Learning to Live

by Hheath541

Copyright © June 2012


Rating: PG-13
Fandom: Rizzoli & Isles
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Distribution: The Mystic Muse
Feedback: I welcome any feedback. I read it all, and respond when I have something of substance to say.
Author's Notes: This story contains transgender issues. If you don't like it, agree with it, support it, then I suggest not reading.
Pairing: Jane Rizzoli/Maura Isles
Summary: An unexpected secret draws the girls closer.

Chapter 1

The day starts like any other. She wakes up, showers, does her hair and make up, pulls on the layers of undergarments needed to flatten the bulge caused by her penis, and gets dressed for work.

She has to pull over to calm her nerves when she's just a few blocks from home, and almost turns around and calls in sick. Instead, she takes several deep breathes, wiping sweaty palms on her thighs, and makes herself keep driving.

There's a new case, and she needs to be there to help solve it. If she can just get through the workday, then she'll be ok. Calling in sick will just make people worry, and she needs things to be normal. Just for today. Just for a few hours. Tonight, she will sit down with the one person she trusts to be there for her, and tell her the truth. Until then, she just needs everything to be normal, because it might be the last time anything is, ever again.

The day is frantic. Jane, Korsak, and Frost are busy chasing leads, and barely have time to eat a quick lunch as they drive across town to interview a possible suspect. Maura has three autopsies, and two of her assistants are out with food poisoning. There isn't time for Jane and Maura to really see each other, even to talk about the case. Maura calls or texts with new information, and Jane does the same with questions and theories.

It's nearly ten when Jane finally gets time to go down to the morgue, only vaguely surprised to find Maura still there. Sharing exhausted smiles, Jane collapses on the couch while Maura finishes closing everything down and gathering her things. Still not speaking, they ride the elevator to the parking garage, and Maura follows Jane home.

As soon as they're in the door, Jane takes off her shoes and collapses on the couch, Maura following suit quickly. It's several minutes before either of them have the energy to much more than just sit there. Finally, Jane heaved herself up and grabbed a stack of takeout menus out of a drawer in the kitchen, handing them to Maura before getting them both a drink.

Sitting back down, they quickly decide on pizza, simply because it can get there fastest. Turning on the TV, Jane finds a random show to leave it on. Neither of them really pay any attention, just staring at the screen until a knock at the door makes Maura jump.

Getting up, Jane pays for the food and sets the pizza box on the coffee table. Maura doesn't even argue when Jane doesn't bother to grab plates. Neither had time for a real lunch, and they're too tired and hungry to care about anything but eating. After her first piece is gone, Maura gets up and grabs plates and napkins, handing Jane hers. They eat in silence, and the pizza is gone within a few minutes.

Taking the plates, Maura takes them into the kitchen to wash. After putting them away, she grabs the empty box and puts it by the trash can. Looking around, and seeing nothing else to pick up, she goes back to sit on the couch.

They watch the rest of whatever show is on the TV. When the ending credits start, Jane turns the TV off and turns to face Maura. "Ok, spill."

Starting, Maura looks up sharply, smoothing her hands over her skirt. "What do you mean?"

Waving a hand, Jane stares. "This. You've been fidgeting since we got here. I think you've smoothed and readjusted your dress about a hundred times, and you keep rubbing your hands like you don't know what to do with them. What has you so nervous? You know you can talk to me about anything?"

Getting up, Maura smoothes her dress, again, and stops herself just before running a hand through her hair, leaving it hanging uselessly in the air. Sighing, she twists her hands together and paces on the other side of the coffee table. "I have a favor I want to ask of you, but first I have to tell you something. I'm just not sure how to start, and I'm afraid that you'll be upset, or not want to be around me. If, after I'm done explaining, you want me to leave, I will. I'll understand if you never want to speak to me outside of work, but I hope you'll respect our friendship enough to not tell anyone. I've never told anyone about this before, and it's hard. I don't expect you to understand, but I hope you can at least not hate me because of it, and maybe even come to accept it, eventually."

Standing, Jane grabs Maura's hands, stilling them and pulling her around the table to sit back on the couch. "Maura, you're confusing me, and scaring me a little. You should know that I would never hate you, and I would NEVER betray your confidence. Are you in some kind of trouble? Did something happen? Just tell me, and I'll try to help you."

Taking several deep breathes, and forcing her hands to remain still, Maura closed her eyes before speaking. "I was born male. I wasn't telling you the whole truth when I said I asked to be sent to boarding school. After my father caught me wearing Mother's clothes and putting on her makeup, he threatened to send me to military school. He said that no son of his was going to grow up to be a fag. I started looking at boarding schools the next day, and convinced him to send me to one in Paris. It was an all boys school with strict athletic requirements and rules. Students were required to participate in at least two sports each year, and had to be in uniform at all times.

"As soon as I graduated, I started wearing dresses and let my hair grow out. I found a doctor that specializes in treating transgender patients, and started taking hormones. When Father found out, he threatened to disown me, but Mother wouldn't let him. She told him that if he tried, she would demand a divorce. Most of my family's money comes from her side, and he would be left with very little if they divorced. He moved to London, and I haven't seen or spoken to him since then.

"I changed my name before I started college, and lived in an apartment off-campus. I refused invitations to join sororities, and avoided activities that could possibly mean I would have to undress in front of anyone. I've been Maura since then."

Stunned, Jane sat in silence, just staring at Maura. Several moments later, Maura finally opened her eyes, saw the expression on her face, and bolted for the door. Standing quickly, Jane ran after her, catching her before she managed to get the door open, and grabbing her hand.

Yanking her hand away, Maura wiped frantically at her tears and refused to look at her. "It's ok. I understand. Just let me go. I hope we can still work together, but I'll understand if you don't want to work with me. It shouldn't be too hard for me to find a job elsewhere."

Taking a deep breath and closing her eyes, Jane pulled Maura into a hug. "It's ok. Calm down. I don't hate you. You dumped a lot of information on me at once, and didn't give me time to process it so I could respond. Come on, sit back down. There are a few things I want to ask, and you said you had a favor to ask me for. Just sit down, and give me a couple minutes to think. Ok?"

Sobbing, Maura clung to her, hiding her face against Jane's shoulder. They stood there for several minutes, until Maura took a deep breath and stepped back, wiping her eyes. Jane led her to the couch, getting her to sit down. Leaving the room, she came back quickly with a glass of water and box of tissues.

Sitting back down, she waited until Maura was more composed before speaking. "I just have a few questions, and you don't have to answer anything you're not comfortable with. Just tell me if I overstep any boundaries, ok?"

Nodding, Maura stared at her in confusion. "Why are you so calm? I hoped you'd be accepting, but I expected you to react more strongly than this."

Smiling, Jane shrugged. "I have a cousin Joe who was born Josephine. Not too long after the family found out, most of them stopped talking to him. He came to me when he needed someone to talk to. I guess it was because I was the tomboy that joined the Police Academy. He moved to California years ago, but we still email. I can't promise I understand everything, or even know much, but it's not entirely unfamiliar. Do you mind if I ask what your name was before you changed it?"

Chuckling lightly, Maura sat up straighter and answered very formally. "Richard Wallace Stanley Isles the Third."

Snorting, Jane covered her mouth. "Ok, I can completely understand why you would want to change it, even if you weren't transgender. That is a horrible name to stick a kid with. Why did you pick Maura?"

She shrugged. "It was a name from a book I read as a child. I don't remember the title, or even what it was about, just that I liked the name. Even though I was too young to really understand what I was feeling, I decided that I would change my name to Maura was I grew up."

Jane thought for a moment. "How is it, that no one knows this when you work with a bunch of cops? I mean, something like a name change comes up really quick during even the most basic background check."

Grinning slightly, Maura shook her head. "Have you ever run a background check on me? There was a routine check done by the Medical Examiner's Office when I was hired, but I doubt anyone at the Police Department has ever had a need, or desire, to do one. My personnel file doesn't mention it because I asked that it not be included. No one knows, simply because no one has thought to look or ask."

Thinking, Jane realized she was right. "Huh, I never thought of that. Makes me wonder what I could find out if I ran a check on people. You know, a lot of things make more sense, now. Why you had such a hard time making friends when you were younger, why you preferred to read instead of playing with other kids, why you chose to work with dead people. I can't even begin to understand how hard it must've been to grow up feeling like even the simplest things, like what restroom you used, were wrong. Joe tried explaining it, once, but finally just had to give up."

Wiping away fresh tears, Maura nodded. "It was hard, and lonely. After the way my father reacted, I knew I couldn't mention it to anyone. Essentially growing up in boarding school meant I was never around other girls. I wasn't interested in most of the things the boys liked, but there was no real opportunity to finds things I did enjoy, beyond learning. The one time I managed to get a fashion magazine, it was confiscated and I got in trouble for having 'pornographic material.' It didn't matter that I told them I only wanted to look at the clothes. The few pages featuring lingerie meant that it wasn't allowed."

Scooting closer, Jane pulled her into a hug. "Well, that explains your love of shoes and fashion. I think that's all the questions I have, at least for now. Do you want to tell me about that favor, now?"

Pulling away, Maura sighed. "My last reassignment surgery is next week. I'll be in the hospital for a about a week, and I'm supposed to have someone stay with me after that, at least for a few days. I can hire a nurse for during the day, but I was hoping you'd be willing to stay with me at night. I would just feel more comfortable not relying on a stranger the entire time."

Shaking her head, Jane wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "Nope. I have a bunch of unused vacation time. You tell me which day you're getting released, and I'll take a week off. I can visit you while you're in the hospital. Bring you movies and snacks and make sure you don't die of boredom. You'll have to tell me what to do, but I can play nurse until you're up and about, again. There's no way I'm going to make you have to deal with a complete stranger. I know you still get nervous around new people, and you need to be comfortable while you heal."

Nodding, Maura wiped her eyes. "Thank you. I really don't know what else to say. Just. Thank you."

Smiling, Jane gave her a quick hug before getting up. Holding her hand out, she pulled Maura to her feet. "Come on. It's late, and we're both exhausted. Let's go to bed."

Jerking to a halt, Maura stared in shock. "You want me spend the night?"

Snorting, Jane led Maura into her bedroom and dug through her drawers looking for sleep clothes. "Of course. You're way too tired to drive. Nothing's changed, not really. You're still the same person. What anatomy you may, or may not, have doesn't change the fact that I didn't mind sharing a bed with you a few days ago. If it didn't matter then, why should it matter now? Now, go change so we can go to bed. I'm exhausted, and we have to be at work in a few hours. If tomorrow is anything like today, then we both need our sleep."

Speechless, Maura took the clothes and went into the bathroom to change. Coming back out, she found Jane already in bed, and climbed in the other side carefully. Turning off the lamp, she stared at the ceiling.

Finally, Jane sighed loudly and reached a hand out to grab Maura's. "Relax. Go to sleep. I'm not going to freak out if you touch me, and you can't sleep if you hold yourself that stiff. You're still you. What can I do to convince you that nothing's changed?"

Sighing, Maura wrapped her hand around Jane's and tried to relax. "I don't know. I keep expecting you to be upset, but you aren't. I think I could deal with that easier, since it's the outcome I planned for. I just. I feel like everything should be different, now that you know. I spent so long worrying about telling you, and how you'd respond, that I'm not sure how to deal with the reality. My body is still processing the physical side effects of the stress, and it's making relaxing difficult."

Chuckling, Jane scooted closer, throwing an arm over Maura's waist. Pulling her closer, she waited until Maura turned onto her side and then spooned in behind her. "It's late and I'm tired. Go to sleep."

Eventually, Maura relaxed and listened to Jane's breathing even out. Giving a quiet sigh, she pulled Jane's arm closer around her. Smiling, Jane waited until Maura fell asleep before closing her eyes.

Chapter 2

When the day of her surgery came, Jane insisted on driving Maura to the hospital. Picking her up, Jane made sure Maura had everything she wanted packed, and carried her bag out to the car. After she checked in, Jane waited with her until the nurse came to take her to be prepped. Giving her a hug, she promised to see her later.

After asking the doctor to double-check that it would be several hours before Maura was out of surgery, Jane left for work. Glad for the stack of paperwork waiting on her desk, for once, she tried to work her way through the pile. Finally, around four, she gave up and decided to leave early. The past few hours had accomplished almost nothing but staring at the clock, anyway.

Getting back to the hospital, Jane wasn't entirely surprised to be told that Maura was still in surgery. The nurse promised to let her know when she was back in her room. After sitting in the waiting room for almost an hour and staring at a TV that didn't appear to have any sound, she gave the nurse her number and wandered down to the cafeteria. Deciding coffee was the last thing she needed, she bought a bottle of water and sat staring out the window.

Her phone going off had Jane jumping and slamming her knee into the underside of the table. Wincing, she answered quickly, sighing in relief when it was the nurse telling her she could sit with Maura in her room. Hurrying from the cafeteria, she forgot the unopened bottle of water sitting on the table.

Entering the room quietly, Jane found Maura still asleep. A heart monitor sat in the corner, beeping evenly, and an IV stand stood next to it. Sitting down in the chair, Jane watched Maura's face. When she was satisfied she was just sleeping peacefully, she dug through Maura's bag. Finding mostly clothes, she finally came across a stack of magazines at the bottom. Rolling her eyes as she flipped through them, she settled on a forensic magazine that seemed to have the least amount of gross pictures.

When Maura woke up, she blinked several before her vision cleared. Knowing better than to try to speak, she reached to get Jane's attention, gesturing toward the cup of water on the tray table. Putting down the magazine, she grabbed the cup, holding it while Maura drank from the straw.

Smiling, she finished the water before talking. "Thanks. I hate waking up from anesthesia, it causes such a horrible taste in your mouth. How long have you been here? And were you reading one of my medical journals?"

Rolling her eyes, Jane laughed. "You just wake up from surgery and you're already asking questions. I got here while you were still in surgery, and waited in the cafeteria until they brought you back in here. You've only been out of surgery for about an hour. Yes, I was reading one of your medical journals. I was bored, and it's all you had in your bag. That one had the least disturbing pictures. Other than the gross taste, how do you feel?"

Closing her eyes, she took a moment to evaluate herself. "Tired, and my limbs feel heavy. That's to be expected, though. I'm not in pain, if that's what you're asking. I'll probably fall asleep soon. The pain medication will make me drowsy most of the time. If you want, you can go home. I'm sure visiting hours will be ending soon, anyway."

Jane shook her head. "You know most people would be talking complete nonsense right about now. Does your brain ever slow down? Don't answer that. Do you want me to call a nurse, while you're still awake?"

Smiling brightly, Maura nodded. "My thought process is slower than usual, right now. I forgot I was supposed to push the call button when I woke up."

Chuckling, Jane found the call button and handed it to Maura. "Well, you're slowed down thought process is right about how most people think on their good days. Do you want me to wait in the hall when the nurse comes to check on you?"

Shaking her head, Maura laughed. "No, I'll just be answering questions about how I feel while my vitals are checked. It's too soon to check anything else."

Grinning, Jane shook her head. "Are you always this happy on pain meds?"

Smiling widely, she shook her head. "Not quite. While part of it is the feeling of euphoria I experience when under the influence of strong narcotics, the rest is because this was my last surgery. Once I finish healing, I'll finally have the body I've wanted. Oh, and I can go shopping."

Leaning back in the chair, Jane rolled her eyes. "Only you would be thinking about shopping after getting out of surgery. Do you need more shoes, or something?"

Laughing happily, Maura smiled. "No, I can finally buy the panties to match my bras. I'll have to get all new underwear, and I can throw out all my old ones. It's hard to remember a time when I wore anything else, but I don't think I'll miss them. You don't know what it's like to have to wear three layers under your clothes. No more having to tuck and wear support panties to make sure everything stays hidden and you can try to forget it's there. I wonder if I'll walk different."

Blushing, Jane stared. "That was a bit more honesty than usual, even for you. I'm guessing that would be the pain meds. Why isn't the nurse here yet?"

Staring at the button in her hand, Maura grinned. "I forgot to push the button, again. I don't know if it's the medication that makes me want to share. It could be the joy of the situation, or finally having someone to talk to who accepts me, even if you can't fully understand what it's like. I've never had someone just want to talk like this after a surgery, before, so I can't say for sure. Usually, it's just the doctor and nurses asking me questions about my health. I've never had someone visit me, before."

Smiling sadly, Jane wrapped her hand around Maura's, but the nurse showed up before she could answer. Maura smiled happily and answered all the questions the nurse asked as her vitals were checked. After making notes in her chart, checking the levels on the IV drip, and punching a few buttons on a device mounted on the IV stand, the nurse left.

Eyes starting to droop, Maura grinned at her. "Thank you for being here. You really are the best friend I've ever had. The medication works quickly, and I'm getting very tired. You should go home and sleep. Will you come visit after work?"

Nodding, Jane squeezed her hand. "Of course. I plan on stopping by for a bit in the morning, too, and maybe again over lunch. You just go to sleep, and I'll see you tomorrow."

Realizing Maura was already asleep, Jane gave her hand another squeeze. Standing up, she made sure the cup was full of water and within reach and the magazines were stacked next to it. Taking a last look around to make sure Maura could reach everything she might need, Jane squeezed her hand on the way out.

Maura was released from the hospital a week later. Jane helped her pack her bags, the amount of things Jane had brought on her visits requires two additional bags, and carried them out to her car. When she came back, the doctor was going over the discharge papers, again, and making sure she had someone to stay with her.

Introducing herself, Jane assured him that she would be staying with Maura for the next week. After the doctor went over the list of medications and care instructions with Jane, he let Maura sign the discharge papers, and they left.

Jane wheeled Maura out to the car, and helped her climb in. She drove slowly, sticking to residential streets as much as possible to avoid traffic. Pulling as close to the door as possible, Jane got it unlocked and open before helping Maura out of the car and up the steps to the porch.

Getting inside, Jane stopped. "Would you prefer the couch or your bed?"

Thinking, she turned toward the couch. "It's early, I think I'd rather sit on the couch, for now. We can talk and watch TV, if you want. The lower dose medication doesn't make me nearly as drowsy, so I should be able to stay awake."

Making sure she was was comfortable, Jane grabbed extra cushions to help prop Maura up. "I'm gonna go get your bags. What do you want for lunch? I can do sandwiches or we can order something."

Relaxing against the cushions with a sigh, Maura shrugged. "You can decide. I'm just glad to be home."

Shaking her head, Jane went back to park the car properly and get the bags. Dropping them next to the couch, she sat down in a chair. "Someone really needs to explain some rules to you. You're the one recovering from surgery, therefore you get to choose what we eat. I am merely your humble servant here to see to your every whim."

Laughing, Maura yanked a cushion from behind her head and threw it at Jane. "You are not a servant, and I don't want you to serve me. I just want your help while I'm unable to move around enough to take care of myself. Right now, I think I want your help deciding what to have for lunch."

Tossing the cushion back, Jane got up to grab the take out menus. "Ok, then take out it is. You deserve something better than a sandwich after a week of hospital food. You're picking where, though."

Looking through the menus, she handed one back. "I think I want Chinese. Orange chicken and egg rolls, with duck sauce."

Calling in their order, Jane put the menus away and started unpacking the bags. The magazines and laptop when on the coffee table, moving it close enough for Maura to reach, and Jane put everything else away. Sitting back down, she propped her feet up on the coffee table, rolling her eyes and taking her shoes off when Maura gave her a disapproving look.

They talked about what to do for the rest of the day, mostly to keep Maura occupied so being bedridden would be as easy as possible. When the food arrived, Jane got them plates and silverware, even finding a serving tray so Maura wouldn't have to try sitting up.

It was four days of movies, chess, medical journals, and awkward sponge baths before Maura was comfortable enough to sit for any real length of time or walk around the house. Her first check up with her doctor was in a few days, and Jane had to go back to work, soon.

Knowing Maura still had a couple weeks before she went back to work, Jane decided to keeping staying in the guest room at least until then. She made a quick trip to her apartment to get more clothes, and settled in for an extended stay.

The day before Jane went back to work, she took Maura to her check up. The doctor was happy with the rate she was healing, and said everything looked good. He gave her a prescription for a lower dose pain medication, and told her she could use a less bulky layer of gauze and bandages. Jane couldn't help but return her smile when she came back out to the waiting room so they could leave.

Making sure she was able to handle being out for a bit longer, Jane told her that she had to celebrate. Pulling into a mall parking lot, she helped Maura out of the car and led her inside. Keeping a slow pace, they walked passed a few stores before Jane stopped and turned Maura to head into a shop.

Stopping, Maura turned to face Jane. "You hate this store. The one time I tried to bring you here, you refused to even go in."

Shrugging, Jane put an arm over Maura's shoulders, turning to lead her inside. "Yeah, I know, but we're here for you. Today is a day to celebrate, and you were looking forward to buying panties. So, we're here to find you some panties."

Smiling, Maura pulled her into a hug. "Thank you. You didn't have to do this. I was going to wait until I was completely healed. I'm not even sure what size I need, or what styles to get."

Pulling her toward a display, Jane started looking through what was there. "Well, I would suggest staying away from thongs, unless you want to be uncomfortable. Why don't we figure out what size you need, then get a pair in a few different styles. You can decide what you like, and get more later."

It didn't take long to figure out Maura's size. The saleswoman was more than happy to discuss the difference between different styles and what style went best under what type of clothing. An hour later, they left, Maura carrying a bright pink bag holding almost a dozen different styles of panties, each in a different color.

Seeing Maura start to wince as she walked, Jane help her the rest of the way to the car. Climbing behind the wheel, she turned to find Maura still smiling. "I'm glad you had fun. You deserved to celebrate. Who knew there were so many different styles of underwear, though. I thought there were only like three or four, and I can't believe you even bought a thong. Those things are seriously uncomfortable."

Maura just shrugged. "Doesn't every woman have at least one thong?"

Thinking about it, Jane stared at her before nodding. "I think you might be right. I'm pretty sure there's a thong shoved in the back of my sock drawer that I've worn once, and then refused to ever wear again. Don't be surprised if the same thing happens to yours."

Shrugging again, Maura leaned her head back against the seat. "That's ok. At least I'll know not to buy any more. Thank you, again. I was planning to just shop online, but I think this was a lot more fun. I know you weren't comfortable. It means a lot that you would do something like that for me."

Blushing, Jane stared at the road, even they stopped at a traffic light. "Like I said, you deserved to celebrate, and celebrating should be something you've looked forward to doing. This was the first thing I thought of. Yeah, it was a little uncomfortable, but at least we weren't shopping for me. Just don't expect a repeat any time soon."

Jane was getting ready for work the next morning when Maura knocked on the door. "I wondered if you wanted me to cook you some breakfast, too.The coffee's already ready."

Checking the time, she nodded. "If you want to, sure. I have time to eat something. Hey, what should I tell people when they ask where we've been and why you're not back, yet?"

Maura looked shocked for a moment as she thought about the question. "I hadn't thought about it. You think they'll assume we were together?"

Snorting, Jane nodded. "Well, yeah. I requested vacation time for the first time in I have no idea how long at the same time you're out of work for weeks. No one's going to believe it was a coincidence. What did you say the reason for your absence was?"

Shrugging, Maura headed back toward the kitchen. "I didn't. Being the Chief Medical Examiner has it's perks. As long as I have the time available, I can essentially approve my own vacation time. I just filed it under 'medical' and saw no reason to elaborate. What reason did you give when you requested the time off?"

Pouring her coffee, Jane watched Maura get out the ingredients for omelettes. "Personal. I have so much vacation time piled up, Cavanaugh was happy for me to use some of it. He didn't even bother asking any questions. You know Frost and Korsak will ask, though."

Sliding the first omelette onto Jane's plate, Maura shrugged. "Tell them the truth. I had a minor surgery and you agreed to stay with me while I recovered. If they ask what the surgery was for tell them to ask me. Should they actually ask, I'll just point out that my medical history is private."

Chuckling, Jane started to eat. "You may not be able to lie, but you can certainly find creative ways to twist the truth."

Finishing her own omelette, Maura sat down to eat. "I had to be. I imagine it's hard enough to survive the teen years, for the average adolescent, without lying at some point. For someone who actually has something to hide, learning to be creative with which truth you tell is essential."

Snorting, Jane gave her a hug and left for work.

Jane spent two weeks fielding questions to Maura. Frost gave up asking after the second day, but Korsak asked several times a day, everyday. Each time, Jane told him that it's wasn't her place to share Maura's personal details, and he should ask her if he really wanted to know.

The day Maura was returning to work, they were both almost giddy with the excitement and relief. Jane was looking forward to having Maura back at work, and not just to stop Korsak's incessant questions or because the interim ME was looked like a bad horror movie villain. Maura was mainly just tired of sitting at home, even though she knew she still had to limit the time she spent on her feet, and some of her movements.

Maura followed Jane up to the squadroom, instead of heading right for the morgue, in the hopes of getting all the questions out of the way. As soon as they saw Maura walk in behind Jane, Frost and Korsak stood to gather around Jane's desk.

Taking one look at them huddled around her chair, and Jane gave Maura a slight nod. setting her coffee down, she clapped her hands together. "Ok, this is how it's going to go. Maura has work to do, so you each get one question. If she doesn't like your question, she doesn’t have to answer it."

Waiting for them both to nod, she smirked and looked back and forth between them. "Ok, Frost, you get to go first. Mostly because I can tell Korsak wants to ask something stupid."

Giving Maura a smile, Frost only had to think for a moment. "It's wasn't anything serious, was it? I mean, you're not sick, right?"

Holding up a hand, Jane smirked at him. "Technically, that was two questions. I guess it's up to Maura which one she answers."

Shooting Jane a short glare, she swatted her arm with the back of her hand. "I believe the second question was merely clarifying the first. No, Barry, I'm not sick. It was a rather routine procedure. The healing process is just slightly uncomfortable, at times."

Seeing Frost relax slightly, Jane pointed at Korsak. "Your turn. Remember, one question, and don't ask anything stupid."

Glaring at Jane, he turned to Maura. "If there's nothing wrong, why did you need surgery? Jane just kept telling us we should ask you if we wanted to know what it was for."

Maura shrugged at the look on Jane's face. "I did tell you to have them ask me if they were curious. He is merely following directions. Vince, I didn't say there was nothing wrong, just that I wasn't sick and it was a routine procedure. It was more preventative in nature. I merely had a superfluous organ removed."

Taking a drink of her coffee to hide her smirk, Jane waved her free hand at the guys. "Ok, you got your questions answered. I'm going to walk Maura downstairs, unless there's something pressing to do."

Not waiting for an answer, Jane walked toward the elevator, holding it open for Maura to join her. As soon as the doors shut, she cracked up laughing. "You had a superfluous organ removed? That is great. Now they think you just had an appendectomy. I think I sometimes forget that you're a genius."

Smiling, Maura reached over to push the button for the basement. "It was a superfluous organ. If they choose to see that as my way of phrasing an appendectomy, then it's not my fault. When you're done laughing, you should probably go back upstairs. I'll see you for lunch, right?"

Taking several deep breathes, Jane managed to compose herself. "Yeah, unless we catch a case. You know the drill. I'll see you later."

Chapter 3

Jane was convinced Maura didn't stop smiling once for the next couples months. She had insisted on driving Maura to each of her follow-up appointments and doing something to celebrate afterward. They'd gone to a new restaurant Maura had been wanting to try, eaten ice cream in the park, and even gone dress shopping. Each time, Maura was surprised that Jane picked something for her, even if Jane didn't usually enjoy it. Each time, Jane explained that it was Maura who deserved to celebrate, and that's all that mattered.

It was about a week after the Doctor told Maura she was allowed to resume all her previous activities, that Frost and Korsak started commenting on her mood. Jane had agreed to go to yoga with her, as long as it was understood that it wasn't a permanent arrangement. After yoga, Maura would stop to buy coffee for everyone. She'd walk into the squad room carrying a tray of coffee, smiling, and usually humming or whistling. After passing out the coffees she'd turn and almost skip to the elevator.

Jane just shook her head, hid a smile behind her coffee, and kept working. Frost and Korsak progressed from sharing looks to whispering across their desks. Then, one day, Jane looked up when she heard them both wheel their chairs over to her desk. Taking one look at their faces, she groaned and set down her coffee.

Crossing her arms and leaning back in her chair, she stared at them until Frost started to squirm and looked away. Smirking, she turned back to her computer. When they hadn't moved several moments later, she sighed and turned back toward them. "What? Don't you have something more entertaining to do than sit there and watch me delete spam? What do you want?"

Scooting back, Korsak kicked Frost's chair, sending his knees banging into the side of the desk. Glaring at Korsak, he turned back to Jane with a sigh. "Ok, we wanted to know what you know about Maura's new boyfriend. Give us a name and we'll do the rest."

Chuckling, she shook her head. "Maura doesn't have a new boyfriend. Or an old one."

Eyebrow raised, Korsak snorted. "Yeah, right. She brings us coffee every morning humming and whistling something that sounds an awful lot like a love song, then skips back to the elevator. It's been months since I've seen her not smiling, and it's not just a regular smile. She has that 'I fell in love' smile on her face every time I see her. There's definitely a new boyfriend."

Rolling her eyes, Jane turned back to her computer. "There's no guy. She's just in a good mood. Leave her alone and let her be happy, or are you complaining about the free coffee every morning?"

Wheeling back to the desks, the guys watched her. Finally, Frost spoke up. "We just want to make sure whoever it is is good enough for Maura. If you won't give us a name, maybe you should check him out, yourself. It's great seeing her so happy, and we just don't want her to end up getting hurt."

Smiling, Jane nodded. "Believe me, if there was a new boyfriend, I'd be checking him out, but there isn't. Honest. I don't think her good mood is going to end any time soon, either."

Korsak grinned, leaning closer. "Why do you say that? What do you know that we don't?"

Snorting, she threw a stack of post-its at his head. "I know a lot that you guys don't, but that doesn't mean I'm sharing. She's my best friend, we talk, so of course I know when she's in a good mood. This one will probably last for awhile, which I just see as a good thing. Now, leave it alone, or you'll be too busy dealing with a pissed off detective to notice the smiling doctor. Seriously, you guys gossip like old women."

Putting his hands up in defeat, Korsak sat back in his chair. Frost just glared at him and went back to working.

Several days later they were sitting on Maura's couch watching a game that wasn't even managing to keep Jane's attention. She didn't follow either team, and one team was loosing so badly it was a foregone conclusion.

At the next commercial break, she handed Maura the remote and got up to get a drink. "This game sucks. I'll just look up the score, later. I don't even really like either team."

Taking the glass of water Jane held out, Maura turned off the TV. "Then why were we watching it? I may not generally follow sports, but even I can tell there's no chance of that team winning, not with less than half of the game left."

Shrugging, Jane leaned her head back against the couch. "It was supposed to be a good game. The teams are about evenly matched, statistically. I don't think anyone expected it to suck that bad."

Putting the remote down next to Jane, she got up and headed for the kitchen. "Why don't you find something else to watch, and I'll make dinner. After all, you did come over to watch the game, since my TV is bigger."

Getting up, Jane joined her. "Nah, I don't really care. Why don't I help you cook?" Seeing the surprised look Maura gave her, she laughed. "Yes, I can cook. Do you think Ma would've let me get away with not learning? To hear her talk about it, it's impossible for a woman to fall in love and have a family if she can't cook. I just don't cook that often, it just seems kinda pointless to make a big meal for only one person, when I can just order in or microwave something."

Maura put a bowl in front of her and handed Jane a whisk. "Then you can mix while I add ingredients. It's much easier when you don't have to do both, yourself."

After they got everything and in the oven to cook, they sat down to wait. Jane spun her glass in circles on the counter in front of her until Maura reached over and took it, setting it down several inches away.

Looking up, Jane grinned apologetically and shrugged. "Sorry. Do you mind if I ask you a personal question? I won't ask, if you don't want me to. It's just something the guys said that made me think."

Putting her hand over Jane's to stop her fidgeting, Maura nodded. "You know you can ask me anything. If I'm uncomfortable answering, then I'll tell you. If it's something I'm not sure how to answer, then I will do my best."

Taking a deep breath, Jane flattened both hands against the counter to keep them still. "Yeah. Sorry. It's just I'm pretty sure it's a rude question to ask someone, especially someone who's transgender. It's just, the guys are convinced you have a new boyfriend, because you've been so happy lately. They wanted a name so they could check him out. I realized, I don't even know if you date guys. Well, we've been on a couple double dates, but I just never even though to ask if you're straight. And that's probably a really rude question to ask anyone, so I'm just going to shut up, now."

When Maura started laughing, Jane stared. "I think that's the first time I've ever been asked if I'm straight. Typically, if someone is questioning someone else's sexuality, it's because they think that person is something other than straight. To answer you're question, no, I'm not straight. I'm bisexual, although a more correct term would be pansexual. Gender identity and sexual anatomy don't factor into my decision making process when I decide to date someone. Yes, I appreciate an attractive physical form, but personality is much more important when I pursue a relationship."

Blinking, Jane shook her head. "I really did not expect you to find that question funny. I get pissed when people question my sexuality. Like it's any of their business who I'm attracted to, or there's something wrong with me if I am gay. And, you're right, personality is more important. Now, if I could just get Ma to understand that. Like I could possibly have anything in common with an insurance salesman, no matter how cute he is."

Nodding, Maura got up to check on the food. "Yes, but most of the time when someone is questioning your sexuality, they mean it as an insult. The intent behind any question, is important. You were merely curious, not trying to imply anything negative. I would rather you ask me a possibly embarrassing question, knowing you're honestly curious about the answer, than for you to not ask and assume you know the answer. Even if you are correct, you know I feel it is always better to verify any assumption."

Snorting, Jane got up and started setting the table. "Yeah, I know. It's not blood until the lab says it is. You'd think I'd know, by now, that you prefer for people to just ask if they have a question. Do you mind if I ask one more question? How did dating work? I mean, you've been on a bunch of dates since I've known you, but I don't think they ever lasted passed the first date."

Pulling the dish out of the oven, she set it on the table and sat down. "No, I haven't been in a relationship for years. None of the dates I've been on, since then, were expected to become anything deeper. When my last relationship ended, my therapist and I came to the conclusion that I should take the time to focus on myself without having the distraction of a romantic relationship."

Jane scooped food onto both their plates and got up to get them drinks. "You have a therapist? Wait. Stupid question. Forget I asked. Joe explained all that. You have to see a therapist for awhile before they'll sign the papers so you can get surgery, right? Ok, if you weren't expecting the dates to go anywhere, why bother?"

Thinking, Maura shrugged. "Dating relies on a set of skills. Any skill will diminish with disuse. Basically, they were practice for when I am ready to pursue a romantic relationship. I'm sure your accuracy declined when you spent a few months unable to go to the firing range. Imagine if you spent several years without firing your gun. Your chances of hitting the center of the target would be greatly diminished. If I spent several years not dating, then the social skills developed and used for that purpose would be out of practice. So, I practice, with individuals I know are probably not suitable as partners, anyway."

Chuckling, Jane started eating. "That explains so many of your dates. There were a few times when I seriously questioned your judgement. Why did your last relationship end?"

Maura shrugged. "Distance. His job transferred him to Nevada. We tried having a long-distance relationship, for awhile, and I even thought of moving there, but it just didn't work out. The distance made it hard for us to maintain our emotional connection, and he met someone about six months after moving that he wanted to try pursuing a relationship with. We agreed that, even if I did move there, we just weren't compatible enough for a relationship to last. I think it was as painless as a break up can realistically be. We'd grown apart, and we both knew it wasn't just because of the physical distance."

Holding up a finger, Jane swallowed before speaking. "This may be a really stupid question, but he knew about you?"

Nodding, Maura gave a small grin. "Yes, I would never seriously consider starting a relationship with someone without telling them, first. It's not fair to hide something like from someone I have an intimate relationship with, and doing so can have dangerous consequences. And, at that point in time, it was impossible to hide if I desired any sexual contact. He knew almost from the moment we met. We met at a fundraiser for a local LGBT group. Nearly everyone there was part of the LGBT community, or had a close relationship with someone who was. He was there with his brother, who introduced us. We'd met at a transgender support group a couple years earlier, and he thought his brother and I would get along well enough to at least talk during the fundraiser."

Brows furrowed, Jane thought for a few moments. "Do you mind if I ask why it took so long for you to complete your transition? I know it can take a few years, but you started when you graduated high school."

Smiling sadly, Maura nodded. "I don't mind telling you. My father had my trust fund altered, when I told him I was planning on transitioning, so that I couldn't access it until I turned thirty. My tuition and basic needs were provided for, but I wasn't allowed extra money for any reason. All my bills were sent to a lawyer my father hired who made sure I wasn't trying to spend money for anything my father didn't approve of. I had a part-time job as a research assistant to pay for anything else I wanted, including my hormone treatments and therapy. After I graduated medical school, the trust fund no longer covered any of my bills. I saved what money I could and had each surgery as I could afford it. It wasn't until I turned thirty that I could afford the final surgery. I think my father hoped I would change my mind if I had to pay for everything myself."

Getting up, Jane pulled Maura into a hug. "You are the bravest person I know. It really doesn't take much courage to be a cop. I do what I do because I'll die if I don't. That's not bravery. That's survival. What you did, though, that takes courage. You risked losing everything to be true to yourself. You worked for years to pay for treatments and surgeries so you could have a body you were comfortable in. I know what kind of dangers a transgender woman can face. I saw some cases when I was walking beat that still scare the shit out of me when I think of them. I just can't understand the lengths some people go to in order to 'punish' someone else just for being who they are. I can't even begin to understand what it's like to have to live with the reality that something like that could happen to you."

Squeezing Jane tighter for a second, Maura pulled away and wiped her eyes. "Thank you, but I don't think it's bravery. Like you said, it's survival. I had two options; I could hate myself for the rest my life, and possibly end up committing suicide at some point, or I could work toward being able to have a body I could love. You told me once that you were just tired of being afraid. I do my best to avoid situations where I may be in danger, which is true of most human beings. For the rest, I grew tired of being afraid, years ago. People see what they expect to see, so I do my best to never allow there to be any reason for someone to expect to see me as anything other than a woman. As far as I know, I've been successful. No one's questioned my gender in more than ten years."

Pulling her back into the hug, Jane smiled. "You're brave. It doesn't matter how you see yourself, I see someone who is more courageous than any officer on the force. You are a brave, absurdly intelligent, quirky, sometimes infuriating, beautiful woman, and I am proud to call you my friend."

Maura let Jane hold her for a couple minutes while she cried. Finally, she pulled away, wiped her eyes, and gave Jane a smile. "I don't think you know how much that means to me. Thank you for being my friend, Jane. I really don't know what I would've done without you the past few months. You're the first who's accepted all of me. I've had friends who accepted my personality, my profession, and my gender, but never all three. Even Nate wasn't able to accept all of me. He wanted me to stop working in the morgue and either work on live patients or just do research. Whenever I mentioned work he told me it was morbid and gross, even if I wasn't talking about an autopsy."

Chuckling, Jane nodded. "Your job is morbid and gross, but it's part of what makes you quirky. And, if you didn't do your job, then I couldn't do mine. At least you're not creepy. Did you meet the guy who subbed for you while you were out? Now, HE was creepy. I think every creepy mortician in every bad horror movie ever made was based off of him. He looked like he spent all his time around dead people."

Head tilted, Maura raised an eyebrow. "I'm not entirely sure what you mean by that, but of course I've met Dr. Samuals, I hired him. While I admit his appearance is less than appealing, he's very good at his job. Having watched him work, I can understand why you would find him unsettling. He does seem to form an unusual attachment to his patients, but there has never been any indication that his behavior is anything less than professional."

Shivering, Jane shook her head. "Maura, I heard him talking to the corpse. Not like you talk to them. Like he was having an actual two-sided conversation. Next time you have to be out of work, PLEASE pick someone else to sub for you. Someone not creepy."

Nodding, Maura grinned. "I'll pick someone else. After all, it's important that the detectives feel comfortable around the medical examiner working a case. Do you realize that our food has gotten cold?"

Shrugging, Jane grabbed her plate. "Yeah, but I was done eating, anyway. Want me to reheat yours, or are you done? Either way, I'll cover the leftovers and put them away."

After putting away the dishes, they sat on the couch. Landing on the news, Jane quickly checked the score for the game, wincing when she saw it. Continuing to flip through the channels, she finally stopped on an old black and white movie.

They watched for more than a half hour in silence before Maura spoke up, quietly. "How do you know when you're ready for a relationship?"

Muting the movie, Jane took several moments to think. "I really don't know. I guess when you want one. I'm not the best person to ask, though. When's the last time I even went on a date, let alone was in a relationship? The closest thing to a relationship I've had in more than five years, was Jorge. I just don't really date."

Still watching the screen, Maura nodded. "I guess that makes sense. I'm just not sure if what I'm feeling is an honest desire for a relationship, or a desire to experience sex as a complete woman."

Sighing, Jane shrugged. "I wish I could help, but I have no idea what to say. I think I've mostly given up on the idea of being in a relationship. Maybe you should talk to your therapist about it, or that support group you mentioned. Even if it hadn't been years since I felt the need to be in a relationship, I really don't think I would know how to help you figure it out. I just don't have the knowledge or experience to know what you're feeling."

Nodding, Maura unmuted the movie. "Thank you. I'll talk to my therapist about it."

Putting her arm around Maura's shoulders, Jane pulled her into a hug. "I really wish I could help you. If you ever need to talk, about anything, you know I'm willing to listen. Even if all I can do is listen, I'm here."

Smiling, Maura leaned into her side. "I know, and thank you. I'm just not sure how to articulate what I'm feeling. Maybe my therapist can help with that."

They cuddled for the rest of the movie.

Chapter 4

A few days later, Maura was surprised when Jane stalked into her office, shutting the door behind her, and collapsed on the couch with a groan. They didn't have an open case, and lunch wasn't for more than an hour. Deciding Jane would talk when she was ready, or not at all, Maura gave a mental shrug and kept working.

After watching Maura type for several minutes, Jane laid down, shoving a cushion under her head. "Please tell me you have some chocolate hidden around here, somewhere."

Looking up, Maura raised one eyebrow at Jane's position. "No, I don't typically keep chocolate hidden in my office. If you really want some, we can buy some at lunch. I wasn't aware you liked chocolate that much. I think the last time I saw you eating any was when Jorge sent you that basket."

Turning on her side, Jane gave an awkward shrug. "I'm not a huge fan. It's just one of those days. If you tell the guys this, I will deny it and put one shoe from every pair you own in the wrong box. I am tired and cranky and have cramps. I want to curl up under a blanket and just eat chocolate all day. You know how it is. I had a stash of chocolate in my desk, but I think Korsak found it, because it's gone."

When Maura turned away and shook her head, Jane winced. Getting up quickly, she walked over and wrapped Maura in a hug. "Shit. I feel like an ass. I am so sorry. I think I just forgot for a moment. I am so sorry. I need to think before I open my mouth. Please, don't cry."

Head bolting up, Maura almost cracked Jane in the chin. "You forgot?"

Eyes wide, Jane's mouth opened and closed a couple times. "I'm sorry. I just. I don't know what's wrong with me, today. I think I should've just stayed in bed and avoided all human contact. I came down here after I almost threw my coffee at Frost, and now I've been an ass and talked without thinking, and I think I should probably leave before I make it worse."

Shaking her head, Maura let her head rest on Jane's shoulder. Taking several deep breathes, she finally looked up and met Jane's eyes with a smile. "You actually forgot. You know, and you actually forgot. I'm not upset. Not about that. You really do see me as a woman. I don't think I really believed it, before, but you actually forgot. Even if it was just for a moment. For that moment, I wasn't any different than any other woman."

Studying Maura's face, Jane finally relaxed. "You're really not upset. I'm still sorry for speaking without thinking. I know it upset you, even if it didn't last. I really didn't mean to upset you. Really, you're not missing anything. It's uncomfortable and gross, and I'd be happy with I didn't have to deal with it. I don't know a single woman that enjoys it."

Sighing, Maura's smile turned wistful. "I came to terms a long time ago with the fact that there are some things I will never be able to experience, but it doesn't stop me from wishing. If it were possible, I would give just about anything to be able to have a period, be pregnant, or give birth. I would gladly deal with all the discomfort, just to be able to have the experience. I know there are woman who do anything they can to avoid it, and I know there are woman who are unable to experience it. It will just always be that one thing that makes me less than."

Wiping her eyes, Jane shook her head. "No, you are NOT less than anything. There is nothing about you that makes you inferior, in any way, to anyone. No, you can't be pregnant or give birth, but I think it's safe to say you've experienced all the pain and discomfort of having a period. I was curious, so I looked up the procedure you went through. Did you know there's a youtube video of the entire process? I winced the entire way through. I know you were unconscious, but it just looked extremely painful. Anyway, you spent a week unable to really sit or walk, weeks after that in pain, and you wore either bandages or pads for the better part of a month. I think that covers all the bleeding and cramping, and for a lot longer and a lot worse than any woman has ever had to deal with it. So, you've had your first period."

Blinking back her own tears, Maura nodded. "Thank you. I never thought to see it that way, but I guess you're right. It may have had a different cause, but it shared most of the symptoms. I've just spent so much of my life wishing I could be a real woman, but knowing it just isn't possible. I know there is only so much science and medicine can accomplish, and I've learned to be ok with that. Most of the time. There are still times when I find myself wishing for more, but I try to remind myself that I'm lucky to have as much as I do. If I lived somewhere else, or it were several years ago, then I wouldn't be nearly as lucky. And I really do know I'm lucky."

Pulling her back into a hug, Jane kissed the top of Maura's head. "Maura, in every way that counts, you are a real woman. If you judge by rather or not someone has been pregnant, or is even capable of being pregnant, then there are millions of people who were born female who will never be real women. No, I think what makes you a real woman is that you FEEL like one. You think and feel like a woman. You see the world from the perspective of a woman. You interact and react to the people around like a woman. Anyone who looks at you sees a strong, intelligent, beautiful woman. Who cares what your DNA says? People find ways to overcome their DNA all the time. Why do you think they invented hair dye and colored contacts and plastic surgery?"

Sniffing delicately, Maura wiped her eyes. "I don't know how many times I can thank you, but I really do mean it. Thank you. I know you claim not to understand, but you really do help me feel better. Most of me knows you're right, but there's that small part of me that may never be able to believe it. That part will always be insecure and afraid."

Giving a small, sad smile, Jane shrugged. "I think everyone has a little piece like that. I know there's a part of me that will always be the little girl that was always playing just a little too rough and getting a little too dirty to every be girly enough. Everyone has doubts and fears and insecurities, yours just come from someplace different. I'll always have that little feeling in the back of my head that maybe I'm not good enough, or missing out on something, because I'm not girlier. You're just like every other human being. No one is perfect, or feels confident and strong all the time. We just learn to overcome it."

Leaning against Jane, Maura let herself relax and be held. "My therapist tried to explain that, but I never really believed her. The few other people I've tried to talk to about this were also transgender. I never had anyone else I felt comfortable enough to talk to, so I was never able to get another perspective. Therapists are supposed to help their patients feel better. I know she tried, but it just always sounded like excuses and platitudes. There are just some things that therapy can't help."

Chuckling, Jane nodded. "Yeah, you know I had to see a therapist after Hoyt. There were some things he said that sounded like pure bullshit. I know he was trying to help, and he was probably right, but the way he said it just made me want to smack him. Hearing someone tell you, 'it's normal to be afraid,' or, 'it will get better with time,' just does not make you feel better. It makes you feel like a child being told there aren't really monsters under the bed, it's just your overactive imagination. I think there's something about therapists that makes half of what they say sound condescending or rehearsed.

"Now, it's lunch time, and I still want chocolate. What do you say to eating something absolutely horrible for us, just because it tastes good, having something full of sugar, fat, and chocolate for dessert, and you can live vicariously through me. If you want, I will spend the entire time bitching about my cramps and how much I hate being a girl, sometimes."

Giving a genuine laugh, Maura pulled and stood up. "I think that sounds wonderful. What do you say to chili cheese fries and chocolate cake? We can even stop and get some chocolate for your desk, and I'll start keeping some stashed here."

Leading the way to the elevator, Jane smiled. "Chili cheese fries and chocolate cake. And you doubted yourself? Add a milkshake, and it's the perfect meal."

Chapter 5

Over the next few weeks, it was clear something was bothering Maura. She was still in a good mood, but the humming and skipping had stopped. More than once, Jane startled her when she got lost in thought and forgot anyone else was there. She just seemed quieter than usual, and would often trail off into silence in the middle of a conversation.

When Jane had to call her name several times before Maura noticed she'd entered the morgue, Jane finally had to ask. After she got the autopsy results, she stood there waiting for Maura to realize she hadn't left. When Maura finally looked up, Jane spoke up. "What's wrong? You've been preoccupied for weeks. What's bothering you. I've never seen you like this before."

SIghing, Maura closed her eyes and ran a hand over her face. "Later? We can have dinner and talk, ok?"

Nodding, Jane laid a hand on Maura's arm. "Ok. My place or yours? It sounds like a comfort food night, and maybe some ice cream."

Smiling, Maura nodded. "Your place would be better. Less chance of being interrupted. Yes, I think comfort food and ice cream sounds good. I'll pick up some Chinese on my way over."

Turning to go, Jane stopped in the doorway. "I'll stop and grab ice cream on my way home. Is it a triple chocolate kind of night, or black cherry?"

Thinking for a moment, Maura grinned. "I think it's a black cherry kind of night, and maybe some butter pecan?"

Laughing, Jane turned to go. "In that case, you should probably bring a bag and just spend the night. It sounds like we'll be talking for awhile."

Getting home, Jane put the ice cream away and picked up a little. Finding crumbs in the bed when she tried to straighten out the covers, she gave up and just changed the sheets. Sitting on the couch, she flipped mindlessly through the channels looking for something to grab her attention.

When Maura knocked, about twenty minutes later, she'd managed to flip through all the channels several times without stopping for more than a few seconds. Turning off the TV and tossing the remote onto the coffee table, she stood to answer the door.

Jane raised an eyebrow when Maura set the food down on the coffee table and started getting it out of the bags, not even bothering to grab plates. When Maura just handed her a pair of chopsticks and started eating right from the container, Jane shrugged and sat down. They ate in silence, Jane getting up to pour them both some wine.

After cleaning up the trash, Jane grabbed the ice cream and two spoons and rejoined Maura on the couch. "I'm glad I decided to go ahead and get the triple chocolate. The last time you willingly ate on the couch, and without insisting we use real dishes, was before your surgery. Either whatever is bothering you is pretty bad, or you are too preoccupied to notice. Either way, I'm a little worried."

Sighing, Maura took the container of chocolate ice cream, taking a bite while she thought. "It's not bad. Not really. Do you remember when I asked how you know when you're ready for a relationship?" Waiting for Jane's nod, she took another bite of ice cream. "Well, I talked to my therapist about it at our next appointment. Honestly, she wasn't that helpful. I'm still confused, and anxious. I know it's a bad idea to rush myself and start a relationship before I'm emotionally ready, but I find myself getting more and more impatient. I've waited so long to finally have a woman's body. Now that I do, I want to experience everything I've never been able to, before. I want the kind of relationship I always dreamed of, but I don't know if I'm ready."

