Cast the First Stone

Disclaimer: Don't own anything, lyrics by Kate Bush.

Rating: M

Spoiler: His Right Red Hand, Redline.

A/N: This is a sequel to "Seek, and Ye Shall Find". It might be very helpful to read that first, if only to understand Jane's thought process in this story. Also, this is my entry into the Jello-Forever April Challenge. I want to thank forthecoast, for doing an incredibly diligent and thoughtful job betaing this monster. She made this so much better! Thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed the prequel to this and to all of you are about to read this. I'm glad I finally got it down on paper.

XXX

"And if I only could,
Make a deal with God,
And get him to swap our places..."

XXX

May 2010

The room is deathly cold.

It's the kind of cold that's still but powerful, subtle yet potent, slipping past the expensive thread of his suit to leave goose bumps on his skin and a chill down his spine.

Despite how many times he's imagined this, how many times he's secretly wished for this, it feels wrong.

Oh so terribly wrong.

The ever-present chill in her apartment does nothing but amplify the feeling of dread contracting in his stomach, disparaging the stirring in his limbs as nimble but surprisingly warm hands expertly snap button after button on his vest.

She won't look at him, keeping her face concealed behind a curtain of chestnut strands, but she's not doing it out of shyness, or respect for propriety. She has absolutely no problem pressing her soft, pliant body against his as she slides her hands up his torso and under his jacket, divesting him of the article of clothing.

He's rooted to the floor, realizes his hands haven't moved; he hasn't moved. All he does is stare, and despite willingly accepting her kisses as they literally stumbled through the front door just moments ago, the uncertainty begins to slowly settle almost as soon as her warm lips left his, and the realization of how cold it is in her house only contributes to his unease.

Yet, he knows that none of those reasons could ever truly distract him, make him feel less desire and zeal if it were only a matter of temperature. He could easily ignore the cold, warming himself in the soft planes of her skin, the breaths coming from her slightly swollen lips. He could even deal with her avoiding his questioning stare as her movements begin to border on desperation.

He could manage to get past all of that, if only it would feel right.

If only it would feel like he knows it's supposed to, like it would, if this were being done out of desire, out of love, even out of lust.

But not like this, not out of anxiety, not out of the need to feel a void, to understand, not to feel as bereft as he imagines she does.

The realization hits him as she pops another button on his shirt, and for a moment, he even contemplates letting go, giving in, the shiver of expectation so intoxicating to his senses. But when he catches her wrist in his hand and she instinctively looks up to meet his eyes, he's convinced he's doing the right thing.

Her eyes are not her own.

She doesn't look like herself.

There's no emotion in those usual vibrant emeralds that have over the years conveyed so much to him in a single gaze. An eye roll, a whimsical sparkle, an unshed tear.

He's seen it all, been a catalyst for most, and shudders to think that now he's inadvertently responsible for the emptiness in her stare.

He squints at her, hoping to extract something, to read her, but he recoils when he realizes there's nothing to read. Everything about her is completely devoid of emotion.

He might as well be looking at a robot, and the thought that he's somehow responsible for it terrifies him to the very core, reviving the same fear and dread as when he saw the letter from Red John hung on the bedroom door so many moons ago.

The memory sets in motion a chain of images that race through his mind at a nauseating pace, ending with the events of just a few hours ago, and he can't help the shudder that runs through him, one that has nothing to do with the temperature in the room.

He doesn't tear his eyes away from her and at some point; she must track the emotions he's feeling because the momentary flash of fear and desperation in her eyes grips him like a vice even before she says anything.

He leans down impulsively, brushing his lips over hers quickly. Not enough to let himself be pulled into it, but enough to see that fire in her eyes again.

It's only a flicker, a muted flame, but it's enough to warrant a reaction from her. Enough for the heat to flush over her cheek, for her heart to beat more wildly again, and when she speaks, it feels like her voice is miles away, a faint whisper in the background of his mind, because he's kissing her again.

Tongue swiping over her lower lip as he presses her against the cold wall, determined to breathe fire into her, make her eyes sparkle again. To fulfill her wishes even if it feels so wrong, so unlike he's imagined so many times.

"Please, I just need to feel, feel anything…"

XXX

January - March 2010

The first time he sees the file it's completely by accident -- well almost. It's approximately two months after Minelli's retirement, and the CBI has finally assigned a replacement for him.

Her name is Madeline Hightower, and her record indicates that she's a hard ass.

Lisbon, fully intent on making a good first impression, takes the weekend to catch up on her paperwork, the stack of complaints, and some housekeeping.

So when Jane steps into her office on the slightly cool January morning, he's not surprised to find it in a general state of chaos. It's definitely a departure from the neatness that characterizes Lisbon's professional space.

Her personal space is a completely different story though. He's now been to her home several times and is pleasantly surprised to note that she's a bit of a messy woman, which makes him smile inwardly, wondering indulgently if his theory about messy women being good lovers applies to the agent.

He sets the coffee and muffins he brought on the conference table and decides to wait for her on the couch, but seeing her vacant chair, Jane can't resist testing it out.

