I'm heading out for the weekend--hopefully, if the weather holds up here in the desert--and I decided that I need to post this before I go out of town. I really enjoyed writing this chapter, so I hope you all enjoy reading it just as much.
"Ha!" I laugh. "Oh, that's a good one. Keep it up."
"Why is that so funny?"
"Me and Jane? Married?" I laugh again. "You can't be serious. We're not even on a first-name basis, for crying out loud."
"Oh, you never will be," she says and I look up at her, skeptical. She looks perfectly serious and it worries me.
"He's going to be 'Jane' to you for the rest of your lives," she says, "And you'll be 'Lisbon' to him. It's how you know each other, that's all. It's not a test of familiarity or intimacy or anything like that."
"Now you're just messing with me," I say incredulously and Rebecca stays perfectly still, looking back at me with a calm expression on her face. "Right?"
"Your official wedding day is March 20th, but what you both consider your real wedding day is the last day of February of the same year," she says confidently.
Why is my mouth so dry?
"Come on, stop messing around," I say, but my voice doesn't carry the cadence of a joke. If I'm not mistaken, it sounds more like I'm scared as hell.
"Do you want to see it?" she asks. "I do have proof."
"Oh, my God, you're serious," I say, my voice perilously quiet. She simply keeps my gaze, waiting for me to make up my mind. It's too bad for her, because I can't even begin to understand what's going on. She may be waiting a while.
"Come on," she says, jumping off the table and heading for the door, "I'll show you if you don't believe me."
"Give me a second. I can't move yet."
"Take your time."
Eventually she leads me back through the never-ending maze that is CBI, and finally she stops at the door to my office. It's very familiar, and I find myself reaching out to trace the letters of my name on the door. They're smooth under my fingertips. My heartbeat kicks up a notch as Rebecca covers my hand with hers and slowly pushes the door open. This time, rather than heat, I'm met with cool air and the subtle spice of cinnamon that signals the entrance to my apartment. My eyes close. I don't know if I want to see this. If this is a dream after all, rather than some supernatural prophecy... well, let's just say that it would interfere with my professionalism. When she leads me through the door, I feel lush carpet under me and feel the sunlight pouring through the windows. I'm home.
"It's okay," Rebecca says, lightly patting my shoulder. "Open your eyes."
"You should," she says softly, compassion flowing from her until I'm basking in it. When I do open my eyes, I feel entirely at peace. My concerns, as many as there are, temporarily take a back seat.
The other me is pacing frantically in the living room, chewing on a thumbnail. I haven't had that habit since high school, which shocks me. Whatever I'm losing my mind over in this little universe must be enough to have me regressing to old crutches. Footsteps start down the stairs and we both stop short, looking up to find Jane strolling down them with an easy grin on his face. Where it makes me smile to see him so comfortable, the other me tenses up even further. It doesn't take Jane long to see her unease.
"We're getting married in three weeks," she says, her voice wrought with emotion. She brings her hands to cover her face and it's then I notice the sleek silver band on her left hand.
"Yes, we are," Jane observes casually, hands in his pockets. "I think that's still the plan. Unless, of course, you've changed your mind."
The sadness in his eyes is palpable. Completely aside from the fact that this entire scenario is surreal, I want to comfort him. I want the other me to assure him that she hasn't changed her mind at all. He sits on the arm of my couch, his muscles tense and his mouth pulled into a worried grimace. The image affects me more than I expected it to.
"No, it's not that. It's just…" she takes a deep breath, and exhales loudly. "Jane, I never planned on this."
"Marrying me?" he asks with a laugh. "No, I guess that wasn't in the plans at all."
"You know what I mean," she insists, and I can tell how frustrated she is. "It's not just you. I never… I never thought this would be me, you know? I mean, I always thought about having a husband, maybe a family one day. Who doesn't, really? I think everyone does at some point in their lives. Most people, anyway. I think."
"You're rambling, dear," he says with a soft smile that doesn't reach his eyes. He's scared. It worries me that I can tell, because Jane doesn't show his emotions to anybody—least of all to me.
