Maura came sauntering in with coffee and bagels and perched on the edge of Jane's desk, a goofy grin spread wide across her face. Jane had been at work for hours already, the day nearly over, and was in no mood for a Google-mouth lesson about her poor posture as she slumped over her desk.
"What do you want, Maura," she sighed, not looking over from the form on her computer screen. Maura was wearing a new dress and since first laying eyes on her this morning, Jane had been distracted by it all day.
Jane had never thought about her perfect mate before, but when Maura strolled in this morning, Jane's entire body screamed "that's her!"
In the ivory sheath dress, Maura looked like a goddess. Her calves, excellently accentuated by her matching heels, trailed up to toned thighs that disappeared under soft fabric that clung to her hips, narrowed at her waist, and professionally yet tantalizingly accentuated her breasts. Her hair was uncharacteristically pulled back and it made Jane itch to kiss her neck.
"I brought you some coffee and a snack," Maura brushed off Jane's curtness. "Decaf, of course. Although you seem to have developed an immunity to caffeine, your body really doesn't need any additional stimulation at such a late hour."
Spring was in the air, and Maura was flaunting around in dresses and laughing and practically glowing. Jane was finding it increasingly difficult to tamp down on her feelings for the other woman and it was leaking into their friendship.
When Jane looked up, her gaze snagged on Maura's perfectly toned legs. It had been a long day, and Jane's defenses were weak. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
"I've really gotta finish this Maur," Jane mumbled.
Maura stared until Jane met her eyes.
"Jane," her voice was gentle but firm. "Everyone else has gone home. You're exhausted. If I can't convince you to leave now, at least take a break for a minute. It will help you re-charge."
"Re-charge?" Jane smiled in spite of herself.
"Barry taught it to me," she flushed slightly. "Didn't I use it correctly?"
Jane laughed, and some of the tension in her shoulders eased.
"You did," she nodded, accepting the coffee. Her fingers brushed Maura's and she felt the familiar wave of longing wash over her. She smiled to cover it, and Maura's radiant smile in return warmed her like a June evening.
"Let's take a walk," Maura stood. "It's lovely outside."
Jane wanted to resist, to say no, to bury herself in paperwork and forget about Maura and her perfect legs and tantalizing lips and eyes you could drown in.
Of course, she was powerless to resist. She wondered if Maura was aware. She wondered how anyone could be unaware.
"A short one," Jane pretended to be aggravated, but inside she was delighted. She took a secret thrill in people seeing them together, in walking side-by-side through the world with a woman as phenomenal as Maura.
"Thank you," Maura held her hand out to Jane.
Jane just stared for a moment and the look on Maura's face faltered. Jane noticed the trembling in Maura's hand.
It hit her like a freight train. Something was… off.
She accepted Maura's hand and stood up. She squinted slightly, as if that would make Maura confess. Instead, the other woman ducked her head, shying away from Jane's gaze.
Alarm bells went off in Jane's mind. She allowed Maura to lead them out of the building and into the warm late-spring air.
It was nice, or it would have been, if Maura weren't fidgeting as they walked. Jane gave her five minutes of silence before she stopped, turning to face the smaller woman.
"Spill it," Jane urged, a small smile on her face. She tried to look open, amenable, comfortable, but inside she was terrified. Maura didn't get nervous easily.
"I have to reschedule our plans for tomorrow," Maura breathed out in a rush.
Jane's brow furrowed. Disappointing, but not the end of the world. She waited for Maura to continue. When nothing more was forthcoming, Jane cocked her head.
"And?" she prompted.
"I'm going on a date," Maura blurted, flushing slightly.
Jane felt the words like a blow but she held her ground, kept her face impassioned.
But Maura knew better, and found her gaze. Jane couldn't shutter the emotion pouring out from her eyes so she closed them.
"You're upset," Maura asserted.
"No," Jane shook her head. "I'm just tired. It's fine that you have to cancel."
"I said reschedule," Maura's distress was clear. "I'm very sorry."
Jane kicked herself internally.
"You have nothing to be sorry for," she smiled as best she could. "It's great that you're going on a date. Who is it? That new guy from Narcotics? He was flirting with you pretty hard the other day."
"Actually," Maura swallowed the words that followed and Jane had to ask her to repeat them. "I said," Maura raised her voice nervously. "It's a woman I met in yoga class."
Jane thought she must be choking on nothing, and she thought Maura would tell her that was impossible if the other woman knew what she was thinking.
