Summary: Jane has been living on borrowed time, and Lisbon is fighting a losing battle. Jane/Lisbon.
Spoilers: Up until 4x10, Fugues in Red.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Nope.
He can no longer tell where manipulation ends and affection starts. If this really were a con, it would be a failure of the highest grade.
Each morning, the office comes alive with low, familiar noises.
With his eyes still closed, Jane listens to the quiet humming of electronics and catalogues staccatos of footsteps and the droning of an industrial vacuum cleaner on the carpet he walks on every day. It's like a giant and tender beast is yawning out loud and shaking itself awake, and its wakefulness slowly edges into Jane's mind and digs in, inch by inch, until awareness returns to him fully.
When he opens his eyes, the cracks on the tiled ceiling that he's long ago memorized greet him. The worn-in leather couch squeaks under him. He's comfortable with the familiarity of it all, even if it doesn't necessarily comfort him. He lifts a hand and runs it down his face. Once. Twice. And then he's up, swinging his legs over the side of the couch.
At his feet is a small, leather-bound book that slipped out from his grip overnight.
I have spread my dreams beneath your feet, he recalls the words as he picks up the book from the floor. His nighttime reading material has, at least for the moment, moved on from Blake. Not that Yeats is much more helpful to his sleep, but it's an improvement, of sort.
He leaves the couch momentarily to wet his face in the washroom and make himself a cup of tea. All the while his mind, now completely awake and needing a reprieve from thoughts and memories, busily grasps for distractions, something, anything new to latch onto.
And because he's lucky, by the time he's finished with his first cup of tea, a timely distraction presents itself in the form of Teresa Lisbon, who marches across the office into the kitchenette with a white paper box in her hand.
She's in earlier than usual, though there's no pending case matter that requires this early a start. A sleepless night, he speculates. She seems lucid and alert, not necessarily tired, but still the edge in her steps hints at a low-grade grumpiness that often indicates a severe lack of sleep. Caused by either her shoulder—she's recovered most of its strength, but the gunshot wound may still be stiff and sore—or one of many dark and haunting thoughts on recent events that she tries to repress with all of her not inconsiderable self-control and mostly succeeds.
Mostly, but not completely. Because some of it still leaks into her features, as if from a cracked pot.
There's a sudden, sharp clench somewhere in his chest. Jane tightens his finger around the handle of his favorite blue teacup and gets to his feet.
In the kitchenette, she's pouring herself a cup of coffee. After a careful sip, she makes a face, because the coffee's is only lukewarm. Her mood doesn't improve much when she looks up and sees him, either. His presence only serves as a reminder of the thoughts that have been keeping her at night, and likely she's hoped to be left alone for a moment so that she could indulge in her grumpiness in peace, for a moment she could use to compose herself. Had he been a good man, or a decent man, he would let her.
He is neither, and he never lets her win, not even in something as small as this. He wants her smile, he decides. He wants her smile, he wants her scowl, and he's going to get both.
She dips a spoon into the cup and nudges the fridge open with her foot. She's going to add honey and milk to the coffee, he predicts, an indulgence that she's hoping would help her dispel her dark mood. And she does exactly that: she takes a milk carton out from the fridge and turns away from the cup for a second to reach for a jar of honey from the cabinet before turning around again.
Five, four, three, two—
One side of her bottom lip curls up, just the tiniest bit.
"Jane," she warns him in a low voice that doesn't completely hide disbelieving amusement. "Give it back."
He fakes a yawn and blinks at her. "Good morning to you, too, Lisbon."
She rolls her eyes and sticks out her hand. "My spoon, Jane."
"Oh, well, if you insist." Jane produces the spoon from his wrinkled jacket sleeve with exaggerated care, flashing a bright smile that he's been reliably told could charm a snake. Patrick Jane, the great and amazing serpent charmer. But just as she reaches for the spoon, he takes a step back. "Ah-ah-ah, but only if you say it after me: good morning, Jane."
Lisbon couldn't be any further from a serpent, symbolic or otherwise—and he isn't about to describe her as Eve just so that the metaphor could somehow be made to stick—so she only scowls and snatches the spoon from his hand. "Uh-huh, I don't think so."
Lisbon dips the spoon back into her coffee and stirs it with feeling, and Jane's smile, in true inverse proportion, grows brighter as her scowl darkens. Her nose always crinkles when she scowls, and he enjoys that little fact, perhaps a bit too much.
He leans around her to peek at the white box she's left on the counter. He can recognize the logo on the box as the one from the pastry shop across their office building. "What you got hiding in there, Lisbon?"
