Author's Note: And here we are, at the end. This was bittersweet to write, but I hope you will enjoy it! I should probably say one last time that I intend no copyright infringement, have nothing to do with The Mentalist, and am making no money from this. Also, I made this chapter as realistic as my casual research allowed, but please forgive any inaccuracies!
The next morning, Jane was troubled by how restless and uncomfortable Lisbon seemed. She didn't even fuss about the accessories he'd added to the Volvo, though she did stroke the leather seats and make a not quite random remark about looking forward to her brothers visiting. He made sure to pass by her office and take a look at her every hour or so that morning, and when the team caught a case, he insisted on driving himself.
"Something up?" Cho asked as they got in the elevator.
"I'm not sure," he admitted.
Rigsby said, "She's not due until next year, man. It's not even Christmas yet."
"She's a small woman carrying twins. She's not going to go forty weeks," Jane replied. "I just don't want to be too far away if something happens."
"It's fine," Cho said. "Come take a look and then you can come back here if you want. We can handle the interviews."
The case was about an hour away, but when Jane called to casually inquire what his wife had eaten for lunch, she tartly informed him that she was fine and to stop hovering. So he went with Cho to interview the family, picked out the stepbrother as the likely culprit, and tricked him into a confession all in time to get back to Sacramento and make it to the tree lot while there was still a decent selection. Cho met him at the apartment and helped him get the tree off the car and up to the living room. Lisbon wasn't home yet, even though it was going on eight o'clock, so Jane texted her. Need a ride? I'm home.
Fortunately it was only a minute later when she texted back. Late meeting with the DA. Hightower's giving me a ride home.
Invite her for dinner, he responded.
She can't tonight. Rain check.
When they finished setting up the tree, Cho surveyed their handiwork with satisfaction. "You got enough ornaments for this thing?"
"Yes, in the study," Jane said, heading for the kitchen. "Beef Stroganoff okay, or would you rather have meatloaf?"
"Whatever's faster," Cho responded. From the sounds in the living room, Jane deduced that Cho was making himself useful unpacking ornaments, no doubt worried that Lisbon might attempt it herself if it wasn't done when she got home.
"What's with the blank stocking holders?" Cho called, obviously having found the silver holders with paper inserts that Jane had picked out to allow the kids to adopt nicknames as they grew.
"We still can't decide on our son's name, so we decided to wait until he's born and see whether he looks more like a Michael or a Liam. And Lisbon thought it wasn't fair for his to be the only one left blank, so we'll write in the names once they're born. Which reminds me." He made sure the stroganoff sauce would be okay on its own for a minute, then went out to the living room and carefully wrote "Mommy" and "Daddy" on the two end ones.
Cho watched without comment, then went back to stringing lights. He seemed to know what he was doing, so Jane left him to it and went back to fixing dinner. "You want some wine? Or beer?" he called.
"No thanks," Cho replied distractedly.
By the time Lisbon walked in the door, Jane had dinner on the table and Cho was nearly finished with the tree. Jane came to greet her with a kiss and belly rub, but her eyes were riveted on the tree, which really was magnificent. The white lights and white and gold ornaments placed with military precision made for a festive and sophisticated display, he thought smugly.
"It's beautiful," she breathed. "Oh, Patrick. It's perfect."
"Thanks," Cho said with a brief quirk of his lips.
"Cho decorated for us while I cooked. I told you he had an inner Christmas elf," Jane explained.
"Thank you, Kimball. It's really gorgeous," Lisbon smiled. Then she sniffed. "Is that stroganoff I smell?"
"Yes, and it awaits you on the table," Jane replied.
"Perfect," Lisbon said, shrugging off her jacket. Jane helped her with it, then held out his hand for her gun and badge so he could take them to the bedroom.
They enjoyed the meal, with Lisbon trying to act like she wasn't interrogating Cho about his girlfriend. Cho skillfully turned the conversation toward beloved children's books instead and excused himself promptly after finishing his apple crumble, no doubt having seen that Lisbon's energy was flagging. Jane was grateful for his perceptiveness.
