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The J&J Sessions

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I. 3x01 The New Normal

 

“Which reminds me, I found my new full-time writer.”

 

“I’m really happy for you.”

 

“Welcome to the digital team, Jane. We’re gonna have a lot of fun.” 

 

Jane stands there, in a state of shock, after Patrick leaves. It’s not until a familiar face greets her on her way to her office that she moves, her feet automatically following. She stops at the door, nervously wringing her hands and silently watching her boss as she sets her purse down on the credenza behind her desk and then takes her seat.

 

“So I work for Patrick now, huh?” 

 

Jacqueline, who’s just opened the lid of her laptop, immediately turns her head to look at Jane. This is a woman who is nothing if not in complete control of her responses, but Jane knows her well enough by now to notice a couple of things that give away her surprise and also her displeasure at what she just heard. It’s there in the automatic straightening of her posture. The slight clench of her jaw. The brief flash of anger in her eyes, gone as quickly as it appeared. 

 

“Patrick told you,” she finally says with a sigh, narrowing her eyes.

 

“Yes. Just now, actually—“ Jane starts saying, turning around to look at the nearly empty bullpen behind her as if expecting to see him still standing there.

 

“Well, he jumped the gun on that...” Jacqueline explains, abandoning her seat and making her way around her desk to stand closer to Jane, who hasn’t moved from her place at the door. “I was supposed to talk to you tomorrow.”

 

Jane doesn’t know what to say to that, to any of it, so she just nods and looks down at her feet. She doesn’t even know why she’s still here or what she’s looking for, exactly—

 

“This wasn’t… my idea. Or what I wanted to happen. I want you to know that.”

 

Not until she hears it.

 

She raises her eyes and nods again, giving her boss - her former boss, she quickly corrects herself - a small, grateful smile. She is having trouble finding words right now, but hopes that Jacqueline knows that what she just said means more to Jane than she can articulate, and makes this shitty situation that much more bearable. 

 

“Regardless… you should think of this as an opportunity,” Jacqueline says with an encouragingly lilt to her voice, entering ‘inspiring mentor’ mode as she moves closer to where Jane is standing. “Digital is receiving a lot of support from the board right now, and being a full-time writer for the dot-com could be very good for you and your career.”

 

“Just… remember what I told you before about giving Patrick a chance.”

 

Jane finds her words then, but decides to keep them to herself. It wouldn’t do either of them any good right now to bring up the fact that the man’s first move as head of digital was to use Jane as a pawn to flex his power over Jacqueline - not exactly a promising start to things.

 

And finding out that Jacqueline is in such a vulnerable position right now that she wasn’t able to keep Jane on her team makes the knot in her stomach - that had all but disappeared after their previous conversation in this office, where she had reassured Jane she had no regrets about publishing her article - return with a vengeance. 

 

“I… I don’t know what to say.” Jane feels bereft, like a chapter of her life has just closed. This isn’t goodbye, she reminds herself. They’re still going to see each other every day, Jacqueline isn’t going anywhere... 

 

“My door will always be open to you. If you need me, come and find me.”

 

“What we did together was amazing.”

 

“Careful or I might just take you up on that,” Jane says with a timid chuckle. 

 

“See that you do,” Jacqueline replies, a wistful smile on her face as she reaches out and squeezes Jane’s shoulder.

 

The knot in her stomach loosens a tiny bit as a result.

 


 

 

II. 3x02 Plus It Up

 

“What’s wrong?” Jane hears Kat ask as she enters the fashion closet, closing the door behind her.

 

“What’s wrong? How about you ask me what’s right, that’d be a shorter list,” Jane spits out, laying down on one of the futons, spread eagle. She’s aware she’s being dramatic, but she also doesn’t give a damn.

 

“What did Patrick do this time?” an exasperated Kat tries again as she approaches her. It gets under Jane’s skin a bit, the way she’s almost… dismissive of her feelings about him. She actually seems to like the guy. Just like Ryan does.

 

Is she crazy? Why can’t anyone else see what’s happening here?

 

“I’m sorry, I forgot you were in his fan club,” Jane says drily. 

 

“No, I’m in no fan clubs here," Kat raises her hands. "I just think...”

 

What?” Jane doesn’t mean to sound so snappy, but she’s stone-cold sober, celibate, off carbs, writing an article she doesn’t want to write for a boss she doesn’t want to work for. So sue me, she thinks, for being a little… snappy.

 

“I just think you’re punishing him for not being Jacqueline. And that’s not really fair, is it?”

 

Jane sits up and shoots Kat a look, but her friend doesn’t back down, just widens her eyes a bit in response.

 

“I wonder if you’d be saying this if you heard the way he spoke to her earlier today," Jane argues. "He was… condescending and disrespectful.” When she overheard Patrick saying that throwing elbows for the same talent meant that he was slipping, as if he were superior to Jacqueline and the magazine... it made Jane see red.

 

“Well, that sucks, but Jacqueline is a big girl. She can handle him. And I seem to recall something about her telling you to give him a chance?”

 

Jane just stares at her.

 

“I’m really not your favorite person right now, am I?”

 

Jane doesn’t miss a beat when she shakes her head no. 

 

“You’re still coming to the fundraiser tonight though, right?” Kat asks.

 

The tentative way in which her friend asks that question makes Jane snap out of it a little bit. She never meant for Kat to question her support. “Of course, I wouldn’t miss it,” she says, reaching out to grab her hand. “I’m sorry I’m so cranky, it’s just… a lot to deal with, you know? Between the injections, having to write this story with Ryan, losing Jacqueline—“

 

“You haven’t ‘lost’ Jacqueline,” Kat protests, as she takes a seat next to a pouting Jane and wraps an arm around her shoulders. “If we were to leave this closet right now and walk just a few feet we’d probably see her sitting at her desk or walking on that treadmill of hers. And you could just... ignore Andrew and go right in - as you do - and talk to her for a bit.”

 

“My door will always be open to you. If you need me, come and find me.”

 

“Yeah, I suppose I could…” Jane agrees, heaving a pensive sigh. Kat chuckles, leaning her head against hers. 

 

*

 

Just when Jane thought her day couldn’t get any worse—

 

“I’m dating you right now, and I told you, I wanna be involved.”

 

“I don’t want you involved.” 

 

Jane doesn’t understand why it is so difficult for Ryan to understand this. Her egg freezing process and everything it entails… is not about him. Logically, she knows she shouldn’t be made to feel bad for wanting to keep something so deeply personal to herself, no matter her reasons for doing so, and the fact that her boyfriend, who claims to want to support her, is not willing to respect her wishes because of how he feels about her needs, should make her angry - it’s selfish of him, period. Instead, she feels sad and guilty for not letting him in, for not giving him what he wants. Her heart is simply not willing to listen to her head, not when her head made him walk away just now. Not when she might have lost him for good.

