed. “I’m not sure I’m ready to be a Watcher. Drusilla scared me half to death.”
“So? She scared me too. Being scared doesn’t matter, it’s how you react that’s important.”
“Still, I think the CBI needs me more.”
“And you’re not as easy to tease as Lisbon is.”
“But if you ever need anything, just call me.” He smiled down at her. “I owe you all a lot.”
“Don’t sweat it,” she shrugged. Then she brightened up. “I’ve just had a brilliant idea. You can come and teach the girls how to do that Sherlock House thing you’ve got going on, you know, body language and everything.”
“Sherlock Holmes,” he corrected her automatically. “And it might be a good idea.” They made their way back to the others and Patrick sat down next to Lisbon. “I’ve been thinking,” he began. “You will all be hopelessly lost without me, so I can’t really abandon you, can I?”
“You’re staying?” And any doubts he might have had were swept away by the smile that lit up her face at his news.
Patrick put his arm around her shoulders and leaned back against the seat. “You can’t get rid of me that easily. I have a good feeling about this, Lisbon, I really do.”
A/N: So there we are, all finished and with the added benefit of a few bad guys dealt with too. Please let me know what you think of my little series, as I really do appreciate all your comments and support.