This is a very dark piece. Please take note of that. It's rating is for subject matter and slight language usage.

Characters aren't mine. They belong to Tess Gerritsen, Janet Tamaro, Turner Broadcasting, Warner Brothers, and other assorted important people. I gain nothing from writing these stories but the fun of doing it. Please don't sue me.

Jane looked down at the pistol in her hold. The familiar weight and textured grip were oddly comforting as she looked down at the black metal weapon sitting quietly in the cradle of her two hands.

Closing her eyes, she gave a heavy sigh. Somewhere in her apartment she could hear Jo sniffing around, and the crickets chirping outside gave the apartment an eerily peaceful feel. Jane, however, was far from peaceful.

She was tired, mentally exhausted, physically spent, and emotionally numb. Her years of collaring one bad guy after the next while having moments where she was somehow captured by some insane person bent on destroying her were finally taken a toll. She'd have liked to think she'd at least lost track of the number of times she'd been kidnapped, attacked, assaulted, mentally and emotionally abused, or some other horror that no person should go through, but the fact was she remembered each time clearly, as if it had happen just the day before.

A siren rang out through her neighborhood, and she frowned. Glancing to her phone that sat on the coffee table, she waited to see if she would get the call that normally comes with that sound, but, after a long wait, her phone remained still.

Nodding, she glanced back down to the weapon in her hand. She turned it over in her hands, noting the dings and scratches that come from years of use.

She was tired of using it.

She was just tired.

Her body sagged under the weight of all of the responsibility she had taken on. Far too often when she was alone at night she wondered if it was too much, but she always seemed to be able to get up the next day and do it again. One day after another, she pushed on, ignoring the guilt she felt for not being the daughter her mother wanted her to be, for not being a better cop, for not being a better friend, a better sister, a better person. No matter what she did in her life, it was never quite enough.

She felt as though she was a disappointment even to herself. She wanted so much to be everything everyone wanted her to be, to be normal, to be well adjusted. What she found was she was none of those things, and the constant hurt she saw in her family's eyes whenever she did yet another thing that wasn't normal or well-adjusted or met expectations was also taking a heavy toll on her.

Somewhere behind her, she heard Jo plop down, her tags stopping their constant jingle. The little dog gave a sniff of relief and was silent, likely settling to take a nap.

The clock on her wall told her it was only 9:30 at night, but she felt like it should have been midnight. Her shades were closed, and the only light came from the small lamp on her desk by the wall. The place was dark. It seemed to fit.

Looking down the barrel of the gun as it faced her was a far cry different than looking down the barrel when she shot Tyler Bane a week before. This time, there was no hysteric mother in the background yelling, crying, begging, and screaming not to shoot her only son, her teenaged son. This time, there would be no five year old to accidentally get away from the people in charge of keeping her out of the room to come in at the exact moment the trigger was pulled and young man's life slipped away. This time, there would be no chance that the gun being pointed at Jane was unloaded.

She knew this gun was loaded.

She closed her eyes and could see the face of Tyler's young sister, splattered with his blood. It was an expression of confusion mixed with fear and anger, and all of those emotions were aimed at Jane. The little girl didn't understand that Tyler had killed one of his classmates in a fit of rage. She didn't know that Tyler had made a bomb threat at his school that day, had evaded arrest, and had been holding his mother hostage until a few moments before. She didn't know that Tyler was a very disturbed young man whom Jane was trying to talk down until her raised the gun and began to pull the trigger. At that point, Jane had no choice but to shoot. The little girl didn't know any of that and wouldn't have understood the situation even had she known.

All the little girl knew was there was something warm and wet on her face, her brother was slumped over on the floor with a big patch of red slowly spreading across his shirt, and her mother was crying and cussing, and she knew Jane was the cause. Jane knew that Jane would be the cause of years of therapy for that little girl.

Jane was supposed to protect and serve, not scar for life.

Images of others she'd killed flashed through her mind, the looks of family and friends when she'd had to tell them a loved one had been found dead someplace, and the fragile, broken looks her own family and friends had every single time she found herself in the hospital.

She saw the constant look of disappointment from her mother each time she said she'd never marry, the disapproval of the family's priest each time she didn't take communion because she felt she was too unclean to take in the body of Christ, and the look of jealousy from her brothers because they envied all the things they thought she had and they didn't.

It was too much.

Slowly opening her eyes again, she focused on the round, open end of the barrel of gun. She didn't really have any questions. She knew it would destroy her mother and tear her friends up. Her fleeting thought was they were better with a quick hurt they could eventually get past than to have her constantly rehurting them.

She clicked the safety off on the gun.

"No, Jane," the voice was soft, but firm.

"How long have you been standing there?" She didn't bother to turn her head. She knew that voice. She heard it every day at work and, recently, most night in her dreams, sometimes in moans of passion, sometimes in screams of pain.

"Not long. I used my key when you didn't answer my knock."

The frown grew deeper, but she slowly flicked the safety back on her weapon. "Get out of here, Maura. You don't need to be here."

"I'll either be here now or later," came the smooth response as the other woman knelt on the floor to look up at the woman stiffly seated on the sofa. "Jane, I really don't want to come back here later." Maura swallowed the thick lump in her throat, managing to whisper a begging, "Please."

The gun didn't move, but Jane's eyes turned to look over and down at the hazel eyes watching her. "Why are you here?"

"It's Friday night, and you never came over for our game night. Remember? We were going to play board games and watch the baby while Angela took the night off." Maura didn't move, afraid that it might be took much, cause something to happen for which there was no repair. "When you didn't come, I called the station, but Frost said you'd left. You weren't at the bar, and you're not answering your phone." She glanced to the coffee table. "I assume you turned it off?"

"No," Jane's eyes flicked to the covered window, remembering the siren from earlier and the dread that came with it. "Must be dead."

Maura slowly reached out and placed a hand on the top of the pistol, not pushing it down, but putting her presence in Jane's line of sight. She knew it wasn't the best idea for a situation like this, but she trusted her friendship with Jane to help her help her friend move through this. "Please, Jane, talk to me."

"There's nothing left to say, Maura." Jane's eyes ran from the end of the barrel to her friend's hand, and her mind flashed to her last dream of the small woman before her. She grunted, clearing her throat and closing her eyes against the memory.

"Jane, this wasn't your fault. You couldn't have known the gun was unloaded. You were doing your job, protecting everyone. Please," Maura's voice gave a hint of the terror she was feeling as it fell to a whisper, "don't do this."

"I can't," Jane's hoarse voice was desperate. "I can't be one more thing that I'm not supposed to be. I just can't. It's too much."

Confusion spread across the doctor's face. "I don't understand. What are you not supposed to be? Jane, please just talk to me."

Jane's eyes opened, and the anger there caused Maura to gasp. "Everything that I am." Face contorting and twisting between anger, self-loathing, and pain, Jane practically growled out her thoughts as they began to pour forth. "I'm not married but I'm supposed to. I'm not married because of my job. I'm a killer because I'm a cop, but I shouldn't be either one. I shouldn't call myself a killer because I kill in the name of protecting the innocent, but I scar the innocent. I shouldn't be a cop at all. I should be a married with children. I have no children, but I should by now. I don't have children because there's not a single man I want to spend my life with. I don't want to spend my life with a man because," she took in a shaky breath, stopping her monologue.

"You're a good person," Maura started quietly as she tried to take in everything her friend was saying. "You don't have to be anything you don't want to be, and, no matter who or what you are, there are plenty of people who will love you and support you. If you never get married or have children, that's okay. You're a good officer, a wonderful daughter, and a thoughtful friend." She pushed down on the gun, relieved that Jane allowed her to at least move the barrel away from them both, though still concerned that Jane would not let go of the weapon.

"You don't get it, Maura. You just don't understand." The anger was dissipating and, in its place, Jane started to sound deeply regretful. "I can't be one more thing that makes me different. I can't handle it. I'm different enough."

"Tell me," the honey brunette pleaded. "Tell me what that one thing is. Jane, I promise you, whatever it is, we'll work through it. Normal is a relative term. No one is normal."

Leaning back against the sofa cushions, letting her neck bend to rest her head on the top of the back of the sofa, Jane let out a heavy sigh. "I can't."

"Yes, you can." Maura closed her eyes and mentally crossed her fingers as she pulled on the pistol. Relief spread over her as the gun slid from Jane's hand. Quickly, Maura pulled the clip out and check to make certain the barrel was empty. Much to her horror, a bullet popped from the chamber. Placing the gun on the table and the clip in her purse, she pressed on. "Whatever this is, Jane, you can do it."

Jane's hands clasped together in her lap, her body tense. Slowly, her head rose and eyes locked with her still kneeling friend. "I'm going to go to Hell, Maura."

Maura shook her head. "I don't believe that. Why would you think that?"

"I've lied, I've stolen, I've killed so many people, and now I," Jane shook her head, again stopping her thoughts. "I scared that little girl. I know it was an accident that she came in when she did, but she's going to take years of therapy. You would think that I'd dream about that. You know I normally dream about the horrible things that I've done or have been done to me, but," she chewed her bottom lip for a moment, considering. "But what I dreamed about had nothing to do with any of that. All I seem to dream about lately is," she glanced away to the wall, eyes landing on a signed baseball, "you."

Maura was silent for a time, processing. "In what way?"

"In the way that makes me positive that I'll never be normal in anything I do and that I'm going to go straight to hell when I die," Jane said, not making eye contact.

"You're not going to go to Hell, Jane."

"You don't know!" Jane stood, nearly knocking Maura over as she began to pace her small living room. "You don't know that, Maura. How can I not go to Hell? I'm a killer, and I have feelings for other woman. It can't get much worse short of worshipping Satan and praying to a golden statue of some kind. How can I be so fucked up? Why can't I be normal? God, if Ma finds out, she's going to be so disappointed. She," Jane's face crumbled, "she'll disown me. I can't. I can't do this. It's just too much. I can't be a female cop, a killer, and this other thing. I get enough hell just by being who I am already. This… this… I can't, and now that I've told you what I've been thinking about for months, you're probably going to leave and never see me again. God," she stopped pacing. "I'm such a fuck up."

"No, you're not." Slowly standing, Maura walked carefully over to Jane. "You're a good person who is frustrated, emotionally drained, and physically exhausted. But you're not a fuck up. You're," she reached slowly out to push the hair from Jane's face and force her to meet her gaze, "amazing, smart, intelligent, loyal to fault, selfless, caring, and someone I think about often when I'm falling asleep," she gave a very small smile, "and sometimes in my dreams."

Jane cleared her throat. "You… you dream about me?"

Maura nodded. "Yes."

Jane's face twitched with uncertainty but didn't pull back from Maura's touch. "In what way?"

"In all the ways that, if I were to allow them, would make me afraid that you'd no longer be my best friend if you knew what those thoughts were," Maura said, eyes dull from the emotional exertion of having these back-to-back conversations.

"Ma will never…"

"She's already asked me twice if I was certain there wasn't more than just friendship between us, and on more than one occasion she's told me that she didn't care who you were with, man or woman, so long as they made you happy, like I do." Maura gave a small shrug. "She doesn't care, Jane. No one who loves you will care if the person you love is also a woman. They'll just care that you're happy and well taken care of."

"You shouldn't have to deal with my baggage, Maura. I would embarrass you if you had to take me into your world, and I could never give you…"

"I already deal with your baggage, as you do mine, and you might embarrass me, but I would rather be slightly embarrassed than bored and with someone who doesn't appreciate me as you do." Maura ran her hand from Jane's chin down her shoulder and arm to her hand. Lacing their fingers together, she gave a squeeze. "I'm not running. Please, don't run either. There are other ways to cope. Let me help you."

Tears rolled down Jane's face as she looked down at their entwined hands. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be. Just stay with me." Maura gave their hands a tug, causing Jane to look up. "Please?"

"Okay," came the whispered response. "I'll stay… for you."

A rush of breath escaped Maura's lips as Jane allowed the smaller woman to hug her, returning the embrace in kind. "Please come home with me tonight?"

Jane shook her head. "I can't deal with Ma right now."

"Then let me stay."


"Would you be willing to take some time off? Spend it with me?" At Jane's unsure look, Maura quickly add, "Just the two of us, alone, some place where we don't have to deal with family, friends, or work. Just a chance to let you relax. I promise I won't do anything you don't want to do. I just want to be here for you, Jane."

"What about Ma and the baby?"

"Frankie and Tommy have keys to my house. They can step up and help. If Tommy is the father, he should be there anyway. Please, Jane, come away with me? Just for a week?"

"And then what?"

Maura gave a weak smile. "And then you stay with me the next week and the next and the one after that until each week you have you give to me for safe keeping until we're both too old to do much more than keep each other company and watch the clouds roll by. How does that sound?"

"Safe." Jane took in a deep breath. "You have my week."

"And the next?" Maura tilted her head, waiting.

"Yeah, that one, too, and the rest if you really want them." Jane shrugged.

"I do. But, so long as they're all mine, you can't suddenly take them away from me."

Jane snorted. "Yeah, I kind of figured. I'm okay with that."

Maura nodded. "Come on, let's try to get some sleep. I think we're both tired."

Quietly nodding her agreement, Jane allowed Maura to lead them to her bedroom. She stepped over a sleeping Jo, and had to give a small smile. Tomorrow would be better.