Into The Red Forest
By: S.K Knight
Disclaimer: Don't own The Mentalist or its characters. All rights to rightful owners. I also do not own any scenes I referenced in this story.
A/N: This story is dedicated to five amazing people: my friend Kah, because she included me her family post on Tumblr. (Yes, Kah, I know I promised you a tequila Jisbon fic but this is better, trust me.) Love you, Kah. Next, to Jennifer, but most of you may know her as Nerwen Aldarion, for being my mentor and beta-ing this fic and giving me advice. She also inspired me to keep writing even when I felt like crap. Thank you, Jenn. Love you. Next, to Christina, or SteeleSimz, for inspiring me to keep writing. You're awesome, Steele. Next, to Erin, for helping review the Red John parts and helping with ideas, and, last but not least, Jimmy Gadd, editor of The Mentalist, for being awesome. (And because I never wrote him that Christmas fic. Sorry, Jim.)
P.S. Yes, this is in Season 5. I know there is no one over Lisbon right now, but I like Minnelli and I chose to bring him back, so there. Don't worry too much about it, he un-retired. He's really not that big of a character in this particular story anyway. Thanks & enjoy! Please review! Also, I posted this at 3AM so I will fix the spacing and any mistakes I didn't catch tomorrow.
Also, the main theme song for this fic is "Losing My Mind" by Daughtry. It's a great song for Jane & Lisbon and I heard it on a Jisbon video my friend Sonia made. I thought it was perfect. :)
Chapter 1: Scary Stories and S'mores
As soon as the CBI team squeezed themselves into the tiny maroon van, sandwiched between five large suitcases and sundry camping items, a few of them were beginning to wonder why they'd agreed to go on this year's "CBI Agent Retreat" which was apparently code for "a camp ground in scenic Nowhere, California." It was a far cry from last year's which had been a banquet in Key West, Florida. They'd thought about refusing (except for Jane and Van Pelt, who saw this as a new experience, whereas the rest of the Serious Crimes Unit was less than enthusiastic.),but Minnelli hadn't given them that option. So here they were, stuck in a car, for four hours, with nothing to do but stare blankly out the windows.
"Remind me again why we agreed to this trip." Rigsby spoke up in a bored voice.
"We didn't agree, Minnelli didn't give us a choice, remember?" Cho answered, expressionless.
"Come on, guys, it's not that bad. My Dad took me camping all the time." Van Pelt volunteered.
Jane smiled jovially. "Think of this as our next great adventure. It will be a great chance for some team bonding time."
"Jane's right, guys, give it a chance." Van Pelt concurred.
Lisbon scoffed. "I have enough 'adventure' every day, trying to fix things when your crazy plans almost backfire."
Rigsby spoke up. "She's right, you know. She has saved your ass a lot."
Jane smiled. "Oh, please, if it weren't for me, you guys would've been solving cases the boring, 'normal' way and you wouldn't have closed nearly as many."
"Oh, you think so?" Lisbon asked, raising an eyebrow at the blonde consultant in the passenger seat.
"Well, let's see, shall we? Since my employment at the CBI, this team's case closure rate has gone up," He paused, calculating. "Oh, about forty percent." Jane stated proudly.
Rigsby groaned inwardly from one of the backseats. "Are we there yet, Boss?"
"About five minutes out." Lisbon responded and various "Thank God's" from Cho and Rigsby rose up from the back seat.
Five minutes later, the team's maroon van pulled into Happy Trails campground, which was a small half circle of trees that opened toward a shimmering lake. The campground office was nestled next to the entry road on the left. Lisbon found the small parking lot on the right side of the road and pulled into a space.
"Ok, guys, you all can get the tents and stuff out of the car and set up while I check in. Jane, that includes you." Lisbon ordered.
Jane smirked. "That all seems a little tedious, Lisbon, I think I'd rather observe instead." That remark earned him dirty looks from the team, but he shrugged.
"Oh, so it's all about 'bonding' to you until you're actually asked to help, huh?" Lisbon asked.
"Hey, no one told me I'd have to do any actual work. This is a CBI retreat, is it not? That implies relaxation and rest." Jane responded.
Lisbon just rolled her eyes and went to check in. By the time she came back, the tents were pitched, a fire was made, and Jane was sitting by the fire in a camping chair, sipping tea he had made in a kettle hanging on a branch over the fire.
"Well, guys, we're all checked in. Welcome to our new home for a while." Lisbon said, and everyone, except Jane and Van Pelt, groaned.