When he'd finished cleaning up, Jane went into the living room to find his wife dozing on the couch. He quietly made a few adjustments to the tree, then returned the ornament boxes to the study before easing himself onto the couch and lifting her head into his lap. She mumbled something but didn't wake, and he picked up his book, resting his free hand on her stomach. He noticed the muscles contracting and glanced at the mantle clock automatically before going back to reading. It was approaching their normal bedtime, but he had a feeling going to bed tonight would be pointless, and he didn't want to disturb Lisbon's much-needed sleep.
She mumbled unhappily as he felt the third contraction in an hour and opened her eyes, then struggled into a sitting position, resting her head on his shoulder.
"Okay?" he asked quietly, putting his hand back on her stomach.
"Just heartburn," she said. "I shouldn't have lain down right after eating."
"You have your bag packed, right?" He knew perfectly well it had been packed since before Thanksgiving, but it was better to be circumspect when coaxing Lisbon to accept a fact she was doing her best to deny.
"I'm not in labor, Jane," she grumbled.
Like you weren't pregnant? he thought but knew better than to say, remembering the night she'd come to sit in his lap after being nauseated and denied being pregnant. The test the next day had seemed to agree, but Jane had been right after all. He was convinced he was right now too.
But his job was to keep her calm, so he said, "Of course not. I'm sure our children will be punctual in addition to beautiful and clever. They'd never be so gauche as to arrive so early."
"Stop laughing at me," she warned, eyeing him balefully.
"Yes, my darling," he replied, dropping a kiss into her hair. He would give her a few more contractions, and then he was putting his plan into motion whether she agreed or not.
Fifteen minutes later, she made an odd sound between a grunt and a whine and pressed her face against his shoulder. He recognized that as her surrendering to reality and rubbed her back to encourage her. "I'll get the bag. We can make our calls along the way." There was something to be said for Bluetooth in the car, he thought as he gently moved her away so he could stand.
"It might be a false alarm," she said, but without conviction.
"It might be," he said agreeably, because for the next however many hours until she was safely through the birth, he was going to agree with her even if she insisted the sky was green. He grabbed her packed bag from its place inside the bedroom door and returned to the living room. The fact that she waited for him to help her off the couch told him she was feeling the need to conserve her energy, and the wide eyes she turned to him clearly said she was anxious. He lifted her carefully and then wound his arms around her in response to her sudden fierce hug. "It's going to be all right. We have a good plan and a good doctor, and I'll be with you all the way. And we get to use the Baby's First Christmas ornaments I bought after all."
She snickered into his shirt, then pulled back, smiling. "I can't wait. Okay. Let's go do this."
Lisbon hung up from calling her doctor and reached for Jane's hand as soon as he could safely drive one-handed. She glanced at the back seat, reassured by the car seats ready and waiting for their occupants, and focused on how wonderful it was going to be to see her babies. It was all going to be worth what lay ahead.
She was amused by the fact that Jane had already synced his cell with the car—Rigsby's doing, perhaps?—and told it to call Cho in his most peremptory voice.
"Cho," came the immediate response.
"We're on our way to the hospital," Jane said.
"Got it. See you there." Cho hung up before Lisbon could speak.
"Why is he going to the hospital?" she demanded. "There's no reason for him to hang out in the waiting room for hours and hours."
"He and Rigsby volunteered to take turns keeping an eye out. It was easier to agree than to argue."
"Oh, right. Because you find it so hard to change people's minds," she retorted. "The truth, Patrick."
"They did volunteer," he protested.
"Because you thought we needed an armed guard while I give birth?"
"Needed is a strong word," he said breezily. "I believe I merely suggested it might be prudent. Cho agreed that we should use an abundance of caution. Don't worry about it, love. You focus on the babies, I'll focus on you, and Cho and Rigsby will take care of everything else."
She looked out the window, knowing it was useless to argue. Another contraction distracted her, and when she could focus again Jane was talking to Hightower.
"Tell her not to worry about work. We'll handle everything here," Hightower said.
"Thank you," Lisbon said. "I tried to leave notes on everything—"
"I said, don't worry," Hightower chided. "You go have those babies. I'll say some prayers that it's quick and easy for you. And Patrick, I expect to see pictures right away!"
"You're on the list," he assured her. "Thanks for everything, Madeleine."
"Just remember the pictures. And good luck to you both!"
After Hightower hung up, Lisbon grumbled, "I don't know why you need good luck."
