xxxxx

A/N: For AlamoGirl for Christmas. Not sure if this is exactly what you wanted, but I hope it's close. The muse was being unbelievably stubborn writing this, as you know. I hope you enjoy it. Honestly, I'm not sure it's exactly what the original prompt requested, but given that the original prompt was also a paragraph or so of rambling, I'm hoping you'll forgive me.

It's changed over time from what I thought it would be yet somehow managed to be remarkably similar and yet also remarkably different from what I was always picturing. Which I realize makes no sense.

In it Jane does think his thinky-thoughts, but, well, I suspect he doesn't know his own mind as well as he thinks he does.

In other words, everyone should feel free to read between the lines like mad.

xxxxx

Obliquely Expressive

xxxxx

Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.

-Demosthenes

xxxxx

Some people think the holiday season has one of the highest rates of suicide and depression.

It's apparently not actually true, but I can see why people think it might be.

You have all these people, wanting to be happy and cheerful, desperate really. Desperate to celebrate, desperate to be happy. Or just wanting something special, something that means something. Something to be a break from their normal lives. It sounds like a great idea in a way. But if you don't have anyone, or if you (or someone close to you) have unreasonable expectations weighing you down, you could crash. And the crash will be all the harder for the disappointment. Sadly, it's an urban myth that makes sense.

That's what comes of too much hope.

Doesn't affect me of course.

I love the excesses of the holiday season, the (often) gaudy decorations, the sheer commercialization of everything, the greed, the gluttony, the sheer insanity all around.

But then again, I also don't care.

I don't expect to be more than superficially happy over the holiday season because I'm almost never more than superficially happy anyway. No need to get my hopes up for something earth-shattering when you know it won't come. And I don't have to worry about disappointing someone I care about for similar reasons.

My holiday season requirements are pretty much limited to buying someone a gift in the CBI secret Santa. Which is hardly taxing.

So I get to lay here on my couch and enjoy watching Van Pelt try and get the rest of us in a festive mood. Apparently young Grace has decided that the CBI bullpen isn't nearly festive enough. She's been inspired by the latest case. Heh. Guess there's nothing like a murdered Santa Claus to get you in the holiday spirit.

Still, the only one of us Grace seems to have actually infected is Rigsby. Cho's indifferent and I'm faking a nap. To be completely honest Rigsby's mostly only involved because the poor sod's still half-pining after his beautiful colleague like a puppy dog. He's starting to hide it better than he used to, maybe even starting to get over a little. But he still can't help trying to do little things to make her happy. At the moment he's trying to help her hang some sort of festive garland around the doorway. She had him putting up bows earlier much to his dismay (though she did pacify him by placing a handful of candy canes on his desk).

Sadly Rigsby doesn't seem to have the artistic sense Grace is after. Watching her criticizing his attempts to get everything straight is well worth the price of admission. I can tell Cho thinks so too from the way his eyes keep darting towards the pair in the doorway.

Poor Rigsby. He's gone and dropped the garland again. Here comes another scolding.

The things some men will do for the right kind of woman.

Not that I can blame him, or any of our sex really. We're hard-wired that way. A pretty girl walking by turns our heads. Most men simply don't know how to control themselves enough to rise up against the instinctive response.

I find that, like a lot of things, it's all about controlling biofeedback loops…

"How's it going out here?"

I glanced lazily in Lisbon's direction, too used to controlling my physical reactions (via the aforementioned biofeedback loops) to show my surprise at the woman's sudden appearance. She could be awfully sneaky when she wanted to. Today her tone was quiet, almost conspiratorial. She was watching her two subordinates as well, though they hadn't noticed her yet. Obviously she'd snuck in the other door of the bullpen, probably specifically for the pleasure of watching the two of them fumble around for a few moments without having to explain herself. Why she worried about that sort of thing was beyond me. But I didn't ask; secret amusement looked good on her.

"Rigsby's dropped that garland twice now," I informed her after a second. There was obviously no point in pretending I hadn't been watching the entire process. "I think Van Pelt might lose her patience with him any second now."

"I don't see you jumping up to help him," Lisbon murmured, defending her agent.

"I'm busy," I murmured back.

"Doing what?" she asked with a quiet laugh.

