Jane doesn’t think she loves Jacqueline. She thinks she just has a serious case of hero worship, that Jacqueline embodies everything Jane has ever wanted to be, everything Jane has ever wanted to achieve. It takes her first orgasm and a very explicit fantasy involving Jacqueline and her desk and that glass office for Jane to realise there’s something more here. For Jane to realise that maybe she’s been denying a large part of herself for most of her life; that maybe she’s been in hiding, cowering behind the fun, well-dressed, Type A persona that she’s always wished was the entirety of her life.
“So, I found my fantasy.”
“Really? Did you...?” Kat makes a vaguely obscene gesture.
“I - Yeah. Yeah I did.”
“So, can we expect another article going into all the details?”
“Well, that’s unlikely, seeing as basically the answer to my problem was realise I want to sleep with my much older, very female boss. Oh, and a good vibrator, obviously.” It was maybe the only time Jane’s seen both Kat and Sutton speechless, and it leaves her groaning into a pillow.
“You GOT OFF while thinking about JACQ-”
Jane practically throws herself across the room to smack a hand over Kat’s mouth. “Could you please not tell the entirety of the writing staff about my raging crush on -”
Of course, at that moment Jacqueline comes in, consideringly rubbing at the fabric of her blazer. “Oh, clearly I’m interrupting something. I’ll come back later; you all look like you need the closet more.”
Jane squeaks slightly. “No, no, it’s fine!” She can hear that her voice is about 10 octaves too high and that her cheeks are going fire truck red but she can’t do anything to stop it. “We were just finished anyway!”
Jacqueline removes her blazer, revealing a sleeveless tank top that makes Jane squeak again. “If you’re sure, I’m just not sure on the fabric of this-” she holds it out for the three girls to touch “- and was thinking about maybe fishing something out to wear instead. Oh, Sutton, you’re interested in fashion aren’t you? What would you recommend?”
“Well, I’m clearly surplus to requirements, so I’ll just be going -”
“Wait, we can talk about your next article while Sutton finds me something. Did you manage to find your orgasm?”
“Er, well, yes I did, but I’m not sure I want to do a follow up.”
“I’m just not sure my experience would be all that useful, and I don’t know if I’d be comfortable with talking about it in too much detail. I mean, find a really good vibrator is a bit, well, obvious, I guess.”
Jacqueline eyes Jane in that way she does when she knows she’s not being told everything. “Okay, well, if you don’t think there’s a story there, I’ll trust your judgement.”
“Great.” Jane makes a gesture as if to go.
“Is that all it was, then? A good vibrator?” There’s a pause. “You don’t have to tell me, I’m sorry for intruding -”
“No, no, it’s fine! I - I also allowed myself to accept certain… Things about myself. About my… Interests.”
Jacqueline squints and looks at Jane askance. “Are you trying to come out?”
“I - crap - I guess I am?”
“So... you’re gay?”
“Not gay, necessarily, just, definitely currently attracted to a woman. Very, very, definitely attracted to a woman.”
“Surely there’s an article in there somewhere? A personal take on the recent studies that all women are at least a tiny bit not heterosexual.”
“I’d need to do a lot of research - I don’t really know much about it, I’m pretty new to the whole thing...” Jane blushes slightly, again, “Obviously.”
“Well, there’s your assignment then.” Sutton holds out two blazers and Jane backes out the room as Jacqueline ooh-es over them.
Now, how to write about her latent lesbianism/bisexuality/whatever this was without accidentally making it obvious she was attracted to her boss?
Three hours and 10 google searches later, Jane’s knee deep in articles about compulsory heterosexuality. She knows what she wants to write.
“ ‘Compulsory Heterosexuality - are all women actually gay?’ It’s certainly attention grabbing.”
Jane jumps out of her skin at Jacqueline’s voice behind her. “I know the title is a little bit click-baity but I figured otherwise no one would want to read it.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Well there’s this fear among hetero women that their sexuality isn’t legitimate, and that by being interested in only men they’re perpetuating problematic patriarchal standards - that dating men is ‘unfeminist.’ I know our target audience is straight women so this isn’t technically on brand but I think it’s important for straight women to be more aware of.”
