Disclaimer: I own nothing related to The Mentalist, just the thoughts in my head.
Rating: T - for strongish language
Summary: "It was like she had some sort of homing beacon for emotionally unavailable men." - Lisbon and Jane sort out the baggage between them
Spoilers: Post-ep to His Red Right Hand
Author's Notes: I was in kind of a dark mood when I watched His Red Right Hand and this is the result. I felt that Jane and Lisbon needed to work through all of the baggage between them and writing this was kind of cathartic.
* Thanks, as always, to my ever-patient, extremely talented beta. Thanks, Joy, you are the queen of punctuation and as always, the Toby to my Sam.
The din of raucous voices and an ancient Bob Seger song did nothing to drown out the cacophony in her head. Hunched tiredly over the worn bar top, Special Agent Teresa Lisbon eyed the amber liquid at the bottom of her glass, hoping the next draught might have a more desired effect.
She knew, however, that it wasn't going to work. She'd inherited her father's ability to hold liquor and she wasn't drinking nearly fast enough to bring about the oblivion she was so desperately seeking. She just couldn't do it. A young Teresa had witnessed firsthand, more often than she'd like to recall, just what happened when alcohol took control and she'd promised herself long ago that she'd never let that happen.
Still, all she wanted to do was forget: forget the last eight days, forget about death and Red John and vengeance and her duty as a cop. She just wanted to slip into a peaceful void where nothing could touch her, if only for a while, but she knew it wouldn't do any good. She could drink herself into a stupor all she wanted but it wouldn't change anything. She would still wake up tomorrow to find her world ripped apart at the seams.
She would wake up tomorrow and four agents would still be dead, her boss would have still quit and the entire California Bureau of Investigation would still be reeling from the shock of knowing their number one most wanted had struck them at their heart.
Sam Bosco was dead.
The one thought she'd been trying to obliterate all night reared its head yet again, sending her stomach roiling. She quickly knocked back the last of her bourbon without even a wince, hoping the liquid fire might burn away some of the sickness within. Signalling the bartender for another, Lisbon returned her eyes to the now-empty glass, fighting back the tears that were clamouring for escape from behind her lashes.
In a hail of bullets from the gun of a deranged serial killer's minion, she'd lost a friend, a mentor, a ... man she loved. She'd loved Sam Bosco, but these weren't new feelings, born of some epiphany while he lay on his deathbed. This was a love she'd locked away eight years ago with the fierce determination of someone who refused to compromise her morals, regardless of what her heart had wanted.
These were feelings she'd been unable to reconcile with the woman she was today when he'd dropped back into her life about six months ago. Lisbon couldn't miss the way he'd looked at her, had known right away that for him, nothing had changed. Thing is, for her, everything had changed.
She wasn't the rookie anymore, falling for her mentor; she'd matured considerably. She had her own team, her own cases and responsibilities, and somewhere along the way she'd found herself inextricably entwined with another man. Somehow, against all her better judgement, her life had slowly wound itself around one Patrick Jane.
It was like she had some sort of homing beacon for emotionally unavailable men.
Where Sam was married to his wife, Mandy, Jane was forever joined to his vengeance, wrapped up in a cloak of single-minded pursuit for the man who'd killed his family. Most days, it was easy to forget the damage five years of obsession had wrought. She could allow herself to be lulled by his charm and silly tricks into believing he was healing, that he was normal.
Then Red John would resurface and the mask would slip, revealing eyes of cold steel. Then she could see the shadow behind his bright smile. It was a darkness that had frightened her on occasion, but now she understood it. She understood it because it now lived in her, now that Red John had attacked her CBI family.
Lisbon knocked back another finger of bourbon as she let the anger and despair of the last week burn its way out of her soul. The fury that had held her in its iron grip as she'd kept her gun to Rebecca's head had scared her once she'd pulled herself from its grasp. In that moment, she'd wanted nothing more than to pull the trigger and splatter the bitch's brains all over the wall like one of her master's smiley faces. In that haze of red, she'd understood with startling clarity just what demons lived within Jane and it terrified her. She'd always fought hard to maintain her professional integrity and uphold the law. She'd always thought that she could keep her duty and her feelings separate, but now she wasn't so sure.
Patrick Jane watched her chestnut hair shimmer in the dim light of the bar as she motioned to the bartender for another drink. This would make four, and he was starting to see the faintest signs of their effect. Her head lolled just a little and her movements were just a tad sluggish. Still, Jane had to admit that the woman could hold her liquor.
However, she wasn't going to find what she was looking for at the bottom of that glass. He knew this from experience.
The cool autumn night swirled around him, slipping gusts of wind through the chinks in his three-piece suit. Not for the first time that night, Jane entertained the idea of getting out of the cold, of going in and joining her, but he remained rooted to the spot, maintaining his silent vigil. As much as he craved her company, he knew that he wouldn't be welcome.
