So this happened. I've never written a story quite like it, so bear with me. And yes, there will be a second part to this. I'm writing it now.
The water is rising on a river turning red,
It all might be okay or we might be dead.
If everything we've got is slipping away,
I meant what I said when I said until my dying day.
I'm holding onto you holding onto me,
Maybe it's all gone black but you're all I see,
You're all I see.
Mat Kearney, 'All I Need'
They're about to break through the door of Red John's warehouse with an entire SWAT team at their backs when Lisbon's stomach suddenly drops. She's running on adrenaline and four hours of sleep, so she doesn't think much of it, simply grits her teeth and then pushes the funny feeling away. That is, until the ache spreads into her chest and digs in right beneath her ribcage.
Cho stops what he's doing. "You okay, Boss?" His voice is quiet and half-muffled by the sound of gravel under their feet, but Lisbon still hears him.
"Yeah," she chokes out, ignoring his unconvinced look. "Yeah, I'm fine."
He opens his mouth to say something, but then the warehouse door splinters open and they are rushing forward into the shadowy darkness of an unused loading bay. After a few moments of adjusting to the gloom, the SWAT team moves to the point position, running ahead and searching for any sign of the man they now know to be Red John. They make it halfway through the warehouse before the heaviness of copper coats their tongues.
The ache in Lisbon's chest expands at the taste, and she can't breathe. She stops moving and presses a fist into her vest. This time, it's Rigsby who shoots her a worried glance.
She waves a hand dismissively at his unfinished question. "I'm fine."
He gives her a small nod, but doesn't move away from her side. "Everything's going to be all right," he murmurs, so low that Lisbon almost misses the words. She shifts from foot to foot uncomfortably, trying to look normal, trying to calm her stuttering heart.
Then the sound of a gunshot rips through the eerie stillness of the warehouse.
Lisbon's gaze snaps to a nearby window and out toward the car where they left Jane to wait.
His seat is empty.
"Dammit, Jane," she swears, and her stomach twists again. He couldn't have possibly-
Lisbon cuts off that train of thought and tightens her grip on her gun. She told him to stay in the car. But when has that ever meant anything to him? Next to her, the radio on Rigsby's hip crackles to life. The words male civilian burst through the static, and then Lisbon is gone, running between crates and officers, her pulse pounding away in her ears.
He couldn't have killed Red John, because this isn't how it's supposed to happen. She's supposed to be there. To stop him, to save him, because that's who they are. He is Jane and she is Lisbon, and sometime in the last decade that started to mean something.
She can't arrest him, she realizes suddenly, emotion punching through her stomach so hard she almost stops running. She always thought that she would be strong enough, righteous enough, to arrest him if need be, but that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. (She is weak and in love, her whole world nothing but shades of grey and the blue of Jane's eyes now.)
A hand reaches out and grabs the front of her vest, jerking her to a stop.
"Agent, you need to slow down." The SWAT man's voice is calm and soothing, but Lisbon just stares at him, bewildered and unable to think beyond Jane, Jane, Jane.
"Jane," she gasps, pulling the man's hand off of her. "Where's Jane?"
He frowns. "Who?"
She pushes past him and catches a glimpse of a smiley face on the wall in the next room. "He's my partner," she says over her shoulder as she moves toward the room. "My-"
The words die in her throat.
This is so much worse than having to arrest him.
There's too much blood, and a part of her knows that she can't save him now. (But a desperate, irrational part of her wants so desperately to try.)
"Jane?" she says, voice hoarse and terrified as she kneels beside his body. His blood seeps through her pants, but she doesn't move. They're partners, and he deserved so much more than this. "Dammit, Jane." His name cracks in her mouth and her vision blurs as she reaches for his wrist. Her fingers meet blood and ragged flesh, and Lisbon has to choke back the sob that rises from her chest.
"I was supposed to save you," she says, grasping onto the buttons of his vest. "And then-" She stops, because she doesn't know what she expected to happen then and it's pointless to wonder now. Her gaze snags on the other body laying a few feet away.
It's Red John, his head a bloody pulp, but Lisbon feels no sense of victory, just a hollow, helpless pain that catches in the back of her throat. (This wasn't how it was supposed to happen.)
She wraps one bloody hand around the cross at her neck and lets the other drift over Jane's curls.
Holy Mary, mother of God-
The next few days are a blur.
The hospital. Incident reports. Soft voices. The funeral.
She doesn't remember much of the funeral. There was the blazing sun and empty chairs and the sound of someone crying, and sometimes, she can still picture the lightning white flowers she placed on his grave.
They have to start solving murders again too soon and Lisbon slowly starts to despise everything around her. Every aspect of work is tinged with Jane's snide comments or his laughter and it eats away at what little strength she has left.
And then the coroner finally releases both autopsies from the Red John takedown and Lisbon breaks all over again.
Jane's autopsy reports that his wounds appeared to have been self-inflicted, and when they inspected the razor that was used to kill him, they found only his fingerprints.
