A/N: Uh, I'm sorry all. So, this thing refuses to let me wrap it up in the planned 2 chapters. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Bear with me? I'm hoping just 1 more.
So many thank yous to those of you following, favoriting, and reviewing. Especially if I can't reply personally. Those notifications make me smile like a fool.
§ 2 §
Jane has managed to wrangle everyone out the door, agreeing to her party-pooperness just to get them all to leave. Something is wrong with Maura and it's obvious that only Jane noticed that her friend was barely holding herself together. Conversation has been strained between the two of them ever since they stood holding hands, surrounded by the fubar caused by the building collapse. Jane knows that the moment of serenity and connection they shared was transcendent and she is afraid it has irreparably harmed their dynamic.
Jane's stomach tugs at the memory as she drops some organic spinach and dandelion leaves for Bass, then wipes down the table and countertops, carefully putting everything back exactly in its arbitrarily assigned position. She's aware the doctor has a black belt in some sort of kung-fu-shui that dictates placement of spatulas and trivets, but damned if the detective's ever been able to figure it out. She knows Maura will wake up tomorrow and move everything a fraction of an inch this way or that before being able to start her roman-orgy coffee machine. Jane shakes her head, a small smile tugging the corners of her mouth, as she tries to imagine doing anything before coffee. She tosses the damp cloth into the sink, knowing perfectly well it annoys the hell out of Maura, just so she'll get a huffy text message after the rearranging of kitchenware.
She recognizes that lately she teases Maura more, makes more little jokes at Maura's expense, engaging in elementary school pigtail-pulling flirtation. Initially Jane told herself it was simply her way of showing affection, but she wonders if now, it's a bit more than that. Her thoughts keep going back to Maura's hand in hers, and how the tentative gesture had immediately calmed the turbulent thoughts plaguing her. Jane wants that tranquility again, that instant serenity that seems to only exist when Maura is near, or better, touching her. She sighs, knowing that her own insomnia is driving her to crazy ideas and assumptions. She'll go wish Maura a good night, then head home and pray for unconsciousness while nursing a few beers in front of whatever sporting event is on this late.
Moonlight pours in the large kitchen windows; the house is serene, quite a drastic difference from just thirty minutes ago. Jane hopes that Maura has been able to relax enough to fall asleep. She hates to think her friend is stressed enough to be suffering from sleep deprivation yet not confiding in her as Maura always has done. The doctor's discovery about the ball bearings pretty much clinched the case against the councilman and his wife. Jane figures she can use the victory as an excuse to buy them both another day at a spa, or even better, tickets to a Sox game. Just some good old-fashioned Jane & Maura time.
The door to the master bedroom is cracked open, a sliver of pale light spilling out into the hall. Jane frowns at the wiggly part in her stomach that is hoping Maura may still be awake and wanting to talk. Maura needs the sleep; Jane should just go home, but she cannot stop her fingers from lightly tapping on the heavy oak door. She cannot stop herself from slowly pushing it open enough to peep her head in, and seeing Maura curled under the blankets, from easing her thin frame through the small gap between door and jamb. While she doesn't understand the compulsion, Jane is going to roll with it. She reasons that it's much easier to beg forgiveness than to ask for permission, and all she knows right now is that she's compelled to check on a grown-ass woman who doesn't need to be checked on.
Maura is curled towards the door, both arms bent at the elbows and hands tucked up under her head. Jane frowns at the doctor's furrowed brow; Maura may be asleep, but it surely isn't restful. She tiptoes over and sits on the edge, very careful not to jostle the bed. Overcome with a tenderness that exists only for children, Jo Friday, and Maura, Jane tucks a few wayward blond curls behind her ear then traces a finger, whisper-soft, along the gentle curve of her jaw.
Maura's brow creases further and she mumbles something unintelligible, settling herself deeper into the fluffy pillows. Jane moves her hand to Maura's forehead, using her thumb to smooth the tension residing there. Somewhere in her head there is a niggling voice telling her that she is not behaving in a manner reserved for friends, not even best ones. Of course the two women are assuredly more physical in their friendship, but what she is doing now is far more intimate than their typical line-blurring affection.
Maura's voice is thick with sleep and laced with minor irritation. Without opening her eyes, she pulls a hand from under her pillow and captures Jane's, tucking them both under her chin. Jane smiles indulgently, although the doctor isn't looking.
"Maur, honey, everyone left. I fed your turtle," Jane hesitates, waiting for the correction. When it doesn't come she realizes her friend is sleeping again . She lowers her voice to a husky whisper, "I'm gonna go now."
