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Precious Metals

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Truth to be told, Jane actually didn’t mind the long drawn out explanations Maura liked to include with even simple statements of fact. And it wasn’t just because Jane had managed to parlay that information into a handful of won bets and bar trivia successes. It was that she actually appreciated that Maura had taken the time and energy to learn so much about the world and that, even more wonderfully, Maura saw fit to share that information unbidden with her best friend. Really what got to the brown haired detective was that Maura did not know when such information was appreciated and when the presence of a scientific or archaeological monologue could very well interfere with catching her murderer. In general, though, the content did not disturb her. The delivery, so matter of fact and intellectual, actually entertained Jane more than it caused her aggravation no matter how much she liked to play out that emotion.

It was the case today that the same explanation and calm, scientific demeanor was informing her of something she very much did not want to hear or experience.

The petite blonde sat upright in Jane’s bed, the edge of the thick white comforter wrapped around her chest, giving a tantalizing view of the edges of her breasts above the line of the draping. One hand kept the coverlet in place while the other was giving slow, explanatory hand gestures, as if she were indicating the etiology of an unusual word that she’d pulled out just for the occasion. In this case, she was not discussing tribal rituals surrounding communal lunches or the history of archery in Massachusetts. Today, it was a logical and organized explanation of why she and Jane should not sleep together again.

“… And it’s not uncommon for young women in college to indulge and explore previously on explored regions of their sexuality. There’s something very freeing about being away from home for the first time and, as I saw with many of my female companions, in the absence of heterosexual stimulation, they chose instead to achieve enjoyment through experiences with the female gender. However…”

Jane was focusing in and out on the words. She herself was half wrapped in a blanket, though she let it fall so she was naked from the waist up. Her dark curly hair spilled over her shoulders in a cascade that, not more than a half hour ago, Maura had so happily pulled towards her. Jane shuddered as she remembered Maura’s fingers interlaced in the curls as she pressed Jane’s face into her body and whispered, then screamed, Jane’s name as her tongue found the sweet, hot center of Maura’s sex. That passion has now evaporated and the lecture given in front of her might as well have been administered to a conference of people interested in researching the sex lives of heterosexual women who have just their first lesbian experience.

“And you’re not listening to anything I’m telling you,” said Maura, a sigh escaping her lips. She tilted her head and her dirty blonde hair shaded her face. Jane recognized the expression as one of resignation and even loneliness, as if Maura where back in a space where people did not want to talk to her being here. All her life Maura had been too intellectual and too distant. It was only in the care of Jane and the rest of the Boston Police Department that she had truly begun to flourish. After all, all of them respected her and looked up to her. Korsak especially seemed enamored of her ability to come up with a scientific her esoteric explanation for everything around. At times like this, when the person she wanted most to listen to her didn’t, she retreated to that unsure child. It stabbed Jane to the heart when they were at work and stabbed just as painfully right now. Jane herself was shaken and taken aback so she did a poor job, she admitted to herself, of attempting to reassure her friend.

“Maura. Please. You know I hate… I don’t understand. Half hour ago you seem to be enjoying yourself and now you’re telling me that this was all a terrible mistake? Did this mean nothing to you?” Her husky voice raised in shocked anger, well, an anger that was more sadness. Had she been so misled that she took advantage of someone who did not want it? A cold spark of fear formed in her stomach. She didn’t have time to fully contemplate that before Maura reached out that one free hand and placed it lightly around Jane’s rest.

“No. Jane. That’s exactly what I wanted. I willingly engaged in sexual relations with you.”

“Sexual relations,” interrupted Jane, gesturing outward with her free hand, her face in an open scowl. “What, you’re giving a court deposition now? Do you need to explain to the jury what relations you had?”

A subtle eye roll cut off Jane’s small rant and she let Maura continue.

“As I said, I was happy to be here. The experience was exceptionally pleasurable. I would need to check my diaries but if I recall my data correctly, this would certainly rank in the top fifteen, maybe even the top ten sexual encounters of my adult dating life.”

Jane blinked several times, scrunched her nose, and peered at her friend. “Wait, you keep a log of people you have sex with? Like a sign in book at the police station, with dates and times?”

Maura shrugged, letting another lock of hair drape past her pale shoulder. “I find it helpful to journal my sexual encounters so I can empirically determine what techniques brought me to the strongest orgasms and which were suboptimal or even unpleasant. That way, I could effectively guide my partners towards actions that were desirable versus those I found displeasing, while still allowing for individual experimentation of course.”

Jane leaned back in awe. “You’ve been chronicling your sex life so you can get off more effectively? For how long?”

The other woman tilted her head up to the left, a gesture Jane had learned (from Maura, of course) meant she was recalling rather than lying.

“I began the process after several deeply unsatisfying sexual encounters in college.”

“You’ve been keeping records for almost 20 years? Jesus Christ Maura. You keep better records than we do at the station.” Jane imagined neat piles of white cardboard file boxes stacked in the back of a closet that Jane had somehow never seen before. She was also stunned to learn Maura had any sort of casual sex, but that would be a different conversation. If the two of them kept speaking after this, of course.

Maura nodded her head, then looked a little bashful. “Well, there have been more murders in Boston over the past 20 years than I have....” She cut off the rest of the comment and kept blushing.

“Using these data, I estimate I can achieve orgasm, or as you say, “get off” in 60% of new partner first encounters and 93% of subsequent encounters, assuming a small margin of error for things like unexpected termination of intercourse due to interruptions from work, premature ejaculation…”

As Maura went on to recount all the ways a sexual encounter could end up as a “margin of error,” Jane recalled how they spent the last two hours. She remembered Maura guiding her hands onto her breasts, how the smaller woman arched as Jane had explored each nipple with her fingertips and then her mouth. How Maura had wrapped her legs around Jane’s midsection as Jane stroked her clit and kissed along the nape of her neck. Had that all been according to some plan or were they actual expressions of desire and lust? Was this all a script according to Maura’s book?

Jane’s face drooped and Maura must have noticed. The hand on her wrist squeezed tighter. “As you are my first female partner, I did not have any specific data with which to work, so I mentally aggregated similar situations and proceeded as such. Based on what I know of you, I assumed you’d be a skilled lover, so I did not use as much intervention as I could have. But of course, I didn’t want you to end up attempting to fondle my armpit or something like that.” Her voice took on a forced levity that Jane weakly attempted to smile at. She must have been unconvincing.

