So, I'm still slowly going through my December/January requests. This one is for lothiriel84, who requested Jane/Lisbon, Jane's idea of a marriage proposal OR Lisbon takes charge. I may have decided to combine the two. Sort of. That's what I did in my head at least. And also, somehow this somehow ended up being somewhat darker than I was expecting. Also longer. OH WELL.

(But also, I just reread this, and pretty much: fluffety fluff fluff fluff)

xxx

Questionable Offer

xxx

Jane was watching the light play across the far side of the attic as he tried to sort out his thoughts. Even after all that had happened, after all the time that had passed, things could sometimes still be... confusing.

Some days he didn't quite know what to make of it all.

Other days he didn't even want to try.

The consultant was still considering possibilities (or at least, trying to grapple with the idea that possibilities might, might, exist), when the attic door slid open.

"Hey Jane."

The corners of his mouth quirked up into a slight smile. Her arrival was rather appropriate somehow. "Hello Lisbon. What brings you here this fine evening?"

Jane watched as she sat down on the floor next to him, stretching out her legs so that they ran parallel to his.

"I could ask you the same thing," she replied, her tone (deceptively) light. "I would have thought you'd have less need for the attic now."

Jane didn't bother asking her what she meant by that. "The attic was never only for speculating about Red John, Lisbon."

Lisbon looked sceptical. "It wasn't?"

"No," Jane assured her with a shake of his head. "Though I am perfectly willing to admit that ended up being one of its major functions. And while I did some of my best thinking up here... Actually that's my point. I do some of my best thinking up here, regardless of the subject. A lot of my thoughts were related to Red John, but not all of them." Jane turned to her with a grin. "The attic is more than that to me."

Lisbon found herself smiling back. "So you came up here to have a good think?"

"A perfectly normal, non-serial killer related think," Jane confirmed with a nod.

Lisbon was sure that was true on some level, but for some reason she thought there might be more than that. She nudged his foot with her own. "Anything I can help with?"

Part of Jane's brain (the reckless, and just plain stupid part) flew into a frenzy, pointing out that she'd offered. But (as he'd been doing for weeks) he ignored that side of his brain. "No," he assured her. "Just thinking about life, and..."

"And," Lisbon prompted.

"And, well, life's a funny thing," Jane mused. "Having one, I mean."

Lisbon frowned. She suddenly had a fairly good idea where Jane's thoughts had taken him. "You've always had a life."

Jane wasn't able to keep the affection out of his eyes when he looked at her, particularly when he saw the concern in hers. "Not really, not for a decade."

Lisbon hesitated. She supposed he had a point, in a way. Jane had been in a bit of a holding pattern for the better part of a decade. But he'd still done things, still interacted with the world. Sometimes he'd even looked like was enjoying himself. "Are you saying there's nothing in the past ten years that you aren't glad of?" she asked, deliberately prodding (and maybe, just maybe, looking for just the littlest bit of reassurance).

Jane sighed. She would take his point to its logical extreme. He found himself annoyed with her for it (and with himself for putting that thought into her head). "Of course not Lisbon. Don't be ridiculous. You know as well as I do that the last ten years haven't been all bad."

"Speak for yourself," Lisbon couldn't help muttering. The teasing between them was reflexive now.

Jane nudged her in the shoulder until she smiled. "Be nice," he admonished lightly. "Anyway, while I'm not denying that these past years haven't been entirely horrible, things are different now."

Different? Lisbon wasn't sure she liked the sound of that. Wasn't sure she liked it at all. "How so?" she asked softly.

"You know how," Jane murmured.

"I do," Lisbon agreed. She paused. "But it might help you to say it out loud."

Jane had never been sure why some people put such stock in saying things out loud, but he decided to humour her. "The man who killed my family is dead. You shot him. Thank you for that by the way."

"We've been over this," Lisbon replied with a scowl. "He was going to kill you. And stop trying to change the subject."

"I thought that was the subject," Jane countered.

"I think that's only part of it," Lisbon shot back.