 

She is definitely not in the mood for this party. It’s only her love for her friend that has her here, dressed up in an uncomfortable, itchy dress, her hair squeezed into a much too-tight bun, and drinking a club soda, when all she wants to do is go home, climb into bed and pretend the past couple of days never happened. Dream that she is still working for Jacqueline, that Patrick taking over digital never happened and that she hasn’t basically been coerced into writing a piece that set off this deeply undesirable chain of events.

 

“Is Jacqueline really friends with Sasha?” Patrick asks then, clearly surprised and reluctantly impressed by the sight of the arriving pair. The question just makes Jane, who’s caught up in her guilt trip about Ryan, internally roll her eyes at her new boss. Well, duh, Patrick. She can’t believe she’s stuck with this guy.  

 

Quickly glancing over at where a radiant Jacqueline is standing with Sasha Velour, Jane’s heart pangs at the sight of her boss - former boss, she corrects herself, not for the first time. She can’t examine this, not right now. It’s the last thing she needs.

 

“Jacqueline’s friends with everyone,” is all she says before walking off. Saying her goodbyes to Kat, she leaves, vowing not to give another thought to Patrick, Jacqueline or anyone else at this fundraiser for the rest of the night. 

 

She has an appointment with a very large needle and she needs to get home.

 

*

 

“It’s almost ten-thirty.”

 

Jane looks up at Ryan standing on her front stoop. 

 

They give each other another chance. 

 


 

 

III. 3x04 The Deep End

 

“A friend of ours worked with her a few years ago. When she came back from her Pamela Dolan shoot her eyes were red from crying… she had bruises. I mean, she was really shaken up."

 

“Oh my God. What happened?”

 

“We don’t know. She never really opened up about it. But whatever it was, it was obviously bad enough that it sent her back to Missouri.”

 

*

 

“Ah, Jane. How did it go at the rage room? Did you have a good time?” Patrick asks when she enters the bullpen.

 

“I... did, actually,” Jane replies as she approaches her boss, who'd been talking to Alex over at this desk and moves to lean against hers. Her mind still reeling from her conversation with the models earlier, Jane is nothing but honest when she says, “Thank you… for asking me to go. Really.” Thank you so, so much.

 

Whatever he was expecting to hear, that wasn’t it. Patrick seems taken aback for a moment, but recovers quickly. “I had a feeling it might be… therapeutic for you,” he says with a pointed look.

 

“You can say that,” Jane nods, looking away. Definitely therapeutic… 

 

And unexpectedly inspirational.

 

Nodding as well, Patrick puts his hands in his pockets, balancing on the balls of his feet. “Good, good. Well, I’m glad.” 

 

Jane doesn’t say anything, just smiles.

 

He frowns, clearly bewildered by her reaction, but doesn’t press. His voice is upbeat when he finally asks, making a finger gun and pointing it at her, “Piece on my e-mail by 12 tomorrow?”

 

“You got it,” Jane says, returning the gesture. He shakes his head and says, as he turns to leave, “I told you we were going to have fun together, Jane.”

 

Once he sets up shop at a desk farther away, Jane calmly places her bag on her own desk and takes her seat. Next thing she knows, Alex is standing beside her and asking, in hushed tones, “Ok, what was that?”

 

“What was what?” Jane returns the question as she busies herself turning on her computer.

 

“It was like The Invasion of the Body Snatchers over here, I’ve never seen you talk to the guy like that,” he argues, looking over where Patrick is now working on his laptop.

 

“Like what?”

 

“You were nice.”

 

“I can be nice.”

 

“Not to Patrick, you can’t.”

 

“Well, I just was, wasn’t I?”

 

Alex stares at Jane long enough that he sees her fake smile morph into a satisfied smirk, a mischievous glint in her eye.

 

“I knew it, you’re plotting something,” he guesses, pointing a finger at the positively Machiavellic expression that crosses Jane’s face for a brief moment before her clueless, innocent mask slips back in place. “You know what, I don’t even want to know…”

 

She raises her hands and widens her eyes. When Alex returns to his desk, Jane bites her lip and turns her attention back to her screen. 

 

“Thank you, Patrick...” she whispers to herself as she checks her e-mail. A few moments later, when Jane sees Oliver leaving his office and heading to the break room, the pleasant smugness she’s feeling is immediately replaced by butterflies in her stomach, as she figures out her next step. Taking a deep breath, she gets up to go talk to him.

 

*

 

Jane doesn’t even know how badly she wants this, not until she slips into Jacqueline’s office to try and convince the woman to take this leap with her and it hits her like a ton of bricks. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how strongly Jane feels about this story, or how sound her reasoning for bringing it to Jacqueline, the odds are still stacked against her, and there’s a very real possibility she’ll leave this room having received a big fat ‘no’ from her old boss.

 

The thing is, this is not just about the story - she could always find another way to do it. If her research on Patrick has taught her anything is that he’s not one to shy away from controversy. But there’s a reason why she kept this lead from him in the first place. This is - and has been from the start - about coming back where she belongs. 

 

Jane wants to come home. 

 

She should’ve prepared for the worst-case scenario, but she’s run out of time and all she can do right now is state her case and hope for the best. 

 

“I stumbled upon a story… and I would really love to write it for the magazine.”

 

“Oh. But you write for the dot-com now.” The cut-and-dry manner in which Jacqueline says that is a blow, a bad omen if Jane’s ever heard one, but she soldiers on.

 

“I know, but… I think this piece could be huge. And it’s complicated so I really needed to go to somebody that I trust.”

 

Jane feels vulnerable admitting to such a thing, but when Jacqueline returns her shy, nervous smile with a smile of her own, she feels immediately at ease.

 

“What’s the story?”

 

And just like that, Jane receives confirmation that her trust was not misplaced.  

 

*

 

“Jane. You are definitely a Scarlet writer. And I love your determination and your passion. I think you should definitely go after this story. And I think you should write it, on your own.”

 

"What are you saying?"

 

“Well I’m sure you’ve noticed Patrick and the dot-com are thriving and that is… wonderful, but it’s definitely shifted the dynamic here at Scarlet."

 

"Yeah, but you told me not to worry about that."

 

“Yes. I may have been off when I said that.”

 

In the exacts thirty-six seconds in which that particular exchange takes place, Jane experiences what it’s like to ascend to heaven only to plummet straight down to hell.

 

She barely has time to process the things - the really, really nice things - Jacqueline said to her, when, in the same breath, the woman let Jane know her instincts have been right all along — Patrick was, is, very much a threat. One that is keeping Jacqueline from helping her, but the Pamela Dolan story, as huge as she thinks it is - or rather, could be - feels insignificant next to the fear coursing through her body that has her blood running cold and her heart in a vice.