Taking time to think, Jane started eating her own ice cream. "You said before that you weren't sure if you wanted a relationship, or just sex. I guess you've decided it's the relationship you want? Well, what makes you think you're not ready?"

Closing her eyes, Maura sighed again. "I don't know. I know it's a bad idea to make important decisions after a life changing event, but it's been almost four months. Is it still too soon? Physically, I'm healed, but am I ready emotionally? It's been so long since I was in a relationship, I don't remember if I felt this way, before."

Jane shrugged. "I don't think there's any way to know, for sure, if you're ready. I think you have to just try, and find out. Do you feel like you're ready? At the deepest, most basic level, before you start trying to think about and use reason to find an answer, do you feel like you're ready? What is your immediate reaction?"

When Maura tried to take a moment to think, Jane grabbed the ice cream and spoon out of her hands and gave her a look. Sighing, Maura nodded. "My immediate reaction is that I'm ready. I'm just afraid that it's wrong, and I'll ruin a relationship."

Shrugging, Jane gave the ice cream back. "Pretty sure that just makes you human. No one knows, going into a relationship, if it's going to work out. Most don't, and that's ok. So what if you start a relationship and it doesn't last? It hurts, but it's not the end of the world. Any relationship meant to be, will work out no matter what. If it doesn't work out, then it's probably not because of anything you did or didn't do, or because you weren't ready."

Chuckling, Maura smirked. "That was a strange mixture of reassuring and depressing, but I think I understand what you're trying to say. You're saying I shouldn't worry so much about the chance of a relationship ending, because one that's meant to last, will. I still don't know if I'm ready for that. I just keep rethinking and second-guessing myself, the longer I think about it."

Snorting, Jane used her spoon to point. "That makes you not only human, but a woman. Congratulations. You've mastered the age-old art of talking yourself out of doing something on the off chance it might turn out badly. Now that you've managed that, maybe you should decide what you want out of a relationship. Even if you don't go looking for one, you should at least know what you're not looking for."

Head tilted, Maura stared at her before giving her head a quick shake. "I'm really not sure why that sentence made any sense, but I understand what you meant. I want someone who can accept and love me, not in spite of who I am, but because of it. I want someone who sees me as a woman, not an exotic novelty to brag about or a way to add adventure or kink to their sex life. I want someone I can share all of myself with, without them running or trying to ignore parts of who I am. I want someone who can understand me, without having to explain myself all the time. I want someone willing to let me explore and take things at my pace, because there are things I just don't have experience with, yet. I want someone who doesn't shy away from having sex with me, but sees me as more than just a sexual being. I want someone who doesn't mind if I sometimes seem naive or unsure about something, and is willing to help me learn and become more confident. I just want someone who can love and understand the person I am, not who they think I should be."

Smiling, Jane blinked away a few tears and pulled Maura into a hug. "Babe, I think you just summed up what everyone hopes for in a relationship. Everyone just wants someone who can accept the baggage they come with, yours is just shaped a bit differently. Do you have anyone in mind? I know you probably don't want to just try picking some guy up in a bar, or something."

Relaxing against Jane's side, Maura sighed. "No, not really. You're the first person who's ever accepted me, completely. I just don't know how I could even find someone. If they're not put off by my past, then they can't handle my job, or they find my personality cold and distant."

Stealing a bite of Maura's ice cream, Jane took a few moments to think. "What about someone from your transgender group? You know they'd understand and accept your past. That seems like the hardest one to take care of, since it's not exactly something you'd bring up in casual conversation. Even if you're not interested in anyone there, maybe they have supportive friends or family they could set you up with. Honestly, the idea of you possibly dating someone who ends up reacting violently when they find out you were born male, terrifies me. I don't want to ever think of anything happening to you. I still get nightmares about the cases I saw years ago. The past few months, the women have had your face. Just promise me, you will be careful. I won't ask to check out your dates, but I would like it if you'd let me know who you're with and where you're going, and a call to let me know you made it home safe."

Wrapping an arm around Jane's waist, Maura pulled her close. "I'm always careful, but I will do whatever you want if it makes you feel better about my safety. If you want, I could find someone for you and we could double date. I don't like that you're having nightmares because of me."

Shaking her head, Jane turned to look Maura in the eye. "The nightmares aren't because of you. I've been having the same ones for years. Some cases just never leave you. Hoyt isn't the only thing from my job that haunts me. Cops learn not to talk about the nightmares that come with some of the things we see. Working homicide is relatively easy. At least everything's already over when we get there. Working beat, you respond to calls when they're still happening. The hardest part, for me, was always seeing the look in a victim's eyes at a scene. It's that scared, lost, hurt look that sticks with me the most."

Maura nodded. "Ok, but I will do whatever you need me to do to keep you from having more nightmares. If you want to know who I'm with, where I am, and have me check in several times, then I will. If you want to run a background check, then I'll give you a name before each date. If you want to double date until you're sure you can trust them, then that's ok. I don't want you to have any reason to worry about me, ok?"

Closing her eyes, Jane took a deep breath before nodding. "Yes, and thank you. Sometimes, I hate my job as much as I love it. I know what people are capable of, and sometimes it gets to me. At the same time, I know what people are capable of, so I know what to look for and how to avoid dangerous situations. And, if I ever tried to explain that to any of the guys, they'd use it as an example of why women shouldn't be cops. I'll try not to worry about you, too much. You're my best friend, and I'll always want you safe."

Pulling Jane into a hug, Maura nodded against her hair. "I understand. You're my best friend, and I always worry that you'll get hurt. I always feel a little better when you stop by to see me after being out during a case. I know you can take care of yourself, and you have Vince and Barry to watch your back, but I still worry."

Giving a humorless laugh, Jane sighed. "Why don't we agree to always let each other know we're ok? We both see too much in our jobs to make not worrying possible, but we can make sure we don't worry longer than needed."

Nodding, Maura pulled away with a smile. "That sounds like an acceptable compromise."

They finished their ice cream, Maura looking surprised when she realized her container was empty. Deciding it was too early for bed, Jane found an old movie on TV.

Watching the couple on screen, Jane cocked her head to the side. Several minutes later, she turned to Maura. "Are relationships ever like that? Were they ever like that? I've never had a man want to open doors and pull out my chair and hold my coat for me, at least not after the first couple dates. I don't really want anyone trying to take care of me, but it would be nice to think someone wanted to."

Still watching the screen, Maura shrugged. "I'm not sure. I haven't been in many relationships. Of those, I think Nate came the closest to acting chivalrously on a continuing basis. Most of my relationships, however, happened when I was younger. I could hardly expect chivalry when I was still living as a boy."

Snorting, Jane shook her head. "Sure you could. If lesbians can be chivalrous, then there's nothing stopping anyone from being chivalrous to a boy. Granted, you were a teenager. When I as dating, as a teenager, I was lucky if I wasn't expected to pay for myself. Teenagers aren't usually very worried about chivalry and manners. How did dating work at a boarding school? I assume you mean you dated the boys there, but you said there were really strict rules. Weren't you worried about getting caught?"

Shrugging, Maura shook her head. "The rules were strict, but there was a set of unspoken rules that allowed it, kind of. As long as it happened behind closed doors, then it was mostly ignored. It was more acceptable for some students to be seen as gay, based on what clubs and activities they were part of. I think all the members of the fencing club were gay, or at least willing to engage in sex with boys. I was in a relationship with my roommate for a few months, senior year. I had several relationships and encounters during high school. I know, now, that none of them were emotionally healthy relationships. I hated my body, and myself. There were boys willing to give me attention, and what I saw as affection, so I let them. I realized later that they sought me out because they knew I would allow them to have sex with me, and didn't want them to make me orgasm. They could reason that it wasn't really gay sex since they never had contact with a penis."

Pulling her close, Jane closed her eyes tightly for several seconds, fighting against tears. "You're right, those weren't healthy relationships. I'm not even sure you could call something like that a relationship. I wish you'd had an easier time growing up. No one should have to hate themselves so much they accept any attention they can get."

Shrugging again, Maura let her head fall against Jane's shoulder. "I know now that it wasn't healthy behavior, but I didn't know any better, at the time. My roommate genuinely cared for me, and was actually the last relationship I had in high school. He was gay, and I think he might've been in love with me. He couldn't understand why I wouldn't let him touch me, and finally broke up with me because of it. Even after that, we remained friends. He's actually the one who first introduced me to the term 'transgender.' When I decided to start transitioning, I cut all contact with anyone I'd known before, or we might still be friends. Sometimes, I wonder how his life turned out."

Smiling, Jane leaned her cheek against Maura's head. "He sounds like a good guy. I'm glad you had someone who really cared about you. Have you ever thought about looking him up? It probably wouldn’t take long for me to find him, if you want me to."

Shaking her head, Maura sighed. "No, I don't think you could find him, anyway. Remember, I went to school in Paris. He was from a town in southern France. Even if I could find him, I wouldn't know what to say. He's never heard of Maura Isles, and I don't think I am physically capable of introducing myself as Richard. It's hard enough to say that name, most of the time. No, I just wouldn't know what to do if I did ever find him."

Thinking for a bit, Jane turned to look at her. "What if I see if I can find him, just to see what he's been doing? You don't have to contact him, but maybe knowing what he's done with his life would help you stop wondering. Then, if you decide to contact him, you have the option. It's obvious he meant a lot to you, and still does."

Sighing, Maura thought for several moments before nodding. "Ok, I think I'd like that. I've tried finding him online, a few times, but was never sure if I'd found the right person. His name is Andre Benoit. I don't remember his exact birthday, but he's few months older than me."

Nodding, Jane went back to watching the movie. "Ok, I'll see what I can do. Obviously, I can't make any promises I'll be able to find him, but I'll try."

Relaxing, they watched the rest f the movie before going to bed.

Chapter 6

It was more than a week, before Jane was sure she'd found the right Andre Benoit. She'd been searching during breaks and after work, making sure no one was around or knew what she was doing. More than once, she'd had to quickly minimize the window when Frost or Korsak came back unexpectedly. She wasn't even completely sure why she was hiding it, she just knew she didn't want to have to explain why she was running a search for a frenchman.

Grabbing the pages she'd printed out, Jane left the station and headed to Maura's house. Pulling into the driveway, she folded the papers and shoved them into her back pocket before getting out and knocking on the door. Greeting Maura with a smile, she looked around as she entered the house. "You're alone, right?"

Staring at Jane, Maura watched her as she appeared to be checking to make sure no one was hiding in corners or under furniture. "Yes, I'm alone. Why is that important?"

Turning, Jane held out her arm and ushered Maura to sit at the table. Unfolding the papers, she spread them out on the table before sitting next to Maura. "I just wanted to make sure. I'm pretty sure I found Andre. Right name, age, and a French citizen."

Looking at the papers in front of her, Maura picked up a copy of a passport photo and studied it closer. Smiling, she nodded. "Yes, you found him. He's changed, but it has been more than a decade. How did you find him?"

Jane shrugged. "I searched every database I could think of before stumbling across him. He just moved to New York, right after they legalized gay marriage. As near as I can tell, from the little bit of information I had access to, he lived in England for several years before moving here. It says he's a lawyer and is married to a Paul Jones. I printed out all the information I could find on both of them."

Reading through the papers, Maura started shaking her head. "I can't believe you actually found him. I don't know what to do, now. A big part of me wants to contact him, but I don't know if I can handle it. I left that part of my life behind me a long time ago. The only people who knew me before that I kept any contact with are my parents, and I'm not sure my father even counts. It's still hard to talk to Mother, sometimes. How can I talk to Andre? I'm not the same person anymore. I just don't know if I can do that."

Shrugging, Jane picked up a random paper. "I don't know what to tell you. It's up to you if you want to contact him. You have his address, now, so you can write him a letter. And, you said it yourself, it's been more than ten years, and he's changed. Yes, you changed a bit more than most, in that time, but no one is the same person after that amount of time. You said he was the first person that told you what transgender was, so it sounds like he already suspected. Maybe he'll be less surprised, and more accepting, than you give him credit for. In the end, though, it's all up to you. You don't have to decide right now. Give it a few days. If you decide to contact him, then that's ok. If you decide that just knowing that he's a lawyer in New York with a husband is enough, then that's ok, too. Either way, it's up to you. If you think I can help in some way, let me know and I'll try."

Taking a deep breath, Maura started slowly gathering up the papers. "Thank you. It really does feel good to know a little bit about his life. I felt bad about cutting contact with him, but I just couldn't handle the reminder of that part of my life. Do you think he'll be able to understand why I did it?"

Taking a few moments to think, Jane nodded. "I may not know very much about him, but I think he'll understand it wasn't personal. Maybe, he's been wondering about what happened to you, all this time, too. What do you say to a mindless comedy to keep your mind off this for a couple hours. You have plenty of time for thinking, later."

Nodding, Maura picked up the papers, looking around for several minutes before finally carrying them with her and setting them down on the coffee table and sitting down on the couch. "A comedy sounds like a good idea. Are you hungry, or did you already eat?"

Looking sheepish, Jane shrugged. "I stayed at work to finish the search. Does vending machine food count as eating?"

Sighing loudly, Maura got up and headed for the kitchen. "No, that does not count. The food they put in the vending machines have almost no nutritional value and are mostly sugars, fats, and starches. I really don't understand how you can stand to eat that stuff, or how you don't gain weight. I'll make a salad for us."

Rolling her eyes, Jane leaned her head backwards over the back of the couch. "I don't eat that stuff everyday, just when I stay late at work. If I have to eat salad, can I at least have something more than leaves in it?"

Shaking her head, Maura opened the fridge. "I have some vegetables I can add to it, if you'd like, and some cheese. If you don't mind waiting for it to cook, I can even add some chicken. Would that make an acceptable salad?"

Grinning, Jane nodded. "If you have some of that sweet dressing you used last time, it sounds perfect. What was that, anyway?"

Checking, Maura pulled a bottle out and held it up. "I think you mean the raspberry vinaigrette. Yes, I still have some. Why don't you find a movie while I work on getting the chicken cooked?"

They spent the evening watching movies and laughing, and Jane chose not to comment when Maura looked at the stack of papers sitting on the coffee table, every few minutes. She figured the genuine smiles and laughter was enough of a victory.

For the next several days, Maura almost always had the papers Jane gave her nearby. More than once, she shoved them under a file when someone walked into her office. At home, she kept them within reach as much as possible. She wasn't entirely sure why she needed to have them close, she'd memorized the information by the second day and didn't really need to read them, anymore. She just knew she felt better knowing she had the option, if she wanted it.

Jane caught Maura staring at the papers, more than once. Each time, she acted like she hadn't seen and let Maura direct her attention elsewhere. She knew Maura was probably spending most of her time thinking about Andre and trying to decide if she should contact him. Instead of bringing it up or trying to guide their conversations to the topic, Jane figured Maura would tell her when she'd made a decision.

It was almost a week after Jane had first given her the papers when Maura brought it up. Jane had walked into her office so they could leave for lunch, when Maura interrupted her. "I sent him a letter this morning."

Jane didn't act like the abrupt statement was unexpected, she just closed the door behind her and sat down in a chair. "Are you nervous?"

Leaning back in her chair, Maura sighed. "Yes, but I'm also relieved. I did what I could. I introduced myself, then explained how he knew me and how I found him. I gave him my email and mailing addresses, if he wished to respond. I'm nervous that he won't respond, and that he will. At the same time, I'm relieved that I finally made a decision and have done all I can, at this point."

Smiling, Jane stood up. "Well, I'm proud of you. And hungry. So, why don't we go to lunch. You can tell me about the letter, or we can talk about something completely different."

Standing, Maura grabbed her jacket and headed for the door. "That sounds like a good idea. I haven't had much of an appetite for the last few days, and am rather hungry."

Two days later, Maura called Jane to come down to her office, even though they'd only been back from lunch for a few minutes. Walking trough the door, Jane found Maura pacing in front of her desk. Stopping in front of her, Jane placed both hands on Maura's shoulders and watched her take a couple deep breathes to calm down.

Leading her over to a chair, Jane knelt in front of her. "I take it this means you got a response?"

Closing her eyes, Maura took a deep breath before nodding. "Yes, and I'm too nervous to open it on my own. Do you mind just being here while I read it?"

Standing, Jane shook her head. "Nope, don't mind at all. I told you I'd try to help, if I could. Do you want me to read it with you, or just be in the room?"

Giving a weak smile, Maura stood and went to sit in her chair. "Just be in the room, if you don't mind."

Nodding, Jane sat in a chair and watched Maura take several deep breathes before finally moving the mouse, closing her eyes, and clicking. Watching someone read an email turned out to be more nerve wracking than Jane expected. She watched as several emotions passed over Maura's face.

When she finally opened her eyes, they flicked over the screen, scanning the email quickly, as she let out a sigh of relief. Focusing back at the top, she smiled, then frowned, before finally laughing quietly. As she scrolled further down, Jane watched as Maura seemed to go from relief to happiness to remorse to guilt to happiness and finally settling on uncertainty.

Several seconds after Maura sat back in her chair, Jane gave in to her impatience. "So, was it what you expected?"

Looking up, Maura seemed to realize Jane was still there, and gave a small shake of her head. "No, but that's ok. I wasn't sure what to expect, anyway. You were right, he had wondered what happened to me. He said he's not surprised that I decided to transition, and is proud of me for doing so. He also said that, when he stopped hearing from me, he thought something had happened to me. When he was never able to find me when he searched online, he was afraid that I'd died. He's glad I'm alive and happy and had you find him so I could contact him. He wants to meet, if I'm willing. He said he wants to meet the real me."

Smiling, Jane looked at her. "And you're not sure if you're ready to face actually seeing him, again. So, tell him that. Explain that you just don't know if you're ready. Maybe, for now, just emailing will be enough. He sounds like a good guy who will understand that you're just not ready to see him."

Sighing, Maura nodded. "I hope so. I just don't know if I can handle seeing him. He'll be the first person who knew me before to see me now. I just don't know if I'm ready for that. I don't want to look at him and know he's seeing someone I used to be. I couldn't handle that. I don't think I can respond, right now. Thank you for being here. I know you had work to do."

Shrugging, Jane stood, walking around the desk to give Maura a hug. "It's what friends are for. If me sitting there and watching you read helps, then I don't mind. Besides, the only work I have is paperwork. You know I welcome any excuse to put it off. Don't be afraid to call if you want me to sit here and watch you type."

Chuckling, Maura relaxed. "I don't think I'll need you to do that, but thank you for the offer. I will even ignore the fact that you are using me as an excuse to get out of doing paperwork."

Laughing, Jane headed for the door. "Hey, I am happy to return the favor. You can use me as an excuse not to do paperwork, any time. In fact, feel free to come up and not do paperwork at any point today."

Shaking her head, Maura laughed as she watched Jane get on the elevator.

Chapter 7

Jane watched as Maura relaxed and smiled more over the next couple months. She could always tell the days she'd gotten an email from Andre because Maura had an extra bounce in her step, and usually ended up buying everyone coffee. They'd eat lunch together, or meet for dinner, so Maura could tell her about the latest email.

Eventually, Frost and Korsak started to notice the difference on those days, as well. After a couple weeks of watching her closely, Frost decided to bring it up when she showed up in the squad room with a tray of coffees in the middle of the day.

Taking a sip of his coffee, he watched as Maura passed out the others and stood by Jane's desk making plans to meet for dinner that evening. Running over several opening lines in his head, he finally gave up and decided to be direct. "So, Maura, when do we get to meet the new boyfriend?"

Stopping mid-sentence, mouth still open slightly, she blinked several times. Shaking her head, she tilted it to the side and studied him, before looking at Jane for help. Getting a shrug and head shake in response, Maura turned back to Frost. "I'm not sure what gave you the impression I was in a relationship, Barry, but there is no new boyfriend."

Raising an eyebrow, he shot a look at Korsak, who put both hands up and shook his head. "Well, I guess I just assumed you must be dating someone. You've been in a good mood for awhile now. The past few weeks, there are days when you seem to be extra happy. I mean, you went out to get us coffee in the middle of the day. I just assumed you were dating someone."

Laughing, Maura smiled and shook her head. "No, I'm not dating anyone. I just recently reconnected with an old friend. We've been emailing for a couple months, and I've been
getting to talk to him, again."

Grinning, Frost sat up a little straighter. "Him? An old ex? Are you hoping to rekindle an old romance?"

Eyes wide, Maura turned to Jane for a second. Taking a deep breath, she made herself calm down and answer. "Yes, him. Yes, he's an ex. No, I'm not hoping to rekindle anything. Our relationship ended amicably and we remained friends until we lost contact. I'm enjoying reestablishing that friendship."

Korsak snorted quietly. "Maura, no guy stays friends with his ex unless he's hoping to either get back together, or he's looking for a booty call. Especially when that ex is a beautiful woman. Are you sure this guy isn't after more than just friendship?"

Noticing Maura's frantic look, Jane spoke up. "Did you seriously just say 'booty call?' What are you, fifteen? Aren't you a little old to even know what that means?"

Glaring, he threw a pencil at her. "Shut it, Janie. I'm not old. Tell me, have you ever had an ex who wanted to be just friends? It's just not possible. Once a guy's been with a woman, it's just not possible for him to be just friends with her. Ask any guy you know, if you don't believe me."

Putting a hand on Jane's arm, Maura stopped her before she could throw the pencil back, giving her a grateful look for the distraction. "It's ok, Vince doesn't know the whole story. I believe he was just concerned for me. Vince, I can assure you that he wants nothing beyond friendship. He is happily married, and they're talking about starting a family."

Leaning back in her chair, Jane crossed her arms over her chest and smirked at Korsak. Rolling his eyes, he snorted again. "Maura, you should know that doesn't always mean anything. How many cases have we had where the husband cheated on his wife, rather or not they had kids? I just don't think it's possible for a man to be just friends with an ex, without wanting more. He probably stayed friends with you hoping you'd change your mind and take him back. Does his wife know he's talking to you?"

Still smirking, Jane raised one eyebrow at Maura and nodded for her to answer. Sighing, Maura leaned back against the edge of Jane's desk. "You seem to be working under several incorrect assumptions. I wasn't the one who ended the relationship, he was. He needed things I was unable to provide, and we both understood that. His husband is well aware of our correspondence, and has expressed a desire to meet me."

When Korsak spit his coffee out across his desk, Jane had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. "His HUSBAND? You couldn't just tell us he was gay? That makes it entirely different."

Maura shrugged. "I don't see how. His sexual orientation doesn't effect his ability to form friendships."

Staring, Korsak looked at Jane for help, finding her still smirking at him. Turning to Frost, he got raised hands and a head shake in response. "Well, if he's gay now, then he's obviously not going to want to get back together, and you don't have to worry about a jealous wife accusing you of trying to steal her husband."

Sighing, Maura slouched a little. "He's not gay, now. While there has yet to be conclusive proof as to a cause, it is widely agreed that sexual orientation is something that develops before, of shortly after, birth. Sexual orientation doesn't change, only one's understanding and interpretation of it. He has always been gay, even before he was able to label it as such."

Wiping a hand over his face, Korsak leaned back in his chair. "Ok. Is that why you broke up?"

Tilting her head to the side, Maura gave a small shrug. "In essence, yes. He realized I was able to provide the male companionship and contact he needed in a romantic relationship. We both agreed that we were better off as just friends."

Deciding it was safe, Frost spoke up. "How'd you guys meet?"

Seeing Jane tense slightly, Maura turned to him with a smile. "We met in high school and dated for a few months. We lost touch shortly after graduation."

Brows furrowed, Frost thought for a moment. "I thought you went to boarding school in France?"

Maura nodded. "Yes, but boarding school isn't without chances to date. Most boarding school have a sibling school that houses the opposite sex, nearby. We had dances several times a year, and the sports teams would compete with other schools in the area, and sometimes travel to schools further away. Sometimes, on weekends, we were allowed to go into town during the day."

Nodding, he shrugged. "I guess that makes sense. When I hear boarding school I think of a big building out in the middle nowhere, miles from the nearest town, where the students never really see anyone unless it's the occasional visit from family. Maybe I've watched too many old movies."

Head tilted, Maura thought about it. "While that may be how many boarding schools operated in the past, I don't believe there could be many still doing do. Maintaining a student body large enough to remain open would be difficult."

Tapping Maura's hip, Jane got her attention. "As much as I hate to break up this discussion about the finer points of boarding school, I think we all have paperwork we need to do before we leave for the day. We're still on for dinner, right?"

Standing, Maura smoothed her skirt before nodding. "Yes. Are we still going to that little vegetarian place?"

Groaning a little, Jane rolled her eyes. "Yes, and I still have no idea how you talked me into that. It's been a long week, and now I don't even get to have meat at the end of it. And, I still say we should be able to pawn our paperwork off on some rookies. You'd think less of it would be on actual paper, by now. I don't think I did this much writing when I was in school."

Rolling her eyes, Maura ignored her and waved before heading for the elevator.

Jane was surprised to actually enjoy dinner. She let Maura order for her, and didn't even miss having meat. They kept the conversation light, Jane letting Maura do most of the talking.

Once they were safely in her apartment, Jane sighed and flopped onto the couch. Kicking off her shoes and propping her feet on the coffee table, she threw Maura an apologetic grimace. "I'm sorry about the guys, earlier. I just couldn't think of any way to get them to stop asking questions. Frost generally stops if I threaten or glare at him, but that doesn't always work with Korsak. I just couldn't think of any way make him shut up without saying something stupid."

Smiling, Maura let her hand rest on Jane's knee. "It's ok. Vince caught me a little off guard, but you distracted him long enough for me to find a way to respond. Remember, I've had years of practice at answering questions like that. It's only natural they'd be curious when I mention talking to someone from my past. I've found ways to answer just about any inquiry about my past. People see what they expect to see. This has been my life for as long as I've been an adult. I know how to answer questions about my past."

Sighing, Jane ran a hand over her face. "I know. I do. I just worry. Frost and Korsak are good guys, and I know they would never do anything to hurt you. It's just, if they found out, all it would take is saying the wrong thing and someone overhearing it. I just, I KNOW what could happen. I don't want you getting hurt."

Turning, Maura grabbed Jane's hands and pulled her to face her. "How long have we known each other?"

Thinking, Jane tried to figure out the math. "A little over three years, I think. Wow, I thought it'd been longer than that. It feels like we've always known each other."

Nodding, Maura gave her a small grin. "Yes, it is hard to believe that we've known each other such a short amount of time, sometimes. In those three years, how often have we had conversations that involved discussion of our pasts?"

Eyebrows raised, Jane snorted. "Please tell me you don't expect a real answer to that."

Rolling her eyes, Maura chuckled. "No, I don't expect a real answer. I think it's safe to safe that it has happened a few times a week, though. Did you, at any point before I told you, have any reason to suspect that I was born as anything other than entirely female?"

Chuckling humorlessly, Jane shook her head. "Not at all. And that's your way of telling me to stop worrying so much. I KNOW this isn't new for you, and I KNOW I shouldn't worry as much as I do, but I can't help it. I try, I really do, but it's hard. I've SEEN what can happen."

Scooting closer, Maura leaned down to catch her eyes. "Tell me what has you so worried. You know I'm careful. Tell me, please."

Squeezing her eyes shut, Jane ran a hand over her face and took a careful breath. "It was just after I graduated the academy. I was partnered with an older cop and we were patrolling. A call came in about a domestic disturbance. No cop likes answering those calls, but we were the closest, so he radioed in that we'd respond. You never know what you're walking into. It could be anything from a little yelling, to a robbery in progress, to a murder. You go in blind with no idea what you could be facing.

"We got there, and it was quiet. Really quiet. No one answered when we knocked, so we went in. There was a woman lying on the floor, blood everywhere. Stabbed I don't know how many times. Her clothes were ripped and the place was trashed. I started CPR while my partner called for an ambulance. When he came closer to help, he suddenly just stopped walking and told me to stop. He told me to 'let it die.' I didn't have any idea what he was talking about, and just kept going. He kept telling me to stop and saying that 'it got what it deserved.' The entire time, he stood on the other side of the room. I kept up the CPR until the paramedics arrived.

"It wasn't until I stood up to move out of the way that I had any idea what he was talking about. I'd been so focused on trying to save her, that I didn't really take a good look. Her clothes were shredded, and you could see a penis through one of the tears in her dress. He wanted me to let her die because she had a penis. Kept calling her 'it,' like she was less than human. Refused to talk to me the entire way back to the station, and I was assigned a new partner the next day.

"She was a human being, and he expected me to just let her die. Just because she was born male. When we found out she died anyway, he went out of his way to point out that I failed. Was almost gloating.

"Cops are supposed to be the good guys. We're supposed to protect people, not let them die. That was the first murder scene I ever saw. The first call that ever gave me nightmares. I still have nightmares. How could a cop just expect me to just let someone die? He treated her like she was road kill. THAT'S why I worry."

Wiping her eyes, Maura pulled Jane into a hug. It was several minutes before she was able to speak, and it was barely a whisper. "Rita. It was Rita Hester, wasn't it?"

Pulling away, Jane rubbed her eyes and nodded. "You knew her?"

Shaking her head, Maura pulled Jane back to her. "No, but I know of her. I was told about her case and warned to be careful, when I first joined the support group. It wasn't long after her murder, and everyone was still scared. We were encouraged to not go out alone at night, always make sure someone knew where we were and who we were with, and to look out for each other.

"By the end of the first meeting, I had several phone numbers to call if I needed someone to check in with, feared for my safety, or just needed someone to talk to. I'd never had so many people worried about me. It was the first time I felt truly accepted. They helped me learn how to be careful. How to have people see only what they expected to see, and to make sure they expected to see a woman.

"There were only a handful of times, early on, when someone saw me as something else, and only once where I felt there was a possibility I might be in danger. I drove to a department store, instead of home, called several of the numbers I'd been given, and left a couple hours later with a group of people. I took a cab back the next day to get my car."

Taking several deep breathes, Jane sat back, leaning her side against the back of the couch. "I know you're careful. I know you know what to do if you feel like you're in danger. I just can't help but worry. He was supposed to be sworn to protect people, but he wanted me to just let her die. I've had nightmares about that day for years. For the past several months, I walk into that apartment and it's you lying bleeding on the floor. I can't not worry when I'm dreaming about you dying. If I could tell myself it was just a dream, it'd be easier, but it's your face in an actual memory."

Nodding, Maura reached out to smooth her hand over Jane's. "It's ok. I understand. Thank you for telling me. How often do you have the nightmares?"

Sighing, Jane closed her eyes. "Almost every night. I wake up, and I have to remind myself that it wasn't you. It didn't happen to you."

Thinking for a moment, Maura nodded decisively. "You don't have them on the nights we spend together. You talk in your sleep when you're having a nightmare, and it always wakes me up. I'll spend the weekend here, or you can come to my place. If you want, we can spend every weekend together. The rest of the time, you can call me when you have a nightmare."

Jane shook her head quickly. "No, I don't want to wake you up just because I had a bad dream, and you don't need to babysit me every weekend."

Maura sighed and leaned against the back of the couch. "How is it different than when you call me after dreaming about Hoyt? And I won't be babysitting you. You're my best friend, and I enjoy spending time with you. We usually spend our free time together, anyway. I am merely suggesting that, instead of one of us going home on the weekends, that we spend them together so that you can get some uninterrupted sleep."

Closing her eyes, Jane sighed loudly. "Ok. You're right. Do you need to go home to get some clothes, or do you want me to spend the night at your place?"

Smiling, Maura shook her head. "I have a bag in my trunk with some pajamas and casual clothes. I'll need to go home at some point, tomorrow, but I'm fine for tonight. Did you want to watch a movie, or are you ready for bed?"

Relaxing fully against the back of the couch, Jane let her head rest on her arm. "It's kinda late. We've been talking for awhile, and I'm tired. I hate thinking about that day, and it was exhausting to tell you about it."

Nodding, Maura stood up. "I'll go get my bag, and I'll be right back up. It has been an emotionally trying evening, but I'm glad you were able to tell me about it. It helps to understand why you worry about me, so much. If you'd like, you can get ready for bed while I get my bag."

Jane looked at her hesitantly. "Do you mind if I come with you? I know it's just down the stairs, but I don't think I'd be able to relax if you went outside alone, right now."

Smiling, Maura held out her hand and helped Jane up. "I don't mind."

Giving her a grateful smile, Jane followed Maura out the door.

Chapter 8

Jane woke up the next morning to an empty bed. Sitting up quickly, she looked around the room before registering the sound of cooking. Sighing, she flopped backwards against the pillows and ran her hands over her face. Sitting back up, she climbed out of bed and made her way to the kitchen.

Leaning against the wall, she watched Maura busily flip pancakes. Hearing her singing under her breath, Jane turned her head trying to catch the words. Letting out a loud bark of laughter, she quickly covered her mouth and tried to hide her grin when Maura squealed and spun toward the noise. "Are you singing Britney Spears?"

Throwing a dish towel at her, Maura blushed. Scowling, she turned back to the pancakes. "Yes, I was. I went through a phase when I listened to all her music, and still enjoy a couple of her songs. I would appreciate it if you didn't make fun of my taste in music. Did you sleep well?"

Snorting with laughter, Jane grabbed a mug and poured herself some coffee. "Real subtle subject change. Yes, I slept fine, but you already knew that. Where did you find the stuff to make pancakes?"

Dropping a pancake onto the growing stack, she poured more batter into the pan and pointed over Jane's shoulder. "In the back of that cupboard. It's only instant mix, but I refuse to have Lucky Charms for breakfast. I really don't understand how you're as healthy as you are, with the way you eat. It doesn't look like you've been grocery shopping in weeks, and you've clearly been living on take-out and pizza. You really should take better care of yourself."

Groaning, Jane let her head fall back against the wall. Lifting it slightly, she glared at Maura out of the corner of her eye. "Between you and Ma, I don't have to worry about what I eat. One of the other of you is always insisting on feeding me. Besides, I ate healthy yesterday. I may not have gone shopping in awhile, but I eat most of my meals with you, anyway. Ma's always bringing me leftovers and insisting I don't eat enough, or healthy enough. About half those take-out boxes are from times you've been here, so you can't judge me."

Brow furrowed, Maura thought for a moment. Finishing the last pancake, she added it the stack and turned off the stove. Grabbing plates and silverware, she directed Jane to sit at the table and set everything out before sitting down. "We haven't eaten here that much in the past week, and that doesn't explain the three pizza boxes."

Drowning her pancakes in syrup, Jane shrugged. "I haven't taken the trash out in awhile. The pizza boxes are from cleaning out the fridge. Two of them were empty, and the other one had one piece of pizza in it. I don't even know why they were still in there."

Rolling her eyes, Maura started cutting her own pancakes. "You know, mold and bacteria thrive on garbage. I bet you have some fascinating colonies growing. If you'd like, I can probably take some samples and see if I can identify them. You might be interested to know what kind of spores you end up inhaling when you don't put your garbage out on a regular basis. Some molds can be very interesting to look at."

Dropping her fork, Jane pushed away from the table. "Suddenly, I'm not hungry anymore. You couldn't just tell me I should take the trash out more often? You had to start talking about molds? If you want me to eat healthier, you have to not talk about gross things while I'm eating."

Getting up, Maura steered Jane back to the table. Pushing on her shoulders, she made her sit back down. "I'm sorry. I really do find molds fascinating to look at, but I will refrain from mentioning them while we eat. The majority of molds are completely harmless, and some are even beneficial."

Holding up a hand, Jane glared at her. "Seriously? You JUST said you wouldn't talk about that, then you started talking about it. Do you want me to ever be able to eat, again? Find something else to talk about so I can actually eat."

Thinking for a moment, Maura's face suddenly lit up as she grinned. "Oh, I meant to mention this yesterday, but didn't get the chance. Andre and Paul have a vacation soon, and he wanted to know if I would mind if they came to Boston. He knows I may not be ready to see him, yet, but he isn't sure when they'll both have enough time off to travel, again. He thought that if I was ready, that it would be a good opportunity to see each other, and be able to introduce me and Paul."

Taking a bite of her pancakes, Jane swallowed before answering. "I take it by your grin that you're ready to see him. So, when are they coming, and do I get to meet them?"

Nodding, Maura gestured with her fork. "Yes, I find myself more excited than nervous to see him again, and to meet Paul. Of course you'll get to meet them. I'm still nervous, and I want you to be there. They'll be here for a week, next month. I wanted to make sure you'd be willing to go with me, before I let Andre know it was ok. I know I could probably do it by myself, but I really don't want to. I would just feel better knowing you're there."

Jane smiled, taking a drink of her coffee. "Of course I'll go with you. I told you before, I'll do anything I can to help. I'm looking forward to meeting him. Just tell me the day, and I'll make sure I have the time off. He's ok with me being there?"

Laughing, Maura shook her head. "Of course. I've told him all about you, and he wants to meet you. You're the most important person in my life. He's probably the biggest reason I am the person I am, today. Without him, I may never have been able to put a name to what I was feeling, and realized that there was something I could do to change it. I want you to meet each other. When I mentioned it to my therapist, she said that it may go a long way toward reconciling my past and present. While I'm not sure I will ever be completely comfortable with who I used to be, I do want you to meet. You've both made such a big difference in my life, at different points, and I want you to be able to get along."

Getting up, Jane pulled Maura to her feet and into a hug. "I love you, and I would do just about anything for you. You know that, right? From what you've told me about Andre, I think we'll get along just fine. He seems like an amazing guy, but the simple fact that he was there for you at a point when you really needed him, gives him major points. I would be honored to be there."

Smiling, Maura relaxed into the hug. "I know, and I love you, too. You really are the most important person in my life, and I don't know what I would do without you. Now, we need to finish eating. While I do the dishes, you can take out your trash. After that, we are going grocery shopping. I know you don't eat at home very often, so we'll get mostly frozen foods and nonperishable items, but you need more than mustard and instant pancake mix. I don't want to think you're eating nothing but take-out when we're not together."

Sighing, Jane rolled her eyes and sat back down. "Fine, but I AM getting more Lucky Charms. I don't care how much sugar is in them, they taste good."

Ignoring her, Maura kept eating.

Over the next couple weeks, Jane did her best to keep up with Maura's moods. She swung from excited to terrified to nervous several times a day. Finally having enough, Jane cornered her in her office as she was packing up to leave. Shutting and locking the door behind her, Jane leaned against it and stared.

After a couple moments, Maura dropped her purse on her desk and sat down with a loud sigh. "I'm sorry. I know I've been difficult to be around, recently. I'm just apprehensive. Andre and Paul will be here in a little over a week, and I'm just not sure if I'm ready."

Giving a small smile, Jane sat on the couch and patted the spot beside her, waiting for Maura to join her. "I know. I also know that you are amazingly strong and can handle anything, so seeing Andre will be easy. You're overthinking, and it's driving everyone insane. Did you realize the guys have started refusing to come or call down for results? They've been having me do it since you snapped at Korsak, the other day. Frost suggested I bring you a bottle of aspirin and a bunch of chocolate."

Leaning her head against the back of the couch, Maura closed her eyes. "I assume that means they're attributing my behavior to PMS? Well, I guess that's easier than trying to explain that I'm nervous about seeing my ex. I really have been trying not to let my mood effect work, but I guess I was less than successful. I'll apologize to them, tomorrow. They don't deserve my ire just because I can't control my own emotions. Either do you, and I'm really sorry I've been short with you."

Reaching over, Jane pulled on Maura's hand until she leaned over to rest her head on Jane's shoulder. "It's ok. I understand. If it makes you feel better, then apologize to the guys, but there's nothing for me to forgive. Now, we need to find some way to get your brain to stop overthinking this. Have you told Andre that you're nervous?"

Shaking her head, Maura kept her eyes closed. "No, I didn't want him to think I didn't want to see him, or that I regretted telling him they could come here. It's not his fault. I'm just afraid that he'll look at me and see who I used to be, or some sort of freak. I don't think I could handle it if all he sees is Richard in a dress. My own father refuses to have anything to do with me. It took Mother years to stop calling me 'Richard,' and she still doesn't call me 'Maura.' She either avoids addressing me by any name, or calls me 'Darling.' I HATE being called 'Darling,' but it's better than the alternative. If my own parents react that way, how can I expect Andre to see past who I used to be?"

Kissing the top of her head, Jane started smoothing Maura's hair with one hand. "Your parents are close-minded and have never had to deal with being different. Andre guessed the truth and was already starting to accept it when you were teenagers. If he could understand what you were struggling with before even you did, then why wouldn't he be able to see the beautiful woman you've become? He knows what it's like to be different and struggle to define a part of himself that most people take for granted. He's going to see a beautiful, strong woman who had to fight to become the person she is today. He's going to see Dr. Maura Isles, Chief Medical Examiner. Richard stopped existing a long time ago, and I'm sure he understands that. Hell, I don't think Richard ever existed in anything but name. I think you probably started being Maura when you decided you liked the name."

Wiping her eyes, Maura buried her face in Jane's shoulder for a moment, before pulling back with a sigh. "I know you're probably right, but it's hard to make myself believe it. I've spent so long trying to get past who I used to be, that it's hard to let that go and face someone who knew that me."

Turning to face her, Jane grabbed Maura's hands and held them in her lap. "What are you really afraid of? I don't think you honestly believe that Andre will judge you. You've been talking to him for months, and you've never mentioned feeling like he was seeing you for anyone but who you are, now. So, why are you really afraid?"

Squeezing her eyes shut, Maura let her head fall forward. When she finally answered, it was barely loud enough for Jane to hear her. "I'm afraid that I'll see him, and I won't be me, anymore. I'll be a confused teenager who hated myself. What if seeing him brings all that back? It was so hard to put that part of my life behind me, I don't think I could do it a second time."

Tilting her chin up with one hand, Jane made Maura meet her gaze. "That won't happen. You aren't that person, and you haven't been for a long time. Nothing that happens can make you that person, again. Too much time has passed. You've seen and done too much. You can no more go back to being a confused teenager than I can. We've grown and changed, and we're not children anymore."

Nodding, Maura sniffed and made herself hold Jane's gaze. "You're right. I just need to make myself believe it. What were you confused about as a teenager?"

Shrugging, Jane chuckled. "Life. The universe. Everything. I was a teenager. I had no idea who I was, or what I wanted to do with my life. I knew who I wasn't, but that was about it. I think I changed my hair and clothing style every couple months. I was a teenager. A lot more didn't make sense, than did."

Covering her mouth, Maura tried to stifle a giggle, before giving up at Jane's confused look. "Someone should have told you the answer was forty-two."

Snorting, Jane started to laugh with her. "I am surprisingly not surprised you know that. Now, I have an idea. We're going to have a high school revival night, and you're spending the night at my place."

Confused, Maura tilted her head and furrowed her brow, before giving up. "What is a 'high school revival night?' I don't believe I've ever heard of it, before."

Grinning, Jane got up and clapped her hands in excitement. "That's because I just made it up. We're going to stop and rent a bunch of movies we liked in high school and listen to our favorite bands while we eat dinner. Then, we are going to change into comfy pajamas and eat ice cream while we watch the movies and wonder why we ever liked them. If that doesn't take us back to our teenage selves, then nothing will. I just hope you liked some movies that were in english, and that we can find them."

Smiling, Maura let Jane grab her purse and lead her out of her office.

Chapter 9

Finally, the day of Andre and Paul's arrival came. Maura had offered to pick them up from the airport, but Andre declined, saying he didn't want her to worry about seeing him before she was ready. Instead, they agreed to meet for an early dinner.

Maura debated taking the day off work, but decided she really had no reason. Glad there wasn't an active case, she planned to spend the day making sure paperwork and supplies were organized.

By the time Jane showed up in the morgue for lunch, Maura had inventoried and sanitized all the tools, made a list of all the chemicals that would need to be ordered within the next few weeks, cleaned out both refrigerators, and was working on disinfecting every surface she could find. Stopping to stare at Maura furiously scrubbing the inside of the sink, Jane sighed before walking over to her. Placing her hands on Maura's shoulders to steer her away from the sink, she was surprised when Maura jumped and screamed. Jumping back, hand darting toward her hip, she was hit square in the chest with the wet scrub brush Maura threw as she spun around.

Maura's eyes widened and she covered her mouth when she saw the giant wet spot on Jane's shirt. "I am so sorry. You startled me. Are you ok? Let me get you a towel. Is there a case? I haven't heard my phone ring, but I didn't hear you come in, either. Just let me get my bag."

Chuckling, Jane took the towel from Maura and started trying to dry her shirt. Giving up, she tossed it into the sink and leaned against the edge and looked around the room. "Slow down. There's no case. I just came down to see if you wanted to go to lunch. From the looked of this place, it's a good thing I didn't come down earlier. I'd hate to sneak up on you while you're holding something more dangerous than a scrub brush. Do you always throw things when you get scared?"

Blushing, Maura looked pulled off her gloves and started putting away her cleaning supplies. When she was done, she moved back to the sink to wash her hands. "You caught me unawares and my body read it as danger and reacted by using the only potential weapon at hand. I am very glad it was only a scrub brush, although I like to think I could restrain myself from using a potentially harmful weapon unless my life were truly in danger."

Shrugging, Jane studied her. "I guess that makes sense, and I hope you wouldn't throw a scalpel or something at me. I thought you got over your nerves. Why are you a nervous wreck? And why didn't you just stay home?"

Sighing, Maura led Jane toward her office. "I'm not nervous, per se. The excess energy stems from impatient excitement. I find that, the closer I get to actually seeing Andre again, the more excited I am. I needed something to keep me occupied, and I knew I wouldn't have that if I stayed at home. Besides, I had no valid reason to miss work. If I expect the others in my department to display good work ethic, then I have to lead by example. Missing work simply because I am anticipating a meeting later today, isn't setting a very good example."

Grabbing Maura's purse, Jane steered her out of the morgue before she could sit down. "Nope, we're going to lunch. Haven't you heard of a personal day? Besides, you were just doing intern work. I know you. If there was real work to do, you wouldn't be scrubbing the sinks. It's probably useless to try to talk you into taking the rest of the day off, isn't it?" At Maura's nod, she sighed. "Ok. We're meeting Andre and Paul at five, right? I'm pretty much caught up on my paperwork, for once, so I can probably knock off an hour early. We'll leave early to get ready, and I'll even let you pick what I wear, as long as it's not a dress."

Relaxing visibly, Maura smiled. "No, there really isn't much for me to do, but I just didn't feel right about taking the day off. I'll probably spend the day reorganizing the filing system. I know I could have an intern do it, but I don't like to give them busy work when they could actually be learning. Cleaning and organizing, while necessary, doesn't provide much in the way of new knowledge."

Setting the elevator heading toward the parking garage, Jane leaned against the wall. "I thought being an intern was like being a rookie. They get to do the dirty work no one else wants to do. I don't even know how much garbage I had to sort through, or how many coffees I ended up getting, when I was a rookie."

Exiting the elevator, Maura walked with Jane to her car. "These are students working toward their doctorates. They deserve more than to be used as cleaning staff. Now, where are we going for lunch? I think talking will go a long way toward calming my nerves. With no one to talk to, the excess energy ended up being put toward physical labor. I am quite proud of the amount I accomplished, though."

Chuckling, Jane pulled out onto the street. "I was thinking that little diner. We can grab a sandwich and just sit and talk."

Leaning back in her seat, Maura sighed. "That sounds good. Now, you said I could pick what you wear for tonight? I hope that red top is clean. The color looks amazing against your skin, and the fit is very flattering."

Jane groaned. "I hoped you missed that. Yeah, I think that top is clean. At least you don't want me to wear a dress."

Maura grinned at her happily, then her eyes widened. "Oh Jane, we really should stop by your place before we go to lunch. You need to change your shirt."

Groaning again, Jane rolled her eyes. "Really? I can't change after work? Wouldn't it be better if I don't risk getting something on it?"

Shaking her head, Maura gestured to Jane's front. "Oh, you shouldn't wear the red top until after work, but I don't think you want to wear that for the rest of the day."

Looking down, Jane started frantically swiping at the large bleached area on the front of her shirt. "You ruined my shirt. This was one of my favorites, too. Ok, we're definitely stopping so I can change."

Rolling her eyes, Maura leaned back in her seat. "You don't have to be so dramatic. I know you have at least one more shirt in that style and color, and a couple in other colors. If you're that worried about it, then I'll buy you a new one. In fact, there's a lovely little boutique I found a couple weeks ago that we could go to."

Shooting her a quick glare, Jane shook her head. "No. You're not dragging me to any place that can be called a boutique. I'll just buy another shirt the next time I go grocery shopping."

Gasping, Maura stared at her in surprise. "You can't be serious. You will hardly find good quality clothing that will flatter your frame, at a department store. No, we'll go shopping this weekend, and I'll buy you a new shirt. I insist. After all, I did ruin that one."

Parking in front of her building, Jane leaned her head back in defeat. "Fine, but I will not be trying on anything pink, or with flowers, or dresses, or anything that isn't a plain colored shirt. The first thing you hand me that isn't a plain colored shirt, and I leave. And I get to pick where we eat for lunch."

Climbing out of the car, Maura smiled happily and waited for Jane to join her. "Good. Although, after you see their selection, you may change your mind. They specialize in business attire, and I think you will be pleasantly surprised."

Ignoring her, Jane walked up the steps into the building.

At precisely four, Maura showed up next to Jane's desk. Waiting impatiently for a few moments, she bounced a little in place while she watched Jane finish what she was working on and start getting things cleaned up and shut down. When she stood up, Maura grabbed her hand and started walking toward the elevator. Being pulled up short, she turned to find Jane smirking and waving a file in her other hand.

Pulling on Maura's hand, Jane led her to her chair and sat her down. Grabbing some files off her desk, she grinned. "I'm not quite ready to go, yet. I just need to put these away and take care of a couple more things, and then we can go. You just sit there and try to wait patiently. Organize my pens, or something. I should be done in a few minutes."

Opening her mouth, Maura decided against responding when Jane walked away. Turning back toward the desk, she moved a few things around before deciding to take Jane's advice. Opening the top drawer, she pulled out a piece of scrap paper and dug for all the pens she could find. Satisfied she'd found them all, Maura started testing and sorting all the writing implements.

She was about halfway through the small pile of markers and hi-lighters when Frost decided Jane was safely out of earshot. "So, you and Jane have plans, tonight? Big date?"

Looking up, she smiled at him. "Yes, we have plans, although I wouldn't consider it a date. We're meeting Andre and Paul for dinner."

Grinning, he leaned forward in his chair, after checking to make sure Jane wasn't coming back, yet. "Andre and Paul, huh? Sounds like a double-date, to me."

Dropping the pen she was testing, Maura sputtered for a moment before being able to answer clearly. "No, Jane and I aren't a couple, so it would be inaccurate to call it a double-date. Jane has never expressed any interest in women as potential romantic or sexual partners. I know people believe me to be largely ignorant of gossip, but it's surprising what I hear when others mostly ignore my presence. Despite rumors and speculation to the contrary, I don't believe Jane has any homosexual tendencies."

