Till the red morning light
A/N: This turned out a lot longer than intended, because I wanted to try and keep it somewhat tied to canon instead of just getting rid of RJ and wrap things up. I also didn't want it to be completely rushed, so apologies for having one ridiculously long chapter. But I couldn't split it into two parts, given there's only one summer (sadly), heh. Thank you to everyone who left a review (especially the anonymous ones as I can't thank any of you personally) and the overwhelming number of people who added this to their alert and favourite lists. That's truly a compliment and I sincerely hope this final part doesn't disappoint any of you.
Special thank you to Autumn (watchyouwalk), my beta, for her continuing support, advice and for putting up with my insane ramblings.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything even remotely related to The Mentalist. Or the lyrics. Those belong to Stan Van Samang. Title stolen from Kings of Leon.
Maybe I just finally
Found the place
Where it's me
That fills an empty space
Along with sun-drenched days and starlit nights, summer brings a definite change to their relationship.
It's a sudden shift, but one that's been a long time coming. Even though at some level, they probably both knew it was bound to happen sooner or later, it still comes as a surprise.
It's not something that can be attributed to some defining moment or shared, late-night conversation. It's just the two of them, staying at the office a little too late after a particularly draining case that hits close to home for Lisbon. Emotionally, she's not handling it very well, so when they are the only ones left with the remnants of closed-case pizzas and various bottles of wine scattered around them, she's just the right amount of tipsy, her inhibitions lowered ever so slightly.
When she tries to stand up, her foot gets caught behind the chair, nearly knocking her to the floor, but Jane's there to catch her.
He's always there to catch her.
One minute they're both laughing at her clumsiness, and the next, she makes the mistake of looking up into his eyes, a faint hint of something other than amusement evident in his blue gaze. All traces of laughter soon fade, and for once in her life, she doesn't think before she acts. Consequences be damned.
Their first kiss isn't planned, passionate or even romantic. Lisbon reaches up on her tiptoes, meeting Jane's lips at a slightly awkward angle, since he wasn't expecting this. It lasts all of three seconds before she pulls away, slowly opening her eyes, deliberately keeping them on the floor. At any other moment, she would've been thrilled to know she finally succeeded in surprising Patrick Jane, of all people, but a blush is already making its way up her cheeks as realisation of what just happened settles in.
Yet, before she has the time to feel horrified and come up with an appropriate lie – she wasn't thinking; she was aiming for his cheek; she's drunk; all of the above – Jane gently tilts her chin up, forcing her to look at him.
What she sees reflected in his eyes leaves her more dizzy than any amount of alcohol ever could.
Their second kiss is everything the first one wasn't.
Jane doesn't waste time in sneaking his arms around her waist, pulling her as close to him as possible; exploring every corner of her mouth with his tongue, every part of her body with his hands as they travel up her spine. Lisbon lets herself melt fully into the kiss, tentatively threading her hands through his impossibly soft curls, indulging in the feeling.
For at least ten minutes, they do nothing but kiss.
When they finally pull apart, breathing hard, her initial awkwardness doesn't return. Whether that's a nice side-effect from the wine flowing through her veins, or if it's a direct result of Jane looking at her slightly bewildered, flustered and turned on all at the same time, she doesn't know.
The only thing Lisbon registers is the way his hand reaches for hers, a perfect fit, dropping a soft kiss on her knuckles as he gently leads them out of her office.
The next morning, she slowly wakes up to find Jane's tanned arm still wrapped protectively around her waist, his right leg tangled in between hers, keeping her firmly snuggled up to his chest. Having no recollection of when they ended up finally giving in to slumber, her eyelids are still heavy with sleep as last night's events flood her mind all at once.
A sense of shame filters through upon realising her initial reaction to Jane still lying by her side had been one of surprise. There's no denying that maybe it would've made things simpler if he had decided to leave quietly in the middle of the night, but somehow the fact that he stayed - and the countless implications that knowledge might have - don't alarm her. While it would be easy to get up and pretend this was just a one-night-stand and a fun night, Lisbon already knows this is different. The only way for her to control a situation like this would be to brush it off, head for the exit right away, a small detail that immediately jumps to the forefront of her mind.
But she doesn't attempt to move, unable to prevent her lips from curling up into a small smile. Despite the realisation that they've finally succeeded in complicating their lives in a way neither of them needs, knowing that this will change everything, there's no ignoring the fact that she hasn't felt this good in years.
"What are you smiling about?" Jane's sleepy voice ruffles her hair, his nose nuzzling the back of her neck.
"How do you even know I'm smiling? You can't see my face," she responds.
"I can tell, trust me."
He releases his hold on her, propping himself up on his left elbow as she flips onto her back, letting out a sigh. Regardless of her initial determination to not let this be an awkward moment, Lisbon can't figure out how to approach this as she continues to stare at the ceiling. There's no excuse for what happened, and she silently admits she's not looking for one, which is a surprisingly reassuring feeling.
Jane watches her intently, seemingly unsure of what's running through her mind, but when Lisbon detects the genuine emotion in his look, she quickly averts her gaze, settling it on the ceiling instead. It's not often the infamous consultant can be accused of being sincere, but it appears as though he's not even trying to hide behind a charming mask this time.
"Everything all right?" He asks her seriously after another moment's silence, as he idly slides one finger down her bare arm, leaving a trail of goosebumps in its wake.
"A little sore." Lisbon candidly admits, unable to hide a sheepish smile as Jane positively beams at her, obviously beyond pleased for being the reason her muscles ache in all the right places.
Her eyes travel around the room, taking in its current state of disarray. She frowns when locating the shirt she was wearing the night before near the dressing table, threatening to fall off as it hangs precariously on the edge of her mirror. It had definitely been rushed, their desire for each other far too dominant to waste much time on anything else, and the evidence is there in the form of various clothing items that are now scattered all over. Jane follows her gaze and a low chuckle escapes.