Maura looked at Jane carefully, then dropped her head towards the bed. “I’ve hurt you. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

Jane withdrew in spite of herself and brought her knees up towards her chest. A defensive maneuver designed to contain the sudden vulnerability and emptiness that overtook the warmth and love they had shared so recently. As was her custom, she tried to reassure her awkward, tentative friend.

“It’s alright. I’ll be fine. It’s just…” She stared at Maura, trying to keep her emotions in check. “It’s hard knowing I was just another data point and that you were clinically directing our lovemaking. I thought it was real. Hell, it felt real. It felt amazing. But it was just an act, right? Just so I won’t ruin your percentages.”

Maura shook her head but Jane continued, “I feel like a dog you’ve trained to shake hands. For my next trick, maybe you’ll teach me to roll over.”

Maura leaned forward suddenly and put her hands on Jane’s shoulders, allowing the blanket to fall away from her curving body, all freckles, round breasts and pale skin.

“It was not an act. Nothing with you, nothing emotional, nothing physical, nothing…anything…is unreal with you. You know I can’t lie but I am good at hiding. I’ve always needed to be good. I was raised to close myself off. You are the exception.” She touched her forehead to Jane’s. “You let me be vulnerable and you don’t exploit it. I would not repay that with artifice.”

Jane didn’t respond and glanced at the clock beside them. Forty minutes ago, this posture would have led to Jane’s reaching out and pulling Maura closer, kissing her passionately and trying to convince her to go another round. Now, it felt uncomfortable.

“It’s fine. I shouldn’t be surprised that my friend, the eminent scientist and medical examiner Dr. Isles, would do anything less than make a chart and ranking system of everyone she’s ever fucked.” Maura winced at the profanity. She almost never used it and Jane’s letting loose signaled how frustrated she was. “And hey, 60% is amazing. I know guys who I can’t get to do that after a few months of dating. But you have it down to a literal science.”

Maura stroked the side of Jane’s face with the back of her hand. “You were wonderful,” she said gently. “You were everything I wanted. No data needed.”

“So why are you saying we shouldn’t do this again?” Jane inched back and Maura took the cue to sit on the bed again and, after a moment’s thought, lightly hop on to the floor where she had tossed her clothing. “I remember your saying something about it being a bad idea. How does it work again? You want something so you shouldn’t have it? I didn’t know you were a practicing Catholic.”

Jane watched Maura’s curving body scoop up her bra and panties and slide them on neatly. The clothes had been removed in a loving, careful seduction that had seen Jane undress her friend inch by inch, letting Maura in turn play with Jane’s hungry body through her clothing and eventually underneath. It had taken every inch of her police training and newly developed self-control not to ravage Maura utterly. She wanted her friend to feel her need and desire; even worship. But, Jane reminded herself, that was apparently a calculation.

Maura hooked her bra into place and readjusted her breasts to fill the cups. “You are lucky enough to have a job you love and a boyfriend who, in spite of your current distance, is absolutely devoted to you. Given that Casey is rapidly advancing to the peak of his military career, I do not want to provide another obstacle for you to consider if he asks you to move with him. And I don’t want to restrict you from pursuing your dreams if I decide to take a position elsewhere.” She shrugged herself into a silk blouse and aligned the buttons with a doctor’s precision, sliding each one into the hole. “You deserve the chance to be whatever you want, wherever you want. Having sex with me will merely stand in the way.”

Jane rubbed the side of her nose and stared at her friend. Why where they having this fight? Where had everything gone so wrong? “First of all, I don’t see you retiring from being the Boston medical examiner unless you are forced out at gunpoint or recruited by the UN to conduct autopsies in a war zone. Second of all, I don’t understand how having sex with you matters? I think of you when I make choices now but it’s not the only deciding factor. Nothing is.”

Jane slid out of bed and tried to take Maura in her arms. The smaller woman slid aside, leaving Jane able to only place her hand on Maura’s shoulder. “You are my family, Maura.”

Maura zipped up her pants and made a show of smoothing out creases only she could detect. “The Polahi nomadic tribe in Indonesia’s Gorontalo province practices first-degree relative incest because the tribe is so small. They are unique in that lack of prohibition, though. Most-“

“You know what I mean,” said Jane in a frustrated huff. When Maura was concealing her emotions, she became supremely scientific and professorial. The lecture on Maura’s log book, the data check, and now her anthropological dialogue all served to push Jane away from her emotionally and force Jane to break down the intellectual boundaries Maura was throwing up second by second. As usual, Maura succeeded in derailing the conversation enough to almost trivialize what Jane said.

The scientist turned away from Jane to search the floor. “I do. But you know my experience with family. I do not want to jeopardize what I have now.”

Jane thought of Maura’s father, whose selflessness devotion to his daughter was borne out of a desire to cling to his ex-lover, of Maura’s biological mother, whose ties were tenuous and of late driven by a need for Maura’s kidney, and even Maura’s adoptive parents, whose love was a distant and intellectual sort.

“Maura, you know my mom, Frankie…” Jane threw up her hands and Maura slid on a pair of heels, boosting her height by a good three inches. “We are all your family. I know they would accept…”

“Please, Jane. I’ve made my decision. Do not force me to defend myself further.” There was a shivering tremble in her voice that filled Jane was a raw ache. Under the best of circumstances hearing Maura start to cry was painful, especially when she was so upset she wouldn’t let Jane take care of her, but now, after everything they shared? It was a sort of torture, as bad as when Hoyt was running his scalpel over Maura’s neck while Jane was helpless to prevent it. Worse, since the only person to turn the scalpel on would be herself. Why couldn’t they go back an hour when Maura wanted her touch and Jane reciprocated her need?

“Of course. I’m sorry. Listen. Let me walk you out?” Maura turned her head and gave a miserable short nod, and Jane have no trouble imagining the thin clear tracks of tears that were winding her way down her friends beautiful features. But hey, they had several years of Jane needing to keep from touching her friend when Maura was suffering and being forced to give verbal reassurance when physical ones what she would have preferred. So if Maura wanted to be walked to the door in silence, that was what Jane would do.

She grabbed a robe and two of them left the bedroom, walked across the cluttered expanse of the front room, and reached the door. Jane fumbled the lock and chain, hoping that every tiny bit of clattering metal might sound an alarm in Maura’s head that she was making a terrible mistake. Maura happily turned the doorknob and stepped into the hallway.

She locked eyes with Jane and forced a smile that didn’t reach her red-tinged eyes. “I’ll see you Monday, Jane.” She hesitated. “Thank you. I mean it.” A small hand reached out and traced the upper edge Jane’s news, along her cheek bone and to the side of her head. Jane fought the urge to chase the hand with her mouth. “Have a good night,” Maura added quickly, withdrew, and fled down the hall.

