Title: Under the Veil

Author: Kourion

Summary: Every cell in my body is screaming. And if I never believed in pantheism before, I do now. Looking at Jane, and the knife Red John has brought against Jane's throat, is only confirming our link. Our connection. Because I can't even swallow, and when I try, I can taste blood. / Jisbon / Warning: Character Death.

A/N: I'll have updates for Redress and Little Stars before Christmas/ Yule/ the holiday date of Dec. 25ish (oh, you all know what I mean, people! I'm not PC at the best of times, and as a neo-pagan, I call the season Yule, myself. But I hope whoever you are, and whatever title you assign this time of year - it's a beautiful and peaceful time for you and your family.)

A/N part deux: This story details the events on the night that Red John is finally caught. In my quasi-experimental style, I've tried to incorporate past memories with current events to sort of show the frozen, almost crazy way the brain will back peddle and latch onto something else (almost anything else, even very random memories!) during traumatic events.

This story will also be the bridge to any follow ups that feature an evolving relationship (of a romantic nature) between Lisbon and Jane. Mind you, I don't write NC-17 scenes (not my thing! sorry!), and I have never even tried my hand at RST fics. But, in a sense, you can say that the events I'm sort of making up here...are the impetus for any future romance. I imagine that if ANYTHING like this happened on the show, or if they play out in any sort of similar manner...it would be a pretty massive turning point for Jane, and by extension for Lisbon, too.

Or maybe I'm just an irrepressible Jisbon fanatic? :) (Don't answer that!) To make the story read a little more easily, current events featuring Jane being held hostage/ hurt by Red John have all been BOLDED. Past words/ memories are italicized. I'm sure you'll pick up the pattern. :)

Also, if you haven't read any of Little Stars, well, you should still be able to follow along, although there is definitely overlap here (mentioning of Jane being sick, Dorothea Castleton etc.).

Lastly, this story is through LISBON'S POV. I'm sure you would have figured that out very quickly, anyway. But there you go. Oh - reviews are love! If you can see a follow up version to this fic(let?), say... something taking place at the hospital/ shortly thereafter (and the hospital mentioned here DOES exist in Sacramento, btw), then let me know please.

"I can taste the tin of the sky - the real tin thing.
Winter dawn is the color of metal,
The trees stiffen into place like burnt nerves.
All night I have dreamed of destruction, annihilations -
An assembly-line of cut throats, and you and I
Inching off in the gray Chevrolet, drinking the green
Poison of stilled lawns, the little clapboard gravestones"

~Sylvia Plath

This doesn't make sense.

This was not supposed to happen.

Jane's mother had abandoned him at 4.

A preschooler left behind like an overdue library book cast aside with irritation. Less feeling than that, possibly. Just left with a man who referred to himself as Alex, never Dad.

Certainly never Daddy.

A mother who had then retreated for all time alongside Jane's half sister - Jane's little sister - but not Jane.

A daughter worth keeping. But a son who never felt worthy again...

"I called her Pepper. But I don't think that was her name, my sister. I think it was... Persephone? I was so little, you know? Sometimes I tell myself that she was just my imaginary friend. Sometimes I think I made her up, Lisbon. But she was real - I know it deep down, I know she was. And mom took Pepper. Mom WANTED her, but not me. She didn't want...me. And I missed her so much, my mom. And Pepper too - maybe even more, because...I think she loved me. Not...mom, but...Pepper did. She used to call me her Pat-Pat. She was so little when mom left. Little more than a baby, really. Just this sweet little kid..."

His words flowed by so fast that I had to stop myself from shusssshing him in alarm - from trying to dampen his explosive need to share. I almost needed to stop the sharing for my own sake, because tears were cloaking and strangling my throat.

But I couldn't stop him. I wouldn't. It wasn't fair. He needed to get this out.

And he had chosen me to confide in.

Instead, I had responded, stung, "YOU were so little, Jane! You were just a little boy! Not even in school yet."

He had smiled, then, sniffled: "I never went to school, Lisbon."

An autodidact in the truest sense.

Jane obviously still loved his mom. I knew I had to be careful with what I said, and where I lay blame. With the adult, never the child, of course.

But Jane had convinced himself that it was always him, and never the other person, who was in the wrong. Somehow, deep down, he had convinced himself that the pattern must have always existed. Even as a four year old.

"I must have not been a very good kid, Lisbon. Maybe I just was too hard to deal with and-"

The need, of course, HAD died down into something less jet-stream-forceful then, and his arms came out to wrap around himself.

A self-administered hug.

I had imagined, at the time, that's what happened when pain needed to be purged. It just...came. It just came out in such an uncontrollable mess of putrid, rotten filth that even when someone was very, very clever (as Jane was, undeniably), and extraordinarily perceptive (as Jane was, even more so), the pain still spoke the words of that crushed child, not the thoughts of a rational, intelligent adult.

Even if it seemed unfathomable that a grown up (whatever that was, here)...or adult Patrick Jane could ever seriously consider them truth.

But that's how emotional pain torments. Its pain infects, especially when it's so old...so... unshared. And in Jane's case - it needed to be lanced before his entire being chocked in toxicity.

What started out as a pressure-spray of angry, tattered words then sputtered out to something less intense as he spoke.

Before long, the words came out as a drizzle of rapidly tempered hurt, his voice going quieter and quieter as he talked.

But the conviction - that deepest, resigned acceptance that he HADN'T been loved, and couldn't be - was still very strong, and never seemed to dwindle.

