… … …
She's halfway down the staircase when the hollow sound of a gunshot echoes round the enclosed space. She had thought she was moving at her top speed but the spike of fear at that sound kicks in another burst of adrenaline and she's at the door before she knows it. Terror grips every part of her as she frantically worries about what she could find on the other side. There's no time for worrying though.
Standing against the wall so she can hopefully assess the situation before she is seen, she readies her weapon and pushes the door open. Her warning that she is the police dies on her lips as she's able to take in what has happened. It is with a bizarre mixture of relief and increased fear that she reacts to the sight before her.
She walks slowly into the room, keeping her eyes fixed on the man standing in front of her wielding a gun and his victim, writhing in pain in the corner. She sees a pool of blood forming beneath his outstretched leg; notes a knife discarded on the floor, and a tremble sweeps through her body. This could have turned out very differently.
"Are you okay?" she asks quietly, but firmly. He needs to know that she is in charge of this situation now.
He doesn't respond, doesn't look at her. But his posture straightens and his jaw sets in increased determination.
Her stomach rolls. Though she knew this might happen one day, she hasn't prepared for it. "Put the gun down," she instructs him.
His hand is shaking. He looks towards her and she sees the sorrow in his eyes - for what happened years ago; for what she knows he has to do. Years of police training can't keep at bay the heart-breaking emotion he evokes.
"They wouldn't want you to do this," she tries. She has never before presumed to know anything about his wife and daughter. She knows only the little he has told her in their time together. But she has to try. "Please? Think about what you're doing. They wouldn't want this."
She hears the crack of her own voice and becomes aware of a tear rolling down her cheek. He looks at her again, holding her eyes in the dim light. He looks broken; he looks torn. She really hopes she's reading him correctly. If he's struggling with it, then there's a chance she can talk him round.
His victim snatches in a ragged breath before a cold laugh precedes his taunting, "Well, this is interesting."
Jane's hand moves and she instinctively moves with it. Nothing happens.
'Red John' laughs again and anger grips Jane's features. His grip on the gun tightens and she forces her voice to be steady when she orders again: "Put the gun down, Jane."
"I can't do that."
They've been over this many times, never reaching an agreement, neither willing to concede that the other is right. She knows she can't possibly understand what he has been through; the guilt that he carries with him every day, but she can't stand back and let him ruin what remains of his life.
"Feels good, doesn't it?"
She wants to shoot 'Red John' herself, for creating this, for the torture he has put Jane through, for the torment he is still determined to exact, despite the rapidly increasing patch of blood around his leg.
"Jane, please? Let me arrest him -"
"And leave my fate to the justice system," 'Red John' laughs.
She would scream at him to shut the hell up, but that kind of agitation and retaliation is exactly what he is going for and she isn't about to give him the satisfaction.
"Jane..." she pleads.
His eyes meet hers again and he tells her resolutely, "You know I have to do this."
More tears fall, she knows, but she tries to stand her ground. She does know that he has to do this; that every day spent with her team has been to bring him to this moment. She knew it going in. She had hoped their growing closeness might change something; might help him see that he wasn't to be permanently punished; that what had happened was beyond his control. He had always maintained that this moment would come, but she had prayed that it was just bravado to save face; that when it came to this, he would back down.
She does know that he has to do this... But he knows that she has to stop him.
His eyebrows twitch upwards slightly as if communicating something to her and then he turns and the moment becomes a cacophony of gunshots, screams and movement. Her shot knocks Jane's gun off its aim, sending his bullet into the wall beside his target. The serial killer laughs again, an icy evil sound that reverberates around them as she sweeps across the room and swipes the gun from Jane's hand. She secures it as she grabs him, shoving him to the far corner.
"This is better. This is better," she whispers to him over and over as she wraps him in her arms and tries to stop the shaking.
His voice begins a mantra of its own beside her ear, "I had to. I had to..."
She can feel his tears against her cheek; can hear them in his voice as he clings to her. "I know," she tells him, "I know. But I had to -"
"I know," he whispers to her pointedly.
