Sorry about leaving you hanging like that! I'm having a bit of a what-do-I-want-to-do-with-my-life crisis. Biological engineering is a really exhausting study.
Anyways, this is the end. I'd like to thank you all SO MUCH for the overflow of reviews, the critiques and support and comments and all. I appreciate it. I have a few other stories that you can check out if you'd like. I don't think I'll write a sequel for this- my attention has shifted from investigator tales to the fae world.
Disclaimer: I do not own The Mentalist.
"I love you," he said earnestly, "And have for quite a while now.
"Don't worry- I'll tuck it away again. I've gotten good at that. This won't interfere with work. Please, don't look at me any differently or treat me differently- nothing has changed, except now you're aware of my feelings. I'm sorry. I just had to tell you- I didn't want you to think I was still delirious, or taking advantage of you, or whatever else your paranoid mind could come up with. I need you to know I'm not the heartless con man you see me as. I'm sorry."
She pulled out of his hug (not releasing him, though) and looked at his face intently, her own expression unreadable. He stared at the floor, looking guilty, and sincerely apologetic… and a little sad.
"Jane. Look at me." He did, slowly and slightly nervously. She couldn't help but let out a single amused laugh. He frowned.
"Why, Teresa, I just laid my heart out bare, and you're going to mock me?" His tone was teasing, but there was a serious undercurrent of hurt to it.
"Are you being serious? Psychic, observant, superman Patrick Jane doesn't know?" she gasped. "For the second time today!"
"Know…?" he studied her expression, placing a hand on the side of her neck to tilt her chin up so he could really look at her. "Teresa?"
"What, not Pepper this time?" she teased. Then she kissed him, rather than the way it had been before. Third time was the charm- he'd been holding out on her the first two times. But now… now he understood. He didn't need to be careful or restrain himself. Because she'd told him (not out loud, but in such a way that he could understand and have no doubts about) that the feeling was mutual. It didn't take a genius detective to decipher it.
He backed her up against the wall, slowly, and eliminated most of the space between them. Her hands were in his hair, on his chest, on his back- she made him dizzy, as if she had more than just two hands. He did his best (which was very good indeed) to return the favor.
Things began to get heated, what with wandering hands, and their minds clouded with want and joy and oxygen deprivation. He chose to pull back before the situation got really out of hand.
"How could you not see that?" she murmured, slightly out of breath. He didn't need to answer- they both knew. Patrick Jane was a damaged man, attractive, but nothing you would want to keep around for too long. His type was the kind that looked good from a distance, but when you got closer and closer to him, he became unappealing. Like too much chocolate- he made you hyped up, sugar-rushing, and joyful for a while, but eventually, you became thirsty for something cleaner, like water or milk.
Teresa had worked with him for many years now, and his appeal never wore off. Their personalities seemed to clash sometimes, but in truth, they fit together the way that was portrayed in movies and books, amazing and fantastic but rare indeed. She was spicy- he was sweet. They balanced each other.
"So if this is really going to happen, we're going to do this right," he said firmly when he saw her desire to kiss him again in her eyes. (He was pleasantly surprised to see that the look was one he'd seen before, but had failed to identify. So she'd thought of kissing him before.) She blushed.
"Right. Yes… What are we going to tell the team?" she asked, reality hitting her. He shrugged.
"I'm not going to announce it, but I'm not going to hide it. I'm not technically an agent, so it's not against the rules. If I want to hug you, then I'm going to hug you. I'm not going to sneak around," he said, hugging her as he spoke.
"I'm not a huge fan of PDA," she said uneasily.
"Don't worry- I'm not going to jump you at the office," he laughed. "I'll keep it limited to hugging and other minor gestures. I can tell when you're unhappy or uncomfortable, and if you are, I'll take a step back." He was very convincing, and it was so hard to resist that thousand-watt smile and mess of blonde curls.
"Alright, but one screw up…" she warned. He laughed again at her seriousness. They both knew she was soft on him. She'd threatened much of the same thing more times than he could count.
"Deal." He gave her a quick peck on the lips, then retreated back to the counter, grabbing another piece of toast.
"You are a bottomless pit," she commented, watching the bread disappear while finishing the last bites of her breakfast. She was comfortably full- not overstuffed, but not hungry anymore. He'd already eaten at least twice what she had.
"Gotta make up for yesterday," he said around the food in his mouth. He swallowed. "You don't like leftovers, anyways." That was true- she preferred fresh food, though time was her enemy, and she was a work-a-holic.
"Of course." She couldn't hold it back anymore- she just blurted it out. "You aren't over Angela." It wasn't a question.
