little_firestar (little_firestar) wrote,

The Guy Next Door (Chapter 10-11)

Almost a week of sleepless nights spent in Jane’s arms (and bedroom) were starting to have an effect on Teresa, and in fact, on Friday, she didn’t hear her alarm ringing; it was a phone call from one of her co-workers, Steve Hannigan, that brought her back to the world of the living, with the news of a local case.

She jumped as soon as she heard his voice, and started to get dressed with whatever came her way, not bothering too much with her hair. She run out of the door hating herself a tiny bit: Hannigan was older than her- and a man in a male-dominated work environment- and even if older than her, they were both on the same level. She knew that he had never liked her too much; Hannigan had never made it a secret that he believed the police to be a men only business, but with Teresa it was even worse. When a rumor had gone around the previous year, that she was involved with her married superior, Samuel Bosco, she didn’t have any doubt that Steve had been the one spreading it. She had even thought about filling a complain, but she knew it would have backfired, and she couldn’t risk it, not now that her promotion was that close.

And now, she had done this, overslept because of her nights filled with sex; it was the opening that…that bastard had been looking for lately, and she had served him this opportunity on a silver plate. But she was going to make up for this: and in fact, in less than fifteen minutes she was already at headquarters, right before Cho’s desk, her eyes fixed on the murder board.

“Ok, what we’ve got?” She asked, her eyes focused on the words written in black ink and on the DMV picture of a middle-aged man who had been murdered that very morning.

“Matt Ellis, 45, engineer. He was killed in front of Braxton City bank this morning. Found dead on the crime scene for a puncture wound to the abdomen. Coroner says that probable cause of death is blood loss. We are still looking for the weapon.” Cho said, not bothering to leave his desk.

“Ok….” Teresa said, a bit skeptical, still looking at the info she had on the crime. She felt like she was missing something. “And we’ve got this because…” she asked, her arms crossed and her eyebrows reaching her hairline. She was starting to get pissed, and she was having a bad feeling about it.

“The FBI normally handle cases involving banks, but as there’s no evidence that it could be a robbery gone wrong, they stepped aside.” Van Pelt, the young and pretty redhead from her team joined them, checking on her tablet the details she had acquired on her own. Teresa shook her head at the sight, almost missing the times when cops used only a pen and a notebook when on a case, but she guessed that times had changed since she had first joined the Academy. Besides, not only Grace was their tech expert and hacker extraordinaire, but she had also paid on her own for her upgraded piece of equipment, so, who was she to judge?

“By the way, boss, I talked with a guy on the scene, he said that he saw some kind of altercation between the victim and another man. He gave me a description, and I was thinking that maybe I could check with Ellis’ family and friends, see if the description rings any bells.”

“Ok.” Teresa continued, hands on her hips. She turned on her heels and walked in direction of Hannigan’s cubicle, ready to give him a piece of her mind. She had a feeling that this “important local case” he had made sure she was going to work on was nothing more than crap. They already knew where, when and how, and they even already had a description of the responsible. This case was open and closed, and she was pretty sure it was going to be nothing more than two guys arguing over their wives or their favorite football player.

He definitely wanted her out.

“Ok, Steve, what the hell?” she asked him. She didn’t cross her arms, didn’t put her hands in her pockets, and tried to remember what she had learned about being a “bad cop”. She didn’t want to show him what a nightmare he was being, and she didn’t want to ruin her good mood. She and Jane had been spending together over the past few marvelous days and nights; after Monday, she had been forced to take a break from him, due to the job, but now she couldn’t wait for the weekend to start again. It was both a scary and thrilling sensation: she knew she liked a tad too much being with him, that it was almost unhealthy the power he held upon her. And she didn’t even know where they stood, what they were for each other.

But at her question, the man just put his hands behind his head and he flopped down on his chair, his feet on his desk without even an hint of respect for Lisbon. “What can I say, Lisbon. Braxton is one of Sacramento’s most prominent banks…”

It’s a lie and you know it, you idiot, she thought, but didn’t say it, because she was better than that. “And, you know… better safe than sorry, right?” he grunted, trying to pass it as a laughter, and she smiled of a polite smile, that thigh line that everybody knew to be fake.

