Alright, here we go. The latest in my series of slightly AU post-eps where Jane and Lisbon are in an established relationship of sorts. Each story can be read more or less on its own. All you really need to know is that J/L are sleeping together, but not quite dating. The series also includes (in chronological order), To hold but maybe not to keep (post 2.03), Mutual Liberation (post 2.06), In all Fairness (post 2.08) and Overnight Abandon (post 2.13). This one fits in second last at post 2.10.
It's also written for the Jello-forever September challenge: Variations.
Hope you enjoy. Reviews are appreciated, as I'm always a bit uneasy with this series for one reason or another.
The Sins of our Fathers
"You want to tell me where you kept going today?"
Jane glanced over at the woman driving beside him. "The baseball complex," he told her cheerfully. "Dead scout, a half a dozen players, one disgruntled partner, the need to solve a murder... Remembering any of this?" he asked.
Lisbon rolled her eyes. "Yes, thank-you Jane. As a matter of fact I do remember the case that we just solved."
"You're welcome for that by the way," Jane told her pleasantly.
"Oh, I'm welcome?" Lisbon asked in irritation. "I suppose you think that you solved this all on your own while the rest of us did nothing."
"Well..." Jane said tellingly.
"Shut up Jane," she snapped. "I was busy interrogating people for almost two days straight while you managed to get hit on the head with a baseball almost immediately and had to spend the rest of the case alternating between passed out and sitting down to keep from passing out."
"Making the fact that I did figure out who the killer was all the more impressive," Jane couldn't resist pointing out. That would be sure to make her good and angry.
An observation that Lisbon confirmed almost immediately, "Oh right, because I do nothing do I?" she growled at him. "Next time why don't I forget about all this police business, all the interviews and the searches, and I'll just let you wander around aimlessly looking like a particularly well-dressed homeless person until you can tell me who committed the murder?"
"You could do that," Jane agreed. "But then we'd never have any evidence, something you're always so keen on I might add. So the case'd probably get thrown out of court almost immediately. If it ever made it there in the first place."
"No kidding," Lisbon said dryly. "Plus you need the team to go around and ask the questions you wouldn't have thought of otherwise. Not to mention you need us to put people at the scene of the crime, and to rule out suspects, and find evidence. We do all the legwork after which you just love to swoop in at the last second and make it look like you knew who the killer was all along."
"I did know all along," Jane told her.
"We both know that's not true," Lisbon told him easily. "And don't bother telling me that you had a strong hunch either, because that'll be a lie as well. You need us Patrick Jane, loathe as you are to admit it. Don't bother trying to deny it. I know this whole, 'I do everything and Lisbon is useless' digression is a diversionary tactic to stop me from asking you a second time about what memories your little blow to the head called up."
Jane glanced over at her. Sometimes he stupidly forgot just how smart she really was. "That's very perceptive Lisbon," he told her.
"Thanks ever so much," she replied apparently deciding to ignore his condescension. "So out with it."
"Out with what?" Jane asked pleasantly.
"Whatever you were thinking about after you passed out, or any other time you had one of your so-called dizzy spells," Lisbon answered.
"What makes you think I was thinking about anything?" he wondered, trying again to distract, though he figured it was probably futile. She was on to him.
"You had that look on my face, the one you get whenever you're thinking about something," Lisbon explained.
"I had that look?" Jane asked, amused.
Lisbon shrugged. "Hey, I had to learn to recognize that one early on in our working relationship so I could prepare for any impending disasters."
Jane grinned. "Ah. I wasn't thinking about anything much," he told her.
"Mhm," Lisbon hummed sceptically.
"And why are we going this way anyway?" Jane asked. "Don't think I haven't noticed that you've almost driven me to your apartment, not my own."
"The doctor said that you might have a mild concussion and you're not to be left alone," Lisbon told him unapologetically. "We're going back to my place so I can keep an eye on you."
"Don't I at least get a say in this?" Jane asked.
"Nope," Lisbon told him.
"I see," Jane said with a nod. "It's just, I was just thinking, that, since I am the injured party, that maybe I should get to choose where we go."
You thought wrong," Lisbon told him. "My place is more comfortable than yours. Plus, I think you might have left a pair of sweatpants and a tee shirt there already. We're going to my place; I'm going to keep an eye on you, and there's nothing you can do about it. You may as well resign yourself to that fact now."
Jane grinned. "Lisbon, if you wanted me to come over to your apartment for a little private time, all you had to do was ask."
"Actually," she said with a knowing smile. "I wouldn't have even had to do that."
Jane cocked his head to the side in acknowledgement. He had to give her that one. If she so much as glanced at him in that way of hers he wouldn't have been able to keep himself away from her apartment. So when she pulled into her parking spot he followed her obediently out of the car. Truth be told, he was glad she'd unilaterally decided to take him home with her. If she hadn't he'd have been tempted to weasel an invitation out of her. Well, more likely he'd have just shown up at her door later. This just took all the hassle out of the process.