"Um, right," the other me says and shakes her head, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. "When it comes right down to it, the idea of starting a family—even with someone I love as much as I love you—scares me. It's terrifying. Deep down, this is something I never expected myself to have. Am I making sense?"
"Yes," he says quietly. "Yes, you are."
"Why isn't this easier, Jane?" she begs of him and my eyes start to burn as she walks over to him and takes his hands. "Other people, they fall in love, make a commitment to each other, and they get married. No fear involved, and no doubt. Why can't this be like that?" She takes a deep breath and it doesn't take me long to realize that I'm hanging onto her every word like a lifeline. "I'm afraid sometimes, when I think too hard about it, that I don't deserve you. That I don't deserve to be happy, for whatever reason."
God. I never expected to hear myself say any of this out loud, no matter how long I've been feeling it and keeping it to myself.
"I think that, too," Jane confesses and it surprises me. "I had my chance at all of that, and we, uh… we saw what happened. I didn't feel like I deserved a second chance, and so there was nothing to lose by chasing Red John so single-mindedly. I know you lost your family, too, Lisbon. I know your mother was taken from you, and I know you feel like you failed your father."
I can't breathe. Why can't I breathe?
"But none of that was your fault, and none of that is a reason why you shouldn't try for one of your own." He pulls her left hand up and for a second I think I can feel his breath on my own hand. I watch as he drags his lips over the skin her wrist and I find my heart stuttering in my chest at this subtle but explosive display of intimacy. "You deserve the world, Lisbon, and everything in it. With your permission, I want to try to be the one to give that to you for the rest of our lives. Whether or not you want anything else will be entirely up to you, every step of the way. I never want you to be scared of us, or of our lives together."
"God, Jane," she sighs. "God, I love you."
He grins. "Of course you do. Now go put on your dress."
"Just… trust me," he says ambiguously and the other me eyes him suspiciously. At least some things don't change.
"You're not supposed to see me in my wedding dress before the wedding day," she points out blandly. "It's bad luck."
"Superstitious nonsense. Besides, I helped you pick it out," he says with an encouraging smile. "Well? What are you waiting for?"
The other me drops his hands and trudges up the stairs, her footfalls heavy in the otherwise silent apartment. The sunlight is finally starting to fade out, giving my living room a vague overcast of pink on the warm walls. Rebecca and I stand aside, and for a moment I'm certain we're thinking the same thing. We're both watching Jane as his mouth twists into a wistful smile, crinkling the corners of his eyes. It's never occurred to me just how much I love his laugh lines. My fingers itch to trace them, and it's not exactly the first time they've had that compulsion. Finally my eyes sneak a look at Rebecca, and she has the same expression Jane does.
"God," I say, suddenly alarmed. "This must be awful for you to see. We can go now. You don't have to watch anything else."
"Why would it be awful for me?" she asks.
"You're watching your husband with another woman!" I cry incredulously. "This is like watching him cheat on you."
She smiles and touches my shoulder.
"Teresa, thank you for your concern," she says patiently, "But I'm dead. It's the unquestionable truth that I can no longer be there for him. He deserves someone who can."
"You still love him."
"Of course I do, but things are different on this side of the equation," she assures me with a smile. "Patrick will always have me and our daughter, and we will always have him. We want whatever makes him happy, and that's you. There are no hard feelings from either of us, I promise." She laughs and shakes her head. "Our daughter is actually a fan of yours. She thinks you're funny."
I laugh awkwardly. This is the weirdest conversation I've ever had. "Uh… thanks."
"The point is that Patrick had two paths that he could have taken, and both included CBI," she says seriously. "Should he have been assigned to Agent Bosco, they would have hated each other. That hate would have transformed into a competition that did, indeed, lead to Red John. In that universe, Patrick got his revenge. He killed Red John--brutally, and without mercy--and went to prison, where he died two years later when another inmate didn't like the way he looked at him."
My heart clenches. This choice terrifies me.
