Lisbon really hates these cases. It's not just the fact that it's complicated. That's a given, when the CBI is handed a case; it's only a matter of whether the complications are intellectual, political, or Other (which is a big and varied box that includes everything from "foreigners" to "fairies" to "just plain creepy"). This one is merely an intellectual puzzle. But it has every indication of involving someone who thinks they're clever, and she hates those. If she wants to be exposed to smug superiority, all she has to do is perch near Jane's couch during post-case pizza. That's bad enough. In criminals, it's intolerable.
(Jane, however, is tempered by bouts of crippling, painful self-doubt that Lisbon is quite certain she's the only person in the office – in Jane’s life, maybe - to pick up on. Empathy's a bitch that way. For her, and for him, because he knows, and if there is anything Jane hates, it's to be understood, known. Even by her. Maybe especially by her. It limits the crap he can get away with.)
"Here's what I don't get," she says aloud, in the hope that vocalizing her thoughts will make them clearer. "We have an apparently trustworthy eyewitness who saw Samuels walking out of the office, carrying the missing paperweight - which is our best bet for the murder weapon - within the frame for time of death. But we also have multiple eyewitnesses, with no connection to the case, who were in a meeting with Samuels for an hour to either side of our timeline. What are we missing?"
"One of the witnesses is lying." Jane is lying on the couch, hands behind his head. He says it helps him think. Lisbon's not so sure about that. "One of the witnesses is bespelled. Shapeshifter. Doppelganger. Mis-set clocks. Divine intervention."
"It's not divine intervention." Cho shakes his head. "For one thing, you don't get divine intervention for murders."
"Why not?" asks Rigsby, leaning back on his desk.
"Because it's wrong!" Van Pelt looks up sharply. She has very - well-formed ideas of how the world works, Van Pelt. Lisbon sometimes thinks it's a problem, in a CBI officer. She's unbending, bit by bit - the witch thing is helping some, Rigsby's werewolf thing some more, repeated and constant exposure to Patrick Jane a little more yet - but there's a way to go. Lisbon hopes she gets there. Van Pelt's got the makings of a great investigator. Lisbon would hate to see it go to waste.
"Because it's boring and petty," Cho corrects her. "Not that gods aren't willing to be petty, but this is really petty. And uninteresting. Gods don't do uninteresting."
Van Pelt makes a face. "You make them sound so -”
"Human?" Jane lifts his head to look at her. "Human gods, human interests. Except with much less incentive to play nice. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and so on."
Lisbon frowns at that. She's not deeply religious, herself, that two-week span at age seven when she decided she wanted to be a nun aside, but that doesn't mean she likes where the conversation is going. It's...inappropriate. Also quite possibly dangerous.
Although Cho's nodding, and he's a - whatever he is, anyway, he's speaking from personal or at least familial knowledge. Still.
"Philosophy later, crime-solving now, people." She shoots a special glare at Jane. "So we're ruling out divine intervention. Great. Plausible solutions?"
"It's not gonna be a doppelganger - they're not that active, usually, and they're usually a sign of impending misfortune for the person, not for their colleagues," Rigsby puts in.
"I checked the clocks," Jane says. "If they were changed, no-one noticed."
"Could be a shapeshifter," Cho allows. "But there aren't that many around who can do other humans. Not hard to track down all of them in the city, if we need to. If it's a visitor, you're looking at an old grudge or hired help. Either way, there'd be a trail."
"Spells?" Lisbon cocks her head at Van Pelt. She might only be an apprentice witch, but she's become their go-to girl for anything using magic. Lisbon is more than happy with that development; the office has a wizard, sure, and they can always ring up the bruja at the San Francisco office if they're desperate, but the team having its own magic-worker is paying off big-time. Enough she'll have to start to worry about Van Pelt being wooed away. If the Rigsby thing becomes, well, a thing, that could be a serious problem. Lisbon thinks the pair of them are cute and all - when they're not vaguely nauseating or, damn Jane, envy-inducing - but she needs a working team more than they need a romance.
Well, it's not a problem yet, and Lisbon figures she'll know if it ever is. They can lie, if they try - maybe not to Jane, but to her, probably - but they can't hide their emotions. She'll know.
"Uh, there's a few it could be," Van Pelt responds. "Spells of illusion, mostly - on the murderer, or on the witnesses, either one. I even came across a spell the other day that lets you swap bodies with someone, but that doesn't fit our case."
"Maybe," says Cho. "That'd leave any physical evidence attached to Samuels, if someone was using his body. Still doesn’t account for the two-places-at-once thing."
"Nah." Jane shakes his head. "He'd have to be in on it. Too complicated."
"We don't know he isn't," Rigsby points out.
"There we go," Lisbon interrupts them."Cho, bring Samuels in and sweat him a little. We've got enough to interrogate him."
"I should -" Jane begins.
Lisbon waves a hand. "Jump in when it looks like you might get something."
"Isn't the whole point of having a telepath so that Cho doesn't have to interrogate people?" asks Rigsby, frowning.
"Not if we want court-admissible evidence," Cho reminds him.
Lisbon locks eyes with Jane, for a second, remembering what Rigsby and Van Pelt and possibly Cho don't know; that Jane is quite literally less telepathic than she is, because she, at least, is a fully-fledged empath, and Jane is about as psychic as a brick.
His ability to read people, on the other hand, is unsurpassed. His associated skill at lying, misdirection, sleight-of-hand, and all the other tools in the con-artist's kit don't hurt, either. Lisbon, however, is perhaps the only person who knows exactly how much he wants to work for the CBI - and why. She needs to brief the rest of the team on it. She hasn't, yet. There hasn't been...the right time.
"No point giving myself a headache if Cho can break him all by himself," says Jane.
"Don't be lazy," Lisbon says aloud, for effect, and flicks a paperclip at him. It bounces neatly off his cheek; he twitches, she grins. "Van Pelt, can you run down those spells?"
"I'll need to go down to the university library." Van Pelt stands up, reaches for her coat.
Rigsby opens his mouth. Lisbon gets there first. "I'll come with you, help you lug books. Rigsby, I want you to go through those witness reports again, make sure we didn't miss anything. Call them up and do a re-run if you have to."
"Sure thing, boss." Rigsby sounds only a little defeated. Lisbon would feel mean, but they can flirt on their own time.
"All right," she says. "Let's do this."
They spend less time at the university than Lisbon might have expected, given Van Pelt's open adoration for the Difference Engine. She babbles on about it all the way back to the office. It takes Lisbon's mind off the stack of books she's carrying, at least.
"...and they say when they figure out a way to transfer the logic patterns onto electrick circuits, they might be able to make one that fits in a room!" Van Pelt's eyes are glowing. "We could have one for the CBI! Imagine if we could look up data without having to go through books -"
"Even if they do, it's not gonna be in the budget any time soon," Lisbon points out, dryly, shifting her grip on the overhead rail; the tram is clunky and crowded and sometimes not that much faster than walking, but she's old enough to remember her grandmother's stories about when horsepower was the literal source of inner-city transport, and by all accounts the difference in street hygiene more than makes up for it.
Van Pelt actually pouts a little. "But - wouldn't it be amazing?"
"It would," Lisbon allows. She's never been good at dreaming. Too much to get done, all her life. That's not Van Pelt's problem; she's got the dreams, alright, and the drive. "If they ever find room for it in the budget."
Van Pelt actually rolls her eyes a little.
Cho meets them when they get back to the building, is actually standing outside the elevator as the doors are winched open; Lisbon prefers the stairs, they're faster, but not when she's carrying this much.
"I've got Samuels in interrogation," he says, with no preamble. "He's still denying everything."
"Because he DIDN'T DO IT!" yells Jane, from the team's area. Lisbon holds out her stack of books to Cho, who takes them.
"Thanks. Dump them on Van Pelt's desk, would you?"
"I just want to make sure I cover everything." Van Pelt, over her own stack, is actually looking a little nervous, like it's occurred to her that volunteering your boss for heavy physical exertion does not win you brownie points. (Okay, so Lisbon had technically volunteered herself, but that's neither here nor there.)
"Yeah, I'm sure. Get on with it." She heads straight for Jane's couch, shaking out her arms. "Jane. What's this about Samuels not doing it?"
"I'm telling you, he didn't do it." Jane spreads his hands.
"Like, you read that he didn't do it, or...you didn't get any evidence he did do it?"
