A/N: Short, short chapter-but important. Think of it kind of like a bridge. More soon.

Chapter 31

Marry me.

The words had fallen from Jane's lips so out of nowhere. It's not as though Maura didn't expect them at some point down the road—she thought of their relationship and she thought of forever. A lifetime.

But they had simply been talking about Jane's injured ribs, and the most wondrous night Maura had ever experienced. Jane had been expressing similar sentiments about last night, and that was beautiful in and of itself. Maura's heart ached less about the harm she had caused Jane.

And then suddenly, those words were slicing the air.

Marry me.

And everything seemed to shift. It was like the whole earth tilted a little bit out of place, although Maura realized that couldn't have happened.

Maura knew that Jane wanted her and loved her. Jane had always made her feel like she belonged more than anyone else ever had. But marriage? The love of her life wanted to marry her, and although part of Maura knew it made perfect sense, that it was inevitable, there was another part of her that was stunned.

Maura could still picture this part of herself—the child reading alone at a desk in her room. Waiting for her parents to get home, for her phone line to never ring, for anyone to notice her, care for her, love her. That insecure part of her had been buried more and more since she had met Jane. But it was still there, and that Maura—the Maura who felt she was unlovable—was stunned, was beyond disbelief.

Somebody wanted her forever. Not just somebody—Jane. The only person Maura wanted to be with every second of every day (oh, she knew that was impossible, but she wanted it nonetheless).

She was somewhat conscious of Jane kneeling on the floor in front of her, but her brain also kept running through images:

Jane's hands—the way they cradled Maura as she bled out on a hard sidewalk.

Jane's eyes as they looked at Maura in concern, and the lust they contained last night—full and vibrant.

Jane's laugh, her voice, her brilliant mind—she would be able to have all of this woman?

There was that insecure voice in her head: This beautiful, perfect woman wanted her?

And then memories flashed through Maura's mind:

Jane holding Maura's hands for the first time, assuring her she was not the same as monsters like Hoyt. Jane coming over in the middle of the night when Hoyt came back with a vengeance. The first winter that Jane spent by Maura's side, emitting more warmth than the fire that burned in front of them as they talked and laughed. The way they lay in bed together the night that Hoyt tried to kill them, curled up, Jane's fingers running over the bandage on Maura's neck, a wordless apology—so unconcerned for herself, only worrying about how Maura was.

Almost as if to say: she's proven time and again how much she loves you. From the beginning, she loved you.

The evidence—it's all in the past.

And right in front of your eyes.

Maura was suddenly aware of Jane still kneeling in front of her. She hadn't been able to say anything, and Jane was now backtracking, trying to calm her down. She had mistaken Maura's silence for uncertainty. That snapped Maura out of her thoughts. She decided right then and there that she needed to act. Even if words couldn't exactly form yet.

Maura didn't think when she brought Jane towards her. All she knew was that she wanted every bit of Jane. She wanted to be one with her so she wrapped her body around Jane's, making them as close as possible.

There was warmth, and stars bursting with light, and on the tip of her tongue lay the word "yes", but it simply never needed to be said.