"Then, you only heard of him in passing. You'd met him a few times and never looked twice at each other," she continues. "You were miserable then, and your drinking was beginning to resemble your father's. Your lifelong affair with Bosco ended when you were forty-five, after he died of a heart attack. His wife found out about your affair and committed suicide not long after that, naming you personally in the note to her remaining family. You declined even further after that, until you lost your position with CBI and you were forced into rehab."
"I couldn't have dealt with that, honestly," she says earnestly. "It would have hurt me more than anything in the world. As an alternative, I put the two of you together. I like this alternative far more than I like the other."
"Right," I murmur, trying to ignore the heavy weight on my chest. It's hard.
I had never considered my life without Jane unless it was fantasizing about less paperwork. The stark reality of it scares me. Rebecca is watching me closely, I guess waiting for any kind of sign that I'm going to break down. I offer her a weak smile and turn away from her just in time to see the other me trailing down the stairs. The dress I've picked out is beautiful, and simple. Strapless, but floor-length and delicate—perfect for the California weather that time of year. A quick peek in Jane's direction tells me that he appreciates it just as much.
"See?" he asks pointedly, "That wasn't so hard, was it?"
"Yeah, yeah," she says, clearing her throat. "Make your point already."
"Alright," he says, standing up and leading her to the middle of the room, where he takes her hands and kisses them. "Do you, Lisbon, take me, Patrick, as your semi-lawfully wedded husband?"
The other me laughs. "What?"
"Well?" he asks. "We don't have all day here."
She laughs again. "Uh… then yes, I do."
"Do you promise to love me and cherish me, forsaking all others, and be faithful only to me?"
"Do you promise not to threaten me, physically harm me, or threaten jail time when I make you mad?"
The other me a laughs again before answering, "I promise to threaten you unless we're at work, physically harm you unless we're at work, or threaten jail time unless we're at work."
Jane eyes her.
"What? I'm meeting you halfway on this one."
"Insufferable woman," he mutters and sighs. "Fine, I'll take what I can get at this point."
"Well, Jane?" she asks, humor written all over her face. She really does seem happy and it makes me smile right along with her. "Do you promise to take me, Teresa, as your as-yet unlawfully wedded wife?"
"Do you promise to love me and cherish me, forsaking all others, and be faithful only to me?"
"Do you promise not to annoy me, make me clean up after you, or lie to me?"
"I promise not to annoy you unless we're at work, make you clean up after me unless we're at work," he says, making her laugh, "And I promise that I will never lie to you, under any circumstances."
"I promise never to lie or keep things from you, and I promise never to count you out of my life," she says solemnly. "I promise to do everything in my power to make you happy even when I'd love nothing more than to run away."
Jane's eyes focus on her face and I'm shocked to feel tears building behind my eyes.
"I promise to always include you in my thoughts, no matter what they are," he says, laying a hand on her cheek. "I promise to do everything in my power to make you happy even when I'd love nothing more than to run away."
"Do you promise never to hypnotize me to get me to do the laundry?"
He laughs out loud. "Is that an issue?"
"I hate laundry."
"Fine," he says, laughing. "I promise never to hypnotize you to do the laundry."
God, she looks so happy. She looks so in love with him. With Patrick Jane.
"Well, Lisbon, that's it," he announces cheerfully, "I now pronounce us stuck with each other, from now on."
"Random, but okay," she says, laughing. "Do we still have to do the other wedding?"
"Only if you want it to be recognized by the state of California," he teases. "But it's just a formality, so our loved ones can see us and all that. Now you can be calm, because the only wedding that matters is the one that just happened."
"You're something, you know that?" she asks, smiling brilliantly.
He winks. "I had no idea."
The kiss they share then is a mixture of laughter and love, and I'm shocked to realize that I'm crying. Tears are trailing down my face and my heart aches for that kind of happiness. I never expected to ever find it with anyone, much less my pain-in-the-ass consultant. But the proof is there—in a few years, I'll love him more than life itself.
Funny how life works against your express wishes.