Title: Let Go
Characters: Jane, some Jane/Lisbon
Summary: …or five ways Jane could have dealt with the death of his family, but didn't.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Notes: Written for the first Paint It Red monthly challenge, based on lyrics from 'Nothing Stops Another Day' from Ghost the Musical. Also based on a prompt from mentalistprompt.
"A revenge killing?" somebody asked.
Jane ignored them. Yes, they were talking about his wife and his child, but that didn't matter. Sooner or later, they would remember he was there and turn to talk to him about it. They might even dare accuse him of being the one to kill his own family, as if he would do such a thing. He and Angela did have their problems, but who didn't? It certainly wasn't enough to drive him to murder.
Still, as soon as this was over, then he would escape. He needed to be away from here, this place. Where, he didn't know. Just so long as it was as far away from these memories as possible, it didn't matter. It wasn't that he wanted to forget Angela and Charlotte as that was physically impossible. They were an intrinsic part of his life and they always would be. Just because they were dead and gone, it didn't mean that they couldn't live on in his memories, his own mind. By honoring their death, he would ensure that they wouldn't be forgotten.
After his wife and daughter, it was he who paid the highest sacrifice, thanks to his own ego.
"Looks like," a woman, petite, with a dark brown bob responded.
"Not his M.O. though," the first speaker said.
They were talking about Red John. The moment the CBI had arrived, the air had been abuzz with chatter about the serial killer. It was hardly surprising; Jane knew that most, if not all, of the cops present would have watched that interview he had given just two days earlier by now. The one where he had referenced Red John and all the hard work he had done with them. Not that he had had much to do with the serial killer, just one meeting with the senior agent of the Serious Crimes Unit, just to see if his expertise would have been of use to them. The man had wholeheartedly agreed, but it was something that he was going to have to retract now.
If he were to work on the case, then he would only think of one thing and that would be revenge. Red John had willfully taken a knife to his wife and innocent young daughter out of nothing more than spite. Jane hadn't needed to talk about Red John on the chat show, he could have just told the interviewers the truth, that he was just in talks with regards to the case. Instead, he had had to exaggerate, simply to make it seem all the more impressive. Besides, Angela herself had told him not to bother, but instead, he had used it as an excuse to avoid seeing Danny, her younger brother.
Now, he simply wished he had faced a grilling from his brother-in-law instead of countless interviews with the police.
"I'm sorry for your loss."
Jane turned to look at the woman who was speaking to him. She was, after all, the first person to actually bother to acknowledge his presence in over an hour. Her voice was a little stilted, uncomfortable, but that was only to be expected. What exactly did you say to somebody in the aftermath of their family's death? Especially somebody who clearly wanted to run for the hills as fast as his feet could carry them? A wise meerkat had once said, 'if the world turns it back on you, you turn your back on the world.' His daughter's favorite film had always been The Lion King, for some strange reason. And it was funny, how a childish cartoon was speaking to him more than anything else right now.
"Agent Lisbon," she responded, tucking a stray hair behind her ear.
"It's nice to meet you, Agent Lisbon."
She wrinkled her nose slightly.
"Shame about the circumstances, though."
She apologized briefly before asking to go through the relevant paperwork. Something about the expression on her face and the sorrow in her eyes suggested that she understood what it was like to lose a loved one too soon. Possibly one of her parents, or maybe even both. Jane had immediately been under the impression that Lisbon was practically married to her job; nothing suggested that she was married or ever had been. Still, she attempted to make the procedure as painless as feasibly possible, which was no mean feat, given the circumstances. Witness statements were never the most pleasant things to collect at the best of times and when a child was amongst the victims, it was all the worse.
"What should I do now?" he whispered, genuinely intrigued by her answer.
"I don't know, Mr. Jane, I'm sorry."
"I'm thinking of moving…"
"That's what I did," she said, almost thinking aloud. "I'm sorry, that was out of place."
"Please, don't be."
A few weeks later, he was staring out over the Atlantic Ocean. Florida felt like a lifetime away from California and that was the point. This was meant to be a new beginning, a new start. His wife and daughter were six feet under and the sweet Agent Lisbon had called to let him know that he could, indeed move on, provided he left contact details with her should anything arise with the Red John case.
Now, all that was left to do was decide what to do here, in Florida.
After all, it was home now. Or, it would be, once he had settled and made a name for himself once more.
His hand quivered slightly as it came into contact with the door knob. The door creaked as it slowly swung open. Patrick Jane couldn't see anything of consequence, not yet, but his heart rate had already quickened.
Until he saw them, until he knew, there was still some hope.
After all, Red John could have lied in the note. Just whisked his family away somewhere, kept them alive, just until he had supposedly learned his lesson. Red John may well have been a serial killer, but that didn't necessarily mean he'd prey upon young children, mercilessly slaughter his daughter just because of the follies of her father. Did it? And would he have really stolen a doting mother away from an innocent child simply because her husband was too arrogant for his own good.