Hearing a groan, they turned to find Jane standing nearby. Rubbing a hand over her face, she walked over to lean against her desk. "Who's calling me gay, this time? Is it Crowe? You should just do what I do, and ignore it. Who I may or may not be attracted to has nothing to do with how I do my job, and isn't anyone's business."

Patting Jane's arm, Maura smiled. "No, it wasn't Crowe. Barry asked about our plans tonight, and when I told him about dinner, he assumed it was a double-date. I was merely explaining that since we are not a couple, that it couldn't be considered such."

Seeing the questioning glare sent his way, Frost raised both hands in surrender. "Hey, that's not what I meant. Maura said you were meeting a couple guys for dinner, so I assumed it was a date. I never said anything about you guys being a couple, or you being gay, I swear. I wouldn't care if you were, but that's none of my business. Honest."

Letting out a relieved sigh, Jane chuckled. "Maura, I think he thought we're dating Andre and Paul, not each other."

Eyes widening, Maura turned to Frost. "Oh, no, Andre and Paul are very happily married."

Frost choked on air. "You're going out to dinner with a couple married men? Is that really a good idea?"

Biting her lip to hide a smile, Jane shook her head when Maura opened her mouth to respond. "Andre and Paul are married to each other. Andre is the ex Maura told you about a few weeks ago. They're spending their vacation here."

Giving an embarrassed grimace, Frost leaned back in his chair. "Ok, I'm just gonna stop talking before I dig myself an even deeper hole. Have fun. I'll see you next week, unless we catch a case."

Smirking, Jane gestured to Maura that she was ready to go. Waving, they headed for the elevator.

A couple hours later, they were walking into the small italian restaurant Maura had picked for dinner. After being seated, Maura started fidgeting with her napkin. Taking it out of her hand and lying it on the table, Jane waited until Maura looked up to meet her eye.

Sighing, Maura folded her hands in her lap. "I'm ok. I just realized that, while I will recognize him, he has no way to recognize me."

Eyebrows furrowed, Jane stared at her. "You never sent him a picture? I'd think, after more than ten years, that'd be one of the first things you'd do. You know, talk about jobs, marriages and kids, where you went to college, and then trade pictures so you can see how much you'd changed."

Focusing on her hands, Maura looked down to hide her embarrassed blush. "He never asked, and I never really thought about it. It didn't really occur to me, until now, that it might make meeting again awkward."

Placing a hand on Maura's knee, Jane chuckled. "Well, then it's a good thing you picked somewhere where he'll be led to the table. Plus, you'll get to see an honest reaction when he sees you. The only picture you've seen of him is his passport photo, right? I'm sure if he realized that, he'd be just as embarrassed. Those things never look good. Look, they'll be here any minute now, so it's too late to change anything. Stop worrying, and remember that you're excited to see him, again."

Looking up, Maura sighed. "Thank you. I'm not very good at this, am I?"

Snorting, Jane rolled her eyes. "What? Meeting someone you haven't seen or talked to since high school? I'm pretty sure no one is really good at that, and I doubt there are any rules or guidelines on how to handle it. I doubt I'd handle it as well, if it were me."

Before she could respond, movement caught her eye. Turning toward the door, Maura grinned widely as two men were led to their table. Standing when they got closer, one of the men grasped her hands, pulling her in so he could kiss both cheeks before holding her at arms length and looking her over.

Seeing his smile, Maura smiled back shyly. "Andre? You look amazing. It's so good to see you, again."

Laughing, he pulled back and motioned for Maura to spin. When she turned back to face him, Andre smiled widely. "Maura, you are a gorgeous woman, and it is an honor to finally meet you."

Wiping away a couple tears, Maura turned toward Jane to distract herself. "Thank you, Andre. This is my friend, Jane Rizzoli. Jane, Andre Benoit."

Smiling, he shook her hand before gesturing to the other man, who stood discretely behind him. "It's an honor to meet you, as well. Ladies, I would like you to meet my husband, Paul Jones. Paul, this is the wonderful Dr. Maura Isles that I've told you so much about. Now, why don't we get seated so we can catch up? We have so much to talk about."

Pulling out Maura chair, he held it while she sat and helped her scoot closer to the table, then did the same for Paul. Watching in surprise, Jane caught Maura's eye and raised her eyebrow. "I thought you said you didn't get treated chivalrously as a teenager? If his manners were half as good then, as they are now, then he had twice as many as any of the boys I dated."

Blushing lightly, Andre gave a small shrug. "I'm afraid I wasn't the most gentlemanly when I was younger. While I like to think I was more mature than most, I was still just a boy. I was more concerned with how others saw me than how I was treating my date. I didn't learn to appreciate the true value of good manners until I was in university. I was informed, rather bluntly, that I would make a better impression if I spent less time worrying about myself, and more time being attentive to my date. It was probably the most humiliating date I have ever been on, and it made me realize I needed to change if I expected any relationship to last."

Seeing Paul's smirk, Jane raised her eyebrow at him. Laughing, he shook his head. "It wasn't me, but it was a close friend of mine. I didn't know until afterward that they'd even gone on a date. He knew I liked Andre, and took it upon himself to make sure Andre was good enough for me. The day after their date, he informed me that Andre was a good guy but that he needed to work on his manners. A couple months later, I finally worked up the courage to ask him out, and he was a perfect gentleman and date. I was pleasantly surprised when it lasted past the first month."

Jane shook her head in amusement and surprise. "You weren't upset your friend dated your crush?"

Snorting, Paul looked at Andre out of the corner of his eye. "I was pissed, when I first found out. Then I found out exactly how the date went. It only lasted for about an hour, and the last fifteen minutes of that were spent with Andre getting a very public explanation of everything he had done wrong and how he could fix it in the future. He was left with no dignity, and the check. I owe Jacob for what he did, and he was my best man in our wedding."

Covering her mouth, Jane tried to stifle her laughter. When Maura swatted her arm, Jane lost control and started laughing openly. After a few moments, she calmed down enough to take a drink of her water. "I'm sorry, but that is probably the best 'how we got together' story I have ever heard. Man, if that happened to me, I don't think I'd be willing to date the friend of the person who humiliated me, or forgive the friend."

Andre smiled at Paul, placing his hand on top of Paul's and squeezing gently. "We're lucky we're both men. Women remember every slight and will hold a grudge for years. Men usually get over it and move on quickly. When Paul and I had been together for a couple months, Jacob took me to the pub and we drank a few pints and watched football."

Before Jane could respond, Maura leaned over to whisper in her ear. "He means they drank beer and watched a soccer game. In England beer typically comes in glasses that hold a pint of liquid, hence the term 'pints.' We are the only country that traditionally plays American football. In the rest of the world, football refers to the sport known as soccer, here."

Rolling her eyes, Jane snorted. "Thank you, Maura, but I already knew that. Come on. It's sports and beer. Did you really think I wouldn't know what he was talking about?"

Leaning back away from Jane, Maura blushed lightly. "I'm sorry, but you know I don't like to assume things. I didn't know if you were aware of the different terminology, so I felt it better to explain in case you were suffering any confusion. I'll try to wait until you show signs of confusion, in the future."

Smiling, Jane bumped her knee against Maura's. "It's ok. I'm not upset. We both know you know a lot more about a lot of things, than I do. Just remember, I do know sports and beer. Well, most sports. Golf isn't a sport."

Noticing the amused looks they were getting from Andre and Paul, Maura blushed again and spent a moment smoothing the napkin in her lap. Seeing a lull in conversation, their waiter made his way over and took their orders.

When the silence started to get awkward, Andre turned to Maura. "How long have you and Jane known each other? You told me you work together, but I don't think you ever mentioned when you met."

Happy for a safe topic, Maura smiled. "We met almost four years ago, at a crime scene. I had just been promoted to Chief Medical Examiner, and ended up being called to a scene in the middle of a date. Jane was less than impressed with my attire, and spent quite some time questioning every statement I made and mumbling under her breath. I don't think she realized I could understand her."

Eyes wide, Jane gaped at her for a moment. "You heard me? I am so sorry. I didn't mean for you to hear me. I don't remember what I said, but I know it wasn't very nice. Why didn't you ever tell me? I would've apologized years ago."

Maura just shrugged. "At the time, I saw no reason to bring it to your attention. I'd come to expect the comments and saw no reason to expect you to act in any other way. I knew I was good at my job. What others thought of me didn't matter, as long as it didn't negatively impact my work or physical well-being. When we started becoming friends, I saw no reason to mention it because it was clear your opinion of me had changed. As for what you said, I remember the phrase 'rich bitch' being used several times. There was also something about how I probably had my father buy my way into college and my job. I don't remember the rest."

Burying her face in her hands, Jane groaned before turning to Maura with devastated look. "Oh my god. I am SO sorry. How do you not hate me? I probably would've shot anyone who treated me that way, and I will shoot anyone I hear talking about you that way. You know I don't think that about you, right? You're amazing at your job, and I hate having to work with anyone else. Yeah, at first, I was a little put off by your money, but that was before I realized that you weren't trying to rub our noses in it. God, I hate myself right now. You have no idea how sorry I am, and I will find some way to make it up to you. I promise."

Moving her chair closer, Maura pulled Jane into a hug. Pulling back, she smoothed Jane's hair back and held her face in both hands. "There is nothing to forgive or make up to me. I forgave you long ago, or we never would've become friends. Now, it's just something I remember from time to time when I think about how close we've become. If even the smallest part of me believed you still thought of me that way, then I never would've trusted you all those months ago. You accept all of me, and that's the best thing you could ever give me. If you insist on apologizing, then I accept, but you've more than made up for any momentary emotional discomfort you caused me."

Opening her mouth to respond, Jane ended up just nodding when the waiter showed up with their meals. Holding one of Maura's hands in hers, she wiped away a couple tears and turned back to the table. Andre and Paul gave them a moment to collect themselves while they started eating. For several minutes, they ate in silence. Maura didn't bother moving her chair back, and occasionally reached out to squeeze Jane's hand under the table.

They were halfway through their meals when Jane broke the silence. Squeezing Maura's hand, she looked at Andre. "This might be rude, but you don't sound French. For that matter, Paul doesn't sound English."

Chuckling, Paul shook his head, but let Andre answer. "I went to university in England, and ended up staying. After more than ten years, my native accent is almost gone. Paul grew up in Chicago. I assumed that was in all information you would've found when you ran a background check. Maura told me you were the one that tracked me down."

Surprised, Jane shot Maura a look before shaking her head. "I didn't run a background check. Maura ended up telling me about you, and said she regretted losing touch, so I offered to try to find you. She just wanted to know what you'd done with your life, so I didn't bother digging beyond address, job, and finding out you were married. I was helping out a friend, not tracking down a suspect. Honestly, I'd probably need access to federal or international databases if I wanted to find information from before you moved to New York. I was lucky to be able to even find that much. After a week of not finding anything, I was beginning to think I wouldn't."

Nodding, Andre smiled at her. "That makes sense. I'm glad you were able to find me. I never really stopped wondering what happened to Maura, and I was surprised and excited to hear from her. I understand why we stopped talking, but I'm glad we have the chance to get to know each other, again. She was probably my best friend, and I'm delighted that we get to reconnect. Thank you, Jane, you're a good friend, to Maura, and I would be honored to someday consider you my friend, as well."

Blushing, Jane ducked her head to hide behind her hair. "Maura's an amazing person, and it was the least I could do for her. I could tell you meant a lot to her, and she missed you, so I offered to try to find you. From what Maura's told me, you're a good guy. Meeting you has only enforced that. If we can talk about sports and drink beer together, then I think we're more than halfway to being friends. In fact, why don't you join us at the Dirty Robber on Wednesday? It's a cop bar, and we usually go for midweek drinks. If you don't have plans, then you're welcome to join us. Maybe if they see you, Frost and Korsak will stop thinking Maura has a thing for married men."

Visibly starting, both men darted glances at Maura. Smacking Jane's arm, she smiled at them. "An unfortunate series of miscommunications. Vince and Barry thought that my good mood over reconnecting with you was due to a new relationship. I didn't do a good job of explaining myself, and neglected to mention that you're gay when I told them you're married and have no desire to rekindle an old romance. Then, today, Barry assumed Jane and I were meeting you for a double-date. I thought he meant Jane and I as a couple, while he thought we would be dating you. As I said, an unfortunate series of miscommunications."

Paul chuckled into his wine glass while Andre smiled and shook his head. "Some things never change. You never were very good at understanding what someone meant, unless they stated it outright. I like who you've become, but it's comforting to know that, even after all these years, there are still some pieces of the person I used to know. I've never met anyone else with such an honest personality and view of life, and it's refreshing."

Snorting, Jane grinned when Maura turned to glare at her. "Maura, I love you, but refreshing is not the term I'd use. We once showed up at a crime scene while the guy was still bleeding out on the ground. I had to almost force her to admit that the red stuff was blood, and then she would only say that it was 'probably blood.' Yeah, it's great knowing I have someone I can count on to always be honest with me, but sometimes it's just infuriating. I don't want her to change, for anything, but sometimes I'd almost give my right arm to have her make just a little guess."

Taking a sip of her wine, Maura smirked into her glass. "Yes, but how often have we found evidence because I insisted on having the lab test something? I would rather be absolutely sure of something before acting on it, than be wrong and end up regretting it."

Watching what was obviously an old argument, Andre and Paul shared a look. At Andre's raised eyebrow, Paul smiled and gave a tiny nod. Smiling back, he went back to watching the women bicker back and forth.

As they left the restaurant, Paul and Jane hung back to talk about sports and give Andre and Maura a couple minutes to talk in private.

Looking back to make sure they were out of earshot, Andre held the door open for Maura to exit. "Have you told her how you feel?"

Stopping, Maura glanced quickly over her shoulder before looking at him sharply. "What do you mean?"

Holding his arm out to lead her to a nearby bench, Andre smiled at her. "You know what I mean. I see the way you look at her, and the way she looks at you. If you're not in love with her, already, then you're getting there. You said, earlier, that she accepts all of you, and she said she loves you. So, what's holding you back?"

Leaning back heavily, she sighed in defeat. "I do love her, but I don't think she loves me in the same way. She's never mentioned having any romantic or sexual interest in women. If I say something, and she doesn't feel the same way, then it could ruin our friendship. What if she's disgusted by the idea of me wanting to be with her? I don't think I could handle it if she found the idea of being with me sexually to be repulsive. Being my friend is different than being in a romantic relationship with someone like me. It's just not worth the risk."

Pulling her into a hug, Andre leaned his cheek against her head. "The way she looks at you, I don't think she could ever be disgusted by you. When she looks at you, it's obvious she would do anything she could just to make you smile. You should really think about telling her. You deserve to be happy, and I think she could give you that."

Nodding, Maura pulled away, before starting to shake her head. "I know she would do anything to make me happy, which is why I can't tell her. I don't want her to be with me because she's afraid of hurting my feelings. No, I can't tell her. Even if she's not disgusted by the idea of being with me, she isn't gay. I don't think she's attracted to women. Being the only female detective in homicide, there are rumors, but I've never seen any evidence that they could be true. If she's not attracted to women, then she can't be attracted to me. I don't even want to think about what it could mean if she is attracted to me. I just. I can't."

Pulling her back into a hug, he kissed her hair and gave her a moment to calm down. "You are a beautiful woman with an amazing personality. If I weren't happily married, and gay, then I would be giving her some competition. If you're not ready to tell her, then that's ok, just don't start to convince yourself of something that clearly isn't true. Has she ever said she isn't attracted to women?"

Taking a couple moments to think, she shook her head. "No, I don't think she has. She's said it's no one's business who she's attracted to, and that she doesn't like it when people assume she's gay, but she's never said she's not attracted to women. She's never said she is, either."

Grinning, Andre leaned back to meet Maura's gaze. "Then you don't know, either way. From what I've seen, tonight, I think you should keep your eyes open, and don't give up. Now, try not to look so upset. They're coming over, and I don't want your detective to shoot me."

Laughing, Maura smiled at him before turning to watch Jane watch toward them.

Chapter 10

Jane woke up to the sounds of knocking and her cell phone ringing, the next morning. Rubbing her eyes, she grabbed for her phone and stumbled toward the door while she answered it. Hearing Maura through the phone and behind the door, she hung up without saying anything and unlocked the door. Not bothering to open it, she laid down on the couch and buried her head under a cushion.

When Maura knocked again, Jane uncovered her face just long enough to yell, "I unlocked it. Now, let me sleep."

Opening the door, Maura set her purse down and sat on the coffee table in front of Jane, pulling the cushion off her face. She stared silently until Jane finally opened her eyes. "Good, now go shower and get dressed. I'll make breakfast while you get ready. We're going shopping, then to lunch. You did agree to let me buy you a new shirt."

Groaning, Jane squeezed her eyes shut and slammed her head back into the couch a couple times, before opening her eyes to glare at Maura. "You just said this weekend, and you DIDN'T say you'd be showing up at the butt crack of dawn. If I'd known that, I never would've agreed. Do you have any idea what time it is?"

Taking Jane's phone out of her hand, Maura checked the time. "It's 8:21 in the morning. If you worked, today, you'd already be awake and getting ready, so it's really not that early. The sun has been up for quite some time, so you could hardly call it dawn. Now, get up so you can get ready. We're going shopping, then to lunch. I thought we could invite Andre and Paul to lunch, if you don't mind."

Jane grabbed for another cushion, whimpering in protest when Maura took it before she could cover her head. "Come on, Maura. It's too early for this. Let me sleep. It's my day off, and I want to sleep in. You can stay here, or come back later, but I want to sleep. We can go shopping after lunch. I'll even get more than one shirt. I promise. Just let me sleep for a little longer."

Sighing, Maura put the cushions back on the couch. "Fine, but I will be holding you to that promise. Go back to bed, but I will be waking you up no later than ten. If you sleep much later than that, your sleep cycle will be impaired and you'll have a harder time getting to sleep at a reasonable time for work on Monday."

Getting up, Jane placed an absent-minded kiss on Maura's head and walked toward her room, waving over her shoulder. "You're the best. Make yourself at home. Goodnight."

Moving to sit on the couch, Maura gave a small shake or the head and leaned back with a sigh. After a couple minutes, she got up and found Jane's laptop sitting on the kitchen table. Starting it up, she looked through Jane's playlists before settling on one. Smiling when the music started, she looked around before deciding to start picking up some of the mess Jane always left behind her.

About an hour later, Jane woke up. Hearing music, she got out of bed and walked toward the living room. Seeing Maura dancing in place while she dusted around the TV, Jane leaned against the wall with a smile and watched.

Finishing with the TV, Maura turned around. Noticing Jane smiling and leaning against the wall, she smiled and kept dancing. Dusting the frames on a couple pictures, she decided she was done and threw the dust rag in with the rest of Jane's laundry.

Coming back, she pointed at the full coffee pot and turned down the volume on Jane's computer. Sitting down at the counter, she waited until Jane finished fixing her coffee and took the first sip. "I'm glad to see you more awake. If you don't mind, I can call Andre and invite them to lunch. Actually, if you get ready quickly, we can have a late brunch, instead."

Checking the time, Jane realized it was earlier than she thought, and shrugged. "Sure, I don't mind if you invite them. I like them both, and Paul and I have a discussion to finish. Do you realize he's a Yankees fan? I don't care if they DO live in New York, there's just no excuse for that. If he grew up in New York, then I could MAYBE excuse it, but he didn't. So, I'm gonna convince him the Yankees are crap and he should cheer for a good team. Give me a few to take a quick shower and get dressed, and I'll be ready to go. Oh, and we're eating at that diner with the greasy burgers you hate watching me eat, so don't bother trying to call it brunch."

When Maura's mouth opened to start a lecture, Jane's hand flew up and she gave her a look. "Remember, you SAID I could pick where we ate. I want a greasy burger, so that's where we're going. If you don't want to eat there, we don't have to go shopping. We can invite the guys to BRUNCH somewhere else, and I'll just grab a shirt the next time I buy milk."

Sighing and closing her mouth, Maura ignored Jane's triumphant grin and shooed her toward her room.

Once she heard the shower turn on, she got her phone out of her purse and called Andre. Happy they didn't have plans, she invited them to lunch and gave directions to the diner. Realizing she still had several minutes before Jane was ready, she washed their coffee mugs and spent the rest of the time browsing the Internet on Jane's laptop.

A little under an hour later, they arrived at the diner to find Andre and Paul already sitting at a booth. Sitting down, they exchanged greetings. When the waitress came to their table, they ordered drinks and Jane tried to convince everyone to order a burger. Paul agreed easily, but Maura and Andre insisted on something healthier. When their food came, Jane and Paul shared a knowing look as they took the first bites of their burgers.

After a couple minutes, they started discussing plans for the day, and what sights the guys should see while they were in town. When Maura told them she was taking Jane shopping, Paul sat up a little straighter.

Noticing his interest, Jane groaned quietly. "Please tell me you're not a fashion designer, or something. That's just way too cliché, and I might have to judge you.

Laughing, he shook his head. "No, I've never had an interest in fashion design. My degree is in finance. I work for a small import-export business. I did, however, perform in drag one summer. It's been years, but it gave me an eye for women's fashion."

Doing a double-take, Jane pushed her plate far enough away that she could rest her arms on the table. "Oh, this I gotta hear. You were a drag queen?"

Shooting a quick look at Maura, he relaxed when she looked curious, and not upset or uncomfortable. "It was the summer after I graduated high school. I was bored, and had no interest in spending all my time partying. A friend of mine performed, and suggested I give it a try. He got me an audition and helped me prepare. It was fun, and gave me something to do. Even though I didn't perform more than once or twice a week, I spent the rest of the time working on costumes and routines. It's not something I'd consider doing for long, but it was fun for a few months."

Maura nodded. "I've known some drag performers, both kings and queens, and enjoyed talking with them. Contrary to what many seem to believe, not all drag performers are transgender. From my experience, more drag kings are, than drag queens. I never did quite understand why those who are transgender are still considered to be performing in drag."

When the guys looked at her, Jane gave a hopeless shrug. "Don't look at me, I've never even seen a drag show. I don't even know what a drag king is, but I'm gonna guess it's a woman who dresses as a man."

Finding no help from Andre, Paul sighed and looked around before lowering his voice. "I hope I didn't upset you, Maura. If I did, I'm sorry."

Waving her hand, she smiled. "I'm not upset. Drag performers, like all performers, merely take on a persona and wear costumes to suit. Historically, all performers were men. It was seen as vulgar for women to perform in front of an audience, so any female characters were typically performed either by prepubescent boys, or were portrayed as unattractive and matronly. Andre will tell you that plays, in high school, always involved female parts being plays by boys. If I had any acting ability, at all, I might have enjoyed participating."

Andre chuckled. "I don't think the younger boys enjoyed being made to wear dresses until their voices changed."

Letting out a sigh, Paul sat back in his seat with a smile. "I went to an all boys school, so I can understand that. We didn't have plays, but we did have a choir. We did some songs that, traditionally, are performed by mixed choirs, and usually it was the younger boys who sang the female parts."

Seeing a chance to change the subject, Jane spoke up. "Maura said you're thinking about starting a family? Are you planning to adopt, or use a surrogate?"

Choosing to ignore the abruptness of the topic, they shared a smile. Squeezing Paul's hand, Andre turned back to Jane. "Yes, we decided it was time to have kids. That's part of why we moved, here. Paul wants his parents to be a part of our kids' lives. When a job opened up at the New York office, he took it. It's not Chicago, but it's closer than England."

Jane nodded, before looking at him with slight confusion. "Don't you want your family to be a part of their lives, too?"

He shrugged and shook his head. "I don't really have any family I'm close to. My father died when I was fairly young, and my mother never wanted children. Father wanted a son, so she agreed. As soon as I was born, she refused to be pregnant again. I have an older sister, but we barely know each other. Mother insisted we go to boarding school from the beginning, so we only saw each other on breaks. I haven't seen or spoken to either of them in years."

Jane smiled apologetically. "Sorry. I didn't mean to bring up a touchy subject."

Andre just shrugged again. "Nothing to be sorry for. It's the way my family has always been. I don't have many memories of my father and the only time my sister and I really saw our mother was at events when she wanted to show what a good mother she was. There was never anything to miss or be upset over."

Seeing the look Maura and Andre shared, Jane rolled her eyes. "Do all kids in boarding school have crappy families?"

They both shrugged. Maura tilted her head and thought for a couple moments. "Aside from the few students whose families live close enough for them to visit on the weekends, it's probably safe to say that most students in boarding schools see their families only on holidays and visits. Of those students, it's likely that a fair number are at boarding school because their parents have no desire to spend time with them. There are, of course, the few who retained good relationships with their families through letters and the occasional phone call, but they are probably the vast minority."

Leaning into Maura's side, Jane sighed. "That's sad. Ma drives me nuts, but I couldn't imagine her not being there all the time. Why even have kids if you're just going to have someone else raise them? When I have kids, I'm not shipping them off so I only see them a couple times a year. I'm glad Paul's family will be a part of your kids' lives, Andre. Family's important, and kids should know they're loved."

Smiling, Andre kissed Paul's cheek. "Paul's family is great. Even living in England, they tried to visit at least once a year. We've already talked about maybe moving closer to Chicago, someday. For now, though, our jobs are keeping us in New York. I can work pretty much anywhere, but Paul would have to find a new job that probably wouldn't pay as much."

Maura studied Jane while Andre talked. Finally giving into her curiosity when he was done. "You've never mentioned having children, before, Jane. I didn't realize it was something you wanted."

Nodding when the waitress came to refill their coffee, Jane shrugged. "It's not something I really ever felt the need to talk about. I've always figured I'd have kids someday, when I found the right person. If Ma ever heard me say that, she'd be out grabbing every mildly attractive and successful man off the street and throwing them at me, so I tend not to talk about it. Can you imagine the way Frost and Korsak would react to the idea of me being a mother? I'd probably be finding baby stuff in my desk for months. I always just figured I'd find someone I wanted kids with, THEN talk about it with them. What about you? Do you want kids? I know you can't have them, but you could always adopt."

Sighing, Maura looked around and then at their empty plates before sitting up a little straighter and scooting toward the end of the booth. "The lunch rush is beginning. If you're done, and don't mind, why don't we go somewhere else to talk? There's a dog park not too far from here where we could sit."

Exchanging looks, the other three nodded and got up. Paying, they left and started walking toward the park.

Changing the topic, slightly, Maura addressed Andre. "So, you never said if you were planning to use a surrogate or adopt."

Accepting the temporary change, he nodded. "For now, we're looking at adoption. If we use a surrogate, we'd like it to be someone who'd like to remain in the child's life, at least on some level. We don't want to ask a woman to just give us her child and never see it again. Until we meet someone we're comfortable with on that level, adoption is our only option. We don't want them to feel like we're keeping anything from them."

Maura nodded, leading them toward a picnic table in a fairly empty area of the park. "That makes sense. While I have questions about my biological parents, I've never felt like my adoptive parents were keeping the answers from me."

Looking at her sharply, Jane gave her head a slight shake. "That's right, you're adopted. I forgot about that. Have you ever thought of trying to find your biological parents?"

Shaking her head, Maura gave a sad smile. "I used to daydream about meeting them, when I was younger. I thought that maybe they would understand what I was feeling. Once I realized what I was feeling, I realized that trying to find them wasn't an option. I can't contact someone and explain that I'm the baby they gave up for adoption. If the parents who raised me can't understand, then I can't expect the ones who couldn't, or didn't want to, to understand."

Andre placed his hand over hers to get her attention. "Anyone would be lucky to know you, but I can understand why you don't want to find them. I can't imagine how hard that conversation would be. Explaining who you are would be hard enough, without having to explain everything else, too. Do you see yourself ever wanting to adopt?"

Looking around, Maura made sure there was no one within earshot before answering. "It's a possibility, but not my only option. If I end up with a man, then adoption is almost a certainty. If I end up with a woman, then we'll have the option of having a biological child. I've always wanted children. I always knew it wouldn't be possible for me to become pregnant, but I wanted to retain the option of having biological children, so I had sperm frozen before my surgery."

Jane looked at her for a moment before giving a quick shake of her head. "It is really weird to think of words like 'sperm' applying to you. I'm glad you have that option, though. You'd be an amazing mom, and you'd never not accept your kids for whoever they turn out to be. You'd have to work on lying to be able to convince your kids Santa and the Easter Bunny are real, though. Mommy hyperventilating and passing out would be a dead giveaway."

Rolling her eyes, Maura smiled at her. "I'd never try. I don't see the benefit of lying to a child and telling them that a stranger essentially spies on them and then breaks into their home with the intention of leaving behind gifts. I would not subject my children to psychological scarring for my own amusement."

Mouth hanging open, Jane stared at her in shock. "But, it's Santa Claus. There's nothing scarring about Santa Claus. You sit on his lap and write him a letter to tell him what you want for Christmas."

Arching an eyebrow, Maura stared at her for a moment. "You find nothing potentially damaging about letting a child sit on a stranger's lap and tell them secrets? Why would you need to both sit on his lap AND write him a letter, especially if he did possess the ability to watch your every move all year? Shouldn't he already know what gifts you want?"

Staring at her blankly, she finally turned to the guys for help. "Come on, you have to help me. Tell her Santa doesn't scar children."

Chuckling, Andre raised both hands. "I didn't believe in Santa, growing up. Gifts were delivered to us by the nanny and opened in our rooms. My mother wanted us to know exactly where they came from."

When Jane turned to him, Paul laughed and shook his head. "I can't help you, either. I'm Jewish."

Gaping at all of them, Jane finally gave up and crossed her arms with a frustrated huff. "Fine, I'm out numbered. I still say Santa doesn't scar children, though. I believed in Santa, and I turned out fine."

Placing a hand on Jane's elbow, Maura smiled at her indulgently. "Yes, you turned out very well, but that doesn't mean that there aren't potentially damaging elements of the Santa mythology. After all, one is led to believe that spying, breaking and entering, and passing judgement on others is not only acceptable, but desired. Those are not socially acceptable actions, and I fail to see the wisdom in promoting them in children's stories."

Sighing, Jane shook her head. "When you put it like that, I can almost see your point. Almost. That doesn't mean I don't want my kids believing in Santa, though. Santa is magic, and there's nothing bad about believing in magic."

Maura grinned and sat up a little straighter. "Actually, many Christian denominations condemn the belief in and practice of magic as signs of devil worship. The Salem Witch Trials punished those who were believed to practice magic. Witch hunts throughout Europe did the same. In some cultures, the belief in and practice of magic is still a punishable offense."

Rolling her eyes, Jane gave her a disbelieving look. "Really? You're going to lump Santa in with devil worship and witch hunts?"

They were interrupted by Paul's laughter. When they turned to stare at him, he kept chuckling. "You guys are better than the movies. Do you even have any idea how you ended up on this topic?"

Mouth opening and closing a couple times, Jane shook her head. Maura thought for a moment before giving a single nod. "We were talking about the methods behind me potentially having children. Jane said I would make a good mother, then suggested I learn to lie so I could convince my children of the existence of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Then we ended up discussing the advisability of teaching to children to believe in Santa, which led to the mention of magic."

Shaking his head, Andre joined Paul in his chuckling. "I told you. Women remember EVERYTHING! I hope you two never really fight, or you're in trouble, Jane."

Jane rubbed a hand over her face with a groan. "Thanks, I already knew that. I don't think Maura forgets anything. Ever. It's great at work, not so much when I'm trying to make a point, though."

Noticing the time, Maura tapped Jane's arm. "I really hate to leave, but Jane and I need to go shopping. She agreed to go today, and I know she'll find some excuse not to go if we don't go today. You can come to my place for dinner, tomorrow, however. If you don't have plans, of course."

Groaning, Jane rolled her eyes. "Come on, you haven't seen Andre in forever. Isn't catching up with an old friend more important than buying me a new shirt. I told you, I'll just grab one later. If I hadn't scared you, you wouldn't have ruined my shirt, so it's really my fault. Since it's my fault, it wouldn't be right for you to replace it."

Looking at them, Andre decided to interrupt. "How did you ruin Jane's shirt?"

Shooting Jane a smug look, she turned back to Andre. "I was cleaning and too preoccupied to notice Jane had entered the morgue. When she startled me, I threw the scrub brush I was using at her, which resulted in a large bleached area on the front of her shirt. I insisted on replacing it, since it's my fault it was ruined, and she agreed to go shopping with me this weekend. This morning, when I let her go back to sleep, she agreed to let me get her more than one shirt. Getting her to agree to go shopping is hard enough. I can't remember the last time she agreed to do more than replace a ruined item."

Grinning, Jane sat up straighter. "Hah. You just said it. I agreed to go shopping this weekend. We can go tomorrow. I'm having fun and I don't want to leave just because you think I need more clothes. They should really be insulted that you're in such a hurry to leave."

Seeing only amused looks from the men, she shook her head. "If the boutique had Sunday hours, then I would be happy to go tomorrow. Since they don't, we need to go before they close, today. I'm sure Andre and Paul aren't offended by my desire to get you some clothing that flatters your figure."

When she looked at them, both men just shook their heads and smiled. Sighing in defeat, Jane slumped to let her arms rest on the table. "Fine. You win. Just remember what I said about flowers and pink. If you're going to be buying me clothes, they're going to be ones I'd actually wear. Which means plain colors. If I show up to a crime scene wearing some girly top, I'll never hear the end of it."

Paul looked over Jane's slumped figure. "Does this boutique cater to those with long limbs and torsos? Correct me if I'm wrong, but it looks like she buys tops at least one size too big so that they'll be long enough. If she had the money, or inclination, to have them tailored, it wouldn't such a big deal. It makes more sense to buy clothing the fits, if possible, though."

Looking down at herself, Jane pulled at the hem of her shirt. "This IS the size that fits. Any smaller and I'd end up looking like my clothes shrank. Just because I don't wear tight shirts, doesn't mean they don't fit me."

Giving Paul a grateful look, Maura sighed. "Really, Jane, Paul is just saying what I've been telling you for years. If Paul, who has only seen you in two outfits, can see it, then why can't you? And, really, the red top hardly counts since it's one of your few tops that actually fits you the way it should. Surely it must mean something if someone who just met you can see it."

Jane rolled her eyes. "Fine. I buy clothes a little too big because the ones that aren't are too short on me. It's been that way for as long as I can remember. At least I can wear pants without them ending mid-shin, like they did when I was little. I don't see what the big deal is. I can't afford the clothes made for tall women, and it's not like mine are so big they're falling off me. My shirts are just loose and I wear a belt with my pants."

Nodding, Maura smiled. "The boutique I'm taking you to should have at least tops that will fit you, if not pants. They're very reasonably priced, and I think you'll like their selection. You may even decide to shop there, again."

Having a quick conversation, Andre nodded to Paul. "If you'd like, we can come with you. Andre doesn't know much about women's fashion, but we can at least offer an unbiased opinion. Sometimes it's easier to believe something when it doesn't come from a close friend. I doubt we'll be the first gay men to be in there."

Smiling, Maura stood and waited for the others to follow her. "They sell men's clothing, too, so you won’t be at all out of place. As I told Jane yesterday, they specialize primarily in business attire. It's been quite some time since I last shopped with a man, and I'll admit to missing their honest opinions. Jane tells me I look good in everything, no matter how ill-fitting the cut or pattern is. It'll be nice to get an objective opinion, for once."

Looking at Maura out of the corner of her eye, Jane hid a faint blush behind her hair. "You do look good in everything. I don't think I've ever seen you not look like you just came from a photo shoot. Even in gym clothes, you look like something out of an ad."

Catching Maura's eye, Andre raised one eyebrow and nodded toward Jane. She gave a subtle shake of her head and stopped at her car.

After getting quick directions, Paul follow Maura's car into traffic, watching the women inside talk. "How can they not see it? Did you notice that Jane never once said she was looking for a man? She talked about finding 'someone' to have kids with."

Sighing, Andre leaned back in his seat. "I noticed that, too. Maura won't say anything to her, though. She's convinced herself that Jane is straight and couldn't possible want to be with her, and she's afraid to risk saying anything."

Paul grinned at him. "Then we'll just have to get Jane to say something. I don't know what's holding her back, but I plan to try to find out. She obviously knows Maura is attracted to women, so she's probably just afraid of being rejected. You keep Maura busy, and I'll have little talk with Jane. Maybe I can talk some sense into her. They already act like more of a married couple than we do, and they haven't even kissed."

Reaching for Paul's hand, Andre smiled at him. "I don't think either one of them realized they were arguing about how they'd raise their children, even though they were both thinking it. Just be careful when you talk to Jane, I have a feeling she doesn't like to be told what to do. They're good for each other, they just need to admit it to each other."

Squeezing Andre's hand, Paul outlined a quick plan before they pulled up in front of the boutique.

Chapter 11

Walking into the boutique, Jane looked around in surprise, ignoring the saleswoman that came up to greet them. Andre and Paul headed toward the racks of men's clothes while Maura led her toward a selection of blouses.

Looking her up and down a couple times, Maura finally walked behind Jane and pulled on the back of the collar. Coughing in surprise, Jane hunched down while trying to twist out of her grip. "Are you trying to strangle me? What are you doing? Let go."

Giving another tug, Maura made Jane bend back slightly. "You can be so dramatic, sometimes. I'm not hurting you. I just needed to check the size of your shirt so I had a place to start."

Turning around, Jane swatted at Maura's hands and glared. "You could've just asked me, you know. I actually DO know what size I wear. Generally, I need a medium in shirts. Now, are you satisfied?"

Sighing, Maura shook her head. "No wonder your clothing is so ill-fitting. 'Medium' is not a good size measurement. You don't buy 'medium' skirts and slacks, do you? No, you look for the numerical size, which corresponds to hip or waist measurements. What dress size do you wear?"

Giving her a blank look, Jane shrugged. "How should I know? I own like three dresses, and two of them I've had for years. Since when do shirt sizes come in numbers?"

Closing her eyes in frustration, Maura shook her head before walking off. A couple moments later, she came back with the saleswoman that had greeted them. "Jane, this is Linda. She's going to take you back to the dressing rooms for a measuring. It'll only take a couple minutes, and will be much faster than trying on several sizes until we find one that fits."

Looking a little scared, Jane gave Linda a sheepish smile before turning all her attention on Maura. "Why do we have to go back to the dressing rooms? Can't she just do it here? I mean, she's just going to use a measuring tape, right?"

Smiling apologetically to Linda, Maura sighed. "Jane, you will need to remove your shirt in order for her to get accurate measurements. Since I doubt you want to be shirtless where everyone in the store can see you, you need to go with Linda to the dressing rooms."

Groaning, Jane shook her head. "No, Maura. Just, no. I don't want to be half naked in front of a stranger. No, offense, Linda, but I just wouldn't be comfortable. Just grab a few different sizes and I'll try them on."

Linda nodded in understanding. "It's ok. Not everyone is comfortable getting their measurements taken."

Watching Linda walk off, Jane grabbed a couple shirts off the rack that she thought might fit. "Look, I'll go try these on and see if they fit. Then we'll know what size we're looking for."

Maura grabbed a couple more sizes and followed Jane to the dressing rooms. Handing her the shirts, she waited outside the curtain and insisted Jane show her each shirt so she could judge the fit. Settling on one, she told Jane to stay there and she'd bring her items to try on.

Twenty minutes later, they compromised on three tops. Maura had tried to insist on buying six, pointing out that Jane had agreed to more than one shirt. When Jane threatened to leave, Maura made a show of reluctantly putting back three of the shirts, hiding a smile as she did so.

Leaving Jane sitting on a nearby couch with the guys, Maura wandered off to start browsing the racks. Giving Paul a small nod, Andre got up and walked off, not even bothering to give an explanation.

Watching him go, Jane rolled her eyes and turned to Paul. "I'm a detective, you know, and that was less than subtle. What are you up to that you needed to talk to me alone?"

Smiling, he shrugged and nodded toward Andre and Maura. "Who said I needed to talk to you? Andre had something he wanted to talk to Maura about alone. That leaves us to entertain each other. So, how 'bout them Yankees?"

Growling quietly, Jane glared at him. "Oh, no, we are NOT talking about the Yankees, unless you admit they're crap. Why do you even like them, anyway?"

He just smirked. "I'm a New Yorker."

Snorting, she rolled her eyes, again. "You've only been a New Yorker for a few months. It takes longer than that to brainwash someone. So, what's the real reason?"

Thinking for a moment, he shrugged. "It's hard to keep up to date on American sports from England. Living there for so long, I couldn't really claim to support any team, anymore. I live in New York, now, and I always kinda liked the Yankees."

Jane sighed and leaned back into the cushions. "And you couldn't pick a better team? I'm not saying you have to root for the Sox, even though you should, but couldn't you pick anyone BUT the Yankees?"

Shrugged, Paul gave her unapologetic smile. "I'm a New Yorker, I have to prove my loyalty. It's an initiation. If I support another team, they'll kick me out."

Snorting, she shook her head. "Fine. Just don't come crying to me when the Sox kick the Yankees' asses. If you ever decide to root for a REAL team, just let me know."

Chuckling, Paul leaned back, relaxing into the couch. Glancing over, he saw Maura and Andre making their way to the dressing rooms with several skirts and dresses. Getting Jane's attention, he nodded toward them. "Looks like we'll be on duty in a few minutes. Your girl is probably going to want our opinions on everything."

Sighing, Jane slumped down pulled her phone out her pocket to check the time. "I knew it was too much to hope that this would be a quick trip. This is why I hate shopping. Why can't I just go into a store, grab what I need, without having to try on a hundred things, pay for it, and leave? But, no, Maura has me try everything on, show it to her, and then wait while she does the same thing."

Hiding a smirk, he waited a moment before responding. "Why do you agree to go shopping with her, then? I'd bet money that don't let anyone else talk you into it."

Watching the dressing rooms for Maura, she snorted. "That'd be a safe bet. I don't even let Ma drag me shopping, if I can help it. I don't know how she does it, but Maura can talk me into just about anything. I ended up running a marathon with her, wearing a spandex unitard with 'PUKE' across the front. She drags me to yoga at least three times a week, usually before work. I don't know what it is about that woman, but I can't seem to say 'no' to her."

Not looking at her, he smiled and shrugged. "You love her."

Looking at him in shock, she turned quickly to make sure there was no one within earshot, before lowering her voice. "Of course I love her, she's my best friend."

Grinning, Paul shook his head. "Yeah, but you love her more than that. I don't think you even realize how you look at her."

Growling quietly, she glared at him. "And just HOW do I look at her?"

Smiling contently, he closed his eyes for a moment. "The same way I look at Andre. And the same way she looks at you. Like she's the only person that matters and you would do anything just to make her smile."

Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, Jane let her shoulders slump in defeat. "Ok, yes, I do love her. How could I not? She's smart, funny, honest, gorgeous, sweet, and kind-hearted. She's perfect, but she's not ready for a relationship."

Nodding, he turned to face her. "How do you know?"

Looking at him sadly, she sighed and gave a slight shrug. "She told me."

Before he could respond, Maura came out wearing the first dress. Standing in front of them, she turned and waited for their opinions. Seeing Jane's wistful look, he nudged her foot to get her attention. Realizing Maura was waiting, Jane smiled and had her spin again before telling her she looked beautiful.

Some time later, they finally left the boutique. Maura insisted they all come to dinner the next day, and Andre and Paul happily agreed. Getting into their car, Andre's expectant look was met with a sigh and shake of his head.

Waiting for Maura's car to drive out of sight, Paul shrugged. "She loves her. It was a lot easier than I expected to get her to admit that. She also said Maura told her she's not ready for a relationship. I didn't get a chance to ask her about that, though. Either Jane misunderstood something Maura said, or Maura has changed her mind, and hasn't told her. Either way, she's not going to say anything to her."

Sighing, Andre watched the traffic around them. "I don't think talking is going to get through to either of them. Maura's too scared to say anything, and it sounds like Jane is afraid to push. Something is going to have to happen to get them to admit how they feel, to each other. I'd be tempted to lock them naked in a room together, if I thought it'd work."

Nodding, Paul thought in silence for the rest of the drive.

Chapter 12

Jane was in the middle of doing her laundry, the next day, when her phone rang. Throwing the armful of wet clothes she was holding into the dryer, she just managed to avoid tripping over a laundry basket as she ran toward the phone ringing and vibrating itself toward the edge of the counter. Snagging it before it could fall off, she answered, slightly breathless. Hearing Angela Rizzoli's voice on the other end, she groaned silently.

After listening through a less than short lecture on how she should spend more time with her family and call her poor neglected mother more often, she rolled her eyes when Angela got to the real reason for the call. Trying, unsuccessfully, to interrupt the shopping list she was expected to bring to Sunday dinner, she finally gave up and waited till it was over. Finally hearing silence, she explained that she wouldn't be coming, this week. Pointing out that she had already told her, twice, that she had plans with Maura, she smiled at the invitation to bring her, too. After explaining that they were having dinner with a couple of Maura's friends who were visiting, she rolled her eyes at Angela's excitement at Jane having dinner with a man. Deciding not to point out that Andre and Paul were happily married, to each other, she let her mother believe it was a date and hung up with a sigh.

A few minutes later, Jane's phone rang again. Recognizing Maura's ringtone, she actually did trip over the laundry basket on the way out of the room. Cursing and hopping on one foot to rub a banged knee, she braced herself against the wall. When the phone stopped ringing, she rolled her eyes and waited for the chime to sound to let her know she had a voicemail. Not bothering to check it, she called Maura back.

Surprised to hear it ring several times, Jane pulled the phone away from her ear to make sure she called the right number. Hearing Maura's voice just as she was looking at the screen, she jumped a little and put it back to her ear with a smile. "Hey, Maura. Sorry I missed your call, I was in the laundry room. Did you need something?"

The smile was audible in Maura's voice. "It's ok. I'm just getting ready for tonight, and was wondering if you'd be willing to get here a little early? It's been awhile since I entertained more than one person, and I was hoping you'd be willing to help me resituate some things."

Slightly confused, Jane leaned against the counter and furrowed her brow in thought. "Um, sure. You know I never mind helping you out. How early do I need to be, and what could you possibly need resituated? You're place always looks as perfect as you do."

Maura's excited voice held just a touch of embarrassment when she responded. "I think a half hour early would be more than enough time. I just forgot that my dining table was placed as close to the corner as it is. I could move it, myself, but it is rather heavy and would be easier if I had help."

Chuckling, Jane rolled her eyes. "You want me to get there early to help move furniture? Sure. Do you want me to bring anything? Ma called with an entire shopping list she wanted me to bring to dinner, earlier. I told her, yesterday, that I couldn't make it, but I think she thought I was making up excuses."

A stifled gasp was heard over the line. "Oh, I don't want you to neglect time with your family just for me. I'm sure Andre and Paul will understand that you have a prior commitment. You should go to dinner with your family."

Sighing, Jane sat on a stool and shook her head. "Maura. I told you that I would be at dinner, tonight. I told you that I would be there when you needed me. I see Ma and my family all the time. We have dinner every Sunday, and I'm sure she'll guilt me into doing something to make up for missing this week. It's ok. I want to have dinner with you. Besides, I told Ma about Andre and Paul, and let her think it was a double date. She's all excited I'm having dinner with a 'nice young man.' If I call her back and say I'll be at dinner, anyway, she'll yell at me for not going to your place."

She was met with an exasperated sigh and a moment of silence. "Jane, you really shouldn't mislead your mother. How will you explain it when nothing comes from the relationship she undoubtedly expects to form between you and Andre or Paul?"

Jane shrugged, before remembering Maura couldn't see her. "Nothing. I'll tell her the truth. They were only here for the week, and had to go back to New York. If she presses, then I'll tell her that they are happily married, to each other. She assumed it was a date. I didn't tell her it was. I just didn't tell her it wasn't. There's more of a chance of me dating Paul than any of the guys she tries to set me up with, anyway. And he's a Yankees fan."

Getting another sigh, in reply, Jane rolled her eyes and waited. "I really wish you hadn't misled your mother, but there's nothing I can do about it. You know she just cares about you and wants to see you happy."

Smiling at the expected reprimand, she shook her head. "I know she cares, but I do not need a man to make me happy. I'm happy, now. I have a job I love, most of the time. I have a family that loves me, even when they're driving me nuts. And, I have the best friend anyone could ever ask for. What more could I possibly need?"

Maura's answer was unexpectedly quiet and tentative. "What about love? A romantic relationship. Don't you want that for yourself? You said, yesterday, that you want kids. Don't you want to find someone you can have that with?"

Closing her eyes, tightly, Jane sighed silently. "Yeah, but I don't see that happening for awhile. Don't worry, I'm not missing anything. I'm happy right where I am, with what I have. Yeah, I'll be happy when a relationship is a possibility, but I'm not going to let not having that ruin what I have, now. If I spent all my time dwelling on what I can't have, then how could I enjoy what I do have?"

When Maura finally answered, it was in a pained whisper. "I just hate the idea that you don't have everything you want, out of life. How do you know you can't have it? Maybe you just haven't been looking. You spend all your free time with me. How can you know you can't have a relationship if you haven't been looking for one? I don't want you to feel obligated to spend time with me. Maybe you should let your mother set you up on a date, or I could introduce you to someone. You deserve to have everything you want, and I don't want to hold you back from that."

Sighing audibly, Jane ran a hand through her hair. "Maura, you aren't holding me back from anything. I spent time with you, because I WANT to. I WANT to spend all my free time with you. I don't want to go out on a date with some guy you, or my mother, thinks would be a good match for me, when I know they won't be. I know a relationship isn't a possibility because I haven't met the right person when we were both in a place were dating was an option. When that happens, I'll know. Until then, I'm content to wait and be happy with what I have."

As soon as she heard the tone of Maura's voice, Jane rolled her eyes with a smile. "So, you've met someone but one, or both, of you wasn't ready to date? Is it anyone I know? What's his name? If you're ready for a relationship, maybe he is, too? It's not Barry, is it? I can't imagine him being a compatible match for you, but I haven't really seen you interacting with other men on a level that would imply a connection deep enough to facilitate the formation of a romantic relationship. Oh, it's Gabriel, isn't it? I know you weren't ready for a relationship with him when he was here, even though there was mutual interest. Have you changed your mind? You could try calling him to see if he's still available, and interested. Of course, the distance may be an issue. If you really do want a future with him, and he wants the same, I'm sure you could come up with a solution."

Chuckling, Jane interrupted her before Maura could start listing all the men they both knew. "Maura, stop. It's not Dean. Yeah, he's kinda cute, in a scruffy dog kinda way, but there's no way a relationship with him would work. And it's DEFINITELY not Frost. He's a nice guy, and a good partner, but I'd sooner date Paul. Just let it go. It's not someone you can guess, or something that I need help with. It's ok. Really. Look, I need to finish my laundry if I'm going to get there in enough time to help you move your table. Are you sure you don't need me to bring anything?"

The sigh that met her was resigned and exasperated. "Very well, I'll refrain from further discussion on the topic. No, I don't need you to bring anything. However, would you mind wearing the violet shirt we got yesterday? And your grey slacks with the pinstripes, if they're clean. I always love how long your legs look when you wear them, and you looked amazing in that top."