'God, you really are a cold bastard.'
The venom in her words ate at his heart. A year ago, he'd have brushed her off easily, his shields impervious to anyone and anything that distracted him from his purpose. A year ago, things were different.
'Couldn't even wait until the bodies were cold in the ground.'
She'd found him in Bosco's office, the files he'd been desperate to read for months littering every available surface. He'd refused to look up, not because he'd been reading anything earth-shattering, but because he didn't want to face the hurt and disappointment he was sure were colouring her eyes. Somewhere along the way, she'd slipped between the cracks in his armour and her disgust in him was like a lance to his heart.
He'd wanted to tell her that this was different, that the drive was different now, but he'd known that she wasn't in any mood to understand. So he'd fallen back on his failsafe position and tucked further into the stacks of information with a disinterested, 'There's a lot of catching up to do.'
Her disgust was palpable and the knife plunged a little deeper. He'd nearly shot up out of his chair and gone after her when she'd beat a hasty retreat down the hall, her breathing suspiciously laboured. Instead, he'd allowed Lisbon her escape, taking his time to put the folders and photos back into some semblance of order before following her to this spot.
She hadn't started out alone. The night had begun as an impromptu wake, with Rigsby, Cho and Van Pelt trying valiantly to keep the mood light. But it had been a lost cause from the beginning and eventually they'd given up, slipping away into the night and leaving their boss to her thoughts. He didn't need to be psychic to know the demons that now held her in their grip. They'd been his constant companion for years and he'd have given anything to keep her from their grasp.
'She needs you, probably as much as you need her. I can't say I get it, but look after her.'
Bosco's whispered words played in an endless loop in his overworked brain. Before he'd even had a chance to deflect, the detective had driven his point home. 'I may be dying, but I'm not stupid. I mean it, look after her. She's the only one who can save you.'
Frankly, Jane was pretty sure he was long past saving, but as his eye tracked her every move, every wave of emotion that wracked her small frame, he felt a pull solidly in his chest and wondered if maybe Bosco had been on to something. Blowing out a resigned breath, Jane made to finally cut the connection and head back to his waiting couch at the office, when a sudden flicker of movement caught his eye.
Re-focussing his attention, Jane discovered that another player had entered her little tableau and the asshole was trying to pick her up. The signs were obvious as the jerk leaned into her. Damn fool, trying to pick up a grieving woman. He waited with eager anticipation for Lisbon to hand the interloper's balls to him on a platter. Instead, Jane was well and truly shocked to see her instead lean back into the moron, an encouraging smile painted across her lips.
The tug in his chest quickly evolved into something considerably more painful. Jane tried desperately to pull away. He didn't want to get into this. He knew the road she was on; he'd walked it a few more times than he'd care to admit. He knew it wouldn't help, but Lisbon was a big girl. She could make her own mistakes.
He made it three whole steps down the sidewalk before charging back into the pub with a muttered, "Damn it, Lisbon."
His hair wasn't quite the right shade of blonde.
That's all Lisbon could seem to focus on as her newfound admirer signalled the bartender for another round. She was still only halfway through her last glass, but she wasn't going to argue. She had most definitely not been looking to pick anyone up tonight. It wasn't something she did, actually, but between burying one man she'd loved and watching the other man she ... cared about destroy himself from within, Lisbon felt she could use the distraction.
"There you are, Teresa. Sorry I'm late. Traffic was just murder."
His soft voice in her ear and the ghost of a kiss across her hair was like a bucket of ice water down her back. Every muscle in her body went rigid as he slipped his arm around her shoulder and clasped her left hand tightly in her lap.
"What the hell are you doing here, Jane?" she hissed, trying to subtly wriggle out of his grasp.
He held her firm, his fingers tracing a gentle pattern over the skin of her hand. That, coupled by the warmth of his body, lit tiny sparks of awareness along every nerve ending, only fuelling the fire of her anger. She was well and truly pathetic.
"I'm keeping a promise," his whispered into her hair, his infuriating smile still firmly in place. She was just about to tell him where he could shove his newfound sense of nobility, when he slipped his arm from around her shoulders and thrust it out at her now confused suitor.
"Hey, I'm Patrick. Nice to meet you." He didn't give the man a chance to answer as Jane took hold of his hand, making sure his wedding ring glinted in the bar light. "Thanks for keeping my wife company. I so hate to leave her waiting. Frankly, I just can't stand being away from her, but a man has to work after all."
She was going to kill him. As soon as the fog in her head cleared and she managed to wrench herself from his hold, she was going to kill him.
Apparently Casanova wasn't all too intent on his target, because the flash of Jane's somewhat possessive smile and his wedding ring was enough to get him to back off. As soon as he was safely out of earshot, Lisbon ripped her hand from Jane's fingers and pulled as far away from him as she could without falling off her stool.