His plans are sidetracked when his jacket snags the corner of her desk and all the files atop it fall to the floor in a flurry of triplicate papers and manila folders. He grumbles immediately, only imagining how annoyed Lisbon will be at seeing the mess he's made, so he begins scooping them up, diligently searching out the ones that disappeared under her desk.

He reaches underneath and feels something stick to his arm.

It's a piece of wayward scotch tape and when he probes the bottom of the desk, he discovers something taped to the interior of the wood.

There's not even a moment of hesitation, curiosity is too great a seduction for him, and the adrenaline subsides only when the file is in his lap. It's only when he opens it to find notes in Lisbon's handwriting amidst photographs of Rebecca's dead body and other crime scene images that his throat goes a little dry. His mind makes the connection long before his vision zeroes in on the question in the middle of the page of scribbles.

Who is RJ?

He doesn't need any more to confirm his suspicions.

The sting of betrayal is unexpected. He's almost not surprised that Lisbon has her own Red John file, but the fact that she conceals it, keeps her theories and thoughts about it to herself hurts more than anything.

Aren't they a team?

Jane doesn't even have enough time to rationalize the situation. A minute later he sees her approach through the open office door, and the surge of anger and bitterness he feels towards her is unprecedented.

It makes him act impulsively, childishly. Instead of putting the file back where he found it, Jane places it discretely on top of her desk.

Lisbon greets him with a smile, too distracted by the coffee sitting on the table to notice the mess. Although just a few moments ago, he was content to sit and enjoy her company, Jane doesn't think he can spend any more time with her without confronting her, and he'd prefer she approach him on the issue.

No matter how much it hurts, no matter how unexpected this is, he hopes that she has an explanation for it, and a part of him, having surveyed her conjectures, wonders if she'll come to him if she finds anything concrete.

He makes an abrupt exit, making no excuses but bidding her a good day, a part of him wishing he never found what he did.

He tries his hardest to maintain a neutral facial expression, at least until he's out of sight, and when he is, even after hours of aimlessly driving around, he still can't fathom why Lisbon would be so secretive.

At the end of the day, Jane decides it's a good thing he found the file. Now there will be no more secrets between them. Finding the file misplaced, Lisbon will know he saw it, and he's willing to let bygones be bygones if she approaches him.

And she will, if only to yell at him for invading her privacy.

That optimistic thought gets him through the weekend, and when Monday morning rolls around and Lisbon arrives, greeting everyone in turn and announcing Hightower's arrival the next day, he expects her to summon him into her closed quarters.

But all he gets are a glance and a nod in his direction before she disappears into her office.

Three days later, he finds she's moved the file.

After that, it becomes almost like a game of cat and mouse with them. Weeks pass by and Lisbon never brings it up, even though Jane always manages to find the file, which grows thicker every time. He always makes a point of leaving it on her desk. Once, when he spots the manila folder sticking out very conspicuously from beneath her keyboard, he starts wondering if perhaps Lisbon is consciously leaving it out for him to find.

He wants to confront her, he really does, but a part of him is almost afraid.

When it's just the two of them, working a case, having a late dinner in her office, or simply sparring back and forth, he can almost forget that she won't talk to him about the information she's found. He can block out everything, rationalize it, and justify her actions by reminding himself that in her own way, she's sharing everything she has with him.

However, when he's alone, unable to sleep, and his mind won't stop replaying Red John's last attack, he feels a knot of fear in his stomach, remembering the night he found Lisbon in Bosco's office, how broken she looked. He swore he would put her back together, be the support system she so desperately needed but probably didn't want.

The kiss they shared seemed so appropriate at the moment that it never felt awkward between them afterwards. He felt proud of himself that night, for putting the spark back into her eye, returning that fighting attitude of hers that he loves so much.

He thought she would be alright, still thinks so, but her investigation on the side, no matter how harmless, scares him. It scares him, because the Lisbon he knows would never do this; it's more in his nature to be so secretive, to keep this off the books. That logic sends him into a rampant panic one night and makes him question anyone who's ever been critical of his relationship with Lisbon.

Was Minelli right?

Was Bosco right too?

Was he a bad influence on her?

The overwhelming desire to confront her, to shake the explanation out of her if need be, is so powerful that he drives to her house at 2:00 in the morning, adrenaline and justification guiding him up until he reaches her block.

He cuts the engine and gets out, mind reeling from all the possibilities, excited at the prospect that Lisbon will finally have to own up to her actions. However, uncertainty seeps in like liquid poison, sucking the courage out of him just as he steps onto her doorstep.

The lights are on in the living room, and he sees her propped up on her couch, blanket on her lap as the television plays a mindless movie in the background.

She looks to be asleep, and as much as he itches to ring her door bell and demand answers, he can't do it. Some inexplicable force paralyzes him, holding him back. Then before he knows he's back in his car driving away, the image of Lisbon as peaceful as she's been in months chasing any frustration he has over his inability to confront her away.

They work three consecutive homicides in March, and the entire unit is so busy that even Jane feels sleep deprived by the end of it. However, the file is never far from his mind, and when Lisbon announces she has an errand to run just as they're finishing case closed donuts after yet another all-nighter, he's more suspicious than ever.