Lisbon doesn't have the resiliency left to even try to hate him. She just misses him. And when the second autopsy report comes back with the finding that a self-inflicted GSW was what finally took down California's most notorious serial killer, Lisbon locks herself in her office for hours, trying to convince herself that one day, everything might be okay again.
(But the truth hurts, and really, none of this was worth it.)
Lisbon takes a month off of work after that and tries to hide from the world.
She sees Jane everywhere, hears him whispering words into her ear, and she's torn between savoring these illusions and forcing them to stop, because they are all she has left of this brilliant, frustrating man who was (above all else) her friend. (But every time she sees his fractured blue eyes and lopsided smile in a stranger another piece of her heart shatters.) She refuses to visit his grave, because that would make it all too real, and she hates that she feels like a widow, because she's not.
The team visits her almost daily. Usually individually, always with food. They talk about mundane things. The weather, Ben's most recent words. They never mention work or Jane.
Van Pelt's the one who finally brings him up.
They're sitting on Lisbon's porch quietly eating takeout and watching the sun climb into the sky. Halfway through a carton of sweet and sour chicken, Lisbon realizes that this is her first summer without Jane. She bites the inside of her cheek and tries to stop the sudden flood of memories. The sunlit stakeouts, the stops at ice cream stands throughout all of California, the cool of the air conditioning as they bickered in her car.
She has this brief, vibrant picture of Jane chasing fireflies through a crime scene, and then a car alarm blares, dragging her back to the present.
Van Pelt is watching her steadily. "You should visit him," she says eventually, her voice soft and careful.
"He's dead." It's the first time she's said it out loud, and Van Pelt flinches at the words.
"But maybe it would help-"
Lisbon looks at her wearily. "No." Nothing will ever fix the ache in her chest.
Van Pelt nods her understanding and they lapse back into silence.
An hour later, after Van Pelt has said goodbye and promised to be back in a few days, Lisbon grabs her keys off the counter and slides into the driver seat of her car. It takes her twenty minutes to reach the cemetery and five to find where he's buried, and then she just stands in front of the grey granite, trying not to think about how his eyes crinkled when he laughed.
The words just tumble out.
"I took off work," she says. "A month that's almost up, and I'm terrified to go back because I can't imagine walking through the doors and not seeing you. I don't want to sit in my office and stare out into the bullpen at your empty couch. I don't want to wander into your attic and not find you there. I don't want to forget-" She chokes on the rest of the sentence, swiping quickly at the moisture on her cheeks. Taking a deep breath, she starts again. "Could you do one last magic trick for me?" she asks. "I'm so...I'm just lonely, Jane, and you fixed it before." She pauses, pressing her fingers into the grooves of his name on the headstone. "I'd like you to fix it again," she whispers.
She prays for him then, even though the words are jagged in her mouth, and she knows Jane would mock her mercilessly, because when you're dead you're dead, and until then, there's ice cream.
When the month is up, Lisbon goes back to work.
The whole floor wants to get rid of his couch, but Lisbon convinces them to keep it. Without Jane's couch, the bullpen would feel empty, less like home, and she doesn't want to lose another piece of him. (Sometimes, after the team has left for the night, she ventures out and sits on his couch, trying to remember every moment, every word. A part of her realizes that she is stuck reliving the past, too in love to let it go, and that it is ruining her life. She doesn't particularly care.)
She does bring herself to throw out the remains of his tea though, because every time she makes a cup of coffee the smell is there, lingering. But that's his smell, and it just feels so wrong that it should exist without him.
Three months after her return, she gets shot in the line of duty.
That's how she ends up laying awake in a hospital bed at three in the morning, alone and delirious with pain. (It's also how she sees Jane again.)
She hits the button on the morphine drip and closes her eyes for a moment, desperate for sleep. Distantly, she hears the door to her room open and then there are fingers tapping their way along her wrist. She jerks awake and finds him standing there, a little bit scruffier, his eyes sad in the darkened room.
"Jane." She reaches for him, her hand catching on his sleeve and curling into the fabric. She needs to touch him.
He's warm. So warm and alive that it makes her bones ache and the hole in her chest throb. Jane gives her a small smile, but his eyes don't crinkle the way they used to, before. "I heard you got shot," he says softly, moving to sit on the edge of the bed, "and I wanted to make sure you were okay."
Lisbon watches him, too exhausted to do anything but stare at him and trace the sadness through the lines of his face. She needs to remember all of this for the bad days, the days she can't picture his smile or recall the exact shade of his eyes. Jane notices her hungry gaze and reaches forward to brush the hair away from her feverish cheeks, slowly tracing the line of her jaw with his thumb. Lisbon can feel a sob building in the back of her throat at the careful gesture. She misses him so much.
He leans back slowly, staring at her as though he too is trying to memorize every contour of her face, and he looks so impossibly mournful that it breaks her heart all over again.
"Maybe I won't leave just yet," he says softly.