"Who the hell do you think you are?" Lisbon growled. She noted with smug satisfaction that Jane actually did seem a little intimidated by her tightly reigned fury. Still, his maddening smile never wavered.
"I'm a friend, Lisbon," he answered patiently. "And it looked like you could use a little help."
She snorted derisively in response. "Yeah, well, unless you're planning on taking his place, I don't need your help."
Jane's smile finally vanished, replaced by something else entirely, his eyes becoming curiously dark. Still, he quickly recovered. "As enticing an offer as that is, my dear Lisbon, it's not a road you want to go down tonight, with me or anyone else. Trust me, it doesn't help."
Lisbon barked a hollow laugh as she slammed a few bills on the counter and hopped down from the stool. "Trust you? Yeah, that's rich, Jane." Without another word, she wove her way towards the door, wrestling her leather jacket over her shoulders and ducking quickly through the throng of people, intent on her escape.
She knew he'd follow her, but she'd been hoping her last verbal barb would at least give her a head start. Unfortunately, he was dogging her heels as she broke through into the cool night.
"Go home, Jane, or back to your files. You got what you wanted after all." She threw the words over her shoulder as she nearly ran down the sidewalk. She needed to hail a cab, but didn't want to stop long enough for Jane to catch up.
Her words, eerily similar to what Rebecca had said to him in interrogation, hit him like a punch to the gut, sending another wave of nausea bubbling up and cresting in the back of this throat. Before he could even register his movement, Jane took off after her down the street, his long legs closing the distance quickly in his desperation to get her to take those words back. He couldn't hear them, not from her. He couldn't know that she believed that of him. Blindly, he reached out for the only lifeline he knew.
"Take it back."
Lisbon jerked violently as his hand clamped around her upper arm. Inertia spun her around to face him.
"Let me go, Jane."
He held on tighter.
"Take it back."
"What the hell are you talking about?" she spat, brushing her hair out of her eyes and fixing him with her deadliest glare.
He loosened his grip ever so slightly, but any attempts to escape were stalled by his gaze. The mask had slipped completely, but instead of being confronted by the cold and calculating stare she'd encountered only a few times before, Lisbon was stunned to find his eyes swimming with pain and self-recrimination. The smile and self-confidence she was so familiar with was long gone. He'd suddenly become a man she didn't know. Fear pulled at the back of her mind, but her anger was still in control and she wrapped it around her like a cloak.
"I said let go of me, Jane!"
His voice was insistent, almost desperate. "I need you to take it back, Lisbon."
"Take what back?" Lisbon carefully replayed her last words over in her head, trying to discern what would've triggered such a drastic response in him. She'd never seen him like this; he didn't answer, only stared back forlornly. Frustrated, exhausted and still a little cloudy from the alcohol, Lisbon sighed, trying again to free herself from his grasp. "Go back to your case files. I'm going home."
"Please don't say that."
The broken edge to his voice tugged hard at something inside her and then everything snapped. How dare he do this to her? How dare he be the broken one tonight when she needed comfort? How dare he make her give again, when all she ever did with him was give ... give him space, give him leeway, give him rope to hang himself and everyone around him in this damn game he just couldn't stop playing. She was done. Seething, she wrenched herself from his fingers.
"Say what, Jane? That you've got the files you wanted? That you've wanted all this time?" Lisbon didn't usually consider herself a malicious person, but tonight anger burned hot in her belly and she couldn't contain it any longer.
"It is what you wanted Jane, isn't it?" she prodded, carefully avoiding his face, knowing that any glance at the hurt and horror that she knew would be there would defuse the pressure building up inside her, and she needed to get it out or she'd explode. So instead she just continued to jab, hacking away at what was left of Jane's armour, drawing back for one final blow. "You've been wanting back on the Red John case for months, and now you can go back to your sick, messed up game. Congratulations, Jane. Now leave me alone."
As the last words left her mouth, Lisbon came back to herself with the excruciating realization of what she'd just done. She'd killed them. Any connection, any friendship that might have been between them up until now was dead by her hand. One heady moment of cathartic fury and she'd torn them to shreds. Fighting viciously against the tears that she could feel boiling up from within, Lisbon spun on her heel, desperate to escape, to avoid having to witness the carnage she'd created. The fire now abated, the sickening sludge of guilt clogged her throat, choking her as she realized just how much damage her words had done.
She didn't get far.
His grip on her arm was even tighter this time, his fingers pressing into her flesh, his touch burning the skin and muscle beneath. Facing him again, Lisbon made the mistake of looking up into his eyes and her heart clenched so painfully, she feared it might break. The agony that coloured his irises had increased tenfold. She'd never seen him so completely broken and she'd never hated herself more.
