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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

TWELVE

Cho held back a grimace as he used a hand to push himself to the side of the bed. His painkillers had been switched before leaving the hospital and though they left him feeling more clear-headed, he felt far more achy. Still, putting a little strain on his shoulder as he got up seemed more dignified than literally rolling out of bed. Jane would be the only one to see his awkward moment, but Cho didn't want to worry him. They hadn't had much chance to talk yet, not at the hospital nor since Cho's release the previous evening. After getting back to the apartment — which had been Cho's choice, he refused the idea of an unfamiliar hotel room — Cho had pretty much collapsed in the small guest bedroom and fallen asleep. He didn't remember covering up with sheets or Jane crawling in beside him; the sheets over his body and the indent in the pillow next to his own told him he'd slept through that.

Once on his feet, Cho took a moment to let his light-headedness recede. The doctor had firmly warned that he needed to be careful and keep up his fluid intake for the next week. Cho headed for the bathroom after taking a quick look down the hall; Jane was probably in the kitchen or living room.

He had yet to have a full, proper meal and his stomach chose to grumble loudly in protest. He shuffled out of the bathroom still feeling a little groggy and went to the kitchen. No Jane, but Cho zeroed in on the bottle of water set on the counter. He took long swallows and opened the refrigerator to judge his food options. He was eyeing the drawers at the bottom of the fridge and wondering how much bending over would hurt when he realized he still hadn't heard Jane. He closed the fridge door and set aside the water bottle.

A chill rippled through him as he approached the doorway and looked out into the living room. Still no Jane. A glance at the front door showed the deadbolt engaged. Cho glanced down the hall again and listened for a few moments. His place was small, there was only one other room where Jane could be, and Cho wasn't sure how to feel about it.

Cho approached his bedroom door and paused with his scabbed fingertips resting on the knob. He hadn't seen what Red John left behind, though Rigsby and Van Pelt had told him that the murderer's signature marked the wall.

Inhaling quietly, Cho braced himself and gripped the knob firmly before turning it. His eyes flickered closed without his permission as he opened the door and he felt frozen for an indeterminate moment where he was caught between reality and nightmare, afraid of what he would find when he opened his eyes.

"Hey," Jane's quiet greeting floated through the haze of Cho's irrepressible trepidation. With a shaky exhale, Cho opened his eyes and found himself staring at the wall above the bed. No bloody face, but he saw the scrubbed, bleach-stained patch where cleaners had obviously come in. His gaze dropped to look at Jane, who sat at the edge of the bed staring back at him, a wrinkle of concern lining his forehead.

"When?" Cho asked. He was aware of clutching the doorknob with one hand and the door frame with the other, bracing himself at the room's entrance. He wanted to leave, even if the haunting red face no longer marked the wall; even though he had never seen it in his space, he could practically feel its presence. He did not want Jane lurking in its shadow, either.

"I asked Lisbon to arrange things," Jane answered, voice still quiet. The blond turned to stare at the wall, and Cho shuddered as his own gaze went back to the blank space. "Guess she called in some favors to get it done quickly."

Cho's fingertips began to sting and his shoulders ached in protest of his tensed posture. He couldn't tear his gaze away, though, and he could all too vividly imagine the ghoulish face dominating the scene as an unsuspecting person opened the door. He felt Red John's hands at his throat again, remembered the cool edge of the blade threatening his skin. His thigh throbbed in remembered pain as blood was forced to the surface for the murderer to spread it across his body.

"Kimball."

Cho blinked and his vision cleared away from the flashback. Jane stood in front of him, eyes haunted and worried. When their gazes met, Jane placed his hands on Cho's wrists and gently tugged. Cho released his grip and let Jane turn him back to the hall. They stepped out of the room and Jane closed the door firmly behind them. Cho started to take a step toward the kitchen but stopped when Jane's arms suddenly wrapped around his waist and embraced him. Cho closed his eyes and slumped against the support his lover offered.

"I'm sorry," Jane murmured against Cho's shoulder. His arms tightened and he turned his face against Cho's neck.

Swallowing thickly, Cho said, "It's not your fault." It wasn't; it had never been. He knew the guilt haunted Patrick from the past and there was little he could do about that. But this, he wanted to stave off that guilt from the start. He still had to work on exactly how he was going to get Jane to believe it, but Cho would insist until it got through the man's thick skull.

"Are you hungry?" Jane asked after a few minutes of standing in the hallway, embracing Cho and supporting most of his weight.