And even with me, even with my pain, and what happened with my mom, my dad...well, it was a very different type of pain. I knew that then. Oh, it had been a massive loss, certainly. I had yearned for those early years back all through my teenage life. But I had never doubted my mom's love, nor - in a weird way - my father's, either. The alcoholism had poisoned him, in a sense - though I had lived through enough to know that there was - somewhere, in my father's healthy body and mind - perfect love for me, and my brothers.

Jane, by contrast, seemed resigned with a horrible, sick belief that he had been an unlovable child. Maybe even unworthy of the attempt.

He became nervous then - not meeting my eyes, his own fluttering eyelids trying to bat away tears without my observance.

As if it could be done.

A 4 year old convinced of his sheer worthlessness had sat there then, in front of me - as a 40 year old body struggled to conjure up a classic Jane-smile.

What a ruse that smile had been! What a haunting mask for such pain.

"You don't have to pretend to be fine, Jane," I had told him. Knowing - KNOWING - the energy it took to fake being okay when something so pressing was eating your heart right out of your chest. It took a lot of energy. I knew, from personal experience.

Never mind the fact that I would never forget what I had heard.

Nor could I ignore his self-deprecating 'jokes' any longer. No, he could play the fool and the mischevious elf role to perfection, still. I didn't doubt that, nor doubt that he would try.

What had changed with his words wasn't something massive in his heart, but in mine.

That night HAD been the first time I had really seen Jane cry.

Really cry - openly, unconstrained.

"Cause...I'm just a...worm, Lisbon. I...I...that's all that I AM and-," with his blood-shot eyes, nursing that massively drained bottle of Rum between his normally steady hands.

Jane's voice, so broken and wrecked, had scissored through the cloth of my heart - and had made holes that actually hurt. I can recall pulling his body towards mine then, cutting him off mid-sentence, the need for him to feel a presence other than grief and the bitterest, aching pain suddenly my need, too. I had felt gutted, though - when he had flinched. As if by holding him to my body, and letting him cling (which he did with a forcefulness and grasp that made me want to open up a part of myself, and let him curl inside - to keep him safe) he was doing something...wrong. Undeserved.


I could sense the shame, and my rapidly growing protective instinct for him, the wounded child part of him. Even so, Jane's need for connection had eclipsed his shame, and he wouldn't let go of me. Not for a long time. So we sat in the Bellesview Motor Lodge Motel Room - Jane and I, alone. Lights off, an old radiator clinking on and off and erratically spurting out some sort of heat. The sound, the only other sound other than Jane's pants of breath (his nose clogged by tears and crying) - my own throat constricted and dead.

Jane eventually, shakily, pressed out and tried to shut the bathroom door closed behind us, which made everything darker still, but I didn't stop him.

Rigsby and Cho later told me that Jane had taken to reading the case files in the bathrooms after hours; I had summarily and symbolically flayed them for letting Jane unravel to the point that night terrors had resulted.

My back had pressed up against the semi curved tub, the form cutting into my spine on one side, while Jane's grasping dug into me from the other. His recent mind-horror still weakening his sense of what was real, what was not, what he wanted to share, what he wanted to hide. So I had held him to me like a little boy while he became soundless and damp with something more than tears. His body, damp too - as if tears shed by his eyes was not enough.

His whole body cried.

And in that instance I knew.

I knew without a shadow of a doubt...

...that I loved him.

I loved him.

To say I didn't would have been an atrocious lie. To make it into something less, something else, something distinctively physical - lust-based...would have also been a lie. There was no lust, that night. Certainly not.

But the love I felt was rarer and more powerful than anything that could have come from physical attraction alone, because what I could feel was something whole, and complete. So when he said, still holding onto me - as if for dear life, "Even my...mom...knew. She knew...that I wasn't worth it, and..."

All I could say, angry - so angry - for him and the little boy still locked somewhere deep inside, was: "You are worth every bit of love, Jane."

He was so close to me that I could feel his warm breath against my neck. He was almost panting, his breaths fast and rushed. But his need now, for connection was a need that lacked eroticism. And while he didn't say anything then, he also didn't let go. If anything his grasp tightened, his body melding into mine almost seamlessly. I recall being dimly aware that he was drunk. I recall being on the watch for... anything that started to indicate he wanted something physical, something to take his mind off his pain. Because he was Jane, sure. But he was a man, and he was inebriated.

And because I had seen it before, in men. When hurt, when overwhelmed - and certainly when drunk. I had seen how their pain sometimes made a simple touch, a hand-hold, a hug - seem attractive in that way that I hadn't wanted to suggest. I had first hand experience how many wanted to forget and shut down pain through sex. Even then, even way back then - I knew I had feelings for him that ventured into the romantic, as did he - if I was being honest with myself.

But I also knew where I stood. I knew how badly he was hurting. I knew that this wasn't going to turn to sex. I wouldn't let it. I wouldn't betray Jane by letting him think that's all I'd offer him if he came to me, in pain.

I needn't have worried, though, as the quality of his breathing changed then, from something frantic - breaths that raced out in hot puffs of air (him: dangerously close to sobbing) to something scaled back to a calmer intake and expulsion.


We were on the same page, then.


"You are very, very easy to love," I added then, suddenly feeling calmer, less afraid - and somehow wanting to make this less scary for him too, so I added, "Even when you aggravate suspects, witnesses, my BOSS, Jane...leaving me with mounds and mounds with extra paper work...even then...somehow, deep down, I can't deny that you are easy to love."

I had expected no words from him. But this time, I was surprised. The rum (of course) had probably given him some sort of exaggerated impulsivity.

"What does that mean? To you? When you say that?"