Taking that into consideration it wasn't particularly surprising that he let her lead him into her apartment. Or that he dutifully took off his shoes and his jacket, and sat down on her couch when she told him to. He even waited in silence well she went to get him a glass of water and some pain medication.
While he waited Jane occupied himself with examining Lisbon's shelves. He was a frequent visitor to her apartment now and he was getting more and more comfortable being there with each visit. He was also familiarizing himself with all of the rooms, not just her bedroom (though that was probably his favourite). Even though he was probably spending more time here than was probably wise, he still always found something new that caught his eye. Something half hidden in a corner, or tucked towards the back of a shelf. Today he noticed that she one of the shelves of her bookshelf had a geode sitting on it in front of the books. No doubt a gift, probably from a niece or a nephew who thought it was pretty and so thought their rarely-seen but still much-loved aunt would like it. Despite the almost certainly happy associations, the sight of it made Jane frown. He'd never noticed it before. Or maybe he'd just never had cause to. It was the sort of thing your eyes just glazed over after all.
Lisbon walked into the room carrying two glasses of water. "Something wrong?" she asked when she saw the scowl on his face.
He shook his head and took the glass. "Thanks," he told her sincerely as she sat down on the chair closest to him. Not on the couch next to him he couldn't help noticing. For some reason that irritated him. And it irritated him further when he realized just how much he wanted to be closer to her.
But then again, had spent a good portion of the drive to her place irritating her as much as possible. Maybe the physical distance was his punishment.
Or maybe she'd done it without even thinking.
He glanced back over at her, admitting that option B made more sense. Lisbon didn't punish. Not like this at least. Not when she was concerned about his physical (and probably mental) state.
Jane's eyes found the geode again. Not white, and a fraction of a size of the so-called healing crystal he'd been remembering earlier that day. But just as worthless from a monetary perspective.
Even if it was part of con to trap a rich grandmother and her dying granddaughter.
He frowned again. He probably deserved a bit of punishment from Lisbon. Maybe she should be keeping her distance from him. She would never have done something like that. She didn't do things like that. Far too sensible, too straightforward, too fair, too damn kind. Her world hadn't been one of illusions and lies. She hadn't spent her entire life trapped in a mindset that considered the rest of the human race as potential targets for a con.
Suddenly he felt the need to explain, to justify why he could never be as good as her.
"I once told you I wasn't raised in the circus," he said suddenly. "That was only technically true."
She looked at him, nodded to show she was listening, but she didn't say anything. Waiting out the suspect's confession he supposed. He'd underestimated Lisbon in the interrogation room when he'd first met her. Cho's abilities were much more immediately apparent, more obvious. Lisbon, well, Lisbon was more insidious. Subtle. She somehow made you want to tell her things. And you'd told her practically before you even realized it that fact.
But he'd realized it, and he'd been on guard against her freakish powers practically since he'd met her.
He wasn't on guard now.
Now, like so many others, he just wanted to tell. Like so many others he'd somehow gotten caught up in her spell. Even if it was one she didn't quite know she'd been weaving.
"We weren't really circus folk," Jane repeated after clearing his throat. "We travelled with one circus or another for a while, but we never quite fit. We were always just a little to the outside. Oh they tolerated us, were friendly with us even, but Dad an I were always just an inch away from being true members of that society. And we knew it. We kept to ourselves too much for one. Besides, I didn't actually grow up in the circus and that makes a difference. First few years of my life weren't spent in the circus at all. Then my mother died, and, well, my father slid back into old habits."
"Which were?" Lisbon asked softly after he was silent for about half a minute. She'd been almost afraid of the question. Probably afraid that if she broke the silence he'd stop talking, Jane admitted to himself.
She needn't have worried, though Jane couldn't help noticing she looked surprised when he continued on with his tale. "Anything just this side of legal," he told her. "And, occasionally just the other side as well," he admitted. "But mostly the technicalities were in our favour. Lies, cons, tricks, schemes. A couple hundred bucks from a sucker here, another thousand from an easy mark there. It's not hard when you've been doing it most of your life. And when you've got a kid who can read minds," he added as an afterthought. "He always did tell me I had x-ray eyes. Idiot that I was, originally I was flattered."
Lisbon inhaled quickly but didn't say anything.
"The boy psychic," Jane said derisively. "At least I was until Daddy set up that last big score," he added.
"Cho said you told those kids not to let their fathers run their lives," Lisbon said in the same soothing tone she used whenever she questioned a witness, or a family member, or anyone else they were pretty sure was guiltless and in pain. But he wasn't guiltless.
Jane laughed. "Cho said his father hated baseball."
Lisbon put her hand on his Jane's briefly. "I guess we all have issues with our fathers."
"Guess so," Jane admitted.
"What happened after the boy psychic?" Lisbon asked.
Jane glanced at her and smiled almost affectionately. "You're not going to ask about the last big score?" he wondered.
"Not unless you want me to," she told him truthfully.
"Why?" he asked in confusion.
"You know why," she said softly.
