Painted Red

Rating: PG
Summary: He took something perfect and painted it... red.
Spoilers: up to and including 5x01
Disclaimer: I do not own The Mentalist, and the summary is based on lyrics from "Red" by Daniel Merriweather, also not mine.
A/N: This has been an idea of mine since s4 ended. Only today did I come up with a way to write it. I hope it's not too confusing. Many thanks to Victoria for reading this through and not complaining about the subsequent interrogation.
Date: 3rd November 2012

... ... ...

She can't look at him, and he can't blame her.

He doesn't blame her. But he knows she blames herself. He hopes he can find the right words to change that.

... ...

It hurts. It physically hurts when he realises what is going on. His legs fail him; his stomach roils. The table presses hard into his fingers when he leans on it for support but he barely feels that pain over the other. His mind scrambles for an explanation. He has to have missed something. What he has found cannot be true. Or, at least, cannot be the full story...

And when he realises what piece remained outstanding, he has never known pain like it.

... ...

"Lisbon... You don't want to do this."

"I believe she does."

"Lisbon, listen to me... To me... Jane... Your frequently annoying but devilishly handsome consultant..."

"A tad late..."

"... Your partner, Lisbon."

"Definitely too late to appeal to her feelings for you."

"Lisbon..."

"This is so much better than I'd imagined..."

"Teresa..."

... ...

He walks further into the room; she keeps her eyes cast down. He sees her hands shaking before she clasps them together.

He stops a few feet away, he doesn't want to push her. Actually he wants to gather her in his arms and never let her go. But that isn't an option. Yet. He really hopes it is a matter of 'yet'.

... ...

The stairs and the corridor are a blur, her office is the first thing he sees clearly after his devastating epiphany.

His eyes scan the space as quickly, but as closely, as they can. He was supposed to figure it out: This is part of the plan. So there is something in here that will tell him where she has gone.

... ...

"Teresa, listen to me... Listen to my voice..."

"Ah, it's worth a try."

"... Teresa... You don't want to do this."

"You never fail to entertain, Patrick."

"... You don't want to do this..."

"She doesn't seem very susceptive..."

"Teresa..."

"Maybe if you'd have got to her when she was heartbroken..."

"Lisbon, you don't want to do this..."

"We both know a broken heart is an easy mark."

"Agent Lisbon, you do not want to do this."

"Oh this is boring now... Do it, Teresa."

"Lisbon -"

"Good luck, Patrick. Love you."

... ...

"My arm's fine," he tells her, watching closely for a sign that she'll be receptive to conversation. She told them she wanted time alone. But she didn't leave the building. He hopes that's a positive sign. He fears, though, that she feels lost. He wants to escort her back.

"I always thought I'd be the one sitting alone in a darkened room when this day came."

... ...

There it is. He sweeps towards her desk. A single sheet of notepaper, held in place by her stapler. He scans the words and stuffs the note into his pocket as he runs through more blurred corridors; down more blurred stairs.

His keys are out; he's in his car and he's halfway to his destination before the world snaps back into focus again. He needs a plan. This is, after all, a trap.

... ...

His tormentor laughs, victoriously, when the first gunshot rings out, but even as the bullet hits his arm, the only thing he feels is a wave of relief. He drops to the ground, as he should; he feigns a lot more pain than he is experiencing. And the second shot changes laughter to agony.

... ...

"Jane..."

"There's nothing you could have done differently," he tries to reassure her. He crouches down so he's at her eye level. "Teresa, I've accepted that you didn't kill him."

That gets her attention, as he had known it would. Off her hard look he adds, "And not because it gives me the chance to go and finish the job myself."

Of course, she's skeptical, why wouldn't she be?

... ...

His plan is of no use at all when he gets inside. He had imagined she was bait to lure him there. He had imagined having to plead for her life.

He hadn't expected to be greeted by them both, side by side: Partners in crime. Literally.

And when she raises her gun, he has no idea where to begin with a new plan.

... ...

"Pass me your phone!" she orders and he feels almost giddy to hear her normal self. "Jane!"

He does as instructed, sending it skittering across the floor. She keeps her eyes and weapon trained on the writhing, groaning form of Red John as she picks it up and calls for an ambulance.

He pulls himself to his feet, approaching her with the intention of embracing her with relief. An intense glare stops him, and her next words back it up.

"Stop there!"

"Lisb-"

"Stay there, Jane! Don't come any closer!"

His eyes follow hers as they flit back and forth between him and Red John and he realises what she is afraid of. But it is barely controlled fear that he can see in her eyes and he doesn't want to break her.

