I was born to join in love, not hate -
that is my nature.
- Antigone, by Sophocles (trans. by Robert Fagles)
A/N: I wrote the previous piece as a one-shot, and it stands on it's own - this is kind of like an optional, alternate ending, because it got stuck in my head:
At the arraignment, Lisbon speaks slowly and calmly.
The prosecutor's questions cast her in an unflattering light (and strongly imply she'd been sleeping with Jane), but Lisbon doesn't rise to the bait; No, I never suspected . . . Yes, our relationship was always professional . . . Yes, completely by surprise.
She doesn't spare Jane and she doesn't spare herself. She tells the absolute truth, as a salute to her old self, a last lonely tribute to her spotlessly upright career. The only thing she leaves out is the memory – hazy and half-recollected – of him kissing her, the taste of his mouth like salt. Everything else, she repeats verbatim; cool, collected Agent Lisbon.
She can remember awakening, the sensation like coming up for air after being underwater. A sense of peace, contentment, and then the crashing realization . . .
It is determined that the crime meets the standard of "malice aforethought."
After some debate, it is determined that the crime does not meet the standard of being "especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel, manifesting exceptional depravity," given the mitigating circumstances.
At her request, the charge of "assaulting a federal agent" has been dropped.
Jane does not testify in his own defense. It seems wrong for a man who can work a room as well as he can, but the person sitting across from her is not Jane, anyway: he stares at his own hands, making no eye contact. There is no one home.
His lawyers make a plea-bargain in which he pleads guilty to manslaughter on the basis of diminished capacity. He is sentenced to 30 years.
She is surprised that nobody seems to blame her. Nobody offers even one word of reproach, at least not to her face. How could they not blame her? She blames herself. She leaves her letter of resignation on her desk. Before she closes the door, she loops her mother's cross around the doorknob.
She does not leave a forwarding address.
From Sacramento to the coast is a two hour drive, if you concentrate on where you are going and beat traffic. It takes Lisbon, who drives without a plan, ten hours to end up there. She can't remember stopping for gas, but the somehow the tank is full.
She takes Route 1, keeping the ocean on her right-hand side. She drives slowly, leisurely, seeing nothing, thinking about nothing.
She leaves her car in a parking lot in Salinas and never goes back to it. Her cell phone is inside.
She finds herself on a bus, heading South. It occurs to Lisbon after several stops that she has actually fallen asleep without realizing it, and now she doesn't know what station is next. It doesn't seem to matter. When it grows dark she turns her face away from the window, and the next thing she knows is the sun rising over LA.
She stays on the bus until her seatmate tries to start a conversation, and then she gets off at the next stop. It turns out to be San Clemente, a surfing town with an assortment of young, aimless people who hang around the beach.
She decides to stay.
A busker on the street gives her directions to a youth hostel, a crappy silo of bunks and knapsacks. She rents a cot, stretching the definition of "youth" beyond all credibility. Among all the other drifters, she is relieved to be anonymous.
During the days that follow, she watches the surfers frolic in the waves, watches the girls in bright-colored bikinis like flocks of tropical birds. The sun feels good on her face. The sight of the sailboats rocking on the ocean reminds her of sex.
She doesn't sleep any more. It's not nightmares, or nerves – she is simply never tired enough to sleep for more than a few hours. She wakes up restless, driven to putter about. Whatever demon inhabited Jane, he has transferred the possession to her.
She falls in with Matteo, 23, none too bright, but great in bed. She likes to watch him surf. He is unsurpassed. Do you want me to teach you? he asks.
Don't you want to try?
No, says Lisbon, not particularly. And yet she needs him so badly, lying underneath him while he pounds away, hoping he will transfer some of his life energy into her.
A letter arrives. It has obviously passed through many hands, as the envelope is dirty and smudged. How could anyone have gotten this address? She barely knows where she is, herself.
She recognizes the writing. She throws it away.
Six weeks later it is a postcard, harder to handle without reading it. The first line is inescapable as she takes it to the trash: I didn't believe you'd really left until I called the office and got Cho –
She opens her fingers and watches it drop into the can.
She leaves the hostel to hole up in Matteo's ratty apartment. They stay in bed all day, smoking pot. This is the best place on earth, he tells her, right here. The center of the universe.
Eventually, she thinks, she will run out of cash.
One day Matteo tells her, over the bowl of popcorn they are eating between them, that a friend called here, looking for her.
I figured someone must've got pinched for dealing, `cuz the operator said it was a prison . . .
What did he want? Her voice is blank, flat. Unfamiliar in her own ears.
Asked how you were doing. Told me to take care of you. Said he'd talk to you soon.
The next morning Lisbon makes Matteo's favorite breakfast, huevos rancheros. When he kisses her, he tastes of jalapeños. Come to the beach, he tells her, the waves are unreal.
I'll be along, says Lisbon. I just want to finish cleaning up.
When he is gone, she takes up her satchel from the kitchen table and walks out the door.
The train to Encinitas is delayed. She waits at the station, humming tunelessly. She breaks her last twenty on the ticket.
It is afternoon when she arrives, and 4th street takes her directly to the sand. She leaves her shoes behind, can't remember where. Although she is not hungry, she buys a hotdog from a vendor. Four dollars left. She starts walking, parallel to the water.
She watches a game of beach volleyball. She watches lovers making out under the pier. She watches a family building a sandcastle – mom, dad, and a little girl. She sits on a bluff and watches the sun set slowly, scorching the water vivid pink. She follows the last crimson gleam until it disappears.
The water is dark and restless. A sea breeze picks up, chilly.
She feels her eyelids drooping and suddenly she is exhausted. She would like to curl up here in the sand and sleep for days. Maybe when she wakes up, she will find herself in another world.
