Another Secret Santa fic written for spyglass.
Prompt: You cannot conceive, nor can I, the apparent strangeness of the mercy of God.
The bullets tore through the practice target, one after the other. Again and again, Lisbon squeezed the trigger of her Glock 9mm until she had expelled the entire magazine. The end result looked like a toddler had attacked the paper with a pair of scissors. The bullet holes were all over the place, and to add insult to injury, none of them were even close to where she'd wanted them. Lisbon prided herself on her sharpshooting abilities so the failure to get even one of the shots through the middle ring was nothing less than a cardinal sin.
The great thing about shooting was that it was an activity that required all of her attention. Her mind was so focused on the task at hand that there was simply no room for anything else. She'd found that there was no better way to get her badly needed respite from her thoughts.
And by God, did she need it. Today of all days. No, she mustn't think about it. Push it away.
Her cell phone rang and she didn't bother taking it out of her pocket. Jane again, she had little doubt. Anyone else would've taken the hint by now and left her alone, but Jane was like a dog with a bone, in the sense that he just didn't know when to give up.
No, she shouldn't think about Jane either, think of the gun. Concentrate.
She reloaded the gun, replaced the practice target and emptied another magazine in rapid succession. Once again, the paper was punctured all over the place with no two shots landed in the same general vicinity.
She wanted to scream with frustration. Usually a trip to the firing range left her with a calmness that came from shooting at things that she always imagined bearing Jane's face. Somehow, it made her aim better. But today, even exercising her statutory right to bear arms wasn't enough to settle her.
Today had been, by all accounts, a day from hell.
The case itself had been difficult right from the outset, because a week ago they had found themselves dealing with a child-killer. It was harder to be objective when the victims were children. She attributed it to the primal instinct to protect the young and though the experience had shaken all of them, it had been Jane who had been hit the hardest.
She wasn't sure which had been worse, seeing the body, or informing the parents for the first time. She was glad that she had brought Jane along to meet them for he was the only one who could truly understand what they were going through. He'd lived it, after all.
She'd been so proud of the way he'd handled himself in front of the family, even though she knew he'd be dredging up painful memories of his own daughter. He'd known exactly what to say, even though no amount of words could possibly make things better, and Lisbon could tell he really meant it when he told the parents how sorry he was. There was not a hint of the usual teasing twinkle in his eyes, and when they'd finally left the house, he'd been quiet and reserved for the whole ride back to the CBI.
She'd wished there were something she could do to make him feel better, but she knew better than to try and reach out to him when he was in such a state. She'd learned from experience to leave him alone and let him try to sort things out for himself. Whenever he was ready to talk, he'd come to her, just as he had done before. Until then, she knew she couldn't push him. It only made things worse.
Which brought her back to now, as her cell phone went off again. She simply couldn't understand why Jane could not extend her the same courtesy that she had done him. She didn't want to talk about it, nor did she want company of any kind. She just wanted to be alone to get her head around things. Was that really so much to ask?
Jane sighed as Lisbon's phone rang out for the umpteenth time. Despite what she might think, he was getting her non-verbal messages loud and clear. He understood that she wanted to be alone, but in his opinion, what she wanted and what she needed were two very different things. It wasn't healthy to keep everything bottled up inside her like this. He should know; he was after all the expert in such things.
He speed-dialled her once more. In all honesty, he knew exactly where she would be, down at the range, in gallery number four, but he couldn't go to her until he spoke to her first. Getting an honest, feelings-based conversation out of Lisbon was like squeezing blood from a stone; there was really no point even trying unless he could find a point of weakness. If she answered the phone, even if just to abuse him, he knew he could get her to open up to him, but in true Lisbon style she sure as hell wasn't making it easy.
Couldn't she see that nobody blamed her for what had happened with Stracken, their suspect? She had done the best that she could in a tough situation and nobody could ask any more of her. On the contrary, many at the CBI regarded her as a hero, but she was her own toughest critic. He knew she'd be going over the situation again and again in her mind, looking for something that she should have done differently, convinced it had all been her fault. He hated that she was unable to take pride in what she had achieved today but again, he understood. That was just the way she was, one of the numerous little quirks that made her special, and not simply a run-of-the mill cop. It was what made her Lisbon.
