Authors note: I posted this back in August, hopefully it won't reappear in the new fics area, and I'm just editing grammar and the like. Unfortunately replacing the chapter is the only way I know how...
Disclaimer: Don't own it, never have, never will but I could think of many ways to spend the royalties...
Lisbon takes a deep breath in, holds it for several seconds then finally lets it out. She inhales another breath in and exhales it slowly out. For a whole minute she repeats this action, air in, air out, draw in, release. This is meant to calm her, release her stress. It doesn't help; at all, what it solely accomplishes is to assault her nostrils with the stench of mildew, sweat and other more raw bodily fluids.
She wondered how would he cope in here long term, Mr. clean, Mr. Mild O.C.D., Mr. Perfectionist, he would be suffering that's for sure. She, Teresa Lisbon, had been here many times before, always on this side of the door, as the law, the enforcer, the righteous. This was the first time though that her moral compass was failing her. Behind these doors was a criminal, a threat to society, a murderer, he also happened to be her best friend.
She regarded the familiar steel gates; functional, cold and grey, a far cry from his cosy leather couch bathed in sunlight. She shuddered, despite knowing the layout of the prison, the day to day running, heck, even the exact dimensions of the cells, she still couldn't imagine it, imagine being here indefinitely... for life.
How had things gone so wrong and how had she failed so completely? She prided herself on stopping criminals, why hadn't she stopped him, saved him. It wasn't like he hadn't given her ample warning. He had told her over two years ago and habitually reminded her every time they had a Red John case, that Red John was his and he would get his revenge.
Her heart physically hurt. She had let yet another person she cared about down and she hated losing. She had told him she had it under control, now she was angry at her own audacity. Imagine thinking she had the unhinged, careless and impulsive Patrick Jane under control.
Hell most days it took all of her strength to keep herself in line. Years ago she had ended up in a fist fight with an opposing team member at a track race, simply because he had mouthed off about her father and made sexual allusions to her. These days, it was a daily occurrence that she had to put up with a constant stream of verbal crap from people and she had believed she still had enough strength to keep them both in line. She was living in a dream world.
That was her problem when it came down to it, she always wanted control, she thought she had it, and then lost it spectacularly. Her musings came to an end with a jangle of keys. A prison guard, she believed Durst was his name, approached her.
"Agent Lisbon, it's been a while" he cheerfully greeted her.
"Yeah I guess it has been so how've you been keeping?" Lisbon inquired as she put her belongings in the plastic tray.
"Been busy... you and your team sure do keep us knee deep in scum-bags" he joked, ushering her through to the visitor's room. "So you here for a follow up?"
Her denial and explanation died in her throat, unable to say anything, she nodded a mute agreement. She felt sick watching him as he joyfully passed back through the door, closing it with a resolute click after himself.
She could have, no should have said why she was here. To talk to an ex-colleague, a friend even, but cops and criminals don't mix right? It's what keeps the justice system running, both being on opposite sides of the law.
She felt a cold grip her, which had nothing to do with the temperature in the room. She sat, waiting for the other door to open, unsure of what would greet her. She had not seen him during the trial; the doctors had kept her in the hospital, under their ever watchful eyes.
She had used that as reason enough to avoid having to decide for herself whether she could face him and the decision he made. The door creaked open and in he came, the orange jumpsuit was garish, offsetting his tan in the most unflattering way.
He smiled, not the patented Jane smile, more a sad, resigned one. In the few seconds their eyes met, he read every one of her feelings, her decisions and her doubts. Hell, he probably knew them better than she did right now. With all the stuff that had gone on over the last few months, she was left feeling that every single thing she had ever believed to be true was nothing but bull shit.
His sea-green eyes told of many sleepless nights, she guessed his insomnia had continued despite his revenge being completed. They sat in silence, regarding each other intently. It was not an uncomfortable silence, they had always done so much of their communication through body language, constantly assessing and reading each other.
What they held in their eyes was absolute truth, they both spent too much of their lives lying to people with words. He had always been able to decipher her and after many years together she could do it right back.
He finally broke the silence, strange as she usually relented first, "how have you been?" he inclined his head towards her shoulder.
"Shit Jane, I've been shit." Her implication hung between them.
He let out a long and laboured sigh, his eyes rising to hers, "It's been two months, so why have you come to see me now?"
"Do you want me to leave?" she questioned.
"I didn't say that Lisbon, don't get defensive with me" he shot back.
"Well don't get snippy with me... I don't know why now okay, I just did" she growled.
"You never just do anything my dear. Whether you know it or not yet, you've a reason." He quietly informed her.
"Don't tell me what I'm thinking Jane, you can't know because I don't know" she snapped, annoyed he still thought he knew her best.
His demeanour screamed of defeat. She wanted to hold him, say it will all be ok, maybe rub circles on his back like she did with her brothers to make it better. She couldn't bring herself to do it though; part of her wanted him to suffer.
"I was recovering; it's why I wasn't there for the trial. I was under doctors orders" she explained. He pursed his lips and nodded a short sharp nod, he didn't believe her, she didn't believe her either.
"I'm sorry, I wanted to come...I did", she tried again.
"What stopped you then, really?" for the first time since she had arrived, hurt seeped into his tone.
"I don't know... I just... I was meant to stop you. You were never supposed to do it, to become..." she trailed off, her words catching in her throat.
"Become what? Teresa I'm what" he snarled.
"Jane..." she pleaded.
"Say it, just say it" he softly whispered.
The silence settled in once again, no longer comfortable this time it was oppressive and heavy, reminding them of all they lost.
Lisbon glanced up at the clock "I should go... it's a long drive back" she explained. "Ill try come again" she added.
She was desperate to escape this room and him; she could literally feel the weight of his decisions crushing her.