His hands were fidgeting around my back then, and I suddenly realized how close we were, physically - me, only decked out in a tank top and fleece pj bottoms - him, so hot and damp that I had worried for a moment that his fever had come back with a vengeance.

"When I say that you're easy to love?," I qualified, needlessly.

He nodded, and all I could wonder then was whether he was scared that I was lying (just to make him feel better? did he really think I'd lie about something like that?) - or if he wanted to know how I loved him, in full. I couldn't be sure of his request. But I realized then and there, that it wasn't the right time to admit that I was IN love with him. Because I knew I was.

Hell, he probably already knew it too. But that admittance would have to wait for some other time. Some stronger night. One not involving rum, or night terrors, or Jane... crying. A night when neither of us were scared.

"What are you saying, Lisbon?," he had croaked, suddenly impatient.

Descriptive, like a poet.

That's how I had to proceed.

Jane appreciated poetry. I knew he did, having once caught sight of a book of Sylvia Plath poetry, laid open and highlighted on his desk.

The words I had seen from the open page had burnt themselves into my brain. At the time I had felt lazy and sluggish with far too little sleep, and one too many coffee's, but even so, I could feel the staggering, sad beauty of the prose.

I can taste the tin of the sky - the real tin thing.
Winter dawn is the color of metal,
The trees stiffen into place like burnt nerves.
All night I have dreamed of destruction, annihilations -
An assembly-line of cut throats...

Descriptive, now, would be familiar, and maybe comforting - for him. Me too, perhaps. And it would tap into a higher level of honesty, because it would be unqualified, unrationalized. It would just be what I felt. He couldn't argue with what I felt, could he? With that degree of honesty? And - more than that - it's what he deserved.


The problem was...I didn't know how to start.

"What do you mean? Please tell me," he asked again, more softly than before, but somehow with greater need.

"I...," I thought quickly of how I wanted to summarize feelings and need and a power I had never ever felt for anyone else, though surprisingly had grown to feel for Jane. When each word is vital to the whole of the feeling, and one word can change the meaning that's when I realized that I was scared too.

I decided to start with that immediate night, and work backwards.

"When I see you crying - when I see that - I feel as if someone is crushing my heart. It's hard to swallow, when I see you in pain. You have no idea how much I hate it."

I'm not a poet, nor had I ever claimed to be, but if I hadn't described how the feelings presented themselves physically, I'd would have been forced to descend into deeper, more intimate waters. And that would have been dangerous.

"When I see you hurt, I somehow wish I could just tuck that hurt part of you somewhere safe, somewhere inside of me. Just keep your pain with me, take it from you, take that wounded part with me...so you wouldn't have to feel like that anymore."

I felt his throat constrict then; a weighted, strangled gulp as he tried to swallow. The air faster and hotter when he breathed against my shoulder again a second later.

"It's the only thing I can think of doing, and impossible, I know. It's what I used to do myself, when I was hurt. I'd tell myself, 'go somewhere safe. Go live in your lung, in your liver. Somewhere below all the skin and all the flesh, where he can never find you.'"

Jane knew what I meant. I had insinuated enough by that point. No details. But when did Patrick Jane ever need details, anyway? The details came from my eyes, how I spoke, how I held my hands. And I didn't know what had possessed me to tell him that much, even. That was my...secret. That was something I had never shared with anyone else. Not friends, or my brothers, or my lovers. Didn't want to, as it scared me - what it meant. The strangeness of telling my mind to break off and live somewhere deep in my body. It sounded troubled - those childhood thoughts. Those disturbing thoughts that - in some distant way - had advanced and grown in my mind, even as an adult.

They weren't healthy, but they were truthful. And Jane would appreciate the truth. Would appreciate that display of trust.

"It's probably not what you were expecting. But to me, to feel that part of myself wants to leave that safe pocket of lung, or liver...and come out of there only to let someone ELSE in...that's something I never thought I could do, Jane. It's like...the space has been opened for you, now. Even though that's scary, even though it almost hurts, because part of me has lived there, deep inside, for so long. Do you understand what that means, to me?"

By that point, for some reason, I had been almost as upset as him. Almost as ready to cry, damn the consequences. He had nodded, seemingly dazed, and for Jane - it had been an odd sight to see. But he had nodded, and had seemingly accepted. Accepted that I loved him.

We didn't speak about that night, the words exchanged, for another few months. Not until my brother committed suicide, and Jane escorted me to the funeral. Not until the sense that everyone I did love would be taken from me, one by one, so I had to tell him NOW. Not until it came to that critical time when I could no longer suppress what I felt.

The attic smells like copper, like rusty metal.

The reeking, blood soaked scent of warm iron mingling with old sawdust.

Tin and blood and a sky that should be visible, even though it's late.

Not this blackness.

The light bulb has been smashed.

Jane's little swinging bulb, the lonely orb that sparks light erratically down at the best of times...

...now lays in ruins - in clear shards.

Littered jagged edges.

The light, slain.

...in the past - in his late-past, now just as dead as his family, Jane probably turned on Tiffany's lamps and multi-thousand dollar art deco pieces to illuminate his space...

And here, in this attic - there's not even a barren 40 watt bulb to illuminate his space any longer.

Desolate, cold, dark.

That's what Red John wanted for Jane's life.

And the windows, I can see, have been cloaked by black felt fabric, so the dingy, streaked CBI windows no longer offer the barest solace of a lone star.

John smashed that possibility to bits, too. No sky to study in these final seconds. No heaven. No heaven, here.

Certainly not. Not for Jane. Red John would never let him die, looking up at a starry heaven. The monster had wanted to smash the light and break the windows, the mirrors...

