A/N: As some of you know, I've decided to continue my series of AU post-eps where Jane and Lisbon are in a relationship. So far I think Season 3 is awesome, and I'm tentatively planning a bit of an arc, though obviously that will depend on exactly what happens in some of the eps. As it is, there will be more than one of these, I have no idea how many at the moment. Probably not one for every episode. But since there will be a few of them, I thought it made more sense to keep them all in one place (plus I'm getting sick of listing the pre-existing post-eps each time I write a new one). This collection will follow my S2 post-eps (and pretty much directly follow "If Ye Break Faith"). You don't need to read them all to understand what's going on. Basically J/L have been in a screwed up established relationship of sorts (more than friends with benefits, significantly less than dating) for most of season 2, but it dissolved to an extent after Kristina Frye came on the scene.

The existing stories include: To hold but maybe not to keep (post 2.03), Mutual Liberation (post 2.06), In all Fairness (post 2.09), The Sins of Our Fathers (post 2.10), Overnight Abandon (post 2.13), and If Ye Break Faith (post 2.22-2.23).

The first post-ep to the season premiere is dedicated to canisedocanis, for sending me such lovely reviews to all of these, along with another lovely PM. Thanks also to AlamoGirl and yaba, who inspired parts of this. I'm sure they'll both know which parts when they get to them.

xxxxx

Post-3.01: Not so unwilling

xxxxx

Jane sat staring out at the roof.

Alone.

By choice of course.

Lisbon accused him earlier of shutting down, of pushing the team away ever since Kristina Frye had disappeared.

The idea almost made him smile. It was funny in a way.

After all, he'd started destroying his ties with her even before the disappearance. 'The disappearance,' like there was even the slightest chance that Red John hadn't taken Kristina. Still, sometimes even law enforcement liked their little euphemisms, liked to use language to blunt an unpalatable reality.

Lots of things were unpalatable in his life lately. Lonely too. But, Jane'd made that choice months ago.

Not that the ties he'd decided to break had been defined. Like that somehow made it alright to break them without a thought.

But he had broken them. Or maybe not broken, maybe just bent. They were still there; there was still something between him and Lisbon. But it wasn't like it used to be. It'd been indefinable before, now it was even worse. Because he'd thought it would be a good idea to take another woman out to dinner. He'd betrayed the closest thing he had to a partner for what would have only ever been a temporary challenge. A very attractive temporary challenge to be sure, and Lisbon was better off without him, but…

But it still felt like a loss.

Not that Lisbon would ever admit that he'd betrayed her. Not aloud, not to him, and maybe not even to herself.

Because they'd always both been free to do what they chose. They'd both been repeating that phrase to themselves like a mantra. No strings, no definitions, no commitment, ergo, no betrayal.

So, if it wasn't a betrayal why had things changed between them?

Why, when he dropped by her condo at night, was he now relegated to her couch?

And more importantly why had he allowed himself to attempt to get close to Kristina in the first place? He wasn't allowed the luxury of genuine human contact. That point had been roughly driven into his brain a few months ago. Lisbon still optimistically (and maybe naively) maintained that RJ taking Kristina may have had everything to do with her television appearance and very little to do with her date with him. Besides, there was still a chance she'd just run off. That her disappearance had nothing to do with Red John. Jane didn't think he could believe any of it.

Still, he was guiltily grateful that Red John had chosen to punish him for daring to get close to another human being by taking Kristina.

The only alternative was absolutely untenable to him.

So now he was under a self-imposed solitude.

One that Lisbon was apparently ignoring. Contrary woman.

She was concerned about him. Jane knew that. And he appreciated it in his way. But couldn't she see that he should just be left alone? That she shouldn't get too close?

Given his frame of mind Jane acknowledged that the footsteps outside the door were almost expected.

"Hey Lisbon," he said without turning around.

"I thought I'd find you here," Lisbon replied, obviously not at all surprised that he'd guessed her identity. But then, why would she be? Jane couldn't think of a single other person who'd bother to come to find him in the attic of the CBI. Well, unless it was someone Lisbon had sent to find him for whatever reason.

