The Greener Pasture

Rating: PG
Summary: Sequel to my fic, "White Flags". She has made her choice...
Spoilers: up to and including 6.18.
Disclaimer: I do not own The Mentalist.
A/N: Thank you to Victoria for reading this through for me.
Date: 27th April 2014

... ... ...

It has been two days since the team learned of her decision and they have yet to talk about it. Oh, the team has talked about it. There have been hugs and jokes and a general attempt to lighten the mood. But he has yet to talk to her about it. And she has not approached him.

The conversation is coming. He knows that. He can feel the anticipation thick in the air like the heaviness before a thunderstorm. And he understands why she is taking time before they speak. But it has still been an excruciatingly long two days. He wonders how much longer they'll wait. He hopes she'll steal a moment with him now, while the team enjoys case closed pizza, courtesy of Kim.

She is probably more likely to approach him if he stops watching her, he knows that. But he can't take his eyes off her. He daren't.

She appears to be happy with the decision. From time to time he catches a glimpse of contemplation but that is to be expected. Neither outcome would have left her without guilt; there was no way for her to completely avoid a situation where she would wonder if she has made the right choice. Every now and again she will think about the road not taken but, over time, now and again will grow further apart. Regret will seep away.

He had a plan that involved him bumping into her (literally if necessary) in the parking lot, but he managed to remind himself of his intention not to meddle in her life and never executed said scheme. He fully understands why she needs time - he fully understands why he needs time - but as it wears on, he's come to realise that he hates time!

She's laughing at something Cho has said to her. Their friend's face is stoically neutral, as usual, until she turns away to utter something to Kim and Cho allows himself a tiny smile. Jane can't blame him: Who wouldn't smile to see her happy like that? He himself must be grinning like a fool, he realises. He slips out of the room before she notices.

He sits on his favourite spot on his couch, glancing round the office as he once again relives their conversation here three nights ago. He wishes he had at least hugged her. It would make the memory a degree less angsty. He understands, though, why he didn't. He'll hug her when they talk. Whatever happens. He has made himself that promise. He needs that memory.

She finds him mere minutes later and his eyes meet hers as soon as he sees her. Their gazes hold while she crosses the office but he can find no indication of how this is going to go. He remains seated; no pressure. She stops by her desk, perching on the edge before she speaks.

"Hey."

"Hey yourself."

"Well done with the hot air balloon. Good thinking."

"It was inspired by your comment. Team work," he smiles.

She returns the smile, accompanied by a pensive nod. He allows her a moment to prepare to say what she needs to.

She speaks quietly when she does. "I don't want to talk here."

He reins in his instinct to leap from his seat and agree to go anywhere she asks. Instead he calmly acquiesces, "Okay," and leaves it a beat before standing up.

She pushes away from the desk and they stop by the break room to say good night to the others. It isn't unusual for the two of them to leave together. Or, at least, it wasn't unusual before Pike.

They reminisce about the case as they leave the building, but every sentence feels forced. It is small talk designed simply to occupy the tension-filled silence until they are away from work.

At her car they have to decide where they are going. He would like to suggest his trailer, for privacy, for a chance to openly say everything that needs to be said without any risk of being overheard or seen. But he isn't certain of what she intends to say and she may not want such an intimate setting. So he lets her lead the suggestions. Then he'll have a better idea of what is to come.

"I want us to be able to talk properly," she remarks as she appears to ponder the question. Knowing her as well as he does, though, he can see that she has already decided where she wants to go but is nervous to ask. He won't torture her any longer then.

"My place? I have tea."

She looks relieved when she smiles at him. "Perfect."

"See you in ten."

... ... ...

He arrives only a minute before she does. He has the door open and is waiting for her on the steps. The small security light he has installed illuminates her as she gets out of the car and heads towards him and he sees her smile when she notices the flower pots he arranged outside his trailer a few months ago.

"Cute," she comments about them.

"I thought so."

He steps aside to allow her to enter ahead of him and he busies himself with preparing their tea while she peruses the various personal touches he has added since she was last there.

"You've really made a home here," she observes and there is a hint of surprise in her voice.

He can't blame her, really. In the twelve years that she has known him, he never has made himself at home before.

"It felt like time," he tells her honestly. With Red John gone; the threat of incarceration lifted and Lisbon by his side again, he has started to feel at home in Austin. She doesn't need to be told right now that he stopped with the homemaking when she announced that she might leave.

"It's nice." She says it with a sincerity he can also see in her eyes: She is happy for him; pleased that he is moving on.

She sits on the couch when he gestures that she should and he hands her a cup of tea before sitting beside her. He is sure, though, to keep an appropriate distance between them.

