tromana: (mentalist: patrick jane tea)
[personal profile] tromana
Title: Square One
Author:[livejournal.com profile] tromana 
Rating: T
Characters: Jane/Lisbon
Summary: If Jane had a dollar for every time somebody said ‘it wasn’t your fault’, he still wouldn’t have his wife and child back.
Disclaimer: Not mine
Notes:  For 13: downward spiral in prompt table I for [livejournal.com profile] mentalistprompt . Beta'd by [livejournal.com profile] miss_peg 

Square One

He watched her simply because she was the most fascinating thing in the room.

Not because he wanted to date her, seduce her or anything like that. Simply because Agent Lisbon was interesting. She was a police officer, yes. Had obviously been fast-tracked through the CBI, given her youthful looks and the wary out of depth expression she wore. Not to mention the fact he had only seen her in passing before now, despite his volunteering to aid the CBI on major cases for the past two years. But all of that didn’t matter, the petite brunette was still of interest to him, because there sure as hell wasn’t anything else stimulating in this room.

Patrick Jane wasn’t ready to look for love. Definitely not a mere three days after his family’s untimely demise.

That was why he was here. In this small, dank room. On one wall, there was a one-way mirror. No doubt, the head honcho of the CBI, Gale Bertram was situated behind it, along with Special Agent Virgil Minelli. This case was of interest to them. Of course it was. It was Red John; everybody in law enforcement was interested in him. Not only that, even the people on the street lived in terror of the serial killer who left a smiley face on the wall to let you know he’d called.

As far as he was concerned, this was an open and shut case. Apart from the catching of the killer thing, of course. Red John was still at large and Jane expected that not to change for a significant period of time.

There was no need for him to be questioned. This was a complete waste of time. He’d already told Senior Agent Allen everything he knew. Everything he’d done. Patrick Jane had no personal connection to Red John, nor did he know the whereabouts of the man. Otherwise he would have handed the serial killer over to them months ago, years even. When he had started offering his services to the CBI, in fact. Well, that wasn’t entirely accurate. If he was personally linked to Red John, if he were a friend or family member, for example, he wouldn’t have started working with law enforcement in the first place. Unless it was a double bluff. Unless…

He stopped and frowned slightly, barely realizing that he had become lost in his own train of thoughts. That was an unusual habit for him, but then again, Jane had never been in the situation of grieving widower before and it wasn‘t something he had ever particularly wanted to experience. Surely, in that case it was acceptable to act somewhat out of character? Besides, he hadn’t heard Allen’s latest question and the man was staring at him intently, as was his younger subordinate.

“So, you were at the studio until midnight?” Allen repeated eventually. “Didn’t you finish shooting at ten? Why were you there so late?”

“What does it matter? It doesn’t change a damn thing,” Jane snapped in response. “If I hadn’t given the interview, if I hadn’t baited Red John, this wouldn’t have happened.”

“Mr. Jane,” Agent Lisbon said, speaking softly before reaching out to touch his hand. “Whatever you say, whatever you do, you need to know that it isn’t your fault your wife and child were killed by Red John.”

Immediately, Jane pulled back his hand and let out a hollow laugh. It had been just under seventy two hours since he had found that note pinned to the door. Twisted the knob and slowly let the door swing open. Spotted the face, smelt the iron tang in the air, saw the contorted bodies of the two people who meant more than anything else in the world to him. And yet, he had already lost count of the amount of people who had had the audacity to tell him it wasn’t his fault. Agent Lisbon wasn’t the first and nor would she be the last. If he had a dollar for every time somebody said it wasn’t his fault, well, it still wouldn’t bring Angela and Charlotte back. They were still dead. Still gone and nothing could change it.

Besides, she was wrong. They all were.

It was his fault.

He’d baited Red John. Thought he was cleverer than a serial killer who had already murdered several times before. Who had continued to elude the authorities to this date and no doubt, would remain at large for more years to come.

“Agent Lisbon, how long have you been working on the Red John case?”

Jane watched as her back stiffened and she looked him directly in the eye.

“One week, since I transferred from the TPU. Why?”

“TPU? Trafficking Prevention? So you’ve had no prior exposure to Red John before then?”

“Of course I’ve heard of him, who hasn’t?” she snapped in answer. “But as for case details, no.”

