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WIP Mentalist fic: "Of Anniversaries"

This is far from finished and not even proofed yet, but um, I kid of promised cedara I'd post a little something for her birthday. ;)

"Of Anniversaries"
Cho/Jane
Rating: Teen
Based on canon through S2 + my Crimson & Gold series (but you don't need to have read those)
Warnings: Future scenes will have graphic torture. :/ But for now there's nothing to be too concerned about. ;)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY cedara! I HOPE YOU HAD A WONDERFUL DAY! BE WELL AND BEST WISHES! :D
(Huge thanks to heffermonkey for giving me direction here and helping me figure out why I was having such reservations about the material I wrote during a day of word sprints.)


Cho took off his watch as he settled into bed. He halfheartedly picked up the book sitting on the nightstand but he couldn't focus on the words. It wasn't so late that he felt the pressing urge to sleep, but it was late enough to be clear Jane wasn't coming by. Cho rubbed a hand over his face and replayed the day in his mind.

[He and Jane had perfected the "leave from the same place but arrive separately" act a while ago.] He hadn't noticed that morning, but in retrospect Cho realized there had been a distance in Jane's expression. The first real alert he'd had that something was strange was when Jane begged off the rest of the day before heading off around lunchtime. The office had been busy enough that Lisbon only spared enough time to cast Cho and exasperated glance.

The afternoon had led Cho and Rigsby out to track down their suspect. For the first time in weeks, Rigsby hadn't mentioned anything outside the case while they were alone. Unfortunately, the change in behavior plus Jane's mysterious abandonment mid-case threw Cho off balance just enough that the suspect got past him. They had to chase the guy six blocks before bringing him in. The subsequent interview and paperwork took them into overtime.

Cho had hoped and, as much as he didn't want to admit his disappointment, he'd expected Jane to be at the apartment. Cho had come home to dark rooms and no suggestion that Jane had come by. Cho heated up leftovers and ate dinner alone with a bad sci-fi movie on the television. By the time he did the dishes, Cho knew he'd be spending the night alone. That wasn't completely unusual, he and Jane didn't exactly live together, but nights apart had become rare. Coupled with Jane's earlier odd behavior, Cho admitted to himself that he was a little worried. He went as far as calling Jane's phone, but voicemail kicked in and he hung up.

With a sigh, Cho replaced his bookmark and set the novel aside. He turned off the lamp and slid beneath the sheets. Turning on his side, he reached for Jane's pillow and tucked it close. The blond got a kick out of Cho's coping habit, but Cho was damned if he could break out of it now. He'd grown used to the other man lying beside him.

Cho didn't know how long he laid there, but when he finally drifted off he fell into restless dreams.

---

Jane frowned down at the mismatched button on his vest. He wasn't sure how he'd managed that, but he fixed the mistake in the elevator and ran another self-check to make sure he hadn't missed something else. The day would involve enough curious looks without a raised eyebrow at some disorganized appearance.

He was coming in early, at least for him, to check on the case's progress. Lisbon would be itching to corner him and ask about yesterday, but Jane was betting on Van Pelt or Cho to get him up-to-date with minimal interference. Rigsby was still a prickly subject since the little "coming out" event a couple months ago. Cho continued to shrug it off (although Jane could read the man's own uneasiness) and Van Pelt kept trying to give reassurances that "He'll come around" when Rigsby was out of earshot.

The elevator lurched to a stop. Jane stuck his hands in his pockets, adapting a casual air, and stepped out of the elevator. As he got close to the bullpen, his smile waned. No one was around. Before he had the chance to turn to Lisbon's office, he heard his name shouted.

Grimacing dramatically, he turned to face Lisbon. "Good morning to you, too."

"Where have you been?" she demanded as she strode toward him. She didn't give the opportunity to answer. "I tried to call you!" Lisbon glared as she held up a familiar cell phone. "Imagine my surprise when, after not catching you at home, I tried calling your cell and hear Van Pelt pick up because it's sitting int he office." When Jane held his hand out, she slapped the phone into his palm.

With a sinking feeling, Jane asked, "What's going on?"

Lisbon crossed her arms over her chest and she jerked her chin inn the direction of the elevator. Jane followed when she started back the way he had come. "You weren't eh only one not answering. Cho didn't come in and wasn't picking up his phone. Van Pelt went by before I sent out Rigsby. They just called in to request CSU. Cho's missing."

Jane stared at her, fleetingly wishing he could believe this was a cruel joke. Lisbon's dark gaze and tight expression spoke volumes of how serious she was taking this.

"What did they find?" Jane finally managed to ask past the lump in his throat.

"A message. For you."

---

Jane hadn't said a word since he and Lisbon arrived at the scene. He was thankful no one had attempted to get him to talk. At the moment the only thing keeping the feeling of sickness at bay was the tight clench of his jaw.


Dear mister Jane,
You allowed yourself to be distracted. Despite the appearance that you've decided to disregard the past, you have yet to abandon your annual ritual.
You seem to be under the impression that because you no longer go about claiming you're a psychic that you've atoned. Let me assure you that you are still a charlatan and not above reproach.
Maybe if you had remembered your place I would not leave you wondering about agent Cho's condition.