He follows her for what seems like hours: several times he wonders if she knows he's following her and is purposely leading him in circles for amusement.

Eventually though, they reach their destination: a small suburb of Petaluma, a single street lined with shops.

It's all a little anticlimactic when Jane finds himself parked across the street from an aromatherapy and herbal store, as he waits for Lisbon to exit.

He's too far away to gauge her reaction when she does, but she walks with her usual determination, which could mean anything. He waits for her to drive away and slips into the store himself, observing his surroundings, trying to establish any connection between this store and Red John.

He doesn't get much out of the clerk, who clamps up the minute Jane walks in, but it doesn't matter because two days later he's the first one in the bullpen and the first thing he notices is the familiar manila folder tucked in between two cushions on his couch.

It's placed at an angle that only anyone who sits down on the couch would notice and the feeling of anticipation in the pit of his stomach only accelerates his heartbeat as Jane retrieves the file and opens it eagerly.

He's lucky he's alone because what he sees nearly knocks the wind out of him. The black and white photograph is taken from an odd angle, and the man at the register is wearing a cowboy hat, but the camera's position allows for a clear shot of his face as he looks up for only a brief moment. Even before he has a chance to contemplate the pencil markings circling the man's face, for the first time in months Jane is intuitively certain of something.

This man is Red John.

XXX

May 2010

She looks gorgeous in the dim moonlight filtering in through the bedroom window. Bare from the waist up, her skin nearly glows in contrast to the deep, rich green of the sheets. The slightly wild, lustful look in her eye tells him what she wants, but he can't help but want to go slow, savor the moment, because it's likely this will never happen again.

He circles her navel with his finger, before trailing north, the smooth planes of her stomach contracting as he glides along the underside of her breast, thumb ghosting over flesh briefly, teasingly, before ascending to her neck, cupping the back of her head to pull her into a slow, languid kiss.

Lisbon responds fervently, hands clutching at his back, burying themselves in his curls as Jane explores her mouth with ease. He revels in the way she moans into his kiss as his hand continues to explore her body, lingering on her chest before tracing her naked side, the delicate curve of her hip.

She arches into him as he splays kisses on her neck, tongue dipping slightly into the groove in her collarbone, tasting metal as he encounters the gold chain on her skin.

Not for the first time, he thinks about faith. What it means to the brunette lying beneath him, the person he thought he knew, but now barely recognizes.

He never thought her capable of such actions, and he must confront that, in doing so, she's more like him than he thought. He wishes not for the first time, that he could go back in time because no one should be like him, especially not Lisbon. However, try as he might, he can't hate her; he's more afraid for her than anything. Terrified of the darkness that will taint her, the same darkness that tainted him a long time ago. He doesn't want that for her. Instead, he wishes he could protect her, put her back together like he thought he did months ago.

He was wrong.

It pains him to think that he failed her, that in his own stupidity and cowardice, he let it all spiral out of control. It would be a lot easier if he were angry at her, but he knows he can never feel anything but gratitude and admiration towards her, at least right now.

He knows that she's done him a favor, because if their roles were reversed, he would either be dead or in prison by now.

And even though this quest for vengeance has occupied most of his existence for the last seven years, he can't help feeling relieved, the weight rolling off his shoulders with every passing hour. The knowledge that once again it's Lisbon who has done this for him only fuels his actions.

He doesn't stop trailing kisses down her body, settling at her breasts as she threads her fingers through his hair, arching against him, short breaths escaping as he lingers a little longer at the point where her heart beats.

It's a frantic rhythm, but it's there, and it's not going anywhere. He knows he needs to stop thinking, because what matters now is that she's here, and he would be lying if he denied that he hasn't imagined this a thousand times over.

And as she expertly divests him of his pants and wraps her hand around him, Jane thinks that no fantasy, no matter how vivid, could ever compare to the real thing.

He nearly collapses on top of her as she strokes him, but he props himself on his elbows and runs his tongue over her skin, hand massaging whatever flesh he can find in this pleasure filled haze she's creating.

It's been so long since he's felt a woman's touch that his eager reaction is almost embarrassing, but when he catches the sparkle in her eye, he realizes something that sends an even more intense wave of arousal through him.

It's not just that he's missed a woman's touch; it's not a matter of simple caresses or the need to have his physical urges fulfilled. It's about the woman who's touching him, the one evoking these feelings inside him.

Lisbon increases her pace, and he clenches his teeth against the growing pressure, finding a distraction in her flushed face, swollen lips, dark jade eyes filled with determination and lust.

The rush of pleasure mixed with adoration for the woman beneath him almost disables his self control entirely. He realizes he could never truly hate her, doesn't now and probably never will.

If anything, what he feels for her is the opposite of hate and terrifies him, penetrates him to the very core. Yet, it's also oddly liberating. In her actions, she's given him a new direction, a new freedom that's both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. A tiny part of him suddenly wishes for nothing more than to find this direction with her by his side.

At the same time, he wonders if maybe it's too late, maybe they're too broken to form even one whole person, let alone rebuild themselves. He thought he fixed her once, but he was wrong. Overwhelmed, he wants nothing more than to clear himself of these thoughts, concentrate on the present, instead of lamenting the past and being weary of the future.

