Disclaimer: Sigh. Still no.
A/N: This is it, the end of the story. It's been an amazing 4+ months for me, truly. This started out as a little idea that wouldn't go away and turned into the longest, most read, most reviewed, most alerted, and most favorited story that I've written on here. Thank you so much to everyone who has read and sent kind comments my way; I honestly would have had a tough time continuing without your incredible support. A VERY special 'thank you' goes to Jolena Sternlicht. When I had serious doubts about even writing this story, much less posting it, she encouraged me to follow my muse.
This is almost entirely fluff (fair warning!), and answers a few 'and then what happened?' questions. Flashbacks will appear in italics.
Someone Else's Life
Epilogue: Four Years, Four Lives
"Willow!" Jane called out from his seat on the park bench. "Stay where Daddy can see you!" He grinned at the answering bubbly giggle from his three-year-old daughter, and leaned back as a little head popped into view.
It was late morning on a sunny Friday, and Jane had taken Willow to the playground at Fremont Park. It was her current favorite, and being located right in the middle of downtown Sacramento made it very convenient to the CBI. They'd be leaving shortly to go pick up Lisbon (still Lisbon for professional reasons) and have lunch together as a family.
Jane watched Willow climbing to the top of the slide once again. Their daughter's hair was a surprising mid-point between his and Lisbon's: not so tightly curled as his, not so dark as hers. The result was beautiful chocolate-colored soft curls. But there was no question as to whose eyes she'd inherited. Not when looking into her ocean-colored eyes was like looking in a mirror for him.
Lisbon had been more than a little nervous when they'd found out that their first child was going to be a girl, and truthfully so had he. How was he going to react? What sorts of feelings were going to surface? Would he feel like this new baby was trying to replace his first daughter, however unfair it was?
He smiled again. All of his fears had melted away when they'd placed that sweet little dark-haired baby in his arms. He'd cried a little, certainly, but the overwhelming feeling hadn't been sadness. It also helped that she took to him immediately, calming in his arms as he relaxed.
Thinking back on it, he doubted he'd have been so at ease if Red John had still been around at the time when their child was born. But Willow was still kicking in her mother's belly when that chapter of his life had conclusively ended.
Red John had grown seriously overactive in the months following Jane and Lisbon's wedding. The fact that they weren't trying to keep their love and imminent family addition a secret any longer spurred him on like never before.
It wasn't exactly a matter of a daily body count, more of regular and vicious reminders that he knew. He knew about everything. And Red John wasn't pleased that Jane had decided that revenge wasn't the only thing worth living for anymore.
Notes with telltale smears of blood, followed by the discovery of another innocent victim, became his new favorite calling card. Eventually Lisbon was having nightmares even more often than Jane was, growing more frequent as the arrival date for their baby drew closer.
It came to a head one night when Red John appeared to tire of his old cat-and-mouse game, and seemed intent on finally, fatally dealing with them both. He'd broken into Lisbon's apartment, planning to surprise them.
Jane had unlocked the door and gone into the mostly darkened living room first. His breath hissed between his teeth as he noticed the uninvited figure emerge from the deeper shadows into the dim light. Neither he nor Lisbon had any doubt as to who it was, even before he said a word.
"Welcome home, Mr. Jane, and to the sweet Agent Lisbon and baby-to-be as well," said the light and soft-spoken voice. Jane watched the glitter of Red John's eyes as they flicked over first his face, then Lisbon's and then settled on Lisbon's swollen middle. "It's almost a shame to end it all, isn't it? But I think our little game has gone on long enough."
Jane opened his mouth to answer, but his voice evaporated when he saw the glint of the raised knife. He moved from Lisbon's side, attempting to step in front of her as the killer came swiftly towards them, but her right arm was already moving. Jane's hand went to his ear as two shots rang out from her gun, less than two feet from his head.
Lisbon was an excellent markswoman. Red John fell and was still, two holes in his chest seeping blood into her carpet. Lisbon took several quick steps forward and kicked the knife out of his lifeless hand, still not trusting him even in death.
Neither she nor Jane spoke for a moment, but she was the one who broke the silence. "I'm sorry, Jane," she said, to his immense surprise.
"What? Why?" he asked, flabbergasted. She only reverted back to calling him Jane when something was really bothering her.
"All these years, Jane. All this time I've talked about due process and prison and the futility of revenge. And then this happens and what do I do? I just shoot him dead."
