AN: Hi everyone! Long time, no see, huh? Unfortunately, I have to tell you that this will more than likely be my last TM story, and this one wouldn't have come about in the first place if I didn't feel I owed everyone a goodbye.
(pardon me while I get a little sentimental) - I am forever grateful to those of you who have read and enjoyed my stories. This fandom gave me the opportunity to really practice my writing craft, and I feel like I've been able to improve substantially because of the support and encouragement I've received here. I've also managed to make some very good friends, and that never would have happened if I wasn't writing.
I'm still on Twitter as starrynineteen, if you're interested. Additionally, though this may be my last TM story, I'm still a fangirl, so keep your eyes peeled for fics for other fandoms (Longmire, probably Outlander at some point, and whatever else catches my interest) in the future.
One last resounding THANK YOU. TM fans are the greatest, and I love you guys dearly.
Now, on we go.
Musings and Memories
In all the years he had walked the earth, in all of the living he had done, there were a handful of moments that stood out, that had imprinted themselves on his already infallible memory, like they had been burned there, forever bright.
They weren't always significant and life-altering, though some of them were. For instance, the first moment he had held Charlotte, the dizzying feel of his world altering to accommodate her new presence at its center. Anyone could have judged that as a moment of impact.
But they would be hard pressed to understand why other images had stayed with him, like the vision of Angela he had, her head bent over a novel, utterly engrossed. Or Lisbon, singing softly to herself as she hovered over the stove, making pancakes, her slender body swaying slightly with her tune.
Not all of the moments were good, either. A dark hallway, ending in a closed door, white note standing out in harsh relief. The old CBI, typically a sort of haven, gone gray as he listened to the voice on the other end of the line informing him that Teresa couldn't come to the phone.
Some were mingled, joy and horror. A park, bathed in the bright sunshine of a beautiful day, and the body that had finally stopped moving beneath his hands. The fierce sense of revenge and then the blinding question of what now. An airplane, nearly ready to take off, take his reason for still existing away. The exultation that came from finally telling her, and the finality of the phrase it's too late.
He would never forget these things, not one minute detail.
He was in the midst of another moment. He could feel it.
More than likely, everyone else present could as well.
The small SUV was so loaded up with boxes that he was worried his daughter wouldn't be able to see behind her. That didn't stop her from continuing down the gravel lane that led from the cabin to the highway.
For eighteen years, he had both looked forward to and dreaded this day, in equal measures. On one hand, he would never cease being grateful that his beloved daughter, his second chance, his and Lisbon's shot at eternity, was able to do this, able to spread her proverbial wings and fly away from them. Charlotte had never been able to do this, life frozen forever in the innocence of childhood, of tea parties and stuffed animals.
And on the other hand, his baby was gone, taking with her the majority of his heart.
At his side, Lisbon turned her face into his neck, and he felt the tiny tremblings that meant she was fighting tears. He kissed her hair, still dark, still silky, and closed his eyes against his own emotions.
"She'll be fine," Lisbon whispered, more to herself than to him. He nodded anyway.
"I know," said. And he did.
"And it's not like she's moving to Siberia," Lisbon continued, punctuating this statement with a sniffle. This was also true. College Station was just under two hours from Austin. An easy drive, no doubt.
But it meant that tonight, as he made his way around the house, checking door locks and closing curtains, he had one less stop to make. The second bedroom on the left would be empty, except for the things that had been deemed not important enough to make the journey with her to Texas A&M.
"She'll be just fine," he murmured, echoing Lisbon's words. She would be, for many and varied reasons. Their daughter was fiercely intelligent and almost as fiercely stubborn, traits she had inherited from both of her parents. She was also a black belt in karate and a crack shot with a handgun.
For a while, he and Lisbon were both silent, lost in their memories and thoughts.
Abruptly, she straightened her shoulders. He smiled, recognizing this outward gesture of pulling herself together. "Do you think it's too early to have a drink?" she asked.
Clearly, it was a rhetorical question, and his grin widened as he followed her up the porch stairs to the house.
Without asking, she poured him a tumbler full of whiskey. Not typically his preferred drink, but he took a sip regardless.
