Spoilers/Timeline: Slight references to S3 (and its finale)/Set in the future

A/N: I... don't even know. I woke up this morning and this idea would not leave me alone. This is my first time writing these characters so I hope it doesn't seem too OOC or implausible.

Disclaimer: The Mentalist doesn't belong to me; Title found in Rodney Atkins' Take a Back Road.

She puts her fork down, nudging her bouquet out of the way as it encroaches on her small plate of food. Most of the guests are up and dancing, talking to people they haven't seen in years, but she's still pushing her piece of cake around, trying to avoid that awkward question of how she knows the bride.

Where are her husband and kids?

(Part of her thinks she'd just flash her badge, the one buried deep at the bottom of her small clutch, and they'd understand.

Companionship wasn't an option for her.

Never had been.)

Jane, of course, is in the thick of things. He's standing near the end of the buffet line, his shirt sleeves rolled up, vest slightly bunched as he talks to two older women. Grace's aunts, she thinks.

His head tilts to the side, one hand landing on the taller woman's shoulder, and she knows without even hearing the low, calm cadence of his voice, that something ridiculous is about to happen.

It's nice not to have to be concerned about it for a change, to worry that he'll offend someone, and even if she had to, she wouldn't be. For once he's not using hypnosis to distance himself from everyone else or prove some convoluted point.

No, he's adding to the excitement and joy in the room, giving them a story they can tell for years.

A 'remember at Grace's wedding when Bridget stood on a table and sang Copacabana?'

She smiles at the thought and the way the woman is shoving her way through the crowded floor to climb on the DJ stand; this is going to be good. Pushing her napkin to the side, she leans forward to get a better view, but is stopped when he turns toward her, the only person looking to the back of the filled room.

The corner of his mouth lifts, his blue eyes dancing, and he nods before leaning back against the nearest wall, watching the woman complete choreography that wouldn't be out of place on Broadway.

There's something even more relaxed about him tonight, she realizes. It's true that ever since he's come back to the CBI he's been a different person. Things had been awkward and tense at first—they were bound to be when personal desire trumped logic—but the team had soon found he was less abrasive. Still as effective and as unorthodox as ever, but more compassionate.


It's as if closing that chapter in his life has allowed him to push past all the sublimated emotions, recognize that there are people that, for whatever reason, care about him now.

But tonight, tonight he seems lighter. Like he's ready to move forward and just forget.

(She knows it will never be that easy, that he'll always carry the pain and guilt and torture. It's a start though and she's buoyed to think that people can actually heal from this kind of hurt.

That he can.)

"Ok, woman, no more holding up the wall."

She blinks up at him, her heart thudding painfully in her chest, partially from shock and partially from the way his gaze sweeps over her face so appreciatively. She hadn't even seen him push away from the wall, cross the entire room to...

Shaking her head, she crosses her arms over her chest and leans back. "I'm nowhere near—"

Her words fall away at his glare (a rare thing, really) and his body invading her space as he leans forward, palms pressed flat on the table separating them.

"Not what I meant. Come on, pretty princess, it's time to dance."

Unbidden, she smiles, a memory flickering in her mind. "What? No snide remark this time?"

"I thought the color was an insult enough, but if you really want..." His eyebrow lifts as he moves even further into her space. "I think Disney is looking for someone to fill in for an ill Snow White."

"At least you didn't say Sleeping Beauty."

He chuckles, grinning at the way her mouth twitches in an attempt to hide her amusement, how her fingers unnecessarily smooth the hem of her dress. In some ways, like most people, she's always been an open book to him. In others, in the most important ones, she's a complete puzzle.

It's just one thing he adores about her.

"Lisbon, do you really want to be labeled as—"

"I have to be here in case Van Pelt—"


"In case, Mrs. Rigsby needs me to help with her dress or—"

He waves her off, quickly moving around the table before wrapping his fingers around her wrist. "You'll be much closer to her on the dance floor; ready to answer her beck and call."

Tugging her forward, he tips his head to where the newlyweds are dancing before glancing at her once more. Her hair is pulled back in some fancy fashion, but it's started to come loose, curling around her face in the most pleasant way. The dress he's been teasing her about really is about the most horrible color one could ever choose for a wedding (or even a funeral), but the fit is exemplary, clinging beautifully to her tiny waist.

"I could arrest you for kidnapping for this." The words no sooner leave her mouth than she doubts them. His shoulders tense for a fraction of a second and then relax again as he pulls her further into the crowd. She elbows people out of the way, her breath catching as she realizes that if this was any other man he'd be flat on his ass by now.

Would have been two minutes after trying to physically move her from the table.

She suddenly feels lightheaded and not from the two sips of champagne she indulged in with the toast.

"Teresa?" His arm is around her waist, his bright eyes marred with concern. "Come on, we both know you left your handcuffs in the limo..."

"I'm sure Cho still has his." Winking, she smiles, not missing the way his brow smooths, the soft exhale of breath against her throat as he pulls her to him and begins moving with the music.

She's at a loss for several moments, her eyes focused on the happy couple behind them before shifting back to the grey material of his vest cutting into his wide shoulders, the wild curl of his hair. Stepping back, their eyes meet and she knows.


Not just the friendship and admiration that's always lurked beneath the surface, but... hope... desire...

His hand curls in the curve of her waist and she sighs, eyes closing as his lips brush across her forehead and little waves of heat rush through her. Her head falls to his chest as her fingers dance down his arm, finally capturing his, somehow pulling him even closer.

This isn't the first time they've danced together, but—she smiles as his thumb strokes over the palm of her hand—suddenly, blissfully, she knows it's far from being the last.