He turned to look at her, finally taking his eyes from the body and saw the streams of tears running unnoticed down her cheeks. He knew she wasn't really consciously crying; her emotions were running so high at that moment they'd just overflowed. "Darling, it's… well, it's not okay but I know why you did it," he said, attempting to comfort her. "You know why you did it. He was coming at us with a knife. It was self-defense." He reached out and pulled her into his arms.
Lisbon was babbling now, the adrenaline and stress washing over her unchecked. "I guess if he was going to die anyway I should've let you do it, huh?" she mumbled against his shoulder. "But he was too fast, Jane. I don't know if you could've got him. He was so fast," she repeated in a strained voice. "Do you hate me?" she asked then, and Jane winced at the fear in her whispered question.
He stroked her hair. "No, Teresa, I don't. He's gone. It's done. It's all over, for better or worse. But you have to try and calm down, for your sake and Willow's."
"I know," she said with a shuddering sigh. "She's reacting to my stress already, kicking and shifting." Her hand moved between them and rubbed her stomach.
"It'll be all right," soothed Jane, feeling so surreal as the calmer one of the two of them. "We're going to go back out the front door but we're leaving it open. I'm going to call 911 and then we'll wait until they arrive."
"Okay," she replied, not really listening. Her ears buzzed slightly as he walked a few paces away and made the phone call, his words no longer distinct. She blinked and focused on him again when he gently shook her. "Yes?"
"They're going to be here in about five or ten minutes, dear, so if there's anything you want to do or say to me unobserved, now's the time," he murmured.
Lisbon sighed unhappily. "We can't stay here, Patrick," she said.
Jane gave her a slightly puzzled look. "What, tonight? Of course not, it's a crime scene now. We'll go to my apartment." He'd still kept it, as he had signed a yearlong lease. Since they had gotten married, they'd been using it principally for storage as they began looking for a house. "I know I haven't been living there, so it's a bit dusty, but it'll be fine to sleep in for a night. That bed is smaller, but it's still big enough for the both of us."
Lisbon shook her head impatiently. "That's not what I meant. I mean I don't want to live here anymore. I know it sounds crazy, but I don't want…" she trailed off. Her voice cracked slightly when she continued, "Our daughter is not learning to walk on the floor where Red John bled out."
He nodded in understanding. "We'll move into the other apartment completely, then, as soon as they release this place. And we'll step up the house hunting. Everything will be fine, sweetheart. I promise."
She laughed, regardless of how inappropriate it was to the situation. "How can you be so relaxed right now?"
"Honestly? I think it hasn't really hit me yet," he answered with a shrug. "I'm sure I'll be a complete wreck soon enough. Now, come over here to me." She walked back into his arms without hesitation.
And that was how the first response personnel found them, holding each other tightly in front of the open door to the dark apartment. Jane barely raised his head in acknowledgement to the first questions of the arriving police officers, still concentrating almost entirely on Lisbon.
They were there for hours, long into the night. The lights of the emergency vehicles flashed over and over. The other residents of the apartment complex eventually began to peer out of their windows and doors, wondering what had happened. Wondering what the police were doing there in the first place, and why they still hadn't left.
Jane stood silently to the side as Lisbon shifted back into cop mode when making her statement, his lack of involvement completely unlike him. When he heard her going through the exact same information for the fourth time, however, his patience ran out.
"Officer… Green," Jane said, peering at the man's badge, "Agent Lisbon has been extremely cooperative so far, up to and including giving you her statement four times over in precisely the format you'll need to turn it into an official report. But it is now three in the morning. My wife is very tired and very pregnant, and unless you are planning to hold us, we're leaving."
"Sir, anytime there's a shooting it's a long and involved process," the officer said.
Jane sighed. "I'm aware of that, believe me. But is my wife actually being detained?"
"Well, no, but-"
"Then we're leaving now. We've been here for six hours; it's time for us to let you do your jobs," Jane said, and the note of finality in his voice stifled any further argument.
"You have our other address, officer, when you need to contact us further," Lisbon added in an exhausted tone. "Goodnight."
Jane shook his head slightly at the memory. He knew in hindsight that he'd still been very much in shock at that point, despite his apparent grip on the situation. It had taken another hour after they'd arrived at his apartment, after Lisbon had showered and come out in her huge green bath sheet, until he'd lost it. She had calmed down drastically by that time, so their situation was reversed once more.
He only dimly remembered shaking with sobs as the resolution to the better part of a decade's worth of revenge got through to him. Lisbon's cool hands had carefully undressed him, and once dry she'd let her towel simply slip to the floor, temporarily forgotten.
There wasn't any hesitation or awkwardness to her movements as she got into the bed and pulled him in after her. They didn't speak. They both understood implicitly the reason for their nakedness: neither one could bear the distance of even a layer of cloth between them after the events of that night.
