The morning sun peeked through the curtains, gradually awakening hazel eyes to see dark brown lashes against olive skin. Jane's expression was serene. One hand was tucked under her pillow and she was breathing shallow, even breaths.
Maura wanted to kiss that mandible. She wanted to brush that errant lock of hair off that cheek and pass her lips over that zygomatic bone, then find that earlobe with her tongue and suck gently on in it. She wanted to trail kisses along that trapezius and around to her latissimus dorsi, and lick the indentation between her scapulae. She wanted to count the vertebrae with her tongue: seven cervical, twelve thoracic, then five lumbar, forming the deep curve at her lower back and leading to what Maura suspected was an untanned and perfectly formed gluteus maximus. She wanted to lay her cheek against that gluteus maximus.
Maura had spent five long months looking at that back, sometimes daring to touch it, most often with her fingers and palms, occasionally with her nose and lips. She knew that back like she knew the quadratic formula but Jane was not basic algebra. Jane was calculus. And Maura wanted to find the area under the curve.
Despite the way Jane had been acting lately—confident, seductive, ripe—Maura stayed still. She's not ready. I would be asking too much, too soon. After the great strides they'd made a week earlier, it would be wrong to want more. Needy. I am first and foremost her best friend.
She resisted the urge to touch, to kiss, and satisfied herself with observation only. Jane was having trouble sleeping lately, and Maura didn't want to be the one to disrupt a peaceful rest when she could find it. But more than that, she didn't want to be pushy. Maura could feasibly snuggle closer, make her way under Jane's arm and press her nose up to Jane's chest, wrapping herself around Echo and entwining her legs with Jane's. She could probably do it even without waking Jane. But she didn't want to ask for too much.
Maura was proud of Jane for everything she had done that night a week earlier. It wasn't often Jane was able to talk about her feelings, and Maura was proud of herself for being the kind of supportive, open-minded partner who could draw out that conversation. There was a moment that night when Maura snapped, when after all they'd been through together, after all Maura had confessed about loving her, Jane still couldn't say she trusted Maura.
How do you prove to someone you'll stay, except by staying? Jane had been right: they all leave. Dean, Casey, Grant… even her father and Tommy had disappeared from her life at some point. All men she'd trusted, and all of them had left her. It was no wonder she was circumspect. But Maura was different, wasn't she? She was Jane's best friend. That had to mean something.
The men Jane was romantically interested in had all left because of their jobs; that wasn't something Maura would ever need or want to do. Grant moved to Washington for work, and Dean already lived there. Casey had been deployed numerous times over the course of their relationship, but that wasn't why they'd broken up. He was still in the area, as far as Maura knew. When he'd recovered from his surgery, he'd taken a post training reservists at Fort Devens in Worcester County, so he could be close to Jane.
In fact, Maura didn't know why Jane had broken up with Casey. All she knew was he'd shown up on her doorstep "fixed" and Jane had all but disappeared from Maura's life. Jane would come to work, of course, but she would take long lunches or leave early, even when they were in the middle of a case. When she was at work, her mind would wander, and not in a good way. She appeared troubled, but didn't want to talk about it, and Maura didn't want to intrude. Then after a while, Casey disappeared from their conversation, and Jane began working long hours again. Even then, the distress remained.
Maura had attributed that distress to Jane's unexpected pregnancy, and supporting that hypothesis was the observation that Jane became much more relaxed when Maura had agreed to co-parent with her. Maura hadn't previously made the connection between Jane's breakup with Casey and her reluctance toward intimacy, but now she realized the possibility existed. It was hard to believe that the indomitable woman currently resting in her bed would allow anyone to mistreat her, but the Jane from eight months ago was a different person altogether. And with the thought that Casey had hurt Jane much more deeply than she let on, Maura felt a tear spill down her cheek and onto her pillow.
Jane spent so much time being strong and protecting everyone else that nobody, not even her best friend, realized she needed… what? Help? Someone to talk to, at least. Someone to provide perspective and reason. Maura should have been that person, but she was too blinded by a conflict of interest. Maura had thought she was judging Casey too harshly, that Jane must have seen something in him that she didn't, and that it wasn't her place to cause a rift in their relationship. Or worse, that if she did say something, Jane would defend Casey to the detriment of their friendship.
Maura tried to stop herself from speculating about Jane's relationship with Casey, having so few of the facts and only the evidence of memory (which studies had shown was notoriously unreliable), but her emotions drove her to a clear conclusion: Of course she doesn't trust me. I knew there was something wrong and I never asked. I wasn't there for her when she needed me.
Maura knew she had to do better. She wanted to hold Jane, to cuddle her until everything bad just dissolved away, but she knew that wasn't possible. She knew she should ask Jane what happened and let her know that if there was something she was dealing with, something difficult, that she didn't have to do it alone. Jane didn't have to be invincible for Maura.
It wouldn't be easy. Maura might have to press, to argue. The last thing she wanted to do was fight with Jane, and she certainly didn't want to agitate her this late in the pregnancy. So she decided to wait. The baby was due in less than three weeks and they would be too busy to think about anything else for some time after that. She would wait until the time was right, until they were settled and things were calm and… now was just not the time.
Instead, for now, Maura would try to focus on the baby. She tried to shift her thoughts to Echo, to make lists and take stock. Were they ready for her? What if she came early? They had a hospital bag at home but Jane was still working, at least for a few more days. What if she went into labor while they were at work? Or worse, while Maura was at a crime scene and couldn't get to her?
Maura pulled down the sheets and scooted down in the bed, curling her legs and resting her head on the mattress next to Echo. Jane wore a maternity tank top to bed but she had grown so much that even the long top rode up while she slept, exposing her navel. Maura touched Jane's belly lightly, and kissed it. Then she thought better and sat up completely.
At their last appointment (they were going every week now), Doctor Filer confirmed that Echo was in the proper birthing position, her head down between Jane's hips and her feet up at Jane's ribs. Maura's head tilted to the right, trying to decide if what she was about to do was silly. She glanced at Jane's face; she was still sound asleep. Then Maura spun herself around and laid down with her feet on her pillow and her head next to Jane's pelvis.
"Hello, little one," she whispered. "Do you remember me? I'm your mommy. The other one." She bit her thumb nail while she thought about what she wanted to say. "We both love you very much. And I hope… I'm going to try to be the best mommy I can for you."
Maura's hand smoothed lightly over Echo and rested on Jane's hip. "It might be scary. One day you'll wake up and decide it's time to come out and meet the world, and you don't know what awaits you out here. But we'll be here, your mama and me. We'll hold you and love you and… don't worry, darling, because you'll be just as safe as you are in there."
Maura pressed her lips to Jane's skin and left her head within breathing distance as she continued. "The safest place I know is in your mama's arms. When she loves you," Maura's eyes closed, "her hug is like a shield. Nothing can hurt you."
It had been a long time since Maura had received one of those hugs. The kind that enveloped her in long arms and pressed her up against Jane from head to toe. It wasn't for lack of trying, but logistics changed with a growing fetus and accommodations had to be made.
Maura's fingertips began to wander with her mind. They absently traced the waistline of Jane's shorts along her hip, then came to rest wedged between the elastic and Jane's back. Maura was effectively hugging Echo. "A hug like that can change everything."
There was one hug that had become legendary in Maura's mind. Memories were unreliable, she knew, especially memories of trauma. Details could be lost or altered, and wholly imaginary components could be added to fill in the blanks. Each retelling effectively acted as a revision, amplifying and modifying certain aspects while diminishing others. And yet the resulting memory was vivid. Real.
She knew from the police reports that she had been in his loft apartment, and there was an open elevator shaft. She knew there was an exposed piece of rebar three stories down on which he had been impaled. She'd read about, but not remembered, the knife he held to her throat as he dragged her to the open shaft. The report said that no shots were fired; he'd let go of her and jumped. She'd been told that Detectives Frost and Korsak were there along with Jane the whole time, but all she saw in her mind's eye was Jane.
Maura closed her eyes tightly, remembering that moment. She felt his arm around her neck and how his grip was the only thing keeping her standing; her legs were shaky and off-balance. She was floating, but trapped, and she froze. Her eyes darted around and focused on Jane. Now, safe in their bed, Maura felt a sympathetic surge of adrenaline. Her heart rate increased and she breathed more rapidly. She could hear her pulse. Her mind's eye focused on Jane and she forced a deep breath, in through her nose and out through her mouth, breaking the cycle. She felt the warm air come back toward her, bouncing off Jane's skin. A few more deep breaths and she opened her eyes. Back to reality.
"It's ok to be scared, little one. Fear," Maura explained, "elicits the release of epinephrine, more commonly known as adrenaline. And with an adrenaline rush, people have been known to do amazing things. Have super-human strength, some say. It sounds unbelievable, I know, but I've witnessed it."
Maura debated how much of the story to censor, considering Echo probably wasn't understanding the words anyway. "I was in danger. I didn't know it, but your mama figured it out and got there in time to rescue me. And I think she was scared, too, because he… I was going to fall. I did, I think." She was puzzled, trying to separate truth from fiction. Her mind could never fully integrate the police reports with her memories. Common sense said what she saw, what she experienced, was impossible. The only conceivable explanation she could come up with was special relativity. The passage of time had warped, and events slowed down or sped up without explanation.
Nodding to herself, Maura confirmed, "I did fall, but Mama caught me." She smiled. "She was too far away, much too far to reach me, but she ran faster than the speed of light and she picked me up before I could fall all the way. She held me there, in the air, and wrapped her arms around me." Maura hugged Echo a little bit tighter and kissed her. "And with that, I knew everything was ok."
Maura sighed and nuzzled her nose against Jane's belly. After a few moments of silence, no kicking or other recognition that Echo had received the message, Maura realized how silly she would feel if Jane were to wake up and find her talking to Echo like this. She slid her fingers out from beneath Jane's waistband and removed her arm from Jane's middle. But before she could sit up and turn around again, she felt something on her kneecap. Jane's lips.
Startled and caught, Maura blushed. She sat up and scooted away, trying to explain, "I was just…"
"Just… telling stories again?" Jane smiled sleepily and rested her hand on Maura's knee, keeping her from going too far. "You shouldn't tell tales, Maura." She nodded at Maura's reddened neck.
Maura felt the heat there, but shook her head. "It's not hives. I wasn't lying. That was a true story."
"With Rockmond? But I didn't—"
Maura shrugged. "That's how I remember it."