Alright, almost didn't get this one out. A couple of pages of it were sitting on my hard drive for weeks as I was hit by a massive case of writer's block. But I got it in with a day to spare. So here it is, my entry for the jello-forever March Challenge: Standing on the outside

Disclaimer: As always, I don't own the Mentalist or any of its associated characters.

xxxxx

Comparisons, Illusions and Delusions

xxxxx

"Hey Boss," Rigsby told her, ducking his head in her office. "Bernier confessed. Jane pulled his whole all-knowing psychic shtick and had our new friend, the world's creepiest funeral director, talking in about two minutes. Seriously, it only to Bernier seconds to lash out at the top of his lungs trying to prove Jane wrong."

"Ultimately proving him right in the process," Lisbon guessed.

"Yup," Rigsby agreed. "They're processing the confession now. Man you shoulda seen Jane boss. He was like a concert pianist in there, playing Bernier like a piano." There was no mistaking the awe in the younger Agent's voice as he told her about the interrogation. "It was a fun one," Rigsby added.

"That'll put Jane in a good mood then," Lisbon said with a sigh.

Rigsby grinned, "Yeah. Well, I'll go help deal with Bernier. Just wanted to let you know about the confession."

"Thanks Rigsby," Lisbon replied.

"Seriously, Jane was on fire this case," Rigsby added before turning to go find Cho and help escort the suspect out of the building, leaving Lisbon alone in her office.

The female Agent ran a hand through her hair. Jane was on fire. Jane was a musician, and the suspect was a piano. She'd heard it all before. Lisbon had figured Bernier'd be an easy win for Jane. She hadn't bothered to stick around because she didn't felt like dealing with her consultant's particular brand of arrogance. Some days she just wasn't in the mood. And she had to hear about it all the time. The comparisons made about Jane were endless, and on a variety of themes. Jane was a ringmaster at a circus, a puppet-master, a master of ceremonies to an event only he knew the purpose of, the director of a play that the rest of them were acting in, a fraud, a shyster, a crooked door-to-door salesman, a two-bit showman, a brilliant behaviourist, an observational genius, the most successful consultant the bureau had ever hired (but also the most dangerous), a loose cannon, a wildcard, a lone wolf that no one could ever quite tame. Honestly, she could come up with comparisons all day long. Some were completely justified, others not as much.

She'd been collecting the comparisons for years now, whether she wanted to or not.

Comparisons are odious.

She remembered hearing that once, in some long ago English class. She thinks it was John Donne. And yeah, comparisons are annoying, but they happen all the time. It's human nature; she's sure of it. Probably fills some deep need to feed our own egos, prove that we're all better than someone. That we have more value than them for some reason. Doesn't matter what exactly, but we all want some sort of validation that we're worth the space we take up on the planet.

And she's gotten her fair share of comparisons in her time.

The first is still the most painful.

"You're just like your mother."

Actually, she lied. The second is the most painful.

"You remind me so much of your mother."

It's amazing what a difference a slight change in wording makes isn't it?

Jane'd be able to tell her all about the subtleties of vocabulary. It's exactly the sort of thing he picks up on all the time with the people they come across on the job.

But regardless of wording she's been hearing the same comparison for most of her life. She remembers the first time like it was yesterday. She'd been about 10, maybe 11. One of her more distantly related cousins had just gotten engaged. Their family had never been particularly close, but they kept in touch. And an engagement was an excuse for a big party, a big party that could double as a sort of family reunion. Any family member who could be gotten a hold of was going to be there. Lisbon remembered being vaguely excited about the whole thing, mainly because it'd meant she'd gotten a new dress.

Now, let's be honest here, even in pre-adolescence Teresa Lisbon had never been one to obsess over her looks. And she'd always been most comfortable in jeans playing pick-up games of hockey or baseball with a group of neighbourhood kids than playing dress-up. But she'd loved her first real party dress. Knee length and white with red flowers growing all over it. Between her mother and herself she'd even managed to tame her hair into something presentable.

She was sure that the resulting package looked reasonably pretty. Her father had called her his little princess and cut off her brothers' jibes with a quick reprimand followed by a glare to show he meant business. Teresa shot the three of them a look that'd promised revenge of her own, once they were all out of their parent's line of sight. When the family arrived at the party they started making the rounds, and each and every adult had opened with a variation on a theme. "And this must be Teresa! Well don't you look lovely sweetie? What a pretty dress! Is it new?" Because apparently every adult believed that complementing a girl's ensemble was a pretty safe bet (as long as they weren't going through their anti-formal wear phase). And then the next comment was always the same, "You're growing up so fast. And you're the spitting image of your mother! Isn't she Brigit?" Then her mother would laugh and acknowledge that there was a definite family resemblance.

There had been. Same dark hair, same pale skin, same slim build. The most obvious difference (other than their ages of course) had been their eyes. Her mother had beautiful dark eyes. Teresa'd gotten the green from her father. But apparently the resemblance hadn't stopped at the visual. Upon seeing her stalk across the room to corral one of her unruly brothers she'd overheard her Uncle Tom talking to his sister, "Always keeping the rest of us in line, just like you Bridge," he'd remarked. "It's easy to see who she takes after. Guess strong women run in this family."

Even at her age, Teresa Lisbon couldn't help but swell in pride. She started mimicking her mother, both consciously and unconsciously. She tried to figure out the trick of Bridget Lisbon's walk, that inherent air of confidence and authority. The woman had been a high school teacher, and a particularly good one at that. Bridget Lisbon had been well-liked by her students, but never had any trouble keeping a class under control. Nothing ever flustered her, but she wasn't uncaring, still sympathetic to any of their problems. And it was the same with her own children. To this day Teresa Lisbon couldn't think of a better woman to be compared to. Her mother had always seemed so unbreakable.

When she was 11 her mother could do anything.

xxxxx

But like so many of her childhood illusions, that one came crashing down sooner than it should have.

Another family gathering, this one a tragic facsimile of the one several years prior. Her dress was black not white; she'd tamed not only her own hair, but her brothers' as well. And this time any maternal comparisons hadn't been tinged with amusement, but with grief. Lisbon still took some pride in the whispers though.

"Just look at Teresa, helping to take care of those boys. So strong, so in control. Brigit would have been so proud."

"She definitely takes after her mother. That woman never let anyone see her tremble either."

And that was the moment when young Teresa Lisbon started building her walls, even if she didn't realize it at the time. At the time she was just trying to be strong for her family. To be what everyone expected. She internalized most of her own grief and tried to support her brothers with her strength. She remembered how her mother had listened to grievances, wiped away tears, procured the perfect snacks from somewhere at just the right time, been both confidante and cheerleader to her children.

Lisbon knew now that her memories of her mother were the idealized memories of childhood. That the woman had her own problems. But at the time she hadn't been able to see them. All she'd seen at sixteen was how her mother had been able to manage everything.

