Disclaimer: I don't own anything related to the Mentalist.

A/N: Taking a break from the cute and fluffy to try out the dark and twisty. I said this in the summary, but to repeat: no spoilers. There is very mild speculation based only on the show.

Thanks to my awesome beta Melissa for being ship-tastic and keeping muse happy. And to Brown Eyes Parker for catching a silly (and embarrassing) mistake.


As the bedroom door opens, his smile widens expectantly. He has been waiting for this moment for the past hour. He rubs his hands against the rough denim of his jeans, even though his palms are now long dry.

He watches as Jane's smile falters, the tell-tale twinkle in his eyes dimming. This is not what he has been expecting, and his mouth remains open as he focuses on the still-wet smiley face on the wall.

He feels an almost giddy anticipation as Jane extracts his cell phone from his vest pocket. He does not need the bug he planted in the room, nor even his superior ability to read lips, to know who will get the call.

"Lisbon." Jane almost sighs as he says her name. "He got her." He listens, gives a somber nod of the head. "Of course I'm sure," he says heavily. "Okay, thanks. I'll be here." The phone barely makes a sound as he clicks it shut.

The scene before him unfolds exactly as he thought it would. He watches as Jane inspects the bedroom, the lifeless, broken body beneath his trademark face, painted in the victim's blood. He is almost beside himself waiting for Jane to discover what he has done to the victim's fingernails. His lips twist into a smile as Jane reaches for the dead woman's hand. All he gets is the hardening of Jane's face, but he knows this hurts him, angers him, even if he's not willing to show it. Yet.

He hopes Lisbon will arrive without delay. Her face is so much more expressive, perhaps because she has many more concerns than her consultant. He appreciates her as Jane's ally; she is another worthy opponent. Someday he will actualize the plans he has for her. He's been saving her for the very end, Jane's ultimate punishment. There are no delusions of a romantic relationship between them, but he knows there is something. Platonic love, he sees. He'll take it.

The sudden flashing of bright lights temporarily blinds him, and he shields his eyes. The approaching car tells him that Lisbon has arrived. He watches as she parks, turns the headlights off, and steps out. For all her skills as a homicide detective, she has not noticed that she is being watched. On the other hand, he has prided himself on his hiding place, his disguise, so he does not hold it against her.

Her face is set as she walks purposefully up to the house. She does not knock before entering, but pushes the front door open. She disappears for a minute, and then reappears in the bedroom. As she enters, Jane's head turns toward her.

Lisbon's shoulders slump as she sighs, and for a moment she looks utterly defeated. "Damn," she mutters. He turns up the volume on his electronic bug, eager to hear every word.

"She's been dead less than two hours," Jane begins. "I received a call from her ninety minutes ago, telling me to come to here, said she had something for me. I told her I'd be by later. Maybe if I hadn't waited, I could have…"

"Jane," Lisbon interrupts gently. "This wasn't your fault."

"Wasn't it?" he counters. "Damn it, Lisbon. I told her to stop pursuing this. She shouldn't have been on this case; why couldn't she just let it go?"

"Red John would have found her anyway," Lisbon reasons. "You know that. It was only a matter of time." She nods toward the painted head on the wall. "Is this authentic?"

"Yes," Jane snaps, though Lisbon does not recoil.

"We should call the forensic unit, medical examiner, get this place checked out." Lisbon has her phone out of her pocket already, but Jane shakes his head.

"Not yet."

She consents with a small, understanding nod, as he knew she would. Sometimes she's too soft on him, although he's grateful for this weakness. "Anything interesting on the body?"

He can tell she is forcing a tone of normalcy in her voice. He has rattled her, he thinks, and the thought pleases him. She must suspect he'll come for her one day, and he hopes this thought is crossing her mind now. Susan Darcy is only about half as important to Jane as Lisbon is, even if she doesn't fully realize it.

"Her hand," Jane says.

