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At last I return! This chapter is slightly longer than the last, making it the longest chapter. All previous chapters have been edited to some extent!

Roses Are Red
Fifth and final story in the Crimson & Gold series (LJ | AO3)
By Clarity Enmuse
Fandom: The Mentalist
Pairings: Cho/Jane, (Rigsby/Van Pelt)
Usual disclaimers apply. Written by a fan, for other fans.
Rating: Mature
Warnings: torture (mostly psychological) & violence. *To be extra safe, highlight
death of canon character (non-team), unwanted fondling *
Words:
Summary: A few months after the events of "Red Light," Red John makes his presence known as Jane makes an important decision regarding his relationship with Cho. Anniversaries, reunions, kidnapping, and intrigue.

Recent Edit: Jan. 19, 2014

ELEVEN

With Lisbon's support Jane managed to convince the ambulance crew to let him ride with Cho to the hospital. Melanie, the EMT who'd seen to Cho in the basement, turned her attention to Jane a couple minutes into the drive.

"Want to clean up?" she asked, indicating Jane's face.

Jane raised a hand, stopping just short of touching his cheek when he realized how he must look. He glanced down at himself but his shirt had escaped all but a few lines of blood; his jacket, probably left on the basement floor, was another story.

"Here." Melanie touched his cheek with a pad of damp gauze. Jane was tempted to move away but relented when he realized he wouldn't be able to do a good job without a mirror. "Looking better already," she assured with a small smile.

---


At the hospital Jane was forced to stay in the waiting room. He attempted to charm his way past the young man working at the desk near the doors, but just as he was making progress, a middle-aged nurse appeared and leveled them both with a warning glare. Jane refused to show defeat but his continued attempts were half-hearted.

Lisbon, Rigsby, and Van Pelt arrived several minutes later and they headed straight for Jane.

"Paperwork?" Lisbon asked.

The younger nurse responded to the prompt. "For Mr. Kimball Cho? Do you have authorization to make medical decisions?"

Lisbon stepped up to the desk. "Yes, what do you need?"

"Let me call to check."

"I've got it, Mike," the other nurse said, standing up. "I can take you back to talk with the doctor." She shot Jane a smug smirk to which he responded with a chilly smile.

Lisbon glared at Jane and fixed a stern look at Rigsby and Van Pelt. "Stay put," she ordered.

It was very tempting to try sneaking past the doors behind Lisbon and the nurse, but a heavy hand settled on his shoulder and he stopped. He glanced sidelong at Rigsby, the taller man's face was set in a grim expression that didn't bode well for any argument. Van Pelt glanced between them nervously.

Jane relented, raising a hand in surrender before turning to the waiting room proper and running his gaze over the small clusters of people sitting around with bored, tired, or anxious expressions.

"He's going to be okay..." Van Pelt's voice lifted up at the end, making her statement more of a question.

Jane knew he could reassure her that Cho would recover quickly, physically at least. He didn't really doubt that, even though he could tell he had lingering doubts that made him anxious for a status report. But physical wellness meant little when it came to full recovery.

Rigsby gave Jane a quickly masked look of worry before responding. "Yeah, he'll be okay." Rigsby hesitated a few moments and then stepped closer to wrap a comforting arm around Van Pelt's shoulders.

Lisbon returned about fifteen minutes later and nodded approvingly to see them all present. She didn't wait to be prompted to speak about Cho's condition; "They're most worried about the dehydration and his shoulders, but he's not considered in critical condition. The doctor's thinking joint impingement, though they're still looking at the details. They've cleaned up the... cuts on his leg and there's no stitches needed."

"Is he awake?" Jane asked. His fingers twitched with restrained nervous energy. He wanted to go check on Cho himself.

"Kind of in and out, the doctor said. The dehydration has him pretty disoriented. They've also put him on painkillers so he'll be out for a while." Lisbon ran a critical gaze over Jane and he saw a spark of sympathy. "I asked about visitors. Cho should be moved to a room pretty soon and they'll let us in."

