"What does love mean to you?"
Maura takes a sip of her wine, stares ahead and doesn't look anywhere else. Like she'll find whatever she's looking for, whatever reassurance she needs in the coffee table. The question has been pressing against her most vital organ uncomfortably for months and just saying it out loud makes her breath come a little easier. She knows maybe now isn't the best time. After all, it's only been a few weeks since Casey left, this time for good.
She knows the question will throw Jane and she'll sit next to her, brow adorably furrowed as she analyzes the question, trying to figure out what it means.
It's not something they've discussed before, but friends talk about this kind of thing don't they? The answer is yes. She knows this from college and boarding school. Yet, there is something different here than the giggling girls in her shared dorms. It's in her tone. It's in the way the atmosphere suddenly shifts around them. The air is full of static, electrified in a way that makes it feel like they are now suddenly walking through a minefield of secrets and hidden messages.
Jane is quiet.
And for a moment Maura thinks about explaining the question away with an endless sea of facts, dusting it back under the rug. She would say something, Jane will tease her, they'd bump shoulders and laugh – it's a game they play often. It would be easy. But something is stopping her.
They had a rough case, a rough day, and the scratches across Jane's cheek only serve as a reminder that other Casey's aren't the only thing that can take this woman from her. And even though she doesn't like what if's it's where her mind wanders in the darkest part of the night and she feels like she's drowning underneath the circumstances.
Maura watches the tremor build in Jane's hands. Like everything she wants to say rests in her fingertips rather than the tip of her tongue. "What does it mean to you?" Jane throws it back at her.
"I asked first." She wonders how far she can go before Jane calls her bluff.
"Why? Do you think you're falling in love with Bomb Tech?" Jane hopes the teasing in her voice deters Maura. But there is something inside of her that she can't name clawing at the inside of her skin at the mere notion of her being in love with him. And she knows that it's unfair, but it makes her blood simmer in a dangerous way.
The words hang in the air like a heavy cloud. They are quiet in the aftermath. Jane takes a sip of her beer, Maura of her wine. Maura feels Jane's sock-covered feet press into her thigh, feels her shift underneath their shared blanket. And maybe this is enough, Maura wonders to herself.
For a moment she feels selfish for wanting more. It's not that the friendship she has with Jane isn't enough. Her want isn't some do or die flip of a coin. Be with me or we can't be friends - no.
It's the possibility that lingers in the back of her throat in these moments. It's not knowing what's acceptable and what's not. It's how she wants to press her body into Jane's, just to see how they fit. She wants to hold her hands, trace the scars in her palms and say I love you. And when Jane squirms underneath her, bashful in a way that makes Maura’s heart beat faster, she'll kiss her simply and slowly because Jane makes her think in sentences made for romanticists and poets rather than scientists. And it's that unrelenting hope that has her wanting more.
It's the uncertainty that drives her. And she will run reckless through the caution tape if it means that uncertainty dissipates.
The question comes not because she doesn't know what love is. Feelings, though hard for her to express, she knows what they are. She's been in love before. But each time it's different – not wrong or right, just different. Garrett was different than Ian; Ian different than Garrett. Jane… (and how easily did her name fit within that short list?) Jane is different than them both.
The question comes because she needs to know what it means for Jane. (Answers are unobtainable if there is no question, she reasons.) Needs to know if she feels the same way she does.
"I don't know, Maura." The words are a long complicated sigh. Jane leans back into her corner of the sofa, eyes staring blankly at the ceiling. This is exactly why she liked being with Casey. She didn't have to ask herself the hard questions. He never tried to dig deeper into her psyche. He didn't want to learn more about her. And it was easy, god was it easy. But he's gone (and that tightness in her chest is gone too which should tell her something about the relationship she had with him.)
And there is Maura, sitting opposite her. There is Maura and her caring eyes, and soft hair, and warmth. She couldn't be more opposite than Casey, than anyone she's ever dated, and yet…
Maura sets her wine glass on the table and settles back against the sofa. "When you think of love what do you think of?" She tries again.
Jane rolls her eyes, nudges Maura's thigh with her foot, "that's the same question."
"No it's not," she laughs, "just…think about it."
"Why is this so important to you anyway?" For a moment, Maura thinks of answering her honestly, but just as she opens her mouth Jane speaks again. "Fine, I'll bite. I think of…Ma's cooking."
"See, that wasn't so hard, was it?"
"Your turn." Jane prompts.
"This." The word comes out of Maura's mouth before she can stop it. The entire body next to hers tenses. She knows she can back out still. Saving face is something that is practically ingrained into her personality, something she learned to do by the time she could read. But there is also relief, a glimmer of it just above the horizon.
"What do you mean?" The words are slow and even. It's impossible for Jane not to fall back on what she knows: ask the question, find the answer, deduct.
"Sometimes," And Maura's careful with her words here. She steps cautiously, letting her heart speak the truth. It's strangely liberating. Once she's started the high keeps her going, and this, she thinks, is why people say the truth will set you free. She revels in the way the weight eases off her shoulders. "Sometimes I feel like this is what love is." Her sentence ends and she waits for the blow-back.
The blanket shifts, the feet against her thigh move away. Maura closes her eyes, she knows what happens next.
Only, it doesn't.
She feels Jane move closer – her movements unsure and wobbly against the cushions. She settles so they are hip-to-hip, thighs pressed together and Maura feels like her skin is on fire. They sit completely still.
Jane lets out a breath. Things make sense on this couch. Terror and trauma and fear and guilt are made small work of on this couch. And she's afraid that if she gets up – when she gets up – things will stop making sense.
She doesn't need Maura to elaborate. The way she sits next to her, the way Maura’s fingers play with the loose threads in the blanket tell her everything. And she knows, just because she didn't ask the question, sometimes answers fall into her lap, unannounced. Sometimes things just happen. And it makes sense.
Maura gets her.
Maura makes sense.
And suddenly the two of them, together, makes the most sense.
Maura blinks when she feels the blanket move again, her eyes are drawn to her lap. She can feel her heart beat in the palm of her hand when Jane's fits snugly into hers, when their fingers intertwine. Jane doesn't look at her, but she squeezes her hand lightly, and there is a small, inconspicuous smile hanging out at the corner of her lips. “You know what? It does, and I think it is.” She leans forward grabbing the remote. "So what do you want to watch?"
Maura finds herself smiling too, she relaxes into Jane's shoulder as their hands stay locked together underneath the blanket. "I don't care."
Jane shakes her head, smile growing wider. They both settle back into the sofa, holding hands, hip-to-hip, comfortable in their silence as the TV clicks to life.