DISCLAIMER: Not mine. Wouldn't want the pressure of thousands of telepathic messages every week going "MAKE THE SUBTEXT ACTUAL TEXT. DO IT."
It wasn't getting better.
That was Maura's first thought as she glanced through the windshield of the car at Jane as she approached.
Jane looked tired, and sullen, and even though they didn't work together unless they couldn't avoid it, like this morning, Maura could still tell Jane was running on at least 36 hours without sleep.
As she got in the car she opened her mouth to offer to drive, then closed it. That wasn't the way they worked, now.
Jane glanced at her and then started the car. Neither spoke.
Maura could feel the beginnings of a stress headache starting and sat up straighter, ignoring the ache in her temples, as well as the now-familiar ache around her heart. She watched the trees moving past the windows as they drove, knew they had at least an hour until their destination. The sun would be rising by the time they arrived. She pictured them both sitting in silence, surrounded by darkness for the next hour, considered that four months ago they'd be happily bickering about who was buying coffee.
A wave of sorrow hit, so strong she gripped her elbows with her hands, trying to fend it off, at least until she got home and could cry it out.
That was another thing she'd just have to get used to again. Crying alone. She added it to her mental checklist and gripped tighter.
Maura blinked, surprised. She looked quickly over at Jane, who gestured at the car's heater, her eyes on the road.
"I –um. No! I'm fine. Thank you. I appreciate it." She winced inside at how unsure, how formal she sounded. She'd schooled herself sternly in appropriate responses to possible requests Jane might ask of her in their few interactions, but she still wasn't able to react well to off-the-cuff questions.
She added this to the checklist, too.
Four months. Four months had passed since that day she drew the invisible line in the sand. She couldn't forgive, Jane couldn't forget and that left them – where?
They hadn't talked about it. Jane was punishing herself by not talking about it, and Maura...she was numb, at first. Just numb, and so far removed from feeling she was certain that emotion would be lost to her forever. And by time rage and disappointment, mistrust and despair kicked back in, Jane had removed herself from Maura.
So they hadn't talked, and she knew, when she was able to consider it logically, that Jane was staying away to try to show Maura she was doing penance. But when the anger finally burnt out Maura was left bewildered and irrationally devastated by the fact the one person she trusted to stand with her through anything had...left.
She knew it wasn't rational. None of this was rational. None of this was sane. And now she had to spend an hour in a car with the woman she loved more than a sister and yet couldn't for the life of her figure out how to talk to.
Maura snuck a glance at Jane, whose jaw was tight and her knuckles white on the steering wheel. She closed her eyes as the headache turned nasty and a painful throb beat against her temples.
She gasped as an arm thudded against her chest and the car braked sharply. The car rocked as it ran over something and Jane swore furiously as she pulled over to the side of the road, an arm still protectively braced over Maura's chest.
"Yeah." Maura breathed it out, momentarily more stunned by the fact Jane had touched her rather than the fact they'd hit something. Then common sense kicked in.
Jane was a cop. It was her job to protect. She had a job too.
She met Jane's stare, skittered away to run a glance along Jane's body. "No injuries."
Jane's mouth tightened and she sat back abruptly. "Nope. Think it was a damn fox. Let's go see."
She followed Jane's example as she swung out of the car, grabbing the spare torch she knew Jane kept under the seat.
"There you are." Jane flashed her torch at an animal curled in the bushes at the side of the road.
The torch highlighted a shivering fox, stunned and blinking in the light from the torch.
Jane tsked. "Of all the damn mornings to run in front of my car, little guy."
She started towards the fox, who reared up a little and snarled.
Jane snorted. "Hey! Ungrateful much?."
"He's feral." Maura stated matter-of-factly.
Jane turned to look at her, looking startled. "What?"
"He's feral. You can't blame him for that." Maura crossed her arms, trying to figure out why she suddenly wanted nothing more than to curl up in a ball and cry until there was nothing left to be sad about anymore.
Jane blinked slowly at her as she repeated herself. "Um...what?"
Moira pointed at the fox. "He is what he is. It's not his fault that he was kept out in the cold all his life – it's not his fault he's never known...warmth. If he's never had anything to compare his current existence to, how can you blame him for being wild? He's used to being on the edges of people's lives. If he doesn't know how to react when someone is kind – that's no more his fault than the colour of his coat."
