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This is nothing new. At this point in his life, he's quite used to getting punched in the face with various degrees of success - or pain, depending on how you look at it - so he's not exactly surprised to see Michelle swing her tiny fist at him. The opposite, in fact. This is routine at this point. He is, however, surprised to see just how distorted her face becomes with anger - how red her cheeks get, how she bares her teeth in a vicious, almost painful-looking snarl, how tightly she grips his shirt collar when she reaches out and grabs him across the table. That's the point when he knows he's right, for sure.


What happens next can be described in one word: painful.


Patrick expects her to hit him and his teammates to rush inside the room. He doesn't expect her to slam his head against the table instead. It's more painful than it has any right to be and feels deafening in more ways than one, leaving his ears ringing. She does it quickly and efficiently, which suggests a certain level of experience, with a surprising amount of force and not a small amount of anger. He can hear his teeth clack together on the impact. There's a crack and then a burst of blood from his nose; his face leaves a comet-shaped red splatter on the dark smooth wood. His head instantly feels too heavy; then, her small fingers tangle into his curls instead of collar now, most definitely to get a better grip on him. The world spins and sparkles when Jane attempts to get up - he puts his palms flat on the table surface, pushes himself off and away from her - and then it goes black when the suspect (the murderer, now he knows she's the murderer, she is, she is, her son's face was all broken and now he's all alone with her) tightens her fingers and promptly yanks his head back down. This time he hits it not with his nose but with his forehead, full force, right on the edge. It makes a dull sound connecting with wood. He thinks he can feel his brains bounce around in his skull, hit the back and then the front of it, right behind his eyes. Almost hysterically, he remembers Lisbon calling him thickheaded - yeah, that he definitely is, but will it help him escape without severe head trauma? Doubtful.
Patrick Jane is smart in a way that is colloquially called slippery. His mind is his greatest asset. It gets him out of trouble 9 times out of 10. He can sweet-talk himself out of danger any time he wants. All he needs is a moment to think about how to get out of this.


Really it's just too bad he can't stop panicking long enough to stop Edwards from threading her second hand through his hair and get out of the room. His heart is thumping too loudly in his ribcage. His breathing is quickening by the second.


There's this brief thought, again, where's everybody, weren't they watching the interview, as usual, but then he gasps, his terrorized brain demanding more oxygen to deal with stress, and all the blood gushing out of his nose gets in his mouth, and the taste and smell of it just hit him head-on, leaving him dumbstruck. He gags on it. Michelle, in her dirty yellow sundress, the front of it now speckled with his blood, lets out a small, angry, delighted sound, and pulls his head back up. Jane gets another look at her burning-red, twisted face - feels her hard, cold little fingers with long untrimmed nails scratching his scalp where she grabbed him - he knows he can't get out. He feels cold all over, shaky and weak, except for his painful, bloody nose and lips and the growing warmth of fresh bruising on his face.

She's clearly winding up for another slam-down when the door finally, thankfully, bursts open. The sound of it hitting the wall makes him wince.


All at once, there are too many people in the room, crowding all around them; there are hands touching him and voices asking him questions and also background screaming and Patrick can't, he can't take it, not with his head this heavy, and yet he's somehow still painfully conscious - too awake and alert and aware. Somebody's pulling Michelle off of him - but they pull a little too hard, and with her still gripping Jane's hair like her life depends on it, like he’s a life raft and she’s drowning - well, it hurts. He sputters and yelps, in an undignified manner, louder than he expected, and the pull stops and apologies start.


