Author's Note: So I thought the finale was unbelievably and completely awesome. But in a way, despite not being at all a cliff-hanger it made me ask more questions than it answered. The only thing I can definitely say is that it was not as dark as I was expecting it to be. And depending on how they meant certain things it could be almost uplifting or really depressing. So despite the fact that I've been wanting to write a post-finale fic, it took me a while to figure out exactly where I wanted it to fall on that continuum. I think this hits somewhere in the middle. Hope you like it.

Spoiler warning: Watch the finale before you read this fic if you don't know what happened!

It was about a month after Maya Prescott had been reunited with her family, the Serious Crimes Unit was back to business as usual, on the surface at least. Immediately following the case Jane had been… encouraged to take a few days off. There wasn't really any need for a formal investigation, after all about a half a dozen witnesses had seen that he'd shot Hardy to save a colleague's life, but all of the higher-ups at the CBI, Minnelli included, were worried about how it would appear and thought that Jane could probably do with some time off, to process what had happened they said. Even without Hardy's death it had been a tough case for the consultant, Minnelli had told Lisbon softly, when he was relating the outcome of the meeting to her; Jane would be better for a little break. Lisbon had just nodded mutely, glad that Minnelli had informed Jane of his impromptu vacation himself due to the delicate nature of the situation (the official euphemism for what had happened. Lisbon had only just managed not to laugh aloud when she'd first heard it used).

Lisbon wasn't exactly sure what she'd been expecting, but Jane had taken the news quietly. When Minnelli had informed the younger man that the time off was in no way to be taken as a punishment of any kind, but more some much needed time off after the stress of the last case Jane had nodded agreeably, and in that way of his had smiled with his lips, but not his eyes. He'd genially acknowledged that it was probably best for everyone if he d took some personal time, acknowledging how it would look if he refused. Casually grabbing his coat off his couch he gave the rest of the team a smile and a quick goodbye. "I'll send you guys a postcard! Course I'll probably be back before it gets here."

When he passed her office doorway he paused, and she swore his smile had become almost mocking, "See you next week boss."

She could only stare at him, not sure exactly what it was she wanted to say, "Bye Jane. See you next Monday."

Whatever he saw in her eyes seemed to almost amuse him. With a small smile he turned and left. She couldn't be sure if he'd heard what she'd said next; she wasn't sure she'd wanted him to. "I'm sorry."

That had been almost a month ago. A week after that Jane had returned. She'd expected it to be awkward, for him to be resentful, had been dreading it in fact if she was honest with herself. But no, Jane had been his normal self. Generally. He'd come bounding in practically whistling, greeting the team almost exuberantly. His "Morning Lisbon" might have been a bit subdued, a bit shorter than the salutations he threw to everyone else, but no one else seemed to notice anything amiss so she'd chalked it up to her own paranoia. She'd expected him to treat her differently so now she was seeing things where nothing actually existed. Great, she thought, just what she needed, a mental disorder on top of everything else, as if she needed something else to worry about. With her luck Jane probably decided to take up skydiving or racecar driving during his time off. She couldn't help scowling in the consultant's general direction, deciding this was all his fault.

When he'd found out that nothing much was going on Jane had moved to his couch and appeared to go to sleep. But she was sure he knew she was watching him, he always did somehow. So when he opened his eyes, and raised his eyebrows at her she wasn't surprised. "Nice to have you back Jane."

He nodded, acknowledging her comment, but didn't say anything, scrutinizing her facial expression in silence. Unwilling to submit to his examination she tore her gaze from his and left the room soon afterwards.

A couple of weeks after that Minnelli asked her how things were going with Jane; it had become a bit of a custom of theirs at the end of their meetings checking in with each other about how Jane's antics were being dealt with since something always seemed to be going on with the unpredictable consultant. She'd assured him that Jane was fine, that she had everything under control.

"So no long term effects of the case a few weeks ago?" Minnelli asked her, entirely too casually to actually be a casual question.

"Nope, not that I can see. I mean, it's Jane, every so often he'll do something insane…"

"You mean like drop a water balloon on a prominent businessman from a second story window?"