Earlier that day.
Lisbon looked up at the clock. Someone must have tampered with it and set it to go super-fast, otherwise how could time be slipping away from her so quickly? There were only two hours to go until their 6 o clock deadline, and if they were late, little Maddy Fitzgerald would be paying the price.
"Come on!" she urged her team. "This bastard has to have left a clue somewhere. Every criminal screws up, and if we can't find out how, we aren't doing our jobs right!"
"Lisbon," began Jane soothingly, appearing at her elbow. "You need to try and calm down. Getting upset isn't helping anybody."
"OK," she snarled at him. "Why don't I just take a leaf out of your book and sit around drinking tea and giving useless advice. I bet that'll get the job done!"
"There's no need to get snarky at me," he replied, calmly. "This isn't my fault."
"I know, I know." He understood that to be her apology.
Jane had been hovering around her all afternoon, ever since they had found out that their suspected child-killer had struck again. They had been too late to save the first victim, five-year old Nathan Kennedy, and over her dead body was Maddy Fitzgerald going to suffer the same fate.
The pressure was getting to Lisbon; everyone could see it, but as always it fell to Jane to try and calm her down. Nobody else was game enough, for fear they got their head ripped off. And not in the figurative sense, either.
Eventually, on pain of hypnosis, he managed to persuade her to sit down and have a cup of coffee. He even consented to share his couch with her so that she might be near enough to act, should any of the team find something.
"Boss!" Cho called from his desk ten minutes later, and she jumped up so quickly she upset her almost-empty cup of coffee, causing the dregs to spill all over Jane's much-loved couch. Ignoring his cry of anguish from beside her, she hastened to her agent's side.
"Tell me you got something good."
"Better than good. I got an address."
She could have kissed him in that moment, but instead settled for clapping him on the shoulder. "Great work, Cho. Rigsby, call Judge Watkins and get us a warrant for 23 Dwyer Road."
"I want you all geared up and ready to move in five minutes. And that includes you Jane," she added, raising her voice so it carried across the room to where her consultant was kneeling beside the couch, frantically dabbing at it with kitchen paper.
"Really?" he asked, momentarily distracted. "I thought you were gonna make me stay here, so I wouldn't go 'looking for trouble.'" He said the last few words with a certain irritated tone. This was an argument he and Lisbon had revisited time and time again.
She had yet to grasp the concept that investigating his own theories carried with it a slight risk of ruffling a few feathers. But really, he'd asked her, wasn't it worth it to bring a killer to justice? To which she replied that no, it wasn't when it inevitably found him, her or the both of them staring at the business end of some deadly weapon or other.
How many times had that actually happened, he'd asked her then.
Thirty-seven, she'd said. She opened up a tally on the day she'd signed on with him.
"You don't need to look for trouble, Jane, it usually finds you easily enough. Besides we'll need you."
"Someone's going to have to look after the little girl while we're dealing with Stracken."
"But what if-"
"That's an order!" she barked, cutting him off. "Now, come on!"
He knew why she had lashed out at him like that. She couldn't afford to give up hope that they'd find the girl alive. It was the only way she might make it through today.
Half an hour later, the car squealed to a stop outside an unassuming brick house on an average looking street.
"Rigsby, you and I will enter through the front door. Cho and Van Pelt, I want you guys covering the back in case he decides to make a break for it. Jane, stay right here until I tell you to come inside. Are we all clear?"
"All right, let's go and get that little girl."
The agents piled out of the car, and drew their weapons. Jane watched as Lisbon and Rigsby carefully approached the front door, while the other two stole around the back.
Rigsby poised himself close to the door, and at a nod from Lisbon, kicked it in. "CBI!" he roared. "We have a warrant!" He charged through the door, Lisbon hot on his heels.
There was no sign of Stracken or Maddy as they searched the house room by room. The deathly quiet put them both on edge as they looked around, jumping at small noises.