 

It’s one thing not to have Jacqueline as her boss, and still have her around and running the magazine. It’s another thing entirely to have her… gone.

 

“Jane, Jacqueline is not leaving Scarlet.” Kat and Sutton try to talk her down the ledge she’s on, dismissing her concerns by citing a lack of rumors around the issue, which she corrects them on straight away (They may have been quick to forget New York Magazine’s “The Decline of the Celebrity Editor”, but she hasn’t). But if there’s one thing this Patrick situation has taught her is to trust her instincts. They may be off on a lot of things, but for some reason, when it comes to Jacqueline Carlyle, they seem right on the money, almost 100% of the time.

 

There is no Scarlet without Jacqueline. She is the heart and soul of this place, and Jane needs to do something. She just doesn’t know what. 

 

*

 

“I wish you were here,” Jane says, phone sandwiched between her ear and shoulder as she fills up a kettle and puts it on the stove.

 

“Me too,” she hears Ryan say on the other end of the line. “I still say you’re worrying about nothing though.”

 

“You should talk to Kat and Sutton, I’m sure they’ll let you join their club,” Jane says drily. “You guys could have t-shirts made.”

 

Ryan’s chuckle doesn’t do anything to assuage Jane’s fears, not after she’s just witnessed Jacqueline pacing her office and then throwing what Jane assumes was her speech for the gala across the room in frustration. That was yet another sign that her fears are valid, no matter what anyone says.

 

“I want to do something,” she explains, “But it’s not like I can just… convene a board meeting and tell them, ‘you’re making a gigantic mistake’.”

 

“Are they though?” Jane is stunned into silence, more than a little taken aback by what she just heard, when Ryan adds, “Look, I know you don’t like the guy, but he seems to be really good at what he does.”

 

Jane doesn’t like where this is going, not one bit. “Yeah, so…” 

 

“You know what, this is a different topic for a different day,” Ryan backtracks with a sigh. “For now… I just think you should keep in mind that as much as we want to help, sometimes there’s not much we can do for the people we care about, except be there for them.”

 

Jane knows that’s true, but even showing her support is tricky in this case. It’s not like she can just drop by at Jacqueline’s with a bottle of booze and some greasy takeout so they can have a girl’s night in and bitch about her problems—

 

“What’s funny?”, Ryan asks, and Jane realizes she’s been laughing at the images her mind conjured up.

 

“Nothing,” she replies, closing her eyes and shaking her head, leaning against the counter. “Nothing at all…”

 

She feels ill-equipped to deal with this issue because she’s used to being on the other side of a crisis, with Jacqueline helping her navigate it. She doesn’t give Jane the answers or tells her what to do to fix her problems, but she’ll help her see things a bit more clearly… guide her, inspire her—

 

Jane’s eyes fly open.

 

“Ryan… I have to go. I think I know what to do.”

 

“You do? Oh, ok, talk to you la—“

 

“Bye!” A few seconds later she’s on her computer, browsing the Jacqueline pieces Patrick’s running on the dot-com in celebration of her ten years as Editor-in-Chief. She clicks on an article that, by now, she knows almost like the back of her hand, and re-reads it anyway.

 

Then she does some digging online and it doesn’t take her long to find the information she needs. 

 

*

 

“Your palm is all sweaty,” Kat points out as she takes Jane’s left hand on the back of the taxi. 

 

Jane doesn’t know what to say to that. She pulls her hand away and distractedly wipes it off on her dress, turning her head to look out the window. The closer they get to the venue, the more nervous she gets. She’s given up on trying to explain herself to her friends, not when they think she’s being “dramatic”, so she stays quiet, watching the city lights. Taking a deep breath, she lets it out slowly, thanking her lucky stars she didn’t eat anything before leaving or she’d probably be sticking her head outside this very window to throw up in a minute.

 

Not knowing whether she’s headed to a celebration of her mentor’s career thus far or her “retirement party” is sucking the whole fun out of the evening, to put it mildly.

 

When Kat nudges her arm and Jane turns to look at her, her nerves must be written all over her face, because her friend immediately rubs her arm in a comforting gesture, “Hey,” she says as she gives her a small, reassuring smile. “You got this, babe.”

 

“I got this,” she repeats like a mantra, leaning her head back and closing her eyes. “I got this…”

 

*

 

As they make their way inside, after taking a selfie with a giant poster of Jacqueline Jane’s eyes immediately scan the crowd looking for her. The place is jam-packed, but it doesn’t take long to locate the woman, a stunning vision in royal blue.

 

“There she is,” Jane says to Kat with a sigh. She can’t look away.

 

“Who would want her to leave Scarlet?”

 

“Not me. I’m pretty sure not her. Wish me luck.”

 

“Good luck.”

 

As Jane approaches Jacqueline and Ian, her heart is beating so fast she can hear her blood rushing in her ears. As the group exchanges pleasantries, she’s mercifully spared from having to ask the woman for a moment alone when her husband tactfully makes himself scarce, saying something about getting more champagne.

 

Then it’s just the two of them, and, like always, Jane finds that regardless of how she’s feeling or how dire the circumstances, this - talking to Jacqueline, being in her presence -  feels remarkably easy. Her heart actually slows down a bit, and the nerves settle into a familiar excitement - a hum of electricity that runs under Jane’s skin whenever she’s around Jacqueline and makes her feel more alert and awake. The thought of this woman not being a part of her life anymore pushes Jane past her self-doubt and insecurities to do what she came here to do.

 

It’s her turn to inspire.

 

“I was actually re-reading the Gotham Girls piece for, like, the tenth time."

 

“What is it with you and roller derby?” Jacqueline seems genuinely intrigued. It’s such a small thing, but Jane is tickled pink.

 

“Well, I just really love Sandra DiMesa's story, how she broke her neck when she was forty-one and then three months later, she skated in the championship.”

 

“She is a force of nature.” Takes one to know one, Jane thinks.

 

“And she's still skating. I found her on Facebook and I reached out. She says congrats by the way.”

 

“Oh, well, that's nice of her.”

 

“I actually asked her why she still does it, why she puts herself through the work, day after day. She says it's because she loves it and because she's good at it, and she doesn't care if people think that it's time for her to hang up her skates.”

 

“But most importantly - it's because her fearlessness and her heart make every woman on that team better.”

 

So Jane ad-libbed that last part. Even as she’s speaking, she knows Jacqueline knows that, too. She has no regrets as she stares into ocean blue eyes, bright with tears, and understands it meant just as much for the woman standing in front of her to hear those words as it meant for Jane to say them. 

 

She wasn’t subtle, the meaning behind her words clear. 

 

Don’t give up. 

 

We need you. 

 

I need you.

 

Stay.

 

When Jane finally leaves and makes her way to her table, where her friends are waiting for her, all she can do is hope it was enough.

 

*

 

“So these… Pamela Dolan rumors. That would be a big story for Scarlet.”