“Hmmm. Okay. I’ll post it to the digital site now.”
“That - that’s it?”
“Yeah. I just wanted to check you knew what you were getting into. Just out of interest, and feel free to tell me if this is too personal, but do you identify with this?”
“I… Think I do. I think I thought I couldn’t be this forward thinking feminist and wear make up and perform femininity in all the ways I do and not date men. Like, how could I prove all these things weren’t for men if I wasn’t interested in them?”
“This has been like gender studies 101 for you, hasn’t it?”
“Kind of, yeah. I’d always avoided these kinds of topics at college because, like, it wasn’t cool or whatever, but now I feel like… Like my eyes have been opened or something. But, like, I don’t want to become a gay writer, you know? Like, I don’t want that to be all I write about - I still want to be political and funny and sexy and everything else that Scarlet is.”
“Of course, of course, if you don’t want to pigeon-hole yourself than you don’t have to.”
“Okay, cool. Good.”
“Great. I’m glad this experience has been so beneficial for you. Now, onto the next thing?”
Jane nods with a smile. “The next thing.”
Jane doesn’t know when she started shouting, all she knows is that she’s currently near screaming at Jacqueline, her boss, the woman she’s possibly in love with, and crying her eyes out. This is all happening right in the middle of the bullpen. Obviously. Jane isn’t really seeing Jacqueline in that moment; all she can see is her fear, and her mother, and the smell of that hospital - she can remember the papery feeling of one of her mother’s hands, the fat drained from the bones. Her apologies spill like the tears; readily, and easily, and borne of a love and a fear.
When Jane takes that walk, she realises truly what Jacqueline means to her. She realises how big Jacqueline’s heart is, how wide Jacqueline casts her empathy, how much of a good and loving person Jacqueline is. Jane realises that she has truly fallen in love.
Jane holds her best friends hands and thanks the entire universe for giving them to her. They make it that tiny bit easier to live this nightmare. Kat and Sutton ask the smart questions, they take in the information for her when she’s not sure she can, and they never once let go of her hands. They help keep the memories of her mother, of the world that her mother had lived in and dragged Jane into, unwillingly, at bay.
There’s someone else’s support that Jane wants. That she needs. “Guys, can we swing by the office first? I need… I need to tell Jacqueline.”
“I’m sorry, again, for yelling at you,” Jane musters up the courage to tell Jacqueline, “And you were right. I did need the test.”
“What were the results?”
Jane musters a wobbly smile. “It was positive. I have the gene.”
“Oh, Jane.” Jacqueline takes three long strides around her desk and holds her arms out to Jane, as if she wants to touch her but can’t decide how.
“It’s fine, they’re going to monitor me. It just means a lot more gyno appointments from now on.” Jane wipes at her eyes with a small, wet chuckle. “I thought I was over the crying.”
“I’m going to hug you.”
“Okay.” Jane wraps her arm around Jacqueline and presses her face against the shoulder of her jacket.
“Is there anything I can do?” Jacqueline quietly asks into Jane’s hair.
“Oh, you know, just don’t ask me to write about boobs ever, apparently.”
Jacqueline smiled. “Still not a big fan?”
“Okay, I mean other people’s are… Fine I guess. Or good. Or something.” Jane can feel her face getting heated as the two of them part, avoiding eye contact with Jacqueline.
“Need some time to do some research?”
“I think that would help.” Jane’s eyes don’t flick down to Jacqueline’s boobs. They don’t. That would be ridiculous. Jane clears her throat. “Anyway, yeah, I’m still really sorry about the yelling.”
“Seriously, it’s fine. Just make sure it doesn’t happen again.” Jacqueline still hasn’t stopped touching Jane. One of her hands rests on Jane’s shoulder comfortably, intimately close to her neck, thumb pressed to her collarbone. “Can’t have you yelling at me in front of all my staff like that.”
“Does that mean I can yell at you not in front of your staff?”
“Of course. Be sure to book in advance, though - you’ve got a lot of competition.”
“Oh, I will.” Jane smiles and awkwardly gestures leaving. “Anyway, I’m gonna go get half-naked in Central Park, wanna come?”