Jane murmured, "Thanks." Lisbon responded with a small smile of reassurance.

They stood in silence for a few minutes, then Rigsby cleared his throat and asked, "What about Red John?"

Jane's lips tightened in a frown at the mention of the murderer's name. He hoped the bastard was still choking to death.

Lisbon shook her head. "I don't know yet, McIntyre hasn't given me a call." She pulled out her phone and frowned at the screen. She glanced at the intake desk. "I would have thought he'd have to come through here."

Rigsby removed his arm from Van Pelt's shoulders and straightened up. "Need me to look into it?"

"That'd be great," Lisbon agreed.

After Rigsby departed, Van Pelt began to fidget. She looked down with an air of guilt that seemed odd to Jane. He and Lisbon exchanged a worried glance.

"Grace? You alright?"

Van Pelt's lips twitched up on one side in a crooked smile. She continued to look down at her fingers twisting together. "It's just... I'm not sure if I want Red John to live."

"I don't," Jane said coldly.

Both agents looked at him although they showed no surprise. The statement was hardly astonishing, Jane had always made it clear what outcome he wanted. He had wanted to kill Red John himself, would still gladly help the man along the way to his death. It just happened that the situation had forced Jane to prioritize and, perhaps a little unexpectedly, he had decided to put Cho first.

He met Lisbon's stare and saw acceptance in her gaze; that surprised him, given that she'd always supported the position of bringing Red John in to be subjected to the procedures of the justice system.

Van Pelt quietly admitted, "I don't want to deal with him." She crossed her arms and grimaced at the floor. "This—this isn't like me."

Lisbon laid her hand on the redhead's shoulder. "It's understandable," she murmured. Jane frowned at her strangely distant gaze, wondering what she was thinking.

Before he could further examine Lisbon's reaction, the nurse at the desk called them over. "Agent Cho is being moved to room 304. The elevators down the hall here will take you up."

Lisbon said "thank you" while Jane hurried ahead. Van Pelt had to double her stride to keep up with him.

---


Jane felt himself beginning to unwind for the first time in days as he stepped into the room. Cho was asleep, Jane could tell from his lover's slack, slightly opened mouth. Cleaned up and covered with a hospital gown and blankets, Cho didn't look too bad. An IV drip and standard heart monitor had been situated near the bed but didn't take up much room.

Jane ignored the chairs available and sat on the edge of the bed. His fingers trembled as he reached out to stroke a couple bruises visible on Cho's chin and neck. He hadn't seen the marks earlier. Lisbon and Van Pelt pulled up chairs to the bedside but said nothing to interrupt Jane's silent examination.

The IV was taped into Cho's inner arm on the opposite side of where Jane sat. Beneath the blankets Jane knew the macabre face was covered by bandages. He wondered about scarring for a few moments, his gaze focused on the thin wool blanket.

Lisbon cleared her throat and bumped her knee against Jane's to get his attention. He met her gaze.

"I need to catch up with McIntyre and check in with Hightower. I'll let you know if I have to head into the office." She stood up and her gaze wandered to Cho's face. "Call me when he wakes up." Before she left, Lisbon leaned down to cover Cho's hand with her own.

Van Pelt remained silent for a few moments after Lisbon's departure, then said, "I knew we'd get him back, but I wasn't sure we'd be in time." She wiped a finger over her eyes in a quick movement that almost hid the gathering tears. "Do you think he's alright?"

Jane opted to focus on Cho as he thought about how to respond. He could ignore the question entirely. He could give her a cynical answer. Alternatively, he could give her pat assurance. Instead he chose honesty:

"Not right now. But he will be."

He looked up when Van Pelt's hand captured his own. The redhead studied him with serious eyes, evaluating. After a few seconds she smiled softly and gave a nod of approval. "Yeah, he will." She squeezed Jane's hand and then let go as she settled into her chair.