She thanks him; inhales the aroma; takes a tentative sip. Keeps her eyes on the drink and away from his for as long as she feasibly can. She's adorable when she's nervous and, despite his fear that he might not like what she has to say, he appreciates that they at least have this moment. Things could be a lot worse.

"Would you like me to start?" he offers, just in case that is what she wants.

Her eyes meet his then. "I'm surprised you've waited this long."

"It's been agony," he admits.

"Well, I appreciate it... I just -"

"You needed time."

She nods, slowly. "I did. But now...". She puts her cup down on his coffee table and adjusts in her seat so her body is angled towards him. "I need to know what you think about my decision. I need to know everything you wouldn't say the other night."

He is surprised - and impressed - by her directness. He had been expecting a conversation about how her feelings for him hadn't influenced her decision; an attempt to convince herself that was true. He had thought she would ask to return to normal; to carry on as they had been. He underestimated her. Probably because they have never been on the same page before. It seems surreal to be there now.

"There aren't words to adequately describe how I feel about your decision," he tells her. "I'm ecstatic; I'm relieved. I was terrified that you would go. I am so very very grateful that you're staying." He hasn't let himself experience just how relieved he is until now. Saying it out loud brings home the fact that this is really happening. She is really here. She is really staying. He smiles at her with the full force of his delight.

There's a blush to her cheeks when she smiles back. "Why?" she whispers.

Of course she wants to make him say it.

"Because I know what it is like to be apart from you and I never want to experience that again. Because, for the first time in twelve years, I feel at home. And it's nothing to do with where I am, or what I do: It's all you... Because I do love you. Even though I denied it in that warehouse; even though I used it to my cruel advantage on that cliff top; even though I left you. I missed you every single day. There were so many times I wanted to tell you that in my letters but I couldn't see how that would be fair to you. I couldn't come back. I convinced myself I had to let go. But I never succeeded... Then Abbott and Texas and - ... I was crazy to think that you would just wait around until I was brave enough to tell you the truth. When you left the office with Pike, that first time, I thought that was it. I knew the two of you could have something real. Something long term."

"We could have. If I wasn't in love with you."

He has known it for years but hearing her admit it, knowing they are actually talking about it, and are free to talk about it - no boyfriends, no serial killers, no quest for revenge - fills him with a warmth he hasn't felt since Angela.

"Now I think you're a little crazy to choose me over him."

"Oh, I know I am. But I've never been able to let go, either..." Her expression turns completely serious as she continues. "But this whole thing with Marcus has made me realise that I want to settle down. I'm ready for a real relationship, Jane. If you're not ready for that yet, I understand. But if we're never going to get there, then I need to know. You need to tell me now, so that when the next guy comes along I know where I stand..."

That's another surprise. She turned down Pike and D.C. despite thinking that she still might not end up with him?

"... I understand why you wouldn't talk about us while I was in a relationship. So we need to talk now that I'm not... I'm staying in Austin regardless of what happens next, but I want to know, Jane. You love me, but what do you want? And what will you allow yourself to have?"

For anyone else the question 'What do you want?' would suffice. It is a strange mixture of admiration and regret that he feels when she adds her last question. She knows him so well. And he can admit that if she had never met Pike then perhaps that extra question would be harder to answer. Without the threat of losing her, perhaps he would still be convinced that he wasn't ready, that he didn't deserve her, that he didn't deserve happiness. But, now, what he wants and what he will allow himself to have are the same thing. Because he cannot face a life without her.

He shifts closer to her and takes hold of her hand because he needs to touch her. He has waited too long for this. "I want... whatever you want. I want to make you deliriously happy. I want to see you smile at me - and because of me - every single day. I want to make up for every time that I have made you doubt that you are important to me." He moves one hand to cup her cheek, to caress it as he did when she was sleeping. To enjoy that it now fills him with pleasure, not heartache. "Teresa, I don't know how I would have coped if you'd left."

Her eyes sparkle with unshed tears. "Then you're lucky I didn't."

He grins at her with absolute adoration. "I am the luckiest man in the world."

"Are you going to kiss me or not?"

He holds her hand tighter, leans in closer. "Are you going to punch me in the nose?"

"Not for that."

"Then I'm going to kiss you."

"Finally."

He runs his thumb across her cheek, commits this moment to memory. "I love you," he utters, reverently.

"I love you too. But I will punch you in the nose if you don't kiss me now."

"My angry little princess."

"Shut up, Jane."

"With pleasure."

For the first few seconds of the kiss he is struck by disbelief that it is happening. Her lips are soft and willing beneath his but he expects to wake up at any moment in a world where she is moving to D.C. It is almost a tentative caress as he waits for it to be snatched away. Then she rests her hand against his cheek and separates their lips just long enough to insist, "You can do better than that." Their eyes meet and he accepts her challenge. Because he can do better than that.

Because it's real. She's here.

And she chose him.

THE END