Pesky Author's Notes:
First of all, let me say two words. Spoiler. Alert.
Secondly, I think this may be their best episode ever. The writing was clean, the dialogue and plot all made sense, none of the characters were superfluous, there were lots of great moments and more than one "Whoa! Did not see that coming!" Also, it's a great set-up for the upcoming season (as in the one that's an entire summer away because the finale was just last night) because it leaves us with several intriguing loose ends. Oh, and just let me say mm-mm-MM-mm-mm. And yum.
And finally, I really, really wasn't going to write a tag because the episode was so good it could definitely stand alone (although I love, love, love Donnamour1969's interlude), but thoughts swarmed and I had to clear my head so I could do real life. Plus, I wanted to celebrate this warm and lovely sense of wellbeing while it lasts.
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
- Hebrews 11:1
THE SUBSTANCE OF THINGS HOPED FOR
Lorelei had said it was what made her a "happy soul". But what Lorelei had wasn't faith. He had seen faith, even knew something of his own, and "faith" was not the right word for the psychotic delirium that made her Red John's girl.
Lisbon had faith. She turned to it in times of trouble and offered thanks in times of joy and reprieve. It was real. Genuine. That's why he hadn't been surprised when following her had taken them both to that church, her intent, he had been sure, to offer petition on his behalf. He had smiled at the irony as he crawled up the sanctuary under the rows of silent pews, knowing Lisbon would be too upset to appreciate it. What better place for a prodigal to return? And his gladness to see her had been genuine as well. He had been near giddy, in fact, settling as close to her as he could without touching, not wanting the taint to spread but desiring the absolution of proximity for the past six months, if not the last twenty-four hours.
No, Lorelei's was no faith. Her dependency on Red John for direction, worth, even a sense of her very identity, and her total submission to his dictates and whims were merely a bent and broken reaction to whatever Red John had given her to fill the abyss of need life had created within her.
His faith in Lisbon was a completely different substance. Unlike Lorelei, he knew who and exactly what he was without her, could make his way, even forge a new life. She just made things matter more. And he could count on her. For everything. That's why he had gone to her as soon as Red John had made contact, certain beyond any doubt that she would help him, throw herself headlong into the play. He used to think he could turn her, bend her to his will with only the occasional twinge of guilt that he could so adeptly use someone so good in much the same way as Red John used the weak. But it had taken him years to realize, foreign to him as the concept was, that Lisbon wasn't easily manipulated so much as unerringly loyal. She would no more let him go off alone on one of his hare-brained, life-threatening schemes (even the ones in which she wasn't included) than she would let him drink and drive.
It was that loyalty, that unfaltering fealty that had made it possible for him to land back on her couch in these late night hours, the tea she had kept stocked soothing away the burn of alcohol, the quietude easing the ringing of slot machines and raucous laughter. He had given her an accounting of his sojourn—it hadn't taken long as it had only been a string of cons, scams and card games, shockingly boring in its monotony. Then she had listened with professional attention, stemming her personal curiosity, asking pertinent questions as he recounted every detail of his conversation with Red John. A curse had exploded from her at his revelation of an informant in the FBI, and he had watched the thoughts play across her face, through her eyes, and knew she'd hoped it was Darcy. The same thing had occurred to him. It was good to be back, he reflected; back with someone who understood him, someone who shared tea and sympathy, someone who felt the same . . .
He had told her everything, mostly because that's what he did now but partly because he hadn't told her the one thing. Frankly he hadn't wanted to tell her, hadn't wanted her to know even though he knew there was no way she wouldn't eventually find out, that Lorelei would make it a taunt, her deceptive sweetness a shroud for the cruelty that lay beneath. That's why he had stayed in the shadows during her interview, to distance himself from both women for entirely different reasons, not hiding necessarily. No, . . . not hiding.
Now the day was done, and they were together in her office. Lisbon had been working on her computer during his reverie, and his thoughts were brought back suddenly to the present when her phone rang. "Lisbon", she answered, brusque but quiet, and he realized it was the first time she'd spoken since the murmured thanks over the as yet untouched tea he had placed on her desk twenty minutes ago. "Okay, great," she said by way of good-bye. She carefully cradled the receiver and spoke, turning back to resume tapping on her computer.
"They finished processing Lorelei and took her downstairs for the night. Arraignment's in the morning. She didn't make a call, and she didn't ask for an attorney."
Tap, tap, tap.