Jane choked on a double take. “Seriously?”
“This is important to you, right?”
“Well, yeah, it is.”
“Then I wanna be there. If that’s okay?”
“Yeah, yeah, of course it is. I’m… Touched.”
“Great. Text me the details.”
“Will do.” Jane finger guns as she leaves, and listens to Jacqueline laughing all the way down the hall as she attempts to not just literally die on the spot.
“So, Jacqueline’s coming with us to get naked in Central Park.” Jane says the sentence really fast, as if that’ll make it be less true. “Also I did finger guns as I left her office and I think my soul actually left my body.”
“Wow, okay, this a lot to process.” Kat holds the bridge of her nose like she’s actually struggling. “Jacqueline wants to get naked with you in Central Park? How did that even come about?”
“With us, yeah. I invited her as a joke because we had some, like, banter or something, and there was this, weird energy in the room and I didn’t know what to say! And then I did finger guns as I left and I could hear her laughing at me.” Jane literally starts to pout.
“She’s fucking with you. She must be.”
“I think she’s actually trying to be supportive, which is somehow worse. Oh shoot, I said like 5 seconds before that I needed to do more research on boobs, this is not what I meant!”
Sutton holds up a hand. “Woah, hold up, we’re gonna need a lot more details. Full run-down, right now, stat.”
Jacqueline stands next to Jane in a very mentor-yish fashion as the four of them count down to the big reveal. Jane firmly doesn’t look at anyone as she removes her shirt - she does not check her boss out. She has more self restraint than that. She will not be lured into ogling Jacqueline in public. At least, not while she doesn’t have a shirt on, anyway. Not that Jane’s ever ogled Jacqueline before. Of course not. That’d be ridiculous.
“It’s quite… Freeing, isn’t it?” Jacqueline smiles at Jane and even the small height difference between them seems to be a big problem for Jane right now as she struggles to keep her eyes firmly on Jacqueline’s forehead and not a single bit lower.
She smiles slightly victoriously as if to say ‘Look, I can be half-naked with my boss who I have a raging crush on without losing my professionalism!’ Then Jacqueline smiles and tilts her head back to the sun, and Jane doesn’t quite mean to look down, but she does, and suddenly Jane’s cherry red and can’t stop her gaze from fluttering up and then down to - she clears her throat and turns to Kat and Sutton, who are obviously trying not to burst into fits of laughter. “So, guys, what do we do now?”
“I dunno. Go for a walk maybe?” Kat suggests
“Oooh!” Sutton exclaims. “Let’s go sun bathe!”
“Anyone bring any sunblock?” Jane says.
“I did.” Jacqueline fishes a bottle out of her handbag. Jane takes it with a quiet thank you. “I knew you’d forget. And, of course, this area -” Jacqueline makes a general, all-encompassing hand gesture, “- isn’t exactly used to the sun.”
“You don’t sunbathe half-naked often?”
“Surprisingly, no. Maybe this’ll convert me.”
“Guys, crisis!” Sutton stops where she was walking, holding her hands out like it’s the end of the world. “We didn’t bring any blankets!”
They find a slightly empty patch of grass and lay down on their backs, all in a row. They can feel people's stares but all of them are used to it and unbothered; when have they ever let that stop them? To begin with, they all lay in silence, quietly soaking up the sun's rays. Then Kat starts taking selfies, which Sutton has to be in, which then Jane has to photobomb, obviously, and then Sutton demands a nice selfie, and then a redo…
“Hey, Jacqueline, you wanna get in on this?” Kat asks with a not an all subtle smirk at Jane. “I promise not to post any of the photos anywhere without submitting them to the magazine for approval.”
Jacqueline presses her front into Jane’s back in order to get in frame and Jane nearly ascends to a higher plain. They take several pictures, including one where they’re all, including Jacqueline, doing duck faces, which Jane swears she has to ahold of later even if it means she has to murder Kat.
“Is this okay?” Jacqueline murmurs into Jane’s hair. One of Jacqueline’s hands has ended up on Jane’s waist, while the other is stretched out behind Jane, hand against her back.