He'd started with his ear pressed over her heart, but eventually ended up with his chest against her back and his arm thrown over her. Their hands were linked over their unborn daughter when they were finally able to get to sleep.
Jane checked his cell phone for the time, and then raised his voice. "Come on, baby, time to stop playing and go!" He got up and started walking towards where she was now, ankle-deep in the sand box.
"Noooooooo," came the expected answering cry from Willow as she struggled to stand and pouted.
She was a tough and willful child, insisting on her own way and on doing things her parents weren't quite sure she was ready for. He wasn't sure whom she got that from more, Lisbon or him. But the charming smile of hers that melted her father, her mother and every babysitter they'd ever used? He egotistically figured she inherited that from him.
"I told you we could only stay for a while, Willow. Time's up," he said, mock sternness coloring his statement.
Willow wasn't fooled for a minute. She knew Daddy was wrapped around her little finger, and stopped pouting to try a different tactic. She looked up at him with his eyes and smiled prettily. "Please? No?"
Jane sighed; what a charmer she was already. He'd definitely have to watch out when she got older. He decided to coax her instead. "Well, I suppose I could let you stay here and play more by yourself. You're a big three-year-old girl now, right?"
"Uh-huh," Willow readily agreed, nodding.
"But it seems like an awful shame, because I'm leaving to go see Mommy," Jane continued, and watched the change in Willow's face with amusement.
"Mommy!" she squealed, and immediately went to him and lifted her arms. She laughed as Jane swung her up and onto his hip.
"That's right, sweetie. Time to go pick up Mommy for lunch," he said, and carried her back to the car. As he buckled her into her car seat and she babbled happily, he thought about what a mama's girl Willow had turned out to be. No one who knew Jane and Lisbon would've expected it; even Jane himself had been surprised at the depth of her devotion. But the women in this family had a habit of surprising him. He'd never forget what Lisbon was like when they'd first brought Willow home.
Jane had accepted that most of Lisbon's true tenderness towards the people she loved came in the form of actions, not words. While he used numerous terms of endearment for her, she still called him simply "Patrick" 99% of the time. The times she'd called him something else… well, most were unrepeatable. Once she'd absently said "Could you hand me down that pot from the top shelf, babe?" and he'd been so shocked that he'd dropped it with a loud clang.
When their daughter was born, however, Jane wondered if she would change that. He knew how much Lisbon adored their baby; it was obvious to everyone from the light in her eyes. But when she referred to the child, it was always as "Willow" or "the baby". He, on the other hand, had a dozen baby nicknames for her in the first twenty-four hours of her life, including "my little Weeping Willow" during a particularly long crying jag. Lisbon had rolled her eyes at him.
The first evening they brought her home from the hospital, Jane watched Lisbon walk with difficulty around the rather crowded apartment. Their house hunting would hopefully be more successful now with the little bundle of added motivation currently nestled in his arms. He went to the crib beside their bed and settled Willow down to sleep.
In the middle of the night, Willow began to cry. Jane groaned as he got up; this was the third time. Lisbon squinted at him in the darkness and said, "What's wrong? Does she need to be changed?"
Jane went over to the crib. "No," he answered after a short pause. "She's clean and dry."
"She can't be hungry again already, can she? Maybe she's just complaining," Lisbon wondered.
He snickered. "Babies cry, dear."
"I know that, Patrick. I did have three younger brothers, you know!" she snapped in response. She leaned over and switched on the lamp on the bedside table. "Bring her over to me," she said, her voice and expression softening as she moved to sit up in their bed.
He leaned down and carefully picked Willow up, the rising crescendo of her wails making his ears ring. "Come on, sweetie, let's go see Mommy," he cooed at her before kissing her soft dark hair.
As Jane placed Willow in Lisbon's arms, he watched to see what she would do. Would she let that inner softness of hers shine through at a time like this? Or would she be a less affectionate, tougher mother figure? He honestly wasn't sure.
But he couldn't contain his surprised smile when she began to sing.
Lisbon positioned Willow carefully in her arms and started softly, "Come to me, my melancholy baby. Cuddle up and don't be blue…" Jane observed with equal parts amazement and adoration as Willow blinked confusedly up at her mother and quieted down after only a few notes. Lisbon tested to see if she wanted to nurse, and Willow latched on instantly.
–So she was hungry again, after all,- Jane thought. But even that was a muted background musing compared to the wonder at seeing Lisbon gently rocking a busily feeding Willow as she went through all she knew of "My Melancholy Baby".