They're in public, so she can't just go ahead and ask him what he saw or heard; she's got to speak as though he read the suspect's thoughts.
This was so much easier when she wasn't in on that particular secret.
"I am completely convinced of his innocence," Jane declares, looking her in the eye.
Which means anything from "He blinked at the wrong time" to "He's guilty as sin, but I have an overly clever plan to make him incriminate himself which requires you to let him go free".
"In my office," Lisbon tells him, and jerks her head at Cho, who follows them. Rigsby looks more than happy enough to go through the grimoires and spell-books with Van Pelt, so she'll let him. Half of them are in languages she doesn't speak. That Rigsby doesn't speak, probably, but the man has unexpected depths; that could be one of them.
"Nah, he only speaks English," Jane says in her ear.
She takes her chair. "Don't do that. Cho, shut the door. Okay, cards on the table: is this some convoluted plot, or is he actually innocent?"
"What makes you think I would lie about that?" Jane looks genuinely hurt. He's not, of course, and she knows that, and he knows she knows...Christ, she never used to get this many headaches.
"Because you enjoy coming up with convoluted plots to make people incriminate themselves?" says Cho.
"Eh." Jane shrugs. "It's usually more effective."
"Whatever. Is he innocent?"
"Yes, Samuels is innocent. Of the murder. I can't - in fact I don't - guarantee anything else." And, okay, enough sincerity there, on the Patrick-Jane-Scale-Of-Truth-Telling, that she buys it.
Besides, he very, very rarely lies to her when she's that direct with him. Out of professional courtesy or genuine friendship; she's not sure which and finds it better not to ask.
And it's only very, very rare. It's not never. And only lie, not obfuscate.
"I agree." Cho's leaning on one of her visitor chairs, rattan and oak that have seen better days. "None of the usual tells. I don't think he did it."
"Our telepath just told us he didn't," Lisbon says, carefully. "So, no. He didn't."
Jane is frowning at Cho, just a little.
“It's telepathy, not a truth-binding.” Cho shrugs. “Open to interpretation, right?”
“Do I mislead you?” Jane looks wounded.
Lisbon feels a little swell of tension; does that mean Cho knows about Jane's unfortunate lack of actual telepathy? That would be only fair, probably, since she and Jane know about his secret. But she's not about to tell him if he doesn't know already.
Seriously. She needs to draw up a chart to keep track of who knows what about whom in this team.
"Now we've cleared the air, do we have any other actual leads?" She moves them on briskly.
Lisbon sighs. "Okay. We need to think this through. If Van Pelt finds an illusion spell, we still need to find who used it. Who would want to frame Samuels? Why?"
Rigsby pokes his head into the office. "Boss? We just got a call from Archer, you know, Samuels' boss? He wants to know if we've arrested him. He's being pretty persistent."
Jane's eyes light up; Cho stands a little straighter; Lisbon leans back in her chair.
"You want to take that call, Cho?"
"Are we going to arrest him?" Rigsby adds.
"No." Jane quirks a smile. "But we do have a few more questions for him."
He grins at Lisbon; she grins back. Break.
By the next afternoon, they have a nicely laid-out motive for Archer; Jane gets Samuels to confess his knowledge of Archer's embezzlement - and that their vic might have been about to reveal it - with a few well-chosen words.
(And by not being Cho. For some inexplicable reason, Cho intimidates people when he interrogates them. This is possibly because the expression interrogatees imagine covers a desire to grind them into the dust actually covers his desire for a coffee break. To be fair, it has taken Lisbon several years to work this out.)
They do not, however, have any solid evidence that Archer is either capable of casting (or having had someone cast) an illusion spell. Or that he did. They have managed to establish that Samuels was not a regular attendee at the meeting which provides his alibi - so Archer wouldn't have known he'd have an alibi - but that's as far as they've got.
Sometime just before Lisbon is about to bully Jane into accompanying her for better coffee than the office kitchen provides - they have a thing where she makes him come with her to get coffee, when they're at a loose end, and he manipulates her into getting a pastry, and it's not in any way anything anyone could possibly call a date, but it's sort of nice - anyway, before she can get to that point, Van Pelt approaches her, fingers beating a rapid tattoo on the grimoire she is holding.
Lisbon would like to say that she knew something bad was going to happen, but, really, she didn't. She had no idea.
"I'm pretty sure I've found the spell Archer used," Van Pelt tells her. "But I'd like to test it."
"On a volunteer," Van Pelt explains. "I checked, it's harmless, I promise. Even if it goes wrong, nothing's going to happen."
"Where's Perran?" Lisbon asks, referring to the Bureau's resident wizard and Van Pelt's teacher.
"He went out to San Francisco to consult with Lupe Hernandez," Rigsby explains. Hernandez is the witch - bruja, technically - at the Bureau's San Francisco office.
"You promise. No possibility of harm." Lisbon eyeballs Van Pelt, who nods vigorously. "Fine - if you can find a volunteer."
"I'll do it," says Rigsby immediately. Lisbon wonders if love has ever made her quite that brain-dead. She doesn't think so. (She doesn't think she's been that much in love, but that thought is far too depressing to be permitted the light of day.)
"It wouldn't...you're not the best test subject." Van Pelt makes fluttery hand motions. "It's...sensitive to...things."
"Oh, right. Right." Rigsby blinks. "Speaking of, uh, things..." He looks over his shoulder. "Speaking of, boss, on Friday, I need -”
"Yeah, I already penciled that in." Friday is full moon, and Rigsby is going to be busy transforming in the afternoon. At least now she can plan for it. It'd be easier still if he reported his lycanthropy to the Bureau, got the official time-off and all, but Rigsby is reluctant to do that and Lisbon...has decided to let it lie.
"Cool." He sits back, smiles a little.
"I'll volunteer," says Jane, unexpectedly.
"Really?" Van Pelt looks taken aback.
He shrugs. "Why not? Besides, I sort of owe you, for...the first time." He looks momentarily worried. "This doesn't hurt, does it?"
"No," Van Pelt says sulkily, like she's trying to think of ways to remedy that. Remembering the whole evil-Fae-possession-fiasco-thing that had resulted from the incident Jane just clumsily apologized for, Lisbon does not blame her one bit. Her face clears. "Come on, then, I've got it all set up in the spare meeting room."
"I want to see this," Cho announces, standing up.
"As long as you don't mind an audience." Lisbon does, too. She is kind of curious.
"Uh, no. Not at all." Van Pelt looks pleased.
The set-up reminds Lisbon uneasily of that first time Van Pelt tried magic, with the possession and the unholy atmosphere and all, except that this time the room is lit with what seems like every candle in the building and a couple of hand-held electrick lanterns, Van Pelt is cheerful and excited, and instead of stumbling in there trying to stop things, they're all watching. Also, this time, Van Pelt is warded and guarded, and Jane is sitting across from her, mouth upticked like it is before he tries some new trick.
Lisbon makes a mental note to make sure he stays in this room, for as long as this illusion spell works, if it works. There's no telling what he'll get up to otherwise, and since she seems to take the lion's share of the disapproval from Minelli every time Jane gets up to something, she'd rather stop it at the source.
"This might feel a bit strange," Van Pelt is telling Jane. "I just need you to stay right there. And close your eyes."
Jane does so, obediently. "Sure I don't need to wave a candle around or chant something?"
"Nope." Van Pelt flips through a couple of pages in the grimoire in front of her. Cho, Lisbon notices, has stationed himself quite near the door, and quite near the nice heavy iron candlesticks. Not worried, just – ready. A man of suspicious mind, Cho. She's always liked that.
Rigsby, on the other hand, is all wide-eyed and shifting awkwardly, a tumble of excitement and unease, the way he gets whenever Van Pelt does magic. Lisbon's not sure whether it's the idea of the power at her fingertips, or whether Rigsby is just that nervous around magic. Van Pelt hasn't noticed; she's too focused.
She begins chanting; the light in the room lowers a little. Lisbon is empathic, not magic-sensitive, but even she can feel the power building. Cho's head moves like he's following something she can't see; can he see the power? Interesting thought. The hair on Lisbon's arms is standing on end. Through all of it, Jane is quite, quite still.
Then, like a slamming door, there's a flash of something that isn't light, but imprints itself on Lisbon's eyelids nonetheless.
And that's it; Jane is still sitting there, looking exactly as he always does, curls and suit and laugh-lines.
"Uh, wasn't something supposed to happen?" asks Rigsby.
Van Pelt sits back on her heels, a small frown on her face. "Well. This is....odd."
