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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
Notes: This contains probably the most difficult scene I had to write. I'm not completely sure why it was difficult, but it's one that I'm still a bit worried about. Maybe it's because it's an all-Jane scene and also there's a bit that reminds me of X-art's latest story. (I promise that's coincidence. It just goes to show Cho/Jane fans seems to share mind space at times.)


FIVE

They ate leftovers for dinner in front of the TV as some particularly mundane sci-fi show played in the background. There was something in Jane's admission that Cho felt sure he needed to know and he wasn't ready to let the subject drop. Internally he grimaced at the thought of attempting to get Jane to open up.

Even before the sexual and romantic entanglements of their relationship, Cho knew he would have to make certain allowances when it came to relating to Jane. Cho wasn't a particularly open person, either, but there were certain barriers around Jane that seemed insurmountable.

Cho still felt a certain astonishment that Jane had made such an impressive effort to celebrate their anniversary. It had been wholly unexpected. Cho hadn't prepared for it, certainly. He had only given the date a passing thought, assuming that it wasn't something Jane would be interested in paying attention to. Even when their relationship began to evolve and became more than casual sexual liaisons, Cho was unclear where he stood. Jane's history was complex and his private life largely locked away. Familiarity, time, and their emotional connection lent Cho a certain degree of ability to "read" Patrick Jane, but that meant little when it came to the more private matters of Jane's past.

Cho froze as he suddenly made the connections. He glanced at Jane from the corner of his eye. Jane kept particularly closemouthed when it came to his family. Quickly piecing together his thoughts, Cho closed his eyes and sighed internally. Another anniversary? Shit.

What was he supposed to do with this new revelation? Cho knew that any attempt he made to get the subject out in the open would be seen as prying, and he wasn't sure of the full extent of the risk. Would it be seen as betrayal? Would Jane be hurt? Angry?

Cho couldn't deny the longing he felt to offer his lover comfort. If he had his dates right, this would be the seventh year since the murder of Jane's family. Without asking, he felt sure that Jane had marked all the previous anniversaries alone. Probably followed by vows to kill the man who had murdered them.

Cho was roused from his inner brooding by the sound of Jane's voice.

"What?" he asked, hoping he didn't sound nearly as muddled as he felt.

Jane tilted his head and studied Cho with a careful gaze. "Shouldn't I be asking that question?"

Cho took a few moments before he responded, attempting to choose his words carefully. "I could go with you," Cho offered quietly, trying for a tone that balanced sincerity with casualness.

Jane's expression abruptly became shuttered.

Despite the clear warning signs to back off, Cho remained sitting close to Jane. With conscious effort he managed to relax his body, providing silent invitation as he said, "At least consider coming ho—here, after." Until that moment Cho hadn't realized how prepared he was to include Jane in his sense of "home."

Whatever Jane felt on the subject remained a mystery. Cho saw only the briefest flicker of emotion in Jane's eyes before his expression again closed off.

In a tight voice Jane said, "We'll see." He turned his gaze to the television, ostensibly to watch... it looked like it was Ghost Hunters; occasionally they watched it, mostly because Jane got a kick out of making fun of it. Cho doubted the blond was actually paying attention to it at the moment.

Holding back a sigh of frustration, Cho stood and went to do dishes in the kitchen. He hoped their distance didn't last all night.

---


Cho approached the hospital room with apprehension. He doubted he was the only one feeling uneasy, but he wondered if Lisbon felt as distrustful of the situation as he did. Cho doubted that Jane was putting much faith in Kristina, although he shouldn't assume. Jane's reactions when it came to Kristina were somewhat unpredictable. It was always a little surprising how invested Jane became when she was around. When Cho thought back on it, it wasn't so surprising that at the time Rigsby had seen something more, or at the least the potential for something more between Kristina and Jane. Cho, of course, knew better. Even though he didn't have a full understanding of how he and Jane fit together, Cho knew that Kristina didn't have a chance. If she ever had before, it was unquestionably absent now. He knew as well as Jane that the woman had gone freely with Red John. The current question was whether she had been kept against her will, and how and why she had been returned.

Lisbon cleared their way through the posted guards. Before entering the room she gave Jane a meaningful glare of warning and she directed a less steely look Cho's way.

As soon as the door opened, a familiar voice, only slightly muddled from drug aftereffects, greeted them. "Agent Lisbon, Agent Cho... Patrick."

Lisbon was a study of professionalism. She walked over to the bed and held out her hand to accept Kristina's in a handshake. "Good morning, Ms. Frye. How are you feeling?"