He liked it up in the attic in a way though, even if it did make him feel a little bit like any number of crazy characters from Victorian novels. He couldn't decide whether he was more Miss Havisham or Bertha Rochester, both slightly nuts and imprisoned away for the good of society. Whether it was by choice or by force didn't matter as the end result was the same. Though if he was comparing himself to a Victorian recluse then Jane supposed he should start getting into the spirit of the thing and start calling the attic a garret. It was more apropos somehow. Whatever he called it, the top floor of the CBI had become something of a haven. It made him feel safe. It was still in the CBI building, but it was far enough away from her that he worried less about tainting her by association.

Of course, Lisbon (as usual) never seemed to appreciate the things he tried to do for her.

"Where else would I be?" Jane asked, finally turning to face her and sending her a friendly grin.

Lisbon raised her eyebrows. "I don't know," she said sarcastically. "Home maybe?"

"Eh," Jane said with a half-shrug. He didn't see much point. After all, he'd be just as alone at home as he was in his garret. At least garrets were conducive to loneliness and introspection; they almost demanded a corresponding sense of melancholy really. Hell, he even had a book of poetry to read now. The stereotypical picture of traditional isolation of the eccentric artistic temperament was basically complete. He supposed he needed a ragged looking blanket of some indeterminate colour for it to be perfect.

Or it would have been but for the woman standing across the room from him holding a box of checkers of all things. Jane decided to ignore that for now. "Awfully hypocritical of you wouldn't you say Lisbon?" he asked her instead. "After all, you tell me to go home yet you're still here. I think this is the point in the conversation where I compare the two of us to various dark-coloured cooking equipment."

Lisbon sent him a mild glare. "I did go home Jane," she told him. "As you well know. Those amazing powers of observation that you're always telling me about have no doubt picked up on the fact that I've changed my clothes."

"You could have those in your office," Jane said stubbornly, though he knew she didn't. Lisbon wouldn't bother to keep clothes that casual in her office, an extra change of clothes for a work emergency certainly, but not blue jeans and an (admittedly quite form-fitting) red t-shirt.

"Nope," Lisbon said blithely. "Went home, had dinner, spilled tomato sauce all over my shirt, hence the change of clothes. Got bored, came here."

"Because nothing cures boredom like the non-stop action of the CBI building at nine on a Thursday night," Jane said sarcastically.

"Like I said, I thought you might be here," Lisbon replied, ignoring the sarcasm.

"You did say that," Jane agreed. "Now the question is, why did you want me?" he asked, realizing far too late that the loaded question might lead them into a minefield.

"I wanted to play checkers," Lisbon said easily. The translation, 'I was worried about you. Wanted to check in,' went unsaid.

Jane let her get away with it, unwilling to bring any undue attention to the issue either. "I had noticed your unexpected cargo," he admitted.

"Amazing powers of observation that you have and all," Lisbon teased.

Jane smirked, letting her have her little verbal victory. "Why?" he asked.

"Why not?" Lisbon countered with a shrug. "I like checkers."

"Well, yes Lisbon, I figured that," Jane admitted. "But I was curious as to why checkers specifically out of all the games possible."

"I'm sure you have your theories," Lisbon deflected.

Jane noticed the deflection, but he'd never been any good at passing down a challenge, even one that was only implied. He studied her. She was doing her damnedest to exude perfect calm, but the subtle flickering of her eyes and the slight shifting her weight from side to side gave her away. Lisbon was nervous. Why he wasn't sure. Surely she didn't think he'd order her out of his attic. Jane took a moment to send a mental prayer to the universe that things between them hadn't deteriorated that far. But then why was Lisbon nervous about checkers? Afraid that he'd discover some secret importance to the game that she didn't want him to? Or simply afraid that she'd make fun? Though the fact that she didn't want him to make fun implied that checkers, for whatever reason, was special to her. Probably because of something from her childhood, given the game in question. Jane's face softened slightly. Lisbon didn't have that many positive associations from her childhood. This was probably a carefully-guarded secret, though not a particularly profound one. Just a memory that she didn't want tarnished.

Jane felt the now-familiar surge of affection this woman seemed to produce in him at the most unexpected times.