He was familiar with the drill as far as suspects went, but she'd said it like it was something he would want to know, had been waiting to hear. Beyond what information they could get from her and the hope Red John wouldn't set her on fire in her cell, he didn't care what happened to Lorelei. Did Lisbon think he would head downstairs for a visit?
It had been difficult to do what he felt needed to be done, though not so much as he would've thought. But he knew this would be the really hard part, this silent consequence, this empty fallout. There would be no recriminations, no name calling, no "I hate you" or any other of her affectionate abuse. Lisbon would never bring up his necessary indiscretion any more than she would ever again broach the subject of the impetuous declaration he'd made the last time he was in her office. In time, hopefully, she would see that only the latter held any meaning for him and the former would fade into the obscurity of her vast capacity for forgiveness.
And as certain as he was that it was the words he had blurted out in the galvanizing moment of looking at Lisbon down the barrel of a gun that would have the greater effect on her in the long run, he was just as sure if the subject were ever revisited, she would not be the one to bring it up.
As dire as things seemed at the moment, he couldn't help smiling down into his recently freshened tea.
"Why didn't you post bond for me?"
Distracted by her work and everything else on her mind, she reacted as if he had poked her. The turquoise porcelain descended as he swallowed.
"When I was in jail, I was sure you were the one who'd posted my bond." Arresting the rise of his teacup and letting it clink back into the saucer, he turned wide, disbelieving eyes to hers. "Never say you gave up, Lisbon!"
Her mouth dropped open in bewilderment, words of self-defense instantly forming. Before she spoke them, however, her lips met in relaxed compression and her eyes measured him shrewdly, an enigmatic and cold dignity enveloping her.
"I would've come eventually—you know that. As it happened, if I'd moved too soon it would've interfered with your plans."
He hid his chagrin at making such a tactical blunder in another sip of tea and fought the urge to physically squirm. Silence reigned again, except for the damn tap, tap, tapping, and he wondered what was so damn important that she couldn't stop for a damn drink of tea.
Suddenly she heaved an exasperation-laden sigh and raised one hand to slide across her fringe and tuck her hair behind an ear.
"So, are you back or not?" she near spat at him.
"Back. Here. At the CBI." Her hand lifted in an irritated wave at her laptop. "I need to know how much trouble I should go to to make these charges go away."
"Fraud? Narcotics? Assaulting a police officer? Any of these ring a bell? You know, just because you enmeshed yourself in the con of the ages and nearly got your fingers lopped off doesn't mean Nevada will give you a free pass. People get cranky when a crook takes their money, and cops don't like to get punched by people they're trying to rescue."
"Oh. That." He shrugged with unconcerned nonchalance. "I thought I'd let you iron it all out."
"Iron it all out," she ground through gritted teeth.
"Yeah," he rolled his hand, waving away all the significance of the matter. "Do that I'm-a-cop-you're-a-cop thing. We're all in this together. Interdepartmental cooperation and all that."
"Some of these are felonies, Jane," she deadpanned. "There's no wand I can wave for this."
"Well—" he said, twisting to put his teacup on the file cabinet before standing to walk toward her, facing her across the desk. "—what do you want me to do? How can I make this better? I want to help you, Lisbon." He gestured, palms upraised first to himself then to her. "Help me – help you."
She turned her head barely and looked at him in suspicion. "You'll need to apologize to Officer Warren." At his blank look, she snapped, "The beat cop you hit."
"Consider it done."
"Consider my driving you there to make sure."
"Not necessary, but I'll be glad for the company. Next?"
"You probably can't make financial restitution, can you," she stated more than asked.
"You mean pay people back?" he asked in consternation.
"Yes, Jane, that's what I mean."
"No-o-o." He drew the word out, looking away from her, and she knew he was hedging. Deciding against that particular battle, she moved on.
"I can probably arrange for some community service."
"You mean wearing one of those bright yellow vests and stabbing trash at the roadside?" he asked dubiously. She took in his wrinkled attire and rolled her eyes.
"I was thinking more of entertaining the kids in the critical care wards of the Children's Hospital in Vegas."
His eyes lit up at that and he stood a little straighter, and she realized that while he had run a very convincing game he had by no means escaped paying the price.
"You can go on weekends for a few months. I'll drive." She waved away his argument before he voiced it. "I'll. Drive," she reiterated with more force. He shrugged, letting her have her way.
"What about your bill at that dump you were living in?"
"Any other debts?"
"Only some I need to collect."