Jane smiled. "To survive the next twelve hours or so without getting punched in the face, of course. There's quite the betting pool going on at CBI on the subject."
Lisbon knew she would probably find that funny one of these days, but right now she was just annoyed. Didn't people have better things to do? "Which way did Hightower bet?"
"She was thoroughly pro-punching."
"You realize that I now have to punch you for the sake of my career," she said.
Jane chuckled. "Yes. But keep in mind that you need me relatively unharmed to help take care of the babies."
About sixteen hours later, Jane was hungry and exhausted and had a hand sore from being squeezed and a voice hoarse from talking Lisbon through breathing and offering her encouragement. But all that was forgotten the moment their first child's squalls filled the operating room.
Dr. Overbeck called out, "Stop pushing, Teresa. Ah. There we go. Your daughter was first in line."
Lisbon demanded, "How is she?" as Jane stepped closer to get a look.
"She's fine. A little small, but we expected that. Good set of lungs, it sounds like," Dr. Overbeck replied. "Dad, want to cut the cord?"
"Uh, no." Jane wanted nothing to do with cutting anything involving his wife and daughter.
A few seconds later, the doctor handed the baby to one of the two pediatricians in the room, who carried her behind a screen. Jane felt a strong desire to go after her, but Lisbon still had hold of his hand, reminding him she wasn't finished yet. After another contraction passed, she whispered, "I can't do this again."
Jane turned his attention fully back to her, reminding himself that Victoria's crying was a good sign. "You're almost there, love. Don't you want to see our boy so we can finally name him?"
Dr. Overbeck said, "The second one's a cinch, Teresa. Just a few pushes and you're done."
Lisbon rallied, bearing down with intense focus, and fifteen minutes later Dr. Overbeck called, "And there he is! What a handsome boy. There you go."
"Why isn't he crying?" Lisbon asked, her voice thin with panic.
"He's breathing, but I think he's worn out. Give him a minute," the doctor replied. "While we clean him up, why don't you get to know your daughter?"
Jane turned to look as his son was carried off, but then someone put a warm bundle in his arms and his entire world narrowed to a pair of wide blue eyes and a miniature version of Lisbon's mouth. She had a few wisps of blonde hair, and she had quieted, staring calmly at him. Her resemblance to her sister took his breath away and squeezed painfully at his heart, and he blinked hard, trying to prevent his tears from falling. He didn't want Lisbon to be upset.
He needn't have worried, though; Lisbon had eyes only for her daughter. She yanked at his shirtsleeve, saying, "Let me see her, Patrick."
Only a deep and abiding love could have enabled him to let his precious child out of his arms so soon. He carefully handed her to her mother, then kissed the top of Lisbon's head since that was all he could reach as she gazed raptly at the baby. "Oh. She's beautiful," she sighed.
"Of course she is. Just like her mother," Jane said hoarsely.
Dr. Overbeck said, "We're not quite done, folks. There's still the placentas."
Jane reached down to reclaim Victoria; Lisbon let her go with great reluctance, not taking her gaze off her. Then she asked, "Why isn't her brother crying?"
They all looked toward the screen, and a moment later the pediatrician said, "He needs a little help. We'll take him up to the NICU." He carried the baby over to them so they could get a look; he was smaller than his sister, with a few strands of dark hair. His eyes were closed, but Jane thought they were shaped like Lisbon's.
"He'll be okay?" Lisbon asked anxiously.
"Don't worry," Dr. Overbeck soothed. "Both babies are low weight, so it's routine for them to spend a little time in the NICU. Your daughter is right at five and a half pounds, so she'll probably be out in no time."
Before Lisbon could reply, she gave a little grunt, and Dr. Overbeck bent to catch the placenta. Jane looked away, knowing from experience that wasn't anything he needed to see.
"Patrick, go with them," Lisbon said, sounding panicked. He glanced down at her and realized what she was worried about; their son was gone before they'd even gotten to hold him, just like in her nightmare.
"Okay. I'll be back in a minute," he promised. He might as well be the one to carry Victoria to the NICU while Lisbon started to recover and rest, and he could make sure Cho and Rigsby had things under control security wise.
He caught up to his son in the NICU, relieved to finally hear his thin wail. Victoria started crying in response, and Jane got his first taste of what would be the soundtrack to his life for the next year or so. He grinned, but only briefly as a nurse made it clear he was expected to give up his daughter now.