“What were you thinking”, Jane hears, and screws his eyes shut against the sound, “Can't you see she's still holding his hair!”
He thinks it might be Cho who told off the person tugging at him, and that it might be Rigsby who tried to pull Michelle off, though he's not sure.
It's definitely someone who knows and likes him well enough to feel guilty for hurting him.
“Let go!”, he hears from another side. “Get your damn hands off of him!”
“Stop screaming!” It's another voice, female this time, “it's hurting him, look at his face! No - no more loud sounds. Everyone, shut up, just shut. Up.”
It gets marginally quieter after that. Patrick is grateful albeit he is also acutely aware of people staring at him as if only now seeing the state he's in. He'd probably be rather embarrassed if he wasn't in so much pain. He imagines he looks a sight.
Then, a hand on his own. His fingers are clenched into tight, bloodless fists on the table.
“Jane”, the voice says gently, “can you hear me?”
The hand squeezes his nervously clenched fingers, inflexible as if frozen in a grip of a seizure. “Can you hear me?”, It repeats when he doesn't answer. “Patrick. Patrick.”
He can't find his voice to answer, but he can't nod, either, so he settles on a breathy mhmm that hopefully will be interpreted the right way. It seems to be so: the hand on top of his squeezes his fingers again, ever so gentle.
He hears somebody breathing, loud and heavy. Is it him or is it Michelle? He's not sure.
“It's alright, it's gonna be alright. Just sit tight, we'll have you out of here in a minute. Just a little bit longer, alright? She's not gonna hurt you anymore. You're gonna be okay, Patrick.”
The steady stream of comfort in his ringing ears, coupled with the soothing touch, makes Patrick let out a breath he was holding ever since Michelle pulled him up to slam his face down on the table for the third and quite possibly the last time. It comes out with blood, warm on his lips - somebody gasps to the left of him. Is it the nosebleed or did he bite his tongue during the attack? The sound of it cuts the silence, breaks the ice and the cramped room comes to life again.
“Alright, let's move it! Somebody, get me a wet towel! And call the paramedics, for god's sake!”
She's not screaming, presumably wary of his reaction to loud sounds, but it's damn close.
There's no god, Patrick wants to say, but he's too slow. “Already did, boss”, a male voice replies, cool and collected, “ETA 5 minutes”, and then a wet coldness presses against his face.
Suddenly, he can feel another pair of hands in his hair, along with Michelle’s, just as small, and the touch, combined with the cold, makes him flinch. “It's okay, you're okay”, the voice says, “I’m not gonna hurt you”.
Lisbon, he thinks, finally recognizing the timbre.
His mind moves two steps an hour, one word a minute, a pace that is painfully slow to someone who's used to running, and he huffs in frustration.
“Patrick”, Lisbon says, “why don't you open your eyes. Can you do that for me? Come on, let me see your eyes.”
A part of him, in the back of his muddied mind, knows what she's doing, babying him like that; Lisbon seems to think that he's in shock, and she tries to get him to interact with her by any means possible to assess the damage done.

She's not wrong.

He doesn't really want to open his eyes, but Lisbon is being so gentle with him he can't help but try and obey. Ever so slowly, he relaxes the muscles, the grimace on his bloodied face smoothing out. The dim, unchanging lights of their interrogation room seem too bright after those minutes of pinched darkness, and Michelle Edwards' still angry face isn't the most welcoming sight. It makes a shudder run down his back.

What he finds welcoming, however, is his teammates. He was right; it's Wayne who's holding Michelle on the other end of the table, tightly by her shoulders - he looks like he's dying to hit something but with her still holding Patrick’s scalp essentially hostage he can't do much but grit his teeth and hold her in one place. Cho's there, on the same side, staring at Patrick with a pinched expression that a stranger would probably call slightly displeased but Jane subconsciously knows to be worried. It's Van Pelt who's holding the towel on his face in an attempt to stop the severe nosebleed - she also stares at him when he blinks his eyes open and gives him a shaky smile. She's clearly disturbed by something in his expression as the smile wilts quickly. Jane can't wrap his mind around it.
He'd like to comfort them right back, to let them know he's still here, it's not too bad, he's gonna live, but his face feels too painful to smile back.
And Lisbon, Lisbon, strong, reliable Lisbon, is also at his side. She's the one who comforted him in the darkness behind his lids; she's the one with small, deft hands on his hot, too tight, aching scalp.

Lisbon's hands in his hair move, working on unclenching Michelle’s death grip on his curls. Michelle, who's been oddly quiet up until now, scoffs and makes an aborted attempt to shake Jane by his hair again - he is her bargaining chip, after all. He barely has time to feel the motion: Rigsby immediately tightens his own grip on her shoulders, almost pressing her into the floor, and Cho grabs her arms at the elbows, their actions rendering her effectively motionless in moments.
“If you try this again”, Rigsby says in a surprisingly contained manner - did Cho rub off on him – “it will be your scalp on the receiving end of the same treatment. Don't you move... A finger. “

It's scarier than if he were screaming. Jane never thought Rigsby scary. Apparently, him, Patrick Jane, out of all people, being hurt, somehow makes Rigsby angry.
Grace dabs the towel on his face and watches him attentively. Swallows anxiously, bites her lips, blinks a couple of times. Jane watches her right back. He's starting to feel woozy, and her kind, wide-eyed face swims and changes like a kaleidoscope.
“His pupils are weird”, she presses the towel back, “I think he's concussed. How long did you say until the paramedics get here?”
“Two more minutes”, Cho replies.

It is then that Lisbon speaks up.