Jane locked the door, wandered over to the couch, and flopped down on it sadly. Joe Friday woke up from her pile of cushions in the corner and trotted over to her mistress’ lap, then placed her shaggy head down on Jane’s knee. The police officer mussed her fur and tried to figure out where everything had gone so wrong after being so right. But it was just an exercise in self torture, enough like others that it didn’t last long enough to keep her from falling asleep.

/--\__/--\__/--\__/--\__/--\__/--\__

Maura distracted herself on the ride home with a through listing of the tendons of the body, starting with the ligamentum flavum and working her way distal, anterior, and then medial again. It was something she did whenever she needed to put her mind at ease. After all, ligaments were orderly and held things together. They made movement possible. They made life possible. Never mind that she rarely had to name more than a single muscle and it was usually somewhere in the thorax. Nothing like keeping the brain fresh when trying to keep a tight rein on her emotions.

She pushed open the door to the guest house and found Angela sitting at the long bar, her glasses on the tip of her long nose and a half-finished glass of red wine sitting next to her. She appeared to be poring over a book that Maura recognized as one of the more tawdry romance novels that ha d hit the best seller list. Maura could of course never admit to being fascinated with the topic, especially since the sexual descriptions were arousing. It allowed her a bit of variety in her usual sexual fantasies, which she admitted were relatively run of the mill, without the shame of buying a pornographic magazine. But she also liked how the plots all lined up. Man and woman meet. Man and woman love. Man and woman have falling out that barely affects their emotions for each other besides giving them a chance to reflect on their lust and love. Man and woman rejoin and marry. So perfect. Unlike…well, there were still more ligaments and she could start on tendons.

“How was your hot date,” crowed Angela, slipping a napkin into her place and closing the hardcover firmly. The plastic wrinkled slightly and the cover clapped shut with a thud. “I didn’t expect you home so early?’

“Hot…date,” replied Maura. She didn’t want to lie, she reminded herself. Hives. But she couldn’t really say the truth. “What makes you think I had a hot date?”

“Your shoes,” replied Angela. She pointed towards the three inch tall stilettos gracing Maura’s legs. “You only wear those shoes when you’re expecting a gentleman caller, as we used to say.” Her thick brown eyebrows worked overtime on her face, implying overtly what she was pretending was covert. “Or when you are expecting to have a bit of a sleepover.” Her face broke into a conspiratorial grin.

“Oh, these,” she looked down at the loud orange heels, adorned with a circle of rhinestones. She had chosen them especially to complement her actual date’s impressive height. “Well, I just bought a new blouse and I haven’t had time to fully coordinate my wardrobe…” She felt an itchy bump rise up on the back of her neck.

Angela leapt on the lie. “You mean to say Dr. Maura Isles, the most organized woman I know, who has ordered her entire closet by color, size, country of origin, and relative dressiness could not find a particular set of heels and…happened,” she leaned on the word, “to end up with the shoes I only see out when you go on dates?”

Maura sighed, walked forward, and put her bag on the counter. Angela was accurate though Maura could not divulge the reality of her evening. She couldn’t be sure Jane’s mother would not be mortally wounded by the news that her daughter had participated in a lesbian fling with her best friend. Maura tried to hedge her bets. Some truth was always better than no truth at all, right?

“You are correct in observing they do provide a certain amount of height and shapeliness to my legs that many men find attractive. And…yes,” she admitted. “I did have a date tonight. But it wasn’t that hot,” she added quickly.

“I knew it,” Angela all but shouted, then took another swig of her wine. Maura looked over and grimaced. The bottle was almost empty and the label was from a vineyard Maura knew for a fact had burned down a few years ago, making the vintage exceptionally rare. But this was her guest.

Jane’s mother was too busy enjoying the wine to notice Maura’s annoyance. “So, what happened? Was he a cad? Too forceful? Live with his parents?”

Maura looked aside, then walked over the couch and made a show of rearranging the pillows. They were neat and crisply placed as per Angela’s specifications, for the woman’s taste was not always on point but her staging often was accurate.

“Actually, I was stood up.” She couldn’t look Angela in the face and admit her humiliation, the trigger for the rest of the night’s activities.

“Oh Maura, sweetie, that’s awful.” Maura heard Angela stand up and walk over to her. She tugged Maura into sitting on the couch and took out one of the folded blankets from underneath, tucking it around the smaller woman in a gesture of obviously maternal affection. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“Not really,” replied Maura. She drooped her head towards her lap.

Angela pressed on. “Come on. You’ll feel better if you tell me,” she said in a sing-song tone. Maura wished she had Jane’s confidence. She could hear her best friend responding in that same tone, “No I wonnn’t,” as a way of shutting down her over-inquisitive mother. But Maura had no such resistance and perhaps an ear was welcome.

“His name was Willian Fornier,” she began. “He preferred to be called Bill and was quite adamant that I use that name whenever we spoke prior to today. I met him at a pathology conference three weeks ago in Texas.”

“Oh, right, I think Jane mentioned you’d met a man down there. Well, it was very nice for him to come up to see you. But what happened?”

Maura had been rather excited when she returned from San Antonio, filled with stories of all the new techniques in extracting biological materials from insects and other wild animals that had eaten cadavers. The sheer number of horrible vomiting sounds Jane had made in response forced Maura to change the topic of conversation to Bill. Jane seemed less disgusted by the man, though she was not nearly as happy Maura was to find someone who could accurately detect and appreciate decomp the way Maura did.

She wasn’t his type, he’d confessed at the conference, but he found her so alluring and different that he just had to get to know her better. He was of course her type: tall, sandy haired and green eyed, a bit of scruff that appeared in a handsome, manly way at the end of the day. His shirts had been silk, his suits Armani. She had been taken aback by the force of his come-on and the way he subtly worked her into being around him as often as possible. She’d been down there for four days and they had spent almost every minute together. It had been a beautiful whirlwind that she hadn’t wanted to leave.

And the sex was equally whirlwind. He had been forceful and possessive, tossing her body around and moving her limbs to give him the most access, heedless of her pleasure. She wasn’t always so quick to bed a man but this time it was all she wanted. So when he proposed a second tryst, this time in Boston, she had been all too eager.

“I…don’t know,” she said. A lump formed in her throat. “I made the hotel reservations. I got us a table at the Capital Grill. I sent a taxi to the airport and I know he arrived safely. But when I arrived at the restaurant, he wasn’t there.”

