AN: Holy season finale, Batman! Almost before the episode was over, I knew this was going to be a multichapter. Way too much to fit into a single tag, and so much more I want to explore!So...here we go. No idea how long this is going to be; we shall just see where the story takes us!
In other news, Donnamour and I are teaming up for a story (at this very moment, in fact), so be on the look out for that very, very soon. It's actually a Jane/Angela origin fic, and we're both excited for it. I know many of you are exclusive fans of Jane/Lisbon, but the Jane you know and love doesn't exist without Angela, so I'm asking you to give it a shot. Pretty please? I'm making puppy dog eyes right now!
The Art of Sanctuary
He was coming for Lisbon.
There was no doubt in his mind now.
Even if the threat hadn't been explicitly expressed, the message was as plain as the nose on his face, and that was pretty damn plain, if he was being honest.
I'm going to kill the happy memory that you never told anyone.
Well, that was already done. Eileen Barlow was dead and gone, and with her, one of the few purely blissful reminiscences of childhood.
The rest of the letter promised a return to killing, but there was something deeply implicit those words, read in Lorelei's quiet voice. It wasn't going to be random victims this time. They were going to be people that meant something to him.
And the one that meant the most of all was currently sitting in front of him, distinctly worried expression on her face.
He wondered if she'd made the connection yet, that she had found herself in the crosshairs that he'd tried so hard to aim away from her.
If she hadn't, he didn't want to be the one to tell her. Stupid, perhaps, but he didn't want to frighten her. She had quite enough on her mind at the moment. The pictures scattered across the keyboard of the laptop he'd filched from her office stared blankly upwards.
One of them had written that message.
One of them had killed his family.
One of them had just promised to start killing again.
Yes, definitely enough to be getting on with.
This didn't mean he was going to do nothing, naturally. He had the list narrowed down; now his job was going to be making sure she would be as safe as he could make her.
"What do we do?" Lisbon finally asked, green eyes still wide and a little glassy.
His mouth was set in a straight line, fingers still dusted with the remnants of the shattered disc. "I don't know," he replied, hating how uncertain he sounded, how helpless. "He was one step ahead again."
Lisbon looked like she wanted to run her hands over her face, but the cast prevented it. He made a detached mental note to ask her again how her injury had happened. I tripped. Sure she did.
"There'a connection I'm missing somewhere," he muttered. "There's a reason he knows this information, a reason he knows all of the names on my list. I need to know what it is."
Though she tried to hide it, he saw a shiver chase down her spine.
"You never told anyone about Eileen Barlow?" Lisbon verified. Again.
He shook his head. "No one." That was perhaps the most troubling aspect of all of this - how did he know?
Despite whatever Lisbon said, there were still no such thing as psychics. There was a logical answer out there somewhere.
More things to add to his list of unanswered questions.
Just for something to do, Lisbon shut the lid on the laptop. He stared out the window, willing the answers to come to him. Maybe he should shut himself away for another week.
Of course, that would mean he couldn't keep an eye on Lisbon, and that wasn't an option he was going to consider.
That was going to be his game plan for the foreseeable future - one eye on Red John, one eye on Lisbon. At all times, if possible.
Distractedly, he flopped down on the makeshift bed, wrinkling his jacket further.
They were both silent, minds awash with thoughts that were sometimes the same, sometimes very different.
In fact, there was another conversation he occasionally was thinking of, one they had never had. One that he had stopped them from having, twice now. Once in a warehouse in Las Vegas, once in the Chevy a day ago.
She was almost at her breaking point as far as her feelings for him went now. She was ready to move on them, especially since Sean Barlow had so casually pointed them out.
And he wasn't stupid enough to think that she had ever believed him when he claimed to not remember his declaration.
They were in love.
And they both knew it.
To Lisbon, that was all there was to it. What was the point of waiting around any longer? He knew very well that she had tucked her feelings for him away for almost a decade now, probably far too scared to act until she was certain of his affection. No one liked to put themselves out there in a potentially heart-breaking situation until they were sure of what the outcome was going to be, and Lisbon was no exception.
This latest twist with Red John was going to put a proverbial wrench in her plans, but not indefinitely. And as much as he had dreamed of this, he wasn't sure he could be in a relationship with her when he felt her life was markedly in danger, especially if his failure to be smart enough to catch a serial killer was the cause of it.
Being with her now would likely move her up the ladder of happy memories, make her an even more appealing target than she already was. But perhaps that was a stupid thought - she was already his only bright spot in a decade of darkness. It didn't take a genius to figure that out.