Suddenly, a dark shape loomed out at them from across the hall.
"Hello agents," it said. "Nice of you to drop in."
Rigsby found a light switch on the wall and flicked it on and light flooded the area to reveal Stracken, with a gun in one hand and a petrified-looking Maddy Fitzgerald in the other. The poor girl looked like she had been through hell, but at least she was alive.
"Stracken it's over," said Lisbon. "We've got this place surrounded so how about doing the smart thing and letting her go?"
"So you can have a clear shot at me the moment she's out of range? I don't think so."
"Let her go and put down your weapon and we won't have to shoot you."
"A tempting offer to be sure, but I think I'll decline."
At that moment, Maddy let out a terrified whimper and Stracken shook her violently.
"Shut up!" he hissed at her. "One more sound and you can forget about seeing your mum and dad again."
Lisbon was so angry, she could see her gun shaking in front of her. What did this animal think he was proving, terrifying a seven-year old? The little girl's eyes met hers and she saw they were full of horror and fear. No child should have to go through something like this, she thought as Maddy looked at her with such pleading, it broke her heart.
"There's only two ways out of this Stracken," she said. "Neither of them will be particularly pleasant for you, but if you put the gun down it's going to go a lot easier for you."
"Not happening, Agent," he said, smirking. "I have the upper hand here. You won't shoot me, cause if I go down, the little angel comes with me."
Lisbon knew he was right. There was no way she could fire without running the risk of harming the little girl. She had to think of something, anything to get Maddy away from that monster. She decided to try a different approach.
"All right, I'm going to put my gun away, and we're going to talk calmly about this."
"Whatever you please, Agent."
Regretfully, she holstered her weapon. For the first time in a long time, Teresa Lisbon found herself backed against a wall. Stracken was calling the shots here, something that she meant to rectify sooner rather than later. If there was something she really hated, it was feeling out of control. She liked to be the person who decided how things happened.
Maddy started to sob quietly, and Stracken dropped his gaze from Lisbon's. For a split second, a window of opportunity presented itself. She had no time to get the message across to Rigsby and could only hope he would be able to react quickly if she needed him to.
She dived, and before Stracken knew what had hit him, she had him on the ground. He was so occupied in fighting with her, that he lost his grip on Maddy, who fled behind Rigsby. His gun went sliding a little way across the floor.
Rigsby watched as his boss wrestled with their killer, not daring to shoot for fear he should hit her. With an almost superhuman effort, Lisbon seemed to get the upper hand and managed to pin Stracken to the floor. "Cuffs," she panted at Rigsby. She held out her hand for them and Stracken, sensing weakness, flipped her back over and resumed their battle.
Rigsby made to jump in and pull him off of her, and most unluckily, one of Stracken's hands found the cold barrel of his gun. He hit Lisbon hard in the head with it, but poorly judged the angle and only managed to get in a glancing blow on the side of her head. However, it was enough to get her to let go of him, and he turned the gun instead on Maddy, who was protected only by Rigsby's hulking form. He kicked out, and swept the agent's legs out from under him. Now with no obstacle between himself and his prey, he took careful aim.
Slightly dazed from the knock to her head, it took Lisbon a moment to process what was going on, and it was bad. Rigsby was down, and Stracken had a gun. "Cho!" she called out, loudly. "Van Pelt!" She could think of nothing else to do, but to launch herself at him, knocking his arm away just before he fired. The shot went wide, flying into the wall and burying itself there.
Beside her, Rigsby struggled to his feet, as Stracken got off another shot, this one ricocheting off the doorframe, and then smashing the window. Once again he aimed the gun at Maddy, and in desperation, Lisbon gathered up strength she didn't know she had, and pushed his arm off-target.
Rigsby's shout echoed around the room as the gun discharged, this time the round embedding itself in his stomach. He fell to the ground. Stracken turned blazing eyes on Lisbon and she instinctually reached around for her gun and fired three times. The gunshots mingled with Maddy's screams.
