Authors note: I wrote this last night in one go after reading a prompt on the paint it red forum, based on the song is 'Winter's Heir' by Sea Wolf. I think I may have new band to add to my playlist!
Disclaimer: I own neither the Mentalist nor the song! There are a couple of lines in here from the song.
This was written as my Stocking Swap gift for With the Monsters, I hope you like it.
The drive had been a hurried affair, the hour long journey up the I80 to Colfax, shortened to a speedy forty five minutes. A convoy of sedans and patrol cars formed a cohesive chain of lights and sound, ploughing through the usual traffic. This was a matter of life and death. Not just hers but of all the victims that came before and would no doubt follow if they failed again.
Patrick Jane rested his head against the cool glass, the cold seeping in from outside ignoring the blasting a/c. He could feel its frigidity moving past his forehead, down his spine, silently taking over.
His breath was uneven and formed a different sized fog each time it hit the glass, had she been beside him he would have drawn pictures and phrases that made her laugh. Food, coffee, bunnies but not a smiley face, never a smiley face.
Outside the countryside became bitterer the further North they drove, he hoped it was not an omen of things to come. Van Pelt expertly manoeuvred through the traffic, her lips a thin line, her face one of steely resolve. She was determined that they would get there in time, that Red John would not escape, he couldn't have her he had taken enough.
It was like entering a different world despite the relative closeness of the two places, Sacramento, while in a cold spell, was vibrant, alive and modern while just over an hour away, the mountain town resembled an early Clint Eastwood film, with its pioneer look and kitschy feel.
It began to snow again, at first barely noticeable puffs of white swirled softly to the ground, mere specks on the windshield. Quickly it became more forceful, aggressive. The radio crackled to life with other cars sharing reports, using buzz words like cold fronts, storms, below freezing, the nervous energy of the officers palpable.
She would be cold, she needed her jacket. Jane tightened his grip on the leather garment, they would find her soon and he would give it to her, her hero, he will always save her... when she lets him.
He could feel Grace's watchful gaze, she was concerned, breaking their tentative silence she spoke softly, "were nearly there Jane, hold on."
He had no idea why she would say that, he was not the one in danger; the madman had not taken him so he just grunted as acknowledgment.
The landscape was breathtaking, the fir trees bathed in white fallen frozen water, he would love her to see this in different circumstances. They would pull over and he would make snow angels, she would eventually do the same, muttering about how she was crazy to follow his lead, and then perhaps get a hot chocolate after. He knew she loved the snow it reminded her of her childhood. It brought out her playful side.
On one of the rare occasions a light dusting had befallen Sacramento, he had been summoned outside by text on a fool's errand. The moment he stepped into the car park he was hit square in the face by a snowball, one she had no doubt spent ages gathering up as very little had stuck.
It was one of his fondest memories; she doubled over laughing, as he swiped ice from his face. He had tried to be angry about his suit, wet and stained, but her gait and flushed face was too sweet a visage to end with angry words. Instead he had swept her away to a nearby cafe and warmed her up with coffee and cookies.
What would he do if their possibilities ended tonight?
The car screeched to a halt with Grace in the lead position, she may seem the meekest of the team but the woman drove like a demon escaping the bowels of hell. Jane could hear the knock-on effect as other stopped behind them fifteen cars filled with people desperate to save Lisbon and take down Red John.
Jane's body protested as he swung out of the car, his muscles had been squeezed tight the whole journey in tension. He was too old for this; he just wanted to be with his couch, his tea cup, his best friend, and all safe in his C.B.I. Bubble.
He took off into the woods, ignoring Grace's call for him to wait, that backup needed to be prepared. He was not one for plans, in this moment he was instinct, pure raw urges. He had to get to her, save her.
The moonlight overtook the sinking sun but darkness did not reign. The crunch of snow in the silence was like loud explosions calling out his arrival to his nemesis. Jane had forgotten how bright a combination moonshine and snow could be, it almost was like the ground itself lit his way as he easily weaved through the trees. The blue light had a calming quality on him, it was his favourite colour, hers was green now... ... it had been red before he joined their team.
He saw the small structure up ahead, cabin would be far too generous, even shack was being kind. She deserved more than this, if she made it through he would give it to her. He would take her away, hide her, and protect her as he should have.
His foolish pride, ruined another, had he listened to Charlotte or in reality himself, he would have let it go. He begged all the deities he didn't believe in that he wouldn't be her downfall.
He moved to the window, a floating piece of white tarp, the attempt to hold back the elements. He peered inside seeing no one at first. Moving the tarp slightly he noticed the slumped figure on a chair occupying a corner, a smiley face above it. He could hear the team approaching in the distance.
Jane circled round to the door pushing it open, no longer bothered by his safety.
The metal protested under his administrations, the sound so loud after the stillness, he resisted the urge to cover his ears.
She sat unmoving before him, her pale limbs stark white in the light of the interior, so pallid against the ebony hair that cascaded over her face.
He knew Red John had left his torment complete, but judging from the hurried pace of the tracks in the snow and his hastily drawn calling card he was not gone long.
He approached her slowly, afraid of what he'd find, knowing these may be the last second he had of hope, his final moments where he had something that matters in this world. He tentatively touched her bare arm, pushed back some of her hair, an intimacy forbidden to him normally by their boundaries.
She was ice to the touch, her blouse and skin shredded.
He was right though Red John had not had as much time as he liked, she had been cut but mercifully not to the extent of other victims... perhaps she suffered less. A saving grace.
He tucked some strands behind her ear so he could gaze down on her face. Ignoring her ruined chest she looked like she was resting, relaxed, content. The smear of blood on her lips gave her pout a healthy appearance.
He stroked her cheek, his mind filled with fairytale images; she resembled snow white, alabaster skin and her 'Lips red as blood, hair black as night'.
If only he could breath life back into her.
The commotion of the team and paramedics arrival was distracting. The moment over. Outside calls of other teams to follow the man's footprints echoed through the room.
Cho's steady voice broke into his reverie "You have to move man; they need to do their work"
He was shoved aside by an over eager E.M.T.
"What's the point Cho, we've lost her... we've lost it all..."
Grace sobbed behind him; he felt irrational anger at the young woman. He wanted to shake her, tell her Lisbon would hate that, showing weakness in front of others, but his throat was too closed to yell.
"Wait" the E.M.T uttered to his colleague, his fingers pushing into her throat "I think... I... I might have a pulse... its thready but its there"
"That's impossible" Jane whirled on him, "Her skin is icy, she's dead, Lisbon's dead."
"Yeah that might be what saves her, the cold slowed down the bleeding, but the chances of getting her out of here and through these woods alive... they're slim" the paramedic warned.
Chaos erupted as the team desperately aided Lisbon following the paramedics frantic orders. Jane moved outside gasping in icy breaths as the winters air moved delicately around him.
He no longer heard them, he couldn't, and he knew she wouldn't make it, he didn't deserve it.
He understood that it would be the last time he saw her alive, and when he closed his eyes, alongside the images of his wife and daughter, forevermore he would see her here, frozen in time, with her emerald eyes and raven hair, in the light of winter's heir.