"Odd? It didn't work," Lisbon begins to say, but is interrupted by Jane standing up suddenly and frantically, a look of horror on his face.
"What the hell just happened?"
"Are you all right?" Lisbon takes a step forward, to the edge of the circle; this is not like Jane at all. He stumbles back.
"Relax, I'm sure we'll get it sorted out," says Van Pelt soothingly, and smiles. It is no expression Lisbon has ever seen on her face before; she feels nothing like Lisbon has ever felt before, rueful and amused and slightly exhilarated.
"Sort it out?" Jane spits out. "I don't know how I did this!"
"For the love of God, Jane, calm down!" Lisbon snaps.
"I'm perfectly calm," says Van Pelt.
"I'm not Jane," exclaims Jane, and the way he clenches his fists is - well, it's the way Van Pelt clenches her fists, actually.
"Oh, no," says Rigsby.
"Wow, you really screwed that up," muses Cho, head tilted.
Lisbon closes her eyes, and that's it, really, because with her eyes closed, she can tell perfectly well that Van Pelt is standing right in front of her, bubbling with panic, and Jane is off to her right. When she opens them, though - when she opens them -
"Tell me, Van Pelt. Tell me you didn't just switch bodies with Jane."
"Um." Van Pelt wrinkles Jane's face in a way that would be cute if it wasn't - well, if it wasn't Van Pelt wrinkling Jane's face. "No, boss?"
"This is really a new experience." Jane looks down at Van Pelt's body in fascination.
"Do you mind?" Van Pelt scowls at him. "You're looking at me!"
"I am you," says Jane, in Van Pelt's most reasonable tones.
Rigsby kind of snickers at that, then shuts up when he catches Van Pelt's glare. Which is something else new; Lisbon didn't know you could use Jane's face that way.
"Fix this," she tells Van Pelt, in her best tone of command. "Reverse it. Undo it. Whatever."
"I don't know how." Van Pelt actually wrings Jane's hands.
That gets the first hints of panic from Jane; Lisbon shuts her eyes again, it's easier to cope that way.
"You don't know how?" Jane says, Van Pelt's voice rising into the soprano range.
Lisbon opens her eyes.
They retire to Lisbon's office, where they won't be overheard by the rest of the Bureau, who have a serious need to not know about her team's magnificent disaster. Lisbon is not, unfortunately - unfortunately at this moment in time, anyhow - the sort of person to keep alcohol in her workplace. Right now, family history of alcoholism be damned, she sorely wishes she was.
She manages to snatch a quiet word with Cho, on the way there.
"Can you do anything about this?" It's the counsel of desperation, but, hey, the semi-divine-whatever-thing has to be good for something.
"I can tell you their auras are messed up like I've never seen before," Cho replies, quietly. "Can I fix it? No. Emphatically not my bailiwick."
"Once we're done with this, we're having a talk about what is your…bailiwick. And who we are and are not going to piss off with it." She sighs.
"Probably should," Cho agrees.
That rules that out, then. And Perran's off in San Francisco, probably won't be back before tomorrow. Their options are somewhat limited.
She pauses in the door of her office, looks at Van Pelt and Jane. Or, from another perspective, Jane and Van Pelt. Van Pelt is perched on the edge of the desk, legs crossed, foot swinging with nervous energy; she keeps twitching Jane's - her - head, as if to flick back hair that isn't there.
Jane is in one of the visitor chairs, leaning forward, elbows on his knees; a thinking pose. He stumbled, in Van Pelt's heels, coming over here; he can't manage her hair, either, it's spilled carelessly over his shoulders, snagging in blouse buttons. That will hurt, Lisbon thinks, when he moves his head; he'll learn.
She doesn't want this situation to continue long enough for him to have to learn.
“Explain,” she addresses Van Pelt tersely. It's harder than it should be to be terse, seeing that lurking panic in her eyes (Jane's eyes; and oh, that's strange, to see Jane looking panicked) but this is beyond ridiculous.
“I don't know, boss.” Van Pelt shrugs, shoulders hunched, hands knotted and nervous; it looks all wrong. Jane would spread his hands, raise his eyebrows. “I was sure I had it right, and even if I didn't, it should have worn off by now – I need to go re-read it, see what I did wrong -” she stands up.
“You're not going anywhere just yet,” Lisbon says.
“I can go get your spellbooks from your desk,” volunteers Rigsby, without actually looking at Van Pelt.
“Please,” Van Pelt says.
“You can fix this, right?” Jane's touching his hair, dropping his hand, touching it again; he's nervous. Feeling that makes Lisbon nervous, and that she can't afford; she pulls in, concentrates. It makes it that much harder to remember that the red-haired woman in front of her is Patrick Jane, but the expression on his face is doing that job quite nicely.
“I don't know.” Van Pelt, in Jane's voice, is miserable. Lisbon didn't know Jane's voice did miserable.
“You need to fix this.” Jane puts a fine edge to his voice, one that usually only emerges when Van Pelt is allowed to interrogate people. (Lisbon doesn't let that happen very often, firstly because that's what Jane and Cho are for, and secondly because Van Pelt hasn't learned to not put that edge on her voice thirty seconds after entering the interrogation room.)
“Obviously!” Van Pelt throws up her hands. “You're talking like you think I did this on purpose -”
Rigsby nearly walks into her, coming in with the grimoires; he stumbles back, red-faced, and moves to put them down on the table, next to Jane. Then he stumbles away from Jane. Cho's just standing there, by the door, watching everyone.
“Look,” Lisbon says. “This is what we're going to do. We're all going to go home.”
Cho shrugs. “Okay.”
“Go home where?” Van Pelt says miserably. (Really. Jane's voice is gaining entire new registers.)
“You want to explain this to Minelli?” Lisbon raises an eyebrow. “I didn't think so. Swap keys, go to your – go to the places people are going to expect your...current bodies to go. Van Pelt, you can take your books, look it over. I think everyone's too worked up now to sort this out. And if it's going to just...revert, it'll do that.”
“No!” Jane exclaims. “Uh. No. I'm not comfortable with that. I – Van Pelt can't go to my place.”
“What, you haven't done the dishes?” Rigsby tries to chuckle. It fades out quickly.
“I'm not comfortable with it,” Jane says again, tightly. He's sitting with his knees spread too wide; evidently he's never worn a skirt.
“Did you forget to hide the bodies?” Van Pelt rolls her eyes. That look, on Jane’s face, is entirely familiar.
“No,” Jane says, standing suddenly and folding his arms. “It's my house. Am I not making myself clear?”
Lisbon opens up for a second, just to check, and it's like being hit with a brick; the other reason she has to let her empathy stay on low most of the time, the rebound when it comes on is...distracting. This is blinding, a roiling mix of fury and panic and ...he might be being unreasonable, but he means it.
“Okay, then,” she says aloud. “Van Pelt, you're coming with me.”
“Thanks for this,” Van Pelt says, a little awkwardly, as they walk back to Lisbon's apartment. They all live within walking distance of work, except for Jane – cabs and trams are too unreliable at odd hours, for their line of work – but Lisbon's never had any of the team over to her apartment, nor been to any of theirs. It's...not what they do.
“No problem.” Lisbon shrugs, shifting the book-bag against her hip. Today just seems to be her day for lugging things around, though, to be fair, Van Pelt has just as many.
“It's just that my neighbors would notice if I went home like this, and they'd probably call the local cops, and then -”
“I know, I know, it's fine.” It's...beyond bizarre, to hear Jane's voice coming out with Van Pelt's rushing nervous patter. She'd be happier if the woman just didn't say anything. “That's why I suggested this. Is Jane gonna be okay at your place?”
“I think so. Oh! I forgot to tell him where I keep the coffee. Do you think -”
“He'll find it.” Lisbon has a great deal of confidence in Jane's nosiness. Which, considering the situation, leads to some thoughts she'd rather not be having, thanks. Damn Jane, anyway.
Van Pelt seems to sense her mood, and says nothing for the rest of the way home. Lisbon clears off the kitchen table for her, lets her get down to research, while she grabs the spare blankets and makes up the sofa. It's too quiet; she switches on the wireless. The evening news, something about renewed conflict in the Middle East, the long, slow break-up of the Ottoman Empire breaking open again, is soothingly disconnected from their everyday lives.
