[Author's Note]

This is my first foray into the world of Mentalist fan fiction, although I've been reading these stories for quite some time. Hence--my own attempt. I can only hope that I manage not to make the characters too unbelievable. This was really new subject matter for me, so I'm eager to see what you all think of it. I'm very tentatively putting this out here, mainly to see if people are interested in seeing it continue. Please review and let me know. Enjoy. -FF06

I.

Everything hurts.

Every single muscle, bone, and fingernail hurts like I've been hit by a train. For all I know, I have. I can't exactly remember the steps I took to get here, and that makes me more nervous than almost anything else. All I see is darkness when I finally open my eyes, wincing with the effort. At first I think blind but that's not right. I don't think I can't see, I just think there's nothing to look at. Warehouse, maybe? A basement? No, that's not right. There's a disturbing lack of smell here, wherever "here" is. Warehouses and basements smell musty, like lumber or motor oil or whatever else they've been housing. This place smells like nothing.

The pain begins to fade slowly, as I move my arms and legs. I'm lying on solid ground, concrete. It's cool to the touch. It takes a bit of effort that has me cursing under my breath, but finally I manage to pull myself upright and take a few deep gulps of air. What I wouldn't give for a painkiller right now. I run my fingers through my hair and blink a few times, waiting for the world to come into focus. It doesn't.

"Hello?" I call out unsurely, seriously freaked out when my voice doesn't echo like I was expecting it to. That can't be normal, right? Everything echoes.

"My name is Teresa Lisbon, I'm a state agent," I say, "Is someone there?"

"I'm here, Teresa."

I whirl around in the direction I heard the voice coming from, but I still can't see anything. It's black. The voice was a woman, though. No one I recognize.

"Hello?" I ask again. "Who's there?"

"Lights," the voice commands and suddenly I'm sitting on Jane's couch at CBI headquarters, enveloped in the warm leather upholstery. A woman is sitting next to me, looking perfectly calm. She's wearing a blue dress belted high on her waist, and her dark blonde hair falls in waves around her face. She's pretty, but I don't know her. She's not in any of my memories of suspects, killers, or family members.

"Who are you?" I ask frankly.

"Rebecca," she answers just as frankly.

"That doesn't tell me who you are."

"I'm a guide, I guess you could say," she muses. "While you're here, someone has to show you the ropes so you don't get lost. I'm here as long as you need me to be."

My stomach drops.

"Oh, crap," I whisper. "I'm dead, aren't I?"

She laughs. "No, you're not dead. I promise."

"What's going on?" I ask. "Is this a dream?"

"Something like that," she says contemplatively. "I'm a bit of a by-product of your current mental status."

"Mental status?" I ask, "I'm hallucinating?"

"You're such a pessimist. It's always the worst possible scenario with you," she mutters. "I have to give you a little credit, though. You're not panicking like a lot of people do."

I give her a short laugh, "I think it's because this is all some crazy dream I'm going to wake up from soon. Any minute now, I bet."

"I wouldn't count on that exactly, Teresa."

My heart knocks hard against my ribs. "Why not?"

"You're in a chemically-induced coma in Los Angeles." She pauses for thought. "Well, not right now. Your body is. Your mind is here, where you're the most comfortable. Which is work, apparently. An unusual choice, if you ask me."

"Coma?" I ask, cutting through the useless parts of her speech, "Why am I in a coma?"

She studies me for a bit and her eyes soften.

"What do you remember about your last case?"

"Uh… a laboratory assistant at UCLA was murdered. Her boss is still at large," I say, scanning my memories and finding the orders to drive out with the team at nine o'clock this morning. "We'd been thinking that the boss was abducted, but Jane insisted that he was in on it." I pause, trying to think up more. "That's all I remember. I was arguing with him about checking out the boss's condo because we didn't have a warrant and he wanted to sneak in."

"That's it?" she asks, crossing one leg over the other. "Try and think of something else about the condo. What do you remember?"

I glare over at her. "You sound like Jane."

"No need to be insulting," she says and I laugh. "Keep concentrating."

"I think Jane won the argument," I say, vaguely recalling his self-satisfied smile as we walked up to the door. I see the door open a crack as he reaches for the knob. "It turns out we didn't need the warrant, anyway. The door was open and we just walked in."

I try a little harder to pull a detail out of the murky black of my memory, but nothing happens. It's like Jane's failed attempt at hypnosis after I was framed for the McTeer murder.

"Yeah, I'm done," I say, leaning back. "No more."

"Just as well," she sighs. "You don't really want to remember the rest."

I scowl. "What do you mean?"

"The doctor you were after-"

"Donovan."

