Disclaimer: I own absolutely nothing you recognize.
A/N: I realize I'm a bit late in entering the post-finale tag game. There have been some truly spectacular post-eps out there! This one is a series of vignettes focusing on Lisbon's life in the six months we didn't see.
Much thanks to Melissa for having awesome knowledge about random things and for always being right.
Life goes on, but I'm gone. Because I die without you. - RENT, Without You
She knocks on his motel door for a solid fifteen minutes before admitting defeat.
She sinks to the ground outside the door, resting against the cool wood. It's been a week since she's last seen him, since anyone has heard from him, and Lisbon has to admit, she's starting to get worried. Jane's never shut her out like this before.
She flips her phone open again and redials Jane's number. She can hear his cell phone ringing inside the room and wonders why he doesn't just turn it off if he doesn't want to talk to her. She doesn't bother leaving a voicemail, because she filled that to capacity two days ago. Whether he's listened to a single one, Lisbon has no idea.
She's done everything she can think of. She's offered to talk; she's tried yelling, pleading, barely one step from begging. It goes without saying she tried prayer. Lisbon even went so far as to make a discreet call to witness protection, to see if they could accept him into the program.
She's done everything short of break down the motel door.
She knows she could. The frame looks weak, and Lisbon knows she has a powerful kick. But something holds her back from breaking in. It feels wrong, the ultimate violation of privacy. She might hate Jane's decision to shut her out, but she knows she can't force herself into his life if she's not wanted.
She doesn't want to honor his decision, but he's giving her no choice.
On her third cup of coffee, Lisbon tries to convince herself that she's not actually stalking him.
Of course, the main reason she's not stalking is because she hasn't actually seen him.
Two weeks after Jane's disappearance, she's starting keeping vigil outside his motel. She sits in her car every night, parked a discreet distance from the door's line of sight, but still able to see if he emerges. Either he's completely holed up in his room or he's moved out and paid off the clerk to lie to her about it, because she has yet to see any sign of life.
The blinds are drawn, but it doesn't appear that there is light in his room. She checks her watch; it's nearing two in the morning. Lisbon knows she should call it a bust and go home for a few hours of sleep, but she hasn't been sleeping much these days. She's afraid that if she leaves, she might miss him.
When she's being honest with herself, she can admit that the chances of him actually coming out of his room at two in the morning are slim to none. He's more likely to emerge during the day, when she's at work. She tells herself that he's not trying to make it personal, that no one else has had any luck getting him out of his hidey hole, but it feels like he's ignoring her in particular. She can't shake off the feeling that he's doing this to hurt her.
She asks herself for the umpteenth time if there was anything else she could have done. She knows she's pushed hard enough – too hard, she fears. Maybe if she'd backed off instead…but no. She knows if she'd done less, she'd be asking herself why she hadn't done more.
At two-thirty, she decides to call it a night. She knows it'll be another restless one, punctured by disturbing dreams of smiley faces red with blood.
She recognizes the signs of depression almost as soon as they begin.
It starts with the sadness, the overwhelming feeling of loss. She feels Jane's absence like a constant ache in her chest. It becomes harder to get up in the morning, harder to face another day without him. The only thing motivating her is the thought that any phone call could be his, or that any person who walks into the squad room could be Jane. She knows it's a long shot, and after three weeks, she's no longer so hopeful, but she clings to it anyway because it's the only thing that can motivate her to show up for work at all.
Sadness turns to frustration and frustration turns to anger. His voicemail is still full, so she resorts to composing angry email messages that she actually sends on occasion. She's given up on trying to reason with him through text message, although she sends him a few a week with CALL ME in capital letters.
She tries not to let her frustration affect her work, but it inevitably does. The team begins to tread more lightly around her, afraid of doing anything that could set her off. Lisbon tries her best to reign in her anger around them, because she knows they are not at all at fault, but she can't help feeling frustrated when they get stuck on a case she knows Jane could have solved in a matter of minutes.
She feels guilty that his absence is affecting her this much. It's not that the team can't solve cases without him; their clearance rate has only dropped a few points. It's that she doesn't want to. Her heart is no longer in it. The team senses her despair, she knows. Although they don't say anything, she can feel their concern, see the questions burning in their eyes. Lisbon tries to tell herself that Jane's absence shouldn't be affecting her this much, that he was at best just a friend, but she brushes that lie aside almost immediately. She knows that Jane is more than a friend.
But she's scared what that realization might mean for her.
On the nights she can't sleep, Lisbon takes to listening to the police scanner.