He closed his eyes with force, cursing himself for not being smart enough to keep his distance from Lisbon. That wasn't entirely true, though. He knew he should stay away, that he should stop letting her in, stop trying to learn her secrets, stop trusting her with his thoughts. He hadn't been strong enough, that was all.
"When do you think he's going to start again?" she asked once.
"Killing people?" He shrugged. "Impossible to say. Soon, I imagine, but he'll wait long enough that we've all about gone crazy from waiting." Frowning, he rethought his words. "That I'll have gone crazy," he amended. "You have to act like you don't know what's coming. The less he thinks you know about this, the better."
Without looking, he knew what expression she was wearing. Annoyed, exasperated, defiant. "Trust me, Lisbon. You'll be safer that way."
"Jane, I can take care of myself," she protested, just as he'd expected.
"Sure," he replied. "I left you alone for a week and you managed to break a bone, probably trying to take down a suspect that Rigsby and Cho would have had difficulty with. Am I close?"
Her guilty silence was all the answer he needed.
"Teresa," he finally said, "I think the next round of victims are going to be connected to me in one way or another. Like he said, my happy memories. You fall into that category, more than anyone else alive. I need you to be as safe as you possibly can be."
Wrenching his eyes open, he met her gaze, imploring. Please.
There was a moment where she thought through the implications of his words, both the affection and the fear they inspired. Eventually, she nodded. "I'll do my best."
In that moment, he knew it would never be enough. No precautions he took would be enough.
She had a target etched on her back.
Time had never seemed so important.
For ten years, he hadn't had a schedule. He would have been content to hunt Red John for the rest of his life if that's what it would have taken. Now, however, it was almost as if he could feel every tick of the second hand in his heart.
Every instant that passed was one closer to the time when Red John would make his move.
Jane wasn't a particularly violent man, prone to outbursts, but he wanted to scream, wanted to slam his fists into the wall until some of this absolute rage and shock and fright subsided.
"What's our next move?" she asked, and he understood her use of the word our. She was letting him know that she had no intention of walking this path alone, of letting him lock her out.
He sighed. "We start going down the suspect list. The next way to eliminate the candidates is to figure out who could have been at Elliston Farm the summer that Red John got his start."
"Well, getting information from Visualize will just be a piece of cake," she muttered, and he heard the sarcasm. "They're always so cooperative."
Despite the seriousness of the situation, he smiled. "I can be very charming, Lisbon."
She rolled her eyes. "I'm afraid your charms are probably quite useless against a brain-washing cult. Besides, they all think you're a jackass." Her tone sounded a bit more chipper.
He snorted, then sat up. The sun was starting to go down, the rays beginning to slant across the rough floor.
Lisbon was staring at his suspect list again, starting at one end and working her way methodically to the other. He crossed the room and peered over her shoulder, though each of those names and images were permanently burned into his mind.
"What does your gut say?" she asked quietly.
He considered. "Not Stiles," he said. "I think he's too old. But I think he has a good idea of who Red John is. He'll never tell, though. He likes having that knowledge all to himself."
Lisbon swept the small picture aside. "Six is fewer than seven," she told him, determinedly hopeful. She was thinking about something else, though, he could tell, though he honestly wasn't sure what it was.
Her phone rang, and he saw Cho's number on the caller id screen. He took the brief moment before she answered to hope that Red John's killing spree hadn't begun already. It would be too much. He needed at least a few days to recuperate, to not see a bloody and mangled body staring up at him with wide, vacant eyes.
"Great, thanks," Lisbon was saying into the speaker. "Do this yourself," she added. "Don't get anyone but the team involved."
She disconnected the call, then turned to face him. "We got the all-clear to start going through Miriam Gottelieb's records."
He nodded his understanding. It was beyond unlikely that they would find something that linked her to anyone on his list - Red John was far too careful for that sort of thing - but maybe the stars were aligned in some once in a century position and they would get lucky.
When Lisbon stood, it looked for a moment like her shoulders slumped a bit. He couldn't blame her; this new knowledge was nothing but a burden. One more secret of his that she had to keep. This one was more important though - her life was probably riding on it, too, but he understood the onus of it very well.
Ignorance really was bliss, and he was sorry for taking some of that away from her.
He followed her out, laptop tucked under one arm, the other almost around her, like he had done earlier.
