Can't carry it with you

Disclaimer: Don't own anything. Lyrics by Dave Matthews Band.

Rating: T

Spoiler: 3.03.

A/N: Thank you to Five Roses for the quick beta job. This is written for forthecoast, because she's the Yin to my Yang, and for hardly loquacious for consistently keeping me intrigued with both her observations and her stories.

xxx

"Oh now it's here I build my soul
I swear, friend, don't you know
I'm bare boned and crazy for you…"

He knows this is a bad idea, knows he shouldn't be this reckless and give into his impulses, but tonight calls for change. Tonight, the solitude of the attic isn't enough to settle his nerves, and his beloved couch isn't enough to relax the tension in his muscles.

So instead, he finds himself standing ambivalently outside a home he's been to maybe twice before, feeling the first true inkling of uncertainty as his fingers curl tightly around the paper bag in his hand.

He really shouldn't be here, for so many reasons. It's not even remotely amusing how consciously he's breaking his own rules. Although disobedience sort of falls in line with his general way of thinking, this particular boundary, carefully mapped out, should be respected, honored, because as it was reaffirmed just two nights prior, it really is a matter of life or death.

Kristina and he had one bad date and spent a few days arguing over a case and she paid dearly for keeping company with him, for agreeing to dinner and trying to get to know him.

Conversely, he's worked with the team for years, has grown to care for them, especially their boss. Regardless of how much he has tried to school himself into maintaining a shield of imperviousness against her, Lisbon has managed to slip past his defenses more than once, and especially of late, since she's made a conscious effort not to let him wallow in self pity and guilt.

He finds himself liking it more than he should, because deep down inside, past the layers of fear and pure hatred that he can never really part with until he's done what he's set out to do, he can't deny looking forward to the few stolen moments he allows himself each day to revel in her company. To bask in her concern, in the way she's grown accustomed to calling him out in front of the team, because she realizes he has a harder time lying to people who consider him family.

He should be positively livid with her for manipulating him so tactfully, but instead he feels a twinge of misplaced pride, a flare of affection when he thinks about how easily she has outmaneuvered him, not even realizing the extent to which she gives him a purpose to at least take care of himself half way, shower, change, and eat.

For all those reasons and more, he needs to stay away from her, sublimate any feelings he may have for Lisbon, because if Red John abducted Kristina, there's not a shadow of a doubt that he set his sights on the senior agent a long time ago. The last thing Jane needs is to provoke the killer further, by giving him any clue as to the depth of his fondness for the brunette.

A cold rush of fear nearly paralyzes him as he contemplates the possibility that Red John could be watching him right this second. He clenches his fist ever so subtly, the familiar hatred returning as he shuts his eyes, remembering how close he was to the man who had destroyed his life, taken his family. He knows he's being at least a little paranoid, but his sensibility is no match for the raw anger that drives him, sending his thoughts into unchartered territory.

He doesn't want anyone else hurt because of him, especially not Lisbon. However, the unequivocal decision comes far too late. Jane doesn't even have a moment to step off her porch, when the front door is flung open unexpectedly, revealing a surprised-looking Lisbon, in the middle of putting on her leather jacket.

Immediately, a new wave of guilt washes over him as Jane realizes she must have been going out for the night, and judging by the flicker of concern in her eye, he knows her plans are about to be derailed.

"Hey." She peers at him uncertainly as if trying to deduce his motive. Then her expression softens and she leans against the door frame, watching him curiously.

"Hi."

He returns the sentiment cautiously, and she senses it, but tries her best to conceal it, as if she should always be strong and impassive in his presence. It unnerves him, but he says nothing. It's only logical that she would prevent any of her own vulnerabilities from slipping out, thinking it best that between the two of them, she should be the infallible one.

What she can't possibly know though is that he'd prefer she show emotion at least once in a while, and not just concern for him, but what she really thinks about everything. He remembers the thrill coursing through him when she confronted him about pulling away a few weeks ago. She'd intimated as much on several occasions but that was the first time she'd really let her guard down, fought with fire, determination, not unemotional, perfunctory responses.

Jane only realizes they haven't said anything in a few minutes and he's still on her porch when Lisbon says his name, breaking his reverie. He meets her eye and instinctively knows the words are at the tip of her tongue, but he's grateful when she doesn't ask what he's doing here, because he doesn't really know.

"Want to come in?" she asks instead, as nonchalantly as possible.