Jane paused; she'd surprised him. For some reason, it always pleased him whenever she managed to do that. "Are you sure that's not what you want to focus on?" he asked. "The mayor wanted to throw you a parade.

"Shut up," Lisbon replied. Unlike the earlier tap from her foot, this time when she bumped his shoulder with her own it was more of a shove than a nudge.

"He wasn't the only one," Jane said softly.

Lisbon tilted her head up at him. "Someone needed to get him," she said eventually.

"Yes," Jane agreed.

"Keep talking," she ordered.

Jane grinned. "You're being very forceful today, dear."

"I need to be, with some people. These pitiful distraction techniques of yours won't work today. Talk," Lisbon pressed.

Jane raised his eyebrows. "Pitiful?"

"Get over it," Lisbon said unsympathetically.

Jane smiled at her. It faded slowly as he turned to stare at the wall ahead of him. "Just trying to figure out what's left, I guess," he said.

"It's been a while..." Lisbon pointed out tentatively.

"I know," Jane agreed. "I know. I guess I just never... I mean, after..."

Lisbon put a hand over his briefly. "I know."

Jane forced his tone bright. "Plus, it's strange not having a goal to work towards."

"Solving our other cases?" Lisbon suggested.

"Child's play," Jane replied.

"Hey!" Lisbon objected indignantly. Her job wasn't child's play, whatever that idiot thought.

Jane realized his mistake a second too late. "I meant compared to Red John," he hastened to explain.

"Well, I'm sorry that California can't supply you with an unlimited number of criminal masterminds," Lisbon grumbled.

Jane turned to look at her sharply. "That isn't what I meant."

Lisbon forced herself to take a calming breath. "I know. I'm sorry."

"I'm just trying to figure out what I have now," Jane said softly.

Surprised by the sincerity, Lisbon's whipped her head around to look at the man beside her. But she was a second too late to get a good look at her consultant's face. Jane was already on his feet and walking away from her. He stopped when he got to the window. "It's difficult, when something that was such a huge part of your life is suddenly gone. It's hard to adjust, even if you want to."

Lisbon wondered which something he was talking about. Poor Jane's world had been turned on its head twice. Her heart ached for him. She stood up. "I know. But you can adjust," she told him quietly. She believed that; she had to. "You can still have a life."

"Sometimes I wonder," Jane murmured, wondering if she was going to walk all the way over to him or stay where she was.

"No!" Lisbon ordered stopping just short of the window; she knew Jane might want his space right now. "Stop that! You can have a life. I know it's not going to be easy. But I did not spend the last ten years pulling you away from the edge for you to give up now."

Jane smiled in spite of himself. She made it difficult to brood. "I didn't say I'd given up," he said, turning towards her. "Just that sometimes I wonder. About the life I have, I mean. About this life."

Lisbon's frown deepened. She'd been afraid of this. "What's so bad about this life?"

Jane shrugged. "I never thought I'd catch criminals for a living. And I certainly never thought I'd travel around California, visiting people at their lowest point, and giving them more bad news."

Lisbon glared at him. She hated it when he dismissed what they did like that. "Call me optimistic, but I think there's more to it than that."

Jane smiled again. "That's because you were practically born to do this job."

Lisbon paused in her glare. Because that had sounded almost... nice.

Jane's smile reached his eyes. "You're very good at what you do, Saint Teresa."

She bit her lip, trying to order herself not to blush. "Thank you."

"You're welcome."

"You're good at this job too, you know," she reminded him.

Jane shrugged. "Well, obviously. Why else would you have put up with me all these years?"

"I can't think why," Lisbon said dryly, walking up to stand next to him. She turned to lean her back against the window.

Jane smiled at her.

"You solve puzzles," Lisbon reminded him. "I thought you liked that."

"I do," Jane admitted, and it was somehow a relief. Even if the majority of their cases were hardly rocket science, sometimes, sometimes he did find himself interested (occasionally in spite of himself).

"Well, that's something, isn't it?" Lisbon asked.

