Summary: After Jan pushes Lisbon too far she decides to change her life dramatically. "I'll go as there is clearly nothing left here anyway. This place has become a prison for you Jane, sure the walls are in your mind but they are just as confining and I no longer want to be your cellmate."

Disclaimer: I do not own The Mentalist and I never will, which is good because I'd have killed RJ a long time ago and the show would be all romance and laughs.

Notes: Written for the Mentalist Big Bang 2012.

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Lisbon gazed at Bertram as he hovered over her; the older mans' rant was in full swing and he was punching the air between them with an indignant finger. He was flushed and his breathing was coming out in incensed puffs. She considered briefly if this is what her team saw when she verbally chastised her subordinates in her office?

If so, it was no wonder Jane often grinned mid-way through, the intensity was hard to remain passive in front of. Dread pooled in her lower stomach at the thought of him, so she refocused her thoughts back on to her superior.

Bertram's pulse point was now throbbing and sweat beaded on his brow, in spite of that, she knew he was enjoying this, it was obvious. She guessed that in lieu of Jane, who he would never get to sit here while he vented his frustrations, she was the next best thing.

When did that happen, when had she become a stand in for her consultant? An actual, genuine, substitute human replacement for Jane.

Bertram began flailing his arms around on a particular point, slightly resembling a baby bald eagle trying to take flight. Lisbon internally sighed; she was becoming acutely aware she may be here awhile.

Okay sure, the guy was a big wig aide to a senator, sure Jane had pissed him off, and sure there really was no need as he was innocent, but really these lectures were tiresome and to paraphrase Jane they irked her.

Jane wasn't going to obey her... ever, and no matter what her superiors said, it was not going to change anything. Her getting yelled at almost daily for the last ten years had to have proven that. Reprimands given to either of them had done no good, if they had worked; the change was in no way apparent, so therefore his behaving or at least toning his antics down was wishful thinking, no matter what was threatened.

Really though, as if he would toe the line for her, she could throw herself under something and she doubted he would care, in fact these days she is not even sure she would and that scared her.

During this last case she had tried to give a rat's ass but as Jane had so kindly pointed out recently, she was dead inside. The realisation he was probably right had made her feel more free than she had in a long time.

Something had happened to her during his absence. While he was off screwing around and having a good time, a black tendril had crept in through one of her many cracks and wrapped its way around her insides and ever since then she felt like she was faking it, all of it, well except the anger.

Her life was just out of her reach, like a shimmering mirage constantly shifting further away.

But two days ago things had changed, she had been given an out and sitting here going through this again, she realised for once she was going to take it.

Doubt immediately overtook her, was she being impulsive? Had he meant it? She found she didn't care.

Jane didn't want her help and she was pretty sure she didn't want to give it anymore so her decision was easy.

Bertram leaned back against the desk, his breathing slightly hitched, with a look of intense scrutiny on his face. He regarded the younger agent and her look of tranquillity with confusion and suspicion.

"Are you alright agent Lisbon?" he questioned loudly, realising she wasn't doing her usual mmm hmm's and placating phrases.

"I'm fine Sir, actually better than fine. Yes everything you said is accurate but I have no idea how to change him and I no longer feel I'm the person for the job. Perhaps a move might be best for both of us. Jane clearly needs a firmer hand and I need a break, and not just from him" Lisbon said quickly, before smiling brightly at her boss.

Lisbon watched the interplay of emotions and understanding as they flicked across Bertram's face. She thought she would feel despair or dread as she changed her life but suddenly the room felt airy and bright, like she grasped at liberty and it tasted great. This chance was her golden ticket, her yellow brick road, her new life and she was going to live it.

"You're leaving the team?" he checked.

"No Sir I'm leaving the bureau," Lisbon spelled out.

"For how long of an absence?" Bertram's asked confused by the shift in conversation, she sure hadn't seemed like she was leaving when she arrived in earlier.

Lisbon shrugged, "Starting immediately and for a few months possibly longer," she said before adding "or indefinitely."

Bertram seemed to think it over for a moment before beaming warmly at her.

