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'Til the Morning After

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A cup of tea sat cooling on his makeshift desk. Jane ignored it; his mind was elsewhere. As he sat, his legs trembled and he kept glancing at his cell phone. It remained stubbornly quiet, but that was to be expected. Everybody else was busy and he knew exactly where they were, or at least, what they were doing. The rest of the team knew not to disturb him, not today. After all, the date had been firmly etched into their minds. It was something they had all practically been waiting for. Jane wished he could think of anything but it, but he couldn’t, or wouldn’t. For a long while he’d tried to imagine how it would feel, but in the end, it was just a confusing mess.

He wanted company, but at the same time, he didn’t.

He needed closure, but didn’t know how to get it.

He had time, but sometimes that was more of a blessing than a curse.

And then, there was her.

Teresa.

She had been the one stable part of his life for so long now. Her and her team; they were his knights in shining armor, his family. And yet, Lisbon had always been so much more to him. As a precautionary measure, he’d always kept her at arm’s length and used Red John as a pithy excuse in order to do so. Somebody like her didn’t deserve somebody as broken and dangerous as him. Jane knew that he attracted danger; everything he’d done he’d brought upon himself. And Lisbon, she’d suffered enough heartache throughout her life and didn’t deserve anymore.

However, he knew that his excuses and his reasoning were becoming null and void. She didn’t care what he was like; she’d stick with him through thick and thin. Besides, the last thing she wanted him to do was make decisions for her. Teresa Lisbon was a grown woman; she was used to making tough choices. As far as she was concerned, she didn’t need saving. She could do it for herself. And as far as Red John was concerned…

There was a knock on the attic door. Immediately, Jane whipped his head around, just in time to see Lisbon herself slip through the doorframe. She looked especially somber, but that was to be expected. He knew where she’d been and what she’d done today. And he was inordinately relieved to finally be able to see her again.

“It’s done,” she whispered, but remained standing where she was. “I thought you’d want to know.”

“Thank you; I appreciate it.”

When he had told her that he wasn’t going to attend the execution of the notorious serial killer, Red John, Lisbon had almost been as surprised as she’d been when he’d willingly allowed her to take the man into custody. For years, revenge had been his lifeblood, the reason he got up in the morning and the way he kept the memory of his family alive. Then, he realized he didn’t need it to remember them by. They were safely locked away in his memory palace and his heart, where nobody else could touch them. Something – somebody – else had given him a reason to stay with the CBI.

He needed her as much as she needed him; that much was obvious. It didn’t take a mind reader to work that one out.

Lisbon sat quietly beside him. She didn’t reach out to touch him, nor did she say anything else. Jane had watched a man die before; he didn’t need to know the gory details about Red John’s demise. He didn’t want to know about it either. The knowledge that it was finally completely and utterly dealt with and put aside was enough.

And having Lisbon by his side also helped.

The silence was almost stifling. In a way, he wished that she would break the silence first, find something to fill the void between them. But she remained as stubborn as ever, while he, he tried desperately to find the right words.

There was so much that he could say.

So much that he wanted to say.

The problem was what, and how, and when to say it.

Eventually, he opened his mouth and different words came tumbling out of his mouth. They were still appropriate for the situation, but unexpected nevertheless.

“I’ve gotta go.”

“Where?” she asked and he couldn’t deny that it was a fair question.

“I have something I need to sort out.”

Jane stood and headed towards the door. He briefly turned to face Lisbon before he exited and she remained precisely where she was. That surprised him; he had half expected her to follow him, to try and find out what was going on in his mind.

“Will you come back?” she questioned quietly.

“Of course, I promise.”

She didn’t look like she believed him, but then again he had never given her cause to in the past. Lisbon had stuck with him through thick and thin, and understood him better than most. That meant she knew that his words were either loaded or meant nothing at all. He couldn’t blame her for misjudging the situation.

But he would be back.

He couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

He just needed that complete closure first.

xxx

For years, a bucket of magnolia paint had stayed stagnating in the garage. He’d planned to do this so long ago, but had always found some kind of excuse to put it off. The journey between Sacramento and Malibu was too long and arduous, or he was too busy with work, Red John, Red John, Red John. Lately, even he had begun to believe it was a little ridiculous of him.

It was time to rid this house of the ghosts of the past.

The house was practically void of furniture; it didn’t take long for him to prepare the master bedroom for a fresh lick of paint.

In the morning, he would call the realtors. He didn’t care who bought the house, whether it be somebody with a morbid curiosity about Red John, another family, or even if it was turned into offices. The building was wasted on him now, it was merely brick and mortar and if anything, it had been the one thing holding him back for the past year or so. He could easily have rid himself of the place when they had apprehended Red John, but he had chosen not to.

Now, he had no excuses.

Especially if he wanted to truly start rebuilding a future.

With Lisbon, preferably.

If she would still have him, of course, though he suspected he already knew the answer to that.

Jane had known about her feelings for him for a while, probably longer than she had. It was something he reciprocated wholeheartedly, but he just hadn’t been able to show it for fear of what might have happened as a consequence. Like getting rid of the house, he had no excuses now. There was nothing holding him back, nothing stopping him, but himself.

For a second, his hand quivered before he applied the magnolia paint.

Then again, the first brushstroke was always going to be the hardest.

