A/N: Here we go. The first of the fluffy Mentalist prompts. For streetcatx, "Lisbon beating Jane at his own game." Happy holidays.
Lisbon beating Jane at his own game
Lisbon hadn't called him.
He didn't know why.
It was bothering him.
Jane pulled up to the crime scene with a frown. He wouldn't even know that the team had a case, except that he'd happened to drop into the CBI and found them all missing. At which point he'd been informed by a passerby (a passerby) of the team's location.
So he'd come.
It was his job after all.
Not that Lisbon had called him to tell him to come do it...
Jane's frown deepened.
Okay, sometimes she got Rigsby or Van Pelt to do the actual dialling, but that was just details. Jane always knew who the call was really coming from.
But not today.
Today there had been no call.
Jane could see her crouched by the body, intent on her examination of the crime scene. He schooled his expression as he walked towards her. She glanced up a few seconds later, noticing him for the first time. He watched her face break into a bemused smile, but he also noticedsomething flash across her eyes beforehand.
"Hey, what are you doing here?" she asked in a friendly tone.
Jane was intrigued (and a bit relieved) to hear it. Lisbon obviously wasn't upset with him. Whatever reason she had for not calling him, his exclusion hadn't been meant as a punishment of some kind or because she was angry. "Heard we had a case," he replied easily.
"We do," she confirmed. "But I didn't call you in."
Jane's eyes narrowed briefly. Interesting, Lisbon was admitting it that the omission had been deliberate. "I'd noticed that, actually," he told her. "Did you not want my help?"
That earned him an almost-glare. (It was one of her more unique expressions. Not quite angry, but more than unimpressed. It happened a lot when Jane made comments questioning his own worth.) "I just thought you could use the time off," Lisbon explained. "You've been working a lot of nights again, and this case looks like it's going to be pretty open and shut."
Jane resisted the urge to frown again.
Because he was pretty sure she was lying.
Or, not lying exactly. No doubt she really was concerned by the again-increasing amount of time he spent in the attic. No doubt that really had played some part in her decision not to call him, but she also wasn't telling him the whole truth. Which meant something else was going on, and given the lack of political shifts in the CBI in recent weeks, it was probably something specific to this case. "What makes you say that?" he asked innocently.
Lisbon shrugged. "Politician's wife, dead in a back alley near a series of local restaurants, rumours of an affair, a marriage on the rocks, and the husband has a pretty solid alibi, so…"
"Lover's the obvious suspect," Jane murmured.
"Exactly," Lisbon agreed. "Our victim wasn't even wearing her wedding ring. You can take a look if you want."
"Now that I'm here, I may as well," Jane agreed.
He saw the corner of Lisbon's mouth quirk up in the briefest of smirks. Jane was certain that she genuinely wasn't annoyed by his presence, but something was going on. The only question waswhat?
Jane crouched down beside the woman on the pavement. He couldn't think of any reason why this particular victim would cause Lisbon not to call him. He didn't recognize her. She wasn't a former client and he doubted her husband was either. Jane didn't have many friends in political circles, so what then?
After a few seconds, he stood, his examination over. "You're right, it probably is related to the affair," he said stretching.
"Thank you," Lisbon said dryly.
"Just out of curiosity," she wondered. "What makes you say that?"
Jane shrugged. "She smells like men's cologne. It's not the cologne of a politician, too overbearing. It might cause people to move away in discomfort, and she's covered in the stuff, like she's spent her evening locked in an embrace with her lover."
"Or maybe dancing," Lisbon supplied.
Jane paused. Dancing, of course. It made sense given the nearby restaurants. Now why hadn't he thought of that? Irritating woman had thrown him off his game. Oh, not the victim. Sure, it was very sad that she was dead, but Jane'd lost interest in the whys and wherefores ofthat already. Lisbon was right, as soon as they figured out who her lover was, he'd lead them right to her killer, if by some chance the man wasn't responsible himself. But Jane was going to give this case his best, because only then would he figure out why she hadn't called.
After all, that was the real mystery.
Jane beat Lisbon back to the CBI by a full three minutes.
"Do you ever obey the speed limits?" she asked as she walked into the bullpen.
"Nope," he replied easily.
