Under Cover of Night - Epilogue: Hold Back the Night
It was the worst possible outcome.
Of all the different permutations and combinations of events, of all the scenarios she envisaged… this is, by far, the worst one.
And this time, she is at war with herself, over what to do.
She dips the bottle slowly, allowing the Shiraz as much air as possible before it reaches her glass. The night called for something heavy. Big. Robust. Confident… like she wasn't confident.
The wine curls into her glass, with barely a sound.
She hasn't heard from her.
The retreating figure of the detective stops, one shoulder slumped, and leans against the doorframe.
Without turning around, she answers softly. "Maur, I know."
Maura is already moving towards her as Jane drops her head. Slowly, her hand finds Jane's shoulder and she slides it up and around the collar of her jacket, until she can feel the slight rise of Jane's clavicle on the other side.
"Things are different now, Jane." Maura murmurs. "You're not alone in this."
Jane nods, almost imperceptibly. Maura feels the slight rise and fall of Jane's shoulders, hears the breath she takes to calm herself, and steps away in precisely the same moment as Jane turns around.
Her eyes have darkened almost to the point Maura is unable to tell the difference between pupil and iris.
Reaching forward, Jane takes Maura's hand, sliding it along the length of her fingers and palm in a way that Maura's fingertips have no choice but to slide over her scar. The most deliberate of gestures.
Maura's breath hitches the instant she feels it.
The moment Jane covers Maura's hand with her other, Maura's eyes slide involuntarily closed as a warmth races out from their point of contact, up her arm and across her chest. She hadn't even realised how much she needed the comfort. Needed exactly that closeness. Reassurance.
"I know." Jane says, holding Maura's hand wedged between hers. "I'm okay." She offers her a half-smile, as she speaks their history in three simple words. "I won't forget."
Even as the wine pours, Maura glances at her phone for what would be the hundredth time in the last thirty minutes.
She hasn't heard from her…
…And Agent Dean is due any moment, but every fibre in Maura's body says she needs.. needs to be with Jane.
The sound of her doorbell ringing causes her to jump – causes her fingers to clench against the side of her kitchen island.
She looks back to her glass… the wine has spilled…
Maura watches a tiny rivulet slide off the stem of the glass, over the base, onto the marble.
The doorbell sounds a second time. Maura shakes her head, swipes at a tissue and tosses it over the spill. Replacing her cork, she slips the bottle beside her fridge and approaches the door, adjusting her blouse on the way.
Handsome or not, he wouldn't be staying long.
Her mind is somewhere else entirely when she reaches the door, and when she opens it, she puts her body completely in the doorway, so there is no hope of entering except-
It is utterly unexpected - The force of recognition sways her backward the tiniest fraction, and instantly, the heightened tension drains from her body, her heartbeat slows…
…a small smile touches her lips.
"Why do you always look like you're about to do a photoshoot?"
There are no better words she could imagine hearing.
"I've never been so scared in all my life…"
As Bass's thumping subsides, and the night pushes unrelentingly onward, Maura chews silently on her lower lip, trying to settle her fraying nerves. Despite her best efforts, even in the perfectly-lid bedroom, there is still a sense of trepidation and foreboding surrounding them both. Only the warmth of Jane's upper arm settled against her own provides any comfort.
Since the night in Jane's apartment, Maura has watched as Jane has, for the most part, worked her way through the nightmares that plagued her. But now, for Hoyt to be out there, looking to finish what he started…
A short, shallow breath pulls Maura's attention from her thoughts and she turns her head, carefully appraising the woman beside her.
Jane has stopped pushing on her palms – a nervous habit she has had since taking off her gloves – and is now flexing her fingers inward and outward, curling them into fists then splaying them as widely as she can. Her eyes are still trained on the ceiling, and Maura can tell by the short intervals of her blinks that she is not fixing her attention on any one place.
Which means, it is all going inward.
Reaching across her body, Maura touches Jane's bicep.
"Jane?" She says, softly, hoping to ease her away from the darkness her mind was drawn to. "You should try to sleep."
Inhaling deeply, Jane opens her eyes wide and releases the breath slowly through her nose.
"I know." She says, not looking away from the ceiling. "I just-" Her eyes flick down to her hands. "-I can feel them… You know?" Maura watches with concern as Jane's scrutiny grows, her breaths becoming soft hisses in and out from between her teeth. "I can feel them-" Her voice cracks, and she begins to shake her hands vigorously, eyebrows raising in distress. "-Ow… God-"
It takes Maura only a second to react, and she rolls to her side, reaching across to where Jane's left hand is, stilling them both.