“But sweetie,” interrupted Angela. “He’s also a doctor. Why are you paying for all of his expenses?”

“Well, it was the least I could do,” Maura replied. “I mean, he did pay to come visit and he said he’d reimburse me when it was time to pay the check.” The lump didn’t dissolve.

“I…I waited for thirty minutes alone in the restaurant. I called him twice and it went right to voicemail. I even called his office and had him paged.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Eventually, the maître de came over with a note. Bill had called the restaurant for me.”

“What was his excuse,” Angela demanded. Jane had asked almost the same thing. Her voice was just as furious. Her tone was just as compassionate. The two women, mother and daughter, were more alike when they cared to admit, especially when it came to Maura.

“He just said I wasn’t his type. That was it.” The note, written in a hasty script on the restaurant stationary, was not something she would have anticipated in a million years. It had been so abrupt that Maura had nearly broke down from shame right there. She knew the waiters had been whispering about the woman who planned a romantic dinner but who sat alone while her appetizer congealed in front of her. She had waved them off over a dozen times as they tried to bring her wine or more food and she had replied, more nervously and with less conviction every time, that she was waiting for someone.

“What did you do,” said Angela. Her voice was still angry, but softer. She reached out and squeezed Maura’s hand.

“I…called the hotel and tried to cancel the reservation, but it was too late to get a refund. I did describe what he looked like, though, and I asked them to make sure he didn’t stay the night.”

“Good,” said Angela firmly.

“Then I paid for dinner, or at least tried to. They felt so badly for me that they gave me the whole meal on the house. Apparently I was so…pathetic that they couldn’t make me pay.”

“Oh sweetie, you’re not pathetic at all. What do you care that some guy who calls himself Bill, like he was some sort of…” she fumbled for the word, “car mechanic instead of a doctor decided to be a total ass. You’re not his type? That’s because you’re too good.”

Maura repressed tears with a sad smile. “That’s just what Jane said. Well, with a bit more profanity. I went there afterward and we had dinner.”

Jane above all over knew the deep insecurities that Maura held about her likeableness, her ability to make friends, and her fears of being alone for the rest of her life because of her social awkwardness. Being abandoned in such a hard way had brought every one of those fears to the surface and Jane had spent several…Maura admitted to herself…wonderful minutes hugging Maura and trying to convince her otherwise.

Angela gave a snort. “Well, I may not like her language but my daughter is right about you and I hope you listened! It’s going to take a special type of man to understand and appreciate you. You’re like…” she looked upwards, shook her head, and grimaced. Her gold hoop earrings glinted in the light. “You’re like an aged Romano, the kind of stuff they don’t serve at restaurants because it’s too sharp.”

Maura shook her head. “So food that no one wants to eat?”

“That’s because most people don’t know how to cook with it,” retorted Angela. “And it’s a shame to waste it on people whose idea of a good cheese is that sawdust they call Parmesan.” Angela all but spat out the word. “You need someone who can appreciate your…uniqueness. Your flavor. You keep finding men who like American cheese, Maura. You need a gourmand.”

Maura nodded. “Thank you, Angela.” The metaphor had stretched as far as it would go, she hoped. “I should get to bed, though. I need to catch up on paperwork tomorrow.”

Angela gave her a shoulder squeeze. “Of course. Sleep well. And remember,” she warned, standing up and gathering the blankets back together. “Just because something happens today does not mean it will happen every day. The right person is there.”

“I hope so,” Maura replied, and made her way upstairs, now letting a few tears flow, safe from another set of eyes.

Within her bedroom, she performed her nightly ritual. First, she carefully cataloged the items in her purse, ensuring each tube of lipstick was capped firmly, all change placed in a porcelain shell on her dresser, and her phone plugged in on her nightstand. A message showed on its screen, one she hadn’t noticed in the hours since she left the restaurant. It was a single line from Bill, sent thirty minutes after she left the restaurant. “I’ve reconsidered. Call for the best night you’ll have in months.” Then, another 30 minutes later. “Remember I’ve had you already. I know what makes you tick.” And finally, “You know no one else will find you attractive.” She gave a snort and deleted the messages.

Finally, Maura disrobed and realized she still smelled faintly of sex as she slipped off her panties and threw them in the clothes hamper. Thank god Angela hadn’t said anything. It made the little deception easier. Then again, Maura told herself as she moved the blouse and skirt into the dry cleaning container, Maura did have a finer-trained nose than the average person. The scent was undetectable to the untrained, she decided.

Maura ran the shower in the master bathroom and a few cold minutes later, stepped into the stream. As she washed, she ran her fingers over a few tiny red lines, marks of passion Jane had left on her as she ravaged…Maura shook her head under the stream. Ravaged was imprecise. Claimed was closer. That had been the word she wanted, the passion coming forth as a gift to Maura. She ran her fingertips over the scratches, noting the secondary clotting mechanism that had already come into place. They were not deep enough to scar and they were unlikely to become infected. She patted at them gently with a washcloth to avoid disturbing the scabs.

Maura closed her eyes and began to run the floral shampoo through her hair. She didn’t want to recall the encounter but knew she would need to journal it later. Best to organize her thoughts now, right? But even after she finished her second wash and added her conditioner, she couldn’t bring herself to reimagine what she had done with Jane. The emotion preoccupying her was that isolation and humiliation she had felt in the restaurant. Was that more important to her, she tried asking herself, than the act of making love? No answer was forthcoming. Ordinarily she might use the shower to continue her contemplation but she was hit with a wave of exhaustion. She turned off the shower, finished her toilette, and slipped into a pair of blue-grey silk pajamas.

She reached into the top of her closet where she kept her jewelry safe, or at least, that was what she told everyone who asked. She placed her earrings within and removed her journal, the one she had told Jane about when she was leaving. It was a white, soft-covered book edged with gold leaf. It had been intended as some sort of private inventory of her thoughts, but she lived in fear of someone discovering what she was actually thinking. Somehow, a catalog of her lovers and experiences was less revealing. She had been cautious to keep it a secret from every one with whom she had shared a bed. Too tempting a prize, she knew, for the average male ego. She began storing it in the safe when one gentleman had caught a glimpse and tried to wrest it from her, only dissuaded when she afforded him a glimpse and explained it was a diary of, “female related occurrences”. Sure enough, male squeamishness as anything related to her menstrual cycle had spurred his instant disinterest. And it was not enough of a lie to trigger hives! From then on, though, she’d locked up the book and made her notes when she knew no one was watching.