Outside in the car, Jane too heard the gunshots. Knowing Lisbon's penchant for heroics, he felt himself suddenly gripped by fear. His gut feeling was that she had embroiled herself in some deadly showdown. All he could do was hope she was just as adept at getting herself out of sticky situations as she was at getting herself in them.
The door crashed open at the same time as the two other agents came running. Their eyes widened as they took in the scene, and Cho immediately got down to assess the situation with Stracken. Van Pelt meanwhile, fell to her knees beside a groaning Rigsby, ripping away part of her shirt so she could apply pressure to his wound.
Cho felt for a pulse.
Lisbon let her gun drop from her hand and fell backwards, until she was lying on the floor.
"Cho," she croaked some minutes later, "Go get Jane. Quickly."
She found it was difficult even to sit up, and her muscles screamed in protest at the movement. She managed to inch herself back against the wall.
"Are you OK, boss?" Cho asked her.
"Yes, yes, fine," she said quickly. "Don't worry about me. Just go get him, and have somebody call an ambulance will you?"
Rigsby chose that moment to moan with pain again and they both turned to look at him. Van Pelt had one hand on his injury, while the other gently stroked his hair.
"You're OK," she was saying soothingly, "It's OK. The ambulance is coming. You're going to be fine."
"Is that man going to die?" piped up Maddy from the corner, watching as Van Pelt continued to tend to Rigsby.
Startled, Lisbon finally managed to tear her eyes from her agent. "No honey," she croaked. "He's just hurt. Go get that ambulance will you Cho?" He nodded once, and left. Maddy looked at the body of Stracken, flinched, and curled herself into a ball, cowering against the wall.
"What are you doing, honey?" Lisbon asked.
"What if he wakes up?" the little girl asked, tearfully.
"No, don't worry, you're never going to have to see him again."
Just outside the door, footsteps could be heard approaching. Jane appeared in the doorway, at a run.
"What happened? Is everybody OK?" he asked, uncharacteristically serious.
"Rigsby's been shot," Van Pelt said, not taking her eyes from her patient.
"Oh. Will he be all right?"
"I don't know." She sounded like she was trying to hold back tears.
"Is there anything I can do?"
"Jane, can you please get her out of here?" Lisbon asked him, gesturing to the little girl.
His eyes widened as he saw the lump beginning to rise on the side of her head where the gun had hit her. His gaze met hers. "Are you OK?" he wanted to know.
"Why does everyone keep asking me that?" she snapped. "Of the three of us, I should be the least of everyone's concern."
"OK, OK," he backed off. He instead turned his attention to Maddy.
"Hi," he said gently, smiling at her. "My name is Patrick. What's yours?"
"Maddy," she answered him, quietly.
"You've been a very brave girl today Maddy," he said. "Your mom and dad are going to be so proud of you."
The screaming sirens of an approaching ambulance could be heard getting closer and closer.
"Do you like magic?" Jane asked the little girl. In spite of her shyness, she nodded eagerly.
"Well, watch this." He took a coin from his pocket, and made it disappear from his hand and pulled it out of her ear.
"Are you sure you don't have a piggy bank in there?" he asked her, as he repeated the trick.
"No," she answered, giggling.
"Well I know more magic too," he told her. "Why don't I show you some while the ambulance men check you out, and then we'll take you home."
"I miss my mommy," she said.
"I know sweetheart, you're going to see her very soon."
He held out his hand, and she took it and they walked outside together.
Two ambulances arrived within minutes. Rigsby was carefully placed onto a stretcher and wheeled out of the house, Van Pelt walking along beside him. Ignoring her aches and pains, Lisbon got up off the ground unsteadily, and followed them. Even though they tried to be as gentle as possible while wheeling him down the two steps outside the front door, she heard Rigsby cry out in pain. The sound ripped through her like a knife. She saw Maddy being checked out by another paramedic, clinging so tightly to Jane's hand that her knuckles had turned white.
Cho was overseeing the processing of the scene, so she watched Rigsby being loaded into the ambulance with mounting guilt. It was her fault that he had been injured. If she'd gotten the cuffs on Stracken when she'd had the chance, he never would've got his hands on the gun and her agent would never have been shot.