Jane grabs her wrist, pinning her hands above her head, missing her touch instantly, as she arches against him in protest, eyes wild and demanding, defiant in a way that's so incredibly sexy, he almost falters in his plans.

Lisbon struggles against his hold, until he unsnaps the button on her pants, hand disappearing inside with dizzying speed. Her breath gets caught in her throat, and her movements are no longer contradictory, but rather welcoming, as he delves into her heat, stroking her with a rhythm that leaves her teetering on the edge, but not quite pushing her over.

Jane doesn't tear his eyes away from her as she writhes beneath him, body rising to meet his hand, hips gyrating in the subtle, feminine way that's absolutely lethal to his senses, almost as lethal as the sounds she's making, soft purrs like a kitten, interspersed with shallow breaths as she bites her lip in frustration.

At some point, he isn't sure when, he releases her hands and, as he flicks his tongue across her soft, supple skin, the sharp pain from her nails digging into his shoulders only spurs him on. His hand moves quickly between their bodies, heated flesh pliant beneath him as Lisbon nearly cries out when he curls his fingers ever so slightly.

Her release is powerful but silent. She makes no distinguishing sound, no exorbitant cry, no wild threshing, just the subtle tremor of her body as the wave of pleasure washes over her. Then she's limp in his arms, hands relaxed at her sides as she lies absolutely still, eyes shut and lips pursed in a thin line.

She seems exhausted, frail somehow, and Jane tries very hard to ignore the stabbing pain in his chest when he notices a tear pooled in the corner of her eye. For a second he wonders if maybe it would be okay just to hold her, for just a few hours let her escape into a dream world where the reality of the last few hours can't touch her, can't remind her of everything that's happened.

He's about to do just that when Lisbon suddenly rolls over, retrieving something from her nightstand and then returning to his side. She kisses him furiously as she presses the package into his hand.

Jane responds without thought as soft lips curve around his, the dainty tongue that can leave no crevice of his mouth unexplored tracing his lip for entrance, and when he pulls back, the sadness he expects to find there is expertly masked with a mixture of lust and adoration. She runs a thumb over his jaw line, fingers lightly tangling in the curls at the nape of his neck, and he knows the decision is made for him.

Jane's not surprised when Lisbon pushes him onto his back, but he doesn't contemplate the particulars of her being unable to give up too much control because the feeling of her sinking on top of him, her heat nearly a perfect fit for him, is almost too much to bear.

His whole body spasms, but she remains absolutely still, taking him in, and through hooded lashes, watches him with a glazed over stare as she slowly begins to move. His hands find themselves at her waist; thumbs tracing her hip bones before dipping lower, disappearing between their bodies again. A sense of male triumph simmers on the outskirts of his mind as Lisbon cries out, head thrown back as her movements become more erratic with every stroke of his fingers.

She moves atop him like a goddess. The moonlight streaming in from the window illuminates her, punctuating the smooth paleness of her skin, soft roundness of her breasts, dark locks swaying around her. She presses her palms lightly on his stomach, trying to brace herself against the fire coursing through her veins, nerve endings coming alive, electricity sizzling between them as they move in silence.

The only sounds are the rustling of the sheets beneath them and the soft breaths that seem to come in unison. Jane wonders for a split second how it's possible that he feels like he's been doing this his entire life with her. The familiarity with which she commands his body, the way she knows exactly where to touch him, how to kiss him, even how to look at him cannot possibly speak of a first time, but it is. Panic seeps through his euphoria when he confronts the true possibility that he may never get to be with her like this again.

After that thought, Jane's no longer content in his submission, so he rises unexpectedly, changing the angle and making Lisbon groan out in surprise. She collapses against him, burying herself in the crook of his neck as he thrusts up, meeting her spasms head on.

They're so close now, the concept of distance is nonexistent as he holds her to his chest, one hand running up and down her back in a soothing motion while the other tangles in her hair, holding her as close as humanly possible. The proximity only intensifies their coupling. The feel of naked skin, the blending of two bodies, proves to be too much even for Jane's impeccable will power, and when he feels Lisbon's lips on his neck, the slight swipe of her tongue over his pulse point, the tight wire of restraint he's been treading snaps.

He can't think, can't comprehend anything except Lisbon and the way she shakes in his arms as the tidal wave of pleasure sends shocks through his system, precipitating her release as well.

And yet to him, it's more than just the physical pleasure, and he can't deny that at least a little of the warmth spreading through him has to do with the way Lisbon wraps her arms around his neck, moans muffled by the skin of his shoulder as she revels in the intoxicating pleasure overwhelming her senses.

He's so attuned to her body, so focused on soaking up the feel of her heartbeat against his chest and the pleasurable weight of her slackened limbs sprawled across his body, that when he feels the moisture on his throat he freezes, his mind putting on pause whatever he was thinking before this. He's suddenly keenly aware that the way Lisbon trembles is not from any pleasurable afterglow, but from sobs.

The recognition slices straight through his heart, the sharp blade of reality looming over him like the guillotine. His euphoria evaporates completely, and he remembers once again why uncertainty plagued him when she first kissed him in her darkened living room.