Shaking her head, she chuckled. "Yes, I can wear it, and if you let me go finish my laundry, the pants will be clean."

Maura's laugh made her smile. "Then I will let you get back to your laundry. I'll see you in a couple hours. Goodbye."

Saying goodbye, Jane set her phone down. Running a hand over her face, she sighed heavily before getting up and going back to her laundry.

By the time Jane finished her laundry, and noticed the time, she realized she had ten minutes to get ready and make it to Maura's. She also realized it was an impossibility. Sending a quick apology text, she laid out the requested outfit and jumped in the shower. Getting out a few minutes later, she surveyed herself with a critical eye and decided it was worth taking the extra time to dry her hair just to know it would make Maura happy. Digging out her rarely used hair dryer, she set to work, groaning when she remembered how long it always took. Finally finishing with her hair, she decided to put on minimal make up and then got dressed as fast as she could. Shoving her feet into a pair of semi-dressy boots, she grabbed her keys and wallet and ran out the door, socks in hand.

Sending another text, to let Maura know she was on her way, Jane swore at the traffic. Sighing when she finally hit a red light just a few blocks from Maura's house, she awkwardly kicked off her boots to pull her socks on. Ignoring the honking behind her when the light turned green, she finished zipping her boot and slammed her foot on the gas as she sat back up in her seat. Pulling into Maura's driveway, she sighed when she realized she'd managed to make it there before Paul and Andre. Getting out of the car, she did a quick check to make sure she looked acceptable, and jogged up to the porch.

They had just finished moving the table when there was a knock on the door. Leaving Jane to situate the chairs, Maura went to answer it with a smile. Showing them in, she quickly got them both a glass of wine, then stood there slightly nervous and watched as they looked around. Seeing her nervousness, Jane poured herself a glass of wine, bumping Maura's hip and leaning against the counter.

Hearing the kitchen timer start buzzing, Maura started and hurried around the counter. Grabbing oven mitts out of a drawer, she pulled a pan of lasagna out of the oven, set it down on the stove and quickly made sure the oven was off. Busying herself putting away the few things sitting out and wiping down already clean counters, she didn't notice the look Jane shared with the guys.

Rolling her eyes, Jane reached across the island to take the cloth out of Maura's hand and drag her around it. Pushing her to sit down on a stool, she sighed. "Stop being so nervous. It's just Paul and Andre. I'm pretty sure they're not judging you or expecting everything to be perfect. The food smells amazing, and everything is already clean. Stop fussing. I'll set the table. You take a few deep breaths."

Smiling sheepishly, Maura took a deep breath and sighed. "Sorry. It's just been a long time since I entertained, and I guess I wanted everything to be perfect. You're the only person I've entertained since I moved in, and I'm anxious to know what others think of my decorating choices."

Jane snorted, lying out silverware. "If me being over here is entertaining, does that mean I'm entertaining you when you drop by my place? Jeez, Maura, you keep extra clothes and shampoo and stuff at my place, and I know I have at least one suit hanging up in the guest room. I think it's safe to say we are not guests in each others' homes. Instead of worrying about what Paul and Andre think of your house, why don't you show them around so they can actually see what it looks like? Maybe then, they'll be able to form an opinion."

Noticing the amused looks on the guys' faces, she smiled apologetically and stood. "Yes, that's a good idea. Would you like a tour?"

Chuckling, Jane finished setting the table as Maura took the guys on a quick tour, stopping to point out some of her favorite pieces of furniture and decorations and explaining where they came from.

When they came back, a few minutes later, Jane had the table set and the food out. She'd even found the salad she knew Maura would have sitting in the fridge. Smiling at Maura's more relaxed look, she bowed deeply and gestured toward the table. "Dinner is served, Lady, and Gents. Tonight, we have a tossed salad of rabbit food, and a delicious smelling lasagna that is probably healthier than it looks. There is also a lovely wine, that I am sure was picked to complement tonight's menu. I'd offer you a beer, but the lady of the house would probably smack me. If you would like to seat yourselves, I will be happy to refill your glasses."

Covering her mouth to stifle a snort, Maura swatted Jane's arm and blushed. "The dramatics, while entertaining, are not needed. I'll just grab the wine, and we can eat."

Doing her best to pout, while still grinning widely, Jane sat down. "So, I guess that means so beer?"

Sighing, Maura rolled her eyes as she set the wine down on the table and sat next to Jane. "Not with dinner. If you really want a beer, you can have one after we eat. The wine I picked will go with the food I prepared much better."

Raising an eyebrow, she smirked at the guys and nodded her head toward Maura. "I told you. She probably even picked a salad dressing that doesn't taste gross with lasagna, and the lasagna is probably full of healthy stuff, too."

Sharing a look with Andre, Maura nodded. "Yes, I picked foods, and a wine, that go well, together. Ideally, there should be no unpleasant taste when switching from one course to the next. I will never understand the practice of letting people pair whatever menu items they desire, no matter how ill-suited they are to each other. And, you know I prefer to use organic and naturally low-fat ingredients, whenever possible. Food can be healthy, and still taste good. Your diet consists of enough fats, sugars, and grease when left to your own devices. I see no reason why I should add to that."

Shoving a large bite of salad into her mouth, Jane nodded to Paul. Swallowing, she took a gulp of wine before speaking. "You're from Chicago. Help me explain to her that sometimes fat, sugar, and grease just tastes good. You don't have to eat healthy all the time, after all. Between her and Ma, I eat healthy enough more than half the time, anyway."

Paul shrugged apologetically to Maura. "Jane's right. Sometimes you just have to say, 'bugger it all,' and eat something really bad for you just because it tastes good. I'm still trying to convince Andre that grease is a perfectly acceptable food group, on occasion."

Rolling her eyes, Maura sighed and looked at Andre. "We're never going to get them to eat healthier, are we? At least Jane is blessed with a high metabolism, otherwise I would worry more. At least she allows me to make sure she eats healthy when I'm around. I hate to think of what she eats when left to her own devices."

Glancing at Paul, who was purposely ignoring them, Andre shook his head. "The last time I came home late, Paul had ordered the largest, greasiest pizza he could find, with more meats on it than some butcher shops carry. He even tried to convince me that it was an acceptable dinner, saying it covered most of the major food groups. And he wonders why I do most of the cooking."

Ignoring Jane's smirk, Maura rolled her eyes. "Jane is still trying to convince me that Lucky Charms is acceptable breakfast food. I fail to see how something that is mostly sugar could possibly be a good way to start the day."

Pointing with her fork, Jane turned to glare at her. "Hey, I don't hear you complaining when we have donuts at work. If someone gets the custard one with the chocolate icing and sprinkles, you pout all day."

Blushing slightly, she looked down at her plate. "Yes, but I've already had a balanced breakfast, at that point. Most days, one sugar-laden item or another is the only thing you eat in the mornings. If you must have something sweet in the morning, you could at least have fruit."

Shrugging, Paul gave Jane a mischievous look. "You could always switch to jelly-filled."

Groaning quietly, Maura shook her head and ignored Jane's answering chuckle. The conversation flowed easily through the rest of the meal, and even Jane had to admit Maura was right about the menu being well chosen.

Jane helped Maura clean up, and convinced her to forgo the wine for beer. Handing out beers, they settled in the living room. Lapsing into a slightly awkward silence, Jane finally chuckled and waved to hand. "This is ridiculous. We spent hours talking yesterday, and didn't have a problem finding things to talk about while we were eating. So, why does it feel awkward, now?"

Tilting her head to the side, Maura thought for a couple moments. "It may be because we could turn to outside stimuli for conversation topics, before. At the diner, in the park and boutique, and during dinner, there was always the option of commenting on the surroundings or food, no matter how transparently awkward the resulting conversation would be. Now that we lack those safeguards, no one is sure how to proceed. It may also be that Andre and Paul are afraid of potentially upsetting or offending me by bringing up topics relating to my past. When we were in public, it was easiest, and safest, to avoid those topics."

Rolling her eyes and snorting quietly, Jane leaned back in her chair. "So, we ran out of safe topics, so no one is saying anything. Well, that sucks."

Grimacing slightly, Paul shrugged when Andre looked at him. Shrugging in response, Andre sighed. "Well, I don't want to spend too much time talking about school, because I know you probably don't like to think about it, too much."

Sighing and shaking her head, Maura took a drink of her beer before setting it down on the table in front of her. Leaning forward, she folded her hands in her lap and looked at them intently. "I appreciate you wanting to avoid making me uncomfortable, but it's unnecessary. You both know about my past, and I trust you with that. You don't need to worry about making me uncomfortable or potentially offending me. Paul, I know you were worried that I may be offended when you mentioned that you had worked as a drag queen, but I wasn't. As Jane knows, I feel it is the spirit of a comment or question that matters the most. As long as the intent behind it is not to cause me discomfort or hurt me, then I won't take it as such. I may not always do a very good job at reading people, but derision is one emotion I am quite adept at perceiving. If you have something you wish to know, or talk about, then please feel free to ask. If I am uncomfortable with a topic, then I will let you know."

Relaxing a little, Paul sighed and gave an apologetic shrug. "Sorry. I just don't have much experience talking to someone…like you. I don't want to say the wrong thing and make an ass out of myself."

Leaning back in her chair, Maura smiled at him. "It's ok to say 'transgender.' It's not an offensive term. I am transgender, and I became comfortable with that a long time ago. I may not want it to be a widely known fact, but it's not a word you need to avoid. I'm surprised that your time spent performing in drag didn't give you more exposure to the transgender community."

Shrugging again, Paul looked embarrassed. "Only one of the queens was transgender, and we never really talked. I was young, kinda shy, and only using it as a hobby. I don't think she saw me as someone to take seriously. Even though I had fun, I didn't really fit in with the other performers. I was unfamiliar with most of the movies and TV shows they talked about, and I wasn't old enough to go to the gay clubs or drink. I was only allowed in the club because I was performing, and I had to spend any time not onstage in the dressing room. I came from an upper-class family, had never had a real boyfriend, and wasn't interested in dating any of the other queens. We just didn't have anything in common to talk about."

Thinking about it for a moment, Maura nodded. "That makes sense. I felt, and still feel, the same way about most of the transgender community. Even though I appreciate being able to talk to individuals who have shared similar emotional struggles and experiences, it's rare that I find someone with whom I also share common interests. The further into my transition I progressed, the more alienated I felt. Growing up in a different socioeconomic bracket than them, I had experienced things differently, and experienced different things. While we could relate to our common struggle with reconciling our transgender identity, we shared very little else. While the help and advice I got, in the beginning, was invaluable, we simply had little else to offer each other, after a time."

It was a moment before he responded. "So, did you ever date any of them?"

Smiling ruefully, she nodded. "Yes, but it never worked out very well. When neither member of a relationship is comfortable with their bodies, sexual contact is very limited, and awkward. Those who were post-op, or comfortable with not undergoing sex reassignment surgery, didn't usually want to be with someone who was pre-op. I can understand the feeling, now. I am finally completely comfortable in my body, and the idea of being with someone who isn't, is less than appealing. I want a partner who can let me love them. It may be an unfair sentiment, but it's something I need out of a relationship."

Andre smiled at her sadly. "I don't think it's unfair. You deserve to have everything you want from a relationship, now that you can. I don't know how things were for you after graduation, but I remember how they were while we were in school. I know why you handled relationships the way you did, but you deserved more. It's why things didn't work between us. I wanted to give you more, and you weren't able to accept it."

Even though Maura's smile was tinged with regret and sadness, it was still warm. "I know, and I have nothing but fond memories of our time together. You might have been the first person who, honestly, wanted to give me as much as I gave you. It took a couple years to fully realize, but you played a large part in showing me that relationships should involve give AND take. It's just taken to now for me to be comfortable with the 'taking' part of the equation. My relationships before you, and many of those after, weren't healthy, simply because I was not mentally capable of being in a healthy relationship."

Sharing a look with Paul, he gave a barely visible nod toward Jane. Glancing in her direction, Paul saw all her attention focused on Maura, and he nodded back with a slight smile. "What about now? It sounds like you've spent a lot of time thinking about it."

Forcing her gaze to stay forward, Maura nodded. "Yes, I have. Granted, most of the examination of past relationships has happened over the past several years, with my therapist. Although the frequency with which I visit her has tapered off since my operation, I have discussed the possibility of having a relationship, and what I would ideally desire from one, now that I have fully transitioned."

Tapping Andre's foot with his, he hid a roll of his eyes behind his beer. "But, what about now? Do you want a relationship, now?" Seeing Jane lean forward more, he took another drink to hide his smirk.

Glancing quickly toward Jane, she gave a small shrug. "With the right person, yes. I would need to find someone who I am interested in, who is interested in me and willing and able to accept me for who I am. I want someone who sees who I am, as a whole person, not just as a transgender woman. Until I find that someone, I find that I am unwilling to settle for less."

Leaning forward, Andre grinned evilly. "So, do you have anyone in mind?"

Shooting him a glare, Maura kept herself from even glancing in Jane's direction. "Even if there were someone I were interested in, the interest would have to be returned for it to matter, at all. I try not to dwell on what I can't have."

When Jane snorted, everyone turned to look at her. "How do you know you can't have it? What happened to that whole spiel you gave me about not knowing I can't have something if I'm not looking for it? What? I have to be looking, but you don't? How, exactly, is that fair? If I deserve to have everything I want, then you definitely do. So, if there's someone you're interested in, how do you know they're not interested in you?"

Giving Andre another pained glare, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Taking another deep breath, she opened her eyes and turned back to Jane. "Because, the person I'm interested in isn't interested in women. If they are interested in me, then it means they don't see me as a woman, and that thought hurts too much for me to really face."

Getting up, Jane nudged Maura with her hip until she moved over enough for her to sit next to her. Pitting an arm around her shoulders, Jane pulled her into a hug and let her cheek rest against Maura's hair. Rocking slightly, she waited until Maura started to pull away. "Maura, you are a beautiful, amazing woman. Anyone who doesn't see that is an idiot, and doesn't deserve you."

When Maura buried her face in Jane's neck and started sobbing, Jane looked at the guys helplessly. Finding no help, she started rubbing circles on her back and just held her. When the sobbing stopped, Jane put her hands on Maura's shoulders and pushed her away far enough to see her face. Bending her head down, she managed to catch her eye. "Sweetheart, no one who makes you cry like that deserves you. You understand that? You deserve to be loved and cherished, and whoever you end up with better make it their goal in life to make you smile, or they'll have to deal with me. Are you ok?"

Nodding, Maura sat back and reached for the box of tissues on the end table. Seeing the mascara smudged on Jane's shoulder, she cringed. "I ruined another of your shirts. I'm sorry. I really love the way that one looks on you, too. The other one was really a horrible fit and color for you, and I won't miss it in your wardrobe, but I was looking forward to seeing you in this one, again. You should go change, and I'll see if I can see if I can save it before the stain sets."

Looking down at her shirt, Jane rolled her eyes. "It's just a shirt. Making sure you feel better means more to me than pretty much anything. A shirt can be replaced, but you're my best friend, and I love you."

Standing, Maura pulled Jane with her and pushed her down the hallway. "Yes, but I really do love that shirt on you, and I would hate for it to be ruined. You go change and bring it back. Maybe with a little scrubbing, I can get the mascara out. I think you still have some gym clothes here, if you don't want to wear a blouse. Now, go."

Watching Jane roll her eyes, but walk down the hallway without arguing, Andre and Paul smiled. When Maura sat back down, Andre leaned forward to place a hand on Maura's knee. "Are you still convinced she doesn't love you? That woman is willing to wait for you to show her you want her. So, show her. I think if you gave her even the smallest hint that it was her you were talking about, you'd make her the happiest person alive."

Grabbing another tissue, she shook her head sadly. "No, I can't. You heard her. She's not interested in me. She wants me to find someone else to be happy with."

Rolling his eyes, he sighed. "Maura, what I heard is a woman who loves you so much she wants nothing more than for you to be happy."

Shaking her head harder, Maura glanced down the hallway to make sure Jane wasn't coming back. "No, I think you heard it wrong. Besides, she's still straight, so she can't be interested in me."

Chuckling, Paul shook his head at her. "I think you need to pay more attention. Never once has she used anything but gender-neutral pronouns when she talks about having a relationship."

Holding up a hand, Andre pointed down the hallway to let them know Jane was coming back. Turning, Maura's eyes widened when she saw Jane wearing one of the few t-shirts she owned. Glancing up and down her body, she swallowed and turned a slightly panicked gaze back to the guys.

Dropping back into her chair, Jane held out her shirt and pulled pointlessly at the hem of the one she was wearing. "Here, scrub away. All I have here is a sports bra and a work shirt, so I grabbed one from your dresser. I forgot you're so short, though. Why can't you have any giant, comfy shirts, like a normal person. I feel like I'm playing dress up in my little sister's clothes, and I don't even have a little sister."

Swallowing again, Maura took the shirt and carefully examined the stain. Nodding when she realized it wasn't as bad as she'd thought, she laid it across her lap. "I have several items I consider 'comfy shirts.' None of which could be called 'giant.' I prefer my clothing, even loungewear, to fit me. I'm just not comfortable in ill-fitting clothing."

Grinning, Jane gave up trying to pull the shirt down. "Yeah, well, you seem pretty comfortable when you borrow my 'loungewear,' and I know it's all at least two sizes too big for you."

Thinking for a moment, she turned her focus back to the shirt in her lap, finally deciding to get up to hide her blush. "Yes, but that is different, somehow, because it's your clothing. I prefer my own clothing to fit properly."

Rolling her eyes, Jane watched her hurry off in the direction of the laundry room. Shaking her head, she chuckled. "That woman makes no sense, sometimes."

Catching her eye, Paul grinned at her. "So, are you going to tell her? She said she's ready for a relationship, so there's nothing holding you back. I think you should tell her, before you lose her. Someone else will eventually see what you see, and then it'll be too late."

Nodding thoughtfully, she kept staring down the hallway. "Maybe, but not right now. I don't want to rush or pressure her. She deserve more than that. I don't want to risk ruining this, so I need to take it slow."

Smiling happily, Andre nodded. "I think the first thing you need to do is make sure she knows you're interested in women. You are interested in women, right? Or is it just her?"

Giving a low chuckle, Jane shook her head. "Oh, it's not just her. I've never bothered to label myself, but I've known I was interested in girls since high school. I lost my virginity to another girl. Once I entered the Academy, though, I pretty much stopped dating. I get enough shit for being a woman. Half the world already assumes I’m gay. Frankly, my personal life is none of their business, so I just don't talk about it. The last relationship I had was before I met Maura, and I haven't even dated much since then. It just seems like everyone either wants me to give up my job, or be the one to protect them all the time. I don't want that."

Paul looked at her curiously. "What do you want?"

Shrugging, she leaned back. "An equal. Someone who's there for me as much as I'm there for them. I don't need saving, and I'm not really interested in having to save someone else. I do enough of that at work."

Brow furrowed, he looked between her and where Maura had disappeared down the hallway. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like you'd be more than willing to save Maura."

Following his gaze, she smiled. "Yeah, I would, but that's not really what I mean. Maura can take care of herself, even if she does need to remind me of that, sometimes. She doesn't EXPECT me to always come rushing in to save her from every little thing. She's strong, and she knows it. Maura doesn't need SAVING, but she's willing to accept help when she needs it. At the same time, she's willing to help anyone who needs it.

"When my job gives me nightmares, she's the one I call. It doesn't matter what time it is, or how little sleep she's had, she always answers the phone. Sometimes, all I need is to talk to her for a few minutes. Others, one of us packs an overnight bag and drives across town and we spend the night together so I can get some sleep. We spend most weekend nights together because she wants to make sure I get at least a couple good nights of sleep."

Smiling, Paul leaned into Andre's side and sighed when he wrapped an arm around his shoulders. "You really do love her."

Nodding, Jane kept staring down the hallway. "How could I not? Now, I just have to see if she can love me, back."

Falling into a comfortable silence, they waited for Maura to come back.

When Maura finally finished with Jane's shirt and came back in the living room, Andre and Paul stood and made their excuses. Exchanging handshakes and hugs, they promised to be at the Dirty Robber on Wednesday night for drinks. Not commenting on the new looks the women gave each other when they thought no one was looking, they left with smiles.

Waiting for Andre to get in the passenger seat, Paul sighed happily. "So, who do you think will make the first move?"

Thanking for a moment, he shrugged. "Probably Jane, unless Maura stops acting on the assumption that Jane's straight."

Nodding, Paul pulled out onto the street. "You're probably right, but do you think we'll be here to see it?"

Shrugging again, Andre turned to look back at the house. "That will all depend on Maura, I think. Jane is ready to take things as slowly as she thinks Maura needs. So, unless she gets some sign, it may be months before Jane finally makes a move."

Reaching out for Andre's hand, he nodded again. "I wonder if their friends see it. I know they don't know about Maura, but I wonder if they realize they're in love. It's hard to imagine that anyone couldn't see it."

Thinking, Andre made a noncommittal noise. "Without meeting them, it's impossible to tell. Although, they are detectives, so they have to be rather observant. It's easy to miss something you don't know to look for, though. Do you think we should find out, on Wednesday?"

Shaking his head, Paul turned to look at Andre when they stopped at a red light. "No, it's not our place. I know Boston is pretty liberal, but it's Jane's job and her coworkers. American cops can be very unpleasant to the gay community, especially gay cops. Even though it's easier for them to accept gay women, than men, it still wouldn't be fair for us to risk outing Jane. Unless they bring it up, I don't think we should mention it."

After a moment, Andre nodded and squeezed Paul's hand. "You're right. I forget that much of America is still homophobic. For such an advanced country, they certainly have some outdated views and practices."

Laughing, Paul shook his head in amusement. "I won't argue with that. But, I guess you have to realize that the country was founded by people so uptight the British kicked them out, and criminals England didn't have jail space for. WIth a heritage like that, it's easier to understand the contradiction."

Chuckling, Andre pulled their joined hands up to place a kiss on the back of Paul's.

Chapter 13

Angela's call Monday evening was expected, but it didn't stop Jane from groaning before she answered it. Hearing the predictable litany of questions about her 'date' the previous night, she sat back and waited it out. Answering truthfully, and avoiding the questions she couldn't, she shook her head at her mother's excitement.

When she finally refused to answer any more questions, Jane shook her head at Angela's insistence that she do something to make up for 'abandoning' her family the night before. Thinking back over the weekend, she kept the smile out of her voice and artfully steered the conversation in the right direction. Almost ten minutes later, after several minutes of giving the expected refusals and excuses, she made a show of reluctantly agreeing to a shopping trip.

Jane picked Angela up after work on Tuesday, insisting that if she was going to be dragged shopping she was going to drive and pick the store. Pulling up in front of the boutique Maura took her to on Saturday, she made a vague excuse about it being someplace Maura had dragged her to, that she didn't hate.

Going inside, Jane sighed in relief when she saw different salespeople working. Letting the saleswoman guide them to the right section, Jane watched Angela fuss over the selection and allowed herself to be loaded down with several items to try on. Making sure Angela was looking in a different direction, she quickly grabbed a few more items and made her way to the dressing room.

They left when the boutique closed, almost an hour later. Jane pasted a carefully annoyed look on her face, and had to force herself not to smirk at Angela's smug look.

Dropping her mother off, Jane drove home. Carrying her purchases inside, she smiled as she put the three shirts she'd refused to buy on Saturday, and a dress she'd let her mother talk her into buying, away.

Maura's open-mouthed gaping the next morning made Jane grin and stand up to do a slow spin for her. Sitting back down, she waited until Maura finally closed her mouth. "Did I make the Great Maura Isles speechless? I didn't think the shirt was that amazing."

Shaking her head, Maura opened and closed her mouth a couple times before finally speaking. "It is amazing, but that's not what caught me off guard, the most. When did you go back to boutique? I thought you said you didn't need any more tops."

Glaring at Korsak's obvious eavesdropping, Jane shrugged. "I don't, really, but Ma insisted on going shopping to make up for missing Sunday dinner. I trust your opinion more than hers, since I KNOW you'll tell me if I look horrible in something, so I figured I'd take her to the boutique. I let her think she convinced me I look good in them, and I came away with clothes I don't hate. It's a win-win. And, I got the added benefit of seeing your reaction."

Looking over Jane's seated form, Maura nodded. "While I don't approve of you misleading your mother, I do approve of the addition to your wardrobe. I guess, as long as she feels the shopping trip was a success, then no one was harmed by your subterfuge. Did you also get the other tops you insisted I put back?"

Nodding, she smiled and leaned back in her chair. "Yeah. Ma was quite proud of herself for 'talking me into' buying more than one thing. You should've seen some of the things she wanted me to try on. I'm just lucky they didn't have anything floral patterned, there. I think she found every top that was either pink or ruffled, in the entire store."

Thinking, Maura gave a small nod. "Angela does seem to have a strong desire to see you in overly feminine clothing. While most shades of pink would go well with your coloring, ruffles are out of place with your frame and bearing."

Jane snorted and rolled her eyes. "I think she's convinced that if she gets me to wear pink, ruffles, dresses, and do my hair that I'll suddenly decide that she's right and I really do need to focus on finding myself a good man to settle down and have babies with. I've never liked pink, and I don't need to find a man and settle down."

Opening her mouth, Maura gave a small shake of her head before closing it again. Smiling, she seemed to settle on something to say, and nodded. "Well, I'm just glad that you've started to take my advice and are improving your wardrobe. You really do look much better in more flattering tops."

Pointing from Korsak to Frost, she glared until they both made a show of closing their mouths and looking away. Turning back to Maura, she shrugged. "Yeah, well, when you had Paul basically telling me I dress like a hobo, I didn't really have any other choice. Ma wants me to wear clothes that make me look like something from the top of a cake. You dress like a runway model, and I know I don't stand a chance of looking even half as good. Having Paul insult my clothing was a low blow, and you knew I'd have to believe him."

Staring at her, Maura raised one eyebrow. "Surely your mother and I are not the only people who have every commented on your wardrobe. I find that very hard to believe."

Not bothering to look up from her computer, Jane shrugged. "Suspects don't count. Neither does any comment including the word 'dyke,' or anything coming out of Crowe's mouth. Those are hardly credible opinions."

Looking at the other detectives, Maura was met by Frost's upraised hands. "Hey, don't look at me. I like my balls too much to say anything."

When she raised an eyebrow at Korsak, he just shrugged. "What's wrong with the way she dresses? I don't see how this shirt is different than anything else she wears, unless it's the color. I'm not sure I've seen Jane wear green before."

Hearing Jane snort and choke back a chuckle, Maura stared at her until she shook her head and answered with a smirk. "You really expect Korsak to notice anything? I think he's been wearing the same clothes since the eighties."

At the indignant "Hey" from Korsak, Frost choked on his coffee and started coughing. After making sure he was ok, Maura just shook her head. "Well, regardless, I'm glad you have finally decided to start listening to my advice. I need to get back to work. We're still going to the Robber, tonight, right? I want to confirm the time with Andre and Paul, and make sure they have accurate directions."

Ignoring Frost's smirk at Korsak's sudden interest, Jane nodded. "Yeah, we're still on. I gave Paul directions, the other night, but it wouldn't be a bad idea for you to double check. You give better directions, anyway. Usual time."

Leaning forward, Korsak looked back and forth between them. "So, Andre and Paul? Do we get to meet these guys, or are you keeping them a secret? Why haven't you mentioned them before?"

Holding up a hand to keep Maura from responding, Jane grinned back at him. "Yes, Andre and Paul. Do you really think we'd invite them to the Robber and expect to keep them a secret? Show up, and you'll get to meet them."

Sharing a look with Frost, she shook her head and winked at Maura, waiting for a look of recognition. Finally getting it, Jane smirked and nodded. "Ok, we should all get back to work. I'll see you at lunch, and you make sure the guys know where and when to be. I'm looking forward to tonight."

Smiling, Maura nodded, waved, and said her goodbyes before heading for the elevator.

Waiting until the elevator doors closed, Korsak turned to scoot his chair closer to Jane's desk. "Is this the same Paul who insulted your clothes? He must be special if you're willing to change the way you dress for him. How long have you been together, and why haven't we heard about this new guy, before?"

Seeing Frost biting his lip, Jane grinned. "Well, he's a Yankees fan, but no one can be perfect. And, I wouldn't say we're together, but we did spend a lot of the weekend together. Dinner on Friday, all afternoon on Saturday, and dinner again on Sunday. If you want to know anything else, then you'll just have to wait. I'm sure he'll be willing to answer your questions, tonight. Now, leave me alone so I can work."

Pasting on a carefully blank look, Frost shrugged when Korsak looked his way. Giving Jane a last look, Korsak shook his head and turned back to his computer.

When Jane and got to the Robber, she found Korsak already sitting at a table and watching the door. Rolling her eyes, she walked over and sat down. "What, are you afraid we'd try to sneak them in and hide in a corner, or something?"

Looking slightly embarrassed, he shrugged. "I just wanted to make sure there was a table free, so I got here early. So, where are the Doc and these mystery men?"

Snorting, she shook her head. Checking the time, she glanced toward the doors and shrugged. "Sure you did. They should be here, soon. I think Maura was going to wait out front for them."

Giving her a sideways glance, he kept watching the door. When they saw Maura walk in, followed by Andre and Paul, Jane stood up and walked to meet them. Returning Paul's hug and only feeling slightly awkward when Andre kissed both cheeks, she glanced quickly back at the table to make sure Korsak was still seated. "Ok, Korsak doesn't realize you guys are together, and I want to see how long it takes him to notice. You don't have to act different, or lie, or anything. Just play along."

Sharing a look, Andre shrugged and Paul grinned and nodded. "Your other partner, Frost, right? Does he know?" Getting an answering nod and smirk, he grinned wider. "Oh, this could be fun. I'm assuming the older guy watching us is Korsak? He isn't homophobic, is he?"

Turning to head back to the table, Jane shook her head. "No, I've seen him defend gays when some of the uniforms have been rude. He's not going to freak out, or anything. He just thinks that you guys are dating us."

Getting back to the table, Jane quickly introduced them. Shaking hands, everyone sat down, Jane and Maura sitting on either side of the guys. Looking at Jane sitting next to Andre, Korsak raised an eyebrow. "I thought you were with Paul."

Noticing how they were sitting, Jane shrugged. "I never said that. You assumed it. Besides, you said it yourself, Paul insulted my clothes."

Turning to Maura, he looked between her and Paul. "So, you and Paul? No offense, Paul, but Andre seemed more the Doc's type."

Seeing Jane's hopeful look, Maura smiled and shook her head. "Oh, Andre and I aren't compatible. While we get along on a platonic level, the possibility of a romantic connection just doesn't exist."

Shaking his head in confusion, he sat watched them in silence as the guys talked about the museum exhibit they'd visited and Maura asked questions about individual pieces.

Getting up, Jane smiled and shook her head. Asking for drink orders, she made her way to the bar. Frost met her as she was headed back, and took a couple drinks out of her hands. Nodding toward the table, he saw Korsak studying the men as they talked to Maura. "He still doesn't realize they're gay?"

Chuckling, she shook her head. "Nope, and we're not telling him. The guys agreed to see how long it takes him to figure it out, on his own."

Snorting, he set the drinks down when they got back to the table. As Jane made sure everyone had the right drink, Maura introduced Frost. He shook hands and then left to get his own drink from the bar. Coming back, he sat next to Maura and listened as the conversation shifted to an art exhibit Maura and Andre had both seen, in Paris. When they fell silent, realizing no one else was able to add anything, Frost took the chance to begin asking questions. "So, what do you guys do?"

Giving a small sigh, Paul gave a dismissive wave. "You really don't want to hear about my job. I'm a financial advisor. Basically, I sit behind a desk all day and make sure the numbers add and subtract the way they should. I like my job, but it doesn't make he most engaging topic of conversation."

Korsak nodded, seeming to have come to some sort of conclusion. "I can see why you're not with Jane. I don't think I've ever seen her do any math."

Throwing a napkin at him, Jane glared playfully. "Hey, I'll have you know that math was one of my better subjects, in school. Just because you've never seen me doing math, doesn't mean I don't know how."

Rolling his eyes and shake his head, Korsak looked at Andre. "So, what do you do?"

Andre managed to look slightly embarrassed. "I'm a lawyer. Family law, mostly."

Glancing at Jane, Korsak leaned forward. "Family law. So, do you handle a lot of divorces and custody battles? I hear that divorce lawyers have a hard time being in relationships. You know, after seeing all the ways they can end badly."

Jane snorted into her beer. "Don't you think you should get married, again, before you start looking for a divorce lawyer?"

Ignoring Jane's remark and Paul's smirk, Andre shook his head. "No, divorces are always ugly, and I do my best to avoid them. I prefer to handle wills and adoptions. Although, as a very junior member of a small firm, I take whatever cases I'm given. I don't really mind, since I'm still getting used to the American legal process. I completed all my licensing and certification requirements before moving here, but it's not the same as actually going through the process at each step."

Leaning his elbows on the table, Korsak nodded and took a sip of his beer. "I've been trying to figure out where your accent is from. Australia or New Zealand, maybe?"

Chuckling, he shook his head. "I'm afraid it's not a pure accent, anymore, which probably makes it harder to place. No, I am originally from France, but spent more than ten years living in England."

Starting visibly, Korsak looked quickly back and forth between Andre and Paul and them and Jane and Maura. Seeing Jane's amused look, he sat back with a sigh and glared at her, half-heartedly. "Let me guess, Andre is the ex Maura's been talking about, and Paul is his husband? You couldn't just tell me that? You think you're real amusing, don't you?"

When the table erupted into laughter, even Maura laughing quietly behind her wine glass, he glared harder. Realizing Frost wasn't surprised by the revelation, Korsak turned his glare on him. "You were in on this? Was I the the only one who didn't know?"

Taking a drink of his beer to give himself time to compose himself, Frost grinned and nodded. "Hey, old man, it's not my fault you didn't know. I thought you were supposed to be a detective, and you couldn't even put together a few clues."

Rolling her eyes, Jane threw another wadded up napkin at Frost. "Don't be so cocky. The only reason you know is because I had to spell it out for you on Friday. Or did you forget assuming that Maura and I were dating married men? Just because Maura and I spend some time with a couple men, doesn't mean we're dating them."

Ducking his head and grinning sheepishly, he did his best to avoid Korsak's gaze. "Hey, it's not my fault. Maura said you were meeting them for dinner. Two attractive women meeting two men for dinner sounds an awful lot like a date, to me."

Shaking her head, Maura gave him a chastising look. "To be fair, I said that I wouldn't consider it a date. Continuing to assume otherwise, after that, is no one's fault but your own."

Ignoring them, Korsak turned his attention back to Andre. "So, you dated Maura in high school? What was she like? Was she always this literal?"

Looking nervously at Maura, he relaxed when she smiled and gave him a small nod. Taking a deep breath, he thought for a moment before carefully choosing his response. "She was very different, but it was many years ago. I was probably a very different person, too. I do remember she always took things exactly the way they were said, though, and I believe she has always been very precise in her choice of words. She never says something she doesn't mean."

Happy to have the focus taken off him, Frost looked back up. "When did you figure out you were gay?"

Darting another glance at Maura, he shrugged. "I can't think of a time I wasn't aware of my attraction to other boys, at least on some level. It was quite some time before I realized what I was feeling wasn't as common as I'd always assumed. I didn't have much contact with girls until I was well into my teens."

Catching his eye, Maura gave a slight nod. "Andre went to an all-boys boarding school outside of Paris. The sister school was on the other side of the river, and co-ed events weren't allowed until one reached the upper grades. I believe I was about fourteen the first time I attended a co-ed dance. Even sporting events were segregated, and all events were strictly chaperoned."

Nodding in thanks, he took another moment to form an answer. "I attended boarding school from the beginning, so I had almost no contact with girls my age until high school, and even then it was very limited. I assumed, in my inexperience, that all the boys thought about kissing and holding hands with other boys. It wasn't until I was older, that I began to realize that not everyone felt the way I did. I started learning what I could, when I could. I couldn't learn much at school, so I spent a lot of my free weekends in libraries. It took awhile for me to figure out what to look for, but once I did, I read everything I could find."

Spinning his beer bottle thoughtfully, Frost looked from Andre to Maura, and then to Paul. "So, where in all of that did you meet Maura? And how did you and Paul end up together?"

Smiling fondly, Andre looked at Maura. "Maura and I met when we were younger. We were casual friends for a couple years, and both thought a relationship was the natural next level. It lasted for a few months before we realized we weren't what the other needed, and decided we made better friends. I was sad when we lost touch after graduation, but I understand the reasons behind it, now."

Brows furrowed, Korsak looked at them. "Maura never said why you lost touch."

Sighing, Maura looked down at her hands. "I wanted to use college as a chance for a fresh start. I believed, at the time, that in order to do that I needed to cease contact with everyone I knew before. Granted, Andre was the only one who showed any interest in maintaining contact after graduation, so was the only person I had to actually cut contact with. By the time I had an interest in resuming contact, I was unable to find him."

Shrugging, Andre looked at Paul with a smile. "By that point, I had moved to England to attend university. Paul and I started dating a couple years later, and have been together since then. We've been married for almost five years, even if we couldn't legally call it that until we moved here."

Noticing Jane's confused look, Paul gave a half-smile and a shrug. "They don't allow same-sex marriages, but they do allow civil partnerships. Legally, it's the same thing, just with a different name. One of the first things we did, when we moved to New York, was get all the paperwork taken care of so we were legally married."

Looking at them in confusion, Korsak rolled his eyes and shook his head. "So, you have two wedding anniversaries to remember? I had a hard enough time remembering one, when I was married. Actually, remembering one was one of the problems with my second marriage. Giving your wife an anniversary gift on your ex-wife's anniversary, does not end well. I think I slept on the couch for the next month. The worst part, was that I'd forgotten our actual anniversary, the month before."

Wincing, Jane stared at him in disbelief. "Really? Man, if someone pulled that with me, they'd be lucky if I didn't throw all their stuff out in the street and change all the locks. I think that's up there with calling out the wrong name, in bed. Actually, I might be tempted to just shoot them, so they couldn't do it again."

Putting both hands up, he leaned away from her. "Hey, it wasn't completely my fault. She never mentioned me forgetting our actual anniversary. I didn't really realize the dates were a month apart, until that happened. She started reminding me, a couple months ahead of time, after that."

Shaking her head, she rolled her eyes. "Still. You just don't pull that shit. You mark the date down on every calendar you own, in big, red letters. Forgetting the date MIGHT be forgivable, but not if you follow it by celebrating your ex's anniversary. No wonder you end up divorced."

Seeing no help from the other men, Korsak sighed and slumped in his chair. "Yeah, it was bad, but it's not like I did it to you. You can stop plotting my death, now."

Huffing quietly, she leaned back with a satisfied smirk. "Hey, just defending women everywhere. I'm sure Maura understands, and agrees with me."

Giving a small shrug, Maura nodded in agreement. "Yes, while forgetting an important date, like an anniversary, is usually seen as an insult requiring substantial effort to atone for, marking an anniversary from a prior relationship would be particularly humiliating and insulting for the injured party. It gives the impression that the past relationship was more memorable, and important, than the current one. Although Jane's suggested retaliatory actions are a bit extreme, some actions would definitely be warranted to insure the magnitude of the affront was understood, and to discourage similar actions in the future."

Sharing a look with Andre, Paul shrugged. "I'm with them, on this. You just don't do that."

When Korsak looked at him, Frost just shook his head. "That's just harsh, man."

Throwing both hands up, Korsak got up quickly. "Fine. Yeah, I know it was bad, but we stayed married for several years after that. I'm getting another beer. Anyone else want anything? Maybe I can buy my way back onto your good sides."

Giving their drink orders, they watched him walk away. Shaking his head, Frost chuckled quietly. "That man is just not meant to be married. So, how long are you guys in town?"

Sharing a slightly forlorn look with Paul, Andre sighed and glanced at Maura. "Our flight leaves tomorrow night."

Korsak set a try of drinks down on the table, overhearing Andre's statement. "Why are you flying? You just live in New York, right? Why didn't you just drive? It's not that far, just a few hours."

Looking uncomfortable, Paul shook his head. "I get carsick on long trips. Any driving more than about a half hour, and it gets very unpleasant. We'd be stopping every ten minutes, and I'd have to spend the next two days recovering."

Wincing, Jane set her beer back down, untouched. "I'm not sure I want to know how you figured that out."

Shuddering, he grimaced and swallowed. "A REALLY bad vacation as a child. RV camping trips were popular, and my parents thought it would be a great way to spend the summer. We were back home in less than a week. I still haven't seen the Grand Canyon."

Looking around, he was met with shrugs. Maura just shook her head. "My parents always left me with the nanny, when I was younger. When I was older, I requested to spend the summer at academic camps."

Andre gave her an understanding smile. "The last thing my mother wanted was to be forced to spend time with us. We'd go so long without seeing her, we sometimes didn't even realize she'd left on a trip until she came back. She always had a party so she could show her friends pictures and tell them stories. She'd have our nanny bring us down so she could give us our souvenirs where everyone could watch and comment on what a generous mother she was."

Looking at the others, Paul gave them hopeful looks. "Someone else has to know what vacationing with your family is like."

Frost just gave a hopeless shrug. "I'm a Navy brat. We didn't really go on vacations, but I must've lived in a dozen different places, growing up."

Shaking her head, Jane gave an amused smile. "Pop's a plumber. Vacationing meant stuffing all five of us, and our stuff, into the car and spending the day at the beach. By the time we drove home, I think they were ready to kill us. I knew we were ready to kill each other. Three kids crammed in the backseat of a car, with coolers and beach gear on the floor at our feet, at the end of a long day in the sun, leads to nothing but fighting. We'd usually go once or twice at the beginning of the summer, before Ma and Pop remembered why it was a bad idea, and we'd spend the rest of the summer at home."

Staring off into space, Korsak smiled fondly and shook his head. "I was raised by my mom, at a time when being a single mother just wasn't done. It was hard enough for her to find a job that paid enough to support us, without asking for time off. We went camping a few times, when she had a couple days off in a row. Other times, we'd spend the day at the beach or just have a picnic in the park and spend the day outside. If the weather was bad, we'd move all the furniture, spread out a blanket and have a picnic on the living room floor. We didn't have a lot of money, but she tried to make sure we always had fun when she had a day off."

Looking around the table, Paul sighed. "Didn't any of us have a normal childhood?"

Thinking for a moment, Jane shrugged. "With the exception of Maura and Andre with their nannies and parents jetting off on vacations to who knows where, I think we all had pretty normal childhoods. Normal is just what happens most often, right? Well, most of America is made up of families that have to work to support themselves. I don't think the families we grew up seeing on TV and in movies could be considered 'normal.' I don't really remember any of the parents having to go to work. They may have talked about it, but they always seemed to just be at home."

Wrinkling his nose, Paul looked at her in embarrassment. "Then I think you'll have to exclude me, too. We didn't take vacations in Europe, or anything, but my dad always had time off when he wanted it. I think the only reason he's ever worked was because he wanted something to do. After we found out I get carsick, we just flew for vacations."

Rolling her eyes, Jane shook her head. "Ok, so us lowly detectives had normal childhoods. The doctor, the lawyer, and the financial advisor either had crap parents or everything they wanted. And that kinda sounds like the intro to Gilligan's Island."

Paul started laughing, laughing even harder when he noticed the confused looks on Maura's and Andre's faces. Joining his laughter, Jane shook her head and smiled at Maura. "Don't worry, we'll have a Gilligan's Island marathon for our next movie night. I'm sure I can find it, somewhere. You just have to promise not to pick apart all the things they do. It's supposed to be ridiculous and unbelievable."

Opening her mouth, Maura closed it again before nodding. "I will do my best, but you know how I feel about unrealistic situations being portrayed in media. If the writers can't even be bothered to check the validity of a situation, then how is the viewer supposed to find it at all entertaining? Don't they know that focusing on the flaws detracts from the experience?"

Seeing the dumbfounded look on Jane's face, Paul started laughing, again. "Have fun. I'm pretty sure there's NOTHING realistic about Gilligan's Island. By the time she's done pointing out all the flaws, you'll be left with nothing but the title."

Frost's snort drew their attention. "Actually, you won't even be left with that. As my father liked to point out, the island would have been named after the captain, not the first mate. Even the Howell's would have a better chance of naming it than GIlligan, since they had the money to sue for naming and ownership rights."

Groaning, Jane rolled her eyes. "I'm going to regret ever mentioning it, aren't I? You're going to make me let you watch it, and pick apart every detail, aren't you?" Seeing Maura's answering nod, Jane groaned again and buried her face in her hands.

Chuckling, Korsak clapped her on the shoulder. "I'm sure you'll survive, although you'll probably never want to watch the show, again."

Looking up, she glared at him over her hands. "Thanks, that makes me feel so much better."

Finally giving into his curiosity, Andre nudged Paul. "I assume this is an American television show?"

Grinning, he nodded. "Yeah. I think it's from the sixties, but I grew up watching the reruns. Basically, a bunch of people are shipwrecked on an island. A bunch of really ridiculous things happen while they try to get off. None of it is realistic or believable. It's one of those shows you watch because it's so stupid it's funny. I'll try to find it, when we get home. You'll probably like it. It's a good show to watch when you want a mindless laugh."

Seeing the time, Korsak pushed his chair back from the table. "Hey, I hate to cut the evening short, but I'm not as young as I used to be, and it's getting late. I'll see you guys in the morning. Andre, Paul, it was nice to meet you both. Hopefully we'll get to see you again, if you come back to visit."

Glancing at the clock over the bar, Jane did a double-take. "It's after eleven? You guys are really bad for my sense of time. I swear, every time we're together, hours pass without me noticing. Korsak's right, though, it is late, and we have work in the morning."

Nodding, everyone started to reluctantly get to the their feet. Getting outside, they said their goodbyes and headed for their various cars. Andre and Paul watched as Jane walked Maura to hers, opening the door for her and closing it once she was settled inside. Walking back around to the passenger side, she stood on the curb and watched as Maura pulled away.

Shaking his head, Paul climbed in their car, joining Andre. "I was hoping we'd be here when they finally stopped dancing around each other, but I figured it'd take them longer than just a few days."

Relaxing back in his seat, Andre sighed. "Let's just go back to the hotel, I'm tired. They'll work it out, eventually. At least they're closer than they were, when we got here. I think we should invite them to New York when they have vacation time.

Paul grinned, turning to look at him. "That's a good idea. If they're not together by then, I will find a way to lock them in the guest room and steal their clothes while they sleep."

Rolling his eyes, Andre let his head rest against the seat and watched the streetlight pass them.

Chapter 14

For the next week, Jane noticed Maura watching her. She seemed to be focused on dissecting everything Jane said and did, while trying to keep everyone else from realizing what she was doing. More than once, Jane caught Maura staring at her with a look on concentration, sometimes so preoccupied she missed parts of the conversation and had to ask people to repeat themselves. Every time it happened, Jane had to hide a grin.

They'd been swamped with cases, and hadn't gotten a chance to spend much time together outside of work. Crowe and his partner had decided to request vacation at the same time, so neither would be left without a partner. That meant that all the cases were sent to Jane, Frost, and Korsak. Three cases in one week had them running all over the city, eating at their desks, and only going home long enough to shower and sleep for a few hours.

By the time they finally closed the second case on Thursday evening, they were all exhausted. Deciding it was too late to do anything on their last case, Korsak packed up and sent Jane and Frost home to get a real night's sleep.

Barely taking the time to kick her shoes off on her way to her bedroom, Jane didn't even bother changing or crawling under the covers before she was asleep. When her phone rang a couple hours later, she swore and grabbed blindly for it. Finally finding it, she answered without opening her eyes. Hearing Korsak's voice on the other end apologizing, she squeezed her eyes shut even tighter and groaned quietly. Telling him to send the address, she rolled off the bed, barely catching herself before she hit the floor. Rubbing her eyes, she shuffled down the hallway, found her shoes where she'd kicked them, and pulled them on before going out the door.

Pulling up outside a good-sized house in an upscale neighborhood, she looked around. There was a thankful lack of media or gawkers, probably due mostly to the hour and neighborhood. A few neighbors stood on their porches or watched from windows, but most kept their distance.

One man was yelling at a uniformed officer, demanding he be allowed to talk to someone in charge, because the sirens of the initial patrol cars had woken him and the flashing lights were shining in his bedroom window and keeping him from going back to sleep. Rolling her eyes, she walked over, if for no other reason than to try to get him to go back inside. After explaining that they were there to investigate a possible crime, which would help ensure his neighborhood remained a safe place to live, she was stunned when he snorted derisively. When he told her the 'freak' offing himself wasn't a crime and he'd sue if it effected his property values, she had to force herself not to reach for her gun while she told him to go back inside before she had him charged for interfering with an investigation.

Sharing a disgusted and disbelieving look with the officer, they watched him storm back to his house and almost slam the door behind him. Closing her eyes and sighing, she turned and finally walked up to the house. Seeing Korsak in the living room talking to an upset couple, she was pointed up the stairs by a uniform. Making her way to the only open door, she took a deep breath before entering.

Frost was standing in the corner furthest from the body, taking deep breathes and trying not to look that way. When Jane walked over, she realized why. Maura was kneeling next to the body of a boy that couldn't be older than fourteen or fifteen. A crude noose was knotted around his neck, the end frayed. Looking up, she saw the rest of the rope tied to a bar in the closet.

Kneeling next to Maura, she took a deep breath and waited. Looking up, Maura's face remained overly composed as she recited what they knew. "Jim Walters, fourteen. His parents went out to dinner. When his mother checked on him after they got back, she found him hanging in the closet. His father cut the rope and tried to revive him, but was unsuccessful. Time of death is approximating two hours before they got home. There was a note taped to the computer monitor, which the techs have bagged. I'll do an autopsy, of course, but I see nothing to lead me to believe it wasn't a suicide."

Sighing and closing her eyes, Jane leaned back on her heels before getting up. "He never had a chance. He knew when his parents would get home, and he made sure it would be too late. What in the world makes a kid want to kill himself?"

Shaking her head, she started looking around the room. The closet was large, and all the clothes had been moved as far away from where the rope was tied, as possible. A desk chair was kicked over off to the side. The clothes looked like mostly jeans and t-shirts, which was expected for a teenage boy. The desk and dresser were covered in papers, school books, and the other debris left behind by a teenager too lazy to put things away. The bed was unmade. Band posters and a few drawings covered the walls. Sighing, Jane decided it looked just like every other teenage boy's room.

When Maura stood so the body could be bagged and loaded onto a gurney, Jane and Frost followed her out. Seeing Korsak standing outside the living room, they waited for him to walk over. "The parents are going to stay at a hotel, tonight. They just don't want to deal with being here. Thursday is their usual date night. Every week, they try to go out and spend a few hours just being a couple. The wife says it's what makes their relationship so strong. She said Jim's been depressed for the last couple years, since his friend died in a car accident, but they never had any reason to think he was suicidal."

