A/N: SO, I'm back. After the holiday fic marathon of December I took a fic break, then kind of had some trouble getting back into it. Show was not so helpful on that front. I've had idea for this, or something like it, bounding around my head for literally weeks. This fic was really kind of a brain-purging exercise for me, and an attempt to get writing again. It's don't know that it's my usual. It is definitely angsty, and well, I'm going to issue a warning here, I think. There's what I guess you'd call hypothetical character death, just FYI.
To the point of madness
Lisbon was sure of it.
Whatever Jane said, whatever Jane tried to tell her, whatever Jane tried to tell himself...
Agent Darcy knew that Jane, knowing or (if given the benefit of the doubt) strongly suspecting, that Red John was still alive, had gone on television and goaded the serial killer into killing another man.
Apart from the issue of Jane swearing to a jury that the man he killed the spring prior was Red John, and Lisbon really believed that of all the messes they were in, that was the most minor – Jane's defence such as it was shouldn't hang on the man's actual identity so much as who Jane thought he was killing and why. It was probably only a matter of time before Agent Darcy learnt of Jane's little trip to the San Francisco PD.
The one Lisbon herself had accompanied him on.
She tried not to think about it.
Jane seemed to think deniability would be her best friend, but there were limits to even her blinders.
She didn't see how she could deny involvement when asked.
She hadn't known exactly what Jane was up to, but she'd worked with him long enough to know what sort of thing it would probably be...
Which meant she was quite possibly about to get fired. Again.
And she didn't even have a dead serial killer this time to show for it.
No dead serial killer last time either as it turned out, but she'd genuinely believed that Red John was dead at the time.
That had seemed to somehow make it worth it.
But had it really?
Had his death really made it all worth it?
Would it have been an acceptable tradeoff? For her job? Her life?
If it had actually been true?
But it wasn't true.
So maybe it was all irrelevant.
Because the serial killer was back.
Or rather, not back, since he'd never really been gone. He was still alive.
And that was the real problem. The big problem.
Red John was still alive. No matter what she'd been trying to convince herself for months.
Damn it all to hell, how had she gotten caught up in all this?
Other cases weren't like this, even serial ones.
And Red John's murders weren't what scared her the most anymore.
Patrick Jane and her relationship with him.
How had she gotten so intricately involved in it all? Originally that had just been Jane...
Jane, who had been thrust on her, originally against her will.
She'd known her new consultant would be trouble the moment she met him.
She was called into her boss's office one morning.
Instead of his usual gruffly amiable self, Minnelli had looked serious and told her to sit down.
She had, robotically, half-afraid of what was coming. He hadn't broken it to her gently.
She listened, half-uncomprehending as she heard the words, 'consultant,' 'psychic,' 'unorthodox,' 'Red John,' 'family were victims,' and 'your responsibility.' She was getting a consultant, out of the blue. And not the usual sort, not the kind anyone wanted.
She stared at her boss, opened her mouth, but was unsure of what she was going to say.
Before the words came, a sound behind her made her turn suddenly.
And there he was, leaning in the doorway, grinning at her. Every inch of him oozing charm, and insincerity, trouble and defiance, confidence and complete self-possession, and really just bad news.
Most horrifyingly of all, she might have been experiencing just the slightest bit of physical attraction.
Luckily the hint of a smirk on his face as he approached her was enough to snap her out of her surprise.
Then, his slightly-challenging smile when he shook her hand told her all she needed to know.
She was doomed.
Why was her life defined by a series of relationships with difficult me thrust upon her?
She didn't like to think about it.
It was too depressing.
Maybe the serial killer gone was worth it.
She found she hated saying his name now, the name that sometimes haunted her thoughts. Hated the very sound of it with an intensity that frightened her.
Lisbon knew that her aversion gave him power, but didn't care.
She was so sick of those words.
She always said them to Jane calmly, matter-of-fact. Sure to make them just words.
