It's taken me sooo long to write a new story that I can actually say that I'm a bit proud of this one :) I started writing this back in July and just picked it up again today when I should have been studying...
I don't have a beta so all mistakes are mine.
Disclaimer: Nope, not mine. Non of them are. But I don't think the cemetery really exists so that's my creation :)
It would be a sunny Wednesday morning.
Of course it would. It was California and late summer, so why wouldn't it be? Teresa Lisbon liked sunny days, even after having spent her entire life in this climate. It usually did a great job calming her, cheering her up or just giving her a nice tan. But today it wouldn't succeed in working its positive magic on her.
Standing there in her work clothes with a big mug filled with coffee she was staring out of her living room window at the sky covering the city. It was just after 5:30 and life in Sacramento was just switching from humid night to hot day. 5:30 also meant that Lisbon had been standing there staring for about an hour and a half already and currently nursing her fourth cup of coffee. She'd first started tossing around in her bed after waking with a start from her nightmare at exactly 2:46 and after more than an hour of telling herself that sleep would come back eventually she had just given up. Now she had about an hour and a half left before she would have to leave for work. So much time and so many things she could do.
No, that wasn't true. Actually, there was nothing for her to do right now. Not feeling comfortable anymore with only the growing silence around herself she turned on the radio. After a quick report on today's weather she was greeted by the cheerful voice of this week's host of "Good Morning Sacramento". She was rinsing out her mug when the first seconds of The Song made its way into her kitchen. She stopped dead in her tracks. Only when she realized that the extremely hot water was spilling over the cup and onto her hand did she set it down in the sink and made a run for the radio to shut it off.
Every year on this particular day she felt like the entire world was out to get her. Every year she would have the same dream. Every year she would wake up at the exact same time dreading the day to come. And every year she was forced to listen to the same song. That meant that if she wanted it or not every year all the painful memories about her mother's death came back to her. And it wasn't even the day of the accident.
"Happy Birthday, Mom…" she whispered as she ran her hand over their last picture together. With that she picked up her stuff and locked the door behind her.
Jane took a right at the corner and angled his car into the parking lot in front of Lisbon's house. Shutting of the engine he checked the passenger seat. A tea for himself and a coffee for her, special with blueberry flavour. Pancakes with maple syrup and vanilla ice cream. Banana juice. Man, he knew her too well… '5:42, perfect!' he thought to himself as he took in the clock in his dashboard. That would give him another 18 minutes before her alarm would go off and yet another 10 minutes before he could barge into her apartment. Considering what date it was today he decided to be nice and give her enough time to actually wake up and take a shower. As with every plan he was proud of what he would do.
The confidence of victory however left him quickly when he saw the object of his early morning home invasion emerging the building and making her way to her car. He double checked the time. 5:43.
Especially today he had expected her to stay in bed as long as possible to avoid having to face the day. This was unanticipated. And required replanning.
Lisbon slowly made her way into her office. Nobody was there yet so she had the quietness and orange gloom of the morning sunshine to herself. She had known that she would be the first one in, as almost every morning. Except for the days when the brown leather couch in the bullpen would be occupied by Jane. She took a few seconds to wonder why he wasn't in his usual place this morning but quickly forgot about it as she shut the door and sat down at her desk, immediately leaning back in her comfortable chair.
Today would be her day. Nothing else would matter. Today wouldn't be about anything else, nothing would get on her nerves if she didn't want it to. Nobody would tell her what to do if she didn't want them to.
She knew that she would be having a hard time keeping up her façade today. Of course she hadn't told anybody what day it was and none of the others could know. That meant that she was safe. She would get through the day, would leave on time and have the evening to herself. Jane had asked her yesterday if they should have dinner with the whole team tonight but she had convinced him to postpone telling him that she had an appointment that she couldn't move to another day.
That was her mantra for today.
Jane had followed her far behind on her way to the CBI building. After all he was a little scared that she might spot him in her rear view mirror. By the time he put his Citroën into park he had come up with a new plan. Unfortunately, that wouldn't involve pancakes anymore. Fortunately, he didn't only know Lisbon but also bits and pieces about other people outside their team. So he dropped the pancakes off in front of the parking attendant's booth and put a note with it that read "Tommy, enjoy! Patrick Jane". His new plan for Lisbon asked for different kinds of food. He knew that her supposed appointment tonight was only an excuse anyways.
As he went through security and up the stairs to their floor he vowed to make the day survivable for her. Whether she liked it or not he would be the most pleasant consultant today.
That was his mantra for today.
Fortunately, the day went by without any major incidents. Nobody caught on to her change in mood today. No crisis or mayhem, to murders or madmen. That meant catching up on paperwork and being able to stay in lock-up all day long. Perfect for Lisbon and exactly what she wanted. On the other hand it gave her enough time – too much time – to debate what she had planned for tonight. At 5:57, three minutes before she got off, she found herself staring at the map for what seemed like the millionth time that day. As her fingers traced along the highway leading out of the suburbs of Sacramento she found herself pointing at The Spot. And again she was debating.
It had been so many years and never had she had the courage to visit her mother's grave. It had been so many years and every year at this day she fought an inner battle with herself. And this year – again – she had the same fear as all the years before. She wouldn't make it today either.
No, she would. She at least had to give it a try.
When Jane made his way back into the bullpen at exactly 6 pm he grabbed his jacket, said a quick good-bye to the rest of the team and gently knocked on Lisbon's door. Twice. When he didn't get an answer he opened it and made his way inside. It was empty and he only saw tiny bits of dust in the sunlight invading the room. Just when a print out on her desk caught his eye he was interrupted by Rigsby.
"Lisbon left a few minutes ago."
"Huh, I didn't notice…"
"Must have been while you were in the bathroom. Did you want something from her?" Rigsby asked with an inquiring look.