"Yeah. Was digging for something when I went looking for you." Cho opened his eyes and straightened up. Jane seemed to reluctantly withdraw his arms. His hand lingered lightly on Cho's back as they headed for the kitchen.

"I can fix you something. Sit down and drink some water." Jane pushed insistently on Cho's back when they entered, leading Cho to a chair at the table. "How about something light?" he asked as he retrieved Cho's water bottle.

"Anything's fine," Cho said. He accepted the water gratefully and drank as Jane rummaged around in the fridge and cupboards. Cho shifted in the chair, trying to find a comfortable position without much luck. His body ached something fierce and wasn't likely to return to normal for some time yet. No torn connective tissue or sprains, luckily, but the dual shoulder impingement was no walk in the park.

"Lisbon called earlier," Jane said, tone too casual as he pulled out a knife to begin slicing an apple. His back was to Cho.

"Oh?" Cho prompted quietly. He almost wasn't sure he wanted to know what it was about. Rigsby and Van Pelt had given Cho an overview of events while he was still in the hospital, but he hadn't asked for details. It was strange for him not to delve further into a case, get all the questions answered, but this had been an unusual situation. He found himself reluctant to have all the gaps filled in. That it was over felt like it should be enough.

"Results came back. It was a blood clot, doctors say it happens sometimes."

Red John's cause of death, then. The smallest things could complicate injuries and lead to death. Cho knew that, had been aware of that happening before. Blood clots might even have been a higher risk than normal due to the location of the wound. He stared blankly into the distance, the imagined sound of a flatlining heart monitor echoing in his ears.

"Is there an investigation?" Cho asked, meaning into Lisbon's shooting and ultimately Red John's death while in custody.

"She didn't say," Jane answered. His hands stilled on the counter and he glanced over his shoulder. "She didn't do anything wrong," he said with a frown.

Cho shrugged and regretted the motion immediately. "Doesn't mean someone's not going to be thorough." He gingerly raised a hand to rub at the sorest shoulder. "She'll be fine, though. It's just more hoops."

Jane shook his head as he went back to preparing food. "She said she'd try calling you later after you had more time to rest. She's holding off Rigsby and Van Pelt at the moment by giving them busywork."

The thought of Rigsby's longing glances at the phone brought a small smile to Cho's lips. He appreciated Lisbon's interference, though; he wasn't up to much company or the overcrowding of worried coworkers. Friends, he corrected himself. It had been good to see everyone safe and sound when he first woke up but now he appreciated the simple presence of Jane. It was enough, along with the familiarity of his home, even if part of him felt uneasy in a place that had been twice invaded.

"Don't think too hard, you'll get a headache," Jane chided with a smile. He slid a plate loaded with crackers, cheese, and apple slices across the table. "Need more water?" he asked, nodding to the mostly empty water bottle.

"Probably a good idea," Cho agreed as he nudged the bottle towards Jane's reaching hand.

In a few minutes they settled at the table across from one another in silence. It wasn't perfectly relaxed, but the tension was bearable and it was more a sense of weariness than anything else that haunted the air.

When the plate was almost clear, Jane asked, "Are you sure you want to stay here?"

The question managed to surprise Cho. He met the blond's serious gaze and tried to get a sense of Jane's thoughts on the matter. It wouldn't be in Jane's character to bring up doubts of his own in such an obvious way, but while Cho felt vaguely on-edge, being at his own apartment wasn't difficult. "It's fine." Caught up in the sense that he was missing something, he added under his breath, "Besides, where else would I go?"

Jane's gaze darted away for a moment as some unnameable emotion flashed through his blue eyes. Cho felt his lips part in surprise as his pain-addled mind pieced together the logical conclusion. He inhaled sharply, preparing to say something, anything, but Jane beat him to it.

"I was thinking," Jane started quietly. "You could keep me company while I did some things around the house." Jane's gaze finally returned to meet Cho's surprised stare. "I have some things to sort out. When you're up for it, there's some painting to do."

Cho knew he must look ridiculous as he silently stared back with his mouth agape. His brain had a hard time processing the suggestion. Jane was clearly sincere in the offer, even seemed like it was his preferred plan of action. It sent something like a shiver along Cho's nerves and he felt oddly giddy and light-headed. Jane was... offering to take him to the house. The blond was suggesting... Well, although it seemed a little unbelievable, Cho trusted his read on the situation. Jane was implying that he was preparing to move on.