It's not so bad, if she keeps her back to Van Pelt; it's still upsetting her equilibrium having someone else in her apartment, but at least she doesn't have to see Jane's body sitting at her kitchen table and know that it's not Jane there. Her senses tell her, absolutely, that it's Van Pelt. Maybe she can just keep her eyes closed for however long this takes.
Yeah, that's gonna work.
It's worse, of course, because it's not like she hasn't had the occasional thought about Jane, hastily buried every time for being a combination of unprofessional, likely to aggravate her into an early grave, and the least likely thing to happen since – well, a lot of unlikely things have happened lately, but this isn't going to be one of them. She's an empath, after all; and now she's seen the case file on Jane's family. The man is a very well-papered-over emotional mess, in an entirely justifiable and understandable way. Lisbon has seen him flirt, seen him charm, seen him befriend; she has never seen him come an inch closer to anyone than he wants to. Even, most of the time, the team. She harbors no illusions about being able to fix that. It's quite possible a team of telepathic psychiatrists couldn't fix that. They might have tried. There's a long gap in Jane's life between his family's deaths and his approach to the CBI. Lisbon could probably fill it, if she poked around. She hasn't. It doesn't feel fair.
She sighs, and closes the magically-insulated icebox with more force than is necessary. In the sliver of sky she can see from her tiny kitchen window, the moon is rising; two or three days from full. That always brings more work, from ritualists to newly-made werecreatures, and now she knows Rigsby won't be available. (She should have worked that one out sooner, she really should have.) If they don't sort this out – it's gonna be fun.
“Uh, boss,” says Van Pelt, from the table. “You okay?”
“What do you think?” She doesn't turn around. “Look, never mind, it's been a bad day for everyone. What do you feel like for dinner? I promise I don't burn the water, or we can order in, or -”
“Oh, uh, whatever you like.” There is a strained smile on her face. Jane's face. Lisbon isn't sure if she can do this. She decides against anything involving knives, or hot things.
“Being a man is really weird,” Van Pelt bursts out plaintively, as Lisbon picks up the telephone.
“I can imagine,” Lisbon temporizes. She certainly can. Or, rather, can't.
“No you can’t,” Van Pelt objects. “The balance is all wrong. Men walk differently. My chest feels all – flat. And that’s without getting into – do you have any idea how hard it is to use the bathroom when you have to aim?”
Lisbon covers her face with her hands. “No. No I don’t. And I don’t want to. Because I am your boss, not your confessor.”
Van Pelt sighs. “I’m sorry. It’s just – it’s not like there’s anyone else I can talk to. At least you’re a girl, you know?”
That has to be, objectively, the weirdest thing Lisbon has ever heard coming out of Jane’s mouth. Even though it’s not Jane.
“I,” Lisbon says carefully, “am going to order food. Then we are going to eat food. Then we are going to search for ways to fix this. And tomorrow you and Jane can go for coffee or whatever and have a bitch session about how weird this is -”
“I’d rather stab myself,” Van Pelt says with conviction.
“- or not, whatever, do what works for you, just – don’t talk to me about Jane’s body, okay?”
She dials the Chinese delivery place a couple of blocks over, just to end the conversation.
When she’s done, she finds Van Pelt looking at her consideringly. She’s filled with curiosity, of an intellectual but vigorous sort. “You do like him, don’t you?”
“He is the bane of my life,” Lisbon snaps.
“Well, yeah.” Van Pelt wrinkles Jane’s nose. “That’s what’s weird about you liking him.”
“Me. Boss. You. Minion. You, never speak of this topic again,” Lisbon grinds out.
Van Pelt smirks a smirk that is a hybrid of Jane’s and her own. “Sure, whatever you say, boss.”
“So,” Lisbon says. “Uh.” She racks her brain for topics of conversation. “How do you fancy Oakland for the Bay Area football tourney this year?”
“I don’t know,” Van Pelt replies, taking the bait. Thank God. Any god. Lisbon’s not fussy right now. “Their new goalie looks shaky. I hear they’re starting a running football competition this fall, did you read about that? A few people out from the United States want to see if it takes. I guess it is the one thing the Confederates and the Yanks still agree on.”
Lisbon takes a seat on the couch. “Nah, I hadn’t. Isn’t that just rugby with some extra rules?”
“Something like that.” Van Pelt rolls her eyes. “Far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t count if you get to use your hands.”
They pass the evening like that, light chatter of nothing at all important before they get down to the books. Lisbon is given the basic volumes, the ones in English; every second word is still damn near Latin, but she manages. Near midnight, they still haven’t found anything that looks like a solution – Van Pelt discards every reference Lisbon points her to – and Lisbon stumbles wearily to bed, after ordering Van Pelt to do the same.
Sleep comes slow and uneasily. Lisbon wakes up five times over the course of the night, from dreams she does not quite remember and is sure she doesn’t want to.
Was it just last year that her life consisted of regular cop stuff, like men shooting their wives and drug dealers hitting people over the head in alleyways? She thinks it was. It’s hard to remember what that was like, now, getting up, going in, feeling everyone’s emotions wash over her and never being able to blink, to smile, to twitch a finger to let on she did. Not having to worry about Rigsby’s transformation schedule, or the implications of Cho’s….whateverness. The world has expanded, irrevocably, the same way it did when her father died, when she graduated the academy, when she got her own team. They’re all walking out on tightropes, and one day you look down and realize the safety-net is an illusion.
She needs a hobby. One that isn’t introspection.
She and Van Pelt depart for work separately; no need to be more suspicious than they’re already being. Lisbon has to hurry not to be late, and by the time she arrives, she’s in a foul mood.
Which is, contrarily enough, made even fouler when Jane – in Van Pelt’s body – beams at her and hands her a coffee. “Good morning, L-boss.”
“What side of bed did you get up on?” Lisbon eyes him suspiciously, sips the coffee. It’s how she likes it. Oh, something is up, alright.
“The good one, I guess.”
“Sure.” She shoots him another look, sweeps past to her desk. “Cho, Rigsby. Va- Jane.”
Van Pelt is sitting on a chair next to Rigsby’s desk, but she’s doing it wrong, wrong, wrong; sitting straight, shoulders squared, legs neatly together.
“What happened, they found bedbugs in the couch?” Lisbon nods at it.
“Oh! I. No. Just talking,” Van Pelt babbles.
“Well, you can do it out of my chair,” says Jane, tone crisp and Iowa-perfect. Then again, Lisbon knows his acting skills are top-notch.
“Right,” Van Pelt says, and moves to the couch. She perches on it just as she had on the chair; Rigsby makes furious side-to-side motions with his hands. She gets the clue, lies down. It would help if she didn’t look like something was going to bite her.
“Anything new?” Lisbon asks the rest of the team.
“Nope.” Rigsby throws down an empty manila folder. “We got nothing, boss. Zip. Nada.”
“We could knock on a few more doors, see what we can shake out,” Cho suggests. “Co-workers in the meeting, maybe…”
“Have we talked to the secretary, yet?” Jane asks. He’s mimicking Van Pelt’s posture perfectly.
“Secretary?” Rigsby says blankly.
“Archer’s secretary. He struck me as the kind of guy who has stuff done for him. I think it’d be worth having a chat with Miss…” Jane rifles through their meager stack of notes. “Elsaido.”
He’s being vague, but there’s an undercurrent of genuine curiosity; either he thinks he’s really onto something or…he’s probably really onto something. And, frankly, Lisbon wants any excuse to keep Van Pelt and Jane as far away from each other as possible, right now; together, someone’s going to notice something.
“Fine. You come with me, we’ll chat to her. V-you, on the couch. Keep going with that research from last night.”
Van Pelt sits right up. “Sure, boss.”
That is, of course, the moment Minelli appears. “Lisbon. Your training is working miracles, I see.”
“That was sarcasm,” Van Pelt says, unhelpfully.
Minelli frowns at her, and she says very quickly “I have some research to do,” and retreats to her books.
“Is…Jane feeling all right?” Minelli asks.
“I think he’s coming down with something,” Jane says in bored tones, examining his fingernails. They are, Lisbon notes with a sort of dread fascination, lacquered. Van Pelt likes her little feminine touches. “Are we going, boss?”
“Yeah,” Lisbon says. “Uh, yeah, we better go find this secretary before someone else does.”
“This isn’t going to work,” she hisses furiously as soon as they’re out of everyone’s earshot. “You may be having the time of your life – and what is up with that, by the way – but Van Pelt’s going to give the game away in thirty seconds.”