Taking a deep breath, Jane made sure the parents were out of earshot. "The neighbor was outside complaining, when I got here. Said the lights were keeping him from sleeping. He also told me that 'the freak' killing himself wasn't a crime. Maybe there was some bullying going on that the parents didn't know about. I'll have a uniform make sure he's still awake, and ask him a few questions. I doubt he knows anything useful, but I really didn't like him. Since being a bastard isn't a crime, then I'll have to make due with making his night as unpleasant as possible."

Letting out a humorless snort, Korsak turned to let the parents know the upstairs was clear and they could pack a bag, if they wanted. Offering them a ride to the hotel, so they wouldn't have to drive, he wasn't surprised when they declined. Making sure everyone else had left, he walked out onto the porch and closed the door behind him. Seeing Jane and Frost standing on the sidewalk, he walked over to join them. Looking at his watch, he sighed heavily when he realized it was after midnight. "Go home. Try to get some sleep. There isn't much for us to do, on this one, and nothing we can do tonight. Did the Doc already leave?"

Looking over her shoulder, Jane shook her head. "No, she said she needed a minute. You guys go, I'll make sure she gets home. See you in the morning."

Watching them leave, she walked over to Maura's car and knocked on the window. When it rolled down, she gave a weak smile and nod. "You go home. I'll follow right behind you. We can open a bottle of wine, watch a movie, talk, sleep, or do whatever you need."

Blinking, Maura shook her head and took a shuddering breath. "Can we go to your place, instead? The smaller space feels less empty, somehow."

Nodding, Jane leaned down before realizing hugging through a car window wouldn't work, and standing back up. "Yeah, whatever you need. When you're ready, you can tell me why this case is effecting you so much. Even if it's not tonight, you know I'm here to listen."

Closing her eyes and smiling sadly, she nodded once. When Jane walked away and she saw her climb into her own car, Maura finally rolled her window back up. Waiting until Jane's car passed her, she pulled out and they drove slowly to Jane's apartment.

Finding Jane standing on the sidewalk waiting for her after she parked, Maura let her take her hand and lead her inside the building. The elevator ride was silent, and they didn't speak as they got ready for bed. Ignoring the pajamas she knew were folded in the drawer with the gym clothes she kept at Jane's, she pulled out one of Jane's oversized t-shirts and a pair of shorts. Sitting on the end of the bed, she waited until Jane came back in the room and crawled into bed before joining her.

Pulling Maura close, Jane closed her eyes and listened to their breathing. It was several minutes before Maura shifted a little and whispered almost too quiet for her to hear. "I was ten when I tried to kill myself." Taking a deep breath, she continued more loudly. "It was right after my father found me wearing Mother's clothes. He threatened me with military school and told me he'd rather I be dead than a fag. I didn't even really know what 'fag' meant. I just knew that he hated me and it was my fault.

"He sent me to my room. I could hear him yelling and saying he'd rather have no son at all than a fag. I'd always felt like something was wrong, and he just confirmed it. There was something so wrong with me, that it made him hate me. If it was so bad, then maybe he was right and I was better off dead. I didn't have any rope, so I got out all my ties, tied them together, and tied them to the bar in my closet. I pulled my chair over, stood on it, and slipped the loop I'd made over my head. I don't know if I misjudged the length needed, my weight tightened the knots and provided extra slack, or if the material was more elastic than I expected. When I kicked the chair away, I fell till my feet were just touching the floor. I remember not being able to breath and pushing up as far as I could. At some point, I passed out. When I woke up, Father was standing over me. As soon as my eyes opened, he started yelling at me. Told me that my attempt to get attention was pathetic and I wasn't even man enough to do it right. Then, he just walked out of the room.

"I found out later that my nanny had come in to check on me, to make sure I wasn't too upset. When she found me, she started screaming and trying to get me down. When she got the ties undone, she realized I was still breathing. Now, I know that the extra slack meant my breathing was only severely restricted, not stopped entirely. If I'd been there for longer, I might have suffered brain damage from lack of oxygen, but probably not death.

"After he left, I decided that his reaction meant I wasn't even worth killing. I started looking at boarding schools, just to get away. I thought that if I was far away, where he didn't have to see me and know there was something wrong with me, that maybe it would go away. Maybe, it would go away and he wouldn't hate me, anymore.

"I had a new nanny, after that. I think he fired her for saving me, or maybe he paid her off to keep her from talking about it. I never saw a doctor, even though my throat was sore and bruised for several days. Mother was away. I don't even remember why. By the time she got back, the bruises were mostly gone. I'm not even sure she ever knew what happened. I didn't tell her, and I never heard Father mention it. He rarely spoke to me, after that, and only when it couldn't be avoided."

Squeezing her eyes tightly shut, not even bothering to try to wipe away her tears, Jane pulled Maura as close as possible and hugged her tightly. "God, Maura. I am so sorry. If I ever meet that man, I promise, I will make him feel every bit of pain he ever caused you. No one should EVER treat someone else like that, especially a child. I love you, and I am SO glad you made it through all that. God, I don't even want to think about losing you. I will kill the bastard if he ever hurts you again."

Managing to pull away just enough to tilt her head up, Maura shook her head. "No, Jane. He's not worth it. I don't want you ruining your life because of something that happened in my past. He stopped having emotional control over me long ago. He stopped having any kind of control, at all, on my thirtieth birthday. I may not ever make my peace with the part he played in my life, but that part is over. I've lived the life I wanted in spite of his attempts to prevent it. If he didn't manage to ruin my life, then I won't have him ruin yours."

Sighing, Jane met Maura's eyes, reached up with one hand to wipe away her tears, and nodded. "If he ever does hurt you, again, I can't promise I won't hurt him. That man deserves to feel all the pain he caused you. I hate seeing you hurt."

Holding Jane's gaze, Maura spoke clearly and firmly. "Not having you in my life, would hurt me. Knowing you weren't in my life because of me, however indirectly, would hurt me. If I do end up being harmed, I will need you there with me while I heal. That can't happen if you throw your life away trying to avenge me. I need you in my life, not in jail."

Taking a deep breath, she nodded. "Ok. I will do whatever I have to, to make sure I can stay in your life. I don't want to not be in your life, either."

Smiling thankfully, Maura laid her head back down on Jane's shoulder. "Good. Now, you just need to remember that I can protect myself. I don't need you to save me, but I appreciate the sentiment. I've been taking care of myself for most of my life, but it's nice to know I have someone willing to help. Now, we should sleep. I have to perform Jim's autopsy, in the morning, and I'll need to be as rested as possible."

Letting out a dry laugh, Jane shook her head. "I know you can take care of yourself, but that doesn't mean you have to, all the time. You protect the people you love, even if they don't need you to. It's just the way it works. If at all possible, I'll be down for lunch. We can lock ourselves in your office, if you want. You're probably not going to want to be around people. If you need to be alone, just tell me, and I'll give you space."

Yawning, Maura shifted to get more comfortable. "You're right. I probably won't want to be around people, but I never don't want your company. It's been a long time since I had to handle a hanging victim, and never a child. I will be thankful when this is over, but it will probably take me a few days to fully process."

Nodding, Jane let her body relax. "You do your part. We'll try to find answers for his parents. As many as possible, anyway. Let me know what you want for lunch, and I'll bring it with me."

Getting a tired hum in response, Jane watched her and listened to her breathing. When she was sure Maura was asleep, she leaned her head down and placed a gentle kiss on Maura's lips. Laying back against the pillow, she tightened her hold on Maura for a quick moment before letting her eyes close.

The next morning was quiet. Maura was up, showered, dressed, and making breakfast by the time Jane woke up. Nodding to Maura on the way to the bathroom, she took a quick shower and got dressed. Smiling when Maura handed her a cup of coffee and put a plate of french toast down in front of her, they ate quickly and in near silence. Jane locked up as they left, and waved to Maura when they parted for their separate cars.

Her content mood was ruined as soon as she walked into the squad room. Frost and Korsak were already there, and looked defeated. Falling into her chair, she ran a hand over her face and sighed. "Ok, what did we learn? Did the asshole neighbor have anything worth saying?"

Shaking his head, Korsak handed her a folder. "No. He considered Jim a 'freak' because he liked to spent a lot of time sitting outside by himself. Said it's always the quiet ones that snap, and at least he didn't take anyone with him. I almost wish there was something we could arrest him for, but then I'd have to actually meet the man. From the note, he was just a sad kid with no one to talk to. There's not much to tell his parents, and nothing we can really do. It looks like things just built up until he decided he couldn't take it anymore."

Turning his monitor around, Frost pointed out some images. "His parents let us take the computer. Said they wanted to be sure no one made him do it. It has one of those child safety filters on it, but his Internet history doesn't show much beyond research for homework and a couple social networking sites, anyway. He was an artist, though. I'm not an expert, but it looks like he scanned his drawings so he could save and organize them. There are folders with dates back a few years. Starting a couple years ago, they start getting darker. Less color, darker themes, and he started giving them titles."

Sighing and leaning back in his chair, Korsak nodded. "That was right around the time his friend was killed. Looks like his death effected him more than his parents realized. His note says Seth's death was his fault. The parents didn't say much about the accident, but I was able to find the report. The boys were out riding their bikes when a car ran a red light. It hit Seth, first, and pushed him into Jim. Jim ended up with a broken leg and some road rash, but Seth died at the hospital."

Gasping quietly, Jane covered her mouth. "Did they get the guy?"

Korsak gave a half shrug. "There wasn't anyone at fault. Not really. The driver had a seizure. It was just a tragic accident."

Turning his monitor back around and closing windows, Frost shook his head sadly. "Survivor's guilt. It's hard for adults to deal with something like that, and he was just a kid. Even some experienced cops, who lose a partner, end up killing themselves. Even with counseling, I don't know how a twelve year old would deal with something like that."

Reading through the copies of the suicide note and statements from the parents and the neighbor, Jane sighed. "Once Maura finishes the autopsy, we can release the body. I hate working suicides."

Nodding, Korsak stared at the file in front of him. "I'll call them. They shouldn't have to deal with someone new, not after this. How's the Doc? She seemed upset, last night."

Sighing, she shook her head. "It's just hard because it's a kid, and a suicide. She hates having to work on kids, and I think this is the first one she's dealt with that was a suicide. We'll be taking a long lunch, so don't call unless you have to. It's going to take awhile for all of us to get this one out of our heads."

Frost waited until she looked up and caught his eye. "Do you want to go down there, now? There's not much for us to do, right now, and she might appreciate you being there."

Thinking, Jane shook her head. "No, I'll just distract her. She needs to focus on this being just another autopsy. If I'm there, she won't be able to. Besides, we still have another case to work on. Maybe that'll take my mind off this, at least for a couple hours."

Looking up, Korsak nodded. "The building owner finally called back. He was out of town, but he's going to come in this afternoon. I don't expect him to be much help, but you never know. Maybe he saw something suspicious before he left, and just didn't bother reporting it."

Setting the file in front off to the side, she unlocked her drawer and pulled out another file to start paging through it. "I'll work on getting together some questions for him. Did he say if there are any cameras?"

Digging for a piece of paper, he shook his head. "No, the last one he had installed was stolen, and he hadn't replaced it, yet."

Noticing his distraction, Jane looked at him closer for a moment. "You should go home, at lunch. Frost and I can handle the building owner, and any leads he might have. Yesterday was a twenty hour day, and you obviously didn't go back home. After you call the Walters to let them know Jim's body is being released, you should go home. You're not going to accomplish anything if you're too tired to focus."

Sighing, Korsak nodded. "You're right. I just knew I wouldn't be able to sleep, so I came to see what I could get done. Josh isn't much older than him, and I couldn't stop thinking, 'What if it was him?' Melody just let me back in his life."

Frost gave him a sympathetic smile. "Maybe you could call him tonight and spend some time together this weekend, or something. After the week we've had, we have to have this weekend off."

Rubbing a hand over his face, he nodded and stood up. "Yeah, I probably will. Right now, though, I'm getting coffee. As long as it keeps me awake, I don't even care what it tastes like."

It was two hours later when Maura called up to let them know she'd finished the autopsy. Seeing Korsak sigh and head for an empty interview room, Jane nodded to Frost and stood up. Getting Maura's lunch order, she hung up.

Walking into Maura's office a half hour later, she was surprised to be greeted with a smile. Setting the bags down on the table, Jane sat on the couch and started unpacking the food while Maura joined her. Shrugging apologetically, she set a couple containers in front of her. "It's from that chicken place, but it was the best I could think of where I could get quick take out. I got you biscuits and chicken, too, since you need to eat more than mashed potatoes. Don't worry, the chicken is grilled, not fried. Now, I gotta ask, why mashed potatoes? I thought you'd want something, I don't know, fancier? Healthier? More complicated? Mashed potatoes just seem kinda plain."

Opening the container, Maura closed her eyes as she took the first bite. "These are really good. Better than one would expect from a fast food establishment." Shrugging, she took another bite. "Mashed potatoes have always been a sort of comfort food, for me. Maybe it's the texture. I've never been able to figure it out. There's just something about them that has always seemed relaxing. When I'm particularly stressed, or in need of comfort, I usually make myself a bowl of mashed potatoes. They're not very nutritionally fulfilling, but sometimes emotional comfort is more important than nutritional value."

Smiling, Jane watched her eat before opening her own food. "Maura Isles is sentimental about food. Who knew? Well, I'm glad I was able to help. You really should try the biscuits while they're warm, though. I swear, they make the best biscuits I've ever tasted."

They ate in silence, doing their best to focus on the company, not the case. Once the trash was stuffed back into the bags, Maura turned to face Jane. "Can you tell me what you learned about Jim and why he decided to kill himself? I didn't find any signs of abuse, so a physically abusive home life doesn't seem likely."

Closing her eyes, Jane took a deep breath and opened them to look at her. "Survivor's guilt. At least that seems to be the main cause. He and his friend were riding their bikes when a car hit them. He got away with a broken leg, but his friend died. He blamed himself, maybe because his friend was closer to the car when they were hit. Maybe something happened to push him over the edge, or maybe he just had too much time to think of ways to blame himself. His note didn't say, and his parents didn't know of anything. Jim was just a sad, lonely kid that decided death was the better option. I'm not sure there was anything anyone could've done, not when he was carrying something like that. If cops and soldiers have a hard time dealing with it, then how is a twelve year old kid supposed to?"

Thinking for a moment, Maura nodded. "What about what the neighbor said? Is it possible he was dealing with more than just his friend's death? Since he appeared to wear clothing typical for a boy of his age and social class, his physical appearance wasn't the likely cause for the neighbor's opinion."

Jane shook her head, clenching her hands slightly against her thighs. "The neighbor is an asshole. He called Jim a freak because he liked to sit outside by himself. Apparently, he'd convinced himself that a depressed teenager was going to go on a killing spree. He told the uniform that talked to him that he was glad he didn't take anyone else with him. Apparently, shy, quiet, lonely kids are the next big threat."

Nodding again and leaning back against the couch, Maura was silent for a long moment. "It's unfortunate he felt the need to take his own life, but there may not have been anything anyone could have done to help him. Finding a therapist able to help with a trauma like that, can be hard. Finding one who also works with children, would be very difficult. Children process and deal with things differently than adults, and a therapist unused to that could possibly do more harm than good. If he was repressing the emotions, and probably the memories, associated with the accident, then there might not have been any clear warning signs."

Studying her, Jane asked her next question carefully. "Do you think suicide was inevitable?"

Maura sighed and shook her head. "No, but it is one of the possible outcomes. Every person is different, and handles trauma differently. It's possible that there may have been some way to help him, but it's not a certainty. Unfortunately, I can understand the feelings behind his decision, even if I can no longer direct relate to them."

Reaching out, Jane grabbed Maura's hand and squeezed it. They sat in silence until Jane's phone rang. Jumping a little, she gave Maura an apologetic smile as she answered it. "I told you I was taking a long lunch. What do you need?"

Listening, she glanced quickly at a clock and made a face when she realized the time. Thanking him, she hung up and shrugged regretfully. "The owner of the building from our other case is here, and I need to go see if he knows anything useful. Do you want me to come over, tonight?"

Smiling, Maura nodded and stood up. "Yes, I think I would appreciate the company. Thank you for lunch."

Grabbing the trash as she stood, Jane smiled over her shoulder on her way out. "Anytime. All you have to do is ask. See you later."

Chapter 15

When Jane got to Maura's house, that evening, she collapsed onto her couch with a grateful sigh. Smiling when Maura sat down next to her and handed her a beer, she took a long sip before setting it down. Noticing the laptop connected to the TV, she raised an eyebrow. "Are you assimilating your TV?" At Maura's blank look, she groaned. "The Borg. Star Trek. 'Resistance is futile.' Nothing? How do you not know that? Star Trek has been around since like the fifties. People in rural Russia probably know what Star Trek is."

Tilting her head, Maura thought for a moment before suddenly smiling and nodding. "Oh, is that like Star Wars? It's a science fiction movie, right?"

Getting up, Jane stared at her in shock, pacing while she talked. "Oh no. That's just wrong on way too many levels to mention. Star Trek is only one of the greatest science fiction franchises of all time. They've had several movies, and at least five TV series. How can you not know what Star Trek is? I was sure you wanted to be a Vulcan when you were little. Never mind, we'll fix that some other time. Tonight is about getting this case out of our heads. Now, why is your laptop trying to assimilate your TV?"

Watching her, Maura shook her head and got up, walking over to the computer. "While I am not familiar with the reference you are trying to make, I can infer its meaning. I am not trying to 'assimilate' my TV. I was able to find that television show you mentioned while Andre and Paul were here, and thought we could watch it. Rather than try to view it on the small screen of my laptop, I connected it to the television. We'll be able to view it on a much larger screen, and the speakers of my entertainment center are more powerful than those on my laptop. I wanted simple entertainment and, from your description, Gilligan's Island seems appropriate."

Studying the set up with more interest, Jane watched as Maura turned on the laptop and TV and the computer's desktop was visible on the large screen. Staring in more than a little awe, she grinned when Maura got the first episode selected. "This is awesome. You, are a genius. Do you get some sort of tech magazine that showed you how to do this?"

Laughing, Maura carried a wireless mouse and mouse pad over and set them on the table. "No, it's a simple matter of owning the right cords. If you'd like, I can show you how to set it up, so you can do it at home. It makes viewing videos online much easier, especially for more than one person. Now, you need to be quiet so I don't miss anything."

Snorting, Jane leaned back and took another sip of her beer. "I give you two minutes before you start picking it apart. Max. There's no way you're going to be able to stop yourself. Are we going to watch a couple episodes before dinner?"

Clicking to start the episode, she started to nod, before stopping and shaking her head. "Not quite. I ordered pizza when you called to let me know you were on your way. It should be here, soon. I'll simply pause the video, when it gets here."

The first episode was almost over when the doorbell rang. Pausing the video, Maura got up and grabbed her wallet out of her purse on the way to the door. Finding Jane already getting out plates and napkins, she smiled and nodded back toward the couch. Setting everything down, Jane got them both another drink before sitting back down. Watching Maura out of the corner of her eyes while they serve themselves, she smirked. "Just spit it out. You were suspiciously quiet, and I know you just can't wait to tell me everything that's wrong with the show."

Letting out a relieved breath, Maura visible relaxed. "I understand that the technical and geographical knowledge of the common viewer was probably much more limited than it is today, but how could anyone see this as a realistic scenario? The idea that there was an undiscovered island large enough to fully sustain several people for, what I assume is, a substantial length of time, is absurd. Even without the aid of satellites, the waters in that area were still extensively traversed by boats, ships, and airplanes. Even if all modern travel had managed to miss them, earlier cultures in that area were quite well traveled and had already mapped and settled on most of the habitable islands before Western civilization bothered to explore that far.

"If a small, portable radio can pick up transmissions, then they can't have gotten too far off course. If 'The Professor' possessed half the technical knowledge he seems to be attributed with, then it would have been a simple matter to use the portable radio and radio from the boat to fabricate a transmitter and send a distress signal."

Covering her mouth to keep from spitting pizza everywhere while she laughed, Jane shook her head and held up her other hand. When she calmed down enough to finish chewing, she took a sip of beer before talking. "Ok, I get it. I think, even then, everyone realized it was ridiculous, but that's part of what makes it entertaining. Just wait till you see what happens in later episodes. It only gets worse. Now, even with everything that's wrong with it, is it helping you relax and unwind?"

Thinking for a few moments, she looked surprised and hesitantly nodded. "Yes, it is. I think I've been so focused on the absurdity of the plot, that I've been too preoccupied to think of much else."

Nodding, Jane took another bite of her pizza. "Good. Now, are you enjoying yourself?"

Maura smiled and nodded. "Yes, I am. It's like slapstick. The exaggerated nature of the flaws add to the entertainment value."

Waving a hand at the TV, Jane nodded at the mouse on the table. "Mission accomplished, then. Now, unpause it. We have time to watch a few episodes, tonight."

They spent the next few hours dissecting all the plot holes and technical errors, sometimes suggesting how things would have realistically happened. When they started cleaning up, they realized that, unlike at Jane's apartment, they had no ready excuse to share a bed. When they finally parted for bed, they both stood in the hallway for a moment, but neither was able to come up with a reason to not sleep alone.

Maura woke in the middle of the night, unsure why. Listening carefully, she thought she heard a noise. Climbing out of bed and opening her door wider, she shook her head slightly at her own irrational actions. After going to bed, she'd gotten up and opened her door a few inches, wanting to feel closer to Jane, even if it was an illusion.

Walking out into the hallway, she smiled faintly when she realized Jane had left the door to the guest room open, too. Deciding to check on her, she stopped when she heard the sound again. Realizing it was crying, she covered the last few feet quickly, and entered the guest room. Seeing Jane curled in a ball around a pillow and crying in her sleep, she climbed into bed next to her and started smoothing a hand over her hair, waiting for her to wake.

When Jane woke up, she looked around for a moment in confusion, before noticing Maura. Turning over quickly, she wrapped her arms tightly around Maura and started sobbing. Holding her tightly, Maura kept smoothing a hand over her hair and mumbling comforting nonsense.

It was so long before Jane finally pulled away, Maura thought she'd cried herself to sleep. When she finally did, she wiped a hand over her eyes and pulled herself to sit up against the headboard, never completely letting go of Maura. Taking several deep breaths, she pulled Maura closer.

Realizing Jane wasn't going to start the conversation, Maura let her head rest on her shoulder, not looking at her. "Do you need to talk about it, or would you rather just sit until you can go back to sleep?"

Squeezing her eyes closed, Jane wrapped an arm around Maura's shoulders so she was cuddled into her side, and sighed. "I’m not sure I want to talk about it, but I probably should. Just, can you stay here, for the rest of the night? Or we can sleep in your bed. I just need you next to me."

Nodding, Maura pulled the blanket over their laps. "Of course. What happened? I've heard you talk and even scream, but never cry, in your sleep. What happened, and what do you need me to do to help you get passed it?"

Taking a shuddering breath, Jane sighed loudly. "It was new. And bad. Really bad. God, Maura, you were dead. I walked into that house, and it was you. Only, you were still hanging in the closet. You were so little. I know there aren't any pictures of you as a little girl, but I knew it was you. You were wearing a pink dress and had these blonde curls. You looked like a doll, only, it was you, and you were dead, and I couldn't do anything but stand there and look at you. You're father was in the hallway yelling at everyone to get out of his house and stopped making a big deal out of it. That asshole neighbor was there grinning and talking about how it was a good thing you'd killed yourself before you decided to kill someone else. And, all I could do was stare at you. You were dead, and no one cared."

Holding Jane as she sobbed again, Maura let herself cry with her. When the sobs were replaced by sniffling and hiccuping breaths, she shifted toward the edge of the bed. "I know you need me here, but I'm just going to get you a box of tissues and a glass of water. You can come with me, if you need to, but I will be right back. I promise."

Grabbing Maura's hand, Jane nodded and scooted after her off the bed. Following her silently, she took the glass of water Maura handed her. Gulping it down, she smiled sheepishly when she blew her nose while Maura refilled the glass. Carrying the water and letting Maura carry the tissues, they walked back to the guest room and climbed back in bed.

Pulling Maura back into her arms, she took a deep breath and sighed loudly. "You were such a pretty, little girl. I wish I could've seen it. You were so pretty, and so little, hanging there. I wanted to hold you and keep you safe, but you were dead and I couldn't move. I couldn't even look away. The worst part was that no one else seemed to care. No one was crying or upset or even really paying attention. How could no one care that you were dead?"

Sighing, Maura was silent for a moment. "I don't know. I'd like to tell you that it would've been different, but I don't know. I do know that it didn't happen. I'm right here, and I'm safe and alive. I will be right here as long as you need or want me here. If you need me to sleep next to you so you know I'm safe, then I will. You can stay here, or I can stay with you. All you have to do, is tell me. Do you think you'll be able to get anymore sleep, tonight?"

Closing her eyes, Jane thought for a moment before shrugging. "I really don't know. I still see it when I close my eyes. We can lie down, though. Even if I can't sleep, you should. As long as you're here, I'll be ok. I'm just not ready to close my eyes, yet."

Moving to lie down, Maura let herself be pulled until her head rested on Jane's shoulder. After several minutes of silence, she decided to break it. "I didn't want to sleep alone, tonight. I left my door partially open so I would feel like you were closer. I know it's illogical, but I couldn't sleep with my door shut. I think your crying woke me up, and I'm glad it did. Glad I woke up, not that you were crying."

Jane nodded, knowing Maura would feel the movement, even if she couldn't see it. "I know what you meant. I'm glad you woke up, too. Although, if you hadn't, I probably would've ended up crawling into your bed." She was silent for a moment, unsure if she should ask her next question, before finally deciding she needed to hear the answer. "Do you ever dream of me? Of me dying, I mean. I know my job worries you, but does it give you nightmares?"

Tensing, Maura forced herself to relax and took several deep breaths, then nodded. "Yes, but not often. I usually only get them after something happens. The last time was when Hoyt's apprentice got into your apartment and almost killed you. Before that, it was when he escaped. I had nightmares for almost a week, after that. In some of them, I'm called to a scene and find your body there. In others, you're on my table and there are people watching and expecting me to perform the autopsy. Those ones are always the worst."

Pulling her tighter, Jane sighed. "I'm sorry. Why didn't you ever tell me? You shouldn't have to deal with them on your own."

Burying her face in Jane's shirt, she shrugged awkwardly. "At first, I wasn't sure I could, or should, tell you. After that, I didn't want to worry you. You have so much to deal with, I didn't want to add to it. I'd wake up and remind myself that it was just a dream. If I wasn't able to get back to sleep, then I'd meditate or find something to distract myself, until I could. I'd make sure I'd see you, the next morning, and let the feeling pass as the day progressed."

Tapping her shoulder, Jane waited until Maura looked up. "The next time, I want you to call me. Even if it's just to hear my voice. You shouldn't have to wait until you see me at work, to be sure I'm ok. If anyone is familiar with nightmares, it's me. If it's ok for you to help me with my nightmares, then it's ok for me to help you. Ok?"

Smiling faintly, she nodded. "Yes. The next time I have a nightmare, I'll call you. Thankfully, they don't happen often. Do you think you can sleep, now?"

Closing her eyes, Jane took a moment before nodding. "Yeah, I think so. Thank you. For being here. For listening. For not telling me it was just a dream and didn't mean anything. Just. Thank you."

Lying her head back down, Maura sighed in contentment. "Good, and you are more than welcome. We have a few hours before morning, and you need the sleep."

Turning to bury her nose in Maura's hair, Jane kissed the top of her head and felt her body relax. "Goodnight, Maura." Getting a mumbled 'Night' in response, she smiled and let herself fall asleep.

Chapter 16

For the next couple weeks, they shared a bed. They switched homes, depending on who needed to get more clothes, but always fell asleep with Jane holding Maura tightly. Jane waited until Maura was asleep before letting herself sleep, mostly so she had a chance to kiss her goodnight.

Several times, Jane woke Maura with her nightmares. They were always variations of the same subject. Jane unable to look away from Maura's lifeless body. Always, there was an angry, faceless voice yelling in the background, that Jane knew was Maura's father. Sometimes, the neighbor was there. Sometimes, Jane was alone in the room. Most of the time, Maura was a little girl. Once, she was the woman Jane had grown to know and love.

Each time, Maura would wake Jane as gently as possible, if the nightmare hadn't already woken her, and hold her while she sobbed. They'd sit in bed and talk until Jane was able to sleep, again. Sometimes, they talked about the dream. Sometimes, they talked about anything else. The night Jane dreamed of the adult Maura, they went out to the living room and watched Gilligan's Island for the rest of the night.

The next morning, Maura would wait until Jane was awake before getting out of bed. They'd go to the kitchen and Jane would watch while Maura made breakfast. Maura would put on just a little extra make-up, to hide the dark circles, and Jane would drink extra coffee. Neither of them mentioned the lack of sleep, but Jane made sure to have Maura's favorite breakfast foods in her fridge and would bring her a coffee part-way through the morning.

Their first night apart wasn't planned, or even by choice. Jane and Frost were staking out a suspect's house, fully expecting to be there all night. When he showed up, unexpectedly, a little after midnight, they were able to make the arrest. It was after two before they were able to go home. Jane had insisted that Maura go home to sleep in her own bed, since she expected to be out all night. Rather than wake her in the middle of night, Jane went back to her apartment and crawled into her empty bed.

She didn't have any nightmares, only because she kept waking every few minutes. Finally, after five, she dug the shirt Maura had slept in the night before, out of the hamper. Changing into it, Jane curled herself around Maura's pillow and was able to fall asleep. An hour later, her alarm went off.

Getting to work, Jane carried two coffees down to the morgue. Finding Maura sitting at her desk, staring blankly at her monitor, she set the coffee in front of her. "You look as tired as I feel."

Jumping slightly, Maura blinked and looked from Jane to the coffee. Picking it up, she took a grateful sip. "I didn't sleep very well. I've grown accustomed to sharing my bed space, and the sudden loss of a sleep partner upset my sleep cycle."

Nodding, Jane smiled at her fondly. "Yeah, I couldn't sleep without you, either. I think I got about two hours, total."

Staring at her coffee, Maura sighed. "I fared slightly better, but that's not what bothers me, the most. We can hardly share a bed every night, just so both of us can get a full night's sleep. Even if our jobs didn't make that impossible, some nights, I'm not sure it's completely healthy."

Gaping, Jane set her coffee down and stared. "Not healthy? Why? It's not like this is the first time we've shared a bed. Why isn't sleeping with a friend healthy?" Wincing at her phrasing, Jane let out a silent breath when Maura didn't appear to catch it.

Looking up, she sighed. "It's not that, exactly. While I don't mind sharing a bed with you, I don't think being unable to sleep without the other there, is healthy. That exhibits a level of attachment I don't think is healthy between friends. I think it would be wise if we took the time to become reaccustomed to sleeping alone."

Flinching, Jane blinked away threatening tears. "You think it's unhealthy that I'm used to sleeping next to you? It was your idea. You offered to be there so I'd know you were safe when I had a nightmare. Why is that suddenly a bad idea?"

Maura focused on her fingers running around the lid of her coffee. "It's not just you. It's not healthy for me, either. I know it was my idea, but I didn't expect it to have a negative impact on our sleep patterns. What would either of us tell a partner, if we started dating? How would we explain sharing a bed with someone else? I know you say you're not looking for a relationship, but that doesn't mean you won't end up in one. It wouldn't be fair, to us or prospective partners. I'm not suggesting we stop spending time together. Just that we stop sharing a bed. If you're worried about the nightmares, then you can stay in the guest room. Or you can call me. Either way, we can still talk until you're ready to sleep, again. I would never take that away."

Blinking, Jane nodded and stood up. "Ok, Maura. No more sleepovers. I gotta get upstairs. I'll see you at lunch."

Watching her walk quickly out of the room, Maura slumped in her chair and wiped away a few tears.

Ignoring the elevator, Jane walked quickly up the stairs. Turning away from the squad room, she locked herself in the bathroom. Angrily wiping her eyes, she punched a stall door, wincing when it slammed open, hitting the wall with a loud bang. Kicking the wall, she slumped against the sinks. A couple minutes later, she took a deep breath and checked her reflection. Scrubbing her face with wet hands, she decided she could pass the redness off as tiredness, since she already had the dark circles to go with them.

Unlocking the door, she left the restroom and headed for the squad room. Seeing the empty hallway, she was grateful, for once, for the inconvenient placement of the women's restroom and lack of female detectives in Boston.

Jane sighed in relief when she was notified her lunch hour would be spent with the ADA. Immediately feeling guilty for the feeling, she sent Maura an apologetic text. Spending her afternoon going over case notes and preparing testimony, wasn't Jane's idea of fun, but she was glad she didn't have to face Maura, yet.

By the time she'd finally convinced the ADA that she not only knew the case, but that she knew how to give a testimony, it made more sense for her to just go home. Texting Korsak and Frost, she let them know she wouldn't be back.

Getting home, Jane kicked off her shoes and collapsed on the couch. A couple hours later, she woke to pounding on her door. Rubbing her eyes, she got up and walked sleepily to the door. Not bothering to check first, she was surprised to find Maura on the other side. Leaving the door open, she walked back over to the couch to sit down.

Following her, Maura watched in concern as Jane barely acknowledged her, and never spoke. Sitting in the chair, she studied Jane before speaking. "Are you mad at me? I know you had to meet with the ADA, but then Barry said you weren't coming back to work, today, and you didn't answer any of my calls or texts."

Pulling her phone off her belt, Jane rubbed her side when she realized she'd been sleeping on it. Checking the alerts, she found two calls and several texts from Maura. Not bothering to check them, she tossed her phone onto the table. "Sorry, the meeting took forever. By the time he was satisfied I wasn't some idiot rookie, there really wasn't a point in going back to work, just to have to leave again. I meant to just relax before figuring out dinner, but I guess I passed out, instead. I'm not mad at you, a little hurt, yes, but not mad."

Nodding, Maura sighed. "I didn't mean to hurt you, but I'm glad you're not mad at me. I'm not sure how to fix it, though. My opinion hasn't entirely changed, and it would be untruthful to claim otherwise. I was hoping you'd come over for dinner. We can watch a movie, or some TV, and you can sleep in the guest room. I think I would sleep better, just knowing you're in the house."

Covering a yawn, Jane shrugged. "Sounds ok, to me, I guess. At least part of it. There's no way I'll be able to stay awake to watch anything, though. Dinner and sleep sound good, though."

Smiling, Maura stood and pulled Jane to her feet. "Do you need to pack a bag, or do you still have clothes, at my pace?"

Blinking, it took Jane several moments to remember. "That purple shirt is still there, and I have a couple outfits in the closet. I should be good."

Grabbing her gun, the only thing she'd managed to take off when she got home, she walked to the door. Seeing Maura's amused grin and nod toward the couch, Jane rolled her eyes and went back to grab her phone off the table. Checking to make sure she wasn't forgetting anything else, she opened the door and waited for Maura to exit so she could lock up.

Maura started looking for dinner almost as soon as they got to her house. Seeing Jane falling asleep at the counter, she dug through her fridge. Finding some leftover chinese, she reheated it and set the plate in front of Jane. Pushing back her distaste at serving two different dishes, she settled on heating up some leftover pasta for herself.

They were both exhausted, and ate in silence. Loading the dishes in the dishwasher, Maura sighed when she found Jane staring blankly at nothing. Shaking her head, she pulled the other woman to her feet. "Go to bed, before you fall off the stool. I'll leave my door partially open, and you can wake me if you have a nightmare. It seems unlikely, though, from the level of exhaustion you're exhibiting."

Nodding, Jane didn't let go of Maura's hand as they walked down the hallway. Pulling her into a hug, she entered the guest room. Stripping to sleep comfortably, she crawled under the covers.

Waking up, suddenly, a couple hours later, Jane sat up. Realizing the house was quiet, she got out of bed carefully. Walking as silently as possible, she pushed Maura's door open wider and entered the room. Smiling at the sight of Maura curled around a pillow with her hair covering her face, she walked over. Leaning over the bed, she gently smoothed Maura's hair back. When Maura mumbled in her sleep, Jane made shushing noises. "It's ok, it's just me." Placing a gently kiss on the corner of her mouth, Jane watched her snuggle deeper into the covers, then went back to her own bed.

When Jane got up the next morning she yanked on a pair of shorts before going out to find coffee. When Maura saw her, her brow furrowed before she shook her head and turned back to the stove. Looking down at herself, she shrugged. "What? I plan to shower after I eat. I didn't know I needed to match, just for breakfast."

Smiling, Maura shook her head and pointed to a cup of coffee already waiting on the counter. "It's not that, although that is an unfortunate color combination. I just remembered part of a dream from last night, and was trying to recall the rest."

Putting the mug down, Jane stared. "You had a dream about me, last night? What happened? Or do I not want to know?"

Turning off the stove, she set Jane's omelette in front of her. "I'm not sure. I only remembered a small piece, when you walked in. I don't often remember my dreams clearly, if at all. It's not unusual for the people in our daily lives to appear in our dreams. Many of my dreams include you, in some way. I have also had dreams that included Barry, Vince, and any number of other people."

Shuddering slightly, Jane stared at her food. "I had a dream, once, where Korsak was wearing one of those pink ballerina leotard and tutu outfits. He was just sitting at his desk, working, like it was completely normal. Not something I ever want to see, again."

Nodding, Maura sat down with her own omelette. "I've never put much weight in dream interpretation, so I can't tell you if that image might have an underlying meaning."

Raising an eyebrow, Jane snorted. "I can. I fell sleep watching TV after spending all day in a car with him. When I woke up, Nutcracker was on. Anyway, I need to shower. Thanks for the omelette. I should hire you as my personal chef. I can pay you in cookies. You'll have to bake them, of course. Interested?"

Swatting Jane's arm, Maura laughed. "I believe I will have to decline your generous offer. I will, however, be happy to cook for you. I enjoy being able share my meals with someone."

Waving her hand, Jane started down the hallway. "You're amazing, but I need to shower before I'm late."

Twenty minutes later, loud swearing came from the guest room. Concerned, Maura knocked on the door. "Are you ok?"

When the door opened, Jane was standing there wrapped in a towel, and blushing. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just wish I'd packed an overnight bag."

Looking toward the open closet, Maura furrowed her brow in confusion. "But you have at least two outfits. What's wrong with them?"

Blushing deeper, Jane sat carefully on the edge of the bed. "Yeah, I have clothes, but I have nothing to wear under them. I can rewear yesterday's bra, but I refuse to rewear underwear. That's just gross, and I really do not want to go commando. The last time I did, my pants snagged on a fence and I ended up mooning Korsak."

Standing there for a moment, Maura suddenly darted from the room. Coming back, she held out a pair of panties. "While I can't help you with a clean bra, our waists are about the same size, so these should fit."

Mouth open, Jane stared before shaking her head and backing away, as much as possible while still sitting. "No, I'm not wearing your underwear. I know you haven't, exactly, had a lot of girl friends, but friends do not share underwear."

Rolling her eyes, Maura set them on the bed beside Jane. "They've never been worn, and I don't expect them back, so it wouldn't be sharing. I know you're used to plain cotton, but they are the same cut, so they shouldn't be uncomfortable. Do you really have another option?"

Sighing, Jane picked up the underwear and gave Maura a small smile. "Thanks. Don't think I don't realize what this means, to you. I remember how much it meant when you were finally able to wear them. Thank you. I'll find some way to repay you. Now, I should get dressed."

Maura smiled at Jane, then closed the door behind her when she left the room.

Chapter 17

All morning, Jane tried to squirm discretely in her chair. Frost and Korsak caught her more than once, but pointed glares were enough to keep them from commenting. When Maura came up to ask Jane to lunch, it took her about ten seconds to notice.

Jane was too distracted to notice her presence, at first. Her first indication of trouble was Maura's voice. "Oh, Jane, I didn't know you'd be that uncomfortable. I tried to pick a fabric…"

Bolting out of her seat, Jane clamped a hand over Maura's mouth and shook her head. "If you finish that sentence, I will break the heels off every pair of shoes you own."

Glaring in shocked anger, Maura yanked away from Jane's grip. "That is hardly called for. You could have simply told me to stop. Since, you are clearly in an unpleasant mood, I think I'd rather get lunch, on my own."

Staring after her as Maura stalked back to the elevator, Jane covered her face with a groan and slumped into her chair. Letting her head fall to the desk with a thud, she ignored Frost and Korsak. Finally, grabbing her jacket off the back of her chair, she strode out of the squad room.

For the next few weeks, they spent their nights apart. Jane had apologized, and Maura had forgiven her, but there was still enough hurt, anger, and stubbornness left over to prevent either one of them from admitting they missed that time together. They still ate lunch and spent free weekends and evenings together, but they always ended up sleeping in their own beds. When Jane woke from nightmares, she'd put off calling Maura until she was forced to admit it was the only way she'd get back to sleep. Maura refused to think too deeply about how she made sure her phone was set as loud as possible, then fell asleep holding it in her hand, waking at least once to check for missed calls.

The more nights they spent apart, the easier it became. Jane's nightmares became less and less frequent, and she stopped calling Maura after every one. They both slept longer and less fitfully. Jane forced herself to wash the pillowcase on Maura's pillow. Maura stopped waking in the middle of the night convinced she'd missed Jane's call, and let her phone return to it's spot on her night stand.

They settled into a rhythm a lot like the one that existed before the topic of suicide came up. When Jane caught Maura watching her a bit more than before, she tried to tell herself she was imagining things. Maura credited Jane's slightly more frequent touches as a side effect of the nightmares, and a desire to physically reassure herself that Maura was alive. Neither commented on the new hesitancy that developed around certain subjects, or how they never mentioned their sleeping arrangements, again.

About a month after Jim Walters' case, Maura started making excuses for not spending time with Jane. Once or twice a week, she'd claim 'prior engagement' and promise to see Jane the following evening. When questioned, Maura would brush it off as nothing important, and politely refuse to give details.

It was more than a month later before Jane was convinced she knew what was going on. They were watching a movie on Maura's couch when Jane finally forced herself to bring it up, and hope Maura wouldn't brush it off, again. "Maura, if you're dating someone, you know you don't have to hide it from me. You know I want you to be happy, and I would never judge you, or them."

Sighing, Maura turned off the TV and turned to face Jane. "I know, and that's not why I haven't told you what's going on."

Watching her closely, Jane rubbed her palms over her thighs. "I'll understand if it's something you want to keep to yourself. All you have to do is say so. I've had relationships that felt too important to share, right away. I just want you to know that I would never do anything to try to keep you from being happy. You know that, right?"

Nodding, Maura gave her a small smile. "Yes, Jane, I know that. I'm not afraid you would judge me for entering a romantic relationship. I think I'm more embarrassed, than anything."

Brow furrowed, she gave her a funny look. "Why are you in a relationship you're embarrassed of? Or are you embarrassed of me? Is it someone who wouldn't like you being friends with a detective from a blue collar background?"

Shaking her head frantically, Maura placed one hand over Jane's, letting it rest there. "No. I could never be embarrassed of you, and I would never be with someone who didn't approve of our friendship. I'm embarrassed of the reason I felt the need to enter into the relationship."

Looking at her, Jane finally sighed in frustration. "You're not making any sense. You need to either explain it better, or tell me it's none of my business."

Sighing, Maura leaned against the back of the couch and nodded. "Ok, I'll try to explain. Do you remember me telling you that I was unsure if I was wanting a relationship, or merely to experience sex?" At Jane's nod, she nodded in response. "Good. Well, I know I want a relationship, but the idea of entering one with no real sexual experience, is embarrassing. At thirty years old, I was basically a virgin. I know how to give others pleasure, but had almost no idea how to get physical pleasure, for myself, from sex. Before, the physical act of reaching orgasm, always disgusted me, and I tried to avoid it, whenever possible. I found that I had to recondition my mind and body, so I could allow myself to feel pleasure. Entering a relationship not only as a virgin, but incapable of fully enjoying sex, is embarrassing."

Gaping, Jane's mouth opened and closed several times, before she was finally able to figure out what to say. "Wait, so you've been seeing someone for sex, or something?"

Looking uncomfortable, Maura gave a half-shrug. "My therapist helped me find someone who specializes in sexual disfunction, and has a background in psychology and experience working with transsexuals."

Jane blinked a few times before nodding. "So, you've been seeing a sex therapist. And you were embarrassed to tell me? Ok, I can understand the embarrassment. I'd probably be mortified to admit my sex life needed help from anyone else. Wait, aren't sex therapists supposed to be kinda hands-off? You know, all tell and no show? You said you WERE a virgin. Wait, you don't have to answer that, it's none of my business."

Smiling, Maura shrugged. "Yes, 'sex therapists' are 'hands-off,' for the most part. I've been attending individual sessions once a week, that focus mostly on the psychological aspects."

Nodding absently, Jane shook her head to clear it. "So, you go sit on a couch and talk about your sex life with a stranger? I'm not sure if I should be giving you points, or not. I could never do that, I'd be too embarrassed. I guess, as long as you feel like it's helping, that's all that matters."

Smiling, Maura gave a small nod. "It has. It is. It's only been a few weeks, but it's already helped. It's more a matter of retraining my mind and body, than having to overcome an existing problem. Although reconditioning a lifetime of learned behavior is never easy, I think this matter is easier than most. Not only does the eventual outcome provide immediate and pleasurable results, which gives a definite goal to work toward, but the actual cause no longer exists, only the side effects."

Jane shifted uncomfortably, reaching for the beer bottle on the coffee table, and putting it back down when she remembered it was empty. "That's good, I guess. Honestly, I have no idea what to say about any of this. I know you must've missed out on the whole 'discovering yourself' phase of childhood, but I just have no idea what to say. Maybe you could tell me what you want me to say, or something?"

Laughing, Maura got up to get them both something to drink. "I don't really expect you to say anything. You asked, and deserved an honest answer. I do feel better, now that I've told you. I didn't like the feeling I got from trying to keep it a secret, even if it was out of embarrassment."

Taking the beer Maura held out, she nodded before taking a drink. "Everyone deserves to have secrets. I know there are things about myself that I haven't told you, and things I will probably never tell anyone."

Maura just shrugged. "I know. It's impossible to know everything about someone. We should probably finish the movie, unless you have more questions."

Grabbing the remote, Jane turned the TV back on. Going back to the menu, she tried to get the movie set as close as possible to where they left it. "I'm good, for now."

Jane spent the rest of the evening thinking over their conversation. The more she thought about it, the more Jane realized Maura hadn't been as forthcoming as she'd seemed. She'd managed to carefully deflect the conversation away from mentions of a relationship, without actually answering Jane's questions.

Groaning, she punched her pillow a few times and flopped backward. Her sleep was fitful, although she couldn't recall any actual dreams.

Chapter 18

Every time Maura turned down plans, over the next couple weeks, Jane was left wondering what she was really doing. It seemed that telling Jane about her therapy sessions made Maura more comfortable to spend more time without Jane. By the second week, she was claiming other plans two or three times a week, instead of once or twice.

The more it happened, the more jealous and resentful Jane got. Maura seemed to shrug off Jane's short temper and biting comments, either not noticing or assuming it was work-related.

When Jane found herself spending a Saturday alone, she ended up spending all evening going over all the times Maura had ignored or avoided a question or comment, given deliberately vague answers, and broken informal, standing plans. By the time she woke up on Sunday, she'd managed to convince herself she had every right to be pissed.

Maura's text asking if she wanted to meet for brunch, only served to irritate her more. Typing out an angry reply, she hit send without thinking about it. Maura's response was confused and hurt.

Glaring at her phone, Jane hit the button to call, instead of texting. When Maura answered, she didn't even give her a chance to talk. "You don't know why I'm upset? I'll tell you why. For WEEKS, you've been lying to me. Maybe not with words, but you've still been lying. You didn't think I would notice that you've been avoiding questions, or only half-answering them? You didn't think I would be upset when you started breaking our plans, without even giving a real excuse? Did you even realize you've missed mid-week drinks and movie night, for the past two weeks? Do you even care? You certainly haven't acted like it."

Sputtering, Maura's voice was angry when she finally responded. "I have NOT lied to you. No, I haven't answered every question you've asked, but you've always told me that I never had to tell you something before I was ready. Am I to believe that is no longer true? Am I obligated to tell you everything, when YOU want to know it, not when I'M comfortable telling you? If you really want to know something, then ASK! I promise to tell you the complete truth, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me, since that's apparently what you expect from me."

Balling her hand into a fist, Jane stopped herself just before she punched the wall. "You're twisting my words, and you know it. If you don't want to tell me something, then just TELL me that. Don't dodge the questions and expect me not to notice. Just fucking TELL me you're not ready to talk about it. How do you think it feels when my best friend starts avoiding my questions, and then starts avoiding me? I TOLD you, I don't CARE if you're in a relationship. I want you to be happy. Instead of TELLING me, though, you make lame-ass excuses not to spend time with me. Either there's some reason you won't tell me about it, or I'm just not as good a friend as you say I am. So, which is it?"

Jane punched the counter to keep from giving in, when she heard Maura's shuddering breath. "Is that what you really think? That I don't care about you? Did you ever stop to think that maybe it's just hard for me to talk about? And, now, you aren't even giving me the consideration to explain in person. Don't you think I deserve better, from my best friend, than to be yelled at over the phone? I deserve better than to treated like this. If you really want me to talk to you, then you can calm down and talk to me in person. You know how to find me."

When the call ended, abruptly, Jane stared at the phone in shock. Hitting redial, she swore when the call was sent immediately to voicemail. Hanging up, she almost threw her phone, stopping at the last minute and punching the wall, instead. Swearing, she shook her fist and glared at the hole she caused while she blew on her stinging knuckles.

It was late afternoon before Jane finally calmed down enough to admit Maura was right. Calling again, she sighed in resignation when it was sent to voicemail. Instead of leaving a message, she sent a quick text telling her she was on her way over.

Pulling up in front of Maura's house, Jane sat in her car for several minutes before finally turning it off and getting out. Walking up to the door, she hesitated, finally knocking for the first time since Maura gave her a key, more than a year prior.

When Maura opened the door, she barely glanced at her before turning to walk away, leaving the door open. Pointing at the dining table, she grabbed an ice pack out of the freezer and tossed it across the table when Jane sat. Folding her arms over her chest, she sat and waited in silence.

Looking at the ice pack in confusion, Jane finally picked it up when Maura glanced pointedly at her wrapped hand. Sighing, she held it across her knuckles. "Thanks, and I'm sorry. Really. You're right, you deserve better than the way I treated you, and I'm sorry. It's just, I spent all of yesterday thinking that maybe I wasn't important enough for you to talk to, anymore. I'm a detective, I notice things, and you've been spending more and more time with someone else. This last week, you had other plans almost every time I mentioned doing something. I feel like I'm losing my best friend, and you haven't even told me why. I understand if you're in a relationship. I get wanting to spend as much time as possible together. I really do. Just tell me, so I can stop feeling like you're avoiding me."

Maura closed her eyes, sighing and letting her arms rest on the table. "I didn't mean to make you feel that way, and I was unaware that you were. You're not losing me as your best friend, and I'm not avoiding you. I'm not in a romantic relationship, either. I'm not completely sure how to explain it, but I'll try."

