... ... ...
Lisbon caught sight of Marcus as he walked up the path to her house. She crossed the room to her front door and took a deep breath before opening it. She greeted him with a smile but, from the way his answering smile faltered, it was clear that he knew what was coming. It did tug at her heart; it did stir up guilt: She was genuinely sorry to be doing this to him. But that didn't change the fact that it needed to be done.
She invited him inside but didn't approach for a kiss or, even, a hug. And neither did he. And when she offered him a seat, he declined. Perhaps that was best. Just get it over with.
"I'm sorry to call you over out of the blue but I've got to go out of town and I could be gone for a couple of days. I didn't want to keep you hanging on."
Marcus shrugged. "I guess I appreciate that."
Another deep breath and she told him, "I'm sorry, Marcus. I - I can't marry you. I can't move to D.C."
He looked disappointed but also like he had been expecting that answer.
"And I shouldn't stay." It was more a statement than the question that it perhaps should have been.
"Not for me... I'm sorry. I do like you. I do think this could have been something serious but... under different circumstances."
He nodded slowly. "I knew this might happen but I - ... I should have prepared for it."
"I'm sorry. I wanted to accept. I wanted to believe it could work. But -"
"Does Jane know?"
"Have you discussed the decision with Jane?"
"Only briefly... That surprises you?"
"I know you have history."
"Yet you didn't ask if I had discussed it with Cho." She heard the defensive tone to her voice and knew it was unreasonable. But she didn't know what annoyed her more: The fact that he was implying that her decision revolved around Jane, or the fact that her decision had revolved around Jane. Her whole world revolved around Jane whether she liked it or not.
"I didn't think Cho would have talked you out of it."
"You think I'd let Jane talk me out of it?"
"I think he would have tried... He'd be a fool not to."
"I think you're wrong." Because she knew he was wrong. Jane had done nothing but congratulate her. "But it's irrelevant. I made this decision and I'm sorry it's not what you wanted. But I can't be - ... I can't leave."
"You can't leave Jane."
She didn't want to get into that, but she supposed he had a right to be angry. "Marcus..."
"I should have - No, I did wonder about this."
"Marcus, I wanted to be able to do this. I wanted to move forward. I tried. I really, really tried. A bit more time and I might have succeeded."
"But the job offer forced you to choose and you're not ready to let go. I get it."
"I wish it were different." She doubted he could understand just how badly she wished it were different.
"I believe you." He laughed, humourlessly. "Bad timing."
"This could have been great."
"I know... Good luck with the job."
"Good luck with Jane."
"It's not like that."
"I know. That's why I'm offering the luck." With a sad smile he stepped towards the door. He stopped before opening it. Looking back he asked, softly, "Keep in touch?"
She was surprised by that request, her eyes widened and her response was almost stumbled. "Sure... Yes." As if she had needed any more evidence that he was a nice guy.
Nodding, almost absently, he said goodbye and let himself out of her home.
She caught the door before it closed and watched him walk down the path and get into his car. After he pulled away, for a moment she remained just staring at the road. That had gone differently than she had expected. Everything she had told him was true. She had hoped that she could move on; she had wanted to love him, to have a life with him. To have someone she could depend on and trust completely to go home to every night. To have the nice man that she deserved. To let go of the ridiculous notion that she had a future with Jane.
But she had spent weeks thinking about what she would be losing rather than looking forward to what was to come; spent many sleepless nights talking herself out of marriage rather than being excited that she had been asked. No amount of trying to convince herself that Marcus was the better choice had worked.
Maybe she did need luck.
... ... ...
Kim hovered in the doorway, debating whether or not this was a good idea. If she was going to do it, it had to be now. Lisbon was due back in half an hour and then she and Jane would be heading out. This was her last chance. And the short window of time would at least mean that they couldn't dwell on it for too long if it all went badly. Summoning her courage as if she was about to face down with a mob boss, she walked confidently into the office.
"I was wondering if you were ever going to come in," Jane remarked from his couch, without opening his eyes.
"I thought you were asleep."
It was almost a sad smile that accompanied his response of, "You'll eventually learn the difference."
It assured Kim that she was doing the right thing.
Jane sat up and settled at one end of the couch. "What can I do for you, Agent Fischer?"
His tone implied that he already knew why she was there. For the first few months working with him, she had been convinced that he actually did, somehow, know everything before being told. But as time went on she had come to see that, sometimes, the tone was an act designed to throw you off your game. She hadn't yet decided whether or not it mattered to be able to tell one way or the other as long as she didn't let it affect her.