Why he thought so hard before crossing this boundary.

Jane remembers why they may not be strong enough to do this, why this could be the one and only time he holds her in his arms like this.

He didn't fix her before, and he probably won't fix her now.

Lisbon has given him another chance, but her tears remind him that, despite the courage and secrecy she exhibited, the air of confidence she gave off throughout these past few months was only a shield. Her goal kept her going, motivated her to keep moving forward, but that's exactly what terrifies him. Those same traits, that single minded obsession, kept the blood circulating in his veins for years and now in the aftermath, when revenge is obsolete, or in her case executed, there's nothing to keep either one of them going.

Jane cradles her body nonetheless, refusing to let go even though he can't figure out which one of them needs fixing now.

XXX

April 2010

They only ever come close to talking about it once.

They're in the middle of a heat wave in late April; summer is approaching with steady determination.

Jane decides against going home, or whatever the hotel room he rents should represent to him at this point, and goes for a drive instead, ending up back at CBI just as the sun sets over the horizon.

There's a cool breeze in the air, but the heat is still stifling inside the HQ. He discards his blazer as soon as he steps off the elevator on their floor, determined to peruse the files of their current case to see if there's anything he's missed.

His plans are sidelined when he enters the bullpen to find Lisbon sitting on Rigsby's revolving chair, stocking covered feet perched on the brick window sill as she takes periodic sips from her red mug. The way her lip slightly twitches in revulsion lets him know whatever she's drinking is not her customary brew.

Lisbon's not startled by his entrance, was probably expecting him to return at some point, so all the acknowledgement he gets is a soft, perhaps slightly skewed smile before she turns back to the window, eyes focusing on no one spot in particular.

He sets his blazer on the couch before leaning on the desk in front of her, purposefully invading her personal space and having no qualms about it.

She doesn't look over at him for a while, a glint in her side glance letting him know that she's merely testing his patience, and he pretends to pout.

It scares him in that moment how normal things can still be when just under the surface, there is such an enormous wedge between them. He is hurt at her lack of trust and can't really tell what she's been thinking. This new blindness where she's concerned makes him uncomfortable, his inability to read her raising unforeseen doubts.

Regardless though, he can't tear his eyes away from her. They worked a case shortly after Bosco's death, and an interesting character by the name of Walter Mashburn was involved. The multimillionaire adrenaline seeker took a liking to Lisbon immediately, and Jane can't help but agree with his assessment of her.

"A damaged intensity…very attractive…"

In this particular instance, the description rings incredibly true, and Jane finds himself wishing that he could let himself be seduced by this trait of hers, although he ultimately hopes to replace the sadness in her eyes with something else.

He promptly settles on making that happen, "what are we drinking?"

She looks at him, a light flush on her cheeks the only indication that the dark amber liquid in her mug isn't coffee, but actually a very expensive bottle of scotch.

He whistles softly, "You spare no expense in your choosing of spirits, Lisbon."

He teases, but she merely unscrews the bottle and tips it into her mug before offering it up to him.

"There are some things worth the expense; this is one of them."

His lips pause at the rim of the mug as he gives her a curious look, trying to see if there's more to the statement than she's actually saying, but Lisbon seems to catch on quickly to him trying to decipher the meaning behind her words. She rolls her eyes, placing the bottle back on the floor.

"C'mon, don't be all suspicious and worried. It'll never become a habit; I've had one good example of what not to do, and that's plenty for me."

She gives him a smile, but this one's a bit too wide, a little too exaggerated, even if it still doesn't reach her eyes, so Jane takes the chance, the scotch- his liquid courage.

"You've had a rough couple months, no one would judge you if you weren't exactly yourself."

Her head snaps up to look at him so sharply, he wonders if she suffers a little whiplash, but it's quickly forgotten when the flash of fire crosses her narrowed expression.

Jane realizes then that he's broken a cardinal rule in their game, breached the unspoken code of silence. It almost feels like all these months she's been giving him information in exchange for his silence, as if she's testing his patience, or maybe even seeking silent comfort in knowing that she's not actually in this alone.

He takes another sip, feels the alcohol burn down his throat, not resolving his uncertainty or discomfort but alleviating it somewhat as he hands Lisbon the mug.

She takes it back briskly and then turns back to the window. He almost thinks the conversation is over when she speaks again.

"I'm not here because of anything that's happened in the last few months, Jane. Today is the 20th anniversary of my father's death. Didn't feel like going home."

He never likes being wrong, but especially not when it's Lisbon and he's just made a very bold and highly erroneous statement. It's possible her answer is just a thinly disguised excuse or perhaps an extension of the feelings he expects she's hiding. Regardless, it's still not his place to assume, especially not when it's with ulterior motive.

Suddenly, the desire to confront her pales in comparison to the shame seeping into him, the guilt for making her frown at him the way she is now, the underlying sadness not abating in her eyes.

Lisbon turns away from him, no playful side glance thrown his way this time. It's clear she wants to be left alone. However, he's never been one to respect her boundaries, especially not when he knows he's screwed up, so he takes another chance, hoping she'll remember the significance of his words.

"How about some tea then?"