...and Jane's soul.

Where do I know this scene? Tin, and blood, and trembling hands?

I stare at Jane, and try to make some eye contact before I can't. Before he can't.

I stare at Jane, and try not to scream at the horrible mask of plastic burnt flesh and weepy, ghastly eyes that peer back at me instead. That peer back at me from beneath Jane's spine, which is currently curved and bent like a hacked-into tree. 'Timber, Lisbon. That's going to be our code, okay? If I think you need to duck, that's what I'll yell...'

Jane's body is hunched over like a damaged stalk about to spindle apart into frayed bits. His body sways back, away from the knife, away from his own blood. His eyes... are wide rabbit eyes. Taking in the blood, and spooking at the red. Or maybe it's that awful metallic scent of hot steamed blood that's causing him to spook. It's making me ill too. The smell.

The amount driving home the fact that Jane is slowly dying.

It's undeniable that he is: his eyes so hollow and full of vinegar darkness now. Poisoned, yet glassy. Poisoned in his rage and anguish and loss, glassy by sheer blood loss. Hypovolemic shock will take anyone, the best, the most determined.

Even Jane.

His arms are cut. Not too deeply, but deeply enough that they still trickle out blood. The wound by his shoulder is the worst: pumping out a steady supply of crimson.

His throat is clean, unblemished.

Jane's eyes look very, very differently than I had imagined they would on this day.

On the day we found the dragon. On the day we found Red John. The monstrous one who had cracked open Jane's little egg-world. Jane's perfect little egg-world - incubated in wealth, sustained by a loving wife and daughter - a loving family he should have had since childhood. The illusion of protective shell, smashed.

After all, how dare he trust in goodness, in safety. In love?

And long before Jane had matured, and had (semi) gotten over pains far more embryonic and binding, Red John has struck, and smashed that little egg-world to a yolky mess.

Leaving one terribly damaged animal inside - reborn through blood, funeral processions and mental asylums.

"He's not the same man you tried to destroy," I say now, in tones of basic, bluntest neutrality. Not loud, not soft. I can't do melodic.

Not with this monster.

It wouldn't work with Red John anyway, and my certainty to not play this as a shrink would... is further reinforced when the maniac presses his sneering snout against the plastic of the mask, causing it to ripple with silent amusement.

"He is a WORM!"

And Jane's words. His tears to me that night, a year back, while we struggled to look for Dorothea. For that little blond girl who could be a shoe-in for Charlotte Jane, herself. It had been a horrid night starting off with a night terror - horrific reality bleeding into terrified imaginings.

Cho had been frantic then: pounding at the door to the suite I was sharing with Grace. Cho, and Rigsby - both in short sleeved white tops, variant coloured pajama pants, both barefooted as they brought me back to wakefulness. Cho - grim to the point of acerbic. Wasted, sour fruit.

And Rigsby...his eyes folding in on themselves with a look of sadness and alarm. "Jane's screaming boss. You gotta come quick," he had rasped once I had opened my door. His embarrassment for Jane muted by his alarm. "You gotta come now! We can't get him to stop!"

Me, then, also barefooted as I jog-ran behind Cho and Rigsby, yelling over my shoulder to Van Pelt when the younger agent tried to trail us - my voice harsh and hot in my throat.

"Stay here!"

Me: knowing Jane was not just screaming. But dreaming.

If you wanted to call it that.

He hadn't been sleeping, to be sure.

Too many memories, and self-revulsion, had swarmed about him for days while we searched for the little girl that looked like his dead daughter. For that reason alone everyone had been on edge, and for that reason alone Jane had been skipping meals, and skipping sleep.

"He told me...he wrote it out..." and then those shaking white hands, that horribly self-hating voice, a bottle of rum (not mine, where did he get it? I hadn't let him out of my sight!) but it was Jane's voice, and HOW could that be? To have that hatred, inside?

Jane, who sounded - always! - gentle, even when angry. Even when rageful, even then. So that he never really frightened me. Exasperated me, sure. But never really convinced me that his heart had been so hardened that he could delight in the killing of a person. Even if that person was Red John - a rabid beast that truly needed death just as Jane needed sleep.

"I'm just a worm, Lisbon. I...I...that's all I am and-"

And you can call it women's intuition if you want. But I knew someone had called him those words. I had assumed his father had thrashed them about with that forked tongue to my impish consultant long ago. As a child. 'It explains so MUCH', my mind supplied helpfully at the time.

Jane's eyes are filled with malt-darkness. They are black inside, underneath.

He looks one minute away from passing into darkness forever.

*He needs blood. He's going into shock. He's losing too much blood*

"Jane," I whisper, not wanting to break this thick, fogged horror. Not wanting to cut through the calm before the storm and bring hell upon our world. Not wanting to provoke Red John to take that curved blade, already tinted a rosy pink from blood, from Jane's body - and slice decisively across the throat of the only one who...


I've ever loved? Been in love with...? yes


Stop it. Stopitstopitstopit. Focus.

"JANE," I try, my voice not rising in volume...only insistence. Jane's eyes move in achingly slow orbits - away, closer, away, closer - and finally hover up and into my line of sight. His eyes look too dark. His forehead is bleeding.

"I kept my promise Lisb-," and the rest of his words, already so soft, softer than a fluttering of leaves falling to the earth on a brisk day...

...are now cut off entirely.

Red John has brought the blade to the clean corner of Jane's tidy skin and is resting it there, without motion.


The lack of movement somehow terrifies me more than if that monster were grasping at Jane's arm, Jane's flesh. Maybe because there is an undeniable tension - a perversion - in this degree of silence. In this motionlessness. It is reminiscent of a cobra readying to strike.

