The afternoon sun streamed in through the office window as Vincent Sorin settled into his accustomed place in the large, over-sized chair across from the matching one into which his patient, Maura Isles, had happily bounced and settled with a smile on her face he had not seen before.
They exchanged pleasantries as he offered tea, and he did not miss, though he did not comment on, the fact that the makeup covering the small bruise at the base of his patient's neck was wearing thin, no doubt due to the constant rubbing from the collar of her lab coat as she worked throughout the day.
Instead, in his own subtle and understated way, he handed her a cup of tea and small hand mirror he kept in the drawer of the coffee table for those patients who tended to need to double check their appearance prior to leaving his office. As he settled into his own chair, pulling out his pen and opening his notebook, he commented in an offhanded way, "My wife was apt to remind me that makeup will only make certain things disappear for so long. Time and elements, she would remind me, are never as forgiving as one would prefer." With just a hint of a smile on his face, he continued on, not breaking the flow of his words. "How was your joint session on Friday?"
Maura's lips had been pressed together as if holding back a great deal of something, and when finally she let it out, it could not have been more obvious (as if the light blush and the fingers lifting to touch the subcutaneous hematoma weren't clue enough). "It was great! But can we talk about what happened before the session, too? Because that's really, really important."
She did not, however, wait for permission. "Jane was so brave! You would have been impressed, and you don't even really know her. God, she… she was like some kind of emotional gladiator, or cowboy, or superhero, or something. I can't – I'm still reeling."
"Perhaps you should start at the beginning?" He gave a reassuring smile. "What happened that brings you to say such lofty things of Jane?"
The patient took a moment to collect herself and organize her thoughts; one could just about see them being alphabetized, labeled, and put into suitable files. "As you might imagine," she began, "the session before the one I attended was a very emotional one for Jane. She kept saying it was hard, difficult, intense, tiring… but she wouldn't say why, and you know I don't pry. That's private, and knowing that she feels about privacy even more strongly than I do, I try not to intrude. But the more she talked around it, the more I thought maybe she wanted to tell me something. It was extremely stressful trying not to ask."
Maura's narrative became almost dispassionate, by necessity: she had to explain it all before she could get to the point at which she couldn't speak. "Jane said she was scared, and it turned out, she was afraid that I wouldn't like what I heard in there. She thought, she actually thought, that she could say something that would make me angry, or not want to be her friend anymore. Can you imagine?" she laughed. "I told her she could forget that idea entirely, because there was nothing that was important to her, or a part of her, that I wouldn't be able to embrace wholeheartedly. I promised I would never judge her harshly. I think I even said I loved her, but she wasn't really listening. She was extremely agitated."
"Were you able to reassure her enough for her to be comfortable moving forward to verbalize the internal thoughts that were causing such agitation?" Sorin leaned forward, removed the hand mirror from Maura's lap, and put it away.
The woman's attention briefly was distracted; she had been holding a mirror? Refocusing quickly, however, she smiled once more. "In fact, I was. Some things are easier to say in the dark, you know. Oh – did I mention that we were in bed at the time? I know you find that significant, and to be honest, I'm really starting to see your point. Anyway, she asked me if I loved her, and naturally I told her that I did, but that she didn't have to tell me anything she didn't feel safe telling me. I thought… Well, whatever I thought, it didn't happen. Jane got out of the bed. That was very jarring." Momentarily, her brow furrowed with remembered disappointment and confusion. "When she came back, she turned the lights on and showed me what she'd gone to fetch. It was a family album. She started pointing out all the gay members of her family, or at least, the ones that are in relationships."
Maura leaned forward and said, very seriously, "You have no idea how much I just wanted to squeal, or groan, or… I don't know what I wanted, but sitting quietly wasn't at all what I had in mind. I really hoped I knew where she was going with that, but I couldn't be sure. Maybe she just wanted to let me know that she knew I was into her, and that she wasn't upset or grossed out by me. God, how awk-weird would that have been?" The coined word could not have been one of her own creation. She'd probably heard it from Jane. "To hear that your best friend knows you're crushing on her, in love with her, hot for her, and then to cuddle up and try to sleep? Ugh." She suppressed a shudder.
