Title: Oubliette

Characters: Jane, Lisbon, mentions of Red John

Genre: General/Romance

Spoilers: A hint at an aspect of already aired episodes of season 4, nothing obvious though.

Prompt: Saving the World

Notes: Written for the Paint It Red April monthly challenge.


A Monday in April.

Another town.

Another mutilated body.

Number forty-three, if Jane counts correctly.

The usual painting on the wall.

Sunlight filtering through the curtains.

Dripping blood.

Same old, same old.

Jane remains impassive, unimpressed, while he watches his colleagues running around like headless chickens. He envies them their enthusiasm, how focused they still are after all those years. Jane himself lost this dedication several victims ago.

Lisbon.

Frowning as she is right now, she looks a little helpless, but he knows that her appearance can be deceiving. She, of all people, right now is probably the one most determined to catch Red John. Not because it would give a boost to her career, but simply because the need to protect innocents from evil is running in her blood.

He averts his eyes; one of the few things that still get to him nowadays is seeing her tilting at windmills.

He is supposed to help her.

To stay true to his word and stop Red John once and for all, too.

Instead he's only going through the motions. Pretends to inspect something here and to come up with absurd theories there, when really he has no clue at all anymore. Eventually Jane steps out into the sunny day.

The least he can do is to not obstruct the investigation.

###

In June, he is running through a nightly wood.

He and Lisbon, that is.

An unexpected stirring of his old talents earned them a new lead. Or maybe a new trap; he isn't quite sure yet which.

If it were up to him, he would have come here alone. Would gladly have played the martyr. But Lisbon insisted, figured him out right away. Somehow he's glad now that she is at his side. Or he at hers. Without her, he might have turned back by now.

They stumble forward.

Listen carefully.

Sounds of nature, nothing else.

A moonbeam briefly illuminates the barrel of Lisbon's gun.

Jane moves closer to her.

Is surprised when he recognizes the long-lost feeling, that seizes hold of him, as fear.

The noise of splintering twigs now.

A movement a few feet to their right.

A wild animal, maybe.

In human form.

A shadowy figure.

Two.

He feels Lisbon tense up next to him, hardly dares to breathe himself.

A break in the clouds suddenly reveals the eerie scene in front of them.

A young woman, almost still a girl.

Alive.

Not a scratch on her.

Yet.

The shiny blade.

A man eager to use it.

Jane's anger flares up unexpectedly, makes his head spin. And yet his mind is clearer than it ever was before. He knows what to do now, remembers what he should have done years ago.

He reaches for Lisbon's gun.

###

Five days later, Jane is still irked that Lisbon shoved him away. That in the end Red John died by her hand, not his. At least that's the official explanation for his sullenness while everyone else celebrates a victory that Jane secretly isn't sure they achieved.

It is all too easy.

Two shots to the chest just don't seem enough to end over a decade of evilness.

Every moment now, the note can arrive.

A letter full of malice.

Or simply one more dead body.

Another testimony that they once again were fooled.

Meanwhile, his colleagues dissect every aspect of the alleged Red John's life. His fingerprints are in the system. Not because he was convicted of a crime before, but because he was working for the government. Jane remains unconvinced; even more powerful men fell for the real Red John in the past.

He begins to feel like a burden to the team. Can't contribute anything at all to the ongoing investigation. His days are spent mostly on his couch now, pretending to sleep in order to be left alone. He should have known that Lisbon wouldn't fall for this trick. The loudness of her voice calling out his name would haven woken him even if he actually would have been asleep. For the first time in days, Jane attempts at a smile.

Lisbon doesn't mention where she is taking him, but that's alright; he likes driving around with her.

They stop in front of a house that looks like all the others in the neighborhood. Homey, ordinary. Only the crime scene tape gives away that this place tells a different story. One look at Lisbon's face confirms who used to live here until a few days ago.

Jane swallows. Then he goes in before he loses the courage. The interior is a disappointment. He expects to feel something, get a sense of looming viciousness, but room after room oozes nothing but normalcy. If it weren't for the occasional cop roaming the building, anyone could live here. For what it's worth, even Jane himself could live here.

He doesn't understand why he was brought to this place. Why Lisbon even made him wear rubber gloves. He turns to leave, is ready to go back to the office and wait for the inevitable. Red Johns wins again.

But Lisbon has other plans. Without a word she steers him through corridors to another door, one that he failed to notice earlier. She pushes the door open for him, then stands aside. Those last few steps he is apparently supposed to take on his own.

Hesitantly, he moves forward. His thirst for knowledge gave way to a feeling of dread the moment he realized that the house has a basement. But there is no turning back now. Downstairs could wait for him what he has been searching for since coming home to his deathly still house all those years ago.

Initially, the basement seems ordinary enough.

Concrete floor.

Some shelves and an old wardrobe.

A bulb on the ceiling, bathing the room in yellowy light.

The first thing that strikes Jane as odd is the absence of any clutter.

No discarded appliances.

No random tools strewn about.

No boxes of keepsakes or the like.

The shelves are completely empty, not even a speck of dust on any of them. The sense of disappointment returns, threatens to eat him alive. But Lisbon wouldn't have sent him down here without a reason. And there is still the wardrobe, suited to conceal all kinds of secrets. Setting all his hope on this one piece of furniture, he tears open the doors.

At first, the array of little wooden boxes in front of him doesn't make much sense to him. He steps closer.

Notices that they are all the same size.

Counts forty-three of them.

Sees the little rectangular strips of paper attached exactly in the middle of each of them.

Reads the typewritten numbers.

Recognizes them as dates that he has memorized from dozens of case files throughout the years.

Jane knows what he's dealing with now.

He pulls out a box to look inside.

Then another.

One by one, he inspects the keepsakes that he was missing earlier. He glances at the more artistic versions of their crime scene photos contained in each box.

Tenderly strokes a stained brooch.

A curl of hair.

A button.

A lipstick.

A necklace.

In the end, only two boxes with identical dates in the upper half of the wardrobe remain untouched. One day he will be ready to face the contents of those as well. For now it's enough to know that they will wait for him in the evidence vault.

He senses Lisbon's presence even before she speaks.

"We got him. This time, it's really over."

Only then he understands that all the time she had the same doubts as him. That she as well didn't dare to be relieved until she set foot into this basement.

He is glad that she got the chance to serve justice, but – unlike for her – it was never about saving the world for him.

All he ever wanted, was to save himself.

And Lisbon.

In the devil's lair, he reaches for her hand.

As she intertwines her fingers with his, it occurs to him that maybe the world wasn't all she meant to save from Red John either.

ღThe End