The woman smiled slightly, looking a little wane. "I'm a bit... woozy, I suppose is the best way to describe it. The doctor assures me that will soon pass." She looked beyond Lisbon and ran her gaze over Cho dismissively before turning to Jane.

Cho kept his breathing even to counteract the temptation of rising irritation. She was eyeing Jane like a predator, sizing him up. She had done so in the past, but now it was potentially loaded with something darker.

Lisbon cleared her throat as she pulled up a chair that had been set against the wall. "If you're feeling up to it, we have a few questions, Ms. Frye."

Kristina's gaze went back to Lisbon. "I imagine more than a few," she said, eyebrow arching. She held the remote to raise the bed's head so that she could sit up more naturally. She folded her hands in her lap and again turned her stare to Cho and Jane.

Jane wandered around to the opposite side of the bed, and Cho was annoyed by the way Kristina's eyes followed him . Her attention had successfully been diverted away from the official interviewers, probably just as Jane had intended.

"How have you been?" Jane asked conversationally, his expression neutral with just a slight hint of a smile. Cho reluctantly moved to stand beside Lisbon but didn't meet her gaze she when she turned to look up at him.

Kristina inclined her head thoughtfully. "It has been... interesting. Even enlightening." She paused, her head turning so that she could look over the CBI agents. "I apologize for your stress over my well-being. It was not luxurious, but I fared much better than anything you feared."

Cho saw Jane's smile slip as a hint of disdain slipped through. He had masked it again by the time Kristina returned her attention to the blond, but Jane's expression had turned brittle.

"Oh Patrick, don't be like that," she said with a patronizingly soothing tone. "In order to attempt some work with John, I had to give a little to gain his trust."

Jane's shoulders tensed. His voice was chilly when he replied, "You were arrogant and deliberately cruel. You put everyone in danger."

"Including yourself," Lisbon broke in. Everyone's gaze turned to her and even she looked a little startled. Cho wondered why she had bothered to interrupt, Kristina definitely had more than a simple reprimand coming. Even if they could do nothing official... although perhaps Hightower could be convinced to file obstruction of justice charges if they played their cards right; it was an indulgent fantasy, but damn it, Cho had a bad feeling about the woman.

Lisbon took over while she still had their attention. "Do you know how long you've been gone?"

Frye took a moment to consider, then shook her head. "No. A few months, I'm sure, but the exact number I couldn't say."

"Almost five months," Lisbon said gently. "Where have you been during that time?"

Kristina looked ready to dismiss the question out of hand. Cho narrowed his eyes as he glared at her, silently daring her to try brushing them off. She gathered herself together then and replied, "A few places. I think... yes, six different locations. There isn't a lot of description I can offer you, however. And during travel I often... slept."

Jane scoffed quietly but she ignored him.

"Kristina you realize we'd like to get some details, right?" Lisbon prompted gently. Cho pulled out a notepad and pen in case Frye did actually decide to cooperate. He didn't expect much at the moment.

"Yes, yes, of course, Agent Lisbon." She turned her attention away from Lisbon, however, and her gaze fell on Cho, watching him intently. "You don't like me very much."

Cho kept his expression impassive as he replied, "I don't trust you."

The brunette shook her head with a sigh, as if he was being particularly foolish. "You simply refuse to open your mind."

"To what?" Jane interrupted impatiently. He looked like he was on the verge of rolling his eyes. Kristina didn't turn to face him though her eyes flicked to the side. The blond's lips tightened in frustration and he rounded the bed to stand slightly in front of Cho. "What do you expect us to 'open our minds' to?"

Kristina's chin lifted in a stubborn set. "What you should already be aware of, Patrick." She stared at him without a hint of wariness. She barely blinked, she was perfectly composed. "Red John is not the nightmare you imagine him to be. That is behind him, behind all of us, now."

Cho stepped forward, hand automatically going to grip Jane's elbow. He knew Jane was already on-edge with the significance of the day's date plus innate wariness of Kristina.

"You're an idiot," Cho muttered, ignoring Lisbon's sharp look. He shook his head and stepped forward to draw Frye's attention to him. "You honestly believe a man who's murdered over a dozen people has some goodness to pardon his actions?"

Calmly she replied, "And how many have you killed in your roles, Agent Cho? How many would you kill to protect others and yourself?"

Cho bristled, fingers tightening around his pen.

Lisbon stood abruptly and held her hands up, one in the direction of Kristina and the other in front of Cho and Jane. "Hold it. Cho, please." She sent him an imploring look and reluctantly he stepped back, nearly trembling with anger. She eyed Jane cautiously and then looked at Kristina. "Ms. Frye, we're willing to listen, but let's try to avoid intentional provocation," Lisbon warned, expression tight with restrained emotion.