And the room smells like iron. Reeks of that foul warm stench of meaty throated spits - the kind you have to spit out to keep from swallowing, gagging on - lest vomiting up later. Iron and blood of the mouth, spat on the ground in queasy hocked wheezing, from the look of things.

Jane's mouth is bleeding too.

"I stayed behind. I listened," comes the willow soft pleadings of Patrick Jane, normally so mischievous, disobedient and assured. His voice, now, is trembling - just as his whole body.

I can see Jane's throat convulsing in panic under the cool silver of death's steel nail. The blade is flush against his jugular. I can also see the rivulet of blood from the carotid artery internally pounding around the pressure of the blade. I can see the blood swirling in loops under the skin.

Every cell in my body is screaming. And if I never believed in pantheism before, I do now. Looking at Jane, and the knife Red John has brought against Jane's throat, is confirming our link. Our connection. Because I can't even swallow, and when I try, I can taste blood.

The skin of his throat hasn't yet been split, though. I can't let this next mark be inflicted. This next mark would be death, and Jane's so close to that already.

Part of myself is pulling back, pulling back emotionally, numbing myself. Preparing myself for the words, 'he's gone, Agent'. Part of myself is already feeling Jane going cool... from across the room. He's losing life, he's losing blood. He can't go on forever.

He needs medical attention now.


"I stayed here," Jane tries, with the last of his failing energy. A flag, falling to the ground, torn from its hold. They may be the last words he's capable of getting out, unless we can get him to the hospital.

Down below, streets below, another world below, truly - I can hear sirens. Police, and ambulance.

A stretcher will be coming, soon.

Jane, I realize, thinks he's going to die. The anger in his eyes is gone. The blackness is infused with a sleepy quality, like one drugged.

He's...resigned. He's preparing his body to go. Some distant shard of my mind is made strong in the knowledge that he doesn't seem scared.

"I listened," comes the voice, the soft voice. The voice of the one I love.

"I know you did," I respond, as equally chocked. My voice as equally strangled by the knife, even though I'm at the other side of the room.

And then, just like that - my little brother's voice - thunders in my mind. "I'm a Pantheist, Eeyore. We are all connected. Nothing wants to suffer. No one wants to be in pain."

To Red John, and Red John only now - I speak. "You can physically kill him, sure. You can physically kill anyone. It's not an art, or a skill. It doesn't make you a God. Or a poet. Or a genius. Not in my eyes."

Except I truly do feel the demonic ties, the evil in the room. The power. I try not to shiver. I try to be strong.

"I'm not Patrick Jane. If he dies, when you could have stepped back and offered the unique power of amnesty - I will always remain convinced that you were...impotent. Of holding onto life, offering it. Saving it. I'll always know you were weak. Weak right up unto your last moments on earth."

The rapidity of angered chortling is screaming for release.

"Don't you know how EASY it is to kill?," I try again, knowing I'm baiting the monster. Knowing the concept - the very idea - of killing and ease, together - will cause the monster to rage.

Because, when it came down to it - Jane couldn't kill, could he? He had been consumed with his pain, convinced he needed to kill. But when the time came, he hadn't. Or maybe, just maybe, he held onto his strength. He listened to what I had begged him to do. To not sell his soul, to not go through with premeditated murder. I knew it would have tarnished his mind, his actions. I knew it would do nothing for his pain. I knew that, over time, his pain would only grow.

I had told him this. And somehow...remarkably... he had listened. Even when I thought he was shutting me out, ignoring my pleas. He had listened.

He had trusted me.

"Strength lies in rebuilding. Jane knows that. That's why he's TRIED and that's why he HAS been able to rebuild. Because he's infinitely more powerful than you could ever dream to be."

I just need to keep Red John still - and focused on my words long enough for the snipers to drill a camera hole through the base of the wall, and train their sights onto the back of that twisted little skull.

"That's something you have always failed at, isn't it? You don't know how to save anything. You don't know the power that lies in granting life. You've never had the strength to even try," I spit.

Jane's eyes are fixated on a spot above my head. The beast crackles.

"I will snuff him out, Agent. His eyes will become hardened coals; his blood will drain onto the floor. His mouth will turn cherry red, and endlessly scream. His soul will scream forever in this room. It will be beautiful!"

Jane doesn't respond, too physiologically weak now to hear. His body and mind are starting to fall back, fall back...

"Something sicker than mental illness plagues you, John - to be sure. I have known the mentally ill. You are a different entity entirely, aren't you? But I won't waste time thinking about it after I put a bullet through your head."

I need to buy a few minutes. 5, maybe. 4, if the sniper unit works fast. The com flickers in my ear, and Agent Laramy whisper-talks to me - as if on que: "Three minutes, Lisbon. We're almost done. We have EMT's below. You're doing well."

Three minutes, and in that time...in 120 seconds...I will either be able to save Jane, or not.

"You can kill him, and I will mourn him. Because I love him. But you'll never take him from ME."

The beast studies me, his hand lessening from Jane's throat slightly, so slightly. His anger is temporarily turned on me, instead.

Good. This is Good. Look at me. Come to me.

Leave Jane alone.

Let Jane go.

"You have the atheist in your grasp, not the believer. THAT was your mistake. Jane will be safe. But if you killed me, Jane would grieve a loss, and have no faith in ever seeing me again, would he? What a stupid mistake to make, choosing to kill the atheist."

Red John is half way across the room, and if he drops Jane, my adrenaline is so high...I'll have my glock trained on his heart before the next beat can pulse. And there will be no hesitation.