But it became clear early on to teenage Teresa that she was not her mother.

For one she didn't have the maturity, authority or wisdom to take care of her brothers like their mother had.

And in her case her father wasn't an able-bodied partner in her efforts to keep the family running. He was a wreck of a man, barely able to go through the motions.

Things hadn't been so bad to start, but they'd deteriorated, one subtle step at a time. It started with the occasional drinking. Which Teresa tried to ignore, then to hide, then to work around. Then the drinking was followed by the anger and the shouting, which she tried to deflect and shelter her brothers from. Unfortunately she wasn't always successful. And her failures became more blatant when her father devolved into physical abuse.

Oh he never touched her, but she'd seen what he'd done to her brothers. And there hadn't been a thing she could do to stop it.

Still, even as it killed her from the inside out she'd vowed to get them through it. She remembered her mother, always calm in a crisis. Teresa vowed to get her brothers through this. Somehow. The Lisbon kids would emerge from the wreckage if it was the last thing she did. And brick by brick she'd strengthened her walls against her father's indifference and pain. She might be a little cracked on the inside, but no one would ever see it.

And she had gotten them all through it. She had.

Well… they were all alive. She was fairly successful at her job and the last she'd heard all of her brothers were working regular hours, which was saying something in this economy. Sure Tommy didn't speak to the other two, and she'd never been able to make that right. But she spoke to Mike and Pete fairly regularly, and even Tommy at least once a year.

The experience had made her who she was today. Helped make her damn good at her job. You needed to be tough to make it in the CBI, especially as a woman.

And she'd definitely made it. Her mother would have been proud.

Lisbon'd been cautiously optimistic when she'd joined the San Francisco PD. After all, it's not what she'd dreamed of for herself as a little girl. But after helping her brothers, and being unable to help her father, she found she wanted to help others. She'd had all sorts of naïve and idealistic ideas about helping the victim's families get through what had to be some of the worst experiences of their lives. Plus, she longed for a sense of stability and order. And she knew she was good at authority. Helping three boys grow up ensured that.

She'd considered teaching, but the memories and the comparisons would have been too painful. Besides, she liked the idea of preventing violence from happening, or at least putting away people so they couldn't repeat violence that'd already been committed.

So she became a cop.

She'd never forget that first homicide.

xxxxx

Lisbon walked quickly down the hall of the SFPD lugging a box of files and ignoring most of the calls and whistles from her colleagues, or the offers to help her carry it so she didn't strain her "delicate frame." Most of them were teasing anyways, and the ones that weren't, well, she'd show them who was delicate. It was a funny thing to accuse a woman of when you considered that it was harder to tell which was more vulnerable to a blow, the male genitalia or the male ego. She understood that hazing was a time honoured tradition in the police force; she just wished it was gender neutral.

Lisbon dropped the box forcefully on her desk, grabbed a file from the top and started flipping through it. They were at a dead end, but she was sure she was missing something, something important. And she'd be damned if she lost her first one out of the gate. Sighing Lisbon resisted the urge to drop her head onto her hand and just looked harder. Soon she was so engrossed in going over the contents of the file that she didn't hear when Moore and Pagliucci walked up to her desk.

"Well, what's this I see Moore?" Pagliucci asked.

"I don't know," his partner replied. "But it sure looks like little Lisbon flipping through her files like a beaver, hoping to find that elusive clue."

Lisbon growled but didn't rise to the bait. Although the fact that she'd preferred the comparison to a rodent to the crack about her size made her pause. She got enough flak for being a woman in this job; the fact that she was an attractive woman was a bit of double-whammy. She really wished for what felt like the hundredth time that god would have at least seen fit to make her tall.

The guys continued while she fumed, "Think she'll find somethin' Mike?" Pagliucci asked.

"Nah man, we've been over those hundreds of times. No matter what she does, it's not gonna make evidence appear out of thin air," Moore replied.

But that was too much for Lisbon's patience. "Yeah, well unless either of you guys have a better idea on how to solve this case, I think I'll keep on it if it's all the same to you," she snapped.

"Hey look Pag, we've got ourselves a live one!" Moore exclaimed.

"A real firecracker," Pag replied with a bit of a leer. "Listen little Lisbon," he told her patronizingly as she gritted her teeth; "Sometimes you've got to learn to let one go, we can't solve 'em all. Sometimes the bad guys win."

"Yeah, well, I haven't given up on this one yet," she muttered.

Moore looked at his partner before shrugging, "Okay rookie, suit yourself. What're you doing anyways?"

"Her job." A firm voice from behind them said.

All three officers turned quickly at that.

"Which is more than I can say for you two at the moment," the voice continued. "What're you two doin' anyways? Besides catching flies."

Moore was the first to find his voice. "Ah, boss, were just… Talking to the rookie here."

"Yes, sharing our expertise," Pagliucci added, supporting his partner.

Sam Bosco's eyebrow raises were legendary around the department and he showed all three of them why in that moment. Ever since she'd gotten the transfer to his unit and seen the way he effortlessly controlled the men under his command, Lisbon had been subtly studying him, trying to pick up tips. What she didn't realize was that because of it her posture was changing, ever so slightly, to mimic Sam Bosco's no-nonsense stance. Bosco didn't take any crap from anyone. And at the moment his targets were the unfortunate other cops under his command. "Yeah, well maybe you could go turn your 'expertise' to something productive," he told them. "Or barring that, at least stop bothering the one person here who's actually trying to get something done. You find anything Lisbon?"

"Not quite sir, but something isn't quite right," she told him.

"About what?" he asked as he walked over to look at the file she was staring at.

"The widow's story," Lisbon told him. "She said she must have missed the call her husband made from his office a couple of hours before he died because she was out all afternoon, but someone used the home phone not too long before the call was supposedly made. I know we placed her at the restaurant a few hours later, but the timeline's still wonky."

"You think she left later than she said she did?" Bosco asked.

"Or someone else was in that house at the time, because the call lasted five minutes," Lisbon replied.

"Who was the call from?" Pag asked curiously.

"Umm..." Lisbon flipped through the papers in the file searching for the answer. "Her boss actually"

"The one she insists she wasn't having an affair with," Bosco supplied.

"That'd be him," Lisbon agreed.

Bosco grinned slightly. "Nice catch Lisbon. Come on, why don't you and I go have another chat with our grieving widow."

The corners or her mouth lifted in response, "Sounds good."

As they moved to leave, Bosco turned back as an afterthought, "Oh, and Pag?"

"Yeah boss?" he asked.

"You do know that beavers work until they bend nature to their will don't you?"

