Disclaimer: No, I don't have delusions of grandeur.
Acknowledgments: First and foremost - LittleMender - without whom this story simply would not be what it is, so if she does not accept my accolades I shall stamp my foot and pout. As beta reader, she offered a little grammar, a little punctuation (she's weaning me off excessive comma use), and a lot of "this might sound better if..." She was also a sounding board to bounce so many ideas around with. Next, information specialist - who provided discussion that clarified so much of what I needed to understand to write this story, general hand-holding, as well as ideas and information about the show. Duppy Conqueror was another sounding board, and was very encouraging. Also, hardly loquacious, tromana, and kourion did a fair bit of hand-holding too. I would like to thank all of these writers, and everyone else who wrote the great fic I have read here and elsewhere - I drank deeply of the rich, nourishing draught of Story brewed by your hands, and it made this piece all the stronger for it.
Author's Note: This is an AU in which "Strawberries and Cream" never happened. It started as one of the conversations in "Five Red Herrings to Cut Down Mighty Trees" and has grown out of control, like The Blob or the U.S. Federal budget deficit. Even if this first chapter and parts of the second chapter sound terribly familiar, it's worth reading because there have been a few changes.
A/N 2: I plan to post a new chapter every three days or so. A lot of this has already been written, but that should give me time to finish it without having a huge lag time in posting the unfinished bits.
He was in his attic, sitting in a shadowed corner, away from the window. Even though it was weaker autumnal light, the early morning sun shone in much too brightly for his mood. She knocked on the metal door, then pulled it open and called his name wearily. Even she could not keep the exhaustion out of her voice after getting no sleep following one of the most stressful operations she had ever been on, wrapping up the case that kept him up at night. Walking in, she saw he was not on his makeshift bed, not out in the open. She called again, "Jane, I know you're up here. Come on, answer me. Where are you?"
She searched carefully in all the dark, out of the way places, and located him. He looked at her, a dead, blank expression on his face, and said, "Leave me alone, Lisbon. You don't want to be here." He flinched away from her when she sat down next to him.
"I want to be here for you, Patrick."
"I don't want you, Teresa."
"Well, too bad. I'm here."
"Too bad, Patrick, you lost. You don't get Red John. Too bad, you can't have the one thing you were living for. Too bad, too bad."
"Jane, you're starting to sound kind of crazy. Come downstairs with me, let's get you out of here."
"I'm not going anywhere with you. I'm not going anywhere. I'm already there."
"That sounds... final. Are you thinking about hurting yourself?"
"Thinking isn't what I'm doing."
"Look at me, Jane," she commanded, reaching out to pull his face toward her, to examine his eyes. "Did you take something?"
"No, too easy for you to stop. You took away my reason for living, and you will take my way out, if you get the chance. I thought he was my biggest enemy, but no, you are, Teresa Lisbon."
"Jane. Patrick. I'm not your enemy. I care about you. I'll help you get through this."
"You stole from me. Red John was mine and you took him away. You kept information from me. You had Hightower send me on a fool's errand, because you knew you couldn't sell it to me, so you could move in on him. And then you let someone else have him. You steal from your enemies. You steal from people you don't care about. Do not tell me you care about me seven hours after taking away my reason for surviving," he said, punctuating the last several words with venom. He stood up and kicked a wooden box on the floor next to where he had been sitting. "Take that too. I'll get another."
She opened the box to find a gun inside. Picking it up, she stood up as well. "Where did you get this?"
"Max Winters. He gave it to me. A 'thank you' gift."
"I care enough about you to keep you from becoming a murderer."
She paused, frowning at the gun in her hand. Opening the action, she checked the chamber before continuing, "You have to know we kept you out of the operation to protect you from that, and from getting killed yourself. We were trying to capture Red John so he could face real justice before the law, a trial with a judge and jury, convicted and sentenced to death. The end would be what you wanted. He had a gun, and shot three members of the SWAT team, before he was taken down. Killing him was not the intent there. That was just how it worked out." She looked down at the gun, and said, "I think you are giving this to me because you want to live. I'm your friend, I want to help you do that."
