For Country 2776, Prompt: J/L, An argument after the tape (in 3.19, Every Rose has its Thorn) where things are said that neither meant to say. This is another one that got written early. And it's definitely a fic I wouldn't have written without the prompt. The tape is, well, an emotional minefield to put it mildly. I hope this does things justice, and I hope you enjoy it. Also, this is not the lighthearted romp a lot of these holiday fic have been. Just so you know.

Title: Unintentional

xx

Lisbon stared at the computer screen for almost a full minute after Jane stopped talking after he described his ideal woman, the woman he lost. Lisbon finally allowed herself to blink, heart aching. She'd just come up to get her laptop back. She hadn't expected to see... this. Jane was so good at pretending to be happy that it was often easy to forget how much pain he was really in.

He loved his wife so much.

She wished there was something she could do. But there wasn't. And even if there was, he'd do his best not to let her.

Sighing, Lisbon closed her laptop and turned to leave the attic, only to meet Jane himself obviously just on his way up.

"Hi," she said doing her best to sound normal.

"Hello Lisbon," Jane said dryly, trying to ignore the panic suddenly fluttering in his chest.

"I was just retrieving stolen property," she informed him, holding up her laptop.

"Borrowed," Jane corrected her smoothly. "With every intention of giving it back. I was just on my way to get it actually."

"Guess I saved you a trip then," Lisbon said with a deliberately friendly smile.

Jane nearly winced when he saw it. She'd watched the video on the screen. She'd watched his matchmaking video. Of course she had. He'd known that she'd seen it the second he saw her in the attic. And if he hadn't, well, her eyes would have given her away. He nodded in response to her comment, resisting the urge to snatch the laptop away from her; he didn't care if the machine was hers. Why had he left the damn thing out with the file open?

Lisbon watched him, sympathy for the man who'd lost everything welling up inside her. "Hey," she said after a moment. "You should be happy, about Erica I mean. You were right again."

Jane focussed on making sure his smile didn't come out as a grimace. "Lisbon, I'm hurt. You make it sound like that's a rare occurrence."

She sent him a mock glare. "Yeah well," she murmured. "I guess I should go."

Jane nodded again, stepping aside to let her pass him, feeling out of his depth. It was a strange feeling. Of all the people on the planet, usually hers was the company he minded the least. Often he even sought it out. But he couldn't be around her right now. Not after... not now.

Lisbon apparently had other ideas. She turned and placed a hand on his forearm. "Hey?" she asked softly. "You okay?"

"I'm fine, Lisbon," Jane insisted brightly. "After all, you're right. I was right. I won. I beat her. It's not every day you expose a manipulative and cold-blooded killer."

Lisbon watched him for a minute. "You don't always have to," she started to say.

"Don't always have to what?" Jane interrupted, his tone harsh, (though also harsher than he'd intended).

Lisbon moved back slightly, but not entirely away.

He needed her to move away.

"You don't always have to..." Lisbon started to explain again. After searching fruitlessly for words for a second she tried another tack. "If you ever want to talk Jane, I'm around. I mean this case... I know that to get close to Erica you had to do things that..."

"That what?" Jane demanded, cutting her off for the second time. "It's my job. I told you I was going to get her, and I did. End of story."

"Jane..."

"Oh, just say it Lisbon," Jane snapped. "We both know you watched the clip."

"You left it open on my laptop," Lisbon replied defensively, feeling suddenly guilty for the breach of privacy. She knew if the tables were turned she would probably be finding a place to dispose of his body right now.

"Oh well then," Jane said sarcastically. "Alright, let's have it. I'm probably due for the Lisbon pep talk."

Lisbon watched him helplessly, the genuine empathy in her eyes causing him to panic even more. "I just thought," she said softly, reaching a hand towards him to touch his wrist.

"Trying to fix me, are we Saint Teresa?" Jane bit out as he snatched his arm away, unwilling to let her touch him.

The accusation was like a slap in the face. Lisbon took a step back, the empathy in her eyes replaced with shock. Shock shifted quickly to anger. "I'm not trying to fix you, you moron! You're not a leaky washing machine!" she growled.

"I'm glad I'm more than a simple mechanical appliance to you, Teresa," Jane said sardonically.

"You know you're not," she snapped. Anger was always easiest, for both of them.

"Do I?" Jane wondered.

"And you know that I'm not trying to fix you," she told him, ignoring the question. "I've never been trying to fix you. Sometimes I try to help you. I'd like to help you."

Jane smirked. There she was, Saint Teresa. She should have been the patron saint of lost causes. At least she was nothing if not consistent.

The near-derision on his face pretty much killed Lisbon's confidence. "I wish there was something I could do," she said softly.

"I don't see why," Jane said with a shrug. Her concern was making him uncomfortable. He was already vulnerable. She needed to leave. She needed...

"You can be a real jerk sometimes, you know that," Lisbon accused.