Red John is no longer human. He is a frenzied animal, in pain. Somewhere, somehow. But it's there. That rotten, black-bile pain. And it turned a man into a monster, into a demon. So if I kill tonight - it will be euthanasia.

"He's going to be kept safe, he's going to pass to safety, because I've seen his heart."

Jane's eyes are falling stars. Dwindling down to the earth, the soil. The light is going out, and I'm terrified for him. But if he thinks I'm strong in my faith, in my conviction that - even in death, he will be safe, and loved - maybe HE won't be terrified. And that's what I care about most right now.

"That's what I'll know, in my heart."

I turn my terror to anger. I convert it.

"That's what I'll tell everyone. That YOU were merciful, and took him away from his pain, and gave him back to his loved ones, for all eternity."

Red John's eyes are alive and bright. A super nova of intensity and RAGE.

I focus on Jane, instead. His eyes are the only ones I want to see, and as Jane turns his gaze to mine, something loving (at peace?) struggles to come through the dazedness, the weakness. The blood loss.

*He's dying, Teresa. He may not have a minute, nevermind three*

And then Patrick slumps forward, a small tide of cough-syrup darkness pooling from his mouth. His full weight, sudden and unhindered, seems to take the monster by surprise.

"GREAT plan, there...," I say, with genuine scorn now - unhampered derision.

Jane is unconscious.

"He won't know he's dying. He's out of pain, John. You have no power over him, now."

But my voice is starting to shake. My cover is starting to slip. My fear for Jane, for that white body is growing second by second. Laramy's voice feeds into my brain, from the small ear mic streaming around my head, to my left lobe. "A minute, Agent. Stay calm. We have blood, heated, for him. We can bring him back."

Agent Donovan Laramy is the only one I wanted to work with in this setup. I had worked with him as a rookie during my SFPD days, and he was the best at saying what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it.

He was the best at keeping me calm, and focused.

We always want to compare the person who has done monstrous things...to an animal. A rat, a pig, a shark, a wolf. The truth is, predation in nature is unfeeling and unaware.

Instinctual, truly. But rarely malicious. And when you cut through that instinct - rare as it is to do so - you find yourself looking at an animal as innocent as the one coated in blood. Simple construction of a brain wired to kill, or wired to flee. A body box of nerves and wired vessels, blinking eyes, and tongues that lap at either blood, or milk. Teeth that gnaw at plant stalks, or flesh.

But whatever the animal, whether predator or prey, it is still a simple animal, a victim in its own right. A victim of the status of its breeding. What is a predator animal, but a collection of organs tied to a nervous impulse to survive? A being of heart, lungs, scampering paws? And when you hold that view in mind, the anger and the pain of the cruel nature of life, or predation, and death...all seem to retreat into something muted and confused.

But lacking in hate.

"You are trying to survive, aren't you? You were fixed and created and molded together this way, weren't you?"


in the forests of the night

what immortal hand or eye

could frame thy fearful symmetry?

Red John's mask looks vile in its heaviness. Underneath that heaviness, he must be struggling to breathe, too.

We often compare the killers and the child rapists to animals, which I find unfair. Because even if we lack the words, the vocabulary to describe our horror in a distinct, finished way, to compare a human killer, who kills for pleasure and malicious intent - to an animal... never does justice.

Never can adequately express our horror. We need new eyes for predators. New words for their actions.

"Which God are you appealing to, John? The one who created the lamb, or the tiger?"

Red John is breathing, trance-like and still. His thoughts, I know, are half fixated on killing. And half fixated on my words.

"Because I know which God I'm appealing to. For him," and I point to Jane, whose lips are now tinted blue.

Blue...His lips are blue. He might already...be dead.

I choke down a scream. I strangle my need to run to his side, hold him up, hold onto him until the EMT's are granted entrance, and can try pumping his cold, white body up with fresh, warm blood. Laramy says something. Something strong and true. Something terminal. "It's almost done, Lisbon."

I can feel the gold cross, pressing like a stone against the flesh of my breast. The swell of flesh that is feminine and gentle, and the cross meeting that flesh is resounding and strong.

"Which God are you appealing to?," I try again, and Red John's eyes blink at me, in animalistic fashion. Like a little creature, hovering over its prey.

His eyes dart to Jane's blood, and he laughs. "The God who created the lamb also created the tiger!," he howls, delighted that a victimized being is created at all, I think. His human side, his beast side...is battling it out. And the battle is what hurts most to see. The battle is what makes me tune out Laramy, tune out Jane, and say:

"I know which God I'm appealing to, for you."

Red John blinks, and then the howl dies down into something distinctively human, his eyes suddenly questioning if I'm being a good Christian, or a scornful woman - wishing him to hell, or to heaven?

A sound of rushing air - speed and terrible power - whips through the room. Red John falls to the ground, felled. His head - a hollowed out coconut. The meat has been cracked, the hole has been made. A hole in one, and very little blood for the dead.

"The same one...," I breathe to the little man, the dead man. The "small man" - as Jane had called him, truthfully.

It's hard to imagine such a little hole, such a small alteration of flesh and cells, has resulted in death. But it has. Immediate. Laramy leads a good team.

Effective, precise. They didn't draw this out, and for that - I'm grateful.

I'm grateful for this...euthanasia.

Suddenly, the room has air enough again. Air enough to breathe.

I rush to Jane, press my fingers against his neck, wait for the signal. For his body's SOS.

