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Maybe it was you all along

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The first time it happened, it truly wasn’t a big deal. They quickly agreed to never speak of it again and went on their usual ways. It had been about comfort, and mutual desperation. With Vanessa gone and Max out of the picture, with both of them nursing a broken heart for entirely different but still pretty similar reasons, they had turned to each other. It had made sense, and it hadn't meant a thing.

It was when it happened again a week later, and then again, that Jess started to develop feelings. And thoughts.

She didn't know who she could talk to. Obviously Murphy was out of the question; no matter how much her smart and rational brain emphasized the importance of communication, her scaredy-cat of a heart realised that the moment she gave words to whatever it was they were doing, Murphy would back away and she would ruin whatever was going on between them, and probably their friendship as well.

She wished with all of her might that she could talk to Felix, but he wouldn't understand. He'd never understood Murphy, and while Jess wouldn't claim that she did, she did think she saw more of the woman than most people. Partly by mere proximity, but mostly because to a certain point Murphy had learned to be vulnerable with her in a way that she'd never been with anyone else. Felix would only urge her to step away, would try to convince her that Murphy was only taking advantage of her while she wasn't entirely sure it wasn't the other way around.

Murphy had never expressed an interest in girls before, not even when Jess had come out to her, or when she had introduced her to the few girlfriends she'd had. And with the experience with Vanessa still fresh on her mind, the way her ex would still say lesbian as if there was something wrong with it, even after sleeping with her, Jess was pretty weary about the whole thing.

To her surprise, it was Murphy herself who brought it up, when they were lying in bed, their bodies tangled in each other while they were coming down.

"I had never had sex with a girl before," Murphy said. "It's nice."

And before Jess could answer, before she could start a conversation, Murphy added:

"Can I sleep here?"

"I, yes, of course," Jess said, as if she wasn't aware that Murphy kicked her bed partners out the minute she was done with them, as if her thoughts didn't get all tangled up in her feelings because of those stupid four words.

"Thank you. Goodnight."

Murphy turned around and fell asleep within minutes, her quiet, regular breathing filling the room as Jess waited for her own body to relax. She tried some breathing exercises, clenched and unclenched her muscles, twisted and turned to get comfortable. But her whole body was attuned to this other woman lying in her bed, her awareness awake and alert because of the warmth radiating from this other person.

You have slept with a woman in your bed before, she chided herself. But even when she had been cheating and she should have been on red alert, her body had been satisfied and relaxed, her mind happy and sated.

It became a new routine, where every few days Murphy would wander into her bedroom, they would have sex, and Murphy would fall asleep while Jess suffered sleepless nights. She thought she was going to explode if she didn't say anything soon, and she could feel the "I love you" bubbling up inside of her. How long would she be able to keep that in, and would her heart break if she let it out?

She was still mulling over this when Felix sat her down at the office one day.

"What's wrong with Murphy?" he demanded, and Jess looked up in shock.

"Why would anything be wrong with Murphy?"

He rolled his eyes and waved towards where Murphy was talking to some customers. Wait. Talking to customers?

"She's planning something, I can feel it. She's been nice to me all week."

"Murphy's been nice?"

"Well, nice is a strong word," Felix admitted. "She hasn't really changed much in private. But when I was showing our intern around the other day, she actually called me boss. And not in a sarcastic, let-me-show-you-how-little-I-think-of-you way either. Like, genuinely, called me boss."

"Maybe she was trying to impress the new guy?"

Felix just stared at her, and even Jess could admit that idea was ridiculous. Not only did Murphy not do good impressions, the new guy had a voice that grated on your every nerve. He was pretty much the last guy she'd ever want to impress.

"I don't know," she admitted, and Felix sighed.

"Well, figure it out, will you? It's setting me on edge."

As surreptitiously as she could, Jess observed Murphy over the next few days. She did seem to smile a lot more, and Jess even caught her working a few times. She was spending more time with Chloe these days, maybe that was causing this change of heart?