He lifts his good hand to signal compliance, and backs up a few steps for good measure.

... ...

"Teresa, not once did I think of killing him," he admits, his voice quiet with the enormity of what he is revealing. "From the minute I realised what was going on, I thought only of you. Of getting you back, of saving you..."

She turns tear filled eyes away from him.

"... Teresa, I went there for you. Not him."

... ...

"Glad you could join us, Patrick. I take it you found Teresa's note."

He can't even look at the source of the voice. His eyes are frozen, locked on the sight of his Teresa with her gun pointed right at him.

He should have expected this. Of course this would be Red John's next move. And, of course, the thought of another woman he loves being in the clutches of Red John would prevent him from anticipating this situation.

If the intention is for him to feel completely helpless; to have to watch as the only person he has allowed genuinely close to him since his wife goes against everything she believes in; to have to face that he could have prevented this if only he had stayed with her... To know this is all his fault. Again... Then it's working.

"Lisbon... You don't want to do this."

... ...

He loses sight of her when the paramedics insist on looking at his arm, and apparently no amount of glaring at them can persuade them to work any faster.

By the time he gets away, she is nowhere to be seen. The rest of the team has arrived and he knows they have questions but he needs to know that she is okay.

"She's with Director Bertram," Cho tells him. "Give your keys to Rigsby, we'll take you back with us."

... ...

Her voice breaks as she once again tries to warn him off his attempts to rally her spirits. "Jane..."

He chances moving closer. He needs to comfort her; he needs to know he hasn't lost her as well.

"When I realised what he had done to you -" His own voice breaks at just the thought. "Lisbon, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I -"

She's frowning deeply when she faces him now. "You're...? Jane, I could have killed you."

He shakes his head. "You would never have done that."

"Is that how you felt at the time?"

That's a feisty response, not a depressed one, and it fills him with hope that she will get past this.

"All I felt at the time was a terrifying fear of losing you... I shouldn't have left you. I'm sorry I didn't -"

"Jane, it isn't your fault. This was probably his plan all along. He needed me alone. He knew you'd go; knew you'd try to trap him. He knew you'd have to leave me for that to be convincing."

He doesn't like that thought but it makes sense. "Did he tell you that?"

Pain crosses her face at that question and he wishes he hadn't asked.

"I don't remember," she confesses softly, "I don't remember anything he said or did to me before today. I don't know how it started; I don't know what I've done..."

He saw the same panic in her eyes when Doctor Carmen drugged her, but now it's mixed with the fear that she could have been forced to kill him.

"I know that all the leaks, Lorelei's transfer... I know it all must have been me, but I don't remember any of it."

He drapes his arm across her shoulders and pulls her closer, relieved when she doesn't resist and, in fact, turns into him and buries her face in the crook of his neck. "You don't need to remember. It's over, Teresa. It's over. We got him."

... ... ...

They walk back into her office together after their meeting. He's not surprised at the outcome - he knew it was unlikely that Lisbon would be permitted to interview Red John after serving as his accomplice for several months. He's just grateful that they believe that she was under the serial killer's control; that she didn't know what she was doing. She still has her job. The FBI has Red John. And he has found that he is okay with all of that. He is surprised, but unusually content.

He can feel relief washing over her when she sits down on her couch. She surveys her office like she hasn't seen it for months.

She's still not right, he knows. It will take a long time for her to stop blaming herself for what Red John had her do. He is grateful she wasn't directed to kill anyone else - though he is aware that it's possible there are victims they don't know about. He suspects this thought haunts her as well. But he'll get her through this. He owes her that. He owes her much more than that for everything she has helped him through. He wishes it hadn't taken this, though, for him to realise it.

But, what's done is done; what's passed has passed. They need to move forward. Red John is caught. There will be justice for Angela and Charlotte - in a way that they most likely would prefer over the revenge he had plotted for ten years. He'll help Lisbon through this. And they'll move forward.

That will be new for him.

But she'll be with him.

He sits beside her and joins her in looking around, until he decides it's an appropriate moment to speak.

"Teresa," he begins, speaking quietly so that it will prompt her to look at him, "That thing you said - before you shot me..."

Panic widens her eyes and he can't maintain the serious façade. She responds with a smile of her own but it is accompanied by an elbow to his ribs.

"Hey!"

This was the reaction he had hoped for. It has been too many hours since she last smiled.

He will ask her again about what she said. He understands that it was a signal to let him know she was in control, to clue him in on her intentions. But he thinks it's about time they talked about how they might really feel. Because too much has happened; they've come too close to losing each other...

It is time to move forward.

THE END