"Ordinarily, I wouldn't meddle..."
One of Jane's eyebrows rose as if he was intrigued to hear why she had decided to go against that mantra.
"... But I'd rather she not go and you'll be insufferable without her so, for purely selfish reasons, here goes... Tell Lisbon how you feel. I wasn't around for your history, obviously, but while you've been in Austin I have wondered numerous times why you're not together. I don't know - and don't even need to know - why you haven't spoken up properly before now. But she wants to stay, Jane. Give her a reason to."
Her speech over with and Jane staring at her with a look so impassive that she had no idea how he had taken it, Kim's confidence started to waiver. But she reminded herself that she was doing them both a favour. If she was ever being as stupid as the pair of them she would hope they would do the same.
"I'm going to get back to work." Kim resumed speaking when Jane was obviously not going to respond. "You have a two hour flight ahead of you. Use it."
Jane's voice finally sounded as she turned to walk away. "Kim?"
He waited until she turned back before stating, "If Lisbon wants to stay, she'll stay."
"Are you willing to bet your future with her on that?"
"I've told her that I hope she stays."
"Wow! I bet that really swept her off her feet."
"She's one word away from being engaged. I shouldn't be sweeping her off her feet."
"She's one word away from being engaged and she hasn't said it. Come on, I don't believe that you haven't been telling yourself all of this for weeks. Pike is telling her what he wants, he's showing her that they have a future. Are you just going to let him take her?"
"No one makes Lisbon do something she doesn't want to do."
He wrapped it in a compliment, even accompanied it with a smile of admiration, but Kim realised that there, in that statement, was the truth. She was silent, for a second, shocked, both that he had told her and that he actually thought it.
"You really think that she'll turn you down?"
"I really think that it is Lisbon's decision... And I doubt she would appreciate us discussing it."
She knew he wasn't going to admit to anything further. He had said a lot more than she had expected him to as it was. So she conceded the point with a nod. She had said what she wanted to say, anyway. If he had needed to hear his thoughts echoed by another person, well now he had.
"I'll get back to work."
She hoped he would take her advice. She really would miss working with Lisbon, and their periodical girls' nights; Jane really would be insufferable without her and, also, she truly believed that Jane and Lisbon made each other happy. They deserved to be together. Surely twelve years was long enough to wait.
... ... ...
Lisbon looked nervous. She wasn't a nervous flyer, he knew, so it wasn't that. She seemed to be nervous around him. And the only conclusion he could come to was that she was anxious that he might say something about Pike, the promotion or the proposal. So he was trying to keep quiet on those topics. But that meant that his mind couldn't focus on anything else. Kim's suggestion that he tell Lisbon how he feels had been a second vote for the option he himself had preferred. Her advice to use the time on the plane had led to him subconsciously counting down the journey, with regular conscious reminders, akin to Wiley's computer program.
They had twenty-five minutes left.
But Lisbon didn't want to talk about it.
But then it occurred to him that this could be their last plane ride together... Just as this trip could mark the last breakfast they eat together; the last motel stay they have together. One day soon he might experience the last cup of coffee he brings her; their last case together; the last time he can watch her face light up when she laughs; the last time she glares at him, or rolls her eyes at him; the last time she smiles at him...
Her head shot round to face him, probably surprised that he had spoken. They had been sitting in silence for a while.
"I know you probably don't want to talk about this so it's the last thing I'll say on the matter until you authorise otherwise... I just wanted to tell you that... When I said that I hope you stay..." Right before fighting to keep himself out of jail again... "I meant it. I hope you stay... But I know it's your decision. And I respect that."
Guilt flashed across her face and Jane felt as if she had punched him in the chest. She had already made her decision. That was why she didn't want to talk about it. She was leaving and she didn't want to have that conversation while they were away.
She hesitated before continuing and he desperately wanted to stop her from saying it. She had been right to want to avoid this. If only he had learned to respect her wishes.
He was about to say something - anything - when she beat him to it.
His relief made only a small dent in the panic, fear and pain. He forced a gentle smile.
For the rest of the flight they talked about the case. He knew that delaying her saying the words out loud didn't make it any less true, but he was a master at manipulating people's thoughts. Perhaps he could fool himself for a while.
... ... ...
Lisbon checked who was outside and then paused before opening the door. Her heart fluttered with hope but she reprimanded it. There were various reasons why he would be knocking on the door of her motel room at three o'clock in the morning, she told herself. In twelve years he had never shown up to tell her that he was in love with her: Why would he start now? She ignored the part of her brain that told her this scenario was exactly why she had let him believe that she had still not made a decision.