---


Lisbon stood alone at the window looking in on the ICU room. She'd finished her second call with Hightower ten minutes ago after Red John came through surgery. McIntyre and Henley were taking the lead in investigating the man's real identity. Rigsby had gone to see Cho and bring the rest of the team news.

She watched the lines dance across the screen of the heart monitor and watched the respirator do its work to keep the man breathing. Jane wanted to kill this man. In the past he'd told her point blank that she needed to stay out of his way. Lisbon wondered when things had changed so that she was standing here alone without any real worry that Jane would show up to carry out his threat.

The doctor had explained that Red John wasn't out of the woods yet, but the outcome seemed "hopeful." Lisbon had nodded in response, expression blank. She wasn't sure how she felt about the news. Van Pelt wasn't the only one who didn't want to deal with Red John. She wanted her team to be able to move on without the threat of the man's presence; although she knew that whether he was alive or dead, the case wouldn't be wrapped with a neat little bow.

Lisbon glanced at the door and took a deep breath. She straightened her shoulders as she walked into the room and approached the bed. Her gaze flitted across the machines' readouts again, everything indicating that the man was unconscious. Despite the medical team's protests, they had acquiesced with the CBI's insistence that Red John be bound to the bed. McIntyre and Lisbon had consulted and agreed to the hospital's soft-lined restraints instead of handcuffs.

Now Lisbon leaned over and tested each restraint for security. Satisfied with her check, she straightened up and prepared to leave. Halfway to the door, she turned around and leaned over the monster who had haunted her team for far too long. "You won't win, you fucker."

In another life she might have left the bastard to choke on his own blood back on the kitchen floor. A small part of her almost wished she had.

Lisbon turned and walked away.

---


He felt the stirrings of consciousness long before he managed to wake up. His body felt leaden and he couldn't get the image of sinking into the mattress out of his mind.

Cho's thoughts swirled around in lazy circles as he tried to make sense of his condition. He knew he'd been in a bad situation and that something had changed, but he couldn't seem to grasp onto the details. His aching body and groggy senses encouraged him back towards sleep.


In due time Cho's mind cleared enough that he could press his way to full awareness. The problem with waking up was the accompanying physical aches.

"Grace, could you get the lights?" The request was immediately followed by the sound of footsteps and a dimming of the light beyond Cho's eyelids.

He slowly opened his eyes and blinked until his surroundings became clear. Cho focused on Jane's lopsided grin.

"Hey sleepyhead." The blond looked like he might continue, but as his gaze caught with Cho's, he simply smiled a little wider.

"Hi," Cho croaked. He grimaced and looked around to gauge his surroundings. It quickly became apparent that he was in a hospital room and with that realization, groggy memories filtered back.

"Here's some water," Van Pelt said as she held out a cup with a straw. Her smile was bright with relief when Cho focused on her.

Cho tried to lift a hand to take the cup but almost immediately aborted the motion with a pained gasp. Warm hands landed on his biceps and gently rubbed along his arms. "Let Grace fuss over you for now, okay? How bad is the pain, do you want me to get a nurse?"

After the sharp burn mellowed to a dull ache, Cho shook his head. He accepted Van Pelt's help as she held the straw so he only had to lean his head forward. Several long drinks restored some moisture to his painfully dry mouth and throat. "Thanks," he told Van Pelt between sips. Jane's hands slid away as the blond resumed sitting on the edge of the bed by Cho's knee.

"You're awake!" Rigsby stood in the doorway, cardboard tray with four cups in hand. Rigsby crossed the room in a few short strides and looked down at Cho with an earnest expression. "How're you feeling?"

"Alright," Cho replied.

He glanced at the water Van Pelt held, and before he could ask for more, Jane intervened. "Here, I'll take that and you can take your coffee," Jane said as he reached for the water. To Cho, the shuffle of his teammates and the exchange of cups looked almost like a dance. Apparently Jane saw something in his expression hinting at his thoughts because he said, "You're nicely drugged at the moment."