"… but it hasn't been anything I can't handle."

She remembered at the time thinking that it was technically true. Nothing between them had changed, not really. Nothing that she could specifically pinpoint at least. Sure, sometimes she thought there might be a subtle barrier between them now that hadn't been there before, but it was so hazy it was hard to get a fix on it. Sometimes she thought Jane was more polite toward her than he'd ever been before. And she'd wondered a couple of times if he'd ended some of his more outlandish stories or even some of his little tricks rather when she entered the bullpen. Not to mention they didn't seem to be as in sync lately. Gone were wordless conversations, the easy teasing, the occasional gestures of support. Sure they discussed cases, that hadn't changed, and he still needled at her a bit, but it wasn't the same. It was either too impersonal, like it was a chore for him, or it wasn't quite as innocent as it had been. He almost seemed to revel just a little bit in her discomfort. But really, all of her evidence was so circumstantial that she almost couldn't make a case even to herself. Jane was probably just dealing with stuff. He most likely wasn't intentionally sabotaging their relationship.

She almost believed that too, except for one little thing, he hadn't brought up the subtle shift between them. If she'd noticed a difference than it was almost certain that the human tape measure of interpersonal relationshipshad. Yet Jane hadn't mentioned anything, hadn't burst into her office at random one day with wild accusations and a ludicrous solution that wouldn't work, but would make her laugh, so would most likely help anyways. That meant that either Jane hadn't noticed, in which case their relationship had changed to the point where he didn't care what was going on, whether or not it was damaged, or Jane had noticed, and was doing nothing about it. Whichever scenario was right, their relationship had cracked, and instead of repairing it, they were both pretending it wasn't there, merely painting over the damage so that unless you looked closely you'd never see it.

Which brought her back to the present day sitting in her office, idly signing off on a few unimportant reports, but really wondering what to do about her wayward consultant. Wondering if they could back to where they had been before, or if it was even a good idea. Getting lost in her own memories.

"Dammnit Lisbon you were supposed to wait until Red John showed up."
"I couldn't take the chance. Red John's long gone anyway."

He'd been angry, and she supposed he'd had every right to be. She was the one who'd broken their agreement, who'd ignored the plan, a plan he'd come up with to fulfill his life's goal. But what Jane didn't understand, couldn't ever seem to understand, was that she couldn't only consider the needs of a single person. She was the head of a team for crying out loud. She had to consider everyone, consider all of their safety, from the victim to Jane himself, whether he cared about his own life or not.

"You shoulda waited. We agreed on that."
"And what if Hardy had killed you right here?"
"Then he would have led you straight to Red John."
"You'd be dead."
"
But you'd have Red John."

And he'd meant it. Or thought he had at least. And as long as that was true the distinction didn't matter. He'd come up with a plan knowing that there was a good chance it would result in his own death, uncaring as long as it also resulted in his enemy's capture. And she'd tacitly gone along with it, to save Maya, and to help him catch Red John, foolishly believing that she could prevent anything terrible from happening. It had all happened so fast that there hadn't even been time to call Cho. That alone should have been the tip-off that this was a very bad idea, but she'd let him convince her. Desperate as he was for closure, sometimes she thought that she was almost as desperate to give him some.

But then her nerve had failed her. She couldn't stand idly by and let Jane get killed, especially not when there was a chance that they wouldn't even get Red John. Besides, there was Maya to consider, someone that Jane would almost certainly overlook. If she was honest with herself she didn't think she'd ever intended to see Jane's plan through. It was too dangerous. She'd told him once that she didn't trust him and that he shouldn't trust her. This was why. When it came right down to it their objectives were too different. Besides, she'd thought she could have both. She'd save Maya, and they'd have a witness in custody who actually knew Red John.

"We've still got Hardy. He's gonna tell us what we need to know."
"Oh you think so."

She could hear the scorn in his voice. In her own arrogance she'd thought she'd solved all of their problems. Ironic that it was the same trait that usually got Jane into trouble. She was a fixer, always had been. But as Jane had told her, you couldn't always fix everything. Not that she could have foreseen he actual outcome of her actions in a million years.

Couldn't have foreseen that Hardy would wake up when he did, would be able to remove his own handcuffs and steal his deputy's gun. And then, when he'd pointed that same gun at her she'd been sure that she was next. She'd been sure that she was about to die, knew that she'd never get to her own gun in time. When the shot rang out she waited for the pain that didn't come. Instead she saw Jane, holding a rifle, staring at what he'd done in shock, his panicked eyes darting between Hardy and the rifle that was still in his hands.

Of course Jane's shot had been fatal. Lisbon could only watch in shock as Jane ran to catch the man's final taunting words. Red John couldn't have planned it better if he'd tried really. Jane having to chose between saving her life and shooting his only real link to the psychopath, choosing between getting his revenge and preventing another person from being killed, this time right in front of him.

But of course this time things hadn't just affected Jane. She was involved now as well. She felt guilty, guilty for breaking her agreement with Jane when she hadn't stuck to the original plan, guilty that not only had she prevented Red John's capture, but that their only witness had been effectively silenced. Guilty that she wasn't able to trust him, good reason or no. She couldn't regret her actions, not really. Maya was safe, as were all the members of her team, at least for the time being. And it wasn't as if she'd wanted Jane to let Hardy shoot her just so that he could get his revenge. She certainly wasn't that self-sacrificing and she valued both her own life and justice more than one consultant's all-consuming need for vengeance. God how had she gotten so caught up in Jane's world? How had she let it happen? This was exactly why she always advocating keeping your personal life separate from the office. Because even knowing that she'd done nothing wrong, and that given the chance she didn't know what she could have done differently, she still felt guilty. Guilty that he'd had to do it, guilty that she'd set in motion the chain of events, and guilty that when she'd seen Jane holding the gun she'd been surprised.

She'd told her boss a week ago that she could handle Jane. If only she still believed it.

"Geez Lisbon, this is on tape! Control your man here!"

"I won't let him."

"Don't talk like that. I can't let you anywhere near this case if you start talking crazy like that."
"Crazy? You're crazy if you think you're going to stop me. Red John is mine. You try and stand in my way and you… You will regret it."

A knock on the door jarred her out of her thoughts. Forcing the voices from the past out of her head she called, "Come in."

It was Cho, who was handing her a file. "Just got a case boss. Here're the details. Rigsby and Van Pelt are getting the gear ready."

"Thanks Cho. I'll be out in a minute."

"Sure thing boss."

She nodded absently as he left the room before flipping through the file. Oh, you've got to be kidding me! She did not need this now.

xxxxx

Jane watched as Cho left Lisbon's office. Presumably the head of the team was just finishing up whatever she'd been busy doing when Cho had handed her the case file. Probably some kind of pointless paperwork. Ah bureaucracy, something he had absolutely no patience for on the best of days. It was, he acknowledged, one of the many reasons that he could never do Lisbon's job. She was bound by too many rules, servant to too many masters. As a result she needed to compromise, and things needed to be sacrificed.

She'd been quieter lately though, since he'd been back, less fun, less sarcastic making fewer jokes. Reacting to him less. Had something gone wrong in her (almost nonexistent) personal life? Or was Special Agent Theresa Lisbon trying to distance herself from her team and her irritating consultant? After all, we wouldn't want to appear unprofessional would we? And with his personality he could definitely become a liability.

He got up from his couch when she emerged from her office. "Alright, ready to head out?" When no one contradicted her statement she'd nodded, "Good. Then let's go."

Jane couldn't help giving a half-hearted salute to her retreating back. She was just as quietly competent as she'd always been, if a bit more subdued than usual. Although he couldn't help noticing that today she seemed just a little bit anxious, a little bit off. Interesting… He wondered why. "And where are we off to this fine morning?"

It was Cho who answered him, "Small town on the other side of the city. Mother of three was found dumped in a back alley early this morning by a local business owner taking out his garbage."

"And we got it why?"

Cho shrugged. "Local law enforcement requested some help. We agreed to step in."