But when they echoed around her brain at night they became something more.
Something she'd do a lot of things to break free of.
That was it, what it came down to. She felt trapped. She wanted out, but she wasn't quite sure of what.
It wasn't her job. She still loved the work, and her team. It gave her a sense of purpose, keeping the citizens of California safe. It defined her, and she was okay with that. Even if it was difficult.
She didn't want to give it all up.
But what about the Red John case?
She didn't exactly want it taken from her. Her pride didn't like that idea. Didn't like the idea that the reason they hadn't caught the serial killer was because she quite frankly, just wasn't good enough.
Not to mention, her team losing the case presented other problems.
Well, actually, not her team losing it so much as Jane. (Lisbon was reasonably certain that Red John didn't care one way or another about the rest of them.)
But Jane himself has pretty intricately connected to the case. Separating the two proved problematic.
She remembered walking through the door.
She remembered seeing the bodies on the floor.
She remembered acting on auto-pilot, she and Cho. While Jane stood frozen.
She remembered her eyes instinctively finding... finding...
She remembered trying to save him.
She remembered failing.
Obviously Jane couldn't be separated from Red John, not while both men were still alive. Lisbon wasn't foolhardy enough to try that option a second time.
And she didn't want to leave her job.
Even if she felt like she was getting lost in the confusion.
Lost and uncertain.
She'd gotten too close to her consultant.
On some level she knew it, that she was too close. But on another...
The thing was... when he wasn't being insane...
She'd had a soft spot for him from day one; for the longest time he'd been so genuinely irritating that it hadn't...
But now he'd somehow broken down her barriers. And she'd broken down some of his.
She was pretty sure neither of them had meant for that to happen.
She remembered wanting to keep him at a distance.
She remembered wanting to keep him out of her head at any cost.
She remembered not remembering.
She remembers being desperate.
She remembered needing him.
She remembered that he saved her. More than that actually...
She remembered that he helped her save herself.
It felt wrong to step away from him, to abandon him. For so many reasons.
They were friends. He was her consultant. It was her job to look after him, to keep him from harm, at least on the job. (And she was always on the job.) He didn't have anyone else; she knew that.
She could leave him though.
Just pack up and get the hell out of town without a backwards glance. No more worries, no more responsibility for a man who'd possibly already crossed a line there was no coming back from.
Lisbon could picture Jane's confusion when she didn't show up at the office one day. She could see the team's worry.
They'd all brush it off probably, figure she had her reasons and she'd be in tomorrow, decide it was none of their business, even as they glanced at her office in concern.
But not Jane.
Jane would know something was wrong.
He'd search her office for clues.
But her office would be unchanged, save for the fact that she wasn't in it. He wouldn't find anything until he went to her condo.
Because he would go to her condo.
And he would break in of course. It would take him about fifteen seconds to justify it when she didn't answer her door. Actually, he'd probably justify it on his way over.
Then, when he got inside he'd notice things were missing. A jacket, some shoes, CDs, some books. Not everything, but enough.
And with a sinking heart (maybe, she likes to think so) he'd realize what the note on the table would confirm.
She would write a note. She'd have to give him that much. If not, even more dreams of women snatched from his life by a serial killer would haunt him forever (she wouldn't technically be a victim, but it wouldn't really be much different).
Jane would read her message, and he'd know searching would be pointless.
Finding her would be impossible, even for him.
Anyway, he had other, more important, goals to occupy his time.
Then, years later, sitting at some anonymous bar in the northwest (not east, back east would be too much like going backwards, like failure), she'd catch a snippet of a news story.
Red John was dead. They were sure this time, or as sure as they could be.
But in the final showdown an entire joint team of CBI and FBI agents had been killed, including the consultant who'd been chasing the man responsible for his family's murder for over a decade.
And somewhere in some generic American town, she would raise a suddenly shaking glass, trying to congratulate herself on getting out while she still could, on saving her own life.