He pushed it aside since he still needed an answer to her question. One that was close enough to the truth that she wouldn't be suspicious, but not something that would make her defensive.

Instead of answering right away Jane grinned, and removed two checkers, one of each colour, from the box in front of them. He put his hands behind his back and then held them out to her a second later, a checker concealed in each fist. Lisbon tapped his right hand, apparently unperturbed by his silence. Jane opened his fist to show her the red checker. "You picked checkers because it's nostalgic," he told her suddenly.

Lisbon glanced at him quickly before busying herself setting up the board.

"You were watching something on television," Jane continued. "Something that reminded you of when you were growing up. A favourite children's movie maybe? Or was it a television show. No, it was a movie," he decided watching her face. "Then you glanced towards that cupboard in your living room where you keep your odd little selection of board games, and all at once you wanted to play one. Funny how the mind makes those little associations, isn't it? From there it's a fairly straightforward path to find me. After all, how many people do you know who're free to play checkers with no warnings on a weekday evening?" he asked.

"Other than my crazy consultant who's taken to hiding in the attic of the building we work in?" Lisbon asked pointedly.

Jane shrugged. "It's quiet," he explained. "Peaceful. Helps me think. As to why you chose checkers specifically, and not one of your other board games," Jane added, neatly turning the conversation back to her. "I'd guess that it's always been your favourite," he admitted. "Or was there another reason?" he asked when, to his amusement, he saw the hint of a triumphant smirk on her face.

Lisbon let the smirk bloom into a genuine smile for a moment. "Well," she told him. "Some games I discounted right away for various reasons. Too complicated, too much work, too long…"

"So no Monopoly then?" Jane supplied.

"No," she agreed. "Then there are the games that you have an obvious advantage at."

"Given that I can read body language for a living, I have an obvious advantage in pretty much any gave that's not entirely based on chance," Jane couldn't help pointing out.

Lisbon rolled her eyes. "Some are worse than others though," she told him. "Like Clue I'd imagine. And after seeing you play chess a few weeks ago there was no way I was bringing that one."

"That's a shame," Jane said distractedly. "I think I'd like to play chess with you, Lisbon."

Lisbon's brow crinkled in confusion, "Maybe some other time then," she said finally. "Anyway, I didn't want anything too complicated, but I also didn't want to play Candyland. Nephews," she said, answeringJane's unasked question. "And you're right; I used to play checkers a fair bit. Used to be pretty good actually, so I thought I wouldn't mind playing again."

"Which is really why you picked it," Jane surmised. "You picked a game you're familiar with because you thought it might give you an edge and you might beat me."

"Yeah, pretty much," Lisbon admitted cheerfully.

"You know that when I beat you now, it'll just be all the more irritating for you," Jane told her, sending her his best smile, all charm and confidence.

Lisbon raised her eyebrows, not at all irritated by his arrogance. Probably because she'd expected it, "Who says you're going to beat me?" she asked calmly.

"I would point out that you've already mentioned my excellent chess-playing skills," Jane said smoothly, to needle her a little.

"I don't know how to tell you this Jane, but checkers and chess are different games," Lisbon replied, speaking just a little more slowly, as one instinctively does when one feels they are speaking to someone of significantly lower intelligence. "You do know it's only the board that's the same right?" she asked in the same condescending tone.

"Funny," Jane said lazily, not insulted in the slightest.

"I thought so," Lisbon told him brightly, all traces of condescension gone from her voice.

"You don't think that using the same board conveys a degree of similarity on the two games?" Jane asked.

Lisbon shrugged. "Maybe," she admitted. "But I don't think checkers is a game you need to spend years trying to master, unlike chess. Less variety in the way you can move. More straightforward."

Jane shrugged and put on his best poker face. "You've obviously never heard of the great checkers strategists."

Lisbon scoffed. "Because they don't exist," she said dismissively.

"Sure they do," Jane told her. "They came out of the great surge in checkers playing that occured right around the turn of the century."

"No they didn't," Lisbon replied as she compulsively straightened a few of her checkers.

"I'm shocked that you doubt me Lisbon," Jane said innocently, trying to hit just the right amount of 'shock' in his tone.