"Of course," Jane agreed. "And so do you. Which makes your continued attempts to help me find salvation all the more futile. You shouldn't waste your time on a fool's errand, Teresa," he bit out, using her name like a weapon.

Her face fell, anger immediately slipping away at the hopelessness in his voice. "Don't say that," she whispered.

"Why not?" Jane asked neutrally, ignoring the guilt in his chest when he saw the hurt in her eyes

He watched her take a second to gather strength from somewhere. She always seemed to have an inexhaustible supply, even when it came to him. She was so strong, so solid, so loyal, especially to those she'd designated as hers. "Because I don't like it when you talk like that," she said finally.

"Oh, well then," Jane said dismissively.

That remark finally caused a spark of anger to appear again in Lisbon's eyes. "Because you're not a fool's errand. You're not. You're not a lost cause."

He gave her a pitying smile, "Oh Teresa…"

This time it was her turn to interrupt. "Don't you dare patronize me!" she ordered. "If you think I'm just going to stand around and watch you waste your life, and destroy yourself and everyone around you…"

"Why does it matter to you what I do?" he wondered.

That question surprised her. "What?"

"Why does it matter if I walk the path to self-destruction?" Jane clarified.

"It matters," Lisbon said stubbornly.

'Why?" Jane pressed, taking a step towards her, eyes suddenly laser-focussed.

"Because you're a human being," Lisbon said, nearly faltering.

Jane smirked. Not her best work, "Oh please, spare me the platitudes."

"Because we're a family…" she tried again, her voice weaker.

"Of course we are," Jane agreed neutrally.

His tone caused something inside Lisbon to finally snap. She drew herself up to her full height and met him head on, guns blazing. "Because it matters to me! Because I care about you! Because it kills me to see you like this! Is that what you wanted Jane?"

Jane stood there stunned. He watched her deflate, wrapping her arms around herself as her righteous anger left her. He hadn't ever expected her to admit it. In a lot of ways, he wished she hadn't.

Lisbon closed her eyes. She wasn't supposed to say things like that. That was exactly what she wasn't supposed to say. Too late now. All that was left was a dignified retreat. "Whatever. Do what you want. I have to go," she muttered quickly.

But now Jane wasn't sure he wanted her to. "Teresa…" he reached for her arm.

It was her term to jerk away.

Jane felt a fresh burst of pain in his chest. "I can't…" he whispered.

"I didn't ask you to," she snapped back, obviously still feeling vulnerable.

"No, you didn't," he said softly. "You wouldn't do that. It would be easier if you had."

She exhaled sounding almost defeated. "Well, apparently I can't make anything easier."

Jane didn't like her tone of voice, "I wish I…"

"No you don't," she hissed, still not looking at him.

"Yes. I do," he said firmly, eyes full of pain. "I just can't."

Lisbon let her eyes flutter shut briefly. "I know," she admitted finally, trying to rally what was left of her defences. She'd regroup and live to fight another day. Sometimes it was the only way, with Jane. She'd learned that long ago.

He watched her for a moment. He couldn't leave her like this. He couldn't be what she wanted, but he couldn't leave it like this either. "Come here," he said finally.

Lisbon looked up in suspicious alarm. "What? Why?"

"Please." Jane said gently, holding out a hand.

She watched him warily. "I'd rather not," she said finally.

He smirked every-so-slightly. "I don't care."

Lisbon glared at him. He didn't even flinch. After another few seconds she sighed, and reluctantly took a step towards her consultant.

Taking that as encouragement, Jane closed the distance between them and wrapped his arms around her.

She stood stock-still for a moment, then Jane felt her lean her head on his shoulder. He rested his chin against her hair, wishing.

Praying for her strength to last.

"This will end, Jane," Lisbon murmured, sliding a hand up to his shoulder.

He smiled softly, his heartbeat a painful thud, "My eternal optimist."

"We will get him," she said firmly.

Jane wished he had her conviction. He wished he had a lot of things of hers. "We'll try our best anyway," he said finally.

Squeezing his shoulder, Lisbon pulled herself from his arms. With a final a pat and an awkward smile she stepped away from him.

Jane's smile was fast and bright. His eyes weren't.

Lisbon had learned long ago to watch his eyes. She wasn't sure about what she saw in them, especially when he was looking at her. She wondered what he saw.

She didn't dare ask.

Instead, she turned to leave. "We will get him," she promised one last time from the doorway before turning, shoving one of her hands in her pocket, picking up her laptop in the other, and walking briskly down the stairs.

"I hope so." Jane whispered into the air, watching her go.

His eyes remained trained on the empty stairwell long after she'd gone, his mind whirling.

Deliberately not asking himself why he'd left the laptop out in plain sight, with the file loaded to that exact spot. Deliberately not admitting that he may have done it on purpose.

That he may have wanted her to see it.

He couldn't help wondering if she knew that.

He wished he could tell her.

xxxx

The end