Lisbon stifled her laugh as she watched the other man try to come up with a response. Yup, she'd make it here alright. She refused to allow for any other outcome. She'd show them all how tough, how dedicated Teresa Lisbon could be. Heck, she might already be on the boss' good side.

xxxxx

Lisbon worked hard and she worked smart. She watched the good cops and she learned from them. And in the end she decided, that in her (possibly biased) opinion, no one was as good as her supervisor, Agent Sam Bosco. He had one of the highest close rates on the force. He didn't back down from a fight. And his team was loyal to a fault. He never hung anyone out to dry and in return they respected him, albeit sometimes somewhat grudgingly. Lisbon knew she wanted to run her own team some day, and she figured what better model than her own supervisor. So she started picking his brain as subtly as she could.

Course he noticed right away. But instead of teasing her he took an interest. Started giving her tips, career advice, coaching her. She figured he musta been flattered. Whatever the reason, she didn't care. She liked spending time with him. And they worked well together.

She knew what the gossip going around the station house said about the two of them. But she knew it wasn't true (and that bringing attention to it would only make it worse). Besides, there was really nothing to tell, they were just colleagues. Okay, so maybe from time to time she wondered if maybe they were a bit closer than most regular partners. But he was married, and he loved his wife. Hell, she thought his wife was great. It wasn't like anything was ever gonna happen. Every so often there was just a glance, a moment. But that was all it was. It was harmless.

And with his help and her own drive she flourished out there in San Francisco. Got herself a bit of a reputation as a rock star. The guys teased her about it, until she asked if they wanted to compare their own records. That shut 'em up for a while. Until they found another angle.

The papers started calling her "Saint Teresa."

At first it was kinda cool, but it got old fast. She couldn't walk into the precinct without someone making a smart-ass remark. She always laughed it off, but sometimes it stung. She was no saint. If there was one thing Teresa Lisbon was aware of it was her own failures. So she ignored it as best she could. Which was hard, given that she had to hear about it every time she showed even the slightest bit of empathy towards the victims.

She remembered leaving a gunshot victim's house after talking to his wife. Lisbon'd sat patiently across from the woman and basically let her cry. Then she'd tried to think of something comforting to say, told her she was strong and she'd get through it and to think of her kids, and left with Pagliucci a few minutes later. He was the one who started the conversation, "You really are St. Teresa you know that?" he asked her. "You even know what to say to them in one of the worst times in their life. All hail St. Teresa, San Fran's personal saviour."

Lisbon knew that he was teasing. Whatever issues they'd had when she first started had long since been resolved. Anything between them now was all meant to be in fun. But this wasn't something she could laugh about. "Forgive me for trying to give that poor woman even the slightest bit of comfort Pag. Excuse me for trying to make her day a little bit less of a nightmare she's not gonna wake up from. I figure if I can even help for just a second then I'm doin' my job," she snapped as started to storm off.

But pefore she could get very far he grabbed her arm. "Hey, hold up little Lisbon," he told her. "I wasn't tryin' to…" he trailed off. "It's a good thing Lisbon, Jesus. The families, the people we see every day, they trust you; they tell you things. It's what makes you so good at what you do. It's just, it can't be easy. I know…"

But Lisbon cut him off before he could say anything else. Her past was common knowledge in the SFPD, but not something she ever spoke about. And she wasn't about to start. "Don't worry about it Pag," she told him, interrupting. "It's just been a tough case."

"Yeah," he agreed. "But you know, if you ever want to talk…"

"Nah, I'm good," she insisted

"Course you are," he agreed quickly.

"But thanks," Lisbon added as an afterthought.

"The empathy's a good thing little Lisbon," he told her. "Don't take everything so personally."

And she realized he was right. She did take things too personally. So she vowed to toughen up even more. Let herself ignore more of the jibes and the jeers. She'd just let them run off her like water off a duck's back. She'd be calm and cool under pressure. Unflappable.

Just like her mother.

Course that's easier said than done.

But she got the hang of it. She kept her empathy for the victims, but she brushed off any of the snide comments. She ignored the stupid "Saint Teresa" thing whenever it cropped up and instead concentrated on her career. Soon it became obvious to everyone that Teresa Lisbon was on the fast-track to success. She rose in the ranks, intent on eventually running her own team.

She devoted herself to the job to the detriment to the rest of her life. But that was okay with her. She'd always been terrible at relationships anyway. Bosco became her mentor and in a lot 'a ways her closest confidant. In fact, he was the one who suggested she apply for a position at the CBI. And no one was more thrilled than he was when she was accepted.

"So, how does it feel?" He asked her as he poured both of them another shot of tequila, "Your last day as a member of the SFPD." They were sitting in his office, taking part in a little ritual one last time. They'd meet the rest of their colleagues at the bar in a few minutes, but both of them just wanted a couple of minutes to say a more private good-bye.

Lisbon clinked her glass against his and downed the tequila, grimacing slightly as she felt it burn down her throat. "It's strange," she admitted. "I don't know that it's really sunk in yet."

Bosco grinned, "Well, just give it time. New location'll probably help with that too."

"Yeah," she agreed idly. "Hey Sam, before we head out, I just wanted to say thanks. You know, for everything. I don't know if I could have done it without you."

Bosco shrugged. "Teresa, it was absolutely my pleasure. You're one hell of a cop. And you'll go far. How could you not, you learned from the best?" He sent her a crooked smile, which she returned easily. "And you coulda done it without me. It might not have gone so smoothly, but you'd 'a done it. And don't you forget that."

"Course not." She agreed readily. "I just wanted to... well…"

"I know," he told her softly. "I know what you're tryin' to say."

Suddenly everything seemed far too close. "So Sam, last chance, for some last minute advice," she told him with a bright smile, attempting to lighten the mood. "Any final words of wisdom?"

Bosco smiled. "Nah, I think you've got it covered. If you don't know it by now…well…" Then he paused briefly. "No, never mind," he told her.

"What?" she asked curious, "Come on, you can't hold out on me now."

"Just try not to let this job eat you alive," he told her.

She looked at him questioningly.

Bosco took a breath. "I remember the first day I met you Teresa. You were petrified. You were doing your damnest to hide it. But I could still see it. Even with the nerves you were still this energetic twenty-something, not much over a hundred pounds. But it didn't matter; you were absolutely determined to prove yourself. And you learned, oh you learned. You ignored or shot down even your fiercest critics. Over the years I saw you work on those walls you have. We all do. We all need 'em to do this job. They protect who you are. Yours are some of the best I've ever seen. Sometimes I just wonder if they're too good. I mean, you'll need 'em where you're going, don't get me wrong. Just promise me you'll never lose that crazy-something that used to leave Moore and Pag not knowin' which way was up. You kept us all on our toes."

"Hey, don't worry about that girl," Lisbon told him. "She's still guaranteed to make an appearance every Super Bowl Sunday," she joked.

"Well I guess we'll always have football," Bosco deadpanned. Then he sat down beside her. "I'm gonna miss you Teresa," he said softly. "Walls and all."

