Maura took a sip of her coffee and wondered, yet again, why it didn't taste as good as when Jane brought it to her.
It didn't make sense.
Then again, none of it did.
It was the exact same brew from the exact same pot with the exact same specifications. One cream, two sugars.
But it tasted wrong, somehow.
It was baffling.
Her scientific mind couldn't determine what the problem was. Couldn't eliminate the variables until she figured out what the missing link was.
Her heart suggested a solution but her brain silenced the idea once again.
Love couldn't make things taste different.
Heartbreak couldn't affect her taste buds.
It was patently ridiculous.
But she couldn't deny that her coffee tasted different.
Now, it was just one more mystery about her relationship with Jane.
The woman was an enigma, and their friendship was a vast unknown that Maura could not understand.
She'd fallen in love with Jane somehow.
Over coffee with one cream and two sugars, long rides in the squad car, and grueling hours in the morgue she had fallen in love with the only friend she'd ever really had.
The discovery had been startling, to say the least.
Maura imagined it was what a quarterback felt like when he was sacked.
The woman seemed to have seeped into every crack, every pore, every inch of Maura's life.
Since Maura had realized the depth of her feelings, she had been avoiding Jane.
She needed some space, some distance to figure out how to proceed.
With Jane so temptingly close, Maura couldn't think.
She wanted to tell Jane. To recklessly lay all her cards on the table and just… hope for the best.
But she knew that would backfire in the worst of ways, so she hid instead.
The feeling of cowardice eventually faded, and she convinced herself that it was for the best.
Jane shot her mouth off (no surprise there) on November 15th.
An otherwise innocuous day that would have gone unmarked on Maura's calendar if not for the events following that fateful moment.
Because for Maura, this was the proverbial last straw.
She had laughed and cried with Jane Rizzoli. Solved crimes, outwitted psychopaths, and endured family gatherings. Maura had played softball with her, for crying out loud- team sports!
They have matching scars on their necks. And many more matching scars that no naked eye can detect.
So when Jane got territorial and obnoxious to Maura's date, making quite the scene at the Dirty Robber, Maura had enough.
Jane might not understand her real feelings, but Maura did. Maura had seen love in someone's eyes before.
But she'd never seen anything remotely approaching what she sees reflected out at her when she meets Jane's gaze.
Jane effectively scared off Maura's date- he never calls again. Part of Maura was upset about that but it got swallowed in the anger and frustration and sadness at watching Jane flail emotionally.
They had been to hell and back so many times Maura had lost track. They had risked complete destruction only to barely reach redemption on innumerable occasions.
Maura was unequivocally in love with Jane. Every fiber of her being was certain of it. She loved Jane totally, completely, all-consumingly.
In her heart, she knew that the feelings took root the first time they spoke and had been slowly blooming since then. It was difficult to wrap her head around the depth of love she felt, and for a few months she had feared it.
Just the idea of loving a wild, free, dangerous woman like Jane was petrifying.
But Jane… she was just too easy to love, and Maura was inextricably tangled up in the other woman. So Maura gave in to the desire, the hope, the love.
Since then, all the days and months since that moment, she had been waiting for some sign that Jane felt the same way.
And she had found it. Hundreds of them, actually.
She was able to deduce, with her own intuition and analysis as well as the hints and clues from Jane's family and friends, that Jane loved her.
Maura knew that the process of discovering ones' sexuality was a difficult, sometimes winding path. She didn't want to force Jane into anything she wasn't comfortable with, ready for. She also didn't want to risk rejection simply as a knee-jerk reaction.
She wanted Jane to be ready.
But the days had turned into weeks and the weeks into months…
And there had been no indication that Jane was coming to terms with her love for Maura.
It left Maura at an impasse. She dated a little, tried to be social and healthy, but she was merely treading water while she waited for Jane. She tried to drop hints, to nudge Jane in the right direction, but nothing seemed to work.
When Jane acted out at the bar and then blamed her behavior on being tipsy and wanting simply to protect Maura, it was all Maura could do not to scream. Jane's apology had fallen on deaf ears, and while Maura eventually told Jane she was forgiven, something was stuck between them.
That something grew a little larger when Maura blew Jane off to reschedule her date.
And a little larger still when she decided to ride with Barry to a crime scene.
That little crevice, that crack, grew as the minutes, hours, days ticked past.
Still, Jane seemed unable to identify her own emotions- the jealousy, the anger, the frustration and to add them up to being in love.
Maura didn't push it.
She was too tired.
Days passed. Weeks.
There was a massive blizzard expected to hit Boston on Friday night in late February. She and Jane weren't on call and normally Maura would have invited her best friend over to get snowed in with her.
She couldn't continue with the same behaviors, the same patterns, and expect things to change.
It was snowing hard when she went to bed on Friday night. When she woke up on Saturday morning the snow had stopped but there were a solid two feet of snow on the ground. The air was biting and bitter. The roads of Boston were deserted.
Maura brewed a pot of coffee and as she drank the first, heavenly cup, she surveyed the unblemished expanse outside her front window. It took her brain a moment to assimilate but there, about halfway up her driveway, was Jane.
Stripped down to a pair of snowpants and a hooded sweatshirt, Jane was diligently clearing the snow from Maura's driveway, her hair blowing wildly where it peaked out from under her hat.
Perplexed, Maura watched for a moment before opening the front door.
"Jane?" she called out.
Jane froze and looked up. She pursed her lips in a thin line.
"Go back inside," she commanded, eyes narrowing at Maura's bare legs. "You'll freeze."
"I was just about to say the same thing to you," Maura countered. "What are you doing?"
"I'm shoveling," Jane retorted, returning to her task.
"I see that," Maura replied. "I suppose I was more interested in why you were shoveling my driveway. And for that matter, how on earth did you get here?"
"I walked," Jane responded tersely, her body moving fluidly to remove the snow. Maura tried not to get distracted by the sight.
"You walked?" she echoed incredulously.
"Yes," Jane sighed, pausing again. "You know, walking? That thing where you put one foot in front of the other and move places?"
"Yes, thank you, Jane," Maura returned, frustration coloring her voice. "Will you please come up here for a moment? I'm tired of yelling."
Jane looked poised to resist and then caved, trudging up to Maura's doorstep as rapidly as the feet of snow blanketing her path would allow.
"Thank you," Maura said when Jane reached her.
"You're welcome," Jane nodded. "What did you want?"
Maura shivered and Jane bit her lip, wordlessly ushering Maura inside after a moment's pause. She shut the door behind them and then turned to look at Maura expectantly.
"I'm sorry," Maura blurted. "I'm just not quite sure why you're here. Did we have an appointment that I forgot about?"
"Are you kidding me?" Jane scoffed, anger creeping into her voice. "An appointment? I didn't know I needed an appointment to see my best friend. I just haven't seen much of you lately and I wasn't sure if maybe I did something wrong so I was trying to give you some time to either tell me what it was or to move on from it. Then I got to thinking that maybe it was something big because you've been kinda weird for a few weeks now and I thought that if it was something big I'd probably need to make up for it. So I'm making up for whatever it is."
Jane paused, her eyes pleading. Her body language changed from hostile to relaxed, imploring. "I'm sorry, is what I'm saying I guess," she added softly.
Maura appraised Jane with narrowed eyes.
Damn but Jane was infuriating sometimes.
"So let me get this straight," Maura offered. "You're here shoveling my driveway to begin making up for a mistake you may or not have made- is that correct?"
"Yeah," Jane shrugged. "That's right."
"I'm," Maura paused. "I'm not sure I completely understand."
Jane put a hand on her hip, the position so innately Jane that it made Maura's heart clench.
"You're my friend, Maura," Jane bit her lip. "My best friend. I feel like there's some distance between us lately and I'm not quite sure why and I want to fix it. I didn't know where else to start, so I thought I'd start by showing you that I'm still here for you."
"I know you are," Maura whispered. "I've never doubted that."
"So did I," Jane hesitated. "Did I do something? Or say something? I just… I'm not sure where I went wrong."
There was a long pause and Maura had never seen such darkness in Jane's eyes.
"Where did I go wrong?" Jane implored her, voice broken and stilted in the space between them.
"Would you like a cup of coffee?" Maura offered.
"I can make it," Jane breathed, hastily reaching down to undo her boots. "Let me. Please."
Maura walked into the kitchen, knowing innately that Jane would follow, and ignored the plea. Maura poured a cup of coffee and pulled two scones out of a basket on the counter, turning on the oven as she passed.
"Let me give you something to eat," she offered, indicating a seat at the kitchen island with a wave of her hand.
Jane sat dutifully, accepting the cup of coffee. Maura's fingers grazed hers and Jane frowned when Maura recoiled.
"Your hands are cold," Maura smiled awkwardly, the laughter not quite reaching her eyes. Jane's eyes widened and she blushed softly.
"Sorry!" she wrapped them both around the mug.
"It's ok," Maura risked squeezing Jane's shoulder affectionately and was rewarded with a thousand-watt smile. "I'm glad you're here," Maura admitted.
"Me too," Jane replied. Her smile made Maura's heart flutter.
They lapsed into silence as Maura prepared the scones. Jane's eyes followed her intently as she moved around the kitchen.
When she was done, Maura ushered them both to the couch and refilled Jane's coffee before sitting.
The silence stretched out before them and Jane took a sip of her coffee idly before putting it on the table.
"Are you going to tell me?" she prompted gently.
Maura looked startled, as if she had thought feeding Jane coffee and a scone would distract the other woman from her questions.
Maura really should have known better than to think the detective would be so easily distracted.
"I'm not sure what to say," she admitted. "Or where to begin."
"I usually begin at the start," Jane teased, but her eyes were still serious.
"Coup de foudre," Maura whispered.
They were silent a moment as Maura struggled to explain.
"What?" Jane prompted gently.
"I had a coup de foudre," Maura replied. "A lightning bolt. A realization."
"Oh?" Jane's brow furrowed slightly. "About what, exactly?"
"About us," Maura offered hesitantly. "About life, I suppose."
"Ooooo-k," Jane drawled. "Was it about me being a hopeless jerk?"
"No," Maura laughed softly. "Nothing like that."
Jane waited expectantly but Maura didn't elaborate.
The words felt stuck in Maura's throat. It should have been easy, simple.
I love you.
That's all it would take.
No matter Jane's reply, no matter the outcome- at least she would know.
But for some reason, she couldn't make those three little words pass her lips. Couldn't form the simple syllables with her tongue.
Instead, she blurted out the first thing that came to her mind.
"Why does my coffee taste differently when you make it?"
"I'm sorry," Jane shook her head slightly, as if to clear it. "What?"
Maura blushed, looking down at the floor.
"When you make the coffee," she repeated softly. "It tastes better. But it's the same- one cream, two sugars."
It was Jane's turn to blush, and she looked slightly chagrined when she responded.
"I put two creams in it," she admitted.
"What?" Maura seemed shocked.
"Well once I did it by accident and you seemed to like it better so then I just kept doing it and… I don't know. Sorry, it seems so silly now."
"It's not…" Maura stopped herself. She wasn't sure what to say. "It's not silly. I guess you just know me better than I know myself."
"You're my best friend," Jane offered, placing a gentle hand on Maura's thigh. "I love you."
Maura paused before responding.
The answer was there on the tip of her tongue.
I love you too.
It was simple. Easy.
She said it all the time. They said it to each other.
But now, it wasn't enough.
"I-" she hesitated. It felt like a lie.
"Maura?" Jane's voice was fractured, splintered. It tore at Maura's skin. Chafed. Jane's hand slid from Maura's leg and fisted in her own lap.
"I'm sorry," Maura swallowed the lump in her throat.
"Maura?" Jane repeated, her voice gravelly, anguished.
"The thing is," Maura tried, regretting it the words left her lips.
Jane recoiled as if she had been struck. She shifted away from Maura on the couch, looked poised to flee.
"Maura," Jane rasped again.
"I do love you," Maura breathed.
Jane relaxed slightly and yet she could sense the but that was coming.
"I do," Maura repeated. "You know that."
Jane swallowed harshly. Maura struggled to maintain her composure.
"Yeah," Jane nodded. "So talk to me."
"I-" Maura faltered again. Fear choked her. "I want to-"
"Then do it," Jane implored. "Tell me. You can tell me anything, Maur."
When Maura was silent a moment longer, Jane reached out for her with a tentative hand, sliding her fingers through Maura's. Maura allowed it.
"Please," Jane practically begged.
Maura licked her lips nervously, tightened her grip on Jane's hand. Jane held firm.
"It's not that I love you," Maura whispered, her voice barely audible. "It's that I'm in love with you."
Jane's hand tightened almost imperceptibly on Maura's.
Neither woman spoke. The moment stretched on endlessly.
Maura felt sweat gathering at the small of her back. Her skin itched.
"Jane?" she finally prompted, surprised at how weak her voice was.
"I uh," Jane stammered. "I don't know what to say."
Maura extricated her hand from Jane's.
"I think that pretty much says it all then," she responded softly. Pulling away completely, she stood. "I'm just going to take a quick shower. I'll talk to you later."
"Wait, Maura," Jane grabbed the other woman's hand. "Wait. Just… give me a second. You can't just drop a bombshell like that and then walk out on me. Can you please just… just wait."
Maura nodded, holding back tears, and retook her seat on the couch. This time she left a wide berth between herself and Jane.
Jane looked absently into the distance, her mind clearly working a million miles a minute. Maura sat perched on the couch beside her, agonizingly still, as Jane thought.
Jane's mouth opened and closed a few times as if she were preparing to speak, but nothing came out. Maura resisted the nearly overwhelming urge to fidget, to flee.
It felt like hours before Jane spoke, but the clock on the mantle marked the passage of only a few minutes.
"I uh," Jane's rasping voice was almost unintelligible. She cleared her throat, tried again. "I'm in love with you too."
Maura's eyebrows headed for her hairline.
"You," she choked back a sob of relief. "You are?"
"I had a coup de foudre, too," Jane admitted. Her voice seemed to come from far off. "The first time I met you. The first time our eyes met, I knew something was happening. I didn't what until much later. But looking back, that's what it was I guess."
Maura reached out tentatively to grip Jane's hand. Jane enfolded Maura's hand in her own, chanced a small, soft smile. Maura returned the smile with a wide, watery grin.
"You love me," she whispered.
"I'm in love with you," she confirmed. She met Maura's eyes nervously.
Maura knew her own eyes were filled to the brim with tears. One escaped and she sniffled softly.
Jane reached up to brush the tear away with her free hand.
"Hey, hey," she coaxed, concern coloring voice. "What's this all about?"
"I just," Maura took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "I wasn't sure what you would say. Could you… could you say it again?"
"I'm in love with you, Maura," Jane repeated, holding her eyes as she spoke.
Maura's lower lip trembled and she resisted the urge to cry in relief.
"What do you need from me?" Jane implored.
"I'm not sure," Maura lied.
Jane leaned forward, resting their foreheads together.
"Tell me," Jane encouraged.
Maura didn't reply, instead she urged their faces slightly closer together, hoping Jane would take the hint.
It didn't take any more prodding. Jane hesitantly pressed her lips against Maura's.
It was soft, gentle. Just a touch of their lips.
The promise of more to come.
Then Jane pulled back and sought out Maura's eyes. Apparently she saw what she needed to see because she pulled Maura into a fierce embrace. Maura clutched tightly to Jane's lanky frame.
"Don't let go," Maura whispered.
"I won't," Jane assured her. "I won't."
Maybe Maura didn't know herself well enough to know how she liked her coffee, but she knew without a doubt that Jane meant what she said.
And Maura intended to hold on just as tightly for the rest of her life.