"Mulling things over," I told her cheerfully. "You know, like the wine. It's almost festive, Lisbon."

For some reason she didn't seem convinced. "We don't even have a case," she reminded me.

"We do have unsolved cold cases," I reminded her, impressed when I realized her reflexive flinch at any illusion to Red John had become barely noticeable. She really was getting better at disguising herself. It should have frightened me, but out here in the bullpen in the middle of the day it just didn't. "And Cho's not helping either," I added.

"Cho has actual work to do," she replied. "He's finishing up a report that I need to officially close the Fisher case. And I have to say, your solitary mulling isn't producing anything tangible at the moment."

"Well, you're not helping either," I pointed out, not at all put out by her rationale.

"I just got here," she explained easily. "I may just head over there and lend a hand in a minute. After all, it's a nice idea, putting up a few decorations up, just to get people in a holiday mood." To my surprise she looked almost… wistful. Practical, prickly, wounded Teresa Lisbon – despite what she may say – was just as desperate for a hint of holiday magic as anyone else. It was unexpected, among other things. Then, as quickly as the softer expression appeared on her face it was gone, replaced by the usual neutral efficiency. "After all, we see enough stuff in this job, could be good for morale," she justified with a shrug.

"When did you become Ms. Holiday spirit?" I asked curiously. Even with the brief change in her expression it was hard to tell if she was genuinely happy and/or excited about the prospect of decorations or if she just thought they'd be good for productivity, a sort of team-bonding exercise if you will. I needed more data before I made a firm decision one way or the other. "I thought you were against the over-commercialization of this holiday."

"Actually, I said I didn't really see the point of the cult of Santa Claus," she reminded me. "And I don't see the point in turning a room into something that's so covered in tinsel it looks like it belongs in a children's Christmas special. But there's nothing wrong with putting up a few decorations. It reminds people of nice things. We could all use that from time to time."

I smiled patronizingly at her. I found it was sometimes easier to conceal actual genuine emotion with a slightly insincere smile than behind any other kind of expression. That's half the battle involved in concealing your thoughts after all, learning the best ways to successfully deflect and disguise. "Still trying to get a little bit of the magic back I see Lisbon," I observed, ensuring that I inserted just a hint of superiority into my tone of voice. Too much sarcasm and she'd be suspicious, too little and she might not notice.

She definitely noticed. Her jaw tightened momentarily, but she shook it off. "I seem to recall you sounding surprised at my lack of Christmas spirit a few days ago," she said lightly. "And besides, you enjoyed yourself with the Santa case. Don't try and deny it."

I shrugged, well as well as well as one could shrug while lying on a couch. After all, as I said it was easy to take pleasure in the little things when none of the things that should have been more important mattered much. "Yes, but I always enjoy excesses of human foolishness and artifice," I reminded her. "And that's at least half of what the Christmas season is all about after all." Between the foolish religious aspects and the commercialism, the hymns and the saccharine songs the whole thing was an absolutely absurd dichotomy, especially if you weren't invested in any of it and were observing it from an outsider's perspective.

Obviously for some people it meant something, but for others it could be a whole lot of fakery.

Lisbon's lips turned down into a slight frown before she could stop them. "There's more to Christmas than that Jane," she admonished quietly.

"Like peace on earth and goodwill towards men?" I asked cheerfully.

Lisbon rolled her eyes, "Yes," she told me with a smile. "Or barring that, finding time to celebrate with… well, what you have. With people that matter."

"Ah," I said sceptically. There was no need to remind her that I wouldn't be celebrating. She'd already realized that; it was why she'd faltered. Bringing more attention to her mistake would just make her concerned. Far better to just brush it off. I knew that Lisbon worried, and that she cared. She was more protective than a bear guarding its cubs, but I wasn't quite comfortable with that. I didn't know exactly what she wanted from me, or even what she hoped to achieve. I had thought I did, had thought we had an understanding of sorts. Turns out I was wrong and I didn't know her as well as I thought.

That made her dangerous.

"I'm probably going to visit my brothers on Boxing Day," Lisbon told me, after an awkward pause.

"That should be fun," I told her sincerely, if rather bluntly. What could I say? We both knew I had nothing else to contribute. I had no family to visit. It did no good to dwell on it.