“Eh.” Jane shrugs. “She’ll be okay if she sticks to her books. I do research sometimes, after all.”
Lisbon makes a disbelieving noise. “Sure you do.”
“The alternative, however….”
She sighs. “I know. I’m gonna give it one more day. Perran will be back then. If we haven’t sorted it, it’s confession time for Van Pelt.”
The secretary is a nice enough girl, no-one you’d look at twice. Elsaido is a Spanish Mohammedan name, from the old southern kingdoms; no guide to her religion, though, the country was a mishmash of creeds by the time California came under Spanish rule, and that mishmash had, largely, travelled over here.
“Agent Lisbon,” she says politely. “What can I do for you?”
“If you can spare a minute, my colleague and I would like to talk to you,” Lisbon replies. The woman is curious, a little nervous, nothing beyond what anyone feels when a cop asks to talk to them; if there’s something here it’s not close to the surface.
They are offered chairs and refreshments; they take the former, decline the latter, or Lisbon does, before Jane can pipe up.
“How long have you worked for Mr. Archer?” Jane asks, in retribution, before Lisbon can speak.
“Three and a half years, come June.” Elsaido smiles. “It’s a good job.”
“I’m sure it is,” Lisbon says politely.
“It must be hard work, though,” Jane goes on. “Doesn’t it get tedious? Taking notes, making appointments…”
“Oh, no,” the woman says brightly. “There’s a lot more variety than you’d think – you wouldn’t believe the different people I have to talk to.”
“Everyone from witches to welders.” Jane smiles, lacing his fingers together. On Van Pelt’s face, it’s less predatory than Jane’s usual smile – though Lisbon sometimes feels like the only one who sees it for what it is, the look of a hunter, or a fisher, who has his prey where he wants them.
“Yes, all sorts,” Elsaido agrees, but nothing more is forthcoming.
Damn, Lisbon thinks. Then the woman goes on.
“If you don’t mind me asking, Agent Van Pelt – do you -”
“Oh! Yes,” Jane says, touching a bracelet on his left wrist. Now Lisbon thinks on it, she’s seen Van Pelt wearing that quite a lot, of late. “Just very minor things, you know. How did you know?”
“One of Mr. Archer’s appointments last week had something very similar, and I asked her about it.”
Jane shifts the topic smoothly away, asking about Archer’s appointments, and if he’d had many meetings with Samuels, and wasn’t that horrible, that whole thing, and would she mind terribly much if they had a look at the appointment book?
The secretary lets them look, happily. Lisbon flicks through it quickly, to the weeks before the murder. One name stands out; a woman, Isabel Rixon, with no other detail given. Jane taps the entry, just a tiny movement of his finger.
“Next step, Isabel Rixon,” Lisbon says as they exit the building. “Want to take a bet she’s the witch who did the illusion spell?”
“Why, Lisbon, I’m not the betting type.” Jane is almost skipping.
“What the hell has gotten into you?” Lisbon eyes him.
“I just wasn’t sure I could work my magic in this body. As it were. It’s good to know I can.”
“With any luck that won’t be a problem any time now.” Lisbon’s voice is sharp, and she doesn’t know why.
“Of course.” Jane’s smile is benevolent.
She never trusts Jane when he’s happy.
When they get back to the office, something has clearly gone down in the interim; Van Pelt has vanished altogether, to research, Cho says, face and feelings giving nothing away, and Rigsby is head-down at his desk, radiating panic like a bright, painful halo.
He looks up when they arrive, but the moment his eyes land on Jane, he goes pale, and stammers “I have to – I have to go do a thing. Somewhere else.”
He’s out of the room before Lisbon can open her mouth.
“Explain,” she says tersely to Cho, folding her arms.
“Oooooh,” Jane stares after Rigsby, forehead creased. It looks uncomfortably like Van Pelt’s trying-to-figure-Rigsby-out look. “Van Pelt touched him, didn’t she?”
Cho shrugs. “Yep. Kissed him on the cheek in the break room. He’s been freaking out ever since.”
“I’m not that unattractive,” Jane sulks.
“Shut up,” Lisbon tells him. “It’s confusing. We’re all confused.”
“Rigsby places a lot of importance on his identity as a heterosexual man.” Cho shrugs again. “And right now, his girlfriend has a penis. It’s a thing. He’ll get over it. We need to fix this as soon as possible, though.”
Jane’s voice is a low but furious whisper. “Just so we’re clear, I am not okay with Van Pelt having sex in my body.”
“I thought you were upset about not being attractive?” Cho shoots back.
“Oh my God, people, I don’t need to know this,” Lisbon whispers just as urgently. “Because Rigsby and Van Pelt are not dating, because that would be against regulations and I would have to fire their asses and their asses are not getting fired.”
Jane frowns at her. “How did you not know about that?”
Lisbon throws her hands up. “I don’t know! I figured if they, you know, were actually a thing, there’d be…feelings.”
“Why?” Cho turns back to his work. “They’re adults. They’ve gotten laid before. The falling for each other bit happened ages ago, why would their feelings change noticeably because they finally found a bedroom?”
“Apart from being happier,” Jane adds thoughtfully.
“Just as long as they’re holding off for the moment.”
“Like I said, Rigsby’s masculinity issues should keep you safe on that one. Although I have to warn you, if you have any lesbian fantasies you were wanting to work out, Van Pelt will try and one-up you.”
“I have a headache,” says Lisbon.
She has cause to remember that conversation the next day. It starts out well enough; she and Jane leave early, to take a cab and then train to the address Van Pelt had found for Archer’s witch. Getting a statement out of her hadn’t even been difficult; the illusion spell she’d described to them wasn’t illegal, precisely, just something that Lisbon and everyone else in law enforcement would very much like to be illegal but had never managed to have banned because it was so damn useful to people wishing to avoid scrutiny, a number of whom were rich or powerful or both.
“We keep a record,” Rixon had explained, cautious but wanting to make it clear that she was on the correct side of the law. “It isn’t required but we do it anyway. I can show it to you, if you like.”
“We do like,” Lisbon had said.
And there it had been, on ink and paper; Mr. James Archer (the man hadn’t even used an alias, the idiot), purchasing one illusion charm (add a lock of hair, put it on; works for one hour guaranteed.)
“Just out of curiosity,” Jane had remarked, idly, “do you tell your customers about these records?”
Rixon had pursed her lips. “That would have a very depressing effect on sales, you understand.”
“Oh, I understand,” Jane had replied cheerfully. “But a word to the wise: there are probably a few people you don’t want to do business with, under those terms.”
“This isn’t that sort of business, Agent Van Pelt,” Rixon had said calmly. “But I appreciate the advice.”
“One day she’s going to hand over information on the wrong person,” Jane says as they’re on the train back to the office. “And it’s going to go very badly for her.”
“You think?” Lisbon looks up from where she’s taking notes, carefully, moving with the sway of the train. “She seemed to know the stakes.”
“Thinks she’s smarter than she is.” Jane shrugs. “It’s a common complaint.”
“Not our problem,” Lisbon tells him, closing her notebook.
He regards her. “Why, Lisbon, I thought you were all about protecting people.”
“It isn’t my job to protect them from themselves.”
They grab lunch from a street vendor near the office, spicy Tejano, and eat as they walk – a common enough occurrence in this job that both can do it without too much effort (though Lisbon has to admit she’s ruined a shirt or two that way. More reason to stick to salads, but she’s never had much taste for rabbit food.)
“I think we’re nearly there,” Jane says. He’s still weirdly pleased with himself. “Things are coming together.”
“Yeah, but we don’t have actual evidence,” Lisbon points out, engaging in the internal, perennial debate between licking her fingers and using her handkerchief. She settles for both. “And no – your suppositions do not count as evidence, especially not when we can’t even say that they’re your suppositions. I would have thought you’d be more upset about that.”
Jane smiles, shrugs. “I’m feeling good today, Lisbon.”
“I think you’ve actually snapped.”
“And you’re wrong – we could have evidence.”
They pause in the archway leading into the CBI building. Jane snaps his fingers. “Let me see your notebook.”
Lisbon rolls her eyes, but digs it out; Jane flicks through it, and she leans in to see what he’s getting at.
“Here.” He taps a finger. “Rixon did us a drawing of the charm. If we find it…”
Lisbon shakes her head. “I already thought of that. There’s no way he’s that stupid; it’s the equivalent of a weapon. He’ll have got rid of it.”
