Maia’s vision is blurring.
The black letters on her laptop screen are getting harder and harder to read. She blinks, but her eyes still feel gritty. She’d rub them, but she has red-rimmed eyes on a good day, so she doesn’t. She looks up at Lucca instead, and as ever, it's easy focus on her. Too easy. “What — what time is it?”
Maia could check her laptop, but she wants to hear the sound of Lucca's voice, and is not disappointed: “Just after midnight,” Lucca says, cool and calm despite being crammed into this overheated room prepping for trial in the middle of the night.
Their motel is almost halfway between Chicago and Springfield, and Maia didn’t even catch the name of the town through the flurry of snow. Of course, of course there was only one room left when they drove off the interstate and ran into the nearest motel. Blizzard, ladies, the receptionist had said with an exaggerated Aw Shucks! shrug, what can you do?
Lucca could roll her eyes at that and ask whether there really wasn’t another room left. Maia could look vaguely accusingly at the receptionist, who didn’t seem especially sorry. Ultimately, they did take the room with one single Queen bed. It’s the one they’re both they’re currently sitting on, across from each other. Printouts are strewn all around them, stapled haphazardly. Depositions and interrogatories; documents produced and dragged along in their wet carry-ons now by the heater. Maia is not sure she likes traveling within Illinois or out of state any more, not after over a year at Reddick, Boseman, & Kolstad.
Neither was Amy, as it turned out. Look, Amy had said, so quietly that Maia knew This Was It, The time you were prosecuted was tough, and given your firm I understand if you are away on trial a lot and can’t talk. But given that you barely talk even when you’re here with me in the same city, in the same apartment — look, this is not working. I’m sorry. So was Maia. But it was true. She didn’t know why she couldn’t make herself talk any more with Amy when the two of them had been so in tune. The Wonder Twins, her friends used to call them. Used to.
Maia exhales. Lucca catches the sound. “Are you okay?”
Is she? Probably not really. “Just tired.”
Lucca’s eyes soften. “We should call it a day. I know you like to be prepared,” kind words for Maia still being a little anxious on the floor, “but we’re good on the outline and just need to fine-tune the strategy.” She’s such a force to be reckoned with in the courtroom that Lucca in empathy mode still gives Maia a sharp pang. It’s as if Lucca saves her affections and then metes them out very selectively. Lucca likes to battle, but she also likes people. Some people, at least. Maia is among them, and to be honest, she doesn’t know why but secretly keeps her fingers crossed this will never, ever change.
“You’re probably right.” Maia chews her lip. If one of them goes to bed, the other does too. And perhaps that scares Maia a little. She’s definitely feeling antsy in ways that have nothing to do with the case — Lucca is right; she is pretty sure they have the case in the bag. Plus, the weather may see the trial postponed. She can do this. There’s nothing to it. When she was younger Maia platonically shared beds with smart, sharp, beautiful girls, for the most part without being breathless about it. There’s no reason to focus on the one or two other times. “We should go to sleep.”
“I’ll take first shift in the bathroom.” Lucca smiles, again, but now that she’s looking, Maia can see the fine lines of tiredness around Lucca’s dark eyes, too. Her lipstick, always perfectly accentuating the bow of her mouth, has worn off. The humidity of the room is bringing out some frizz at the fine hair at Lucca’s temple. This is Lucca Quinn nearing the end of her considerable energy supply but keeping it up for Maia.
So Maia just nods and watches Lucca swiftly, neatly pack her files. It’s not just that Lucca is a smart lawyer. She’s organized, structured, solid under pressure. Maia has no idea how people could assume they’re even remotely in the same league as associates, but people do address Maia first often enough to strike Maia back into a reality she doesn’t like to think is real, or at least not in Chicago, not around her law firm.
Lucca’s hips sway a little when she walks to the hilariously ugly yellow-tiled bathroom with its smell of chlorine. Lucca is probably just dragging her feet, Maia thinks. There’s nothing to it, and she should really not ogle. Maia’s just…both exhausted and keyed up. She hits Save and closes her laptop before putting her own files away. Busy. She can keep busy, and then she can sleep.