Van Pelt stood anxiously beside the door as they tried to stabilize him for the ride to the hospital. Her hand was stained with red.
"We're losing him!" came the shout from inside the ambulance. "Someone juice up the defibrillator!"
"We don't have time to waste, let's get out of here!"
The doors were slammed shut, and the ambulance screamed away.
Van Pelt suddenly found her legs were insufficient to support her, and fell to the ground, sobbing.
"Can you squeeze my hand for me, sweetie?" the paramedic was saying to Maddy.
Jane chuckled. "There's nothing wrong with her grip. Take it from me." He held up their clenched hands.
Not being able to bear looking at the distraught Van Pelt anymore, Lisbon made her slow way over to them.
"Physically, she seems fine, just a little in shock. We might just admit her overnight for observation," the paramedic said to Jane.
This news was enough to prompt a fresh wave of tears. "But I don't want to go!" she heard Maddy wail. "I want to go home!" She flung her free arm around Jane. "Please don't make me go!"
"I'm sorry," he said. "But we need to make sure that you're OK first. When we get there we'll call your mommy and daddy, and they'll come and see you."
"Will you stay with me until they come?" she asked.
He smiled. "Sure."
He looked up and saw Lisbon coming towards them. "Maddy, do you mind if I go and talk to my friend for a minute?" he asked. "I'll be right over here."
"OK, but come back soon," she said.
He stroked her hair. "You're very brave."
"You're very good with her," Lisbon observed when he reached her.
"She's a good kid," he said. "Now what's this I hear about you having an impromptu wrestling match with Stracken in there?"
"How did you know?"
"Cho told me. You're a heroine. You saved Maddy." Curiously, this wasn't accompanied by his trademark smile. In fact, he looked kind of…mad.
"Are you out of your mind, woman?" he exploded, without warning. "You could have been killed!"
"Hey," she protested, stung and thrown in equal parts by this sudden outburst. "I was just doing my job!"
"Putting yourself in danger is what you were doing. Christ, as if I don't worry about you enough already, you've just aged me about ten years!" He ran a hand through his hair in frustration.
"Thanks a lot for your concern and everything, but I don't need you to worry about me."
"I'm not so sure about that!" His eyes dropped to her face again and his anger seemed to evaporate. "Look at you," he said, softly. "You're a mess." He put a hand under her chin and turned her head side to side to see the damage. Her face was peppered with bruises and the lump on her head looked worse than ever. "Come on, let's get you checked out."
She pulled away from him, shaking her head vigorously. "No, I've just got a few bumps and bruises, I'm OK."
"Stop being so damn stubborn," he scolded her, grabbing her hand. "It'll only take a minute. Come on."
"No!" she shrieked. "I don't deserve it. You don't understand; one of my people might be about to die because of me."
"And you're not going to be of any use to him if you've got a concussion, are you?" he pointed out. "Will you please be reasonable about this? You're hurt, you're exhausted, and you're not thinking straight."
"Stop patronizing me. I'm not a child," she said, snatching her hand away from him.
He sighed. "Look, I know you're busy worrying about everybody else, but can you spare five minutes to put my mind at rest? That way you're doing it for your team and not for yourself."
"And I've already done so many favours for my team today," she said, sarcastically.
As if to emphasise the point, she pointed towards Van Pelt, who was now being tended to by another paramedic.
"You did very well, ma'am," the young man soothed her. "If you can stand, follow me and I'll give you something for shock."
Leaning heavily on him, Van Pelt struggled to her feet and over to the ambulance.
Lisbon felt guiltier still as she heard Van Pelt ask whether or not Rigsby was going to be OK.
"We're doing the best we can," the paramedic responded. "But if it hadn't been for you, he wouldn't have stood a chance."
"Are you guys heading back to the hospital now?" Van Pelt asked in a shaky voice.
"Can I ride back with you? I want to be with him, in case…" Apparently, she couldn't bear to finish the thought.
"Sure," he answered, gently. "We need to take the little girl in anyway."