"Yes, if I recall correctly we were in a bit of a hurry last night." He grins impishly while leaning closer to whisper in her ear. "At least the first time around."
Lisbon groans, pulling the sheet over her head in an attempt to hide the blush sure to be taking over. She should have known he'd be completely insufferable in a situation like this, but Jane laughs loudly, tugging it back down just as quickly with a twinkle in his eyes as he glances appreciatively at the now-exposed upper half of her body.
"Don't. I love seeing that gorgeous shade of pink colouring your cheeks." He says earnestly, gently caressing her jaw line.
"We should probably get up." She ignores his comment when catching sight of the time. "We need to leave for work in half an hour, and I have a budget meeting first thing this morning."
As she sits up in bed, scanning the room for her robe, Jane's hand comes to rest on her arm, keeping her in place. A jolt of electricity seems to course through her instantly as the simple contact generates memories of the night before, leaving her mildly annoyed that even the slightest touch from Jane is enough to send her mind spinning.
"Lisbon," he starts hesitantly, unsure of how to phrase his next statement. "I don't regret this, in case you were wondering."
"I wasn't," she merely replies, but there's an unmistakable tinge of relief in her voice.
"But it's really what's been going through your mind."
"Jane," she warns. "Let's just leave it, okay? We don't have to discuss anything; we can be adults about this and simply move on."
"You want to move on?" He repeats while his hand drops from her arm to draw lazy patterns across her stomach, Lisbon's gaze suddenly following his every move closely, seemingly transfixed.
"Yes," she replies unconvincingly.
"Well, what if I don't agree?"
He scoots closer, dropping a soft kiss just above her clavicle, his thumb brushing along her cheekbone in a soothing manner.
"So," he goes on, "you're not to be persuaded into a repeat performance?"
A soft gasp escapes her lips as he gently but deliberately pushes her back down onto the bed, a clear hint of lust now evident in the misty blue eyes piercing hers. Lisbon's momentarily speechless as she briefly reflects on how easy it seems to be for him to have her at his mercy with just one touch, igniting sparks all over her body. She could definitely get used to having him in her bed.
"That's too bad, because I happened to enjoy it tremendously." He continues kissing his way up her body before looking into her eyes, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear in an unexpected, affectionate gesture.
"Flattery will get you nowhere." She comments jokingly, giving him her undivided attention.
"Hmm, that's funny; it seemed to get me everywhere last night." He says in a sultry voice, features automatically settling on a smug grin.
Before Lisbon can think of a suitable response, his lips cover the small, crescent-shaped scar just above her right hipbone, and her hand unconsciously buries itself in his curls, her eyes fluttering shut. Jane seems to have developed a minor fascination with that particular part of her body in the last eight hours, probably curious to learn how it had earned a permanent mark. He hears her short intake of breath when his tongue briefly darts out, moving across her stomach before making its way up to trace her collarbone. A soft moan escapes her, but she doesn't stop her own quest as her fingers trace circles all the way down his back, sending a ripple of desire straight through him.
When he finally reaches her lips, he pulls her in for a deep, leisurely kiss that sends a shiver down her spine. Jane is grinning against her lips, and she can feel her own smile widen. His skilled hands travel down the side of her body unhurriedly, taking the time to explore all over again before his head dips lower, encircling her belly button with his tongue.
Lisbon almost manages to find her voice and kindly remind him that they really do have to leave for work soon. But when Jane starts leaving a trail of soft kisses along the inside of her thighs, running his fingers slowly up her legs, a wave of pleasure washes over her, chasing away all coherent thoughts in a heartbeat.
As July passes and slowly gives way to August, they somehow manage to keep avoiding the proverbial elephant in the room. It appears both of them are studiously steering clear of the one topic of conversation that seems to be off limits. There's never any mention of what exactly is going on between them and they don't talk about where it's headed. Lisbon knows her reasons for not bringing it up until now are purely selfish, but reminding herself that Jane isn't keen on discussing it either only cements her decision to put it off.
It's unexpected how easily they seem to have fallen into a routine, and the agent is surprised at her own ability not to flee at the first sign of something actually resembling closeness. Maybe it's because Jane probably knows her better than any other man before him, but for the first time, she doesn't seem to be afraid of this. The small voice reminding her not to have any expectations, since she's only setting herself up for heartbreak, gets silenced on more than one occasion.
Jane claims Cho is the only team member who realises something has changed. Lisbon's second in command has always been a very astute agent and though Van Pelt has her suspicions at times, she doesn't see them confirmed.
"Cho knows." He announces one night at his apartment as he gets up to clear the table, and she follows him into the kitchen, carrying several leftovers.
"Knows what?" She replies absentmindedly.
He turns around at the sink, raising a single eyebrow to signify it should be quite obvious exactly what he's referring to. "That we're sleeping together. That we've decided to engage in a physical relationship. That I'm dipping my pen in the company's ink."
"Okay, okay," she swiftly interrupts. "I perfectly understood the first time, thank you."
He grins at the sudden flushed expression gracing her face.
"Van Pelt asked about you in the bullpen today," he continues, receiving another puzzled look from Lisbon. "She was wondering why you'd been in such a perceptibly good mood lately, and I have to say, I took that as a compliment. I do love the effect I have on you."
"That's not the only effect you have on me. I'm also annoyed with you on a daily basis." Lisbon muses, causing Jane to smile.
If there's anything he's grateful for, it's the fact that their relationship doesn't seem to have changed at all, with the exception of the obvious, of course. Their playfulness has never suffered, and they continue to tease and bicker about the most trivial things.
"Did she ask anything else?" Lisbon adds.
"No, the others responded they had no clue, but Cho looked up at me for a split second. I told you last week he'd figured it out."