"Oh no, you don't." She pulls the box away from his reach. "Not after that cute little stunt."
He places a palm on his chest, miming a wound. "You're denying me a bear claw for giving you back your spoon?"
"Nope," she counters, "for being juvenile and childish enough to steal it in the first place."
"You just used two words that mean the same thing," he points out—quite reasonably, he thinks. "And you can't deny me what's rightfully mine. One of those bear claws has my name written all over it."
"Yes, I can, Jane, and no, it doesn't." To drive the point across, she takes one of them out of the box and chomps on it loudly.
"Oh no, you don't," says Jane, echoing her words exactly, and proceeds to lunge after the prize in her hand. Lisbon, surefooted, steps out of the way, but Jane can be fast when he wants to be, so he's only moments away from successfully lodging it from her grip when Cho arrives in brisk, efficient steps.
"A woman's body was found downtown, reported half an hour ago," he informs Lisbon, not batting a single eyelash at the sight of his boss and Jane in the middle of a tug-of-war over a piece of breakfast pastry. "They want us there right away, boss."
Lisbon doesn't miss a beat. "Call Rigsby and Van Pelt and tell them to meet us there. Let's go."
Jane releases his fingers on her bear claw only when she turns to give him a pointed look, and even then he does it with a great show of reluctance. She rolls her eyes again, and picks up the box to drop it into Jane's hands.
"Don't forget to share it with the rest of the class," she says, and turns to leave with Cho, not once doubting that Jane would follow.
And he does, of course. He has everything he's wanted this morning: a smile, a scowl and a box of bear claws in his hands. This outcome is not surprising—it's predictable, even. Because, one way or another, Lisbon lets him get away with anything. Including murder.
It's not her fault. He's used her sympathy, loyalty and maybe even affection, to insinuate himself into her life, into their lives, gradually and so thoroughly over the years that they're now inexplicably tied to him—so that they could only reward him with their unshakeable and steadfast allegiance that they all know he doesn't deserve.
But watching Lisbon walk away while listening to Cho's a short and succinct summary of how the body was discovered, Jane feels a small smile on his face, unplanned and unfeigned, where there has been none before.
Now, their smiles and scowls also dictate his.
I have spread my dreams beneath your feet, he remembers. Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.
He can no longer tell where manipulation ends and affection starts.
If this were a con, it would be a failure of the highest grade.
Lisbon turns around just in time to see Jane go down with an oooph. Watching a flailing Jane will never not be funny, but it's not quite as amusing when it's because he's been tackled and decked by some frantic kid scrambling to run away. She and Cho are on them in an instant, and they pry the kid off Jane.
"You okay?" she asks Jane, who's gotten to his feet. For no reason whatsoever, there's a sudden flashback to a wet, shivery night of her nightmare—I need help now, please!—that she has to ruthlessly push away. "Jane?" she asks again, just to appease herself, "are you hurt?"
"Nah," Jane says, expertly flippant, and dusts off his jacket. "But—thank you, Lisbon. Excellent save as always."
Cho pats down the struggling kid and fishes out a wallet from the kid's jacket. "Andy Clayton, fourteen years old," he says, examining the content of the wallet. "What were you doing in the alley?" he asks the kid.
"Let go," says the kid, squirming to get out of Cho's grip. He's lanky and scrawny and stubborn in the way that reminds Lisbon of Tommy at fourteen with all his temper tantrums—which, honestly, is never a good sign. "Seriously, man, let go of me. You can't do this—I didn't do anything!"
"Then why did you run?" Cho asks, impassive.
Jane raises a finger, with his patented oh, oh, I know this one look already fully, and annoyingly, in place. "Because Andy here noticed you and Lisbon's decidedly cop-like gaits and assumed, incorrectly, that we're here to bust him for a pack of fine weeds that he has hidden, in—"
He pauses, staring at the kid.
The kid—Andy Clayton—stares back, holding his breath.
And Jane grins. "In his left shoe, of course. Look at the inner lining of his left shoe, Cho."
The kid gapes at him. "How did you—?"
"Yeah," says Cho, "he does that."
Five seconds later there's a small plastic bag full of marijuana dangling between Cho's fingers. The kid's head falls. "But you really weren't here to bust me?" the kid asks.
"Ah, no," Jane says, and his grin turns downright cherubic as he shoves his hands into his jacket pockets and rocks on his heels, "indeed we weren't. But then again, now that we are made aware of your dangerous proclivities, we are of course bound by law to perform our sworn duties. To protect and serve, to keep the streets clean from unsavory activities such as this, to ascertain your punishment befitting the crime."