Grateful, Jane flashes a wide smile, repairing the cracks in his façade and brushing past her as he steps inside; warmth rushes through him as he catches a whiff of her perfume.

For a few moments, Jane stands silent in Lisbon's living room while she closes the door behind her and watches him observing his surroundings. Jane feels her eyes on him, but doesn't turn around as he catalogues all the little additions to the space since he's been there last; nearly a year ago if his calculations are accurate.

"You've, uh, unpacked some boxes, I see."

He turns to look at her then, a half smile playing on his lips when he notices her shrug a little uncomfortably, as if the full implications of inviting him into her home have finally settled in.

But it only lasts a moment, before she's composed again, guarded.

"Yeah, I had some time a few weeks ago."

Jane nods, not pressing her further as he sets the bag he's been holding down on the coffee table, suddenly feeling at a loss as to what to do next. It seems as though lately, she's been dictating the roles in their interaction and this time is no different.

Taking the initiative, Lisbon slides her jacket off and heads into the kitchen, flipping on the light switch in the process.

"Do you want something to drink?" she calls to him, turning the faucet on to fill the kettle with water.

"I think I have some of that weird tea you like."

"Thinking about me, I see," he teases wryly from the living room, finally feeling comfortable enough to take his suit jacket off and fold it neatly over the back of the loveseat.

"Hardly," Lisbon scoffs, sending him a mock glare over her shoulder as she retrieves the box of tea lurking in the back of her near empty cupboard. "It's just that ever since you practically forced me into trying one of those fruit infused teas, I've realized they help me sleep sometimes."

Her voice tapers off towards the end, but Jane doesn't probe her further yet again, realizing it wouldn't be fair of him to ask her to elaborate when he's been less than forthcoming with her about nearly everything lately. Sometimes, he finds himself wondering when she'll stop pushing him to talk. An inexplicable sense of dread fills him every time the thought crosses his mind, so he pushes it aside, opting instead to keep the conversation light.

"Perfect choice of tea, Lisbon. It will go great with what I brought," he announces almost too cheerfully, pulling something that looks suspiciously like the Tupperware she left at work out of the paper bag.

"Is that my-?" Her voice trails off as she glances warily at him, but Jane merely waves her off and approaches the kitchen, popping the top off the plastic container.

"Yes, it's your container. You left it at work a couple of days ago and I needed to put the brownies into something, so…"

"Brownies?" Lisbon raises an eyebrow, tone betraying her curiosity.

"With walnuts." Jane nods, grinning as Lisbon steps closer to peer inside the container. Her skepticism doesn't go unnoticed and he lets out an exaggerated sigh.

"Seriously, how stupid would I be to come over if I wanted to poison you? You know I'd be far more discreet than that," he teases with an impish glint in his eye and a broad smile, both meant to disguise what's really troubling him.

Lisbon is fully aware of this, but plays along, plucking a chocolate square from the container and taking a tentative bite. Jane watches as she chews thoughtfully, attempting to conceal her enjoyment, but failing miserably.

"You made these?" The inquiry is accompanied by the kettle whistling behind her and Lisbon doesn't wait for his response. Turning around, she takes two packets out of the box and then two mugs, instinctively heading towards the fridge before recalling that Jane doesn't drink this specific blend with milk.

Jane doesn't notice though, eyes fixed on the container as he confirms that he does in fact bake from time to time.

"I didn't know that," Lisbon admits, still not looking at him, "I mean I knew you cooked."

Her voice trails off as she carefully picks up the kettle and pours steaming hot water into two identical mugs. In her preoccupation, she doesn't become aware of the silence in the kitchen until Jane breaks it.

"I used to do it a lot…before."

Lisbon stills immediately, pausing in mid-pour as she feels a tiny knot lodge beneath her ribs. Given everything that's happened recently, she's grown accustomed to Jane dropping bits and pieces of his past into their conversation, but in this instance, it's not what he reveals but the uncertainty in his tone that makes her heart stammer just a little.

Biting her lip, she hesitates for merely a second before turning around and looking at him. He's seated at her kitchen table, sleeves rolled up, shoulders slightly hunched as he peers into the container as if it has all the answers.

She's only seen him quite this helpless on a handful of occasions, all Red John related, and while this one is no exception given what happened just days prior, she can tell the guilt is weighing him down even more than usual. A surge of irritation rushes through her, but it quickly dissolves into worry when Jane looks up, attempting to rebuild his mask, and not doing it very successfully.