On the wall was a familiar symbol and he felt as though the temperature had suddenly dropped in the room. It was Red John's calling card, painted in blood, on the wall, just as he had somewhat expected thanks to the note on the door. Jane's eyes remained fixated on it as he took a step inside the master bedroom, his heart rate quickening as he did so. The distinct tang of copper hit his nostrils as he slowly tore his gaze away from the wall and to the king-size bed.
Two figures laid there; Angela's arms were wrapped tightly around little Charlotte's, as if she were comforting her after a bad dream. Except, this wasn't a nightmare, this was real life. Cuts and bruises decorated both their bodies, their blood had seeped into the bedding, having nowhere else to go. While Charlotte's eyes remained tightly shut, Angela's were glassy, unseeing. Jane wished that they would just spring up, tell him that it was an elaborate joke set up just to scare him, despite the fact Halloween wasn't for nearly four months. However, he knew that wasn't going to happen, it was physically impossible. He had seen enough photographs of women murdered by Red John to recognize the fatal cuts to the neck, the one that ended the life of the victim, whoever she was.
He should have listened to Angela. There was no need for him to do the television show, they didn't need the money. All he'd wanted was the glory, the accolades. People to worship him for doing such a wonderful job with the police.
And because of that innate need to fuel his ego, he had lost everything.
Eventually, he forced his legs to move and turned to leave the room. Unwilling legs stumbled downstairs and he immediately headed towards the kitchen. Everything Jane did was simply acting on autopilot; it hurt too much to stop and think properly. If he did, he didn't know what he would end up doing.
Truth be told, he didn't know what he was doing anyway.
His fingers came into contact with a bread knife and he slowly allowed his fingers to run along the handle. He needed punishment, he needed pain. That was what he'd deserved. Angela and Charlotte hadn't deserved to die. He, Patrick Jane, had been the one to lead them to their deaths. If he had just stopped to think for a second instead of talking before thinking, then Charlotte would have been sleeping soundly in her bed. Angela would have been waiting for him with a glass of wine.
There was only one thing he wanted and that was to be close to them.
He grabbed the knife, headed back upstairs, two at a time. The sooner he was with them, the better. There was no such thing as an afterlife, heaven or hell. All that there was to life was the brief here and now and for them, it was over. And life wasn't worth living without his wife and daughter. He would never get the chance to watch Charlotte graduate, to scare away potential dates, to wave her off to college. Nor would he be blessed with the chance to grow old with Angela and reminisce about the good old days, when he'd been a famous psychic.
What was the point in doing anything, without them?
The police had explained to him how killers used a knife as a murder weapon. And he hadn't even needed some of their explanations to know the mechanics, anyway. He laid down on the bed, beside his family. Just as he should have been, instead of appearing on that ridiculous chat show. His hand shook again as he drew the knife up his forearm. The blood soon raised to the surface and it almost felt therapeutic, in a way. This was what he deserved. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. He may not have been the one to take a knife to Angela or Charlotte, but Jane knew that he might as well have done so. Cuts were applied in quick succession to other parts of his body. If he didn't die from the final cut, the one to the neck, then at least he would have the chance to bleed out.
His throat gurgled as blood spouted out, but still, he managed to maneuver his arm around his precious wife's waist.
He wouldn't be seeing them again, but at least he wouldn't be doomed to an existence without them either.
Their photograph hung pride of place on his office wall.
Of course it would, where else would it be? If it wasn't for them, he wouldn't have been here right now. He would never have even considered setting up a charity in order to raise funds for bereaved parents. Jane knew that he was in quite a niche market, considering he was both a widower and a father without a daughter, but that didn't mean he couldn't help people in similar situations. After all, with the skills he had honed since childhood, he had been blessed with a very sideways view of the world. And if he could use them to help other people through the many stages of grief, then all the better.
Especially so, considering he knew all too well, that it wasn't something you could just click your fingers and find it was over. He had also become a firm believer that it was not something you could ever truly recover from, but merely compartmentalize so it didn't rule your life.
Patrick Jane had been through hell and back, almost literally. He'd tried to kill himself and damn near succeeded. It wasn't until a psychiatrist by the name of Sophie Miller had intercepted and somehow managed to put the pieces back together again, more or less. Jane didn't like thinking about his time in the mental institution, but that was hardly surprising. If he was honest with himself, most of it was merely a blur, something he had actively blotted out. It was probably for the best; they weren't the most life-affirming of places.
At times, he had been angry. He had wanted revenge, to allow the whole situation to consume him. Jane hadn't been able to see that, at times, the death of his family was due to a domino effect. If he hadn't allowed himself to grow so egotistical, he would never have ended up boasting on television about his achievements in the Red John case. And then, Red John himself wouldn't have slaughtered Angela and Charlotte, like they were nothing more than lambs at an abattoir. Some people would have described his fury as understandable, others clearly insane.