Jane kept an eye on their boss, stalking down the hallway ahead of them. "Do we know where the father was?"

"File doesn't say, other than to say that he seemed pretty broken up."

"And the rest of the family? The kids?"

"At school maybe I guess. Three girls, the oldest is in her early teens, a couple of years into high school."

"Hmm." Jane was only half listening to his companion. His eyes attention was becoming more and more fixed on the woman in front of him as she made small talk with Van Pelt. "Interesting…"

He hung back when they arrived at the crime scene, listening as he let the others talk to local law enforcement. He watched them all while they checked the body for anything important. As far as anyone could tell based on a preliminary inspection she'd been killed by a couple of gunshot wounds to the chest. Anything else had to wait for an autopsy report. But judging by the way the careless way that the body had been dumped, he doubted they were dealing with someone who'd planned the crime in advance, let alone any kind of professional killer. If he had to guess he'd have to go with random attack. Most likely she'd been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Rigsby and Van Pelt seemed to be coming to the same conclusion under their boss's supervision. "They sure didn't make a huge effort to hide the body did they boss?" the younger woman asked.

"Sure didn't." Lisbon replied absently.

"Two shots too," Rigsby added. "Probably not someone who knew what they were doing. This might not have been planned boss."

"No assumptions, not until we know more at least." Standing up from where she'd been crouched near the victim's head she nodded to the medical examiner, "You can take it from here. Rigsby, Cho finish interviewing any witnesses. Van Pelt, get back to headquarters, see what you can dig up about Mrs. Martin here. Jane and I will go talk to the family."

The rest of her team nodded, and moved to follow her orders.

Jane spoke for the first time since they'd arrived on the scene, surprising them all. "Are you sure that's a good idea?"

"Excuse me?" Lisbon sounded surprised.

"I was just wondering if maybe sending Van Pelt or Rigsby to interview the victim's family would be better."

"Why don't you want to go interview the family? Sometimes I think that's your favourite part of a case."

He smiled, keeping his voice indulgent, as if he was speaking to a child, "Not instead of me. Instead of you."

"And why wouldn't I want to go interview the family?" she was trying to keep her voice casual, but he could hear the warning underneath it.

"Aren't you concerned about your ability to be impartial? A mother killed seemingly at random leaving behind a grieving widower with a high school aged daughter and two younger siblings. I know how important the appearance of propriety can be to the CBI after all. We wouldn't want anyone to suspect our investigation might be biased." He kept his voice light. After all, it was a valid concern, and one that came up any time a case involved either Red John or even a missing child. He wasn't sure exactly why he'd done it, it just seemed like something that needed to be said, wanted to see how she felt when her own judgment was called into question. "And I certainly wouldn't want you to be placed in a difficult situation."

To Lisbon's credit she barely even flinched. The rest of the team was watching him in shock. Cho made a move to say something but Lisbon cut him off abruptly. "As I recall this unit isn't in the habit of removing people from an investigation simply because they might have some kind of personal experience with a case. It is assumed that we can remain impartial, or at the very least keep things in perspective enough to do our jobs. That said, if you're concerned of course I don't have to meet with the family. Cho, take Jane with you to the victim's house. I'll stay here with Rigsby instead. And Jane? I appreciate your concern, but in the future if you have questions about my capabilities I'd appreciate it if you spoke to me beforehand." And without further ado she wandered over to speak to the officer who'd first arrived on the scene.

Rigsby and Van Pelt still looked a bit shell shocked, like they wanted to say something, but weren't sure how to react especially given their boss's unruffled demeanour In the end Rigsby turned without saying anything and jogged over to where his boss was standing. Van Pelt crossed in the other direction, getting into one of the sedans, but not before shooting Jane a dirty look. Jane wandered towards the other vehicle knowing Cho would eventually follow. He was right.

"Watch yourself man," was all the Asian agent said as he climbed in the driver's seat. Jane looked at him inquiringly, but unsurprisingly Cho didn't react. Just shook his head and started the car. It was the last thing either of them said for the remainder of the trip.

TBC