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A Promise

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Lisbon sat an empty desk in the bullpen, struggling to focus on her paperwork. It had been a rough week. Rough, but revealing.

She was still mad at Jane for keeping her in the dark through the whole case with his brother-in-law, but if she were honest with herself, she had to admit that she understood why he did it. She just wished he would trust her. Wished he would let her into his plans, and into his life, just a little bit more.

Maybe someday they’d get there.

As her eyes glazed over her paperwork, Lisbon idly wondered what she would have done if it had turned out that Danny had killed Landon Wale. Would she have been able to do her job and arrest Danny, along with anyone that got in their way? Even if that had meant arresting Jane too? Or would she have protected Danny to protect Jane?

She wasn’t sure she knew the answer.

Lisbon rubbed her tired eyes. It was late and CBI HQ was shrouded in darkness. Only the lights in the bullpen remained on as Lisbon trudged through her work and tried to put out some of the fires that Jane had started this week. As she worked through the papers covering her desk, she couldn't quite stop the occasional glance over to where her partner lay on his couch, concern creasing her brow.


Jane laid on his couch in silence, absently staring at the ceiling. He was aware of Lisbon's gaze on him, but he ignored it. He was determined to wait her out. He knew he could. He could always make her talk first, if he wanted to. Each time Lisbon glanced over, she would deliberately turn back to her paperwork after a few seconds, trying to ignore both him and whatever was on her mind. But Jane knew that if he waited long enough, she'd give in and tell him what was bothering her.

It only took seven and half minutes before Jane heard Lisbon put her pen down with a resigned sigh. He smiled to himself. Small victories.

"Jane."

He hummed in response but made no move to get up. 

Lisbon sighed again, resisting the urge to roll her eyes. "Jane, talk to me," she urged. Her voice was quiet, but it carried in the silent bullpen. Jane didn't miss the slightly exasperated tone that she tried to conceal.

Jane exhaled and sat up, turning to face her. With a slightly ironic smile, he asked, "And what would you like me to talk about, Lisbon?"

He knew the answer, of course.

Lisbon gave him a knowing look. "You know."

Jane smiled sadly. She knew him well. It was nice, he thought, to have someone who knew you that well. Someone who could see through your acts, who knew the person behind your facade. Who could see the pain behind your smile.

But sometimes it was also a royal pain.

Crossing his arms on his chest, Jane shrugged and looked at the floor. "There's nothing to say."

"Alright," Lisbon groaned, pushing her chair back from her desk. She stood up and walked over to stand in front of him. Leaning against the desk behind her, she crossed her arms across her chest too, matching his closed-off demeanor. "You don't wanna talk?” she said, staring him down. " That’s fine. I'll talk.” She paused, waiting until he looked up and met her eyes to say, “Jane, you’ve gotta stop blaming yourself."

Jane winced. Maybe she didn't know him as well as he had thought.

How could he stop blaming himself? Who else was there to blame? And if he didn't have this blame… If he didn’t have this guilt, this shame, this burden that was his and his alone... well then, what else did he have? Who would he be without that? Jane’s gaze fell back to the floor as he shook his head in dismay.

When Jane said nothing, Lisbon went on: "It’s not productive. In fact, it’s destructive, and you know it. Blaming yourself isn’t going to make anything better. It’s not going to solve anything.” She paused. “And you know what else you need to do?"

Jane knew it was a rhetorical question, but before Lisbon could go on, he answered anyway: "Let you help?" He said with a small mirthless laugh.

"Yeah," Lisbon sighed, not surprised that he knew what she would say. She knew what his reaction would be to this suggestion too, but she pushed ahead anyway. "You need to let me help. Like it or not, I’m your partner. You have to let me in. Jane, you have to talk to me.”

Jane shook his head again with another small, hollow laugh. He couldn't just… talk about it. Especially not with her. Didn’t she know that? Didn’t she see that it wasn’t that simple?

No, he supposed she didn’t know, and how could she? For although he would never admit it to Lisbon, there was a part of Jane that really did want to tell her everything. There was a very, very small part of him that desperately wanted to break down the dam that he had built and unleash the flood that was slowly drowning him. He wanted to let the tide flow out before it consumed him, drain the swell before it engulfed him.

But he knew better.

Doing that would only drown her, too, and Lisbon didn’t deserve that.

