Letting her go was the hardest thing he ever had to do. But he also knew that there was nothing he could do or say that would make her change her mind.
He had to let her go because he had no right to tell her not to. And he probably never would.
He had to let her go because it was the only choice, and they both knew that. Even if it killed him inside, he'd rather have her alive and well far away from him, than have her die if she stayed here. He would never forgive himself if that did happen.
As she put his medal in her hand, he kept his eyes on hers, knowing very well it would be the last time he would see her. Giving into the impulse, he kissed her hand, and conveyed everything he couldn't tell her in one look. One last time, he begged her to keep safe, if he couldn't do it himself.
In that very moment, he understood by the look she was giving him that she knew. She knew of the feelings he harboured for her, even though he never spoke of them. And in that very moment, he could see in her eyes that she returned them. At any other moment, it would have made him happy, he would have found relief in this look, but in this very moment, he could only feel sad.
He was feeling sad because it was their final moments together, and there was nothing he could do about it. Because there was nothing he could say that would make her change her mind. And he loved and respected her even more for that.
He released her hands, and watched as she stood up and walked out from his office. She sent one last look to him, and then, just like that, she walked out of his life.
Turning towards the security camera, he knew what he had to do; he had to ensure that no one would ever find out about this last conversation. He had to hold his promise to her and make sure her daughter was safe and never found out about all this. He would keep this secret for her.
Less than an hour later, as he heard the gunshots, his heart cried for what he had lost. As he heard her daughter's screams, he was even more resolute than before. He would never tell a soul about those last moments he had shared with her.
As he watched the last file that could be restored on the DSA, he already knew how it would end. And it was no surprise to him when the gunshot rang, effectively ending her life, this time. He didn't jump as his friend did; he had been expecting it. He had had years to prepare himself for this moment.
He had known for a long time that she was dead, like he had known her tomb was empty. He had known because if she was still alive, she would have kept her word and come back to save her daughter and Jarod from the Centre. He hadn't let himself hope that he was wrong, because he had known it would be vain.
He had let her go nearly thirty years ago, because he had no choice. He had hoped that it would save her life, but after more than a year without her coming back, he had known she would never come back.
Maybe he shouldn't have let her go, maybe he should have tried to reason with her, but that wouldn't have changed the outcome; if she had stayed, she would have still died.
Letting her go was the hardest thing he ever had to do. Having to show this DSA to her daughter, who still had hope, would be the second hardest one.
As he stood beside her daughter as she was watching the video, he wished there was something else, something more, that he could do. He could still hear her screaming as she saw her mother lying on that elevator floor. But he couldn't; it wasn't his place to do anything for her. He wanted to try and comfort her, as he had done when she was just a child, but he couldn't.
As he watched her daughter take the gun, he knew what she intended to do. He knew he should stop her, but he couldn't. He wanted to take the gun out of her hands, and do it himself, if only to spare her the dreams she would have about this, but he couldn't. He had already had his turn.
Shooting at him in that alley had been as much to save his protégé as to avenge her. He had known all along by the hands of whom she died; the video had merely been a confirmation of what he already knew.
It was her daughter's turn to avenge her. And maybe she would do a better job than him.
He watched her leave as he watched her mother leave nearly three decades ago.
His friend wanted him to try and reason with her, but he couldn't do it. He had to let her do what she needed to. For her mother, and for the brother she just learned about. He could only be there afterwards if she needed him to.
"You loved her."
It wasn't as much her words as her presence on his doorstep that surprised him. She didn't ask him a question, she was just making a statement; she had understood. But he had never thought she would come and confront him.
Stepping back, he opened the door wide and gestured for her to come in. They both knew that it wasn't a conversation they should have while standing on his threshold. He wasn't even really sure it was a conversation they should have, at all.
"You loved her," she repeated as he closed the door. "You loved my mother."
"Yes, I did. And I still do," he added, though it wasn't needed; he was sure she could see that in his eyes.
"Did she love you?"
"Though we've never talked about all this, I think she did. I saw it in her eyes the last time I saw her."
"Then why didn't you stop her?"
He had known that this question would come, even though she saw the DSA with their last session. He had an answer ready for her now that she asked it.
"I was fool enough to believe that she would be safe."
"And why didn't you tell me before?" she asked again.
"I already told you. I made a promise to your mother, to protect you, and to hide the truth from you. You've seen it on the DSA. She wanted nothing more than to keep you away from the Centre and its secrets. It's true that I've lied to you all these years, but I did that for your mother."
"How can I be sure that you're not keeping other secrets from me?"
"I'm not. I can promise you this. And if I could have spared you the hope and the pain you've been through these past few weeks, I would have. But I simply couldn't break my promise to your mother."
"You had no way of knowing she was really dead."
"I knew, because she would have never left her precious little girl if she still were alive. Remember what she said to me that day. She would have come back to save you, and Jarod and the other children. When she didn't come back after more than a year, I just knew that she never would."
He could see that she was done, that she got the answers she had been seeking. But she still didn't leave. She waited, as if there was one more thing to be done.
When she grabbed his hand, placed the medal he had given her mother in his palm, and closed his fingers around it, he understood.
"I believe this is yours."
Releasing his hand, she turned away from him, and opened the door. She gave him one last look before she closed the door, thanking him silently, as she couldn't bring herself to say the words.
Opening his hand, he looked at the medal he had given her mother all those years ago. He had never thought he would see it again after she left his office. He had hoped it would protect her, but it didn't.
He didn't know if it was his anymore. He didn't know if he wanted it to be his anymore. But he still fastened the necklace around his neck, and slid the medal beneath his shirt and undershirt, wanting it close to his heart.
He would keep it as a reminder of a woman he had loved and still loved to this day.