She opened it up to the most recent entry. That from Bill. She glanced at the columns and appraised her encounter. Zero orgasms, she noted, and zero acts of foreplay or cunnilingus. He had been insistent on her performing oral sex on him, which she did with some expectation of reciprocity. None was forthcoming. He instead had then engaged in acrobatic sex that left her, she noted, unsatisfied. Perhaps it was best he didn’t sleep with her again. She had been so caught up in his energy that she’d neglected her own needs. It was unlike her.

From within her nightstand she retrieved a gold ringed black pen. It was an expensive make she had received after she graduated medical school. It wrote smoothly in the way she expected a doctor would write. Confident. Assured. Cleanly. Well, writing prescriptions would never be something she did as a medical examiner but it somehow fit the task.

She removed the pen cap, then hesitated. The act suddenly seemed so crass. What she had done with Jane had been, she clenched her jaw and swallowed hard, so beautiful and special that it didn’t belong on the same page as that last encounter. She used her executive decision making and a bit of scientific explanation. It was a different form of encounter, so it should have its own page. She drew a dashed line under William’s name and turned to the next page, where the appropriate headings were waiting for her input.

Maura took a breath, then wrote on the first empty line, “Jane Rizzoli” in a solid, fluid motion. She moved over to the next column, labeled “orgasms”. She wrote in a stylized number four, then let the pen sit on the page. A pool of ink formed at the nib and she pulled the pen up again, then capped it. She grabbed a tissue and blotted up the excess ink, but it smeared a little anyway. The ink ran into the next columns and, as Maura looked ahead, soaked through into seven pages. A suspicious person would call this a sign but Maura suspected it was an indication of her exhaustion. Clearly, this would have to wait until tomorrow.

She tucked herself into bed and let her dreams take her. They were, blessedly, of neither Jane nor Bill. They were of ligaments and tendons, perfect lines of flesh to hold everything together.

/--\__/--\__/--\__/--\__/--\__/--\__

The weekend passed without event, at least where Jane was concerned. She had spent a frustrating amount of time alone in her apartment, trying to clean out all the signs of the time she spent with Maura. Two glasses of water perched on either side of her bed. Containers of pasta that had been put away just enough to keep from triggering Maura’s exceptionally neat side, now needing to be repackaged into a more durable form. Pots she had shoved into the dishwasher before they were properly soaked, again to get them off the table to appease Maura, were now being scoured with all of Jane’s frustration.

Certainly Maura had wanted Jane enough to clean her kitchen in the most cursory way possible. They couldn’t just have retired to the bedroom. Oh no, in between that opening kiss and their lovemaking had to be a quick round of cleaning. The dishes had to go away. The pasta had to be covered. But Jane had whispered things in Maura’s ear and run her fingertips up and down her bare arms enough times to fully memorize the patterns of goosebumps. Maura had wrapped herself around Jane and pressed her against the refrigerator for a passionate, deep kiss that had sent Jane’s head spinning. God, she didn’t know Maura could be like that, so…much. So free. Jane gritted her teeth and ran another burst of hot water over the copper bottom of the saucepan. How had it gone so damn wrong?

She recounted the night: they had been talking, right? Maura had come over after her non-date with some asshole and was feeling rightfully sorry for herself. What had Jane done? Feed her, of course. Jane had been throwing together a last minute pasta with meat sauce and some leftover greens in an approximation of something her mother wouldn’t hate if ma showed up at the door. Hell, Jane half expected it when the doorbell rang as she was banging the sauce off the spoon. But when she was wiping the food off her hands and popped open her door, it was Maura, dressed perfectly and looking far from perfect.

Bill. Some guy. He had hurt her friend and dear one in the way Maura tended to fear the most: made her feel like a social nobody and an outcast. Made her forget she was a brilliant, beautiful, successful, compassionate woman and instead reduced her to the girl in boarding school who ate her lunch alone with a textbook to hide from her loneliness. It enraged Jane almost as much as every villain who had tried to hurt Maura. Not as much as Dennis when he tried to murder Maura, of course, but enough that she swore she’d get her pals at the police to track this guy down and arrest him on something they made up. Maura demurred. Another sign of her good nature.

There had been a few moments of physical reassurance before Maura brushed her off and Jane resumed cooking. Maura sat there, toying with the plates and silverware, trying to be distracting by giving the history of cutlery evolution in the Middle Ages until Jane shut down the line of discussion with a snark. Not too hard. Enough to bring Maura to that frustrated but tolerant tone that Jane recognized so well. And then they ate, quietly.

Jane stopped scrubbing and itched her forehead, leaving what she was sure was a rusty smear of soap across her olive skin. When had it been during the meal when things had changed? She put her hands down on the sink and let the scouring pad into the basin, then let out a breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding. It seemed so sudden and yet so…Maura. Calculated, Jane recognized, but then pushed it aside. Maura was calculating when it came to sex, or so she said, but Jane recognized in retrospect a defense when she saw it. Trying to dismiss the intimacy with mechanics was classic Maura. Jane had been too hurt to see it.

Maura had finished the plate of pasta and walked to the sink, rinsed it, and put it in the dishwasher. Jane hadn’t finished but she recognized the sound of her dishwasher being rearranged into Maura’s nigh military precision. Jane let out a snort that flung a fragment of sauce onto the plate, an act Maura had blessedly not witnessed. It would have led, after all, to a discussion of Einstienella or whatever bacteria lived in her mouth.

Maura had noticed the laugh and replied, “What? You think it’s funny that I optimize your dishwasher so you don’t have to do more work later? You think it’s funny that I want to make my best friend happy so she doesn’t have to do a chore she hates?” A hurt had ended up in her voice that Jane didn’t like at all. Jane had swallowed quickly, the ball of pasta pushing past the lump in her throat as Jane all but fled to Maura’s side.

“No, not at all. It’s funny that you do this even when you know I wouldn’t do it. It’s funny that you…care about these things in spite of the world not.” Jane didn’t like the words coming out of her mouth, so she put her hands on Maura’s shoulders and turned the smaller woman around to face her. “Maura, sometimes I laugh because I don’t know what else to do. You are so different than everything else in my life and I can’t believe I get to be around you.” Maura didn’t look up. Jane tried to stop floundering for words. “You’re like an exotic…bird who landed on my window instead of a pigeon…and I…need to stop,” sighed Jane. The floundering continued, at least she thought so.

“Thank you for caring about my dishes. Thank you for being organized. Thank you for being part of my life and trying to make it better. And anyone who doesn’t see how special those things make you doesn’t deserve you.”