No, he couldn't do that to her.

He would hold back the flood, drowning if he had to, if that’s what it took to ensure that he wouldn’t take anyone down with him.

Lisbon stared at Jane as he stared into space on the floor. Watching as he tried to conceal his pain, Lisbon silently wished that she could find him in whatever dark and lonely world he always created for himself within his mind. She wished she could reach into that inner world, take his hand, and lead him back into this world. Bring him back into the world of light and hope. She may never know what haunted him in his inner world, and might not even want to know, but she wished she knew how to stop it. But Lisbon knew better than to try. If she started playing mind games with Patrick Jane, she'd surely lose. And she hated losing. Especially to Jane.

When it became obvious that Jane wasn't going to say anything, Lisbon sighed and turned back to her desk. When she glanced down at the papers she had been working on, her eyes blurred. It had been a long, emotional case and she was exhausted. She decided that the rest of her paperwork could wait till morning.

Quietly, Lisbon put away her paperwork and grabbed her bag. She glanced at Jane, who hadn't moved a muscle. He was still staring at the floor as if he were in a trance. She would normally say good night to him as she headed out, but for some reason, she felt like that would be an unwelcome intrusion right now. She went and locked up her office instead, turning quietly toward the exit.

When she was almost out of the bullpen, Lisbon heard Jane mutter something. She turned around slowly, her dropping her bag to the ground and leaning on the doorway. She frowned. "What did you say?"

Jane looked up at her as if he were surprised to find that she was still there.

"Guilt is for marks," he repeated, smiling ruefully. "That's what Danny said."

Lisbon smiled. "You're no mark," she said quietly.

Jane's short laugh was self-deprecating and sad. Lisbon hated it.

"Yeah, well," he huffed, looking away again. "I didn't use to be."

Lisbon let that sit for a moment before prompting, "But... you feel like you are now."

Jane paused for a second, blinking. Then he looked back at her. To her dismay, Lisbon could see the moment when Jane realized how vulnerable he had been. Her frown deepened as she watched his walls go back up, watched as he brought back the persona he often hid behind. He gave her one of his brilliant, dazzling, almost-too-bright smiles. The kind that only Lisbon could see right through.

"That was very good Lisbon," he said, pointing at her and nodding approvingly. "You almost got me. You did. How did you do it?"

Lisbon played dumb. She shrugged innocently. "Do what?"

Jane’s grin widened. "See, that's why you're such a good cop," he said, clearly glad for the distraction. "You're disarming. People like to talk to you. They trust you. And when people feel vulnerable, they want to talk to someone they feel like they can trust." He nodded, grinning. "Nice work.”

Lisbon tried to hide her smile, but part of it peaked through anyway. "When did this become about me?" She asked. "I thought we were talking about you."

Jane shrugged, still smiling a little too vividly. "Meh." He waived his hand dismissively. "Nothing to talk about. You're a far more interesting subject. For instance-"

"Jane," she interrupted with a slightly bemused tilt of her head.

"Lisbon."

Lisbon sighed. She pulled out a chair from the nearest desk and sat down facing him. With her hands on her knees, she said, "talk to me."

Jane stared at her in silence for a few seconds before turning his gaze to the floor.

"You don't have to tell me everything, Jane. Just tell me something. Anything."

When Jane looked back up and met Lisbon's eyes, the mask of his persona was gone. In its place was clarity, focus, and fire in his eyes that hadn’t been there a moment before. It surprised Lisbon for a second.

"You really want to know?" Jane murmured before Lisbon had gotten a chance to adjust to the abrupt change in his demeanor. "Alright. Yes," he sighed. "Yes, I do feel like I'm nothing more than a mark right now. We've been chasing Red John for so long now, but are we any closer to catching him? No." He paused only long enough to take a ragged breath. More quietly, he added, "I was in the same room as him, Lisbon. The. Same. Room. And I couldn't do anything. I couldn't stop him. I can't stop him. I can't even find him. He is always a step ahead of me, always taunting me, playing with me, and most days, it seems like there is nothing I can do to stop him."

There was a long, heavy silence before Jane quietly added, "and what if I never do?"

Lisbon didn't quite know what to say to that. She wasn't used to Jane being this open with her, and even though she had asked for it, even pushed for it… she hadn't actually expected him to open up to her like this.