Across the granite counter from him, Lisbon took a rather larger swallow.
Subtly, he glanced at the clock. Their visitors would be over in a few hours. The Rigsbys, who had moved to Texas almost a decade before, Cho and his wife, and Wylie and his bride of five years.
It was something they did, or tried to do, at least once a month.
Over the years, they had all had each others' backs countless times, had lied, killed, and even taken bullets for the others. At some point, it seemed they had all decided to stop trying to make other friends because no one else could understand what they had been through together.
Tonight, everyone would gather at their place, the Rigsbys, at least, understanding that a suddenly empty house was a severe adjustment. In fact, Ben and Maddy were both in College Station as well, and Maddy was within walking distance of their daughter.
Still, he and Lisbon would be glad of the company tonight, the chance to share stories and remember the times that had passed.
It seemed to him that they had managed to squeeze more into a single lifetime than average people. The thought made him smile a bit wistfully. No, they weren't average, any of them. They were extraordinary, and no one more so than the woman who was currently doing a terrible job of pretending she was fine.
He replaced his glass on the countertop, then stepped around to take his wife of almost twenty years into his arms.
She clung, and he rocked her slowly, murmuring gently in her ear.
After a few minutes, she raised her head, wiping at her eyes. She hated to show weakness, even in front of him. Some things never changed.
Carefully, she rested her forehead against his, arms coming up to snake around his neck. He recognized the sudden tension in her body, and his nerves responded in kind.
"Take me to bed, Patrick," she whispered. "Make me feel better."
He was happy to oblige.
Again, he thought, some things never changed. He always felt this sense of sanctuary, of homecoming when he made love to Lisbon. Over the years, he'd lost track of the times they had done this, but it might as well have been the first time, in a hotel room in Florida, exhausted and giddy and emotionally vulnerable.
There was the same sense of wonder as he traced his fingers over her pale skin, the pleasure her own touch brought, the peace after, as they lay tangled together.
"I love you," he breathed, meaning it as much now as he had the first time he'd told her.
"Love you, too," she whispered back, lips pressed to the top of his head.
In another few hours, they were bustling around the house, immersed in last-minute preparations for their guests.
There was a knock on the door, and he stole a quick kiss from Lisbon before letting Grace and Wayne inside.
The evening passed in a blur of laughter and wine, of stories and news, obligatory mentalist tricks, and more than a few bawdy jokes. Despite his emotional upheaval of earlier, his heart had settled down in contentment.
Their daughter was doing what she was meant to be doing. Living, growing up. He knew better than most that not everyone was given this opportunity, and he was profoundly grateful.
Lisbon was still at his side, they was she had been for…almost thirty years. He felt a bit shocked, but it was true.
Thirty years of trust, of having someone at his back, there to save him, even when he didn't much want to be saved. Looking back, he was was glad she had never given up on him. Did she know? He wondered. Did she realize what they would mean to each other, even early on?
Perhaps not. But she had loved him, regardless, and there were times that her love was the only thing that kept him from crossing dangerous lines. No, he hadn't cared a great deal about his own life, but he had cared about causing her pain. He remembered a gun barrel, nearly pressed to his temple, and thought of what he would have missed.
Decades of love, his child. Sticky kisses and soccer games and long nights spent making love to his wife. Anniversaries and birthdays and graduations. So much happiness, more than he had ever thought to find again.
Nostalgic now, he looked over the faces of his friends, of Teresa, not seeing the lines of age, but seeing them all as they had once been, all those years ago. Then the illusion faded, and he saw them as they were now, the echoes of their younger selves lurking in the corners of smiles and the sound of their laughter.
He tucked an arm around Teresa, kissed her softly, as he had done nearly every day for twenty years of the life they had spent as man and wife, and as he had wanted to do for the thirteen years of his life before that, a life that had sometimes seemed dark and red-tinged and pointless.
However, from the other side, he saw things rather differently. There had been darkness, certainly, sometimes so great that he worried he would never find his way out of it. But there had been light, too. And now, surrounded by it, he could see it for what it really was.
It was a life well lived.