"I'll bet you are," she muttered, though it was still easily audible.

Jane continued on as if he hadn't heard her. "Well, there's the Rozanski gambit," he mused. "Where you play aggressively on the right side of the board, leaving the left untouched. Or the more commonly used Meyerson stratagem, where you try and creep up the sides as much as possible, so as to give your opponent as few opportunities to jump your man as possible, forcing them to sacrifice players to lure you out. Then there's the Toscano opening…"

Lisbon was smiling widely at this point. "Oh cut the crap Jane," she interrupted. "I know you're making this up."

Jane looked at her, his face almost completely blank. "Am I?" he asked.

"Yeah," she nodded.

"Lisbon, I'll have you know that the opening in question involves moving the checkers near the edge towards the opposite side of the board," he told her, sincerity positively dripping from each syllable.

"You're lying," Lisbon said with a smile and a shake of her head. "I know you are."

"Because you can tell when I do that now?" Jane asked sceptically.

"Yeah," she said again.

Jane didn't like how she said it. Calmly. Like she knew something he didn't. "If you say so," was all he said.

"I know so," she shot back. "Now set up your checkers." Jane obediently began to set out the black pieces on the board. "Toscano opening…" Lisbon muttered in mock exasperation, as she fished the last red checker out of the box and put it in the corner square.

After that their conversation tapered off and they played in silence for a while. Jane found himself watching her hands as she moved the red checkers around the board. Always very deliberate, calm, never rushed. She almost never picked up a checker unless she planned to move it. He wondered if she'd always played like that, or if it was a technique she was employing because she was playing with him and was worried about giving too much away.

She needn't have worried. He wasn't in the mood to get in her head and figure out her strategy down to every last move just to exasperate her. He was enjoying the quiet of her company too much for that. Though he did wonder if he started watching her face instead of her hands, if he actually took the time to really analyze her, would he beat her more often? He wasn't sure. She hadn't been lying before when she'd said she was pretty good at checkers. Truthfully, she was really quite good. Which now that Jane was thinking about it, didn't surprise him in the slightest. Lisbon had always had a knack for strategy and for out-manoeuvring people. Only unlike him, her targets very rarely realized what she'd done. It's what made her so good at the politics of her job (the early days of Hightower's reign at the CBI notwithstanding).

The two of them were evenly matched. Neither one of them won all the time. He'd lost track now of who'd won how many games, or even how many they'd played (though he suspects that if he bothered to ask she could tell him). He doesn't care anyway. He's comforted by watching the board and the checkers moving around it. Anything approaching relaxed has been a novel situation these days; he doesn't want to upset the balance. Instead he thinks about the game itself. It's a game of strategy, but in a way it's almost blessedly uncomplicated. There's only a few different ways you can move, and only a few rules.

What little of Lisbon's strategy Jane has noticed seems to suit her. While he rushes in with a strong offense she lies quietly in wait. More than once she's set him up to force him to jump her pieces so that, when he's done she can jump even more of his. For all that she's done it multiple times now, he never seems to realize until it's too late. Then, all of a sudden he glances down at the board and realizes that while he will be able to capture one of her men, in turn she'll take about three of his. And he knows that if he glances at her face he'll see that pleased little smile he loves so much.

(The one that Jane won't admit he misses when it's gone from his life for too long.)

Sometimes he'll indulge her (and himself), when he realizes what's coming. And he'll meet her eyes and see her smile, his eyes twinkling when her grin turns into a quiet laugh.

Suddenly Lisbon jumped quickly over two of his men. "King me!" she demanded happily.

Jane let out a small groan, but did as she asked. It didn't look like he'll be winning this particular round.

He turned his attention back to the board in front of him. Obviously he needed to plan his next move carefully if he wanted to have even a hope of a comeback.

But was no use. His attention kept wondering.

After a few minutes, Jane went back to watching this quiet manipulator force him into jumping over the men she wanted him to. Oh, he put up a good fight, but in the end she was in charge of this round, not him.

Which was oddly appropriate given what had happened on the most recent case.