Kristina gave a curt nod, somehow managing to look as if she had been the one offended. "John is just a man who is misunderstood and became larger than life thanks to the media casting a nightmarish hue to his persona. I am merely trying to answer Patrick's question."

"What makes you think Red John can be redeemed?" Lisbon asked, the twist of her mouth indicating how distasteful and unbelievable she found the words.

"I acknowledge your skepticism. John did some horrible things in the past; he accepts those mistakes. His soul is quite troubled and his past has been full of so many trials."

Jane's jaw was clenched so tight it was a wonder that Cho didn't hear his teeth grinding together. Cho had the feeling that the only reason that neither he nor Lisbon was interrupting was because they had no idea how to respond to Kristina's claims. In all honesty, Red John's motivations meant little to Cho, there was no explanation that would justify the murders he committed.

Kristina leaned forward, her stare intent on Jane. "If you would only open your senses. Use your gift, Patrick, and you will finally understand."

Cho didn't think he had ever seen Jane as frigid as he was right then. His eyes were like ice and flinty hard. For a moment Cho was convinced he and Lisbon would have to step in to keep Jane in check, although Cho wouldn't have minded knocking some sense into the self-proclaimed psychic.

Instead, Jane turned sharply on his heel and strode for the door. "You'll get nothing from her," he said in a clipped tone. The design of the door was the only thing that kept it from slamming shut after his departure.

Kristina's sigh drew Cho's attention. When she noticed, a cold look entered her eyes and her lips tightened.

"You're not helping him. In fact, you're holding him back," she accused.

Cho stared at her, expression stony. "Are you going to answer our questions or not?"

She looked irritated that he hadn't reacted. Kristina pursed her lips and turned her gaze to Lisbon. "I think you should come back this afternoon, Agent Lisbon. I should be feeling better by then."

Lisbon nodded, a careful look of neutrality in place. "If that's what you want." She turned to Cho and he recognized the frustrated set of her shoulders. "Come on," she muttered as she passed him on the way to the door.

Cho was about to step out into the hall when he caught Kristina's harsh whisper, "You're going to hurt him. You have no idea what you're doing."

He didn't bother to look back.

---


Jane stood in front of his car door for a moment, staring at his fingers clutching the handle and wondering if he should wait. No, he needed to get away and avoid facing the questions or concerned looks. He needed to get away before he did something stupid like walk back into the hospital and shake some sense into Kristina. If he had ever thought positively of her before, and he once had found her amusing and a little intriguing, that was now long gone. She'd always been obsessive about her claims of psychic ability. She had all the characteristics of a show person: charisma (perhaps not as good as his, if he was allowed to judge), arrogance, presence. Plus she lacked the common sense of when to back away. He didn't know the details yet of her months with Red John, but they had changed her and not for the better.

Jane shook his head as he got behind the wheel and pulled out from the parking space. His hands gripped the steering wheel tightly and he took a hard right turn out of the structure.

He was doing a reasonable job of blocking out Kristina's voice in his head even if he couldn't fully suppress the emotions she had evoked. He'd expected to have more pity for her, perhaps even sympathy; he felt anything but sympathetic. While he did feel some pity, his anger nearly overwhelmed it. That wasn't surprising given how she'd attempted to make comparisons between Cho and Red John. She wanted to stir up trouble, Jane knew, but he didn't know if she had a precise reason for the unbelievably idiotic comment.

At the moment he didn't care to think on it too deeply. He had other things to do and he needed to refocus his energy. He would follow through on his yearly ritual and take the rest of the day alone. Jane pushed aside the memory of Cho's look of hurt before he'd managed to shutter his expression.

It took a little over an hour and a half to reach the cemetery where his wife and daughter were interred. On the way he stopped at the usual floral shop and picked up the pre-ordered bouquets. He wondered, as he did every year, if there was any point to picking up the flowers and offering them at the grave sites. But it was part of the tradition and Angela had always loved tiger lilies. He wouldn't deny her memory, whether or not her soul lingered.

He parked his car in the little lot of the cemetery and took the bouquets with him when he got out. He was in no rush, so he took the curving path at a sedate pace. He idly looked over the headstones and statues lined across the well-kempt grass. The occasional mausoleum stood out from the more subdued markers. A few trees dotted the landscape, but usually only flowering bushes decorated the ground.

Cresting a hill, Jane veered from the paved path and moved across the grass. His gaze locked on his destination and he felt his steps slow until he came to a stop some distance away. He stood there and stared, letting the breeze tug at his jacket and hair. Somewhere a car horn sounded, loud enough to carry from the main road a couple miles away.