Jane cranes back to look at her, smiling. “Ye-yeah, of course.”
Sutton whines, “Guys, please, focus! I need some new cute shots for my insta.”
Kat sends her the picture later, of just the two of them looking at each other. It looks like they’re a couple - it maybe looks like they’re in love.
Shortly after, Jacqueline gets a call and predictably has to go back to work. Jane decides to head back into work with her, and it’s almost a relief to be able to look at Jacqueline without going bright red. “So, did you have fun?” Jane asks in the cab.
“Of course. Who wouldn’t enjoy basking in the sun, topless, with three beautiful girls?”
“What would your husband say?” Jane teases.
“Considering he’s currently on holiday with his boyfriend, I think nothing but his undying support, probably.”
“I - wow. Seriously?”
“Oh, yeah. The best way to keep the modern marriage together is to allow yourself certain freedoms - for me and Ian, those freedoms include both of us dating outside our marriage.”
“And that… Works?”
“It has done for the last 20 plus years.”
“So… You can just date whoever you like.
“Yep.” There was an intensity to Jacqueline’s gaze that Jane couldn’t even hope to understand. Was this just another trust exercise? “With discretion, of course.”
“Yeah, I can’t imagine the board of trustees would like it very much.”
“Especially if they found out the some of the women I’ve dated, God, the press’d have a field day.”
Jane chuckles weakly while trying not to inhale her own spit.
“Oh, good, we’re here. You coming?”
“Erm, yep, super coming, just let me pay the -”
“I’ve got it. C’mon, I don’t have all day.” Jacqueline grasps one of Jane’s hands to help her from the taxi, and Jane feels a bit like a princess as she rose from the seat.
Jacqueline steps back, their hands still linked, and Jane takes a step to follow - and catches her heel on the curb. She starts falling. Straight into Jacqueline. Deftly, Jacqueline wraps an arm around Jane’s waist, holding her firmly against her as Jane squeezes her eyes shut and prays she doesn’t die.
“You should really start wearing lower heels.” Jacqueline murmurs, laughter clear in her voice.
Jane slowly opens one eye, and then the other. “I’m not dead.” She looks up into Jacqueline’s eyes, their faces pressed closely together. “You saved me.”
“I don’t think a fall to the sidewalk quite would’ve killed you, but yes, I suppose I did.” There’s a sweet moment of tension where Jane’s eyes flicker down to Jacqueline’s lips, then back up to her eyes, then down again, this last glance longer and slightly molten - but then Jacqueline is carefully grasping Jane’s waist to push her back upright. “There you go. Glad we avoided that lawsuit.”
“It’s not on company property so I don’t think I’d have had reasonable grounds, unfortunately.”
“Damn. Next time be sure to slip over in the lobby or something, hmm?”
“Jacqueline just told me that her husband lets - okay ‘lets’ is a bad word choice but you get what I mean - lets her date outside her marriage. She just casually told me that she dates women! Why would she do that? Oh my God.”
Kat shakes her head. “She’s into you, obviously. She’s making it clear that she’s available.”
“Oh, and also I fell on her like in terrible, horrible, romcom-esque fashion and she caught me and then we had banter and this silent but charged elevator ride and. I don’t know what any of this MEANS.”
“She wants you.” Sutton sing songs. Jane throws a pillow at her.
Jane leaves Scarlet for many reasons. She leaves to spread her wings, she leaves because she truly believes in their vision, she leaves because she hasn’t been this excited to write in months. But she also leaves because of love. That love is too big and unbearable to face everyday, to stare down the barrel and not ask Jacqueline to love her back; it seems like an unconquerable mountain. She wants to bask in the warmth of her own love, in the heat of Jacqueline’s regard and empathy, but it’s been months. It’s time to move on.
Jane receives a text from Jacqueline, a week after she starts at Insight. It only reads a time and the name of a little known bar. She finds herself dressing up for Jacqueline, putting on what is clearly considered a date appropriate outfit and the boldest lipstick she can find, the dark red one that fills her with an unshakable confidence.