“Maybe.” Jane smiles smugly. “But if we have a replica…”
Lisbon hmmmms. “Could work. Van Pelt should be able to mock one up. I just don’t know if we can get him to crack, even with that sort of thing.”
Jane gives her a one-armed hug; they’re standing close enough, closer than she would to Jane in his real body, Lisbon realizes, that it’s not difficult. “Cheer up, Lisbon. We’ll get there.”
She draws away as fast as she can without being obvious, puts away the notebook; why was she letting him stand so close?
Because it’s Jane, but he doesn’t look like Jane, and he’s in a woman’s body – so you’re letting your guard down. When he flirts you forget it’s flirting.
Some days Lisbon thinks she’s the one going crazy.
She passes Rigsby packing up his things on the way to the break room. Coffee is indicated. “Home time, Rigsby?”
“I’m, uh, feeling a bit under the weather, boss.” He nods in a completely obvious and not at all secretive way towards the far window, where, in a few hours, the full moon will rise.
“Gotcha.” They have to come up with a better set of excuses for this. Maybe send him out to do casework? She’ll think of something.
Lisbon lowers her voice. “I’m gonna work on a few better stories, if that’s good.”
Rigsby smiles, weakly. “I’d like that. I can only have so many sick family members and unexpected colds, you know?”
“I get it. And if you ever feel confessional, I’ve got your back, you know that?”
He swallows. “Yeah, boss, I know. I – I’ll think about it.”
Lisbon presses her lips together as she moves on. She forgets, sometimes, that it hasn’t been – what, two years, since Rigsby had the whole werewolf thing land on his lap. He’s still adjusting himself, still in denial, Jane would say – and Jane would have a point. She gets why he hasn’t wanted to come clean. But she can’t help feeling it’s just putting trouble on layby.
Then again, the guy is apparently stupid enough to sleep with his teammate, God, she wishes she hadn’t heard about that – so maybe he will just keep it quiet. Unless she breaks it, but then she loses his trust, for good – and this whole thing doesn’t work if her people don’t trust her.
And, at the last, she couldn’t without being a hypocrite about Cho and Jane’s own secrets – and, crucially, her own – and she tries to keep the hypocrisy levels down. Bad for the digestion.
Minelli is in the break room – not a frequent thing, but not unusual.
“How are things going with the Samuels case?” Minelli asks her.
“So-so,” Lisbon tells him. “We’re stirring the pot until something cracks, if you know what I mean. I’m pretty confident we’ll get there.”
“Good, good.” Minelli nods judiciously. “I see you’ve been taking Van Pelt along.”
“She’s a good agent, but she hits the books a little much. I figured it was time she did some serious people work. Is it a problem?”
“No, no.” Minelli hesitates; he’s damn nervous about something, and confused, as well. Shit. He’s gotta be on to the body-swapping thing. Lisbon readies herself for confession. It’s not really her ass on the line here, except for the bit where she’s in charge, but she’s reluctant to give up Van Pelt, especially when they’re still stuck for a solution.
“Was there something else, sir?” she prompts him.
“You know, Lisbon,” he begins, “I’ve always thought of myself as very open-minded, and I appreciate your professionalism, but I should remind you that we have some very strict regulations about office relationships.”
“I…am aware of that, sir?” What’s he getting at? She’d think Van Pelt and Rigsby, but he wouldn’t be nearly this worked up about discussing her subordinates’ inappropriate affair.
Minelli coughs. “Yes. Well. I know you know. It’s just that it was brought to my attention, this morning, that you and, er. You and Agent Van Pelt…”
Lisbon frantically reviews this morning. Interview. Street food. Notebook.
“You think -” she chokes out. “You think – uh. Um. No. Really, no. I cannot emphasize enough: no.”
Minelli relaxes, inward and outward. “I didn’t think so, but I thought it was better if we had a chat before it was a – problem.”
“Just – no,” Lisbon babbles. “Van Pelt – she’s been having some, uh, some personal issues, long story, and there was woman-to-woman venting. Uh. Girl stuff. Not – just normal girl stuff.”
“It didn’t really seem like Agent Van Pelt was your type,” Minelli concedes, eyes twinkling.
Lisbon wants to kill herself, or more preferably whoever was gossiping, or even more preferably, Jane. “Because, and just so we’re clear on this, women are not my thing. And I’m pretty sure they’re not Van Pelt’s thing, either.”
“I think that’s enough personal information for one day,” Minelli says. He’s – oh, Christ on a pogo stick, he’s surprised.
It has clearly been way, way too long since she dated.
She manages to escape Minelli with a minimum of further embarrassment – they really, really need to sort this thing out – and storms back into her team’s area ready to do damage to someone. Preferably a perp, but at this point she’ll take what she can get.
“Progress,” she barks at them. “Have we made any?”
“Nope,” Jane says.
“Not in particular,” Cho contributes.
“I think we need to talk to Archer again,” says Van Pelt.
Rigsby is silent, which would be because he’s gone home to wait out the full moon and isn’t actually here.
Jane tilts his head. “Hmmm. We probably do have enough to get a confession out of him, if we play it right. And we fake up that charm.”
“Problem,” Lisbon interrupts. “You can’t do the interrogation. Too suspicious. Which means you,” she nods at Van Pelt, “are going to have to try.”
Van Pelt looks very alarmed. “But I can’t – uh – the thing.”
Jane waves a hand. “Don’t worry. Ninety percent of the time, the, uh, thing isn’t how I get stuff out of people.”
“Really?” Cho says blandly.
“I’m a big believer in conservation of energy,” offers Jane. Lisbon realizes, abruptly, she’s starting to get used to this, him in Van Pelt’s body and vice versa. That’s just weird.
“I can walk you through it,” he goes on, in Van Pelt’s direction. “If you think you’re up to it.”
Van Pelt just rolls her eyes. “Your cheap reverse psychology is showing.”
“Damn,” Jane comments.
“But sure,” she says. “Walk away. I want this thing put to bed and my body back.”
“Yes, of course,” Jane replies, but it’s abstracted.
They haul Archer in for questioning as the sun is setting and full moon is rising over the hills. Jane and Lisbon watch from the observation window as Cho and Van Pelt take their seats opposite him.
“This is probably good for her,” Jane says thoughtfully, brushing back his hair – over the last three days, he’s apparently figured out the tricks to long hair, which makes Lisbon vaguely jealous. It took her years.
“Because she has to try and mimic you? Probably.”
“Are you nervous, Lisbon?”
“Not in the slightest,” she lies. Jane, damn him, is actually as calm as he appears.
“We just have a few more questions,” Cho announces, inside the interrogation room.
Archer shifts in his chair; Lisbon sees Van Pelt notice it. “I already told you everything I know. You’ve already arrested Samuels, I don’t see how I can help.”
“Oh, you know how it is,” Van Pelt smiles, leaning back in her chair. Not quite classic Jane, but it’s a credible impression. “Missing pieces, unanswered questions…”
“Like what?” Archer snaps.
“Could you suggest any?” Cho asks, looking up from the file he’s just opened.
“No, I couldn’t!”
The man’s doing a very good innocent and feeling harassed by the police, it’s true. It’d be better if Lisbon couldn’t practically taste his fear. This is why she hates this sort of interrogation. If she doesn’t put up her shielding, she usually ends up throwing up in the toilets afterwards – and if she does, she loses a crucial investigative tool.
“Wishing you’d gone in for training?” Jane murmurs.
“Shut up.” She puts her shields up. It’s not her in there; all she’s gonna do is make herself queasy.
“For instance,” Van Pelt says, holding up something small and dull, hanging from a shining chain, “this is what I’d call a missing piece.”
Archer goes a funny shade of green. “I have no idea where you got that!”
“But you know what it is.”
“I – of course not!”
“Oh, no,” Cho says, glancing at the paperwork. “Mr. Archer, I am terribly sorry to inform you that we forgot an important part of procedure when we brought you in here.”
“You did?” Archer perks up.
Van Pelt wrinkles her nose. “Aw, Cho, do we have to?”
Jane, beside Lisbon, is shifting impatiently himself; Lisbon can wager, if she dropped her shields, she’d feel his eagerness to be in there.
Cho gives her his Jane-is-getting-on-my-nerves-yes-I-do-have-nerves glare. “We do. Mr. Archer has the legal right to know that you’re a telepath.”
“A telepath,” Archer spits out, but Van Pelt talks right over him. “But he was thinking all sorts of interesting things about this little compulsion charm.”
