I'm back! Sorry, I know that some of you are waiting for these stories and I'm sorry that it took me all this time to publish again. I translated this story and Afterglow04 corrected it (thank you!).
14. True false statement
"… therefore we'll need two of our agents, obviously a man and a woman, who'll need to pose as a married couple. Lisbon, I'll let you handle this, but don't forget that Van Pelt has already been identified as a CBI agent in this case so you're the only one left to take on the part of the wife."
"Ma'am, maybe there's another option we could try, the killer is-"
"Do you see another possibility right now?"
"All right. Then let's get to work."
On that final note, Madeleine Hightower briskly left the room, leaving Lisbon and her team to handle the details of the undercover operation. She looked around at the other agents gathered around her and knew she could trust them to successfully close this case. Provided that Jane could keep himself from intervening, of course.
"Okay, one of you will have to pretend to be my husband, so-"
"I'll do it!" An enthusiastic voice carried across the bullpen and three pairs of amused eyes turned around towards the worn, brown leather couch.
"…Cho, you've already displayed your acting skills on previous occasions, I think you'll make a perfect husband," Lisbon continued, ignoring the interruption. "Do you own a ring that could pass for a wedding band?"
"I don't think so, no," Cho answered.
"Aha!" Jane exclaimed, rising off the couch to approach the others. "Now, it would be so much easier if you would just let me do it, Lisbon, since I already have a wedding ring."
"I'll find something you can use," Lisbon informed Cho, once again not acknowledging Jane's intrusion.
"If you don't mind my asking, boss, why can't it be Jane?" the Asian agent spoke up. "After all, he does already look the part and we all know he's good at fooling people. And it would allow him to be near the suspects and observe their behaviour."
Lisbon reluctantly turned towards Jane only to be greeted by one of his radiant, triumphant smiles. He nodded his thanks to Cho and raised an eyebrow in Lisbon's direction.
"No, Cho, I'm sure you'll do great. It'll be you and me," she declared with a note of finality in her voice before turning around and heading for her office.
"Oh, come on, Lisbon! I quite like the idea of marrying you for a day," Jane called out. "Would a real proposal do the trick? Because in that case…Lisbon, will you marry me?"
The senior agent turned on her heel, an exasperated look on her face.
"Now do you see why it can't be Jane, Cho?"
The hint of a smirk crossed her second-in-command's face as he witnessed Jane's childish antics and Lisbon marched off to her office, closing the door behind her.
"Hey, I tried," Cho said, turning towards Jane.
"It's true, he did defend you well," Van Pelt agreed with a smile.
"Yes, thank you Cho, but unfortunately I can now no longer ignore that her heart belongs to you," Jane replied in a mock-dramatic voice. "All of my efforts have clearly been in vain..."
"You could try just telling her, you know. What are you afraid of? I mean, worst that could happen is she punches you in the face," Cho remarked with his usual detached air of seriousness.
Jane pried his eyes away from Lisbon's door as the question seemed to wake him from his trance-like state. He momentarily stared at Cho, no longer convinced his colleague was merely playing around.
"What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about the fact that you're attracted to Lisbon," Cho stated. "You can hide it behind various acts all you want, but it's obviously not working so you might want to try a more direct approach."
"Who would have ever picked Cho to be the romantic of the group?" Rigsby cut in while letting out a laugh. "Have you been watching too many romantic comedies lately?"
"Don't laugh, Wayne," Van Pelt retorted. "Cho's got a point."
"Whoa, hey, let's not get ahead of ourselves here. I don't look at Lisbon that way," Jane stated with a casual laugh.
Cho leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms in front of his chest and staring Jane down with a deadpan look. Van Pelt simply rolled her eyes and didn't even try to hide the grin forming on her lips while Rigsby continued to stare at the scene before him with amusement evident in his gaze.
"Even Wayne eventually gathered up the courage to tell me how he felt, Jane," Van Pelt observed. "You should give it a try."
"Yeah, you should," Rigsby concurred.
"Are you all out of your minds? I don't want to go out with Lisbon!" Jane repeated incredulously, but he could see the others shooting him sceptical looks.
"You spend most of your time teasing her," Van Pelt began.
"You have a tendency to be overprotective where she's concerned," Rigsby added.
"And the fact that you're attempting to convince us of your indifference by laughing it off and claiming that we're crazy, only confirms that you're embarrassed we tackled this particular subject," Cho finished.