Jane attempts to pull her hand away, but Maura whimpers and frowns, tightening her hold.
"Hey, sweetie, I need my hand to drive." Despite needing to wake Maura, Jane is still whispering, "Can't leave it here with you. It would leave a mess on the sheets. Reddish-brown stains everywhere." She tugs again, futilely, as Maura continues to hold fast. "Maura, come on, I don't want to hurt – "
"No. Stay." It is as close to whining as Jane has ever heard. She tries again to extricate herself, convinced that a sleeping Maura doesn't really know what's best. Another whimper, this one accompanied by sleepy green eyes. "Please."
A whiney Maura Isles, Jane thinks she could deny, but a pleading Maura Isles…impossible. She folds faster than Korsak at a department poker night.
"Alright. Fine. Gimme my hand so I can change and brush my teeth."
Jane's hand is relinquished with a reluctant sigh and she moves about silently, collecting an oversized BPD shirt from a drawer in Maura's dresser. The doctor has once again slipped back into slumber, so Jane tiptoes out to the guest room to finish getting ready for bed. Night-shirted and teeth brushed, the detective hesitates in the doorway to the guestroom's bathroom. She's unsure as to Maura's request: stay in the house, or stay in the bed…with her? Jane hates uncertainty, and this week has been filled with unacknowledged tension and an uncharacteristically distracted Maura.
"So many un's make Janie go crazy." The detective softly singsongs with a smirk as she turns down the guest bed.
If Jane goes back to the master bedroom she'd wake up Maura, and Maura needs to sleep. This new hollow feeling in the pit of Jane's stomach – irrelevant. Whatever is bothering Maura can be discussed during brunch tomorrow. The brunette curls onto her side, pulling the two spare pillows into her arms. In that brief moment between sleep and wakefulness, as Jane buries her face into the sweet-smelling softness, she imagines Maura cuddled against her.
Something is wrong. Unease works better than any alarm clock, and it yanks Jane from an unusually sound sleep into a state of hyper-awareness. Wide eyes stare up at the ceiling as she tries sort out the rush of adrenaline before it blossoms into panic. She is at Maura's house, in Maura's guestroom with her arms wrapped around the spare pillows she pulled onto her chest in her sleep. She hears nothing but the occasional thump-scrape of Bass as he moves across the floor below her.
Jane looks to the window and sees a darkened sky edged with violet. Her circadian rhythm has never followed the rising of the sun before, and the detective has no reason to think it has started now. She sighs and pushes the pillows and duvet off of her. The floor is cold under her feet and goosebumps bloom across her bare thighs and arms in the morning chill. A quick trip to the kitchen will allow her to get a drink, check on Maura, and walk off this anxiety all at the same time.
"Stupid stress." Jane growls under her breath, irritated by whatever dragged her from the land of Nod.
Bare feet pad silently down the hall to stop in front of Maura's closed door. Jane rests her hand on the knob, but hesitates, realizing she'd more likely than not wake up her friend. Maura needs the sleep and although Jane, like misery, loves company, she sees no reason to have the blond suffer this sunrise with her.
"Coffee coffee coffee." The brunette mutters quietly to herself as she tiptoes down the stairs, long fingers tracing along the cool wood of the banister. Her head jerks up at a soft gasp and sniff; Maura turns away from Jane's surprised stare, hastily wiping her face.
"I didn't realize you were still here-"
Jane's eyes flick to the locked door and unarmed alarm as she takes the last few stairs two at a time. She crosses the floor quickly, all the while looking for something amiss. Maura's back is still to Jane, her posture droopy. The brunette would bet her whole paycheck that Maura is spinning the ring on her left hand. Jane has noticed Maura has taken to sleeping with the bauble on, almost like a security blanket, her need to self-soothe is so great. Her dark brows draw together, guilt tugging along her mouth at the realization that her friend is wound so tightly that even her ritualistic evening routines and meditations can't calm her.
"Hey, what happened? Bad dream? Hives from that headache fib?" Jane's voice is morning-rough, cracking midway through, and she clears her throat to try again. Maura shakes her head and Jane prepares for the doctor's evasive maneuvers.
"I woke up and I came down here." Maura still hasn't turned, but she's straightened her shoulders. "I wasn't sure if Bass had eaten."