Apparently Lisbon thought I was mocking her though. She scowled. "Well, I'm looking forward to it," she muttered as she turned to leave.

But I didn't want her to leave right away, not angry. I reached out and lightly grabbed her wrist. She turned in irritation. The familiar expression almost made me smile. I refrained though, didn't want her to think I was laughing at her. "I didn't mean that," I explained. "I didn't," I repeated, when she looked sceptical. "I'm sure your family will be very happy to see you." Of course they would. Who wouldn't be? "It's good that you're going to see them," I assured her. "You should keep in touch with family."

"Maybe you should follow your own advice and catch up with old friends of your own," Lisbon suggested tentatively.

I shrugged awkwardly again. "Nah," I told her with a wave of my hand. "I've already seen Danny, Pete and Sam once this year. Any more than that and I suspect someone'll end up in jail or in the hospital."

Lisbon rolled her eyes. "Suit yourself, but I'm going to go help Van Pelt and Rigsby with the garlands," she said just as Rigsby dropped the offending decoration for the third time.

"Most help you can probably give is to make Rigsby sit down before he hurts himself," I muttered.

Lisbon swatted me playfully. "Don't be cruel," she said. "At least he's trying."

I raised an eyebrow before half-closing my eyes again as she walked over to help her two junior agents. I wasn't being cruel about Rigsby. I was being realistic. It was obvious the agent was getting frustrated by Van Pelt's demands. Best to let Lisbon take over his role for a few minutes while he took a break. That wasn't cruel; it was practical.

Cruel was something entirely different. Something I was very familiar with.

It was after all, the pathway of revenge.

I'd meant it when I'd said that if you really wanted revenge that you had to be hard, cold. It was part of the reason I didn't have anyone this holiday season, and part of the reason I wasn't too put out by it. I couldn't let people get too close. I had to play the long con.

It was just the way of the world.

And it was one of the many things I couldn't tell the petite woman who'd now taken charge of garland-hanging in the bullpen. She'd done it subtly, almost politely, but she'd done it all the same. Lisbon'd just insinuated herself into the situation and quietly taken the reins. I'd noticed it was a particular talent of hers. Noticed it almost immediately the first time I saw her 'working with' local law enforcement, actually. She'd weedle her way in, sometimes bluntly, sometimes almost sinuously, but before the locals knew what was happening she was calling all the shots.

It was a thing of beauty really.

I particularly enjoyed it when the locals were patronizing or sexist. The inevitable smackdown was one of those little things that I took the most pleasure in. Really, if anyone was stupid enough to call a woman like Teresa Lisbon "little lady" then they deserved what they got. I'd have put the man in his place myself (maybe make him think his uniform smell like a dead rat, that was always a classic), but it was so much more satisfying to just sit back and let Lisbon do it.

Of course, usually the woman was just so competent that the cops were wrapped around her little finger while they had no idea how it'd happened or even what was going on. Not a one of them.

Lisbon might not even be aware how much power she wielded herself. After all, I was able to manipulate Virgil into helping me find Red John's mole in the CBI, in part, by using his desire to protect her. Bosco'd had the same urge. So did Rigsby and Cho to a certain extent. It was a predictable pattern of the men in her life.

And one even I wasn't completely immune to. I want to help her too.

Which is why I have to be cruel.

And why she has to have no idea how cruel I can be. She can't know about my little motto, or she'll keep even closer watch than she does now. And she'll rush in guns blazing at the crucial moment, and try to stop me from getting my revenge.

Not only might she succeed, but she also might get hurt. And it's not her fight. It's mine.

Red John is mine.

So I play the long con. The really long con.

It's troubling that Lisbon's apparently not even entertaining the possibility that revenge can sometimes work splendidly. That she's not even considering helping me. I assumed she was going to eventually. After all, we both know she did for Bosco.

Apparently not for me though.

Hmph.

So I show her lightness and games. And I hide my notebooks on Blake, my illegal gun, my singularity of purpose.

Though she's becoming irritatingly perceptive.

Which means I have to wear a mask.

Always.

Okay, almost always. It's necessary though. I may need her help with Red John, but I need to stay in control of the situation. Not her, whatever she thinks.