Forensics had let Jane look over the note until he'd read and re-read it a half dozen times. He didn't remember who he handed it to before walking to the bedroom. He stood inside the doorway, his tensed muscles the only thing keeping him upright. He stared blankly at the bedroom wall. The signature face was much smaller than usual, but not less intimidating – A promise of things to come and a reminder of the true peril Cho was facing.

The bed was unmade and one of the pillows lay in the middle of the bed, slightly indented from where an arm had curled over it. Jane's hands clenched in his pockets as he remembered how he'd recently teased Cho about getting used to an armrest while he slept. Jane had twice caught his lover curling up next to his pillow when it hadn't been clear if Patrick was coming over to stay the night.

"Jane," Lisbon said his name softly as she came to stand beside him. He didn't remove his gaze from the wall. "We need to sort through some things."

As much as he'd grown used to the bloody stain on the wall of his own bedroom, seeing it mirrored here shook him at a fundamental level.

"Maybe I was trying to keep things separate," Jane murmured to himself.

Lisbon snorted. Startled, Jane turned to look down at her. "Jane, you don't compartmentalize," she told him. "Few people know how to see you, really see you, but you sure as hell come as a one-package deal."

Her assessment was almost amusing enough to make him smile. At least it eased some of the queasiness.

Sobering, Lisbon nodded to the doorway. "Let's talk in the kitchen."

They passed members of the crime scene unit coming through the apartment. Thankfully they had the kitchen to themselves.

"I know we haven't talked about it before," Lisbon began as they took a seat at the table. "You're seeing each other."

"Yes." The entire team knew the answer, but he didn't care to play with a witty retort. He examined the tabletop with an idle gaze and absently scratched a fingernail over a small surface gouge.

"When did you see him last?"

Jane hid a sigh of frustration. "Before I left the office yesterday."

"Any reason you didn't see him later?"

He wanted to snap at her, but Lisbon looked uncomfortable and her honest worry kept his emotions in check. "No," he replied tightly.

He knew she wanted more. Honestly he was surprised she hadn't figured out the significance of yesterday's date between connecting his midday departure and reading Red John's letter. [He wasn't sure why he was having such a difficult time explaining it aloud.]

Jane pushed back his chair and stood. Ignoring Lisbon's inquisitive frown, Jane reached into the cupboard for the tea kettle. As he was filling it with water, Rigsby came in.

"Boss?"

"Yes?" Lisbon shifted her attention.

Rigsby went over to the table and reported, "They're wrapping up. Anything else you want them to look over?"

"Jane?"

"No," he replied, purposefully focusing his attention on the center of the burner.

"CSU can leave they finish," Lisbon directed. "I want you and Van Pelt to stick around.

"Got it."

Once Rigsby left, Lisbon stood up and moved to lean against the counter next to Jane. "You okay?"

He gave her a blank look, knowing it would work better than an exasperated expression. Lisbon sighed in defeat.

Jane listened a moment to the quiet stir of heating water. Steam started to trail up from the spout and he turned back to the cupboard with his things. Moving aside the tins in front, he searched for something bitter. It took a minute to realize there was a new tin at his fingertips. Patrick pulled down the small tin, only about four inches tall and two inches in width and length. The kettle startled whistling but he ignored it as he stared at the red tin.

"Jane?" Lisbon turned off the stove and removed the kettle.

Swallowing past the knot in his throat, Jane pried off the tight-fitting cover and tilted the tin to peer inside. Carefully he tipped the contents onto the counter and fingered the familiar watch – high quality but not ostentatious. He turned attention to the folded piece of paper.

"Jane," Lisbon insisted, her hand landing on his shoulder.

"A gift," he explained shortly. An anniversary gift. Something he never expected to do again. He had startled himself when he'd given into the impulse but knew it had been the right decision when Cho stared at him in genuine surprise and there had been a flicker of... hope.

Jane compulsively smoothed the paper against the countertop, distracted by his struggle to retain emotional control. When he could focus enough to read the words, he mumbled them aloud:

"What do you see in him? You were such a poor family man but fit the all-American standard so well. What do your colleagues think of this? What will they think of you when you destroy one of their own?

"I wonder what you would prefer: an encore of the sacrifice for your continued deception or the return of your lover, broken.

"Happy anniversary, Patrick."

Jane felt cold and overwhelmed by a sense of uselessness. He couldn't think, mind frozen on the threat and memories of beloved blood, tacky to the touch because he'd been late getting home again.

"...me? Jane... Patrick!" Lisbon's voice startled him and her touch on his arm felt painfully hot. "Shit. If you're going into shock I'm calling an ambulance," she threatened. He shook his head but didn't speak. "Come on, sit down."

With a gentle hand on his elbow, Lisbon guided him to the table. Jane sat and dropped his head into his hands, digging his palms against his closed eyes as he listened to her prepare his tea. Oh god, what was that bastard going to do?

The teacup clicked against the table at the same time that two pairs of footsteps entered the kitchen. Jane listened to the pause of the lighter set of footsteps and imagined Van Pelt poised on the threshold, unsure of her place.

"Sit down," Lisbon said, voice strained but calm.

Three more chairs pulled into place but Jane still wasn't ready to look up. He knew he must be the center of their stares, he never, never got like this. Once or twice Lisbon had seen him exhausted and strained to the end of his rope, but that was in the shadows, in private. What will they think of you when you destroy one of their own?

A tight knot of burning hot anger built in his chest, fueled all the more by pain and a building fear that threatened to make him shake.

"We'll figure this out," Van Pelt said, voice forcefully light.

Jane wanted to laugh but knew the sound would be brittle and harsh, sharp enough to cut through her natural optimism. He knew that despite how much he wanted her to recognize reality, he couldn't let himself destroy more than he already had.

Finally he gathered himself together and straightened up. His eyes didn't sting and he no longer felt frozen, though numbness tingled in his fingers and toes. He cultivated a blank expression and crossed his legs as he reached for his tea. Three gazes dropped to the table as he turned his stare to his colleagues. Lisbon glanced at him again when Patrick placed the cup down a little too hard.

"Where do we go from here?" Rigsby asked, shifting uncomfortably in his chair.

Lisbon glanced over Jane's shoulder toward the counter. With a reluctant frown, she stood and retrieved the second letter. Jane reached for his tea again and sipped at it slowly, drawing out the time before he had to set aside the empty cup. He watched as the others look in the harsh words, studied the discomfort on Rigsby's expression and Van Pelt's nervousness. He pondered what they were reacting to – Cho's disappearance? Red John? Solid evidence that two of their friends were involved in an explicit relationship? The small, bitter elements of truth wrapped in a madman's cruel words?

"We'll have to wait to see what the lab has to say," Lisbon said after a few minutes of silence.

Van Pelt's lips tightened in frustration. "Don't we have any idea where to start looking?"

Rigsby leaned back in his chair with his arms crossed and glared heavily at the table. Jane could practically feel the tension radiating from the other man and instinctively knew that Rigsby was struggling to avoid directing his anger at Jane.

"Where?" Lisbon asked tiredly, her voice momentarily giving away how helpless she felt.

"Anywhere...?" Van Pelt trailed off to a whisper as she hunched in on herself. "We have to do something."

Rigsby bit out, "Any ideas, Jane?"

The barely restrained hostility allowed Jane to slip into familiar character. A wall slammed into place and numbness padded the distance between himself and the others at the table. A sense of detachment made it easier to present a calm exterior, as if he wasn't personally involved.

"Abduction doesn't fit within Red John's standard pattern of behavior."

Van Pelt said, "Kristina—"

"Went with him," Jane cut in. "Unless Red John left behind an intentional clue, we have nothing to go on." The incredulous stares he gained in response echoed a feeling of shock buried within the barriers of numbness.

"You can't... this is Cho!" Van Pelt whispered in horror. "Jane!"

Rigsby's jaw clenched visibly and he looked primed for a fight. Jane lifted his chin slightly, a silent dare. For a moment it seemed like Rigsby might take it. He looked away sharply and took a noisy breath through his nose. "Asshole," he muttered."

"We're going to look everything over thoroughly," Lisbon finally said, struggling for control of the situation. "We all need to calm down and get our heads in the game to figure this out." She added in a quiet tone, "Cho's counting on us."

To be continued... probably after NaNo.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
enmuse
Oct. 23rd, 2010 09:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for your encouragement! :) It really means a lot to me.

And Cho+ Jane's pillow is head canon. It has been for a while.
*g* Yay! The image got stuck in my head and I just fell in love with it. :)

The first note is still bugging me. I swear my rewrite focus centered most around the notes. I'm pretty happy with the second one from the tin, but the first one... argh, just not hitting what I want yet.

And we'll see what I can get written before November... but once it hits, NaNo is the only fiction I get to write. ;)
cedara
Oct. 24th, 2010 06:21 pm (UTC)
Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You are an evil person, but I like you anyway. *G*

And thank you for this present. :-DDDDDDDDDD
enmuse
Oct. 24th, 2010 06:28 pm (UTC)
*bows* PAYBACK!
cedara
Oct. 24th, 2010 07:18 pm (UTC)
LOL
Raquel Carnio
Jan. 22nd, 2011 09:08 pm (UTC)
OHH GOD!!!!
PLEASE!!! KEEP GOING!!! I nedd to read the next chapter! I'm DYING to read the next chapter!!! Update soon, pleaaaaase!!!
enmuse
Jan. 22nd, 2011 10:40 pm (UTC)
Re: OHH GOD!!!!
lol! ;;^_^ I haven't revisited it in the new year, yet, I'm struggling to figure out the wrap-up of the story because I actually have most of it done. :3 A lot more lead in and stuff. ;)

Thanks for replying and letting me know that the story's in demand!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )