They are snails, metaphorically. They don't inch forward, they barely centimetre forward; millimetre really. The increments in which they progress, both together and alone, are so miniscule that John doesn't really notice anything has changed between them until it becomes drastically clear it has; and in the form of a madman gangster dragging Alice by the hair, waving a gun around and screaming at Luther to tell him where the money is, it is painfully obvious how much she now means to him. Does she mean more than Zoe, he wonders?

Probably not, but on a normal day it was a stretch just to admit that they were of the same species. They were two separate creatures. Zoe always seemed to give out this confident energy, but remained soft and warm, glowing with an openness that defined her; and, in the end, ruined her, he hears Alice say in his head.

Alice.

She burned violent red, everything around her spattered with her cool nonchalance, astringent tone and aloof attitude to all and asunder. She cast a shadow that was hard to walk behind, and while she exuberated the same confidence as Zoe, her person made it akin to a razors edge - you could walk along it well enough if you concentrated but one slip and you're bleeding out all over the bathroom floor.

Things get astronomically out of control when the madman - Lawrence West, who is also the killer they've been tracking for two weeks - decides that he is not wholly satisfied with Luther's help and shoves the gun in Alice's mouth, spinning in a circle so that everyone can see just how to push Luther's buttons. Ripley's eyes disappear into his hair; Rose looks unfazed, but John can see the bead of sweat start to form at the edge of her hairline; Shenk is just the hard bastard he always was, but the anger in John's eyes dissuades him from just shrugging and telling the stupid bastard that he can kill Morgan, that she means nothing to anyone in this room.

So John is forced into the absence of a choice: Lose his job or lose his mind.

For the most part, he can't quite decide which is worse. The job is almost everything to him, a part of who he is and how he justifies his actions in the real world. He does things for the overall greater good, no matter how dirty his hands have to get, but the end justified the means. If he handed over the coordinates to the money, it would mean giving up their only lead for an unconfirmed murderess, one that should not have had any contact with Luther after the initial investigation. Shenk would have his badge and his head, because sacrificing the biggest manhunt they've ever seen for a psycho-sociopathic physicist could not be deemed admirable. But losing Alice, letting her die, would scramble his brain.

On a scale of Henry Madsen to Zoe Luther, John spins the wheel and Alice falls somewhere in between. Half in, half out. The most bizarre thing about their dynamic, though, is how permanent she has become. In his ever-crumbling world, each brick labelled Zoe or Ian or Madsen or Ripley or Teller or Mark or Shenk, she had been a sounding board for him and no matter how much he pushed her away, she always came around to help him.

She got him into trouble, very big trouble, but she got him out of it again. Hadn't she always? Perhaps their relationship wasn't rational, but it wasn't without purpose.

He likes to think that three years ago he would have made a very clear cut choice and just washed the blood off his hands when he got home. Overwhelming complications rock that train of thought off its tracks as Lawrence West rams the butt of his gun into Alice's face, bursting her top lip, and blood erupts like a damned volcano. A quick fist to her stomach and she's doubled over, on her knees in front of West and her eyes trained on Luther. Remarkably, she has said nothing throughout the entire ordeal, just watched as John shouted and tried to negotiate. Even when her blood is soaking the office carpet, she does not break her newfound vow of silence. That frustrates both West and Luther. One wants a reaction but the other just wants to know she's okay.

"Look mate, I'm tired. I've had a very long day and right now you're making it that much longer. Just put the gun down, let her go, and we can talk about what it is that you want," John tries to sway West, but an obnoxious smirk is all he gets for his trouble. That, and the barrel of the gun is now curtained by vibrant red hair, pressed tightly against the redheads skull.

"I don't want to talk, DCI Luther. I want my money and if I don't get it, I'm going to put a bullet in Psychopath Barbie here, and then one in every fucking person in this room until I have my cash! Am I making myself fucking transparent here, John?" West screams and realises too late that he has changed the game. Coppers have been threatened now, it's not just Alice and John involved, and the entire station now has a stake in who lives and who dies. Every eye is trained on him, and in a spectacular show of non-verbalism, Luther and Ripley take a step forward as they agree to take him down: and quickly. But then Alice opens her mouth.

"I told you this would happen, didn't I? DCI Luther does not care for my personal safety." It is a lie, a very big lie, and it takes a moment for John to realise that it is not for his benefit, but for everyone else's. She is distancing them in a flawless show of cool collectiveness so that he will have a case for plausible deniability. "DCI Luther, in fact, has made it his life's mission to, and please forgive me I'm not yet comfortable with the vernacular, 'bring me in and make me pay'. He has, obviously, been so far unsuccessful in his vendetta, but threatening me is possibly the least productive thing you could do." West frowns and his demeanour shifts to just this side of panic. John and Justin step forward again, and John is so close to Alice that he might be treading on her fingertips. It's only then that he notices she is wearing business attire, something he does not think he's ever seen her in. It takes him seconds to notice the tears in her blouse, the rip in her skirt and the purpling, yellow bruise that is starting to form around her throat. His entire body constricts when he realises: She has been raped.

Speaking to her would invalidate everything she's just said to West, but John could not give less of a shit. "Did he hurt you - touch you - at all?" She says nothing, does nothing, but in the absence of an answer he finds one. Yes. His demeanour completely changes and he's no longer negotiating. He takes a deep breath, covers his eyes with his hands for a moment and with an angry, inhuman scream he launches forward.

The gunshot takes everyone by surprise but it acts as a catalyst for movement. The struggle between Luther and West ends when the younger man is flung across the room and seven coppers pile on top of him.

"Well done, John. Quite the display," Alice whispers in his ear, steadying herself with one hand on his arm. It is an intimate gesture, one he was afraid she'd make, but it goes unnoticed. And besides, he's got a bullet lodged in his right shoulder. She leaves, slips out of the room with barely a glance in her direction, but he knows he'll see her later.