Jane snorts before she can stop it; this deflection is one of Maura's worst and further evidence of the doctor's emotional strain. She reaches out to put her hands on her friend's upper arms, rubbing softly with her thumbs. Maura stiffens at the touch, readying herself for more questions. The trick, Jane knows, is to question in a manner that cannot be deflected. Maura's inability to lie has made her a master of truth-twisting and omission, the perfect foil for Jane's instinctual interrogating.
"Honey, it is 4:00 in the morning. Even if you woke up and fed Bass, what stopped you from going back to bed?" Jane makes sure her voice holds no condescension, only empathy. Maura holds herself stiff – distant – for just a moment and then she crumbles, chin dropping to chest as her hands rise to cover her face.
Jane turns Maura around and pulls her trembling friend into her arms, tucking Maura's covered face into the crook of her neck. They stand, swaying gently, as Maura's stifled sniffing devolves into sobs. Jane murmurs nonsensically, spilling sweeties and honeys and babys into the blonde's ear; one hand stroking through long golden hair while the other holds Maura tightly against her.
Jane is pulled in so many different directions: the strongest is to fix it, to crush whatever is hurting Maura so much that all her carefully guarded composure is lost. Jane fights the urge to demand exactly what she can do to take away this heart-rending sorrow because her gut tells her Maura needs this. At some point, something has to give. The last time Maura was this pressured and Jane tried resolving everything, they very nearly quit each other. So they sway and rock, Jane pressing soft kisses to Maura's temple between whispers, and finally the sobs melt into hitching breaths and sighs.
"I'm s-s-sorry." Maura tries to pull away, palms scrubbing at her tear stained cheeks. Jane only tightens her hold, still moving slowly from side to side. She toys with a blond curl, threading and weaving the silky strand between her fingers, before nuzzling her cheek against Maura's. She knows this contact is also crossing the friendship line, but she can't seem to stop. Anything to get Maura talking. Jane doesn't respond to the apology, she knows sometimes Maura is compelled to fill silence with a stream of consciousness and Jane needs to know what sparked this uncharacteristic emotional outburst.
"I don't know what's wrong with me." Maura's voice is soft and lost, and Jane's heart twists at the hint of despair. "I can't seem to reach homeostasis despite my attempts at meditation, controlled breathing, and exercise."
Jane hums sympathetically in response, her hand moving up to cradle the back of Maura's head, long fingers massaging in a manner she hopes is soothing. Maura's breathing still catches on the spaces where sobs were, but she has relaxed into Jane's embrace, taking the offered comfort.
"I thought you left." Maura's forehead rests against Jane's shoulder and the whisper drops between them. "It was a nightmare, and I woke up, and you weren't with me. You said you'd stay. I needed you."
Jane stops swaying. She feels that flash of adrenaline again: that stomach-clenching, heart pounding, pre-panic fluttering in her chest. She knows this is a conversation that Maura needs to have, that they both need to have, but that doesn't make it any easier. Before she can stop herself she slips into her favorite river in Egypt and intentionally plays the fool.
"I did stay. I'm here, aren't I?"
Maura sighs and doesn't bother to answer. She is slowly coming back into her body, the arms that loosely circle Jane's waist pull up and away and she raises her head from its intimate position. Jane feels Maura retreating, and she curses her own cowardice. She can, with a dislocated shoulder, tackle a 250 pound drug addict. She can, with zip-tied wrists, headbutt a deranged prison guard to save Maura and kill her own personal living nightmare. Jane can, with a heart crippled by terror, talk down a psychopath before he takes the only person, besides her family, that Jane has ever loved. She cannot let this opportunity slip from her because of her fear.
"Maura." Jane manages to catch ahold of the doctor's hands as she pulls away. "I wasn't sure…"
Then she sees it: the sadness, the exhaustion, but above all, the love in Maura's eyes as they meet her own. The detective recognizes that this is how Maura always looks at her – minus the sadness and maybe with a little less exhaustion.
"I wasn't sure you meant for me to stay with you…like in your bed with you." She squeezes Maura's hands, "I should have, I mean, with the way you held my hand hostage, but I'm an idiot…"
Maura smiles slightly, but it's more a regret than benediction. She's rebuilding the walls that protect her, well three of them anyway. Jane became the fourth wall when she held Maura's hands just like she is now. She took Maura's confession of her neglectful childhood and since then, Jane has become more than just a friend and confidant. She's as essential to the doctor as air, food, and water. Maura has replaced Belongingness and Love on Maslow's Hierarchy with Jane. Maura doesn't want simply to belong; she wants to belong to Jane. She wants Jane to belong to her.