She arrives early. After ordering a drink, she scrolls through her social media intently, trying to distract the butterflies in her stomach. She messages the group chat ‘Guys I’m honnestly shitting myself.’
Kat replies, ‘Is there not a toilet?’, while Sutton tries to reassure her, ‘You can do this! Go get her!’
Jacqueline clears her throat and Jane nearly throws her phone across the bar. “Jacqueline! Hi!” She stands from the bar stool she was seated on and then doesn’t seem to know what to do with herself. “Can I… Get you a drink?”
“A drink would be lovely.” Jacqueline leans in for air kisses, but Jane can feel her lips actually against her skin.
Jane’s phone chirps once, twice, then a third time.
“Seems a bit early for your convenient ‘there’s an emergency’ escape messages.”
“Oh, no, it’s just Kat and Sutton being, like, supportive, or something.”
“Well, why don’t you text them back that I’m not planning on murdering you while I order a drink, hmm?”
They remain at the bar, perched on the high stools, Jacqueline resting her head on her arm and leaning in to Jane intimately. She flicks her gaze down and then up Jane’s body.
“Oooh, a date outfit? All for me?”
“Oh, no, I’ve got a date with another, hotter women booked for after this.”
“Hotter than me? How’d you get Cat Grant to agree to that?”
“By name-dropping you, of course.”
“And yet she refuses to return my calls. The snake.”
Jane starts to jokingly hiss, and then blushes and sips desperately at her drink.
Jacqueline, surprisingly, actually laughs, but Jane thinks it’s more at her than with her.
“Trying to get inside info on the competition?”
“No, of course not. You’re way too junior to know anything useful - ask me that again in three months. No, I was just wondering if you were doing okay - if you wanted any of my sage advice.”
“I… Didn’t realise you were still offering your mentor services. I figured I kind of burned that bridge when I left.”
“As long as you’re brave enough to tell me your problems, I’m more than happy to offer what help I can. All this life experience has to go into helping someone, right?”
“I guess.” Jane fiddles with her drink and clears her throat. “Erm, yeah, no, it’s really good. They’re giving me a lot of freedom, which is sort of strange; I don’t know quite to do with myself without you glaring from your office.”
“Well, you can call me to glare at you any time.”
“I’d make a joke about how you're too old to work face time, but you’re actually probably more tech savvy than I am.”
“It’s an important part of the job nowadays.”
Jane stares down into her drink while Jacqueline just looks at her. Her gaze isn’t judgemental, or assessing; it’s merely a warm comfort, the reassurance of being seen. It may have only been a week, but Jane realises she’d missed this desperately.
Okay. Time to be brave. “Jacqueline, why did you invite me out?”
“I wanted to see where this could go. To see what you wanted from me - from this.”
“So, if I wanted this to be a date, it could be a date?”
“That’s what I was hoping for, yes.”
“I - Jacqueline -”
Jacqueline reaches out for Jane, presses a hand to her cheek. She slides from her stool to stand between Jane’s legs. “You are smart, and brilliant, and beautiful,” Jacqueline brushes her thumb over Jane’s lower lip, “and I want to kiss you now.”
Jacqueline kisses her gently but lingeringly. It is a profession of interest, of desire, but also a blessing, a wish for this to last.
“You know, you really shouldn’t have just said ‘yes’ just then because that actually makes no sense in the context-”
Jane pulls Jacqueline down to kiss her again.
“I love you.” Jane’s eyes widen. “I didn’t mean to say that, I’m sorry, I know it’s too soon -”
“Jane, my darling. I know.”
Their relationship builds slowly but soon it’s Jacqueline Jane is kissing madly as she crashes into her apartment - it’s Jacqueline who’s lifting Jane off the floor, Jacqueline who makes Jane knock over every single lamp in her living room.
“Where’s your room?”
“Oh my God, that one,” Jane vaguely waves a hand, “Hurry up, oh my God -”
They manage to slam into Jane’s room finally. Neither of them notice Sutton or Kat, who are in the middle of drinking wine and watching some terrible TV. Then the noise starts.
“Holy shit.” Kat mutters in an undertone.
They both stare at the closed door. “That’s our boss.”
“Our very married boss.”