"Yea, yea. All hail Patrick Jane, Mr. All-Knowing." She rolls her eyes while rinsing her hands at the sink, silence filling the space between them as Lisbon is lost in quiet contemplation.
"Does it bother you?" Jane inquires a minute later, having sensed the change in her behaviour.
She looks up, smiling when detecting the worried gleam in his eyes.
"Not really," she sighs. "It's not like Cho's going to start babbling about it to everyone else, he probably won't even mention it to anyone. It's just-,"
She breaks off her own train of thought, realising she was about to tackle the question of where this… thing between them is leading. Lisbon figures it's probably not a good sign if there doesn't seem to be a suitable word to describe what this is. The word relationship is a term she's always wanted to avoid at all costs, especially now given this is Jane she's dealing with, who's arguably the most emotionally unavailable man in the universe. Common sense would instruct her to start running in the opposite direction as fast as possible, but she hasn't so far.
"Nothing, never mind."
And for the first time since Lisbon has known him, Jane doesn't pry any further. In all likelihood, he's perfectly aware of what she was about to ask, but he offers up a small smile instead before she turns and heads back towards the living room.
Summer has never been Lisbon's favourite season. Any temperature over 78 degrees is simply too hot for comfort, especially considering the amount of running that occurs in her line of work. Therefore, it really shouldn't come as a surprise to her that, after almost a year's absence, Red John decides now would be a good time to rear his ugly head again.
The call comes in on a sweltering Monday afternoon, when they're in between cases, most of them wishing they were lying on an exotic beach somewhere instead of being stuck at the office with nothing to do.
Lisbon feels a numb disbelief descend upon her as the officer at the other end of the line is explaining assorted details of the crime scene. A young woman, 36 and married with two children, was found murdered in her home earlier that day when her husband had unexpectedly returned from work to pick up a forgotten file. Scribbling several things on her notepad, an unsettling feeling spreads through her before she thanks the officer, telling him they'll be at the scene in about 20 minutes.
She takes a moment to collect herself, not entirely sure how to break the news, though there's only one person she's worried about informing.
The rest of her team is in the bullpen, Jane and Rigsby keeping themselves busy by trying to determine who can solve the most Sudoku puzzles in ten minutes.
Lisbon carefully keeps quiet while she observes them, but Jane seems to sense her discomfort instantly, easily detecting the little cracks in her façade by reading her mood as she communicates more with just one look than she ever could with a hundred words. With a barely noticeable nod of her head, she turns back around, fully aware that he'll be following close behind.
He always is.
Lisbon closes the door before relaying the information from the Sacramento PD, realising that everything will change in the time it takes for the words to register in his mind. But knowing what's coming does absolutely nothing to soften the blow. She takes in the exact moment the air around him changes, coinciding with the immediate shift in his demeanour. She glances away, not willing to face what she knows will be showing clearly in his eyes. Anger, fear, revenge, but most of all… regret.
It's almost too much to bear.
Though she doesn't have a clue how dominant that particular emotion is, she instinctively understands it's there. At this very moment, Jane regrets ever having taken things with her to another level, even if it wasn't a deliberate choice at the time.
"We should leave," he says quietly, but resolutely.
There's an indecipherable look etched across the consultant's face, and his voice carries no trace of its former cheerfulness. Instead, it's full of either apprehension or rage, Lisbon can't tell which.
When they arrive at the victim's house, Jane confirms it to be a Red John murder without delay. The crime scene is messier than usual, the sinister signature smiley bearing more of a lopsided grin this time, giving off the impression that, because of the husband's unexpected return, Red John had been stressed for time.
The rest of the day seems to pass in a blur, and sometime after they've returned to HQ, Jane seems to have disappeared. When Lisbon comes back from briefing Hightower, she catches sight of the empty couch on the other side of the room.
"Where's Jane?" She addresses Van Pelt, unable to hide the worried note lacing her voice.
"He said he was going home, boss. He muttered something about needing some peace and quiet to think," the redhead explains.
Lisbon nods a distracted thank you, turning around almost listlessly as a million fleeting thoughts are running blindly, chaotically into one another. Pausing in the doorway, she only hesitates for a second before walking briskly towards the elevator, already fishing out her keys.
When Lisbon arrives at his apartment, there's absolutely no sign of him. Regardless of the fact she didn't expect him to be here in the first place, there's still a sinking feeling in her stomach, and her anxious mood doesn't wane for the remainder of the day. Calling him proves to be a futile task as it goes straight to voicemail and she suspects he won't be returning the message.
By the time the clock turns to 10pm, Lisbon figures there's no point in hanging around the office much longer; Jane's clearly not planning on coming back here either.
The knot of anxiety forming inside her increases by the minute, and she's genuinely debating whether it would be sensible to drive down to Malibu when she rounds the corner of her dimly lit street and Jane's trademark blue Citroën draws her attention at once. The knowledge that he's been here all along partly relieves the tension as she rushes inside.
There are no lights on but Jane's silhouette is clearly outlined against the pale light of the moon that filters through the blinds. He's staring at the wall in front of him, with the firm look he always gets while pondering some important issue or upcoming crazy plan.
"You're here." Lisbon blurts out as she flicks on a corner light.
Jane appears to be genuinely confused as his eyes slowly focus on her, his eyebrows rearranging into a frown.
"Where did you think I was?"
But Lisbon only shakes her head, not caring to explain that when he'd mentioned home to Van Pelt, she never would've thought he considered her house the safest place to hide. Though that small piece of information warms her heart, what little hope she just felt at finding him in her apartment vanishes when catching sight of the look in his eyes. It's one of quiet desperation, and he lets out a sigh, rubbing his eyes tiredly.
Throwing her jacket over the nearest chair, she walks over to the liquor cabinet, retrieving the bottle of 10-year-old Scotch hiding away at the back and pouring herself a glass of the amber liquid. Countless times over the last few weeks, she'd been on the verge of broaching this very subject and now it's too late; the matter has been taken out of her hands, leaving her horribly unprepared for the discussion she can sense is rapidly approaching.
