Here's my latest fic. Thanks so much to forthecoast for the beta of the monster fic as well as for acting as a sounding board for most of the process, particularly for the baseball stuff. Sports is far from my strong suit, and I know I asked some unbelievably simplistic questions (how was I supposed to know how long the games last?). So thank you for everything.

Thank you also to the wonderful Chizuruchibi, who made the accompanying art for this fic.

Also, I hope everyone enjoys the fic. I had a lot of fun writing it for hetbigbang this year!




Red John was dead.

The details were irrelevant. All that mattered was that he was really and truly dead.

It wasn't a trick, a decoy, or a doppelganger, but the real thing.

The serial killer was no more.

No more women grotesquely cut up and left on display. No more red smiley faces painted on the wall in blood. No more moles. No more creepy, increasingly personal messages. No more threats.

No more constant, underlying fear.

And no more revenge.

That was the crux of the matter.

Red John was really and truly dead, and so, by extension, was Patrick Jane's decade-long quest to kill a man.

It as a shift he was still trying to adjust to, a sudden gaping hole in his day to day existence.

He'd stayed with the CBI. The reasons why were obvious, at least to him.

After all, there was no need to add to what still (months later) felt like a massive hole in his psyche by abandoning the only stable thing left in his life. Jane had undervalued the team over the years, but (almost in spite of himself) they'd come to mean something to him. Besides, apart from filling the void, the cases really did provide an occasionally amusing distraction.

He was pleased the serial killer was gone of course, even if he wasn't sure how to define his world anymore.

The lack of Red John was an absolutely overwhelming relief, one Jane wasn't sure he'd ever get used to.

He wasn't the only one who was relieved.

Obviously Lisbon was satisfied as well, and not just because she'd received a commendation for closing the case. Satisfied, relieved, thankful.

Her team was safe. She was safe. And Jane was safe. Safe and maybe even sane, relatively speaking at least.

No more betrayals, no more secrecy, no more private plans that often skirted the far side of legality. No more risking her job, her credibility, her position.

She could go back to working her cases like any other CBI agent, albeit a CBI agent with a particularly unorthodox consultant.

Because not only was Red John gone, but Jane was staying, still by her side, still helping her.

It was definitely more than she'd ever dared let herself hope for. Really, as it was the whole situation had surpassed her wildest dreams.

If someone had asked her a year earlier, she'd have told them (reluctantly) that she wasn't sure they'd ever catch the monster. That she wasn't sure Jane would ever achieve any kind of mental stability, any kind of peace.

Even as it was, there'd been good days and bad days post Red John. The adjustment hadn't been easy, for either of them.

But they were working through it.

The fact that he was still willing to work with her was nothing short of miraculous from her perspective. Some mornings Lisbon still couldn't quite believe it when she arrived at work and saw his now-familiar smile (or more likely, his prone body as he napped on his couch). She wasn't sure what she'd do if he ever did decide to leave. She'd gotten so used to having him around.

She'd cope of course, but that wasn't the point.

Mostly she tried not to think about it.

When she did, she told herself that after all she'd put up with over the years, she deserved to have his help with her cases without the spectre of a serial killer looming over both of them.

She deserved the friend who bought her ice cream when they went for coffee in the afternoon, who listened when she had a problem (and sometimes made her tea), who ensured that her life was never boring. And she deserved a consultant who helped keep her closed case record the highest in the department and Lisbon herself on her toes.

For the first time in years, life felt good. She wanted it to stay that way.

Lisbon had learned long ago to keep her expectations low, not to ask for much. Now that she had almost more than she wanted... Well, she'd do her best to maintain that little bubble of happiness.

Jane was vaguely aware of her tentative happiness, but hadn't really gotten around to analyzing it, to looking deeper. He was too busy being relieved that he could smile at her without feeling like he was painting a target on her back. Worrying about what exactly the future would bring to him seemed trivial in comparison.

He'd been afraid for so long. Afraid of wanting really anything at all in case it was snatched away from him. And now that he had his liberty, he didn't quite know what to do with it.

Didn't know how to fill the ever-present hole in his life.

He was taking steps to adjust though, tentatively, half-afraid that if he rushed he'd wake up and find it'd all been a dream.

Still, even if his progress was slow, it was inevitable.

Progress always was.

Even if Lisbon would have been happy to keep the status quo.

Even if she'd never ever dare to even hope for something better. Not when things were comfortable as they were.

What was comfortable was irrelevant.

With Red John gone, their holding pattern wasn't sustainable anymore – for either of them.

Because, even if Jane wasn't quite ready to admit it yet, all holes did eventually need to be filled, one way or another.

And it as only a matter of time before he realized what he was missing.