"That I usually like my job?" Jane asked. "Yes, I suppose it is..."

"But?" Lisbon prodded. She was determined to get through this once and for all, and if she didn't like the outcome, well, she'd live with it.

"But," Jane said slowly, "Well, this is just a rumour I heard once Lisbon, but I have heard that there is more to life than work. Now, I know that might be a bit of a novel concept to you, but..."

"Oh shut it," Lisbon said without malice.

"Well, look at you!" Jane pointed out. "I've been trying to get you out of the office at a decent hour, instead of spending all of your evenings doing paperwork for years! I think my success rate, or lack thereof, speaks for itself. I don't even work as many hours as you do, even if I sometimes spend more time in the building. You're not exactly a model of work-life balance in this job."

Lisbon swallowed. "You thinking of a change?"

Jane froze. Was he? He didn't think so. He didn't think that was the problem. "Not exactly."

Lisbon took a step towards him and decided to bite the bullet. "You could, you know. Change careers. If you wanted. That's your right."

Jane stared at her as she put a hand briefly on his elbow before letting it drop. He was more than a little relieved to see a hint of pain lurking in her eyes. Lisbon may have been making the suggestion, but she didn't actually want him to go. She just thought it might be good for him, and if that was the case, she wouldn't stand in his way. He smiled gently. "After all you've done for me?"

To Jane's amusement, his answer seemed to make her angry.

Lisbon knew she was glaring now. She straightened, no longer leaning against the window. "I do not want you staying around because you feel like you owe me!" she snapped. "That's not why I did this. I did this for..."

"Justice," Jane finished, cutting off her rant. He'd been enjoying the fire in her eyes, but part of him admitted he'd rather see something else there, something less angry. "I know. You have that. That drives you. I had Red John. Now..."

"So find something else," Lisbon told him. "If not the puzzles, then... something."

Jane shook his head. "It's not that simple. I can't really go back to the psychic gig. Well, I can, but..."

Now it was her turn to cut him off. "I get it."

Jane ran a hand through his hair. "And con man's even worse."

Lisbon's eyes brightened. "Really?"

Jane chuckled; he couldn't help it. "All this spending time with law enforcement must have rubbed off on me."

Lisbon tried to suppress a smile of her own. "There are other options," she reminded him again, angling her body towards his again.

Jane shook his head. He'd known for a while that he didn't really want to leave. Not right now anyway. "I don't think they'd be any better."

"Oh." Lisbon wasn't sure what else to say. She was trying to be supportive, but like everything Jane did, he wasn't making it easy.

He seemed to realize that. "Sorry. I'm just feeling sorry for myself. Maybe it's the weather. All the rain..."

"Sun's shining today, you're just in a dreary attic," Lisbon pointed out, hoping that at least it would provoke a move out of the gloom.

Jane shook his head. "So literal, Lisbon."

"Well..."

"It's not like I have a busy social calendar," Jane reminded her. "I'm probably just feeling lonely. I don't really have many friends.

Lisbon bit down on her retort just in time. "Oh."

Jane winced, realizing how that might have sounded. "Except you of course," he assured her. "I mean, obviously."

Lisbon's tone was short. "Right."

And Jane knew he had to go into damage control. There was a reason she was the one who'd come to search for him in the CBI attic on a beautiful sunny day. "No, I meant... You're my only friend."

"Sure," Lisbon muttered, glancing away and taking a few steps away from him..

And it was Jane's turn to take a step towards her. "We're friends," he assured her, reaching out to put a hand on her forearm. Then a sliver of doubt crept in, as it so often did where she was concerned. (Sometimes, when it was just her, it was hard to keep up the act.) "At least, I think... Aren't we?"

"I'm not the one who claimed to have no friends," Lisbon replied. She'd been trying for neutral, but realized too late that her tone was more than a little petulant.

Jane definitely heard it, and it made him feel better. "I'm sorry," he said again. And he meant it. "I told you, I'm just in a mood."