Usually, they have little arguments or silly disagreements at least once a week. Never anything big, mostly just one trivial thing after another, but they both thrive on those discussions; neither one of them ever wants to be the first to stand down and admit defeat.
But this is different. This isn't just the next every-day discussion about who's jumping into the shower first. It doesn't even have anything to do with Jane coming up with some outrageous scheme that will possibly get her into trouble.
Now, Jane looks defeated for an entirely different reason, and she's already at a disadvantage.
"We have to end this." He bluntly states, much calmer than she would've given him credit for. "I should never have let it get this far. I was a fool to think that things could ever be different, just because we hadn't witnessed a Red John murder in a while. I made the mistake of allowing myself to be distracted for just one minute and he already felt the need to remind me that he's not going anywhere. I should've realised exactly how dangerous this was."
Lisbon puts her glass back on the table a little too forcefully, trying to keep calm despite having basically just been called a mistake. She whirls around, crossing her arms in front of her.
"Are you done?" Unwilling to allow any trace of hurt to creep into her voice, she walks to the kitchen for some ice by way of distraction.
"You have every right to be angry," he continues. "But you have to understand, Lisbon…," he trails off, avoiding her gaze. "I can't risk him finding out that… finding out about you. I just can't. I won't put you in that position."
If his heartfelt confession surprised her, she doesn't show it.
"First of all, I'd like to decide that for myself, if you don't mind," she coolly responds. "Have you noticed you just keep talking about yourself through all of this? You're the one deciding that you're ending this, but you're making the decision for the both of us, and why? Because of this convinction that you're putting me in danger? There are two of us in this…," she'd been about to say 'relationship' but swallowed it down at the last minute. "And I would like to make up my own mind. I face danger on a daily basis, Jane, so I just wish you'd trust me a little."
"This has nothing to do with trust." He replies, still composed as ever. "Red John's a predator, Lisbon. He carefully searches out his prey, studies them for awhile, waiting for the most opportune moment to attack. What do you suppose will happen when he discovers that you're–"
"Stop it!" She interrupts him angrily, unable to keep calm despite her best efforts. "Just stop! You're giving him exactly what he wants. You're already letting him win!"
"Of course I'm letting him win!" He suddenly raises his voice, and the fact that he's finally shouting is oddly reassuring; the whole resigned attitude was getting on her last nerve.
"I can't–," he chokes, making her wonder what he was about to say. "The other option is simply not acceptable." His voice is already back to steely, controlled determination. "I don't even want to think about the possible outcome if I didn't let him win. If I didn't...," he trails off again.
She can feel his darker thoughts gain the upper hand, but she's powerless against them if he decides to keep pushing her further and further away. Jane's features soften as he searches for words seemingly unsuccessfully, but Lisbon waits patiently, not knowing how to continue herself.
"He killed my wife and child." He says quietly, as if it's the first time she's being brought up to date. "And not because he just happened to choose them as his victims randomly, no. He targeted them specifically, only because I was stupid enough to taunt him on national television. And there are two types of people in this world; those who admit their mistakes and seek to correct them, attempt to compensate. And then there's those who deny they ever happened. I'm that first type, Lisbon. If I do something wrong, if something was my fault, I'll admit to it and do my best to atone for my mistake."
"By killing another human being?"
"That last term's debatable," he deadpans. "In any case, I don't plan on making the same mistake twice. I'm not a hero, I wouldn't be able to protect you. If anything, I'm a coward, and I'm just proving it now."
"Oh please, as if I would ever need you to protect me," she angrily interjects. "The last thing I want you to be is a hero, and I won't beg you not to go, Jane. If that's what you're expecting, then by all means," she gestures to the door, "you know your way out."
He's not quick enough to disguise the distress her heartless words cause when a flicker of hurt flits across his face. It may have been harsher than she'd intended, but somehow the fact that he would so willingly give up and is leaving her no choice in the matter only fuels her frustration. If there was any way, she'd direct all of her anger at the elusive serial killer instead, for once again hurting innocent people and disrupting all of their lives. But he's not the one currently sitting before her.
"The only way I can protect you," Jane continues as if she hasn't spoken, "is by leaving you alone. So that maybe you'll still have a fighting chance."
"Can't you see that's what he wants? He wants you to be miserable and alone."
Jane falters, fully aware of the truth to her words.
Pushed into an emotionless routine after his family's death, he didn't really allow himself to feel or experience much of anything, choosing instead to focus solely on making Red John pay for what he'd done. But gradually, that had started to change, and it could be attributed to one woman - the feisty brunette currently towering over him, trying to save him once again.
Still, even if his thirst for personal vengeance has started to dwindle lately, it doesn't take away the fear still associated with the killer's name. His foolish hopes of another chance at an actual future, his thinking he might rise above this with Lisbon's help... it all seems so unattainable now, and it's more painful than he could have ever imagined.
When he walked into that poor woman's bedroom only hours before, hearing her husband's sobs from the next room, it was almost simultaneously a look into his past and a sense of foreboding. The image of Jessica Wood's distorted face, her long hair spilling over the pillows with eyes staring off into space, is already haunting him.
"She looked like you." He whispers, before elaborating when he received a confused stare. "Today's victim, she resembled you; there were a lot of similarities."
The bitterness evaporates in a moment's breath when she takes in the lost and upsetting expression on his face.
"Jane, there's probably hundreds of women with long dark hair in this city alone. That was nothing more than a coincidence. You're reading far too much into this."
She walks over, finally sitting herself down next to him as she gently places a hand on his knee. "This is exactly what he hopes to achieve. He's trying to turn you against everyone else, against anyone who wants to help you, to make you believe you're alone in this. But you're not. Don't give him that satisfaction."