If what she was doing now could be considered living.
She didn't like it. Actually, she hated it, even if it didn't actually lead to her team's death. Hated the thought of running away. Hated the thought of abandoning him to his fate, to face his monster alone.
But being his confidante (or the next closest thing) was exhausting.
She knew he was influencing her; she knew it wasn't good, for either of them; she knew she was bending to his will, acquiescing more and more, but somehow she couldn't stop. She was just so tired.
It seemed easier to agree sometimes.
His plans were unconventional, but for the most part (with a few notable exceptions) the consequences weren't too terrible. Thus far at least. What if she just kept agreeing?
She was getting pretty good at facilitating his little plans.
And it certainly was the path of least resistance.
She could see it, in a way.
It might even mean that she had a chance of saving him.
Year in, year out, following behind him, fixing.
Not even bothering to try to make sure he wasn't crossing lines. He'd just cross them anyway. So Lisbon would clean up the mess. She'd try to help. After all, as far as she could tell, it was the best chance they had of catching Red John. And that was the goal, wasn't it?
It stopped becoming Jane's crusade and became theirs.
She was his unofficial protector.
They worked together towards a common goal. They also worked alone; involving others was far too dangerous. They became a little club of two, with their own sinister purpose. Their lies and concealments protecting them and those around them. Then, along the way, it stopped being just lies; laws started getting bent, or even broken all in the name of achieving the one thing they wanted.
Lisbon had always known Jane had broken laws before, beyond the obvious ones, but she'd never been an active participant.
Until she got too tired to maintain her boundaries under the destructive influence of his will.
It started out small, forged signatures on documents, concealing evidence that would implicate their less than orthodox methods of investigation (technically they weren't even supposed to be on the case half the time), the odd bit of lock-picking, breaking and entering, small things.
The first crime was always the hardest.
Jane could have told her that.
So when she crept up on the serial killer and Jane, facing each other in an abandoned warehouse holding knives, it was surprisingly easy to shoot the monster in the back from her hiding spot in the corner.
Just as they'd planned.
It was easier still to get rid of the evidence. She'd been a cop for decades after all; she'd had plenty of time to plan how to do it.
Jane was maniacally triumphant.
She glanced down at the unmarked grave hidden in the middle of nowhere, an odd kind of emptiness everywhere around her.
She wasn't even sure what winning felt like anymore.
Lisbon's hand shook again as she took a drink of her coffee.
Murder. Cold, calculated murder.
It was a chilling thought.
Sure, she'd killed before, but never... never...
She was a cop. Sometimes shooting people fell under her job description. It was rare, sure, but it happened.
She could live with that.
It was frightening to think that she could learn to live with the other.
But the way thing were going, it sometimes felt like a very real possibility.
Even if it still (thankfully, very thankfully) turned her stomach.
(Didn't mean she wouldn't ever be capable of it though.)
On the other hand, what if she took a firm stance?
After all, the one advantage of colluding with Jane was that it seemed the most likely course of action that would save him.
Lisbon had a fairly good idea what would happen if she started saying no instead.
Oddly enough, the Eve Mulberry case was the straw that broke the camel's back.
She could still hear Ardilles' voice in her ear. 'Jane's not the problem here. You are.'
It played through her brain on an endless loop, broken only by her own words to her consultant. 'Fine, you're the boss on this one.'
You're the boss. Jane. She'd put Jane in charge, even if it was only sarcastically.
Since when did she not care enough that she was willing to give up control?
The next case, when he was his usual cavalier self, breaking into the victim's house to snoop, hypnosis, rudeness, ignoring things like suspect's legal rights, she'd finally snapped.
Then she'd benched him. Told him to take a break, and not come back until he could obey the law.
He'd almost made a joke. Then he'd seen her face. And he'd walked away.
Later, he'd tried to apologize.
She hadn't reciprocated.
And very quickly, things were back to how they'd been in their first few years of working together. Except that now they knew each other better, knew how to hurt.