“Michelle”, one of her thumbs is making light, soothing circles on the tender skin of his head, “Do you understand what you've just done? What you're doing right now?”
The question seems rhetorical, yet Michelle still answers. Her high-pitched voice cuts him like a piano wire. Jane closes his eyes again.
“He insulted me”, she spits out, “he hurt me, I was just protecting myself!”
I did no such thing, Jane wants to say, but the penny taste in his mouth is making him nauseous as well as woozy and he dares not open his mouth.
“He's the one who hurt me! Let me go, arrest him!”
It's ridiculous, but for a moment Patrick expects them to let go of her and grab him instead. What if they believe her? His track record isn't the best. Far from it, in fact. What if they take her side and throw him in jail? What if they think he deserved it?
Does he deserve this?
It must show on his face because Grace suddenly covers his clenched fist with her hand wet and cold from the towel still pressed to his face, the same way Teresa did minutes ago. It's clearly an attempt to comfort him, ground him. It works.
“You do realize”, there's a hint of incredulousness in Lisbon’s voice, “that we have cameras here? We can and we will check the tapes.”
It does nothing to make their murder suspect - murderer, murderer rings out in Patrick’s head, - shut up.
In his heart, he knows that if they let her, she would've cracked his face open on this table, like an egg, until it was nothing but blood, bone, and cartilage, and she'd do it with a smile.
Just as she did with her son.
She starts raising her voice:
“He said such awful things to me! I know my rights, he can't do that!”
“That doesn't mean you can hit him!” Lisbon snaps back; she’s all open anger and sharp angles, “not to mention that you didn't just hit him, you clearly gave him a concussion! Pray that he doesn't have a fractured skull. This - this is an assault on a federal agent and we will not take this lightly. Now, let him go, or we will have to remove you forcefully. “
Jane opens his eyes again. Michelle doesn't let go. Her eyes dart around the room, from Jane’s confused, pained face, to the door out of the interrogation room, to Lisbon’s pointed stare, and then back to Jane.
Lisbon, sounding very matter of fact, turns her head to Cho, “Hey, do you have your taser with you?”
Cho answers in a similar tone - in his usual, detached manner, “I do. And I will use it.”
This makes Michelle jump a little, though Rigsby’s hands don’t let her move more than a couple of centimeters.
“You can't do that! This is police brutality!”
At that, Rigsby huffed under his breath in derision: “Oh, I’ll show you police brutality”
Michelle bristles, “Why, you- “, but before she jumps into another tirade, Lisbon repeats:
“If you don't let him go right now, agent Cho will use the taser in order to remove you. You have been warned. You have five seconds to comply. One. Two. Thr- “
Before she finishes, Michelle’s fingers, clawed in his hair, relax.

And then finally, after a second's hesitation, she unclenches her grip, and her nails are no longer digging into his skin, and then her hands are gone, gone, gone.

He's so relieved, he almost drops his head on the table all by himself, with only Lisbon’s and Van Pelt's quick reflexes saving him from face planting. They ease him back into the chair, and he practically melts into it.