"Against people who want to help me?" he repeats cynically, his grimace intensifying. "Tell me, exactly who do you see helping me, Lisbon? Correct me if I'm wrong, but last time I checked, you still seemed to be vehemently opposed to what I ultimately plan on doing to Red John."
"You know that's not what I meant. We aren't some sort of brothers in arms; I won't help you kill him if it's still what you have in mind. But… anguish, pain, problems, they're all supposed to bring people together, not alienate them. You're not supposed to go through all of this alone. I'm here for you. And I want to help you, if only you'd let me. Don't distance yourself from me," she pleads in a hushed whisper.
"And then what? We wait until the time comes when you might have to arrest me? Do you really want to let it get that far? I know you're still hoping to change my mind... but I would hate to disappoint you."
Lisbon tries repeatedly to swallow the lump forming at the base of her throat but to no avail. The words stay locked up somewhere deep inside, even though part of her wants to get it through his thick head that making Red John suffer won't get his family back. On more than one occasion, she's wondered if Mrs. Jane would have approved of his plans if she were able to see him now, though voicing that particular question would instigate a whole other discussion.
Lisbon has never fooled herself into thinking he wouldn't be able to kill his nemesis – she knows that he's fully capable. But she also knows his quest for vengeance is what he needs to hold onto, something he likes to hide behind, thinking that avenging his family's death is all he has left.
She'll just have to prove him wrong.
"Jane…," she gently tugs him closer, offering up a sincere look. "I'm not the enemy here. And no matter how much I wish you'd see my side of things, that's not what this is about. Right now, I just want you to give me a fair chance, instead of just immediately giving up. I honestly believe we're stronger together, anyway."
"Now you sound like a shrink." He retorts sullenly, letting out another frustrated sigh as his features settle into a frown. "'You have to let go of the revenge, Patrick, and try to find some happiness in your life. Remember that we are all individually weak but together strong.'" He quotes sarcastically. "I presume that's the gist of what you're telling me?"
"Speak for yourself, I'm not weak," she bluntly murmurs, and to her surprise, a modest chuckle actually escapes his lips.
"No…you're most definitely not. But that doesn't make you invincible either. No one is. And even now, instead of worrying about Red John who might very well be coming after you, you're more concerned about me than you are about your own safety and I wish you'd stop that."
She runs a hand through her hair, frustration bubbling over once again. "If you're so convinced he's going to come after me sooner or later, it won't make a difference if you stay away from me or not."
"Of course it makes a difference. Look at Kristina." He quickly puts up one hand, silencing her impending objection. "I know you'll just tell me again that none of it was my fault, but I was curious and wanted to reveal she was a fraud, didn't I? I wanted to see what game she was playing and it cost her. Red John jumped to the wrong conclusions, simply because we were having dinner. Cop or no cop, Lisbon, being around me is dangerous and it could get you killed. I could get you killed." He stresses, as if his words aren't wreaking enough havoc as it is.
"Well, then I guess you'll just have to assume that by this point, it's already too late." She tries to ignore the look of pure desperation crossing his face. "You said so yourself, anyone who gets close to you is a target and I don't know if you've noticed, but you've practically been living here for the past two months, so it's a little late to start worrying about all of that now."
"All the more reason to put a stop to it. I didn't mean for you to get hurt. I wish-"
"Don't give me that," she heatedly interrupts. "Don't tell me you didn't know how this would end. You knew what you were doing every step of the way, you just never allowed yourself to think about what would happen once we got to this point. And now that we have, you're realising it's gotten beyond your control. You were in retreat from reality, Jane, and this is just a belated reaction, but one you saw coming all along. So don't sit here, in my house, telling me you didn't expect any of this. Because I won't believe you. No matter how persuasive you can be. You were fully aware of the probable consequences, you're just not willing to actually see it through."
She gets up, intent on pouring herself another drink when something catches her eye. It's one of his Sudoku booklets lounging on her coffee table, still turned to the page where he'd been finishing the last one. She notices the sweater he wore when they took an evening stroll only the week before, draped casually over the couch. If she travelled upstairs, she knows she'd find his toothbrush in her bathroom, his pyjama bottoms carefully folded on the chair next to her dressing table ever since he'd taken up residency in her bed.
The realisation that these possessions of his are lying comfortably scattered throughout her home makes her heart constrict unexpectedly. The knowledge that she's in far too deep and is most likely fighting a lost battle doesn't come easily.
She'll never be able to compete with Red John.
Lisbon turns around, facing away from him, because there's still that small part of her that won't let him see her most vulnerable side. She attempts to get control of her emotions, determined not to be exposed, when she suddenly feels his strong arms sneak around her waist lovingly, pulling her closer. Jane nestles his head in the crook of her neck and almost in spite of herself, she relaxes instantly and lets out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding. Covering his arms with her own, she leans back while his warm breath drifts across her cheek.
"I'm sorry," he simply whispers.
And before having the time to turn around in his arms, Jane opens up her left hand and drops something cold into her palm, pressing a soft kiss to her temple.
Lisbon looks down, staring at the spare key in her hand, not realising his arms are no longer circling her waist until she silently hears the front door close.
The warm stream of the shower doesn't rid her of the frustrated and disappointed feeling that's been clinging to her all week. As the days crept by, the Red John case once again produced no solid leads or useable evidence, leaving the team and herself in various states of exhaustion and irritation. That combined with having to cope with Jane around the office all week has left her absolutely drained. Carefully avoiding said consultant while giving off a general impression that nothing was wrong had proved to be energy draining. Jane hadn't made the slightest attempt at talking to her about their fight, or about the Red John case, and to Lisbon's surprise, he hadn't taken off on his own or tried to follow up on leads by himself.
