Hey all. Here's a one-shot I threw together in one day. Got the idea yesterday and wanted to put it together before I lost the inspiration.

Don't worry, still working on Both Sides. I've got most of the last chapter written but it's slow going and life has been hectic. Figured the least I could do was throw this up!

Please let me know what you think! Enjoy!

Casual Friday

Sliding her key into the front door's lock and giving it a twist in the right direction seemed a little anticlimactic this Friday evening. There was no real rush to head inside, no need to get ready for some occasion, prepare a special dinner, get dressed for a night out or even get comfortable for a companionable night in. And though this wasn't particularly a bad thing, it still left the young M.E. with an odd feeling of disappointment.

And it's not like there was anyone else to blame, if there was a reason to blame someone at all. The fault, really, was all her own.

She entered her home and leaned back against the door to close it behind her, resting there with one hand hooked on the shoulder strap of her purse, the other toying with her keys before groping at the door to slide the lock back into place. She surveyed her immaculate home from there, knowing that as quiet as it was now, it would only get quieter as the night progressed. Perhaps something I should get used to.

The flashing of the security system console, warning her that she only had another minute to enter the passcode, was what eventually drew her forward. She lithely keyed in the right numbers to disarm the alarm, faintly grinning at the memory of the person who had threatened to put her home on twenty-four hour police surveillance after one case or another if she didn't call to have the system installed.

The grin faded quickly when she remembered where that person was now, probably enjoying herself tremendously and dazzling her date, as she would. Pursing her lips, Maura dropped her purse on the kitchen counter and went straight for the cabinet with the wine glasses. A casual, eventless night called for an equally casual but inspiring Moratto Zinfandel from Napa Valley.

Her first sip was a healthy one, and she closed her eyes in an attempt to appreciate the flavor before moving to the fridge to fish out Bass's evening meal. She was vainly hoping that the wine would take the edge off of her day, but it only heightened the volume of the thoughts she was so trying to distract herself from.

Jane had been complaining for weeks about how long it'd been since she'd had a date. Of course, Maura had tirelessly suggested countless things she could do to find a date—clubbing, joining Maura for more than an infrequent yoga class or allowing herself to be dragged to Zumba, visiting upscale bars for upscale men or rowdy bars if she was feeling more adventurous, signing up for a dancing class without a partner—Maura had gone on and on about the merits of learning to salsa dance whether Jane wound up getting a date out of it or not.

Coming up with a witty excuse for why each one of those didn't suit Jane became the detective's challenge of the week. She turned down each suggestion, but went on complaining regardless.

But that was just like Jane, to brush everything off. She didn't like to go out and pick for herself, she wanted someone to be ballsy enough to approach her. She didn't stop complaining, though, so Maura didn't stop trying.

The cases the past couple weeks had been especially arduous. Jane hadn't slept very well, and truth be told, neither had Maura, but Jane was the one out there chasing down the bad guys. Maura had the debatable luxury of hanging out in the morgue more often than not, and she was consequently less exhausted than Jane at the end of each day. She had taken advantage of the few nights Jane professed she was 'just too tired' to do anything with her best friend and went out to a few bars for her. And on her fourth attempt, at a bar she'd found downtown that was a great balance between 'rowdy' and 'upscale,' Maura found him. He struck her instantly as the perfect man for Jane. Tall, lean, muscular build. Absolutely handsome with a chiseled chin, deep eyes, dark, short hair that was nearly as deep as Jane's but struck Maura as more of Spanish descent than Italian.

He might have been a few years older than Jane dressed in his business slacks and collared shirt, an Armani blazer folded haphazardly on the chair next to him. He was sipping on a Corona straight from the bottle, and he had just enough slump in his shoulder for Maura to deduce that it hadn't been one of his better days. Perfect.

It had been so easy to set things up. The man was instantly pleasant, polite, but not quite up to Maura's snuff. Perfect for Jane, though. He was an assistant attorney at a private firm working his way up and hoping to one day take cases for the state. When Maura mentioned she had a friend who might be interested, he seemed dubious at first—an appropriate reaction—but he eventually warmed up to the idea.

Jane's reaction to the whole thing had been curious. Maura had expected a bit more of a fight from the brunette. She unveiled her plan the next day, Friday, in the District One Café over breakfast.

"I can't believe you!"