Cho studied Jane carefully as he sipped at his water; he was only peripherally aware of Rigsby and Van Pelt. The blond's initial bright smile had dimmed slightly, giving way to visible lines of stress and exhaustion. Jane met Cho's assessing stare and instead of the usual defensive walls, Cho was able to see a mix of emotions — relief, concern, guilt; there was something softer there, too, which he didn't dare to name.

"Hey boss!" Rigsby's call turned everyone's attention toward the door. Lisbon walked in with a wan smile on her lips. "Just in time for coffee," Rigsby said as he held out a cup for her.

"Thanks," Lisbon accepted with a nod. She went around to the unoccupied side of Cho's bed. "Good to see you awake," she greeted.

"It's good to see you," Cho replied. "I'm done for now, thanks," he directed at Jane. The blond nodded and exchanged cups with Van Pelt; presumably his contained tea rather than the others' coffee.

After a few moments with her coffee, Lisbon took a deep breath and straightened up. Her body language put even Cho's drugged senses on-edge.

"What's up, boss?" Van Pelt prompted quietly.

Jane's hand settled on Cho's thigh and for a moment he felt acutely aware that his other thigh was bandaged. He didn't dwell on the memories long as Lisbon started speaking.

"McIntyre caught me on my way here. He was downstairs about fifteen minutes ago when Red John coded. They've called it."

Cho forced himself to ignore the pain in his shoulder as he moved his hand to rest on top of Jane's. He continued to stare at Lisbon, knowing he should be feeling something more than simply hollow at the announcement.

Cho wondered what had happened leading up to his hospitalization; he only had the vaguest memory of hearing Jane's voice in the darkness and an all-consuming pain as his arms were lowered. He didn't know how the team had found him, or even where he'd been held, or what it had taken to reach him. He wanted to fill in the gaps to understand how Red John had ended up at the hospital, how the monster had died, but Cho couldn't find the words to ask for clarification.

Van Pelt cleared her throat and Rigsby muttered something unintelligible under his breath. Jane's hand turned over beneath Cho's and his fingers clasped their hands together. The movement finally prompted Cho to look at Jane. The blond's head was slightly bowed, gaze distant.

"Jane?" Lisbon murmured.

Cho gently squeezed Jane's hand and that seemed to get the other man's attention. Jane's gaze cleared in a couple blinks. He inhaled shakily and visibly appeared to pull himself together.

"Good. That's..." In a barely heard murmur he finished, "good."

For long, dragging minutes it seemed like no one was going to say anything more. Cho's gaze dropped to his hands. He didn't know what to say, but he rubbed his thumb over the back of Jane's hand in wordless support.

Eventually Lisbon broke the stillness; she briefly rested her hand on Jane's shoulder to catch his attention. "Let's go for a walk while Van Pelt and Rigsby get Cho up to speed." Before Jane could vocalize the protest clear in his expression, Lisbon continued, "No arguing, you can spare a couple minutes to stretch your legs. We'll ask what we can bring back and pick something up for Cho, okay?"

Cho gently squeezed Jane's hand and released his hold when it looked like the blond still hadn't made up his mind. Jane ran a quick but assessing stare over Cho before standing.

"Any requests?"

"You know what I like," Cho easily dismissed. A beat later he qualified, "Keep it light."

"Got it." Jane's gaze slid to Lisbon briefly. "Guess we'll be back in a bit." For a moment it looked like Jane meant to do something else before leaving; Cho caught the short, aborted movement of the blond almost leaning forward. A flash of something vulnerable flitted across Jane's expression, gone before it really registered with Cho.

In all, mere seconds passed between the parting words and Jane's exit. Given that Rigsby almost immediately launched into the story of what had happened in the last several days, Cho doubted that anyone else had noticed Jane's brief hesitation.

---


Lisbon ended up following Jane outside of the building into a small, well-kept courtyard. The early midday sun lit the whole space and caused Jane to squint when he turned to look at her. "You're wearing that suspiciously mothering look. Don't worry about me."