"You can hold her again in a few minutes," she assured him. "We're just going to let her get some extra warmth and oxygen for a while."
Jane nodded, watching as Victoria was settled into a plastic box next to her brother. He leaned over for a closer look, then smiled.
His son definitely looked like a Liam.
The next four days were a blur of activity for Lisbon. She visited the twins as often as she could, pumping milk for Liam and nursing Victoria, who was stronger and more vigorous. When Victoria graduated from the NICU, they went home, but she and Jane traded shifts at home and the hospital, with much needed help from Cho, the Rigsbys, Hightower, and Minelli and May. Lisbon was sore, emotional, exhausted, and frankly overwhelmed by the time Liam came home, just in time for Christmas Eve. But at least now that the four of them were all in the same place again, she could take a nap and let Jane be the baby wrangler, at least until one of them got hungry.
She woke up around dinner time and fed a cranky Liam, then swapped kids with Jane so he could burp Liam while she fed Victoria. It was a good thing they'd always worked so well together, she thought, because twins were more demanding than any murder case. More rewarding too, she added, smiling as Liam spit up on Jane's shoulder. They'd both learned the necessity for receiving blankets by now.
"How are you feeling?" Jane asked her, once he finally got Liam to burp.
"I can't remember what it felt like to be comfortable," she confessed. Or sexy. Or athletic. Or in control of things.
"Give yourself time. Your body's been through a lot," he said, as he did at least once a day. "You seem to be moving around better."
"Yeah, I guess." She remembered last Christmas Eve, when she'd done a lot of vigorous moving around, most of it in bed. "Sorry the sex under the Christmas tree will have to wait until next year."
Jane chuckled, craning his neck to look at Liam's face. "I'm not repining, love. Let me put Liam in his bassinet and I'll get dinner on the table. Nothing fancy, I'm afraid."
Her stomach growled, startling Victoria, who let out a wail before Lisbon guided her to latch on again. "Fast is better than fancy," she replied.
"Fast it is. Then you can get another nap in before Madeleine gets here."
"Hightower's coming over?" she demanded in dismay. She hadn't managed to shower today, and she was sure she looked a wreck. That wasn't something her boss needed to see. She was sure Hightower had been back to her perfectly put-together self the day after giving birth to each of her kids.
"Don't worry, you have plenty of time to shower and change. She won't be here until after her church service. She thought it would be about ten-thirty."
Lisbon gave a little sigh. This was the first Christmas Eve in her entire life she wouldn't make it to midnight mass. She was sure God understood, since it had been His idea for her to give birth to twins a mere week ago, but she would miss it.
Jane was smirking at her. "Teresa, you must be even more sleep deprived than I thought. Madeleine's not dropping by for eggnog and cookies. She volunteered to take you to mass while I stay home with the kids."
She stared at him in shock until the rush of tears blurred the sight of his smile. The thought that Jane, loud in his disdain for all things religious, had gone to the trouble of arranging someone to help her get to church left her awestruck.
Victoria stopped nursing and made vaguely discontented noises, so Lisbon lifted her to her shoulder and began rubbing her back vigorously until she let out a loud burp. "That's my girl," she cooed. "Are you ready for another nap?"
But Victoria didn't seem sleepy, waving her little hands and kicking while her big blue eyes looked all around. Jane claimed he could already tell their daughter would be an outgoing child and Liam would be more introspective. While Lisbon thought one week old was a bit early to be assigning personality types, she had to admit that there was no doubt Victoria was her father's daughter.
Jane brought in a tray, saving Lisbon the painful trek to the dining room, and set it on the coffee table so he could take Victoria. He grinned at the baby, putting on a goofy French accent. "And will you be joining us for dinner, Miss Jane? Yes? Excellent. I see you have already enjoyed a fine vintage, so allow me to show you to the best seat in the house." He settled her in his lap with one arm and used the other to feed himself. He made it look easy; she was always worried about the babies getting hurt if she wasn't holding on with both hands.
She dug into her chili eagerly, finishing the bowl in no time. Victoria had gone back to sleep by the time Jane got up to help her to her feet, so she went to shower and put on something nicer than maternity sweatpants. She couldn't wait to get back into her old clothes, though she suspected her shoes were a lost cause. Jane assured her that nursing twins would melt the weight off quickly, but she resolved to get back to an exercise routine as soon as Dr. Overbeck gave her a green light.