Maia’s heart-rate is almost back to normal again when Lucca comes out of the bathroom. She’s wearing only a Radikal Fear Records t-shirt; it comes down to the very tops of Lucca's thighs. Maia quickly looks away. Sometimes she hates her fair skin and how much her reactions show on it. “I’ll go now,” Maia gets out, and hopefully it only sounds high-pitched to her own ears. Without looking at Lucca, Maia scurries into the bathroom, which now smells much better.
Getting ready for bed is meditative enough for Maia to calm down a little. Washing up, brushing her teeth, brushing her hair until she can see the copper spark even in the dim light of the motel bathroom. Trouble is, she has to leave the bathroom eventually, and there’s Lucca, snuggled into bed, reading something on her phone. Her eyes are fixed on the tiny screen, long lashes fluttering sleepily. Maia knows she’s gaping. She swallows, asks, “Text from Colin?”
The raised eyebrows from Lucca this time aren’t a carefully studied spectacle. She looks surprised. “You know we stopped dating a year ago.”
The blissful truth is that Maia actually isn’t so far gone as to remember the exact date. But she remembers Colin talking to Lucca after, in court and out of it, in person and on the phone. This was good; it’s one reason Maia is free and clear, and a lawyer who didn’t lose her license. But while she makes sure to treat him with great professional courtesy and genuine gratitude, Maia still doesn’t like Colin, as such. She lifts her shoulders. “I know we were all pretty close after…last year.”
“That’s an understatement if I ever saw one,” Lucca says drily, “and now stop stalling and come to bed; you’re making even me nervous.”
Maia bites her lip again. “I was getting to it.” She does conveniently forget that Lucca knows her inside and out. She climbs into the starchy sheets next to Lucca and lays back. The ceiling has, predictably, a water stain the size of a Mini on it.
Lucca switches off the light on her side of the bed. “Mmh,” she says, and Maia hears the clink of her phone on the nightstand. She wonders if Lucca also thinks it’s a little stifling under the covers, thin as they are, howling as the blizzard is outside.
“You know,” Maia finds herself saying, “I just don’t want to be That Person.”
Lucca stirs next to her. “If you’re wondering about it, you probably are.” Snarky, but there’s sweetness underneath. “What person would that be in this case?”
Maia breathes out and flips off her own light. This is easier in the dark, though never easy. “All of them. You know.”
“Maia. I don’t want to guess.” Lucca’s voice is soft but extremely clear. “I want to know.”
Maia rolls to her side. Sure enough, she can, if barely, make out Lucca looking at her. She closes her eyes only for a brief moment. “I don’t want to be the gay girl with a crush on her straight friend. I don’t want to be White and keep staring at a Black woman.”
Lucca’s laughter startles Maia, quiet as it is. “See, was that so hard?”
Well, yes. Objectively, though… “No.” Lucca knows. Lucca has known for a while, most likely. “I didn’t want to make things awkward between us.”
“Not more than usual.” Maia can still hear the smile in Lucca’s voice. She sounds relieved, almost a little giddy. That’s odd, unless —
“Am I making the wrong assumptions?”
“No. I really count as Black.”
This time, Maia rolls her eyes, and rolls closer to Lucca. “You’re not straight.”
“Nope.” Lucca, too, shuffles closer. “But I’ve got to tell you, Maia, this is not a depo. You’re allowed to ask more than one question. You can,” Lucca makes a pause here, and Maia knows how this plays in a courtroom: to emphasize, “even do something at the same time.”
Maia feels a shudder run through her. “Like, kiss you?”
The sound of a shaky breath from Lucca. “This is the most cliché part of this conversation, but I really thought you’d never ask. And, yes.”
Lucca is so close now Maia can share her breath. It’s not difficult to reach out and run her fingers across the perfect slope of Lucca’s chin, suddenly, and to lean in and brush her lips against Lucca’s. Lucca opens her mouth under Maia’s like she has wanted to, making ever more heat race race down Maia’s spine. Maia can’t keep a moan down, and Lucca laughs again, now as breathless as Maia was.
“You’re so lucky you’re cute,” Lucca whispers against the skin of her neck, brushing her nose along the line of Maia’s throat.
“I know,” Maia whispers, and means it.