When Maura went silent, Jane reached across the table, stopping short of her hand. "You don't have to. Really. If you're not comfortable, just say so. Just, tell me when you don't want to answer a question, instead of deflecting. That's all I really need. It's just, when you act like I didn't even ask, I feel like you're lying to me, or hiding something. You know I'm a detective, and sometimes that means my mind starts thinking about the worst possible scenario."

Smiling faintly and shaking her head, Maura moved her hand to rest it over Jane's. "No, I think you deserve to know, and I want to tell you. I'm just not sure how. You remember our conversation a couple weeks ago?" At Jane's raised eyebrow, she gave a dry chuckle and nodded. "Yes, of course you do. You asked me if I'd been seeing someone for sex, and I didn't really answer you. I wasn't sure how to, and I'm not proud of my actions, but I felt they were necessary. I still do, but that doesn't make it easier to talk about."

Holding up a finger, Jane's eyes narrowed as she thought for a moment, before giving a small nod. "Ok, I just needed to make sure I remembered that part of the conversation. That's when you started talking about going to a sex therapist. So you have been seeing someone for sex?"

Pulling her hand back, to fidget, Maura's gaze was locked on her hands and her voice was quiet when she answered. "Essentially, yes, but probably not quite the way you're thinking. You see, therapy can't really offer any 'hands-on' assistance. While working through the psychological issues is invaluable, it's not all I need. I need to know how to let myself feel pleasure, too. While Gerard can't, technically, condone or facilitate more personal encounters, he does understand that they are sometimes beneficial. There's a bulletin board where individuals can offer, or look for, such encounters. That's how I met Sarah."

Closing her eyes, Jane held up a hand to let Maura know she was just thinking. "You found some stranger, who posted an ad on a bulletin board, to give you what basically amounts to anonymous sex? Don't you know you're worth more than that? You deserve everything, not just sex for the sake of sex."

Eyes still focused on her hands, Maura blinked and nodded. "I know, but I deserve to be able to give a future partner everything they deserve, too. I said I'm not proud of my actions, but I still believe they're warranted. I don't want to enter a relationship, and have them have to teach me how to enjoy my own body. They deserve better than that. I WANT better than that. I don't want anything standing in the way of a real relationship. I'm not a child, and it's not fair for my partner to have to teach me something most adolescents discover on their own. I can't do anything about my past, but I can do this much. I can do everything possible to ensure that I'm a whole person before I enter a relationship."

Reaching out, Jane stilled Maura's hands with her own, waiting until she looked up. "You ARE a whole person. You are the most brilliant, caring, completely beautiful, loving, lovable, strongest, bravest, and sensitive person I have ever known. Anyone you end up with should be HONORED to be with you, and help you learn and grow in any way you need or desire. No one's perfect, and you shouldn't feel like you have to be. Anyone who loves you will love you BECAUSE of your imperfections."

Wiping her eyes, Maura shook her head. "I'm not whole. Not really. Not yet. Sex is placed on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. He considered sex necessary in order to live a healthy life. He rated it on a level of importance with food and water, and placed it again, on a level with family and friendship. How can I be a whole person if I'm unable to fully experience something seen as so important to individual survival and development? They deserve more than to be with someone who is incapable of fully experiencing one of the most basic parts of life."

Sighing, Jane ran a hand through her hair. "I'm not completely sure what you're talking about, but I can tell you that you're placing too much weight in how someone else sees the world. I doubt this guy had any experience with anyone like you. If sex were as important as food and water, then I would've died a long time ago. Hell, a huge portion of the world's population would be dead. What about all the priests, monks, and nuns who take a vow of chastity? Are any of them less than a whole person?" When Maura gave a thoughtful shake of her head, Jane nodded. "If you feel like this is something you need, then do it for you, not because of how someone else sees things. You shouldn't let someone else's opinions change the way you live your life."

Taking a deep breath, Maura nodded. They sat in silence for a couple moments before she sat up straighter and gave a decisive nod. "I still feel like this is something I need to do. It's just not fair to be able to give less than all of me, in a relationship. I can't expect more than I can give. It wouldn't be fair to either of us."

Giving her a small smile and squeezing her hands, Jane nodded. "Ok, then it's your choice. I don't agree, but I'll support any decision you make. If you wanted to dye your hair blue, I'd drive you there. Just, be safe."

Laughing, Maura smiled and nodded. "While I will probably never have a desire to dye my hair blue, I am always safe. Even though Gerard can't officially acknowledge the way the bulletin board is used, he will give unofficial advice. Sarah was one of his patients, years ago. He thought she'd be able to provide the type of assistance I require. She completed her transition before becoming his patient, and is familiar with the issues I'm facing. We met beforehand, to decide if we were compatible and to exchange the pertinent medical information. We always meet in a neutral location, and use protection."

Putting a hand up, Jane shook her head, blushing slightly. "I get it. I don't need to hear details. I don't need details about ANYONE'S sex life, but my own. Just, don't let it be like your relationships in high school, ok? You deserve so much more than a one-sided relationship. Just, don't let her use you, ok?"

Maura smiled in understanding. "If anything, I would be the one using her, and she knows it. Our meetings focus almost entirely on me. We talk about what I'm feeling, emotionally and physically, and she tries to help me fully experience the pleasure I feel." When Jane started to look uncomfortable, again, she grabbed her hand to pull it closer. "What did you do to injure your hand, anyway?"

Grimacing, she blushed and ran her other hand through her hair. "Yeah, I, uhh, kinda punched a hole in my wall, after you hung up on me. It's fine. Bled for a bit, and bruised, but nothing I haven't had, before. It'll be fine in a couple days."

Unwrapping the bandage, Maura looked at it for a moment before nodding and rewrapping Jane's hand. "Yes, it looks fine. Will you be calling someone to repair the hole? I can't seeing your lease allowing for structural damage. I might have the name of someone you can call."

Snorting, Jane pulled her hand back and shook her head. "I don't need to call anyone. I know how to fix a hole in the wall. After an, incident, as teenagers, Pop started making us fix any holes we made. I got all the stuff I need."

Maura raised one eyebrow, giving her incredulous look. "You and your brothers caused damage on a frequent enough basis that your father felt it necessary that you repair it, yourselves? And, you continue to take your frustrations out on walls frequently enough that you keep all the supplies needed to repair the damage, on hand? Don't you think it would be better to just refrain from damaging the walls?"

Laughing and rolling her eyes, Jane shrugged. "Tried that. Didn't really work. Which is why I now have a bucket with everything I need, in the laundry room. I even have paint, for after everything dries."

Still giving her a look, Maura finally sighed. "Just how often do you need to use those supplies?"

Jane frowned, thinking for several moments before shrugging. "Not really sure. Not as much, anymore, I know that. I think it's been more than a year, since I put a hole in a wall, at least on purpose. A few months ago, I accidentally put a hammer through the wall, but that wasn't my fault." When Maura gave her a disbelieving stare, Jane chuckled and held up her hands. "Honest. I was hammering a nail, to hang a picture, and my phone rang. I jumped, and the hammer hit the drywall instead of the nail. On the plus side, I just hung the picture over the hole until I was able to fix it."

Ignoring Jane's grin, Maura got up. "I put off making dinner, when I got your text. Since it's unlikely you ate before coming over, would you like to stay for dinner?"

Grinning and nodding, Jane moved to sit at the counter. "Of course. Have I ever turned down your cooking?" When Maura opened her mouth to respond, Jane held up a hand. "Rhetorical question. It doesn't count when you make gross things."

Rolling her eyes, Maura ignored her and started getting ingredients and cookware out.

Chapter 19

For a week, Jane watched Maura, especially when suggesting plans. The two times she declined because of plans with Sarah, Jane spent the rest of the day trying to dissect Maura's phrasing, tone, and expression for hidden emotion. All evening, she'd sit at home, trying not to think about what Maura was doing with Sarah.

The next day would find Jane watching Maura more closely than usual, overanalyzing everything she said or did. Maura seemed happier, but Jane couldn't figure out if it was because of Sarah, progress she was making, or if she was just imagining things. She did know that Maura had made sure to keep her Wednesday and Saturday free of plans, so they could have their usual mid-week drinks and movie night.

The speculation finally got the better of Jane, that Saturday, while they were sitting on her couch watching movies. Before she was even aware she'd decided to speak, she was asking the one question that wouldn't leave her alone. "Are you hoping things with Sarah turn into something more?"

Blinking and giving her a strange look, Maura paused the movie and turned to better face her. "I assume you mean am I hoping to pursue a romantic relationship with her. The answer is, no. While we're compatible on a physical level, we are in no way suited on a romantic level. If we had met under different circumstances, I doubt we would have ever even spent any time together. After her purpose in my life is over, I doubt we'll see any need to keep in touch."

Jane stared at her a couple moments, before shaking her head in confusion. "So, you're having sex with someone you basically don't even like? I get your reasons behind it, but it wouldn't it be better with someone you could at least be friends with?"

Shrugging, Maura leaned back. "I don't think it really matters. In fact, it will make it easier to end things. Neither of us has to worry about hurting the other. We both knew, from the beginning, that our association would be based purely on helping me achieve sexual gratification. Once that is accomplished, there's no reason for us to remain in contact."

Holding up a hand, Jane closed her eyes in thought. "You are aware that sounds a little callous, right? I know you don't mean it that way. You're just being practical and, well, you. It just comes out sounding like you don't think sex is that intimate and personal, and I know you don't mean it that way."

Thinking for a moment, Maura gave a sad shrug. "For me, most of it hasn't been. Most of my sexual experience happened as a teenager, and was mostly me allowing others to use my body for their own needs. There was no real emotional attachment, even though I tried to convince myself they cared about me. I have only had a very small number of partners that I cared about, and who cared about me.

"Maybe my past experiences make it easier for me to separate sex and emotion, or maybe it's brain chemistry. Studies have shown that the brains of transgender individuals more closely resemble those of their gender than their biological sex. The female brain releases 'bonding' chemicals during orgasm, that help create an emotional attachment to their partner. However, there are no studies to show if the same process happens in the brains of transgender women."

Nodding to show she was listening, Jane took time to think before responding. "So, what you're saying is that, you don't think sex needs to be anything more than sex. I can understand that. Hell, casual sex can be fun, as long as it's good. Sometimes, the last thing you want is everything that comes with a relationship. It'd be hypocritical for me to judge someone for having casual sex.

"I guess the only real difference is that when I've had casual sex, it was with someone I wouldn't mind spending time with, doing something other than sex. Even if it never happened, there was always the potential for at least a casual friendship. I just can't see myself sleeping with someone I can't have a real conversation with."

Laughing quietly, Maura smiled and nodded. "Yes, I can't see enjoying a sexual encounter with someone you find personally offensive. Sarah and I get along on a superficial level, but we aren't compatible enough to ever be more than acquaintances, and that works well for both of us. After all, the only thing that really matters is that we're sexually compatible."

Brow furrowed, Jane twisted her hands together in her lap. "I'm trying to picture who you would find attractive. Tall, blonde, and curvy? Dark and exotic? An accent?"

Shaking her head with a chuckle, Maura rested her head on her hand, leaning against the back of the couch. "I've found myself preferring brunettes, recently. With skin that looks so soft I want to touch it, but a strength that's impossible to miss. Sarah doesn't quite fit that description, though. She's closer to the 'tall, blonde, and curvy' category. I guess you could say she has an accent, although it probably wouldn't be considered exotic."

Raising an eyebrow, Jane looked at her. "You're sleeping with a tall, curvy, blonde with an accent?"

Maura just shrugged. "Yes, but I doubt what you are likely imagining is accurate. She's more than six feet tall, with very curly blonde hair, a Bronx accent, and a rather oversized chest. I generally prefer a smaller bust, but it would probably look out of place on someone with her build."

Eyes wide, Jane gave an involuntary snort. "You're right, not what I was thinking. You're sleeping with an Amazon."

Opening her mouth to protest the description, she closed it again and tilted her head in thought. "Using the modern interpretation of that term, I guess you're not incorrect. She does have a rather impressive, and impossible to ignore, presence."

Watching Maura's expression, Jane covered a frown by leaning her chin against her hand. "So, if you actually liked her, she'd be pretty much perfect for you."

Not bothering to hide her own frown, Maura shook her head. "No, while I do find her attractive, she isn't what I would choose as an ideal partner." Closing her eyes, the faint smile on her face held Jane's attention. "They'd be brunette. Thick, dark hair, almost black in low lighting, that you want to bury your fingers in. A strong, trim figure that lets you see and feel the muscles flexing under the skin, and the strength of the bones. Soft skin that feels like satin under your hands. Strong, handsome, expressive features, and kind eyes."

Swallowing, Jane nodded, even though Maura's eyes were still closed. "So, you're looking for a man? Or at least a really butch woman?"

Frowning again, Maura opened her eyes and stared into space, going over her words. "No. Oh, you assumed I meant masculine because I used the word, 'handsome.' No, I don't see handsome as a strictly masculine descriptor. To me, handsome can be used to describe anyone attractive, with strong features. I know many people see it as an insult when applied to women, but I don't mean it that way. There are some very attractive women whose features just aren't delicate enough for me to call them 'pretty.' I can still consider a handsome woman, or man, beautiful or gorgeous, just not pretty."

Blinking in confusion, Jane shook her head. "I have no idea what you're talking about. Can you give an example? Someone I would know? Not some obscure foreign or historical person."

Thinking for several moments, Jane watched as Maura apparently thought of, then discarded, several examples, before suddenly settling on one and grinning. "Angelina Jolie. Her jawline and cheekbones are too strong and prominent for me to call her 'pretty,' but she is still feminine and attractive."

Gaping, Jane's mouth opened and closed several times. "You just called Angelina Jolie, who is seen as one of the hottest women in the country, 'not pretty.' That has to be the first time I have ever heard anyone say that. At least I know what you mean by 'handsome,' though. If she's handsome, then it can't be an insult." Thinking for a moment, she shook her head. "Actually, your whole description could probably apply to her. So, you, most of the men in America, and probably half the women, want to be with Angelina Jolie. Actually, anyone who's ever seen her in Gia, wants to be with her. There's no way they couldn't."

Maura's shocked look almost made Jane laugh. "You've seen Gia? I didn't know you had any interest in movies with strong lesbian plots. Considering how you react to assumptions of your sexuality, based on your career choice and wardrobe, I thought you would avoid media targeting the lesbian community."

Shaking her head, Jane smirked, finally getting the opening she's been hoping for, for the past few months. "Yes, I've seen Gia. I'm a bit surprised you have, though. There's a box of movies in the closet, several that have gay or lesbian stories. The only reason I don't have them out here, is because Ma decided to borrow some of my movies, without asking, and then spent three hours lecturing me on keeping 'porn' out where anyone could find it. I think it was actually Gia that she ended up watching. Anyway, rather than deal with another lecture if she decided to borrow more movies, I just put anything with nudity or sex scenes in the closet. Kinda appropriate, don't you think? It's easy to forget they're there, most of the time, or I'm sure you'd already know about them."

Closing her mouth, Maura stared. "Your mother is aware that you watch lesbian-themed movies? Is she ok with that? I can't imagine that her Catholic beliefs would allow her to approve."

Biting her cheek to keep from grinning openly, Jane shrugged and did her best to keep a straight face. "I think, after catching me with Gina Simmons, she wasn't really shocked by the movies, at least not the plot. She only flipped because of the nudity and sex. I think she liked the story, but was embarrassed to admit she'd watched the entire thing. Actually, I think it was probably Pop who wanted to finish watching, and she just didn't leave the room."

Staring in stunned silence, Maura didn't respond until an amused Jane waved a hand in front of her face. Blinking, she shook her head to clear it. "You've been with a woman? You're mother caught you with a woman? Why do you always get offended when people comment on your sexuality, and why have you never mentioned it, before?"

Leaning back with a sigh, Jane shrugged. "Ma actually just caught us kissing. We were lying on my bed, but we were still fully clothed. All I ever did with Gina was make out, but I have been with women. When I entered the Academy, there weren't that many women there. The other students, and even some of the instructors, gave us shit. I stopped really dating, so they wouldn't have anything to use against me. There were only three of us, and we heard everything from assumptions that we were gay, which usually led to questions about rather we were having threesomes, to jokes about us being destined for Vice or only playing cops until we found a husband. I got tired of it, so I did what I could to remove any ammunition, and learned to ignore the rest.

"It didn't change much after I graduated and joined the force, so I just learned not to talk about my private life. I didn't even realize I'd never told you, until recently. I guess I just got so used to not talking about it, that I didn't think about it. I haven't really dated in so long, that it just hasn't come up. My last real relationship didn't last long, and ended before you even started working here. I wasn't trying to hide it, I just never thought about it. I'm sorry. You've shared so much with me, I didn't mean to not do the same. I guess I thought you already knew."

Nodding, Maura let out a quiet breath and reached across the back of the couch to rest her hand on Jane's arm. "It's ok. I understand being used to keeping a secret. I just always assumed, from your reaction to comments people made, that you were straight. Then again, I should know better than to form opinions without all the evidence."

Shrugging, Jane leaned back with a sigh. "I've never labeled myself. None of them ever felt like they fit. I hate it when someone else thinks they can pin a label to me, especially when they don't even know me. People who think they know me, or can judge me, based on what they see in a few minutes or hours, piss me off. Even if I could find a label that fit, it wouldn't be any of their business. Who I'm attracted to isn't anyone's business but mine, and whoever I date. If I can't define myself, then I doubt anyone else could, either. At least not accurately."

Head tilted, Maura looked at her with slightly narrowed eyes, thinking for several moments. "Do you mind me asking how you'd describe your sexuality? If it's too complicated to explain, or you're uncomfortable doing so, that's ok."

Jane sighed and let her head fall to rest on the back of the couch, staring at the ceiling for a moment. "I don't mind you asking, I'm just not sure it'll make any sense. I've been trying to make sense of myself for years, and haven't yet." Lifting her head back up, she looked at Maura. "I'll try, though. Bisexual would probably be the most accurate, but gay feels more comfortable. If you go on immediate physical attraction, then I'm only attracted to women. I just don't see men and think 'he's hot.' I don't find men attractive until I start to get to know them. How do you explain that you're only attracted to women, except when you're not?

"When I think about being in a relationship, it's usually a woman I'm thinking about, but almost all my relationships have been with men, mostly because it's easier to find men to date. When I actually look for a relationship, it doesn't matter. I don't like dating strangers. There's just too much pressure, if I'm spending all my time wondering if a relationship will work, instead of just enjoying spending time with them. All my relationships started out as at least casual friendships. Unfortunately, that meant I also lost a friend, when we broke up, which is part of why I stopped dating."

Smiling, Maura propped her head up on her hand. "I think you did a pretty good job of explaining yourself, and I don't think you need a label, if you don't feel comfortable using one. What made you realize you were attracted to girls?"

Leaning her head back against the couch, she smiled up at the ceiling. "That would be Gina Simmons. We were about fourteen. I'd FINALLY started needing a bra, and she'd been wearing one for years, so I decided I needed to show her mine. Thinking back, I probably already had a crush on her, without realizing it. Anyway, she ended up showing me her bra, because her mom let her get one with a pattern, and I probably stared longer than I should have."

Humming thoughtfully, Maura nodded. "How did your mother end up catching you kissing?"

Chuckling, Jane sat back up, shaking her head. "It was several months, maybe a year, later. It started out as her suggesting we 'practice' kissing for when we got boyfriends. Ma caught us, a few months after that. She freaked out, at first. Dragged me out of the room and called Gina's mom. We were grounded for awhile, but I think they both decided we were just practicing, or playing, or something. I'm not really sure. We weren't allowed alone in my room, anymore, though."

Looking slightly confused, Maura's nose wrinkled. "Is that common? That teenage girls practice kissing with each other? Was she your first kiss?"

Jane just shrugged. "I have no idea. Gina was the only girl I was really friends with. She must've gotten the idea from somewhere, though, so maybe it is. My first kiss was some boy at the park when I was ten. Tommy dared me to do it. I have no idea who he was, but he freaked out at being kissed by a girl. I think ten year old boys are still afraid of cooties." When Maura opened her mouth, Jane shook her head. "You don't count. I doubt you ever believed in cooties, anyway."

Smiling, Maura gave a small shrug. "I wasn't even familiar with the word until adulthood. Do you mind if I ask you questions about your sexuality? Well, that's not completely correct. I'm curious about your experience with women, since I'm still getting used to the idea that you even have experience with women."

Grinning and leaning back, she spread her arms out in a sweeping gesture. "Ask away. As long as you don't expect details, I will probably answer anything."

Nodding, Maura thought for a moment before settling on a question. "You said you've been with women. You mean you've had sex with a woman?"

Watching Maura's expression out of the corner of her eye, Jane nodded. "Yes, I've actually had sex with four women."

Blinking, Maura gave a slow nod. "Were you in relationships with them?"

Closing her eyes, Jane smiled in fond remembrance. "Yeah. I can't have casual sex with women. I don't mind casual sex with men, but I need an emotional connection with women. It just feels too important, too special, to ever be casual. With a man, it's kinda like a living dildo, which sounds really shallow, when I hear it out loud. Wow."

Maura sighed, silently. "Were you in love with any of them?"

Eyes still closed, Jane's smile turned wistful. "I thought I was, but I was young. It's been forever since I was in a relationship, and even longer since I was with a woman. The last time was just after I graduated from the Academy. When you're young, it always feels like love."

Watching her thoughtfully, Maura studied Jane's expression. "You miss it, don't you? Being with a woman, or maybe just being in a relationship. You claim you don't need a relationship, and aren't looking for one, but you hope for one."

Sighing, Jane opened her eyes, meeting Maura's gaze. "Yeah, I miss it. I miss having someone to be with. I miss the feeling that comes from loving a woman, and having her love me. Men are different, and not even just physically. I just feel different when I'm in a relationship with a woman. More content, maybe."

Nodding dumbly, Maura made herself look away, focusing on a point over Jane's shoulder, instead. "So the person you were talking about, a few months ago, was a woman? The one that you wanted a relationship with? That's why you told me I wouldn't figure out who it was. Is she straight?"

Jane shrugged, giving a half-smile. "Yeah, I was talking about a woman. No, she's not straight. She just wasn't emotionally ready to date."

Looking down at her lap and fighting a shiver, Maura watched Jane through her lashes. "So, you think she's ready now?"

Smiling openly, Jane shrugged. "She's getting there. I think she'll let me know when she's ready. She just has a couple things to work through, first, but I'm willing to wait. She's worth it."

Meeting Jane's gaze, she smiled shyly. "She must be special. You've already been waiting for months."

Nodding, Jane winked. "She's amazing. I think you'll approve. Hopefully, she'll be ready, soon. I kinda have something special in mind, but it has to happen on a certain date."

Maura looked at her curiously. "When is soon?"

Shrugging, Jane's lip quirked. "She has a little time. I just hope she's ready in about a month."

Giving a decisive nod, Maura smiled. "I think she will be. And I think she'll be very lucky to have you."

Holding Maura's gaze, Jane let her hand rest on the the couch, fingers just brushing Maura's knee. "I'm glad, and she already has me, she just doesn't know it yet. I plan to let her know, though, in about a month."

Smiling at Jane for a couple moments, Maura finally turned away, picking up the remote. "We should finish the movie. I believe you were planning to explain why this science fiction franchise is superior."

Grinning, Jane grabbed the remote, turning to face the TV and leaning her shoulder against Maura's. "Yep, I believe I was. We'll have you carrying a phaser and wearing pointy ears, in no time."

Laughing, Maura leaned into her side and turned to see Jane rewinding a couple scenes. Trading comments and questions, they watched the rest of the movie, and Jane insisted it was still earlier enough for one more.

Chapter 20

For three weeks, Jane waited. Each morning, when they saw each other, Maura would let her know if her evening was taken. Jane soon learned that 'appointment' meant a therapy session, while 'meeting' meant she was seeing Sarah that evening.

For three weeks, they settled into an easy balance. They never talked about their conversation, or hinted at what they'd really meant, but each mention of a 'meeting' was made with a apologetic smile. Jane didn't ask for any details about Maura's therapy or time with Sarah, and she didn't offer any.

Both noticed that they touched just a little more than before. A hand on an arm, shoulder, or back. Sitting and standing just a little closer, so a shoulder or leg brushed when they moved. Intentional shoulder or hip bumps to get the other's attention, or punctuate something they said.

Tension they hadn't even realized was present, evaporated almost overnight. Korsak and Frost stopped waiting for one of them to snap, when they were in a room together. Jane's anger and resentment almost completely disappeared, even if her jealousy didn't. Maura no longer worried that she'd say something, unintentionally, that would upset Jane.

For three weeks, they were happy to exist in a peaceful middle ground, until Maura turned everything upside down. They were sitting across from each other, eating lunch in a small diner Jane loved. Jane had just shoved several fries in her mouth, and started to choke when Maura broke the silence. "Tonight is my last meeting. My last appointment was the other day, but I wasn't sure I should mention it, at the time."

Holding up a hand, Jane beat the other against her chest while she coughed, finally taking several long drinks between coughs. When her eyes stopped watering, she stared at Maura in shock. "Really? Are you sure? I mean, is that something you can even know ahead of time?"

Smiling, Maura nodded. "Yes. You see, I was particularly motivated to finish this, project, quickly. I know it's ahead of schedule, but I didn't want anyone to have cause to worry that I wouldn't make my deadline."

It took a couple moments, but Jane finally smiled brightly, forcing herself to stay outwardly calm. "You always do meet your deadlines. Well, we should celebrate, but not yet. How does Saturday, in two weeks, sound? Think you'll be free?"

Thinking for a moment, she nodded. "I'm on call, that weekend, but otherwise free. I would be happy to celebrate, with you."

Grinning and stretching one leg out to brush against Maura's, Jane gestured at their plates. "Good. I promise you won't regret it. Now, we should finish lunch before Frost comes looking for us."

Hooking her ankle around Jane's, Maura's serious tone caught her attention. "I know. I could never regret anything with you."

Sharing a long look and a smile, they turned back to their food.

For two weeks, an entirely new tension hummed between them. The touches lingered longer, and turned to caresses. Looks and smiles were exchanged, sometimes making them forget they were in the middle of a conversation. An accidental turn of phrase would cause blushing or a smirk.

Jane started leaving small surprises for Maura, always making sure there was no chance of being caught. A collection of chocolate kisses sat neatly on each key of her keyboard, when she got to work one morning, making her smile as she unwrapped one and lined the rest up under her monitor. A wooden trinket box, holding a little, pewter swan, was waiting for her, another day. Notes, on special stationary with matching envelopes, would appear resting on her keyboard, tucked into her purse or jacket, or taped to her office door. When she found a single iris, an almost perfect match to her dress, she was glad she'd worn her hair up, and she carefully pinned it in place, smiling and declining to comment when people asked about it.

A week in, Jane started sending short emails. Some offered hints to their plans, others were requests or suggestions. Each brought a smile, and small shiver of anticipation and pleasure. The final one, 'Pack an overnight bag,' brought confusion. When Maura reminded her she was on call, Jane reminded her that she was her own boss, and told her it was already taken care of. Shaking her head fondly, Maura let it go, wondering how Jane had managed to get her time off, without her knowing about it.

When Saturday came, Jane found herself bouncing with excess energy. She made calls to double-check that everything was still set, then got dressed and left. Walking into a salon, she waited patiently for her turn. After getting her hair trimmed, which she'd been putting off for months, she sat awkwardly while one girl worked on her hands and another worked on her feet; cutting, cleaning, and buffing her nails. Making a couple more stops, she went home to get ready.

Maura's nerves made her restless. She repacked her overnight bag half a dozen times. She took a bubble bath, complete with lavender oil to help her relax, then showered, to get rid of the smell, when she remembered Jane commenting that she liked the way she smelled when she'd used a vanilla scent, a few weeks prior. Taking extra time and care, she shaved and did her hair and make-up. For more than an hour, she stood in front of her closet, trying to decide on an outfit, without settling long enough to put any of them on. When she realized Jane would be there soon, she grabbed a dress she hadn't worn before, and finished getting ready.

Checking the time, for probably the twelfth time since she left her place, Jane pulled up in front of Maura's house. Taking a deep breath and smoothing her hair, she grabbed the flowers next to her and got out. Walking up to the door, she took another breath before knocking.

When Maura opened the door, Jane forgot to breathe or blink. Running her free hand from Maura's shoulder down to her hand, she looked her up and down. Finally blinking and shaking her head to clear it, she took a step forward and let her fingers twine with Maura's. "You are absolutely stunning." Giving her hand a squeeze before letting go, Jane handed her the flowers. "I was going to get roses, but you seemed to really like the iris, so I thought you'd appreciate something a little less predictable."

Taking the flowers, she didn't bother trying to hide her grin when she closed her eyes to smell them. Looking back at Jane, she smiled and moved so they could move out of the doorway, heading toward the kitchen. "They're beautiful, thank you. You know you didn't have to bring me flowers, but I do love them. I think I would love them just as much if they were roses, no matter how predictable they may be, or a handful a wildflowers with dirt still clinging to the stems. You've already done so much to make this night special."

Following her, Jane watched as Maura filled a vase and positioned the flowers on the counter. When she was done, she pulled her close, closing her eyes and sighing when she rested her cheek against Maura's hair and felt Maura relax against her. "I wanted to bring you flowers. I want to do this right, and that means treating you like a queen and bringing you flowers on our first date and leaving you notes and presents just because I want to and whatever else I can think of. I was going to get something fancier, but then I started looking up flower meanings. I know daffodils are kinda plain, and don't live very long, but they seemed perfect."

Pulling away slightly, Maura gave her a confused look, then turned to look between the flowers and Jane, then back. "The only meaning for daffodils, that I'm familiar with, is unrequited love. You have to know that that doesn’t apply."

Shaking her head, Jane smiled. "No, the meanings I liked are new beginnings and rebirth, which is what tonight is supposed to be about. We should get going though, before we're late. Where's your bag?"

Gesturing toward the living room, she watched Jane pick the small bag up off the floor and then turn to catch her staring. Blushing, Maura smiled shyly and let Jane lead her to the door. "I haven't told you, yet, just how beautiful you look. I don't know when, or where, you got that dress, but you're gorgeous in it. Whoever helped you pick it out, has my undying gratitude. I should probably thank them, at some point."

Setting the bag down long enough to help Maura into her jacket, and smirking when she ran her fingertips over the back of Maura's neck as she moved her hair, making her shiver, Jane opened the door and waited while Maura locked up. "I'll be sure to tell Ma that she was right, and this dress does make my ass look good."

Blushing deeper, Maura looked away, biting her lip. "I always enjoy the way you look, particularly from behind. I've just never felt like I had permission to take the time to really appreciate it, before. Not the way I've wanted to, anyway. That dress is very flattering, though, and I will thank her for helping you pick it. I just won't tell her HOW thankful I am."

Stowing the bag in the trunk, Jane grabbed Maura's hips, pulling her close. "I really enjoy this side of you, but we really will be late, and I really do want to do this right. That means I will be behaving myself, tonight, and being the gentleman to your lady. This is your night."

Pressing closer, Maura shivered and let herself enjoy the feel of Jane pressed against her, just for a moment. Backing up, she met Jane's gaze. "This is your night, too. It's OUR first date, not just mine."

Helping Maura into the car, Jane waited until she climbed in beside her to answer. "This may be OUR first date, but it's YOUR day. One year ago, today, you had your surgery. That means, one year ago today, Maura Isles was reborn as the woman she always knew she was. To me, that makes this a pretty special day, and one you deserve to celebrate."

Blinking and carefully wiping a thumb under her eyes, Maura reached over, wrapped her hand around the back of Jane's neck, and pulled her into a searing kiss. Finally forcing herself to pull away, she let her forehead rest against Jane's. "I have wanted to do that for so long. You have no idea how hard it was not to kiss you as soon as I opened the door. Thank you. I thought you remembered, from a few things you've said, but I wasn't sure. I didn't know why you picked this date, and I didn't want to presume. Just, thank you."

Giving her another quick kiss, Jane pulled away and flipped the visor in front of Maura down. "Of course I remembered. I just hope you don't mind sharing your birthday with our anniversary. You fix your hair and make-up, and I'll call to make sure they hold our reservations. I want this night to be perfect. Oh, and if it was half as much as I wanted to kiss you, then I have a pretty good idea. You have no idea what you do to me, without even trying."

Looking in the mirror, Maura bit her lip and blushed when she saw the smudged lipstick and mussed hair. "I have some idea, and I look forward to you giving me a more thoroughly explanation. I assume we're going back to your place, tonight?"

Holding up a finger while she talked to whoever was on the phone, Jane turned to Maura and smirked after she hung up. "Nope. I've been planning this for awhile, and I've had time to make sure everything is perfect, and as special as possible."

Reaching out absentmindedly to wipe some smeared lipstick from the corner of Jane's mouth, she smiled when Jane turned her head just enough to kiss it, instead. "Just how long have you been planning this? And are you going to tell me where we're going before we get there?"

Grimacing slightly, Jane gave an embarrassed shrug. "I may have already had most of it worked out before our conversation, last month. Maybe. If things had worked out differently, then I'd planned on making sure you could celebrate, even if it was just as friends, or with someone else."

Using one hand to hold Jane's head still, Maura fixed her lipstick with the other. "If I'd known you were interested, then our first date might have happened sooner. Before last month, I thought you were straight. I wasn't sure if I wanted you to be interested in me, or not. I wasn't sure which would hurt more, being rejected, or knowing you were only attracted to me because I was born male. I didn't want to find out."

Pulling her into an awkward one-armed hug, Jane silently cursed the fact they were still sitting in her car. "As hard as it was to wait, you weren't ready, before. I've never seen you as anything but what you are, an amazing woman. I'm sorry I didn't realize I'd never told you. Now, we should really get going, before they decide not to hold our reservation. We'll finish this conversation, I promise, just not right now. Tonight is about celebrating and happiness and new beginnings, not about regretting the past. That can wait until tomorrow, at least. Tonight, it's your birthday, and not everyone is lucky enough to have two."

Laughing, Maura nodded. "You're right, tonight is about new beginnings. To answer your earlier question, I am honored to share my 'birthday' with our anniversary. I can't wait to see what you have planned."

Starting the car, Jane smiled and started giving her hints, but never enough to let her figure it out.

Chapter 21

Pulling up in front of a small Italian restaurant, Jane gave a sheepish smile and shrug. "I know it's not that fancy, but I didn't want to embarrass you by using the wrong fork, or dripping sauce down my chin, or something. And I won't have to ask what everything on the menu is, or accidentally order something disgusting."

A hand on her arm stopped the rambling. Squeezing it gently, Maura smiled. "It's perfect. You don't need to take me to expensive restaurants, that I know you can't really afford. You don't need to impress me, and you should know that I'm not impressed by extravagant spending, anyway. You already have me, you don't need to try so hard to get me. Besides, what's the point of a date where you're too uncomfortable to enjoy yourself?"

Chuckling, Jane nodded and took a deep breath. "You're right. I just want it to be perfect. You deserve the best, and I know you're used to things being more high class."

Leaning back, Maura sighed. "Jane, I may have been raised with money, but I supported myself for most of my adult life. Until just before we met, I lived a lot like you do, now. When I got the Chief Medical Examiner position, I took advantage of the extra income. One of the first things I did was upgrade my wardrobe. I wasn't always able to shop at boutiques and buy designer labels, and I didn't feel that my department store wardrobe fit the image a Chief Medical Examiner should present. Even though I was raised to have expensive tastes, I didn't have the means to indulge them, until relatively recently. Just because I enjoy some of the more expensive aspects of life, doesn't mean I have to have them."

Blinking, Jane shook her head. "I can't picture you shopping at department stores and eating ramen, but I get what you're saying. Ok, let's actually go inside. We really need to stop getting side-tracked."

Smiling, Maura watched Jane get out and walk around the car to help her out. Taking her arm, she watched her out of the corner of her eye. "Will there ever be a time when you'll let me open doors for you and help you with your coat? You deserve that, just as much as I do. What was the phrase you used? Being the gentleman to my lady? I wouldn't mind doing that for you."

Jane just shrugged, stopping on the sidewalk. "Honestly, I've never really been comfortable being on the receiving end of that stuff. Maybe it's because I'm stubborn, or independent, or impatient, or just not that lady-like. I just don't feel right having someone do something I am perfectly capable of doing for myself. And I like playing the gentleman for you. I like doing things for you, and you are nothing if not a lady."

Letting Jane open the door for her, Maura gave a tiny curtsy and smile before entering the restaurant. "Then I will be honored to have you be my gentleman."

Sharing a grin, they confirmed their reservation and waited to be seated.

Dinner was lighthearted, and enjoyable. They shared memories and stories, including Maura getting Jane explain the incident the necessitated her learning to patch walls. When Jane jokingly suggested having the waiters come sing 'Happy Birthday,' Maura's threat to hide in the restroom convinced her it wouldn't be a good idea.

When Maura started looking through the dessert menu, Jane plucked it carefully out of her hands and laid it back on the table, explaining that dessert would be taken care of at their next destination. Noticing Maura's curiosity and excitement, Jane signaled for the check. Once she paid, she pulled back Maura's chair and led her back to the car.

Pulling out of the parking lot and heading out of the city, Jane didn't bother hiding a grin at Maura's obvious curiosity. "I told you, we're not going back to my place, and I'm not telling you where we are going, so don't bother asking. Surprises are no fun if you're not surprised by them. Hey, do you have a bathing suit?"

Blinking, Maura stared at her for a moment before shaking her head. "No, and I didn't know I should buy one. You never mentioned needing one, and I was working under the assumption that we would be spending the night at your place. Why did you wait until now to mention it?"

Chuckling and shaking her head, Jane shrugged. "It was just a random thought. You don't need one, for tonight. I was just thinking that it'd be nice to spend a weekend away with you, which led to thinking about hotels, which led to thinking about swimming pools, which led to thinking about you dripping wet and wearing nothing but a little bikini. That should definitely happen, at some point."

Watching Jane's expression, Maura nodded. "I think that can be arranged, as long as you don't expect me to be doing any actual swimming. I haven't been swimming since I was a teenager, and I was never very good at it. I do have one condition, however. You need to be equally wet, and wearing an equally small bikini." When Jane looked confused for a moment, before shaking her head, Maura waited, before finally giving in an asking. "What was that look for? You seemed confused by something. I assumed my desire to see you in a bikini was rather self-explanatory."

Shaking her head, Jane waved a hand dismissively. "No, it wasn't that. I'll have to buy one, but I wouldn't mind wearing a bikini for you. It just took me a moment to figure out why you, one of the sexiest women I've ever seen, wouldn't own a swimsuit, or go swimming. Then I realized that it wasn't exactly something you could wear, before. Bikini bottoms don't exactly conceal anything, especially wet."

Nodding and sighing, Maura leaned her head back. "I tried wearing one, once, with a wrap. I spent the entire time at the beach so worried that it would get wet, or come untied, that I wasn't able to enjoy myself. When I was younger, I just wasn't comfortable enough with my body, or other people, to feel comfortable in swimwear. I never had a particularly strong desire or affinity for swimming, anyway."

Jane grinned at her. "But now, that you can, you wouldn't mind wearing one for me? We can go to the beach, or something. Or a pool. Whichever would be more comfortable for you."

Maura stared out the window, making a vague sound of agreement. "Either would be fine. Is it acceptable for me to attempt to ascertain where we're going?"

Chuckling, Jane nodded. "Sure, you can guess all you want."

Turning to look at her, Maura glared good-naturedly. "I do not guess. I have merely been eliminating several possible options, based on the evidence at hand, and wished to see if I am correct about which options still remain."

Jane laughed and grinned back at her. "Us normal people, call that a guess."

Rolling her eyes and smiling at the passing scenery, she reached blindly for Jane's hand, squeezing it when it was placed in her hand. "Well, we're heading out of the city. You're relaxed, not looking for road signs, which means we'll probably be driving for awhile. It's not early enough for it to be too far away, or you would have had us leave earlier. You didn't think of swimming pools before this, so it's probably not a hotel, at least not one with a pool."

Nodding and glancing over at her, Jane squeezed her hand. "So, any guesses?"

Humming quietly, Maura nodded. "Yes. Based on the evidence, I would have to say that we are headed for a bed and breakfast or privately owned inn. I can't be more specific than that."

Smiling and laughing silently, Jane tugged Maura's hand to get her attention. "Yes, we're going to a 'bed and breakfast or privately owned inn.' We should get there in about twenty minutes, I think."

Relaxing against her seat and watching Jane drive, Maura smiled at her. "You know, I don't believe it's customary to end a first date in a hotel room."

Looking slightly uncomfortable, Jane shrugged. "Yeah, about that. I only got one room, but that doesn't mean I expect anything to happen. I meant it when I said I want to do this right. It just seemed silly, after everything, to get two rooms. We've already shared a bed more times than I can count, and I don't see why that should change just because we're together, now." She smiled sheepishly. "And, I've missed sleeping next to you."

Maura sighed and pulled their joined hands into her lap. "I've missed it, too, and I'm sorry for the way I acted."

Glancing over, Jane gave her a questioning look. "Then why did you tell me it wasn't healthy?"

Sighing again, Maura closed her eyes for a moment. "I didn't feel it was. More for my sake, than yours. At the time, I didn't believe you were attracted to me. It was hard sharing a bed with you, thinking we could never be more than friends. When I realized I'd become dependent on your presence to sleep soundly, I think I panicked. I couldn't let myself be that attached, that dependent, if all we could ever have was friendship. It would hurt too much when you inevitably found someone to be with. I was trying to protect myself, and the only way I could think of was to push you away."

Squeezing her hand tightly, Jane let go long enough to run her hand through Maura's hair. "I'm not sure I'll every forgive myself for not realizing you didn't know. I didn't even know I was hurting you, and I'm sorry. It hurt so much when you told me we couldn't share a bed, anymore. I know all we did was sleep, but just having you next to me, being able to hold you, made all the difference."

Blushing slightly, Maura looked down at her lap, biting her lip. "That isn't the only reason. I'd started having, dreams. About you. I was afraid I'd do something in my sleep, and you'd find out."

Choking on air, Jane turned to stare, before turning quickly back to the road. "You were having sex dreams about me? While in bed with me? That is unbelievably hot. If I'd known, I don't think I'd have been able to not do something about it. Someday, you should tell me more about these dreams."

Still blushing, she shook her head. "They weren't, exactly, sex dreams. We'd be somewhere, I usually didn't even know where or what we were doing, and then we'd start kissing. It didn't usually go beyond that, but I was afraid it would."

It was Jane's turn to blush, grinning apologetically. "Yeah, those might not have really been dreams. I thought you were asleep. The thought that I could've lost you, before we even met, terrifies me. Not having you in my life, is something I never want to have to face. I didn't know if you would ever want to really be with me, but I wanted every moment I could have."

Sitting up, Maura stared at her. "It wasn't a dream. The night you stayed in the guest room. I thought it was a dream, because it couldn't have been real, but it was. You came into my room, and you kissed me. You brushed my hair out of my face and you kissed me. It was real, wasn't it?"

Blushing deeper, Jane met her eyes for a moment and nodded slowly. "Yes. I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't have. It's an invasion of privacy. I know how I would react if I found out someone was kissing me in my sleep, without my knowledge. I just needed to know what it was like to kiss you, even if you weren't kissing me back. I'm sorry."

Holding tighter when Jane tried to pull her hand away, Maura shook her head. "I'm not as upset as I probably should be. I should be angry at you for essentially taking advantage of me, but I know that was never your intention. I trust you, and I know you would never willingly hurt me. While I would like to be able to remember our first kiss, the past can't be altered. I do hope you don't wait until I'm asleep to kiss me goodnight, tonight, though. I would like to remember it, this time."

Doing her best to study Maura's face, while still driving, Jane gave a small smile. "I can do that. I'd like you to be able to kiss me back, this time. I'd like to kiss you right now, but that would be a very bad idea. In fact, I plan to be kissing you a lot, from now on. Hey, how are we going to do this? Are we going to tell everyone, let them figure it out on their own, or keep it a secret?"

Thinking about it, Maura shrugged. "I wouldn't mind telling everyone, but it's up to you. You've spent so long hiding your sexuality, I don't want to force you to come out. I don't mind keeping it a secret, for as long as you need."

Squeezing her hand, Jane shook her head. "I don't really need to come out. My family has known for years, and is fine with it. It took Ma awhile to get used to the idea, but she stopped thinking it was a phase the second time I brought a girlfriend home. Pop never cared, I think he was actually glad that it meant I wouldn't be announcing an unplanned pregnancy, at least while I was dating a woman. Frankie and Tommy just see it as an excuse to comment on women when I'm around."

Nodding thoughtfully, Maura stared out at the road. "What about work? You said you started hiding because of teasing at work. I don't want to make your job uncomfortable. Aren't you worried about how Vince and Barry will react? And what about the other detectives, or the uniformed officers?"

Jane just snorted. "Most of them already think I'm gay. I think the only thing that will shock them is that YOU would want to be with me. Yeah, in the beginning, I didn't want to give them anything to use against me, but it doesn't really matter, anymore. The people that matter, won't think any less of me. The rest, probably already do.

"In the beginning, it was largely self-preservation. I was one of the only women on the force, and a lot of the men were already looking for ways to scare us off. Giving them one more reason to give me the worst assignments, or be late responding to a call, just wasn't a good idea. That's changed, though. There are more women on the force, and homophobia isn't tolerated, the way it used to be.

"Plus, people know better than to piss me off. One of the perks of being a detective is that pretty much only the brass can tell me what to do, and they know better than to pull anything stupid. The last thing they want is for the department to be sued for discrimination against women, or gays. There was a lawsuit a few years back, that probably still has the brass flinching. It settled out of court, but everyone had to go to several mandatory classes on avoiding anti-gay discrimination, and several people ended up fired."

Nodding, Maura tilted her head in thought. "What about Vince and Barry, though? You depend on them to protect you, just like you protect them. Will coming out to them endanger that trust? If there is the smallest chance their reactions will put you in danger, I don't want you to tell them. I'd rather never tell anyone, than risk your safety."

Looking at Maura, she gave her a comforting smile. "Korsak's known for a few years. He caught me staring at some woman's chest, once, and asked. I couldn't exactly lie, since I was almost drooling over a pair of boobs, so I told him. He just shrugged and told me I could've picked a worse looking woman to ogle.

"Frost asked me about it right after he became my partner. Then, before I could answer, he started rambling about how it didn't matter and he has a gay aunt and he voted to legalize gay marriage. Then, he almost ran off. I think he embarrassed himself, or he thought I was going to shoot him. Anyway, I'm pretty sure he's been assuming I was gay from the beginning.

"So, we just need to decide if we want to tell everyone, or let them figure it out. Well, I'll have to tell Ma, unless I want her bringing it up for the rest of my life. Which means, we'll be telling my family. So, do we tell Frost and Korsak, or let them figure it out on their own?"

Thinking for a moment, Maura gave a small shrug. "I think it would be only fair to tell them. They're important enough that they deserve to hear it from you."

Nodding, Jane started slowing down, before turning onto an off ramp. "You're right. So, we'll tell them. Just not right away. I want a little bit of time before everyone starts offering their opinions. Why don't we go to Sunday dinner, next week, and tell my family, then tell the guys that Monday?"

Humming in agreement, Maura started paying more attention to the road. "Sounds good. Are we almost there? I'm not familiar with this area."

Rolling her eyes, Jane chuckled. "Yes, we're almost there. Should only be a few more minutes. We should have dessert and wine waiting in our room."

Nodding absently, Maura kept watching their surroundings. When Jane pulled up next to a large house, Maura smiled and waited while Jane walked around to help her out of the car, then got their bags from the trunk.

Chapter 22

After getting checked in, Jane carried their bags to their room. Letting Maura unlock and open the door, Jane followed her in and set the bags down in front of the closet. Looking around, she nodded in approval and watched Maura investigate. Making sure Maura wasn't watching, she dug a small bag out of her jacket. When she wandered into the bathroom, Jane hurried over to the sideboard where a bottle of wine and covered dish were waiting. Lifting the lid, she smiled at the chocolate cake and quickly pushed the candle she'd brought, into it. She was just lighting it when Maura walked back in.

Seeing Jane huddled over the sideboard, Maura watched her in confusion before walking over. Wrapping her arms around Jane's waist, she smiled and kissed the back of her shoulder when she jumped. "I do hope you brought that candle with you. It would be hard to explain why you requested a birthday cake with a '1' candle, and yet there is no child present."

Chuckling, Jane turned in her arms and kissed her. "Yes, I brought the candle with me. Now, make a wish and blow it out, before it melts all over the place."

Grinning, Maura pulled away to look more closely at the cake. 'Happy Birthday Maura' was written in red, and surrounded by red and blue flowers. Turning back to Jane, she clasped her hands in front of her and stared expectantly. "Aren't you going to sing 'Happy Birthday' to me? After all, it IS my first birthday, isn't it?"

Rolling her eyes, Jane groaned and stuck out her tongue. "You wouldn't be asking that if you'd ever heard me sing, but it IS your birthday, and the birthday girl deserves a song. Just don't say I didn't warn you."

Taking a deep breath, Jane started singing, ignoring Maura's amused look. When she finished, Maura gave her a quick kiss before turning to blow out her candle. Looking back at Jane, she smirked and took a step away. "Yes, you did warn me, so I will forgive your lack of talent, this time."

Seeing Jane swipe a finger through the icing, Maura laughed and darted away. When Jane jumped over the back of the couch to tackle her on the bed and smear the icing down her neck, Maura held her breath while Jane licked it off. Taking several deep breaths, she met Jane's eyes when she pulled back. "If you really expect nothing to happen, tonight, then you need to not do that. If you don't, then I won't be able to stop myself from touching you."

Closing her eyes and groaning, Jane rolled off to lie beside her, throwing an arm over her eyes. "I almost hate myself for wanting to wait, but I really do want to do this right. That means waiting, while I shower you in gifts and court you the way you deserve."

Rolling onto her stomach, Maura propped herself up on her elbows to see Jane's face. "Why are you so determined to do this the 'right way?' You already have me, so you don't need to court me or give me gifts. I don't need convinced, so why do you want to wait?"

Uncovering her eyes, Jane sighed. "Can I be honest without scaring you by moving too fast or making you mad by presuming?" At Maura's careful nod, Jane moved to sit up, waiting until Maura joined her, then turned to face her. "I want to do this right, because you deserve to have someone give you gifts, take you out to dinner, hold open doors, and do all those other old fashioned, chivalrous things that make you feel special. You deserve to be courted like a lady, without sex being the expected outcome. It may be too soon, and ridiculously conceited of me, but I want to be that person. I want do this right, because I hope no one else ever has the chance."

Pulling her in for a long, tender kiss, Maura smiled. "It may be too soon to say this will be the last relationship either of us ever have, but that doesn't mean we can't hope for it. I wouldn't have agreed to this date, if I thought this would be a short-lived relationship. Our friendship is too important to me to be risked on something trivial or fleeting. I will let you do what you think necessary to 'court' me, but you've always made me feel special. I would like to know why you chose the word 'court,' though. It doesn't seem like a word that would typically be part of your vocabulary."

