Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with CBS or "The Mentalist".
Summary: It all starts with the end of one investigation, and ends with the beginning of a new state of affairs. Murder, romance, angst, mystery… something for everyone, I hope. Multi chap, casefic-esque, Jisbon. Rated T for language, violence, and adult references.
Author's Note: Hi all! It's been a while since I posted anything, and even longer since I started a long and involved multi-chap. This is an ambitious undertaking for me, as I am working full time now. Couple that fact with a more complex plot than I have previously attempted, including a main case that is actually featured in great detail, and it could get pretty crazy around here!
Yes, this story is still heavy on the Jane/Lisbon goodness. Yes, there's a reason this is tagged as both "Romance" and "Crime"; please don't be shocked by the inclusion of either. This prologue is fairly short, and mainly set-up.
Pauses in Solitude
Prologue: Another Ending
"Solitude, word carved upon my heart…"
Marisa Monte, "Dance of Solitude"
It had been one of… those cases.
Not, Lisbon thought with a shake of her head, not one of the worst ones. Not a Red John case, thank goodness. But it was the next worst.
A string of child murders, and the last victim dead for only minutes when the team arrived. Amy Swift, a sweet, innocent little girl with long blonde curls. Lisbon could feel the waves of misery from Jane as they'd stood over the tiny body, and no wonder.
He'd been in top form, and they'd solved the mystery and caught the bad guy (a janitor in the local elementary school, as it turned out) and closed the case. They'd done their best, every single member of the team. But the sorrow of not making it in time to save Amy weighed heavily on them all.
Somehow, in keeping with the dismal emotions, the dusty little town they were marooned in for the evening managed to provide no decent pizza to speak of. They had to settle for closed-case Chinese instead, a substitution perhaps fitting for a case that was closed but didn't really feel like a success.
Conversation was sparse, and everyone kept his or her contributions forcibly light. As much as possible, anyway. No one was in a hurry to deal with the events of the case anymore, at least not that evening.
"I'm stuffed," said Rigsby, towards the end of the evening. "Where are the fortune cookies?"
Van Pelt snickered involuntarily. "Same old Wayne. 'I'm so full, where's more food?' Still just like working with a caterpillar."
Cho didn't comment, but Lisbon noticed the slight smile tugging at his lips. "I've got them over by me, Rigs. There's one for each of us," she said, tossing them across the table. She then glanced down towards the end. "You want one, Jane?" she asked him quietly.
Jane had remained uncharacteristically silent all evening, staring up at the brightly colored Chinese lanterns that hung from the ceiling and barely picking at his food. No one had asked him what was wrong, though. They all knew.
At Lisbon's question, however, he looked up. "Hmm? Oh. Yes, I'd like mine. I'm not very hungry, but the fortune's the important part, anyway."
"Absolutely," she agreed, passing him the last one.
They all cracked theirs open. Cho was first to read his fortune aloud. "It says 'Your bright smile brings happiness to everyone around you'," he deadpanned. "Always the same old fortunes."
Lisbon bit her lip to keep from laughing, as did nearly everyone sitting at the table. Cho's current dour expression was about as far from a bright smile as you could get.
Rigsby was next. "Hmm, mine says 'Children are a comfort in old age'. Does it still apply while I'm under 35?" Everyone grinned and dutifully looked once more at the picture on Rigsby's phone of his baby son.
Van Pelt colored slightly and said 'I think I got the worst one. It says 'To let true love remain unspoken is the quickest way to a heavy heart'." She very deliberately avoided making eye contact with Rigsby, and he did the same.
Lisbon groaned inwardly. Those two. Every time she thought that situation had finally been resolved, it cropped up again.
Lisbon opened hers and read "This is what mine says: 'Today is a lucky day for those who remain cheerful and optimistic'. Well, I guess I'm screwed," she grumbled, but perked up at Jane's gentle chuckle. "Something funny, Jane?"
He shrugged. "Maybe a little. You're so pessimistic sometimes. Even about being optimistic. There's something inherently humorous in that, I think."
Even if the chuckle was at her expense, she let it slide. After all, it was the first time she'd seen him smile in days. "What's yours say, Jane?" she asked.
"Nothing special," Jane replied. "It reads: 'If you're still hungry, have another fortune cookie.' Weakest of the bunch, in my opinion."
"Oh I don't know," Lisbon countered. "It's almost refreshingly direct after all the platitudes and clichés."
Jane sighed. "You may have a point. In any case, I'm going back to my motel room. I know you want to start back to Sacramento early tomorrow, and there's always a chance I'll get a little sleep if I catch myself by surprise. Goodnight all."
Each team member mumbled their goodnights to Jane, but their eyes flicked over to Lisbon as she watched him walk away. "You going after him, boss?" Van Pelt asked after a moment.
"No," Lisbon said quickly. "Why would I?"