Given his recent persistent attempts to distance himself, Lisbon is even more taken aback by how unguarded he is in this moment, how much he lets her see. As much as she should be afraid that with his troubled stare, he's reading just as much into her as she is into him, Lisbon doesn't flinch when Jane's expression changes from pensive to curious and his lips twitch upward.

Instead, she keeps her eyes on him and only moves when he smiles and says,

"The tea's getting cold, Lisbon."

She smirks then, finding his deflection transparent, but doesn't argue, carrying the two green mugs to the table and pushing the one without sugar towards Jane. As he thanks her for it and proceeds to dunk the tea bag in and out several times, she leans back in her chair thoughtfully, lacing her fingers around the mug and relishing in the warmth seeping through the ceramic.

"Jane…"

She doesn't even realize she's spoken until he fixes his eyes on her, the same curiosity reflected in them as before, except more guarded this time, more vigilant about not revealing himself.

"I know we're probably both tired of me asking this, but are you sure you're okay?"

His jaw sets just slightly, but Lisbon notices. She doesn't back down though, the earlier flutter of irritation returning again. She knows he wants to avoid this topic altogether, but it's bad enough he barely eats and sleeps. If not for anything else, she doesn't need Hightower blaming her for Jane fainting on the job.

(Except it's more than that, and she knows it.)

"Was it the brownies that somehow tipped you off?" Jane leans forward, smiling at her as he takes a sip of tea. His smile reaches his eyes, but it's merely a convincing façade, because she sees the doubt lurking beneath, a quiet desperation, him silently begging her to leave it alone. However, as much as she wants to respect his request, her growing frustration with him wins.

"No, but maybe the fact that you showed up at my apartment out of nowhere did."

She doesn't miss the flicker of hurt in his eyes or the way he visibly tenses, as if he's been figured out. But at least he's reacting in a genuine way, devoid of his usually well placed armor, so she doesn't regret it, even if a tiny bit of guilt nicks at her.

"You didn't have to let me in," Jane says all of a sudden, setting his cup down sharply on the table. The sound reverberates off the kitchen walls, but Lisbon refuses to back down, was anticipating that it wouldn't be easy getting Jane to talk, especially not since Kristina's reappearance.

"Don't turn this around on me." She straightens, sliding to the edge of her seat as she rests her elbows on the table.

Conversely, Jane reclines back, amusement visible in his expression, and Lisbon senses that he's one step away from saying something particularly scathing to ward her off, so she braces herself.

But Jane says nothing, even though he desperately wants to. A part of him wants to use everything in his arsenal to push her away, wipe that determined expression off her face, and make her understand what she's so stubbornly ignoring.

It is his fault Kristina was taken, even without Red John implying as much, he would have known that; therefore, he doesn't deserve anyone's concern, especially not Lisbon's. Yet, the other part of him, the one that brought him here, wants nothing more than her gentle touch and soothing words, and that desire commits him to silence, leaves him watching as Lisbon contemplates what to say next.

In spite of everything, he secretly loves when she's so tenacious. The forest green of her iris still betrays that caring, mothering side of her, but the rest of her is like blazing fire, determination through and through. Sometimes, it even adds color to her cheeks, accentuating the smattering of freckles on her face, especially the one on her lower lip.

It's moments like these, when he craves the freedom to lean in and tell her just how breathtaking she really is, that make him regret his past the most. There is little nowadays that can elicit such strong emotion from him, but she does, and if he were smarter he'd leave her apartment right this second and never come back.

Except he's not…and Jane's not the least bit surprised. He never could protect any of the women in his life.

Lost in contemplation, Jane doesn't notice Lisbon watching him archly, but she is and though she can't decipher them, she's keeping track of all the emotions crossing his face. In the last few months, she's seen the same mix of guilt and self loathing that's in his eyes right now, but it doesn't deter her, if anything it encourages her to speak.

"Look, I can't imagine that finding Kristina like that is easy for you."

Jane's reaction is instantaneous. As though piling on another layer of armor, he narrows his eyes at her, menacingly leaning forward.

"You know if you are going to say something, Lisbon, at least don't dance around it. Say exactly what you're thinking."