As the last rays of sunlight faded down behind the clouds, the fire crackled invitingly as Cho and Rigsby each dragged logs over for the team to sit on. Once they did, the team sat. "S'mores time, everyone!" Van Pelt announced happily, finding a few bags of marshmallows, a few large bars of chocolate, and a few boxes of graham crackers. A mixed chorus of "Yes's" and "That's what I'm talking about's" rose from the team. Once everyone was either toasting their marshmallows, assembling their s'mores, or eating them, Van Pelt sat down.
"Tell us a scary story, Jane!" Van Pelt exclaimed, an eager smile painting her features, making her look almost childlike.
Jane took a deep breath as he was reminded of his first camping trip with Angela and Charlotte and how Charlotte had shrieked with childish laughter while requesting that he tell them a scary story. He remembered her holding her s'more, her mouth coated in a sticky, melted marshmallow chocolate goo and her fingers the same way…
Lisbon's voice broke him out of his reverie. "Jane?"He shook his head to clear the memory as Lisbon touched his arm gently.
Her face looked concerned. "Are you ok?"
The team looked equally concerned, and he waved their concern away.
"Fine," he assured them calmly, "I'm fine. How about that story now?"
The all nodded and he leaned forward, looked into the eager faces of his teammates, and began.
"A long time ago, in these very woods," Jane intoned dramatically, "a group of people just like us came here to camp in this very spot…sure, they'd heard the rumors, but no one believed. Legend had it that a witch lived in the forest, and she would lure the defenseless campers into the woods and bewitch them so they wouldn't remember where they were, and then…she would kill them and turn them into ghosts that were forced to roam the forest forever, luring in defenseless campers for her to turn. None of them believed, that is, until they started disappearing…first, went the most naïve…" He glanced at Van Pelt, who looked away. He then cast his glance at Cho and Rigsby. Cho tried to remain stoic but he knew Cho hated witches. "then they all disappeared, one after the other, until the most adamant non-believer was left." He cast a glance at Lisbon next to him, who looked thoroughly unconvinced. "But the last person disappeared too, because they were foolish and they couldn't shake the feeling that their friends were still alive. So, the last person went looking for them, and the person was eventually turned as well. They say if you listen very closely, you can still hear the tortured moans of the victims under the witch's control. Some say, on certain nights, you can even feel a cold breeze on your skin, indicating the presence of lost spirits…"
Van Pelt looked slightly nervous, along with Rigsby while Cho wore his stoic mask. Lisbon looked totally and completely unmoved.
Van Pelt spoke up. "Boss, do you really think…?"
Lisbon shook her head. "C'mon, Van Pelt, this is Jane we're talking about here."
Jane kept a straight face. "How do you know it isn't true, Lisbon?"
"Because you used to con people for a for a living. You don't think I can tell when you're lying by now? You've been here more than five years already." Lisbon answered.
"You never know, Lisbon, the truth may surprise you." Jane replied, getting up from his log.
"I think the bar on how often you surprise me has been set pretty high." she answered.
Jane smirked. "Oh, please, you haven't even scraped the surface of the surprises I'm capable of."
Lisbon smirked. "Oh, really?"
"Really." Jane responded with a smile.
When they looked around, everyone had retired to their tents and the campfire grew smaller. Jane pushed up from the log, gently brushing Lisbon's hand accidentally and she found herself wishing his fingers had stayed on her hand a little longer. Her mind flew to the way she had held his hand on the side of the road after the whole thing in the limo with Red John. The way his hand had brushed gently down her arm, and the way her thumb moved to accommodate his hand, and most of all, the way his thumb had rubbed her knuckles as their hands settled into each other…
Once he stood, he smiled at her briefly. "Goodnight, Lisbon, sleep well."
Lisbon gave him a slight smile back. "Night, Jane. Don't forget, we're all going hiking tomorrow, make sure you're up."Jane chuckled. "Yes, I know. I hope you know, that I don't like hiking."
Lisbon smirked. "Too bad for you, because we're going anyway. Whether you like it or not."
"Goodnight, Lisbon." Jane said, smiling. With that, he too retired to his tent.
Lisbon got up and extinguished the fire, and while she did so, she couldn't help but notice that she felt strange. Her mind kept replaying the way he'd brushed her hand. It was an accident, Reese, she thought to herself. It's an accident and nothing else. It didn't mean a thing. But as she climbed into her tent and changed, she found herself doubting that statement more and more as she fell asleep.