Jane's pulse is thready, faint. His flesh is colder than cold. I pull at his form eagerly, my tears mixing with his blood, and I seek out the worst of the cuts, the worst of the pulsing blood - the origins for the continually spilling blood. I squeeze on the wound by his shoulder, still the worst, from what I can tell. And I pray. Pray and squeeze with all my might, slowing the stream of red as I kiss his mouth, his eyelids, his temple, his whole head - a frantic, childish need to have him wake at my kiss.

Because I've never kissed him before. How strange to think that this is our first kiss. (Or kisses, plural.)

How strange to think that he is unaware of my kissing him, when the rest of the world watches, sees, knows how I feel through cameras and audio and video feed.

Chicken! You've always been so scared to let him know. To let yourself feel this, for him. And now THEY know before he does!

Before long the EMT are flurrying about, around me, working about me, having me tilt Jane towards their expert hands as they hook him up an IV, a bag of red life - warm and true - and feed it into his veins.

They load him onto a stretcher, give him an injection of something - I'm not sure, I'm never sure - explain it will help to relieve stress on his heart (stress on his heart? his heart is broken), and a woman - blond and shorter than myself, is testing my eyes, holding my arms, asking if I can follow her instructions. Stating, calmly, all 911-proficiency, "We need to check you out too, Ma'am. You could be in shock. You can sit with him if you want. You can stay with him...but we need to check you out."

Everyone saw, probably. Everyone saw me kissing Jane. Everyone saw me holding him and rocking him, and crying without sound.

And I don't care. I can't care. To care would mean that fear for how I'm seen by them is worth more than holding Jane now, as close as he is to death.

"I want to stay with him. I'm not injured."

The woman - younger than Van Pelt - nods, kindly.

Everyone saw me kiss him. It wasn't instinct, it wasn't some animal drive. It was something so much stronger than instinct.

It was love.

"I think we can manage that," she says softly, helping me along as I walk with the paramedics team, down to the elevators, down to the ambulance. As I pointedly ignore the look of mixed alarm, sympathy and something more - on the faces of Cho, Rigsby, Van Pelt. "I'm riding with him to the hospital," I say to the team, numb in a way that had merely been delayed. Cho nods, and Rigsby mutters that they will come along - meet up with us at the ER.

Van Pelt seems to get it best of all - my need for silence - and when I catch her eyes, she gives me a tiny smile, nods her head in support.

Jane is wearing a mask. Not a put-upon mask, hiding his emotions, as he's still unconscious.

A real one. And his body is covered in blankets - blue (isn't blue his favorite colour?, my mind supplies idiotically) - although the blue is muddied with his blood, and is now tinged a royal purple.Fitting for his pain, his sacrifice.

The ride is smooth, over black asphalt, pitch-black midnight sky, and California trees whirling in a dazed rush outside of the vehicle. I can see the green branches of southern plant life lighting up under the glare of red and blue emergency siren lights.

How lovely it would be if I were a bird, Jane were a bird, and we could sit in the tree, in calmness together...under the night sky.

Mercy General - looms in the distance. Mercy. I turn to Jane, and see that his eyes...

... are open.

His mouth is covered still by the mask, helping to reduce physical stress - helping him breathe. But his eyes are open.

A frantic increase of relief floods my heart, and increases my pulse rate. The others haven't seen yet; they are busy monitoring his vitals, studying the machines. I'm holding his hand in my hand, holding his eyes with my eyes and the connection between us grows when I feel his fingers loop with mine... squeeze. With so little force, but all the same with all the force I know he can offer right now. His eyes are wide and open and as fresh blood brings him back from the cusp of death, I can see the dullness fade away only to be replaced by fear.

Fear, yes, but also something else. Something fresh and distinct.

I rise, easily, from where I had been sitting. My actions, of course, alert the EMT team. The young woman's eyes find mine, and like a maze, a natural end...find his. She's at his side, informing him then of where he is, and what is happening: "Patrick, you are going to be alright. You have a nasty wound, but everything is going to be okay."

The woman then asks him to hold up fingers - as many as would correlate to his pain (1 being small, 5 being excruciating).

Jane doesn't respond. He seems confused, and I stare up, concerned.

"He's probably still a little disoriented from the blood loss," she tells me quietly, as if by keeping her voice low - Jane won't hear, and won't be scared. She then tries a different approach - bless her and her compassion.

"We can give you something more for the pain."

Jane shakes his head - no. The motion is a shade under what I'd call frantic. (I know he's afraid that they will give him something, and he won't wake again. I don't know how I know it, but I know.)

"Alright, we'll leave that decision for your doctor, okay?," and Jane nods, the sharpest edge of fear - now gone. Tempered.

I squeeze his hand then, sitting down, sitting closer. Wishing I could cut out the harsh sounds of the ambulance, the intensity of the talking, the loudness of the people studying us, studying him. Jane tries to pull the mask off his face now, tries to talk before the woman can pull back down the mask.

I can see that his lips are still tinged blue. Like...before. As he was dying. When I thought he might be dead.

Something jumps in my belly.

"Leave that on, Jane," I say, feeling his tide of emotions, his fear and pain. He had pushed those emotions away before, because he needed to. Because he couldn't afford to feel anything strong with a knife at his throat, and Red John at his back. But I can sense the restlessness now, weighted down by blankets and arms, holding him, trying to keep him still, trying to keep the stab wound from leaking out even more of his vital, precious blood.

A man asks briskly if we should give him "something," and I see Jane revolt with fervor - stagger forward, then buck off the stretcher and reach for me like a little kid reaching for a parent. My hands come to rest around the relatively uninjured part of his frame. I bring his head back down to the pillow, the flat hard, ambulance pillow, punctuated with dots of red-brown from his bleeding mouth. I stroke his face, not caring who sees. My hands flitter over his hair, down over his eyes, rhythmic.