Everything took longer than before her pregnancy, since she was still moving slowly, careful of her sore, achy body, but she was still ready by the time Hightower arrived.
"Teresa, you look fantastic," she said as she came in. "Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas," Lisbon smiled, "and thanks for lying. And thank you so much for doing this. I hope you didn't cancel any other plans."
"My ex has the kids tonight," Hightower said. Then she smiled back. "And what better time than Christmas for an act of Christian charity? I've never been to a Christmas Eve mass. I look forward to it. Now, where are those adorable babies?"
Jane left the kitchen and came over to give Hightower a hug. "Merry Christmas, Madeleine. Come see the two most beautiful babies in the whole world."
She chuckled as they made their way back to the master bedroom, where a pair of bassinets stood in the corner. The three adults watched the babies sleep for a minute, entranced by Liam making little smacking sounds with his mouth and Victoria working one tiny fist free of her swaddling.
"They're gorgeous," Hightower said softly. Then she straightened up and looked at Jane. "No surprise there. Are you sure you'll be able to tear yourself away when we need your help, Patrick?"
"I don't know," he replied. "But I can look at files while they nap, at least. You two had better get going if you want to find good seats."
Lisbon moved over to give him a kiss. "Thank you," she whispered.
"Don't be gone long," he replied, even though they both knew there was pumped milk in the fridge. "But enjoy yourself. And don't worry."
"I think I can survive for an hour," she smiled as she left.
Jane made sure to text his wife pictures of their sleeping children every ten minutes so she wouldn't have a chance to get anxious. She might chide him for overdoing it, but he knew her well enough to know that no matter how much her rational mind knew the babies were safe with him, her protective instincts were in overdrive right now. Plus, this way she knew he was thinking of her. Seeing her in work clothes with makeup on was a Christmas present all on its own, reminding him of last Christmas when they'd just begun their life together. He could hardly believe how far they'd come in a year. They were not only married, but parents, and Red John was no longer out there pulling their strings. They were free to live their lives and be happy. And they would be. He would make sure of it.
He used the time to retrieve Lisbon's last present from its hiding place in the pocket of one of his suit jackets and put it under the tree—the mother's ring he'd rush ordered right after the twins were born, with two tanzanite stones set on a simple gold band. He'd been drawn to fancier settings with diamonds, but he knew Lisbon was more likely to wear it if it wasn't showy. Besides, he knew she was unhappy about not being able to shop for a present for him, no matter how much he told her that the twins were the best present it was possible for him to get.
He wanted her to understand that he truly meant that. What other woman in the world would have put up with the messes he'd made for her all those years, knowing all the while that he had every intention of killing his nemesis, likely either getting killed or arrested in the process? He knew that she had faced the prospect of being the one who had to arrest him, even if she hadn't let herself think about it very often. And then he'd broken her heart by running off to Vegas, and then all over again with his focus on Lorelei. And she still hadn't walked away, though he was sure she'd thought about it. The whole thing with Mancini had proven that.
But she stood by him, unwilling to give up even though she had to know her position in his life put her in terrible danger every minute of every day. Red John—Haffner—demonstrated that when he'd hypnotized her. And even after that, she stayed. She'd married him knowing it would mark her even more clearly for death.
She really was a saint. He should write a letter to the pope. Or maybe go see him in person. When the twins were older, they could take a family vacation overseas. There was so much he wanted to show her and the kids. He would give their children all the things he hadn't had growing up and spoil Lisbon silly to make up for the deprivations of her upbringing.
This Christmas that Lisbon thought was so extravagant was just the beginning. Next year he would really blow her mind.
He couldn't wait.
Lisbon was exhausted but content when she dragged herself through the door of the apartment. She had insisted that Hightower didn't need to get out of her car, though she had waited until Lisbon was safely inside the lobby doors before driving off. And going to church had done her a lot of good. She had so much to thank God for, and motherhood had given her a whole new perspective on celebrating the birth of her savior.
"Patrick?" she called, careful to keep her voice down so as not to wake the babies. He was nowhere in sight, but the tree was lit and the fireplace was blazing merrily away, so she knew he hadn't gone to bed.