After that point, it became increasingly easy. He worked steadily and in silence. Though he showed no emotion outwardly, with every stroke he was thinking of his family, saying goodbye to them, promising not to forget them. Though he wanted to move on, to get his life out of neutral, he wasn’t replacing them.

It was more compartmentalization.

So that he could truly live again.

By the end of it, he was emotionally spent. He sat in the room, staring stoically at the now-plain wall. For the first time in a long while, he felt utterly exhausted and ready to sleep.

Then again, that reaction wasn’t entirely unexpected, either.

xxx

He was awoken at precisely seven minutes past six in the morning. A quiet ring from his cell phone had grown increasingly louder until it finally disturbed him from his slumber.

As he stood, the first thing Jane noticed was the dull ache in his back and shoulders. That was mostly due to sleeping on the bare floor, but he knew that given time, it would soon disappear. Eventually, his phone stopped ringing until it started up again barely a minute later. Jane scrambled to pick it up and grinned when he saw who was calling. Eagerly, he pressed it to his ear and muttered a quick hello.

“We have a case,” Lisbon said, without the preamble. “When can you get here?”

“Not before the afternoon.”

Jane could practically imagine the sag in her shoulders in disappointment at his delay. The sound of her sighing told him enough as it was. Almost immediately, the desire to scoop her into his arms and apologize profusely for rushing off without telling her what he was doing rushed over his system. He trusted Lisbon with his life, cared deeply for her, loved her even. There was no need for secrecy and lies, not anymore. They’d been through enough together for him to know that she would always be there for him, no matter what.

“How long will you be tied up at your house?” she asked.

His smile widened; he hadn’t had to tell her where he’d gone, and yet, she’d known. Clearly, she had learned from the best and it was proof of just how well she knew him as well. His somber mood from the night before evaporated in an instant; the effect of hearing her voice was more than enough to do that. The desperate urge to climb in his car and drive straight to her was growing overwhelming. Everything else he needed to do when it came to the house could be dealt with long-distance; he had no need to remain in Malibu for a moment longer.

“I’m just about done,” he said quickly. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

xxx

When he arrived at the CBI headquarters, the bullpen was practically deserted. Only Cho remained huddled behind his desk, studiously staring at his computer screen. This wasn’t surprising; if there was a case, then Lisbon had probably gone to check out the crime scene or maybe even moved onto interviewing the relatives of the deceased. However, without even needing to be prompting, Cho told him that Lisbon had gone home ‘for something’.

It didn’t bother Jane in the slightest. If anything, it was probably better that he met her there rather than rushing to any old location and not really knowing what he’d find there. There was something in Cho’s tone that suggested there wasn’t a new case. He’d sounded bored, like he was sick of the monotony and waiting for something to happen.  And he’d seen both Rigsby and Van Pelt’s cars parked out front when he’d pulled into the parking lot…

A smirk toyed across his face. It almost seemed like Lisbon wanted to see him sooner, like she needed an excuse to get him back in Sacramento. Briefly, he toyed with the idea of playing with her. He could easily pretend that he’d gotten stuck in traffic and that he’d be late; he knew that Cho would back him up on that one, if he could find the right leverage. But then, he wanted to see her anyway. Jane wanted to get all thoughts of the house, of Red John, out of his mind. He needed to put Charlotte and Angela back in the corners of his mind where they would be safe from harm.

And he wanted to move onto the next phase.

It took him less than five minutes to get out of the CBI headquarters and back into his car.

xxx

He stood awkwardly at her door as he waited impatiently for Lisbon to answer. Jane found himself counting the seconds until she did so. When she finally appeared, he didn’t wait for her to speak and he didn’t say anything either. Instead, he reached out stroked her cheek gently. He was relieved when she didn’t pull away or stop him from doing so. She just stared him directly in the eye and waited for his next move.

Jane leaned forwards and let his lips brush against hers. A smile ghosted across his lips when she enveloped him into a tight embrace and ran her fingers up and down his smile. After what felt forever, and yet, too soon, he deepened the kiss, running his tongue across her lower lip before she reciprocated. For a first kiss, it felt long overdue and he was determined to enjoy every lingering second of it. Eventually, he found that he was the one who had to pull away first, breathless. Coyly, she motioned for him to come inside and he did so willingly.

“There was no case?”

“I wanted to see you,” she said simply. “How’s everything with the house?”

“I’m getting rid of it,” he answered by way of explanation.

“I figured.”

“Enough about that,” he muttered and brushed it aside with a wave of his hand. “How are you?”

“Fine,” Lisbon answered abruptly.

“Really?” he asked, skeptical.

“Really. I just want to know where we go from here. I half expected you to leave after we caught-”

He took her hand and squeezed it tightly. In a way, he was surprised that she hadn’t believed that he would come back again. His promise to leave after Red John was dealt with was old, invalid. Since they’d grown inexplicably ever closer, he’d never had any intention of leaving her side. However, the vow that he would always save her, whether or not she wanted him to? That was one he never intended to break. As far as Jane was concerned, he had years of making up to do – and between them, they both had a lot of lost time to make up for.

“I want to keep hold of you and never let you go. I want to wake up every morning with you by my side. I want to love you in the way that you deserve. I want to-“

In the end, she silenced him with a kiss. And in that moment, Jane knew that she was more than happy to go along with what he had just said. He was under no illusions that it was going to be easy; only a fool would believe that. However, he knew that what they had was enough.

And it always would be.