Jane was drunk.
Lisbon had always imagined drunken Jane to be something akin to an amorous octopus with ADD, and was surprised when he turned out to be a melancholy drunk, growing more silent with each passing drink. They were spending the night in LA, having closed the case too late to catch the last flight back to Sacramento, and somewhere along the line the closed case pizza had turned into a closed case drink, and then into several more closed case drinks. Lisbon had only had a few beers herself, but to everyone's surprise Jane had been drinking enough to make up for the rest of the team.
It had been one of those cases where, in hindsight, she found herself wishing that she'd been able to leave Jane behind in Sacramento. She wasn't sure what it was in this particular case that had triggered him, but Jane had been even more out of control than usual, almost getting himself shot three times within one afternoon - a record even for him.
There was just the two of them and Cho left at the table, Rigsby and Van Pelt having headed back to the hotel after just two rounds, and when one of the waitresses began pointedly clean the table next to theirs, Lisbon realised that they were the last ones left at the whole bar as well.
Cho seemed to have noticed the same thing as he finished his drink and began gathering this things.
"Do you need me to...?" He asked as he stood up, gesturing towards Jane.
It took Lisbon a few seconds to get what he meant. The rest of the team had been staying at the same hotel near their temporary HQ during the case, but Jane had made his own arrangements and was staying somewhere else. Where, that Lisbon didn't know. She'd assumed that it was with some friends, but now that she was giving it further thought, the words 'Jane' and 'friends' were not ones that she would quickly associate with each other.
She sighed and shook her head. "No, you go. I'll take care of him."
Cho gave her a sympathetic nod and grabbed his coat. "Your call. Night, Boss. Jane. See you tomorrow."
Emptying the last dregs of her own beer, Lisbon turned to look at Jane. He was half-lying on the table, his head resting in the crook of his left arm as he unsuccessfully tried to build a house of cards out of coasters. Lisbon wasn't sure if she should find the sight amusing or sad. Probably both, as it often was with Jane.
She tapped him on the shoulder. "Last call, Jane."
Jane stared at her blearily for a few seconds and then frowned. "Where did everybody go?"
"They've left, Sherlock. It's closing time." She nudged him again. "C'mon. The way the bartender is looking at us, he's going kick us out if we don't leave now."
Jane finished his drink and then stood up, unsteadily. Once upright, he patted his pockets theatrically until he found his wallet, then set it down on the table and continued his search for what turned out to be his keys. He pulled them out of his pocket with a flourish, only to have them slip from his fingers.
He leaned down to pick up the fallen keys, but the chair he was taking support from toppled under his weight, causing him to lose his balance. Lisbon tried to grab his arm to keep him from falling, but he was too heavy for her and she had to let him go to avoid ending up down on the floor with him.
The man behind the bar made a gesture to come over to help them, but Lisbon held up her hand and shook her head. "I can handle this," she mouthed, making a mental note to leave an extra tip before they left.
When she looked down at Jane again, he was holding the keys in his palm, looking up at her sheepishly.
"I don't think I can drive."
"You think so?" She snatched the keys from him and slipped them in her pocket, and then pulled him to his feet. "Besides, you car is back in Sacramento, remember?"
She propped Jane against the table and gathered his things, raiding his wallet for some money for the tip before returning it to his pocket. He seemed to be steadier on his feet than he had a while ago, but Lisbon still held onto his arm just in case as she steered him out of the bar and onto the street.
"Where are you staying?" she asked as she scanned the street, trying to spot an available cab.
"No, I mean tonight. Where are you staying in LA?"
"Home," he repeated, then added: "My house."
She was about to argue, but stopped herself when she realised what he meant. "Your house? You still have the house in Malibu?"
"And you're staying there?" she wanted to add, but didn't.
"Are you sure you don't want to come back to the hotel with me?" She asked instead. It didn't come out quite as she had meant, and she realised that he must have been even more drunk than she had thought because he didn't make any comment on her slip. She signaled a passing cab and then turned to Jane again. He was leaning to the wall, staring into distance. It was eerie, somehow, to see him like this - stripped of his show, of the smoke and mirrors he usually hid behind.
"No, I want to go home," he said quietly, and then added in what Lisbon assumed was supposed to be an imitation of Minelli: "Save those tax dollar payers." He frowned. "Tax payer dollars?"
She rolled her eyes. "Fine. But you're paying for the cab."
When the car pulled over, she manhandled Jane inside and then gave his address to the driver. It was going to be hell of a detour for her to tag along all the way to Jane's house, but she could hardly trust the taxi driver to get Jane into his home safely. Or more precisely, she couldn't trust Jane not to get himself kicked off the car somewhere in downtown LA if left to his own devices.