"He's a wonderful person, Jane. Eye candy. You're going to fall for him the instant you lay your eyes on him."

"When I said I haven't dated for a while, I didn't mean…" She trailed off with a groan.

"Didn't mean what? To imply that you were lamenting that you had no dates and the obvious remedy would in fact be to provide you with one such date?"

"I guess that would be the, uh, obvious remedy." Jane looked sheepish, if a little sad, which confused Maura, but the coroner passed it off as Jane simply being unprepared or feeling foolish.

"Right. Well it's not quite going to be a blind date, if that's what you're thinking. He's going to come here to ask you out in person."

"What? Maura!" The eyes went rolling.

"No, Jane, listen! This way you can turn him down or he can turn you down without the messy business of being forced to sit through an awkward dinner." She paused, trying to gauge the look on Jane's face. "See? It's a win-win situation. Just give him a chance. Who knows, the night might go well, you might invite him over for a baise dans le foin! You know, roll in the hay, sexual int—"

"Oh stop, Maura!" Jane swiped a hand down her face. "When is this guy coming, anyway?"

Maura leaned close with a sly grin and whispered, "That all depends on you!"

"I swear, Maura—!"

Maura pulled away with a giggle. "Well—oh, look, there he is now."

Just as Maura had predicted, Jane's mouth practically fell open at the sight of him. He too seemed dumbstruck at his luck. Who wouldn't, to find themselves on a date with Jane Rizzoli? And he practically looked like a model. Not that Jane didn't. They were solidly on each others' levels. They were perfect.

It was in that moment, when they first set eyes on each other and it seemed there was such obvious chemistry between them, that Maura realized her mistake. Well, she realized she had made a mistake but she wasn't exactly sure why her heart had dropped, why she felt angry and sad and confused all at once. Whatever the feeling was had passed quickly as she observed the two chatting for a few minutes before making plans for a date that night. Jane was pleased, excited, and happy. And that made Maura happy. This she was convinced of.

So why, as she finally made it down to her secluded office in the morgue to begin the day's work, did she feel something pulling at her chest like she had just ruined something very important for herself? That feeling didn't go away. She spent the whole day wondering about it, trying to decode an emotion to which she couldn't quite put a name. Her lunch with Jane had been cut short by a break in the case, so Maura was left to eat her salad and muse alone. Then Jane had left work early, sending her an apologetic text saying she was sorry she had to rush out for her date and she would call this weekend.

And so Maura was stuck with that horrible feeling that only got worse as the evening crawled by with no one to talk to about it. The only person she would have been even a little comfortable speaking to was Angela, and she was working a late shift that night and cleaning up the café.

Maura had migrated to the couch with her wineglass and the bottle as she recounted her frustrating day. She wasn't sure how many glasses she'd had—two at most, she was sure. It helped to dull the odd feeling, but only a little. Why do I feel so… But that was the issue. She didn't even know what she was feeling. Here she was, spending an evening alone. That wasn't so bad, was it? She used to do it all the time. Technically, aside from a few date nights, Maura used to always spend her evenings alone.

She grew bitter at that thought. Bitter and… nostalgic? Because the Maura that had spent most of her time alone was a very different Maura from the one sitting on the couch today. Outside of work, anywhere from half to all of her free time was usually spent with or on Jane. Actually, if she counted those nights she was out searching for Jane's perfect date, there wasn't a day in two or three weeks where her time wasn't devoted to a Jane-related matter.

So, I can only conclude that this strange thing I'm feeling tonight is somehow linked to Jane's absence… Maura tested her hypothesis by imagining Jane rapping on the front door, ringing the bell impatiently, or using her key and strolling in as she sometimes did. It surprised her how happy the idea made her, and left an even worse feeling in its wake as she discarded the fantasy for reality. But I was the one who set her up with the date. Puzzling. Why would she do something she would ultimately regret? And another thing… Why do I regret it in the first place?

"It's not like I always need to spend time with her," she muttered out loud, finishing off the remaining wine in her glass. She immediately leaned forward and reached for the bottle on the coffee table for a necessary refill. Just because it was a 'casual' evening didn't mean she was only allowed casual amounts of drink. She nodded to herself as she settled back into the couch with a full glass. "I'm enjoying this Zinfandel quite a bit, I think," she told no one in particular.