He watches as Lisbon's gaze falls on the dead hand. As he predicted, she reacts much more than Jane did to the sight of the bright-red fingernails, painted with the victim's blood. Her expression is much more horrified, though also mixed with – could it be pity?

She sighs heavily. "He made this one personal."

"I want you off this case." His tone is bitter, harsh, maybe even a touch of contempt.

Her eyes narrow. "That's a non sequitur."

"Damn it, Lisbon!" Jane exclaims again. "Don't you understand? Darcy couldn't let this go, she ended up dead. If you keep pursuing this, he's going to go after you, too."

"And this is different how?" she argues. "I've been on his case since you came to the CBI. If Red John wants me dead, he knows where to find me."

"Don't!"

"Don't what?" Lisbon counters, and her voice rises with anger. "Don't tell you what you already know?" She steps toward him, but stops at the sight of his darkening face. Quieter, she says, "You are not going at this alone."

He has never seen Jane lose control like this before. He was not at the house in Malibu when Jane discovered his dead family, but he suspects he had a similar reaction. But that was years ago, years full of Jane hunting him and slowly eliminating people from his network, but ultimately never getting to the end. The exchange between them thrills him, as much because of what they say as what they don't. The tension radiating from the bedroom is so thick, he's almost surprised it doesn't interfere with the bug.

"Get out," Jane says. This time there is no mistaking the contempt in his tone.

"No."

How he loves a fight between stubborn people.

"You are not going to go at this alone," she repeats, though softly this time. "He'll kill you before you ever figure it out."

"Fine," Jane says easily. "I'm okay with that." A half-smile even ghosts his lips.

"I'm not."

Jane shrugs. "Too bad."

Lisbon's mouth drops open like she's been slapped. "What is wrong with you?"

"Nothing."

"Then why won't you let me help you?"

He thinks he knows why.

"Because I don't want him to kill you!" Jane finally shouts.

"I don't want him to kill you either!"

He has to stuff his fist into his mouth to keep from keep from crying out. This is more than what he could have hoped for from this conversation. He lives for chaos, for turning the lives of others upside-down, and to know that he can hurt the living as much as the dead…there is no greater reward.

They continue to stare at each other, half-reeling from their heated exchange, half-waiting for the other to concede. He enjoys this dance, a constant test of who is dominant over whom. It always pleases him that the winner is never clear until the end.

"Fine," Jane says, though his tone is different this time. He sounds exhausted. "Call the forensic team."

"Jane…" Lisbon begins uneasily. "If you want some more time with the scene, we could-"

"We'll need a good story," Jane continues, clearly not listening. "There's no way we can spin this as not Red John, not with the fingernails; that detail was never released. " He begins pacing the room, agitated. "But it all depends on how much they already know."

Which is sure to be nothing, he thinks. The authorities have always been several steps behind; it's been one step forward, two steps back for a while now. They've been spinning their wheels with this elaborately orchestrated lie about Timothy Carter. But Darcy was smart; she was figuring it out. She had been wrong about many things, including the members of his network, but she at least knew that the Timothy Carter story was a fake. Intelligent woman. Too much so.

Lisbon bites her lip. "You don't think that they could-"

"They could," he answers darkly.

"You know I have to ask if-"

"No."

If Jane's ever made a mistake, he thinks it's been dragging out that nonsense lie for too long. Darcy's accusation of Jane being part of the network – a highly amusing thought, no doubt – was just one of many bad possible outcomes. He might even have let it continue, as it threw suspicion off himself, but Darcy was interfering too much with Jane's life, and he couldn't have him locked up. Way to take one for the team, though – his team, that is. He's profited from Jane's lies, that much he can admit. Without him, he could never have flown under the radar for so long, making his plans, even beginning to set some in motion. If only Jane knew what he had begun.

He might even go so far to say that he owes Jane a favor.

"Jane," Lisbon mutters. "Stop." She grabs his arm, effectively halting his pacing. Catching his eye, she says quietly, comfortingly, "It's going to be okay."

Perhaps that favor will be sparing her life one day.


A/N: Please review! I'd love to know what you thought.