Maura's workspace was always quiet, but the silence seemed to settle more firmly than usual. It was that way around the holidays, when the building seemed nearly empty save the few sleepy volunteers that stayed through some sort of indifference or simply bad luck. She always volunteered, rationalizing that it was better for those with loved ones to have the opportunity to be with them. If she was called in, it wouldn't spoil anything.
She didn't have anyone at home to be disappointed. She told herself that work made the season go by faster, and that almost made her content with it. Jane had probably long disappeared to what she could only imagine was a raucous, warm family night different from the formal dinners she had grown up with. Any other night, and the brunette might have dropped by with a cup of coffee or the offer of takeout. Now instead of anticipating the casual exchange, she was in the middle of a stack of paperwork—the things she saved until last to do.
Jane was halfway to Revere when her phone flashed as a new e-mail came in. She saw the subject, the sender, and turned back at the next intersection. Her mother would kill her, but that could wait. By the time she parked snow was starting to fall, and she hurried inside the building. There was no one at reception, offices were dark, save the familiar one at the end of the hallway. Jane knocked as she pushed open the door.
"Jane?" Maura furrowed her brow and immediately reached for her cell phone. She knew she hadn't turned the ringer off, but she hadn't gotten any calls about a new case, and Jane's cheeks were slightly flushed, as if she had been in a hurry. "No one called me…I'll get my things." She was already standing, moving for her field kit. "What happened?"
Jane watched Maura start to pull herself together, to prepare to face whatever gruesome scene they might have been called to that night. For once she was thankful that it wasn't the news she brought. "No Maura, nothing like that." She held up her phone, "I just got an update from you on a poisoning case at half-past eight on Christmas Eve."
"Oh…" Maura deflated slightly, but she quickly smiled to cover it. She wasn't wishing for more work that night, at least not the kind of work that would take Jane and their team away from their families. But she had little desire to go home, not yet at least. It would be a drive past twinkling Christmas lights and families on their ways too and from church. "Yes, i was just going over a few things." She reached for the stack on her desk and prodded and pushed it until it was pristine.
"That's exactly my point Maura." Jane nodded toward the door. "Come on."
"Jane, shouldn't you be with your family…it's getting late." Maura ran her fingertips over the top of the stack in an effort to settle her thoughts. The simplest explanation was generally the most likely, but she wasn't sure that anything about Jane was simple. "I'm just going to finish a few things and head home for the night. I'm on call."
"I know." Jane stepped over and took down Maura's overcoat. "It is getting late, and for once Maura, I'm not taking no for an answer." She watched the other woman's expression subtly shift. It was the look of someone twisting between what they think they deserve, and what they desperately want.
"You don't ever seem to take 'no' for an answer," Maura said finally, her voice quiet. There was every chance she would be called back that night, and there was every chance that things would remain quiet for a little while. She looked to her work—work that was neither urgent nor essential—in an effort to avoid Jane's eyes for just a moment.
Their friendship hadn't developed quickly, but they found an immediate kinship in their situations. Maura wasn't sure when she'd begun wanting it to be more than all of that or when Jane had been showing subtle physical shifts that indicated she might feel the same. And now this—this moment that was almost overwhelming in the gesture itself and what it could potentially be. "I'd hate to trouble your mother," she said as she reached for her overcoat.
Jane slid the coat over Maura's arms, and waited while the other woman buttoned it closed. Her hair was down, and fell in loose curls over her shoulders, and against the soft scarf she wrapped around her neck. Jane couldn't help but smile, having long since given up comparing herself to Maura's natural elegance.
She shrugged. "My Mother loves to be troubled, but that's not what I had in mind." They walked out of the building into the cold night air. The snow was falling faster, the city around them surprisingly quiet. It's residents were mostly home-tucking small children into bed, or sharing a last drink with family. Jane steered them away from her car, "I thought we'd take a walk," she responded to Maura's unasked question.
Maura cocked her head thoughtfully, but she didn't speak when she saw the intent in Jane's eyes, instead simply pulling her gloves out of her pockets and sliding her hands into them. As they took measured steps, she took the opportunity to take a sidelong glance at Jane, watching the snow stand out against her dark hair. Against the soft glow of the night sky she was unassumingly beautiful. It had taken Maura a long time to see that. "It's a beautiful night…" Almost as beautiful as the pages of the holiday story books, pages that Maura as a child had turned breathlessly, carefully so as not to dirty the corners or rip the edges.
Jane let the frigid air fill her lungs, washing away the upheaval and fears of the past- those that were known, and also the ones she held most personal. They crossed a street, and the cobblestones gave way to smoother paths of the Boston Common. The quiet closed in around them, but the darkness was suspended by trees hung with myriad colored lights. Here, the snow hadn't been plowed, and it crunched softly underfoot. She walked closer to Maura and didn't feel the other woman shift away.
A small gasp escaped Maura's lips, realized in a puff of crystallization that evaporated in the air. She looked around them, feeling that almost the barest movements threatened to disturb the profoundness of the quiet, but when her eyes settled on Jane, when she saw the colors reflected there in the brunette's dark eyes, a soft smile came to her face. "All the time I've been here, and I've never taken this walk…" She found herself reaching for Jane's hand, compelled to share the moment more closely.
"Then this is time well-spent." Jane felt a thrill run through her at the touch, and the ache that persisted in her hands faded. She couldn't recall the last time she'd simply walked hand-in-hand with someone, and the thought startled her.
Their path came to a crest in a hill, and the Common stretched out in front of them. Jane smiled before pulling Maura up to stand on a concrete ledge beside her, steadying her as she looked around. The lights of the park sparkled, illuminating the falling snow, and the laughter of the last iceskaters out late at the frog pond echoed quietly in the distance.
Jane's stomach fluttered, and she pulled Maura closer, breath catching as the other woman turned away from the view to face her. They were close- so close that there was little hope of pulling away and denying the moment like so many times before.
The sounds seemed both impossibly near and wholly distant, but Maura focused on the sound of her own beating heart against the measured puffs of Jane's breath. She looked up at her for a long moment, grasping words only to find none. Snowflakes floated slowly between them, suspended in air, turning over and over for mere moments before settling on their coats, the hands, melting against Jane's cheeks. "It's not true," she said softly, "that each one is unique. Some are…some…" She moved closer as she spoke, the minute space between them diminishing to the point where her lips touched Jane's in a shock of unexpected warmth. Some were identical. Some were close or mirror images. They all melted between the heat of their bodies as Maura pressed close, all else falling away as they both realized what they had wanted and let the moment linger for them and for them only.