Fortunately I have a few allies. For one, Madeleine helps me. Lisbon may be my antagonist in many ways, always trying to exert some sort of influence over me (an influence I occasionally allow). But Madeleine is my enabler. Lisbon may naively think that she can prevent me from my goal, but it's comforting to know that I'm almost guaranteed to have Madeleine onside. After all, if I can convince her to overlook a crime committed in this very building, against my own supervisor's advice, and having to do with revenge, a subject have a particular interest in, then it's almost certain Madeleine Hightower won't be any kind of effective barrier in my quest for revenge.

Especially since she continuously impedes Lisbon's own attempts to stand in my way.

Almost makes me wonder if Madeleine will ever realize that she often backs the wrong horse in this race. She doesn't appreciate Lisbon's worth (though it's blatantly obvious to any fool who can be bothered to open their eyes and look). But Madeleine seems blind to anything that doesn't jive with her original opinions of people. After all, shebelieved me when I told her I could change the mind of a criminal. She believed that Todd, a complete sociopath, was truly apologetic and had changed his mind when it came to revenge. For all her general perception when it comes to her employees, Madeleine does have one rather large blind spot where I'm concerned, something that I admit I rather encourage.

Lisbon, on the other hand, is rarely fooled. She knows when I'm up to something. Rarely knows exactly what, but she knows something's up all the same.

And she's started using it to her advantage. When her boss lets her.

Though I don't' always mind that. Squaring off against Lisbon can be fun.

She's clever, even if she's charmingly noble and naïve.

And I shouldn't underestimate her. She's proven her own cunning more than once. It's why I went to Minelli instead. Besides, Red John almost certainly won't think to try and trace anything back to him.

Lisbon has unexpected talents.

I watched her critically as she examined the newly hung garland, hands on her hips, back straight. The woman really had almost perfect posture. And I could tell by the way she was holding herself that she wasn't entirely satisfied with the arrangement.

"Jane! Make yourself useful," she called without turning around.

"Yes Lisbon?" I asked, sitting up and stretching.

"Get over here and tell me if this garland is straight," she ordered. "Or better yet, stay back there and do it."

I smiled to myself but did as I was told, walking until I was directly opposite the doorway and making a big show of examining the garland. I knew what she was doing of course, it was her way of getting me involved, of forcing me to interact with the team and preventing me from what she referred to as "brooding." I'd humour her this time, to make her happy.

I turned to Cho," What do you think Cho?" I asked.

Cho glanced up, "Looks fine," he said after a moment.

I saw Rigsby's lips turn up in amusement. Lisbon scowled slightly, "I know it looks fine," she said. "But for some reason it still looks a bit off to me. Maybe I'm going crazy though."

I watched Van Pelt go and stand behind her. "No, I see it too boss," the redhead said after a moment. "Something just doesn't look…"

"Quite right," Lisbon finished absently.

"Yeah," Van Pelt agreed.

Rigsby looked terrified that the two women might have him taking the whole thing down any minute now and just start over. I decided to rescue him. "Actually," I said slowly. "I don't think it's the garland," I informed them. "I think it's the bows. The one on the right in particular."

If anything Rigsby's mental panic almost seemed to get worse upon hearing that. I grinned, couldn't help it. "Here," I said, walking over. "I'll fix it."

I removed the right bow and retied it so that it was relatively symmetrical with the one on the left. Then borrowing Rigsby's chair, I managed to hang it straight. Brushing my hands together I got down after ensuring it was firmly fixed. "There," I said cheerfully.

"You fixed it," Lisbon said, sounding shocked.

I turned towards her in mock irritation, "Now need to sound so surprised woman," I told her.

"Sorry," she replied.

"No you're not," I told her with a grin.

She shrugged.

"Thanks Jane!" Van Pelt said with a smile. "Now it's perfect."

"I do what I can," I told her modestly.

Lisbon smirked. "So you say," she muttered. "Well, thanks for your help Jane," she said smiling more genuinely.

I shrugged self-consciously. "Meh. Anyway, the decorations look lovely ladies," I told them. "Even with Rigsby's influence."

"He wasn't too bad," Van Pelt said loyally, her former irritation at her colleague forgotten in her pleasure at the completed display.