She tangles her fingers with his, smiling at the taste of hope that's resting on her tongue. "I'd like you to stay, Jane."
He squeezes her hand. "Then I'll stay."
She wants to talk to him, to tell him about everything that's happened, about how all of it's wrong now that he's gone. But with his hand heavy in hers and his steady breathing nearby, Lisbon soon falls asleep, more warm and content than she's felt in weeks.
She dreams of vivid sky blue and a long, perilous mystery, and somewhere in the middle of this never ending dream, Jane shows up with a needle and thread and stitches her back together.
When she wakes up the next morning, the hole in her chest hurts less and an origami frog sits propped up on the pillow beside her.
At first, she thinks the frog in the hospital was a coincidence, but then they start popping up other places. Inside her coffee mugs, her desk drawers, and eventually right beneath her front door. So she begins thinking maybe it's some sort of sick joke, because every time she finds one of the paper creatures, her heart skips a beat and she's suddenly back behind a desk watching Patrick Jane place an origami frog in front of her, an apology in his eyes. It's cruel, and she wants it to stop.
Lisbon reaches her breaking point when she finds one sitting on the comforter of her bed. She grabs a pen and picks the little animal up, careful not to crush it in her palm. Please stop, she writes in bold letters and then places it back where she found it.
Suddenly uncomfortable in her own room, she heads back downstairs, grabs her car keys, and makes her way to the only other place she's ever felt at home.
When she walks into her office, the bullpen is empty, the only light in the space coming from a lamp on Van Pelt's desk. Lisbon lets the door swing shut behind her and then moves toward her desk, reaching for a folder of unfinished paperwork.
Sitting on her stapler is another paper frog, two words scrawled on its back.
The handwriting is unmistakably Jane's.
She's standing with her back to the door, shaking and confused, so she never sees him come in.
"Hello, Lisbon." It's the voice from the hospital, it's his voice, and her breathing hitches. (She's spent hours trying to remember his intonation, the comforting lilt of his words, because she never thought she would hear it ever again. And here it is.)
She spins around to face him, and the way he is leaning in the doorway, the shadows playing across his face, causes something heavy to settle in her chest. It feels so much like old times for a moment, like nothing has changed.
He gives her a small smile. "Aren't you going to say hello, dear?"
"You son of a bitch," is all she can get out properly, but it sounds weak and venomless even to her own ears.
His smile widens to a full-blown grin, and then he's taking two big steps forward to wrap her in a hug. "That's no way to talk to your partner," he whispers into her hair.
She pulls away quickly and punches him in the shoulder, hard. "Don't even talk to me about partners, Jane. You...you died. I was there. I had to wash your blood out of my clothes. I went to your funeral. I mourned you. And now you show up here, talking about partners and...This was nothing but another con again, wasn't it?" she asks, gripping onto the edge of her desk as the realization hits her, and she can't believe he did this to her again. They were supposed to be trusting each other. "You fucking broke my heart, Jane." (For the hundredth, thousandth, millionth time.) Her voice cracks, but she will not cry. Not in front of him. "You made me miss you, when this was nothing but another ruse. Another game." Lisbon pauses, sucking in a painful breath. "If we were really partners you would have protected me from all of this misery. You would have told me the truth, and we would have done whatever needed to be done together."
Jane takes a step toward her, his eyes dark. "I was protecting you," he says simply. "I will always protect you."
"Yeah? Well some job you're-"
He rushes forward, pinning her against the edge of her desk. "If I didn't die, you were going to die instead. You and Cho and Rigsby and Van Pelt. All of you. Slowly and painfully." He looks down at her, and Lisbon can see the torment and the heartache in his too blue eyes. "My family," he says, voice cracking, "all gone."
She doesn't know what to say to that, but she find herself wanting to touch him, to reassure herself that this is real, that he is solid and here and breathing. Lightly, she trails a hand over his elbow, the warmth of his skin seeping through her fingertips.
His eyes crinkle slightly at her touch and when she sees it she frowns.
"Then what are you doing now?" she asks. "Red John is dead. Why are you still hiding?"
Jane sighs and he sounds so very world weary that Lisbon finds herself leaning in toward him, wanting to offer comfort even after all this time. "He left behind a lot of followers, people he trained to become the next Red Johns of the world. I'm trying to track them down."
She doesn't even hesitate. "Let me help you." They are partners, will always be partners no matter what either one of them says or does, and their fates were tied together the moment she signed on with him. For some reason, this knowledge doesn't frighten her, and as they stand in her darkened office, barely inches apart, she's sure he can see everything in her eyes.
He takes a step back, shaking his head. "I need to do this myself."
Lisbon opens her mouth to argue. "Don't be-"
Jane presses a finger to her lips, shushing her. His eyes are suddenly warm as he smiles at her. "I will always come back to you, Lisbon. Don't ever doubt that."
He cuts her off with a soft kiss to her cheek. "See you soon, my dear," he whispers and then he pushes her office door open and melts into the darkness.