Jane continued his uncharacteristic silence all the way to Malibu, only stirring when the cab pulled over to his driveway. He paid the driver and Lisbon helped him out of the car, but instead of heading towards the house, he turned around and knocked on the driver side window. The driver gave him a suspicious look as he rolled down the window.
"Almost forgot," Jane said, giving the man that smile which in Lisbon's experience often resulted in the other person getting arrested for trying to assault Jane. She took a step closer, just in case. "I won't remember your name and license number in the morning but the delightful Agent Lisbon here will, so I'm just gonna tell you that I know that you've rigged the meter."
The driver stared at him for a few seconds and then gave one of the money back. Based on his expression, Lisbon suspected that if she hadn't been present, he would have rather given Jane a bloody nose instead.
She rolled her eyes at Jane, who flashed her a manic grin and kissed the money.
"I'll be right back," she told the driver, then grabbed Jane's shoulder and pointed him towards the house. They had managed all the way to the front door when she heard the cab back off and drive away. She watched it disappear down the road.
"Great. Now I'm going to have to call a new one."
Jane waved his hand dismissively, taking a few staggering steps sideways when the gesture almost made him lose his balance. "Meh. You wouldn't have wanted to take that one anyway. He kept imagining you naked."
"Oh really? And you know this because you read his mind, do you?" She dug out his keys from her pocket and put them in his hand. "Here. Make yourself useful and let us in."
While Jane tried to figure out the correct key to get them inside, Lisbon took the opportunity to take a better look at his house. It was sometimes difficult to remember that Jane was, or at least had been, one of those rich C-list celebrities whose lives were pasted all over the tabloids, but the house was in many ways just like she had imagined it to be - ostentatious and arrogant and all about the show, much like Jane himself. The kind of a place that she too might afford one day if she spent the next twenty-five years eating nothing but ramen.
Jane pushed the door open, grinning madly like he'd just solved a particularly difficult problem. Lisbon followed him in, conflicted between curiosity and the feeling that she was taking advantage of Jane's vulnerable state to invade his privacy. She had never been to his home in Sacramento - sometimes she wondered if he even had a home in Sacramento, considering how much time he spent sleeping at the office. This in itself wasn't all that strange since only member of her team whose home she had seen was Cho, but the thing about Jane was that for all his show, he was a surprisingly private person. You could listen to him talk about himself for hours to an end and only realise afterwards that he hadn't actually told you anything.
Jane tossed his keys to a small sidetable as he entered. It was overflown with junkmail, and the keys balanced on top of the mountain of paper for a few seconds before sliding to the floor in an avalanche of unopened letters. There was a keypad for some kind of a security system on the wall next to the door, and Lisbon briefly wondered if she should remind Jane about it, but when she took a closer look she noticed that the lights on the panel were dark. Jane's gait was becoming unsteady again, so she took hold of his arm to make sure he didn't fall, though she had to admit that the gesture was just as much to her own benefit - an excuse to follow him in, to sate her curiosity without feeling like an intruder. Holding onto him with her right hand, she reached for the light switch with her left, and suddenly it became perfectly clear why there was no need for a security system anymore.
The house was almost completely empty. The further they went into the house, the more obvious it became that nobody lived in it anymore. There were only few pieces of furniture, protected with sheets of clear plastic and covered in dust, and nothing but faded marks on the walls where paintings or pictures must have once been. It was like Jane had planned on selling the house and then had just... not done it. Obviously money was not an issue for Jane, if he could afford to keep the house, but she couldn't figure out why he had kept it. When she'd found out that he still owned the house, a part of her had expected to find the place preserved in the exact state it had been on the day his family had been murdered, like some macabre museum, but this she did not understand.
Lisbon was stirred from her thoughts when she realised that they were heading towards what appeared to have once been the living room. She stopped, staggering a bit when Jane's momentum pulled them forward.
"Don't tell me that you sleep on the couch at home too. C'mon, where's your bedroom? Is it upstairs?"
He shook his head. "I don't wanna go there."
Standing there with his rumpled suit and mussed hair he looked like a tired little boy arguing about his bedtime, and Lisbon couldn't help smiling.
"What are you afraid of? Ghosts?" She regretted her words as soon as they were out. Sometimes she felt that dealing with Jane was like walking on tightrope, only it was he who would plunge into the depths if she took a wrong step. "Oh."
She glanced towards the stairs on the other side of the room. She'd seen the crime scene photos, of course, and the sudden familiarity of the place hit her like a particularly bloody déjà vu. She shuddered.
"Sorry," she said and then forced a smile on her face. "Couch it is then."
She walked to the expensive-looking leather couch and grabbed the edge of the plastic sheet covering it. Clouds of dust swirled in the air as she pulled the plastic off and threw it on the floor. Jane was beginning to look like he was about to fall asleep on his feet, and she guided him to the couch and helped him lay down. He looked like he wanted to say something, but his eyes were already closing and few seconds later he was fast asleep.