After a moment, he stills, the bucking stops.

"No, no," I say - my voice a mantra, authoritative - my goal. "No, he's just a little scared." Because he is. Under the veil, under the masks - Jane has been scared for a long, long time.

He's also too caught up in his fear at the moment to hide. Too caught up in fear to be ashamed of my admittance.

"No drugs. He wants to stay awake. I will stay with him, take the responsibility for this decision. Unless it's vital...please...no drugs."

The man looks wary, mumbles something about protocol.

"Let's try this first," I say, with cloaked reasonableness. There's no way I'm letting someone else make Jane feel powerless.

"I'm staying with you, okay? I'm never leaving you," I whisper to Jane a moment later, my heart constricting with something so strong, that I almost question if it's "just love." Certainly loving someone doesn't hurt this much.

"I'm never leaving you," I repeat. The look in Jane's eyes tells me that he gets it. That despite blood loss and shock, and re-opened horror - he understands. So I crouch down low, and ignore the others, who are now - as it stands - doing more tedious tasks. I crouch down low, and bring my mouth to Jane's ear.

"I love you, and I'm staying with you. No one is making me leave. No one."

When I pull back, his fear isn't completely gone. But the fear has diminished a great deal, and I'm soothed by that alone. His eyes, too, look clearer and more focused as they flitter upwards to catch my gaze, a new question apparent.

"No," I whisper, "you aren't hallucinating, you goof," I laugh through a strangled throat, knowing what he's thinking, knowing how strange and foreign my admittance seems in this small, moving room of strangers.

"I can say it again, if you want," I mutter, feeling the slight smile of the young woman, the EMT, whose softly taping another line of something white and life-preserving to Jane's less battered arm. For an insane second, I wonder how many confessions of love she gets in this ambulance. When I look back to Jane I almost groan, for he nods, gruffly.

"You want me to say it again, huh?"

Beneath the mask - I see his lips quirk upwards, enjoying my predicament. Delighting in the words.

Once an imp, always an imp.

"You do, do you?"

He nods again, the motion softer and - I can't believe it! - actually shy - his eyes fluttering to the brand new IV line, transfixed. Shy is a strange word to tie to Jane, but undeniable in this moment; and his shyness is giving me strength, enough that I find that I can - indeed - say the words again.

"I love you," I say much more easily now - the words less whispered and secretive than before - bolstered by a courage, a knowledge, that what I feel is so staggeringly true that it's never going to depart, and leave me in the lurch.

"I do, you know. God knows why. You're the biggest pain in the ass...," I add, wanting to lighten up the weight of truth. Beneath the veil, I see his eyes relax, the humor bleeding into something basic and needy.

"Everything is going to be okay, you know that...right?," I say more softly now, turning to the woman - who nods to me, smiling with the warmth of our exchange, the closeness of our connection.

"Close your eyes, and go to sleep," I whisper then, my voice lighter with every word. I feel as if I'm talking to a child, sure. But his eyes close, which is what he needs to do now. I watch his steady breathing, feel the pressure of his hand squeeze three times, the middle squeeze drawn out and insistent.


Jane is saying the words with his hands, not his mouth - because he can't speak. And - as if I could possibly not understand, as if the motion could somehow be misconstrued as a triumvirate session of squeezes, Jane begins to trace one gentle finger along the back of my hand. He begins to trace out the shaky shape of a symbolic heart. My skin tingles where the pressure of the heart is drawn, and it warms along the edges as Jane loops around, and down to a point, before an equal and opposite side is traced out.

He pats my skin lightly - once - when he's done drawing his heart. An 'all done' gesture, that makes me want to laugh. I smile at him, touched, amused.

"I know. We both know now. Isn't reciprocration great?"

Jane's eyes flitter open as I speak, as if brought out of a trance, or a hypnotic state. His eyes are serious.

"Message received, Patrick," I state warmly, fighting the bizare - and totally inappropriate impulse - to kiss him. To kiss him (quote, unquote) properly.

On the lips.

I'm going to blame my emotions on the night, the fear, the backlash of fear and the renewed tenderness I now feel for the man before me.

So why does he still look so anxious? I can almost read his fear, almost see the words flashing in his eyes.

"No worries. No take backs. I get it. Besides, I don't WANT to take back anything I've said, Jane. I promise."

The fear is not completely gone yet, though. I should have known...he'd be scared of trusting in something as destabilizing as love.

I suddenly wonder if Jane's wife was the one to propose. If she had been, I certainly wouldn't be surprised.

I lean forward, sighing against his ear in mock-exasperation. "What's it going to take, buster? Why won't you trust me? It's not like I give away that word with any...ease. You know that."

His mouth opens beneath the mask.

"Hey - no talking. I don't want to have to shoot you."

And suddenly, the fear seems to leave, his eyes seem to twinkle. Which may be charming, in a sense.

But also...

Oh no.

No games.

"You need to sleep, Jane. Or else a doctor is going to say sedative, stat!, and I know you don't want that."

Damn it - I don't care who sees now. I really don't.

I lean down, and kiss his forehead, and afterwards - after I pull away - I stroke the blood-matted hair with my hand. Jane's eyes remain closed this time, his hand never unwinding from my own.

And even with the mask still firmly in place, I can see the slightest curvature of a smile, beneath.

Kourion A/N's: I'm truly sorry if you guys got a bunch of alert messages with this one! I was desperately trying to fix formatting. *sighs*