Coughing wildly, Jane tried to wrap her mind around the quagmire of emotions barreling through her and twisting her into knots. At the forefront was jealousy, an almost blinding feeling of possession, and then tangled up in that were sadness, loss, anger, and a million other little things she couldn't identify.
Maura reached over and rubbed her shoulders soothingly but Jane shied away from the touch. The hurt on Maura's face was instant and visceral.
The doctor's back straightened, as if she were steeling herself against the world. "I," she faltered. "I didn't mean to upset you."
"I'm not," Jane stammered, trying to express herself before Maura got the wrong idea. "Shit, Maur. I'm not upset."
"You seem upset," Maura countered matter-of-factly. "Is it because I'm gay? Because technically I'm bisexual; studies have shown that human sexuality is actually a lot more fluid than mainstream social mores would lead you to believe and I'm no exception to that. I don't typically like to express my sexuality at work-"
"God no," Jane exhaled harshly. "It's not because you're… bisexual. This is a lot for me to process."
Stepping back, Maura appraised Jane with wary eyes. It shook Jane to the core to see that Maura's love and trust, usually so close to the surface of her gaze, were absent.
"I thought you were my friend," Maura's voice shook almost imperceptibly. "I thought I could tell you anything.
"Jesus," Jane grabbed Maura's hands and held tight. "I am your best friend. You can tell me anything. I'm not judging your anything like that. I'm just surprised. I thought we were just going on a walk and you're coming out to me by telling me you're going on a date with some woman from yoga class. It's a lot for me at once, Maur."
Maura tensed and Jane squeezed her hands, refusing to let go.
"God, I'm being an ass," Jane groaned, endlessly exasperated with herself. Jane spotted a bench at the end of the block and led Maura towards it, still clutching one of the other woman's smaller hands in her own.
They sat down and Jane became acutely aware of the disparities between them. Maura sat delicately, properly. She was femininity to a T. The subtle hint of her perfume surrounded Jane.
Jane's lanky form, in contrast, was haphazard. Her long legs splayed carelessly in front of them, her clothing was rumpled and worn. She smelled like sweat and coffee and a hint of the Snickers bar she had eaten an hour ago.
"I'm sorry," Maura apologized, smiling softly. "I've never come out to anyone before."
"What?" Jane looked surprised. "What about, like, your parents?"
"I always figured I'd just tell them if I met someone I was going to marry," Maura shrugged. "But otherwise it isn't worth the distance it would interject between us. I have a hard enough time relating to them as it is. And I've never really had friends to come out to, and it's not really necessary to come out to the women you're dating- it's sort of implied."
"I uh," Jane swallowed harshly. She wanted to tell Maura how she felt but the words got lodged in her throat.
Maura's gaze on her was soft, expectant. Jane wanted to tell Maura she herself was gay, to kiss her, to ask her to date her, love her, marry her. Instead, she cleared her throat awkwardly.
"So someone from yoga class," Jane asked. "Anyone I know?"
"Grace," Maura replied. "You met her. Brunette, taller, brown eyes."
"Ah yeah," Jane nodded. She vaguely remembered the woman. Usually Jane's focus in yoga was two fold- one: not embarrassing herself, and two: watching Maura's taut, gorgeous body without getting caught. But she had a foggy memory of the woman at issue.
"She's very nice," Maura added. "You'd like her, I think. She invited me to get a drink and I thought, just this once, we could reschedule movie night."
"Of course," Jane tried to sound upbeat. "That's totally cool. Can't spend the rest of your life hanging out with me." It was supposed to be a joke but it came out stilted, hurt.
"I would love to spend the rest of my life hanging out with you," Maura responded. "And I intend to. But I want to be in love, Jane. I've missed out on a lot of things over the years because I just don't… fit in. I want love though, I want love and children and family and all the things I always thought were beyond my reach before I met you. You make me feel… normal, like I can have all the things I used to think were only for other people."
Jane wanted to yell, then have them with me, but she held her tongue.
"Is that ok?" Maura hedged when Jane's silence became oppressive.
Deflating, Jane turned to Maura and gently rubbed the other woman's forearm.
"Of course it is, Maura," Jane soothed. "You deserve that. You deserve everything. You're not normal though, let's just get that straight. Normal is boring and lame and you are… you're so much better than that. You're spectacular, and don't ever think that what or who you are somehow means you don't deserve the best from the world- you do. The best."