Another few sips found her thoughts back on her brunette friend. Maura checked her watch. 8:30. They've probably just finished the main course. He'll order another bottle of wine and she'll agree to dessert. Maura had suggested her favorite French restaurant as their date destination, and she mentally perused the restaurant's dessert items that she had long ago memorized. She'll probably want the mousse, but the Côte Basque's Dacquoise and the Poire Belle-Hélène are better for sharing. She grinned at her own notion. The messiness of sharing mousse had never stopped Jane from insisting that it be the dessert they order.

Then Maura frowned and leaned forward jerkily at a new thought, almost spilling her wine. "What if she orders the mousse anyway?" She stared at the TV in a tipsy stupor for a moment before she noticed movement out of the corner of her eye. It was Bass, lazily making his way across the room. Maura watched him make little progress at his snail's pace. "What if she orders the mousse?" Maura demanded of him.

Bass, maintaining his breakneck speed, managed to crane his neck towards Maura, and she was nearly positive that if he had expressions to speak of and, in particular, eyebrows, one eyebrow would be raised in a pointed questioning of her sanity.

Maura set her glass on the coffee table after stealing another sip, hopping to her feet and navigating her way around the couch and across the room to the kitchen counter. A quick rummage through her purse rewarded her with her phone. She tapped her way to the right application with a smoothness only associated with near inebriation and wrote out a quick text to Jane: "Get the Poire Belle-Hélène." She hit the send button before she stopped to think. But once the progress bar intimated that the message had indeed been sent, she did pause, from a stab of guilt.

I'm interrupting her dinner. She said she'd call me. And upon further reflection, I'm still not sure why I'm even concerned with what dessert she orders. She snatched an apple out of the fruit bowl on the counter and meandered back to the couch to reclaim her seat and glass of wine. The juice squirted out of the ripe apple as she took her first bite of it, and she hummed in appreciation as the flavor accented that of the wine in a unique way.

Her phone buzzed on the couch next to her, and she saw that Jane had responded: "I don't even want to know how you knew we were talking about dessert. Where are you?"

Giggling, Maura daintily placed the apple in her lap bite-side-up and took another sip of wine before reaching for her phone to respond. "Home. How is your date?"

She dropped her phone beside her and enjoyed another few bites of her apple. I'm surprised she's paying attention to her phone. Another stab of guilt. I shouldn't be bothering her. She deserves a good date, and a good man. Before receiving a response, she fired out another quick text: "Sorry, I don't mean to disturb you. Enjoy your date."

A few minutes passed while her thoughts bounced around. Eventually the apple core was all that remained, and Maura huffed at her phone, polishing off the last of her somethingth glass of wine. When she realized her glass was empty, she stared at it in surprise, as if seeing it for the first time. I should really stop. She glanced at her phone's screen. I guess she got my last message and she's just going to focus on her date. She stood from the couch a little unsteadily and made another trip to the kitchen to throw out the apple core.

She found herself a little disappointed when she returned to the couch to find that Jane still hadn't responded. That's okay. She needs to put her date first. But the notion was depressing. Her next thought came unbidden: I wish she'd put me first. But she chastised herself as she poured another glass of wine (ignoring that the bottle was approaching empty): How can you expect her to put you first? She's on a date! She looked around for Bass and couldn't see him but called out, "A date, Bass!" anyway.

This is good for her, she continued her thoughts as she swirled the wine. She probably needs some space from me. We are always spending time together as it is. The swirling liquid amused her only for so long before she realized that the awful feeling guilty of plaguing her all day was still there, slinking somewhere in her subconscious. Another sip did nothing to soothe it.

Her phone buzzed, startling her, and she quickly set her wineglass on the table. "It's going great. He's perfect. You aren't disturbing me. What are you doing?"

Maura pursed her lips. She didn't know what to make of this latest text. She found herself thoroughly deploring one half of it and smiling giddily at the other. Should I respond? She absently leaned forward to grope for her glass of wine on the table, still reading and rereading Jane's text as she angled the glass to her lips.

Then, drawing it quickly away and planting it back on the table, she smiled if only because she was communicating with Jane as she composed her next text. "I told you so. I am enjoying a bottle of delectable Moratto Zinfandel and a quiet evening. Quite content. Think you're taking home a special meal tonight?" She debated a few seconds before tacking on a winky face at the end of the text to make sure Jane understood her innuendo.

If she was expecting a quick response, she would be sorely disappointed. After ten minutes of anxious waiting—anxious… why? because Jane hadn't responded? because her lack of response probably confirmed that Jane would be going home with her attractive, sweet, kind, model of a hunk?—Maura decided that further drinking would only reward her with an awful hangover, and she needed to eat something more than an apple for a dinner.

She swung herself up from the couch, leaving behind a half-filled glass and the uncorked bottle with a little under two glasses-worth left. Organizing a meal in her current state proved far more difficult than she had imagined. When she realized she had to squint a little to make sure she could focus on the little numbers that denoted burner heat on the stove, she decided against anything warm and threw together a casual salad for her casual evening.

Halfway through, she lost the stomach for it. She wasn't hungry, she just… she just wanted to cry. Of course it was just a reaction to the alcohol, she told herself as she wrapped up her salad and put it in the fridge, sniffling the whole way. When she shut the fridge door and turned around to survey her home, the immense quiet, the sheer emptiness her home seemed to convey, hit her with a staggering pang of her heart and she let out a small sob.

This is so silly, she tried to rationalize as she stumbled across the room to her cozy couch. I only feel this way because of the alcohol. It's a depressant, after all. But she rarely reacted like this to alcoholic beverages. Almost never.

And then it all crashed down on her as she crashed down into the couch. She felt… alone. So very alone. The feeling was so familiar, so hated, and she had been so far away from it for so long. Thanks to Jane. All thanks to her best friend, who had acted like a shield against this loneliness that had been her constant companion since childhood.

She felt… alone, and afraid, and jealous, of anything and everything that might take her shield away from her. You're such a fool. You set up the one thing you needed most on a date with the man she'll probably marry. And this is going to be your future—casual, long, and lonely evenings. She glared hatefully at the bottle of wine on the coffee table with red, bleary eyes as her head swam.

This was to be expected, really. Jane was bound to find a stable relationship eventually. Maura couldn't expect her to hang around forever. But still… it was miraculous the effect Jane somehow had on everything in Maura's life. Somehow the detective had gone from "friend," to "best friend," to "essential life staple." She was always able to drive Maura's days with her sarcastic jokes, her careful, patient understanding of Maura's ways, her dimpled smiles and unmatched passion for her job, family, and life.

Maura tried to scrub away the tears that continued to slip out. She was grateful. So grateful to have had Jane. And she wouldn't trade anything for her time with Jane, even if now, or sometime in the future, that time would come to an end. Oh, God. Maura choked on the hurt that permeated that last thought.

Then she heard something slide and click by the entryway. Maura sat up a bit straighter, forgetting her tears, wondering if Angela had come home. She heard the door open and close, and the telltale click of heels, and turned warily to greet Jane's mother.

But it was Jane who strode through Maura's home, straight to where Maura was perched on the couch. All reason and thoughts forgotten, Maura stared dumbly at her best friend. She was wearing the beautiful heels Maura had forced her to buy the last time they were out shopping, a dark blue to match the spectacular blue dress with a plunging neckline Jane had picked for her date. She had applied minimal makeup and fashioned her hair into an elegant, loose bun, but the combined effect was breathtaking.

Breathtaking enough for Maura to forget that she probably looked like a mess. Breathtaking enough that she forgot, for a long moment, that the presence of this particular person in her home this Friday night had been a distinct impossibility.

Jane wore a look of utmost concern, and after standing there for a silent minute, sweeping her eyes over the honey blonde to better gauge her current state, she finally approached Maura like she would a skittish animal, slowly taking a seat beside her and, after a moment's hesitation, reaching out to gently place a hand on Maura's shoulder.

It was Jane's voice that snapped Maura out of her trance. "Maur… what's wrong?"

Maura blinked repeatedly, sniffing and furrowing her brow as if to determine whether Jane was real or not. "Um… you're supposed to be on a date," she said, trying not to stutter or drag any of her syllables. "Weren't you going home with—"

"Are you drunk?" Jane interrupted, her concern tripling fast. Maura Isles, of all people, was never one to get drunk alone. "And no, I wasn't going to take him home."

"But you said he's… he's perrr-fect."

"Maura, you're scaring me. Why did you drink so much?"

"It didn't seem like much," Maura said airily.

Jane glanced at the nearly empty bottle. "Mmm, okay. Not that much." She rolled her eyes. "Maura, sweetie, what's wrong?"

Maura absently leaned into the hand that still rested on her shoulder. "I'm not… Why'd you come? I told you I was quite… quite… quite, mm…"

"Content, I know."

"So?" Maura pressed. "It's like… it's like you knew something was wrong." Maura just wanted to hear Jane talk more. Her deep, soothing, familiar voice heated the cold of her loneliness faster than anything else could.

Jane's concerned frown softened briefly into a fond grin that made Maura want to melt. "Because, Maur. You told me you were drinking Zinfandel. You only ever drink that stuff when something's really bothering you. And when you mentioned the whole bottle, I…" She trailed off, not understanding the shift in Maura's expression. The smaller woman looked like she was about to burst into tears again.

Miraculously, Maura held the waterworks back. "What happened to Mr. Perfect?"

Jane arched a brow at the name. "Oh, is that what we're calling him now? Well, I may have royally screwed things over. I sort of rushed out of there before we ordered dessert so I could come check on you." She shrugged at Maura's dumbfounded expression. "Besides, I think Mr. Perfect was a little too perfect. It's like someone tailored him to be just right for me and that sort of freaked me out. We didn't disagree on anything." She shrugged again. "It was weird."

Maura was in shock. Jane turned down the gorgeous, perfect date because a text about wine tipped her off that her best friend was in desperate need of her. That clinched it. That sealed the deal. No one knew Maura better than Jane, not even Maura herself. "I can't believe it," she whispered.

Jane waited for Maura to continue, but she didn't, so Jane said, "Well I can't believe how much of this bottle you put away." She let the hand on Maura's shoulder slide down to loosely hold her wrist while she reached for the bottle with her free hand and took a sip straight from it. "MM!" She pulled the bottle away fast and barely managed to swallow. "Yuck! Maura, what are you doing, punishing yourself for something? Where're your thousand dollar bottles of eu de la fancy wine? This stuff is crap!"

Maura giggled despite Jane's insult to her taste in wine, staring at the place where Jane's hand was closed around her arm. She yanked her arm back a bit until Jane's hand slipped into her own. Here, in her company, when the house seemed far from empty and the quiet far from lonely, with her hand wrapped safely in Jane's, all her fears seemed moot.

Jane gave her hand a squeeze. "Okay, Maura, seriously. Are you going to tell me what's wrong?"

Maura swayed a little, suddenly very exhausted because her tottering brain had produced the answer to the equation she'd been trying to solve all day. "I don't think I'll be setting you up… on any more dates."

"Okay…? Why is that?" When Maura didn't answer, Jane tried again. "Is that what was bothering you? Me being on a date?"

Maura smiled sneakily at Jane. "Maybe."

Jane shook her head in frustration. "Maura, I don't understand. Be straight with me!"

"I don't think that's possible," Maura responded, giggling at her double entendre. She leaned forward to put her face closer to Jane's, her expression suddenly very serious. "You're the only thing that makes it noisy around here."

Jane stared into Maura's dark eyes, seeing a puzzle there and feeling a flutter of confusion, and something else, in her chest. "Is that… a good thing?"

"Yes." The word was reverent. "Please. Don't ever go." On any more dates. Away from me. "Promise you'll stay."

Jane assumed she meant the night. "Yeah, Maur, I'll stay."

Maura let herself fall forward, eagerly seeking the warmth of Jane's embrace, and Jane welcomed her, wrapping her arms tightly around her drunk, confusing, complex friend and rubbing soothing patterns on her back.

"Sleep with me."

Jane froze at the request. "Um…?"

"In my bed," Maura clarified into Jane's neck, and Jane had to resist the shiver that went up her spine. "You're the only thing that keeps it away."

Jane focused on those last words, turning her mouth into Maura's hair to whisper, "Keep what away, Maur?"

"The loneliness," the doctor admitted with a broken murmur. Jane closed her eyes, understanding immediately and holding Maura just a little tighter against her. Maura took in a short breath at the gesture. "Jane, you're the only one…"

"The only one who what?" Jane asked softly, a mysterious thrill in her chest.

But Maura just shook her head against Jane's neck, because the sentence had been complete.