She turned to face him, noticing the slightly wistful look in his eye. "I guess some things are just meant to remain hidden," she replied just as softly.

"Yeah," he agreed.

She stood before she did something stupid. Sam followed suit. They stood awkwardly for half a second before stepping into an only slightly less awkward hug.

"So, I'll see you at the bar?" she asked him.

"You ever known me to pass up a beer?" he asked her.

She sent him one last smile before heading out the door.

He waited until she'd passed through the threshold before continuing, "People say the best defences protect the things that are the most valuable," he murmured. "But it's a moot point if no one ever gets through the castle walls."

Unfortunately for Bosco, Lisbon's hearing was as good as her case-cracking skills. And she was left with the uneasy wish that things could really be so easy.

xxxxx

When she started at the CBI Lisbon had to go through much the same thing as she'd gone through at the SFPD. But since she'd already figured out how to deal with it, everything seemed to go more quickly. Or it felt like it did at least.

She found a new supporter in the new director, one Virgil Minelli. Sure, he was gruff and sarcastic, but working with Bosco for so long meant she was used to that. And at least now with all the years at the SFPD behind her she'd earned her stripes a bit. There was usually a little bit of ribbing from any new agent she met, but that was pretty much par for the course. And now she not only gave as good as she got, but she never let them see a shot hit home. Besides that kind of teasing was par for the course between cops.

Of course, there was one exception to the rule.

One Agent Cho.

They first crossed paths in a robbery investigation. Someone kept ripping off some high end jewellery stores. Given the value of some of the objects, and the frequency of the break-ins the CBI was called in. The techs had figured out where the guy was likely to hit next, and now all available agents were staking out the four most likely targets. She'd been assigned a store in the north end of the city. Which was why she was currently sitting in van with an extremely taciturn Asian Agent, one who'd only transferred to the CBI a few months ago. She'd tried to make small talk, but almost anything she'd said had been greeted with a monosyllabic answer and a return to silence, so she'd given up. If he didn't want to talk, Lisbon sure as hell wasn't gonna force him.

She kept her eyes on their target. To her surprise this time it was her companion who initiated conversation. "So how long have you been doing this?" he asked.

"What, CBI?" she checked.

"Yeah."

Lisbon shrugged. "Couple 'a years. Why?"

"No reason. Just rumour is that you might be getting your own team soon. And you seem young," Cho told her bluntly.

Lisbon allowed herself a small smile at that. She'd heard the rumours herself, hoped they were true, but was trying not to count her chickens before they were hatched. "I'm twenty-eight," she told him.

"That's young," Cho repeated.

Lisbon decided that if he was going to be that blunt then show was she. "How old are you?" She asked.

"Twenty-six."

"You're younger than I am," she pointed out.

"But I'm not the one who's rumoured to be getting a promotion," Cho countered.

"Well Cho, you can't believe everything you hear," she told him. "If you did that…" Lisbon paused. "Hey, did you see that?"

"See what?"

"That," she pointed in the direction of the movement. "Out in the back alley." She quickly called in the suspicious activity. "Come on. Let's check it out," she told her companion while quietly getting out of the car. Lisbon waited for Cho to get outside as well before gesturing him around the building in the opposite direction. As she got around the corner she saw their thief hard at work picking the lock on the backdoor. "CBI! Freeze!" she shouted.

Of course that was the man's cue to bolt. But Lisbon was after him almost immediately as she yelled for Cho. Teresa may have been short, but she more than compensated for shorter legs with speed and intelligence. Seeing where their cat-burgler was headed she swung around to cut him off as he rounded the building next door. Barrelling into him she knocked the wind out of him. By the time Cho caught up the man was on the ground in hand-cuffs.

"Nice," he told her. "You're one tough cookie aren't you?"

"I guess I am," she told him as she led the perp back to the car.

And that probably would have been the end of it, except that she happened to catch Cho's interrogation of the guy. Lisbon had to admit, though his bluntness wasn't exactly ideal in a social setting, it did make him one hell of an interrogator. He'd gotten a confession in about ten minutes. Sure he was a bit rough around the edges, but there was definitely potential.

She started asking around surreptitiously. Although no one was particularly friendly with Agent Cho he was generally well liked and everyone admitted that he was a perfectly competent Agent. Never let you down in the field and one hell of an interrogator. Though the admitted he was a bit awkward with the families and the witnesses. Lisbon just figured that'd be something to work on. And after all, at least with Cho she wouldn't have to worry about someone trying to dig too deeply into her past.

So when she was offered her own team three weeks later, he was the first person she requested as her second in command. She needed someone dependable and loyal. Cho seemed to fit the bill.

To her pleasure he accepted the transfer. And on his first day, he showed up in her office with a package of cookies.

"For me?" she asked.

He shrugged, "Just trying to start the new job off on the right foot with the boss," Cho told her.

"Dad's oatmeal cookies?" she read off the label. "Hey aren't these those things that're almost hard enough to break your teeth on?" Lisbon asked.

"Yes." He told her.

She looked askance at him, waiting for him to continue.

Finally he shrugged again. "It seemed appropriate."

Lisbon let herself grin, remembering a past conversation. "Welcome to the team Agent Cho."

"Thanks boss," he told her.

Boss, she could get used to that.

xxxxx

And so she started building her own team. Next came Rigsby, the slightly idealistic, but rather large agent with arson experience. The three of them formed a rather motley crew. They were sometimes stretched a little thing, but Minelli kept hinting that in the next budget there might be room for a fourth agent. Four agents under her command. That suited Lisbon just fine. She liked where her life was going. She was in charge of her own team. She got along well with both of them and she was determined to succeed.

She read all the books on leadership she could find, and used all of the things she'd seen Bosco do with his own people. They were like her surrogate family. And she refused to let them get hurt if she could help it. She was fiercely loyal to her team, and expected the same loyalty in return. So far things seemed to be going reasonably well. Cho was always Cho, solid and dependable. And while Rigsby seemed somewhat in awe of her, and extremely eager to please, underneath it all he was a capable agent. At the moment she had no real concerns about either of them.

Everything was falling into place. Finally.

At least she thought it was.

Then came Jane.

Lisbon remembered when Minnelli called her into his office. She was somewhat surprised to see an admittedly very attractive blond man already there.

Minelli saw her in the doorway and gestured her in, "Ah Lisbon. There you are." Her boss said. "This is Patrick Jane," he added, gesturing to the man at this side.

"Nice to meet you," Lisbon told the newcomer as she held out her hand in surprise. She knew who he was, she'd just been given the Red John case a couple of days earlier. The brass'd decided a fresh pair of eyes was a good idea. Still, she had no idea what the man was doing here.

"Likewise," Jane said, as he took her hand and didn't let go. Lisbon looked confused for a moment, before turning to her boss for an explanation.