There was, of course, that tiny voice in the back of Jess' mind that reminded her of the last time Murphy had behaved similarly, after Max and she had said I love you and before everything had fallen apart. But surely that way lay madness, and Jess pushed the thoughts further and further away until she could hardly hear them anymore.

Until one night Murphy, half asleep, with her face pressed into Jess' skin murmured "I think it was you all along" before turning around and falling fully asleep. Jess wanted to shake her awake and demand her to repeat what she had just said, and she probably would have if she thought there was any chance Murphy would remember when she woke up. Instead, she was burdened with this secret she wasn't supposed to know, this insight into Murphy she herself didn't even have, and she didn't know what to do with it.

It really was no wonder that when Felix cornered her again to ask what Murphy was up to, it all came spilling out.

"We've been sleeping together and I think we might be in love."

"You what now?" Felix blinked at her as if she'd gone crazy, and hey, maybe she had.

"We've been having sex. And it started out as looking for comfort, just a friends with benefits kind of thing, but I think we might be in a relationship now."

"How can you not be sure?" And then, answering his own question, "It's Murphy, right. What were you thinking, Jess?"

"Spare me the lecture, please," she said softly.

Felix sighed and drew her into a hug.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I know you can't tell your heart where to go. I just wish you would have chosen a less painful path."

"Like Vanessa?" she said, and he chuckled. "I think maybe it was her all along."

She was dimly aware of the fact that she was repeating Murphy's words, and for the umpteenth time since that evening, she determined to stop hiding and just talk to Murphy. This time, though, the conviction held, and when Murphy came into her room that evening, Jess held her off.

"Murph, we need to talk."

"No, we don't," Murphy replied, and she moved to kiss Jess again. Jess allowed herself the luxury to be drawn into the kiss for just a bit, and then drew away again.

"Yes, we do," she said.

Murphy sat upright, and Jess could almost see the way her muscles tensed, could feel it radiating from her body.

"You've found someone else, and she doesn't like that we're sleeping together," Murphy said, as if she was stating a fact instead of a hypothetical that hadn't even occurred to Jess. "I say good riddance, but since you've never listened to me when it comes to your girlfriends, I'll back off."

She clambered off the bed, and was almost through the door before Jess' mind caught up with what was happening.

"No!" she shouted, and Murphy stopped walking. "When would I even have had the time to meet someone?"

"I don't know. How did you meet Vanessa?"

"In a bar," Jess said, then shook her head. "That's not the point. I'm not telling you I've got someone new. Or well, I guess I am, but that someone new is you."

She could pinpoint the moment the words caught up with Murphy, and the naked fear and shock that showed on Murphy's face for just a second nearly broke her heart. She had known this was a bad idea, had known it from the start, why hadn't she listened to her instincts, to Felix, to-

"Jess?"

She hadn't heard Murphy approach her, and she flinched when Murphy touched her arm.

"Just run away," Jess said, too defeated to try and hide her thoughts in sweeter words that wouldn't hurt Murphy as much. "I know you want to."

"I do, yes," Murphy admitted. "Because this scares the crap out of me. I don't know what I'm doing, and I don't know what I'm feeling, and you mean so much to me that I'm terrified that this will end up hurting you in the end. I'm not good at relationships, Jess."

"Well, I cheated on my last girlfriend," Jess answered with a hollow laugh. "So I'm no paragon either."

They sat in silence, their bodies gravitating towards each other as if they'd never done something else. And maybe they hadn't; Jess couldn't remember a time when they hadn't been drawn together.

"I love you," she whispered into Murphy's skin, her head turned so her face was pressed into Murphy's shoulder. "That's what I was going to say. I love you."

Murphy's body tensed and then slowly relaxed, as Murphy rested her head upon Jess'.

"I love you too," she whispered, and Jess' heart skipped a beat.

Nothing about this would be easy, but maybe, if they were together, they could find a way.