She started for the bedroom, but stopped as he appeared in the doorway in his old-fashioned pajamas—and a Santa hat. She burst out laughing, but quickly stopped when her stomach muscles protested.
"Ho Ho Ho," he grinned. "Merry Christmas, my love."
She went forward and kissed him. "Merry Christmas, Santa. You're a few years early; my kids won't be ready for you for a couple of years. And my husband is a very jealous man, so I think you'd best be on your way."
"Far be it from me to disturb such a happy family," he smirked, tugging the hat off his head.
She faked a gasp of astonishment. "Patrick! What a clever disguise!"
He chuckled and kissed her, sweeping his tongue along the seam of her lips. It was the first lover's kiss he'd offered since she'd given birth, and despite how tired and achy she was, she welcomed him into her mouth. He put his arms around her in a gentle hug, and she leaned against him gratefully. It was a long time before they parted.
"I love you," Jane whispered.
"I love you too," she whispered back.
He turned so she could go into the bedroom, and they looked down at their sleeping babies. Lisbon felt as though her heart might burst. She had never before wondered if it was possible to die of happiness. "This is the best Christmas ever," she said softly.
"Yes, it is," Jane agreed, laying a hand on her shoulder. "And they will only get better."
She looked at him, loving how happy he seemed. "Yes." Next year they would gather around the tree on Christmas morning and watch the twins tear open their presents and play with the boxes instead of the expensive toys that came in them.
"But you will never give me a present better than this year's," he said.
"But I didn't get you anything."
"Yes, you did. You made me a dad again. Nothing could ever be better than that."
She sighed as he kissed her temple, then grinned as a thought occurred to her. "The twins can't be your Christmas present. They were my birthday present, remember?"
He chuckled. "We gave them to each other, then. Perfect."
"Did you ever think we would have a happy ending like this? Before?" She had a hard time believing how far they'd come so fast.
"No," he admitted. "I didn't dare dream of this. But I'm very glad I was wrong." He paused. "And who says this is an ending? We have our whole lives ahead of us. Even better, we have their whole lives ahead of us."
She gave a little hum of happy agreement. "I know you don't believe in divine guidance, but I don't believe this all happened by accident."
"Of course not," he agreed. When she looked at him in surprise, he shook his head. "This happened because you decided to start playing poker to see if Mancini was a Red John mole, and I decided to smoke him out by forging a letter, which made Red John angry enough to force me into giving up hunting him to save you."
She grimaced. "You're saying we should be thanking Haffner for all this? I'll stick to thanking God."
"Thank fate if you like," Jane said cheerfully. "But this was always in the cards. Along with a lot of other possibilities. We were just smart enough to play the right ones."
Lisbon leaned her head against his shoulder. "I think I'd better he the one to teach the kids to play poker. I don't want them to become cheats."
"Fine. You teach them poker; I'll teach them tricks. You teach them to tell the truth, and I'll teach them how to know when someone's lying." He grinned. "We'll be a great team."
"We always were. You just took awhile to realize it," she said, elbowing him gently.
"But once I learn something, I never forget it," he said. "Come on. You need to rest. We'll have hungry babies again shortly." He put his arm around her shoulders and drew her toward the bed.
Lisbon sat carefully on the edge and toed her shoes off. Jane bent to retrieve them, but before he could stand up, a wail shattered the silence.
They looked at each other and smiled.
A/N: You made it! :) Thank you, thank you, thank you for coming on this journey with me. If you followed or favorited this story, you gave me encouragement to keep going. And if you reviewed, you helped shape this story. Without all the lovely reviewers, there wouldn't have been a diner scene, Red John would have been serious about retiring, and Jane might have slept with Lorelei (though I like to think I would have come to my senses on that one). I have treasured this interactive experience, and I think it has helped me grow as a writer. I suck at responding to reviews, but I truly did read and re-read each and every one and considered all the ideas, suggestions, and requests, even if I couldn't always incorporate them.
And yes, my muse has already whispered what I hope will be a short sequel in my ear, so there's more to come. And of course season 6 looks like it will be exciting and inspiring! I can't wait to find out what Bruno Heller's Red John solution is, and I look forward to it all the more because I get to read and write fanfic along the way. So here's to September 29!