It's an old habit, one that she thought she'd kicked after she'd graduated from the academy, but she suddenly finds herself drawn to the familiarity of the police radio. She listens intently each night, hanging on to every word, desperate to hear news of Jane, but praying she hears nothing at all. She knows this is unhealthy, even obsessive, but she can't help herself.
She's tried calling local hospitals, just to see if he's been admitted. She wonders who his next of kin is, or his emergency contact, who would be informed if something happened to him. She thinks it's her, but she can't be sure, and her doubt leads her to contact the local hospitals once a week. She's even tried the psych ward, but there's nothing to show for her efforts. Not that she wanted anything to show.
She doesn't want Jane to be sick, or injured, or worse, but she wants to know where he is. Not knowing, she thinks, is almost worse than finding out that he's dead. She's so anxious for news, so sure that one night she'll turn on the scanner and hear that something happened, that she no longer turns the scanner off, but leaves it on all day, even at the office. Her team does not comment on the new addition to her office, mostly because they no longer enter it.
Her heart nearly stops the night she hears about the shooting. The cop over the radio sounds scared, a youngster, maybe only a year or two on the job, Lisbon thinks. In his breathless voice, he reports the victim, a tall male, blond, late 30's or early 40's, he can't really tell. The man is facedown, blood pooling around his head and spreading down his grey vest.
It's the vest that gets her. It's not even a detail he should have given, but it's the one that sticks in her mind. Lisbon bolts into action, snatching up her keys and gun, and throwing her car into gear. She turns the scanner up as she races down the street, heading for the nearest hospital. She's not sure where they're taking him, and no one comes over the scanner to inform her, so she heads for the largest hospital, standard procedure, her best guess. Her stomach is in knots, and her knuckles are white as she clenches the steering wheel. At the stoplights, she grabs her cross and prays that it's not him.
She flashes her badge at the reception desk and demands information about the John Doe brought in. She's taken to the room, even though the nurse is clearly uncertain why a CBI agent would be assigned to the case. Through the window, she sees the doctors shocking the patient, his body jerking up from the table as bolts of electricity shoot through his heart. It reminds her too much of the time Jane drowned, and Lisbon can feel her heart pounding as she turns her eyes to the man's face.
It's not Jane.
She lets out a breath and reaches for her cross again.
She can no longer say she doesn't sleep much.
The truth is, she's not sleeping at all.
Van Pelt's the first one to say something, although Lisbon knows she can't have been the first to notice. It's done discreetly, just a touch on the arm, a soft whisper asking if she'd like to borrow some make-up. It's just like Van Pelt to offer something like that, to attempt to solve everything by covering it up. But Lisbon knows she's just providing her a way out, a way to save face in front of her coworkers.
She doesn't take Grace up on the offer, but thanks her for her concern.
Her eyes are drawn, inevitably it feels, to the couch where Jane used to sleep. She shakes her head, trying to rid herself of the notion, the hope, that rises in her chest each morning when she enters. That somehow, she'll find him there, tucked under a blanket, as though he'd never left. But that blanket remains folded, unused, untouched.
Wainwright asks her if she'd like him to remove the couch. Lisbon shuts him down without a word.
Lisbon knows she's hit a new low when the emotional symptoms become physical.
It starts with relentless headaches that start from the time she wakes, if she's gotten to sleep at all, and never go away no matter how many Ibuprofen tablets she takes. She tries not to look like a drug addict on her diet of coffee and pain killers, knowing that the team is watching her. She considers seeing a doctor, wonders if it's worth getting the headaches checked out, but ultimately decides against it. Chances are the headaches will end soon…or as soon as Jane returns, which at the very least she hopes will be soon.
The headaches turn to migraines. Light makes her dizzy and she's constantly nauseous. She misses a week of work, but manages to pass it off as the flu. The migraines prevent her from sleeping at all; they keep her up at night with shakes and overwhelming waves of nausea. She finally shuts off the police scanner, because the noise is unbearable. There is no medicine that can cure the pain, though Lisbon tries every over the counter painkiller she can find. She returns to work when the flu no longer seems a prudent excuse, but spends the time shut in her office, which she keeps dark.
But the migraines never go away, not until she hits rock bottom. The nausea finally sends her running for the bathroom in the middle of a team meeting. Her hands shake as she grips the porcelain bowl, emptying the meager contents of her stomach. When the wave finally passes, she sits back, drawing her knees to her chest. She wraps her arms around herself as she waits to see which team member shows up to check on her.
But no one comes, for which she is grateful. When she finally has the strength to stand, she splashes some water on her face and checks her reflection in the mirror. She has no blush, nothing to restore any color to her face, but she can at least pull her hair back so it looks less messy.