It bothered her that Jane was seemingly unaware of the turmoil he'd caused inside her head while he didn't appear to be upset at all. At least, this is what Lisbon believed to be true until earlier that afternoon, when she walked out of the break room with a cup of coffee firmly in hand, intent on finishing her paperwork as soon as possible, and she finally saw a sign of the man behind the mask. The man she'd gotten to know so well by now.
The consultant was sitting on his well-loved couch, with a peculiar look and a frown etched on his face. She wouldn't have thought any better of it, if not for the fact that the magazine he was pretending to be reading was being held upside down. She'd almost walked over to point it out before deciding against it, figuring she'd best leave him alone or it would just cause more unnecessary confusion.
Still, she can't seem to chase the image of him sitting there out of her mind, looking incredibly lonely and more miserable than she'd seen him in a long time.
If there's one thing Lisbon completely abhors, it's feeling powerless, which is exactly how she's felt these past few days. She hadn't realised they'd practically spent every night together until the moment that got taken away.
The minute she let herself fall for Patrick Jane, she gave him the greatest power of all. The power to hurt her. And Lisbon is reminded yet again of why she never relinquishes control, never lets anyone come that close.
When she finally turns off the water, steps out of the shower and clears the mirror of steam, the face staring back at her doesn't seem like her own.
Changing into a pair of jeans and a simple black blouse, she's carefully combing through the knots in her hair when a noise suddenly catches her attention. She's about to disregard her worry and silently curse Jane for making her paranoid already, when the front door audibly closes with a short, dull click. Immediately switching into senior agent mode, Lisbon quickly walks out into her bedroom, striding over to the bedside table and taking her gun out of its holster. Approaching the stairs warily, she listens intently for any more sounds drifting towards her from downstairs, but only silence greets her.
After another moment, she starts descending the stairs one by one, her eyes expertly scanning the empty living room, looking for any sign of an intruder as her heartbeat picks up speed along the way. Upon reaching the last step, she rounds the corner quickly, gun drawn and aimed towards the kitchen this time when she notices a man standing by the counter.
Lisbon releases a sigh of aggravation and concealed relief when she finds Jane calmly staring back at her.
"Jane, what the hell are you doing? Are you trying to get yourself killed?" She asks in exasperation, placing the gun on her coffee table with a thud.
The adrenaline fading quickly now that only Jane is standing before her, she sinks down onto the nearest armchair, automatically curling one leg beneath her as he approaches.
"No, I'm trying to prove a point."
"By breaking and entering into my apartment?"
"Exactly," he retorts, a sad quality to his voice. "You seem to think I'm joking when I say I constantly worry about your safety, but it took me exactly 20 seconds to pick that lock, so don't tell me you know how to keep psychotic and twisted people like Red John out. It's simple mistakes like these that could be fatal, Lisbon, and a perfect example of what I don't want for you. Always having to look over your shoulder, to wonder if you've locked up, if that car that appears to be following you is still the same one as this morning, if that man walking across the street isn't acting a little too suspiciously. I don't want you to become paranoid at my expense."
"I'm not becoming paranoid." She says irritably, choosing to ignore the fact she just came barging down the stairs wielding her gun around. "There's all sorts of dangerous people out there; it's not just Red John. Besides, I'm a trained professional; I know how to defend myself in more ways than one, and I have three different bolts on my door."
"Then why hadn't you bolted the door now? Why was it only locked?"
A lie is already waiting at the tip of her tongue, ready to engage in another discussion, but the heavy burden of her general exhaustion is catching up with her, and the last thing she wants is to fall right back into last week's fight.
"Because I was planning on driving over to your place." She answers eventually, carefully keeping her eyes trained on the hem of her blouse as she twists it around in her hands. "You left early this afternoon. No one knew why, so I was worried."
"Of course you were." She can see a small smirk playing at the corner of his lips, as if he's not at all surprised by her explanation in spite of his disapproval.
Though he appears composed and unmoved on the outside, Jane finds it harder to hide the effects from the past few days' discouraging events. This confirms Lisbon's earlier suspicion back at HQ, when she caught him looking distracted, that he's far from okay. It's the main reason she decided to pay him an impromptu visit, even though every fibre in her being had been telling her not to.
But if the only reason he came over was to pick another fight, she's got half a mind to kick him out right this minute. Her eyes stray to the right as she looks almost longingly at her gun, and Jane walks closer still, taking a seat on the coffee table so he's facing her.
"You can't shoot me, no jury in the world would believe your claim of self defence." He quips as if she's been thinking out loud.
"I wouldn't be so sure of that. When they hear about what I always have to suffer through with you, they'll rule in my favour. This would definitely be considered a case of extenuating circumstances."
Her retort actually makes a grin appear, and Lisbon is startled by how effortlessly they can fall back into the same routine as if nothing has changed.
"Believe it or not," he goes on after another moment, his tone of voice suddenly almost imploring. "I didn't come here to fight with you."
"Could've fooled me," she mutters.
Whenever he says her name like that, almost reverently in an uncharacteristically soft voice, Lisbon still feels actual butterflies in her stomach, and this time's no different. Usually it has an instant calming effect, but the uncertainty of why he's here keeps her on edge, and Jane doesn't continue, searching for the right words while simultaneously trying to get his thoughts in order.
He's barely slept all week, his bed suddenly far too cold and empty without Lisbon's warm body curled up against his. The Red John case still occupied his mind but not in the same compulsive way as before. It appears as though his purpose in life had started to shift and with it, the all-encompassing obsession for his archenemy ceased to be the most important part of his life.
He might not remember the turning point where Lisbon became the only thing that matters and makes sense to him most of the time, but he figures it's probably at the same crossroad where she became the only thing he has left. Somewhere along the way, the thought of accomplishing his revenge had lost its appeal. Because now he actually found something else worth living for, and he wouldn't just be sacrificing his own sad little excuse for a life anymore.