It was shocking how quickly things could devolve really.
The put on a friendly front for the team, most of the time.
But the heart was missing.
There were no more bear claws, no more trips to the attic to drag him downstairs, no more shared pots of tea, no more pressing for each other's secrets.
They were strictly professional. Or as professional as they could be.
Jane continued his hunt in silence, and alone. She knew he was still searching. She wasn't a moron, but she wasn't getting involved. She was sick of breaking every rule that'd ever been written.
So the next time he disappeared, ran off on his own to catch the man haunting him, she didn't have anything to go on when it came time to find him.
He didn't tell her those kind of things anymore.
And the heart she thought she'd buried long ago shattered into a million little pieces when she found his body underneath an all too familiar smiling face.
Lisbon wasn't even able to hold onto her cup anymore.
She set it down.
She knew Jane's death was a possibility. She'd always known that, but...
She couldn't push him away. She couldn't. He needed someone. There had to be a way, some way of protecting him...
Then she paused, reaching for her coffee again, her hand suddenly stable.
Because she was somehow making her decision was all about Jane. What about her? Where did she fit into it? Maybe she could save Jane, but at what cost? Losing herself? Or just her sanity? Her principles? Come to think of it, what were her principles anymore? What had they ever been? Some days she felt like she could barely remember.
It seemed so simple in a way. Red John needed to be dealt with, either imprisoned, or killed, or just something. But the way it happened mattered, it had too.
Or was she just deluding herself about that too?
Vigilantism was bad. She used to be so sure. She'd gone down that road before and it nearly killed her. She wasn't sure she could do it again.
A child killer.
Another shot in the back from the corner of a warehouse.
She hadn't actually been there when it happened, when he'd fired the gun, but she'd arrived in time to see enough to make her complicit.
The body may have been gone, but she'd helped clean up the bloodstains.
And she'd been the one to toss the gun off the bridge into the water.
She'd been so sure at the time that it was right.
Then afterwards, she wasn't.
And she kind of hated him for that.
So she'd left. She'd abandoned Bosco, the man she'd loved in a way.
She'd wanted to stay, but what he'd done, what she'd done was tearing her apart.
So she'd run.
She'd left San Francisco, the place she'd run to when Chicago got too hard.
She'd selfishly abandoned her family when she'd grown incapable of metaphorically throwing herself between her brothers, or between her brothers and their personal demons.
(Somehow there was never anybody to throw themselves between her and her own personal demons. She never seemed to get that luxury.)
Look how all that running had turned out.
Several strained relationships, and siblings she saw maybe once a year.
You'd think she'd have learned her lesson. Yet hear she was, considering it again.
Could she really do the same thing to Jane? Established patterns were hard to break after all. She had a habit of demanding distance from her problems.
On the other hand, both times she'd gone down that road, she'd pulled up short, just shy of losing herself. She'd pulled back. Pulled away. Left. And she carried all the guilt around her still.
What if she had stuck around San Francisco?
What if she'd still been Bosco's partner?
Would he have still ended up shot in the middle of the CBI?
Would she have been the one to find his bloodied body?
What if she hadn't flown west the second she could?
What if she'd stayed and tried harder to hold her brothers together?
Would Tommy have spun further into trouble?
Would the rift between the boys exist? Would she have been able to mend fences?
Would her family be just that much more whole?
She had so many what ifs.
That was all that she had now.
What if she ignored her own needs?
What if she saw this out whatever the cost?
What if she protected Jane?
What if she protected herself?
What if next time she turned him in when he went too far?
He probably did deserve to be in jail. Lisbon didn't even know whether she was doing the right thing anymore. She had no idea what the right thing even was.
That should have been a clue that things needed to change, or maybe that things had changed.
Except that it felt right. Why though? Because Jane had told her so? Oh god...
No. Jane had never told her to save him. Never actually asked.