Lisbon patted Rigsby on the arm absently as she turned around. "Well," she said. "I suppose I should all get back to work now."

The other two nodded, making noises of assent before sitting back down at their desks slowly. Lisbon shoved her hands in her pockets and moved to leave. A second later she'd ducked back into the bullpen to grab a candy-cane from Rigsby's desk. The two exchanged a smirk before she actually left. I watched her go for a second before lying back down on my couch.

She was a puzzle that one.

I closed my eyes again, drowning out the sounds of the bullpen and Cho and Rigsby's discussion about the merits of various Christmas deserts, choosing instead to focus on her.

Maybe I should consider getting a Christmas bow of my own, to stick on the end of my desk. She'd like that. It'd make her smile. And it was in my best interests to stay on her good side.

I knew she considered me a type of family. It was obvious the way she treated me, and she'd also told me directly. I appreciated the sentiment, really I did. I don't want to dismiss the thought completely, but it's rather a lost cause if you will. She considered me as a type of family and I considered her…

Well, it didn't matter.

I was emotionless and cruel. I was distant.

Not physically distance of course, her office wasn't that far away. But in many other respects.

It takes a lot of work to get it right. I need to deceive her to kill Red John, I need to keep my distance so that Red John doesn't kill her. I need to pretend that Red John is absolutely everything me, enough that it doesn't become obvious that I have something else. Because then that someone else will become the obvious next target. Christina Frye taught me that. Though Lisbon disagrees with my assessment.

She always does where Red John is concerned.

It's absolutely endearing.

And makes it all the more necessary to do exactly as I told Todd I would, to conceal what was in my heart.

To save her.

After all, if Red John died tomorrow, she'd be all that was left that mattered. I don't want anything to happen to her.

Some people are afraid to get close to others because they're terrified of opening up to another person. Too afraid their heart will be shattered by rejection. I'm afraid my (potential) chosen companion will be brutally murdered. Much better excuse not to start a relationship.

Not that it matters, because I deliberately don't have any prospects.

Lisbon would argue against that entire line of logic as well, but like I said, Lisbon is almost endearingly naïve. Or not naïve, maybe just endearingly optimistic.

So I'm conning her, them. All of them. Because I have to. I have to be cruel and conceal what I know from everybody.

Still, I think I will get that bow.

xxxxx

It took her longer to notice than I thought it would.

Van Pelt laughed the second she walked into the bullpen. Cho smirked, Rigsby made a sarcastic comment.

But the first time Lisbon flew through the bullpen post-garland hanging she didn't even notice.

Of course, she was walking at top speed, half-reading a file and barking instructions about testimony over her shoulder to Rigsby and Cho. I suppose that may have had something to do with it.

Still, it was several hours before she was back.

The unit was nearly empty; I was on my way back from the break room with a cup of tea, and there she was, perched on my couch like she owned it, legs crossed, settled comfortably into the corner, grinning at me.

"You're back from your meeting with the deputy AG?" I asked neutrally. "I trust I'm still the bane of his existence?"

"Of course," Lisbon said cheerfully.

"Hmm," I hummed. It wasn't my fault really; lawyers were so much fun to annoy. It couldn't be helped.

I settled down beside her. She was still grinning at me, her expression superior.

"What?" I asked.

"You know what," she told me.

I did, but admitting it wouldn't be any fun. "I don't," I assured her. "I can think of any number of things that might cause you to feel superior."

"I don't feel superior!" she objected, aghast.

"I think you do," I countered. "I can see it on your face Lisbon."

"Oh you cannot!" she told me. "Because I don't feel superior."

"Sure you don't."

Lisbon clenched her jaw ever so briefly, before remembering that she had a good reason to be amused. "A wreath?" she asked.

"Oh, that!" I said, pretending to just remember the large evergreen wreath now hanging off the end of my couch. It occurred to me while I was at the store that the green would suit my couch better than a single bow.

"Yes, that," Lisbon smirked. "Feeling a little festive after all, were we?"

I shrugged. "Nothing wrong with a few decorations, as I recall. Thought I'd help liven up the place," I informed her.

"M-hm."

Now she was definitely feeling superior. "Besides, how do you know it wasn't Van Pelt?" I asked.