“You idiot, it’s for illusions!”
The shark-like smile Archer gets for that may be on Jane’s face, but it’s all Van Pelt’s own.
Confession comes quickly after that. Archer is good at bluster and forward-planning, but not much for fighting once he’s cornered. Lisbon figures the guy was just too damn arrogant to realize that he’d be caught – or that he could be caught. It’s the same thing that had him framing someone who was in a meeting he attended on an unofficial but semi-regular basis at the same time as the murder.
Sometimes she half-wishes for the odd murderer who’s clever about it, but those cases are inevitably total sons of bitches or not cases at all, so on the whole she doesn’t.
“You know,” Jane says that evening, when they’re clearing up the pizza boxes, “I think I’ve realized something.”
“The sky is blue and the sun has a funny habit of rising in the same place every morning,” Lisbon says, on auto-pilot.
“C’mon, Lisbon, be serious.”
She looks up at him. “Okay. I’m listening.”
Jane frowns, looks down at his body – Van Pelt’s body. “I don’t like this.”
Lisbon raises her eyebrows. “You don’t like being stuck in someone else’s body? It took you three days to come to this great realization?”
“No!” He throws up his hands. “For a while there, it was - interesting. People looked at me and saw someone else. I didn’t have to be…me.”
Lisbon feels her expression soften. She knows – is, maybe, the only person in the CBI who does - the way Jane wrestles with just being himself – but she hadn’t thought of it that way. “I will deny this under torture, but you know that we do like you. As you. Not prancing around in Van Pelt’s body.”
He looks away. “That’s the problem, in a way. I let you all know me. It was a way to become unknown, again.”
Lisbon’s instinctive response is some quip about the extent to which Jane is screwed up, but the trouble is: he knows that, it’s half the problem. And he knows she knows that. And so on, ad infinitum. No answers there.
“And now you’re realizing it’s better to be you, even with all your problems?”
“Better than this, yes.” His mouth quirks. “Not better than anything, Lisbon, this isn’t a fairy-tale with a neat moral at the end of it.”
I like you as yourself, there’s a moral, she wants to say, but – no. Not now.
“It’ll do. Besides, Van Pelt would commit pretty severe violence to get her body back, I hope you’re aware.”
“I’m aware.” He closes his eyes for a second, opens them. “Perran’s back tomorrow. Confession time.”
“We’ll get this sorted out,” Lisbon says, going for soothing and falling short somewhere around desperate. “Tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow. Good night, Lisbon.” It carries a tone of finality.
On Friday, Perran gets back from his trip. Lisbon has him, Jane, and Van Pelt in her office before he can blink.
She doesn’t even have to say a word before he’s looking from Jane to Van Pelt in confusion. “Your auras are…”
“I kind of switched our bodies a couple of days ago,” Van Pelt says, in her bright, nervous, oh-boy-I-screwed-this-up way. “Help?”
Perran closes his eyes. “Gods and spirits preserve me from magicians in training. So you’re Van Pelt, and you’re Jane, right?” He points at Jane’s body, then Van Pelt’s.
“Right,” they nod.
“And no-one else…?”
Lisbon groans. “Definitely not. Just the pair of them. Jane volunteered for it, by the way, so feel free to blame him too.”
“This was deliberate?” Perran frowns.
Van Pelt shakes Jane’s head vigorously. “Oh, no. I was trying an illusion spell – it was research for this case we just closed – and something went really drastically wrong.”
“Show me what you used, and we’ll see if we can fix this,” Perran grumbles.
Lisbon isn’t the only one to pick up on that wording; Van Pelt and Jane both go pale.
They end up having to call in Lupe Hernandez from the San Francisco office, but eventually, people re-acquire their original bodies. It’s nothing dramatic – no visible magic, no light show – but Lisbon can tell the instant it happens. Van Pelt is ecstatic, relieved, chagrined, determined (probably to not screw up again); Jane is pleased, regretful, curious. When he opens his eyes, the difference is clear.
“Well, that was interesting,” is all he says.
Van Pelt snorts. “Interesting. Interesting. Sure.”
He grins, his old grin. “Tell me it didn’t answer all sorts of questions you secretly had about the opposite sex.”
Van Pelt wrinkles her nose. “Not…really.”
“Okay, you guys want to have your little body-swapping bonding session, you can do it somewhere that is not my office,” Lisbon tells them. Both are currently experiencing levels of unease which suggest they would rather do anything than have that bonding session, but she really does want her office back. “And thank you again, Perran, Ms. Hernandez. I don’t know what you’d do without your help.”
“Oh, this sort of thing is small-time, compared to some of what I’ve seen when people get into magic as adults,” Hernandez says, comfortably; she’s a small, plump woman who reminds Lisbon terribly of someone’s grandmother, or at least favorite aunt. “They’re just usually not unlucky enough to get volunteers.”
“That’s alright, next time I plan to volunteer Lisbon,” Jane says cheerily.
“Out,” Lisbon tells him.
Cho knocks on her door the next day. She beckons him into the office. “Cho. What can I do for you?”
“About the body-swapping thing,” he begins.
Lisbon groans. “We just got finished with that. What about it?”
“There might be something I can do. To prevent a repeat occurrence.” Cho sounds like the words have been dragged out of him by a yoke of oxen.
Lisbon gives him her full attention. “And what would that be?”
“I can make it so nothing tries to get into Van Pelt's head again. Not like her first spell, not like this. She’ll be a foreign-consciousness-free zone.”
“And you didn't say anything until now?”
“There are some drawbacks.”
“Worse than this?” Lisbon tries to wave her hands in a way that encompasses the last four days. She's not sure she entirely succeeds; Cho shrugs.
She pauses, to let him continue; he doesn't. “Elaborate, please.”
Cho looks down at his hands for a second; images flash through Lisbon's mind, of a wharf and swirling water. She tries not to think about what it means, who Cho is, what Cho is, most days. She's a follower of Christ, after all, and her God is a jealous God; the existence of other divinities – and their half-human children – may be undeniable, but you're supposed to avoid dealing with them, if you can. But that's only a part of it. Mostly it's that the whole thing is just too – too big to deal with. She's a cop; she finds murderers. All this supernatural stuff is beyond her.
Well. It was.
“It's kind of like hanging a big “keep away” sign around her neck,” Cho says eventually. “On a metaphysical level. Anything short of – anything she's likely to tangle with will back off.”
“Including Jane?” Lisbon can't help asking.
“If she tried this spell again? Yeah, I think so.”
“Sounds good.” Lisbon frowns at him. “What's the catch?”
“It could draw...attention.”
“To you, or to her?”
“Both. I get by around here because I don't do anything that would get me negative attention from anyone – or anything – I can't handle. This would be like a “keep away” sign, but it's also sort of like a...”
“A ‘hands off, she's mine?’ sign to stray gods?” Lisbon prompts.
“Exactly.” Cho frowns. “Anyone else like me, that shouldn't be a problem. But there's a lot of people – and not people – who are to me like – like a Thüringen copper-wyrm is to you. And some of them are – capricious.”
Lisbon feels a chill down her spine. “So what you're saying is that we could be trading small troubles for very big ones.”
“It's probably a fair trade. That sort of fight doesn't happen very often. Too destructive.”
“That doesn't mean it doesn't happen at all.”
“No, it doesn't.”
“Are you proposing to tell Van Pelt about this?”
“I don't think it would help. Van Pelt is – she can be close-minded, from time to time.”
He adds, “And to be honest, I'm uncomfortable enough with you and Jane knowing.”
“Okay.” Lisbon nods. “To be honest, I'd be happier not knowing.”
The brick wall becomes, for a moment, rather fascinating to both of them.
“It's not going to hurt her, right?” Lisbon asks eventually.
“No. Definitely not.”
“Why do I get the feeling you're not very happy about this?” It'd be obvious even if he wasn't giving off apprehension like a stomach-churning breeze, and for what Cho is feeling to be obvious, well, that's something.
“Because you're empathic, boss.”
Lisbon ignores the little jolt, there – he's never said it aloud. “Whatever. You know what I meant.”
“Because...” He transfers his attention to his folded arms. “You know, as far as I know – and I mean know – you and Jane are currently the only people in this city who know about me.”
Lisbon raises her eyebrows. “You can't be the only demigod around here. And, well, this isn't Constantinople or Tenochtitlan, but there have to be enough high-ranked priests and priestesses and so on around the place -”
“Sure. There’ll be someone who’s picked something up, especially after that display on the wharf. But that I know of? Just you two. It's not like I'm wearing a sign around my neck. And this? If Van Pelt runs into the wrong person – hell, it's not just a sign, it's a banner advertisement.”
