AN: This is THE END, folks! Thanks for sticking with me…this is definitely the longest story I've written, and I apologize for the several centuries it took me to do so!
I'd like to thank everyone who has taken the time to leave me a review – I really appreciate it more than I can express. You guys truly inspire me, and I couldn't do this without your support.
A note about this chapter – yes, this really is it. If there are unanswered questions…well, maybe I left them unanswered on purpose ;) You never know what I'm planning next…
The Art of Sanctuary
Two days later, Lisbon was released from the hospital. There was still a chance that she could develop an infection, so Jane made a stop at a nearby pharmacy to fill a prescription for some heavy-duty antibiotics.
Her lungs were still sore, as was the rest of her body, but she suspected that a few days of not being an inpatient would do wonders for her.
Of course, the question was…where was she going to go?
She hadn't slept in her apartment since the night Red John had broken in to it. There was always the option of another hotel, but she was tired of feeling like a gypsy, no place to call home.
And Red John was dead now. Perhaps it was time to face her lingering fears, or at least learn to deal with them until she could make other, more permanent arrangements.
Jane made no comment when she told him where she wanted to go, just simply turned the Citroen's wheel smoothly to the left. However, his startled blink told her that he was indeed, quite surprised.
To her own surprise, there was a heady sense of relief when she unlocked the front door to the apartment she had called home for the past five years or so. Her things were here, her memories. She slept in the bed upstairs and drank coffee in this kitchen.
Given everything that had happened since the last time she walked out the door, the feeling of homecoming far outweighed everything else.
She breathed in deeply in the living room, ignoring the slight protest of her lungs. The place smelled a little stale, like she needed to take the trash out. Well, that wasn't exactly welcoming. She turned on the wax warmer Grace had gotten her last Christmas, hoping the aroma of vanilla and cinnamon would bury the other, more unpleasant odors before long.
Behind her, Jane sat the plastic hospital bag containing her possessions on the counter, then reached into a cupboard for a glass.
"Here," he said, filling it with water and handing it to her before digging for her prescription pills. "I promised the team I was going to take care of you, and I'm pretty sure Cho will break my arms if I don't."
With a small smile, she took the medicine, wondering absently what her co-workers thought about her current situation with Jane. At this point, a blind person had to know they were together. Together-ish. Or something.
It was a conversation they needed to have, and, considering everything, should probably have soon.
But as Jane shrugged off his jacket and rolled his sleeves up, moving around her apartment comfortably, she found she didn't want to disrupt the atmosphere. She had wanted this for a very long time, and wasn't there some old saying about not looking a gift horse in the mouth? Not that Jane was horse, although he had gotten her a pony once…
Forcefully, she marshaled her brain. She hadn't slept a great deal in the past week, and her mind had started taking some outlandish twists.
To her dismay, she kept waking up with nightmares, so vivid that she was often afraid to close her eyes in the first place. Jane had interfered, knowing that her body physically needed the time off, and she had found herself swallowing sleeping pills, too. In her opinion, the only thing they had done was force her to have the terrifying dreams.
Waking up next to Jane was a small consolation. His arms and quiet whispers were comforting, his warmth wrapping around her like a familiar quilt. If anyone knew about recurring nightmares, it would be him, and there was some solidarity in that.
She was hoping that with time she would get over it. Well, perhaps get over it was a bit much to expect. She just wanted to be able to close her eyes and sleep without visions that would send a weaker person sobbing into a corner.
Almost awkwardly, she stood in her tiny kitchen, wondering what she should be doing now. Jane's phone rang, and he studied the number on the screen for just a second before answering.
"Yeah?" he said, glancing absently out the window. Then his attention focused. "Finally? It's about damn time." He turned his attention towards her, expression considering. "No, I think I should probably be there. An hour? Sounds good." There was a pause as he listened to whoever was on the other end of the line. "No, we're at her apartment. Just walked in the door, actually. Alright, I'll see you soon."
He flipped the phone shut then offered her a tight smile. "That was Cho. We finally get Haffner's safe back."
It had been utterly unexpected, but they had run into some massive red tape when they tried to get Haffner's safe unlocked. Jane had told her that it was probably some of the last vestiges of Red John's power and influence. Even in death, he was figuring out how to thwart them.