She came back to her cubicle, and started to work on the case; before she could even realized it, it was midday, she hadn’t grabbed a coffee yet and she had already solved the case, and was going to start working on her report. She couldn’t help but smile: the sooner she finished, the sooner she could be out of her office, and in Jane’s arms.

And then… then, the magic was stolen by reality, aka her phone ringing, showing an ID she knew all too well, a name she had practically forgotten about in the last few days: Ray.

“Ehy, I saw you got a case. Homicide at Braxton, right?” he asked, without as much as a hello. She grunted at the phone and hoped that Ray hadn’t heard it, but really… technically speaking, they were still dating (sort of), and he couldn’t even start a conversation with “Hi”. God, what a man. Has she really been that crazy about him?

“Yeah, nothing exceptional, it was open and closed.” She made the mistake of sighing over the phone, and Ray immediately jumped to conclusions. Obviously, with Ray being Ray, he thought about work and the case; it didn’t cross his mind that it could be himself the problem, or Teresa’s hot neighbor.

“Ehy, something’s up with the case?? Your voice is so strange…”

At the other end of the phone, she blushed. “I’m just tired, that’s all. I’ve been working on the case since I arrived here today, and I haven’t stopped since.”

“Yeah, I know…”

Teresa closed her eyes. Yeah, she was sure he knew, after all, he was in her same line of work. But the problem was that he really couldn’t understand, because she wasn’t down because of the job, but because of guilt. She had a weight on her heart, and she was going to have it until she wasn’t going to get clear about the whole thing between her and Jane. Part of her wanted to tell him there and then, but she didn’t think it was a conversation you were supposed to have over the phone; besides, she and Ray had knew each other for quite a while, and she felt like she needed to show him at least some respect. But what could she tell him? Listen, Ray, I am oh so sorry, but I can’t keep my hands off my neighbor. She shook her head. She didn’t know where she and Jane stood, but she couldn’t ask Ray to wait for her, she needed to get clean and tell him that she was with Jane.

Even if “with Jane” was such a strong and strange word; they weren’t in a relationship, but she knew she was behaving like she was in one; her feelings were the same from her youth: she was overwhelmed, unable to resist him and yet scared of let it go. As soon as she saw him, she wasn’t herself any longer, she couldn’t remember who she was and what she was supposed to do with her life.

“Well, anyway, I hope Minelli will not keep you too busy this weekend. I made a reservation at the Firehouse.”

“Sure!” she exclaimed, sounding too cheerful even to her own ears. She hoped that the tables at the firehouse were quite big, and not small and romantic; a secluded alcove wasn’t exactly the best place for the kind of conversation she was planning of having with her soon-to-be ex.

She hung up, and then went back to work, and sadly she had to discover that the afternoon was even crazier than the morning. She worked on the Ellis report, then she had to get back to old cases, then Ardilles called her, and asked why his office hadn’t received a report on some case she couldn’t remember word by word in that instant, and his authoritative tone almost made her snap.

“Agent Lisbon? Supervising Senior Agent Minelli is asking if you could send over the McAllister report…” Carla, Minelli’s secretary, asked. Lisbon hated that woman, she was just a good for nothing bootlicker who had gotten her job by sleeping around. She wasn’t even a real secretary, and she wasn’t supposed to be that happy when someone was behind with their work- nor did she need to use “Supervising senior agent” every time she talked of Minelli. She didn’t even really liked her boss: everyone knew she was sleeping with Hannigan, waiting for the day he would get promoted to get a raise.

“Tell him it’s on my hard disk and I’ll send it over in a few.” Yeah, sorry I didn’t have time to send an e-mail, but today I worked the whole damn time I’ve been in this building.

Carla vanished, but less than half a minute later, someone knocked on the wall of her cubicle; Teresa didn’t even bother to lift her eyes from the screen, she just snapped, her fist hitting her desk and her voice sharp. “I told you I was going to send it ASAP! There’s no need to come and check on me twice in a minute!”

But then, she lifted her eyes, and right before her there was Jane, smiling, as sensual as sin itself. All the female eyes of her office were staring in his direction, and even a few men were quite taken by such a fine specimen.

