A/N: As always, the characters aren't mine (or they'd be doing stuff like this all the time). Thanks so much for reading!
The change is sharp and sudden—inhale, and everything is status quo; exhale, and nothing will ever be quite the same. Funny little insignificant things that could just about be ignored. And at least at first, they were all things that could be reasoned away.
If she squinted and didn't put too much effort into the logic behind it all.
Monday morning, and she feels the slit of her skirt give way as she ducks under the yellow crime scene tape. Her cheeks colour, and she fidgets, trying to surreptitiously feel the tear, but it simply doesn't exist. The skirt is as perfectly tailored as it should be, and this was all probably a trick of the wind—but she still hasn't worn it since.
Tuesday waiting for the elevator, and she can't shake the feeling of her blazer slipping down her left shoulder. Even when she holds it in place and knows for a fact that it hasn't and isn't going anywhere. She schedules herself a spa appointment, will make sure her masseur focuses squarely on her trapezius and releasing whatever tension is trapped there.
Wednesday is a bit more interesting. Her scrub pants—dowdy, elasticated, and draw-stringed tightly – seem to slide over her hips without the least bit of resistance, and she just manages to avoid dropping a severely diseased liver with the shock of it. She carefully places the organ in a basin, calmly removes her gloves, and doubles the knot on the drawstring. It does nothing to stop the sensation from repeating a moment later—and she's stretched logic just about as far as it will go.
On Thursday, it seems like every garment she wears is impossibly possessed. Her tank-top during her morning jog-turned-sprint, lungs burning as her feet pound the pavement. Her slacks as she ascends the steps into the station. Her scrub top, the buttons on her blouse, even the elastic in her hair….
By mid-morning, she's so frazzled and short-fused that the criminalists are afraid to come anywhere near her.
By mid-afternoon, she's developed something like a working theory. Less logical than any she's posited until that moment, maybe, but she's desperate, and it's the only thing that even halfway makes sense.
So the next morning, she sets out to test it. It should be easy enough. She knows anatomy and she knows fashion—and she knows which combination of the two is most deadly.
The control group consists of every living body she comes into contact with.
The test subject is singular.
She thinks she knows the outcome already.
The elevator dings, and Maura tries not to tug at her skirt as the doors whoosh open. The dress is short, form-fitting, and usually reserved for hours after five. The blazer thrown over it makes the ensemble just this-side of work-appropriate, and though invisible, the lacy garments underneath push up and hold in so perfectly that little is left to the imagination.
She's already gotten her share of looks throughout the morning, but there's only one that matters, and she steels herself as she starts the short walk from the elevator, her heels seeming to fire like gunshots in the empty hallway.
It starts almost as soon as she enters the bullpen, but not immediately—that part's important. It's once her presence is known, heads snapping in her direction, following the sound of heels and the promise of a skirt. And she holds her breath, waiting to see what it'll be this time….
The sensation that she's no longer wearing any shoes.
Easy. Shoes, she can handle.
It's unsettling, but also not true, and she wiggles her toes to remind herself of the fact—feels the lift of her arch, the slight vibration of each clicking step that travels up her calf muscles.
I am fully clothed. Fully clothed. Fully clothed.
The room is packed. The Drug Control Unit and Family Justice Division temporarily camped out in Homicide awaiting a briefing on an especially complicated case that has them all grumpily overlapping. But there could've been one other person there and the sensation would be the same.
Because it all (always) comes down to Jane.
Jane, who has an eyebrow raised in silent question.
Jane, who manages to keep her mouth closed but hasn't blinked once since Maura's entered the room.
Jane, whose increasingly long and burning glances have her more than a little hot under the collar (and positively on fire in other places).
Something has to give. She's already struggling to make the mental notes she needs to prove her theory. But Jane is stubborn and so damn confusing that it would be easier to dissect a cadaver blindfolded than to get her to have an actual conversation—and Maura has had quite enough of the innuendo-laced wisecracks from that (oh-to-tempting) mouth.
'Preliminary autopsy results.' Maura all but tosses the file at Korsak, who seems a bit startled to find the papers in his hands. She tilts her head, takes a breath… 'Jane? A word.'
The retort has its usual snap, but Jane's dark eyes are wide in its wake, her jaw muscles clenching. She hadn't meant to say it, clearly, and still, her gaze has yet to move from that spot on Maura's chest that's just north of leering.
Almost immediately, there's a snicker from a far corner of the room. Something like a whistle a bit too close to her ear. Half a laugh a few feet away that's covered poorly by a cough and the vigorous shuffling of papers.
Maura folds her arms, tries to shoot Jane a look—wonders if even that's transformed like everything else, some not-so-hidden emotion taking the place of what should be exasperation. (Her jacket seems to have fallen from her shoulder, but she knows it hasn't moved at all.)
'Antidisestablishmentarianism,' Jane tries again, an effort to save face, but with a little less confidence now—and a hard blink that forces her line of sight to move.
'What, not the word you're looking for?'
'Now.' Emphasised like the crack of a whip, the harshness sudden, and she can almost hear the room's collective intake of breath. She adds a soft, 'Please.'
Jane seems to melt at the sound of it, just enough so her edges aren't quite as sharp, her teasing a bit gentler as she shoots one last scathing look around the bullpen (every last pair of eyes finding something interesting in an opposite direction) and follows Maura into the hall. 'What's up, doc?'
It shouldn't seem such a loaded question.
'You're…,' Maura tries, bites her bottom lip.
Now that she has the detective's undivided (and not undressing) attention, she's not quite sure what to do with it.
You're looking at me is too vague and stupid and obvious.
You're making me uncomfortable is too open for interpretation—and not entirely true.
You're looking at me like something you want to devour in more ways than one and it's making it more than a little difficult for me to focus on victims and autopsies and anything that isn't the tingling between my legs is a bit too shockingly to the point, even for her. (She probably wouldn't get past the fifth word anyway.)
So Maura hedges, as they've both been doing for so long, and shakes her head. 'Never mind. If you could just look over those autopsy results and—'
'You didn't drag me into the hall for autopsy results, Maura.' Jane fidgets like a five-year-old, shifting her weight and folding her arms. 'You practically drilled Korsak in the nose with them.'
'No,' she agrees, letting the quirk of an eyebrow say the obvious I never have to drag you anywhere, detective.
She thinks Jane blushes. But she still holds her own. (Always does—having the last word is almost a Rizzoli requirement, even if the word in question isn't a particularly good one.)
'It can wait, Jane.'
'Really?' The raised eyebrow is enticing, and Maura resists the sudden urge to taste it with one long swipe of the tongue—wonders what exactly Jane would do if she did. Jane huffs out a breath. 'And it couldn't wait thirty seconds ago when you put on that angry schoolteacher voice and sent me into the hall?'
'If you could have stopped acting like a petulant child for thirty seconds, maybe I wouldn't have had to.'
Jane's hands twitch, as if she has to keep them from reaching out.
Maura's heart hammers with adrenaline and wondering where those fingers would have landed. The bare skin of her hands? The sleeve of her jacket? A shoulder, a hip, the small of her back? She finds herself mirroring the action, a helpless little flutter that settles for smoothing down her dress, a not-much-used part of her brain screaming very un-Maura-like things: Jesus Christ, woman, just fucking touch me for the love of—
But Jane is Jane. All denial and twinkling eyes and mischief quirking a corner of her mouth. 'Keep pulling me into dark corners—'
'Fluorescent lighting hardly makes this a dark corner.'
'—and people are gonna get the wrong idea.'
Jane says it as though it's only a joke. (One she's made so many times that Maura would have lost count if each of the 82 instances weren't burned into her memory.) But there's a strange twist to it this time. Half baiting, waiting for Maura to make the first move—and half desperation, as if afraid of what might actually be true.
It's Jane's eyes that betray her. Every damn time and with increasing frequency.
(They know exactly what they fucking want. And aren't very subtle, at that.)
Maura feels a coolness on her legs as if she's suddenly lost her stockings (inch by inch, down her thighs, over her knees). It's ridiculous. A figment of my imagination. A mistake of nerve pathways causing me to feel a sensation that's not actually there. She rubs a shin against the back of her other calf, feels the roughness of her pantyhose, knows they haven't really gone anywhere at all.
(Imaginations—or nerve pathways—care very little for logic. She feels phantom fingertips brushing the crease of a hip, sliding so-slowly down her thigh, swears her stockings must be around her ankles at this point.)
And that's enough to break her.
Everything comes out in a rush, squashed into a single word on a harsh whisper.
It hangs there, so fucking true it's physically painful, and Maura feels a stitch in her side, her breath coming quickly as though she's broken into a sudden sprint after weeks of nothing more than light jogging.
Jane doesn't move. She doesn't have a quick quip, doesn't it shoot it down outright. Her mouth's a perfect o, the start to some unknown word that eventually ends up as a question.
'I'm ogling you?'
Maura tries not to bite her lip as she runs through definitions, making sure she's settled on the right word. Ogle: verb; to eye amorously or provocatively; to look at especially with greedy or interested attention.
'Well, yes.' She stops to take a breath, more to steel herself than anything. 'I doubt you're doing it on purpose, but while we're both at work, it would be helpful if—'
'What, so I'm not supposed to look at you?'
Maura feels a strange fuzzy feeling in her throat at the thought of it, and Jane looks a bit like she'd find running naked through the bullpen more appealing. More than that, though, it's what is so glaringly unsaid—If Jane can't look at her like that, she can't look at her at all. Maybe it's that that catches Maura's voice, dropping it much more into Jane's usual register.
'Of course you can look at me, Jane.'
It sounds much more come-hither than she meant it, dripping with need and want and pleeeease, and Jane visibly swallows, slowly undoing buttons with her eyes.
'Then I don't know what you want.'
Denial, maybe. A defence mechanism. A flat-out lie.
Probably some combination of the three.
The door to the bullpen bangs open, a balding and pot-bellied man poking his head (and a good portion of his stomach) into the hallway. Maura has seen him around the station but has never had the (dis)pleasure of interacting with him until this moment. 'Jesus Christ, Rizzoli, you gonna keep making out with your girlfriend or help us do some actual goddamn work?'
Maura feels a hand on her bicep, tugging her back, and Jane suddenly looms large before her, arm still out as a shield. There's a crackle of electricity and anger, the detective glancing at her doctor for just a fraction of a second before diverting her attention to the threat.
'So by your definition, McGee, if two of your female co-workers are having a conversation, that makes them lesbians?' Jane spits back, her tone just cordial enough but her eyes shooting daggers. 'I'm sure HR would love to hear that.'
Worked up and overly protective, Jane is undeniably sexy. Now of course, Maura can hold her own—especially against soft middle-aged men—normally wouldn't go for sitting idly by as the damsel in distress, but she can't help going a little uncharacteristically weak in the knees. It's in these small gestures, where Jane is stripped raw of thought and fuelled by pure emotion, that she always finds herself falling a little further into what must be love.
'Jeez, a bit sensitive, huh? Must be your time of the—'
'Finish that sentence and so help me….'
Maura can't see the look, but knows it must be scathing.
'Alright, alright, keep your panties on.' His hands are in the air now, but he still manages to roll his eyes. 'We're just waiting to go over the briefing, but whenever you're ready, your highness.'
'Damn right whenever I'm ready.'
With a grumble, the man disappears, the door slamming closed behind him. He's just personally ensured that every person in that room will be waiting that much longer before Jane Rizzoli decides to grace them with her presence.
'The sooner we break this case, the better—' Jane's voice rumbles, low and hard like loose gravel, '—or we'll be investigating his homici—'
The sentence stops—chopped mid-word, and with a small squeak of surprise.
And Maura realises she's kissing her.
Except it's not exactly a kiss. Not really. It's almost as though she's tripped into it, no logical thought or motion behind the gesture. And yes, there are mouths touching—that much of the definition fits—and that might be just the tip of a tongue, but it's more of a quick nip and a bit of a slide. Hardly textbook (or glamour magazine). Still, she's there, and Jane's lips are soft under hers, even if it is off-centre and fleeting and there's a bit too much force that has them stumbling into the wall.
It's so fast and almost non-existent that for a moment Maura thinks that when she opens her eyes it will all have been a dream (isn't sure if that might be preferable to reality). But she hears the blood rush in her ears and feels the heat of it in her cheeks, and her fingertips are on her lips, which still hum with the taste of coffee and Jane.
She blinks—light a bit too bright and colours melding.
Jane looks… amused?
Yes. There's a half-smile playing at her lips and the sense that she's about to give a snort of laughter, crack some joke about the case and how Maura must really need to get laid. (She does, obviously—but that's beside the point.)
Jane lazily jerks a thumb towards the door to the bullpen, her tone impossible to read. 'You know there's like a dozen guys in there who'd gladly start shouting insults and catcalls at something like that.'
It's not exactly a question, so Maura doesn't exactly give an answer—a brief pointed look, a hand on her hip. She knows. Of course, she knows. She's analysed every possible outcome of every possible scenario—adjusting for variables like passion and exact audience—and still it always seems worth it. Every damn time.
'And you know that if anybody saw us….'
The end to that sentence could be everything.
Or nothing at all.
Maura waits for it, but it never comes. Her push is gentle, almost whispered.
Jane slides away without answering, and for a split-second it seems as though she might head back inside without a word. But then she leans heavily against the wall, her palms smacking against it. The hall is so quiet, Maura almost wishes for crickets.
There's a sharp pang of guilt as she watches the lanky detective slumped before her, puffing a stray strand of hair out of her face. The doctor searches for an apology—something that will speak to the truth of remorse, but doesn't erase the honesty behind the action.
It's not an easy feat, and she takes her time selecting words, rejecting others. She almost has it, as she slides beside Jane—and then she feels the neckline of her dress suddenly split to her navel. It's fine and whole and not torn at all—she knows this, and manages to keep her hand from checking. Also knows that if she flicks her eyes to the left right now, she'll catch Jane not-so-subtly eyeing her cleavage.
Maura swallows hard. 'Jane?' It's a little bit breathless.
But that look—carnal and longing and fuck-me—still lingers in her eyes, and Maura can only slur the first word that makes the leap from brain to tongue (it's no surprise that it's more than a few syllables—where most people stutter, Maura Isles speaks the dictionary).
It's in that voice Jane reserves specifically for pretending to have misheard something vaguely scientific or technical. And she's nailed it. But her body language is everything. That hard look. The clenching jaw. The way her hands quiver, jumping from her sides to her hips to folding across her chest.
Whether or not she knows the term, it's clear she recognises the implication. And she knows she's guilty as sin.
'The sensation that…' Maura cocks her head, watching Jane's pulse jump, '…someone is undressing you with their eyes.'
She drags her gaze up the curve of Jane's neck, past something twisted halfway between guilt and a grin, and locking on Jane's eyes.
Jane doesn't agree. Or disagree. Or argue the fact.
For once she stays silent.
Then she's shifting position, licking her lips, slow and deliberate, and Maura doesn't even register the hand that's come to rest on her hip until she finds herself propelled forward, flush against the other woman and breathing her in. There's a small sound, something just between a breath and a whimper, and it's unclear which of them makes it—and very clear that something almost inaudible has changed the atmosphere considerably.
Jane snaps. Weeks and months of pent-up emotion and frustration finding a pinprick of release.
There's no fumbling. No hesitation. It's all heat and gentle aggression and an air of if something's worth fucking doing, it's worth doing right. The way Jane moves against her is a category of sensations all their own—head angling, fingertips sliding and finding sudden purchase, lips tugging into a grin that's almost laughter against Maura's mouth.
She thinks—as everything becomes a bit fuzzy and pink around the edges, her pulse racing adrenaline and the need for oxygen, and Jane does something so magnificent with her tongue—that this is what it must feel like to be wanted.
(She thinks that she might never be capable of logical thought again.)
It could last three years or half a second and she wouldn't know the difference.
But then Jane's pulling back, with a smug grin and those fuck-me eyes—her hand fluttering to rest on Maura's hip and squeezing. Maura wants to stop her, wants to pull her back, but she's lost all control over fine motor skills, and it seems much more important to commit that particular slightly-swollen shade of reddish-pink that's bloomed over Jane's lips to memory—especially in contrast to the light flick of a tongue that peeks out to wet them.
'Come over later.'
'What?' Maura can't catch her breath, much less make sense of sentences.
'Come over later,' Jane repeats, matter-of-factly, as if they've just been discussing work and what to do after.
'Later.' She says it like it's an actual time—can't comprehend the issue. Maura prefers sharp minutes and seconds; Jane likes fuzzier determinations: after dinner, soon, later, in a minute (or ten). Then a shrug—and Maura hates the gesture for moving Jane's hand from her. 'After work. Whenever.'
Her voice is carefree and steady—it's her eyes that do the pleading (not that they have to).
Later, but as soon as possible.
Later—because they're in the middle of a case and a workday.
Later, because if she doesn't move now, she won't at all, and then won't the BPD get a show.
Maura finds herself melting, can only nod, falling farther for this woman than she would have thought possible (she has a feeling that's a sensation that will be repeated a million times over). She had planned on joining Jane and the department for the briefing, but the proximity right now is out of the question. She forces herself to remember her anatomy, picture the pathway from brain to nerves to muscles in order to get her legs to carry her down the hall.
It's not until after she steadies the motion, muscle memory correcting those initial wobbling steps into her usual confident strut, that she feels the snap of each tooth of zipper coming undone, the chill of air on her back. She awkwardly reaches a hand behind her to fix it, not at all surprised to find that her dress is still zipped to the top.
She ventures a look back once she reaches the elevator. Jane has her hand on the door handle, but makes no motion to turn it—and no pretence of looking away when she's caught in the act.
Maura thinks she sees her wink, returns the detective's sly smile ever-so-slowly, and lets herself, for the first time, clearly picture every curve and smooth stretch of skin under that soft cotton t-shirt. She always knew the musculature and long bones there were exquisite, and the vision doesn't disappoint. Neither, for that matter, does Jane's swift reaction.
Her dark eyes widen, and she hurriedly tugs the bottom of her shirt down so far that the edge of her bra peeks out of her neckline for just an instant.
(Maura is suddenly unsure why she hasn't been doing this all along.)
Jane scowls, the rush of arousal infusing the expression making it rather unthreatening—Maura makes sure her smile is as sweet as sticky toffee.
'You did this on purpose, didn't you?'
'I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about.'
'That…' Jane waves a hand, lowers her voice to a loud whisper usually reserved for words more of the pornographic or four-letter variety, '… outfit.'
Maura shrugs, can't help smirking when Jane's mouth hangs open. 'I had to test a hypothesis.'
'Is that what we're calling it now?'
Jane manages the comeback, but it cracks a bit towards the middle, and Maura can feel the seams of her dress start to give way. She blinks slowly, holds her breath—and waits for the exact moment when Jane's eyes have torn all her clothing away. Only then, completely bare (and fully clothed)—as Jane sucks in a harsh breath down the hall—does she disappear into the elevator, skin warm and pulse pounding.
It's a promise.