After his release from the mental institution, he had strolled straight back to the CBI and offered his services to help with the Red John case.
Senior Agent Teresa Lisbon had flatly refused. Had stated that he was too closely connected to the case and that it would lead to devastating consequences. If she allowed him access to Red John, then he could try and avenge his family's deaths. She had even gone as far as accusing him of being a victim still and that was despite the fact he had paid his penance already in a mental institution. Not that she knew that. Not that anyone excepting his brother-in-law had any inkling about his breakdown. As far as the petite cop was concerned, he had just taken a break away from the spotlight in order to come to terms with his losses.
But still. Her words of wisdom had put him on a completely new path. She had given him a wake up call in her realization that he only wanted to work with her to seek revenge. If she had allowed him to work with her, who knew where he would be right now? Working with the CBI straight after his recovery would have meant that he would have allowed the case to consume him. His every thought would have become fixated on the idea of making Red John pay for what he had done to Angela and Charlotte, despite the fact that there were professionals trained to do just that. And if, out of some sheer fluke or luck, he had managed to meet the serial killer face to face, then even Jane knew that he would have either been behind bars or dead himself.
Really, he was grateful to Lisbon for knocking him back. After all, it made him think about a more legitimate way of honoring their deaths. And that was when he hit upon the concept of setting up the charity. He had learned coping mechanisms, had learned that revenge and anger were counter-productive and that meant he was obliged to help. To stop people from making those mistakes which he very nearly made while dealing with bereavement.
But he also knew he owed Lisbon, which was why, after several more years away from the CBI, he offered his services to her unit once more.
This time, she accepted, on the proviso that he did not consult on the Red John case. It was a condition he understood and agreed to immediately. One thing he had learned while working with the people he supported was that the thing most of them wanted was answers. It was something he understood, as Red John was still at large. Therefore, if he could give the CBI even the smallest of clues to help catch a killer in another case, it was another family who would be more at peace than he was.
Really, he knew that now, he was doing the best he could do. He was honoring their memory and not throwing his life away in the process. There wasn't any more he could ask for but that.
He first found out about their deaths through Charlotte's nanny. She had turned up for work, as usual, only to find their bodies sprawled in the master bedroom. That must have been quite a shock, going to work only to find out that the little girl she had been taking care of since work had been slaughtered by a serial killer, along with her mother. Jane genuinely hoped the woman would recover from it soon, though she had seemed composed enough on the telephone. However, that could have simply been because the shock had yet to sink into her system.
On the bedroom door, or so the poor woman had said, was a note addressed to him. Jane was shocked by the contents when she read them out. Then again, it was only natural. After all, Red John had implied that his family had been the center of his universe. That his wife, Angela Ruskin-Jane and their daughter had meant everything to him. That they were the thing greatest thing he could lose and the only thing which would make him learn some sort of convoluted lesson. As if he were close enough to his family to feel anything more than a little bit sad to see them dead and gone.
Why should he have felt sorry for Angela's death? The woman had been like a noose, tightening around his neck, making it harder and harder to breathe. Jane had wanted to divorce her, had implied several times that they should go their separate ways, but she had just clung on like a limpet. Just because they had left the carnival together, she had seemed to think she had some kind of claim over him and that it was her right to dictate how he lived the rest of his life. She had restricted the things he can do and provided him with a financial burden which was second to none in the form of a squirming baby girl.
Jane did feel somewhat sorry for the girl's passing, or at least sorrier than he had done over her mother. Her life had just begun and realistically, she could have done anything and achieved so much. Instead, it had been callously cut short by a serial killer who had failed to do his research properly. Then again, he had never been entirely sure whether or not she was his daughter. Angela had had several affairs around the time of her conception, or at least, Jane had suspected she had been dating more than one man, at least. That meant the father could have been long gone by the time of Charlotte's birth. As she grew older, Jane had become more suspicious that the only thing the girl bore of his was his name. What he had been certain of was that Angela had made sure that he bought her little girl everything she could ever dream of and it always had to be the top quality. It was little wonder that he was working all hours of the day and night, simply to make ends meet.
If she hadn't given birth, hadn't had that kid, then Jane would have been able to be rid of Angela sooner. Then, this would have never happened to her. So in a way, Angela's death was as much her fault as it was his and Red John's.
Of course, when the police had come to question him, he made our that he was the grieving widower. After all, it was what they had expected of a man in his position. It had been so easy to convince the Serious Crimes Unit of the CBI that he was genuinely devastated. They had lapped it all up, offered him plenty of tea and sympathy as he sniffed into the tissues that were readily supplied. Of course, they also berated him for antagonizing Red John of all people, but that was to be expected. He hadn't told them what he was going to discuss on that chat show and naturally, they were furious. But because of the repercussions, they felt that he had paid the suitable price for his fallacy and didn't come down on him as hard as they theoretically could have done.
