Disclaimer—Characters belong to Matt Olmstead and Nick Santora. No copyright infringement intended. Any similarity to events or persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

Author's Notes—Unbeta'ed. Pure catharsis for me after a hard day and, hopefully, a little fun fluffy escapism into the totally squee-worthy moment of last night.

Spoilers—Ain't Love (50) Grand

Ink—Pencils have erasers…

The number two pencil in her fingers felt heavy. It was a peculiar sensation, one that Julianne Simms had never encountered before… ever.

Stunned? Oh, sure, all the time.

Silent? That was her favorite way to be.

The gravity of Lloyd Lowery's confession, however, seemed to be affecting the very simple writing utensil more than it was affecting herself. It could've easily weighed a hundred pounds. As she stared at it, struggling to hold it, her mind churned through the options she had at her disposal. There weren't many, and she didn't have much time in which to make her decision, as the transport van back to Maybelle Minimum Security Prison would be there any moment.

It was, quite possibly, the most stressful she'd ever been at a test…

And that was what she felt like almost. Every exam she'd ever taken, every answer sheet that could be scanned had the same requirement—the use of a number two pencil. It was silly. She'd never seen a number one pencil, or a number three for that matter. She imagined they all must've been put out of business by the education industry, requiring one kind of pencil over another. How fair was that, for one to be so adversely affected by another?

She willed her spinning head to stop. She demanded it.

While the room still appeared to be leaning at an awkward angle, she realized it was just her head, cocked to one side. Straightening herself back out, she thought about the implications of the pencil.

Did she love him?

Could she love him?

She'd known him a year, been the clear object of his flirtation and affection… he'd been a confidante, a coworker.

Could they ever be anything more than that?

He was in prison, after all, with a lengthy sentence. While, yes, it was inching away one case at a time, it would take an insane number of successful captures to wipe it out entirely. Could she live with waiting? Would she want to wait? What about having some kind of relationship while he was still incarcerated? And, if they did, would she be like any number of crazed women, forging bonds with some completely unattainable person behind bars?

She wondered how Lloyd would categorize those kinds of women, how his doctor mind would analyze them in general, or if he even realized that it might apply to her as well if she placed that pencil in front of his desk. Of course, he wasn't unattainable. He'd made himself very much available to her, if she wanted.

Again, she forced herself to focus on the pencil.

The pencil had both the means to write, and the means to take that writing away. It wasn't permanent; it was in flux. What kind of message was that sending, really? It seemed wishy-washy. That was something she felt like she wasn't. She may have had more phobias and issues than she cared to admit to, but the inability to stick with what she believed wasn't one of them.

She believed in justice, in fairness. She believed that people weren't inherently bad, they were just inherently human, herself included, and that meant having flaws, lapses in judgment, and the ability to do amazing things—whether those things were for the greater good or for individual good… which was sometimes illegal.

Lloyd had the capacity to be amazing. She'd seen it, witnessed his mind in action frequently and she was always astounded. His intelligence was staggering. But, he was so much more than that. He was compassionate, kind, and funny. He had always made her feel comfortable, which wasn't an easy task. He was a unique individual, unlike anyone she had ever met before and, she was certain, unlike anyone she would ever meet in the future.

She was also very aware of his imperfections. He wasn't the most sociable person ever, though neither was she. He had an inability to suffer fools lightly, and the grating conversations he'd had with the rest of the crew only barely scratched the surface, she knew. There was a gambling addiction, part of what led him down a dark path, but he was working his way out of all that, slowly but surely. None of those flaws were fatal.

And he loved her. She wasn't sure where to categorize that little fact, if it was a character flaw or not.

Her cheeks hurt, she realized, from grinning like an idiot. She wondered how long she'd been standing there, holding the pencil, staring at it with some ridiculous expression on her face.

Even in Lloyd's confession, he freed her from the responsibility of making one in return, at least not yet. She wasn't ready for that. The possibilities, however, were enticing, intriguing... It left her with a joyous sense of hope.

But the pencil simply wasn't the right way to convey what she wanted to tell him.