"Maura." She looked away from the fox to meet Jane's amused gaze.
"What?" She crossed her arms again as Jane took a tentative step towards her.
"Is someone over-identifying with Cujo, do you think?" She reached out to tug a strand of Maura's hair." I mean –"
Maura yanked away. "-Don't make fun of me, Jane."
Jane stiffened and dropped her arm. "I wasn't – well, okay, yeah I was. But I do that all the time!" Maura heard the frustration laced through her voice as she amended. "I used to do that all the time."
"Not this time."
Jane just raised a shoulder in a casual shrug in response, but Maura saw the pain and concern, quickly hidden, in Jane's eyes as they met hers.
She raised her chin in response. "You don't get to be worried about me, either." Now the concern changed to a thoughtful analysis, which was worrying. Maura recognised the signs of a full-blown interrogation brewing. "Forget it. Let's just – put it down."
"No, you mean drop it, but I'm not going to."
Maura sighed. "Why?"
Jane grinned suddenly, surprising Maura. "Because I live to see that annoyed expression. Despite the fact that mostly I feel like one day you're going to pull out a scalpel and threaten me with grievous bodily assault."
Maura smiled, reluctantly, feeling something inside her that was determined to be dark suddenly lighten. "That already happens to you too often for my liking. However tasers, I understand, give an impressive jolt...just enough to make nosy detectives learn their lesson."
Jane blinked slowly, surprised at her brevity. Considering her willingness to play, Maura thought, the rusty, unused Jane file in her head suddenly, annoyingly working at top speed.
Watching her, Jane spread her hands wide in an innocent shrug. "Me? Hey, I'm just an innocent bystander here. Me and the fox you're so determined to protect."
Maura, being nobody's fool, kept her mouth shut, and merely raised a brow at Jane. Smiled prettily. Stalemate.
Jane huffed in amusement, then raised a brow back, tutting softly. "My my Miss Maura, mighty confident I'm not going to get it out of you, aren't we?"
Maura, not at all confident but somehow understanding through the storm of emotions whirling through her that with Jane it was best to bluff one's way through, simply blinked at her.
"Hmm." Jane locked eyes with Maura, held. A gleam appeared in Jane's eyes and Maura divined the thought just as Jane moved towards the fox.
"Don't you dare!" She moved to stand in front of the animal.
"Why?" Jane asked softly.
Maura spread her hands, suddenly shaking, struggling for her usual calm. "You're – you're going to hurt it."
A strange expression crossed Jane's face and was gone before she could read it. "You really think so, huh?"
Maura shook her head, upset. "No, I just –"
"-Didn't want to see it get hurt again." Jane finished for her.
"No." Maura sighed. "It's wild. No one can take care of it. It has to take care of itself. It'll imprint on you, form a bond. What happens when that's ripped away? What happens when it trusts you and then it all falls apart?" She gestured towards the fox, made herself watch coldly as it began to limp away."It fends for itself. It always has, it always will. That's its nature. You can't change that."
She could feel Jane's eyes on her, but she kept them on the fox. Wished that she hadn't agreed to this consult. Wished she was deep in a medical text or a book. Most of all wished she wasn't who she was. She thought too deeply. Analysed too deeply. And when she felt, it was too deeply.
"How often do you tell yourself that?"
She turned to walk back to the car, shivering in the cold early morning air. "What." She sounded flat, tired, even to her own ears. Like she hadn't slept well for days. Months. Four, to be exact.
"How often do you tell yourself that love isn't an option?"
She snapped. She spun around, hurt, and anger and a bone-deep exhaustion colliding within her to make her snarl at Jane, glaring at her. "Maybe since you left me!"
And saw the naked hope flicker through Jane's eyes before the cops' mask closed it in.
Jane took a step forward, carefully, like she would with a suspect. Like she was afraid Maura would bolt into the woods.
"Maur, you never told me you wanted me to stay. And I thought...it was best not to push."
"I know what you thought." She snapped, pacing a little to the side and stopping as Jane angled her movements to match hers. "You thought, what, 'leave it, show her that I care by staying in the background, keeping my distance'. You were giving me space to work through it, right?"
"Right." Jane paced forward a step, her movements not so casual, her voice sharper. "You were hurting, Maura. God, you think I didn't know with everything in me, with every goddamn instinct that I have that you were hurting? I know you better than I know myself and I know exactly what was going on in the head of yours. And I caused that. I made you into that. And I couldn't fix it. And I couldn't stand the thought that being close to you again would make it worse. And y'know." She tried a smile, ended up swiping at her face angrily. "I didn't think I deserved to have you."
Oh. Maura struggled to hold into the anger, which was much easier to deal with than the pity and sorrow Jane's words caused. She swallowed hard, and managed to speak in a low tone. "Did you ever think that maybe I deserved to have you?"
"Um. What?" Jane's stunned expression made her stifle the urge to smile, something that hadn't happened in a long time.
"Jane. You are my best friend. Yes, there is no question that there is a lot of discussion to be had, and yes I was, and am, so angry with you. I have been through more emotions in the last four months than I've ever felt in my life. But you know what I have experienced most, the last four months?"
Watching her, Jane took another step forward, shook her head.
She shrugged, hopelessly. "I've been sad. I have been so...sad. I have felt exactly like that fox. No connections. No home." She looked up, into Jane's stare. "Some days the only thing I have wanted in the world is to laugh with you again."
Jane eased forward until she was standing in front of Maura. "Some days it's all I can do not to run downstairs and beg you to tell me how mistaken I am about the blood. Also known as The Reddish Brown Stain."
She willed herself not to back away, measured the urge to run, to stay mad, to stay angry. To stay numb. Weighed them against the urge to belong to someone again. To regain home. "How? Jane, I don't know how to do this. I don't know how this works."
Jane shrugged miserably. "I don't know. I just know that I've lost the one thing most precious to me and every day it kills me just a little bit more."
Maura nodded seriously. "Then it's probably in both our interests to fix this before we both end up on my exam table."
Jane choked out a half laugh-half sob, then tugged on Maura's scarf, bringing her closer. She met Maura's gaze briefly, then brushed a lock of hair behind her ear.
"Jane." Maura whispered.
Jane's eyes moved from her hair back to her face, distracted. "What?" She murmured.
"What are you doing?"
Jane smiled crookedly, then slid a strong hand through Maura's hair, gently moving her forward. She kissed her forehead gently, then drew back. "Taming you."
Maura closed her eyes, trying to analyze the warm coursing through her. Considered Jane's words and what they meant. She opened her eyes to catch Jane watching her, dark eyes fathomless. She smiled, reached for the hand in her hair and gripped it hard for endless moments, before stepping back. No hugs. They were a while away from that, she knew. But not too far.
She broke out into a full-blown grin, feeling lighter, happier than she'd been in four months. "You know, if you wanted to tame that fox, you were trying the wrong method."
Jane laughed and scrubbed a hand over her eyes. She met Maura's gaze and grinned back. "So tell me, smartypants, how does one tame a fox? Wait, actually I don't care – if Korsak finds out I went nuts over a fox I'll never hear the end of it-"
She moved towards the car, moved back, searching Maura's face. "-I know we need to talk and this is going to take some time...but we'll be okay, right? We're good - we'll be good?" She reached out, swiped a thumb along Maura's cheek. "Because I can't go another four months without you."
Maura nodded, vaguely surprised to feel tears on her face. "Yeah." Jane searched her face for a moment, hesitated.
"What?" She asked.
"This is the first time I've seen, like hope. In your eyes. In four months...And..." Jane waved a hand. "It doesn't matter. Let's go! Place to go, bad guys to make suffer."
"Maura, I am now suffering from hypothermia."
"No, you're not." She replied automatically, then smiled at her friend as she followed her. "This is the first time in four months I feel hopeful."
Jane searched her face, then nodded. "I can work with that."
"You can work with that only if you buy me a latte." She shot back, and smiled at Jane's eye roll.
Maybe it was getting better, after all.
A/N: Time. Is such a pain in the ass, but apparently heals ills and things. Not exactly sure what this is, or if this is stand alone, series, or bin material (meaning this is a small cry for help and feedback as always greatly appreciated.) Someone said to me recently that deep relationships are comprised of endless shades of grey - think Maura and Jane may take the cake after the Season 2 ending. Can't wait for it to come back!