When he finally arrived back at his Sacramento apartment, he headed straight to the bathroom. After a day like today, he knew he deserved a good long soak in the bath to get rid of all the aches and pains. He needed to come to a decision as to what to do with the old family home he'd been forced to buy in Malibu. Again, Jane had hated the building, but Angela had insisted upon making it the family home. Now, he could do whatever the hell he liked with it. The value had probably taken a knock because a murder had taken place there, that kind of thing often put off buyers. However, some kind of crazy psycho may want to invest in it simply because of the Red John connotations. Jane knew better than most that some people had very strange interests and the fact that the serial killer was currently very high profile meant that he would be in a lot of people's minds at the moment.
And then, there was his career.
What he refused to do was give up, to sacrifice everything he had achieved just because a killer had been insulted by a few home truths.
He had started working with the CBI on a quest for revenge. It had felt like the most natural thing to do. Jane had channeled away his anger and hate for the death of his wife and child from himself onto the only other person he could blame. And that was Red John. He was the one who had taken a blade to their throats, he had painted that haunting smiley face on the bedroom wall. Red John didn't have to do that; he'd just felt compelled to because he had taken offense to what Jane had said about him. The killer had done it because he believed that Jane's ego was growing too big and therefore, he needed taking down a peg or two.
And it had worked, if only a little.
For he now realized just how damaging his career had been to innocent lives. Not to the Red Johns of the world, who hated it when people told the honest truth about them but the weak, the vulnerable. Those looked for false hope and were willing to pay top dollar for it, even if they didn't really have the money to do so. Ones who wanted to live in a fantasy world and pretend that eventually, the would see their loved ones again in heaven. And he had happily taken it from them, fueling his own ego, his own sense of power and of course, his own bank balance. Never for a second had he considered what his clients went through, what repercussions it had on their lives, until it was too late.
At first, he'd found working with the CBI frustrating. There wasn't nearly enough focus on Red John, the other cases got in the way. Then, said other cases became a welcome distraction. Eventually, he wasn't coming into work to work at all. Instead, he was looking forward to spending quality time with his co-workers.
Or more specifically, one particular co-worker.
Jane liked the fact that Lisbon never let him get away with anything. If he did anything wrong, she was always on his back, hounding him for it. She challenged him, she amused him, she made it seem like life was worth living again. Which was kind of ironic, given the fact she barely lived a life of her own. Slowly but surely, he realized his affections for her were growing into something more. Initially, he'd tried to fight it, to deny it wasn't there. It was a distraction from his goal and it dishonored his memories of Angela. If she hadn't have been killed, Jane was certain they would still have been married. Therefore, it had almost felt like cheating, in a way.
Eventually, he had just given in. He had to stop feeling guilty because of what could have been, if she had survived. She hadn't and therefore, he had to live his own life without her, however much the concept hurt. Angela, bless her, would have hated the idea that he spent his life pining for her instead of moving on. Just as he would have loathed it if she had done the same, had she been the one still living and him six feet under instead.
Besides, it was only natural that if he were to fall in love with anyone else after Angela, it would be someone like Lisbon.
She wasn't the first person he'd been with since Angela's death. In fact, if anything, he had actively pushed her away, had pretended he wasn't attracted to her simply because he was so scared that she would be the rebound, after his wife. There was one thing Teresa Lisbon wasn't worth being and that was being a rebound, though naturally, she would have fiercely denied it, of course. For somebody so strong and so forthright, she could sometimes have very little self worth. It was probably half the reason she had become so dedicated to her career.
But with realization came resolve and he was more persistent than most. He already knew that Lisbon had a mile-wide caring streak and he sought to abuse that. It was also blindingly obvious that she was incredibly fond of him, even if she would claim otherwise. After all, she had survived working with him for a good three years, which was some kind of CBI record. She had also gotten through the whole debacle relatively unscathed. If she really didn't feel anything for him whatsoever, she would have ended their association long before, if only for her own sanity.
Really, all he knew he had to do was make her admit that she was as in love with him as he believed she was.
It didn't take all that much. A few more overt comments, suggestions of coffee for two which led to lunches and even dinners. The odd social call here and there, just to see how she was doing. Giving her something to actually do at the weekend instead of watching old Friends re-runs, alone.
Eventually, he told her he loved her. Even after all his hard work, it still came as a surprise when she reciprocated it with an 'I love you, too'.
When he finally cupped her cheeks in his hands, stared deeply into her green eyes and brushed his lips against her, he knew the wait was worth it.
And he would never sacrifice this for Red John, not in a million years. He'd already done that once and learned his lesson.