 

“So I can write it for you.”

 

“Oh, you’re not writing it for me. You’re writing it with me.”

 

*

 

The cab ride home has a decidedly different atmosphere from the one to the gala. Not that anyone would be able to tell, as if they were to peer inside the car they’d also see a dolled up Jane with her hands on her lap staring out the right side window. Even her accelerated heartbeat and sweaty palms are a match to earlier in the evening - only the reason for those is something else altogether. 

 

Leaning her head against the backrest and closing her eyes, Jane takes a deep breath and exhales hard through her nose. 

 

She smiles.

 

*

 

“Hey, how was the party?” Ryan asks when he hears the front door open. Dropping his magazine on the coffee table, he twists his body on the couch to look at Jane as she slowly makes her way inside.

 

“Jane?”

 

She says nothing, doesn't even look at him as she sedately drops her clutch and keys on the counter. Her earrings are next, followed by the pins holding her hair up, and, once they’re out, she shakes her hair down with her fingers.   

 

“Jane...” 

 

She then moves to stand directly in front of Ryan on the couch, finally locking eyes with him. Reaching behind her, she undoes the zipper of her dress, that immediately pools at her feet. Stepping out of it, still wearing her heels, she finally straddles a slack-jawed Ryan and kisses him senseless.

 

“Not that I’m complaining,” he manages to get out when they finally break apart for air, “But what’s got—“

 

“Shhh, no talking,” she says, touching his lips with an index finger. She doesn’t want to hear his voice, not now. Not when the hum of electricity is cranked up so high, it feels like there’s an entire beehive buzzing under her skin and making her almost out of her mind with— 

 

“—with me.”

 

Jane buries her face in Ryan’s neck, and bites down, hard.

 

It doesn’t take long after that for him to take the hint.

 

When he gets up, Jane on his lap, she wraps her legs around his waist as he stumbles his way to her bedroom.

 

That night she fucks her boyfriend right through the mattress.

 

*

 

Jane is sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and playing on her phone, when Ryan pops up behind the counter. 

 

“Morning, sunshine,” she greets him with an amused chuckle. Her boyfriend makes for a comic sight standing there - bleary-eyed, half asleep and hair sticking up in every direction. “I made coffee.” 

 

The promise of caffeine seems to perk him up some. Dragging his feet into the kitchen, he kisses her head before heading over to the coffee maker.

 

“What time is it?” He croaks, looking a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Jane up and down. 

 

“It’s still early. I just couldn’t sleep anymore so I figured I’d get up, get ready and… start the day,” she explains with a content sigh.

 

Jane was just too full of nervous energy to get a good night's sleep. After exhausting her boyfriend into a near coma, and taking what amounted to a power nap herself, she decided it was pointless to stay in bed. 

 

He frowns a little but nods as he takes his seat across from her. “I’d ask again how the party went, but judging by this morning, not to mention last night’s events—“

 

“She’s no longer hanging up her skates,” Jane victoriously announces with a raised eyebrow, taking a sip of her coffee. 

 

When Ryan gives her a confused look, she clarifies. “Jacqueline is not retiring anymore. Well, at least she doesn’t seem… resigned to her fate any longer.”

 

“Well, I’m happy for you. I know that’s what you wanted.”

 

It’s all Jane wanted. It’s also what needed to happen. Ryan’s comment brings back their phone conversation a couple of days prior and what he’d said - or rather, insinuated - about Patrick and Jacqueline and Jane doesn’t want to get into that, not now.

 

Changing the subject, she says, “So... last night was fun.”

 

“It was...” He agrees with a dazed little smile that makes Jane giggle. “I was… definitely happy to be there." When Jane shoots him a confused look, he seems a little confused himself and tries again, widening his eyes, “Really happy to be there.”

 

“That’s… a strange thing to say,” she says with a weirded-out chuckle.

 

“Oh, I didn’t mean anything by it,” he says breezily, trying to dismiss the subject.

 

Jane is not having it, however. “Why did you say it, then?” 

 

“It’s just that… I get the feeling I didn’t have much to do with it?” he explains, a little reluctantly.

 

“‘It’?”

 

“With any… of it.”

 

She gives Ryan a blank stare. 

 

He sighs. “You were ready to go when you walked through the front door, is what I’m saying. And I basically just laid there? That’s not a bad thing,” he quickly adds the last part when he sees the look on her face, “I love it when you feel confident and… take charge, you know that. And knowing what I know now about your evening’s… success, it makes sense that you were… excited.”

 

Jane bites her lip as she looks at him. 

 

“So I was just—“ 

 

“—happy to be there, yeah, gotcha.” Everything Ryan is saying is 100% true. And not that she’d admit to this, but if he hadn’t been there, Reliable Buddy would’ve taken care of the job just as well (and probably faster), but she’s still… uncomfortable by what her boyfriend just said.

 

“I really should get going,” she says, clearing her throat. “I want to get in early to get a start on the Pamela Dolan story—“

 

“Oh, so you are… doing the Dolan story?”

 

“Um, yeah,” Jane says, shaking her head. “I guess I didn’t get to that part—”

 

“So you’re writing it… for Jacqueline,” he half asks, half states.

 

“With her, actually. We’re co-authoring the piece.”

 

Ryan’s eyebrows nearly touch his hairline, and the weird tension in the room escalates to nearly unbearable levels. Jane doesn’t know what’s happening and she’s not sure she wants to know. All she knows is that it’s nearly killed the high that she’s been riding since last night, and she just wants to get the hell out of here before it’s gone for good.

 

“Congratulations… again,” he finally says with a nod. “I’m happy for you.”

 

You’ve already said that. “Thanks,” she mumbles. Picking up her cup, she takes a large gulp of her coffee and burns her tongue in her attempt to finish it off as quickly as possible.

 


 

 

IV. 3x05 Technical Difficulties

 

“So, I hear you had an interesting dinner companion last night.”

 

Jane’s eyes quickly leave her computer and find Jacqueline’s, who’s sitting at her desk. She stares at the woman with wide eyes from her place on the couch. 

 

“Richard and Sutton’s dinner party last night…” Jacqueline explains as if trying to jog her memory. “Patrick mentioned Richard invited him—”

 

“Well, see, in the version of events I heard, he invited himself over,” Jane corrects her.

 

“Ah,” Jacqueline says. “Yes, knowing Richard, and… knowing Patrick, that tracks.”

 

Jane smiles and then is back to her notes, when she hears Jacqueline say as if speaking to herself, “To be a fly on that wall…”

 

“Wha— why, what… did he tell you?” Jane is aware she probably has a deer-in-headlights look on her face right now, especially because of the way Jacqueline’s eyes narrow slightly and she cocks her head to the side.

 

“Just that he had dinner… at Richard and Sutton’s last night,” she repeats, slowly. “He happened to mention you were there as well.”