However, Bertram had leaned very heavily on a few folks, calling in some long-owed favors. Apparently, it had worked. She wondered if Bertram had figured out he was a Red John suspect, then shook her head. Obviously, he knew he had been a suspect before, back when that whole mess with O'Laughlin and Hightower happened.
"And you're going in to see what's in it." It wasn't a question, and it wasn't said with any inflection. If anyone should be there, it would be Jane. Besides, it wouldn't be at all surprising if the safe contained something cryptic and bizarre. She doubted it would be as simple as them discovering a list entitled "People I've Killed."
Jane sighed. "I think it's a necessary step in figuring this whole damn puzzle out. I'm not sure what's going to be in there, but whatever it is, it's going to be important."
She nodded her understanding, but Jane still looked concerned. "Are you going to be alright while I'm gone?"
"Of course," she said automatically. It was probably even true. As long as she didn't attempt to sleep, she would be perfectly fine. With her eyes open, there was no threat of crushing earth, and she was still confident in her ability to deal with any other sort of threat.
Jane took a long look at her face, and she knew he was trying to analyze the truth of her words. "Fine," he eventually murmured, moving closer and taking her into his arms. "I'll be back as soon as I can," he whispered into her hair.
"Take your time," she said, fingers trailing over the back of his vest. "I'll be just fine."
Almost regretfully, he kissed her. He lingered long enough to increase her heart rate, his incredibly talented lips effectively awakening all of her nerve endings. Just when she was considering ripping the buttons off of his shirt, he pulled away, his color a little high.
"Call if you need anything," he instructed, and then he was gone.
She spent the next hour or so doing all of the housekeeping chores that had been ignored since she had last been here. She changed her sheets, took out the trash, dutifully dusted and then vacuumed. While she was cleaning the bathroom, she found her abandoned wine glass from the night Jane had decided she needed some intensive relaxation.
In that moment, she knew she was really and truly alright with being in this place. There were definitely far more happy memories than not. The bathtub, her couch during a thunderstorm…yes, those all meant more than one night of disruption. Pleased with herself, she curled up in the recliner, intent on watching some terrible reality television, the sort of stuff she would deny ever seeing until the day she died.
And then…she waited.
Haffner's entire storage unit had been sealed off, both with literal crime scene tape and proverbial red tape three days ago. Jane had meant what he told Lisbon – there was probably some sort of protocol in place if Haffner died, some sniveling minion who was required to put a particular series of events in motion.
It would be foolish to forget that Red John was immensely powerful, more so than Jane had probably even figured out, and that, even in death, there were people who were more than willing to protect him.
Bertram had come through in the end for them, though, and Jane felt a twinge of regret for having put the man on his suspect list in the first place. But, hell, he would have put Cho on the list if he would have fit the criteria.
There were already a couple of CBI vehicles parked at the scene when he arrived, along with a white van bearing the name of a local locksmith company.
Portable flood lights had been set up around the unit, their bright glow illuminating the whole area in a sterile fashion.
Cho was standing off to the left, arms crossed, supervising the work on the safe. The locksmith appeared rather nervous about the close scrutiny, glancing up occasionally at the stoic agent. It made Jane smile a little.
Rigsby was at the other end of the storage unit, flipping through boxes and filing cabinets, occasionally putting something aside for a closer look when time permitted. Jane wondered what sort of damning stuff was contained here, what sort of picture they would emerge with.
And then he wondered when this would be over, when he would be free to go back to Lisbon. He was thinking in both the short and long term. Until they knew for certain, part of him would belong to the serial killer, the part that could go a week without rest and could remember the names of everyone he had shaken hands with in ten years. Part of him would always be sleeping on a mattress on the floor of his old room in Malibu, a bloodstained face his only company.
It was strange that it had taken him ten years to really and truly want to move on. Lisbon had been by his side for most of that time; what would have happened if Red John would have gone for her sooner? Distractedly, he shook his head. It hardly mattered now.
From across the room, there was a sudden crashing sound, and an entire wall of shelving came tumbling to the ground, boxes spilling open, their contents scattering everywhere. Jane noted that every single state agent had already pulled their weapon. Cowboys, he thought, this time with amusement.
"Sorry, guys!" Almost sheepishly, an agent that Jane vaguely recognized stepped from behind the toppled shelves. "Apparently these weren't exactly high quality." He toed the broken pieces of metal gingerly.
"Um, Agent Cho?" came a timid voice. "I got the safe open."
Immediately, Jane focused his attention in front of him. Sure enough, the heavy door was open, though he couldn't tell from this angle what was in it.