"Think what you want. But you don't get to say you are a friend; you're a thief. You took what was mine. What can I take from you that is worth as much? Nothing. There is nothing that I can do to you that will do you as much harm as you have done me." He abruptly turned and walked out of the attic. She got up and followed him. She kept up with him all the way to the parking lot. As he walked toward his car, he said, "Stop following me, Lisbon."
"No, I'm staying with you."
"Last chance. Get away from me. Now." He halted ten feet from the Citroen. When she did not move away from him, he gripped her by the upper arms and pushed her toward the passenger side door. "You've made your choice, then. Get in." Still holding her right arm, he reached with his other hand to open the door, then into her front pocket to pull her cell phone out. Eyes wide, she complied. He went around to the driver's side and got in.
"Jane, where are we going?"
"You're scaring me."
"Too bad, Lisbon. You wanted to come. We are not talking now," he raised his voice. That he was angry enough to lose control of his tone of voice gave her more pause than his hands on her had done.
He started the car, pulled out of the parking lot, throwing Lisbon's phone out of his window three blocks from CBI headquarters at a stop light. She heard it crash to pieces on the pavement, and was about to protest when she saw him staring hard at her, reminding her of his command to silence. At another stop light half a mile from the office, he reached over, unbuckled her seat belt, flicked his eyes past her toward her door while they waited for the light to change, and said, "Go." But she buckled her seat belt again and stayed put.
He drove surface streets to I-5, heading south. Early November was a lovely time for a road trip around Sacramento, the fall color at its brightest; but, neither of them were in the mood for enjoying the scenery. Forty-five minutes into the drive, he turned on the radio, searching for something besides static to focus on. Twice when she opened her mouth to draw a deeper breath, he growled low, "Shut up." A little more than half an hour past Stockton, he pulled off into a rest area. Searching his pockets and the floorboards of the car, he came up with $7.89, knowing that the tens and twenties in his wallet might be awkward in vending machines. Keeping enough for a bottle of pop for himself, he handed the remainder to her. "If you want to use that for the phone, go ahead. If you want to stay with me, be in the car when I leave. Twenty minutes."
Lisbon used the facilities. There was the smallest tremor in her hands as she surreptitiously removed the ammunition from her gun. That had been worrying her since he had tried to get her out of the car back in Sacramento, but she had not wanted to draw his attention to the weapons. It was a relief knowing they were both empty. Getting a bottle of water and a Snickers bar from the vending machines, she returned to the car before Jane did. When he came, they both got back in the car. She noticed that his hands were shaking as he drank his pop. She broke her candy bar in half and wordlessly offered part of it to him. He took it without looking at her. Waves of rage and fear stopped his throat when he tried to swallow a bite. Laying his hands on top of the steering wheel, he leaned forward to rest his forehead on them. A few panicked breaths came and went before he could swallow again. "Don't let me hurt you, Teresa. I want to, so badly," he turned to her, meeting her eyes.
Her own tremor increased as she took in the naked storm of anger, pain, and abhorrence unmasked on his face. "Jane, I know you must be - "
"So you can read my mind now? Can you see what I've been imagining doing to you?" he said, harshly. "The knife's under my seat, in a leather sheath. Take it."
Obeying, she leaned far into his side of the car, feeling around until she found it. His breaths became labored again, and he hit the steering wheel repeatedly with his left hand while she invaded his space. It took him several minutes to regulate his breathing again. When he had control of himself, he choked down the rest of the candy and said plaintively, "Why are you still sitting there?"
"Back in your attic you sounded too much like someone planning to commit suicide. I'm not letting you go until I know you are not going to do something foolish. I can read you well enough to know that you're trying to scare me off, but it isn't going to work. You are more of a threat to yourself than you are to me. You say you want to hurt me, but you know that whatever you do to me, you'll be sick with regret when it's done." Her words were braver than she was. She could feel how he was drowning in anger and perceived betrayal, and it made her heart clutch. She was willing to tolerate the risk that he would lose control far enough to harm her, if she could help him bleed out the festering pain, for a chance at a clean grief.