 

“Yes, Kat and I were, for, uh… cooking assistance, but mostly, for moral support,” Jane elaborates, welcoming the change in subject. “She was meeting some of his friends for the first time.”

 

“Oh. That was nice of you.”

 

“Yeah, well, the three of us, we’re a team.”

 

“Yes, you are,” Jacqueline agrees with a warm smile. When she goes back to her computer, Jane suppresses a sigh of relief and returns to her own work. But she can’t help but steal glances at Jacqueline over her laptop every now and then. So he didn’t say anything? Anything at all? Why did he mention it to Jacqueline then? Why say Jane was there-- 

 

“Jane…” she finally says in an impatient tone, without looking away from her screen. “Out with it.”

 

Jane doesn't usually get nervous around Jacqueline these days. The more they work closely together, the more she sees her as a co-worker, something resembling a friend, even, instead of an imposing and distant boss figure. But when Jacqueline looks at her a certain way or uses that particular tone of voice, the respect and admiration she feels for the woman in such copious amounts suddenly begin to weigh heavily on her, until she reverts back to that 21 year-old intern with terrible bangs and suspenders meeting the Jacqueline Carlyle for the first time at Scarlet's reception desk.

 

That's what she tells herself to justify what happens next.

 

“I tossed the salad.” It’s out before she can think. “I was in charge of… the salad…”

 

Jacqueline looks at Jane like she just had a stroke for a long moment before nodding. “Ah yes, the salad. The unsung hero of dinner parties.”

 

Jane fights down a laugh even as she says, mock indignant, “Why is everyone making fun of me? There is an actual art to salad making—“ Not that she’d know anything about it...

 

“Of course, the uh… lettuce to tomato ratio is crucial to the success of any meal,” Jacqueline deadpans, the twinkle in her eye betraying her amusement.

 

“Are you done yet?” Jane asks jokingly, but she doesn’t want her to be. She feels like could go back and forth like this with Jacqueline for hours.

 

“Well, that depends— are you ready to tell me why you got so nervous when I mentioned Patrick?”

 

“Ok, here’s the thing…” Jane says, setting her laptop next to her on the couch and moving to take a seat on one of the chairs in front of  Jacqueline’s desk. “Some… alcohol was had...” And mistakes were made.

 

“It was a dinner party...” Jacqueline points out, laying back on her chair and getting comfortable, crossing her hands on her stomach.

 

“Yes. And he was being so… I don’t know… Patrick-y, I guess?”

 

“Well, Patrick’s gonna Patrick.”

 

“Yeah, but like I said - alcohol…” Jane explains, making a motion with both hands to illustrate how those two things definitely don’t go together.

 

“Hmmm, yes, I can see how that could become a problem.”

 

“He was just being so… cavalier about the hack,” Jane says, taking a turn for the serious. “So when we were all having dinner and he asked for my take on the leaked e-mails I… gave it to him. Said I didn’t appreciate how he was making light of something that could hurt so many people.”

 

Here goes nothing. “I also… told him about these e-mails I sent out with the rules to a drinking game I created where you’re supposed to take a shot every time he says namaste or… I don’t know, sits on that damn stress ball of his instead of a normal chair— what’s wrong with chairs?

 

Jacqueline shrugs. “No idea - personally, I’m a fan.”

 

“I stand by what I said, especially because of everything we’re going through right now with Ingrid and with what this hack could mean for the Pamela Dolan story.” 

 

Jane sees the exact moment Jacqueline realizes why she was so upset, the amusement in her eyes turning into sympathy. “But I’m ready to admit it wasn’t the time or place for that conversation, so I guess I was a little nervous as to how you’d react... especially after you said we should give him a chance.”

 

Jacqueline regards her for a long moment, her face a neutral mask. Jane imagines one of two things happening now - she’s either about to get a scolding or a “I’m disappointed in you, Jane”-type talking to. 

 

Jacqueline sighs, and finally speaks.

 

“Part of me is proud… and let’s just leave it at that.”

 

The small, complicit smile that accompanies that statement is everything Jane needed at this moment, and she returns it with a grateful smile of her own, letting out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding.

 

“You’re gonna have to forward me those e-mails,” Jacqueline says, sitting up on her chair again.

 

“Sorry?” 

 

“The ones with the rules to this drinking game of yours, of course.” 

 

“Sure, but I hope you’re planning on playing it with coffee, too, unless you’re looking to die of alcohol poisoning,” Jane says with a laugh. “Plus, I’m living proof alcohol and Patrick a smart combination do not make...”

 

“You were playing your game at the party?”, Jacqueline asks, a little confused.

 

“Not exactly, no. I… basically would just have a drink every time I’d see him or… hear his voice or… think of him, when he happened to be in a different room—”

 

“‘Some alcohol’ was had, huh?”

 

“I mean, I blame it on Sutton, too,” Jane says, her eyes sparkling as she explains, “She actually keeps a bottle of tequila in her bathroom.”

 

“Well, that’s… kind of genius, actually,” Jacqueline shakes her head, seeming genuinely impressed. “I’m gonna have to remember that for my own dinner parties.”

 


 

 

V. 3x07 Mixed Messages

 

“Jacqueline: I found two models who received huge monetary settlements after working with Pamela. Any updates on your end?”

 

*

 

As Jane exits the elevator and enters the bullpen she runs into Sutton, who’s pulling a rack of clothes into her office and stops dead on her tracks at the sight of her friend.

 

“Oh hey, how did it go with Ryan?”

 

Her thoughts on the Dolan story and Jacqueline, it takes a moment for Jane to switch gears and recall her earlier conversation with her boyfriend. “Ah... good,” she answers. Before the blonde can say anything to that she adds with a sigh, “Another... crisis averted.” 

 

Jane has two hearts about that conversation. She was - and is - relieved for having cleared the air before Ryan left on his book tour - it wouldn’t have felt ok to have Alex move in otherwise. But even though they’ve talked, and Ryan explained his reasons for reacting so poorly to the whole roommate situation, Jane can’t shake the feeling they haven’t fixed anything. It’s like the root cause of the issue is still there, conveniently buried until it decides to rear its ugly head once again.

 

But one thing at a time...

 

“I have to talk to Jacqueline - catch you later?” She says to a frowning Sutton, not giving her a chance to reply before making a beeline for Jacqueline’s office. Ignoring Andrew, she knocks on the glass. 

 

*

 

“I’ve reached out to the two women I found - one of them got back to me, says she wants to meet tomorrow at 7 at a bar downtown to talk. Does that work for you?” Jacqueline asks.

 

“Um, yeah, of course,” Jane replies with a small nod of her head.

 

“Good, I’ll let her know,” Jacqueline says in a clear dismissal. Jane should take the cue and get up from her chair but she seems rooted to the spot.