It was't an unusual thing for him to touch her back, to guide her. When she had walked into the attic earlier, though, demanding to know what was on the disc, so soon after he'd come to the chilling conclusion that there was another list out there with her name on it, he'd felt the near-compulsion to keep her close. To keep her safe under his arm, even if it was just for a few steps.
By the time they reached her office, he had dropped his hand, though he was still walking closer than usual by her side. She took her usual spot behind the desk and he sat in front of her as he had been doing lately. It was closer than the couch, though decidedly less nap-friendly.
She left when it was still daylight, something he was grateful for. Hard to hide in the shadows when the sun insisted on shining.
He stayed in her office, thinking. He needed a plan, a method. The men on the list, the men that were potentially California's most notorious serial killer...he worked with them, some of them frequently.
Bertram had saved gotten him out of trouble once or twice. He'd taught the older man how to fix his poker tell. Of everyone on the list, Jane hoped it wasn't Bertram.
Of course, there wasn't anyone he really hoped it was. It was beyond unsettling, thinking that he had actually interacted with the man that had taken his family away in a way that hadn't ended with the son of a bitch dead.
What if it was Haffner? Or Kirkland? Lisbon had been alone with both men on more than one occasion. A shiver chased down his spine.
Standing abruptly, he decided to give into another compulsion. Fishing his keys out of his pocket, he made his way to the parking lot, starting the Citroen in the gathering dusk.
Without thinking, he did what his heart told him, taking the turns that brought him to Lisbon's apartment. The lights were on, and he could very clearly see her shadow in the kitchen. She was...dancing.
He smiled, then felt a bit like a voyeur.
Maybe this was how she was going to deal with the stress of the day - drink a few beers, blast the Spice Girls, and have a dance-off on her linoleum. Everyone coped in their own way, he supposed. His just happened to be watching the woman he loved through her window.
Which was definitely normal.
Slightly disgusted with himself, he got out of the car.
She opened the door after a brief pause, one in which she probably hurriedly shoved her iPod into a drawer.
"Hi," she said, a bit breathlessly. Her cheeks were flushed.
"Hi," he replied, smiling.
She stood aside to let him in, but he didn't move.
"What's up?" she asked, concerned now. He didn't show up at her place unless something was going on, and even then, it was rare.
"Just being paranoid," he admitted, unsure of how she would react.
It took her a second to work out what he was referring to, and the glow receded from her cheeks. He was checking to make sure she was alive. It was hard to stay in good spirits after something like that.
"Every door and window has been checked," she informed him, "and I fully intend on sleeping with a gun tonight."
It didn't make him feel better, not really, but the image of her snuggled up with a Glock made him chuckle.
"Good," he told her. "I don't think you have anything to worry about right off the bat, but in this case, much better safe than sorry." He meant it - killing Lisbon would be the crowning jewel for Red John at this stage of the game, a masterpiece. He wasn't about to rush it, to claim his grand prize without some sort of build up. Besides, the man enjoyed the idea of Jane being terrified for her safety for a while. Sort of the cherry on top mentality.
Lisbon chewed on her bottom lip for a moment. "What did he mean, until I catch you? Is he coming after you, too?" The idea horrified her, he could see that easily.
He shrugged, trying to keep her calm. "Eventually, probably," he told her honestly. "But he'll want to watch me suffer for a while, to force me to acknowledge that I can't beat him, see how I react every time he takes another life."
She had goosebumps now, and he knew they weren't from the temperature. With a sigh, he stepped forward and curled his hands around her upper arms, leaning down to press his lips softly to her forehead.
"It's awful, I know," he said, "but I think you and I are both going to survive this night."
When she looked up at him, her smile was a touch watery. "What about tomorrow night?"
"We'll worry about that tomorrow night," he said firmly.
He left then, pausing to show her his brave face, the one that was meant to reassure her. Hell, he even thought his words were true. It was too early in the hunt for the major players to start falling. And Red John was nothing if not a consummate showman.
It didn't stop him from spending the majority of the night driving around the city, passing by Lisbon's apartment every hour or so, sometimes more frequently when he gave into the paranoia.
The next day was quiet, and he slept on the couch in her office as she worked.
That night followed the pattern of the one before. Lisbon left early, he tried to make sure she stayed alive.
Two very long, very edgy days later, they got the call.
He felt the familiar surge of adrenaline, the thrum of his pulse, the sinking feeling that accompanied all of these all-too-common traits.
Red John had taken another victim.
The game was beginning.
And as he met Lisbon's eyes, he knew that his only option was to win.