Oh, wow, sorry for the wait (if you even remember following this story.) I had a beta, (cough, AMBER) but I don't know where she is, so this is unedited. All the mistakes are completely mine!
Also, this is the last chapter.
She could say it all started out so innocently, but she'd be lying. So, so, completely lying.
Criminal Justice 101, a smattering of law classes, a few extra-curriculars, and he's the only man that ever caught her eye. Four plus years at a pretentious California university, she'd made the money, and damnit, she was cashing in on what she'd rightfully earned. Still, not-so-little-anymore-Tess's eye is only caught by one man, and he sweeps her off her feet in all the right (wrong) ways.
Of course, he happened to be a professor of hers in her second year on campus. Teaching a mid-level criminal justice class, focusing on insanity and serial killers, she was instantly captivated. Looking back, she should have seen it coming. She was drawn to him like gravity. Professor Smith, first name John, (hair a dark reddish-brown, with gorgeous green eyes) was the one person who could spark her interest. Through three years, Tess took that and ran with it, farther than was appropriate and normal for a student-teacher relationship. Of course, he was a grad student when she met him, and the age difference wasn't too predominating, and she deserved those grades, but still…
Office hours turned into dinner turned into "oh, just stay the night" turned into "I love you," all in the course of three years. It started very, very slowly. But it spiraled out of (or in to) control so very quick that Tess could never tell you when the slow stopped and the fast started. There was one night in her last year of undergrad when he finally introduces her to a world that she's always subconsciously presumed he's a part of. To teach a class like "Serial Killers and the Psychology of their Motives," you'd have to be a bit mad. Or, as it turns out, a lot more than a bit.
He's not at all surprised when she accepts who he really is. He's been priming her for this, for year. ECevn serial killers need love, companionship, someone to hold their other hand, the one without the dripping knife. Tess took his hand, and kissed him until the backs of his knees knocked against the soft mattress. In her mind she thought I can fix him. But you know, love doesn't fix everything.
Love doesn't fix murderers. It creates them.
First, she killed for him, to keep his secret. She was his TA at this point, leading a smaller discussion group. A student got a tad too close to the truth, and she silenced her forever. Her knees shook, and the tears streamed. John held her, stroking her hair, until she calmed down. He thanked her, kissed her, and Tess's emotional rollercoaster tracked upwards. It was hard to get over her first kill, a girl with hair so soft and blonde, a new, fresh student from the mid-west. Killing was tragic; taking a life was the highest offense. But soon enough, Tess took pleasure in it. She'd finish one of John's victims before he got home, and then he would laugh at her while she shrugged and gave him an innocent smile, red knife still dripping in her hand. He'd kiss the laughter from her mouth, and they'd carry on with their day as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
They were in love.
Love isn't enough. And for an up-and-coming law enforcement agent, who was slowly but surely rising in the ranks, Tess's love wasn't enough to satisfy her. She hungered for recognition, any recognition. She began to take on more of John's kills, and they became a team, rather than a serial killer and his girlfriend-gone-assistant. Soon enough, he was the one who flanked her, who fed her blood lust, who catered to her every whim. John was so enthralled to share this with someone who understood him, he was only too happy to let her take the reins for a while.
Tess was not content with taking the reins; she wanted to kill the horse.
Coffee cups, light kisses on the couch, television humming softly in the dusky light. Tess giggles, the taste of love and laughter still blissfully gracing her face. But then upon a glance at the television interview, she sits back, frowning at the man on the screen. His words turn her to rage, but his face turns something low in her stomach, and she knows what she wants. A soft click on the remote with dark eyes is all it takes.
She contemplates having John help her, but dismisses the idea with ever-colder eyes. This is hers and she wants it for herself.
She kills John, and takes his name. They never notice the difference in the smiley faces, though she makes hers a tad larger and rounder than he ever did. She'll always notice the difference with a bit of a melancholic attitude, but the authorities never will.
Put your best experts on it.
Can't catch Tess.
That's the night she changes everything with three deaths, and turns the tables in her favor. The next several months pass by in a whirlwind, and without a hitch. She's the leader of her team. She's got a consultant. He's beautiful, with golden curly hair, and his damaged psyche. He is freshly released from a psychiatric hospital.
They call her Teresa, now.
She gets fresh blood on her team, a young woman with such fiery red hair, and she's reminded of what seems like long ago.
Teresa grows up, grows into her role further than imaginable.
She waits, she kills, she waits more. It's like flicking a switch between two personalities, and she's more in control of herself than ever. Things spiral in and out of focus, but Teresa is always four, sometimes six steps ahead. She knows both sides of the chess board, so it's not particularly difficult for her.
She even has The Mentalist fooled (he warrants capitalization, even if he can't see though her.) This gives her a certain brand of confidence, a devil-may-care attitude, and a particular penchant for the taste of blood. It's so much sweeter, now that she can outwit the (not) psychic, who unravels almost each and every scene he's brought to.