Blushing, Jane got up and walked back to the sideboard. Plucking the candle out of the cake, she started to cut it, keeping her back to Maura as she spoke. "I may have liked to read romance novels when I was younger, and may have fallen in love with the idea of being the hero that courts and wins the lady. Maybe. But I will deny it if you ever tell anyone."

Laughing, Maura followed her and started uncorking the wine. Carrying the wine and glasses to the couch, she set them down on the coffee table before pouring them both some wine and waiting for Jane to carry the cake over. "I promise to never tell a soul. It does explain tonight's behavior, though, and I'm enjoying it. If you always act this way in a relationship, then I consider myself lucky that no one else was able to hold onto you."

Sitting down, Jane handed Maura her cake before picking up her wine to take a sip. "Good wine. I just asked if she could find me something that went with chocolate cake. I usually ask you for advice on stuff like that, but I couldn't exactly have you help on your own birthday surprise." Setting the wine back down, she gave a small shrug. "Before you get the wrong idea, this is new for me. I've never wanted to court someone, before. I don't think most guys would appreciate the effort, and it's been almost ten years since I dated a woman. Me, in my early twenties, was nothing like me, now. I was young, and selfish, and kinda shallow. Probably like most people, that age."

Humming in agreement, Maura nodded. "Yes, I remember everyone seeming quite self-centered, at that age. It's hard for me to remember what I was like, though, at least objectively. I'm glad you're not like that, anymore. I like this Jane. She's made this the best first date, and birthday, I've ever had. She might have a hard time topping it, next year."

Feeding Maura a bite of her cake, before stealing a bite of Maura's, Jane grinned. "Yes, but I have an entire year to plan, instead of just a couple months. If I can do this, in a couple months, then imagine what I can do in a year. I like this birthday better than your other one. This one just seems more real, more important."

Maura shrugged. "Until you mentioned it, I hadn't thought of it as a birthday, just as the anniversary of my surgery. I like your explanation, though, and that you picked it for our first date. Now, we can celebrate it without having to explain what we're celebrating. Just, no more number candles unless we're alone."

Nodding, Jane smirked and pointed with her fork. "You should be thankful I stopped myself from buying a bunch of 'baby's first birthday' stuff. I almost bought a banner and balloons, but I couldn't figure out how I would get them in the room without anyone noticing."

Rolling her eyes, Maura finished her wine and refilled both glasses. "I very much appreciate your restraint. When you let me, I intend to show you that I am very much an adult. Until then, you'll just have to take my word on it."

Downing her wine in a single drink, Jane groaned. "You're trying to kill me, or drive me insane. I will be doing this right, even if the mental images drive me crazy. Now, behave yourself, so I can behave myself."

Laughing, Maura refilled Jane's glass and set her empty plate on the table. "I'll try, but can't say how long it will last. You're hard to resist, especially wearing that dress, and I don't really want to try. Isn't there some sports analogy for sexual contact?"

Choking on her cake, Jane set the plate down and covered her mouth while she coughed. When she finally stopped coughing, she downed the fresh glass of wine. Realizing what she'd done, she put the glass back down and pushed it away. "Ok, if you keep saying things like that, I'm going to end up drunk. Yes, there is a 'sports analogy for sexual contact.' What does that have to do with anything?"

Turning to lean her arm against the back of the couch, Maura let her fingers run through her hair, playing with a curl while Jane watched. "Perhaps, we could participate in only the first step, or two. I love kissing you, but I want to be able to touch you, too. You don't know how many times I've thought about the way you would feel under my hands."

Squeezing her eyes shut, Jane shook her head. "I'm tempted, very tempted, but I don't think I could stop, if I started touching you. For tonight, I want to just hold you. I want to fall asleep with you in my arms, and know it's not because of a nightmare, but because you want to be there. I want to kiss you goodnight, and good morning. Is that ok?"

Nodding and smiling, Maura leaned against her hand. "That sounds really good, actually. I've missed feeling you hold me, and now I can let myself really enjoy it. Tonight, if I have a dream, I don't have to spend all morning worrying that I moved or made a sound in my sleep."

Jane glared at her playfully and got up, gathering their plates. "You are in a feisty mood, tonight. As much as I'm enjoying it, I'm not going to do anything about it. Why don't you go enjoy the big tub that's supposed to be in the bathroom? I'll shower when you're done."

Thinking for a moment, she nodded and went to unzip her bag. Pulling out her toiletry bag and pajamas, she carried them to the bathroom. Coming back out, she refilled her wine glass and took it with her. Just before she closed the door completely, she peeked back around it. "I'd invite you to join me, but I don't think it would help with your resolve to be a gentleman, not that I would mind." The door shut quickly, just before a cushion hit it and bounced to the floor.

Waiting until she was sure Maura wasn't coming back out, Jane collapsed backward onto the bed with a groan. She stared at the ceiling, listening to the sounds coming through the door. She was starting to fall asleep when the bathroom door opened and Maura walked out. Looking over, Jane bolted upright, eyes wide. "THAT'S what you brought to sleep in? No wonder you're in a mood."

Looking down at the almost sheer nightie and matching panties, Maura blushed slightly and shrugged. "I didn't know what you had planned, but I felt safe in assuming you wouldn't object to seeing me in this. I assumed we were going back to your place. If I was wrong about your motives, I'd planned to borrow something of yours to sleep in. I almost didn't pack any sleepwear."

Rubbing a hand over her eyes, Jane groaned and shook her head. "I'm dead. I'm going to REALLY regret saying this, but I'm sticking to my decision. Now, I'm going to go take a cold shower. Could you be under the covers when I get out?"

Laughing, Maura climbed into the bed and pulled the covers over her lap. "Better? If I'd known about your plans, I would've packed something else, and saved this for a different time. I spent yesterday evening looking for something I thought you'd like. I'm sorry you can't fully enjoy it."

Staring, Jane was unable to stop her eyes from roaming over Maura's upper body. "You bought that just for tonight, because you thought I'd like it?" When Maura nodded, Jane groaned and shook her head. "I'm a masochist. I have to be, because I still plan on just holding you while we sleep, and you have to be the sexiest thing I've ever seen. Ok, I'm going to take that long, cold shower, now."

Watching Jane get her things and go into the bathroom, Maura got up and grabbed the wine and Jane's glass from the coffee table. Realizing hers was still in the bathroom, she set them down on the night stand and knocked on the bathroom door. "I forgot my wine glass, in there. Could I come in just long enough to grab it?"

Getting no answer, she was going to try the knob when the door opened just far enough for Jane's hand to slip out, holding out the wine glass. Smirking to herself, Maura grabbed the glass with one hand, and Jane's hand with the other. Pulling firmly until Jane finally gave in and peeked around the door to see what she wanted, Maura pushed the door open until she was forced to move.

Taking a moment to look Jane's naked body up and down a couple times, she pulled her in for a hungry kiss. Running her hand down the center of Jane's chest and stomach and around to rest on her lower back, Maura smirked against her lips. "You're even more beautiful naked, then I thought. Now, I know what it feels like to touch you, and you have a real reason for that cold shower."

Stepping back to look at Jane one more time, Maura grinned at the blush spreading over her chest and held up the wine glass. "Thanks. I'll be waiting in bed when you get out."

She laughed when Jane swallowed visibly and nodded mutely before shutting the door. Walking back over the bed, she poured herself some wine before sitting back against the pillows. Leaning her head back, Maura closed her eyes and sighed to herself as she took a sip of wine.


It was almost a half hour before Jane came out of the bathroom, wearing an oversized shirt and and sweatpants. Seeing Maura looking her over, she shrugged. "I wasn't planning a seduction, tonight, unlike SOME people, so I just packed what I always sleep in."

Shaking her head, Maura held up the other side of the covers and waited for Jane to climb in before handing her a glass of wine. "I was actually just remembering when you look like underneath the clothes, and wondering how long it'll be before I get to see it, again. Did the cold shower help?"

Rolling her eyes, Jane shook her head. "Yes, until I opened the door and saw you sitting there, like that. It kinda defeats the purpose, if the blankets only cover your bottom half. Why are you handing me more wine? Are you trying to get me drunk so you can seduce me?"

Tilting her head in thought, Maura bit her bottom lip before shaking her head. "No, although I wouldn't mind altering my plans. I actually just thought it would be a shame to waste such a lovely wine. There's not even half the bottle left, so I figured we could finish it before bed. However, if you'd like to play drunk while I seduce you, I wouldn't mind."

Leaning over for a quick kiss, Jane shook her head with a laugh. "No, you can just enjoy the anticipation. Do you want to find something to watch, or just talk?"

Smiling and leaning against Jane's shoulder, Maura shrugged. "Either is fine. I'm enjoying myself. Thank you for an amazing evening, Jane."

Getting another quick kiss, Jane sighed happily. "You're welcome."

They finished the bottle of wine mostly in silence. Every now and then one of them would comment on something, but neither saw a reason for a real conversation. When the wine was finished and Jane started to yawn, Maura held the blankets up and they both scooted to lie down.

Flipping the lightswitch next to the bed, Jane pulled Maura into her arms and kissed the back of her neck. When Maura turned slightly, they shared a lazy kiss before settling back into the pillows. Squeezing Maura tighter for a moment, Jane sighed. "Goodnight, Maura."

Covering the hand on her stomach with her own, Maura brought it up to place a kiss in the center of Jane's palm, before hugging it to her chest. "Goodnight, Jane. Thank you for letting me remember this one."

Chuckling silently, Jane shook her head and kissed the bare shoulder in front of her. "From now on, you can remember them all."

Chapter 23

The next morning, Maura woke first. Realizing she was lying across Jane's chest with her tucked under her chin, she tensed for a moment, before remembering she didn't have to watch her actions, anymore. Smiling, she closed her eyes and burrowed closer. Feeling the movement, Jane made a wordless sound of protest and turned her head to hide from the sunlight. Sighing, it took her a moment to realize she'd buried her face in Maura's hair. Holding still, Jane cracked one eye open, then squeezed it shut again.

Laughing silently, Maura lightly kissed the skin under her lips and tightened her hold over Jane's waist. "Morning."

Opening her eyes and blinking against the light, Jane took a moment to focus before lifting her head enough to look down. Realizing Maura's eyes were still closed and she had her face pressed into her shirt, Jane kissed the top of her head before letting her own head fall back onto the pillow. "Morning. How long have you been awake?"

Giving a slight movement that was probably meant to be a shrug, Maura pressed closer. "Just woke up. What time is it?"

Looking toward the night stand, where her phone was lying, Jane thought about moving, before deciding against it and burying her face back in Maura's hair. "Don't know. Don't care. I'm too comfy to move. I love holding you."

Moving to prop herself up on one elbow, Maura looked down at Jane and smiled, before leaning in for a kiss. "Mmmm…the feeling's mutual. Good morning. Now, I'm sure there's a check-out time we need to observe."

Groaning quietly, Jane leaned up for another quick kiss before moving to grab her phone off the night stand. Rolling her eyes when she saw two missed calls from her mother, she cleared the alerts and checked the time. Sitting up quickly, she smiled at Maura in apology when the movement knocked her onto her back. "Shit. We have a half hour. Do you think you can get ready that fast?"

Sitting up and pushing the covers back so she could get out of bed, Maura stood up and stretched, pretending not to notice Jane's eyes roaming her body. Readjusting her slightly bunched and twisted nightie, she smirked at the look on Jane's face. Leaning over to rest both hands on the mattress, she gave Jane another kiss before turning and walking toward her bag. When she realized Jane was still in bed, she looked over her shoulder and winked. "Aren't you going to get up and get ready? Would you like the bathroom, first?"

Blinking and shaking her head quickly, Jane crawled out of bed and went to her own bag, yanking clothes out quickly. Standing, she watched Maura for a minute, until she turned to face her. Setting her clothes down on the coffee table, Jane pulled Maura to her for a kiss. Letting her hands slip under the back of the nightie, Jane moved to kiss down Maura's neck while running her hands up and down her bare back. Finally pulling away, she grabbed her clothes and walked quickly toward the bathroom. Stopping before closing the door, Jane turned back and smirked at the stunned look on Maura's face. "That, you little tease, is payback for last night. I'll be ready in five, then the bathroom's all yours."

It took a moment before Maura bothered even trying to react. Shaking her head with a grin, she got out her clothes, checked for wrinkles, and then sat on the couch to wait. When Jane came out of the bathroom, a couple minutes later, Maura stood up. Making sure she had Jane's full attention, she slowly pulled the nightie over her head, folded it carefully, bent to put it back in her bag, then grabbed her clothes and brushed passed Jane on the way to the bathroom. Stopping in the doorway just like Jane had, Maura turned with a smirk. "Now, it's payback. After all, I got to see you naked, so it's only fair that I return the favor. I shouldn't take long. Why don't you make sure we're not leaving anything behind?"

Groaning, Jane collapsed back onto the couch. Staring at the bathroom door for several minutes, she finally stood up. Quickly shoving her things into her bag, she took a quick look around. Not seeing anything lying out, she zipped her bag. Grabbing their abandoned wine glasses and plates, she carried them over to the sideboard.

When Maura came out of the bathroom, she found Jane with a mouth full of chocolate cake, and another bite half-raised. Snorting quietly, she shook her head fondly and smiled as she carefully stowed her toiletries in her bag. Turning, she saw Jane quickly shove the fork in her mouth before chewing and swallowing with a guilty look on her face. Wiping the back of hand across her mouth, she shrugged. "What? I couldn't let it just go to waste. There wasn't that much left, anyway. Did you want some?"

Shaking her head without a word, Maura grabbed her bag, opened the door, and stood there waiting for Jane. Grabbing her own bag, she gave Maura a quick kiss on her way out of the room. Laughing when Maura swatted at her, Jane darted down the hallway.

Over the next week, they did their best to stay professional at work. They were back to sharing a bed, even though Jane still insisted on doing nothing but sleep, and some kissing and cuddling. In the interest of having a little time without others interfering, they did their best to keep the touching and flirting at a minimum, in public. They stole quick kisses in Maura's office or the elevator, quick touches when they were sure no one would notice, and looks whenever they were in the same room.

Even though there were no more incidents of nude teasing, they were more relaxed about the occasional glimpse of skin. When Maura came out of the bathroom while Jane was dressing, she just wiggled her butt and finished pulling up her pants. When a half-asleep Jane wandered into the bathroom to find Maura wearing only a towel, she gave her a kiss as she walked out, grabbing her dress on the way so she could get dressed.

When they were in bed, Saturday night, Jane took a deep breath before propping herself up against the pillows. "Are you sure you're ready for tomorrow? You haven't spent much time with my family. Pop probably won't say much. It's Ma you'll have to worry about. She'll ask a ton of questions, all evening. Frankie knows better than to say anything, at least while you're there. He'll get his teasing out of the way, later. Are you sure you're ready to deal with my family?"

Sighing, Maura sat up next to her. Taking Jane's hand, she wrapped both of hers around it. "I'll be fine. You don't think they'll react negatively, so I'm not worried. I've only met your father a couple times, but he seems like a good man. If your mother asks me something I am unwilling to answer, then I'll simply tell her so. Frankie has always been polite when we've spoken. If you're nervous, then we can wait. I don't mind."

Leaning over, Jane gave Maura a quick kiss. "I'm nervous, but it's a a good nervous, mostly. This is big. I've taken a few people home to meet my family, but not in years, and it never felt as important as it does this time. I just want it to go well."

Twining her fingers through Jane's, Maura smiled at her. "It will be fine. I already know, and like, your family. They may be surprised to learn that we're together, but you've already said they won't be upset."

Relaxing against the headboard, Jane nodded and pulled Maura closer. Wrapping one arm around her shoulders, she let the other draw meaningless shapes on Maura's stomach. "I know. I really do. It's silly. Just remind me, if I start getting ridiculous."

Moving so her legs were lying across Jane's lap, Maura wrapped her arms around her neck. "If you'd let me, I'd be willing to help you use some of that nervous energy in a much more productive way."

Holding Maura closer, Jane smiled and shook her head. "I'd love to, you know I would, but I won't. I want our first time to be special, not just because we're horny, or you want to help me calm down. It should be romantic."

Kissing Jane lightly, Maura smiled at her. "You have some very old fashioned ideas of romance. I don't mind, I'm just slightly surprised."

Jane shrugged, grinning. "I'm a complex woman. Gotta keep you interested, somehow."

Swatting her stomach lightly, Maura laughed and let her head rest on Jane's shoulder. "That is hardly the only thing that will keep me interested. And, if your personality does fail to hold my interest, all I'll need to do is remind myself that you have an amazing ass."

Trying to look offended, Jane ended up laughing as she flipped Maura over onto her back and started tickling her. When she finally begged for mercy, Jane stopped and flopped down beside her. Taking a moment to calm her breathing, she looked at Maura. Finding her looking back, they both started laughing.

When they'd calmed back down, Maura leaned over for a kiss. Stopping before they actually kissed, she grinned down at Jane. "That's why I will never lose interest in you."

Chuckling, Jane leaned up to kiss her. "Because I tickled you?"

Kissing her again, Maura let herself relax next to Jane. "That, and because you will never let our life together be boring or predictable. You make me laugh. You make me happy."

Leaning in for another kiss, Jane smiled at her. "You make me happy, too. Now, we should get some sleep. I'd bet you money that Ma will call in the morning wanting me to do or bring something. She'll want some fancy bread, or something, because you're going to be there."

Sitting up and fixing the covers, Maura waited until Jane was lying down before turning off the light and pulling the covers over them both as she settled into Jane's side. "You know I never take a bet I won't win. We both know she calls almost every week, wanting you to bring something to Sunday dinner." Leaning up, she gave Jane a quick kiss. "Goodnight. We'll get whatever your mother wants you to bring, and pick up a nice bottle of wine, tomorrow."

Humming in agreement, Jane returned the kiss. "Sounds good. 'Night, Maura."

Jane's phone rang around ten, the next morning. Mumbling sleepily, she ignored it. When it went to voicemail, then started ringing again, Maura leaned over Jane's body to grab it off the night stand. Sitting up, she held it over Jane's head as she tried to get her to wake up. Finally, Jane opened one eye, snagged the phone out of Maura's hand, and answered it.

Glaring slightly at Maura, Jane cleared her throat and interrupted Angela's lecture, when she was sure her voice wouldn't crack. "Yes, Ma, I'm still in bed. You know I sleep in, when I can." Rolling her eyes, she glared at Maura, again. "Yes, I'm on call this weekend, but that just means they'll call me if we get a case. I don't have to be at the station, or awake, if I don't have a case." She closed her eyes and groaned quietly. "Well, Ma, I work homicide. That means, if they wake me up with a case, that it'll still be there if I take twenty minutes to get dressed before leaving. Dead bodies don't exactly get up and walk away."

Listening for several moments, she finally sighed and interrupted, again. "Ma, why did you call? I know it wasn't just to wake me up. Tell me what you want me to bring, and I will." Opening her eyes to meet Maura's gaze, Jane smiled at her. "Yes, Ma, I'm still bringing Maura. Do you want me to get anything else?" Chuckling silently, she rolled her eyes and smiled. "Ok, Ma, I'll get it. Yes, we'll be on time. Maura wouldn't let me be late. I'll see you later. Love you, too, Ma."

Ignoring Maura's curious gaze, Jane hung up and dropped her phone back on the night stand. Turning back to see Maura still watching her, she grinned. "Ma said to tell you, when I see you, that she's glad you agreed to come to dinner. And she'd be happy if you come more often, because I'm never late, when you're with me. Oh, and she thinks you make me behave myself, better."

Raising one eyebrow, Maura waited. When it was clear Jane wasn't going to give her the answer she wanted, she slapped her stomach. "Jane, you know very well what part of the conversation I want you to relay. Although, I must agree that you're more punctual when I'm there to remind you of the time, I have no reference for how you behave when I'm not there. Now, what does she want us to bring?"

Laughing and pulling Maura back down to lie beside her, Jane grinned. "Just what I told you she'd ask for. We'll need to stop at some new bakery she found and get a loaf of a special garlic bread, they make. Oh, and she wanted me to bring wine, but you already planned on that."

Nodding happily, Maura relaxed and let her head rest on Jane's shoulder for a moment, before giving her a quick kiss and getting up. "Ok, I'm going to make breakfast, while you finish waking up. We have several hours before we have to leave, but that doesn't mean we should stay in bed."

Groaning, Jane covered her eyes with one arm and stuck her tongue out at Maura. "Meanie. I was comfortable. I'll get up, when the coffee's ready."

Maura grabbed Jane's hand and gave it a tug. "Then you need to get up, now. You know my coffee maker has a timer. It should've turned on, a couple hours ago. Which means, you overslept."

Sticking her tongue out, again, Jane got out of bed and let Maura lead her to the kitchen. "You just like being right." Getting a nod in response, Jane stopped and pulled back on Maura's hand to spin her around and pull her closer. Wrapping her hands around Maura's waist, Jane grinned before leaning down and blowing a raspberry on the side of Maura's neck.

Yanking away with a squeal, Maura wrinkled her nose and wiped at her neck. "That was mildly disgusting, and felt strange."

Blinking in surprise, Jane stared at her. "No one's ever blown a raspberry on you, before? Well, I'll fix that, at moments when you least expect it. This should be fun."

Rolling her eyes and using the collar of her shirt to wipe her neck, Maura thought for a moment before shaking her head. "No, that is not something I've experienced before. None of my past relationships were this, playful, I guess would be the right word. It's a vaguely unsettling sensation."

Grinning and shaking her head, Jane walked passed and headed for the kitchen. "That's kinda the point, and why it's fun. Now, what happened to making food? I'm hungry, woman."

Smirking, Maura watched Jane walk down the hallway. Running to catch up, she pinched Jane's ass on her way by, and bit back a laugh at the undignified squeal that resulted.

Jane walked into Maura's bedroom, several hours later, to find her standing in front of her closet, still wearing her bathrobe, and several dresses laid out on the bed. Sighing, Jane walked up behind her, reached around to replace the dress Maura had pulled down, turned her away from the closet, and shut the doors. Pushing her to sit down next to the pile of dresses, she raised an eyebrow and waited wordlessly. A couple moments later, Maura slumped slightly and sighed. "I'm nervous. This is a new experience for me. I want to make a good impression, and I don't know what outfit is appropriate for announcing our relationship to your family."

Biting her lip to stifle a laugh, Jane shook her head and held up a hand. "Just last night, you were telling me there was no reason for me to be nervous, because my family already knows you. Now, you're sitting there and telling me that you're worried about what to wear so you make a good impression? Does that really make sense?"

Maura opened her mouth to protest, before closing it again and starting to laugh. "You're right. I'm being ridiculous. I've just never had anyone I was dating want to introduce me to their parents. Why don't you pick a dress you think would be appropriate? I don't think I'll be able to come to a decision, at least not quickly enough for us to leave in time."

Picking up the pile of dresses, Jane started holding them up in front of Maura, one at a time. Finally setting most of them aside, she held two out to Maura. "What about one of these? I like the blue one, but I haven't seen the green one, before. How have you not had to deal with the whole 'meeting the parents' routine, before? I can understand when you were in school, but what about the guy who moved away? Weren't you together long enough? I mean, he wanted you to move with him, so it must've been pretty serious."

Studying the two dresses, and what Jane was wearing, Maura finally settled on the green dress. Hanging it on the back of the bathroom door, she started putting the rest away. "You mean Nate. No, I never met his parents. They were both deceased by the time we met, or I probably would have. None of my other relationships ever reached that level, or there was something preventing it."

Flopping backward across the foot of the bed, Jane stared at the ceiling. When Maura want into the bathroom to get ready, leaving the door cracked so they could hear each other, Jane spoke louder. "I've only done is a few times. If you don't count high school, since you pretty much HAVE to meet each others parents when you live at home. Anyway, I think I've only been through it three or four times. Ma insists on meeting them, as soon as she hears I'm dating someone. The one time I tried to refuse, she somehow followed me, or something, and showed up on my date. Had the waiter bring another chair, and everything, then started asking a bunch of questions. The girl I was dating wasn't out, yet, and was mortified. She broke up with me, after that. Ma apologized, and pointed out that if she was that afraid of anyone finding out, it wouldn't have worked, anyway. Last I heard, she was marrying some man her parents picked out. I'm sure that was a disaster."

Opening the door all the way, since she was fully dressed, Maura smiled when she saw Jane lying on her back and tossing a pillow up in the air. "Yes, denying an integral part of one's being, rarely ends well. Hopefully, she finds the courage to be true to herself, if she hasn't, already. I've wondered something, but never bothered to ask. If your mother knows you're attracted to women, why does she only try to set you up with men? Do you think she's trying to push you into a heterosexual marriage?"

Tossing the pillow back to the top of the bed, Jane sat up, laughing. "No, it's a lot simpler than that. She has no gaydar. She's tried to set me up with women, three times. Once, the woman was married with three kids, and started yelling at Ma in the middle of the store, telling her that we were all going to hell. Another woman was flattered, but straight. The last one's girlfriend was standing beside her, and was not amused. Ma made it worse when she told them she thought she was her brother. After that, I told her she should just give up. Apparently, she somehow got the idea that you could tell if someone is gay from the things in their shopping cart. I stopped listening when she tried to explain it."

Raising her eyebrow, Maura shook her head and turned back to the mirror. "I'm almost curious where she got that idea, but I'm more wary of the answer. The amount of misinformation readily available in the media, is disturbing. Especially pertaining to the LGBT community."

Jane just shrugged and stood up. "Yeah, well, people are idiots. You're always gonna have the ones who believe everything they're told, no matter how stupid it is. Are you almost ready? We should get going, soon. If we're late, Ma will never let me hear the end of it."

Putting in her earrings, Maura nodded and took one last look in the mirror before walking out of the bathroom. "Yes, I'm ready. Should we go the bakery, or get the wine, first?"

Following Maura out of the room, Jane shrugged. "Probably the wine. The bakery's pretty close, and if I show up with the bread still warm, then Ma might be in a more agreeable mood. If we're lucky, she won’t ask anything too embarrassing."

Checking to make sure everything she needed was in her purse, Maura turned and quickly straightened and smoothed Jane's clothes. Rolling her eyes, Jane smirked and waited for Maura to realize what she was doing. When she pulled back sharply, Jane chuckled. "You know, my family already knows me, so I don't need to worry about making a good impression. Stop being so nervous. They already like you. Now, let's go. If we show up early, Ma'll like you even more."

Pulling Jane closer, Maura gave her a quick kiss before using a finger to wipe off the smeared lipstick. "Ok, now I'm ready to go."

Laughing quietly, Jane held Maura's jacket for her, before waiting while she locked up, and leading her out to the car.

Chapter 24

When they pulled up outside the Rizzoli home, Jane shut off the car and took a deep breath before unbuckling her seat belt and getting out. Walking around the car, she opened Maura's door and helped her out, then got the wine and bread from the back seat. Squeezing Maura's hand, discretely, as she walked passed to head up the walk, Jane rolled her eyes when she saw Angela drop the curtain back in place. Feeling a little better that it was just like any other Sunday, she waited for Maura to catch up before opening the door and letting them into the house.

Hanging up their coats, they acknowledged Frank and Frankie sitting on the couch, watching TV, before heading into the kitchen. Giving Angela a kiss on the cheek, Jane set the wine on the counter and got out a cookie sheet. Pulling the bread out of the bag, she set it on the cookie sheet and set it next to the stove, ready to be warmed right before dinner was served.

Seeing Maura standing uncertainly in the doorway, Angela smiled at her and walked over. Handing her a spoon and pointing at a pot sitting on the stove, she ushered her over. Once Jane finished washing her hands, Angela pushed her toward the pile of vegetables waiting to be chopped for salad. Catching Maura's eye, Jane shared a grin at how it was all accomplished without a word.

A few minutes later, Maura was sliding the bread into the oven to warm while Angela put the finishing touches on the meal and Jane set the table. Once the bread was warmed enough for butter to melt, she pulled it back out and started slicing it and piling the pieces into the bread basket Angela set wordlessly beside her. Grabbing the bread on the way out of the kitchen, Angela yelled that dinner was ready.

Coming back for the wine, and to help Maura carry the glasses, Jane made sure the door was shut before giving her a quick kiss. When they joined everyone in the dining room, Maura unconsciously scooted her chair closer to Jane when she sat down.

It was about halfway through the meal when Jane realized there would never be a convenient place in the conversation to break their news. Clearing her throat quietly and nudging Maura with her knee, she waited until she had everyone's attention. Wrapping her hand around Maura's, on top of the table, Jane smiled.

Before she got a chance to say anything, Angela made a strangled noise of excitement and clapped her hands. Tossing her napkin on the table, she got up and pulled Maura into a hug, then gave Jane the same treatment. "It's about time you girls told us. I was just about ready to 'accidentally' catch you together. You should know we'd be happy for you both. You make such a good couple. Now, I can tell everyone that my Janie is dating a doctor."

Sharing a confused look with Maura, Jane shrugged before turning to see the men's reactions. Frankie smirked at her in amusement and Frank nodded and went back to eating. Rolling her eyes, she looked back at Angela, who had decided to sit back down. "Ma, we've only been together for a week. How did you even know about it?"

Getting a confirming nod from Maura, Angela looked a little stunned, before shrugging it off. "Well, I thought it was longer, but that doesn't matter. I knew you'd end up together. You forget, Jane, that I've known you your entire life. I know how you act when you like someone. You spent weeks, or months, talking about them all the time, before you finally end up dating. Maura's been just about all you talked about for at least a year, maybe longer. I was beginning to think that maybe she was straight, and I'd have to watch you get your heart broken. I'm so happy for you both. I can't remember the last time I saw you this happy, with someone."

Hiding a blush behind her hair, Jane bit her lip when Maura bent her head to catch her eye. Rolling her eyes, she lifted her head and nodded. "Ok, yeah, maybe I do that. But I didn't think anyone else noticed. I don't even notice it, most of the time. I didn't think it was THAT obvious."

Giving Jane a quick peck on the lips, Maura ignored Angela's coo of delight. "I think it's flattering. I'm sure I mentioned you just as often. I just have fewer people I talk to on a frequent basis."

Unable to keep her silence anymore, Angela interrupted their moment. "You guys are so CUTE! Oh, I can't believe you're finally together. I'm so happy for you. If I'd known, I would've made something special for dessert. I guess I'll just have to make something special for next week. Wait, you said you've been together for a week. Is that way you missed dinner, last week? You were on your first date, weren't you? That's so sweet."

Nudging Maura's foot and giving a tiny shake of her head, Jane got her to not comment. "Yeah, Ma, I missed last week because of our first date. We wanted a little time to ourselves before we told everyone, but we didn't want to make it seem like we were hiding. We're telling the guys, tomorrow. So, Frankie, try not to say anything before then, please."

Seeing Jane's serious face and Maura's hopeful look, Frankie smiled and nodded. "Sure, Sis, I can do that. Are you going to keep this quiet, at work? I remember how much…crap…you got at the academy. If you want to keep this out of the station, I'll keep my mouth shut."

Giving him a grateful look and squeezing Maura's hand, Jane shook her head. "Thanks, but it's ok. We're not going to make a big announcement, other than telling Frost and Korsak, but we're not going to hide it. If people give me crap, then I'll take care of it. If they give Maura crap, then I'll take care of THEM."

Rolling her eyes, Maura lightly swatted Jane's arm. "Jane, that is hardly necessary. You know I can take care of myself. Thank you, Frankie, for the thought, but we have nothing to hide. Mr. Rizzoli, you haven't said anything, I hope we didn't upset you. I know I might not be what you have in mind for your daughter, but I care about her, very much."

Waving a dismissive hand, Frank took a gulp of beer. "Call me Frank, and I'm not upset. Jane knows I just want her to be happy. You make her happy. As long as you promise to try not to hurt her, then I'm happy."

Smiling in thanks, Maura looked at Jane. "I can promise that I will do my best to never cause Jane any pain, if it's at all within my power. I know she would do the same, for me."

Nodding, Frank went back to eating. "Then I'm happy. You take care of my daughter, and let her take care of you. That's what a relationship is all about, and all that really matters. The rest is just details."

Giving Maura a quick kiss and nodding to her father in thanks, Jane picked her fork back up and started eating. The rest of the meal was relaxed. Jane was able to fend off most of Angela's questions and Frankie's teasing.

It wasn't until they started cleaning up that Jane remembered why she'd been nervous. She was carrying a load of plates into the kitchen, when she almost dropped them. Pushing the door open, she heard the end of what Angela was saying. "…you could be the one to carry them."

Dropping the plates into the sink, not even noticing when it sounded like something broke, Jane stood between Maura and Angela. Seeing Maura fighting tears, Jane gave her an apologetic and sympathetic look, then turned an angry glare on her mother. "MA, STOP! We've been together for a WEEK! It's WAY too soon for this conversation. JEEZE, Ma."

Turning back to Maura, she pulled her into a hug. Angela looked on in confusion for a moment, before trying to explain herself. "I was just telling Maura that I know there are ways lesbians can have babies, without having a man involved. I don't expect you to get married and start a family, right away, but I'm not blind or stupid. It's obvious to anyone who sees you together, especially now, that you love each other."

Letting Jane hold her for a little longer, Maura finally pulled back, wiped her eyes, and took a deep breath. Giving Jane a small nod, she stepped around her to address Angela. "Yes, I love Jane, and I know she loves me, even if neither of us have voiced it, in the past week. I think we were both afraid it was too soon, which is silly when you consider that we said it fairly often, before we became a couple. Jane just knows the topic of pregnancy upsets me. I'm unable to become pregnant. Even though it's something I've known for as long as I can remember, it still upsets me, sometimes. I would like nothing more than to be able to give birth, but it's impossible, for me."

Covering her mouth with a gasp, Angela quickly pulled Maura into a hug. "Oh, Sweetie, I am so sorry. I didn't know. Oh, I must seem so insensitive. Can you forgive me?"

Returning the hug, after a moment of hesitation, Maura nodded, when Angela finally let go. "It's ok, Angela. You had no way of knowing. It's not your fault. I'm sure it will be a topic that comes up more often, now that Jane and I are together. People seem to assume that Jane has no interest in being a mother, or pregnant, so I guess it's only natural that they would assume I would be the one to carry any children we might choose to have, together. I guess I should get used to it."

Pulling her into another hug, Angela smiled at her comfortingly before deciding to hug Jane, too. "Well, I'll make sure Frank and Frankie know not to say anything. I won't let them upset you. Do you mind if I ask why? Or is that something you'd rather not talk about? It's ok, if you you don't."

When Jane opened her mouth to protest, Maura gave her a small smile and head shake. "It's ok. It's natural that you would be curious. I was born with a…medical condition. I'd rather not get into details, but it makes pregnancy an impossibility."

Nodding and turning back to putting away the leftovers, Angela pointed to the sink. "Jane, you should drain the water before you start doing dishes. Be careful. I heard something break, and you don't want to cut yourself. If it was one of my nice wine glasses, you're replacing it. Maura, if you want to dry, Jane can tell you where everything goes."

Shaking her head at how abruptly the subject ended, Jane gave Maura a quick kiss before grimacing and reaching into the sink, carefully. Fishing around for a moment, she finally pulled her hand back out and watched the water start to drain. When it was done, she sighed, before wincing. Looking over her shoulder guiltily, she tensed when she saw Angela's impatient look. "It wasn't a wine glass, Ma. It was a plate. Actually, it was three plates. I'll get you a new set, for your birthday."

Rolling her eyes and sighing, Angela pulled a dish towel out of a drawer and handed it to Maura, before turning away. "I hope you have better taste than your brother. Do you remember the plates Frankie bought me? They were plastic, and had roosters on them. I don't know where he got the idea I would like them. Well, they made good picnic plates, for a few years. Now, try to get all the pieces before you refill the sink. I don't want you cutting yourself."

Grinning mischievously, Jane nodded her head toward Maura. "I'm dating a doctor, remember? If I cut myself, she can take care of it. Who do you think set my broken nose, last year?"

Snorting, and walking over to start pulling out the unbroken dishes so Jane could get to the broken pieces, Angela swatted her arm. "Maura's a guest, she doesn't need to be patching you up because you were careless. You could be more considerate of your girlfriend. I'm sure she doesn't like to see you hurt."

Maura bit her lip to contain a laugh when Jane looked at her guiltily. "Thank you, Angela. I don't enjoy seeing Jane injured, and she knows it. An injury sustained at work, is sometimes unavoidable. Cutting herself on a broken dish, however, can be avoided."

When Jane started taking more care at finding the broken pieces, Angela smiled at Maura and winked. "I really hope you girls are together for a long time. You're the only one I've ever seen be able to convince Jane to do something, or take better care of herself. You're good for her. I think you're good for each other."

Smiling at Jane, Maura nodded. "Jane is very good for me. I've never had a better friend, or felt as loved. You have an amazing daughter."

Both Rizzoli women blushed. Angela recovered, first, and nodded in thanks. "I'm just glad she found someone she's willing to share that side of herself with. I know my daughter, and she doesn't like anyone to see her as vulnerable or weak. She likes to pretend that she can handle everything on her own. Maybe it comes from having two brothers. I don't know. Even as a little girl, she didn't like to let anyone see her cry, even when she wrecked her bike and came limping home all scraped up and bloody. If she lets you see that side of her, then you mean more to her then you probably realize."

Blushing even deeper, Jane turned an embarrassed glare on her mother before throwing away the last of the broken pieces. "Ma, I'm RIGHT here. I can hear everything you're saying. Maura knows what she means to me. I've told her, before. Now, can I just do the dishes, without you embarrassing me?"

Chuckling and winking at Maura, Angela kissed Jane's cheek and walked around her. After staring into the refrigerator for a few moments, and moving a few things around, she finally sighed and shut it again. "There's no room for the leftovers, so I guess I'll just send them home with you and Frankie. If you girls don't mind, I'll just go out to the living room, while you do the dishes."

Watching her leave the kitchen, Maura wrapped her arms arms around Jane from behind and let her chin rest on her shoulder, while they both watched the sink fill. When the silence as stretched for several moments, Jane sighed and turned in Maura's arms. "You DO know what you mean to me, right? I mean, I know we've been avoiding the big 'feelings' topic recently. I guess I was just afraid it was too soon. You know how I feel, though, right? I'll say it if you need me to, but I'd rather it be in a more romantic setting than my mother's kitchen, next to a sink full of dirty dishes."

Laughing and leaning up for a kiss, Maura shook her head, grinning widely. "You don't need to say it. I know how you feel. You can wait until we're in an appropriately romantic setting, if you want. As long as you know that I return those feelings."

Stealing another kiss, Jane smiled and nodded. "I know. Now, we should do the dishes, before Ma comes back in. Shouldn't take very long, after I broke most of the plates. You'll help me pick a good set, right? Frankie really did buy her plastic rooster plates. I don't think she would've minded, if he'd been a kid, but it was like, five years ago. By that age, he should've known better."

Drying the first plate handed to her, Maura waited until Jane pointed to the appropriate cabinet before responding. "Yes, I will be happy to help. In fact, maybe you can help me find her something she'd like."

Adding a fork to the pile of silverware, Jane nodded. "Yeah, I'm sure we can find something. I'll see if I can get her to hint at needing or wanting something. Or, I'll just ask Pop. She usually starts leaving magazines lying open around the house, a couple months before her birthday or Christmas. I don't think he's had to worry about what to get her, since they got married."

Putting away the last of the dried dishes, Maura turned toward the pots and pans sitting on the stove. Shaking her head, Jane stopped her. "Those will soak overnight. Ma'll wash them, tomorrow. She's had more than enough time to warn them not to make any baby comments or jokes, so it should be safe to go out there."

Looking startled, Maura glanced quickly at the kitchen door. "That's why she left the kitchen? I thought she just wanted to give us time to talk, alone."

Jane shrugged. "That was probably part of it, but I think she mostly just wanted to warn them. Now, are you ready to go out there? Frankie isn't nearly done with the lesbian jokes, yet. Ma is probably done asking questions, though."

Smiling and leaning in for a quick kiss, Maura nodded. "Yes, I'm ready. I enjoy your family. They don't judge me, and they are openly supportive of our relationship. There's really nothing more I could want, from them. The teasing is done out of fondness, and Angela only asks questions because she's curious about the answer, and wants the best for you."

Stealing another kiss, Jane grinned and held the kitchen door open for them both.

Chapter 25

It wasn't until they were getting ready the next morning that Maura realized they hadn't talked about how they would tell Frost and Korsak they were together. Stopping mid-stroke as she brushed her hair, she stared at her reflection for a moment and took a deep breath to calm the sudden panic. Realizing Jane was probably in the kitchen, she debated going to find her, before balking at the idea of interrupting her morning routine half-done. Rolling her eyes at herself in the mirror, she went back to brushing her hair and yelled out the bathroom door. "Jane, could you come here for a moment?"

Getting a vague response, Maura got ready to put her brush down and go find her, when Jane walked into the bedroom, still in her pajamas and sipping coffee. "Yeah, do you need help with something?"

Fidgeting slightly with the handle of her brush as she set it down, Maura forced her hand to still. Taking a deep breath she shook her head and leaned against the vanity. "No. Not exactly. I just realized we never discussed how, or when, we'd tell Vince and Barry about our relationship. Do you want to tell them as soon as we get there? Together? Separately? Over lunch? Do you want to make sure no one else can overhear? I just, I don't like not having a plan. If you have something in mind, that's acceptable, but I don't think we should leave until we have a basic idea of how we're going to tell them."

Setting her coffee down on the dresser with a chuckle, Jane walked over and wrapped her arms around her. "Take a deep breath. It's ok. We can work out all the details you want. I hadn't really thought about it. I guess I thought we'd just wait until a good opportunity came up. Ok, let me think." Reaching around the doorway to grab her coffee, she leaned against the wall and took a sip, thinking. "Ok, well, I think we should tell them at the same time. It's only fair. I'd rather not have the entire station listening in on our conversation, so maybe over lunch. I'm sure if I ask them to come with us, they'll be too curious to even bother asking why. Sound like a plan? If I tell them I'm paying, there's no way they'll turn down free food."

Maura smiled and gave Jane a quick kiss before turning to start putting on her make up. "That sounds good. Thank you. You can finish your breakfast now, so you can get dressed."

Rolling her eyes, Jane didn't move. "You going to tell me why you were so freaked out? We didn't have a real plan about how to tell my family, and it didn't seem to bother you. So, what's different?"

Putting her make up back down, Maura sighed and clasped her hands together in front of her, before smoothing them over her dress and finally resting them flat on the vanity counter. "You know I don't have many friends. Other than you, Vince and Barry are the only friends I have, that I see on a regular basis. Andre and Paul are friends, but it's different. I know Andre and Paul will be happy for us. If Vince or Barry react negatively, then I've lost a friend, and have to see them everyday, and face that rejection again. You'll have lost a friend and partner, and could end up injured do to inaction, hesitation, or inadequate back up. There's so much we both could lose."

Setting her coffee down and wrapping Maura in another hug, Jane kissed her hair and held her. "It'll be ok. I know Korsak will be ok with it, and I'm almost completely positive Frost will be. They may be surprised, but they won't disapprove, or hate us. You saw how they both reacted to Paul and Andre. They didn't judge them. If you really think about it, do you think they would judge either of us? Have either of them ever given you any reason to think they might object to someone they know being gay?"

Burying her face in Jane's neck, Maura took several deep breaths before pulling back far enough to look at her, and shook her head. "You're right. I know you are. It's just hard not to fear the worst. I know it stems, at least partially, from the way my parents reacted to discovering my gender. I know it's illogical to let that experience color my perceptions of the present, but it's hard not to. After all, we are shaped by our past experiences. I'm ok. I just need to remind myself that people can be openly accepting and supportive. After all, your family didn't hesitate to accept our relationship."

Giving her a quick kiss on the temple, Jane smiled. "It's ok to be scared. If you want to try to feel them out, to see how they'd react to the news, before telling them, that's ok. This isn't just about me being comfortable enough to tell people. You're just as much a part of this, as I am."

Maura smiled and pulled back, turning back to the mirror. "No, I want to tell them. I want to tell everyone, but that's impractical. I'm ok, now. I'm still a little nervous, but I'm not afraid of their reactions. Neither of them has ever given me reason to suspect that that would react badly to the idea of a friend being in a homosexual relationship. My fear was irrational, and I know that, but I can't always control my immediate emotional response to a situation."

Laughing and pulling her close for a quick kiss, Jane swatted Maura's ass lightly and started toward the bathroom door. "Never change, ok? I like you just the way you are."

Smiling to herself, she watched Jane leave, probably heading back to the kitchen. Noticing the cup of coffee sitting nearby, she rolled her eyes and counted silently to herself. Not even thirty seconds later, Jane walked through the bedroom door and started looking around. Pointing silently, Maura chuckled when Jane picked up her forgotten coffee, gave her a kiss, and left, again. Shaking her head, she went back to getting ready for work.

Maura decided to stop for coffee and donuts on the way to work. Texting Jane, to let her know she'd be a little later than expected, Maura stopped, making sure everyone's preferred flavor was present in the variety of donuts she chose.

Balancing the box in one hand, and drink tray in the other, Maura smiled and nodded at the uniform who quickly opened the door to the station and held it for her. Pushing the elevator button with her elbow, she smiled to herself on the way up. When she saw Jane sitting at her desk, her smile grew. Setting the donuts on the edge of Jane's desk, she quickly handed out the coffees before opening the box and walking around so Frost and Korsak could pick one out, before grabbing one for herself and leaning against the edge of Jane's desk.

Washing down his bite of donut, Korsak nodded to Maura in thanks. A few minutes later, nothing more than an exchanging of greetings and thanks had happened, and Korsak snorted quietly. "So, Doc, you going to tell us what lunch is about? Jane won't say, just offered to pay if we'd agree to come. So, what's going on?"

Seeing Jane's eye roll, Maura straightened her posture and raised an eyebrow as she looked at him. "If you'd prefer not to eat with us, then that's acceptable. We felt that it would be nice to treat you both to lunch."

Frost glared and threw a stress ball at Korsak, then gave Maura a small smile. "Ignore him. We would be happy to go to lunch with you, since Jane's paying, and all. I, at least, know better than to question free food."

Throwing the stress ball back, which Frost easily caught, Korsak snorted and shook his head. "Sure, we'll go to lunch, with you guys. I guess I can wait a few hours to find out what's so important."

Rolling her eyes, Jane ignored him and addressed Maura. "Do you want me to call you, at lunch time, or are you just going to come up?"

It only took Maura a moment of though to decide. "I don't have anything pressing. As long we don't get a case, I'll be finalizing autopsy reports and taking care of paperwork, so it'll be easy for me to keep an eye on the time. I'll just come up. We can decide on an agreeable place to eat, then."

Getting a nod from Jane, Maura smiled and nodded to everyone before heading for the elevator.

When Maura walked into the squad room, just before lunch, she found Jane and Korsak arguing over where they should eat lunch. Jane was insisting that since she was paying, he had no right to argue. Korsak was refusing to eat sushi. Rolling her eyes, and catching Frost's amused look, Maura walked up to stand between them, setting her purse on Jane's desk and raising an eyebrow at her.

After several seconds of Maura standing and staring at her, Jane finally sighed and slumped back in her chair. "Fine. We don't have to go to the sushi place. I was just trying to expand his horizons. Isn't that what you called it when you dragged me there, the first time?" When Maura's expression didn't change, Jane sighed again. "Fine. I was just giving him a hard time, and we all know it. Are you happy, now?"

Biting the inside of her cheek to stifle a smirk, Maura waited a moment before nodding. "Yes, I believe I am." Turning to Korsak, she let herself smile at him. "Vince, we'll go to the diner down the block, unless you or Barry have an alternate suggestion."

Chuckling, he leaned back in his chair, scooting it back so he could see Jane around Maura. "Hear that, Janie? The Doc says we're going to the diner, like I suggested, in the first place. Aren't you going to argue with her?"

Raising her hand to give him the finger, she quickly ran it through her hair, instead, when Maura looked over her shoulder. Grumbling quietly, Jane glared at Korsak before rolling her eyes. "No, I'm not going to argue with her. I know better, than that. And don't call me Janie. Now, are we going to go to lunch, or what?"

Laughing, the men both stood and grabbed their things. As they headed toward the elevator, Korsak watched Jane out of the corner of his eye. "So, Doc, you wanna tell us what this is about, yet? It is lunch time." When she gave him an exasperated look, he shrugged and kept walking. "Hey, it was worth a try."

They made pointless small talk until the waitress had taken their orders and brought their drinks. Resting his elbows on the table, Korsak stared at them. Glancing at Maura, Jane realized they hadn't talked about this part. Giving a mental shrug, she decided to just use the same method she'd used the night before. Reaching over, she wrapped her hand around Maura's, on top of the table.

Again, she didn't get a chance to say anything, before there was a reaction. Korsak guffawed loudly and swatted Frost's chest with the back of his hand, before holding it out, palm up. "Pay up."

Watching Frost dig a twenty out of his wallet, Jane and Maura shared a confused look. Rolling her eyes, Jane sighed. "Don't tell me, you think we've been together for awhile, and are just now telling you."

Korsak waved a dismissive hand, not looking up while he tucked the money away into his wallet. "Nah. I figure it's pretty new. You guys aren't as good at hiding it, as you think you are. The kid should know better than to bet against a seasoned detective."

For several moments Jane and Maura looked at each other, trying to figure out what they'd done to tip him off. Taking pity on them, Korsak chuckled and shook his head. "I think you forgot that the morgue is all windows. I was coming down to find you, the other day, and saw you guys, so I went back upstairs. Frost tried to convince me that I was seeing things, but I'm not that old."

Still confused, Jane shrugged. "Ok, what, exactly, did you see? It's not like we were making out in the morgue, or something."

Laughing harder, Korsak shook his head. "I don't think either of you realized it happened. You had your backs to the windows, looking at something on the Doc's computer. I was about to walk in, when she leaned back against you and you put your hand on her, umm, bottom. I didn't watch for more than a couple seconds, but neither of you seemed to realize where your hand was, or act like it didn't belong there, so I went back upstairs. Figured it was safer than interrupting whatever you were doing."

Thinking for a few moments, Maura's eyes widened in realization, before narrowing in confusion. "I know the day he's talking about, but I don't remember your hand being anywhere unprofessional. I was letting you read an email from Andre, remember? That's the only time we were standing together at the computer in the morgue, instead of in my office. Vince, are you sure Jane's hand was where you think it was? I would've made her move it, had I noticed, and I'm sure I'd notice if her hand was, indeed, venturing too far south."

Snorting at their confusion, Korsak looked toward the counter where the waitress was coming from the kitchen with their food. "Yeah, well, like I said, I don't think either one of you noticed. I know what I saw. If you were wearing pants, Jane's hand would've been in the back pocket."