Minelli obliged. "Mr. Jane here has some unique abilities. He can apparently read people like a book. The AG thought he'd be helpful around here, and I agree. I told him I'd put Mr. Jane on our best team. So Agent Lisbon, meet your new consultant."

Lisbon was momentarily flabbergasted, "Sir, can I talk to you for a minute?"

"Not up for debate Lisbon," Minnelli told her. "All I ask is that you give it a try. We'll give it a couple of weeks and see how things go."

Lisbon took one look at her boss' face and knew when she was beaten. She turned back to the man next to her, the one who was still irritatingly holding her hand. "So tell, me Mr. Jane, what is it exactly that you do?" she asked him.

"Please, call me Patrick," he told her smoothly. Lisbon ignored him, waiting for an explanation. Her lack of response seemed to only amuse him further. "Ah, a tough nut to crack eh?" When she didn't answer he shrugged. "Yes, well, I suppose you'd have to be, looking like you do and doing this job. And I'm sure you're very successful. You'd have to be to run the CBI's best team. Tell me, how long did it take you to perfect that mask of indifference? Not that it's completely perfect obviously; your pulse here gives you away." Lisbon snatched her hand away as he continued. "So Agent Lisbon, does my presence here irritate you because I'm not a cop, or because I got put on your team without your consultation? After all, you are a bit of a micromanager. If I checked your socks would perfectly match your very professional pantsuit wouldn't they? But I doubt you're as put together as you like people to think. Deep seated issues from something that happened in your teen years unless I miss my guess. Nope, I'm right. Told you the walls aren't quite as good as you think they are."

Lisbon opened her mouth to tell Minnelli that she was pretty sure she wouldn't need the two weeks to 'see how things go,' when Jane interrupted again. "No need to get defensive Agent Lisbon," he told her with a grin. "I'm not making judgments. After all, we're all friends here, and you did ask what it is that I do. I've always found demonstration's much easier than explanation, and you're far more interesting than Virgil here. You should be flattered."

Lisbon counted back from three in her head. "Do that again and you won't be around in two weeks to re-evaluate this situation," she told him. "Come on, I'll introduce you to the team," then with a nod to Minnelli she barely repressed the urge to stomp out of the office.

"Well, I think that went well. I told you there was no need to worry Virgil," she heard Jane say. "I like her. She's interesting, if a little prickly. I'm sure once you get to know her, she's positively sweet on the inside, like a pineapple," the blond man added. "Well, I'm sure we'll be seeing more of each other Virgil, so I'll let you get back to whatever it was you were doing before I arrived." And with that Jane ambled out of the office to where Lisbon was waiting impatiently for him.

"Ready?" she asked him.

"Yes," Jane told her. "And I'm sorry if we got off on the wrong foot, look…"

But Lisbon cut him off, she was on to his game now. "I get it. You're this all-knowing swami and you like screwing with people, it's your thing. But keep it to the suspects or I'll hide the body somewhere so strange not even you'd be able to figure out what happened. Are we clear?"

"Yes ma'am," Jane told her with a smirk.

"And Jane?"

"Yes Agent Lisbon?"

"Compare me to fruit again and you'll see just how prickly I can be," she told him.

"Oh, but Agent Lisbon, the pineapple is the symbol of hospitality and welcome. You know typically royalty…"

"Jane, I don't care. And just Lisbon is fine. Come on, I'll introduce you to the guys."

Jane paused, and Lisbon entertained a brief hope that he was done. She headed back to the bullpen, leaving him to follow. A moment later she heard his footsteps behind her, "What about the coconut? Difficult to get out of the tree, hard on the outside, but once you break the shell…"

Lisbon's shoulders slumped. How had this happened to her?

xxxxx

And it just got worse. Jane was always there, flitting around the edges of her world, prodding her like an amateur tinkerer. Always prodding, trying to take her apart piece by piece just so he could see how she worked. She responded by trying to reinforce her existing walls. It was a system that'd worked pretty well in the past to keep people the hell out of her personal life. But for some reason it just seemed to amuse Jane, and made not a whit of difference in his behaviour.

She wasn't quite sure how they got through those first few weeks. The man couldn't follow the simplest of instructions, and she'd ended up pulling him out of a firefight, literally. Jane'd just grinned like an idiot and told her he knew she'd come and save the day. But he had solved the case. Even if he'd also nearly gotten himself killed while doing it. Still, when she met with Minnelli about it, she couldn't bring herself to ask her boss to get rid of him. It was too much like admitting defeat, admitting that this lunatic had gotten the better of her.

So she stuck it out. And a funny thing happened. Somehow Jane became one of her people.

She wandered into the break-room after a tough case. A couple of guys from white collar, Turner and Bartos were already in there. They exchanged pleasantries, but as she turned to grab something from the fridge, Turner's tone changed from friendly to slightly condescending. "So I heard Jane almost blew up a crime scene," he remarked casually.

Lisbon felt her spine stiffen as his partner continued, "Now Joe, give the man a break. It's not like there was anyone there at the time."

Turner laughed in response, "Oh well in that case… Seriously Lisbon, I don't know how you put up with that lunatic. He runs around, playing at being a cop, putting everyone's lives in danger, making everyone around him look bad. I'd hate to be in your shoes, the man's a menace. Somebody needs to show him the door."

Lisbon slammed the refrigerator door in a huff before turning to the two men. "Yeah, Jane's something isn't he?" she asked with a false smile. "After all, he does all that, and then what happens? We solve the case. How's your department doing lately? Last I checked you were still running around in circles trying to find something resembling a clue in a mountain of paperwork." The two men tried to interrupt to defend their honour (or possibly apologize) but Lisbon wouldn't let them. "Jane's methods may be unorthodox I'll grant you, but he gets results. There's a reason my team's closed the most cases in this building the last couple of months. So why don't you guys let me worry about my people, and you two worry about whatever you were doing before I disturbed you." With that Lisbon turned on her heel and left the room, righteous anger carrying her around the corner where she unfortunately found Jane lurking, grinning like a fool.

Lisbon swore. If anything Jane's grinned widened.

"Now there's no need for that kind of language Lisbon," he told her. "I agree they're both Neanderthals who couldn't think outside the box if their lives depended on it, but there's nothing you can do about it."

She ignored him and kept walking, hoping he'd take the hint and leave her alone. No such luck.

"I must say though," Jane continued, practically dancing around her, "I'm touched by your defence of my honour, even if it was unnecessary." She didn't reply, so Jane kept talking. "I really am Lisbon. I had no idea you even considered me part of your team. After all, what was it you called me just yesterday, the bane of your existence? I'm sure you can see why I was confused. Although I admit, I always suspected you had a soft spot for me." He shot her a charming grin, looking slightly confused when she didn't return it, choosing instead to just walk over to her desk, and open a case file.

