The door slammed, booming menacingly. The deadbolt turned, clicking loudly. Footsteps echoed down the hall.
Maura could smell alcohol, smoke. Anger. Self-loathing.
If she hadn't known the identity of her intruder, she would have been afraid. In another life, in any other circumstances, having someone barge into her home in the middle of the night in a cloud of liquor and rage would have terrified her.
She was terrified still.
But not of what this lone intruder might do to her.
Well, perhaps of that too, in a way.
Mostly she was afraid of what this invader had done.
The bed sagged and Maura remained completely immobile on her back. For perilous, agonizing seconds there was nothing but the sound of labored breathing.
Hers quick and shallow, the intruder's heavy and intentional.
Then, without a sound, the intruder moved. Maura felt long, tentative fingers against her arm. They were rough, worn hands but the touch was soft.
The hand settled there, lightly grasping her forearm. Just… feeling.
The breathing beside her began to even, to slow.
"What did you do?" Maura whispered, surprised to hear the husky, broken curiosity in her voice.
There was a pause, a sigh.
"It's better if you don't ask," came the solemn reply.
Maura touched the hand resting on her arm, traced swollen, bruised knuckles. She knew they would be raw, livid, in the light of day.
"Why?" she breathed.
Not, why is it better if I don't ask, but why do you do this?
It was understood, and the woman beside her shifted, rolled. Maura knew she was facing her now, in the blinding darkness of her room.
"Someone should," she said.
Maura felt her brow furrow automatically. She didn't do well in the abstract. She was a scientist. She lived in the literal.
"I don't understand," she replied.
"Then why," Maura began again, but soft fingers found her lips unerringly in the dark. Silenced her with a simple touch.
She barely resisted the urge to kiss those worn fingertips. Barely.
They smelled like cigars and bourbon and something spicy. It made the space behind her breastbone feel pinched too tight.
"Don't ask questions you don't want to know the answer to," came the warning.
Maura wanted to protest but the soft press of fingers to her lips, the warm presence beside her, gave her pause.
Maybe she did know why.
But she hated that word.
She wasn't good with maybe, possibly, potentially, hypothetically, speculatively…
The fingers slid from her lips, grazing the fine line of her jaw, before disappearing from her body.
Like a match striking.
And it suddenly didn't feel like maybe.
It felt like surely, completely, absolutely, undoubtedly.
She thought her late night companion was probably right.
It was better not to ask.
The questions she could live with.
It was the answer that might destroy her.