Maybe she is already asleep.
That's the truth, Lisbon realizes; she's still asleep. She's still in the basement of central booking, under a spell.
She stumbles down the strand, kneels in the surf, trying to decide if the sensation feels real. If this is all a dream, she can still wake up. When a big wave knocks her backwards, she lets it happen, breathing in water. In another minute she will open her eyes and find herself back in her old life - Jane's not a murderer. She's not a failure. None of it happened. She feels the sand sliding out from underneath her and willingly follows it out, although she's coughing now, gritting her teeth. The waves seem to come from all directions, eager and hungry. She can't tell the black water from the black sky, so she keeps her eyes closed. She chokes on brine.
Any second now, if she can just hang on . . .
Strong arms hoist her up, breaking the surface. She is pulled backwards, back to shore. She is on her knees in the sand, gasping, her dark hair streaming down. A broad hand bushes it back out of her face. "Little fool," says Jane.
She stares up into his face, uncomprehending. He helps her to her feet, half-drags, half-carries her up the beach. "I have a room here," he tells her, guiding her up a flight of stairs, through a door way. Lisbon moves mutely, not questioning, not wondering.
She is swaddled in a thick dressing gown. Jane is toweling her hair. "Did it work?"
"Is this real?" She looks up to see if it is really him. He looks exactly the same, although it has been months (how many months?). He has her sitting in his lap, and when she looks down she finds he is wearing a terrycloth robe as well (wonders for a second if he is wearing anything underneath it).
She buries her face in his shoulder and breaks into sobs.
"Shh. Teresa, shh."
"You're – you're in prison." Isn't he?
"Oh, I have someone filling in for me. Just for a few days." His hand is on the back of her head, tangled in her hair. "You know how it is."
Why not, thinks Lisbon. He's escaped before. "But . . . how did you know where I was?"
"Ah – well. You weren't reading any of my letters. I had to employ other means of getting in touch with you."
"You've been following me?" She closes her eyes as he begins to finger-comb her hair, which has grown long.
"Just since you got on the train." His fingers catch, and she winces away.
"It's the saltwater," she explains. "Makes it coarse." She hears him grunt in acknowledgement, working to seperate the strands, but the ends are knotted. Very gently, he pulls them apart. It still hurts.
"Forgive me, dear."
Lisbon has never heard him call her that; usually he says 'my dear' in a way that she has always interpreted as mostly sardonic. His voice now is low and sincere. "You're not the same," she says. "As you were, I mean. The last time I saw you."
"No, I'm not the same."
She thinks about this for a while.
"Did it help?" she asks. He knows what she means.
"Yes. No. I don't know. I don't hear them any more." He puts his face in her neck. "It's like losing them all over again."
This close to him, he is overwhelmingly warm; she can't resist burrowing into his front, the soft thick folds of cotton. This doesn't make any sense. She hates him. "You ruined my life."
"I know," he tells her, muffled in her hair. His arms slide over her back, rest at her waist.
"If you think I'm going to help you get away . . ."
"No, you wouldn't do that, would you?" Jane pulls back and smiles down into her face. "That's my girl."
She tries not to think about this. "So what are you going to do?"
"Oh, I think I'll go back to jail for 30 years," Jane says, now sliding his hand up and down the length of her spine. "One down, 29 to go."
"25 if you demonstrate good behavior," says Lisbon, "which you won't."
"I might." Jane presses his mouth to hers and the memory of their kiss rushes back to Lisbon, who in spite of herself turns her face up to his and kisses him back, fiercely.
"You ruined my life," she tells him, again. "Don't you see that we both suffer, when you hurt yourself?" she swallows back a sob. "What am I supposed to do now?"
"It won't be so bad," Jane promises. He presses his lips against her cheeks, reacquainting himself with the shape of her face. "I'll write you letters. You could come visit."
"I'll never visit you there."
"Okay, then, you go prepare for our retirement."
"Life begins at 65," said Jane, biting gently at her neck. "If I'm eligible for parole. You know I'll expect to have a casa prepared for me."
She presses back against him, her mind going momentarily blank. Focus, Lisbon. "A casa?"
"Of course. You've been heading South, haven't you? So many small border towns, needing a Sheriff."
She expected him to try convincing her to return to the CBI. She has been planning the exact words for her refusal. This, she has not planned. "My Spanish sucks," she grumps.
"You've got a lot of time to learn."
She turns to face him, wrapping her legs around his waist. "Jane," she whispers, searching his eyes. She still can't tell when he's being sincere. It doesn't matter as much as it should - this is all she has wanted, all she ever wants. "I love magic tricks," she confesses, pulling his head down to whisper in his ear; "Make me disappear."
He meets her kiss for kiss, his hands roaming over her back, stroking, pinching. But before she finishes working the knot of his robe, he catches her hand, pulling it up to his face, pressing it against his cheek. "We can't, tonight," he tells her, and she feels the words through her palm.
Jane pulls her back down to lie against him, and his hands turn tender and soft. "Not like this, when I'm leaving tomorrow."
"What other night do we have?"
"There'll be another night," he promises.
She shakes her head. "Jane, it's such a long time . . . how do you know we'll ever see each other again?"
"This is how I know," he says, holding her tightly against his chest. "Right here. You won't get shot by some coyote out there in the desert, and I won't get shanked in the laundry room, because you know I'm coming, and we'll be together."
She sighs and leans against him, closing her eyes. "Oh," she says. This might not be real, she thinks, just for a second, before the thought darts away again. It doesn't seem to matter. "Okay."
The mighty words of the proud are paid in full
with mighty blows of fate, and at long last
those blows will teach us wisdom.
- Antigone (Chorus), by Sophocles, as trans. by Robert Fagles