"Do I?" Jane asked. "Aren't you the one who always tells me that I don't actually know everything?"
"You don't," Lisbon said with a genuine smile as she folded her hands in her lap. "But you do know this."
Jane looked at his knee, wishing her hand was still there. She wouldn't force a painful confidence if he wasn't ready. Not if she didn't need to know. She didn't need to know this, but for some unknown reason he still wanted her to, even if she looked at him differently forever because of it. "A girl was dying," he told her at last. "Had maybe a week to live. We sold her grandmother a 'magic crystal' for ten grand, supposed to save her life. Thing had no more magic than that rock on your bookshelf," he said bitterly.
"Okay," Lisbon said neutrally.
Jane glanced sharply at her then. He scanned her face, as she must have known he would. But for some reason she wasn't judging him. Why wasn't she judging him? He was certainly judging himself. "I didn't want to," he told her quickly, trying to allay his guilt. "But my Dad, well, he was determined. Said he'd spent days setting up this score and if I backed out I was on my own. So I did it in the end. And after that, well, after that we had the money to move on to bigger, better things. No more carnival for us. I was going to be a bona fide psychic. Give readings to respectable people. A well paid charlatan. 'Course eventually I got better than my father," Jane explained. "He didn't like that. Not one bit. The next time when we had a disagreement we parted ways. I could stand on my own now. But I'd already learned too much. I was too good at it. More respectable than he ever was. But I've always have his words in my head. 'You're a loser or you're someone who plays the losers.' It's what I've been doing ever since. I'm just been doing it better. Dear old Dad and I, just variations on a theme."
"Jane," Lisbon said softly. "You are not your father."
"Well, no not technically, no," Jane agreed. "But there certainly is a family resemblance. And not just a physical one. You know what I was doing before I joined the CBI Lisbon, don't even pretend not to. Before I moved on to basically taking the money of depressed and lonely housewives, I conned a dying girl. I gave her false hope, because according to my father that was better than no hope at all."
"How old were you?" Lisbon asked, still oddly non-judgemental.
He shrugged. "Early to mid-teens, why?"
"So you were maybe fifteen then," Lisbon concluded, waiting for him to nod in confirmation. "And at fifteen your father gives you the choice of doing what he says or striking out on your own. Do I have that right?"
Jane nodded, his eyes fixed on his knees.
He saw her hand reach into his lap, saw her fingers entwine with his. In and out they fluttered, comforting, reassuring. "Jane you were just a kid," she reminded him. "And you didn't have a choice. Unless you were going to strike out on your own, something you obviously weren't ready to do. He was using you."
"I know that," Jane hissed. "But maybe I still shouldn't have done it."
"What would you have done instead?" Lisbon asked practically. "Where would you have gone? Would you have left, struck out on your own?"
"You would have," Jane muttered.
"Would I?" she asked rhetorically. "Would I really? I don't know. Neither of us do. I was in a whole other situation at that age. It still wasn't good, but I didn't leave either."
"You had your brothers to look after," Jane countered not even bothering to ask what she was talking about. He knew the story. Everyone at the CBI did. Even if she hadn't actually told him much he was sure he'd still figured out more than most. "What you did was almost noble," he told her.
"What I did, I did to survive. Same as you," she told him firmly. "We're all products of our upbringing; it's what we do when we're on our own that matters."
"When I was on my own I took charlatanism to a new level," Jane said hollowly.
"And look what you do now," Lisbon told him.
"Pretty much the same thing, according to you on most days," he retorted, trying for the joke. "I read people Lisbon, and I play tricks on them. Nothing more, nothing less."
"Yeah," Lisbon admitted with a half a grin of her own. "But now what you started learning all those years ago helps you help catch criminals."
"Oh, well that makes it all better then," Jane said sarcastically.
"I happen to think what we do at work is important, so screw you if you don't," Lisbon snapped.
"That isn't what I meant. It is important," Jane admitted. "But we both know that's not why I do it. I work at the CBI for Red John, and because I have nothing else to do. My priorities changed because of a serial killer, not because of some noble decision of my own."
"But you still help people," Lisbon countered practically. "And you helped people before the CBI. In a way. Didn't you always say you gave them false hope?"
"Know who I learned that particular gem from?" Jane asked rhetorically.
Lisbon winced, recognizing the misstep.
"And besides," Jane said with a wave of his hand. "I told people things that maybe should have remained hidden. I told things that ruined people's lives."
"You didn't just tell things that ruined people's lives," Lisbon countered. "You told them things that gave them comfort as well, gave them peace. And you told them the truth."
"No," Jane said with a shake of his head. "I told them my best guess, which wasn't always quite the same thing. And when it wasn't sometimes there were tragic results."
Lisbon sighed. "Jane you can't possibly blame..."
"Why not?" he asked quickly. It was a valid point. He was responsible after all. Why couldn't he blame himself?
"So then I'm to blame for every family I tear apart when I put a criminal in jail?" Lisbon asked him in response..