Maura's soft, radiant smile bit at Jane like a sunburn, igniting her whole body with a burn that Jane knew would last for days before fading even the slightest.
"Thank you," Maura whispered. "I've never… I don't."
"Well there's something you don't see everyday," Jane rescued her, lightly teasing. "The brilliant Dr. Isles: speechless."
Maura impulsively turned and hugged Jane, wrapping both arms tightly around her in an awkward, seated embrace. Jane turned towards her, pulling her as close as the position would allow.
"I love you Jane," Maura sighed into her shoulder.
"I love you too, Maur," Jane returned, her voice gruffer than it should be.
"Do you?" Maura pulled back from the embrace. Suddenly, the distance between them was inches but growing by miles.
"You know I do," Jane countered instantly. There weren't many things in the world that she was absolutely certain of, but that was one of them.
"But not enough to be honest with me," Maura said quietly, but with iron strength.
"Maura," Jane hedged, gazing out at the oblivious passersby.
"I was honest with you, Jane," Maura replied. "Don't you think I deserve the same?"
"Maura," Jane repeated, helplessness filling her and threatening to spill out in the form of tears.
"I'm sorry you don't trust me," Maura stammered, hurt splashed across her face. "If there's something I did to make you think I can't be…" Her voice trailed off and she stared at the ground. "Maybe someday you'll trust me enough to be honest about yourself, not just about the parts that everyone can see."
Jane knew Maura was hinting about Jane's sexuality, by all accounts was totally fine with it, but still she couldn't bring herself to speak. Everything she'd ever wanted was right next to her, seemingly up for grabs, and she found her tongue too heavy to function.
"I want to be your friend," Maura's voice was cool and soft, and it made Jane shiver. "I want to be your best friend, forever. I want you to know all of me, to share all of me. I've never felt this way before- not even close. I know it's difficult for you to trust people, and I love and respect the person you are, but I always thought… I thought I was different. I thought we were different."
"Maura," Jane tried to make her throat work.
Maura's eyes fell on her expectantly, softly appraising.
"Yes Jane," she sighed, unmistakable hope lacing her words. There were times when the unabashed openness in Maura's expression made it difficult for Jane to breathe. How a person so jilted by the world could constantly expose herself, show such delicate vulnerability, floored Jane.
"I'm sorry," Jane scrubbed her hands over her face. "God, I'm sorry. I was so busy with my head up my ass trying not to… I didn't even… It never occurred to me… and now Grace and you…"
"Jane," Maura's soft voice and softer touch halted Jane's rambling. "You're not making any sense."
"I'm incredibly attracted to you, Maura," Jane rumbled, allowing the heat in her eyes to rake over Maura's body. Incredibly, Maura flushed under her heated scrutiny, and Jane tracked the blush from her face to her cleavage, her gaze stalling. Closing her eyes, Jane took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
"Am I supposed to be surprised by that?" Maura asked, genuine curiosity in her tone. "I have suspected you were physically attracted to me for over a week." She sounded so proud of herself that Jane laughed.
"A week?" Jane scoffed.
"Over a week," Maura corrected her, somewhat indignantly.
"I've been looking at you like that forever," Jane growled, her gaze sweeping over Maura once more. Jane figured she should get her fill now, because this could only end badly.
Maura flushed again, this time in embarrassment, and Jane grinned.
"Oh," Maura sighed shakily.
"Yeah, Einstein," Jane teased. "Oh." Everyone else in the squad, and then some, had noticed it too, but Jane omitted that detail.
"Then why have you been such a…" Maura struggled to find the right word.
"An ass?" Jane supplied, somewhat chagrined. Maura grimaced at the choice of words but nodded. "Are you serious?"
Maura nodded again.
"Look at you," Jane intoned incredulously.
Maura looked down at herself, puzzled.
"I'm not sure what I'm looking at," she admitted.
Jane grinned, she couldn't help it.
"You're so fucking sexy," Jane practically snarled. "I can barely think when you're around."
Visibly off balance, Maura swallowed- hard.
Her voice was breathy and soft when she spoke and it hit Jane like a right-hook.
"But you've never said anything," Maura responded.
"What was I supposed to say, Maura?" Jane snapped. "Sorry I've been so cranky but you make me so fucking turned on I can barely stand to be in the same room as you? Or what? It's been great being your friend but hey, surprise! I'm a lesbian and I wanna fuck you until you can't walk so it's probably best if we're not best friends anymore? Come on."