But Jane still wasn't done. "There's no need to be embarrassed Lisbon," he told her. "Nothing wrong with admitting that you like having me around. I like you too."

Lisbon slapped the file down on her desk. "I never said I liked having you around," she clarified. "I said you were useful. And yeah, you are a member of my team. Sort of. And no one insults my team to my face and gets away with it. I wouldn't read too much into it. It doesn't mean I like you." Then her facial expression changed slightly, softened, "And you certainly don't like me."

"Well that's interesting," Jane said after a brief pause.

"Stop it," Lisbon shot back.

"Stop what?" he asked, amused again.

"Stop analyzing me like I'm a case you've got to solve," she told him.

Jane paused again, considering. "A case? No, not a case. A puzzle maybe. You certainly are fascinating my dear. All rough edges, but deep down you do have a fluffy centre, deny as much as you want. You're fiercely loyal Lisbon. It's a good trait. And you're good at your job. Too many control issues to let even the little things slip. You hold on to everything around so tightly that nothing ever escapes. And whatever you choose to think Lisbon, I do like you. What's not to like? Sure, you try and get in my way sometimes, but I don't mind that. And you're not so close-minded that you won't let me do anything just on principal. Plus, like I said, you're very good at your job, which significantly lowers the chances of me getting killed after I offend a member of the criminal element. No, I do like you Lisbon, and I think that you might find that you'll start to like me a little if you let yourself. Maybe one of these days we'll even work our way up to trust, though I know with you that will take longer."

Lisbon sighed, "It's hardly that easy Jane. I might like you a little better if you started acting more like a team player. Working with us, instead of treating us all like pawns in your little game."

"Oh, you're hardly a pawn Lisbon. I'd say you were at the very least a bishop," Jane corrected.

Lisbon fought the urge to laugh, "Well, be that as it may, this whole building a relationship, trust/friendship thing? It goes both ways. And until you realize that then you're on your own."

Jane seemed to consider that. Or he pretended to at least. "Well Lisbon," he finally said cheerfully. "I understand your position and I'm glad we had this little chat. We should really do this more often. I'll have to think about this whole 'member of the team' thing though. No promises."

"Of course not," she remarked dryly.

"See? You know me better than you think you do," he told her with a grin. "Why don't I just head back out to my couch for a nap and leave you to that file you're pretending to read?"

Lisbon didn't bother to answer. But the funny (or potentially frightening) thing was, in a way he was right. She was starting to well, for lack of a better word, to bond with Jane. They weren't friends, but they weren't exactly indifferent to each other either.

Huh. Maybe having him on her team wouldn't be as bad as she thought.

Maybe if she showed him loyalty and respect, maybe she'd get some in return.

xxxxx

Bet everyone can guess how that turned out. She wondered how she'd ever been able to delude herself into thinking things would ever be that simple.

While the Sam Bosco approach to running a team was a good one in principle, well, Bosco'd never had to deal with someone like Jane. Hell, forget deal with, Bosco'd never tolerate someone like Jane.

Luckily she'd already made a few adjustments to the tried and true method. For one, unlike Bosco, she'd already had an affinity for misfits and other lost sheep. And she'd never abandon them. It just wasn't in her.

Things worked out well for a while. She and Jane settled into some sort of uneasy truce I'd guess you'd call it, even if there was the odd mild explosion along the way. Then Van Pelt joined the team. She was a smart and competent agent and eager to please. Lisbon had high hopes for her in spite of Rigsby's obvious infatuation.

Despite a few bumps along the way, the team was beginning to find their feet. Cases got solved; they learned to work around each other. Sure, the methodology may not have been exactly conventional, but it worked for them. And so far even Jane hadn't crossed the metaphorical line that Minelli set for him.

Lisbon found herself relaxing just a little. Allowing herself to have a little fun. She couldn't ever relax completely with Jane around, but she let herself unclench just the slightest little bit.

In hindsight she should have known it was a bad idea. Give Jane an inch and he takes a mile. And somewhere along the way, despite her best intentions (and she suspected his as well), things started to unravel. And even she couldn't hold the strings tightly enough to keep everything together.

She knew it wasn't exactly out of the blue. At least half of their problems were thanks to Red John, California's resident psycho with a personal vendetta against her consultant. The killer cropped up every few months, just out of their reach. Each case harder than the last. And as soon as Jane pulled the trigger and shot Sherriff Hardy, everything shifted.

Then Lisbon realized that all that nonsense she'd been spouting to herself about keeping Jane at arm's length had been just that, nonsense. Jane hadn't been at arm's length for over a year. He was a member of her team now, whether she liked it or not. And she could no more cut him out without pain than she could one of her own limbs. She'd somehow let herself become entwined in Jane's world.

So even though she knew it wasn't a good idea, she cut him a little bit of slack, just a little, and then a little more. And with each passing case, each insane chase after Red John, she gave just a little bit more of herself. Worked just that much harder to make sure that she protected her people. Because it was her job. It was what she did. And each time she gave, she hoped for just a little something back. And while Jane was occasionally grateful, he always candidly told her that he had no intention of ever changing. She was the fool who always hoped otherwise.

But sometimes it seemed like Red John was all that mattered to her consultant. And every time he showed up Jane wasn't the only one who lost a little bit of himself.

And while she couldn't quite bring herself to be angry at him for it (the situation was hardly his fault), it did put her on rocky ground.

Ground that only got more uneven when Sam Bosco re-entered her life. Sam'd joined the CBI a few years after she had. They'd reconnected, but both seemed to recognize that spending a lot of time together probably wasn't the best idea, for either of them.

Lisbon was relieved when he took over the Red John case. She hoped that getting rid of what felt like a weight around her neck might help her get her feet back firmly planted on the ground.

Again, that wasn't quite how it worked out. For one, Jane and Bosco were like oil and water, or maybe fire and gunpowder. They either didn't mix at all, or if they did there was an explosion.

And she was always the one caught in the middle.

She found herself siding with Jane almost against her will. He was on her team after all, and Bosco had been the one to teach her all about the importance of protecting your people. She remembered those late night conversations over beer and case files even if they felt like they happened were a life-time ago. So Sam should have understood.

And he did, in a way. He just didn't like it. Part of the problem was that he still saw her as that fearless rookie cop who'd worked her way up the ladder with a combination of ambition, intelligence, and just plain 'ole hard work. She couldn't blame him for that. Even if she wished she could get him to see her as she was now.

The other problem was that he was worried about her. Worried about Jane's influence.

And that would have been a lot easier to dismiss if she didn't share a lot of the same worries, especially at about three in the morning when she couldn't sleep.

One of those early mornings she made her way to the office. Unsurprisingly she heard a knock at the door. Surprisingly it wasn't Jane.

"Hey," Bosco said from the doorway. "Couldn't sleep?"