As soon as Edwards let him go, Rigsby, with an expression of great satisfaction, wrenched her arms behind her back hard enough to make her yelp, and cuffed her. He drags her away, kicking and screaming, past them, with great gusto.
“Patrick?” A hand softly pats him on the cheek. He opens his eyes, staring listlessly. “Come on, Patrick. The paramedics will be here any second. Hold on just a little bit longer, okay? Can you do it for me?”
He wants to answer, but opening his mouth doesn't seem like a good idea. “'Kay”, he mutters through barely moving lips. “'M 'kay”.
He still flinches when Lisbon’s hand gently runs through the curls, over where Michelle’s hands have been. “Easy”, she tells him, and then breathes out, “How are you even conscious right now.”
It doesn’t sound like a question. There's a note of tired, worried fondness in her words. Jane doesn't respond.
“That bitch”, she mutters then, “Van Pelt, look at this.”
Grace looks over and her face falls further. She swears under her breath, barely there.
He's not sure what exactly they're staring at until Lisbon adds angrily
“If her dirty claws give him an infection, I will- “
She doesn't finish the thought. The door opens again and Rigsby marches back in, this time with two paramedics in tow, carrying a gurney and a first-aid kit. Michelle is nowhere to be seen, presumably locked up somewhere in a holding cell.
They talk just long enough to convey the gist of the situation - hit on the head multiple times, head trauma, bruising. Seems confused, barely talks, too big pupils. Somehow, it doesn’t occur to him that they’re talking about him until one of the medics touches his hand, probably to check his pulse, and Patrick jerks his hand away.
The presence of the medics should make him feel better, but instead, when they reach out to him - to pull him out of the chair and onto the stretcher - he pulls away, almost falling out of it. Medics. Hospital. He doesn't want to go to the hospital.
His eyelids keep drooping, and he tracks the paramedics around him with wary, confused eyes. They won't get him. He's fine, he doesn't need help, and he'll tell them just as much.
“No”, he slurs, when Lisbon gently touches his shoulders, “n-no. 'M 'ain. 'M 'kay. Ah... A-I dun' need... No 'ospital. Dun' wan' it. No.”
The hands won't go away; they grab at him tighter. “You need help, Jane. Jane! Oh goddamnit, Patrick!”
Lisbon swears when he clumsily tries to evade her, nearly smacking her with one of his hands as he awkwardly pushes them, all of them, away.
“Patrick”, her tone is getting exasperated, “please. You need help. Please let them help you. For me.”
Somehow, her last words - for me - break through the fog. He blinks. His first name and her plea, the combination of it make him stop his flailing - just long enough for one of the paramedics to carefully lift him out of the chair. The fight just drains out of him at this point, and all he can do is look at his boss with a hurt, betrayed look as they get him settled. He doesn’t really react to any of their questions directed at him, trying to turn away when they check his eyes with a penlight.
Why, she almost feels guilty.
Quickly, they strap him to the gurney and fix a hard collar on him - just in case his neck suffered damage on the impact, too.
“On one, two...”
As they lift him, Lisbon follows them, with her hands still bloody from touching his face and trying to get Michelle’s nails out of his scalp. It's drying and flaking on her skin - she notices that when she reaches out to take Patrick’s hand. She hears the paramedics talk amongst each other - about blood in his mouth, about extensive bruising on his face, about the possibility of a skull fracture.
The thought of a fracture makes her feel small and scared and she slows down and then stops altogether and watches them hurry down the corridor until the doors behind them close and Patrick is gone, gone, gone.

In the silence that is left in the bullpen after Patrick is taken to the hospital, they write out an incident report and they talk. Rigsby has such an open face - it doesn't take long to notice the heaviness with which he stares at Jane's couch and the way his shoulders slouch in guilt and defeat. He doesn't hide it.
“He seemed to be handling it”, Rigsby says without prompting, staring at his unfilled incident report form, twirling the pen between his finger, “Just like he always did. So I figured, what's the harm in leaving him alone for a minute? She didn't seem crazy, and... The most he got before was a sucker punch. And he can take a punch, I know it. It- he shouldn't- I shouldn't have- “
It's not exactly unexpected, but it is a bit disappointing, which Lisbon hates to admit. Rigsby’s right, though. This has happened before. It's not the first time Jane talked alone to the suspects. It’s not the first time he got hurt because of it, and, objectively, he has no one else to blame but himself for a good part of those cases. Well, she thinks bitterly to herself, at least now we can tell for sure that she must be the culprit. Just like Jane told us. Her son's injuries are identical to Jane's. That's her signature. Explains how she got him so fast - she had practice before.
It's a good thing Van Pelt thought to come to the interrogation room when she did. She didn’t have to – but it was a long five minutes with Jane inside the room and he told her that it was only going to take him a minute, at most – so she got worried. What she saw would haunt her for the next few weeks, Jane’s bloodied face and the way he collided with the table under Michelle’s pushing hands. She wasn’t quick enough to stop her from hitting Jane this second time, but they got in there just in time to stop the third one.

In a way, it was amazing just how much damage only two hits could do.

Later, the paramedics tell them that Jane’s skull was, in fact, fractured, most likely by that second slam into the hard, unforgiving table surface. Tell them about how the other injuries are minor. That his broken nose, now that they set it, should heal just fine, and that his split upper lip was going to be okay without stitches. Their consultant got off as lightly as could be expected in such a situation, considering the force of the blows. Even the fracture, the worst of his injuries, was linear and, while worrying, required no surgical intervention.
Teresa thinks of Jane's face - all the blood gushing out of his nostrils, smeared over his lips and chin and dripping on his pristine shirt and table, and of his crooked-looking nose, and of the bruising blooming purple and blue on his forehead and around his eyes - his half-lidded, confused eyes, so different from the usually bright, clear look. She thinks of Michelle’s dirty hands, digging viciously into his hair, into his skin, cutting and pulling and leaving little half-crescent red marks under the matted blond curls.

It makes her mad and incredibly sad at the same time. It makes her want to cry a little, even, but she blinks away any tears that make their way through her tear-ducts. It's stupid - Jane's alive and will most likely recover without any complications, they got to him in time, and Michelle Edwards' is in custody, cuffed and locked away with her sick anger and her small, evil hands. There's no reason to be this sad.

No reason at all.

This is nothing new, after all.