Really, couldn't a man decide he wanted to take a case off? A single case, was that too much to ask? He'd promised to help her with the next one. And he needed to start distancing himself from her.

Jane frowned. But if he needed to distance himself then why hadn't he gone farther than the attic of the CBI? He could have left the city if he'd wanted to. And why had he allowed her the chance to try and manipulate him into working the case? He told her he owed her a shot at convincing him, but since when did he, the great Patrick Jane, care about that sort of thing? He bent the rules all the time, whenever he wanted to. Even with her. {Though maybe not at the same frequency as anybody else.) Either way, if he'd been genuinely serious about doing nothing, then willingly giving her the opportunity to change his mind had been pure foolishness.

Jane's hand stilled over the checker he'd been planning on moving.

Had he wanted her to manipulate him? To back him into a corner and force him to work with her? Oh, it was all very well and good to say that he needed to distance himself from Teresa Lisbon, that what he was doing he was doing for her own good (and it was for her own good), but he also knew he didn't want to lose her. He didn't want her to go too far. Hell, he'd already admitted that sitting here playing checkers of all things was the most relaxed he'd been in weeks.

His fingers tightened around the spiky edges of the checker he still held.

He'd wanted her to chase him. He'd known she would. Well, he'd been pretty sure at least. She was Lisbon, she looked after lost sheep. And he was the epitome of a lost sheep, even if he was a bit of a black one.

He'd kept his distance over the summer while he'd watched as the fire she'd lost over the course of a difficult year had returned, all the while fretting over the timing. Was her renewed energy a result of the lack of a particularly irritating colleague in her personal life, or was it due to the two week vacation Hightower'd basically forced her to take?

Jane didn't like it. Not that Lisbon seemed happier; he was pleased about that. She'd had a truly terrible year and he'd been worried. She deserved to be happy. And while he knew that him disappearing from her life would probably make things easier, he didn't want his absence to also make her more content.

Had he made Lisbon chase him a bit just to feel wanted? He definitely wanted his boss to want him around, wanted to know that he helped her. And Jane was relieved that she apparently did. She'd even taken him aside and yelled at him about being part of a family and how that meant not betraying them. He'd wondered whether she'd been referring to more than one type of betrayal. Still, he was relieved that she'd bothered to show up to check on him late at night. He knew that her visit was as much for him as it was for her, maybe more so.

And it seemed that he'd always wanted her to make him play right into her hands.

Jane glanced down at the checker board, consciously noticing for the first time that the square where he'd been about to place his checker would allow her to force him to jump one of her red checkers, before she jumped another two of his. Smiling to himself Jane placed the checker exactly where he'd always intended to.

Lisbon, having seen his hesitation, met his eyes in obvious confusion that he'd still walked right into her trap. He could see the silent question in them, 'Are you letting me win?' Jane shook his head almost involuntarily. He wasn't. It was more complicated than that. Instead he touched her arm gently, the first time he'd touched her since she'd walked into the attic. (He was very careful about touching her now.)

"It's your turn," he said quietly.

He wanted to touch her. He always did. But he didn't really dare. He doesn't think he has that right anymore. He hurt her, pushed her away. And now he can't get close. Not at least until they find out what happened to Kristina Frye. So even though he's feeling more positive emotion right now than he's felt in the past four months, Jane resists the urge to flip up the checkerboard and gather her into his arms. That'll get them nowhere. And still nothing will be defined. Which is what got them into trouble even before Red John.

And he can't define anything right now. Especially not the woman across from him. Any time he tries to define anything it doesn't end well.

Instead he decides to just continue to play, waiting to see if she'll call him out for letting him win, or if she'll understand that he's finally acknowledging to himself what he's been doing.

Lisbon held his eyes for a few seconds. Then she nodded once, and proceeded to set up the inevitable double-jump.

Two moves later, after she'd claimed her two plastic victims, Lisbon spoke. "I used to play checkers with my grandfather," she told him.

Jane's attention shifted sharply from her hands to her face. But she had her face deliberately turned downwards as she pretended to study the board. "Yeah?" he said after a minute. "That must have been nice."

"It was," she agreed. "We always played some when I was younger, but we started to play more when I was twelve."