 

“Is there something else?” Jacqueline asks. “Jane?”

 

Frowning, Jane shakes her head again. “I’m sorry, it’s just… I’ve been thinking about something.”

 

Now it’s Jacqueline who’s frowning. 

 

“I guess I was just wondering if you meant something you said yesterday.”

 

“Well, I do try to make a habit of saying things I mean, so… you’re going to have to be a liiiitle more specific,” Jacqueline says, trying to lighten the mood.

 

“Cammy Hartmann.”

 

“What about them?”

 

“When you introduced me to them you said something about trying to steal me back… from the dot-com.”

 

Jacqueline opens her mouth and closes it, understanding crossing her features. She sighs. “That’s right, I did.”

 

“I know it’s… too soon to be thinking about this investigation ending, but now that things are finally starting to happen, I can’t help but think about once it’s over and—“

 

“— and you go back to working for the dot-com,” she nods.

 

“And Patrick, yeah,” Jane says. “When you said that to Cammy I thought that maybe you were just trying to get them to trust me—“

 

“No, I… didn’t have to say… that… in order to get them to trust you,” Jacqueline points out gently. Biting her lip, she narrows her eyes before saying, “I don’t want to make it seem like it was a throwaway comment because it wasn’t. But I didn’t have a plan in place either…”

 

Jane frowns in confusion as Jacqueline sighs and tries again. She carefully chooses her words. “When Patrick poached you… I didn’t feel like I was in a position to do anything about it. But this little birdie recently reminded me of some really important things. One of them being, not to give up on what matters to me, not without putting up a fight.”

 

Jane is rendered speechless, a genuinely happy smile appearing on her face. It’s nothing short of amazing to her that something she said had the power to help or influence the woman in front of her. That this... what they have... goes both ways.

 

Jacqueline returns the smile before it disappears from her face. She shifts in her seat and clears her throat. “Of course… with everything I said to you before about the dot-com’s... success… are you sure coming back is something you’d be… interested in?”

 

That snaps Jane out of her happy trance. She can’t believe what she just heard. “Something I’d be interest—“ she repeats incredulously. Honestly, for such a smart woman… “Yes, I’d be interested! I am… interested.”

 

The smile is back. Jacqueline nods, a glint in her eye before her face drops again. “I wish I could say it’ll be easy to make this happen. I explained to you before what the situation is with the board right now, and Patrick...”

 

“Yes, yes you did,” Jane says with a frustrated sigh.

 

“Having said that, now that I’m convinced we’re on the same page, I’ll see what I can do,” Jacqueline reassures her. “In the meantime, we’re going to have to be patient.”

 

We. Jane’s stomach does a flip. She shrugs, a smirk on her lips as she says, “I mean… I could always find another story ‘better suited’,” she says, doing air quotes, “For the magazine, that you feel compelled to work on with me, once we’re done with this one?”

 

Jacqueline presses her lips together trying to suppress a smile, as Jane continues, “And do the same thing after that, and again after that…”

 

Jane is aware she’s being a little silly now, but she’s just too damn happy to do anything about it. Besides, ever since witnessing Jacqueline burst into a fit of giggles in this office when she and her friends confessed to having almost killed a man with a sandwich, it’s basically become a goal of hers to see something like that happening again.

 

And Jane takes her goals very seriously.

 

“See, I think Patrick would catch on eventually…” Jacqueline says, narrowing her eyes.

 

“Yeah, probably, but by then we’d basically be the next Woodward and Bernstein and he wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.”

 

Jacqueline laughs freely at that. The sound is music to Jane’s ears. 

 


 

VI. 3x08 Revival

 

“Pamela is so powerful. Who is gonna believe me?”

 

“Well, what if it wasn’t just you? What if we got other women to break their NDAs with you?”

 

“Like who?”

 

“Well, I’d need to get them to agree first before I reveal their names to you but I will call them and then… I’ll talk to you.”

 

“Okay.”

 

*

 

“I have a good feeling about her,” Jane says after Eden leaves the bar.

 

“Me too,” Jacqueline agrees with a sigh, taking a sip of her club soda. “She’s scared, but there’s strength in numbers. Hopefully, if they all agree to talk… they’ll feel safe enough to break their NDAs.”

 

When Jane nods, Jacqueline adds, “I’ll forward you the other women’s info so you can get in touch.”

 

Just then, Jane’s phone beeps. She rolls her eyes.

 

“Something wrong?”

 

“No, nothing, it’s just Alex asking me to get milk while I’m out.” 

 

When Jacqueline shoots her a puzzled look, Jane explains. “He’s my new roommate. As of… today, as a matter of fact.”

 

Jacqueline nods, “The lady with the iguana didn’t make the cut, huh?”

 

Jane is confused for a second but then remembers she was in Jacqueline’s office when the woman arrived for her roommate interview. “Ah, no, she didn’t,” she says with a laugh. “As lovely as Molly and Norman were— that’s the iguana’s name, by the way—”

 

Jacqueline chuckles, and Jane continues, “I just felt it wouldn’t be a good fit, you know?”

 

“Well, when you know, you know,” Jacqueline shrugs.

 

Jane smiles. She’s about to ask Jacqueline if she wants to get another drink, or something to eat, maybe, when the woman’s phone beeps with a message. She offers, “Oh, look, it’s my roommate. Well, one of them…”

 

“Anything you need to get from the store? Maybe we could hit a 7-Eleven after leaving here,” Jane says, half-joking, half-serious. She just can’t picture Jacqueline Carlyle pushing a supermarket cart or even setting foot at a convenience store, especially not in a Haider Ackermann blazer that, alone, costs more than her rent.

 

 Which means she’s dying to see it.

 

“No, nothing like that. My assistance with English homework is being requested, I’m afraid.”

 

“Ah,” Jane says. It surprises her how disappointed she feels. She had no prior plans to do so, but once Eden left, she found herself hoping to spend more time with Jacqueline. This investigation of theirs means there are days where they basically live in each other’s pockets - to the point Andrew doesn’t even bat an eye when Jane enters her office without bothering to talk to him anymore - but it’s like the more time they spend together, the more Jane seems to crave her company.

 

Stupid kid— whichever one it is, she thinks. 

 

“I can, however, give you a ride if you like,” Jacqueline says after replying to the message. 

 

“Uh, sure, yeah, I’d appreciate it.”

 

*

 

“Jane will write the story and we will do a top-shelf photoshoot.”

 

“With what photographer?”

 

“Yeah. Good ones might hesitate to shoot something that takes Pamela Dolan down.”

 

“I promise… we will take care of you.”

 

“I’m in.”

 

“Yeah. Me too.”

 

*

 

“So, that went well,” Jane says with a relieved sigh, closing the door behind her and returning to the living room.