Her eyes widen but she has no time to respond before the door swings open and back up pours into the room. Jane pulls away from her as the others arrive, likely not wanting them to see his break down. He composes himself remarkably well. It takes her a moment longer.
"Okay, boss?" Cho enquires.
She nods. "We're fine." And then, she's thankful for her years of experience as her autopilot kicks in, issuing instructions, dealing with the scene. She asks Cho to take Jane outside - she knows he won't ask questions; he won't push Jane to talk if he doesn't want to. She watches them leave, Jane's last words to her echoing in her mind.
... ... ...
He's sitting on a low wall when she emerges from the house. His eyes are facing in the direction of the collection of police vehicles, but she can tell his mind is elsewhere. She sits down beside him and hesitates just a second before placing her hand on his leg in a gesture of comfort. The action breaks him from his daze and he turns his head to face her.
"Shouldn't you be at headquarters?" he asks her, numbly.
She nods. "They can handle it."
"You should be there," he insists, and she sees panic in his eyes.
She squeezes his leg. "I will be. I promise."
His head bobs up and down, and his thoughtful gaze returns and he looks away.
She longs to embrace him, to have him collapse in her arms and release any and every emotion that he has, for years, concealed. But she knows that wouldn't be him. And she suspects that, were she in his position, she wouldn't have even begun to process what happened tonight.
His voice takes her by surprise. "It was self-defence... The first shot."
She slowly nods. "I know."
"Of course I shouldn't have had a gun so..."
She follows his lead. "Yeah. Extra paperwork."
He is silent again for several seconds so she jumps a little when his hand suddenly closes around hers. "He wanted me to kill him," he whispers, roughly.
She turns her hand over so she can hold his.
"I didn't see it before," he continues, quietly, his voice heavy with the weight of the evening, "Every contact; all the taunting... He knew when the time came that I would kill him. He made sure of it."
Her eyes are stinging with tears again, just the thought of what could have happened tonight is too much to bear. She brings her other hand to enclose his and reminds him, shakily, "But you didn't. He failed."
He nods again and pauses a moment before he says so quietly that she barely hears him, "I need justice for them, Teresa,"
"I know... I'll make sure of it."
He offers her a gentle smile of gratitude, as much as he can muster right now, and silence envelopes them once more.
They stay there even as everyone else starts to leave. Where necessary, Lisbon responds to silently asked questions with a nod or a flick of her head. No one will disturb them, but she's still in charge.
Only two vehicles remain when Jane suddenly stands. He doesn't relinquish her hand, so Lisbon is pulled to her feet with him.
"We should get back," he murmurs, stepping towards her SUV.
A tug on his hand stops him. "Jane..." She waits until he turns to face her, feels her chest constrict again at the depth of agony in his eyes. "Don't shut me out. Let me help you."
She cuts him off before he can lie or protest. "We'll head back; we'll assure ourselves he is secure. And then I'm taking you home."
She prepares for an argument but it doesn't come.
"Okay," he acquiesces, quietly.
She does her best to hide her surprise. "Okay," she echoes, no small amount of relief flooding her system.
She leads him to her car, still holding his hand tightly. She came too close to losing him in there, now she has got this contact, she's reluctant to sever it. But when they reach the front of the car, she nevertheless moves to pull away. But he doesn't let her.
His fingers play with hers, his focus on them, as she looks up at him wondering what is to follow.
"Thank you..." he says, his eyes still averted, "For knowing what I needed you to do."
"Hey," she says, stepping forward, ducking her head to find his eyes with hers, "That's what I'm here for." She smiles, though she can feel it quivering.
He nods once before pulling her into his arms. Momentarily stunned, it takes her a second to return the embrace. But then she winds her arms around his waist, pulling him closer. She closes her eyes, presses her face into the crook of his neck, breathes him in.
Everything changes tonight, she knows. Every day spent with her team was to bring him to this. She doesn't know where he'll go from here, or how to even help him begin. But she is determined that she will help him. And she will be there for whatever the next chapter holds for him.
A tragedy brought them together. Maybe together is the only way to move on.