The words bother her more than they should. She folds her arms and leans back, frowning at him. She wants to tell him that she's been nothing but honest with him, especially lately, but even the direct approach doesn't seem to work. The last time she elicited some sort of honest reaction from him was during the Russo case, and even then he'd tried to play it down and force her into a hug. He'd blatantly lied to her about being okay, has done so on several occasions since then, and a part of her would be amused by his current suggestion if his actions didn't hurt so damn much.

"You want me to be straight with you?"

"Yes." He nods, revealing his own tenacity. Lisbon can see that he's almost prepared for battle and she is suddenly a little apprehensive, wondering if it's worth bringing to light these issues given how much discomfort they may cause him and how defensively he may react.

It's too late for doubts now though, she ultimately decides. She'd rather have their relationship ruined than have Jane walk around with the weight of the world on his shoulders; she knows it will break him if he continues like this, but maybe, if she can say something to change his mind…

"I think you're blaming yourself for what happened to Kristina and I want you to stop it."

Lisbon expects a variety of responses from him, but the way he stares at her calmly and answers just as swiftly catches her a bit off guard, alerting her to the fact that he's probably anticipated this all along.

"Why?" Jane asks simply. "Why should I stop?"

The fact that he doesn't deny it would usually give Lisbon pause, but not this time. This time it only spurs her on.

"Because, Jane, you're playing right into his hands, doing exactly what he expects you to do."

There's no question about who she's referring to and Jane tenses further in response, features hardening in a way that strips him of any kindness in his expression, and any amusement.

"Don't go there, Lisbon," he warns sternly, not a hint of levity in his tone.

"And why not?" she counters, so very tired of hearing a different version of the same phrase for months now.

"You asked me to be straight with you," she adds, hands sliding from her torso to rest on the table, "and that's what I'm doing."

For a moment, the tension is so thick between them, Lisbon almost considers apologizing, but once he has absorbed the initial shock of her words, Jane's facial expression returns to that blank, almost bemused mask it was before and she bites the inside of her cheek to keep from lashing out at him. She doesn't let him talk, fearing that he'll derail her train of thought by properly riling her up so he doesn't have to face the truth in her words, acknowledge what she's really saying.

"You said yourself that Red John led us to Kristina for a reason. Can't you see that he wants you to feel guilt, wants you to blame yourself for all this so that you isolate yourself even more from everyone around you?"

Her voice rises with every word until the question echoes in the space between them, only exacerbating the resulting silence. Her words hit him hard, further dismantling his carefully constructed façade. As expected, she's forcing him to confront the very issues he was hoping to escape, at least for tonight, and it makes him angrier than he had anticipated, leaves him more unhinged and impulsive.

He doesn't even think, adrenaline guiding him as he leans forward yet again, as if warning Lisbon of an impending attack.

"I know you don't like that I'm choosing to spend more time away from the team, from you, but I am surprised that you would use Red John to change my mind."

The way he speaks so calmly and the sheer absurdity of what he's implying both point to this being just an elaborate ruse, a way for him to deflect the conversation away from himself and poke holes in her reasoning. Yet knowing this doesn't stop the prickle of hurt she unexpectedly feels at the possibility that he may actually think so disparagingly of her.

Still, she refuses to shy away from this, refuses to buckle beneath the weight of some theory Jane has concocted in order to keep her at arm's length.

"You and I both know I wouldn't do something like that," she says icily instead, letting him know that despite ignoring his well-placed barb, she isn't pleased with him, "so I'm going to ignore that-…"

"That's very generous of you," Jane can't help snapping back and Lisbon exhales deeply, fingers instinctively reaching up to massage her temple – an action almost synonymous with any conversation with her incorrigible consultant.

Jane can see the growing strain his rebuttals are placing on her, but he can no more quell his resistance to her claims than he can ignore the stammering in his chest every time he considers the possibility that she's just as vulnerable to Red John as everyone else around him, if not more.

"Look, I know it's easy for you to feel responsible for everything that Red John does, especially because of Kristina's recent acquaintance with you-…"

Almost against his will, Jane finds himself reading her facial expression in this moment, if only to gauge her true feelings towards the redhead. But Lisbon gives nothing away, and the fierce way she protects herself tells him more than he bargained for. It also makes him smile, which he tries to conceal, causing Lisbon to pause before continuing.

"But you need to at least acknowledge the fact that Kristina didn't make things easier on herself by succumbing to her arrogance, and even if that only solidified Red John's plans to somehow get to you, you can't continue living like this. You're letting him win."