"Well I think a sabbatical would be an excellent move for you Agent. Of course I'll grant you permission, and I'll even have personnel use your accrued leave, for however long it lasts, to allow you ample time to decide whether you want a long holiday or a career break," he added.

Lisbon muttered thanks, both surprised and relieved at his generosity.

He smirked at her expression, whether the younger agent knew it or not, Bertram liked her, liked her spunk. He had long believed Jane was kryptonite and slowly destroying the young woman's no doubt previously stellar career.

If he had thought Jane would have let anyone else even slightly influence him, he would have moved Lisbon elsewhere years ago and put her to good use instead of using her in the role of a babysitter. Granted he never thought that Agent Lisbon would agree to leave Jane either.

He had noticed lately though, since Jane's Vegas jaunt and 'kidnapping', that things between the two had changed, become more strained and in recent weeks had deteriorated further. The bags under Lisbon's eyes, her pale and sallow skin, not to mention her short temper, well it had become apparent that the woman was suffering greatly.

He did not want to let her go but knew that it's what Lisbon needed, and by doing this perhaps she would return one day. He shook her hand, effectively ending their conversation.

The agent nodded and stood to go, she paused before she had fully left the office and turned meeting his gaze, "Thank you Sir."

"Of course, and Lisbon I hope you will come back to us." Bertram waved her off with a soft smile and a good luck.

Lisbon's hand shook as she shut the door, she couldn't believe it she had actually done it. Her phone buzzed and she took it out, she knew just who it was.

'How was the meeting, change your mind yet?'

She quickly sent a reply proudly stating, 'Yes I'm in, so when do we leave?'

A reply came through at lightning speed, 'Really? You won't regret it Teresa.'

She knew he thought she would back out, part of her thought she would too, but she had told her boss, it was official. That was it, the hard part was done, before she could begin typing her reply another text followed, and this message wiped the smile off her face.

'Does Jane know yet?' Okay she was wrong the hard part had yet to come.

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Nine days earlier

Jane had taken to hiding in his attic again.

After his six month disappearing act and subsequent return, they had gotten on better, their banter had returned to the familiar uncomplicated playfulness that helped her get through the tough cases.

So she was quite surprised when she returned from the field to find Jane not only absent but up there. She knew it must mean something, but was too angry to think it through and sought him out instead.

The smell of whisky assaulted her as she opened the door... well at least it hadn't been drugs this time. Jane was slumped forward, his head leaning against the cool glass tile, a bottle grasped tight in his hand.

Lisbon felt her anger ebb away while looking at the broken man before her. These days he seemed to have no patience for their cases and it seemed to take all he had to get through them; not that she wasn't feeling much the same way herself.

She knew he sympathised with the victim's husband, the devastation and despair as the love of his life was ripped away, by a faceless murderer.

She softly approached him and placed a hand on his shoulder, he flinched at the contact.

Her understanding and empathy took over so, she gently whispered "Are you ok?" unwilling to shatter the silence of the space.

He turned to her, his face impassive but his eyes ablaze.

"Me? Just great couldn't be better." His words slurred but his body was mostly solid, his slight sway was almost imperceptible. She marvelled once again at his control.

She hated to see him so hurt. "Listen Jane, it'll be ok, it's...," He cut her off rather forcefully with a loud snort.

She exhaled and continued on, ignoring the interruption, "Things will get better, we couldn't help that woman but anyone else he would have hurt, they are safe because of us. We help people."

"Ah, your oh so familiar, 'we help people' mantra again. You should have that sewn on to a pillow... Tell me Lisbon, does it get you through the lonely nights?" he mocked, his eyes narrowing at her, his mild disgust evident on his face.

Lisbon tried again, "Jane your obviously angry but you have to stop beating yourself up about things you can't change. It's no way to live. "

"Really, live, is that your advice Agent Lisbon to live?" Jane turned to face her fully now, his sea green eyes burning with rage and frustration.

"Funny that for someone so Hell bent on making me live, you don't seem to be making much of your own life" he sneered.

"Jane", she responded with a warning, some of her earlier anger returning, "Be careful."