"Yes, I could understand where some discomfort may present itself in such a situation," the psychiatrist deadpanned before going back to his active listening mode.
"I know, right?" Maura agreed, as if she herself hadn't brought up the point originally. "Anyway, though, you should have seen it. Jane… She was so scared, and yet she didn't even look like she wanted a drink at all, and she didn't back down even a little bit. She just said what she felt, without trying to feel me up first to find out… Wait, that's wrong. Feel me around?" There was a long moment as the honey-haired woman searched her memory. "She didn't try to feel me out to learn my feelings first. She focused on hers, without expecting anything from me at all. She just," and here her hand made a sort of diving motion to illustrate her point, "jumped right in and said she was attracted to me. It was a leap of faith, if ever I've seen one. The amazing thing – well, there are two, actually. Firstly, Jane doesn't study facial expression the way I do, or the way you do, so she truly didn't know how I felt at all. She went into it entirely blind. Secondly, Jane isn't one to talk much about her feelings. Any time she does, it's significant, but something like this? Dr. Sorin, you'd have been so impressed. I know I was."
"Clearly," he commented as he took studious notes. "Maura, I sense your excitement regarding this turn of events." At his own calm wording, Sorin stopped talking, snorted in amusement, and gave a large smile. "Though," he tilted his head to acknowledge his own point, "I think it's safe to say anyone within in a 10 foot radius would be able to do the same." It took him a few tries to regain his more professional composure before he continued on. "How did your evening that evening end, and, if it's of a nature to which you'd rather not discuss for sake of privacy, modesty, or otherwise, I want to reassure you that I am in no way suggesting that you must share."
Maura giggled. "Do you really think I would go from zero to sixty that fast? With Jane?" she asked rhetorically, not to mention cheekily. "She's far more important to me than that. If I just want to get off, I have been endowed with two arms that are just the right length to place my hands within reach of my primary and secondary sexual organs. No. We hugged it out and went to sleep. That's it. Not even kissing." She paused. "Though, I must say, that was the best sleep I've had in months. But no, we were both just exhausted. Thursday was a very full day."
"Hugged it out?" Sorin again smiled the more amused, less professional smile before he could catch himself. Clearing his throat, he again shook himself back into the correct mode. "Would you like to tell me anything about the joint session?"
Again, Maura gave that quick nod to suggest enthusiasm. "First of all, I really like Dr. Dearborn. She has a different personal style from yours, but I think she's just as good, and she seems to be exactly what Jane needs in a therapist. I thought she would be, and it's gratifying to know I was right. She asked good questions of me, things that helped her understand Jane more from a perspective other than Jane's."
Slowly sat forward as she remembered, forgetting to be dispassionate. "I don't really remember how it came up – Oh, wait, I do. We were discussing Jane's support system, and she mentioned her mother and how annoying she could be when trying to do nice things for Jane. It was the bunny pancakes that started it off. Angela made her bunny-shaped pancakes at the diner, and ever since then, people at work have been leaving her rabbit-themed sex toys in her desk. I'm sure you know how that went over with Jane. She's still not at ease discussing that, outside intimate settings, and apparently a therapist's office isn't quite intimate enough for her to feel comfortable. But since she was telling Dr. Dearborn about the pancakes, she asked me what I'd done with the toys. It was an offhanded question, but Jane's offhanded questions are sometimes not actually offhanded. She asks insignificant things that way, but she also asks things that way when she wants them to seem insignificant. I didn't know which it was."
"I presume you answered the question with your normal amount of honesty?" Sorin said, raising an eyebrow as he waited for the remainder of the story.
Maura nodded; sex wasn't where her privacy boundaries lay. "Of course. Most of them are still in their packaging, and I'll probably keep them to give friends as gifts when they get married, divorced, to their kids when they turn eighteen, or whatever, but there's this really nice one that I thought I'd keep. It's got…" She stopped with her hand halfway through the bunny-ear imitation. "You know, that's probably irrelevant. Sorry. Anyway, Jane got very upset, and it took me several moments to figure out what kind of upset she was, and why. Apparently, masturbation is an even bigger taboo for her than partnered sex."
"That is not uncommon," he said by way of getting her to continue on.