When Cho could focus again, he saw the tense lines around Jane's mouth and a worried look in the blond's eyes. There was really only one way to answer, wasn't there? Cho couldn't make that decision at the moment. He cleared his throat and fumbled for his water bottle. "Uh... I need to..." He broke eye contact as he shook his head. "Let me, let me think on it." He stood up abruptly. He was halfway to the doorway before he stopped and turned around. He licked his dry lips as he met the studiously blank expression Jane cast his way. "I'm sorry," he murmured, holding back a grimace. "I just... need some more sleep."

Although he knew it was running away, Cho retreated to the guest bedroom and curled under the blankets on his side. He stared at the little side table and his cell phone set at the base of the lamp. His heart pounded heavily against his chest and his thoughts spun from surprise. He thought a little giddily, Red John's dead. It's over. The scars would linger; the murderer had left plenty of marks that would haunt their lives, but the man himself was gone.

Red John was gone and Jane was still here. Cho felt some of the tension fading as he began to truly accept that fact. Jane is here with me, in my kitchen.

Jane hadn't gone off to the office to talk to Hightower or spoken with Lisbon about turning in his consultant badge. Jane wasn't obsessing over the details of the wrap-up and ignoring all else.

Cho pushed himself upright and sat on the edge of the bed, staring for a long while at his shaky hands. At least, he didn't think Jane had talked to Lisbon about leaving. Whenever he'd been awake, Jane had been close by. But...

Before he could think better of it, Cho grabbed his phone and scrolled to Lisbon's number. She answered on the first ring.

"Hey, you okay?"

"I'm fine," Cho replied automatically. He imagined her suspicious frown as his voice came out a little hoarse. "I wanted to know if Jane asked to speak to Hightower."

"And he'd go through me, why?" she returned with some amusement. Lisbon was astute enough to catch onto his genuine worry, though. "I sincerely doubt he's about to quit and walk away," she said, tone unusually gentle. "Listen, did Jane tell you about the coroner's findings?"

"Yes," he answered, not sure where she was going with that.

"I called him with the information. He didn't ask me. The only thing he's asked for since we got you to the hospital was to arrange for the cleaners." She went quiet and Cho let the confirmation of his suspicions sink in. Jane had been close by since he woke up, never out of sight for long, though never clingy. "Whatever it is that has you rattled..." she sighed, the one that said she knew she was crossing the line of professionalism into personal. "I'd say you don't have to worry, Cho."

Cho swallowed hard and rubbed a hand over his face. "Okay." More firmly he said, "Thanks."

"You should have another day or two before you have to do anything work-related. Rest up."

"Yes, boss," he acknowledged. "Bye."

As soon as he hung up, Cho stood and dropped the phone on the bed.

He found Jane still in the kitchen, though the blond had moved to the stove where the kettle was just beginning to steam. Jane turned with a questioning look as Cho stepped into the room.

"I don't know what kind of timeline you're thinking," Cho started, making sure their eyes met, "but I'll only need to grab a few things."

A smile quickly graced Jane's expression. "Yeah. Me, too," he agreed. And that was, well, a previously unspoken acknowledgment of their living situation. He moved to stand in front of Cho. His hands settled on Cho's waist as he leaned in to initiate a chaste kiss. Faces close together, he asked Cho, "You're sure?"

"You are," he replied, and that was significant.

---


Lisbon came down the stairs with two empty water bottles in hand. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail, although strands of hair had escaped and seemed to float around her face. The loose hair and the smear of paint on her cheek made her look especially young.

"How's it going?" Cho asked as he stepped away from the cutting board. He opened the refrigerator and grabbed two new water bottles as Lisbon crossed the room. Painting was still a little beyond Cho's abilities, but Jane had offered him the task of preparing dinner so that he wasn't stuck sitting around uncomfortably idle.

"I'm waiting for the paint warfare to start," Lisbon replied with an amused snort. She looked around the kitchen and grinned. "Looks great. Need any help?"

Cho shook his head. "I'm fine. I'm pretty sure Rigsby's going to be early, though, so you should probably finish up there soon."

"Jane said the same thing," Lisbon agreed. She pulled out her hair-tie and brushed her hair back into some order before putting it back into a ponytail. "It shouldn't take much longer." She picked up the chilled water with a nod of thanks and headed back upstairs.

Cho returned to preparing the fruit salad. He heard Lisbon's indignant yelp and Jane's laughter floating down the stairs and smiled to himself. It sounded like Lisbon's prediction of "paint warfare" was accurate. He guessed that they had finished painting the bedrooms and moved on to the upstairs office. Yesterday Cho had at first been confused when Jane picked out three paint colors at the hardware store; then he'd slipped into stunned silence as the blond calmly explained that most of the rooms could use a fresh coat of paint before he listed the house. When Lisbon arrived to help paint, she caught a moment alone with Cho and muttered, "I told you, you didn't have to worry."

Ten minutes later, Cho checked on the chicken in the oven before heading for the downstairs bathroom. The vanity was cluttered due to he and Jane living downstairs since they arrived a few days ago. He tucked their toiletries into the drawers and gave the counter a perfunctory wipe-down before changing the hand towel. He turned to leave when a glint of gold caught his eye.

Cho froze for a long moment, staring at the gold ring hanging on a chain from the corner of the medicine cabinet. There was no misidentifying the wedding ring. Feeling like his heart had lodged in his throat, Cho touched the ring. Its cool, smooth solidity was almost a surprise.

"Most of the house needs a fresh coat of paint before I list it. Then I was thinking, if you'd be interested... we could look around for a place."

"I could do that."

Any lingering doubts he may have had about the permanence of his relationship with Patrick fell away as the gold warmed between his fingertips.

The doorbell rang, breaking through his daze. Taking a steadying breath, Cho went to let in Rigsby and Van Pelt.

---


Dinner was delicious, as Jane had expected. Cho's cooking surprised the others, though, and it was a reminder that they all kept much of their personal lives private. Jane wasn't the only one who had blocked visitors. He also wasn't the only one now opening doors. Van Pelt waved aside Cho's attempts to start removing the plates and stood up to gather dishes herself. Rigsby got up to help and Jane smiled to himself as he saw the two move with an easy, familiar grace. The recent scare had brought them closer into orbit around each other, again. If he wasn't mistaken, they would be attempting to find a way to date again within the month.

"Drink refills?" Lisbon offered as she unfolded her legs and stood up to stretch.

"Please," Jane accepted, lifting his glass.

"Oh! I brought something, actually," Van Pelt said from the kitchen. She glanced over her shoulder at Rigsby with a warm smile and Jane realized his estimate had been off.

"Paper bag," Rigsby jerked his head in the right direction as he grinned back at the redhead, his smile holding the smallest bit of nervousness. Interesting.

Lisbon's eyebrows were arched high in suspicion, but she slowly sank back into her chair and didn't question the proceedings. Cho watched the two in the kitchen with eyes narrowed in thought. Within a few minutes, Van Pelt and Rigsby had set out a handful of plastic champagne flutes and brought out a bottle of Moscato. "I thought I remembered you not being the champagne type," Van Pelt said to Cho, smiling nervously.

"That's fine." Cho leaned forward as Rigsby opened the bottle and began to pour. "We're celebrating something?"

"Well, obviously it's great that you'll be coming back to work tomorrow and we've closed the case—"

"But there's something else," Jane interrupted. The redhead bit her lip and glanced Rigsby's way. "Hmm. Wayne?" he asked pleasantly.

Rigsby cleared his throat and straightened up. "Well, I thought about this offer I got recently. There's an opening with the arson team. Anders is retiring in a couple months and he had suggested I come over to be part of the unit, get familiar with everyone so, uh, when he does retire," he paused as his smile broadened with pride, "I can take the lead."

Cho's eyes widened slightly in surprise and Lisbon seemed to relax a little, the suspicion fading. Jane clapped his hands together to break the silence. "Congratulations!" He stood and held out his hand. Rigsby looked a little dazed as he smiled and accepted the handshake. Jane tilted his head to get a good look at Van Pelt and winked at her. "I take it there's a secondary reason for the transfer." Rigsby's blush more than confirmed that.

Cho ducked his head though Jane could still see his smirk. Lisbon shook her head with a chuckle. "Good for you. Both of you." She took the opportunity to shake Rigsby's hand next. "Congratulations, Wayne. I was wondering if you'd decided."

"Thanks, boss," he said, rubbing the back of his neck like a bashful teenager.

Van Pelt passed around the champagne flutes. Once her hands were free, she slipped her fingers between Rigsby's.

"Now might be a good time to mention something else about team adjustments," Lisbon said as everyone reached for their glasses. Her gaze darted around the table as she hesitated. Jane knew she didn't mean to be dramatic, but she came off that way. "I knew that Rigsby was considering the offer from arson, so Hightower and I were discussing some team additions. We're looking at transferring Henley and McIntyre to the team." She turned her glass this way and that as she looked around the table, expression bland though her eyes gave away her worry. Rigsby just grinned a little when she looked at him.