He shifted the flowers in his hand and then came closer. Gently he laid the daisies at the base of the grave marker engraved with Charlotte's name. His fingertips brushed against the marble and he shivered at the cool surface. He set the tiger lilies by Angela's grave.

With a quiet sigh, Jane folded his legs and sat down facing the two markers. He traced the engraved letters with his gaze, acknowledged the passage of years with a sense of detachment. It sometimes felt like he had lost them a lifetime ago. In a sense he had; he was a different man now, with a new life. How could he not have changed when he lost them? But there were still times it felt like he had lost them only a short time ago. That feeling had come less and less lately, and it wasn't hard to identify the reason why.

Kimball.

As much as Jane's life had changed due to his focus on what he had lost and his goal of revenge, the past few years had built up meaningful friendships. His connections to life, to the world around him, had changed. He was changing too, especially since he started developing his relationship with Cho.

Jane glanced down at his hands and realized that he had been twisting his wedding ring around his finger. He stopped as soon as he noticed, but didn't move his fingers from the band. He stared at the thin stripe of pale, nearly white skin that had been revealed with the ring's displacement. It was strange to feel the wind brush the skin that was always covered. And he wondered...

He twisted the ring back into place and then held his hands out in front of him, staring at his spread fingers. He wondered how others saw him, what it looked like to his teammates when he continued to wear his wedding ring seven years after he lost his family.

He wondered what it told Cho about him. Jane frowned and tucked his hands into his lap. He looked again at the grave markers and watched silently as the flower petals moved with the breeze.

He remembered Kimball's offer the night before, "I could come with you." They didn't talk much about Jane's past and even less about his family. Not that they spoke much about Cho's past, either, but given that they spent much of their time together at Cho's apartment, he was a lot more open for view.

For the first time in years, Jane wondered if he was offering all he should. He'd known for half a year that his relationship with Cho was growing into something much deeper than he expected. That he had made the effort to acknowledge an anniversary, that he wanted to celebrate, had come as a shock. He'd been alternately nervous or elated or irritated or some combination of the three. Jane hadn't anticipated the urge he would have to make his relationship with Cho more permanent.

Jane looked again at his hands and stared at his wedding band. In the quiet of the afternoon breeze and watched only by the sun overhead, he slowly twisted the ring and pulled it gently from its snug position. He held it between finger and thumb after he took it off and just stared at it. His bare ring-finger felt naked, a little strange, but not entirely unpleasant.

He sighed quietly and closed his hand around the ring. He looked at Angela's gravestone and quietly admitted, "There are times when, just for a moment, I can forget."

Did that make him a bad person? He supposed not, but it was changing him. In general he slept better and had fewer nightmares. He actually took the time to relax. More often than not he preferred the company of his friends to the solitude of his thoughts. In the past several months, Jane discovered he could imagine life "after;" destroying Red John was no longer "the end." He wanted to live, and that was a surprisingly new feeling.

Jane opened his hand and traced his wedding ring with a fingertip. The gold was warm from his body heat and the sun reflected off its surface. He wasn't ready to leave it behind, he had yet to close the book on that part of his life, something he could only do when Red John was dead.

He hesitated before putting on the wedding ring again and stared at Angela's grave. He imagined the sound of her laugh, the warmth of her smile, and how she had made him feel complete. The memories made him ache, but the pain lessened when he thought of his nights spent with Cho. Especially when he thought of the stunned, touched expression on Kimball's face on the evening of their anniversary.

Jane slipped on his ring with a wry smile. "You'd be happy for me, wouldn't you," he murmured wonderingly. He had not spoken aloud, hadn't made any attempt to speak to inanimate gravestones, for years. What little faith he once had was long gone, but for today, he would give into temptation and pretend for a moment that they were around to hear.

Settling in to spend a few more hours at the resting place of his family, Jane shifted position and made himself more comfortable.

---


Cho took off his watch as he settled into bed. He picked up the book sitting on the nightstand but couldn't focus on the words. It wasn't so late that he felt the pressing need to sleep, but it was late enough to make clear that Jane wasn't coming by. Cho rubbed a hand over his face as he remembered the conversation from the previous night.

After the long day involving the failed interview with Kristina and reviewing the preliminary findings from CSU, Cho had headed home. He'd hoped and, as much as he didn't want to admit his disappointment, he had expected Jane to be at the apartment. Cho came home to dark rooms. He heated up leftovers and ate dinner alone with a bad SyFy movie flickering across the television. By the time he did dishes, Cho knew he would be spending the night alone. That wasn't completely unheard of, since he and Jane didn't exactly live together, but nights apart had become pretty rare. Coupled with Jane's behavior when visiting Kristina Frye, 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 from 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.

---
Onto part 6
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