The kid looks progressively deflated with each word that comes out of Jane's mouth, and Lisbon summons the patience of a saint not to roll her eyes at both of them. While it's not as hard as it should be—even if she hadn't mastered the way during her prolonged exposure to one Patrick Jane, she's had more than plenty of experience from wresting with her kid brothers—it isn't exactly easy. "A body was found a couple of blocks down from here, early this morning," she tells the kid, who's still twitching nervously. "Did you see anything?"
"A body? Wow, you mean someone died here? And that's why so many cops are around?" the kid asks, eyes wide, and then balks immediately. "Um, no, didn't see anything. Not really. I mean, wasn't hanging out here last night."
"Then what were you doing here just now?" Cho repeats his question.
The kid fidgets with his feet.
"Andy, look at me," she says, her voice firm, and he lifts his head reluctantly. "What were you doing in the alley this morning?"
He stares at his feet some more before he says, "I was thinkin' of scoring some customers, is all. Sometimes the other guys don't get here 'til late, so, you know, sometimes I come by early to see if anyone wants to get, uh, hooked up."
Cho shares a look with Lisbon. "Dealers' corner," he concludes.
"Looks like it," she agrees, feeling a half sigh making its way out of her. She suppresses it quickly and nods at Cho.
At her signal, Cho walks the kid over to the local police in the perimeter. The kid looks utterly crestfallen, and her heart, almost involuntarily, goes out to him. Too young, she thinks. Too young for this kind of life, though she knows one could never be the right age for a life on the street.
"Is it just me," Jane asks her, cracking his neck, "or are they getting younger every time?"
There are times when she thinks, unwittingly, that Jane may really be able to pluck people's thoughts from thin air. "It's not just you," she assures him.
When she arrives at the crime scene with Jane in tow, Rigsby and Van Pelt are already there, studying a body slumped against the concrete wall next to a warehouse building. Both of them look up at their arrival.
"A woman in late 20s, possibly early 30s," Rigsby reports immediately. "The cops say she was found about five this morning, though the local ME on sight put a tentative time of death to late last night, between midnight to one in the morning."
She was killed here, Lisbon decides, studying the blood spatters on the ground and on the wall. One casing from the shot—a single and fatal shot—was found, almost at a point-blank range, but nothing else. The strap of the victim's purse, still loosely around her shoulder, is torn, some of the purse's contents obviously missing. Possibly a robbery gone wrong, she thinks, and wonders what the victim had been doing in a remote area, a known dealers' corner. She was clean and well-dressed, and she doesn't look like she could've been using. And the way she's laid out, with her hands folded together in front of her—
That stops Lisbon. "Has anyone touched the body?"
"No, ma'am," answers one of the patrol officers standing at the side. "We made sure that it would be left exactly as it was found."
Jane hums at that. More than likely he's already noticed that the victim's body appears to be arranged like she's peacefully asleep, stark contrast to the violence committed to her. Unless the person who discovered the body arranged it this way—unlikely, because people generally have a healthy aversion toward dead bodies—it could've been done by the perp.
"She's dressed like she could've been out on a date," says Van Pelt. "Or coming from one. Husband? Boyfriend?"
"No wedding ring," Rigsby points out. And he's right, Lisbon notes. There's no ring, or any trace of a ring ever been on her ring finger.
"Boyfriend," Van Pelt amends.
"Someone she loved," Jane says, locking his jaws. "Sensibly dressed, clean and mid-range affordability. Likely a paralegal or maybe a secretary. Wearing an expensive but tasteful perfume, probably a gift, not something she uses often. And her shoes." He points at a pair of high heels that are pointy enough to be conceivably used as an assault weapon. "Probably not affordable for her salary, either, but she wanted to look her best in small ways. She was in love, with someone who knew her well."
Lisbon stares at the body, no longer surprised at the narrative of the victim's life that Jane can glean from the merest of glances. Just the night before, the victim was young and beautiful and happy and likely in love. And now—
"Poor thing," says Van Pelt, giving voice to what Lisbon, too, is feeling.
Lisbon turns around to face her team and clears her throat. "All right, how did she get here? Did she park her car around here, or someone dropped her off? Did she walk? Canvass the area and check with the cab companies. Check if there's any CCTV nearby. Let's find out who she was and what she was doing here."
She recites the routine procedural steps—almost unnecessarily, because it doesn't abate the helplessness she feels completely, but it is at least a start, and all members of her team, ever reliable, spread out to carry out the work that needs to be done.
"Boss." Van Pelt comes up to Lisbon, just as she turns around to examine the body again. Her voice is low, almost a murmur at Lisbon's ear. "I looked through the files from 2004 to 2006, but nothing stood out so far."
Lisbon thinks back to the double-locked cabinet in her office, and its content that many criminal profilers across the country are drooling after. Whether or not Timothy Carter was really Red John, whether or not Red John's followers are still out there carrying out murders in his name, it's technically no longer their case, not anymore, and it's definitely not something she should be working on with Van Pelt in their spare time. But there's Jane.
There's always Jane.
"Okay, let's cross-reference Timothy Carter's past activities since 2007 with anything that we know to be attributed to Red John," she says, just as quietly. "Try not to log into the system, and use only paper copies in my office. We can get Cho to help, if needed." No Rigsby, for now, because as much as she trusts him and counts on him, he's also a terrible open book.
Van Pelt accepts Lisbon's direction, once again, with surprising ease. "And Jane?"
Lisbon doesn't make a mistake of turning to look at Jane, who currently seems occupied with the placement of the graffiti on the wall behind the dumpster at the end of the alley. "Not yet," she says, even though it may as well be futile. Jane will find out eventually, because he's Jane, but she needs time to put things together, and nothing good would come out of him knowing this right away.
Van Pelt nods in acknowledgement, not betraying even slight panic at the idea, and Lisbon, after a second of hesitation, starts, "Grace, I don't have to remind you how dangerous this could be. There's no reason for you to be involved, not if you don't want to be."
No doubt they're already under Red John's—or his seemingly omnipresent and omnipotent followers'—radar, but if it's found out they're carrying out an independent investigation, that just might push them up to the top, maybe even break this unstable status quo.
But Van Pelt only gives her a sharp, bright smile that's only barely tempered by brittle edges. "Oh, I understand perfectly. I want to be involved, boss."
It's gotten personal for Grace, too, after O'Laughlin, and if Lisbon lets herself, it would be too easy to fall into despair over the state of things. Grace is holding herself together admirably well—too well. One of these days, she will break, because they all have a breaking point, and Grace's limit seems to be perilously close. Lisbon's job is to hold them together. Her job has always been to hold them together. But she's failing that, as of late.
And that's never made more obvious than when she looks up at Jane and his golden-boy smile, both perfectly smooth and carefully varnished on the surface.
There's normalcy to all of this, even complacency. Another mystery solved, a case closed, and then, like clockwork, another starts. They're living from one moment to another, all of their lives still on a holding pattern, as if—
As if Red John might not still be out there. As if she hasn't taken away a chance that Jane could have lived, even for a short while, without remembering the shadows of Red John looming at every corner of his life. As if Jane hasn't shot and killed someone—not in self-defense, not to protect another life, but a pre-meditated murder of someone Jane believed to be Red John, precisely the very event she swore that she would stop.
And yet, nothing's changed, the least of all her. She doesn't despise Jane. She doesn't want to see him incarcerated. She doesn't wish he hasn't done it. She can rationalize it easily, simply, with statements like: if Jane hasn't stopped Timothy Carter, an innocent girl would've been murdered, and God knows how many more.
And she can't even begin to describe how wrong all of this is.
They're officers of the law. It's their job to right the wrong, to discern black from white, even if they operate primarily in the world of grey. She wonders whether she's losing the sight of it, just because it would be—expedient. Because it would be easier, for all of them, and for her, not to deal with Jane and all the moral complexities that he brings with him.
You don't change Jane, she knows. Jane changes you.
And it's only an excuse.
"Feel like grabbing another cup of tea on the way back?" Jane asks, tearing his eyes away from the wall for the moment, at her approach.
Jane is studying her, seemingly casually but with the same focus he's given the graffiti before them, because that's what he always does. Jane, who can pluck people's thoughts from thin air, who undoubtedly knows what's keeping her up at night. Jane, who's changed her.
"Lisbon?" he prompts, quite gently for him.
"Okay, let's do that," she says, finally—and lightly, which takes some effort on her part. "But you're buying."
"But of course," he says, sounding like every other time when he's promised to pay but dodges the counter at the first available opportunity, not because he can't afford to, but because he knows he could get away with it.
She allows him a small smile, because she knows it's what he wants to see. And because it's her job to hold her people together, even if she doesn't know how many times a man can be broken and put together again before he can no longer retain its original shape.
But then she remembers, just in time: she's never met Patrick Jane who wasn't yet broken.