A/N: So I have been out of writing for The Mentalist for quite some time. It appears that research for graduate school takes the place of writing (and watching) what you want. My semester is winding down so I now have a bit of time. I hope that you enjoy it and it seems more than slightly realistic. My roommate gets all the credit for the title.
Disclaimer: I don't own it.
"What are you still doing here?" she asks him one evening he stayed later than she deemed appropriate. He sighs and shakes his head. It's not the first time she has commented about the length of time he spent at the precinct. He holds his tongue and doesn't mention the fact that she is obviously there as well. It will only cause another fight. He knows that in her mind she is allowed to stay this late for reasons that are completely her own.
"Working, Lisbon. What else would I be doing here?" he says calmly without turning to look at her. There isn't a point. He can feel her frown. His mind pictures the way that her eyebrows almost meet in the middle. The spark that usually flashes within her green eyes will have a menacing sting. He can't let any of it bother him. He's busy.
"You caught him, Jane," she whispers. He waves her off. It's been six months and he still hasn't been able to seal all of the pieces together. He has to make sure everything comes together in a nice little package. Nothing is out of place, no fillers are needed. That would make one more thing for Red john to manipulate. He isn't convinced that Red John is actually dead this time. Red John has never just gone away. He will wait until all the hype goes away and begin killing again. It may not be in California, but it will be somewhere. Nowhere is safe from a man like him.
"He's come back before, Lisbon," he tells her. She doesn't make a sound, but then again she doesn't have to. He counts the minutes as they tick by. He and Lisbon are frozen in a struggle neither can see an end to. Both are stuck in ways that refuse to change. Eventually, the loud 'click' of her shoes fades away and he is left in silence 12 minutes after she first arrived. He consoles himself in the thought that all of his work is for her. Red John requested her head once before, he can easily do it again. Any one of his followers would gladly make her disappear. He shudders at the thought. His mind travels back to the case files. Working twice as hard as before, he starts the grueling reading process anew.
She visits him on more than one occasion for the next five weeks. Usually she will ask him to leave the precinct at an earlier hour. She points out that he shouldn't be living there if he is. He leaves after her and is waiting for her when she arrives in the morning. Sometimes he has a change of clothes and sometimes he doesn't. It's just his way.
Finally she stops talking to him. She stands and watches for one to five minutes only to leave. This pattern does little to comfort him. Not talking is worse than bothering him. He knows she is giving up. He is losing time, losing her. The pieces have to fit. The case has to make sense. It is too dangerous to start living again if Red John is only going to reappear in his life once more. The menace must truly be gone.
One night she doesn't come to check on him at all. He waits for her for longer than he should. Something inside him is breaking. Losing her was not supposed to be part of the fight. It can't be over. Memories flood into his mind of everything that they have been through together. Partners don't just leave. He is sure of that. No, he hasn't been the model partner. He hasn't even really been a decent partner most of the time, but when it counted he was there for her. He can't concentrate today. He's worried.
Without a second glance, he stands and walks out of the room he has spent 18 hours a day in for the past 2 months. The car that has been a companion for too many years to count awaits to take him to the place he knows he needs to be. Apologies flit across his mind, but that is not in his character. She will know if he is sincere or not based solely on his body language. She is almost as good at reading him as he is at reading everyone else. He chuckles at that thought. Everything she knows he has taught her through observation. It's easy for him, but she is smart, and a fast learner to boot.
Pulling up to her apartment he realizes just what he has been doing these past few months, even years. He has been wasting the most precious commodity anyone on earth can ask for. It's the one thing everyone wishes they had more of, but that wish is rarely granted. It's something that he is running out of faster than he originally thought. That thing is time. The question is what to do with the little he has left.
He looks toward the building in front of him. It holds one thing that he is not willing to lose. With a new found excitement he walks toward the door. Deciding what to do and actually doing it are two very different things, but he has spent years combining the two. He never comes up with a plan that he doesn't at least marginally follow through with. His fist hits the dark door three times in quick succession. A light flickers to life inside. He doesn't know the time and honestly, he doesn't care. Late or early he is finally doing something she has always wanted.
"I left the office, Lisbon," he tells her softly after the door clicks open. He knows she understands what he actually means when the door opens farther to reveal a brilliant smile illuminating her usually stoic face. He's finally ready to remember the past, but look to the future. She invites him in. He stays the night.