“Then you don’t have a clue what you’re letting yourself in for.”

xxx

“Mr. Jane,” Lisbon spoke, smiling slightly. “It’s been a while.”

“It has. I see you’re now in charge of your own unit,” he stated and grinned when he saw her mouth agape. “Oh come on, it’s obvious in your demeanor. You’ve grown in confidence. It suits you.”

“Thanks, I think,” she answered warily as they exited Minelli’s office. “And what have you been up to?”

“Ah this and that. Sorting out my affairs. That kind of thing.”

“That’s just a load of crap to say you don’t want to tell me, right?”

“Right.”

Of course he didn’t want to tell her. She must have had time to digest the Red John case by now. It had been two years, at least. That meant she would have some pretty strong views on his family’s deaths and quite frankly, he wasn’t ready to hear them.

Mainly because he knew she would try and tell him things he still wasn’t ready to hear.

xxx

“What you said to me? When we first met?”

Lisbon placed down her pen and just stared at him, arching an eyebrow. She knew that given time, he would clarify the situation.

“That it wasn’t my fault,” he said, trying to jog her memory. “You didn’t really mean that, did you?”

“I meant every word.”

xxx

It was a hoax. It felt like every other case dealt with a Red John copycat. Like people believed they could use him as a cover-up to get away with murder scot-free. As if they could get away with it. Like the police or the serial killer wouldn’t find out about it, sooner or later.

Jane knew full well that wasn’t the case. Red John didn’t believe imitation was the sincerest form of flattery. If, or when, Wagner was released from jail, Jane didn’t want to be in his shoes. The serial killer would already know exactly what he had done and would want to seek his revenge. Despite the fact the good doctor had already lost his creditability, his hospital, support for his charity, there was always one more thing he could lose.

His life.

And that would be what Red John aimed for, whenever he next had exposure to Dr. Wagner. It was only a matter of time. Once the authorities had duly punished him, the serial killer would no doubt step up to the plate to make sure that Wagner learned his lesson for once and for all.

Jane had learned that the hard way and he hadn’t even had the audacity to pretend to be the serial killer.

It had also changed his life around. He was living the life of a condemned man. The only reason he had agreed to come and work with the CBI again was to try and get even with Red John. Someone had to and there was no point in other people needlessly throwing their fulfilled lives away. It was the job for somebody with nothing left to live for. Him.

Lisbon had tried to tell him that Red John had probably found out about Jane working the case with her predecessor. That he would have done something to stop him anyway. How his ridiculous appearance on the chat show had probably just set the wheels into motion a little bit faster than it ordinarily would have happened.

But had Allen lost any of his family to the serial killer? Had Cho or Rigsby? What about Lisbon herself?

It didn’t take a psychic, fake or otherwise, to work out the answer to that one.

xxx

“Jane.”

He mumbled incoherently under his breath and rolled over, trying desperately to sleep. If he had his eyes tightly closed and slowed his thoughts down as much as feasibly possible, then maybe it would stop eluding him. It might even succeed in convincing himself he was indeed asleep and therefore, he would feel rested and alert for the rest of the day.

“Jane!”

But that wasn’t going to happen with Lisbon kicking the couch and shouting at him. Damn woman.

“What?”

“This couch, though you seem convinced otherwise, isn’t actually your bed,” she snapped, irritated for one reason or another. “You are here to work.”

“But there’s nothing to-”

“We just got a callout. Meet me in the car park in five.”

They drove in silence for a good thirty minutes. Jane remained trapped in his thoughts, principally of Red John. The serial killer hadn’t struck for a while and he was beginning to get a little edgy. Something told him that he was going to get bored sooner or later and want to start playing with them again. It just seemed like a giant game of cat and mouse. He shouldn’t be at large, not any more. The case had dragged on for far too long as it was. If Jane himself had gotten home earlier, had not loitered at the studio, signing autographs of all things, then maybe he would have intercepted the serial killer. So that may well have cost him his life as well, but then Lisbon and the rest of the Serious Crimes Unit at the time would have had some more leads to chase up. The serial killer, having been disturbed, would have made mistakes. Therefore, Red John would have been apprehended and he wouldn‘t have to live with the guilt. At the time, stroking his own ego hadn’t required a second thought, but now, Jane regretted it with every single breath he took.

