Not wanting to bother Maura with the details of her problems- primarily overwhelming nervousness to the point where she thought she might vomit, Jane failed to mention her date with Kate.
Friday afternoon, she was a total wreck. She changed into a fresh shirt at work and then stared at herself in the bathroom mirror for long minutes, hands clenching the sink ledge harshly.
I can do this, she kept repeating to herself. I can do this. It's just a date.
It didn't help much.
Finally there was a knock on the door and Jane turned to the sound. Frost opened the door to the women's room but didn't peer around the corner.
"Come on," he laughed. "You've stalled long enough. Time to saddle up and ride."
Jane debated hiding in a stall for a minute before turning and leaving the bathroom.
"You got this," Frost assured her casually, bumping her shoulder with his. "Just be yourself. But a little calmer. And don't eat like you. And try not to talk too much…"
Jane laughed and exhaled harshly.
"Thanks," she nodded. "I'll keep that in mind."
She made her way to Stoddard's with her heart pounding like she had just run a marathon.
That meant so many things to her these days. It meant bombings, horror, death. It meant fear and loss. It meant working for three days straight without more than a few hours sleep while they looked for an innocuous, monster of a young man who disrupted their lives in the most unexpected of ways.
But underneath those raw wounds, it made her think of Maura.
Of their marathon adventures.
Of how amazing it was to spend that time with Maura. Of the look on Maura's face when they crossed that fake finish line. Of Maura in her arms as they hugged to celebrate the victorious feeling. Of how she had run miles so many miles, and would cross the earth, just because Maura asked her.
Jane shook her head to clear it of the rogue, distracting thoughts. She pushed open the door to Stoddard's and tried to breathe deeply. She scanned the bar and saw Kate perched on a stool there.
Approaching with as much fake confidence as she could muster, she was relieved when Kate noticed her and turned.
"Hi," Jane stuck her hand out.
Kate accepted it warmly.
"Hello," she replied. "Nice to see you."
"It's nice to see you too," Jane replied. "And looking much cooler than the last time we met."
To Jane's utter delight and fascination, a slow blush crawled up Kate's cheeks. Jane found herself wondering where else that blush might spread.
The warmth Jane felt upon seeing Kate again only blossomed as they took a table in the corner of the cozy, well-appointed bar and fell into an easy conversation.
Kate was intelligent, hilarious, beautiful, and kind. Her laugh was delicate and infectious. She didn't blink an eye when Jane told her she was a detective. As a social worker, Kate was no stranger to stress, strain, and the darker side of life.
Polishing off her third beer, Jane glanced at her watch, shocked to see that it was almost midnight.
She hadn't even felt the time slipping by.
Kate yawned surreptitiously, trying to hide it, and Jane grinned.
The woman was simultaneously drop-dead gorgeous and absolutely adorable. It was mind-boggling.
When Kate caught Jane's gaze and didn't look away, Jane's stomach flipped.
"We should probably be going," Jane suggested, surprised at the rasp in her voice.
"I suppose," Kate agreed.
Neither woman stood. Kate seemed to be debating and the war played out plainly on her features.
"Would you like to come back to my place?" she asked eventually.
Jane's heart stuttered.
"Yes," she found herself responding, surprised to hear the word leave her mouth.
Kate smiled softly, almost shyly, and Jane's heart began to pound.
"Shall we?" Kate offered, standing.
Jane stood, glad when her legs held steady.
"After you," she demurred.
Outside, they paused.
"I took the T here," Kate told her.
"I drove," Jane nodded in the direction of her car. "We can take my car."
"Ok," Kate smiled. "Lead the way."
Jane approached the car with a million thoughts speeding through her mind. She stopped first at the passenger door to unlock and open it. When she turned, Kate was only inches away, her eyes dark, her face turned up towards Jane's.
Jane's heart leapt to her throat. She couldn't breathe, couldn't move. She had been thinking about kissing Kate since the moment she walked into Stoddard's. But now that the opportunity was here she was paralyzed.
Kate seemed to sense her hesitation but instead of stepping away, she moved in closer so that their bodies were pressed together.
"I don't bite," she whispered lightly. "Unless you're into that."
Jane laughed awkwardly, breaking the tension that had taken hold of her, and then took the plunge.
Leaning down, she pressed her lips lightly to Kate's. It wasn't quite electric, and she felt awkward for a minute as their lips rested together.
But then Kate's hands were on her cheeks and her tongue was pressing gently against Jane's mouth and every molecule in Jane's body felt alive.
She relaxed, cupping Kate's voluptuous hips, and opened her mouth to Kate's softly probing tongue. The kiss turned hungry and heated fast, the air between them sparking as Jane pulled Kate impossibly closer.
It was so different to feel soft, supple curves pressed against her instead of harsh, unyielding angles. Different and so, so intoxicating.
Jane pulled Kate tighter against her and delighted in the breathless moan that escaped the other woman's lips. Kate's hands wrapped around Jane's body, holding her close, the kiss morphing with every second their lips and tongues dueled.
"I think," Kate panted, her breath fanning Jane's face. "We should take this back to my place."
Jane swallowed harshly and nodded.
Kate slipped into the passenger seat and Jane tried to act cool as she rushed around to the driver's side of the car.
Kate lived in a small, modestly appointed one bedroom apartment that reminded Jane of a more feminine version of her own. It put her at ease.
"Would you like a drink?" Kate offered.
Jane took a few steps towards Kate, shaking her head.
"No, thank you," she whispered.
Kate didn't back away or hesitate, instead she stepped up to meet Jane halfway. Jane ran a trembling hand along Kate's jaw.
"You're so beautiful," Jane breathed.
"Thank you," Kate mumbled. "So are you."
Jane smiled softly.
She leaned down to capture Kate's lips in hers. The kiss was slow and exploratory, and Jane relished the sensation all the way down to the tip of her toes. She ran her hands across the curves of Kate's hips and hesitantly towards the swell of her ass.
Kate responded eagerly, pressing herself firmly against Jane and guiding one of Jane's hands down onto the slope of her backside.
Jane took the encouragement without restraint, letting her hands eagerly roam Kate's body. Kate returned the gesture, her hands wandering the curves and angles of Jane's lankier frame.
Pulling back, Kate began to unbutton her shirt. Jane took the hint, eagerly stripping off her own. When Kate finished, she moved to embrace Jane again but Jane held her at bay for a second.
"I just want to look at you for a minute," Jane whispered, her voice a plea.
"Ok," Kate nodded. She stood, her chest heaving, her ivory skin glowing in the lamplight, while Jane inspected her.
Jane found herself leaning forward to kiss the top of one breast before she was even aware of the urge. The skin was smooth and impossibly soft, and Jane imagined Kate felt like that all over. Kate's hands were setting fire to every inch of Jane's body and she wanted to strip naked and quell the flames.
Kate's breathing was growing increasingly unsteady and Jane realized her own was coming in sawing gasps and pants. Kate was stepping backwards and it took Jane a minute to realize that she was being led, most likely, towards the woman's bedroom.
It made her spine tingle, and fleetingly, she thought of Maura.
It brought her up short and she hadn't realized she had stopped walking until the question on Kate's face also left her lips.
"Are you alright?" Kate inquired softly.
Jane debated how to reply.
"It's just…" she hesitated.
"Ghosts?" Kate offered quietly, knowingly.
Jane nodded, swallowed harshly.
"We don't have to…" Kate let the thought trail. "We can take it a little slower."
Jane looked at Kate, half-naked and tousled, and then an image of Maura slipped into her mind unbidden.
"I'm sorry," she rasped.
"It's ok," Kate assured her. "We all have our ghosts."
Nodding, Jane found her shirt and put it back on as Kate did the same. She stood awkwardly and scratched her head.
"I guess I should be going," she asserted nervously.
"You don't have to," Kate shrugged. "I'm not only after your body."
Jane smiled slightly.
"I think it's probably best for me to head home," Jane replied. "You make it way too easy to get carried away."
"I'm never going to hear from you again," Kate laughed dryly. "Am I?"
"No!" Jane protested, not sure if she was lying or not. "I'll call you."
"Sure," Kate allowed. "I hope you do."
Jane looked again at Kate, her eyes flitting to Kate's lips without her conscious permission, and rubbed her palms against the coarse material of her jeans to stop from reaching out.
Kate put her out of her misery somewhat, coming over to kiss her lightly on the lips and unlock the door.
"I mean what I say," Kate assured. "I'd like to see you again. You're very… lovely."
Jane scoffed. She didn't think anyone had ever called her lovely before. Not to her face, and it was even less likely the term had been used to describe her behind her back.
"What?" Kate grinned.
"It's just not a word I usually hear associated with me," Jane shrugged. "You, on the other hand, are undoubtedly lovely."
Kate blushed again and Jane's restraint slipped. She captured Kate's lips briefly.
"I should go," she mumbled, pulling away.
Ghosts, Jane thought as she kissed Kate's cheek, padded out into the hall, and heard the soft click of the door closing behind her.
Her problem was not ghosts.
It was dreams.
A dream, really. Singular.
One she couldn't shake, and deep down didn't want to.
It might not have been a ghost of the past, but the thought of Maura haunted her all the same.
That night, Jane didn't sleep a wink.
Her body was wired, her mind whirring.