"No you won't" he mumbled under his breath.
"I will, it's just a long way and with work..."' she defended her lack of visits thus far.
"We both know that you won't Teresa, you'll always find an excuse another reason. You can't do this, it's not in you, I saw it in your face as soon as I walked in" he told her, freeing her from any future obligation.
"Jane..." she wanted to disagree and argue that he was wrong but she knew deep down he was right.
"It's ok Lisbon really, you are the law, you fight crime and catch the bad guys, put them in here. I'm no longer a victim I'm a... I'm a..." he left off unable to look her in the eye.
There was that word again, his action, one event, a split second decision that would forever be between them.
"Murderer" she finished for him. The word was spoken so softly had there been any noise in the room, it would have been inaudible. Lisbon moved to leave.
"Please don't go yet" he begged, his hand snaking out over the table to capture hers. He stared down at their joined hands; he missed touching her, she was one of the few people he liked to.
For the first time since she got here, she realised what he must have known the whole time, this was not a mere visit; it was goodbye.
A few disloyal tears escaped, trailing soft tracks down her cheeks. She had not cried when she was shot nor during her painful rehabilitation, but now it felt as if she was going to be overpowered by sorrow.
He released his grip on her, moving his hand up so he could wipe them away for her.
"Don't cry for me, I understand, I do. I made my choice, I knew I was letting you down but I had to do it. I couldn't let that evil bastard go and I guess now I get it now. To destroy evil you must become evil yourself." He told her sadly.
"You're not evil Jane" She argued.
"You can say it all you like but what I did was an evil act. When you shoot someone you do it to protect the public and you also give them a chance to surrender. I did neither, I took a life for my own selfish reasons and I don't regret it. I guess I never really thought of any consequences bar my own death." He stroked her face softly.
Lisbon squeezed his hand before pulling back, moving further out of his reach to the safety of her side of the table. She missed his warmth as soon as she did so but she needed the distance more.
"How are the team?" he asked, trying to keep her engaged, to make her stay here, anything for a few more minutes.
"They are fine, I guess. Van Pelt is still not back but we have a replacement and he too is a computer whizz. I'm thinking I might keep him on and give Van Pelt more field time" her face dropped as she thought of the junior agent and the pain she must be going through. She'd try harder to make an effort to talk to the rookie when she got back to Sacramento.
"Not to mention you'll need someone to go with you to crime scenes... to replace me" Jane added with a slight bite to his words.
Lisbon had forgotten how childish he could be about some things. Grown man aside, he hadn't had a childhood and she was well aware he didn't like to share his toys. She couldn't keep her mouth from twitching upwards at his pout
"No one could replace you Jane" she promised him.
"Yeah well you must be looking forward to a quiet life finally" his eyes glanced around the silent room, as if for the first time he was realising what his life was going to be.
"I never wanted a quiet life, it's why I became a cop and one of the reasons I kept you around" she assured him.
"The other being..." he looked into her eyes, trying to read anything she could possibly hide there.
"You close cases" she teased. A bang on the door interrupted the moment.
"Five minutes left, I could try and come back" she added her guilty conscious gnawing at her.
"You won't and you shouldn't. Consorting with a criminal and coming here for regular visits, well we both know how it looks and how it could be used against you" he said sadly.
"Not to mention if they found out in here that your best friends a cop" she reminded him.
"Oh you're my best friend now are you, that's presumptuous" Jane teased.
"Oh hush" she smiled at him, it was a small one but it was her first proper one for a while.
"Teresa I have to ask you something. I guess I wanted to know for a few years now" he started, his tone taking on a more serious note.
"You mean there is something you don't know about me... I'm shocked; I thought you said I was translucent... Though translucent is by definition, more semi-transparent than see-through no? Guess I'm a little clouded" she joked.
"Ah you picked up on that" he sat back to look at her, more than a little impressed by her astuteness.
"Jane with a man as particular as yourself, semantics and inflictions mean everything" she told him, "Actually I prided myself on the fact I wasn't completely transparent, though before you came along I thought I was unreadable... so small victories" she laughed.
He was loath to break the jovial turn their conversation had taken but he needed to know so he pushed forward. If this was to be their last conversation, he had to ask.
'Teresa do you love me?" he blurted out catching her unaware. He regarded her movements and her face for any clues of deception. Currently her face was frozen in shock with her mouth slightly agape.
"What?" she breathed out eventually.
"Well" Jane explained, "It's the one thing I've never been able to figure out. I mean I know all the other units think we both are and Van Pelt wants us to be but... I guess I need to know just how much I've hurt you."
He looked at her like a wounded puppy. She scooted forward and slid her arm across to him, her wrist facing upwards. His hand encircled it delicately so his fingers rested on her pulse point.
"Jane, I do love you... but only as a friend. Sometimes I think that is worse, I've had lovers but you are my best friend and I've never had that before." She told him sadly.
He nodded as she finished, releasing his grip, surprised by her answer and the truth of her words. The door was unlocked and Durst glanced in, checking to see if she was ready to go.
Lisbon was glad they had retreated to their respective sides of the table before he entered. She stood and walked to the door, Durst moved ahead of her towards the office, she turned back, one foot out the door.
Figuring what the hell, complete honesty was the one thing they never had; she decided to speak from the heart. "Perhaps in a different life I could have loved you, if my life hadn't been what it was... if I hadn't discovered how things were from my father."
"Yeah, I suppose you learned early on to stay away from damaged men" he glibly summed up.
"No" she answered faintly, turning towards the door "He taught me that all my love and who I am, will never be good enough to compete with a ghost."
Walking away she couldn't look back, Red John had taken so much from her over the years but it was Jane who took her heart.