She emerges from the bathroom to find the team still discussing the case. Cho has taken over the leadership role. With a curt nod she tells them she's fine and that she's taking the rest of the day off. No one objects.
With the migraines gone, Lisbon manages to sleep for days. When she wakes, she feels almost normal, until she remembers that she's still alone.
If she could rewrite the stages of grief, she'd change the last one to resignation.
She's well-read on the subject, of course, a result of loss early in life and college psychology courses. She's never doubted them until now.
She's gone through denial, anger, bargaining, and depression.
But this is not acceptance.
Acceptance is a process, of course, even one that she's begun. She no longer expects to see Jane when she walks into the office, and she does not feel let down when he does not appear. She can even make it through the day without asking herself what Jane would have thought, how he would have solved the case.
Her team can sense this change, she knows. She senses their relief that she has finally come back to them, that she's no longer pining or depressed or anything other than her normal self. Her almost-normal self. The new normal. The new normal without Jane.
The difference between acceptance and resignation, she thinks, is that acceptance is voluntary.
There is nothing voluntary about this.
It's the little things that remind her of him.
She'll catch a whiff of herbal tea while waiting in line at the coffee shop; she'll notice that a victim's family has the same mug he used at the office. She'll pass a men's store selling three-piece suits and her eye will catch a certain vest.
She tries not to think too much of the little things, tries not to notice them too often. The constant ache in her chest is just starting to dissipate, and she thinks she might be moving on. It's hard to tell, though, because the last time she lost someone was decades ago.
She tries not to associate Jane's absence with her parents' deaths, but inevitably fails. It feels like he's dead, even if he's not (and she prays to God that he's not). His sudden disappearance, his lack of communication, his lack of response to any of her pleas…it feels like he died.
She tries to assure herself that he hasn't, but it becomes harder every day.
The team throws her a surprise birthday party.
Half the surprise is that they remembered her birthday at all, because Lisbon always suspected that it was Jane who orchestrated the celebrations each year.
She walks into the squad room to find it decorated with balloons and streamers. There's a cake waiting for her on her desk and they all watch with anticipation as she blows out the candles. She thanks them for doing this, assures them truthfully that she really was surprised. She accepts the gifts they pass her. A nice bottle of wine from Rigsby. Some novels from Van Pelt. A gift card from Cho.
It's a small gathering, nothing fancy, which is what she prefers anyway. Just a few moments taken out of the workday to celebrate the fact that she's one year older, or one year closer to death.
She tries not to feel like she's missing something, but she senses his absence anyway.
She surprises herself one morning by driving to the graveyard.
She's never felt the need to visit the graves before, and she hasn't been back since that fateful anniversary when all this began. But something compels her to go, almost like an obligation. She knows there is no obligation, that she never knew Angela personally, but she can't shake the thought that this is something she needs to do.
The thought occurs to her as she drives that she might find evidence of Jane. She has long since given up trying to trace his cell phone or credit card to see where he's living but there's a part of her that hopes she'll find him there. Maybe not him, his person, but a sign of him. A rose he left on the headstone, perhaps, or even overturned grass that would suggest someone had been there. That he had been there.
More than once she has to remind herself that Jane hasn't actually died.
She stops for flowers on the way because she has an aversion to entering graveyards without something to offer the dead. She picks two small bouquets, one to place on each of the stones, because she knows that they have separate plots. She balances the pots precariously on her hip as she gets out of the car and shuts the door.
There's no one around, and she allows herself to feel disappointed. The pain of Jane's absence has finally begun to abate, but she still feels sharp pangs every now and then. She tries not to get her hopes up, but it's a futile endeavor. She approaches the graves slowly, the crunching of leaves beneath her heels echoing loudly in the silence.
There's something haunting about the graveyard. This is where it all began, this – everything that's happened to her in the last six months – it's all because of what happened here, at these graves, some normal day several months ago. Very little has changed here. The graves look exactly the same.
But Jane is gone.
She stares at the graves for a long time before finally placing the bouquets. She wraps her fingers around her cross, closes her eyes, and prays for their souls in heaven. Though she never knew them, their deaths had altered her life. They'd given her a new purpose, a new villain, a new sense of vengeance.
Ultimately, they'd given her Jane.
When there's nothing left to say, Lisbon opens her eyes and whispers, "I'm sorry."
A/N: Please review if you're feeling so inclined. I would love to know what you thought! I'm going to attempt to write more Mentalist fics over the summer hiatus (can it just be season five already?) but we'll see how that goes. Anyway, thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed!