I apologize again for the long waits between chapters. To be honest, my interest in R&I has been waning but hopefully rizzles/this story is an independent enough thing that it'll stay alive on its own.
Jane comes downstairs yawning, refreshed from her shower but still tired after a long day's work. She finds Maura in her apron, working on something in the kitchen.
"Whatcha makin'?" she asks, crossing the rapidly darkening living room to turn on a lamp.
"Cookies," Maura replies tonelessly.
"Cool. Like a hand?"
"Sure. I've gotten everything down to the baking powder - check there," she points to a printed recipe on the counter, and offers no more conversation.
After giving the sheet a once-over, Jane steals a glance at a more interesting subject. She watches the scientific precision of Maura's movements as she slips an egg yolk back and forth in two neatly-cracked shell halves, separating the white. Her brow has a faint, weary crease as if this is the fourth autopsy of her day instead of a much-anticipated treat.
She doesn't even want cookies. She just wants another distraction now that she's away from work.
The doctor has been a bit distant for the past couple days, focusing extra hard on work as she tends to do when she's stressed out. Jane can't blame her. The appointment has been quietly approaching like a massive black; morning after tomorrow, the storm will hit.
Leaning in, she plants a small, affectionate kiss on Maura's cheek. She gets an almost blank look in return, like she'd just done something slightly odd or inappropriate. Jane makes sure to keep her gentle smile in place, even though her true reaction would've been for her face to fall.
"How're you doing?" she asks with a soft air of confidentiality, searching hazel eyes.
"Fine," Maura says, turning back to her mixing bowl. This answer means two things: she is not fine, and she does not want to elaborate.
Talk to me, Jane begs mentally, feeling helpless, just like she does every time this happens.
Hadn't they had this conversation not long ago, about opening up to each other? Hadn't Maura agreed so desperately to share her thoughts, to be sure to stay so close that nothing could even start to come between them? This return of silence is heartbreaking and so damn frustrating.
Of course she likes being the shoulder Maura leans on; the comfort to her hurt, the knight to her damsel; but at times like this, she'd like a shoulder to cry on, too. To be the comfort-ee instead of the comforter, just for a minute. (In years now seemingly distant, that shoulder might have been her father's, but that's a whole other tangent of pain she doesn't need to get into right now.)
For a moment she hopes Maura will catch her with wet eyes and it'll spur a conversation, but she changes her mind and blinks it away.
I'm supposed to support her, not guilt her.
"It's gonna go fine," she says, knowing there's no need to bother labeling the elephant in the room. Her words seem to intrude on the silence of the kitchen. "You did your homework. Did you find out everything you wanted to know?"
What could possibly be left to find out? She's gotta be a world authority by now.
The blonde nods, exhaling.
"Good. So... pretty soon this'll all be behind you... and I'll be there for you every step of the way, okay? It's all gonna be alright. You're strong." She hugs her.
Maura nods; her hug back is half-hearted, or at least one-armed.
She adds that thing she's been meaning to say. "Proud of you."
When released, she's already consulting the recipe sheet; Jane lets out a silent sigh at her failure to get through. Deciding to maybe test the waters later tonight, she gives up and goes back to measuring out some vanilla extract.
They work in silence until Maura's floury fingers reach into the bowl and steal a tiny piece of dough.
"Wow," she shakes her head. "Oh, this is.."
"This is so salty."
"Really?" Jane frowns, taking a little piece of her own to nibble. "..I don't taste it."
"It's extremely salty. Did you follow the recipe correctly?"
"Yeah.. quarter teaspoon," Jane shrugs, leaning over to double-check the paper. Normally she'd jokingly inform Maura that she's crazy, but now is clearly not the time for that.
Maybe some pregnancy thing is throwing off her taste.
Maura smacks her spatula down on the counter.
"I can't even taste anything but the salt," she throws up her hands, as if they've reached an impasse.
"Uh, well.. we could toss it and start a new batch?"
"What? That's wasteful!" she answers, her eyes as suddenly sharp as her words. "We may not even have enough ingredients. You don't even want to try to salvage what we already have here? At all?"
"Or.. we could not," the detective replies, blinking nervously. "I... yeah. We could uh, put a bunch more sugar..?" she shrugs, knowing nothing about baking.
Maura grumbles something; even though it's unintelligible, it can't possibly be mistaken for a positive response.
"One ingredient you don't like and the whole batch is only fit for the trash," she continues, as if she hadn't heard at all. "Huh! You think when I'm stuck on a difficult case, I get to throw out the body? 'No, I don't like this one, I'll just start over!'" she says in a mocking voice. Though it seems to be aimed at her, Jane can't tell if she's the one being parodied, since neither the voice or the words seem to fit anything she's ever said.
"Of.. course not...?" Jane answers in a small and confused voice.
"Ooh, this one's not perfect, let's get rid of it!" Maura seizes a measuring cup and upturns it, letting flour rain down onto her counter with a quiet plop like a tiny snowstorm. This done, she somewhere between drops and throws the empty plastic cup back to the counter, where it bounces loudly.
Jane is stunned. The spill itself doesn't faze her, but on Maura's scale of messiness, she might as well have just dumped a barrel of crude oil all over her immaculate living room for no apparent reason.
"Just throw it away," Maura mutters, yanking out one of the kitchen stools so that it tips precariously on two legs for an instant, and then plops down in it, face pink and eyes brimming with frustration. "That'll fix everything." With a sigh she runs her fingers back through her hair, leaving streaks of flour in it. (It seems wisest not to point this out.) She sits there silently for a few moments, slumped forward with her face hidden behind a curtain of hair and fingers.
There's a tick-tick-tick of little paws on the floor as Jo Friday arrives to investigate the specks of flour that have fallen into her jurisdiction.
Jane stands silently, frozen and wary, like a bomb has suddenly dropped down into their kitchen and now it's her job to diffuse it.
Obviously, this is not about the cookies.
"I get that you don't wanna talk about it right now," she says gently after a minute, "but honey, we're running out of time to talk about it."
There's no answer.
"Or are you just mad at me?"
Maura slowly lifts her head and gives her a glowering look, then returns it to her hands without comment. It might not have been a yes, but it definitely wasn't a no.
The kitchen is cold. She doesn't know what to do with her arms.
"I'm trying, Maura," she says quietly, honestly. "I'm sorry if I did something dumb. I've never been through this before, either... I don't always know what's best. But.. I wanna try to do the best I can for you. If I'm not cutting it, please just tell me what you need and I'll do it..."
A helicopter or something hums for a few moments in the distance.
"Alright, maybe you just wanted to be alone," Jane guesses, trying to swallow a lump of frustration from her throat. But she wants to make sure it doesn't look like she's leaving in a huff, which would only discourage Maura. "I love you, and I'm still behind you a hundred percent and.." she shrugs, reaching out to touch her shoulder and then deciding against it, "...and I'll be upstairs if you feel like talking. Or if you don't."
The events as she leaves the room seem backwards. What stops Jane in her tracks just beyond the doorway is the funny sensation in her chest, which causes her then to slow to a stop and notice what she had just heard, in a barely audible voice behind her:
"I don't think I want an abortion."
Calmly, she returns.
Maura's eyes are closed, like she does when she's trying to meditate away frustration, but Jane is sorry to detect the faintest wince, as if she'd been the one expecting an explosion.
"Okay," Jane says, polishing each word with her mouth to make them as smooth and gentle as possible. "Then let's not."
Maura slowly looks up at her. She watches tension dissipate gradually from her expression - but only about half of it.
"What else is there?" Jane shrugs simply.
"But I know you're in favor of me terminating. You just said you were a hundred percent behind it."
"I'd be behind anything you said you wanted to do."
"So if I'd said I wanted to go with adoption right from the beginning, you would've been behind that one hundred percent, instead?"
Oh, I... adoption. Right. Jane had almost forgotten that was another option. She refuses to notice what reaction she has to the realization.
"How can that be?" Maura asks, sighing and dropping one forearm like a drawbridge, flat on the counter. "How can you be genuinely in total support of any decision when the outcomes are so different, and when a particular one must make you happier than the others? You're just being nice. I can't tell what you really think."
"I can do that because what I'm in total support of is you, not any decision. You could've changed your mind back and forth fifty times and I'd have automatically supported every one. The outcome that makes me happiest is whichever makes you happiest. That's what I really think."
Jane could swear they've had this exact conversation a few times, but she'll say it as many times as Maura needs to hear it.
One manicured finger drags around the counter for a minute, drawing loops in the spilled flour.
"Have you been thinkin' this for a long time?" Jane asks, wondering how much of the recent silence has been due to a reluctance to tell her this.
"It.. it's hard to say. Thinking about it, yes, but having really decided on it... I don't know. I didn't want to tell you I'd changed my mind without being certain, but.. time's running out."
"You don't have to be certain. If you change your mind back again in five minutes, that's fine. If you go back and forth every five minutes, that's fine too. Just let me know what's goin' on in there," Jane taps at her own temple. "That's all I ever wanted. It doesn't have to be the absolute final set-in-stone answer before you can tell me about it."
"Well... I know you heard me say... a while ago, that I thought it'd be better not to have a child if you were going to give it up for adoption..."
"I remember," Jane tentatively places a hand on Maura's shoulder blade. When she isn't shrugged away, she starts a light back rub.
"But maybe it's not the worst thing. I'm sure you inferred that I was basing that on myself. I was. I still have some bitterness about it... but that implies that my life isn't worth it. That I'm so unhappy I'd prefer never having been born. And that isn't true. I grew up to be happy." She slides a hand over her own shoulder and grasps Jane's fingertips. "Even if my biological parents weren't able to raise me, and my... origins.. aren't what most might consider ideal anyway... I am glad for the life I've had. So.. if this child were born... there's a high probability of it sharing some of the same discontent I had, growing up with an adoptive family... but there's also no reason why he or she couldn't grow up to share my happiness, either... become a useful member of society.. love and be loved by someone, someday... life is never perfect, but in my experience, those pros outweigh the cons."
"That's very true."
Jane wonders if it's logic guiding Maura's change of heart, or the other way around. Considering the level of sentiment she's accidentally developed for the pea, she's surprised that Maura wouldn't have much more. Then again.. with all the awful parts of this that only Maura's privy to, maybe that makes perfect sense; maybe she could never get sentimental over it. So maybe instead of any motherly attachment, she just figures she'd been an unplanned child given her chance in the world, and wants to pay it forward.
And really, isn't that all Jane has really been secretly thinking about? If it gets born, that's nice news, but she doesn't care what happens to it after that. Obviously, she wishes it well, she just doesn't personally need anything to do with its life.
She quickly stamps out the thought, forbidding it from having any place in this conversation.
Jane is glad to be pulled from her thoughts when Maura continues, "I don't know when or how I changed. I did want to terminate at first. But lately.. when I thought about going to do it, I've felt this... this sense of dread," she says, making a vague gesture toward her chest. "I was never looking forward to the procedure, of course, but I mean beyond that. It's like it... it feels like the wrong thing to do. I don't mean that in a moral sense, but just... I find myself wishing I didn't have to. I don't know if you can understand that, it's very complicated..."
"I do. I mean, I can't possibly know everything you're feeling, but I get what you're saying. I know it's complicated, but... y'know, at the same time, it's not complicated at all. If you don't wanna, you don't wanna. I know there's plenty of reasons, but really, you don't need any more reason than that. And you sure as hell don't have to do anything you don't wanna do."
Maura nods consentingly. When a reply doesn't seem to be on its way, Jane goes on.
"So.. okay, let's say you aren't gonna after all - how's that feel instead?"
Maura pauses to assess herself, letting herself be swayed slightly from the motion of Jane's thumbs on her shoulders.
"Well, it's still not the most relaxing situation I've ever been in, even if I prefer to stay this way."
"Right. Well.. somewhat's an improvement, so let-"
"Jane... Jane, sit down," Maura asks, cutting her off softly and pulling out another stool.
Ceasing her back rub, Jane takes the seat.
"Don't you need to take some time to think about this?" Maura asks, searching her face.
"What's for me to think about?"
"Whether you're alright with it."
Both Jane's hands flip over, her palms open and clueless.
"Huh? The only OK that matters here is yours - but incidentally, yeah, of course I am."
Maura's fingers brush her own lips as she forms a reply.
"I... I just worry that handling an entire pregnancy with me - this one, anyway - is an awful lot to ask of you at a moment's notice. But I haven't forgotten-!" she continues quickly, preempting Jane's interruption with a raised finger, "I haven't forgotten all the things you've already said to me. I trust you. And so I'm... allowing myself to be confident that you'll.. want to stay with me, even through that.." her eyes monitor Jane's while speaking, as if to say stop me if I'm wrong.
"Yeah," Jane nods, almost chuckling at the obviousness, as if Maura had just cautiously guessed that she might also want to continue breathing oxygen. She's relieved to know that her recent outpouring didn't go in one ear and out the other. Even if Maura's confidence seems to be taking some conscious effort, that's still a step in the right direction. "Of course I do. You can rely on that. I'm one thing you don't have to worry about... cause I meant every word of what I said. And I'm really glad you're taking it to heart."
Maura sighs, taking both of Jane's hands. One thumb swipes over a scar as she pauses in thought. She pulls that hand up to kiss its knuckles and puts it back in her lap with a pat.
"I think... maybe you aren't understanding what I mean. I haven't been asking for your OK on what to do about the pregnancy. I do care what you think about that, but that's not precisely what I'm asking. I'm asking about our relationship. It relies on your OK as much as mine, at every turn, with all big decisions. This will change us, Jane - it already has," she warns. "Remember what else you said before, about cracks coming between us? I just... I feel like this has huge potential to be one of those cracks... I want to know if you honestly think it is, or might become one. I know you will do this with me if I ask you to - but will it bother you, deep down? That's all I'm asking. We just said we'd talk about things, you know, to keep a step ahead of potential problems."
Part of Jane wants to laugh, that the same woman who'd been frustratingly clammed up only minutes ago is now trying to sell her the notion of talking.
"Right. And we're talking, that's great! And I'm giving you my answers: No, it doesn't bother me. No, I really don't think it'll be a crack. Yes, I will be staying with you. Yes, I'm honestly perfectly happy for you to do this. And sure, I guess it will change us a little.. but hey, our relationship's changed plenty of times before, and as far as I'm concerned, it's only gotten better every time," she reasons, squeezing back. "We used to just be work friends. I'm sure glad we changed from that, huh?"
"Yeah, but I'm not sure this type of change is comparable," Maura says, reluctant eyes wandering the kitchen.
"Well, no, but look.. every new thing we go through together just makes me love you more. Just 'cause this hasn't been easy or happy, doesn't make it even remotely an exception. It hasn't so far, and I don't see any reason why it'd start. Maura, if you wanna bring this baby into the world, then I'm totally for that, and if anybody else isn't, they better get the hell out of our way. I promised I'd be right here with you no matter what, didn't I? So here I am. And I'm gonna be here tomorrow and every day. I'll be there in the delivery room, I'll hold your hand the whole time. Til then, I'm gonna do everything I can to help. Let's see, you'll have to have checkups and stuff..? I'll take you. What else? Weird-ass cravings for sardines at 3AM? I'm on it. Want a foot rub while you watch a five-hour documentary on.. hemoglobins? Count me in. Lamaze? Bring it. Too tired to run errands? Try and stop me. I don't want you to worry about a single thing. Your wish is my command," she holds out her arms. "How about now - what do you want, sweetie? Is there somethin' I can do for you right now? You craving anything?"
Maura looks at her for a few seconds longer while a small, misty smile grows on her face.
"Get in here," Jane smiles, gathering her in a tight embrace.
"I've been so worried about telling you that," Maura confesses into a damp tangle of dark hair.
"I'm sorry. I wish you'd told me sooner. You can tell me anything, anytime. Always. Okay?" she offers, along with a long kiss to her head. "Pppphtth."
Maura pulls back with a questioning look.
"Sorry- you have flour in your hair."
"Oh." Smiling sheepishly, Maura raises a hand to brush it off.
"Wait, maybe I had something there," Jane says, tilting Maura's head downward and beginning to kiss more flour out of her hair.
"I'm not sure that's the most efficient way, but I suppose it is releasing beta-endorphins..."
"What's that do?"
"It numbs pain, reduces stress... lots of animals engage in social grooming as a means of relaxation, bonding or pre-coital activity."
"Pre- ? Oh baby," Jane snorts. "We'll have to start keepin' some flour in the bedroom later on."
"... How much was there?" Maura asks, incredulous at how long it's taking.
"Huh? Oh, it's been gone for a while," Jane replies, her continued smirking kisses straying back to Maura's temple. "I'm just releasing some more of your beta dolphins."
The scope of this new plan continues to sink into Jane's mind over the rest of the evening.
Not only are pregnancy and birth a huge deal, but they haven't even broached the topic of whatever the adoption process entails, and on top of that, there's still Maura's ongoing recovery to think of. Jane could get overwhelmed if she allowed herself, but she's also confident in the knowledge that her dedication to Maura will be enough to get her through anything.
Maura comes to bed and finds her sitting in the middle of it, cross-legged and lost in an unfocused stare.
"It's a lot to take on, isn't it," she says, pulling back the covers on her own side and joining her.
"Huh? Oh. Yeah," she says, scooting over a bit to make more room.
"Are you having second thoughts?"
"Nope," she says, placing her hand over the back of Maura's, slipping fingertips between hers. "You?"
"No. There's still a lot left to discuss, though. But.. on the bright side," she clicks off her lamp, "I don't have to have everything figured out within the next 36 hours anymore. It's been so stressful having a deadline like that."
"Yeah," Jane agrees, glad that the night can now be used for sleeping instead of desperate, one-sided attempts at conversation as the clock ticks down. "I'd be lying if I said I know exactly what's coming, or how I'm gonna handle all of it," she admits. "But I figure... I've already gotten through days I would have sworn I could never handle. And I know you have, too."
"There are going to be more of those up ahead. For me, at least," Maura adds.
"Yeah. But I know we can get through anything, together."
A hand finds its way in the dark and cups Jane's cheek for a moment.
"I love you."
"I love you," Jane echoes, happily accepting the warm kiss that Maura leans over to give her.
Maura's other hand touches her chest, spreading fingers slightly to feel the skin above the ribbing of her tank top.
"You used my body wash," she murmurs.
"Mine ran out," Jane smiles. "Does it weird you out if we smell the same?"
"No. It's a little different with your major histocompatibility complex," Maura breathes, her cheek skimming brushing Jane's jawline. "I like it."
"My what?" Jane asks, content to wait several seconds for the answer while she kisses Maura again.
"Your immunogenetic profile. Body chemistry... can I..?" the question is finished with a tug at her hem.
The brunette raises her arms cooperatively, allowing Maura to pull it off in the darkness, leaving her bare from the waist up.
A pair of palms settle on her chest, fingers curling slightly up over smooth collarbones as they resume their kiss. Maura's hands travel slowly, reminding herself of Jane's shape, her hands just pressing and feeling her warmth.
"I miss..." she whispers against Jane's lips, "I miss this. Your skin. Our skin."
Their lips reconnect too soon for a reply. Jane finds herself enthralled with the warmth of Maura's mouth, with the feeling of their lips sliding together, with the way Maura's nose brushes her cheek when she tilts her head. It's like some wonderful, rich dessert she hasn't tasted in ages.
Though she knows this brand of intimacy is almost certainly just a matter of closeness and comfort, it's still the closest thing to real sexual contact Jane's had in months, and her body is beginning to respond powerfully. She's not sure she wants it to, nor is she sure whether she should praise this; lovely as it is, she wouldn't want to risk making Maura feel obligated to do more than what she's doing.
Both hands leave her, and she hears the sounds of fingers and cloth and buttons. Both eager for the same sensation, they come back together in a close embrace and just stay that way for a while.
"Mm, this is nice," Jane hums happily at the feeling of the woman she loves in her arms, smooth and bare and warm. Cheek to cheek, and heart to heart. "I missed this too."
"I... just this, okay?" she asks quietly. "I'm not..."
"Course, honey," Jane promises with a kiss, not needing her to continue.
They spend a while sharing nuzzles and soft kisses against each others' skin, but Jane's lips don't descend too far below Maura's jawline, nor her hands from Maura's back. Though there's no such restrictions for her, Maura does the same.
Starting to get breathless from another long round of slow, deep kisses, Maura finally turns her head and rests it on Jane's shoulder.
Jane feels her giggling before she hears it.
"Nothing. It's just.. hm. This makes me happy," she answers, lazily tracing up and down a spot low on Jane's spine. It almost tickles.
"Not just that, I mean... I'm getting sexually aroused," she shares matter-of-factly.
"..Oh. Uh, ditto," Jane almost chuckles.
Maura hums a smile.
"I still don't want to do anything, but.. that's a relief."
"Just to see that I can. Some proof that I'm not broken, after all..."
"I never thought you were," Jane replies seriously. "Did you?"
"Not physically, but I was concerned that... well, there could easily be some psychological block... I wondered if that was partly to blame for.. um, last time."
Incidentally, Jane is feeling a measure of the same relief. She hasn't been in the mood for a long time either, and it feels good, even if it'll have to go unsatisfied for now. The difference from their last disastrous attempt at intimacy is astounding. Right now, she would love to make love to her - not at all to satisfy herself, but rather to express her adoration for Maura that she never feels able to share in words.
"Nah. We just came at it wrong last time, that's all. We're gonna be okay."
"Mhmm." Maura yawns.
Comforted to the point of drowsiness, their motion has all but stopped, leaving them slumped together in a hug that no longer has any reason to be upright. Loath to part even long enough to lay down in bed, Jane just reclines, coming to rest on her back with Maura halfway on top of her. She has misjudged the angle and landed diagonally on the bed; her feet are hanging off the edge, but she's too comfy to move. She pulls a corner of covers over them as best she can, happy to feel Maura chuckle and snuggle up even tighter against her.
"Jane?" she whispers minutes later, lips brushing her neck.
"Nothin' to thank me for."
"Plenty to love you for."
Thanks for keeping up with this story. Sharing your thoughts is really appreciated!