Lisbon glanced at her watch. It was almost two a.m. already, but if she called herself a cab, she could be in her own bed at the hotel in less than an hour. She looked at Jane again.
She was pretty certain he was actually asleep rather than passed out, but she grabbed his shoulder and manhandled him into an approximation of the recovery position, just in case. After a moment's consideration she also took off his shoes and unbuttoned his vest and the few top buttons of his shirt to make him more comfortable. Her mother-hen instincts getting better of her, she looked around for something to cover him with, and when she couldn't spot anything, she found her eyes drawn to the stairs again.
The bedrooms were upstairs. She knew this, from having read the crime scene reports. Surely Jane must have a proper bed somewhere, if he still sometimes spent nights at the house. There was bound to be blankets or something somewhere. Then again, they were in California - it wasn't as if he was going to die of exposure in his own living room. She could just leave him sleep it off and call him in the morning to make sure he made it to the airport in time. She looked at him and sighed.
"You owe me big time," she muttered, and set out to look for blankets.
When she reached the top of the stairs, she noticed that the door at the end of the corridor was ajar. She decided to try that room first, feeling like she was already invading Jane's privacy enough as it was.
She stepped inside, her hand reaching for the light switch, and then froze, her heart skipping a beat when she saw the bloody face on the wall smiling at her. Her immediate instinct was to reach for her weapon, but her fingers brushed an empty holster, reminding her that she'd left her gun back at the hotel. She swore under her breath and then went completely still, listening to the sounds of the house. There was enough light filtering through the windows to make it impossible for anyone to hide in the bedroom, but there were plenty of other rooms to hide in. It would have been easy for someone to slip in unnoticed. The security system had been off, and Jane had been in no condition to notice if the lock on the front door had been tampered with. She cast a quick glance towards the direction she'd come from. If Red John was inside, he could have gotten to Jane already.
But something was not right. Lisbon couldn't help thinking why, of all the times and places, would Red John choose come here, now. It made no sense. She switched on the lights and took a step closer to the wall. With the initial shock gradually fading, she was able to look at the macabre painting more objectively, noting that the blood on the wall was dry and faded. Old. Six years old.
"Jesus..." she whispered, the word just as much a prayer as a curse.
Of all the things he could have kept as a reminder of his family, this was what he had chosen. She knew she should have been surprised, shocked, but really she wasn't.
She'd seen the face before, in photographs and at crime scenes, but this was the first time she truly understood its power. She couldn't help thinking what it would have been like, opening the door to see that face, knowing that the people you loved would be lying butchered beneath it. It was like staring into the face of pure evil, and finally she had to turn around and walk away, unable to spend any more time in its presence.
She found few blankets in the closet of the other bedroom and then rushed back downstairs, feeling the smiling face watching her, even through the closed door between them.
Jane had not moved when she came back. She tried to be quiet anyway, knowing how light sleeper he usually was. She tucked one of the blankets around him, then grabbed the other one and walked to a large armchair. She threw the plastic cover on the floor and curled into the chair, kicking off her shoes as she tried to find a comfortable position. She thought longingly about her soft comfortable bed at the hotel. She knew in the morning she was going to regret staying, but she also knew that she was going to regret even more if she didn't stay and Jane ended up choking on his own vomit and Tom Coldwell's team closed more cases by the end of the year than her team. She would never forgive herself if she let that happen.
She woke up to the smell of bacon and fried eggs.
It took her a moment to remember where she was and why her head and back were aching so much. Missed flight, drinks, drunken Jane, Jane's house. Right. She opened her eyes carefully, wincing at the bright morning light that filtered through the large windows. She stretched her back, feeling the muscles scream in protest. When she looked around, she saw that the couch next to her chair was empty, the plastic covering back in its place and the blanket neatly folded on the armrest. She stood up gingerly, rubbing her leg to relieve cramp, and then followed the smell of food.
Unsurprisingly, she found Jane in the kitchen. He was standing in front of the stove, focused on breaking an egg into a frying pan. He was wearing a different suit than the previous night, but more importantly he was wearing an apron with a picture of Tigger on it. Lisbon blinked. For a moment she wondered if she was maybe still asleep even though she had no idea why she would be dreaming of Jane in an apron.
She was still debating whether or not to pinch herself when he noticed her. He smiled cheerfully and gave a little wave with the wooden spatula he was holding.
"Good morning! Breakfast?"
She muttered something in reply and sat down to the kitchen table.
He scoffed at her. "Why so grumpy, Grumpy? It's a lovely day!"
Lisbon looked at her watch. It was quarter to six in the morning. She scowled at Jane and then pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to will the pounding inside her head to subside. "I hate you."