He's so deep in, and he's gotten to an accomplice or two of hers. He's gotten just as far as she's let him. She let him do her dirty work, let him dispose of the man she no longer has a use for. Craig gets too close to the truth, and she can't let him, so she manipulates those events as well.
Honestly, there is no 'Red John' anymore. Teresa is the orchestrator, yet she was not the first. Patrick Jane has no idea the one he seeks revenge with, and the true 'Red John' are not the same.
One day, Teresa begins to resent the fact that she took his name, when she could've had her own. It matters little though, she knows things are drawing to a close. She can feel it as sturdy as she feels the ground beneath her feet (steady, all these years) and as surely as the slick feel of blood between her fingers (heavenly, though it was not always.) Gravity is an interesting concept, she muses, as she feels the pull of Patrick Jane, the force which has sent her into a deluded orbit. He nods at her at the end of a work day once, and she smiles shyly at him. He pauses, and quirks the corners of his mouth. He comes home with her, or rather, they drive separately and reconvene at her doorstep, silently. She thinks he still doesn't realize, until they fall into bed together.
"Teresa," his words whisper over her neck, and she shivers. Sweaty hands pull off clothes, and she lets him cover her body, slowly sliding into her. She grips the back of his neck, and bucks her hips up into him with a wicked grin. He finds his release moments before she does, and they fall into a tangle in between her sheets. She has let him lead her, something even Tess never did, let alone Agent Teresa.
She swears she's not in love with him, because what she has is closer to madness and obsession. Still, lying like this with his soft lips placing open-mouthed kisses along her collarbone, she can pretend. She can pretend that she's not who she is. She can close her eyes and pretend she's in college again, falling in love with John, not yet succumbing to her darkest fantasies. When she opens her eyes to Patrick Jane, she feels something like regret.
What could her life have been?
Surely she could not have had him any other way. Could she?
"What?" he asks her, with a slight tremor in her voice.
"Nothing. Thinking," Teresa chuckles a bit as he pillows his head on her shoulder. Her fingers rake through his hair lazily, comforting and almost protective. She fleetingly realizes her unconscious action to protect this man, and nearly scoffs at herself when she realizes she's trying to protect him from herself.
"Penny for your thoughts?" She can feel his vocal chords tremble against her skin, and her fingers still in his hair. She exhales softly.
"Crime, pain, blood, love. The usual." Her voice is softer than she'd like, but firmer than she thought she could make it.
"Love?" He raises himself off her, to search her face.
"Yes. Silly, isn't it?" Her voice almost contorts into a sneer. He contemplates her for a long minute. She thinks of telling him, but suspects he already knows, somewhere deep in that magnificent brain of his. He's buried away all of the information he needs to make the necessary connections. He hasn't connected the dots, because to do so would make the past several years of his life a wash. It would be his undoing
"What a defense mechanism," he muses, "such a human construct." His eyes are something short of sparkling as he searches her face for an answer to all his unasked questions. When she whispers in his ear, though, his blood curdles and runs cold.
"The best defense mechanisms, though," she purrs, "are the ones we don't realize we've constructed." Her nails lightly scrape across his neck, and he tenses above her. He shifts, but is not quick enough for her. She has a knife to his throat before he can confront her, can even begin to understand.
That is the way of things, after all, unfinished and unknown. Teresa never expected anything less. But as she looks at his pale skin, she thinks the end hurts a bit more than she imagined. She lays him on her bed. He looks more peaceful in death than she ever saw him alive.
For some reason, this hurts as well. With two fingers, not gloved this time, she draws a face on the wall above her head. She neatly swipes a circle and dabs the eyes. Teresa returns her fingers to his throat for more blood, and upon a moment's consideration, swipes an arc inside the circle. The face frowns at her, but her eyes only stare back blankly. It's fitting, she supposes, to be displeased at the culmination of what has been her existence for many years.
Still, she washes her hands (metaphorically and literally) and dresses for the cool California night before she calmly walks out of the building. She wouldn't sleep tonight anyways, not with a dead man in her bed and her own mark above her headboard. So Teresa wraps her arms around her torso and looks up at the sky. The stars seem dimmer tonight. The bridge isn't far, she thinks. She wonders how falling through the air would feel, if the water would be cool and soothing against her heated skin. What has she to live for? They will surely come for her soon. She could easily join Patrick in his fate before they find her. Still, she walks in the other direction. Ever the survivor, Tess.
As she rambles along the road, delusions overtake her. They're a product of her overactive imagination, and subsequent inability to change past decisions. She wishes for control, and can only grasp it in the blessedness of her own mind. Tess wishes for youth again, to change her decisions so she ends up happy. Because if her lifestyle has led to this emptiness and coldness, then she wants to change it.
Suddenly she's twenty again, and yet still walking alone along the cold road. John appears beside her and takes her hand. She threads their fingers together. She thinks of lost love, of red smiley faces, and wonders if she was ever truly in love with anyone but herself.
Still, she and her delusion walk hand in hand until the sirens catch up with her, just before dawn.