Awake, she thought of Kate. When her eyes closed, she dreamt of Maura.
She woke up before the dawn, exhausted. She cursed her inability to sleep in on a rare day off. She wondered what it would have been like to wake up next to Kate.
Lacing up her shoes, she stretched a bit and set herself loose on a run. She needed to clear her head. She needed to breathe the too cool air and let it burn out all the anguish in her lungs.
Of their own accord, her feet directed her to Maura's house.
On any other Saturday, she might have knocked. Asked for a drink of water. Stayed for breakfast.
Maura had always been an early riser.
Jane couldn't remember the last time she had spent the night at her friend's house. She couldn't remember the last time they shared a meal- just the two of them.
It struck her suddenly that they had been drifting for much, much longer than she realized. Maura's strange withdrawal at family dinner the other night hadn't been the start of their separation. It hadn't been the start of something.
It was more like the end of something.
For the life of her, Jane couldn't understand why.
She found herself at the front door, fist poised to knock. But fear clenched in her gut like a stone, settling there with a heavy weight that made her hesitate.
She worried that Maura would tell her what was wrong but Jane wouldn't be able to fix it. What then?
Were they just supposed to stop being best friends?
After all the laughter, the tears, the matching scars- inside and out… They were supposed to what? Just let go. Drift away?
Jane wouldn't let that happen. It couldn't.
She was not going to stand for it.
She was banging on the door, hard, before she realized she had decided to knock.
She pounded for long minutes until worry balled in the pit of her stomach and she wondered if Maura had not come home the night before. Just as her worry began to expand into panic, the door swung open.
Jane rocked unsteadily at her feet as she stopped her fist from making contact with any part of Maura.
Maura was sleep-tousled but looked decidedly unrested.
It threw Jane completely off-balance. Her anger fled, replaced by something anxious and fearful.
"Yes?" Maura asked.
Her voice was completely unfamiliar.
"Um," Jane swallowed. Tried to pull herself together. "I was out for a run. I thought you might want to have breakfast."
"I'm sleeping," Maura replied blankly.
"You uh," Jane shifted awkwardly. "You were?"
"Yes," Maura confirmed. "It's early."
"But you're always up before me," Jane blurted. "Are you sick?"
Jane wondered why her best friend in the entire universe had yet to invite her inside from the cold.
"No," Maura shook her head. "I'm not sick. I just haven't been sleeping very well lately."
"Oh," Jane replied dumbly. "I could come back."
Maura wrapped her arms around herself protectively.
"No," she finally allowed, stepping aside to allow Jane into the house. "I'll shower and get dressed."
Jane didn't have a chance to respond before Maura was making her way back to the bedroom. Jane shut the door, shucked off her running shoes, and made her way to the kitchen.
She set about making breakfast for her friend, coffee being the first priority. The meal was well on its way when Maura emerged, showered and dressed, but looking no more alert.
"I'm really sorry I woke you," Jane apologized. "I honestly thought you would be awake."
"It's fine," Maura smiled but it lacked depth.
"Have some coffee," Jane offered, preparing a steaming mug and handing it to her friend. Maura accepted without a word.
After a few sips, Maura put the mug down.
"Did you need something?" Maura asked.
Jane was caught completely off-guard. She had never required a reason for spending time with her best friend.
"I just wanted to catch up with you," Jane shrugged, trying to play it off. "I haven't seen much of you this week."
And steeling herself, she took the plunge.
"Actually," she continued. "It kinda feels like I haven't seen much of you in a while. I was thinking it's past time for us to get back into our LLBFF rhythm."
She expected a chuckle. A smile, at the least.
There was a flicker of something in Maura's eyes. Just the hint of her mask slipping. But then her armor was back on.
"I'm sorry you feel we haven't been spending enough quality time together," Maura replied. "I didn't realize."
Jane bit back the word, even though it was the truth. Maura was lying.
"I do think we've been drifting a bit," Jane forged on. "I think it's my fault. I've just been kinda getting my head screwed on straight with the whole being gay thing. Not that it's an excuse! I shouldn't have gotten so selfish that I neglected our friendship."
Maura's lower lip trembled, and Jane figured she was hitting pretty damn close to the mark.
"You're my best friend, Maura," Jane rasped, meeting Maura's watery eyes. "Nothing's gonna change that. I'm sorry I've been so self-absorbed lately. I'm gonna be better now."
Maura nodded, pressed her lips together, and exhaled harshly.
"That sounds nice," Maura admitted. "But you're not self-absorbed. And you're not selfish. You're kind and generous and wonderful."
"Thanks," Jane blushed. "You're pretty damn amazing yourself. Now let me whip you up a famous Rizzoli omelet and we can fill each other in on anything that's been missed these last few weeks. Deal?"