Jane turned to Lisbon. "You do know that none of this is your fault, right?" he said.
"Of course it is!" she snapped back. "If it hadn't been for me-"
"That little girl in there would be dead!" Jane cut across her, savagely. "The only person to blame for this is zipped into a body bag right now. Now will you please come and let the paramedics look you over?"
She opened her mouth to answer, when Maddy's voice became audible from the back of the ambulance.
"No! I don't want to go by myself! I want Patrick to come with me. Where is he?"
The middle-aged woman who had been looking after her came around the side to where Jane and Lisbon stood.
"I'm sorry sir," she said to Jane. "But she's been asking for you for the last five minutes, and we don't want her to be any more traumatised then she is already. Would you mind coming along to the hospital with us?"
"Of course," he said, smiling. "Lisbon, why don't you come too? They can check you out on the way."
"Are you injured ma'am?" asked the paramedic.
"No, I'm just fine," said Lisbon. "My friend here is just being a little overprotective." She glared at Jane.
"All the same, better to be safe then sorry," the other woman advised.
"Really. I'm fine," Lisbon repeated.
The paramedic shrugged. "Suit yourself. If you're ready sir, we should probably get going." She turned away and walked back to the ambulance.
"You should go," said Lisbon when they were alone again. "Maddy needs you."
"Right now I think you need me more."
"How many times do I have to tell you? I'm fine!" she shouted. "Leave me alone."
Jane shook his head slightly, but turned away.
"Patrick!" Maddy squealed happily. "You came back!"
He smiled at her as she grabbed his hand again. "I told you I would. Now are you ready to go?"
She nodded, and the paramedic beamed.
Sitting on the other side of the ambulance was Van Pelt. Jane noticed that she looked very pale, and she was trying very hard to hold back more tears.
"Try not to worry," he said gently. "Rigsby's tough. He'll be OK."
She nodded. "How's Lisbon?" she asked as the engine roared into life.
Jane looked out the back window to where she stood alone on the grass.
"Honestly?" he said. "I don't know."
The phone rang again. She ignored it again. Whatever Jane had to say could wait. Then her message tone rang out, indicating a new text. From Jane. Of course.
Van Pelt just called. Rigsby's going to make it.
The gun clattered to the floor as her shoulders sagged in relief.
She took a moment to thank God for sparing him, for she wasn't sure she could handle losing another colleague. Bosco had been hard enough.
"So now you can stop beating yourself up, does that mean you'll talk to me?" She jumped at the sound of Jane's voice from somewhere behind her, and turned around to see him sitting on a bench, smiling at her.
"Jesus, Jane how many times have I told you not to sneak up on me like that?" she asked, a little breathlessly.
"I have studied the ways of the ninja," he said solemnly. "Maybe you should give it a go, so you'll be able to tell when I'm coming."
"You are so lucky I wasn't holding this gun," she chastised him as she retrieved it from the floor. "Or you would've had a bullet through your forehead by now."
"How are you feeling?" he asked.
"A little sore," she said. "Nothing I can't handle."
He looked past her head to the practice target, peppered with holes again.
"What's this? Not nearly as clean as usual. Something on your mind?"
"No," she said, a little too defiantly. "Just having an off day."
"An off day? Really?"
"Not to you."
She grunted, but didn't deny the charge.
"You know, most men would be intimidated by a woman who can handle a weapon as well as you can," he said, getting up from the bench and closing the gap towards them. "But I have to confess, I find it incredibly sexy."
"My mission in life," she quipped. "How's Rigsby doing?"
"Van Pelt said it was touch and go for a while, but once they managed to stop the bleeding, they said he'd be OK. He's in recovery now, sleeping off the anaesthetic."
"Have his family been informed?"
"Yeah, Cho called them, but they won't be able to make it down here until tomorrow. Van Pelt's going to stay with him tonight."
"Hmm. Not really sending the right message to the CBI is she?"
Jane waved the argument away good-naturedly. "Oh, the hell with the CBI. If it were you in hospital, runaway horses couldn't make me leave your bedside. Why should she?"