She looks at him, eyes swimming with nostalgia, and he knows she remembers that night when he found her in Bosco's office on the verge of a terrible breakdown. For Jane, the memory is bittersweet. He'd been so certain of himself then, so assured that all Lisbon needed to piece herself together was a reminder that she wasn't alone and in some warped way he was on her side.

Now his certainty has been replaced with doubt, and the only reason he's heading down this road again is simply to remind her that regardless of whether he's helped her in some way, he had her best intentions in mind.

Always.

When she accepts, leaving the bottle of scotch behind as they walk to the kitchen, confronting her is the last thing on his mind.

And really, it's a little obsolete in retrospect, because just a few weeks later, on an unseasonably cold evening in May, their game comes to an unexpected end.

XXX

May 2010

No sooner than the tear marks dry on his skin, Lisbon flees the room, belting her housecoat on the way down the stairs, with the excuse that she's thirsty. At first, he simply falls back against the bed, exhaustion weighing heavily on him. The revelations he's made in the last few hours are powerful enough to cause a permanent headache, and he again finds himself wishing for impossible things, like strength and perhaps a little ignorance.

He wants to be blissfully unaware of the world around him, wants nothing more than to lie here and if not sleep, then at least rest. Yet the bed is too cold and uninviting without Lisbon in it, and suddenly he feels the firsts seeds of anger, of frustration, of disdain begin to sprout.

He knew from the very beginning that this likely meant nothing to her, but still, to watch her walk away pains him in the worst way possible, making him regret ever giving into her, allowing himself to be seduced by her.

Still, he can't help feeling the guilt again.

He can't resign himself to the fact that in some way, it's his fault for letting it get this far. He should have taken her file to Hightower or at least forced her to share it with the rest of the team. Then maybe she wouldn't have had to sacrifice so much, would have been forced to switch from the beaten path she was on.

The irony of their role reversal doesn't escape him, in fact it feels like a proverbial cross on his back, and he simply has to focus on everything else if he wants to make it through this without breaking down completely.

The anger returns full force, instilling him with purpose.

Jane searches out his clothes amidst the pile, putting on just enough to stave off the anticipated chill in her kitchen, and descends the stairs to find Lisbon standing with her back towards him by the counter. The dim lighting obscures what he discovers to be a bottle of wine as he steps into the kitchen.

She obviously hears him come in because she reaches into the cupboard in front of her and takes out another wine glass. The sound of liquid pouring breaks the silence for a moment, and then she turns around, extending the glass to him without saying a word. The quietude that envelopes them is not exactly uncomfortable, but not relaxed either.

Jane takes a sip, mirroring her action, as she savors the liquid. The tart flavor ignites his taste buds, warming him from the inside out, but he doesn't tear his eyes away from her, still trying to get a read on her and failing miserably.

He draws a blank, not a hint of emotion in her eyes, nothing in either her posture or demeanor to suggest worry or tension. For a moment, he feels an inexplicable dread in his heart at the possibility that even after everything, not just now but over the last few months, he is still unable to reignite that fire inside her, that natural spark that he loves so much.

And all of a sudden he feels incredibly ridiculous standing in her kitchen so late at night, drinking wine in his boxers, and feeling more distant from her than he's ever been before. It doesn't matter that they've just been more intimate than any two people can be; that was just physical. He didn't want to believe it, but her silence, even when it's all over, forces Jane to finally confront what he's been trying to avoid all along.

This meant nothing to her.

It still means nothing.

She won't let her guard down, even after the night they've had, and it makes him feel vulnerable, hurts him probably more than he'd like to admit. Self preservation kicks in, and his old defenses slip back up. He puts the wine glass on the table, preparing to leave.

He doesn't get more than two feet away before Lisbon speaks.

It seems like it's been ages since he's heard her voice, and the slight breathiness in her words seems to disable the outwardly solid defenses. Jane finds himself turning around without further encouragement.

"When I moved to San Francisco, I didn't know anyone. My brothers were scattered across the country by that point. All my friends from the academy got hired on the east coast."

Lisbon takes another sip of wine then, still not looking at him but rather commanding him with her words: he has a vague idea of where she's going.

"Sam and Mandy took me into their home, extended invitations for every holiday, every Sunday dinner. They treated me like family. Bosco was the first person I told about my parents, about my mother's accident, my father's drinking. Of course, he knew all this from my file, but he never pitied me. He only pushed me, sometimes harder than everyone else."

"It paid off,"

Jane can't help chiming in. He doesn't know why the urge overtakes him, maybe to remind her that he's still here. That even though Bosco is gone, he's still here. It's irrational and confusing because jealousy is usually a foreign emotion to him, but he feels it, and shame isn't too far behind when he realizes he's envying a ghost.

"It made me trust him, made me respect him. The way he looked after me-…" her voice cracks a little, but she doesn't falter, "I hadn't felt that in a long time. It made me feel like I had a real support system."

Lisbon looks at him then, and Jane isn't prepared for the sheen of unshed tears sparkling in her eye. He wants nothing more than to take her in his arms, the protective instinct once again trumping all the hurt and anger he so resolutely felt just minutes ago.

He holds back, however, afraid that she might shy away from his touch.