"No," he said musingly.
"Then what's changed?"
"There were a number of factors keeping me from pursuing any romance. One was guilt. If there was one thing she never, ever, ever tolerated, it was promiscuity, relationship-wise. She was very much the jealous type. The very idea of me being with another woman… it didn't make her angry so much as it made her sad and scared. It wasn't shallow, though. It was… cute," he admitted.
"But I've mourned her for years. And there was something she was more aware of than promiscuity. Happiness. She would've hated me being miserable more than she would've hated me being with another woman.
"Another was concentration. I wanted all of my attention to be on Red John and vengeance. I didn't think I could afford to waste any time or energy… but as you work with me, then it's not the same. And… you've become more precious to me than Red John." That was true- he'd proven that quite a while ago, when he had shot a man who'd worked with Red John, rather than letting him shoot her.
"The last was fear." He fought to keep his voice steady and nonchalant. "As you know… I wear a mask. I'm a jaded old man, Pepper," he said with a smile. "I've been hiding for so long. But my delirious mind didn't know enough to keep myself concealed, so there's not much point in hiding anymore. It's all been blown out in the open.
"Plus, I am getting older. I don't want to spend the rest of my life alone in this seclusion. I've been thinking about my self-imposed isolation, and there came a point where I wondered- when will this end? I'd never thought about what would come after. Now I want a future.
"That's everything… I have no barriers anymore," he said with a finality that awed her.
"It takes a lot to open up like that, Patrick," she said, trying his Christian name out on her tongue. "I… really appreciate it. Thank you. I won't betray your trust."
"No, I don't think you will." He ruffled her hair affectionately. "Go get showered. I'll clean this up." He pressed a kiss to the top of her head.
"Kay." She headed for the bathroom to shower. He watched her go dreamily.
She went around the corner, maintaining composure as she got her stuff to shower (this time remembering to bring clothes in with her), but when she shut the bathroom door, she turned and pressed her back against the door, wrapping her arms around her towel and squeezing tight, feeling like a teen who's crush had just asked her to prom. Silly, excited, distracted, and full to bursting with joy. She shook her head with amazement at the fact that he could do this to her.
They drifted through the apartment around each other, exchanging smiles and light touches (him brushing her hair off her shoulder, her trailing her hand over his shoulders as she walked by) until she was cleaned up and ready to go.
It was about 12:30 by the time they both got in her SUV and went to work. She would've been panicking and stressing, but since he'd been sick, she'd had Van Pelt let the boss know that she and Jane probably weren't coming in on time today. Everything was cleared.
Things went back to usual, mostly. Jane grumbled about her driving, bothered Rigsby, tried to get a rise out of Cho, and reassured Van Pelt that he was doing much better. Lisbon dished out orders, went on some investigations, and tried to keep Jane in line. The only differences were:
Jane kept calling her Pepper, meriting a shocked look from Van Pelt and Rigsby, and a lifted eyebrow from Cho (which was the equivalent of a loud gasp). Lisbon was angry with him for a while about it, but when he pointed out that the joy and amusement in her eyes was giving her away, she let it go, but continued to blush when he used the silly nickname. (Which was his goal in the first place, remembering how she blushed- all over.)
And both Lisbon and Jane felt… well, happy. Really cheerful. They acted normal, but everyone could feel the uplifted atmosphere. It impacted the whole team. The unit was much like a family, with Lisbon as the mother, and family moods were often dictated by the mood of the mother. If mum ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. But when mother was happy, things were excellent.
A few days later, they solved the case. Jane escaped the lawsuit this time, but only because the man punched him in the nose and they agreed to drop the charges if he did as well.
This all happened on Friday afternoon. The day of the promised date, where they would begin things real and proper, not snogging wildly over French toast. With wine and flowers and fancy clothes. So when Jane picked her up for their first date, he was sporting a slightly blackened eye.
"Your eye matches your suit," she commented, taking in his sharp dress (a black suit and a black bowtie). In truth, his eye wasn't bad. In fact… only Jane could make a black eye look roguish and dashing.
"…Whoa," he gasped, looking thoroughly stunned.
She lifted her chin slightly, enjoying his appreciative roaming gaze, and sashayed past him, her short, sheath emerald dress rippling. He caught her elbow as she walked by, spun her around, dipped her, and planted a firm kiss on her lips.
This one was free of syrup and lingering flu. Rather than fever and gratefulness, it was fresh and sweet, full of cold mint from her and chocolate from him, and giving flesh, and finally discovered love, and a promise of happiness.
Against his lips, she smiled.