"You just told me," she reminded me.

I smirked, "So I did."

"And Van Pelt would never touch your couch without your permission," she added.

"True."

"It looks nice, Jane," Lisbon told me softly.

I shrugged my shoulders again. "Thought I may as well get into the spirit of things," I admitted.

"I'm glad," she told me. "It's nice seeing you getting involved in things."

I sighed, "Lisbon…"

"What?" she asked, all defensive innocence. "I was just saying..."

"Hmmm," I replied.

"Santa Bernard would have been proud," Lisbon said with half a laugh.

I smirked, "Probably would have thought I didn't go far enough. He'd almost certainly demand at the very least a string of lights across the top of the couch."

Lisbon eyed the couch critically. "Maybe don't go that far," she said. "This is, after all, a man who covered every available surface in his apartment with Christmas decorations."

"So maybe not the best model for interior decorating," I concluded. "Even during the holidays."

"Maybe not," Lisbon agreed.

"You know, Bernard's sponsor, May, said something interesting to me when we were walking in the park," I remarked idly.

"What's that," Lisbon asked, resting her elbow on the arm of the couch and turning towards me to give me her full attention.

I angled myself to face her more directly, figuring we were settling in for conversation now. "She said that Santa was another form of addiction for Bernard. And she wondered whether any time anything cuts you off from experiencing your life is unhealthy."

"What did you tell her?" Lisbon prompted, when I didn't say anything else.

"That I wouldn't know," I replied. "Wrong person to ask."

"And now you're asking me my opinion?" she pressed.

"No," I lied blithely, knowing she was watching me and so resisting the urge to glance sidelong at her to check her reaction. "Just making conversation, sharing a little interesting anecdote."

"Ah," Lisbon said dryly. "Well, in the interest of keeping the conversation going, I'd have to say I agree with her."

"Really?" I asked.

"Yes. Addictions aren't healthy Jane," Lisbon continued softly. "Even when the person who has them thinks they're manageable, because they're often the last person to realize when they're not."

I sighed. She'd know. But I didn't mention that. After all, I'd prefer if she'd continue actually speaking for the rest of the conversation. "So you think Bernard should have gotten help, joined some sort of Santa support group?" I asked.

"I think he should have considered it, especially if all he had was the suit, if he was continuously trying to recreate the only happy time in his life, something that happened years before. It sounds like he was trying to literally become someone else, to become Santa, and to leave Bernard behind. That doesn't sound healthy to me," Lisbon said.

"But in that situation who's the real Bernard then?" I asked her. "What's the mask? If Bernard becomes Santa, thinks his entire life is about Santa, then who are we to disagree? Maybe that is how he lives? How he survives."

"But is that the healthiest choice?" Lisbon countered.

"If it's a question of survival, does that even matter," I wondered.

"You think he wouldn't have survived putting the Santa hat aside from time to time?" Lisbon wondered.

"Probably he would have," I acknowledged. "But who are we to make that decision for him?"

"If a person is seriously mentally ill and going to harm themselves, people have no compunction taking steps to prevent them from harming themselves. Bob wasn't mentally ill, but where are we drawing the line? At what point is it acceptable to step in? I'm not suggesting forced treatment obviously, but May certainly thought there was more to Bernard than just Santa," Lisbon pointed out. "She wished he could have chosen to get help."

"May was in love with him and was upset that he couldn't love her back the way she wanted him to," I shot back.

"Yes heaven forbid that she try to help a man she cares about work through his problems," Lisbon snapped quickly. Then she composed herself. "Besides," she said more calmly. "For all we know the only time May took out her frustrations was when she trashed his apartment after he was dead. And having seen that thing for myself, I've gotta say, I think I'm coming down on her side on this one. Santa was an obsession."

"Even though Bernard may have thought that's who he really was?" I wondered, curious (as I always was) for her full opinion. She was feeling talkative tonight; I was going to take advantage of it.

Lisbon shrugged. "Even the people who actually wear disguises aren't always aware of it," she told me. "He may not have even realized what the truth was anymore. He couldn't see what was real and what was just lies."

"Maybe," I said noncommittally. I was suddenly tired of the subject, so I changed it. "So, what was the verdict on Christmas lights for my couch then?" I asked. "No?"

