Don't expect too much, okay? This is just my annual holiday fic, and I usually write it when the weather is really bad and I need some warmth… at least in writing.

It usually gets fluffy and romantic down the road… I just don't know how fast. This will be a multi-chapter, but I have no idea how many chapters- 4? 5? More? No idea. We'll see!

This will go up to a very strong M in future chapters, but it will be a while until we get there… there are many issues that need to be discussed before our OTP can get down and dirty!


Disclaimer: I don't own The Mentalist, and I don't make money from fan fiction.

Chapter 1

„Excuse me, boss," Grace whispered, distinctly green-faced, before she stormed out the room as fast as her legs would carry her.

Lisbon nodded in her direction with obvious compassion before she turned her attention back to the carnage all around her.

Jane stuck to the door, covering nose and mouth with his hand, while Cho and Rigsby slowly walked around the room, perusing every little detail while trying to take in the whole of the crime scene.

"This one sure as hell likes a bloodbath," Lisbon muttered more to herself than to anyone else, but her fellow agents nodded immediately, their features grim and full of concentration.

She allowed herself a moment of bone-deep despair. Another city, another monster in the streets, killing innocents with the force of an explosion. It would never stop, and her powerlessness made her freezing cold despite the hot Venice sun.

She turned around, facing her consultant.

"Any input on this one, Jane?"

He shook his head, his face ghastly pale.

"If you don't care to learn about the nature of my lunch- no."

Lisbon nodded.

"Out with you- get some fresh air."

Before she had finished her sentence, Jane was out, not giving her as much as a nod.

"How does Venice PD call this one?" she asked her men.

Cho looked at her.

"They call him the butcher."

"And isn't that a fitting name." Rigsby sighed.

Lisbon couldn't help silently agreeing with him. The butcher had slaughtered his fourth victim until there was not much left of the utterly attractive woman she had once been- the picture in her file told Lisbon as much. Petite, graceful, perfect features. A gorgeous beauty-queen, now reduced to a pile of meat. She shuddered inwardly.

"Boss," Cho said slowly, his serious, calm voice grounding her like it always did, "Bertram wants to talk to you- outside."

Lisbon closed her eyes in dread. Not Bertram, please. She had no idea how she had managed so far, but to say she felt awkward around him these days would have been a bitter understatement. At least Jane would be there to support her, he would notice immediately when her credibility started to go downhill and jump to her aid. What if Bertram WAS Red John? Damn, how she wished she could just avoid him until they knew for sure. But Bertram was her boss… she couldn't pretend he didn't exist.

She took a deep breath and walked outside, the hot sun burning her skin through her formal clothes. Jane sat on a bench right between herself and Bertram, and when her eyes caught his, he nodded imperceptibly. It had been like a code between them ever since the chips had come down with Red John's threat, a reassurance of him backing her up, no matter what. She immediately felt a lot calmer, her rapid breath slowing down. She couldn't feel her heart beating any longer, she could do this.

"Agent Lisbon," Bertram greeted her, and she was almost a little proud that she didn't force a smile like she would have done in the beginning.

Not too much, Jane had told her. Keep it simple. No grand gestures, no grimaces. The less she lied, the better.

Bertram faced the whole team, and Lisbon was grateful that his attention wandered elsewhere. Business as usual. Maybe this was Red John talking to all of them. She contained the shiver that threatened to take over her body. Calm down, dammit.

"This is the fourth time the butcher has killed," Bertram started, "and the governor has asked me to take over the investigation. The PD's efforts are solid, as you no doubt have seen studying their files. The last chance to get this guy might be to catch him by using a bait he can't resist. I think this team can do that. Do you agree, Agent?"

Lisbon nodded, her mind fully occupied by the case now.

"We absolutely can, director. Since Mr. Jane has put us through several operations like that in the past, we have already experience in this area. I take it the butcher is attracted by very beautiful women, those with movie-star good looks."

She heard Rigsby groan even before Bertram spoke up again.

"That's correct. The women he targeted were pretty introvert, but no doubt stunning beauties, all of them. And certainly, agent Van Pelt fits that description, so she should be the one trying to attract the killer. But… there is an additional problem. There is hardly a thing the butcher's victims have in common despite their obvious good looks. They have differed greatly in age, race, color of hair and eyes. But there is one physical trait they all have in common."

Lisbon had read the victims' files thoroughly and had no problem comparing them in her mind in a moment's notice.

"All of them were… small."

Bertram nodded gravely.

"Exactly. The butcher likes his women tiny, petite. And Van Pelt is much taller than the women he pursued so far. That makes me think it would be a good idea to take you, Agent Lisbon, into the equation as well. We would double our chances to catch the monster if both of you played the bait."

Lisbon could feel it- Jane had risen from the bench, and she didn't even need to turn around to know that he was upset.

"What?" he exclaimed," wait… you can't be serious, really, you can't. Lisbon NEVER does this kind of thing, we always choose Grace when we need an attractive bait, so she already has experience doing it, and taken the visual aspect, she's obviously the best choice in this case, too."

Lisbon gritted her teeth, her hands clenching involuntarily. So he didn't think she was beautiful enough to attract the killer, or what?

Bile rose in her throat, making her eyes water with disappointment and anger. Ever since Red John had changed his rules, he had tried to make clear that there wasn't anything between them but friendship, and she had hated every second of it. Because her dreams hadn't changed. Because he had taken to following her everywhere, not letting her out of his sight for a second, and being close to him reminded her of the things she would never have, things she wanted so much it felt like acid being poured over her skin every second, every day. He wouldn't talk to her about it. But he was always there, watching her, as if she were a priced jewel he had to protect at all costs. He just didn't want her.