Jane's stomach sinks as she sees Maura school her face into Dr. Isles. The brunette knows a talk needs to happen, but she needs mediation, something to translate the emotions in her heart into words. She communicates better through movement than speech, so if she can just get moving, the words will come.
"Here." Jane pulls the blonde towards the middle of the living room and gives her hands another squeeze before letting them go. "I know it's too early, and we haven't had any coffee, but this should wake us up a bit."
Maura tilts her head, a small, confused smile playing across her lips as her hands slowly return to her sides. Jane moves to grab the stereo remote from the coffee table, and then pushes the table against the couch to leave more room for movement. She attempts to calm her stuttering heart with some Jane-snark. "Bonus, you don't have those ridiculous shoes on, so I don't have to worry about you falling on your head."
The doctor looks baffled. "Are we going to dance? It is four in the morning, as you so kindly pointed out before. I'm sure we could both use another hour or two of sleep." She trails off as she realizes the detective is thumbing through her iPod looking for a song.
"We'll have plenty of time to sleep when we're dead, Maur." Jane taps at the small screen impatiently and a slow, sultry piano pours from the speakers. This is no salsa or tango, Maura realizes. Jane is telling her something here that that raspy voice may not be able to express. She bites her lip and takes the proffered hand, letting Jane slip an arm around her waist and tug her closer.
"This song makes me think of you." Maura's eyes drift closed as Jane's lips brush against her ear. "The first time I heard it was right after Rockford…and," Jane sucks in a deep breath and Maura can feel her tremble. "I immediately bought it. I didn't know why the song spoke to me at the time, just that it did." There is no turning back now, Jane realizes, her secret will be out as soon as Maura hears the lyrics. Her stomach flip flops as she pulls Maura along with her much less smoothly than she would like. She throws out a nervous disclaimer. "I don't really know how to lead, so you're going to have to bear with me."
Maura doesn't answer, she just slides her hand from Jane's shoulder to wind her fingers in the soft curls at the nape of Jane's neck. Eyes still closed, she rests her head lightly against Jane's so that she can feel the brunette's breath puff against her ear and she relaxes, surrendering control over their movement entirely to Jane. And then, as the singer begins, she feels Jane's lips move in sync, a whispering duet with both singer and detective pouring their hearts into the words.
Strange dear, but true dear
When I'm close to you, dear
The stars fill the sky
So in love with you am I.
Maura gasps and tries to pull back, but Jane tightens the arm around Maura's waist and whirls them into a turn, keeping her lips pressed close to the shell of Maura's ear. "Just listen." She continues to softly sing along, the singer's smoky alto easily within her own range.
In love with the night, mysterious.
The night when you first were there.
In love with my joy, delirious,
When I thought that you might care.
She feels Maura melt into her until they are pressed together so tightly they move as one. Jane's heart is full; it no longer flutters madly with the possibility of rejection. She dances Maura over to the couch, singing the closing lines of the song as she sways with the blond in her arms.
I'm yours, till I die
So in love, so in love
So in love with you, my love...am I.
She leans back and rests her forehead against Maura's, her smile reflected back in watery green-gold eyes. She raises one long index finger and presses it gently into the dimple on Maura's left cheek, then she chuckles. She watches hazel eyes dilate at the throaty rumble and the dimple under her finger disappears as Maura sucks her lower lip in between her teeth.
"I've been waiting almost four years to do that."
Maura's smile is wobbly and she chokes back a laugh. She takes Jane's hand from her face and kisses the scarred palm before lacing their fingers together. "Can we sit?"
Jane can feel Maura's hand tremble against her own, so she squeezes her fingers and tugs her down to the couch. Maura takes a deep breath, her eyes resting on their clasped hands.
"I haven't been feeling like myself lately." She glances up to see Jane smiling encouragingly so she continues, "And I think it's because I have a few things that I need to tell you." When the words get stuck in her throat, Jane leans forward presses a chaste kiss on her cheek.
"This sounds like a coffee conversation. Why don't you go get that fuzzy blanket you keep on your bed and I'll go make you the best cup of instant coffee you've ever had." Maura looks at her, aghast, until Jane winks and waves her off to her room. As Maura goes to fetch the microfleece blanket Jane is so fond of, she finds herself feeling more and more confident about telling Jane about the donation. The other woman has pretty much professed her love. Maura draws strength from the memory of Jane's arms around her, filling her with the serenity that only Jane brings. She brings the blanket back to the living area where she throws it on the couch so she can rescue Jane from the coffee maker. Maura wants to start the day with a clean conscience and kisses, and without coffee it'll never happen.