"Hey, nice to know I can't just be replaced by one guy!"

Cho snorted softly and Rigsby looked mildly suspicious.

"They're good agents," Van Pelt determined. "I've worked with Henley a couple of times."

"They're both dedicated to doing good work," Cho agreed. He glanced at Jane and his lips twitched in a way that meant he was suppressing a smirk. "And they have amazingly resisted the urge to try and strangle Jane." For that, Jane leaned over to flick his lover lightly on the ear. Cho leaned away with a look of exasperation.

Lisbon was fighting back a grin as she watched them. "Yes, that was definitely a consideration. And narrowed down the options." Her eyes glinted with humor as Jane dramatically clasped a hand over his heart.

"So there will be more than one change in the office. When is all this shuffling taking place?" Jane asked, glancing between Rigsby and Lisbon.

"I'll finish up the week in Serious Crimes," Rigsby said, "so that my end of things is wrapped up and I can pack up the desk to move. Then, um, I guess I'll be up a floor." He looked like that change was starting to sink in.

"You deserve it, man," Cho assured gently. "Doubt you'll be out of sight for long."

"Yeah, I'll definitely be around," Rigsby agreed. Van Pelt ducked her head shyly.

"Henley and McIntyre have already been around to help with the last case," Lisbon explained; Cho and Jane had only briefly been by headquarters to have official statements recorded. "They'll be a more permanent fixture in a couple weeks. They have their own paperwork to complete, and Hightower has to finalize the arrangements since we'd floated the opportunity as a likelihood but without guarantee."

"Plenty to celebrate, then. A toast?" Jane lifted his glass and looked around the table. Rigsby and Van Pelt joined him. Lisbon lifted her glass a little, then her gaze darted sidelong to Cho, who was fingering the stem but hadn't raised his.

"Uh... something else?" Van Pelt asked, her hand lowering slowly as she stared at Cho in some confusion. Rigsby sighed and set his glass back on the table.

Jane wondered what announcement Cho had to share to the others. They hadn't talked about advertising their decision to move in together; it wasn't in either of their natures to overtly state a personal decision like that. And if the announcement didn't have to do with them, then how on earth had Cho managed to hide it? "Is there something else?" Jane prompted.

Cho glanced at Lisbon and she arched an eyebrow that read "you're the one who brought it up." One of Jane's conversations with Lisbon during their afternoon painting came back to him. He had asked her about the department's fraternization rules and she'd rolled her eyes at the terminology before quoting the policy against coworkers dating. "Not within the same unit," she'd explained. "Don't you remember all this from Rigsby and Van Pelt?"

"Ah, right. So it's about not getting acknowledged," he noted. Lisbon had glared at the reminder that she'd been willfully blind to the relationship until they'd made an announcement. Jane had held back from continuing that argument when he remembered that Hightower had also turned a blind eye since Red John's implication-filled letter was sent to Cho.

"She's not going to ignore it forever," Lisbon said as she returned her roller to the paint tray. "And before you say it, no, just because you're a consultant doesn't mean you escape these rules. They're part of your contract, too."

In the present, Cho cleared his throat and turned to meet Jane's stare. "I'm meeting with Hightower when I go in tomorrow to discuss my options."

"Why?" Jane knew the answer, though he wanted to hear the response. However, he shouldn't have asked the question with the others around. Cho gave him a look that said it was a dumb question, either way.

"For God's sake, sometimes it's like I'm a chaperone to a bunch of hormonal teenagers!" Lisbon muttered. "Can we get on with the toast here? I'd like to drink my damn wine."

Rigsby chuckled and Jane caught movement from Van Pelt from the corner of his eye, but he was still focused on Cho. Kimball stared back, expression serious.

"To change!" Van Pelt announced. "And friendship that lasts throughout the challenges we face."

"To the future," Rigsby said.

"The future," echoed around the table. Jane lifted his glass automatically and felt the gentle bumps from the others' glasses.

As Jane took a sip of wine, Cho leaned over and threaded his fingers through Jane's ring-less hand. Cho brought their glasses together and murmured, for Jane's ears only, "To a new chapter."

Disregarding their audience, Jane closed the distance between them and pressed his lips to Kimball's.

--- --- ---
Fin

Onto final Author's notes

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
ranger_girl0301
Jan. 27th, 2014 03:51 am (UTC)
THANK YOU FOR FINISHING THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
enmuse
Jan. 27th, 2014 04:34 am (UTC)
It's been a long road, but damn I loved this too much to ever let go. :)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )