"Actually," Maura flushed and Jane's eyes narrowed in response. "Your mother may know about us."
"She may?" Jane echoed in annoyance. "What did you do?"
She crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back against the counter.
"I didn't do anything!" Maura protested, her blush deepening. Jane ignored the way she knew that blush tracked down over Maura's ample breasts, trying instead to maintain an air of affected annoyance.
"Maura," Jane groaned.
"It's not my fault," Maura added, her voice a pitch too high. "She… she… she tricked me!"
Jane laughed then, breaking her façade. She reached over and brushed a few locks of hair out of Maura's face.
"She did, huh?" Jane asked.
"Yes," Maura nodded. "I hate to speak ill of your mother Jane- you know I love Angela. But this was outright underhanded trickery."
Again Jane laughed, trying to stifle it at Maura's exasperated look.
"What happened?" Jane asked.
"Well," Maura shifted nervously.
"You had just left for work and I was getting dressed when your mother came over," Maura began. "I came into the kitchen and she was pouring me a cup of coffee and we chatted for a few minutes before I noticed her staring."
Maura blushed a violent crimson.
"She asked what happened to my neck and I couldn't lie so I simply said that I'd had an overnight guest," Maura continued. "I knew she hadn't seen you come over so I thought she might leave it at that. She did, sort of. She said she wished whoever it was would be a little more discreet. Anyhow, she asked if anyone else had come by last night and I said no. She said that was interesting because she'd seen a woman. I tried to backtrack and say that you had stopped by but it was too late."
Jane laughed again, a full-bellied laughter that had her doubling over and gripping the counter.
Maura's look of consternation and concern brought her back.
"Sorry," Jane grinned. "It's just, come on, it's funny! You were tricked into spilling the beans about us to my mother. I told you it's impossible to hide things from her."
"Well perhaps if you weren't so vigorous during our amorous activities," Maura looked pointedly at Jane as she scolded her. "I wouldn't have had to wear a turtleneck or a scarf every day this week."
"Oh I don't know," Jane rasped, snaking her arms around Maura's waist. Maura's face remained stern but she sank into Jane's touch without hesitation. "You seemed to like me being vigorous at the time."
A slight shudder ran through Maura and her look of consternation faltered. She squirmed slightly in Jane's arms, looking at the floor and Jane realized Maura was still upset.
"Hey," Jane soothed. "What? Do you not want my Ma to know?"
"No!" Maura exclaimed, her head popping back up. "No, that's not it. It's just… you're not mad that I accidentally told her? I mean, she's your mother. Not mine."
Jane couldn't stand the concerned frown on Maura's lips. Taking advantage of one of myriad benefits to their newer, more intimate relationship she kissed Maura softly.
Maura deflated somewhat, sighing and wrapping her arms more tightly around Jane. Jane allowed it for a moment, inhaling deeply and pulling the very essence of Maura into her lungs.
Then she leaned back, not loosening the circle of her arms, and forced Maura to meet her gaze.
"Maura, honey," she breathed. "You have nothing to feel sorry about. Is that the way I would have chosen? Probably not. Does it mean I don't have to engage my Ma in some kind of awkward 'talk' where we explain it to her? Yes. And you know, just because she isn't related to you by blood doesn't mean she doesn't think of you like a daughter. She loves you. We all do."
Maura's lips turned up slightly, her eyes softening as they always did when Jane reminded her of all the love she had in her life now.
"I suppose I'm just worried," Maura admitted, once again averting her eyes.
"About what?" Jane pressed quietly.
Maura's grip on Jane tightened and Jane's gut tightened in response.
"Maura," she rasped. "You're scaring me a little."
"Well, I'm scared too," Maura whispered.
Jane pulled Maura flush against her with one hand and cupped her cheek with the other.
"Tell me," Jane encouraged softly. "Whatever it is, I promise we can handle it."
"That's just it," Maura murmured. "We."
Jane felt every molecule in her body rebel.
Was Maura saying she no longer wanted to be a we?
She tried not to panic, not to jump to conclusions. She knew Maura needed to approach everything formulaically, to build up to things in what she thought were logical steps.
But this felt like she was building up to a break-up.
Except she was holding tightly to Jane, as if afraid to let go.
"Do you not want to be with me anymore?" Jane blurted, her voice cracking.
Maura's eyes widened and her grip on Jane turned nearly painful.
"No!" she cried. "No. I want to be with you. This is exactly what I was talking about!"
"Maura," Jane exhaled raggedly, trying to calm her racing heart. "What are you scared of?"
"Someday you'll get tired of it," Maura whispered, pointedly not looking at Jane. "You'll get tired of it and I'll be too attached to let go and what then?"
Tired of it?
"Tired of what?" Jane asked.
"Me," Maura breathed, so softly it was almost inaudible.
Jane's chest ached, her eyes watered, her gut clenched.
How could people have been so callous with this gorgeous woman?
"That will never happen," Jane rasped. "Ever."
She tilted Maura's head up with a firm hand.
"Do you understand me?"
Maura swallowed, hesitated.
"It always does," she countered timidly. "It's entertaining at first, how awkward I am. Perhaps endearing. But then people realize you have to live with it. And I don't understand social cues and I'm embarrassing and I can't lie and it's no longer fun to be with me- it's work. And then they leave."
"Maura," Jane interrupted, her voice a gravelly thrum.
Maura continued as if she didn't even hear Jane speaking.
"Normally that wouldn't be a big deal," Maura went on. "I have learned how to cope with it and develop a healthy perspective on interpersonal relationships and to see each failed relationship as an opportunity for personal growth. But with you… I can't do that. I won't be able to. So how will I live with losing you?"
"Maura," Jane repeated, firmer this time.
"Yes?" Maura asked, her eyes swirling with fear and uncertainty.
Jane leaned down and kissed her, far more intently and passionately than the last brief press of their lips. She used her tongue and lips to channel every ounce of tenderness, love, and affection from her heart into Maura's lithe frame.
When she pulled back, she rested their foreheads together. Maura didn't open her eyes.
"I love you," Jane murmured, not breaking the cocoon of silence around them. "I don't just think you're entertaining and endearing- although those things are true. I think you're brilliant and hilarious and gorgeous and compassionate. I don't just love the things about you that are easy or simple. I love all of you. All of it. The thought of living without you makes me sick. I'd rather be shut in a room with all my demons for eternity than live this life without you."
Maura swallowed harshly and crumbled forward into Jane's arms, burying her face in the sanctuary of Jane's neck.
"Don't let go," she pleaded breathlessly.
"I won't," Jane assured her. She wrapped her arms as firmly around Maura as she could, sealing them together from head to toe. Maura nodded against Jane's skin.
"I won't let go," Jane repeated.
And she wouldn't.