Unfortunately, none of that means his fear would suddenly vanish overnight.
He'd loved Angela with all his heart, there was no question about that. They'd run away together, finally able to make a decision on their own, providing something to hold onto. Yet, when push had come to shove, he hadn't really taken her out of the carnie world. They had just conveniently relocated to another state, another scene - a whole new world of marks, of people to con. That is to say, he had. He'd been blinded by fame and money, too caught up in other people's foolishness to recognise his own.
He's not about to make that same mistake twice, because he enjoys every second of being with Lisbon. So much so that, at times, it's almost frightening. He figures everyone probably mourns the loss of a loved one, but Jane knows he wouldn't survive it. Not a second time around.
And his worst nightmare, the thought of Red John finding out about Lisbon, had been enough to frighten him to the core, unintentionally hurting her in the process.
She's the only one who still has faith in him, even if he is incredibly undeserving. The one person who's never pitied him, doesn't put up with all of his antics or accuse him of being a fraud, which is basically what he's been his entire life.
Jane came to realise a number of months ago that Lisbon had finally succeeded in slipping past his defences. At first, he was mostly confused as to how exactly he'd allowed that to happen, quickly followed by a period of trying to distance himself from her once understanding had reached him. But eventually, he made his peace with the fact that she had, somewhere along the way, managed to break through. Something that manifested itself once again these past few days, as it had only taken exactly one week of barely seeing her for Jane to realise that she's one of the best parts of his life, and he more than missed her.
He thought it'd be easier, keeping his distance and at the same time knowing she'd be safe, but he was wrong, and it only made him realise to what extent he's come to care for her and needs her.
"You were right, before. I'd been acting selfish because I didn't want to deal with any of it, didn't want to bring it up for fear of where the conversation would lead, knowing that it would change what we had. And then I panicked. There's no justification for it, I know that, but… I needed some time."
"Well, you have all the time in the world, don't you? You made it abundantly clear that I'm not supposed to be anywhere near you."
She's glad that the pain she still feels because of him leaving instead of trying to talk to her is momentarily disguised by the resentment in her voice.
"Why did you come here?" Lisbon asks after watching him closely, trying to distinguish the varying emotions that are vying for control of his features.
And that may be the only question Jane doesn't know how to answer properly. Pondering the answer repeatedly on his way over here hadn't helped; so many thoughts running through his mind that he spent more than 10 minutes simply watching her house from his car, ready to change his mind and drive off again at any moment.
"All right, look," she adds, mistakenly interpreting his silence for indecision. "It's okay, you know. I've been giving all of this some thought too, and maybe I was being unreasonable. I knew at the start of this that you'd eventually feel this way, that you'd have second thoughts. It's not like I expected anything more, so... really, there's no need to worry about it, I'll be fine."
Jane immediately notes she's back to her defensive self. Putting up each and every wall he'd taken down these past few weeks, not allowing him to see how badly he hurt her. She probably figures his only reason for being here is to end it once and for all, and the woman sitting before him in no way resembles the vulnerable Lisbon he'd seen last week. The one who'd still been willing to fight and give it a chance, refusing to give up on him. On them. He knows this is her way of giving him an out, nothing more than an act purely for his benefit.
The only difference is that he no longer wants a way out, not if it means losing her in the process. Maybe he'd been too much of a fool before to realise that shutting her out isn't the answer. Better late than never, hopefully. He'd tried to justify it countless times, assuring himself that there was no other option, but the outcome remained the same. In the end, he ends up losing either way.
"I'm not having second thoughts." He responds after a moment's silence, seeing the mild surprise at this revelation register on her face.
"Oh, really? That's not what I gathered last time you were here." She replies somewhat sarcastically.
"I never had second thoughts about you, Lisbon, or about us," he adds. "I'm not saying I wouldn't have done things differently had I known beforehand, but I don't regret any of my decisions."
"There doesn't seem to be much difference." Lisbon remarks tonelessly, taking care not to let the flutter in her stomach turn into a hint of hope.
He looks at her, trying to communicate everything he can't say out loud through one meaningful look.
"There is, though. If I had done things differently, I'd still be alone and miserable, just like you said. I simply wouldn't know any better. The difference is that I've been thinking about everything you said to me all week, more than I ever have in these past 8 years. And I'm starting to believe that maybe you weren't entirely wrong about it all. That maybe I should stop letting a severely disturbed man dictate my life."
He moves off the table, suddenly a touch of nervousness to his step as he starts pacing around the living room.
"The difference is that I choose life." He states, averting his gaze but watching her closely out of the corner of his eyes. "I choose life now. Even if I'm not quite sure how to live it anymore," he adds, unable to keep a sad expression at bay.
His quiet confession is enough to make the last lingering drops of apprehension and frustration disappear, and Lisbon moves out of the chair in one smooth motion, walking closer. Putting a hand on his arm while the other reaches out to caress his cheek as she forces him to look at her, there's nothing that suggests Jane's not being sincere in this moment. The aloofness and controlled determination of the week before have packed and gone, leaving only the broken man behind that resides underneath.
Sometimes it's like watching a beautiful painting, with multiple scratches on the surface. Though barely discernible at first, the longer you stand and stare at it, the more of them you end up discovering.
It takes a considerable effort on her part to not envelop him in a hug this instant and bury her head in his chest, the feeling of his arms wrapped tightly around her still crystal clear in her mind.
"Jane...you have to stop thinking you're...," she pauses, searching for the right words. "That you're beyond repair. That you'll never rise above this. Why is it so hard for you to let someone else care about you?"
Her words stir something deep inside him, pushing away at the layers of guilt, shame and anger that have piled up in his heart and stifled all his memories of past happiness. And along with them, any hope of future happiness.
"You can't just start pushing me away at the first sign of trouble, Jane. This - we will never work if you're planning on making all of the decisions on your own; if you won't let me help you. You're always going on about wanting to save me, and I know you'd do anything to help the rest of the team if they'd need it, but we're never allowed to return the favour."