"Really?" Maura asked, not rhetorically, then dismissed the question. She could look that up later. "Anyway, I keep the bunny in the nightstand on my side of her bed. My nightstand in my house has a different and slightly wider selection, but I didn't have anything for when I was at her place. And before you ask, yes, I've needed the toys. It's faster with them, and you know how little solitude I've had since Jane and I started co-sleeping." It was simply a collection of facts, easily discussed. "At first, I thought Jane was mad because I was using a toy that rightfully belongs to her, and I promised to get her one for herself, but she said no. Apparently, what upset her was that I was masturbating in her bed, while she was in the shower. I confess, that caught me up short for a minute. I thought she meant I should wait for her to get back after her shower. That would have been nice to hear! But no. She just… she didn't like to think about me needing sexual release. And then I thought she was really offended. Disgusted."
"How did you feel regarding that thought? What was your reaction?"
This time, Maura's "Really?" had the strong air of disappointment. "You're asking me how I felt, thinking that the woman I love was disgusted by me? Come on, Doctor." Her eyes rolled in a mild, but unmistakable, echo of Jane's third-favorite facial expression (after Badass Protector and Smirking Bitch), and then she moved on. "Nevertheless, I'd come there to be honest for Jane, and so that's what I did. She asked me why I was comfortable doing that, and I reminded her of how little time I've had for anything more extensive, and surely she was doing the same thing when I was otherwise occupied. Would you believe," she said, serious as ever, "she hasn't? Well, I believed it, but I couldn't believe it, if you see what I mean. I can't even imagine how that must feel, to go that long with just nothing. So I promised her I'd give her a little time to herself. I volunteered to drop her off at home and go grocery shopping, and call her when I was five minutes from home."
"You know, it is my duty to occasionally ask the cliché, Maura." It was a statement. Sorin was absorbed in the story and only answering to push her to move on. "Based on what you've said of Jane, it is likely she was not receptive to that suggestion."
Maura nodded, with feeling. "Correct. Jane said she would have felt inhibited by my knowledge of her activity. That made me feel even worse, of course, that Jane wouldn't want to share any part of her sexuality with me, even the knowledge. I wondered if I'd seriously misunderstood what she'd meant when she said she loved me." The recollection of that hurt showed clearly on her face as Maura struggled against the connection between her amygdala and lachrymal glands. Only knowing the outcome of the session enabled her to shut down the automatic response and continue. "I told her I'd stop, so at least we'd both be equally… without, but she didn't want that, either. She said it had just taken her by surprise, and that even if she couldn't make me happy, that didn't mean she didn't want me to be happy at all."
Abruptly, Maura paused, needing to ascertain her psychiatrist's comprehension. "You understand what she meant, don't you? Happy means orgasms."
"Yes, I did follow that," he quietly responded.
Once she was sure that they were back on the same page, Maura continued. "That was when Jane decided to be open, and it was surpassingly helpful, because I truly wasn't sure what she wanted. She thought that I wouldn't want her, just because she's not a man. I thought she just wouldn't be ready for that, at such an early stage. As it happens, we were both very wrong. Very wrong. We sorted that out, and then there was very little left of the session after that, so we went home."
Maura smiled. "And then there was sex." Her eyes lit up. "Lots of sex. It was amazing. She was amazing." Her voice lowered. "We were amazing."
"I take it that the experience was amazing," Sorin dryly replied as he made a note in his journal. "Have the two of you discussed where you'd like to go moving forward? As in," he added for clarification, "will you tell anyone of the change in the status of your relationship any time in the relative near future?"
That faraway, entirely too easy to read smile quickly made way for concentration on the here-and-now once more. "Um. Probably? I asked, and she said she'd like to think about it. But to tell the truth, even if we didn't make a point of telling people, I don't see how it would be avoidable for everyone in our lives to know within a fairly short amount of time. Frankie is almost as observant as Jane, Tommy's got time on his hands, and Jane and I work with detectives. And I can't lie, so if anyone does think to ask, I'll have to tell them something that's true."
She took a deep breath. "And then there's Angela…"
Thank you for reading! As always, we appreciate your reviews. There will be one more story in this universe. We will probably post that late next week as we must first write it. ;-)