Her voice was husky with sleep, or perhaps the lack thereof, and she wasn't precisely on key. But right then, sitting on the edge of the bed looking at his family, it was the most beautiful thing Jane had ever heard.
He knew that they would be splitting the singing-to-the-baby duty from now on, if he had anything to say about it.
And he also knew that Willow would never have to wonder about her mother's love.
The drive to the CBI wasn't very long, but Willow had fallen asleep during it. Jane smiled at her little dozing figure; she had the ability to drop off nearly at once nearly anywhere if she was tired. Once he'd parked, he carefully unbuckled and lifted her up into his arms and carried her, still sleeping, into the building.
He gently swayed and hummed along absently with the soft music in the elevator as it sped them upward. Her curls brushed his cheek as he shifted her slightly before walking into the bullpen. "Hi all," he said quietly.
"Hey Jane. Awww, how cute," Van Pelt said, melting at the sight of the sleeping Willow. She was carrying herself just a little differently than yesterday, and Jane took in her entire appearance to work out why. In less than a second his eyes lit on a rather spectacular engagement ring. So that's what it was.
Jane grinned and whispered, "Rigsby finally worked up the courage, hmm?" while staring pointedly at her left hand.
Van Pelt blushed furiously. "Shut up, Jane," she said with a smile, turning back to her monitor. After a minute, she nodded for his benefit. "You and the boss knew?"
Jane smiled enigmatically and walked through to Lisbon's office. He pulled open the door with his free hand and stood in the doorway for a moment, watching her work.
She was lovelier than ever in his eyes. Every day she found a new way to be beautiful. Today's current flavor was: hungry, irritated with him (both of which he'd become very familiar with over the years) and heavily pregnant with their second child (that was a relatively new development in her arsenal of attraction).
He must have stood there staring in quiet admiration for a little too long, because she finally glanced up at him and frowned. "Don't you give me that look, Patrick," she grumbled.
His mouth opening to form the first consonant sound of 'what' was cut off by her raised finger and slightly raised voice. "And don't give me 'what look', either!"
Jane smiled at her. "Whatever do you mean, Teresa? Help me out, here."
Lisbon scowled briefly. "That's the look you gave me when I said I thought one baby was enough. And where'd it get me? Desk duty for the second time in less than four years, and paperwork up to my eyeballs. Not to mention the fact that your son has been having a boxing match with my bladder for the last hour and a half!"
"Oh no, darling," he said, shaking his head. "If he's already boxing at his age, he's your son. Definitely."
"Hilarious," she snapped, but he could already see the smile she was trying so hard to hide. "This is it. No more babies after this one, and this time I mean it," she said with a stern look in his direction.
"Yes, dear," Jane said dutifully. The twinkle in his eye spoke volumes, however, though Lisbon stubbornly chose to ignore it for the time being.
Willow stirred and lifted her head from Jane's shoulder, blinking dreamily. "Look where we are, sweetie," he said as her chubby hand raised and tugged at his collar.
She looked around and giggled happily at seeing her mother. "Mommy, Mommy," she called, squirming to get down to go to Lisbon.
"Hey now, hang on a minute, caterpillar!" Jane said, struggling to bring her back up to face height. "Willow," he said, his voice full of pretend seriousness.
"What, Daddy?" she asked.
"Would you please go over there and tell your brother to stop giving Mommy such a hard time while she's trying to work?" he asked.
Lisbon chuckled in amusement. She watched as Willow nodded solemnly and was put carefully down. Willow toddled over to her and placed both of her hands on Lisbon's belly. Lisbon smiled warmly as Willow leaned closer and said "Be good to Mommy. She can't put you down yet."
"What does she mean by 'put him down'?" Jane asked his wife, puzzled.
Lisbon lifted Willow with some difficulty and placed her on the desk. "Well Patrick, that's what Willow thinks it means when I told my brothers on the phone that I'm 'carrying' another baby." She started tickling Willow's sides, and they both began to laugh.
Jane stood there, just taking in the scene. He looked at his two (soon to be three) favorite people in the world, and then he started to laugh with them.
He laughed because of unexpected -but no less welcome for it- happiness, entertaining misunderstandings, and Lisbon's overwhelming tolerance that somehow overcame her impatience and irritation every time.
He laughed in spite of guilt that would never quite disappear, still-beloved lives that were cut short so unfairly, and a personal demon that had to be literally put to death before it could be laid to rest.
Jane walked a few short paces and wrapped his arms around his family. And he felt indescribably lucky that he couldn't imagine anything, or anywhere, or anyone he'd rather be.