"Jane," she said with a note of warning.
"Lisbon." Her face hardened, and he pushed on. "A bet's a bet, and I'm holding markers on a dozen legitimate wins!" One eyebrow arched at the use of the word "legitimate". "Honest! They were legal poker games (in Nevada) and all I need to do is to make the rounds."
"And you didn't cheat?"
"Not that anyone could tell."
"Jane," a threatening growl.
"Lisbon," he responded laughingly.
She eyed him heatedly then acquiesced. "All right. Collect what you can. But don't push your luck. I don't want you beaten up again or, God forbid, rearrested."
"You're not coming along?" he asked in disappointment.
"Do you want me to?"
"Sure," he grinned, heartfelt and beaming. "I might need muscle for back-up."
"You're hopeless," she groaned.
He had no reply for that, only stood looking down at her, wondering if she had any idea how far off the mark she was. She swallowed and looked back at her laptop screen, chewing her lip.
Tap, tap, tap.
"I'll take care of this. You'd better head out. Get some rest. You look like hell."
He spread his fingers, bouncing the tips lightly on her desktop. "About that . . ."
"What?" She looked up at him confused before realization hit her. "You don't have anywhere to stay?"
"I had to cut all ties. Gave up my room."
"Big sacrifice," she muttered then motioned toward the break room. "Blanket and pillow—"
"In the cabinet. I remember."
He left her office immediately carrying their tea things with him, acquired his bedding and returned before she could slip out, a model of cooperation. He owed her a lot of making up, and while she would never claim that marker he knew she had every right to it and would do everything in his power to honor it. It didn't matter that she stared at him hard and flat as he made up his bed in her office and that he knew she was wondering how long his good behavior would last.
Finally, the tapping was done, the laptop closed, desk light shut off. Lisbon wriggled into her jacket and headed for the door, pausing to look at him over her shoulder.
"You need anything?"
"I'll bring breakfast."
"Thanks, Mom." She could hear him grinning in the dark.
"Good night, Jane," she said in good-natured exasperation.
"Good night, sweet Lisbon," he answered softly.
The door eased shut in her wake, her footsteps faded, the elevator chimed and he was alone.
His thoughts circled back to their conversation in the church.
I tried calling—I tried calling you hundreds of times begging you to talk to me, begging you to get help. Not a reply. Not a word. Not a text.
Hundreds may have been an exaggeration, but she had been truthful in making her point. He had agonized over each call, each text alert, looking long at her image before erasing the messages, unheard and unread. The fact that she was still in his contact list was bad enough, but he knew any recognition of her attempts to communicate, let alone response, could undeniably tip his hand. Added to that was the fear that her pleading would weaken his resolve.
Those calls had been proof of her refusal to waver as was her working on his behalf in his present legal difficulties. Not only was she smoothing things with the locals in Vegas and the FBI, she was getting their ducks in a row, reestablishing him as a member of the unit before Wainwright's replacement made it on the scene. The new identity and fresh start Red John had offered him was no life, not really. Lisbon was remaking the life he really wanted.
All of it, together with the tea and the freshly laundered blanket that only he used bore testament to her keeping faith in a vigil which she had no way of knowing would ever end. He raised his hands and covered his face, rubbing it roughly. It had been a long time since he had felt shame. Only for Lisbon would he have admitted to it.
Cataloging her virtues, it occurred to him that what he had come to have in Lisbon was not faith alone, if faith truly was the evidence of things not seen. Because of the evidence, he did see her friendship, her affection, her care and regard for him, her trust, even her respect. He had a certainty, a surety. She had given him a foundation upon which he could rely as blindly as he had sought out her hand after his eleventh-hour escape, and he had begun to build on it. Sometimes the work was shoddy and sometimes it might tumble back down to the baseline, but the foundation was there, unmoving, without falter or fail.
But if faith was also the substance of things hoped for, then this, he knew, was where he must do his part as Lisbon had for so many years done hers. He would give her substance. He would apologize to Officer Warren, kiss up to whatever other law enforcement he had to and do magic tricks for sick children until his fingers bled. And he would tell her everything and heed her warnings about bigwigs. And working with her he would coldly and detachedly eventually get every bit of information on Red John out of Lorelei.
Made drowsy by relief at being home and the first opportunity to snuggle into clean bedding in months, his eyelids grew heavy and his mind unable to delineate any more specifics. Instead he settled for a general but fervent resolve to be very . . . very . . . good.