"That's why I backed him up all those years ago, covered for him, lied for him. It was the least I could do, and I don't regret it because it didn't change him. He was still the same guy I knew from the precinct, when he transferred to the CBI. I wish he hadn't."

Lisbon takes a long pull of the wine, taking less time to savor the dark liquid, as she drains the glass in one sip.

Her defenses are coming down, and Jane feels a little braver, less angry. He's glad that she's saying something, even if it's not what he wants to hear.

"If it hadn't been Bosco's team, it would have been somebody else."

"But it wasn't. It was Sam, and that's my fault."

He wants to stop her right there, but the determination that shines through not only in her emerald orbs but also in her straighter posture prevents him from speaking his mind.

He feels like they're back in Bosco's office and he's begging her not to blame herself for his own inadvertent doing.

He thought she listened then.

But as he's been finding out over the course of several months now, he's been wrong, so very wrong, where she is concerned.

Nevertheless, he can't keep his mouth shut completely. He needs to push her in some way, to make her see the holes in her argument as best as he can, even though it really doesn't matter anymore.

"Is that why you did it? Out of guilt?"

He expects indignation, maybe a little frustration on her end, but Lisbon simply refills her wine glass with quiet composure. She even swirls it in her hand before tipping it to her lips.

"No, Jane. I did it because you were right."

Jane waits for her to elaborate while holding his breath in apprehension.

"I read the file on Rebecca's death shortly after everything happened and realized that if Red John could infiltrate the CBI, get away with poisoning her in a building swimming with cops, then a prison would never hold him, not even one with maximum security. The only way to get rid of him was to kill him, and you know that between the two of us, I had the better chance of surviving and not going to prison."

At this point, he's not even sure what he should feel, but knows that the way his heartbeat escalates isn't healthy. He thought getting answers from her would put things in perspective, but in truth, he's more lost than ever.

Her motives are clear, but he can't believe this is the same woman who not a year ago had told him Red John deserved a fair trial just like everyone else.

The idea that not even Lisbon was impervious to the pull of revenge seems to tilt his world a little, and he leans a hand on the table, hand accidentally nudging the wine glass. He looks down at it, realizing the maroon liquid has never called so strongly to him.

"How did you even find him?"

"I didn't," she replies, walking over to the table to tip more wine into his glass. She's close enough that he can smell her scent again, the mix of cinnamon and something uniquely hers. It's all around him, but it doesn't have the lulling affect it had on his senses earlier.

He won't stop until he understands the whole picture, can dissect her logic in all of this, and finally question her about everything he's been unable to over the last few months.

"Then how-…" his voice trails off as he sees her tense. She's visibly hesitant to speak for the first time in this whole conversation, and there's nothing relaxing about her presence.

Lisbon doesn't meet his stare, casting her glance down as she steps closer to him, but he moves back just slightly as realization dawns on him.

Everything from her secrecy to the nonchalant way she handled his discovery of her file, the silent way she let him see everything in it all starts to make sense, and this clarity makes him almost nauseous.

"It was me, wasn't it?" Jane whispers, because the enormity of what this implies is too much.

He thought she betrayed him by not letting him in on her investigation, but this, this is more than he'd ever imagined.

He stares at her like he's staring at a stranger, and it makes his skin crawl, makes him wish for the hundredth time that he never let her into his head, into his heart.

Lisbon seems to sense his change in mood, but she tries to search out his eyes in desperation. It's the first time panic guides her movements, and he feels a small sense of accomplishment that he's managed to penetrate her steely resolve.

She should feel bad for what she did, even if it was brilliant.

"I knew only one thing for certain about Red John; he was no less obsessed with you than you were with him. I had to make him believe that you were in on my investigation, but I couldn't have you know, otherwise the plan wouldn't have worked."

She's so close to him now, breathing his air, and her large green eyes plead with him silently, communicating everything she cannot say with words, but it's almost not enough.

He was so incredibly prepared to fight her on this, that even though her plan was extremely genius, the anger doesn't abate, "and what plan was that exactly?"

He spits the phrase at her as venomously as possible, and though she flinches just slightly, it's not enough to put her off. Instead, Lisbon presses her hand gently against his bare chest, as if she can soothe him with her touch.

"I had to use myself as bait. If I made it appear as if you and I were in cahoots, he would inevitably try to lure me out, try to kill me as a way to hurt you."

"So the store in Petaluma, setting it up so I would find the file, then leaving it for me whenever you found something new, it was all a ploy, a trick?"

His voice is rough, even a little louder than his usual tone, but he's beyond tired, and still can't comprehend how he could have been even more blind than he first thought.

At first, Lisbon looks down, as if in shame, but it's only brief because when she looks up again, gazing into his confused and hurt expression, Jane sees that she makes no apologies for her actions.

"It had to be done that way." She answers curtly before moving away from him.

But the overwhelming desire to understand spurs him on and Jane doesn't let her go far, grabbing her wrist to pull her back to him. "Tell me why," he nearly hisses, clenching his teeth, "tell me why you couldn't let me in."

Lisbon narrows her eyes at him, a flash of defiance back in her dark green gaze, and if Jane weren't so overcome by the swirling confusion around him, he'd feel that self satisfaction that has eluded him so far.