Jane stared at each of his colleagues in turn, trying to find some kind of loophole; a way around their reasoning. When he came up short and failed to provide a solid counter-argument, the disbelieving smile slowly faded away.
"Lisbon and I are friends," he finally said.
"Jane!" Lisbon's voice suddenly bellowed across the office.
"Your friend wants to see you," Van Pelt pointed out, smiling.
"Let's go. It's now or never, we can be here for support if you need us," Rigsby joined in with a similarly pleased expression.
"Oh, please," Jane replied, heading for Lisbon's office. "Someone must have spiked the coffee this morning, that's the only reasonable explanation for your madness."
He wandered into the next room while closing the door behind him, all the while trying to figure out why the others had suddenly decided to confront him about his relationship with Lisbon.
"MacNeil is making a formal complaint against the CBI," Lisbon said, oblivious to his inner musings. "I just wanted to inform you that it's in your own interest to be careful when he comes over to talk to us. Hightower scheduled an appointment for this afternoon and I fully expect you to offer him an apology. And I don't care what you say, but you'd better make it sound sincere."
"Okay," he replied distractedly.
"Really?" Her eyebrows shot up in surprise.
"I'm sorry," he shook himself out of his reverie. "You were saying?"
"Jane, is everything okay?" Lisbon frowned and stood up. "Why do your three apostles keep staring at us?"
"Oh, that…" the consultant smiled and glanced out the side window. "That would be because they're expecting me to make some kind of declaration."
"Some kind of what?"
"Apparently, most people seem to be convinced that I have a romantic interest in you and they...well, it's Van Pelt's opinion that I tease you a little too much, Rigsby claims I'm too overprotective and Cho practically forced me to declare my undying love for you until you called me in here and provided an escape. So I believe they're wondering if I'm actually asking you out, or if I'm telling you that they pressured me into doing it, which by the way is fairly absurd."
Jane had recounted the story in one breath and now redirected his gaze at Lisbon who seemed to be at a loss for words, her mouth slightly open as she gaped at him.
"I'm not sure I understood all of that," she regrouped and continued hesitantly, "but just to be clear...are you asking me out?"
"I don't know," he replied honestly. "Though if I did, you'd probably turn me down because we work together," he stated.
Lisbon visibly swallowed and carefully sat back down, trying to disguise how her knees suddenly felt rather weak.
"Would you accept?" Jane repeated softly.
"Just don't ask," Lisbon simply responded. "Please."
"Because you'd be embarrassed about having to refuse or because you'd be tempted to accept the offer and you don't think that's a good idea?" He enquired curiously.
Lisbon averted her eyes, seemingly very interested in the files on her desk, but when a faint blush graced her cheeks, Jane had all the answer he needed.
"Oh…I see," he said, unable to keep from smiling at her. "Well, not to worry, I won't proposition you. And about this guy, MacNeil, I can't promise anything, but I'll do my best."
"Right, so you won't do anything. No apologies."
"A favour for a favour, Lisbon. I won't ask you out as long as you won't force me to offer up unjustified apologies."
Lisbon raised her hands in front of her, an exasperated sign of surrender.
"All right," she sighed. "Deal."
She chanced a glance at Jane.
"You can go, you know. I mean…if you want to, I'm not throwing you out."
"Yea, I'll go, and next time you and I talk - most likely in a couple of minutes - everything will be back to normal," Jane assured her. "It's all their fault anyway," he added while pointing at the rest of the team, who were still throwing surreptitious looks in their direction.
"I know," Lisbon answered.
"That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy this conversation, though," Jane smiled, half amused and still half embarrassed, but Lisbon finally cracked a smile.
The blonde walked out of her office to leave her in peace and casually strolled through the bullpen en route to his couch.
"So?" Rigsby asked, always the first to voice his curiosity.
"You were right," Jane declared. "I did need to talk to her about that. And we thought about it and discussed it...," he went on, already smiling at the prospect of his next statement, "but we've decided not to walk down that road again; it was far too complicated last time…"
He hid his grin as he stretched on his beloved piece of furniture, silently laughing at the imagined expression on Rigsby's face.
Nevertheless, he was aware that he'd need to start thinking of some valid excuses in case his colleagues ever felt the need to bring up his attraction to Lisbon again.
Because he was quite convinced he wouldn't get off that easily next time.