Quickly, he glanced over at Lisbon. She didn’t seem particularly comfortable with the silence either. Sure, she was happy enough to be focusing on the road in front of her, but she knew something was up. The woman was a quick learner and had already learned to read him, if only a little. Sometimes, he thought it was a shame that he couldn’t be as malleable as her. The adage was true: old habits die hard.

“I’m fine.”

“What? I didn’t say anything.”

“You didn’t have to. You’re worrying about me, again.”

“You’re a part of my team, Jane. Of course I’m going to worry about you.”

“Don’t bother.”

She flinched at his tone and Jane immediately noticed. However, he didn’t respond. He had to clear his mind in order to solve another case. It may not be Red John, may not have any effect on how he felt, but it was better than nothing. His way of trying to make the world a better place after getting so much wrong.

xxx

It was Lisbon who moved first, cutting off the harrowing laughter. She gripped the cell phone tightly in her right hand and stared at it for a few seconds. He knew what she was thinking. The audacity of the man; the bastard thought he could tease Jane, both of them, like that. Quickly, she shook her head and refocused her gaze on Jane.

“I’ve got to go,” she muttered. “We can try and trace this call, see if we can find him.”

“You do that.”

They both knew it was a false hope. Red John had probably already destroyed the SIM card for the cell phone. This round was already over; another win for Red John, another loss for the CBI. For him.

“You’ll be okay?”

“Yeah, you go. Do your job and all that.”

Slowly, he wandered back through to the bathroom. The bodies were still there, mangled, bloodied. Two more lives lost to the cause. Two more people whose deaths could theoretically be blamed on him. Lisbon had warned him, had told him that using Jared Renfrew was like leading a lamb to the slaughter.

She had been right. He was wrong.

That was always the case when Red John was involved.

xxx

“You’re still thinking about Jared Renfrew, aren’t you?”

It was two weeks after they’d returned from Mexico. For a while, they had danced around the issue. Obviously, Lisbon had already grown fed up of doing that.

“Well, stop it,” she continued, not even giving him a chance to respond. “It’s not constructive, it’s not healthy. I can’t help you if you don’t even try to help yourself.”

xxx

“Jane?”

“Huh?”

“What’s wrong? Talk to me.”

“He escaped again, Lisbon. We let him get-”

“Enough. I don’t want to hear it, nor do I need to. How many times do I have to tell you-”

“It’s not my fault? Yeah, yeah. But it is, Lisbon. How can you not see it?”

“Fine.”

She sat down opposite him and stared directly in his eyes. Generally, she and Jane rubbed along together comfortably now. It wasn’t perfect, but then again nothing was. However, they had been here before and Lisbon didn’t want him to carry on with this mood for months on end.

“What?”

“If you want to play it like that, then…”

“You’re going to say if it’s my fault that my family was killed, it’s your fault too.”

She narrowed her eyes slightly. “I hate it when you do that.”

Lisbon cursed quietly and Jane could tell that she hated being put in this position yet again. That she thought they had covered it already, down in that basement after finding Maya Plaskett. How she wished that he had paid attention, had realized that people, she, did care. That he couldn’t continue shouldering the blame whenever something went wrong, especially when it pertained to the Red John case.

That he would actually change and in her opinion, grow up. For someone so cynical and jaded and working in such a violent career path, Lisbon still had a terribly strong sense of innocence about her.

“But?” he prompted.

“Yes, I was going to say that. If we’d apprehended him before your family was killed, then they would still be alive to this day and so would several other innocent people,” she paused for breath, hating having to do this yet again. “But we can’t live like this, pointing the finger. It’s unproductive and if we do, we’ll never catch him.”

xxx

Some things seem like they would never change. Jane wouldn’t stop pursuing Red John. As far as he was concerned, it was a case of kill or be killed. The team, Lisbon especially, was trying to get under his skin, to make him change his stance. Sometimes, he wondered if it was working. If they were really giving him something to live for, a reason to keep going without Angela and Charlotte.

Given longer, maybe…

In the mean time, he was still content to believe that he was entirely at fault. That Red John was the reason he lived for, that bringing him down was all that mattered. It was his calling, his redemption.

A lot would have to happen for him not to see it that way.

end
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November 2011

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