He's finally managed to put that attitude back in her expression.

"Because," she snaps back, wrestling herself out of his grasp, "if you knew-…"

"I would have agreed to it," He cuts her off before she can finish but it only seems to encourage her frustration.

"Yes, but you would have wanted to kill him, and I couldn't let that happen." She exclaims and the words seem to echo in her otherwise silent kitchen.

Jane can't quite believe what he's hearing; the logic chills him to the bone. The possibility that she had done this for him never entered his mind. He thought she did this out of her own retaliation, out of her own desire to see Bosco's death avenged, and he benefited as a consequence.

The true motive sends an unsettling shiver down his spine.

"That night, when you found me in Sam's office, I made a promise to myself. I told myself I wouldn't dwell on the past, I wouldn't cry over things I couldn't change, but I wouldn't take whatever was coming sitting down either. I was going to fight."

Lisbon stops for a moment, taking a deep breath as if the next few words need to be mulled over. Jane watches her, wondering silently what else she could possibly say to surprise him.

"I'd already lost Sam; I wasn't going to lose you too."

The words replay over and over in his mind as he stares at her, body perfectly still, unable to even contemplate moving at this point.

He doesn't really know what to do, doesn't know what to think, how to act, nothing.

All he knows is that the chill has been lifted, and the air around him is stifling all of the sudden, maybe even a bit suffocating. Even though Lisbon's eyes plead with him not to do anything rash, begging for understanding, it's too much for him.

He shuts his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose in exhaustion, and when he sees her again, regardless of the pained expression, his decision is already made.

"I have to go."

He doesn't even hear himself say the words, mind and body working on autopilot as he doesn't wait for her to respond, just goes upstairs to collect the rest of his clothes.

She doesn't ask him to stay, just watches silently as he slips his blazer on and steps back into his brown, scuffed shoes, the only thing that seems to give him some sort of stability at the moment.

And when he opens her front door to leave, he doesn't look over his shoulder, doesn't say good bye. He simply shuts the door behind him and walks silently to his car, wishing that he wouldn't feel so much damn gratitude for her actions.

XXX

June 2010

It's a warm June evening when he finds himself at her porch, knocking on her door with only a slight uncertainty.

He took two weeks off work, traveled aimlessly from town to town, and during that time, did a lot of thinking, debating about the future, ruminating on the past. He thought about getting out of Sacramento, maybe even out of California, or the country altogether. But somewhere close to the Mexican border, he saw a woman with dark, flowing hair, a carefree smile on her face as she sipped something fruity from a tall glass, and he was seized with a terrible longing, an unfamiliar feeling.

It suddenly dawned on him that all this time he spent stewing in his anger, furious at Lisbon, furious at Red John, furious at the world. He was even more blind than before. Seeing that woman with her obvious similarities to brunette who seemed to occupy all his thoughts reminded him that his Lisbon never actually changed.

She did what she did, not out of revenge, but for him, because that's who she is. She outwitted a notorious serial killer, spent months concealing it, working meticulously to lure him out, just to protect Jane from his own self-destructive vengeance.

The epiphany renders his wandering unnecessary; he drives for eight hours straight, only to find himself on Lisbon's doorstep. He doesn't even know what he was running from exactly, when what he needs is right under his nose.

He's tried to be angry at her, has tried to hate her, but he can't.

Not even now.

All he wants is to see her again, because he's finally realized that she's still there.

His Lisbon is still here.

"Jane?"

She looks surprised to see him, dark green eyes overcome with emotion, and his heart spasms in his chest. He's struggling with his own feelings, and before he knows what he's doing, his lips seek hers out almost instinctively, hands cupping her cheeks to pull her closer.

They've kissed before, but it's never felt quiet like this.

This embrace isn't weighed down by anything, not her pain or his thirst for vengeance or anything else the world has to throw at them. It's slow, sensual, tinged with a promise of so much more.

It's a meeting of two souls, two people who have only just begun to confront the possibility that they're meant for one another.

Lisbon fists the collar of his shirt, but he leans back before they get too carried away. He has something to say first, something important.

"I may never be completely okay with what you did, but I am grateful for it, grateful for you."

She tries to interrupt him, but he runs his thumb over her lower lip, halting whatever she has to say, "I just want you to know that you won't lose me. I'm right here and I will be because I don't want to be anywhere else, but I need you to let me take care of you for a change."

He lets a small smile slip through the gravity of his words as he feels the smooth skin of her cheek grow warmer beneath his touch. She looks so small, so incredibly inviting, leaning on her door like this, and he realizes he hasn't felt this sense of belonging since his wife and child were murdered. Except this time, it's even more intense. It's his second chance, and he's determined not to let it go to waste.

He can't resist placing another kiss on her lips.

"I need you to let me in," He whispers afterwards, keeping eye contact, "can you do that?"

There's only a brief moment of hesitation, but it means absolutely nothing, because as soon as he lets go of her cheek, Lisbon steps aside, opening the door further, silently inviting him in.

Contented, Jane walks in without a glance backwards, for the first time in a while, not wishing for anything.