Lisbon watched him for a moment, trying to decide if he was being sincere. She decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. "What about Cho?"

"Cho doesn't seem to be the moody type," Jane replied glibly.

Her glare resurfaced. "No. Isn't Cho your friend? Didn't you two end up going to the Korean place across town for lunch last week?"

Jane paused. "Uh, I guess so."

"And wasn't that outside of work hours?" Lisbon pressed.

Jane was irritated to realize he was beginning to feel a bit foolish. On the other hand, he wasn't all that upset by the notion that she might be able to win this particular fight, or at least present a decent argument. "Yes."

"And what about Rigsby?" Lisbon asked. "Or are you only friends with Cho?"

Jane rolled his eyes. "Of course I'm friends with Rigsby."

Lisbon kept going. "And Van Pelt? She baked you cupcakes on your birthday last month. And you still screen the guys she dates to make sure they're good enough. Not friends with her either, are you?"

"Alright woman, I take your point," Jane muttered.

But Lisbon wasn't done. "And Minelli? You trusted him for information on Red John. And you and Hightower always seemed to get along rather well."

"Well, yes, but..."

Lisbon ignored his feeble objections. "Or what about Sam and Pete, those old carnival friends you introduced me to once?"

"I rarely see them," Jane objected, but it was weak.

"Doesn't matter," Lisbon told him. It didn't. She didn't know what was up with Jane today (and she wasn't sure she wanted to, his mind could be a dark place), but she wasn't going to let him wallow in needless misery.

Jane considered her for a moment. "You're kind of irritating, when you want to be."

Lisbon didn't back down. "I told you, being a cop, it's like being a family."

"So you're family now?" he asked slowly, trying the word out on his tongue. He definitely didn't dislike it.

Lisbon hesitated almost imperceptibly before plowing onwards. "Something like it." She swallowed. "And you know, you know if you ever need anything... You know I..."

"I know," Jane assured her.

But Lisbon wasn't sure he did, after today. And she needed to make sure. It was important. It was... "I mean it," she said, taking a step back towards him. "I'll always be here. Whatever you need. You're like my partner, so if you need me, whenever. I just... you can talk to me. Anytime. I know that this conversation isn't... I know everything isn't going to be magically solved, is all. And I know there's going to be good days and bad days. We've been through a lot together, and I know you're going through some stuff of your own, but I wanted you to know, that... that you don't have no friends. That I'm here. If you need me. If you want."

She managed to hold his eyes a second longer before dropping hers to the floor, the intensity between them somehow too much to handle. She just... she'd needed him to know.

Jane continued to stare at the woman in front of him, the wonderful woman who could no longer meet his eyes. He desperately needed that to change. He needed to let her know that he got it, to fix things, to lighten the mood. "Was that a proposal?" he asked before he could stop himself. He blamed that reckless half of his brain.

Lisbon's head snapped up. "What?" she asked, clearly shocked.

Jane smiled slowly. After all, now that he had asked the question, he couldn't very well back down; he had to keep going. "A proposal," he repeated. "It certainly sounded like one," he added when Lisbon continued to simply stare. "After all Lisbon, you did just basically offer to stick with me through the good days and the bad. Or in other words, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer. Though, in my case I'm guessing it would be more like for crazier or saner."

Lisbon still looked a bit like a deer caught in headlights. "I..."

"You said you were my friend," Jane reminded her, taking a step towards her. "And it's always been my opinion a lot of the best marriages are based on friendship. Passion can fade; friendship's more permanent. And you also said that you'd always be there for me, if I needed you."

Lisbon's throat went dry. She had said that, hadn't she? "Well, yes..."

"What if I decide that I need you always?" Jane asked.

Lisbon's intake of breath was audible in the resulting silence of the CBI attic.

Jane tried to tone down his smile. He failed. "So really, it sounds like all that's missing to make it a marriage is the kissing, and et cetera. Which, I have to say, I'm not entirely opposed to, Lisbon."