Conversation paused as the waitress passed out their food and they started eating. The longer the silence lasted, the tenser Maura become. Finally, she took a deep breath and broke it. "Barry, you haven't said anything. I hope you will remain our friend, and Jane's partner, even if you don't approve of our relationship."

Looking up sharply, Frost choked on his food and started coughing. Covering his mouth and glaring when Korsak started thumping him on the back, he finally stopped coughing and wiped his watering eyes. Meeting her sad and concerned gaze, he smiled and shook his head. "Do you really think I disapprove? I thought Jane, at least, would know better. I told her, when we became partners, that I didn't care if she was gay. I was quiet because I was hungry, and pissed I lost a bet. I figured you guys have been friends for so long that, if you were going to end up together, it would've happened before now. I mean, you've been friends for years. What changed?"

Sharing a look, Jane gave a small shrug and nod to let Maura know it was up to her to explain. Taking a deep breath, she grasped Jane's hand under the table, getting a reassuring squeeze. "You're really ok with us being a couple?" Getting a smile and nod, in response, she relaxed and smiled back. "Thank you. Both of you. It means a lot to us that you approve. As for what changed, it was several things. Probably the most relevant to your question is that, until recently, I was honestly unaware Jane was interested in women, and she was unaware of my ignorance."

Holding up a hand, Korsak quickly finished chewing and swallowed. "Wait. The Doc didn't know you're gay? How did that happen? I know you don't really advertise it, but you've been best friends for years. Isn't that the kind of things friends share?"

Jane grimaced guiltily. "Yeah, but I didn't realize I hadn't told her. I'm just so used to not talking about it, I didn’t realize I hadn't talked about it. I felt like crap when I realized it, and it took me forever to find a way to bring it up. I mean, it's not like I could just blurt out, 'Maura, I like women,' after all this time."

Giving a vaguely understanding nod, Frost pointed back and forth between them with a french fry. "So, how long HAVE you been together? Do you want us to keep this quiet?"

Smiling at Jane, Maura answered. "We've been together for a week, and you don't need to keep anything quiet. While we're not making a point to tell anyone but you and Jane's family, we're not interested in trying to hide our relationship. If someone asks, you are free to answer. All that really matters, is that our friends and Jane's family are happy for us."

They ate in silence for several minutes, before Frost decided to ask a question he'd been worrying over. "I know you don't talk about your family, much, but don't you want them to be happy for you?"

Closing her eyes, Maura smiled faintly when Jane wrapped an arm around her shoulders and kissed her temple. Taking several deep breaths, she opened her eyes and gave Jane a reassuring nod, then turned to Frost. "My father effectively disowned me, years ago, when I refused to live the life he had picked out for me. I haven't had any contact with him, since then. My mother is more understanding, but she's still not able to completely accept all of who I am. We'll tell her about our relationship, at some point, but it's not something I feel an urgent need to do. I stopped seeking their approval, long ago."

Nodding, he let the subject drop. They finished their meals mostly in silence. When the waitress cleared away their empty plates, Frost rested his elbows on the table and leaned closer. "For what it's worth, I'm happy for you guys. I think you're perfect for each other. You're the only one who can get Jane to do anything, without saying a word, and she's the only person I've seen get away with making you guess, at anything. You're good for each other. You make each other happy."

Wiping her eyes, Maura smiled at him gratefully. "Thank you, Barry. That means a lot. I'm lucky to be able to call you my friend. You, too, Vince. I'm honored to have you both in my life."

Seeing their embarrassed looks, Jane started laughing. She was still laughing when the waitress came back with the check.

Chapter 26

Life continued pretty much as expected. Jane and Maura remained mostly professional at work, but when one of the lab techs saw them kiss, word of their relationship spread through the medical examiner's office and police station, by the end of the day. The next day, Jane found a little rainbow flag sticking out of her pencil holder. Chuckling and giving the fabric a flick, she shook her head with a grin, and left it there.

When Maura came up for lunch, Jane smiled and waved the flag, to show it to her. Noticing the number of people watching them, she gave a tiny nod in that direction and raised an eyebrow with a smirk. Getting an answering grin, Jane quickly stood, grabbed Maura's hand, dragged her closer, and pulled her into a kiss. The hand on the back of Maura's head still clutched the rainbow flag. After a long moment, she pulled away and looked toward the gathered officers and detectives, most with phones pointed at them.

Releasing tension she hadn't been aware of, when she noticed everyone was smiling at them, she plunked the flag back in her pencil holder. When everyone kept watching, she rolled her eyes. "That was your show, guys, and it's all you're gonna get. Since I KNOW crime didn't suddenly stop, you should probably do something more productive than stare at us. From now on, if you want to leave rainbows on my desk, I expect them to be edible. The flag stays, though. I like it."

Pulling Maura along with her, Jane laughed happily as they headed for the elevator. Just as the doors were starting to close, she saw most of the squad room head for Korsak and Frost, already asking questions. Giving Maura another kiss, she leaned back against the wall. "You're ok with that, right? I mean, I just outed us, big time. Those pictures will be sent to every police officer and detective in Boston, by the end of the day. I know we said we weren't making a big announcement, but I couldn't help it. Everyone was just standing there and staring, like they expected us to start going at it on my desk. At least now we don't have to worry about anyone asking if we are really together. I'm sorry I didn't give you a chance to agree, or even tell you what I was doing."

Maura smiled and stayed silent as the elevator doors opened. The few officers in the lobby quickly stuffed phones back into pockets and tried to pretend they weren't staring. Still holding Jane's hand, Maura led her toward the front doors. Just as they were reaching the exit, a throat cleared behind them. Turning, they saw an officer nervously walking toward them. When he realized they'd stopped, he stood up straighter and walked a little more confidently until he was a reasonable distance away, then stopped and squared his shoulders. "I just wanted to congratulate you both. You make a good couple. And, I wanted to tell you that I won't stand by and do nothing if anyone starts talking crap about either of you. My brother is gay, and he had to quite his job when people in his office started harassing him. Saying things when they knew he could hear them, leaving things on his desk, telling cruel jokes. Nothing he could really prove, and report, just enough to make him miserable. So, I just wanted you to know that I won't let anyone start in on you just because you're a couple."

Staring in surprise for a moment, Jane finally blinked when Maura smiled and reached out to shake his hand. "Thank you, Officer Jones. We appreciate your support. I assume that means the pictures taken a few minutes ago are already making their way around to the other officers."

Looking back and forth between them nervously, he relaxed when Jane smiled and gave a small nod. "Yes, Doctor Isles. I got about half a dozen pictures, and a couple videos, before you got off the elevator. I can delete the ones I got, but you'll never be able to get rid of all of them."

Waving a hand and shaking her head, Maura glanced at Jane and smiled. "Actually, I was going to ask if you'd be able to forward them to my office email. We don't have any pictures together, yet, and if any of them are good enough quality, I'd like to have a copy printed. And you can call me, Maura."

Giving her a startled look, he smiled when Jane started laughing. "Thank you, Maura. You can call me, Jim." Seeing Jane's incredulous look, he rolled his eyes. "My parents thought they were funny, naming me James Joseph Jones. At least they couldn't tack 'Junior' on the end. Anyway, I'll forward the pictures and video I got, and I'll ask around and see if there are other copies I haven't seen, and have them sent to you, too."

Jane opened her mouth, before changing her mind and closing it. Seeing Maura and Jim both staring at her, she rolled her eyes and shook her head. "I was going to ask you to send them to me, too, but it'll be easier if I just get them from Maura. And, Jones, you need help with something, just come ask. I'll see what I can do. If you ever try for detective, I can give you a few pointers on studying for the exam. Might even be able to make sure you do more than file papers and fetch coffee, for the first few months."

Nodding gratefully, he took a small step back to show that he wasn't going to occupy any more of their time. "Thanks, Rizzoli. I'm not planning on taking the exam, but I'll remember your offer, if I change my mind. If you ever need backup, feel free to request me. I'll see you both later. Congratulations."

Saying their thank yous and farewells, Jane held the door for Maura as they left the station. Tilting her head back and smiling as the sun hit her face, Jane took a deep breath before reaching for Maura's hand and starting down the sidewalk. It was a few minutes before either of them spoke. "So, did you find any rainbows on your desk, this morning? Or is the medical examiner's office more mature than the police department?"

Laughing, Maura bumped her hip against Jane's as they walked. "No rainbows, at least not on my desk. There was a rainbow gift bag with a set of rainbow scrubs in it, hanging from my doorknob. There was also a box of rubber gloves and package of dental dams, in the bag."

Jane groaned before stopping abruptly with an angry look on her face. "Are they trying to imply that I have something you could catch? Do I seriously seem like someone who wouldn't have safe sex, and end up catching something?"

Pulling Jane closer, Maura sighed and shook her head. "No, Jane, they're not trying to imply anything. It's common practice when someone in my department enters a romantic relationship, and it becomes known in the office, for them to be given boxes of condoms, as well as whatever else is deemed amusing. Since condoms are rather pointless in a lesbian relationship, they got me rubber gloves and dental dams. It was meant as a good natured reminder to be safe, and an unspoken acceptance of our relationship."

Visibly relaxing, Jane shook her head and started chuckling, before suddenly blushing and covering her face. "Maura, do you realize we're standing in the middle of the sidewalk? During lunch hour? Where people can hear us?"

Looking around in confusion, Maura shrugged. "Yes, I was aware of that. You're the one who decided to stop walking."

Groaning quietly and shaking her head, Jane finally sighed and rolled her eyes. "Thank you, for letting me stand in the middle of the sidewalk while we talked about dental dams. Now, can we go to lunch before I die of embarrassment. Do. Not. Even. Say it. I know it's impossible to die of embarrassment."

Turning with an excited bounce in her step, Maura looked over her shoulder to make sure Jane was following her. "I was just going to say that you're cute when you blush. And I doubt anyone heard enough of our conversation to warrant your embarrassment."

Snagging Maura's hand, Jane pulled her to a stop so she could give her a quick kiss. "You are infuriating, sometimes, and I'm glad I have you in my life. Now, food."

When the end of their second week together passed with no more physical contact than kissing and cuddling, Maura started to get irritated. The one time she brought it up, Jane pulled her into a hug and told her that she just wanted it to be special. She sighed and decided not to bring it up, again. Instead, she started leaving the bathroom door open while she showered and dressed, on the pretense that she preferred it when the mirror wasn't steamed up, and hoped Jane would take it as an invitation to join her.

By the middle of the third week, Maura bought several satin and lace nightgowns to sleep in, instead of the shirt and pant sets that she usually wore. For the first few days, Jane's only reaction was a frustrated groan. When she wore a nightgown that was more lace than satin, that weekend, Jane groaned loudly and slammed her head into the pillow, before pulling it over her face.

Finally uncovering her face, Jane saw Maura standing beside the bed and crying silently. Sighing, she crawled to the edge of the bed, and pulled Maura to sit next to her. Wrapping her arms around her, Jane kissed the side of Maura's head and started rocking slightly. "Please, don't cry. This has nothing to do with you. Especially not right now. You know I want to make our first time special, but I'm not putting it off because I want to, right now. I'm out of commission for the next few days, or I'd be going out to buy candles and rose petals and champagne. Just, please don't cry.

"You have no idea how much I want you, but I know most of your relationships have been just sex, and I want this to be different, for both of us. We've been friends for years, best friends for almost as long, we've shared almost everything about ourselves for the last year, but we've only been a couple for a few weeks. I want this to be the kind of relationship you never got the chance to have. The kind where we spend time learning who we are, as a couple, before we learn who we are, as lovers.

"I never want you to have any reason to look back and think that we should've done something differently, that we rushed into things, or that it was all about the sex. I never want you to have any reason to doubt or regret this. Can you understand that? I'm not trying to hurt you. I never want to hurt you. You know that, right?"

Sniffling, Maura nodded against Jane's chest. "I know you would never hurt me. I just can't help but feel like you don't want to have sex with me. Like knowing the truth about me makes me undesirable. I know you've said otherwise, on numerous occasions, but I can't help the way I feel. I could never regret our relationship, and I don't see myself ever doubting it."

Pulling Maura with her, they lay down and Jane pulled the blankets over them. When they were settled with Maura lying in her chest, Jane started running her hand through Maura's hair. They were silent for a few minutes, before Jane smiled. "Do you remember how hard it was for me to behave myself on our first date? Especially after you came out wearing that little nightie that didn't hide a thing?"

Shifting so she could see Jane's face, Maura nodded. "It was only three weeks ago, of course I remember. You complained several times about your decision to make us wait."

Jane snorted in amusement. "That's a bit of an understatement. I swear it almost hurt not to touch you, then you came out wearing that nightie and I hated myself for turning you down. When you pulled that little stunt when I getting in the shower, I almost gave in. That was the longest shower I've taken, in a long time, and the coldest one I've ever taken. I spent the entire time running over past cases and conversations with Ma, just so I wouldn't give in and jump you. Then, you had to go and one-up me, the next morning, and there wasn't even time for me to do anything about it. I have been permanently frustrated for the last three weeks, and now I can't even do anything about it."

Blinking in shock, Maura finally leaned up and kissed Jane, hard. When she pulled back, leaving her forehead resting against Jane's, they were both panting slightly. "I know I can be insecure and mistrustful, and I'm sorry. I don't mean to be, and I know it's not fair to you."

Pulling her back to lie on her chest, Jane kissed her head. "There's nothing to be sorry for. Everyone has issues and baggage. Our pasts make us who we are, and screw us up. I don't expect you to be perfect, anymore than you expect me to be. I'm overprotective to the point of almost being paranoid, sometimes. There will be times when something kicks that into overdrive, and you'll have to remind me to back off. I don't mind reassuring you when you feel insecure, because I know you need it, and would do the same for me. Now, can we sleep? My body hates me right now, and I already know I'm going to be an irritable bitch, tomorrow, so I apologize in advance."

Chuckling silently, Maura snuggled closer. "I restocked the chocolate stash in my office. Come down whenever you need a break."

Humming sleepily, Jane buried her nose in Maura's hair. "You're the best girlfriend, ever."

By the middle of the week, everyone was irritable. A home invasion that left an elderly couple dead, had them running in circles and coming up empty handed. Nothing was missing, as far as they could tell, but robbery might have been interrupted. There was no sign of forced entry, but most of the neighbors knew the couple kept a key hidden above the door, which was still there. A retired music teacher and a housewife didn't seem like likely candidates for making enemies.

Several days were spent trying to track down the husband's former colleagues. Most had retired or gotten jobs elsewhere, and they ran all over the city talking to people, and called several who had moved, just to be told that no one could think of anyone who would want to hurt the couple.

By Friday, they were almost ready to give up. They had no fingerprints or DNA. No witnesses, other than a neighbor hearing gunshots and calling 911. There was no family waiting to inherit anything but an old house in a declining neighborhood. All they had were bullets from a gun that wasn't in the system, from a model commonly found on the streets for fairly cheap.

Jane was frustrated and irritable at the lack of physical action, snapping at everyone with almost no provocation. Frost was visibly exhausted from spending days staring at a computer screen trying to find anything useful in their history, often not even registering when someone spoke to him. Korsak kept growling and mumbling to himself as he poured over files and statements and made phone calls.

Maura was left trying find any missed evidence on the bodies, while doing her best to make sure the detectives took care of themselves. She started bringing lunch, always something that could be eaten at their desks and would survive a couple hours sitting out. Around dinner time, she'd drag Jane out of the station, which usually prompted the men to go home, too.

The weekend came and went. Realizing they'd been together for almost a month, and still hadn't moved beyond kissing and cuddling, made Maura slightly upset. Then, she'd look at Jane and remember just how hard the case was wearing on them all, and it was impossible to be anything but understanding. Deciding she was tired of waiting for Jane to make all the moves in their relationship, Maura started making calls.

A week after getting the double homicide, they were assigned another case and it was pushed to the side. Working a case with real leads put everyone in a slightly better mood.

In the middle of that case, they got a call from a team in robbery. A teenager was arrested after a botched attempt to hold up a convenience store. The gun found on him matched the bullets used to murder the elderly couple. After twenty minutes in interrogation with Jane and Frost, the kid confessed to breaking into the house and shooting the couple when they surprised him. His aunt lived in the neighborhood and he'd seen the wife use the hidden key to unlock the door, and he thought it would be an easy mark. He'd panicked when the couple came home, and ran as soon as he realized he'd murdered them.

Everyone relaxed visibly when the teen was charged and processed. They were just waiting on lab results for their other case, so they had enough for an arrest warrant, and it was decided that they'd leave work on time, for once, and meet for celebratory drinks. Maura couldn't stop smiling when Jane called with the good news.

Maura made a couple calls and running a few errands before showing up at the Robber, as promised. Her self-satisfied smile had Jane asking, several times, what she was thinking about. Each time, Maura just smiled and shook her head before turning back to whatever topic was being discussed.

They were lying in bed before Maura finally decided to satisfy Jane's curiosity. "Starting tomorrow evening, your weekend is mine. I talked to Cavanaugh and pointed out that it's been more than a month since your team had a weekend off, so he made sure you're not on-call. He'll be informing you of that, at some point, tomorrow. We have dinner reservations at eight, and I'll be picking you up. Dress nicely, but I want you to be comfortable, so you shouldn't feel obligated to wear a dress. Oh, and I was planning for us to spend the weekend at my house, so you should pack a bag, if you think you need to."

Propping herself up on her elbow, Jane raised an eyebrow and grinned. "Is this your way of asking me on a date?"

Ignoring the humor in Jane's voice, Maura nodded. "Yes, it is. I feel extremely confident in assuming that you'll agree, so I felt that actually asking was rather unnecessary. Up to this point, I've been allowing you to make all the advances in our relationship, and I realized that's rather unfair of me. We are equal partners, so it's only reasonable that I be the assertive member, when appropriate."

Jane chuckled and settled back onto the pillows. "Ok, I guess that is only reasonable. So, I should wear something nice for our date. I think I can handle that. I'm looking forward to seeing what you have planned."

Pulling Jane's arm to rest around her waist, Maura yawned. "Nothing as complicated as our first date, but I think we'll both enjoy ourselves. Oh, and I talked to Angela and explained that we may not make it to Sunday dinner. She said that was perfectly fine, and to make sure you eat and get plenty of rest, this weekend."

Sighing and shaking her head, Jane hid a yawn against Maura's shoulder. "Only you could get away with that. When I tried telling her I won't be there, she spends a half hour trying to guilt me into going, and I don't hear the end of it, for weeks."

Not getting an answer, Jane smiled when she realized Maura was asleep, then closed her eyes and yawned again.

Chapter 27

Jane left the station at exactly five, ignoring the knowing looks and snickers from the other detectives. Hurrying home, she jumped in the shower and took extra time and care to shave. Standing in front of her closet, wrapped in a towel, she groaned quietly at the selection. Quickly flicking through the hangers, she grinned when she found an item shoved to the back that she'd forgotten owning.

By the time she finished drying her hair and trying several hair styles, before finally deciding to leave it down, it was after seven. Swearing loudly, Jane ran into her room and got dressed quickly. She was just pulling on her shoes when there was a knock at the door. Hobbling awkwardly, she managed to get to the door without falling.

Standing up and taking a deep breath, Jane smoothed her hair and clothes before opening the door. The breath came out in a near-silent whistle when she saw Maura standing on the other side, wearing a very simple, elegant, red, sheath dress. Taking the small bouquet with a single bunch of flowers, attached to a single stalk, she looked at it curiously for a moment, before turning her attention back to Maura. Pulling her closer with her free hand, Jane gave her a sweet kiss. "I swear you get more and more beautiful, without even trying. When you try, I don't even have a word to describe you."

Maura blushed and watched Jane walk further into the apartment, headed for the kitchen, before following her. "Since I know you didn't have time to go shopping for a new outfit, I'm curious where you were hiding that. I know I haven't seen it before, and I'd definitely remember you wearing a pinstripe suit. Do you have any idea how amazing you look?"

Hiding a smile and blush behind her hair, Jane pulled down a vase, filled it with water, and busied herself getting the flowers settled, until she felt her cheeks cool enough to turn around. Seeing the appreciative look Maura was giving her, made Jane blush even deeper than before. Clearing her throat nervously, she held up the vase slightly before setting it on the counter. "Thanks. I don't remember when I got it, or why, but I found it hanging in the back of my closet. The flowers are pretty, but I have no idea what they are, and I know you have to be dying to explain."

The grin at Jane's blushing turned into a smirk as Maura sidled into Jane's personal space. "That, is a tuberose. I liked the thought you put into my flowers, for our first date, so I thought I'd return the favor. They mean pleasure, which is what this date is all about."

Swallowing thickly, Jane stared at her for several moments, before blinking and almost spinning away. Snagging her purse off an end table, she headed for the door. By the time she turned around, there was an entire room between them and Maura was biting her lip in amusement. Sighing and shaking her head, Jane opened the door. "We should probably go, then. I know you have something planned, and I would hate to ruin that. The sooner we get to dinner, the sooner we get to the pleasure part of the date."

Laughing lightly, Maura walked across the room and gave her a quick kiss before heading out the door and waiting in the hallway while Jane locked up. "While I am hoping for that kind of pleasure, it's not the only kind I have planned. Just remember, I have you for the entire weekend."

Jane groaned quietly and leaned her forehead against the closed door for a moment. "You are a delicious tease, and I should just realize that I will never win. You will always be able to one-up me, and I find that way hotter than I probably should."

Just like Jane had on their first date, Maura refused to tell her where they were going. As they headed toward an area where several upscale restaurants were located, Jane started to get nervous and had to force herself not to start fussing with her hair and clothes. When they drove through, and out of, that area, Jane became confused. They'd been driving for almost a half hour, and it was almost eight, when Jane finally gave in. "Maura, you DO know where we're going, right? It's just that, you said the reservation was for eight, and it's almost that, and we passed most of the restaurants I know you like, miles ago. Are we lost? I thought your phone had a fancy GPS app, or something."

Grinning, Maura just kept driving. A couple minutes later, she pulled into the parking lot for one of the more expensive restaurants she'd heard officers mention. Turning off the car, her grin widened when she saw Jane's surprised look. Getting out of the car, she managed to make it around to open Jane's door before she did so, herself. Bowing slightly and offering her hand, Maura ignored Jane's eye roll and helped her out of the car.

When Maura tried to walk toward the restaurant, Jane pulled her to a stop. "You do know that this place serves all the stuff you're always telling me I shouldn't eat, right? And that they probably don't serve much of the healthier stuff you like to eat? As much as I'd love to be able to eat here, I don't want you to eat someplace you don't like, just because I do."

Retracing the few steps she'd taken, Maura leaned up and kissed Jane's cheek, then used her thumb to wipe away the lipstick mark. "I appreciate your concern, but I know exactly what kind of restaurant this is. Some of their menu options are listed on their web site. Although they are predominantly a 'steak house' style restaurant, they have a rather extensive sea food menu. I assure you, I will have no trouble finding something I will enjoy eating. Remember, this date is about pleasure. That starts with a delicious meal at a restaurant I know you have wanted to patronize for quite some time. I've heard this place mentioned as the prize for bets, around the station, and eating here seems to come with bragging rights."

Laughing and pulling her closer, Jane gave her a quick kiss, then started leading toward the restaurant. "Hell, yeah, it comes with bragging rights. They're supposed to have the best steak in the city, and some of the best in the state, and it has prices to match. A detective's salary doesn't really allow for spending forty bucks on a steak. Have I mentioned that you are the best girlfriend, ever? The guys are going to be so jealous of me. Hey, you're going to have to take a picture of me eating my steak, so I can show it to them." Catching her reflection in the front windows of the building, she grimaced and looked down. "Do you think they have those lobster bibs? I don't want to risk dripping on this suit, it's really nice, and I'd like to be able to wear it again."

The maitre d' looked up with a smile when Maura's laughter proceeded them into the restaurant.

Jane ordered a steak and potatoes meal they both knew was too big for her to finish, but Maura just rolled her eyes. Despite the teasing insistence that it broke several unspoken rules of steak house dining, Maura still ordered a salmon meal and salad. When Jane found out that they did have lobster bibs, she asked the amused waiter to bring her two, then promptly folded one and stuffed it into her jacket pocket.

Maura couldn't stop smiling at Jane's excitement and enjoyment of her meal, and even agreed to take several pictures. When it was obvious Jane wouldn't be able to eat anymore, and Maura had carefully finished her meal, the waiter came back with dessert menus. Seeing Jane's disappointed, and vaguely sick, look at the mention of dessert, Maura smiled at their waiter and asked if they could get the rest of Jane's food boxed, and dessert to go. Nodding and chuckling silently, he took their dessert orders and carried Jane's plate off to be packed up. Several minutes later, he returned with the food and their check, and Maura made sure to give him a generous tip.

They were settled in the car, when Jane groaned quietly and glared at Maura's knowing smirk. "You knew I was going to eat too much, and you just let me. I may have to rethink you being the best girlfriend, ever. SHE wouldn't let me stuff myself until I felt sick."

Not bothering to hide it, Maura started laughing. "Jane, we both know you would have ignored me and still eaten too much, possibly even more than you did, in an attempt to prove me wrong. The food was delicious, and I know it's rare that you get to indulge like that. You'll be fine, once your body has had a chance to digest some of the food. We have one more place to go, before we go home. That should give you enough time to recover from overeating."

Reaching out to clasp Maura hand and pull it into her lap, Jane turned so she was facing her and curled up slightly in her seat. "Ok, I take it back, you are the best girlfriend, ever. I probably would've tried to finish all that. Who lets people order a steak that big? Who can actually EAT a steak that big? And the potato. That thing was almost as big as my head. I have enough leftovers for another entire meal."

Smiling happily, Maura squeezed Jane's hand before slowly taking hers back. "I'm glad you enjoyed yourself. We're almost there, and I'm afraid I need both hands to drive."

Looking around, Jane finally noticed that they'd left the city lights behind them, several minutes before. Sitting up in confusion, Jane stared out the window at the passing trees. "Umm, Maura, are you taking me parking?"

Blinking for a few moments, her expression finally cleared in recognition and Maura blushed lightly and shook her head. "No, that's not my intention. At least, I believe 'parking,' in this context, refers to the practice of parking in secluded areas to engage in sexual activities." Looking slightly confused, she shook her head again. "Isn't that usually an activity typically engaged in by the teenage to early twenties age groups? No matter. While we will be parked, my intention is for us to go star gazing. There's an overlook that I came to for an astronomy class I took in college, to observe a meteor shower. I thought you would enjoy the chance to be out of the city and just take the time to relax for an hour, or two."

Leaning back against her seat and smiling, Jane nodded. "That sounds amazing. Did you know I used to go star gazing, as a kid? Well, I'd climb out my bedroom window and up onto the roof, and lie there until Ma realized I wasn't in bed and yelled at me to get down before I broke my neck. After a few years, she made me switch rooms with Tommy, because his room wasn't over the porch. I don't think I've really been star gazing since then. I used to know a bunch of the constellations, but I doubt I remember most of them, anymore."

Keeping her eyes on the unlit road, Maura smiled and reached over to quickly pat Jane's knee, before returning her hand to the wheel. "We can see which ones you remember, and I can point out some of the ones I know. I've always been fascinated by mythology, and the stories behind the constellations are interesting. The idea that earlier civilizations saw shapes in the riot of stars visible without the lights and pollution of modern society, and then created stories to explain how the shapes got there, is intriguing. Did you know that some of the more prominent constellations, like the ones we call the big and little dippers, were recognized by different cultures, but given different names and stories?"

Jane laughed and shook her head, watching the passing scenery with interest. After a couple more minutes, Maura turned onto a smaller rode and the trees quickly ended. They were soon parked next to an area with a couple picnic tables dotting the grass. Looking around in confusion, she hesitated before getting out. "Maura, are you sure we're allowed to be here? We really do not need to be arrested for trespassing, or mistaken for horny teenagers. I would never hear the end of it. A homicide detective in trouble for going parking, like we don't both have perfectly good homes, with comfortable beds, that are much closer."

Ignoring her and getting out of the car, Maura grabbed a couple blankets out of the trunk and started walking across the grass, carefully. Sighing and getting out of the car quickly, Jane followed her and grabbed one of the blankets, when she caught up. Picking a good spot, she spread the blanket out before sitting down. Maura took her shoes off next to the blanket and joined her, settling into Jane's side.

After several moments of silence, and Jane still not relaxing fully, Maura huffed out a silent laugh. "We're not going to get arrested. This is a popular spot for star gazing, but it's too far from the city, or the nearest town, to be frequented by teenagers. As long as we're not engaged in any inappropriate behavior, if a sheriff's car does come by, then we have nothing to worry about. It's not privately owned land, so we're not trespassing. If a member of the sheriff's department does approach us, and you don't want to risk him mention the Boston homicide detective he found 'parking' with her girlfriend, then you just need to not mention that you're a detective. They may run a routine check on our ID's, to make sure there are no outstanding warrants, and then leave us with a warning to behave ourselves, and possibly a caution about being two women alone at night."

Relaxing and giving Maura a kiss, Jane grabbed the blanket Maura had dropped next to them, and unfolded it to drape it over their legs. "Let me guess, you called someone to make sure."

Snuggling closer to Jane's side, she shrugged. "Not exactly. I came here with a classmate, in college. We had a group project to do on an astronomical event, and we agreed that actually observing the meteor shower we were researching, could only be beneficial. A member of the local sheriff's department stopped while on patrol. When we were still here, when he came back around, almost an hour later, he just made sure we were still safe, and told us to be careful. I did do a quick check, just to make sure this was still an acceptable location for star gazing. According to several online astronomy groups, the sheriff is very understanding, as long as there is no illegal behavior and the area is left clean. They do pass by about once an hour, but we are well within appropriate behavior."

Jane rolled her eyes and pointed up at a cluster of stars. "Stop worrying. Got it. That's the Pleiades, right? At least, I always thought it was."

Nodding, Maura started explaining the names of the individual stars. When she started explaining the story behind the constellation, Jane joined in. For more than a half hour, they pointed out stars and traded what they knew of the stories behind them. Jane was surprised to realized she remembered more than she'd thought, and Maura enjoyed pointing out constellations from different cultures, until Jane made her stick to the more commonly recognized Greek groupings.

When headlights turned down the road, they turned to look, and ended up blinded when the floodlight mounted on the hood of the sheriff car turned on. Wincing and covering their eyes, they waited. Pushing the blanket off their legs, when the floodlight turned off, Jane stood slowly, then helped Maura to her feet. They greeted the deputy that walked up, and answered his questions, explaining that they were just star gazing. Jane easily handed over her ID, when asked, but Maura had to get hers out of her purse, which she'd left in the car. A couple minutes later, they had their ID's back, and the deputy tipped his hat to them slightly and told them to be careful.

Walking back to the blanket, Jane suddenly started chuckling. When Maura turned to look at her, she shrugged and laughed harder, for a moment. "I haven't been questioned by a cop since I joined the academy. I feel like a kid who's been caught out past curfew. I don't think I've felt like this since I was in high school. I think I like it."

Grinning and shaking her head, Maura waited until Jane's laughing had stopped. "Do you want to keep star gazing, or are you ready to go home?"

Thinking for a moment, she suddenly pulled Maura into her arms. "Before I answer that, I have a question for you. Did you ever go parking, when you were younger?"

Maura just shook her head and relaxed into Jane's embrace. "No, it wasn't a logistical possibility, in boarding school, and I was unwilling to allow myself to be in intimate situations in isolated locations, in college."

Leaning down for a kiss, Jane grinned and then took a step back and sat back down on the blanket. "Well, then, we need to fix that. I feel a little bit like a teenager, so I think we should act a little bit like teenagers. That deputy won't be back around for another hour. So, get down here, so we can make out for a bit. Then, we can go home, and act like adults."

Quickly kicking off her shoes, Maura dropped to her knees and pushed Jane onto her back, then propped herself up on one elbow over her. "I think you bring things out in me that I didn't even know existed, and I like it." Chewing on her lip , she thought for a moment. "Would this count as more romantic than your mother's kitchen?"

It took a moment for Jane to understand the question, but when she did, she started grinning uncontrollably and nodded. Moving Maura so she could roll onto her side and face her, Jane let one hand rest on Maura's hip. The moonlight was enough to see her face, but not make out any real details. Still smiling, Jane leaned in for a kiss.

When they pulled apart and stared at each in silence for several moments, Jane laughed. "You brought it up, so you get to go first. This whole date is about you being the assertive one, right? So, assert yourself."

Pushing Jane back onto her back and leaning over her, Maura grinned and leaned in for another quick kiss. "Jane Rizzoli, you are beautiful, smart, brave, strong, caring, sweet, loyal, and the only person that has ever made me feel completely accepted, and I love you." Each adjective was punctuated by a quick kiss on whatever patch of skin she could reach, before finally kissing Jane deeply when she was done.

They were both grinning and panting slightly when the kiss ended. Reaching up to stroke Maura's cheek, Jane let her fingers run through hair, before holding it out of the way and cupping the back of Maura's head. "Maura Isles, you are one of the most beautiful people I have ever met, inside and out. You're so smart it's scary. You've been through so much and worked so hard, every moment of your life, to be the amazing woman you are. You are the bravest person I have ever met, and I envy your strength. You have the most forgiving heart I have ever seen, even after everything that's happened. You have such a capacity for love that sometimes it's hard to breath when you look at me. I am unbelievably lucky to have you in my life, and I will do everything I can to make sure you always want to be there. Maura Isles, I love you."

Crying silently and smiling, Maura nuzzled into Jane's hand when she reached up to wipe away the tears. Still smiling, she leaned down for a kiss. The sweet kiss deepened when Jane moaned into her mouth, and she pressed closer when Jane's arms wound around her back and into her hair. Kisses were eventually joined by caresses, and lips moved to kiss and nibble ears and down necks.

It wasn't until Jane felt cool air against her chest that she remembered where they were. Pulling her lips away from Maura's neck, she pushed back slightly on her shoulders. Maura finally sat up, looking down at her in confusion. Jane nearly gave in when she saw Maura straddling her waist with her hair mussed, but another cool breeze ghosted over her chest. Looking down, her brow furrowed in confusion when she realized her shirt was completely unbuttoned.

Shaking her head, she sat up. "Maura, we're still outside. Neither of us needs to be arrested by a sheriff's deputy for public lewdness. Come on, I'll get the blankets. How fast can we get home?"

Blinking and looking around, Maura carefully climbed off Jane's lap and got to her feet. She used the moment it took to find her shoes, to steady her breathing. "I can make it in thirty minutes, I think. Right now, I'm not overly concerned with traffic laws. A speeding ticket is preferable to being arrested, anyway."

Heading for the car, Maura had it started before Jane had finished buttoning her shirt and thrown the blankets into the back seat. Turning the car around, Maura started driving. They'd only been on the main road for a minute or two, when they passed the sheriff's car heading back toward the overlook. Turning in her seat to watch it pass, Jane blushed and checked the time. "God, we almost got caught, like a couple of teenagers. I didn't even realize it'd been so long. How did you get my shirt unbuttoned, anyway?"

Gripping the wheel tightly and keeping her eyes on the road, Maura blushed. "I'm not entirely sure. I only remember undoing a couple. I just remember wanting to feel more of you, needing more skin. I'm not sure when I unbuttoned the rest. Maybe I never stopped. If you want me to be able to drive without wrecking, then you need to turn away and fix your buttons. Please."

Looking down and realizing she'd missed a couple of the middle buttons in her haste, Jane turned to face the window and quickly rebuttoned her shirt. They rode in silence, carefully keeping their hands to themselves, until they hit familiar streets. Realizing where they were, Jane turned to look at Maura, taking in the tension in her body. Seeing Jane staring at her, Maura's grip tightened slightly on the steering wheel. "Your place is closer. We can go to mine, in the morning."

Nodding, Jane stared out the window. As soon as Maura parked, and before she'd had a chance to turn the car off, Jane was out and making her way around to open Maura's door. Helping her out, Jane pulled her into a kiss, before yanking herself away and fumbling in her pocket for her keys while heading for the front of her building. The elevator ride was tense, and Jane almost bolted out when the doors opened, not realizing it was the wrong floor, until she almost ran until the middle-aged man that was waiting to get on. Backing up and tapping her foot impatiently, she waited until the doors closed, then stared at the numbers until the doors opened on her floor, one floor up.

Grabbing Maura's hand, and ignoring the man's knowing smirk, Jane dragged her out of the elevator and down the hallway. Stopping in front of her door, she fumbled with her keys, finally grabbing the right one and unlocking the door. The door slammed behind them, neither realizing the man had held the elevator doors open to watch, and he laughed to himself as the doors finally slid shut.

Chapter 28

It was mid-morning when Jane woke up. The blinds were closed, so her bedroom was cozily dim. Yawning, Jane started to stretch, before stopping when she felt her bare skin sliding against Maura's. Grinning and scooting herself closer, she was surprised when she felt Maura lean up, but happily returned the quick kiss. After snuggling for a few more minutes, Jane's stomach growled. Sitting up and laughing, Maura turned to face Jane, not bothering to cover herself.

Finally opening her eyes, Jane groaned quietly and pulled Maura back down. When she tried to kiss her, Maura pushed her away and shook her head, smiling and getting out of bed. "We both have morning breath, which I insist we remedy before going back to bed. And, I think we both need to eat. After all, we have all weekend, and we should keep our strength up."

Groaning again when Maura got out of bed and walked to the bathroom, still naked, Jane shook her head fondly and moved to follow her. Several minutes later, after they'd both brushed their teeth and put on some clothes, they headed for the kitchen.

Jane was going through the fridge, when she suddenly spun around with a horrified look on her face. Getting up quickly, and rushing over, Maura stopped when Jane bolted toward the door. Staring in confusion, worry, and shock, Maura watched as she grabbed Maura's purse off the floor and started going through it. When she pulled Maura's keys out, and started to open the door, Maura ran over and slammed it shut before Jane could head out it.

Staring up at Jane, unaware she was crying, she opened her mouth a couple times, but couldn't find anything to say. Finally giving up, she slumped against the door and started to slide down it, covering her face with her hands. Jane stared at her in confusion for a moment, before dropping to her knees and pulling Maura into her arms. When Maura stiffened and yanked away, glaring at her in anger, Jane gaped.

Bolting to her feet, Maura started looking around. Grabbing her purse from the floor, she snagged her shoes off the floor on her way to the bedroom. When she came back out, carrying her wrinkled dress, Jane was standing in the middle of the living room. Blocking her path, Jane tried to pull her into her arms, just to have Maura dart around her. Beating her to the door, Jane leaned against it.

Clutching her things to her chest and staring at the floor, Maura shook her head, still crying. "This is your apartment, so I'm the one who should leave. I'm sorry if last night was a mistake. I know you said my past didn't bother you, but I know reality is often different than what one imagines. I'll understand if you'd rather not see me, beyond a professional capacity, again. You can either retrieve your things from my house, or I can have them delivered. I hope we can be friends again, someday, but I'll understand if that's not possible."

Jane's mouth hung open as she gaped in shock for several moments, watching Maura standing in her living room, staring at the floor and crying. Finally blinking and almost jumping across the few feet separating them, she pulled Maura into her arms and kissed her, hard. Only pulling back when she felt Maura start to respond, she looked down into her confused face. Pulling everything from her hands and dropping them to the floor, Jane led Maura to the couch and pulled her to sit facing her. Holding Maura's hands and bending down to meet her eyes, Jane sighed. "I have NO idea what just happened. Tell me. Please. What in the world made you think I could possibly think last night was a mistake. I love you, and last night was probably the most amazingly, wonderfully, beautiful night of my life. Please, just tell me what happened, so I can fix it. Please. I refuse to lose you, without even knowing why. What happened in that beautiful head of yours?"

Maura's head shot up, and she searched Jane's face. Not finding anything but confusion and worry, she opened her mouth, then snapped it closed and shook her head. "You were leaving. You looked absolutely horrified, suddenly, and you couldn't wait to get out of your own apartment. To get away from me. What else was I supposed to think? I knew this might happen. I thought I'd prepared myself for the way it would feel, but I was wrong. I know I'm not like a biological woman, and I never will be. I'm sorry if I somehow led you to believe otherwise. There are some ways that my body will never function and react the way a genetic female's does, and most of them are sexual. Can I go now? Please. I just. I need to deal with this alone."

Sighing and pulling a resistant Maura into her arms, Jane wrapped her in a hug and kissed the side of her head. "Oh, Baby, it has nothing to do with you. I promise. Last night was amazing, and I hope to have many more just like it. I loved watching your body react to me." Pulling back, Jane smiled at her. "What you saw, had nothing to do with you. I just realized that we forget the food in your car, last night. I was going after it." Wrinkling her nose, she shook her head. "Although, now that I actually think about it, I don't think that's a good idea. There is no way that eating something that sat in your car all night is a good idea. Do you think the dessert, at least, is ok? I mean, cake doesn't have to be refrigerated, so it should be ok, right?"

Blinking in shock, Maura started laughing, then it turned to tears, again. Letting head rest on Jane's shoulder until her breathing calmed, she pulled away and wiped her eyes and looked at Jane questioningly. "You really mean it? You don't regret last night? You're not disgusted by me? Are you sure? Please be sure. I don't want you to suddenly realize you regret being with me, or that my past bothers you. I don't think I could take it if you waited. If you have any doubts, I need you to tell me, now. I would rather hurt now, and start to try to heal, than have you decide after six months that you need to be with a real woman."

Leaning against the back of the couch, Jane ran a hand through her hair and sighed, then turned to look at Maura. "Is this what you've been worried about? Is this why you didn't make more of a big deal when I said I wanted to wait? And why you looked worried when you undressed, last night? You think I'm going to suddenly change my mind about loving you? It's NEVER going to happen. I don't know who did that to you, but I will never do that to you. I promise, if I EVER have doubts about us, I'll talk to you about them, BEFORE doing anything. Can you promise to talk to me if something like this happens, again? Please? If you're worried about something, or think I'm upset, please tell me. I can't help fix it, if I don't know what's going on. I love you, and I want you to always be in my life, but that means talking BEFORE we react, whenever possible. Ok?"

Nodding and letting Jane pull her into her lap, Maura sighed and buried her head in Jane's neck. "I'm sorry I overreacted and panicked. Thank you for stopping me. I love you so much it scares me, sometimes. I know it would hurt more than I can imagine, if you decided this was a mistake. I'm not sure how well I would deal with it, and it scares me. If you can promise to tell me if you start to doubt or regret being with me, then I can promise to tell you if I notice my past experiences coloring my perceptions of your actions, or our relationship. You may have to point it out to me, though, and you may have to stop me, if I panic, again. I will try, though. I promise."

Grinning and tilting Maura's chin up to kiss her deeply, Jane pulled away and kissed her forehead. "I love you, and I will do my best to make sure this works out. I will ALWAYS stop you from running out on me, unless you have every right to. You mean too much to me for me to lose you over something like a stupid misunderstanding. Do you think you're the only one scared by how much this means? I was terrified of losing you, so I kept my feelings to myself. Now, I'm just terrified of losing you. I love you so much, that it almost hurts sometimes, when you're not around. So, we're ok? You're not going to leave, right?"

Relaxing in Jane's arms, Maura nodded. "Yes, we're ok. No, I'm not going to leave. I really am sorry for overreacting, and I promise to try to do better. Now, we really should eat something. If you want to get the food out of my car, then you should be wearing more than a long shirt and panties. The dessert should be fine, but the rest of your steak is going to have to be thrown away. I'm sorry. I know you were looking forward to finishing it."

Laughing and hugging Maura closer for a moment, Jane stood up and stretched. "Don't apologize. Last night was MORE than worth it. Ok, I'm going to put on pants, then I'll go get the food. I don't think you want your car to smell like leftovers, anyway. The smells might already be baked in, at this point. I guess it could be worse, at least steak smells good."

Maura rolled her eyes and got up, heading for the kitchen. "I'll see what I can make for breakfast. I'm glad you've started buying real food. No matter what argument you use, I will never be convinced that sugar-laden cereal is an appropriate breakfast, and it certainly isn't appropriate for the children it is marketed for. The idea of feeding a child, who needs a balanced and nutritious diet for proper brain development, a meal consisting of little more than sugar and milk, is appalling."

Kissing Maura on her way to the bedroom, Jane rolled her eyes. "I never ate that stuff, as a kid. There's no way Ma would've let me. Now, I'm an adult, and I can choose what to eat, because I'm an adult, so I eat what I want. Well, I used to. Now, I eat what you want me to eat. It's a good thing I love you, or that would kinda suck."

Ignoring her, Maura started getting out everything she needed to make omelettes.

They spent the rest of the day lounging around Jane's apartment. Jane insisted they sit and talk, instead of going right back to bed. They talked about their previous relationships, friendships, jobs, and countless smaller topics. By dinner, they both felt more sure in what the other wanted, and Jane better understood Maura's reaction, that morning. Any talk of their future had been carefully avoided, by unspoken agreement. Both had found themselves changing wording mid-sentence, or biting back a comment, more than once.

When Maura's growling stomach made her blush, while Jane laughed, they realized they'd never eaten lunch. Stretching, and grinning when her own stomach started to growl, Jane got up and pulled Maura to her feet. "Do you still want to go back to your place? This morning kinda derailed that plan. We can order something, and it should get there right after we do. Or, we can pick something up on the way."

Shrugging and keeping her hold on Jane's hands, Maura looked around at Jane's apartment. "We can stay here, if you'd like. It feels almost as much like home, as my house does. My reasons for wanting to spend the weekend at my place, don't really matter, anymore. I think I like the idea of staying here, and not letting the rest of the world intrude. There's something comforting about seeing no one but you, all weekend."

Rolling her eyes, Jane pulled her closer. "Didn't you just say, a little bit ago, that you need to work on asking for what you want? Well, start now. If you want to go home, because you have something planned for us, just say so."

Maura laughed and leaned up to give Jane a kiss. "It's nothing like that. The plans really don't matter, now. I was going to wear the negligee I wore on our first date, and I had candles I was going to light, for our first time. I bought the negligee to wear for our first time, and I thought it should be worn for that purpose, even if you already saw it. So, like I said, my reasons for wanting to spend the weekend at my house, no longer matter."

Eyes wide, Jane started dragging Maura down the hall. "Oh, they matter. We're definitely going back to your place, now. No way am I missing out on the chance to take that nightie off of you. That's all I've wanted to do, since I saw you in it."

Laughing, Maura watched Jane get dressed, and dutifully put on the clothes thrown her way. Not even ten minutes later, Jane was dragging her outside and helping Maura into the passenger seat of her own car.

Sunday afternoon found them naked in Maura's bed. Maura had her chin resting on Jane's chest, looking up at her while Jane played with her hair. They were both so comfortable, and the house had been quiet, that the sound of Jane's phone ringing made them jump.

For a moment, Jane flailed over the side of the bed, reaching for the jeans lying on the floor on the other side of the room, before she rolled her eyes and rolled back onto the bed. When Maura raised an eyebrow in question, Jane laughed. "I'm not on call, this weekend. Ma knows not to expect us at dinner. There's no one that would be calling that can't wait. If it's important, then everyone knows they can call you. Even if I weren't already here, I always take your calls."

Cuddling back into Jane's side, Maura smiled. "I like that everyone we know, knows they can reach you through me. It means almost as much as knowing that mine is the only call you always answer. It makes me feel important, loved."

Smiling and leaning down for a kiss, Jane went back to playing with Maura's hair. "You are very important, and very loved, and have been for a very long time. Now, do you want to take a nap before we have to go find more fuel, or are you ready for another round?"

Laughing and sitting up on her knees, before straddling Jane's waist and leaning over her, Maura twined her fingers through Jane's and held her hands against the pillow over her head. "Why don't we have another round, then a nap, then food?"

Flipping them so she was lying on Maura, Jane laughed at her surprised look. "Police training, remember? If I can't get out of a simple pin, then I don't deserve my badge. Now, you said something about another round, then a nap? I like that plan."

A few hours later, they were in the kitchen, finding something to eat, when Jane remembered the missed call. Going after her phone, she came back down the hallway carrying it and looking at it in confusion. "Didn't you tell Andre we're together? I thought you did, which is why I never made a point of mentioning it to Paul. I mean, I've talked about you, and things we've done, but I don't think I ever actually SAID that we're a couple. Now, he's calling and asking if I grew the balls to ask you out, yet."

Thinking, Maura shook her head. "I don't think I've ever expressly stated it, either. At first, I didn't want to tell him before we'd told everyone here, then I guess I assumed that you'd told Paul. He hasn't mentioned it in a few months, and I just never thought to bring it up. How did we neglect to tell them? They played an integral part in us finally getting together."

Shrugging and leaning against the counter, Jane suddenly started grinning. When Maura gave her a confused, and mildly worried, look, she grinned wider. "I have some unused vacation time that Cavanaugh has been after me to use. If you have the time, why don't we take a trip to New York, in a few weeks? Paul keeps telling me that if I come to visit, I can stay in their guest room, and that I should bring you with me."

Raising an eyebrow and leaning against the opposite counter, Maura crossed her arms over her chest. "Yes, I have vacation time. I typically only use it a day at a time, when I need the time off, or just take the extra pay at the end of the year. What are you planning? I know that look, and you have something more in mind than us simply visiting friends for a few days."

Grinning wider and starting to type a text, Jane held it out for Maura to read, before sending it. "Well, we've waited this long to tell them, so I don't see the harm in waiting a little longer. If you can keep from telling Andre, I can put Paul off, and we can play with them a little, when we visit. After all, they did meddle and poke their noses in, while they were here. After the manipulating they did, I think it's only right that we return the favor. How hard do you think they will try, before they realize we're already together?"

Staring for several moments, until Jane started to squirm, Maura suddenly grinned, hit send, and handed her phone back. "If we visit for a week, then they'll be working against a perceived deadline. Provided we don't somehow give it away, it should be at least a couple days before they either figure it out, or we're forced to tell them. If we manage to find a time that works for all of us, by the end of the week, then we can put in for our vacation time. I must insist, though, that if it seems like they might be upset by our ruse, that we tell them the truth, immediately. After all, they are our friends, and they did play a part in us getting together. I don't want to upset them, over a silly joke."

Pulling Maura into her arms and kissing her deeply, Jane grinned and shook her head. "You are devious. I'm glad you're in my side. This is going to be so much fun. And, they can't be mad at us, since they want us to be together, anyway. How could they be mad at us for doing what they wanted?"

Maura swatted Jane's arm and pulled away, going back to chopping vegetables and dumping them into a bowl for salad. Jane wrapped her arms around her from behind, the phone lying on the counter behind them, forgotten.

The End

A/N: Ok, everyone, this is it. I'm leaving it here, on purpose. I'm planning on a sequel, of sorts. I just don't know when it will be started. It will be a series of one-shots and short stories from this universe, in no particular order, and spanning their lives together. It will be titled 'Learning to Love.'

Now, I like to let everyone know exactly how long each story is, at the end. I had an informal goal of having this story reach 100K words, but it fell short. It's still the longest story I have ever written. The final count, not including author's notes, is 91K words and 199 pages. I came closer to my goal than I expected to. Everyone, this story is officially a short book. Thanks for sticking with me.

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