"No, of course not Lisbon," Jane said patiently. "The person who decided to commit a crime they knew would get them caught and then put them in prison is to blame."
"And yet if you expose an affair, or a family secret, or god knows what else you exposed and, no I don't need you to tell me, then it's your fault for bringing it to light as opposed to the person who created the hidden problem in the first place," she asked, clearly annoyed by his apparent double-standard.
"Huh. Nicely done, very nice parallel Lisbon," Jane admitted. "Alright, for the sake of argument let's say I agree with you on that point. I'm not saying I do, but let's just pretend."
"For the sake of argument," Lisbon supplied with a grin. "I got it."
"Excellent," Jane said. "What about the times I made a mistake? Told somebody something that was wrong and destroyed their life because of it?"
"Because cops never make mistakes," Lisbon countered. "We never arrest the wrong person and screw up their life."
"True," Jane replied. "But I imagine when you do, that you feel guilty about it afterwards."
Lisbon sighed. "Jane..."
"I should feel guilty Lisbon," Jane explained softly. "I thought you'd have been all for that, what with your firm belief in right and wrong, in guilt and punishment. Very strong moral centre you have there dear."
"My moral..." Lisbon repeated almost amused. Then she shook her head and turned the topic back to what she was really interested in. "I just don't like to see you beating yourself up over this," she admitted. "And hey, maybe you did help that dying girl and her family. Maybe you gave her a happier few last days because she had something to focus on other than her own impending death."
"Maybe," he said softly. "But that wasn't the only mistake I made."
"We all make mistakes Jane," Lisbon reminded him as she rubbed her thumb along the knuckles of one of his hands. "Nobody's perfect."
The two of them lapsed into silence.
"We did catch a murderer today," Jane said finally. "That's got to count for something, even if my intentions aren't so pure."
"Maybe your intentions aren't as impure as you think," Lisbon suggested.
"It's possible I suppose," he acknowledged.
"Then maybe your father's aren't either," she pointed out.
"My father," Jane said with a laugh. "Look, I know what you're trying to do Lisbon, but my father didn't give a damn about anything other than the money. Not even me," he told her. "I was just the golden goose who could con the marks. He knew I was better than he was and he used that. Until I grew old enough to realize it and I got the hell out of Dodge."
"Still he cared enough about you to teach you how to support yourself," Lisbon said.
"Inadvertent by-product of his greed I'm sure," Jane muttered.
"Lisbon..." Jane retorted. "You can't fix this. You can't make it better. It won't get better. My father was a con-man. And I, I was so desperate to prove to him that I wasn't another loser like all the people he conned, that I learned to play them, just like he did. I was a heartless, conniving bastard. I just dressed it up better."
"If you were that heartless then why try and dress it up as false hope?" Lisbon asked. "Why call it that at all? Why justify your actions. If you're heartless why would a justification even matter? Face it Jane, you wanted to justify it. Because you wanted to make it alright. That doesn't sound heartless to me."
"You can be incredibly irritating, you know that?" he told her affectionately.
"Damn straight," Lisbon replied. "So stop moping," she told him.
"Stop moping?" he asked incredulously. "Oh well, in that case I'm as cheerful as clam. Thank you Lisbon, I don't know why I didn't think of that solution before. Stop moping..." he muttered to himself.
"Stop moping," she repeated. "Or tell me what else is really bothering you," she told him.
"I became my father Lisbon," Jane said finally. When she looked like she was going to object he stopped her. "We can argue about degrees and motivation and heartlessness all you want, but in the end I became a higher-class version of my father. The same mindset, the same con-man type, hell, even some of the same expressions. And I can understand that. It's easily explainable. I grew up in that world; it was all I ever knew. I never had much of a chance to be anything else. I can probably learn to accept that. Most days I don't even give it a second thought."
"But?" Lisbon prompted.
"But what about my daughter?" Jane asked meeting her eyes. It was the first time he'd willingly brought up his family to her. He knew what must be running through her mind, but he didn't care. He needed to tell someone, and she was the only one he trusted with this.
"What about your daughter?" Lisbon asked when he didn't continue.
"What would she have become if she'd lived?" he asked. "After all, she lived with me. I brought clients to the house. Eventually she would have learned exactly what Daddy did for a living. Lied to people and pretended to be something he wasn't for money. Would she have hated me for it when she understood what that meant? Or would she have embraced it as just a part of life like I did. Would she have become another charming phony in her own right? Would the cycle simply keep repeating itself, over and over again, each generation influenced by the one before?"
"I dunno," Lisbon said after a moment. "Seems to me that the Jane family's been moving up in the world each generation. Slowly getting more and more respectable. Even if she did inherit your particular powers of persuasion, the showmanship, the drama, what makes you think she wouldn't have used them for other purposes? Maybe gotten an education, maybe become a lawyer. After all, you always say that's all about putting on a show and convincing a jury that your particular story of what happened is the true one."
"I thought you said the Jane family was getting more respectable," Jane said with a smile. If that was her goal, maybe a lawyer hadn't been the smartest example.
