Chapter Two: Blacker
24 Hours Ago

Jane whistled as he waltzed into the offices of the California Bureau of Investigation, a tray of various drinks in hand. Caramel machiatto for Rigsby, Soy chai latte for Van Pelt, and two black coffees: Cho and Lisbon. Nothing for him. He could make a better tea in the CBI kitchen.

He pulled out one of the black coffees and set the tray on Van Pelt's desk, receiving the reward of her thankful smile as he breezed by her toward his end goal of Lisbon's office.

Lisbon looked up on hearing a sharp rap on her door. A steaming cup of coffee floated mid-air. Wait, scratch that. It was held in mid-air by a hand. Following the hand to the wrist, she saw the forearm disappear outside her office and sighed.

"Get in here, Jane."

His grinning face appeared beside the hand-held coffee before his body followed. "Good morning, Lisbon."

She groaned at his chipper greeting, opening her mouth to respond. He held a hand up to forestall her. "Uh-uh-uh, Lisbon. Before you speak to me, I think you should have a nice long gulp of this refreshingly caffeine infused liquid otherwise known as coffee."

She rolled her eyes as she accepted the cup from him. Not that she was listening to him, but sometimes it was easier. And she really wanted that coffee.

Jane studied her face as she sipped the drink. She looked tired. Well, more than usual. The bags under her eyes a little darker than normal. Her skin a little paler. The spark in her eyes a little dimmer. He could tell that she was purposely ignoring his gaze. Maybe she was just used to it by now.

His eyes narrowed. Was she a little thinner?

"So, Jane, figure out what happened at my sixth birthday party?"

He shook himself and met her eyes. She smirked. "You got in a full minute of studying me. What kinds of tales did you discern? Do I like my potstickers pan-fried or boiled? Hmm?"

He laughed, forgetting his worries. She was such a saucy thing. "Silly question, Lisbon. Of course you like them pan-fried."

She scoffed and took another sip of her coffee. "Did you need something, Jane? Or is this just so you can check off your daily Irritate Lisbon box?"

He pouted and clasped both hands to his chest. "Lisbon. You wound me."

She raised her brows at him.

He grinned back. "It's not a daily box."

Almost against her will, she laughed. "Why am I not surprised? Okay, Jane. Thanks for the coffee, but I really have to get to work."

She all but shooed him from her office and, disgruntled, he head for his couch.

And it was there that he was sprawled out when he first heard the ruckus. Initially, he paid it no heed. After all, it was a cop shop. Many criminals being hauled in and out. Arrests. Interrogations. Upset family members. The like. But the noise got louder.

"You don't care! None of you do!"

Jane turned his head. The voice seemed to echo in the same room as him. A man, late thirties, stood in the doorway. His hair was disheveled and his clothes wrinkled. His expression was wild, eyes darting. Cho slowly put his hand to his belt. He knew that kind of look. Rigsby almost imperceptibly shifted to shield Van Pelt, who sat at her desk. Jane watched in interest. Who was this guy? There was a shuffle in the hallway as some agents from another team approached, seeming to recognize the man and resigned to taking control of the situation. Jane sighed and settled back deeper into the couch, pushing the situation into the back of his consciousness. Someone would take care of him. Poor guy. Looked like this was not his first occurrence of an outburst at the CBI. But it was his first foray to the area of the SCU.

"I'll show you what it feels like! I'll show all of you!" The man's voice escalated, growing hysterical. Suddenly there was a silence. Then Cho's voice grabbed Jane's attention.

"Sir, put the gun down."

Jane's head turned once more. The man was now frantically waving a gun around, torn between the many agents. Oh boy. Looked like they had a ticking bomb on their hands. Figuratively, of course. Jane sighed. Well, time to work the magic and talk the guy down from the brink. He took a deep breath and prepared to sit up, but he was interrupted by a new voice.

"Hey, guys, I need the Jakowski file for the—" Lisbon strode out of her office, eyes glued to the paper in her hand. The gun swung wildly and locked on her, firing a piercing shot before she even had time to look up and assess the situation. The bullet went through both her left shoulder and the glass of her office window, causing it to crack as the force pushed her back against it.

For an instant, time froze for Jane as he watched her body collide with the glass behind her. In that small space of time, Cho had the man unarmed and cuffed while Van Pelt was already on the phone with emergency services. The agents from the other team took the man—the one who had upended Jane's life so single-handedly—from Cho. The stoic agent immediately went forward to his boss, who was wheezing as she slid down the wall. Jane's eyes were glued to the trail of red she left in her wake.

He couldn't seem to move.

That's funny, he thought. I wonder if there was another bullet that hit me. That must be why I feel paralyzed. Pain…

Surveying his condition mentally, he found that the pain wasn't physical. That the paralysis was nothing but the mind-numbing fear he felt at seeing that red on the wall. So like his past and yet so different. Bright. Shining. Dark and angry. It shouldn't be there.

It belonged inside Lisbon. It was what kept her alive. And thus what kept him sane.

Dimly, Jane registered that Cho was pressing on Lisbon's wound. Her small, breathy chuckle drifted across the bullpen to him and he strained to hear the words that followed.

"Geez, guys. There had to be easier ways to get out of finishing the Jakowski file…"

Her voice, growing ever weaker, trailed off and as Lisbon faded out of consciousness, Jane had the strange feeling that his own world was growing blacker.

And Lisbon wasn't there to brighten it.