That comment succeeded in getting Lisbon's attention; her anger snapped her out of her stupor. "Oh, you're not entirely opposed to it, are you? And what the hell is that supposed to mean?"

Jane could practically see the indignation rolling off of her now, his prickly, prickly Lisbon. "Just that if we really want to make a go of this marriage idea of yours, well, it's probably best if we do it right, if you know what I mean. Prevent any legal hassles down the line and all that. So I thought you should know that..."

"That the idea of kissing me isn't completely repugnant to you?" Lisbon practically growled.

"Oh, I never said that," Jane said, raising his hands and taking a step backwards, suddenly realizing he may have been just a touch too glib.

Lisbon advanced on him angrily. "So kissing me is completely repugnant to you than?"

Jane kept his hands raised defensively and began a tactical retreat. "Of course not. All I said was..."

"And I did not just propose to you." Lisbon snapped.

That stopped Jane in his tracks. He frowned. "It certainly sounded like you did."

"It did not," Lisbon contradicted, putting her hands on her hips. "That was your stupid idea."

Jane felt a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth again. "I really think it was yours."

Lisbon shook her head, wondering why she suddenly felt an absurd urge to laugh. She was angry with him, as she had every right to be. Not only was he being insulting, but he was also being completely infuriating and a bit insane. "It really wasn't."

Jane paused, trying to consider his next move. "Hm."

His lack of answer did nothing to pacify his companion. "Hm? And what is that supposed to mean?"

"There really was only one thing missing in your marriage proposal," Jane said, more to himself than anything, as he turned the idea around in his head. The attic was his thinking room after all, and she'd inadvertently presented him with quite the puzzle. Or rather, quite the solution.

"I didn't propose!" Lisbon insisted somewhat hysterically. "So unless the one thing that was missing from my proposal was a proposal..."

"Isn't what constitutes a proposal really in the eye of the proposee?" Jane wondered idly.

"No!" Lisbon snapped, ignoring her rapidly beating heart.

Jane's eyes lit up suddenly (something Lisbon knew could only mean bad news). "Should we get a second opinion? There always seems to be a distressing number of lawyers in or around this building. This is exactly the sort of question they love to dissect amongst themselves."

Lisbon put a hand to her forehead. "Jane, so help me god, if you go and find a lawyer, I will..."

Suddenly Jane was smiling again. "You'll what? Inflict some other form of cruel punishment? I think I'm already hurt enough, since you're apparently retracting your proposal. And so soon after issuing it, too."

"It wasn't a proposal!" Lisbon insisted for what felt like the tenth time.

Jane took a step towards her, an odd look on his face. And another. "Next best thing then," he said softly, brushing two fingers along her hand.

"No," Lisbon shook her head. She suddenly noticed how close he was; she took a step back. "What are you doing?"

Jane took another step. "Filling the gap."

For some reason, Lisbon couldn't bring herself to take another step backwards (and couldn't bring herself to admit that maybe she didn't want to). "What?"

Jane reached his hand up to her cheek. "Teresa..."

"Yes?" she asked weakly, realizing that the laughter had slipped out of his eyes, leaving something much stronger behind.

Jane stroked his thumb along her cheekbone. "Remember when I told you I wasn't necessarily opposed to kissing you?"

Lisbon's eyes narrowed slightly. "Yeah?"

"That might have been a slight understatement," Jane admitted.

She swallowed. "How slight?"

He paused briefly, making sure he remembered the expression on her face, before sliding his slightly down to her neck and kissing her gently.

Lisbon felt herself freeze momentarily. Then she was kissing him back, just as tentatively as he was kissing her.

Jane pulled back to look in her eyes.

"A slight understatement you said?" she asked softly, biting down on her lip to keep from smiling.

Jane's eyes flicked down, following the movement in something close to fascination. "Slight understatement, extreme distortion of the truth... really, do the details matter?" Then, before she could answer, he bent to kiss her again, replacing her teeth with his own. After nipping her bottom lip lightly ( and making her moan), his kiss turned sweeter as he leaned into her.

