I have far too much work to do to be writing this. But it's been bouncing around my head for at least two weeks now and it wouldn't get out. So I wrote it down. Written for the October Jello-forever Challenge: Frozen in Time. Hope you guys like it!

Disclaimer: Neither Jane nor Lisbon belong to me.

Multifurcation

multifurcation: when something (eg. a branch on a phylogenetic tree) splits into more than two branches

You know how people always say a butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the world could eventually cause a hurricane on the other? That any event, no matter how small could change the course of history? Most people don't really believe it of course. Not entirely at least. By that logic choosing to wear purple socks instead of red ones on any given day could set up just the right conditions to spark another world war.

But what about larger events? Like a random drive-by shooting? People have no trouble believing that could alter the course of history. After all, the victim could have been the next Einstein!

But smaller events? Not so much. They barely change the life of the person they happen to. What any one of us has for breakfast, although important to that person maybe, is not crucial to the rest of the world. The parking spot you choose, the colour of your hair, the fact that you stubbed your toe on the way to your office… they matter to you. Not to anyone else.

Millions of those little things happen to each and every one of us every day and it doesn't seem to make much difference.

But what about bigger incidents? Do they change the world? Would altering them alter our lives and the lives of the people around us? Maybe.

It's enough to make you think. After all, how do we recognize these life-changing events? Some of them are probably so indistinguishable from the inconsequential that we don't even notice until it's too late.

You know what else people say? That hindsight's twenty-twenty. That one's probably true. If something happens in your life you can usually trace back how it happened, the events that led up to it and what you could have done to change the outcome now that you know the results. But to go the other way… You can't ever see all the possible outcomes to any given event, can you?

It's easy to picture if you try. All the possible outcomes of a single choice made splitting off into different paths and forming a giant never-ending multifurcating tree. And what about all those possible endings? Right up until you make the choice are they all still possible? Like Schrödinger's cat, simultaneously both alive and dead? Existing yet not existing? All those potential outcomes frozen in the fabric of time… Until you commit yourself down one path or another via your actions that is.

And how would you recognize one of those all-important moments if one ever arose? After all, it could look deceptively ordinary.

Like answering a phone call.

Think of all the possible reactions to a single phone call. There are quite a few.

Even if you specify that it's a phone call made in the dead of night from a psychopathic serial killer to the man trying desperately to catch him.

Maybe the man runs in foolishly without pausing to think. He's clever of course, but he's also known to be incautious and uncaring about what happens to him. Maybe when he gets there, the place is empty. All part of some sick and twisted game. A pointless taunt. Or was it? Now that he's left his couch to travel to the other side of the city back at the CBI a dedicated woman sits working in her office, for all intents and purposes alone.

Of course it's also possible that when he gets there it wasn't a game at all. But a trap. One from which he never gets to leave. Not that he'll be in it long. After all, he'd been unable to catch the bastard for so long for a reason, he should have known by now that the mad man was better than this at planning.

So then, what if our hero does decide to plan? Gives things just a bit more thought. Maybe he catches the man who's been haunting his dreams all these years. Finally gets his revenge. Kills that which he hates and smears his chosen victim's blood into a smiling face with a cross through it. And while he goes about it maybe his colleague figures out what he's up to, not that she has enough time to stop him. He didn't wait long enough for that. So she, a woman who in other circumstances he would have almost considered his partner, arrives just in time to arrest her colleague for murder. And it breaks her heart. Possibly his too.

Or maybe there's a hiccup before the long sought after murder is committed. Maybe he hesitates too long, gives things just a bit too much thought. And in that pause his (almost) partner rushes in to save him. To prevent him from destroying his own life. The distraction isn't much, but it's enough. And she becomes victim number twenty-two, her blood spreading over the floor as he watches in horror at what his delay cost her. Another woman dead because of his actions. A second mental break; he won't recover from this one. He doesn't want to.

Of course it's also possible that she's calm enough not to distract the two men facing off against each other in the middle of the room. She is a rising star in her field after all. Maybe she calmly and quietly (as she's been trained to do) raises her weapon, announces her presence, and when neither of the men in the room stand down, she takes the shot to save a member of her team. She wishes she was surprised when he leaves afterwards though. He just feels like he's failed his family. He also wishes he could forgive her for caring more about his own life than he does.

Or maybe, he trusts the woman who's been by his side every step of the way. Trusts her enough to tell her what's going on. And maybe they're too late, and there's nothing left but to vow to try again next time. The status quo is restored… albeit with an added extra dollop of frustration.

Or maybe, just maybe, between the two of them they're able to figure something out. Maybe they have a plan of their own. Maybe they even call for back-up this time. Maybe no one dies. Maybe he gets to watch as she clicks the handcuffs around the wrists of the man he's hunted all these years. And when his eyes meet hers across the room maybe something releases in his chest, even if it's just a little. Possibly he even realizes that he doesn't mind so much that the mad man is technically still alive. That obeying the law allowed him accomplished his goal without destroying his own life. And maybe he seeks out her eyes once more from across the room. Just to make sure she's okay. To reassure himself that she's still there, like she always is. Because who knows, she just might be something to live for.

Who knows what he will choose to do when that phone rings? What either of them will choose to do? After all, there are endless possibilities. No one can really know until after the choice is made. Until then all the possibilities are nothing more than a whisper of what could be.

xxxxx

One evening in the middle of a trying case Agent Teresa Lisbon sat in her office scouring the evidence they'd collected for something, anything that would help her catch a killer. It was almost eleven and the place was practically deserted. She'd sent her team home for the night an hour before. She'd go herself, but something about the case kept nagging in the back of her mind and she couldn't quite get a hold of it. Besides, Jane was still around and she wanted to keep an eye on him.

For his part Jane was lying on his couch running over the events of the day. He wasn't sleeping. Wasn't even trying. He almost never slept during cases like this one. He wondered what Lisbon was up to. Knew she was as puzzled as he was. He hoped she'd come out and tell him she'd found something, that she had a lead. Or barring that, hoped she'd come out with a cup of tea for each of them. She was one of the few who knew how to make it correctly, and he could use a distraction.

Suddenly, almost as if it was granting his wish, the phone rang.

xxxxx

The End