Lisbon briefly considered lying, but knew it'd be pointless. "Nah," she told him. "You?"

"Something's flipping around in my head that I can't quite get a hold of," he admitted. "I thought maybe a change of scenery would do the trick."

"Your wife doesn't mind?" Lisbon asked.

Bosco almost smiled, "She's used to it by now. She humours me, as long as it doesn't happen too often."

Lisbon smiled and nodded.

"You want to talk about it?" Bosco asked her.

"Not really," she admitted. "You?"

He shook his head. "Hey," he said suddenly. "I just wanted to say that I was sorry again, you know, about the whole Jane thing."

Lisbon shrugged, "He is a bit of an acquired taste," she admitted.

"That's an understatement," Bosco told her. "I just worry about ya sometimes Teresa, can't help it."

Lisbon sighed, "I know. But you don't have to worry about me Sam. I can handle Jane."

"It's not that," he told her. "You always were one of the best. It's just, you've changed Teresa."

"We've all changed," she told him softly. "I've just grown up a bit, that's all."

"You sure that's all?" he asked her. "You're not like you were Lisbon. Some of the spark's gone. And you're even more closed off than you used to be. You promised me you wouldn't let this job eat you alive, remember?"

"I believe I also promised you that if you came by on Super Bowl Sunday you'd know that you didn't have to worry," she replied, remembering the conversation well.

"You sure about that?" he asked her.

"Have I ever lied to you Sam?" she replied.

"Nah," Bosco said with a smile. "Pissed me off more times'n I can count, but you never lied."

"Well then?" Lisbon told him with a pointed look.

"I'm still gonna worry," he admitted.

Lisbon decided she could live with that. "And I'm still gonna piss you off."

"So we're still good?" he asked her.

"Yeah we're good," she replied. "Just try not to arrest any more members of my team okay?"

Bosco nodded, "I'll see what I can do. You should head home and try and get some sleep."

"I will if you will," she offered. "Your wife'll thank you Sam."

Bosco paused, considering, "Okay. Let me grab my stuff and I'll meet you by the elevator in five."

Lisbon smiled as he left her office. But her smile faded. Had she really changed so much? She'd been under a lot of stress lately. But she was hoping, now that Jane and Bosco had come to some sort of understanding that things might even out. Lisbon shook herself as she started packing up her things. If she was late Bosco'd just come and find her and drag her outta there, then she'd have to listen to him tease her all the way down to the parking garage.

Besides, she could really use the sleep, and she was sure things'd be better in the morning.

xxxxx

Things were decidedly not better in the morning.

Things were, in fact, much, much worse.

She walked into the CBI the next morning to find Bosco's team murdered in their offices at the CBI. And even though Sam himself wasn't actually dead yet, it was pretty clear right from the beginning what was probably gonna happen. It was barely a day later that she found herself sitting by his deathbed, listening while he told her he'd always loved her.

Bosco'd been one of the strongest men she'd ever known. Someone who'd promised her would be there for her if he could. Someone she could trust. And someone who genuinely both worried and cared for her.

Losing him felt like she'd lost another part of herself. Like more of her was just slipping away, out of her control. Just like part of her slipped away when she lost her mother, or she couldn't protect one of her little brothers, or she saw a killer walk free, or Red John came calling again.

Oh she didn't break. Teresa Lisbon didn't break no matter what. The fortress she'd built to get her through the tough times only wavered a little. But she felt like she was running out of things to shore it up with.

And she had to dig in harder when Minelli left almost immediately after. Because losing one mentor in a week wasn't enough. No, she had to lose two. Why not? She was tough and terrible Teresa Lisbon. She didn't' need anyone.

Which was probably good. Because there really weren't that many people left.

Well, that's not true. There was Jane.

Oddly enough Jane was there for her.

Sort of.

In a Jane kinda way.

He did try and comfort her after Bosco's funeral. And he did try and check in more. And she was pretty sure a hell of a lot of what he did over the next few weeks he did to make her feel better. Sure, some of the time it was more trouble than it was worth, like when he picked her up in a fancy car to take her out to dinner and then broke so many speeding laws in the process she almost arrested him herself. Or when he tried to make her talk about what was bothering her with all the subtlety of a bulldozer at a construction site.

But at least he was trying. At least she knew she meant something to him. That she wasn't completely disposable.

She did still have someone. Even if it was somewhat ironic that it was Jane, the man she wouldn't have trusted as far as she could throw him when they first met.

But somehow now she had Jane in her corner.

Well, him and her team. They were always there for her too.

xxxxx

You'd have really thought all of her illusions would have been destroyed by now.

She'd started to consider her team as some sort of extended family.

She wondered how long she'd been deluding herself on that score.

Oh, technically she still had them. After all, they were still all alive, and she was still technically their boss. And she supposed there was a chance they still respected her, in their own way.

Maybe.

Well, she was sure Rigsby and Van Pelt were at least still loyal. They were just idiots. The pair of them couldn't even respect the rules enough to stay out of each other's beds. The funny thing was, she could have forgiven them for that, or at least turned a blind eye as long as she had plausible deniability.

But the two of them were stupid enough to tell her about it. To her face. Out of some misguided sense of honour. Even as she tried to make Rigsby just shut the hell up! After all, if she didn't know about the relationship she could hardly report it.

And it wasn't like the two of them had even bothered to come up with some sort of contingency plan. Some sort of, "So boss, yes, technically we're together, and yes technically we're breaking the rules, but we've come up with a solution so that everybody wins. No, not her team. They just screwed everything up and expected her to fix it, managing to arrange everything so that the responsibility all fell squarely on her shoulders.

And they expected her to pick up the pieces and bear the brunt of the consequences each and every time. Which she did. Because they were her team and that was what team leaders did.

The saddest part? Rigsby and Van Pelt weren't the worst. Not compared to Cho, her supposedly loyal second in command.

That'd been one hell of an illusion that'd taken a hell of a long time to shatter.

In hindsight, she should have seen the signs. The Asian agent had never had any problems with even Jane's most outlandish schemes. Cho constantly went over her head and let Jane do things he shouldn't have. Things she'd specifically asked him not to do. Hypnosis, coercion, even downright theft. As long as it got the job done.

But she hadn't known the full extent of her Agent's lack of concern for the process of law enforcement until the man's former friend was killed, and then both Cho himself, and his girlfriend were attacked. Lisbon could understand the man's anger, his fury, even his desire for revenge. The minute she'd heard she'd rushed over to the crime scene and basically run roughshod over the local LEOs until they gave her jurisdiction. No way in hell was Teresa Lisbon abandoning one of her people when they needed her.

And what happened? Cho completely brushed her off. Went the route of vigilante-justice, just like he'd done back in his days as a gang-banger. She'd thought he'd moved on from that, but apparently old habits die hard.