Lisbon wrapped an arm around his waist to facilitate the process, and steady herself. "I didn't propose to you," she murmured seconds later.

"I think you did," Jane assured her in between kisses.

"I didn't," Lisbon insisted, when he slid his lips sideways to kiss her cheek.

"You sure?" Jane asked, as he peppering kisses along her face. Because as it turned out that 'not completely opposed to' had actually meant 'completely desperate to.'

"Very," Lisbon said decisively, sliding her hand around his neck, and using it to pull his mouth back to hers.

"Hmm," Jane hummed, when she paused in her (delightfully thorough) exploration of his mouth. "Maybe you should be clearer next time."

"I was plenty clear." Lisbon insisted, tilting her chin upwards to emphasize her point. She gasped when Jane decided to take that as an invitation to explore her neck. "You're just crazy," she told him, tightening her hold around his waist to emphasize her point.

"I'm saner now," Jane murmured against her skin. He was. He may have gone a bit distracted lately, trying to tease apart the issue in his brain, but he she'd inadvertently provided an unbelievable amount of clarity to things.

"Sometimes I wonder." Lisbon replied, sliding her hand further around his neck.

Jane nipped gently at her collar bone. "Anyway, thought you were gonna stick by me through the highs and the lows?" he said huskily.

"You really planning on going lower than parts of the last decade?" Lisbon couldn't help wondering as she tangled a hand in his hair. If he was... Oh who was she kidding? She'd probably still be right beside him.

"No," Jane assured her, whispering it against her ear. "But who knows what'll happen if I'm left to my own devices."

Lisbon frowned and pulled back slightly to look him in the eye. "Who said anything about leaving you to your own devices?"

Jane couldn't help smiling in spite of the increased distance between them. "And again, I'm going to have to point out that that sounds like..."

Jane found himself being quite furiously kissed before he could finish his sentence.

"It doesn't sound like a marriage proposal!" Lisbon assured him forcefully, when she was sure that she'd finally silenced him (at least for a few seconds). She met his eyes and prayed he got the message. "It sounds like..."

"I love you." Jane exhaled.

Lisbon froze in his arms. He knew? Of course he knew. He was...

"I love you," Jane repeated, enjoying the surprise in her eyes as he tried out the truth a second time.

Because all of a sudden, Lisbon thought that maybe...

Jane was beaming now; suddenly everything seemed so much lighter. "I love you, Teresa Lisbon. And this time I have no intention of forgetting I told you tomorrow."

He saw tears prick in the corner of her eyes. So obviously he had to kiss her again to make them disappear.

It was a plan that Lisbon seemed to be on board with.

He leaned his forehead against hers as he tried to steady his breathing. "Well," he said after a moment. "You should feel quite proud of yourself Lisbon. You've solved the problem I was turning over in my mind quite nicely."

Lisbon's eyes widened. "What?"

"I told you the last ten years haven't been all bad," Jane reminded her.

She turned her face into his neck. "Jane..."

"I don't suppose you'd like to help keep me from getting lonely, Teresa?" Jane asked against her ear. "You've done an excellent job so far. And I promise, I'm more than happy to return the favour."

Lisbon smiled slowly. "I suppose I could do that," she admitted, pulling back to risk looking up at him.

Jane returned her smile. "Excellent." He kissed her one last time. "No come on. Let's get out of this attic. It's getting dark."

"I told you it was dreary," she couldn't help reminding him.

"Oh hush," Jane said pleasantly, as he took her hand. "And I was going to buy you dinner."

Lisbon tugged on his hand lightly. "And now?"

Jane glanced down and her laughing eyes. It was a mistake (except not really). "I suppose I could still do that."

Lisbon grinned. "I thought so."

Jane used his free hand to tilt her chin up then he kissed her.

Lisbon simply tugged on his hand and led him out of the attic.

Jane followed willingly. Today had been a good start. The details could wait until later. And maybe, if he was really lucky, someday there might be a proposal that both of them could agree on.

xxx

The End

*whistles*