Maura was silent for a long minute and Jane looked over at her. Maura's eyes were dark, tumultuous. Her breathing was heavy and erratic but she was otherwise absolutely immobile.
"Jeeze," Jane sighed. "I'm sorry, ok. This is gonna make shit so weird between us and that's exactly what I was trying to avoid. I want to be a good friend to you."
"So you were what," Maura looked perplexed, but hurt too. "Never going to say anything?"
"I guess," Jane shrugged, increasingly wary.
"And you were just going to be rude to me until I pushed you away, right?" Maura challenged. "And then it wouldn't really be your fault- you could feel noble and righteous for having tried to be my friend and because I got mad and left it would be my fault?"
When Maura explained it, it didn't sound like such a great plan.
"Something like that," Jane admitted, instantly regretting it.
"Fuck you," Maura bit.
Jane's head sprang up, the vulgarity making fear blossom in the pit of her stomach.
"Of all the fainthearted, gutless-" Maura began, her hands gesturing wildly.
"Maura," Jane tried to interrupt.
"Spineless," Maura was sputtering with anger. "Fainthearted, wretched-"
"Maura," Jane repeated, louder.
Jane put her hand over Maura's mouth, legitimately afraid the other woman might bite her but not knowing how else to stem the tide of synonyms.
Maura's eyes got wider than saucers and Jane withdrew her hand.
"Can I say something?" Jane asked.
"Fine," Maura snapped. "Say whatever you want."
"I love you," Jane replied. "And I've never loved anyone this much, or in quite this way. I wanted to do what seemed best for you. I knew you wanted a friend, needed a friend, and I needed to be there for you. I wanted to be your friend forever. So if that meant pushing my own, selfish feelings aside then so be it. I wasn't trying to be cowardly."
It honestly hadn't been her intention to act out of fear, she was being truthful, but now it stuck in her mouth like sand.
"It didn't occur to you that you should ask me before making decisions that would affect our whole friendship, our whole lives?" Maura wondered aloud, and Jane knew she couldn't give an answer that would satisfy her.
"I said I'm sorry," Jane responded. "It wasn't… My intention was never to hurt you, Maura. I'd never do something to hurt you on purpose. In my defense, I've known you for a long time and you're just now telling me about your own sexuality, so it's not like I'm the only one who couldn't make the leap."
Maura looked chagrined and while Jane wanted to enjoy it, a larger part of her just wanted to console the other woman. She really loved the hell out of her.
"I don't want to go out with Grace," Maura mumbled.
Jane felt relief wash over her but she shoved it down.
"Might not be such a bad idea," she encouraged. "Grace is attractive."
Maura's eyes met hers and Jane wanted to die- if she stared for too long she might get her wish. A woman could drown in the sorrow pouring out of Maura's gaze.
"Jane," Maura whispered. It was a confession, a plea.
"I don't know how to do this," Jane admitted. "I still want to be your friend."
It wasn't a lie, exactly. It was a half-truth. A lie by omission.
She did want to be Maura's friend. She wanted to be her friend, her coworker, her partner, lover, companion, her everything.
But there were so many unknowns, so many variables.
Man or woman, Jane had never dated someone she was in love with. The only thing she was sure of in that moment, aside from her love for Maura, was that losing the strange, gorgeous woman would kill her.
Fists had barely grazed her, knives had hardly threatened her, bullets had merely sidetracked her, but losing Maura would kill her.
Physical self-preservation had never been her forte. Emotional self-preservation was her specialty.
"Don't," Maura pleaded. Maura knew her, and Jane felt transparent but couldn't seem to stop herself. "Just talk to me. Be honest with me."
Maura reached for her hand and Jane allowed the contact. Maura turned Jane's palm upwards in her hand and traced the lifeline with her index finger.
"I love your hands," Maura's voice was gravelly, heavy, smooth. "They're lean and firm and scarred. They are like a microcosm of everything I love about you- capable of so much power, but also of so much tenderness. And even when the unspeakable happens, you heal, you come back stronger."
Jan's eyes fluttered closed and she fought her instinct to pull away. Maura was reaching inside Jane, throwing light in the shadows, and the sudden, bright exposure hurt.
"I know you want to protect me," Maura continued, intently smoothing her index finger over each line on Jane's palm. "I love how noble, how strong you are. I know you would never hurt me, would never let anything bad happen to me. I love that you make me feel safe, Jane. No one has ever done that for me before. I feel safe just by being near you. The world has never felt so… right, as it does when I'm with you. Science and math, those things have always made sense to me. But when I'm with you, everything else seems to make sense too."