Maura had shrugged off Jane’s hands and looked up at her friend, her blue-hazel eyes holding a gleam she’d never seen before.

“By that logic, the only person who deserves me is you.”

And then the kiss. Maura’s mouth pressed against Jane and for a split second Jane contemplated breaking contact. Then there was another moment of determining whether Maura was inebriated so as to avoid anything seedy. Then there was a reminder that Maura was struggling with being rejected and giving any indication she wasn’t enjoying this would be terrible. And then there were several seconds of absolutely relishing every blissful moment of contact as Maura gently, and then more fiercely locked herself against her friend.

She let Maura break the kiss and ease back down. Maura stood for a moment, gazing at Jane with half-lidded eyes. Then, she pivoted on a single stiletto and nearly fled towards the living room table where she had carefully placed her things.

“After a rejection that accessed deeply-held insecurities, it would be logical for me to seek confirmation of my desirability from a sympathetic second party,” began Maura, her voice attempting a scientific analysis in a tone that betrayed something akin to barely suppressed panic. “However, I should have considered the acceptability of my actions and the willingness of my partner before engaging you in an unsolicited act of physicality.”

Maura tried to grab her purse and make a rapid, face-saving exit. Instead, her shaking hands fumbled the beige leather bag. A cascade of high-end cosmetics, delicate applicators, neatly-organized receipts, and an embarrassing row of ribbed yellow condoms scattered onto the floor. Maura mumbled a rare profanity in an even rarer African language, crouched down, and began scooping her belongings back into the bag’s gaping maw.

Jane finally caught up to Maura and gently tugged her to standing. Maura, for once, did not resist. Instead she sagged backwards and let Jane wrap her arms around her. The dark haired detective was so baffled and aroused and concerned she had absolutely no idea which emotion to tackle first. Again, she adjusted her friend to face her, then reconsidered and led Maura to the couch. They sat down, facing each other. Maura pulled a pillow onto her lap and hugged it like a security blanket. She looked so absolutely pathetic that Jane moved closer until their knees were touching.

“Maura. Unsolicited is never the right word with you, unless it is advice on my health or clothing or eating habits or…,” Jane noticed the hole she was digging herself into. “Okay, when it’s advice about me. But you are always welcome, physically, socially, and emotionally. I have never shied away from physical contact. Hell, I can’t count the number of times that I wanted to wrap you up in my arms to take care of you.”

“But you’ve never tried to kiss me before. In the United States, a hug and a kiss represent two vastly different levels of implied intimacy. Without a romantic or sexual inclination, you would never think to kiss me on the mouth. If we were in rural Australia, you might consider a lip-based kiss an acceptable form of greeting...” Maura rested her chin on the edge of the decorative pillow, still not meeting Jane’s eyes.

Jane reached out a careful hand and put it on Maura’s wrist. “I think we’d both agree you were doing a lot more than saying hi, especially since you’ve been here for almost an hour.” Jane modulated the teasing in her voice to the barest possible level. This was not the time to provoke a defensive response. “Which leaves us with the conventional Western interpretation.”

Maura didn’t respond, instead fluttering her fingers against the faux satin surface of the upholstery. Jane could see the logical wheels grinding against each other in the brilliant scientist’s head, but Maura remained silent. Jane took her own, detective-based approache.

“You have a romantic or sexual inclination towards me,” stated Jane gently.

Maura nodded, sinking further into the couch. Jane despaired of her friend wedging herself between the couch cushions and disappearing like a grumpy remote control.

Jane rifled through her brain for the correct response. Up until this moment, she hadn’t considered Maura as anything more than a best friend, yet the kiss was physically arousing and the thought of continuing their physical encounter extremely desirable. There was something absolutely alluring now about this vulnerable, suddenly sexual creature…woman…person in her apartment. So Jane took the logical step. She put a long fingertip under Maura’s chin and kissed her back. Deeply, passionately, and unhesitatingly, with the petite blonde leaning in to be more aggressive in turn. Then it was her turn to back down again.

“I think the feeling is mutual,” Jane replied.

Jane punctuated her point with another kiss. Maura didn’t pull away, yet again, but she was not as yielding. Jane stopped kissing her and watched Maura take a slow, shuddering breath. Her voice evened out to her normal scientific demeanor.

“I doubt that is the case,” replied Maura primly. “You consider yourself heterosexual, with no historical or current evidence to demonstrate otherwise. A romantic inclination towards any woman, including me, would be deeply out of character. Besides, if you had felt this way, you would have acted on it. That is how you are.”

Jane recognized the opening for partial offense and rose to the occasion, not moving from her hold on Maura’s body. “What do you mean, who I am? Pushy? Aggressive? Slutty,” she purred in an offended growl.

Maura parried as Jane had hoped. “I mean you are more likely to pursue someone sexually if you sense interest in that person or if you are driven yourself. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. I believe in sexual pursuits. I therefore believe you didn’t have this attraction you speak of. But thank you for trying to make me feel better.” Her wan smile matched her hedged words.

“Or maybe I respected you too much to make a move over a dead body,” retorted Jane. “Or suspected you weren’t homosexual at all because of the number of men who have found their way into your bed.” She waggled her eyebrows, then let her tone soften, “Or maybe I didn’t have any way of recognizing what I felt until you helped me see it.”

Maura mulled this over. She entwined her left hand with Jane’s right and used her fingers to trace across the knuckles. Her fingers, her doctor’s hands, were so soft and so skilled. Jane found herself wondering what those hands could do. Then, to her continual amazement, she had started to become more aroused. Intensely so. Talk about recognizing new emotions.

After a few more moments, Maura replied, “We didn’t know about the connection patterns of neurons until Ramon y Cajal used his famous stain to show them. And we never would have learned about the functions of certain areas of the brain without advanced fMRIs. So…it is possible…we don’t always see something until we have the technology to detect what we’ve missed.”

Thank god for Maura’s logic and her ability to convince herself of something she was half convinced of, anyway. “See? You’re just like the Ramone in the Hall,” eliciting an eye roll of course for the deliberate butchering of the comment, “letting me see a connection I couldn’t find before.”

Maura gripped her hand tighter and looked at Jane with a ferocious intensity Jane had almost never seen. “I would very much like to kiss you more.”

“By all means,” said Jane. And then Maura leaned in to kiss her, then pushed them both horizontal on the couch. Jane noticed how light, how lithe Maura was. How her body nestled perfectly on Jane’s. How not-awkwardly-at-all Maura moved when she was making out with someone. Jane absolutely loved it. Every second. No doubts at all.