Before Lisbon could formulate a response, Jane got up and stormed out of the bullpen and into the dark kitchen. Leaning over the sink, he swiped angrily at his face. He hated himself for having been so vulnerable, especially in front of her. He'd said far more than he had meant to, far more than he ever should have, and although he didn’t quite understand why, he couldn’t help but feel like he’d end up regretting it.

He always felt that way when he let people in anymore, even if they never got past the doorway.


It wasn't long before Jane heard Lisbon's soft footsteps approach the kitchen. She stopped a few feet behind him. He didn't turn around.

After a few moments of heavy silence, Jane said quietly, "Maybe Danny was right and guilt is for marks. Maybe I should stop feeling guilty. Maybe I should stop feeling bad for myself, stop wasting my time wallowing in self-hatred.” The dark sarcasm in his voice made it clear that he thought the idea a mockery. “But if I did...” He said, “Then what else would I have, Lisbon? If I don't have this guilt, this sorrow... then all I have is anger. Anger and vengeance and hatred. And is that really any better than feeling guilty?"

Though he still wasn't facing her, Lisbon felt like she could see the anguish on his face, and it pained her too. She shook her head. "That's not all you have," she said, her voice barely more than a whisper. "You have me."

Jane finally turned around and looked at her. Lisbon smiled sympathetically at him across the darkened kitchen. In the faint light that trickled in from the bullpen, Jane could see the pity in Lisbon’s smile, and he hated it.

Yes, he hated her pity. He hated being pitied by anyone, because he didn’t deserve it. Pity was for the innocent, the guiltless. And God knows that wasn’t him.

Even though he detested her pity, Jane couldn’t help but be somewhat grateful to her for feeling it. Grateful that she cared enough about him to sympathize with him. He was sure that he wasn't worthy of anyone's care, not anymore. But Lisbon... she cared nonetheless. Yes, he was grateful she was there.

Softly, Lisbon added, "you have all of us. This whole team. Me, Cho, Rigby, Van Pelt. Even Hightower. You have people who care about you. Good, smart people who have your back and who are not gonna rest until we stop Red John. But Jane… you can't let the guilt eat you alive. If you do that, you're letting Red John win." After a pause, she added, "and you have to stop pushing us all away. We're here to help you, but you have to let us in."

Jane shook his head in frustration. "You know I can't do that, Lisbon. Red John is too dangerous. He took Kristina-"

"You don't know that-"

"Yes I do. He took Kristina. He killed Bosco and his whole team. He took my wife and child, and I can't..." Jane's voice broke, but he choked back the wave that was once again threatening to breach his dam. With a deep breath, he said waveringly, "I can't let him take you too."

Lisbon crossed the room until she was standing right in front of him. She put her hand on his arm and said, "Jane. Look at me." When he met her eyes, she said, "I won't let that happen."

Jane huffed. "You can't promise that."

Giving his arm a reassuring squeeze, Lisbon said, "But I have. And Jane... I want you to know that you can trust me. No matter what happens, I will be there for you. I will."

Jane smiled slightly, knowing they were both remembering when he had said the same thing to her. Lisbon continued, "We will stop Red John, no matter what it takes. And I’ll be fine. We all will." She looked into his eyes when she said, "I promise."

Jane's face softened. "Okay, Lisbon," he said quietly.

Lisbon dropped her hand and smiled. "Get some sleep," she told him. "You've had a rough few days."

Jane smiled. "My couch awaits.”

Lisbon watched him walk back to his couch, wishing she could say more, but not knowing what else to say. Instead, she picked up the bag she had abandoned and turned to leave.

"Good night, Jane," she called from the doorway.

"Good night, Lisbon," he echoed.

As her footsteps receded, Jane thought about what she had said. Maybe he did have more than he thought. Maybe there was more than just guilt and anger. More than self-blame and self-hatred. Maybe there were coworkers, friends, people who cared about him. Maybe there was hope for vengeance. Hope for justice for those he had lost. Hope for the people he had gained. Hope for a future beyond Red John. Hope for a future that he was terrified to even let himself dream of.

Maybe there was hope after all.

But for today, if there wasn’t hope, at least there was a promise.

And until they had caught Red John, until he got his revenge, until he made up for the sins of his past and was able to forgive himself for it all... until then, a promise would have to be enough.