She looked at him, there was confusion and some kind of despair on his face, and she felt hurt and torn, all her hope bleeding out inside.

He didn't love her, he didn't find her attractive.

And what was even worse- deep down she couldn't help thinking that he might be right.


Jane knew he was struggling to make a point when words usually never left him, and he didn't like it at all. Damn the perpetual confusion Teresa Lisbon inflicted on his aching heart, seeping into his thoughts, his very mind he had always been able to trust. Nowadays, he could hardly think when she was involved, the tender longing for her messing with his cool like nothing else ever had.

Why was it so hard to keep their relationship casual, harmless, when he had never had any problems to manipulate his own feelings before?

He felt his mind clouding over with fear and hurt, coloring his vision until he couldn't form a straight sentence any longer. But he couldn't let her do this!

"I mean, Lisbon has no experience in attracting men, because it's… seduction is not really her forte, I mean, no offense, but… it's not what she does."

Damn, that came over much differently than he had planned.

"I would shut up now if I were you, buddy." Cho whispered next to him.

But Jane couldn't stop. He couldn't let Teresa run around trying to attract a killer when he had worked like a maniac to get another one off her tracks, dammit! Wasn't she in enough danger with Red John closer than ever before? He wouldn't allow her to become a new target for the next lunatic around!

"You know how I mean that, Lisbon- I mean, it's not as if you attract a lot…I mean you didn't have much…"

He imagined her, walking foreign streets scantily clad, trying to attract a man who did… THAT to his victims! He saw red.

"Gale," he growled, routinely hiding his suspicions against the director behind an impenetrable front, "I'm sure Grace can do it on her own, and it's much easier to protect one single agent, we don't need a second choice…"

"Second choice?" Lisbon hissed next to him, and he knew he had lost.

Again he couldn't help wondering why his charm always failed him when his fierce little partner was involved. But he couldn't help it- he plowed on. Looking at Lisbon, he lowered his voice.

"Do you even have… that kind of clothes? I bet even your bathing suit is more of the… formal kind."

"What?" she snarled, "so you think I own nothing but matronly clothes which could never attract men anyway?"

He frantically searched his mind for a way to put this mildly, but it was already too late. Lisbon's stare became icy before she turned away and looked at Bertram.

"Director, I want to do it. And don't worry- I CAN dress up for an operation like that."

"What about your acting abilities?," Jane whined, "You do realize they are…"

"Stop it now, Jane," she hissed, "this discussion is over, you made your point, and I'm not interested in your opinion."

An icy cold shudder ran over Jane's spine, but one look at Lisbon told him all he needed to know: the issue was settled, and he had messed up like a boss.

He sighed and looked down.

How will I protect you, little bird, when you affect me that much? When you make me feel things I can never feel again?

He hugged his own body, feeling his upset stomach churn with nausea and naked fear.


Lisbon was a mixture of seething anger and obvious unease when she strolled through the fancy Venice shops later.

Okay- so she didn't really own a sexy bikini, her bathing suit was sporty and designed for brisk swimming exercise instead of tempting men into losing their composure- but she would never admit that to Jane in a million years!

She still remembered his words, every single one of them stinging like hell, sending hot gushes of shame and sheer pain into her heart.

She knew she wasn't beauty-queen material. She had never strived for that kind of thing, had always worked hard to become the best cop she could be instead.

But she was in love. And was it wrong that she wanted to be beautiful to this one man alone?

She growled inwardly. Well, he had made his opinion clear, and she wouldn't cry about him. Well, she had. A little. Okay, a lot. But that was OVER now!

She grabbed a skimpy, fire-engine red bikini made from hardly enough fabric to cover the most important parts and marched into the changing room. She undressed without looking into the mirror once, uncomfortable enough to feel her skin crawl.

Yes, she didn't like it at all. Jane was right, dammit- she was no seductress, that wasn't her thing, and at the moment she felt so raw and unhappy that her acting might be even worse than usual. She could definitely need a holiday. But that was delusional- she would only spend it fantasizing about Jane, and THAT was one thing she definitely didn't need at the moment. By the way, knowing Jane, with Red John on the prowl he would never let her out of his sight anyway.

She sighed and turned, facing the mirror boldly.

Okay. She was a little too muscular for a beach bunny, but otherwise… not too awful. Her body looked like lots of functional exercise, done to make her strong, not sexy, but she WAS petite (she had often cursed her tininess), so it might work after all. She even had a slight hint of hour-glass shape… okay, not really. But… a little? Teeny weeny bit?

She turned around in front of the mirror.

Her stomach was absolutely flat, no surprise- there were about a billion crunches behind it. Her breast were no show, but hey… if they wanted petite, they couldn't expect a curvy thunderstorm, could they? She was enough, and that might be all that counted.

Okay, bright red was risky, but the butcher's latest victim had worn a golden bikini when she'd been attacked, so maybe it didn't hurt to go a little over the top with the color.

She changed back into her professional pantsuit and walked to the cashier before she could change her mind, grabbing an matching red sarong to wrap around her hips… anything to make her feel a little less naked.

Having paid her skimpy purchase, Agent Lisbon walked outside, the merciless sun plastering her blouse and suit to her skin in seconds. She tried to take deep breaths.

And went on to pretend nothing about this unnerved her.


So- how is that so far? Next chapter up tomorrow! See you then, I hope!