"Yeah, him," she continues, "He rigged an air freshener with a motion sensor to release when someone passed it. It was a trap, filled with the mixture that he had to kill his assistant over. A neurotoxin."

"Oh, my God," I say absently. "What happened? Is Jane okay?"

"Jane's fine," she says, "But you're not."

I swallow, hard. This is harder to hear than I thought it would be.

"What happened to me?"

"Do you know the illness fibromyalgia?" she asks and I nod. "Well, it mimics those effects but in higher concentrations. The toxin he invented tricks your brain into interpreting pain from ever nerve ending in your body—excruciating pain. Eventually your body can't handle it, and it goes into shock and dies."

"Hey!" I cry, "I thought you said I wasn't dead!"

"You're not," she says, frowning. "If you let me finish, I was going to tell you that you're running out of time and your life is in the hands of one of your team members. They have to make that choice for you."

"Oh, please say it's Cho." Rebecca shakes her head. "Van Pelt? Rigsby?"

She shakes her head again.

"Sorry, Teresa," she says, "Patrick will be running this show."

"Show?" I scoff. "That's a dumb way of putting it. So I just sit here and wait for Jane to make up his mind?"

"Essentially, yes."

"Well, I hate this already," I sigh. "What choice is Jane going to have to make, anyway? I didn't leave a living will or anything. He wouldn't have to pull the plug, if that's what's going on."

"No, that's not it," she answers. "He's at the hospital now with the rest of the team, talking to your doctors. They've put you in a coma to keep you out of pain, but they're not holding out much hope. Since the neurotoxin is new, they don't have a way to counteract it. Grace is crying because they're saying that all they can do now is keep you comfortable."

"Wow," I say, marveling at the knot in my throat. "That's, uh… intense."

"Patrick believes that the doctor had to have an antidote somewhere," she explains further, "He says he's too cautious not to. He thinks he can go find it, and Grace is insisting that they should stay there, with you. He's torn between spending precious time with you and going after a wild goose that may or may not save your life."

"Jane likes wild geese," I say with a small grin, "I think he'll take his chances. I like my odds. If, of course, there is an antidote to be found."

"Oh, he's right," Rebecca says, nodding her head. "The good doctor was far too nervous to risk exposure without having a cure. He finished it last week and was planning on selling the formula to the highest bidder, but you hadn't figured that out yet when you went to get him."

"Okay, good. There's an antidote," I say, slowly getting my footing back. Metaphorically speaking. "I can do this. Jane always gets what he's after, so it's just a matter of time before he finds what he's looking floor and brings it back to the hospital."

"See?" Rebecca asks, "Nothing to it."

"So, what?" I ask, "You're just here to keep me company?"

"Kind of, yes," she says. "We didn't want you wandering around. It's easy to get lost in your head and never come back out."

"I guess I can see that," I say, thinking quickly about my father. "So you're like a divine stewardess or something? You're dressed like one."

"Funny," she replies with a hint of a smile. "I like this dress. It's professional."

"Whatever you say," I reply and exhale loudly, folding my arms over my chest. "I guess I should be grateful that this isn't a Red John case. I'd be in a lot of trouble if it was."

"Why is that?" she questions. "He's picked you before."

"Yeah, but how many times is that really going to happen?" I ask bluntly. "One day he's going to get tired of making that trade. Besides, the last time was only a sheriff who probably wouldn't have given us anything anyway. He would have killed himself in prison to spite us or Red John would have done the honors himself. When it's actually Red John on the line, Jane's decision will already have been made."

She turns and gives me a look that surprises me. She looks mad.

"What?" I ask. "What did I say?"

"You don't have enough faith in him," she says. "For your information, he does pick you when Red John is on the line. Two years from now."

I scoff at the idea. She's making this up.

"What are you talking about?"

She sighs, tapping her foot impatiently before standing up and offering me her hand. I take it and follow her as we wind through the hallways of CBI. They look wrong without all the people in them, even though I've stayed late more than my fair share of nights. That was different, though. Jane was still in the building a lot of those times. Suddenly, the idea that he's the one looking out for me isn't nearly so unpleasant. I remember his speech about being there for me, and suddenly I'm calm. At ease. Somehow, I've grown to trust him a little.

While I'm lost in thought, Rebecca rushes onward. She stops in front of the interrogation room and looks at me expectantly.

"Well?"

"Well what?" I ask. "I'm supposed to go in?"

"There are some things you have to see for yourself, Teresa," she says, and she doesn't seem impatient anymore. If anything, she seems infinitely patient. My hand instantly goes up to the cross around my neck. I used to laugh at the idea of angels, but I'm getting more and more used to the idea as time goes on, even if Jane doesn't believe in them.

"It's okay," she coaxes, "Go ahead."

Wordlessly, my hand reaches for the door.