"No," Lisbon confirmed with a grin. "Don't want to go too far."

I nodded in agreement. "Besides, they'd probably just keep me awake when I was trying to take a nap."

"Yeah, that'd be a real shame," Lisbon said dryly.

I smirked.

"Is that your way of subtly telling me to get off your couch because you'd like to lie down now?" Lisbon wondered.

"Well, I wasn't going to say anything…" I said with a laugh.

Lisbon swatted me in the arm.

"I'm kidding," I said, raising my hands in self-defence. "You're welcome to sit on my couch anytime, Lisbon."

She grinned. "Thanks," she said. "But you're right, it's getting late. I should head home."

I nodded, ignoring the tiny stab of disappointment. "Okay," I agreed.

She stood, absently brushing at her pants. "Don't stay here all night," she ordered.

I saluted wordlessly.

She shook her head in amusement. "Night Jane," she said on her way out.

"Good night Lisbon," I replied. "Drive safe."

She waved one last time on her way out the door. I watched her walk down the hall towards the elevator before settling in on my couch, probably for the night (against her orders).

I thought about what she'd said, about Bernard not even knowing the truth of things in his own mind. I figured that must be a fairly common condition. After all, it almost always works out that the person closest to things is the last to find out.

It must be irritating not to know one's own mind.

One of the side benefits of following the path to revenge so closely I suppose; I always know what really matters, and I've trained myself to know my own mind. Quite well too.

I have legendary control. After all, I can even make a trained nurse think I'm about to lose consciousness.

And I have my own obsession of sorts. Revenge, Red John, murder. But I can't talk about it. I can't. For one, Minelli's right, I'd sound too crazy, and for another I genuinely don't think I'd be able to stop.

I'd rather not think about certain aspects of it too much. It does no good to talk about it.

Instead I have layers and layers of masks. Masks that absolutely no one can completely see through. As I said, total deception is a necessity.

I know Lisbon disagrees, but there's little I can do about that. I'm sorry about it, well as sorry as I can be. I know she thinks of us as a kind of a family. I wish I could be the kind of family she deserves, but I can't. I have to settle for the odd thing to make her happy.

I should get her a Christmas present.

Maybe I'll upgrade her tickets to her brothers, put her in first class. There's no way Lisbon paid anything but economy. That'll surprise her. Especially because Christmas'll roll around, and she'll be all peevish, thinking I forgot to get her even a token acknowledgement of any kind. Then WHAM! Boxing day, she'll go to pick up her tickets and she'll realize.

It'll be funny.

I'll call the airline tomorrow.

I wonder if she'll get me anything.

Probably. She usually gets everybody some sort of gift, even if it's small.

Maybe she'll get me a teacup. She got me tea last year. It could be a theme.

It won't be anything big. And I'm sure she'll give it to me in as awkward a way as possible, if she doesn't just drop it off on my couch.

She's rather predictable in many ways. But then most people are.

I wonder if she's deceiving herself about whether or not I'm really going to kill Red John, or if she's trying to deceive me about what she might think herself. I wouldn't put either of them past her.

The second one's probably more likely, but then human beings are rather good at self-deception aren't they?

We all wear masks. Not just me. Most of us hide them even from ourselves.

But in the end actions speak louder than words, no matter what a person says. Bernard spent all his time pretending to be Santa Clause, probably thought of himself as a Santa Claus and nothing else, when it's probable he was also actually in love with his sponsor, the woman who stood by him for ten years. But he was too afraid to admit it. It's probably the reason why he'd signed up for aversion therapy in the first place. He did it right after that single shot of vodka nearly devastated him and May. He probably wanted to make it up to her, to make her happy. The man would probably do anything just to see her smile.

Poor fool died before he could realize what his actions were already telling him the truth of the matter.

Of course my actions will tell everyone the truth too, when the time comes, when I finally find what I'm looking for.

I let my breathing slow into the steady rhythm of sleep. But I couldn't help chuckling before dropping off completely.

I wondered what Lisbon would think if I decorated her office door.

I bet it would make her smile.

xxxxx

The end

Reviews would be greatly appreciated. I'd love to hear what people think on this one.