"You think I wanted this?" he hissed, bringing his face close to hers. His gaze was just this side of manic, and Lisbon couldn't help but swallow hard against the tiny bubble of fear that had suddenly appeared. She didn't answer, knowing that he wasn't really expecting her to.
"You think I wanted Bosco dead, that I wanted more blood on my hands, Lisbon? Do you think I wanted to pay for my arrogance and stupidity with the lives of the people I loved, to live the rest of my life in the shell of my home with my little girl's blood on the wall? Do you think I enjoy living my life solely to kill another?"
Lisbon couldn't hold back the gasp at his admission. She'd had her suspicions about his living conditions, but to hear them confirmed so callously was the final weight needed to break her heart tonight. He wasn't finished, however.
"You think this is a game to me, that I derive some sort of sick pleasure out of playing this lethal chess match with a psycho? D'you think this is fun for me, watching people drop dead around me? D'you think I look forward to getting up every day knowing that someone might be next ... that you might be next?" Jane stepped further into her, grasping both her shoulders tightly and ducking his head to be sure he held her gaze. Heart hammering in her chest, Lisbon never swayed from his eyes, making sure he saw the guilt and sorrow she felt for pushing him this far, for the lives they led in the first place.
Leaning closer, his warm breath ghosted across her lips with his next words. "I have to catch him, Lisbon, I have to. I'm sorry that it makes me a callous bastard, but I can't let him take any more lives away. I can't let him take you away."
Lisbon could only stare in wonder, her body vibrating with a dizzying mix of emotions she couldn't tease apart. Despite all of her efforts, she'd never expected to get through the wall he'd so carefully constructed around himself. After all these years, she'd stopped expecting him to change. She wasn't entirely sure what to do with this Jane that stood before her, eyes open and honest, willing her to understand and accept the man he was becoming, practically begging her to help him.
She had absolutely no idea what to say. Instead, she answered his leap forward with one of her own. Carefully, she inched closer, tucking herself into his body, her head slipping under his chin and her arms slowly finding their way around his waist. If it had been any other time, she would've revelled in her ability to finally surprise him, but instead Lisbon held her breath until she felt his body relax and his hands slide from her shoulders to link behind her back.
"God, Jane, I'm so sorry," she whispered into his lapel, finding the words more easily now that she couldn't see his face.
"Don't be sorry, Lisbon," Jane murmured, clutching her just a little tighter. He'd held himself apart for so long that he never imagined that being wrapped around another person, around Lisbon could feel so good. It staggered him that she had taken the mess they'd created between them and washed it away with one decisive stroke. "You have nothing to be sorry for." She really didn't. "I'm the one who should be sorry. It's my fault-"
She pulled away suddenly and stopped him with a finger to his lips. "It's not your fault, Jane," she whispered fervently, her green eyes wide, willing him to believe her.
Lisbon breathed a heavy sigh of relief when he pulled her back into his embrace. It was a place she'd never expected to find herself, especially not five minutes ago, but she had to admit it was just what she needed tonight.
"Just say you'll help me." His words were barely above a whisper, but she'd heard him, heard all of what he was asking.
She hugged him tightly in response, still feeling a little out of her element surrounded by his scent. "I'll help you, Jane," she replied, before continuing carefully. "But you need more than just help catching Red John."
He surprised her again. "I know," he whispered into her hair. "I know you don't likely believe this, but you have helped."
His words left her strangely settled. "Good."
When he pulled away, his grin was back in full force and Lisbon couldn't help the tiny pang of loss that came every time he put his shields back up.
"Now, can I drive you home?" he asked, eyes playfully pleading, much like that afternoon he'd goaded her into a 'trust fall' in the middle of a farmer's market. The memory coaxed a gentle laugh from her lips and the darkness within receded just a bit from the brightness of his smile. They were a long way from 'fixed', but she could see the path.
"Only if you promise to stay." The words were out of her mouth before she'd had a chance to fully think through her request and now she felt trapped. It was a knee-jerk reaction to the knowledge of where he slept when he wasn't at the office and she couldn't bear the idea of him spending another night in that room. They'd made immeasurable progress tonight and she loathed the thought of taking two steps back. Still, she couldn't help but backpedal, afraid he would misconstrue, or worse think she was acting out of pity. "I... I don't mean, I mean-"
Jane mirrored her gesture from a moment ago and silenced her with a gentle finger on her lips. "I know."
"I mean, I could use the company," She meant it. Even after everything, Lisbon couldn't help the quiet peace that settled over her when Jane was near her just being. It was rare, but it always managed to make her feel better.
"Me too." Matching cautious smiles broke across their faces as Jane swung around and in true gentlemanly fashion, offered an arm to Lisbon. The weight of the last few days released on a chuckle as she slipped her arm through his and lead the way home.