A/N: The following was written for girlsavesboyfic, a comm whose goals I feel are fairly self-evident. The girl had to save the boy. Anyway, I heard about the comm and then immediately wanted to write Mentalist fic for it. So I wrote this. It's post S3 finale, and slightly AU now. It's also a sequel to "Judge Not" and "Conviction." It's set up the same way as the earlier two fic, except this one has two chapters, one for each Jane and Lisbon.

Dedicated to Ebony10. Because she was right. The story wasn't quite done.

I hope you enjoy it.

xxx

Part 1: JANE

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You run after her.

Okay, you don't actually run, but you do try and walk fast, chasing her through the crowded room, constantly blocked by people who want to congratulate you, send you a friendly smile.

You don't care.

'Not guilty's' not so important anymore.

You need to catch up to her.

You need to.

You reach her right before she reaches the door to slip outside. She stops when you call her name.

Turns.

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Lisbon, wait. Wait a second.

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She doesn't say anything.

Not a thing.

A mask.

You see a mask over her face. It's a good one, but it's there. You're getting Agent Lisbon, the consummate professional.

That's all you're getting.

But that's not the worst part.

(Oh it's not near the worst part, the knots in your stomach tell you.)

The worst part is the parody of a smile she sends your way at the same time.

It's chilling.

.

Guess you convinced them. Guess you got what you wanted. Guess you won.

.

Ignoring her empty congratulations, you reach for her, desperate for something genuine.

That's when it happens.

The mask slips. Flinches really.

She actually flinches away from you.

Then you're the one who pulls your hand back like you've been burned.

You can't do this, not like this.

You try to explain.

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I.. I didn't like jail. It was inconvenient... I didn't want...

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You don't get very far.

The words clog in your throat.

She's got that ghastly smile back on her face again. The one she gives to politely dismiss a problem she never had any intention of engaging with in the first place.

(Lisbon's always been good at burying her head in the sand when it suits her.)

And then, just when you thought it couldn't get worse, it does.

So much worse.

And she doesn't even realize.

Maybe she doesn't even care.

She says something to you before she slips out the door, abandoning you to the approaching press.

Just one sentence, that's all it takes.

You're sure she doesn't mean her words to be sarcastic, but you hear them that way all the same.

Because she flinched.

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Congratulations on your victory Jane. You deserve it.

.

You're not sure what to do.

For the first time in a long time, you're not sure what to do.

How can you fix this?

You have to fix this.

You...

You...

No.

Forget you.

Her.

But before you can follow, the reporters find you, asking questions you no longer want to answer.

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Mr. Jane! A moment of your time, Mr. Jane! Tell us, how does it feel to be a free man again?

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You find her later, at work.

You try to stick to her like glue.

You try to stay on your best behaviour.

You try to help her.

You're fairly certain it only makes her more suspicious.

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No Jane, I don't need a coffee. And no, I don't need you to read this file. Why are you offering to read a file?

.

You really do try for a while.

You really do.

Then it happens. You screw up.

You piss off the wrong person, and she has to run in and smooth things over.

A lot.

Later, after the man has stalked off in slightly less of a huff, she pulls you aside.

She's far from gentle with you as she yells.

You're not entirely sure you deserve all the verbal abuse you're getting for what you did today, but you don't care. You'll take it.

It's the first time her mask has slipped in weeks.

And anyway, you both know that this most recent PR screw-up's not what she's really yelling at you for.

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Jane! I can't believe you! What do you think, you don't have to obey the rules? That you can just swoop in whenever the hell you want to? That it'll all just be okay? I wish you'd think for a second before you did these things! You know what, forget it. Never mind. I'll take care of it. Just, just sit down and shut up for a while, would you?

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You didn't mean to make her angry.

You just wanted to get her attention again.

.

You wanted to make her see you.

Before, she was always the only one who did.

Now she's not even looking.

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Morning Rigsby, Cho. Hey Van Pelt. Hope you guys had a... Oh, hi Jane.

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She's upset today.

And surprisingly not at you.

Something's happened.

You're not sure what, but you'd bet everything you own that it's one of her brothers.

She's worried.

She needs a friend.

You're not sure she has one. Not since...

Not the right kind anyway.

You try to stand next to her, though you deliberately don't reach for her.

(Even though you really want to. Just a hand on her shoulder, or the small of her back, or around her wrist. But you restrain yourself.)

You're terrified she'll pull away again.

You can't handle that.

.

You only realize that you could have handled it after it's too late.

You could have handled her lashing out at you if it made her feel better.

You realize you'd do almost anything to make things alright for her.

She deserves to have things be alright.

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You didn't have to bring me a bear claw Jane. I'm a big girl. I can feed myself.

.

But you can't make things right.

You can't fix this.

So you do what you can.

You distract.