If she left it any longer he might walk away, so she schooled her features into an annoyed, tired expression and swung open the door.
She wasn't permitted any form of greeting, or demand of why he was there, because he spoke as soon as he saw her.
"You've turned him down."
She was actually surprised he hadn't realised that earlier.
"Jane it's three o'clock -"
"You'd turned him down before we left."
She stepped backwards to let him into the room. There was no point trying to postpone this conversation. After all, she didn't want to.
He walked past her and she pushed the door closed. When she turned round he was still waiting, expectantly, for a response.
"Yes. I spoke to Marcus when I went home to pack. I told him that I can't leave. "
"You let me believe that I might still lose you. I thought you were avoiding the subject because you accepted. I thought you were leaving. I've spent all night trying to figure out whether or not to beg you to change your mind."
There was the flutter of hope again, despite her best attempts to be cross at him. But she stood her ground.
"I don't have to tell you everything."
"You chose not to tell me. I watched you hesitate."
"Marcus wanted to marry me, Jane. And I knew it. He told me. But I couldn't do it. I couldn't leave you! Here was a man not prepared to let me go. A man not afraid to tell me that he loves me and not inclined to later pretend that it never happened. A man showing me that we have a future together... And all I could think was that I wanted you to fight for me. I wanted you to refuse to let me go. So, yes, I turned him down. And, yes, I didn't tell you that. But, you know what? You never asked."
"Like when I told you that Marcus proposed. And you said 'congratulations'. Again. You didn't ask what my response had been. You just congratulated me and talked about how much I will like D.C... You didn't ask how I felt. You didn't say anything -"
"What did you expect me to say? I wasn't going to declare my love for you while you were in a relationship with someone else."
"You never declared it when I wasn't! But that's not - It just would have been nice if you'd asked how I was feeling instead of assuming that you already knew. But that's not what you do, is it? There's no such thing as psychics, just people like you who observe, and 'pay attention' and think they know what is going on with everybody else. So, yes, I let you believe something that I knew was wrong. Because it isn't fair! It is not fair that you disappear for two years but send me letters, telling me you miss me. It's not fair that you then come back and demand that I be given a job by your side, regardless of what life I might have built for myself in your absence. It is not fair that that gave me hope, Jane. That you might - Then here we are, exactly where we've been for twelve years, except you have got a future ahead of you; there is no uncertainty now about whether you will outlive your revenge. But we're standing still. And when a nice guy comes along and wants to tell me how he feels and wants to spend his life with me, it is not fair that I cannot move on. So, yes, I thought it was okay to not tell you. And if that was not fair to you: Good!"
He looked angry at her by the end of her rant and her ire rose to think he had the nerve to be mad at her for any of this.
"Is it over?"
"I've said all I'm -"
"With Pike. You turned him down but is it over?"
He was looking at her so intensely that she couldn't bring herself to reply with a smart ass quip.
"I told him not to stay for me."
A second later she was pressed up against the door, Jane's lips on hers; his hands in her hair; his body, delightfully strong, pinning her in place. It took a further second for her shock to subside then her hands were on his back, pulling him closer, her lips met his with the same passion he poured into her. It was everything she had ever imagined it would be...
And then as suddenly as it started, it was over. Well, the kiss was. His body remained in position. His hands cupped her head, his thumbs gently stroking her cheeks.
When he spoke, the quiet, low tones, reverberated through her chest, as the words went straight to her heart.
"Teresa, when I said that I hope you stay, I meant... I love you." A brief kiss to her lips. "I denied it when I still had revenge to take; I denied it when I thought I couldn't come back here; I've been an idiot since we moved to Austin. You should have known all along. I'm sorry you didn't. I thought I was doing what was best for you. I should have asked you what you wanted."
She leant up and kissed him, this one longer than the previous one that he initiated. "Yes, you should have."
He kissed her again, slowly this time, sending shivers through her body. His right hand left her cheek and softly trailed along her neck, over her shoulder, down her arm, to tenderly enclose her hand. His lips, next, parted from hers but inched along her jaw, stopping beside her ear. His breath against her skin made her tremble to her core as he whispered, "What do you want, Teresa?" Then he kissed his way back to her mouth and didn't give her chance to reply.
She decided the answer was obvious in her fervent response to his ministrations, anyway.
It was three a.m.: Talking could wait.