Jane holds her gaze for a long moment as if deliberating his answer. There's a part of him that wants to promise her the world, that would give her anything her heart desires because he owes her that much. Except he knows that talking to her, including her in the chaos that is his mind and his thoughts, won't be easy. But if there's anyone he's willing to make an effort for, it's definitely the woman who's possibly singlehandedly saving his humanity. Green eyes are staring worriedly into his, having suddenly abandoned all pretence, and he realises that anyone else would've told him to go to hell long ago.
"How do I know you won't just change your mind tomorrow and disappear after all?" Her whispered question reveals a deeper fear beneath and Jane tentatively reaches out, affectionately running one loose curl between his fingers.
"You don't." He whispers truthfully, but before those quietly spoken words have time to settle, he pulls her closer, giving her a soft, lingering kiss. "But I promise that I'll try. I'm serious, Lisbon. I can't offer you much of anything, and I know that you have absolutely no reason to trust me on this. But I'm willing to give this a chance, if you are."
She shoots him a sideways glance, knowing there's one question still lurking in the shadows, and a week ago she would've let it go, happy to pretend nothing else existed outside of them – outside of this moment. Yet now, things are different, and she can't afford to let this go any further if she's only setting herself up for more hurt and heartbreak.
"What about when we catch Red John? What happens then?"
Being willing to give it a chance and actually going through with it are two very different things, Lisbon muses.
"I can't give you any guarantees. I wish that I could. I won't lie and tell you that I'd rather see him tried in front of a jury, because I will always believe he doesn't deserve that kind of compassion. I'd rather see him die a slow and painful death, because it still wouldn't even come close to the pain he inflicted on all of his victims."
Lisbon holds back another sigh at the last minute when Jane reaches for her hand, giving a gentle tug before lifting her chin with one finger, forcing her to meet his gaze.
"But I know a wise person once told me that the wrong thing done for the right reason, is still the wrong thing. And I'm finding she's been right about a lot of things."
He decides not to disclose anything more, because it's a truth neither of them is ready to handle. That she spent most of her time these past few years trying to influence him, thinking in the end that he'd never see reason, but she was wrong.
Somewhere along the way, she became his reason.
Lisbon almost can't believe he's repeating her own advice. She never thought Jane was even listening when she was trying to make him see her side of things. She realises it's not an affirmation that he won't kill Red John, but it's a definite sign that something has changed and even the small victories count where he's concerned. It probably took a lot for him to even gather the courage to come here, to push his pride aside. And that's something at least.
"Now if only I could get you to admit that last part in front of the rest of the team…."
The clear hint of a smirk on her face is enough to shatter the invisible barrier between them, and Jane charges forward, placing his hands on either side of her face, pressing his lips to her forehead before pulling her into a hug. He can't resist inhaling her familiar scent as her arms instinctively encircle his waist.
"I really am sorry," he murmurs into her ear while gently stroking her hair. "I didn't come here expecting you to just forget or forgive everything. I didn't really expect much of anything."
She pulls away, the honesty warming her heart when Jane's blue eyes pierce hers, and she remains silent.
"But really," he goes on, and Lisbon immediately detects the slightly teasing tone of voice she had already missed. "I've come to realise no one else will put up with me."
She laughs at his offhand remark, and although she knows they're far from getting through this, right now the fact that he's here is somehow more than enough. And if he's willing to try, then so is she.
As late night turns into early morning, Lisbon finds her thoughts keep drifting back to the man once again lying beside her, keeping much-needed sleep away. Having to function at work in a couple of hours will definitely prove to be a challenge, and though Jane's eyes are closed, she imagines he hasn't drifted off once either. It had been well past 3am when they finally retreated upstairs, Lisbon's voice all but hoarse from talking about most things they'd always avoided before.
"Why do you keep staring at me?" His own creaky voice disrupts her musings.
"Sorry," she smiles. "I can't seem to fall asleep."
His arm reaches out, pulling her closer as he rolls onto his back, tucking her head underneath his chin to snuggle closer to her warm body.
"I'm familiar with the problem." He mumbles, his hand lazily running along her spine. "I hope you're not losing sleep because you're worried I won't be here when you wake up. Because I can tell you that's one promise I plan on keeping."
Though she can't see his face, the seriousness in his voice is all the confirmation she needs.
"Would you blame me if I was?"
"Probably not. But you forget that I now appreciate the fact that maybe I'm stronger with you by my side, after all."
"Individually weak but together strong?" She grins, repeating his statement from the week before as she props herself up on an elbow to look at him with amused eyes.
"Yea," he touches the tip of her nose. "Though we both know that just means I'm the weak one and you're strong for the both of us."
"I'd say we're pretty good at the whole role reversal thing, so I'm sure we can manage," she chuckles.
"Well, that's good. Because I'll need you to be my knight in shining armour."
"Deal." She captures his lips softly, as if to seal it. "You've always been my damsel in distress, anyway."
His laughter echoes through her bedroom as Lisbon reaches out and gently brushes a stray curl off his forehead, less hesitantly than Jane's used to, a delicate sign of affection.
The red morning light momentarily mesmerises her as it seeps through the curtains, dancing across his face and bathing the room in a soft glow, already announcing another warm and sunny day.
They're both aware none of this will be easy. And though not knowing the outcome is usually what relationships are all about, nothing about this particular one is normal. Still, she's never been eager to give up and not face down a challenge, despite all of the complications that might inevitably arise.
So when Jane pulls her in for another kiss, the last thoughts of serial killers and gruesome crime scenes leave her mind all at once, and she suddenly hears her mother's most precious advice resound in her head.
As Lisbon smiles against his lips, she makes a silent promise to take that advice to heart.
From now on, she would simply have a little faith.