"Maura," Jane's stilted voice broke free. She wanted to tell her to stop. She wanted to tell her to speak forever. Jane kept her eyes closed, letting the world around her fade completely.
"I want to be near you forever," Maura said. "If the best you are willing to give me is friendship, then I will learn to live with that. It won't be easy, and I guarantee I will resent it for a while. But eventually I'll get over it because I want to be with you. I'm going to be with you forever. I will always be your friend."
"But we're not friends right now," Jane interrupted, her voice pained, her eyes still closed. "We haven't been friends for weeks now."
"Haven't we?" Maura prodded.
"No," Jane sighed. "I've been a total ass to you for weeks."
"That's not true," Maura soothed. "We've just been having a rough patch. And I think since we're aware of the cause now, there is no need for a repeat."
"How can we," Jane stuttered, the words dying in her throat.
Maura seemed to read her mind, and Jane wondered again about the depth of her love for this woman.
"It will be different if we go down this path," she admitted. "I'm not going to lie to you Jane. But I think, no, I know it will be worth it. If we have some awkward moments and a few fights and sometimes I want to just scream at you, then so be it. Because the reward for that? I get to kiss you whenever I feel like it. And I get to touch you whenever I want to. And I get to sleep next to you and love you openly and… what could possibly be better than that?"
Jane wanted to believe Maura, wanted to believe her so badly it was a physical pain in her chest.
Her breathing was erratic, and she felt like she couldn't get enough air. She pulled her hand away and rubbed her face in frustration.
Maura's face instantly shuttered, and Jane tensed. Maura stood up and Jane avoided meeting her gaze.
Eventually, Maura sighed. She gently stroked Jane's cheek. Jane wanted to reach out, to tell her to stay, to pull her down and kiss her like Maura had the breath of life and Jane was dying.
She didn't know how.
Her body refused to obey. Her mind refused to process fast enough.
"I'm not going to force anything on you Jane," Maura assured her. "I love you, but I also value myself too much to wait forever. Please don't make me wait forever."
And then Maura was disappearing back towards the precinct and Jane felt like the entire world was going with her, leaving Jane in a dark, black place where only minutes ago she had been basking in the sun.
Maura was right, as she usually was, and Jane wanted to run after her. But she also needed a minute to process. To think. To sort through things without the distraction of every single one of her fantasies sitting right beside her.
So Jane got up and walked in the other direction, her feet leaden. She wandered around, not really seeing, until she found herself back in front of the precinct. She wondered if Maura had gone home, if Jane should chase after her, call her.
Jane had never felt indecisive about Maura before, and she disdained it now. She wanted to see Maura, to reassure the other woman, and in all honesty to reassure herself, so she headed downstairs to the morgue.
Pausing, she sighed and looked at Maura through the morgue's windows. Maura's words echoed loudly in her head and she tried to quash the desire and anguish broiling in the pit of her stomach.
Maura was reading an open file, her back turned to Jane. Maura looked gorgeous, the muscles of her body flexing as she perched on the stool and worked diligently to uncover the mysteries behind their latest victim.
Jane wished she could compartmentalize as well Maura. Maura put their argument aside and got back to work. Jane had been fidgeting and stomping and wandering for an hour.
It seemed impossible to remember a time when she wasn't attracted to Maura. At first it was physical, and then it was intellectual, and then it was emotional, and then it was everything. Most of the time, Jane wore it like a second skin and since it didn't seem to affect her day to day, didn't seem to bother Maura, she let it get comfortable.
So when they pretended to be lovers and Jane let her hands linger, or when they knelt at a crime scene and Jane huddled too close, or when they looked over a dead body and Jane smiled too long, it was no big deal. Maura never indicated that it made her uncomfortable, or hinted that she didn't like it, or asked Jane to stop.
Jane didn't question that because, well, frankly, she didn't want to stop. Being in love with Maura and keeping it a secret was virtually impossible, although not being in love with her seemed equally improbable. Jane always figured that getting to be Maura's best friend was as good as it was going to get. And she was fine with it. She'd give her own heart, hell her own life, to protect and cherish and love Maura.
If Maura suspected the true depths of Jane's feelings, she had never let on.
Now, as Jane looked absently over at Maura, her chest ached. She'd been running through this scenario for days, weeks, months- she knew what she had to do. But now that the time had come, she found her courage faltering.
How was she supposed to pretend that she never wanted to see her again?