 

“Yes… I think we got through to them,” Jacqueline answers carefully, typing on her phone from where she is sitting on Jane’s armchair before looking up at her. Her expression softens and she adds, “You did a really good job today.”

 

Jane smiles. She feels it was Jacqueline’s reassurance that got them agreeing to go on the record, but accepts the compliment anyway.

 

“But… there’s still a long road between now until we go to print.”

 

Jane nods. She understands why Jacqueline is being so cautious. With the threat of the hack still looming over their heads, their investigation is a house of cards that could collapse at any moment. But getting other women on board sharing their own accounts and corroborating Ingrid’s in the process is a major win in their column. Jane feels like they’re finally making progress, and she plans on enjoying the moment while it lasts. There’s a lot riding on the success of this story after all.

 

When she looks at her phone and sees it is almost 3pm, her stomach automatically reminds her of something quite pressing.

 

“Are you in a hurry to go back to Scarlet?”

 

“Hmmm no, why?” Jacqueline, who is back to looking at her phone, asks.

 

“I just realized I haven’t had anything to eat since breakfast. I guess I was too nervous…“ she trails off, shaking her head. “Have you had lunch?”

 

“No, I have… not,” Jacqueline replies, finishing her sentence as she presses a button on her screen. She then puts her phone away, giving Jane her full attention. “I was planning on grabbing something when we got back.”

 

“Well, I was thinking maybe we could order in? I-I know you like Cambodian - there’s this great restaurant not far from here that delivers—“ Jane says as she makes her way into the kitchen and riffles through the drawer where she keeps her takeout menus. Jacqueline follows her.

 

“You remember that,” Jacqueline mentions, sounding… surprised? When Jane finally finds the menu she was looking for and places it on the counter, she regards Jacqueline for a moment. She notices the woman looks as comfortable and as at home perched on her stool as she did sitting on her armchair earlier.

 

“Well, yeah,” she says. “Considering it’s one of only seven facts you told me about yourself that night I had dinner at your place, it’d be pretty hard to forget.”

 

“Seven, huh?” Jacqueline asks, a hint of a smile on her lips as she peruses the menu, eyebrows raised. As Jane looks at her she marvels again at the domesticity of this moment. She also detects the hint of a challenge in her voice.

 

“Would you like to quiz me?”

 

“Ok, yeah, let’s hear the others,” Jacqueline says then, abandoning the menu and resting her forearms on the counter as she looks expectantly at Jane.

 

Jane makes a show of looking away and acting as if she’s pulling something from memory, when, in reality, the information sits on the tip of her tongue. “One husband, two boys, one dog… no church. You like to cook… Cambodian. You also play the cello… badly.”

 

“So badly I’m this close to throwing in the towel on those lessons. I mean, it’s been… almost a decade at this point,” she says, shaking her head. Jane chuckles and Jacqueline narrows her eyes and cocks her head before announcing, “Six down, one to go.”

 

Jane bites her lip as she looks at Jacqueline, who, for whatever reason, is regarding her like she’s the most intriguing specimen on earth. She swallows, hard. “You, uh, also take a statin for your cholesterol.”

 

“Ah, no, not anymore, actually,” Jacqueline says. “Of course, I don’t normally eat takeout on a Tuesday...”

 

Jane laughs. “I’ll update my mental file,” she replies. A beat later, “Anything else I should be adding to it?”

 

Jacqueline is still looking at her in a way that has her sweating bullets. But she’s always been one to reward Jane for her bravery. “I like to drink beer with Cambodian.”

 

Not the kind of information she was hoping to hear, exactly, but… she’ll take it. Another one for her win column today.

 

“I can do beer,” she nods, taking her phone out of her back pocket. “So, what are we ordering?”

 

A smirk shows up on Jacqueline’s face, who finally looks away and starts naming dishes.

 

*

 

“If you were dating a woman who was rich… would you let her pay for everything?”

 

“Whoo, I mean, that would be hard for me. And it would hurt my ego a little. But yeah, if it made her happy.”

 

“Um, but this isn't about me. The question is… what works best for you… and Richard.”

 

Sutton is lost in thought for a while, seemingly processing what she just heard, before she concedes, “Okay, that’s some food for thought right there, Mr. Jeff-lex.”

 

“Damn straight it is,” Alex boasts, and she rolls her eyes at him, as Jane laughs. “Speaking of food, I’m still hungry—“ he says, setting his beer down on the counter and opening the fridge. 

 

After browsing its contents for a minute, he asks, “Uh, when did you get Chinese? These weren’t here when I left for work.” 

 

“Ah, it’s not Chinese, it’s Cambodian,” Jane corrects him. “It’s from when I had lunch with Jacqueline earlier.”

 

“Lunch. You had lunch… with Jacqueline… here?”

 

“Um, yes,” Jane confirms, eyes flicking between Alex and Sutton, who has an intrigued look on her face and tilts her head to look at Jane. “What’s so weird about that?”

 

“Here?” he asks again, pointing to the floor.

 

“Yes, in this kitchen,” Jane says drily. “She sat… right where Sutton is sitting. She ate food. As one does… when having lunch.”

 

“I have to give it to them - this is some excellent Naem Chao.”

 

Jane internally breathes a sigh of relief for not messing this up. “Can you make this dish?”

 

“Yep. And, well, not to toot my own horn, but my version is just as good, if not better,” she says with a confident little smile.

 

“How did you become so well-versed in Cambodian food?” Jane asks, already fascinated.

 

“Well, it happened in Cambodia - not surprisingly - when I was there covering the Civil war for the Times,” Jacqueline explains. “I lived for several months in this little village in the Svay Chek District where I learned their way of life and many of their costumes and traditions. Their cuisine really spoke to me. It stayed with me."

 

At this point, Jane’s all but forgotten about the food on her plate as she listens, enthralled. “I just... fell in love with the people and the place and I’ve gone back several times as a tourist since the early ’90s. Each visit is fascinating, in its own way, even if never quite the same…”

 

“Listen to me, I’m rambling—“ Jacqueline catches herself, chuckling and shaking her head, a little self-conscious. “I’ll shut up now.”

 

“No!“ Jane says quickly — a little too quickly, maybe. “I-I want to hear this.”

 

Jacqueline tilts her head and regards her in silence for a long moment. Jane feels like she's watching the woman carry on a private conversation with herself until she finally heaves a sigh and says, “Yes, I suppose that fact file of yours is a little thin.”

 

“It is,” Jane agrees, nodding. “I would… very much like to add more to it.”

 

I just don’t know how…

 

There is that silence again. “Well... we’re going to have to do something about that, aren’t we?” Jacqueline finally says in a quiet voice, a glint in her eye, and Jane beams like the sun. Then the woman clears her throat and her eyes widen a bit as she checks the time on her phone, “Just… not right now, not if we want to go back to Scarlet in time to get some work done on this Pamela Dolan story today.”