Lisbon swatted him in the arm. "Shut up," she told him. "You know what I mean."
"But a lawyer?" Jane asked in a scandalized tone.
Lisbon huffed in irritation. "It was the first thing that came to mind!" she said in irritation. "And not all lawyers are horrible, smarmy and arrogant," she reminded him. "You know as well as I do that some of them are damn good at what they do. And besides, they're necessary for our justice system."
"I know," Jane admitted. "And I appreciate what you're trying to do," he said. "I do..."
"But you don't quite believe me," Lisbon finished for him.
"I want to," he told her genuinely.
She nodded, taking a drink of her own water she looked away, examining the contents of her shelves, just as he'd done when he first arrived.
"Lisbon?" Jane asked.
"Not everybody becomes their father Patrick," she whispered after a moment.
This time it was his turn to silently take her hand.
He knew not everybody became their fathers, or their mothers. That was obvious.
She certainly hadn't. Thank god.
He figured there were probably two ways to react to your parents. You either followed in their footsteps, or you reacted and tried to distance yourself as much as possible. He'd managed to simultaneously do both where his father was concerned.
Lisbon was decidedly in the second camp when it came to her issues with dear old Dad. Now that she was mourning Bosco's death just as her father had been mourning her mother's all those years ago, her anxiety about the mere possibility of any hereditary similarities emerging was so extreme that she eyed every alcoholic beverage with consideration, weighed and measured it with her eyes. Was she headed down the same path as her father? Jane was sure the idea kept her up at night, though she never said anything. He could see the worry in her eyes every time someone handed her a glass of wine and she felt even the smallest hint of relief in taking it.
Jane could have told her she needn't worry. But she wouldn't have believed him. She needed to figure it out herself. Still, it was obvious to a blind man that Teresa Lisbon would not become her father. Practically her entire personality was built around the exact opposite principles.
Which, given what he assumed had to have happened in her youth, made it ironic that she'd chosen a profession where she got to physically beat the crap out of people. 'Course, he knew the fact that Lisbon's targets tended to be those bigger and stronger than herself was a key distinction.
She'd risen above a world of alcoholism and abuse.
He on the other hand, well, he'd taken being a con man a step closer to respectability than his father ever had. And his family had paid the price for it. Okay, maybe not so much for his profession as his arrogance. Jane supposed he couldn't blame his father for that. After all, his father had tried to keep his son under his thumb as much as possible. Still, given that what he'd taught his son to do the arrogance had been inevitable. You start thinking you can read anybody and a certain brand of arrogance follows pretty quickly. His father had been the one who'd shown him how to find the perfect marks. "You gotta read 'em Patty," he'd always said. "If you can read 'em, then you can know 'em, and if you know 'em, you can get their money out of 'em."
Jane may have dressed up his father's formula, but at its core, well, people had been trying to change lead into gold for centuries. It quite simply couldn't be done. And despite Lisbon's attempts at reassurance, the idea that his daughter may have become another modification of the same type of cheat tortured him sometimes. Growing up in his house how much could she have possibly broken the mold? Yes, he'd loved her, probably more than his father had ever loved him. Maybe that would have made a difference. He didn't know. And even if, as Lisbon suggested, his darling Suzanna had become a lawyer, or an actress, or a motivational speaker, or any other more respectable version of what her father was, wasn't it still just variations on a theme? Just as his father had influenced him with his beliefs and his ideas, surely he in turn would have influenced his daughter. How many iterations would the cycle have continued for? How many variations would there have been before the pattern stopped? Maybe it was best that the Jane genetic line stopped with him.
On the other hand, maybe it was too late for that. Why not take it one step further? Beyond just simple genetic transfer? The pattern he was part of was self-reinforcing thanks to the innate persuasiveness of the skills and attitudes being transferred. It probably wasn't necessary to be a blood relative to be affected. Who else was he influencing, tainting by association? He glanced at the woman sitting next to him, the one who was busy staring at the crystal on her shelves. How much had he changed her in the last few years? Before he'd come along Lisbon had been a rising star in the CBI. Now she was saddled with an insane and unpredictable consultant. She was also depressed and unsure of herself. Jane knew that the people who'd been closest to her were worried about his influence. Both Minelli and Bosco had remarked on it specifically while they were still in her life. Hell, when Jane actually let himself think about it he was worried about his influence on her. It certainly made his job easier when she went along with his ideas without questioning them, but sometimes he though she was starting to enjoy the deception just a little much, starting to turn a blind eye to just a little bit more.
It didn't sit well with him.
After all, she was supposed to be the sensible one.
And, even taking into account her more relaxed attitude towards his methods, of his team she was still the strongest holdout against the Patrick Jane method of solving cases. Jane knew Lisbon worried about his effect on her team. She worried he'd destroy Van Pelt's ideals, make her jaded before her time. And she worried that he'd teach Rigsby and Cho to take shortcuts, to cheat, to take things just a touch too far. And then they'd start having to release guilty men because of breaches in protocol.