Van Pelt shrugged. "Well, he's in one of his moods again, and I guess you just had that look. He won't talk to any of us about it, you know. But he might talk to you."
Lisbon shook her head. "I don't think he would. Jane's very… reserved about this area. Just let him be. He should be back to his old self in the morning."
But he wasn't.
The trip back to the CBI HQ was unusual, to say the least. Normally there would be some friendly chatter amongst the whole team, and a near-constant running commentary from Jane. And all of it interspersed with occasional tuneless singing from Rigsby (he had a fine voice, but almost always lost the melody with his ear buds in). This time, the silence in the vehicle was almost deafening.
And as much as Lisbon appreciated a little peace and quiet sometimes, there was nothing peaceful about Jane's complete unwillingness to talk. Truthfully, it was making her a little nervous.
Back at the CBI, it just continued. After two days, Lisbon had had enough. Late in the evening that Friday, she went to where Jane was sitting motionless on his leather couch, nursing a cup of tea. "Well?" she asked pointedly.
Jane looked up and raised an eyebrow at her, a shadow of his usual playfulness emerging. "Well what?
She took a deep breath. "Well, are you ready to talk yet?"
His eyes drifted closed at her question. "Not really, but thank you for asking." He sat that way for another moment, obviously waiting for her to say goodnight and leave. When she didn't, he opened his eyes and looked up at her again. "It's late, Lisbon, even for you. Why don't you head home, and we'll see each other in the morning?"
Lisbon sighed heavily. "I know what time it is, Jane. Look," she began, and paused as discomfort washed over her. She hated to push him when it came to this. "I know this last case did no good for your peace of mind," she began, leaning back against a desk and folding her arms.
He shifted uneasily before he spoke. "No, I can't say that it did," he answered honestly.
"Not that it did for any of us, but especially you. But giving the whole world the silent treatment while you wallow doesn't solve anything. At least talk about it to somebody," she pleaded.
Jane frowned. "I don't want to talk about it to somebody, Lisbon. Frankly, I'm sick of talking about it. I could say it over and over again and it doesn't change a thing. It doesn't help."
"Then maybe you're talking to the wrong people. I'm hardly the poster child for successful interactions with therapists-"
"True," he interjected with a smile.
"But maybe a psychologist could help you. Really. Give you a fresh take on the situation as it is now, as opposed to when it had just… happened." Lisbon watched as he calmly shook his head in response. "I'm serious, Jane."
"I know you are, and I appreciate your concern. But I don't want to go through all of this with another stranger. And I don't need more therapy, Lisbon," he said with a sigh. "Sometimes what I need is something that not even my best friend can give me."
"Really, and what is that?" she asked.
Lisbon bit her tongue before she said the first words that came to her mind. –Haven't you spent enough time alone?- she thought, but she didn't say it.
"I know what you're thinking, that I spend too much time alone as it is," he said, picking the thought from her head with practiced ease. "But for me, spending time with people can get very tiring after a while. All of their business written on their faces, waiting to be read. Sometimes I get a little sick of learning everyone's secrets."
Lisbon had to chuckle. "Okay, that's something I never thought I'd hear you say. You're the nosiest man I've ever met, and I'm a cop. We're professionally nosy, and you still distinguish yourself in that sense."
The eyebrow went up again. "I'm not sure if you meant that as a compliment or not."
"I'm not sure if I did either, so we're equally confused. But maybe a professional-"
"Enough, Lisbon. You're starting to talk in circles, which means you're tired and you need to rest. This place will still be here in the morning, you know. It doesn't evaporate when you walk out the door."
She hated when he did that, turned things around and made them about her. "You ought to know," Lisbon replied sharply, going on the defensive in spite of herself. "You're one of the few people left here when I leave."
"That's right, so you should take my word for it. Go on, go home," he chided.
Lisbon gave up, albeit only temporarily. "Fine," she grumbled. "Goodnight, Jane."
"Goodnight, Lisbon," he replied, setting down his cup of now-cold tea and stretching out on the couch. He closed his eyes and exhaled loudly.
She was silent as she went back to her office. She gathered up her things and shut down her computer. But as she walked past him going back out through the bullpen, Lisbon couldn't help saying one more thing. "Jane?"
He was lying down now, and didn't move. But his eyes opened when he responded "Yes?"
"If you ever need someone to talk to… someone to trust, it can always be me. You do know that, don't you?" she asked gently. "Goodnight again."
She got as far as the doorway to the kitchenette when he called after her. "Lisbon?"
She turned around. "Yes?"
Lisbon watched as Jane sat up, and indicated the cushion next to him. "Have a seat, would you?"
Lisbon smiled gently at him as she walked back towards the couch.
TBC… for those of you with a keen eye and a good memory, you may recognize Van Pelt's cookie fortune as coming from the movie "Sky High".