"Deal," Maura nodded. "Only I'll finish cooking and you go shower. You're getting sweat and dirt all over my recently cleaned kitchen."
Jane scrutinized Maura's face. She was smiling, softly but genuinely. She still looked weary, but Jane's speech seemed to have pierced the stony façade.
"If you insist," Jane teased. "Chef Maura." She handed over the spatula as if it were a sword, bowing deeply.
Acting purely on impulse, Jane pressed a quick kiss to her friend's cheek as she brushed past.
"I've missed you," she rasped, darting from the room before Maura could respond.
Jane darted into the bathroom and closed the door. What the hell was she doing?
Maura just made her so damn… crazy.
Loving her and being so close, yet knowing she could never have her.
It was an exquisite torture.
Sometimes she would try to list Maura's flaws, number her faults, in order to control the urge to kiss her. It never worked. She always ended up with an endless litany of things she loved about the other woman.
Stripping, Jane stepped into the shower. She loved showering at Maura's. The products were high quality, the towels exceptionally soft, the water pressure absolutely perfect.
She took her time, knowing Maura wouldn't mind. When she was done, she wrapped the towel around herself and padded into Maura's room in search of something clean to wear. Dropping the towel at the door, she dug some clothes out of her drawer in Maura's dresser.
She had finished dressing her bottom half and was debating a Red Sox versus a Bruins t-shirt when she heard Maura at the door. Turning, she awkwardly realized that she was half-naked.
Maura froze in the doorway.
"Oh," she mumbled. "Sorry. I just…"
She averted her eyes and then turned, her back to Jane.
"Sorry," Jane tried to laugh but it came out strangled. She pulled on a shirt as quickly as possible. "I was having a fashion crisis."
"I just wanted to tell you that breakfast is ready," Maura replied.
"I'm decent," Jane blurted, wincing at the unnatural phrase coming out of her mouth. "I mean, I'm dressed. You can look at me."
It sounded demanding and she took a deep breath, exhaling slowly.
The breath got caught halfway out when Maura turned.
The mask she had been wearing earlier was completely stripped away. Her eyes were dark. She looked vulnerable. Soft. Almost fragile.
"I'll just," Maura whispered. "Be in the kitchen whenever you're ready."
Jane rested her hands on her hips in frustration. Barely resisted the urge to scream.
One step forwards. Ten steps back.
She took a minute to compose herself, but it was difficult. She was so off-kilter around this new version of Maura. This shell of the woman she had come to know and love. None of her instincts seemed correct when it came to this Maura.
When she emerged, Maura was sitting at the counter, mug of coffee in hand. Two places were set, one in front of her and the other directly adjacent. It felt awkward though, like an oddly forced domesticity.
"I can just go," Jane suggested softly. "If you don't want me here."
"No," Maura pleaded. "I'm sorry. I want you to stay."
Jane bit her lip, tried to read Maura's face. But again, her expression was unreadable. It was infuriating.
"Why are you pushing me away?"
Maura's forehead wrinkled in confusion.
"What?" she asked. "I just told you I want you to stay."
"I can feel it," Jane continued, undeterred. "I can feel it and I hate it."
"I'm not…" Maura trailed off. "I'm not trying to push you away-"
"But you're not keeping me close," Jane finished for her.
Maura's head sprang up, her eyes finding Jane's.
"For the life of me," Jane went on. "I can't figure out why."
"I don't know what to say," Maura shrugged helplessly.
"Tell me why," Jane pleaded. Practically begged.
"I can't," Maura shook her head. "Please don't ask me to."
"Well who the hell am I supposed to ask then?" Jane demanded. "Frost sure as hell won't tell me."
"You spoke to Frost?" Maura asked, her words stumbling to come out quickly enough. She looked alarmed. Worried.
"Yeah," Jane nodded. "Cause I care about you and I want to know what the hell is going on. But he wouldn't tell me a damn thing."
Maura deflated, the relief on her features clear.
"What's so freakin' special that you can tell him but not me?" Jane yelled. "Huh?"
"How can you not know?" Maura burst.
Jane rocked back on her feet, shocked at the outburst. Maura looked similarly startled.
"What?" Jane croaked.
"How can you not know?" Maura whispered. "How can you be that blind?"
"Maura," Jane tried, stepping towards her friend.
"No," Maura shook her head. "I don't want to talk about this anymore. Can we please just eat?"
"I've sorta lost my appetite," Jane breathed. "I think I'm just gonna head home."
Maura didn't protest.
It was only when she was outside that Jane realized she was braless, carless, and moneyless.
"Fuck!" she screamed.
A woman walking her dog looked at Jane disapprovingly.
"Fuck!" Jane repeated.