Jane was terrified his methods, his father's methods, were contagious. And that she'd become infected.
He couldn't bear that. Not strong, sensible Teresa Lisbon. She'd always been a better person than he was (though she'd hate the comparison). She needed to stay better.
He'd trusted her with his secrets almost as a penance. Except he hadn't really been looking for absolution or forgiveness, but for more punishment. Not that she'd doled out any. He should have known she wouldn't. Logically he did know that. But he still felt exposed. She knew his secrets, and she could use them against him. He hadn't talked to a living soul about his father or his childhood since long before his wife had died. And now he'd told Lisbon.
He'd felt an overwhelming need to confess and though she wasn't a priest he was fairly certain she'd take the information with her to the grave.
And he'd needed to be honest with her this one time, if only to prove to himself that he could.
God only knew what her reaction would be.
"My father beat my brothers," Lisbon said suddenly.
Jane glanced over sharply at that. But Lisbon was still staring determinedly at her bookshelves, and not looking at him at all.
He hadn't expected this. He'd told her about his past in part to clear his guilty conscience, to ease his mind. He'd never expected his confidences to be reciprocated. He felt a rush of humility at the idea that she would trust him enough for that.
This time it was his turn to reach for her hand. And when she squirmed a little and tried to free it he held fast until she relaxed, then held on tight.
"He beat my brothers," she repeated hollowly. "Not at first. Not right after her death," she explained, not needing to clarify who the 'her' in question was. "But as time went on... He couldn't deal with the grief y'know? He started drinking. Actually, drinking more would be the more accurate description of what really happened."
"Lisbon," Jane whispered, just to let her know that he was still there. That he was listening. Maybe even that it was going to be alright. That he wouldn't hurt her. Not over this at least. Never over this.
"At first it was okay," she explained, continuing on as if she hadn't heard him. "He'd just be almost catatonic in the evenings then he'd sleep it off."
Jane winced. If that was her description of 'okay' then maybe her world was just as warped as his was.
"Then he started getting angry," Lisbon continued, her voice still oddly flat. "He couldn't control his anger and it was unpredictable. It seemed like some days absolutely anything we did set him off. And by that point my brothers were teenagers, and teenage boys have a tendency to rebel y'know? I don't know if my father would have dealt all that well with that even if he'd been sober. Not without my mother at least. But trying to deal with teenage rebellion on your own through an alcoholic haze? He was a goddamn nightmare. That's when he started shoving them around. It started with the occasional violent shove into the wall. Then he moved onto slaps and fists. They started fighting back, but he was bigger. I couldn't stop it. I couldn't... He never hit me; but somehow seeing my baby brother's body bloody on the floor was worse. And there was nothing I could do," she choked out.
"Hey..." Jane said, rubbing her hand in both of his, trying to comfort with the repetitive rhythm. "You were still just a kid yourself. It wasn't your fault."
"Sometimes he beat them so bad we had to go to the hospital," Lisbon told him after she took a minute to collect herself. "And how do you explain that? There's no way to explain. Somehow we managed to avoid a police investigation. But maybe it would have been better if we hadn't. I don't know. We probably would have been split up. That would have been a nightmare, losing my brothers and my mother so soon after each other. But on the other hand, together we didn't exactly work either."
Jane didn't know what to say. There was nothing to say. She wouldn't want his pity. In fact she'd downright hate his pity. All he could do was refuse to let go of her hand no matter how hard she pulled.
"And you know what the worst part of it was?" she asked bitterly. "When he woke up the next morning he wouldn't remember any of it. It was all just blank. He'd black out. Couldn't believe that he'd been the one responsible for the bruises all over Tommy's chest, or for Sammy's latest black eye. It just went on and on and on. Then one day he did us all a favour and deliberately drank himself to death. I wasn't even sorry," she said defiantly, as if she was daring him to condemn her. "My father committed suicide and I felt relieved. What does that say about me Jane?"
"It says that you're human," he answered honestly.
"Huh," she said bitterly. "I hate him," she admitted. "I can't forgive him, not for that. Maybe someday, but not now. Probably never."
"I don't blame you," Jane said honestly. "But then we both know you're far more forgiving than I am."
"Well, anyway," she said with a shake of her head. "My point is, I am not my father Jane," she told him, and finally meeting his eyes.
He wasn't surprised by the pain in her eyes, but he was surprised by how much seeing it there hurt him.
"No one who knows you could ever think you were dear," he told her honestly.
She nodded, and he could see the hints of relief in her eyes. Suddenly Jane noticed that his side was hurting and he realized he was pressed up against the arm of her couch, desperate to get as close to her as their current seating arrangement would allow. It wasn't close enough.
"C'mere," he said, trying to pull her onto the couch and into his arms.
But Lisbon resisted and shook her head. "No," she whispered fiercely. "I need a drink," she explained. "Of water," she clarified. Jane knew the qualification was more for herself than for him, a reminder that she'd never try to forget her pain in an alcoholic haze.