"Ah yes careful, now that's more your speed", he stood up closing some of the gap between them, his eyes connecting with hers, fully allowing him to see his hits. "Tell me my dear, about your wonderful life."

She flinched at his use of the endearment in such a cold manner. The word normally spread heat through her, but now it cut her like glass.

Seeing that he was on a roll with his verbal punching, he continued his tirade.

"Let's see shall we, all your friends...hmm work mates, all your days including most days off, at work ... All of your nights are spent at, hmmm work. You never see your family because of... you guessed it work again. You are never free of all this pain we see. Wow what a great life, where do I sign up?" he finished, shaking his head in revulsion.

Lisbon held her breath, ignoring the threatening tears, she could see this was just build up, there was a grand finale coming and it would hurt, bad. Her childhood experience told her it would be best to remain still until it was over.

"How could you understand what I'm going through, what her husband's going through? Really have you ever been in love or been truly loved by anyone? God sometimes I think you're just so... so dead inside..." He trailed off realising he had gone too far but his murky mind couldn't see his way back.

Lisbon was livid; in all the years they had been together he had never been so cruel. This was how he was these days, mean and selfish and she kept trying to fix him, believing that he could change. But standing in front of him, in his cold, dank lair, she thinks he just delivered the fatal blow to their friendship.

She was done.

Jane could see the shift, her tears disappeared replaced by her Agent guise, she was the personification of cool, calm and indifferent.

"Drinking doesn't solve anything Jane, but as you seem so intent on continuing, I suggest taking two aspirin before bed and drink as much water as you can manage. You have a job to do in the morning" Lisbon added, before she calmly turned to leave.

Jane was panicked he hadn't meant to say any of it; he hadn't meant to lash out, to hurt her.

"Lisbon ...Teresa wait" he pleaded.

"Oh I think I've wasted enough time Jane, don't you? Enjoy your wallowing, you always do," with that said, she left.

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Lisbon held onto her cool until she reached the Major Crimes floor. On familiar territory her facade broke, the fury and indignation she had felt washed away, smoothly replaced by a searing pain. She gripped the stairwell for support not sure if she could make it the few steps to the elevator.

He had been beyond cruel, he had snarled out words like knives and each one had cut her soul.

"Hey boss, I thought you had gone home" Grace cheerfully noted as she rounded the corner, but her happy expression morphed into concern on seeing Lisbon's appearance.

"Are you okay Boss, you look like you're in shock? Did something happen?" she fussed.

"No Van Pelt I'm fine" Lisbon choked out, alarmed by how her voice faltered.

"You really look pale and you're shaking" Grace added, helping her down the last few steps.

Lisbon brushed off her concerns with a light excuse, "I'm Fine. It's been a long day is all, I'm just going to go home now."

"Boss you can't drive, not in that state. I'm stuck here on the late but I'll get Jane to drive you" she said moving to go upstairs.

"NO" Lisbon cried out grabbing the younger woman's arm.

Grace regarded her properly, drawing the information together rapidly. "What's going on, what did he do?"

She would have been proud of how astute the young agent was getting if it didn't involve her. "Van Pelt, please just leave it, I'm going now okay. I'm fine."

"No way Boss, he clearly did something bad, as per usual and if you won't tell me I'll march up there and ask him myself" she threatened.

"No you won't you'll leave it, Jane said some hurtful things but he is intoxicated, that's it. I'm ready to drive now. Don't worry" Lisbon mollified, fearful of what Jane would say to his colleague, if that's what he was willing to say to her.

Grace shifted her gaze between Lisbon and the attic upstairs, weighing her options, before she pulled Lisbon in for an unexpected hug. It was tight but for once welcome.

"Van Pelt, please leave it" she begged.

"You let him away with too much you know. You deserve better boss, I'm saying this as a friend" she murmured into her ear before releasing her.

"Thank you, I needed to hear that" Lisbon smiled, before moving to the elevator doors, pressing the down button. Thankfully they opened immediately so she could leave the awkward situation.

She nodded her thanks as the doors slid shut, Jane's words and Van Pelts following her as she descended. She really hoped that she would actually be alright to drive, as her hands hadn't stopped trembling, but the alternative of getting a co-worker to help her was too much.