Maura’s hands began to roam over Jane’s body, though between the couch and Jane’s clothing she could do little more than trace the lines of her elbows and curve of her neck. Those were still lovely. And Jane found the small of Maura’s back, her sculpted upper body, and the softness of Maura’s lips on her own. She decided it was totally unsatisfactory.

She stopped kissing and put her hand on the side of Maura’s face. “I feel a little like I’m trying to sneak you into my parents’ house on a first date and keep them from noticing I have company.” Maura grinned. That sly smile, her flushed face and hands, and everything like that screamed that Jane was making the right choice.

They slid off the couch and Maura straightened her skirt, brushed back her hair, and surveyed the kitchen.

“But we have to clean up first,” stated the petite blonde, with calculated disapproval. “Do you know almost 100% of these buildings hold roaches? The average cockroach can live happily on the glue on the back of a postage stamp. This could feed a f-“

“Oh GROSS Maura,” all but shouted Jane. Then she did something she’d never been allowed to do before. She yanked Maura close and kissed her hard. “I swear if you talk about roaches one more time when I am trying to get you into bed, I will go back to the couch and refuse to help you take my bra off.”

Maura looked…scared for a moment. Jane cursed herself. They were moving too fast. She knew it. But Maura pushed aside her resistance. “That’s fair. And you will promise never to leave a house full of dirty dishes when I am trying to get you into bed.”

And that was how Jane came to be scrubbing her favorite pot down to the enamel. She gave the pot another wash and sighed loudly. She wasn’t any closer to an answer, though. She still didn’t understand how the two of them had gone from flirtation to shutdown so quickly. It wasn’t a one night stand, so she couldn’t blame lack of emotional connection. She had wanted Maura intensely, no matter how unexpected it was. The feeling was absolutely mutual, so it wasn’t beer goggles. The sex had been pretty damn good for a first time, if a little fumbling, but that was endearing. Jane threw the scouring pad into the sink, stalked over to her couch, and sat down.

What the hell was she going to do? These were the kinds of problems she could pour over with Maura, except Maura was the subject of these problems. Post-shooting Maura’s father Paddy, Jane had sort of been able to confide in her family, Korsack, and Frost, but an act of violence wasn’t the same as an act of sex. It was ironic, she mused, that she spent so much time around violence that they were not bothered by a bloody body lying in a street but couldn’t talk about intercourse without cringing. Ugh, intercourse. She sounded like Maura. So where the hell could she muse things over?

It was an act of desperation but the alternative was sitting in her apartment. She’d found her best black and white suit, the one that had snagged Maura two dates when they swapped clothes, and did her best to look…not out of place. Jane pulled up to the lesbian bar where she had caught the lesbian killer all those years ago and sat in her car, then turned off the engine. She rested her head on the steering wheel. She’d have chosen another bar but there weren’t any in the city limits and she felt odd driving off to Woburn or Walpole or some other W-sounding named town to find people who might understand. All she could do was hope no one recognized her. And if they did, well, she could just be there doing research, right?

The door’s line arched nearly around the building and she sighed, getting ready to turn around and spend the right of the night eating a pint of cherry jubilee and watching terrible police shows while petting Joe Friday. It was infuriating to watch them do the worst police work ever while still solving the case. Nevermind that she’d done something equally bad all the times she’d broken into something that could have been searched with a warrant. Thank god the courts were lenient. But her backup plan was interrupted by a shrill whistle.

“Hey. You. Lady, come over here.” A built, stocky woman with a crew cut and a Dorchester accent gestured for Jane to come over. Jane sauntered as casually as she could to the front of the line and stood next to the velvet rope.

“Yeah. I recognize you. I’ve seen you in the newspapers.” Jane nodded, trying to keep from slowly backing away and triggering this woman’s likely killer instincts. “You’re the one who helped catch Paddy Doyle.” Paddy was a legend in Dorchester and the locals often found him more appealing than the police alternatives. She wished suddenly for her gun or a nightstick or even a really sharp key on her key chain. This could go all sorts of poorly.

The stock woman bent forward and her voice went softer. “He got my uncle killed. Left my aunt a widow and my cousins…they weren’t the same after that. Anyone who goes up against him deserves to go wherever she wants.”

She leaned back and straightened up, then unclipped the velvet rope. “Go on in. VIP access on my command. Just say Kat sent you.” A few women in the front of the line yelled and cursed their protests. The other bouncer, a muscled young Asian woman, gave a look not out of place in a Kung Fu movie and pushed the crowd back roughly.

“You don’t like it? You go solve crimes and get shot at,” spat Kat. “I don’t see any of you going after murderers. Most of you couldn’t defend yourself from a fucking poodle.”

Jane recalled Maura’s admiration of poodles as brilliant animals with hypoallergenic fur, the perfect type for any children who might need a dog without triggering their allergies. Wow, it was like Maura had infested her brain with useless facts. Jane nodded at the bouncer, grateful for the woman’s discretion about Jane’s actual reason for getting inside, and eased herself into the packed club.

The décor had shifted wildly from when Maura and Jane had gone under cover. The feel was now a bit more Dirty Robber than posh café, though not quite as worn down and grimy. Some of the furniture looked like it had been cleaned in the last century, for example. She pushed through the crowd uneasily and sought out a table. Most were occupied by couples or crowds, with the occasional woman arrayed in a way to attract the eye of a woman who might be looking that way. Jane was attracted, but not in the way she had been to Maura. Ugh. She needed to maybe stop thinking about the reason she was here.

Frustrated, she turned around and jammed herself into the bar next to two dozen other women in skirts and suits. Eventually a wiry black bartender in a slinky black half tux took notice of Jane and moved over.

“Ah, you’re the woman Kat mentioned. Drinks on the house for a friend, eh?” The bartender winked and gestured behind her. “Name your poison.”

Jane sighed. “What do you have for drinking away a confusing sexual encounter with your best friend?”

To Jane’s horror, the bartender whirled around and rang a triangle. The entire club swiveled towards the bar in unison and cheered, some with raised glasses and others with an envious look in their eyes. Jane wished she could sink into the floor and do her best impression of a puddle of slime.

The bartender returns and bent over towards Jane. “Sorry. Bar tradition. We’ve got to ring the triangle whenever a girl finally gets her best friend into bed. And don’t worry, confusing is par for the course. You know she’ll come around like all the others did.”