She says the last part quietly, almost as though she's just as afraid of the implications as he is, and the tiny inkling of vulnerability beneath her resolute façade strips Jane of the anger he intended to fire back at her.

Still, regardless of how utterly exhausted he is and how deeply her words resonate with him, the little bit of drive left won't let Jane back down without an argument, never mind how weak it is.

"It's not that easy, Lisbon."

"It's not," she agrees, feeling a tiny spark of triumph that he isn't denying that what she says may possibly be true, "but nothing ever is. It's not an excuse for what you're doing."

She pushes him just a little further, testing the boundaries, and when he doesn't respond in any way, she shifts, one hand circling around her mug while the other slides closer to Jane's arm.

"You need to show him that he hasn't succeeded in breaking you down, you need to fight back."

She reaches out, intending to offer him a rare physical show of support, but Jane immediately recoils at her words, the optimism in them tasting far too artificial for him.

"What for?" he finally snaps and Lisbon watches in apprehension as the last vestiges of honesty flee from his eyes, replaced by an icy determination that chills her to the bone.

"And how do you propose I do that? Hmm?" His tone takes on a mocking edge and her natural defenses go up, well aware that she's touched a nerve.

"By not living like you're half dead." She levels his gaze, dark green eyes fixed on him unwaveringly and Jane feels the familiar surge of frustration returning, gripping him like a vice.

"And I presume that entails spending more time with the unit?"

"Well I was going to suggest shaving at least every other day, but yes, it wouldn't kill you to stay for a case-closed pizza or two." Her lips twitch upward unconsciously but Jane isn't amused.

The chair screeches against the linoleum as he stands up, bracing himself against the edge of table as he looks at her.

"How can you be so blinkered about this? Don't you realize that if Red John got to Kristina, he can get to anyone? Especially people I spend the most time with? People I happen to care about?"

Lisbon registers his admission, but whereas even six months ago it would have left her a bit speechless, she knows that in a way Jane's distancing himself from her and the unit has only reinforced how deeply he cares for all of them. So instead of his words giving her pause, they motivate her to challenge his logic.

She pushes off her chair, mirroring his stance until they're almost face to face. She now sees more clearly the storm brewing beneath the surface, a muted fire turning Jane's eyes into an almost violet shade, as he tries to reel in his indignation.

"I do realize that, Jane. But you need to realize that the team isn't like Kristina. I'm not like Kristina."

Jane flinches ever so slightly, prompting Lisbon to wonder if she's revealed too much, if he's reading into the subtext here, trying to finally unearth her opinion of the supposed psychic. Lisbon knows that it frustrates Jane that he can't get a clear understanding of her feelings towards Frye, never could, but whether it's because he wants her approval or for some other reason, she isn't sure.

Either way, given Kristina's mental and physical state, her opinion of the redhead is obsolete. Instead of thinking about it, Lisbon focuses on Jane. A shiver of apprehension skitters down her spine when he doesn't respond right away, and for the first time tonight she questions her own motives, wondering why she phrased her comment the way she did.

Jane seems to catch on and whether it's from exhaustion or from genuine curiosity, he exhales and asks, "What do you mean by that?"

"What I mean is none of us plan to provoke Red John any time soon and we're all cops, Jane. We know how to protect ourselves."

"You think you being a cop is going to stop Red John?" he fires back, a tinge of incredulity in his voice. A line of goose bumps breaks out on her skin when she realizes what he's implying, but she doesn't say anything, can't.

"I think we both know that hasn't been an issue in the past," Jane adds petulantly just a second later, but seeing the flash of shock on Lisbon's face sobers him immediately, washing away all his anger and frustration and impulsiveness; replacing it with regret.

"Lisbon, I didn't mean-…"

But she stops him, steely green gaze fixed on him as she folds her arms over her chest again, lips pressed into a thin line before she speaks.

"You're right."

He admires her resolve, the way she refuses to buckle under his words even though they both know she hadn't expected him to mention what happened to Bosco and his team so tactlessly.

The twinge of guilt returns, but it's more of a dull ache now, his constant companion, something he's almost gotten used to. However, it's the subtle flicker of hurt that Lisbon tries to conceal so well that he can't get used to, probably never will.

"I wish I wasn't," he murmurs, looking down at the table. When he does hazard a glance at her though, the urge to reach out and touch her is so strong, his hand flinches at his side, another wave of remorse sweeping through him as the silence settles between them.

