DISCLAIMER: Wish they'd come back on the TeeVee. Oh yeah. Not mine.

Maura sat staring into her fireplace, watching the flames flare. Watched the wood blacken and burn. Something once strong and mighty reduced, diminished, so that she might be warm.

"Queen of the Dead? Yeah, I know her. When she walks past I swear to God the temperature drops." A locker clanged shut, and she shrank back, just a little, towards the door.

"I know, right? She freaks me out, the way she talks about the vics. She's about as warm as one of her corpses."

"Don't let Jane hear you say that, you know she's got rank on you. She'll make you pull late shifts for a month." Anger flared and faded, replaced by fear. If she said anything now, Jane might suffer.

"Yeah, yeah. She's just creepy, is all. I guess to do what she does you've gotta be born without a heart." On the heels of anger came resignation. This was all she'd ever be to some. Featureless, emotionless. Worthless.

She'd wanted to make use of the Department gym this morning, a rare occasion. She'd felt the need to just to stretch, run. To find the place where her aching body met a serene, alert mind. She'd stepped into the locker room to change, overhead a conversation in progress between two younger, female cops.

She'd normally have confronted them, pulled out some serene yet pointed comment, flashed a bright, confident smile to really startle them. But for some reason she'd hesitated. She'd stepped out of the room before they could see her, had started her day in the morgue instead. Because clearly that was where she belonged.

Their words had threaded themselves through her mind as the day wore on, colouring her actions, sparking irritation one moment, picking away at her sense of self the next. She'd been a Medical Examiner long enough to reconcile herself to the fact that people were uncomfortable with her. That she made people uneasy long before they ever saw her, never mind if they talked to her or not. That her vocation generated emotion, the primary one being fear. She was smart enough to see that her personality was the icing on the cake. She was weird. People had rallied collectively against what they feared, what was weird for millennia.

But sometimes she just wanted to forget what was logical. Sometimes she wanted to indulge in hope that people would look beyond what she did to who she was.

Locker room conversations. She sighed, poked at the fire with the stoker. She supposed she should be used to them by know.

"I think the fire's dead, Maur." Jane's amused voice sounded behind her.

She turned to see Jane dumping her bag, dropping onto the couch. "How was your day? Sorry I didn't reply to your text, I got caught up."

Jane curled her legs under her. "My day? My day was great. I got a break on the Kaufmann case, I beat Frankie at the inaugural weekly office chair relay, and my girlfriend is lying to me. You?"

She focussed her gaze on Jane's left ear. "I'm not lying."

Jane snorted."You also don't apologise for not replying to my texts unless you're feeling guilty. Which means you weren't caught up. Ergo – liar, liar pants on fire."

Startled, Maura looked down. "What? They are not on fire. Jane, that's really not funny."

Jane grinned at her. "It's funny for so many, many reasons." She threw a cushion at Maura. "Tell me what's up with you, or I'll beat it out of you."

Maura caught the cushion before it suffered an untimely death in the fire. "Jane, domestic violence is- mmfph." She picked up the second cushion that had hit her in the face and glared at Jane. "These are three hundred dollars. Each."

Jane just smirked. "Would you like to bet on how quickly I can ruin a grand's worth of cushions or would you like to tell me about your day? It's entirely up to you."

She hugged the cushion closer. "Do you ever call yourself names?"

Jane tilted her head. "Does doofus count?"

"Anything that means something bad, to you. Fat, ugly...emotional cripple. Lots of people who have been called those things by others tend to start to include these words in their internal dialogue with themselves."

Jane nodded. "I can see how that would happen as a result of being picked on. 'If they say it, it must be true' type of thing, right?"

Maura turned back to the fire. "You know why people do it? Do you know why they call themselves such vile, awful names?" She gripped the cushion tight, didn't wait for Jane to answer. "It's so that when others say them, it's okay. Because it's not as bad when you've taken the name as your own, made it a part of you. You know?"

"No. I don't know. I think when someone calls me something that doesn't fit the problem sits with them and their massive assholeness, not with me." She looked over up to see Jane's jaw set, her eyes tight with worry.

Remembered hurt shimmered up, flared in her chest. "I realise intellectually it's a bad idea – it generates low self esteem, it's self-fufilling prophecy, it's emotionally harmful. But it also means nobody can label me anything I don't choose to make my own. Maybe that's part of why 'queer' has started to become a positive term, when it was initially derogatory."

Jane's face shifted, became watchful. "Maura...has someone been saying something about us? I know we don't make it obvious...but we haven't exactly been living in a closet, here."

She smiled. "Being with you is kind of like having a nose. It just is."

Jane frowned at her. "You really just compared being with me to having a nose, didn't you?"

She laughed, finally. Felt some of the tension in her body leave. "It's like having an incredibly kind, generous, infuriating, sexy nose. If that helps."

Jane nodded. "Weirdly, yes." She grabbed a cushion, turned it idly in her hands. "Who called you names, Maur?"

Maura shrugged. "I'm a big girl. I can handle it. Queen of the Dead, cold, unfeeling. Weird. It's part of who I need to be to do my job. Sometimes it gets to me, that's all."

Jane nodded again, her hands clenching on the cushion. "Who called you names, Maur?"

She shook her head. "You're not my Mother, Jane. You don't need to go charging into school to beat the bullies up for me."

Jane tilted her head. "Your Mother ever do that?"

Maura shook her head, colouring. "No."

"Mine did. She once went into Frankie's classroom and made the bully apologise to everyone he ever beat up. Frankie was humiliated. So I can totally humiliate you." She shrugged. "If you want. Although I'm pretty much going to go ahead and find whoever hurt you and give them wedgies with or without your permission."

She smiled. "Jane."

"Yeah?"

She got up, crossed to the couch to lean over Jane. Kissed her forehead, letting her lips linger. She pulled back to see Jane's face, still containing traces of anger, worry. "Thank you."

Jane studied her. "You're just Maur. You know that? Who you are, it's never anything I'd change. And if I tell you we need to work on your Googlemouth or return you to the human race or start training you to drink unfiltered water I'm not saying it to be mean."

She sank down to lie against Jane, let her hold her tight. "I know. You're saying it to be a smartass."

Jane kissed the top of her head. "Exactly."

"I know who I am, Jane. I love who I am. It's just...sometimes it's hard."

Jane's hand ran down her back. "Yeah. I know, baby. If it helps I love who you are too. And I'll always be your nose."

Maura huffed a laugh, and pinched Jane's side. "Keep talking, smartass, and I'll ruin my own three hundred dollar cushions."

Jane caught her hand, squeezed. "Bring it."

A/N: Just nice to have someone to listen, and understand, right? Thanks so much as always for the reads and review – there are so many people reading this I confess to a little stage fright :P

Have a great week!

~K