To make things worse, not only was she completely brushed aside, but then, to top it off, he and Jane beat the living crap out of a suspect to get a confession from the real murderer. A confession that wasn't even admissible in court. And what was she doing all this time you might ask? Oh, just trying to prevent all her people from being fired, one by one.

They might even deserve it.

But she didn't do that. She'd never do that. Because even when she was absolutely livid, they were still her team. And this job is all she has. So she stands by them. No matter how thin it stretches her.

She sat in her office finishing up her paperwork.

"Knock, knock," she heard from her doorway.

She glanced up and saw Jane standing in her doorway. "I thought you'd left," she said by way of greeting.

"Not quite," he told her as walked into her office.

"You need something?" she asked.

"I can't just drop by?" At her look Jane dropped the act. "Just wanted to say, you know, good job with Reed and his lawyer back there. The way you forced them to deal. It was nicely done."

Lisbon snorted. "Yeah, nicely done. Helping a drug-addict who abuses women get a reduced sentence when we had a conviction basically all but sewn up, just because you guys wouldn't know due process if it came up and bit ya in the ass." She snapped.

"Lisbon, you know I'm hardly orthodox," Jane started.

She sighed. "I get it Jane, I do. Schemes are your thing. But there's a huge difference between tricking a suspect into a confession and beating the crap out of another one to make a convincing show."

"Lisbon…"

"Cho beat a man to a pulp and then pretended to shoot him. And the guy wasn't even guilty. Minelli was right, there are lines Jane. And this was so far past them all, I don't even know anymore. But you know what the funniest part is? This time it isn't even really your fault, is it?" Lisbon laughed mirthlessly as she stood. "I shoulda seen this coming."

Then she moved past him to leave for the night.

"Lisbon, please," he said, taking her hand.

She turned to face him in the doorway, holding the walls in place with the last of her strength. "I'm tired Jane," she told him. "I just want to go home."

Jane searched her face briefly. She wasn't sure what he saw exactly, but she didn't think he liked it. "Okay," he told her finally. "Let me walk you to your car."

But Lisbon remembered another walk to the parking lot, with another man, not so long ago. In many ways a better man, good as Jane's intentions may have been. And she couldn't bear the comparison tonight. So she shook her head. "No thanks. I'll see you later Jane."

"Take care of yourself," he told her.

She didn't look back, but she knew he was watching her. It was a sad commentary on her life when that made her feel better.

She watched the elevator doors close in front of her and heard Bosco's words. "Loyalty breeds loyalty Lisbon. You have your people's backs and they'll have yours."

Yeah, maybe in the literal sense, out the field, but sure as hell not anywhere else.

It just proved that, for all that she'd tried to imitate his style, she was no Sam Bosco.

xxxxx

But then again, she wasn't a lot of things. She wasn't her mother, nurturer and confidante extraordinaire. She wasn't that little firecracker of an agent she used to be. The one who hauled criminals behind bars and confused the hell out of her male colleagues. She wasn't even the by-the-book team leader she used to be. In fact, she couldn't remember when the last time she'd finished an entire case strictly by the book. Hell, sometimes she wasn't sure she was really even leading a team anymore. She was just wandering around behind them cleaning up their messes.

And maybe John Donne was right, the comparisons were odious. But she'd been right too; they were also unavoidable.

She was too exhausted to care. Too exhausted from feeling like any minute everything was going to come crashing down. Too tired of all the voices in her head shouting at her, clamouring for attention. Warning her about his potential threat or that. She was tired of playing clean-up. She wanted to get ahead of the curve. But she didn't know how anymore.

She's so sick of her self-imposed rules and her precious walls. She wishes she could just let them go, forget about them. Maybe let someone else pick up the slack.

But there's no one left to do that. He may be a whiz in the interrogation room, but Agent Cho'd shown all too recently exactly what kind of a team player he was. She didn't want all of her problems fixed by threats of violence or some other kind of coercion. She just wanted something simple. Rigsby and Van Pelt were loyal, but they were also completely irresponsible. Her ultimatum that they hide their relationship at work was only a stopgap. It was only a matter of time before one (or both) of them slipped up. And when it came to rules and regulations and bureaucracy, they'd both proven that they were easily manipulated by their more dominant colleagues. And Jane, for all that he was trying, leaving her fate in his hands was just asking for disaster.

She remembers how her father used to escape. She can't say that a part of her isn't tempted. Even if another, bigger, part of her is disgusted with herself. Still, it's hard not to think about it. She also remembers sitting in an office with Bosco after a case was solved, shooting a shot of tequila. And she pictures herself doing that, this time alone. And this time she doesn't stop at one. She keeps going, and going, until she can't think straight enough to worry anymore, and the voices in her head are silent.

If she weren't so terrified, about what could happen to her, what she might do, then she'd have probably tried it by now.

It'd be a hell of a way of getting rid of the damn walls.

Ha. The damn walls.

Oh they're still there. And they're still strong. She's holding them up with all she's got, even if it feels like she's scraping at the bottom of the barrel.

But they're made of stern stuff those barriers. She's spent years ensuring they're solid.

Jane's still trying to get beyond them. Hovering on the outside looking for cracks.

But maybe not to use against her.

No not to use against her. Maybe now he's even trying to help her hold them up. She's pretty sure Jane is on her side now, at least most of the time. And she's pretty sure that Patrick Jane is genuinely concerned. But she still can't risk letting him in. And not only because he might destroy her.

Bosco once compared her to a castle hiding something inside. With Jane it was fruit, a coconut or a pineapple. Either way, she was tough on the outside, but soft on the inside. And that comparison might be the last illusion left.

Lisbon doesn't think she's a fruit anymore

She rather suspects she's more of a husk. She's been stretched so thin she's not sure there's anything left to protect. She's not sure of anything anymore. Not sure who Teresa Lisbon is. Everything's wobbling all over the place (even without the alcohol).

The irony is that she's kept people on the outside all these years, not letting them in. Now she empathizes with Jane, trying to figure her out, to make her laugh, to see what she was hiding. She'd like to know what's in there herself, but she's lost the key. She feels like she's out there with him. Seeing the ever so slightly crumbling walls like everyone else. But unlike them, she's pretty sure there's nothing left worth protecting. And of all people it's Jane's concern who's forcing her to admit what's going on. Trying to help her get back on her feet. To find herself.

Well, unless that's just another illusion.

Jane is after all, one illusion after another.

Maybe he really does just want to see what's behind the walls out of curiosity. All that's keeping him out at this point is pride. Because otherwise she's not sure there's any point in bothering.

But as she meets his worried eyes in her doorway as he hands her a pint of raspberries she realizes that she's never wanted to be wrong about something so much as she does now. Maybe there was a little bit of that old Lisbon left. And maybe she should let him help her find it.

After all, what more could she possibly have to lose?

xxxxx

The end

Believe it or not, this ending is actually happier than the original one.