The socks render him speechless as he struggles to recall the last time he was given such a thoughtful gift and tears escape the corners of his eyes. He is so incredibly moved.
“Jane, why are you crying?” She brings a thumb to his tear ducts, gently wiping the moisture away.
“You bought me socks,” he repeats shakily.
“It’s no big deal...I just noticed that you didn’t have any.”
He pulls her into a bone-crushing hug and she melts into his arms. He’s afraid that if he lets her go she’s going to dissipate and disappear, he needs to feel her presence physically. “Oh I really missed you,” he breathes into her neck.
He falls back onto the mattress, arms still constricted around her. She toes off her shoes and hoists her legs up onto the bed, pressing herself impossibly closer, head resting on his chest; she relishes his warmth. They’ve never shared an embrace so intimate before, and yet, it feels familiar, it feels right. They lay there for several moments, contenting themselves with the sound of each other’s breathing as silence surrounds them.
Suddenly, his pulse picks up several notches. She can feel his thought process change in the way his heart rate shifts from a steady thrumming to thunderous beats underneath her left ear. Panic washes over her and she stills for a fraction of a second, afraid of what is to come.
“I still love you,” he says suddenly. The words escape his lips before his fear of emotional intimacy can kick in; all rational thoughts are pushed aside.
The admission doesn’t shock her, or rather, she refuses to let it shock her. After all, that’s what best friends do, right? Love each other…
“I love you, Jane,” she replies easily. Because she does love him. Because he’s been her partner for the better part of a decade and whether he loves her platonically or not, her statement still holds true. The words don’t terrify her as much as the implication.
His hands glide from the small of her back to her shoulder blades as he threads his fingers through the ends of her hair. “No...no, you don’t understand,” he says, shaking his head. “I’m in love with you, have been in love with you for the better part of a decade.”
This time she really freezes. He stops breathing and she does too and the silence quickly transmutes from tranquil to suffocating. Tears well up in her eyes and she blinks to dispel them but only succeeds in alerting him of their presence as they dampen his shirt.
His voice shakes when he breaks the silence. “I’m sorry, this wasn’t how I planned on telling you, I was supposed to let you move on with your life. But for seven hundred and thirty days I woke up thinking that I’d never see you again. Thinking that I’d never be able to tell you the truth of what I feel. The truth is, the idea of letting anyone get close to me completely terrifies me but the truth also is that I love you and can’t seem to let you go. And I’m so sorry for burdening you with this information. I’m broken, God, I’m so broken and you deserve a hell of a lot better than me一”
She swallows his ramblings with a kiss, slow and sweet, and he tastes like tea and everything she spent two years so ardently missing.
When she pulls back—just enough to look at him—there’s a storm of emotions raging in his eyes: love, fear, and longing. Beneath it all, she reads deep devotion, and for the first time in her life, the intensity doesn’t send her running, rather, it grounds her.
“I’m in love with you too, you idiot,” she breathes. “You have no idea how long I’ve waited for you to say something.”
For some incomprehensible reason, he still looks skeptical. “This was supposed to be a lot more painful and complicated. I was supposed to spend a few months figuring out how to seduce you before finally coming to the conclusion that no plan would be grand enough considering everything you’ve been to me. This all seems too good to be true…Why was it so easy?”
She tenderly trails her thumbs along his cheekbones. “Because there’s something beautiful about simplicity and honesty, not everything has to be an elaborate con. But before this moves any further, there are probably a couple of things we should talk about first.”
“Yes, there’s a list of grievances that I need to apologize for,” he agrees. “But first, I want to take you out for dinner.”
“Dinner?” She echoes back in question.
He nods in affirmation. “Dinner. Somewhere with no cloth napkins though. There’s no need to stress about your attire—you look beautiful by the way—I want you to feel comfortable.”
She can’t help but smile at how well he knows her. “It’s a date,” she confirms sitting up, already regretting the loss of contact.
He swings his legs over the side of the bed and tugs off his shoes to pull on what are already his new favorite pair of socks.
“Who’d have thought a pair of socks would change everything?” she remarks, looking down at his shoes as he stands up.
“Well, a pair of socks and an accidental dose of honesty,” he says, holding out his hand towards her.
She takes his hand smiling and rises to her feet. “I’m going to need you to be a lot more accidentally honest then.”
“Anything for you, dear.”
They exit the detention suite with their fingers intertwined.