Ignoring the rest of the activity in the shed, Jane knelt as the locksmith shuffled eagerly away, no doubt anxious to get away from Cho's icy stare.
There was nothing in the safe that he could see except for a rather small box. It looked like something to keep index cards in.
Frowning, he reached for it, realizing but not caring that he was about to piss the forensics people off mightily with his lack of gloves. Slowly, he pulled the lid off.
It was a collection of photographs, he realized, all instant Polaroids, even in this modern age. And on every picture was a red painted face, leering at him.
There was something very familiar about the backgrounds he saw, but it wasn't until he was almost through the stack that he realized what it was. He recognized the bedframe that used to be in his room. These were all photographs of Red John's calling card.
A brief shiver touched him. He had studied every case file that Red John had been connected with, knew every piece of information there was to be had, remembered every single detail that he could glean from between the covers of those brown folders.
These pictures were not crime scene photographs. They had been taken by someone else.
Rapidly, he sorted through them again, finding Eileen Barlow's hotel room. The small portion of the window he could see in the frame told him it was night at the time it was taken. However, he knew the maid hadn't found the body until the next morning, full daylight.
If Haffner was still alive, this would be more than enough to get him the death penalty. However, for Jane, it was more than enough to convince him that Haffner had indeed been Red John. He very much doubted that a mere disciple would have access to these sorts of pictures, that Red John would have let someone else come along and watch.
Standing, he handed the box to Cho, who was prepared enough to already be wearing latex gloves. "I'm assuming that's going to be enough to convince the general public." He said nothing else, but walked out, suddenly desperate to get some fresh air.
It was the middle of the afternoon. He had been away from Lisbon for almost five hours, and it would be six before he made it back to her. Still, he took a few moments to rest his forehead against the steering wheel of the Citroen, eyes squeezed tightly shut.
Over, it was all over.
There was something impossibly difficult to accept about that statement. His life's work had culminated in this, and now what did he have to show for it? Where was the great feeling of revenge and justice and unburdening?
He simply felt tired, like an old man. Then again, he was headed in that direction whether he was willing to admit it or not.
The ends of this story were not tying themselves neatly up, as he had imagined they would. Had needed them to.
But there hadn't been any huge revelation; hell, he hadn't even managed to figure out that it was Haffner until that awful night he had dug Lisbon out of what was supposed to be her grave.
Traffic was beginning to back up as he made his way back to Sacramento proper, blindly following the route that would take him to Lisbon's door.
She opened a few seconds after he knocked, dressed in sweats and a Kings t-shirt. And she just looked so soft, so inviting that he leaned forward and rested his head on her shoulder, still standing in the doorway.
After a moment of surprise, she slid a hand into his hair, her touch beyond soothing.
"Tell me how to move on," he whispered. "I can now. I want to. But I feel like something is holding me back."
Her other hand grabbed a fistful of his shirt. "We'll figure it out," she murmured, and even in the state he was in, he noted the use of the word we. "Trust me."
He breathed in deeply, the perfume from her body wash acting like a panacea. It made him feel like they would be able to sort it out, that he could have a life.
A life with her.
His embrace became abruptly tighter, almost desperate.
He had her now, and he wasn't going to let go.
In a luxurious apartment several miles away, a man settled into his favorite chair with a cup of steaming tea.
The past few days had been nothing but upheaval, and he was very much looking forward to relaxing for what remained for the day. There was an unopened box on his kitchen table, one that had been pulled from the safe just that day. It was a wonderful stroke of luck, the CBI calling that particular locksmith, though he knew luck had absolutely nothing to do with it. All it took was one little distraction and no one would ever know what happened.
His back gave a twinge as he shifted slightly, reminding him that he wasn't nearly as young now as he was when he started this.
Perhaps retirement would do him some good. Perhaps he could get used to a perpetual state of leisure.
Absently, he watched the evening news as it aired. It didn't take a genius to figure out what the top story of the night would be.
But, ah, the things those news anchors were saying. Their choices in adjectives were quite disturbing.
He frowned, considering. Perhaps his retirement would only be semi -permanent.
A few muscle aches were a small price to pay.
And he could just imagine the look on Patrick Jane's face.
Slowly, the man smiled, the grin broad, his eyes crinkling at the corners until they were almost slits.
Perhaps he could still paint a few more self-portraits.