Jane laughed and tossed her a bottle of aspirin. She caught it clumsily and then shook one tablet out, washing it down with a glass of orange juice that appeared in front of her. She closed her eyes and leaned back in the chair, stretching her neck. She was not sure which she was looking forward less: the ninety minute flight back to Sacramento or spending the rest of the day doing paperwork at the office. She suspected that Jane would be doing his best to make sure that both would end up being equally hellish. When she opened her eyes again, Jane was standing in front of her, looking uncharacteristically subdued. He was holding a paper bag in front of him like a shield.
"Look, I- uh, I'm sorry about last night. I know you've probably had enough of looking after drunken men. You really needn't to have stayed." He set the bag on the table and pushed it towards her. "They only had blueberry."
She tried to imagine him like he must have been, once upon a time, standing in his kitchen just like this, making breakfast for his wife and daughter. But the image that kept coming to her was that of her own father the last time she saw him, on the morning of the day when he'd taken his life. Some things just can't be fixed, that's what Jane had told her in a rare moment of honesty. Nothing to be angry about, just the way of the world. But she was angry, that's the way that she was.
"You need help, Jane."
He smiled again, giving her that toothy grin that she knew was completely fake. "No, no, I think I can handle this. My hands are feeling a bit shaky, though, so I hope you don't mind a little eggshell in your omelet."
"No, I mean..." She looked at him, a ridiculous sight in his apron and sleep-mussed hair, like a character from some weird breakfast cereal commercial, or possibly a romantic comedy of some sort. The kind where a work-a-holic career woman learns to appreciate the finer things in life when a handsome but eccentric stranger sweeps her off her feet.
"Be honest with me, Jane. All this? It's not just you making a case for an insanity plea, is it?"
He just laughed and turned away, seemingly busying himself trying to open a small plastic container. "You know, it's surprisingly difficult to get fresh mushrooms at this hour. I had to try three places before I found any."
And that was it, that was all the answer she was going to get out of him. Not that she had really expected anything else. She knew she could try to push it, and maybe he wanted her to push it, but there was a time and a place and neither one of them involved Jane dressed up in Disney merchandise. She shook her head and dug a blueberry muffin from the paper bag, and let him explain to her the difference between white mushrooms and cremini mushrooms.
Like often before, she couldn't help thinking how difficult it was to reconcile this Jane - the flirty, smiling man who had half of the women and at least quarter of the men at the office wrapped around his little finger - with the one who fantasised about torturing a man to death and slept in a bare room under a mark painted with the blood of his dead wife. It was no wonder that so many believed the show he gave them, because it was easier that way. It was easier to pretend that he was okay, to ignore the little dents and cracks in his perfect façade. Sometimes she found herself wishing that she could do it too. To not think of the things he'd admitted to her in those rare moments of openness, small glimpses of his real self caught during moments of vulnerability. To just buy the whole Man-Your-Man-Could-Smell-Like act and let him sweep her off her feet.
She couldn't deny having thought about it. She hadn't been with a man since Steven the Handsome But Ultimately Boring Lawyer she'd met at a fundraiser ball almost two years ago, so yes, her mind did sometimes wander. Mostly at nights. When she was alone. In bed.
Because Jane was a very good looking man. Not really her type, but charming enough to make up for it. Plus she was willing to put good money on the fact that he'd be great in bed. He was too much of an egotistical bastard to be anything less. She wasn't sure if sleeping with a private consultant would technically even fall under the 'no sexual relations between bureau employees' rule - and again, yes, she had thought about it, but she had drawn the line at actually looking up the rules to check - but if nothing else, it would certainly be showing Rigsby and Van Pelt a bad example.
Jane had stopped chopping the mushrooms and was looking at her now, like he knew what she was thinking. He probably did. She tried not to blush.
If her life were a romantic comedy, this was the moment when she would go over to Jane and kiss him, and they would have passionate sex on the kitchen table and then afterwards finish making breakfast together. But her life wasn't a romantic comedy. If anything it was a crime drama with some comedic elements - no explicit nudity, but viewer discretion advised for graphic violence not suitable for children. She could kiss him, but the bloody smiling face would still be on the bedroom wall and no matter how she tried, she couldn't imagine a a cheesy love song montage scene where they painted over it.
She crossed the floor and took the knife away from him.
"Here. Let me help before you cut off a finger or something. Occupational health is riding my ass about you enough already."
He smiled, and this time she could tell it was for real. "Thank you, Lisbon."
So maybe it was never going to be a great Hollywood romance between them. Maybe one day when Red John was gone and the wall was painted over they could have a chance, or maybe they'd just always skip over the kissing and the sex and go straight to chopping onions. It didn't matter. He was a friend, he was family, and while she didn't owe him anything any more than she had owed her father, there were things that she owed herself.
She'd never liked romantic movies anyway.