"Really?" she couldn't resist asking.
"Because I'd be worried about you," he said slowly and clearly as though he were explaining it to someone very dim.
"Worried?" she repeated.
"Yes, worried. It's an unpleasant emotion. Have you heard of it?"
"Ha ha," she responded, bleakly.
"Allow me to break it down for you. Worrying is something that happens sometimes when a person, like me for instance," -he gestured towards himself-"finds out that someone they care about, that would be you,"- he pointed to her-"is injured or upset. Get the picture?"
"Thanks for the lesson, professor," she said irritably. "But what would you know? You don't care about anyone or anything."
He looked directly into her eyes. "I do care," he said. "I care a lot."
Maybe it was just the after-effects of her action-packed day, but she believed him.
"Thanks. I think."
"Don't mention it."
The lump on her head had been throbbing all afternoon but for some reason it selected that moment to give a particularly painful jolt to her system. She winced, and put a hand to it.
She saw Jane's eyes follow her hand's progress but he chose not to comment.
"Maddy's doing well," he said instead. "The doctors say she's in remarkably good shape, after what she's been through."
"That's great," she said, smiling.
"Her parents are very keen to meet the woman who saved their daughter's life."
She shifted uncomfortably. "Well it wasn't just me, the others all helped."
"Maddy told them all about how you jumped on the bad guy and fought him, and kept him from getting to her. I think you may have found yourself a new fan."
She turned away from him, and took up her gun again. Maybe if she shot a few more rounds, he'd go away.
She emptied another magazine, and the shots were as frustratingly erratic as ever.
"Ouch," he said, wincing.
"Oh, shut up."
"You should really go and let them say thankyou," he said.
"Why? You always hate it when people thank you," she said, not turning around.
"So? I'm a twisted, empty shell of a human being. I do this job to solve puzzles. You do this job to save lives."
"What's the difference? The outcome's still the same."
"Reasons why we do things make all the difference, and you know that. It shows our true character."
"Since when did you become so philosophical?" she asked, putting the gun down.
"I've learned a lot by working with the CBI. Especially from you."
"Like what makes a good person do bad things, and what a toll that can take on them."
She scoffed "Yeah right."
"You've been driving yourself crazy all evening, and not just because of Rigsby. You're upset that you had to kill someone."
"He was a monster. He deserved it."
"Doesn't make you feel any better though, does it? You acted in the heat of the moment and it's making you wonder if it makes you just like him."
She took a deep breath.
"You're so much better than him," he said. "You wouldn't have done it if there were any other choice, and you saved that little girl. It reminds me of last year when I killed Hardy."
"Did you regret it afterwards?" she found herself asking.
"Yes," he admitted. "He was the only link I had to Red John. But at the actual moment, all I could think about was protecting you."
A heavy silence between them followed this statement and Lisbon suddenly became very interested in examining the walls of the cubicle they were in.
"Do me a favour," he said, with fake airiness a minute later. "When I go kill Red John, can you please not be there? Having you around clouds my judgement."
"Don't joke about that," she told him sternly.
He dropped the matter.
"I guess I'll leave you to your shooting," he said. "Think about what I've said. Particularly the bit about you being a good person."
"I'll take it under advisement. But I make no promises."
"That's my girl."
What he did next surprised her more than anything else. He leant across and kissed her temple.
"You scared the hell out of me today," he said, as he drew away. "Next time you decide to go all Xena Warrior Princess on a situation, can you at least warn me first?"
She grinned, in part due to being a little flustered on account of the kiss.
"Guess that'll have to do." He threw her a mega-watt smile. "But for what it's worth, Xena's got nothing on you. I'll bet you look ten times better in tight black leather too."
She rolled her eyes. "In your dreams, Jane."
He winked at her. "You can count on that."
Once he had left, Lisbon reloaded her gun again. Knowing she had a starring role in Jane's night time fantasies was disturbing, yet strangely flattering. And at least it made her feel less guilty about dreaming about him every night.
She shook her head to clear it, lifted the gun again, and fired.
Every single shot went through the middle ring.
Hope you liked it!