Jane scowled. “What others? And I didn’t do the getting. She did.” She nearly leapt over the bar and grabbed the thin black woman by the wrist when she tried to pick up the metal bar again. Jane guessed there was another special chime for a first timer and she wanted none of it. “Ring that thing again and I’ll find some way to shove your head through it.”

A bit mortified at her outburst, Jane sat down as the bartender rubbed her wrist. “Look, I’m sorry. This has been a really odd weekend.”

“Normally I’d get the girls to hustle you out of here for sneezing on me but I think I’ll make an exception for a VIP. Just settle down.” The black woman’s face went from stony to softer when Jane nodded and then put her head on the bar with crossed arms.

“I have no idea what I’m doing,” she mumbled into her arms. “It was so spontaneous and so damn nice. One minute we’re eating pasta and the next we’re making out on the couch. And then three hours later she walks out after telling me it’s a mistake.”

A drink appeared next to her. It looked and smelled a lot like scotch. Jane lifted her head and groped the glass, then sipped it carefully. It burned with a lemon aftertaste followed by a burst of sweetness. The bartender gave a sympathetic grin. “It’s called the BFFT. Let’s just say I have made enough of these for it to be a house special.”

Jane took another drink. “BFFT?” She let out a sign. “Best friend. First time. Got it.”

The bartender nodded. “I’ve seen a lot of girls come in here in just your state. Usually on the younger side of course, getting that first youthful experiment out of the way, but we always have some late bloomers.”

Jane drained the rest of the glass. “That’s just it. I don’t feel like I’m blooming late at all. I’ve literally never looked at another woman and have never felt the urge to have sex with one. But when she kissed me, it was all I wanted to do.”

The bartender shrugged. “Everyone gave Ellen’s ex, you know the one…” Jane shrugged back. Pop culture was a mystery and gay culture was not even on her radar. “Well, anyway. They broke up and the women went back to men. She said something about it being the exception rather than the rule. She loved the person, not the gender.” The darker woman appraised Jane, who pushed the empty glass forward.

“You love her, right?” Jane nodded. “And if she didn’t love you, you wouldn’t be here. You’d be sleeping it off with some guy.”

“But as friends,” Jane added quickly. “She was very clear about that. As family.”

The bartender chuckled. “It turns from one to the other fast. Like I said, I’ve seen a few of these come in here.”

“So what happened, um,” Jane glanced at the tuxedo top for a nametag and didn’t find one.

“Lisbeth,” said the bartender. She snapped her fingers a few times and a few more black-clad serving staff appeared. “I need to take a break,” she commanded them. “Keep the bar happy.” Lisbeth turned back to Jane. “Let’s go take five.” Jane slid off the barstool and followed the tall woman around the bar and back through the crowded kitchen, finally pushing into a quiet back room.

“You’re not going to kill me,” quipped Jane. She surveyed the room. It was an office stacked with papers and computer equipment, probably fifteen different things she could use to get away if push came to shove.

“Hardly. My boss would kill me if I got blood on her papers. But I figured I wanted to talk to you and not ruin our voices over the music.”

“Thanks,” said Jane. “But why the special treatment? I mean, you serve out however many house specials a week, right?”

Lisbeth smiled broadly. “Call it a bit of woman’s intuition. A hunch.” She sat down on a brown swivel chair and leaned back. “You have no one else you can talk to. Now, I’m not going to speak for those girls who find out they’re gay in the middle of Utah, but I’ve seen a lot of first timers. Most of these girls have female friends, or at least gay male friends. Most have someone they can talk to. But you? You have no one. You came to a bar you’ve never visited and poured your heart out to a bartender.”

“God, I’m like a bad country song, except with lesbians,” moaned Jane. She flopped into a threadbare easy chair and bumped her head on the filing cabinet.

“Eh, those songs exist for a reason. And it’s a nice break from the usual monotony of whining girls. You’re not like them, right? You’re too butch to admit your feelings but not so butch you pretend they aren’t there. You have a feminine side too. I like that. So talk.”

Jane felt her words spill out. “She kissed me after a date went bad. I kissed her. We went into the bedroom. We had sex for a few hours and then I got an explanation about how she thought we shouldn’t do it again and how it ranked in her top ten sexual experiences. God, she told me she keeps a journal. A goddamn journal of her sexual escapades. So not only am I being pushed away but I’m also being counted like weapons seized in a drug raid.”

The bartender nodded. “She’s usually standoffish, isn’t she? But around you she lets her guard down? And I am guessing there have been a few times when you’ve betrayed that.”

Jane nodded miserably, thinking of insults, misunderstandings, and of course, shooting Maura’s dad. “I haven’t been the best friend all the time.”

“Well, she doesn’t expect you to be,” reassured the bartender. “But this is her most intimate self, literally and figuratively, and she was worried you’d turn on her. A smooth dominant like yourself is usually the one to start these things. That she did it as who she is?” The bartender let out a slow whistle. “That took more strength than you can understand. Of course she shut herself off.”

Jane closed her eyes and banged her head a few times against the cabinet. “But I wanted her to stay. I begged her to stay. I tried to reassure her that nothing had changed and I still loved her.”

Lisbeth shook her head in disagreement. “First off, you both know something has changed, even if the underlying emotion hadn’t. But second, she is running scared because she thinks she’s lost everything by acting on impulse. That’s not her, right?”

Jane smiled through closed eyes. “Yeah. I’ve seen her plan her pajamas so they don’t clash with her sheets.” She laughed to herself. “I am betting she didn’t intend to do this tonight because my house is mostly orange tones and she was wearing neutrals.”

Lisbeth’s voice interrupted Jane’s thoughts. “She’s out of character, she has just opened herself sexually to her best friend, and she’s suddenly in doubt. She couldn’t stay. She had to prove to herself she was still herself. She had to regain all that control and distance. She’s…retreating. Let her.”

“But if she retreats too far, I’ll never get her back.”

She heard the chair creak up and the bartender’s heels click onto the floor. “What does getting her back mean to you?”

Jane opened her eyes and also stood up. “I…don’t know. I want to keep being her friend. As for the rest, I haven’t really thought about it.” She admitted internally what she wanted more than anything else was to hold Maura and to get reassurance they could still talk all the time. Maybe that’s what Maura wanted too?

“When you figure it out, you’ll keep her from retreating. You know how to chase and when to hang back. You’re a cop.”

The bartender creaked open the door and ushered Jane into the club. After another drink and a few rounds of seltzer to clear out the alcohol, Jane drove herself home. It was good to turn her brain off for a while. She passed out on her bed, still in her clothes.

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