"No, not really." Jane replied casually and turned to the agent smiling. "Just wanted to say good-bye."
"Ok. I'm done for the day. Have a good one!"
When Rigsby walked away Jane focussed his attention back on the sheet of paper lying on Lisbon's desk. It was a map of the closer area surrounding Sacramento. It wasn't a big territory but big enough to leave him clueless as to where she went. At first. Taking a second look he noticed a thin line drawn with a pencil leading the way from the city to a spot marked as "American River Memorial Cemetery". Why would she have to mark the way to the cemetery? Shouldn't she know the name by heart after all these years?
Then a second note entered Jane's mind: What if she had never been there?
He took the paper from the desk and took off.
Lisbon checked her watch. 28 minutes and counting. That's how long she had spent in her car in front of the entrance to the cemetery weighing the pros and cons of actually going in there. She hadn't bought any flowers but she had the candle that she had planned to light next to her mother's picture tonight. That was before she had decided to change her plans from holing up in her apartment and crying all night to trying something more healthy. And confrontational. In the last half hour she had managed to open her door once but failed at getting out of the car. Instead she had shut the door again and slumped back into her seat defeated. She was starting to wonder how much longer it would be.
Jane had made his way from the CBI to the grocery store and eventually the cemetery in record time. Not that he had anything to compare it to, but he was sure that he had broken at least three traffic laws on the way. Just when he was trying to figure out a way to enter the burial ground he saw her silver SUV parked in front with the driver's side window down, a sign that she was still in the vehicle. He assumed that she had come here directly from her office. That meant that she had to have been sitting here for quite a while, probably heavily debating on her next actions. He had to do something about this.
He got out of his car, went around to the passenger side's door and took out the paper bag with tonight's dinner. Then he slowly made his way over to her and quietly cleared his throat as to not to startle her too much. But he wasn't so lucky.
"Jane! Holy crap, what are you doing?!" She stared at him angrily but the shock and surprise definitely was more obvious in her voice and look.
"Sorry, didn't mean to scare you." he said with an apologetic look.
"Well guess what, you did!" She kept staring at him but her look softened when she saw the concerned gaze he had directed at her. "How did you know where I was?" she asked quietly while looking at the entrance again. But she had a feeling that knew the answer already.
"The paper on your desk." There was an uncomfortable pause and for the first time in months Jane had the feeling that he really was at a loss of words in this situation. "Have you gone inside yet?"
"Inside where?" she inquired halfheartedly. When she looked back at him she sighed. "No. Not today." After a long pause she added "Not ever actually…"
After a few more seconds of both of them being lost in her own thoughts but Jane never leaving Lisbon's face he opened her door.
She just eyed him confusedly until the anger made itself present in her face again. "Jane, no. Not today. Any other day, but not today. You can try your mind crap on me tomorrow again but tonight I just wanna be by myself."
In any other case he would have insisted. He would have stood his ground telling her that she would have to face this. That she would need to get out of her car, walk to her mother's grave and grieve. But she was right. He didn't have the right today. This was something she needed to decide by herself. There was no way he would talk her into doing anything in this case.
"You're right." "Was that a bit of relieve he saw in her face? "But you have to eat. I brought some food. And since I haven't eaten yet either I thought I'd join you." With that he put on a grin and walked around to the passenger side where he got into the car and made himself comfortable. "Crêpes?"
It took Lisbon a bit to realize what was happening and before she knew it Jane had already unwrapped one of the crêpes and handed it to her. How did he know? She must have mentioned at some point in the past that she sees the French specialty as comfort food. That's also how she knew that really good ones were extremely hard to get in California.
"Did you just come across these?" she asked while chewing on her first bite.
"I have my ways." he replied smiling sheepishly. He took another bite and once more followed her gaze towards the entrance of the cemetery. "So?"
"Are you planning on going in?" He was expecting any kind of snappy retort as a reply to his question but not pure honesty.
"No. I haven't even managed to get out of the car yet."
"Huh…" She almost seemed embarrassed he thought. He was about to start with what he would usually say bought thought better of it. Instead, he tried another way.
"It took me almost three years." he started and resumed staring at the grand gate at the entrance. From the corner of his eye he noticed her careful puzzlement. "But then I did it. It wasn't easy. Still isn't. And it didn't make things better at first." He paused and then focussed on her again. "But now it helps."
She looked down at her hands after having finished her food and started fidgeting with the napkin.
"Thank you for dinner, Jane." A weak smile graced her lips as she turned to him. Jane returned the smile. He recognized her last words as her way of saying good-bye and took the cue. Gathering the garbage that they had produced he opened the door and got out.
"Good night, Lisbon."
He made his way back to his car and got in. After about five more minutes of waiting he realized that nothing more would happen and started up the engine. Driving off he took one last look in the rear view mirror and saw Lisbon getting out of her car.
After what seemed like eternity Lisbon made her way back towards the gate and into her SUV. She didn't know what she was feeling. She didn't even really remember getting out of her vehicle in the first place, walking over to the grave and sitting down. But by the time she got back into the driver's seat it was a dark and starry night outside.
Did it help? She didn't know yet. But she sure would find out over the next days, weeks, and months.
Putting her key into the ignition she noticed something while on the ground in front of the seat Jane had occupied earlier that night. Turning on the light above her she picked it up and started reading.
One day, you won't be able to stand the roaring silence and the cruel grin of the walls anymore.
You want to run. Far, far away. Into the cold arms of the gloomy night which will devour you mercilessly.
But your legs haven't obeyed in a long time even if the will pushes continuously.
You sit between walls of your own memories in a tiny room. Without a door.
There is always somebody to help you to find the hidden window.
It will get easier. It just takes time.
Now it was her turn to smile.