“Is this a bad time?” He asked, and first she nodded, then she shook her head as she saw the peace offering, a boiling cup of dark coffee.

“I’d normally ask you what you are doing here, but you came bearing coffee…” she said, her voice soft and almost dreamy in its quality; Jane couldn’t help but smile, because as far as he was concerned, Teresa Lisbon was a real softie. “So you’ll be forgiven.”

She grabbed her coffee, and Jane sat opposite to her, chuckling. “Didn’t I tell you that I could read your mind, woman?”  He leaned in her general direction, offering his lips for  a kiss, but Teresa put her hand between them.

“Not at the office, Jane!” she all but squealed. “But, thanks for the coffee. I’ll make sure you’ll be properly thanked. At the right moment.”  She looked at him with intent; but, with the corner of her eyes, she saw Minelli’s secretary looking at them. That woman was gossip made flesh: in a few hours, everybody was going to know that she had been cheating on Ray.
Damn it.

“So… what are you doing here?” She asked, drinking her coffee as naturally as possible. She tried her best to block out the sight of her coworkers trying to listen to what she and mysterious hot guy were saying, but it was hard. The fact that she wasn’t completely at ease with Jane there was palpable, and the tension between them could be cut with a knife.

“I need a motive to come here and see you?” he asked. It was almost a rhetorical question, but just the fact that he had to make it was breaking his heart. A dark shadow covered his features, darkening his eyes that lost their usual brightness.

Well, technically, as I am on the job… yes, you’d need more than “remember to drink coffee, Lisbon” to come and see me. “I’m sorry; it’s just that, I’m behind with my schedule and…”

“Ehy, Lisbon, Minelli asked about the McAllister report, again.” She gulped down a mouthful of saliva as Hannigan stood at Jane’s side, grinning like a sordid pig. He gave a look at Jane, dressed with a plaid shirt, old jeans and old, ugly brown shoes, and checked him out. “He told me to ask you to send it over. If you don’t have nothing better to do.” He lifted his eyebrows, and his eyes stayed on Jane.

“Yeah, well, it’s not a problem, I was leaving anyway.” He sent one last look at Teresa as he stood, hoping that she would talk, say something, defend him, them, but one look told him enough, and he knew in that instant that in her mind she had already decided to be the Teresa Lisbon he had met that day, many weeks before.

“Oh, please, don’t leave on my accord, Mister…” Hannigan kept on, his cruel and amused smile, victorious. What was he hoping to accomplish? So, ok, she had had a little indiscretion, but it couldn’t be that bad, right?

“Jane.” Teresa said, standing up. “Mister Jane just wanted to drop an estimate on some works I want to do in my apartment.” The lie left her lips before she could stop herself from opening her mouth, and as soon as she saw Jane’s face she knew she had made a huge mistake.

The light was completely gone from his eyes, and he all but seemed lost.

“And here that I thought that everybody had emails nowadays…” Hannigan snorted.

“Well, you know, Miss Lisbon is a special case, and I don’t have a big enterprise.” he said, cold, turning to leave. “Anyway, now that I’m done, I’ll leave Miss Lisbon to her job. I know how important it is for her…”

“Jane…” she whispered. She thought about stopping him, telling him she was sorry, explain, but she didn’t want to do so in front of Hannigan.  “I’ll give you a call this evening and…”

But he stopped her, shaking his head. She hated the expression he had on his face, for he looked disgusted by her. “There’s no need to, Lisbon. The situation is already clear to me.”

“Lisbon, Minelli wants the McAllister report!” Hannigan grunted.

“Yeah” she told him, looking for the file on her computer. She looked at Jane’s retreating form, and promised herself that she would have talked with him that very evening, that she would have told him how sorry she was.

That, if he was going to listen to her ever again.
That day, between Minelli, Hannigan, the Ellis case and another investigation her team had been handled, Teresa didn’t got home until it was well past midnight. From the street, she saw that Jane’s apartment was dark, so she guessed that he had gone to sleep or maybe was watching one of those documentaries he was so fond of. She decided to not disturb him: she was sure that with few hours of sleep he would be more accommodating, and the next morning she would be able to tell him how sorry she was over a cup of tea.

The next day, though, he didn’t show up; Teresa heard him closing the door and hurrying down the stairs, and the sobs died in her throat when she was left alone at her kitchen island with two cups of tea in her hands. She shook her head, a little exasperated. If he wanted to play it like that, so be it. She wrote him a note and left it underneath his door, telling him that she was going to get back home in a  few hours and that then they would have speak. Unfortunately, she met Brenda, from PR, and the woman started telling Teresa all the latest gossips about their director, resulting in the cop arriving over half an hour later than what she had told him.

“Ehy” she said, the breath dying in her throat as she got closer to him, who was standing right before her apartment. “I’m glad you got my message.”

Jane crossed his arms, and his burning glare almost physically hurt her. “I’ve been waiting here for over thirty minutes.” He simply said, empty and cold. Gone was the man she had met weeks before, busy flirting with her that nothing could stop.

“I’ve met a coworker while I was out, and…..”

“Figures.” He snorted. Ignoring his attempt at sarcasm, Teresa went to sit on the floor, at his side. Even if he was rolling his eyes, Jane mimicked Teresa’s position, but looked away. She was keeping her eyes closed, breathing in his scent, tea and mint and just man.  A small smile was gracing her lips: a clear indication that she had missed him.

“You better hurry if you want to explain to me what you meant in your office yesterday. I’m busy and I have an appointment.”

Teresa shivered, clearly shocked. “You’re still upset.”

He snorted. “Oh, I don’t know. Do you think that I’m allowed to be upset, as you introduced me as your contractor to your boss… or whoever the guy was?”

Lisbon closed her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose. She took a big breath and stood in silence for few seconds: she didn’t want for Jane to get upset, or for herself to say things she would get to regret. “Jane, you are working on my kitchen. Technically speaking, you are my contractor.” She paused. “And Hannigan isn’t my boss.”

“Nice,” he said, more to himself. “Didn’t remember that to sign a contract you are required to have a few rounds of sex before.”

“Jane, it was more or less a…” She moved her hands frantically, frustrated with herself, with Jane, with Hannigan and the whole damn world. “It was more or less a joke what I said.”

He turned to face her, dead serious. “Hilarious, Teresa, really.”

Something trembled inside Teresa’s chest; looking into his stormy eyes, she knew that things weren’t going as she had planned. She had thought that just a couple of words would have set things all right. That they would have joked about it and ended up in bed drinking red wine directly from the bottle with Jane telling her that it didn’t mean she was an alcoholic, but now she knew that whatever she had done, in his eyes was terrible and not easily forgivable.

“Listen, if you are upset that I introduced you as my contractor, I’m sorry. I made a mistake, all right? Let’s forget about it and move on.” She said, her eyes closed, pinching the bridge of her nose. She was tired, of everything, but Jane didn’t seem to want to have any of it, and as he stood, he just shook his head, hands on his hips, an expression of rage and disillusion printed on his beautiful features- it was such an hard contrast that it almost made her sick. “It’s just that… you both took me by surprise. And… you didn’t even tell me why you were in my office.”

“You know what?” He told her, his arm stretched before him to stop her from advancing furthermore as he saw her standing too. “It doesn’t matter.”

“It does!” she told him, trying to get closer to him but failing, the plea written all over her face. “I know I made a mistake, but try to understand me. What should have I said?”

“The truth!” he all but screamed, pointing a finger at her, accusingly;  he lowered his voice as soon as he had said the two words, and he said them again, his eyes almost glassy with unshed tears. “You could have said the truth.”

“Jane…” she said, her eyes still closed. She took a big breath, trying to think, but her mind was empty: she didn’t know what to say, how to defend herself, because, truth to be told, she couldn’t. When she had seen Jane, all she had thought about was protecting her privacy, because she didn’t want for her co-workers to discover she was sleeping with a former carnie-raised con-man.

He had probably understood what she was thinking, for after a glance he shook his head. “I thought you understood I wasn’t that man any longer.” she tried to take another step, but yet again he stopped her. “I don’t need for you to say the words, to know that you were ashamed to be seen with me. Because of what I was. Because of how I grew up.” He snorted, and it broke her heart more than her father had ever done.

“No, I am just private. I don’t like mixing work and my private life, that’s all. I don’t like my coworkers knowing too much about what I do outside the office because I know they would spend their time maliciously talking about me behind my back, and you shouldn’t think that…”

“Well, you know what, Teresa? I am such a good cold-reader, that when you didn’t introduce me as the man you are dating, I thought that you were ashamed of me!”

“Because I’m not screaming to the whole wide world that we have a relationship? Forgive me if I’m trying to keep my private life private!” she screamed through her teeth, moving her hands around so frustrated she was.

“Ok, so, let me get this straight: you aren’t ashamed of me, you are just a very private person. Is that what you are trying to tell me?” He said, calmly, but his eyes told her he was feeling the exact opposite. She hated that aspect of him, that even when he was mad, he was so damn controlled. She could never really read him. For him, everything was either a joke or dead serious, there was no grey zone.

Teresa closed her eyes, and took a big breath, and again she pinched the bridge of her nose. She was tired. She didn’t know what else she was supposed to say, she had tried everything, and everything had failed. Maybe… maybe a bit of truth wasn’t going to hurt, right? After all, it was what he wanted. “Jane, Hannigan never liked me, and do you have idea how dangerous… and… and poisonous gossip could be in my line of work? I am a woman, Jane, in a male-predominant world. A woman with a good position. In charge of many men. One wrong word… the smallest mistake… a wrong step…. And I’m marked. For life.”

Jane leaned against the wall, shaking his head. He was almost laughing, but there was nothing funny about it. Only, he was wondering why he hadn’t seen it coming, how he could have missed it.

“Oh, I see. This about that famous promotion that is in the air, right? And I’m not good for your image of workaholic…” he said the words like he was disgusted, which wasn’t far from the truth. He shook his head once again.

“Don’t be childish, Jane.” She said, her fists closed tightly, her knuckles white.

“Childish? Me? No, my dear. I’m not the one who can’t understand that there’s more to life than a damn promotion!”

“Of course! It’s better hiding your head in the sand!” she replied, vexed. “Oh, Mighty Jane, please forgive me if not all of us can afford the luxury to hide in an old apartment because we are scared of the future! We common mortals have to keep living and go to work every damn day!”

It was a low hit, and they both knew it- something that Jane didn’t appreciate. “What are you trying to tell me, Teresa?”

She shook her head, and went back in direction of her apartment, her arms crossed. “Nothing, all right? They were just words.” But she meant the world. Only, she didn’t feel like psychoanalyzing him right now. Too many things were being said, and she knew that they would get to regret them all.

“I’m not hiding. I made a decision. I changed my life. And you know why.” He calmly said. His low and controlled tone told her how much he was angry,  how much she was hurting him in that moment. But she didn’t care. Somehow, the seal had been broken, and she couldn’t keep it inside any longer-despite wanting to. “I just don’t want you to come to regret your choices, like it happened to me.”

“No, Jane, you don’t understand… you can’t ask me to… to throw away everything… all my hard work… so many years spent in the Force… for… for a fling!” her tone was so vehement that Jane actually gasped, his eyes wide open in shock and surprise. 

“That’s how you see it?” He asked, his tone so low that it was almost a whisper. His eyes were fixed on the ground, so that she couldn’t see them, but she immediately knew that, despite her best efforts, she had just shattered a piece of him.

“Jane… how can I know what you want, or what this is?” she shook her head, and her eyes fell on his left hand. When she spoke again, her voice was resigned. “I know that, I must be important, if you choose me to be the first woman after your wife, but… but you even still wear your wedding ring. And don’t tell me it doesn’t mean anything.”

His eyes fell on the old wedding band, and his memory went back to the day Angela had put it on him, after having bailed Danny out of jail. He had never took it off, ever, and the thought of doing just so saddened him to no end. It make everything more final, made his guilt so much stronger.

“There’s always a risk in every relationship, and sometimes…” he took a big breath, and then lifted his eyes once again, staring at Teresa. “sometimes we have to take baby steps.”

But Teresa shook her head. “I’m sorry Jane, but I can’t risk any longer.” she paused. “Try to understand me.”

He got closer and closer, his eyes were still teary, but he was still hopeful. She didn’t want to risk for nothing but maybe, if he gave her something…maybe, just maybe… “What if I asked you to risk it? What if I took off my wedding band now, and asked you to tell your friends and coworkers that we are together?”

The hairs on the back of her neck stood to attention. God. Few of the people she worked with, and for, wanted for all cops to live for the job alone. And besides, it wasn’t just that: Jane was, well, Jane, with his shady past and everything. Ardilles would have killed her, saying that she was painting a target on her back, that everybody was going to doubt her and so on…

Jane took a big breath. “It’s ok, Lisbon” he said, using her surname, something he hadn’t done in a long time and that broke her heart. “You made your choice. And we’ll both have to live with that.”

“Jane…” she said, as he started to walk away. He couldn’t ask her something like that, couldn’t tell her that she was supposed to make a choice, because really, there was no choice to make. She had worked too long, too hard to get where she was, she was finally respected and well-seen. She couldn’t ruin it all because of an adventure, a story without a future, something she hadn’t programmed and was in no way ready for.

“Jane, wait, where are you going?” she screamed as he was already at the front door, many floors underneath her. She run and run and run, and almost got hurt on the stairs as she caught up with him.

“I’m going to the cemetery.” He simply said, walking in the street without turning to look at her.

“Jane, we need to talk.” She told him as she walked at his side. He was a quick walker, but she was well trained and in shape, and it wasn’t a problem at all for Lisbon.

“We talked, Teresa. I asked you to tell people about us, and you said no. There’s nothing left to say.”

“I didn’t say no!”

“Nope. You hesitated, which, let me tell you, is way worse than a simple no.”

She shook her head, hands in the pockets of her pants. “Jane, I could be promoted. And if… and when it will happen, it will be a good thing! And then we could discuss telling people!”

He shook his head, still walking, still refusing to face her- he didn’t see why. She had already set her mind on this, after all.  “You don’t get it.”

“No, you are not getting it.” she told him, a finger accusingly pointing at him, mid-air. “You don’t get how hard and difficult it had been for me, getting where I am today. There’s much more going on here than you and your huge ego!”

Ego? He blinked, unable to believe what he was hearing. She thought it was all about him and his ego, she didn’t see the slightest problem with herself. “Yeah, you are right.” he simply said, and then, he moved to stop a passing taxy, leaving her there, alone. Like she seemed to want to be.

Once inside the taxy, he just couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened and what she had said; he felt like hitting something- or rather, someone- but he knew it was nor the time or the place for destructive behavior. He leaned against the seat, and covered his face with his hand, feeling engulfed by void and nothingness. But after all, what was he supposed to do? Teresa wasn’t going to put him first, and he couldn’t accept to be second best, he was too proud for that.

But, he didn’t know if he could live in a limbo either, being that close to her, and yet being denied her touch, her smile for the rest of his life. The mere thought of her, moving on with her life, finding someone to love, scared him more than anything: he didn’t know if he could have survived looking at her getting married, having children, a family and a life that wasn’t going to include him.

So, really, there was only one thing left to do, he thought while looking at old calls. He pressed the re-dial key on his mobile, and wondered if, in few days’ time, she was still going to call him a coward.
My family would have wanted that. And Teresa, she will not care.

       On Saturday, Teresa managed to go through her routine at almost light speed, and she blamed it on the lack of noise; the building was quiet, too quiet for her own taste. She wasn’t used to that any longer; the noise had filled her life, a sweet reminder of Jane’s presence at her side.  But now, it wasn’t like that any longer.

Once again her mind traveled back to their last conversation, still unable to process fully what happened and exactly what he wanted from her; he had been apparently heartbroken when she had described their relationship like a mere fling, but yet, she still didn’t know where they stood. She knew only one thing. She didn’t want for things between them to end- not like that, at least.

Shaking her head, she decided that she would talk with Ray, and then with Jane, trying to calm him down, to make him see reason; with that in mind, she called her “ex”, and he immediately jumped at the idea of more time with her, when she asked him to come over earlier, breaking furthermore Teresa’s heart. Ray was a good man, and he didn’t deserve what she was going to do and to say- especially not when he had believed that they were probably going to spend the rest of their life together.

Ray arrived over half an hour later, and she was still shaking; it took all her willpower to not run away and hide, but that, despite not being her style, wasn’t something she could do. Now, it was time to take action. But when she opened the door, Ray sent daggers though her, and he seemed everything but understanding.

“Shorts? Teresa, I know it’s still early, but if we want to make it to lunch at the Firehouse you’ll have to…” A sudden movement stopped Ray from saying more, and he turned; from the stairs, Jane had just emerged, with his usual Saturday grocery shoppers. “Oh, ehy neighbor. Is everything all right with the tube?”

“Yeah, I’ve already installed it” Jane answered, grim, his eyes on Teresa, as he shook hands with Ray, trying to make the experience as painful as possible for the other man.

“Teresa told me you are working on her kitchen.” Ray started as they finally parted. “Do you think you could talk her into remodel the whole apartment? I’ve been trying to talk her into it for years, but she doesn’t want to listen to any reason. At all.”

“Yeah, well… you know Teresa. She always needs a plan.” He replied with mock cordiality. “And she likes to stick with them.”

“That’s not always true!” Teresa quickly replied, getting in the middle of the conversation, her eyes fixed on Jane. “In fact, I wanted to see you this evening, and discuss about some new plans I’m working on.”

“Ah, well, I fear you’ll not be able to count on me. My plane leaves in a few hours.” He paused, turning his attention to Ray. “I’ve accepted a job in Los Angeles.”

She looked at him, stunned. She knew that he had been receiving offers, and he had talked about the LAPD being particularly insistent, but he had never mentioned that he was actually going to accept. She didn’t know what to do, so nothing more than a barely audible “oh” left her lips.

“Yeah. The LAPD made an excellent offer, and there’s nothing that keeps me here any longer.”

“Oh” she repeated. She couldn’t believe it. Jane was leaving. No more shared cups of tea and coffee in the morning, no more passionate encounters in random places, no more sweet nights spent in his bed, spooned by him. “Are you sure that there’s nothing left here for you?” she asked, taking a step in his direction.

He looked at her, deciding that there and then that it was her chance of making it right, at fixing things between them. One last chance, Teresa. “I don’t know, Teresa. Can you think of one reason, one alone, that could keep me here?”

She opened her mouth, trying to tell him that yes, there were so many reasons for him to stay there. Danny and his parents, who still loved Jane, his wife and daughter’s graves, his apartment, and… her. But she couldn’t say so; she couldn’t break Ray’s heart by saying that she was breaking up because she had cheated on him with Jane, besides, Jane was finally moving on: who was she to stop him?

She opened her mouth to say something, what, she didn’t know, but Ray was quicker,  shaking again Jane’s hand. “I guess you’ll still have few things to do, so I think it’s better if we let you go.”

“Yeah” Jane simply said, looking at Teresa and trying to read her. “Goodbye, Teresa.”

“Jane…” she stopped him, her voice low, but it stung like a tornado, moving him in ways he had never thought possible. He turned, and the plea died in her throat. She couldn’t stop him now: it wouldn’t be fair to him. “Good luck, Patrick.”

“You too, Teresa.” he went back to his apartment, and he had just entered when Ray chuckled and made himself comfortable in Teresa’s place.

“God blessed! Now you’ll finally stop to think about that guy and concentrate again on more important things…” he said, patting the space on the couch next to him, while Teresa still stood by the closed door, her eyes were focused on him, and she wondered how she had missed it all. It wasn’t like he didn’t know about her and Jane, he just didn’t care too much about it.

“You know Ray, I think you should leave.” She said, opening her door and keeping it open for Ray. “Because I’m not sure I’ll be able to forget about Jane so quickly.”

“But… I reserved a table at the Firehouse…” She looked at him like she was seeing him for the first time. She had practically admitted her relationship, told him she couldn’t forget about Jane, but he seemed more hurt by the fact he was going to show up alone at the restaurant when he had booked for two. Ray got closer and closer to her, and looked at her like a disappointed parent would his child. When he tried to touch her, she took a step back, and shook her head.

“Yeah, well, I fear I’ll be too busy with my dirty fantasies about “the guy” to be hungry.” And saying so, she pushed him out, and closed the door at her back.

       Work and cleaning kept her occupied for the whole weekend, and for that, Teresa was grateful, because having her mind filled stopped her from running to Jane every time she thought about how they had ended things. But after all, what would have changed? She wasn’t ready to accept him in her life, and Jane didn’t want to be part of her life in a marginal way.  Sighing, she realized that it was better if she started to consider him a momentary distraction; a marvelous, unexpected and sensual distraction that had lasted for a few incredible days, but now it was time that it stopped and that everyone returned to life at it was supposed to be.

So, on Monday, she got dressed, applied make-up and smiled at herself in the mirror, hoping that the world would see a woman who was sure in her own skin, and not one who had cried herself to sleep because the  man she was probably in love with had left because she hadn’t accepted his ultimatum.

When she reached her office, immediately Minelli’s secretary approached her and told her to join her superior and Director Bertram in the man’s office. Taking a big breath, she took off her jacket, left her purse at her desk and followed the older woman, hoping that it was what she thought: the air had been electric for days, as rumors of Minelli’s early retirement after his new relationship had hit the grapevine at the CBI- and she and Hannigan were the top candidates.

Staying calm, she walked through the double glass door, and saw her two superiors sitting behind Minelli’s desk, busy reading files. Drying her sweating palms on the back of her trousers, she cleared her voice and knocked on the glass to make her presence known.

“Ah, Agent Lisbon. Please, take a seat.” Bertram offered her, showing a chair in front of Minelli.  She did as she was told, and she and Minelli exchanged a gesture of salutation with their heads, nothing too formal- after so many years spent working together, it was the last of their needs.

“Let’s skip the pleasantries and  get to the point” Bertram cut short, his fingers interlaced over his belly. “You’ve been a precious member of our agency for years, Teresa, and we’ve all learned to appreciate your dedication and despite your methods not always been so… orthodox, we can’t deny you’ve always produced excellent results.”

She started to shiver and feel butterflies in her stomach. Oh God. It was happening. It was happening for real. “I’m glad I was given the chance to join the CBI.”

Bertram smiled, nodding. “As you know, Minelli will leave us in a few weeks, and after a careful discussion, we’ve decided that you’ll be the one to take his place.”

Teresa stopped to hold her breath. Finally, after all the hard work, after all the late nights, early mornings and skipped weekends, they were taking her in proper consideration. Despite her age, her sex and her past. Being almost on top of the food chain felt good- just, not as good as she had always assumed.

“Thanks you, Director Bertram. I’ll not betray your trust.” She stood up, and smiled politely as Bertram shook her hand.
“I know you’ll make us proud, Teresa.” Minelli said, with a little smile. Despite everything, he was a good man who worried about his people, and he cared for her like he would have his own child.

“Good.” Bertram cut in, giving her few documents and many files. “I hope you’ll not mind, but I’d like for you to start as soon as possible. Minelli will not be with us at the next balance meeting, so I’d like for you to join us. There are few things I’d like you to read and consider before joining the rest of the council and the other heads of departments….”

“Of course.” She nodded, deciding that her moment of glory would have been postponed to the next available weekend.
She worked all day at her desk on the files Bertram and Minelli had given her, and when she went back home, late at night, she found a tube right before her door. She cautiously inspected the object from afar, knowing that she could never be too careful given her line of work, and once decided that it didn’t seemed like a risk, she took it and brought it home. She opened the cylinder, and emptied it on her coffee table, discovering that it contained few sheets of paper; one was the project she had worked on for her kitchen, while the other one was hand-written, with Jane’s elegant handwriting, and it contained the names of few contractors in the area. Names and numbers, and nothing else, not a word, not a goodbye, just the list.

Suddenly, she didn’t feel like celebrating any longer.
Tags: !2013, au, bigbag, jane, lisbon, multichapter, romance, the mentalist
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