Now that the adrenaline has worn off, Jane is once again reminded of the reason why he'd shown up at Lisbon's doorstep tonight. The simple need for her company, to be in her presence got somehow overshadowed by a disagreement that seems so frivolous now. Jane realizes he has to do something, anything to show her that he values her, appreciates her, even if she infuriates him with her stubbornness.

"You know what will make these brownies taste even better?" He breaks the silence gingerly, and it must reflect in his tone, because Lisbon looks up right away, perhaps a little surprised by the careful way he addresses her.

It's certainly not enough to scab over the wound he has inadvertently reopened, but it gives her an inkling of hope, the possibility that beneath all his layers of armor and misguided notions, Jane really does care about people other than himself.

"What?" she finally breathes, body relaxing slightly as she sinks back into her chair, feeling the cooled side of her mug.

"Ten seconds in the microwave."

He flashes her one of his megawatt grins then and she shakes her head, smiling in spite of herself as he unexpectedly grabs the container of treats and proceeds to snoop through her cupboards in search of plates.

It's only when his back is turned to her and she's taken a sip of lukewarm tea that Lisbon dares to speak.

"This doesn't change anything, you know."

Jane doesn't still at her words, simply pops a plate of brownies into the microwave and turns around, reclining against the counter.

"I'm still going to hound you when I think you're lying and I'm still going to call you out in front of everyone when I think you're pulling away and I'm still going to tease you if I notice more than two days' worth of stubble on your face."

Jane smiles wistfully at her, eyes sweeping over her until she looks up, a flicker of surprise in her eye at the amount of affection he's openly displaying. However, he doesn't stop or look away, indulging in a rare exchange that he thinks both of them need, even if neither will admit it.

"I know you will."

He says quietly, meaningfully, and notices that despite her firm stare, the way she clutches the mug betrays her nerves.

"It would just be a little easier if you met me halfway sometimes," she adds quickly, probably to conceal her discomfort at the turn of their conversation, but Jane doesn't say anything about it, instead watches as she gets up abruptly and retrieves their dessert.

Lisbon pauses at the counter, as if contemplating saying something else, but Jane can see her ultimately deciding not to. They both know this would be the perfect opportunity for her to put him on the spot, demand that he be fair and stop distancing himself from her and the team, and Jane isn't sure why she doesn't.

Lisbon, however, is perfectly aware that any further discussion will likely push him over the edge. Somehow, standing so close to him and seeing the fatigue clearly displayed on his face, quells her desire to continue probing him. Instead, she finds that she wants nothing more than to take him away from all the grief he's had to face lately.

So instead of saying anything, she grabs a few extra napkins off the table along with her mug and walks out of the kitchen.

"C'mon," she mutters on her way into the living room, "there must be some television program or movie on at this hour that you can mock."

Jane can do nothing but smile and follow her.

It's only a half hour later, during a commercial that the thought occurs to him and he suddenly grabs the remote and mutes the sound, prompting Lisbon to raise her eyebrow at him.

"Before, when I first showed up, you were planning on going out. Where were you going?"

He's very direct and incredibly nosy, which usually warrants a frown and an eye roll from Lisbon, but this time a foreign mix of emotions crosses her face, ending with a wry smile and a tilting of her head.

"Well, I wasn't going to let you spend another night alone in that god awful drafty attic, even if you amuse yourself with electronic toys made for 10 year olds."

The tease is meant to deflect and for a moment, it does.

"Say what you will, but those helicopters are an incredibly satisfying way to pass the time."

"I'm sure they are," Lisbon smirks, a hint of a smile on her lips. She leans over to pick up the remote again, but his touch halts her.

Jane sees the uncertainty in her eye, but doesn't stop, hand inching closer to the dark, chestnut waves splayed over her shoulder. He twines a strand around his finger, momentarily sidetracked by its softness before he's reeled in by her gaze.

He's suddenly overcome with a yearning to reach out and run his thumb over that solitary freckle on her lip but instead he merely smiles, whispering even though there's no need.

"Thank you, Lisbon."

Recognition passes between them and Jane knows he doesn't have to elaborate. She knows that it's not just about tonight, but about everything. It scares him that as attuned as he is to other people, she's the one most deeply attuned to him. It's both his greatest source of irritation and his greatest comfort; it's also why he can't seem to truly pull away from her.

"Always," Lisbon gives him one long searching look, before turning back to the TV.

And despite his deepest misgivings, Jane finds himself hoping that she's telling the truth.

xxx