It often doesn't work.

She pushes you away.

Actually, she doesn't push. That implies far more effort on her part than what she actually does.

Which is even worse.

You don't deal with it well.

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Good morning Lisbon. I'd ask you how your evening was, but that seems pointless given that you'll just tell me it was fine.

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Enough is enough.

What's the point of being good when it only makes things worse?

The next case you slip away to conduct a few private interviews.

Playing by the rules isn't working.

Neither is pestering her.

You need some distance.

And you're not going to let her see your doubts.

You have your pride.

.

You come up with a new plan.

You'll make her chase you.

And she does, as you knew she would.

She can't help herself.

After all, you disappeared on her watch.

.

As expected, she yells at you when she finds you.

You don't mind though.

Because there's a spark in her eye again. She's enjoying herself.

And that makes you happy.

Even though you know she still hates you.

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Jane! Where the hell have you been? I've been looking all over for you! ...no idea where you were, you, you lunatic!

.

So you keep disobeying orders, keep her on her toes.

Because when she does catch up (or sometimes even outsmarts you), it's the only time she looks alive.

It's the only time she looks like your Lisbon again.

No.

Not yours.

Never yours again.

You wish you'd realized that sooner.

Now that everything's different.

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Ah, Lisbon. There you are. I was hoping you'd join us. Now before you yell at me, perhaps you'd care to hear how I've just solved our case.

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You can make her angry, that's all.

You're not her friend. You're not her confidante or her comforter.

And you still can't touch her.

Not even accidentally.

.

You can let her keep you alive though.

You can give her that.

She needs people to depend on her.

She needs people to take care of, even if they're not good for her.

(Maybe especially then.)

Lisbon likes protecting people.

It's what she lives for.

Makes her feel useful, maybe even makes up for the times (the people) in her past that she couldn't save.

So you let her try to save you.

You hope it helps her sleep at night.

At least one of you should.

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One, two, three... Who decided counting sheep was effective anyway? Work's going to be exhausting tomorrow, but what does it matter? She won't notice.

.

Then you get yourself in real danger.

It wasn't even your fault this time.

This wasn't a test for her benefit.

You were being careful. You didn't do anything stupid. For once.

You really didn't.

And this happened anyway.

You're scared.

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Hi god. I don't really think you're up there, but Lisbon does. Sometimes. And I think you'll agree that she's the important one here. So even though I don't deserve it, if by some infinitesimal chance you are actually up there... Well, you see, if something happens to me, she'll...

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Part of you is worried that she won't come.

You don't deserve her coming.

But you want her to come. More than anything in the world.

Partly because you really don't want to die at the hands of a common criminal.

Partly because you know if she doesn't come, she will blame herself for the rest of her life for letting this happen to you.

Saving the people of California is what she does.

Not saving you will destroy her.

You can't stand the thought of that.

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It's my job to protect you. My team, my responsibility. It's on me. It's always on me.

.

She comes.

With time to spare.

You're so relieved you forget to pretend you don't need her.

You forget to pretend that she doesn't have the power to destroy you with a single look.

You forget to pretend that you're indifferent now.

Funny thing is, so does she. She looks panicked.

You really wish you hadn't caused that.

Then you're glad you did.

Because she's the one to run to you. She's the one to untie you. She's the one to scold you (though this time you can tell that she's not actually angry).

She's only doing it to reassure herself that you're actually there.

Her panicked litany loosens your own throat.

Nothing's changed, not really.

But you say it anyway.

Even though there's nothing you could have done differently.

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I'm sorry, Lisbon.

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She mutters something about how you just can't help yourself. She's used to that.

You reach for her wrist the second your hands are free and you still her nervous fidgeting.

This time there is no flinch.

Instead, you feel her fingers tentatively turn to twist lightly through your own. It's only a ghost of a touch, but it's more than you ever thought you'd feel again.

Then you see her eyes, still filled with traces of fading panic

They're filled with something else as well.

At first you don't even care what it is; it's a genuine emotion, and that's good.

That's better than good.

Then your heart starts beating again and you calm yourself enough to recognize it.

You can't stop staring at those green eyes, trying to figure out what's swirling behind them.

It's not acceptance but it's also not hatred.

It's a million different things. Frustration, irritation, a little bit of uncertainty.

You could examine it for hours and never get tired of it. Because for the first time since your trial, when you look in her eyes you see Lisbon.

Your Lisbon.

You see concern, and that wonderful understanding you've only ever seen in her, and…

And maybe even a hint of affection.

You smile.

You watch her valiantly try to contain her own grin in return.

But a bit of it slips out anyway.

You feel calm for the first time in months.

You feel like something might be okay.

She fixed it, somehow.

And you say the only thing that seems appropriate, under the circumstances.

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My hero.

.

TBC