Jane's hand faltered mid-move. The significance of the year wasn't lost on him.

"My father was starting to…" Lisbon said in a voice that was deceptively calm. Frustrated with herself she broke off and ran a hand through her hair. "Well, we were getting by you know? But we all had to pitch in a lot, me especially since I was the oldest. I guess my grandfather thought it would be good for me to get me out of the house from time to time. So sometimes when my brothers and I were visiting my grandparents, the two of us went to the park and we played checkers. He listened to me talk about how my week had been going, school, my friends. You know, the usual."

Jane grinned, he could see it in his mind's eye. A teenage Teresa Lisbon (and he'd seen a picture once in her apartment so he knew what that looked like) sitting across from an elderly gentleman with interested and kind eyes. He was unbelievably glad that she'd had those moments of calm in what had to have otherwise been a fairly awful adolescence. "That's nice Lisbon," he told her..

She shrugged. "I've always found checkers soothing," she said. "Grandpa died when I was twenty-two, only a few years after his only son," she explained. "Playing this game always makes me think of him."

Jane winced. The woman really hadn't been able to catch a break had she? "I'm sorry," he told her sincerely.

"He was well into his eighties at that point," Lisbon replied. Her tone an attempt to be dismissive, to convey that she'd gotten over it, that it hadn't been a big deal. That she'd been used to it after the deaths of her parents, even if her grandfather had been one of the few good people left in her life.

That's when Jane realized what she'd been offering when she'd come to him with her slightly ratty checker box. She'd been offering him an opportunity to share her safe haven, something that had always soothed her when the rest of her life was in chaos. He felt another sudden surge of affection for her and almost before he'd realized it, he'd opened his mouth.

"I learned to play checkers at the State Fair grounds," he told her, pleased when the slightly wistful look on her face changed to an interested smile. "Talk about your learning curve," he remarked. "I used to win a bit. Then the old timer's stopped toying with me," he admitted.

"Then what happened?" Lisbon asked.

"I got my ass handed to me on a plate," Jane said cheerfully.

She chuckled.

"Yeah," he said. "That' when I switched to poker," he confided. "More to read on your opponents face in that game. I started spending my evenings at various poker tables. Made some good money too. The carnies caught on pretty quick and I was warned away with some not-so-subtle threats. That's when I turned to the locals. Course, they always threatened me too, but we moved on so quickly that it didn't matter. And I've always been better at cards then most board games."

"I'm not surprised," Lisbon said dryly.

"Yeah, my Dad didn't like it so much," Jane admitted. "Said it made some of the potential customers mad. 'Course my Dad didn't like a lot of what I did 'round that time. Guess it was okay for me to fleece our customers for money, as long as it was done in a way where he got the lions share," Jane said bitterly. "To be fair I did get myself into a sticky situation or two." The consultant frowned. He hadn't meant to tell her that. He also hadn't meant to share any information about his previous life. Lisbon knew about his father already, bits and pieces at least. But she didn't need to hear about his less than scrupulous early-adulthood. DIdn't need more reason to think poorly of him. She never seemed to judge, but it was always a concern. Why had he told her? He almost laughed at the question.

Because it was Lisbon. She had a way of making him talk to her before he even realized what was happening. Because like her strategy at checkers, this was Lisbon's way. Forcing him to play her game, but subtly, so he doesn't know he was doing it. She probably didn't realize what she was doing half the time either. By the time either of them caught on it was always too late. She'd already forced him to interact with her, up in his previously lonely attic.

And as was often the case where she was concerned, he was her more-than-willing pawn.

"I wonder if anyone manages to make it through their adolescence on good terms with their parents," Lisbon mused.

Jane shrugged. "We could ask Van Pelt," he suggested. "She seems to get along well with her father."

"I'll leave you to do that," Lisbon told him. "You can get back to me."

"Okay," he agreed.

Then Lisbon frowned, something obviously just occurring to her. "If you don't like checkers then why didn't you say so before?" she demanded. "We've been playing for over an hour Jane," Lisbon exclaimed after glancing at her watch. "Just because I came up here wanting to play didn't mean…"

Jane could hear the distress in her voice. He reached out and linked his fingers around her wrist almost without realizing. "You didn't," he assured her.