"So what now?" Jane asked, when she didn't continue.
"Van Pelt's going through our victim's phone records," Lisbon told him. "I sent Rigsby and Van Pelt to interview her colleagues. The husband's on his way to give a statement. Pretty routine stuff. So actually, if you want, you can probably skip this one."
Jane's eyes narrowed. Was she trying to get rid of him? Suspicious. Very suspicious. He stood up. "No, no," he told her. "I'm here now, may as well roll up my sleeves and pitch in."
Lisbon raised her eyebrows.
Jane tried to look as open and innocent as possible.
She didn't look convinced, but after a minute she shrugged. "If you want, you can go through the files on the household staff while I talk to the husband," she told him.
"You're pretty sure he's innocent?" Jane asked.
"Well, we've got him on camera across town at the time of the murder," Lisbon replied. "I suppose he could have paid someone, but that hardly seems his style."
"No, this was a crime of passion," Jane confirmed. "Killer knew the victim."
"Yeah," Lisbon replied. "Still gotta take his statement. So I'll be back."
"Take your time," Jane replied absently, already engrossed in one of his files. After all, maybe one of them would give him a clue as to the reason Lisbon didn't want him around."
"How's it going?" Lisbon asked about twenty minutes later.
"I think I've got something," Jane murmured. "The yoga instructor, he was around a lot. Quite a lot, even if the victim was taking daily yoga classes."
Lisbon nodded. "Yeah, Rigsby and Cho are already on their way to talk to her. One of the victim's colleagues tipped them off."
"Well, good then," Jane said after a moment, his pleasure deflating upon hearing she'd already solved figured that out without him.
"That's still great Jane," Lisbon hastened to tell him. "Now we have something to confront the guy with, something specific."
"It's my job," Jane reminded her. The one he was so good at that she usually thought it was worth keeping him around, unlike today.
"Still, we've probably got this now, so if you want to head out early..." Lisbon said casually.
Too casually, Jane decided. She'd definitely sounded like she was hiding something.
"Why are you so set on me taking this case off?" he demanded, deciding it was time to just confront her.
Lisbon shrugged. "No reason," she insisted, though Jane was sure it was a lie. Lisbon really was a terrible liar. Then she continued, "We've just got this one in the bag. Besides, you sleep enough during the day anyway, I thought you might like to do it from your bed."
"Hm," Jane murmured, trying to sort through another odd mixture of truth and deceit from his partner. "Well, why don't I just go through the files here, in case there's something in one of them that would help Rigsy and Cho in interrogation?"
Lisbon looked surprised by the suggestion, then her face broke out into a smile. "If you're sure," she told him. "But you don't have to stay."
Jane gritted his teeth and waved her off. He was determined to figure out what was going on.
Shortly afterwards she was back. "Rigsby and Cho are stuck in traffic," she told him. "And the suspect won't talk without his lawyer. I think..."
"What don't you want me to know about this case?" Jane blurted out.
Lisbon paused, surprised. "Nothing," she insisted, and to Jane's relief she appeared to be telling the truth. "Why wouldn't I want you to know something about this case? It's pretty ordinary."
"So you say," Jane agreed. "But there has to be a reason you didn't call."
"I thought you could use a day off," Lisbon insisted, shuffling ever-so slightly.
"I will figure out what you don't want me to know eventually, Lisbon," Jane warned her. "You may as well just save us all some time and just tell me now."
Lisbon awkwardly tried to dismiss his concerns. "There's nothing Jane. Really. Now I've got to go call Wainwright and give him an update, so if you'll excuse me..."
"I will figure it out," he called after her.
She ignored him, but her pace picked up noticeably.
Jane watched her, shaking his head. When would the frustrating woman learn that she couldn't hide things from him? It wasn't just her either, what little he'd seen of the rest of the team, they were all acting a bit squirrely and suspicious too.
He was determined to figure out their (her) secret.
To do that he would need to locate their victim's lover first. It was sometimes much easier to corner Lisbon when she wasn't working on a case.
So that was what he did.
And he told Lisbon where to find the guy. It wasn't the yoga instructor after all. The lover was actually the plumber (rather clichéd, unfortunately). As soon as Jane figured it out, he told Lisbon, and she sent out the cavalry (a.k.a. Rigsby and Cho).