"Jane, stop." She says, gently, rubbing backward and forward along Jane's forearm, "Just breathe-" Maura settles her hand over Jane's completely. "It's alright."
Jane's eyes flutter closed, and once again she draws a full breath in, releasing it this time through her lips.
"That's it." Maura coaxes, soothingly. "Again."
Jane repeats the exercise several more times, Maura encouraging her each time, until the tension in the detective's body recedes a fraction. Jane's face registers frustration, and anger, and she turns away just as Maura catches the glimmer of unshed tears in her eyes.
"I'm sorry…" Jane whispers, "You shouldn't have to deal with this."
Maura allows her the space, propping herself up on her left elbow but not attempting to look beyond the angle Jane has afforded her.
"Jane." She keeps her voice calm, solid. "You know I would want you here, over anywhere else." Her fingertips trace a tiny path along Jane's forearm. "I was going to come to you."
A tiny scoff reaches Maura's ears, and she smiles.
"And miss Dean?"
"Yes, even Dean." She answers. "I thought you were him. I was already planning to leave."
Maura is emboldened by the tiny chuckle that comes from the opposite direction. Finally, it is followed by a sigh.
"I don't know what is wrong with me-" Jane murmurs. Slowly, she turns her head back, this time to look at Maura. Her eyes are red but no longer hold any excess moisture in them. "I haven't felt this in so long."
Maura presses her lips into a thin line, and nods, trying to keep any sadness from her expression. In all the she has known Jane, pity was never a thing she indulged, appreciated or trusted.
"I know." Maura lifts her hand from Jane's and begins to run her three middle fingers lightly over the back of it, keeping her pattern random. "It's perfectly normal to have a physical response to emotional trauma. Especially when they are so closely linked."
Jane's is silent, eyes solemnly searching Maura's for several seconds. "Even now?" She asks.
"Yes." Maura answers. "Especially now." Looking away for a moment in thought, Maura returns her attention to Jane with a small smile. "There are many examples of people who have been injured in traumatic events, who go through years of being pain free but when faced with the events again, immediately revert to the experience from long ago."
Seeming to contemplate Maura's words, Jane finally looks down at the space between them, and falls silent.
Maura continues her attention to Jane's hand, finding the action as soothing to her as it is intended to be for the detective. Each time the scar passes under her fingertips, Maura feels the closeness of their connection reinforced – that she is the first, and only one who has been permitted to touch it.
To touch them.
She can still feel the tension in Jane's body; the way she is holding herself still, the tiny indentation between her eyebrows.
"Still in pain?" She asks softly.
Jane nods, very slightly against the pillow. "Yeah."
Maura thinks for a few seconds, then lifts her head. "Let me try something?"
Slowly, one of Jane's eyebrows rises. "The last time you said that," She says, then looks up, eyes narrowing in mock-suspicion. "-I ended up twisting myself into a pretzel."
Maura chuckles and shakes her head, strangely feeling momentarily, but genuinely light. Only Jane seemed to have the ability to find humour in the darkest of places, and she wields it to great effect.
"The bound lotus is both centering and therapeutic." Maura chides good-naturedly. "-Besides, it calmed you down, did it not?"
"It redirected my anger." Jane retorts. "Because I was too busy turning my body into a piece of pastry."
She smiles then, and Maura laughs, moving her hand to give Jane's shoulder a gentle shove.
"No pastry or lotuses tonight. I promise."
The moment is an oasis amidst the chaos, and as soon as it passes Jane's smile fades almost immediately. She sighs.
"Maur-" She speaks Maura's name in a soft plea, and looks away again, pressing the tips of her fingers to her thumbs in succession. "-I don't think I can."
Maura covers Jane's hands with her own again, like it is the easiest of things to do.
"Hey-" She says, lifting herself higher off the bed, bringing her back into the detective's line of sight. Within Jane's eyes lies a vulnerability and fear, the depth of which makes Maura's breath catch and her heart beat faster. She returns – almost automatically – to her ministrations of minutes ago, fingertips shifting from one hand to another, then back again. "Trust me." She whispers.
Jane doesn't reply, but she holds Maura's gaze as she lowers herself back down onto the mattress, propping her head up on her hand. Maura smiles at the silent permission she has been given.