Raising an eyebrow to convey her skepticism, she returned, "That's hardly going to stop and you know it. And before you start arguing with me, I can multitask with my worrying and Cho's also high on my list. Between the two of you recently I don't know how I haven't gone gray."

Patrick's lips twitched slightly, which was reassuring, and he surprised her by leaning in and tucking her hair behind her ear. "I know who you'll blame it on if that happens."

They silently strolled along the pathway that curved around the courtyard's garden for a few minutes. Lisbon kept an eye on Jane as they walked but found it hard to get a read on him, which wasn't all that unusual. She wondered what took forefront in his thoughts – concern for Cho? Questions about Red John and his death? Her gaze dropped from his outwardly calm expression to Jane's shirt and unbuttoned vest. She grimaced at the sight of blood traces that cut across the plane of white. The rest of the team, herself included, had left the hospital at least once since the previous afternoon but Jane had stayed camped out at Cho's side since admission.

"You should take some time to clean up," Lisbon said.

"This your way of telling me I smell?" Jane asked in amusement. He looked confused when Lisbon stared pointedly at his shirt. He looked down and his smile faded. "Oh."

"It doesn't have to take long. We can all stick around while you go shower and change," Lisbon offered, keeping her tone casual as she made the suggestion.

Jane's gaze went distant as a tight frown took over his expression. After a while he asked, "Has the apartment been cleaned?"

Lisbon's thoughts flashed back to the moment she had stepped into Cho's bedroom and saw the bloodied trademark face above the bed. CSU had cleared the scene the same day Cho had gone missing, given that there hadn't been much else to catalog. "Not yet, I don't think." She realized as she answered that she had been thinking of Jane going "home" as in going to his house, not Cho's apartment. The more she thought about it, she acknowledged she should have known Jane had all but officially moved in with Cho; all indications pointed toward the men's relationship having become serious months ago.

As she sorted through those thoughts and moved on to wondering if it was wise to send Jane off alone to the apartment, the blond interrupted with something that halted all thought.

"Could you please arrange for the cleaners?" Jane's voice was quiet and strangely deferential; "For Cho's apartment and... and my house."

It took a few moments for Lisbon to fully comprehend what that meant. When the realization sunk in, she shot Jane a sharp look filled with surprise, horror, and a little bit of anger. How much had he preserved from his family's murder scene? She felt vaguely sick at the thought of Jane sitting and staring at Red John's mark on the wall, day in and day out. Why hadn't she ever thought to press for a visit before? She wished she'd known.

Instead of addressing her conflicting emotions on the revelation, she said, "I'll take care of it." She let out a long sigh, foregoing the accusatory "Why didn't you tell anyone? How could you live like that?" that ran through her mind.

Jane wasn't looking at her; he just nodded and then waved his hand in a vague, dismissive gesture. "I'm just going to... I'll be back in a few minutes."

Lisbon swallowed her protest that they needed to talk when she took a good look at his face. Jane's calm expression had started to wear thin at the edges and she knew he needed some time. Maybe some breathing room would benefit her as well.

"Alright," she agreed. "I'll make some calls." She knew she'd made the right decision when she saw the minute relaxation of Jane's posture. He nodded, still not looking at her, and walked away. Lisbon sighed and dragged a hand over her face; she felt exhausted.

She pulled out her phone on her way toward the door leading inside. She wondered if she could call in any favors to erase Red John's signatures immediately. Lisbon just knew she didn't want Jane to ever again have to walk into a room and see that bloody sign painted on the wall for him.

---
Onto Part 12 (the end!)
---

Notes: The first scene I had written in whole for so long but hadn't finished up enough of the other scenes to make it post-worthy. Then a couple weeks ago inspiration struck. :) I hope this didn't disappoint! I know it's been a long time. (Well, if any of you read "Shook the Bones" you've been waiting longer - and will have to continue to do so. *wince*) I have a goal of completing this fic before April Camp NaNoWriMo, however, so look for the final chapter(s) coming in the next couple weeks!