"You don't have to feel obligated," she started to tell him.

But Jane shook his head and interrupted her a second time. "I didn't sit here and play checkers with you for over an hour because I felt obligated, Lisbon," he said in exasperation.

"Then why?" she asked.

"Because you wanted to," he replied quietly.

"I know I wanted to!" she snapped. "That's exactly my point."

"No," Jane said gripping her wrist more tightly, causing her to meet his eyes. "I played because you…" Because you came and found me. Because I wanted to spend time with you, he thought to himself. Why couldn't he say it though? Instead he looked desperately into her eyes and ran his fingers back and forth across her pulse.

He saw the change in her eyes the second she realized what he was getting at. The surprise came first, then the surge of affection, followed by the slightest hint of regret.

Jane sent her a wry smile. "I may even be re-thinking my opinion of checkers," he admitted finally.

"Really?" she asked, clearly hopeful.

"It has a calming effect," he explained

"Okay," she said with a soft smile.

Jane nodded, well aware (as she was now), that this wouldn't be the last game of the evening. "I'm hungry," he said suddenly. "You?"

Lisbon glanced at him in surprise. "You brought snacks up here?" she wondered, her amusement obvious.

"Of course," he told her. "I have chocolate bars in case of emergency."

"Ooh, do you have Crispy Crunch?" she asked excitedly.

Jane nodded, expecting the question. "Yup," he said as grabbed a Crispy Crunch and a Mars bar from his secret stash. He also nearly banged his against a nearby bookshelf. He didn't even like Crispy Crunch. Yet he stocked his garret with Lisbon's favourite chocolate bar.

Why?

Because he'd known she'd find her way up here eventually. And when she did he'd wanted her to stay.

How exactly had he managed to delude himself for this long was a mystery. He'd stocked the attic with her favourite snacks weeks ago. It was an easy thing to do. He knew a lot of things about Lisbon after all.

He'd learned a lot during their period of… closeness.

Jane wondered how the two of them managed to skip right past friendship. He knew enough facts about her to be considered her friend. More than enough really. But he keeps the things he knows about her arranged in his head like they're a grocery list of information not a picture of a person. Why doesn't he put them together? If he ever wanted to pursue any kind of a relationship with her, even a friendship (which he doesn't want to do because of Red John), then it seems to him that that would be the way to go about it. Lisbon doesn't trust easily, not even him. So start with a genuine friendship then go from there. Not keep everything he knows about her in separate lists and boxes so as to keep his distance.

Although, he was becoming more and more sure she wouldn't let him push her away. He didn't even know if he'd let himself do that. Not two minutes ago he'd accidentally make her think that she'd forced herself in somewhere she wasn't wanted. Instead of capitalizing on that he'd hastened to assure her that the opposite was true.

He was hopeless.

Jane took a breath. "Lisbon?"

"Hm?"

"Can we at least finish this one game before you go?" Jane asked.

"Sure," Lisbon agreed with an audible sigh of relief.

Jane grinned and turned back to the board, well aware that despite what he'd said, this wouldn't be their last game of the evening. After all, he was sure when they were done one of them would point out that one more game wouldn't hurt. Eventually they'd both give up the pretence and just play as long as they wanted.

He also knew that one of them would somehow make sure that checkers in the attic became a regular thing. Probably Lisbon, she seemed to be better at that kind of manipulation. Though if she ran out of ideas Jane was sure he could come up with something ridiculous (and probably mildly disruptive) that would have the same effect.

It might be fun.

Jane started watching Lisbon's hands move across the board, as calm and steady as ever. When he glanced at her face he saw the slightest hint of a grin.

And why not? Lisbon'd altered the scene on the top floor of the CBI for the evening, just as she'd wanted to. A lonely soul moping in a garret gave way to two friends playing checkers in an attic.

As Jane moved yet another black checker diagonally along the board he wondered just how long he'd been craving her company.

He could only hope that part of her was still craving his.

xxxxx

The End

xxxxx

Not sure what ep will get the next post-ep. Like I said, I am planning a bit of an arc though.