"Okay," he said quietly as he sunk back into the couch and tried not to be disappointed that she'd pulled away. He understood, but he needed to touch her, to reassure and to be reassured. But she was craving space, and he wouldn't intrude on that. Especially since it might make her pull even farther away.
Fathers and daughters, fathers and sons. The two of them were two sides of the same coin. Both in part defined by, and running from, things that had happened when they hadn't been old enough to control their surroundings. Two different variations on the same story. Jane leaned his head back against her couch. It almost made you wonder if anyone made it through their adolescence alive.
He was manipulative and deceptive, she was untrusting and reserved. Neither of them had dealt with any of it. Both of them were reacting.
At least she'd reacted in a positive direction.
"You never ask me about my past," Lisbon said suddenly, still puttering around the kitchen. Jane knew she was probably searching for an excuse to stay over there another minute, to get just a little more self-control back. He understood the compulsion, though he almost resented it tonight. He forced himself to concentrate on what she was saying instead. "You must be curious," she continued. "You are about everything else. Or did you just figure it all out on your own..."
Jane shook his head. "Not all of it," he assured her, knowing she'd like the idea that she still had a few secrets from him. Truthfully she had more than she knew. "Broad strokes obviously, the rumours floating around the CBI would be enough to get that far. I admit I guessed at some of the details on my own. Still I didn't know it was that... well..." he trailed off. "And I would never ask you about it Lisbon."
"Why not?" she asked curiously from behind him.
"I saw Rigsby's face after he did," He told her, turning to send her a cheeky grin.
"Liar," Lisbon said succinctly from behind her counter.
"You're getting better at that," he murmured absently before deciding, for once, to just answer her question. "The same reason you wouldn't ask exactly what my father's last big score with the circus was," he reminded her. "Because it would hurt you. And because that would make pasts fair game," he admitted. "If I asked you, you'd ask me."
"You could probably evade better than I ever could," Lisbon pointed out.
"No need for you to bother evading if you're just going to refuse to talk about it," he reminded her.
Lisbon smiled ruefully, "Refusing to talk about it gets me nowhere if you can read the answer on my face."
"What do you want me to say Lisbon?" Jane asked, getting frustrated.
"That you have a sense of fairness, even if you won't admit it," she told him candidly.
"Maybe that's just with you!" he snapped; then he froze, realizing what he may have inadvertently just admitted.
If Lisbon noticed it she gave no sign. "Still, it's better than nothing," she told him as she walked towards him with her glass in her hands. "And it sounds like it's better than what your father thought."
Jane turned away from her. Damn the woman and her perception. And damn her logic and her persuasive arguments too. But most of all damn her for making him want to believe her, for making him want to accept the absolution she was unknowingly offering. Maybe even to forgive himself for some of his past mistakes.
He'd been worried that he would corrupt her by association. While he almost certainly had, he hadn't considered the possibility that she would influence him right back.
Which, come to think of it, had also almost certainly happened. Jane now found himself wanting to help her, to make her happy. He wanted to try and fix her life, just as she tried to fix everyone and everything around her. He wasn't as good at it obviously, but he was trying.
Suddenly he heard the clink of her glass as she set it on the table at the end of her couch. Barely a second later he felt her hand brush against his shoulder, kneading softly as it travelled along his back. He leaned into her touch with a sigh. He knew the contact was her way of apologizing for pulling away earlier. It was an apology and an indication that she needed the comfort of physical contact tonight just as much as he did.
Jane closed his eyes and let himself enjoy it. The woman was closed off and obsessively practical. But when she let herself just be he couldn't get enough of her. He knew that around him, she sometimes let herself loosen up. He gave her the freedom to not be quite so sensible all the time, brought a little chaos into a life that was otherwise far too well ordered. In return Lisbon made him want to care for another human being. She forced him to see how the crimes they committed affected the victims, how what they did mattered. Somehow she'd given him another link to humanity.
He might even be beginning to need her.
"Lisbon," he said suddenly, when her hand finally stopped moving, coming to a stop just at the base of his skull."
"Mhm?" she asked quietly.
"You implied earlier that I wouldn't have been able to help out at the CBI if it hadn't been for what my father helped teach me to do," he explained tentatively.
"Yes," she agreed.
"Maybe you should consider that your father influenced your career choice as well," he suggested. Then he braced himself for the fallout.
She snatched her hand away like she'd been burned. Jane had to consciously stop himself from letting out a moan of disappointment. "Would I have chosen this profession without an abusive father?" she asked him. "Probably not," she snapped. "When I was twelve I wanted to be a teacher. Like my Mom. Does the fact that I had to watch him beat a couple of kids to a pulp more than once make my decision to try and put a stop to it for other people make it any more commendable? I doubt it," she said scathingly.
"Teresa I never meant that..." he said quickly. Making the switch to her first name without realizing it he turned to kneel on the couch so he was facing her. She was standing barely six inches from him, her eyes bright with anger.