"Alright." Maura says. "Close your eyes."
"Maur-" Jane begins to protest, but Maura moves her free hand and touches it gently to the skin just below Jane's hairline. Slowly, she begins to move her thumb across Jane's eyebrows; feather-light, right to left.
"Close your eyes, Jane."
Silently, Jane obeys.
The moment she does her eyebrows knot together, and Maura's hand stills on her forehead.
"Hey." She whispers. "What do you see?"
Jane doesn't immediately answer, but when she does, it is broken and shaky.
"Him." She says. "Like always."
Maura closes her own eyes, allowing a moment to centre herself. She remembers the look of Jane, the night she had entered her apartment for the first time. She holds the image of the gun in her hand, lowering… and draws comfort in knowing that right now, it is far enough away, in a bag, resting on her kitchen island. Finally, she nods.
"Alright. I want you to hold that image."
Jane baulks away from her as soon as Maura says it, but she lifts her fingers into Jane's hair and carefully brushes it back off her temple. "Trust me." She whispers close to Jane's ear.
It takes time, until Jane gives several short nods.
On instinct, Maura lets her forehead rest against Jane's. "Get your breathing back, Jane. In, and out-" She gently instructs her, inhaling and exhaling evenly and slowly until Jane is brought into the same rhythm. With the tip of one finger Maura draws delicate circles on Jane's temple. "Where are you?"
"Somewhere… dark.. I think. I-" Jane pauses. "I can only see his face."
"Good." Maura keeps her voice even, her movements precise and consistent. Carefully, she lifts her head away. "Your subconscious hasn't constructed anything yet." She says. "It is relying only on your most emotive memory. Is he saying, or doing anything?"
Jane looks to be contemplating Maura's question.
"He is- asking me if I dream of him." Jane inhales abruptly and flinches, but Maura moves her hand immediately back to Jane's hair, combing it away from her temple.
"It's alright, it's only a memory." She says. "Now place it. Where were you when he asked if you dreamed of him?"
"The… prison. I went to visit him-"
Jane's brow furrows deeply, and Maura senses her breathing becoming more erratic once again.
"Breathe, Jane." Maura reminds her, gently, then waits until Jane has quieted a little, before continuing. "Picture the memory in its entirety." She says. "Can you see all of it now?"
The furrow in Jane's brow changes slowly, from worry to concentration, and finally, she nods.
"Alright, that's good." Maura says, tracing the lines on Jane's forehead until they begin to fade. "Now, hold the image…" she moves back to Jane's temple. "And turn away from him. Walk away. If he tries to call you back, ignore him. Keep walking."
Slowly circling, she repeats her final instruction, more carefully, more softly, as she slips her fingers through Jane's at her hip.
Nothing changes for several seconds, until, ever so slightly, Jane's right foot begins to tilt outward, coming to rest against Maura's ankle. Maura waits until enough time has passed to put adequate distance between Jane and her subconscious version of Charles Hoyt, then slowly lifts her hand.
"Where are you going now?" She whispers, watching her thumb as it traces a final path along Jane's hairline, before returning her hand to its place, behind her own head.
"I'm going… to see you…"
There is a calmness to Jane's voice, and an evenness to her breathing that hasn't been present until now. A warm smile works its way onto Maura's face.
"What are we going to do?" She asks.
"…the Redsox are playing tonight…" Jane's 's' and the 'x' are both drawn out, syllables blurring together.
Chuckling, Maura shifts her head on her hand, studying Jane's face as her head tilts further to the right with each breath.
"I don't know the rules of baseball."
It is a perfect copy of the beginning of their first conversation, all those months ago. And as the minutes slip by, and Jane finally succumbs to sleep, Maura gives in to compulsion and touches her lips to the detective's forehead.
"I'll let you sleep." She whispers, her breath skittering across the warmed skin.
Given everything they have been through, Maura indulges herself with a moment – barely a breath in time, where the pathway of their friendship stands above anything else… and above everything.
The whisper is only just audible, and is spoken from lidded eyes and barely-parted lips, but its grip on Maura's heart is firm and careful and so sure... and yet again, she is reminded of that first encounter, that first night.
That first call.
She doesn't answer, only lowers herself down, covers Jane's hand with her own and squeezes it, gently.
"Goodnight, Jane." She whispers.
A/N: Had an opportunity to "rewrite a scene" as part of a fanfic challenge, and found myself unable to write anything but this - so, now UCON is really finished :)