(Okay, just the one time. But really, petty larceny was the least of the mess...)
All the other times he'd never asked her to make the choice. She'd just done it on her own initiative. As comforts went, it was a small one.
Of course, that was what she'd chosen.
Because he was on her team. He was her consultant. Her responsibility.
Because he was hers.
Maybe this was the price she had to pay to have someone in her life.
Other people had someone. Their someones didn't usually turn to murder of course, not the majority at least.
But then, the majority of people weren't...
Didn't feel... weren't filled with... hadn't...
Lisbon had asked herself time and time again why her life was defined by a series of relationships with difficult men who were thrust upon her.
She didn't like to think about the answer.
That was when she wondered if maybe they weren't thrust upon her. At least not one hundred percent.
Maybe this was what she chose.
She had to try and save them all.
All by herself.
So lonely, sometimes.
No one ever around her, but the people she all but killed herself to protect.
And she somehow always picked the people the most broken. She used to think it was a cruel twist of fate that threw them on her. But now she thought she must somehow call them. Must somehow attract...
She was lonely. Except when she was with...
It was a powerful feeling, being needed. Having another person depend on you, like you even.
But surely most people didn't trade their soul for that feeling...
All her life she'd never felt particularly well-liked. She'd had friends, but never been popular.
Lisbon remembered definitions, heard years ago, probably in school sometime...
(Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.)
(Not really. Love can sometimes be magic. But magic can sometimes... just be an illusion.)
She shook herself.
Some things defied definition.
Patrick Jane was one of them.
She'd take comfort in that when she can.
Maybe she really was choosing these terrible, horrible, self-destructive relationships.
Less blame on her when they didn't work out.
Maybe she was incapable of normal human contact.
(To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.)
Maybe she wanted people who'd consider her second, never first.
Maybe she chose it because she knew it would mean less investment, they wouldn't get too close. It would always give her an out.
Her brothers were younger, less equal to begin with, not exactly partners. Bosco had his wife, his kids. Jane had his family and a serial killer.
She was never their first concerns, not in the way that they'd been hers.
They didn't seem to be aware that she'd treated them differently.
None of them had time to notice her devotion.
They certainly didn't burden her by trying to care the same way in return.
Except, Jane did seem to insist that she needed deniability, needed protection. And he had taken steps to help her keep her job, more than once.
He treated her differently.
When he wasn't swallowed up by serial killers.
Lisbon balled her fists.
She needed to step away.
She needed to stop.
(Love is a sickness full of woes.)
She needed... She should...
Maybe they could work something out.
Maybe saving him wouldn't kill her.
Maybe if she stepped back a little it wouldn't kill him.
Maybe it didn't matter if her principles had changed.
Maybe they hadn't all that much.
(She remembered that young girl, hands shaking as she helped her former partner dispose of a murder weapon...
She remembered lying through her teeth to explain Tommy's injuries when she drove him to the hospital.)
Maybe she was a horrible person.
(Her hands may have shook, but she'd tossed the gun without hesitation. For all both of their talk of the importance of justice and the legal system, they'd both broken the rules with clear minds. Like they were qualified to make that decision.
Justice would have had her father in jail. What did justice know about a broken home? Four siblings separated in foster homes? She knew what she was doing far better.)
Maybe Jane was a horrible person too.
Maybe that's why she hadn't given up on him.
(Love is the discovery of ourselves in others, and the delight in the recognition.)
Or maybe the world wasn't black and white anymore. Maybe, maybe...
Maybe there was a middle option...
Pouring herself another cup of coffee, Lisbon started going through the possibilities in her head one more time, searching.
Wondering if there is a way to save them both.
(Love means to commit oneself without guarantee, to give oneself completely in the hope that our love will produce love in the loved person. Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little love.)
The quotations about love in the second half of this are from, 1 Corinthians, 13: 4-7, Jarvan, C.S. Lewis, Samuel Daniel, Alexander Smith and Erich Fromm.