It was a clearly pleased Lisbon who got the call ten minutes later that the guys had a suspect in custody, and he'd made a full confession.
She even made a deliberate trip over to Jane's couch to thank him.
"See what happens when you include me, Lisbon," Jane told her. "I can be quite useful."
"Yes, you can," Lisbon agreed easily.
"You didn't need to be worried about hiding something," Jane continued, taking advantage of her good mood.
"I told you, there's nothing to hide," Lisbon insisted a little too loudly.
"I will find out," Jane reminded her again. "I still have more files to go through looking for clues. Just because you've solved your mystery doesn't mean I've solved mine!"
She stood up abruptly off his couch and stormed back to her office, muttering all the way.
Jane smirked. He'd known there was something else going on with this case. Her flight had just confirmed that.
Admittedly, Jane didn't figure out what Lisbon was hiding from him until much later, when the local councillor came by to thank Lisbon for finding his wife's killer.
Accompanied by his teenage daughter.
Jane deliberately hung back as soon a he saw them. The poor girl couldn't have been more than fifteen, but she was standing strong.
He watched Lisbon try to offer them some kind of comfort, what little she was able to.
Then Jane watched them go.
As soon as the elevator doors were closed, he was by her side. "You could have told me, Lisbon," he said softly.
She looked over guiltily. "Told you what?"
Jane jerked a shoulder towards the elevators. "About the councillor's daughter. It's fine. I can handle it."
"I wasn't trying to hide that from you," Lisbon tried to tell him.
"Sure you weren't," Jane scoffed.
"I wasn't," she insisted.
"I know you were trying to shield me," Jane continued blithely. But it's fine. And anyway, when will you learn, I always figure out your little secrets, so it's pointless to keep any."
"Yeah, you've really got me," Lisbon said dryly.
Jane frowned slightly. Her tone wasn't the one he'd been expecting. Then she turned and started walking away from the elevators.
He followed her quickly into one of the often unused CBI meeting rooms.
He reached out automatically to flick on the light. Place was like a tomb without it, especially this late in the evening.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY JANE!"
He blinked. The entire team was inside, surrounded by streamers and balloons and even a banner. And there was Lisbon, right in front, looking unbelievably smug.
"You have me all figured out, dontcha?" she asked him.
"What?" he wondered, still staring around.
She laughed. "You, the master at figuring out secrets. You could find anything I tried to hide."
"Well, I..." he stuttered. "My birthday was last week."
Lisbon nodded. "I know. We couldn't throw you a surprise party on the actual day though, way too obvious."
Jane tried to save face. "I thought it was strange at the time. I knew something was up."
Lisbon rolled her eyes. "Oh, you did not, you big fraud," she told him. "Especially since we all wished you a happy birthday anyway. You had no idea about your surprise party. I made sure of that when I planned it."
That got his attention, "You planned it?"
She shrugged. "Of course. And I knew you'd be able to spot the secret a mile away, unless I masked it with another secret, even a pretend secret. Like for example a reason as to why I wouldn't want you to work on a specific case."
Jane blinked at her. Then his eyes warmed. "Lisbon, I'm impressed," he told her.
She looked pleased at the compliment, and Jane's smile widened automatically. "Thanks," she said easily.
"Thank you for the party," he said gently. "I guess you fooled me. This time."
"That you know of at least," she agreed.
"Don't push your luck," he warned. "And anyway, now it'll be that much harder next time," he warned her. "Now that I'm on my guard."
"Oh, have some cake," she ordered. "Also, I bought you a present."
"Yes, thank you for the new pillow for my couch," Jane said with a grin, sure that was what she'd bought him after he'd complained about his current pillow for weeks on end.
"You suck the fun out of everything, you know that?" Lisbon told him.
Jane shrugged, "You can't win 'em all, Teresa."
Suddenly Lisbon was all smiles then, "Sure I can. Because I told Rigsby to get you the pillow."
Jane paused. "What did you get me then?" he asked after a moment.
Lisbon just smiled, and walked over to help serve the cake.
Jane watched her go. "Nicely done, Lisbon," he murmured to himself. "Very nicely done."