“I gotcha.” Lisbon drums her fingers on the desk, thinks of the past week, thinks of the wharf. Thinks of the first time Van Pelt tried magic, the incident they don't talk about.
“It's not because she's bad at it,” Cho adds. “Far as I can tell, she knows what she's doing. If she aimed lower, or was less powerful, we wouldn't get these situations.”
“Aimed lower,” Lisbon scoffs. “Grace Van Pelt? Might as well ask Jane to take a vow of honesty. And directness.”
“That's about it.”
She takes a breath. “Okay. We’ll do it.”
“Yes, boss.” Cho moves to go.
She calls out to him, when he's halfway out the door. “Hey, Cho. Thanks.”
“No problem, boss.” And he's gone.
Jane pokes his head in. Such a relief, to see Jane and know that, well, it's Jane. “Hey. What was that big serious conversation about?”
“Come in, shut the door.”
“Ohoh, it was serious.”
“Shut up. Sit down.”
He grins, pleased at his successful provocation, and does. “So what can I help you with, Lisbon?”
“I need you to help misdirect someone.”
“You need me to? You're not going to yell at me about it afterwards?”
“This is actually serious,” she snaps at him, and he sobers.
“Okay. Who are we misdirecting?”
Jane is actually startled, and she's not just reading it, she's seeing it. “O-kay. Tell me more.”
The Van Pelt thing, in the end, isn’t that difficult. Jane does his patter, a clever mix of charm and guilt (“You know, Grace, you did get us into this. Don’t you think you should give me a chance to make sure it doesn’t happen again?”) and she’s wheeled easily enough into the empty office that’s become the spell-casting room, in much the same position as she was four days ago (was it really only four days ago?), kneeling on the floor, facing Jane.
“Are you sure about this?” she asks nervously, glancing from Jane to Lisbon and back. “We’re not going to…attract anything?”
“I’m not gonna approve anything that might let you get hurt,” Lisbon tells her. “At least, not unless it’s important.”
“Well, gee, thanks, boss. That makes me feel all better.” But her shoulders have straightened, she looks determined.
“Okay,” Jane says. “I’m going to – let’s call it building a wall, okay? Any more mistakes like Tuesday, and it should just bounce right off you.”
“How big a mistake?” Van Pelt frowns.
“Well,” Jane temporizes, “you get mixed up with religion, I can’t help, but all the psychic mumbo-jumbo sort of things should be taken care of.” He doesn’t even glance at Cho, hovering in the doorway, but Cho nods anyway – for Lisbon’s benefit, she’s sure.
Van Pelt bites her lip, nods.
Jane smiles. “All right. Close your eyes, now…”
Silent as a cat, Cho sneaks up behind her, holds out his hands. Nothing happens that Lisbon can see, any more than it did the time he kicked that Fae out of Van Pelt’s head, but every hair on her body stands on end. Even Jane’s smug smile is wiped off his face, his eyes widening.
Van Pelt gasps, and shivers. Cho retreats. She opens her eyes. “That’s it?”
Jane spreads his hands. “That’s it. All done.” He stands, dusts off his trousers. “I say that means it’s time for a tea break.”
Van Pelt regards him, a curious smile on her lips. “You know, I didn’t know you had that sort of thing in you.”
“Isn’t he just full of surprises,” Cho dead-pans.
“Whatever,” Lisbon says. “I’m endorsing the coffee-break. Get out of here. Jane, can I have a word?”
He tilts his head questioningly. “As you wish.”
She takes him into his office, points at a chair – the nice one, not the one she offers people she doesn’t like. “Sit down. We need to talk.”
“I thought that went pretty well, you know.”
“Yeah, it did.” Lisbon takes her own seat, pulls out the file. Jane’s file. The Red John file.
His eyes flick to it instantly.
“Look. Patrick,” she says. Oh, that gets his attention. “You asked me to look at this. I did. But if you want – if you want this to go any further, it needs to be a team thing. The others need to see this.”
He hasn’t taken his eyes off it. “Do they?”
Lisbon leans forward, snaps her fingers. He looks up. “Yes. Because, hello, empathy. I know how bad this is for you. It’s got you twisted up like a fucking corkscrew. And, yeah, you’re probably saner than anyone has a right to be, about something like this. But you need help.”
“If you must know,” Jane says, voice brittle, on the verge of standing and fleeing, “they released me with a clean bill of mental health two years ago -”
That’s more than she’s gotten before. “I’m sure they did. I don’t mean help with your head. I mean help solving this.” She slaps the file. “You’re not going to get this bastard on your own. Or with just me. We need Cho, we need Van Pelt, we need Rigsby, we need warrants, we need the full goddamn force of law. It’s the only way where we’re going to put this guy where he belongs.”
“He belongs in the ground,” Jane snaps.
Lisbon holds up a hand. “No. I don’t want to hear that. Because this is how it stands. I can and I will do everything within my power and a few things outside it to help you catch Red John and put him on the stand and put him behind bars or on the gallows, whichever the jury decides. So will the rest of the team. But what I can’t do? I can’t help you kill him. You stay with us, we’ll catch him. We won’t stop until we do. And when it’s done you can go to your wife’s grave, and your little girl’s, and put flowers on them and say hey, girls, I did it, the asshole who hurt you isn’t going to hurt anyone else ever again.”
She takes a breath. “But that’s all I can give you, on this. And it has to start with a team briefing. You don’t have to be there, if you don’t want.”
He just sits there, silent, staring at her. He’s on the edge of crying. Lisbon wishes, violently, that she were anywhere but here.
Except she doesn’t, because Jane’s her colleague, and her friend, and, damn Van Pelt, she likes the guy, and this is what she’s got. It’s not enough. Nothing is enough. There’s a big black hole inside Jane and Lisbon is nowhere near stupid enough to think she can fill it.
Deep down, though, she’s a cop. And cops know that the world is full of big black holes you can’t fill. The first time you see a dead kid. The first time you see someone who’s died senselessly, violently, because they took the wrong route home or someone decided they needed a human sacrifice and they were convenient or because they dated the wrong guy, whatever.
You do what you can.
“I want to be there,” Jane says finally. His voice is rusty. Old pain, broken open.
She doesn’t want to be the person who does that, but he gave her this file. They’re going to be doing this a lot.
“Well, okay then,” she replies. “Monday work for you?”
“Sure. Okay.” He licks his lips; genuinely nervous. Normally she likes that in him, but not right now. “Would you, uh. Would you like to go get a coffee?”
She raises her eyebrows. “In…what capacity?”
He taps the file. “To say thank you. For not kicking me to the curb.” His mouth quirks. “And as an apology for that deeply awkward conversation you had with Minelli.”
Lisbon gives him her best glare. “How do you even know about that?”
He smirks. “Deduction. I was hardly on my best behavior.”
“Damn straight you weren’t.” She stands, reaches for her coat. “Fine. Coffee. You’re buying.”
Jane holds the door for her. “Of course. And – Lisbon. Really. Thanks.”
He lays a hand on her shoulder, squeezes. Just for a second. It burns.
She looks out across the desks beyond; at Van Pelt, laughing at some joke Rigsby just cracked, ducking her head. God. She’s an idiot.
“You keep that up, Jane, I’m gonna start thinking you have feelings,” she says. “Come on. I want that coffee. And a pastry. You really owe me for this week.”
If he agrees, she’s going to – but all he says is, “Come on, now, Lisbon, it wasn’t that bad.”
“Not that bad?” she exclaims. Jane just smirks.
Cho flicks her a lazy salute as they pass by his desk. “Glad we got that one sorted.”
“Hey, team,” she says, halting. “New meeting. Monday morning. We got a cold case I want to go through.”
“Monday,” says Van Pelt. “Earth, fire, water for who brings the bear claws?”
“I’ll beat the loser,” volunteers Cho.
“Cold case?” Rigsby asks. “What sort?”
“You’ll just have to wait until Monday,” Jane says, lightly. “And here’s a hint: Cho always goes water.”
“No, I don’t,” Cho says.
They leave the team bickering amicably, and go out, onto the crowded Sacramento streets.
“Overall, though,” Jane comments, as they wend their way through the crowds, “I think it’s still okay to be me.” He sounds surprised, still.