"I know!" she said obviously distressed. "I know you never meant that. But you can't separate cause and effect, motivations and virtues that easily Jane. We're all products of our past, for better or for worst."
"I know," he assured softly, taking one of her hands and drawing patterns across her wrist in an attempt to soothe. "I'm sorry."
"Don't apologize," she said with a wave of her free hand. "It's not your fault."
"It isn't," he agreed with a nod. "But you're still hurt dear. So I'm still sorry."
"Sins of the father..." Lisbon said wryly.
"Are sometimes said to be visited on his son, not his daughter," Jane told her with a grin.
That made her grin. "Blatant sexism," she said quickly.
"Maybe," Jane agreed as he moved his hand from her wrist to her forearm. "But it actually works in your favour this time."
"We're quite the pair aren't we?" Lisbon asked dryly, as she watched his fingers trail from her elbow down to her wrist and back again.
Jane nodded as he got off the couch and stretched. "I think your father and my father should get together and go bowling," he said with a grin.
"Quoting 'The Breakfast Club' won't make it all better Jane," Lisbon told him, still obviously amused.
"You love 'The Breakfast Club' though," Jane reminded her as he started to walk around the couch to meet her. He'd been too far away from her for too long over the course of the evening and he was going to remedy that now.
"I do," she agreed, taking a step closer of her own. "But that's not the point."
"Then what is the point?" he asked.
She laughed. "You know, I'm not sure I really remember anymore. Things got so turned around tonight."
That made Jane grin in spite of himself. He didn't blame her. He couldn't remember what his original intentions had been when he'd started this conversation what felt like ages ago. He was just glad he was with her. Because even if he didn't think he'd ever agree with her about everything, she still made him feel better somehow. Tonight she'd not only made him feel better, but she'd shared just a little bit of her own pain, something far more important, if only for its rarity. It made him want to protect her, to convince her that even though things looked bad everything would turn out alright. But most of all it made him want to make her happy again.
Because if she was with him, and she was happy, then despite the unwanted trip down memory lane he'd taken earlier that day, he would be happy too.
So even though whatever was between them was complicated and largely undefined, he wanted to give her something. To give her yet another one of his secrets in return for the one she'd given willingly.
"I'm glad you're here," he admitted as he took her hand again.
Lisbon smiled and giving his hand a squeeze, she moved her own up along his arm to his shoulder while she let her other one fall on his chest. "Me too," she admitted, tilting her head to the side and looking up at him with affectionate eyes.
The grin he sent her then was blinding.
"You know Jane," Lisbon said casually as she ran her hand back and forth across his shoulders. "Maybe your abilities have gotten you into trouble in the past, but on the other hand, if your father hadn't taught you what he did then we never would have met."
Jane considered that for a moment as he wrapped his arm around her waist to pull her closer, just as he'd wanted to do all night. He enjoyed the body heat along with the now familiar vague scent of cinnamon that always came with her proximity while he let his mind wander. She had a point. His talents may helped him anger a serial killer, but they'd also been what led him to his wife, to all of his old friends, to police work, and later to Lisbon herself. He couldn't truthfully say that he'd regret all that. Especially when he felt her hand slide down his shoulder to the buttons of his vest. It seemed that the little minx was going to do all she could to stop him from wallowing in his guilt that evening.
He found himself looking forward to experiencing all of her methods of distraction.
"You know, I feel vaguely like you've tricked me somehow, and I've fallen for it," he said as he heard his vest fall to the floor and felt her sneaky fingers run up and down his chest. "Couldn't for the life of me tell you exactly how of course," he admitted. "And I can't even bring myself to be annoyed."
Lisbon grinned while sliding her hands into his unbuttoned dress shirt. Jane wondered how she'd managed to do that so quickly. His wonderful clever Lisbon. "I think you'll find Patrick," she whispered as she placed a kiss on the side of his neck. "That not all tricks are necessarily bad things."
Jane tried to stifle a gasp as he felt her lips travel down his chest. He realized one of his hands had become tangled in her hair and was desperately holding her against him while the other began un-tucking her blouse, in a desperate search for skin of its own.
And what had she said? Something about tricks sometimes being good? As he felt his back hit one of her apartment wall (who the hell knew exactly which one at this point?) he decided she was right. And when her lips began travelling back up towards his collar bone Jane decided that sometimes schemes were positively inspired.
Trust Teresa to know which ones.
Teresa... God... he let his head fall backwards against the wall as she did something particularly nice with her tongue.
She was right about a lot of things. And she really had taught him a lot over the years, the woman who was currently nibbling along the hollow of his throat. Since working with her he'd actually started sympathizing with some of the victims.
His hand moved up from her waist to undo the buttons of her blouse.
Maybe one day he could even learn to care. Maybe.
His last conscious thought before he used the hand still tangled in her hair to turn her mouth towards his for a kiss, was that maybe they'd rub off on each other just enough to save them both.
After all, much like the woman in his arms the idea seemed only sensible.
Hope you liked it. Like I said, I do particularly appreciate reviews for this series.