 

Jane watches her with a stupid smile on her face.

 

When Jane comes back to the present, she notices Alex and Sutton staring at her. She quickly recovers, picking up where she left off. “It was the middle of the afternoon. We hadn’t eaten yet. I figured we’d have lunch. She’s a person, you know? She eats.”

 

“Yes, but… here?” Alex’s voice is so high at this point Jane doesn’t know whether to be amused or offended.

 

“What’s wrong with here?” 

 

“There’s nothing wrong with here - I love it here,” he quickly says when both Jane and Sutton shoot daggers at him with their eyes, “I guess I’m just having a little trouble picturing Jacqueline Carlyle eating takeout in my kitchen.”

 

Your kitchen? Excuse you, you’ve lived here how long? Five minutes?” Sutton snaps, as Alex raises his hands in surrender. The blonde is still looking at him when she says, “Anyway, it’s not weird, Jane, I think it’s very cool Jacqueline had Asian takeout right where I’m sitting.”

 

“Thank you,” Jane says to Sutton. Then she turns to Alex. “She also drank one of your beers,” she adds casually, more than a little aware that it’d probably make his brain explode. 

 

“Jacqueline Carlyle ate takeout… and drank my beer… in my kitchen…” Alex mumbles incredulously, and Jane hides her satisfied smile by taking another sip from her bottle.

 


 

VII. 3x09 Final Push

 

“What do we do?”

 

“We beat her to it. We publish immediately.”

 

“Jacqueline… if we give this to Patrick—“

 

“It’ll generate a ton of clicks and give the board another reason to go all-in with digital.”

 

*

 

Sitting there and handing over the end result of months of work, hers and Jacqueline’s, to Patrick on a silver platter feels like a punch to the gut. As Jane shakes his hand, after he lets them know what an honor it’ll be to publish their piece on the dot-com, she has to remember Jacqueline’s words the day before explaining to her why this is the right move just to keep from screaming at the top of her lungs. 

 

It’s about the story - as it always should be. What’s important is that Ingrid’s, Eden’s and the other women’s stories are told, before Pamela goes ahead with her pre-emptive damage control strategy and changes the narrative in her favor. Jane knows this, of course she does. And she feels all kinds of guilty that it's just not… enough for her. But how can it be, when this article was supposed to get Jacqueline back on top where she belongs? And now… 

 

Now that not only isn’t happening but - irony of ironies - it’ll be thanks to Jane’s personal efforts, thanks to some of her very best work, that Patrick’s position as RJ Safford’s golden boy and heir apparent to Scarlet will be consolidated. 

 

This couldn’t have gone any worse if she’d tried.

 

“I am sorry, Jane,” Jacqueline says, turning her head to look at her. Jane should be home right now, getting ready for Kat’s election party. As should Jacqueline, for that matter. Instead, they’re both sitting on the floor in front of Jacqueline’s couch in her office, half-empty whiskey glasses sitting on the coffee table in front of them. Both their shoes are off, discarded somewhere close to the door. It’s a scene that Jane couldn’t have pictured a mere few weeks ago, and it’s scary how quickly she’s gotten attached to this new reality. 

 

But tonight they officially put the Pamela Dolan investigation and their article to bed. This is a goodbye of sorts, as they’re parting ways not only with this story, but with each other, in a way, since Jane will be going back to writing exclusively for Patrick and the dot-com - at least for the foreseeable future. It’s a moment that feels very bittersweet indeed. Jane’s never felt more proud of anything she’s written, and that she got to do it with the woman sitting next to her, well… it still feels surreal.

 

“Not as sorry as I am. This is not how things were supposed to go,” Jane laments, closing her eyes and leaning her head against the couch behind her. She can’t help but feel like she’s failed Jacqueline. For once, just this once, she wanted to have had her back, to start repaying her for all she’s done for Jane over the years.

 

“It’s still our work, the fact that it’s going to be on the dot-com doesn’t change that.” Jane’s eyes are still closed, so she is caught by surprise and jolts a little when Jacqueline’s warm hand covers hers on the floor, squeezing it gently. It’s the happiest and most comforted she’s felt since this whole mess started and she smiles.

 

“Yes, yes it is…” Jane says with a sigh. “It’s just…”

 

“It’s just?”

 

“Well, maybe it’s silly, but… I was really looking forward to picking up an early, fresh copy of the magazine… touching it with my bare hands, opening it up to our article…” she says describing the moment she can picture so vividly in her minds’ eye she can almost smell the ink on the glossy pages.

 

“And seeing my name in print next to yours.”

 

When Jane dares to open her eyes and turn her head, she finds herself face to face with Jacqueline. Their faces are so close she knows it’s not just her imagination or a trick of lighting - her eyes look brighter, all of a sudden, just like they did when they talked at her anniversary gala. Jane can feel the sheen forming on her own eyes in response.

 

“Girl after my own heart,” Jacqueline says wistfully, a small smile appearing on her face. Jane also smiles at the reference to the day they met five years ago, still so fresh in her memory. Her breath catches.

 

When, moments later, Jane’s phone vibrates where it’s sitting on the floor between them, they finally break eye contact, and Jacqueline pulls her hand away. Jane barely glances at the phone, before resting her head against the couch once again, closing her eyes with a heavy sigh.

 

“Don’t you need to get that?” Jacqueline asks quietly as the phone continues to ring.

 

“No,” Jane answers. “I’ll call back later.”

 

Ryan’s name flashes across the display for a few more moments, before the screen fades to black.

 

*

 

“Hey.”

 

“Hey.”

 

“Any word from Ryan?”

 

“Actually I was just checking to see if the Dolan story was up. But no.”

 

It’s a bit comical to Jane how, in the age of communication, she and Ryan keep missing each other. He was the first to ignore her calls and messages right when she needed him the most, after she’d just learned that Patrick would be running the Pamela Dolan story on the dot-com. Then it was Jane’s turn to let his call go to voicemail in Jacqueline’s office a little while ago. Considering that the last time they’d managed to talk he was drunk and acting so weird she wishes he hadn’t bothered to call her at all, Jane tells herself her response was only natural. He’s away. They’re clearly having trouble communicating while navigating this long-distance thing - although it’s only been what? A couple of days? That’s definitely a topic of conversation for when he gets back from his book tour. 

 

Jane is more than a little worried about the state of her relationship, but she tells herself things will get better once they see each other and speak face-to-face. Distracting herself with the arrival of Tia and Kat, she turns her focus to her friend - this is her night after all. Kat’s love triangle with Tia and Adena also provides her with much-needed relief from her own problems and romantic woes, at least until her phone pings with the alert she’d been both dreading and anticipating all night.

 

“Jacqueline Carlyle and Jane Sloan

MODEL BEHAVIOR — THE TRUTH BEHIND PAMELA DOLAN’S LUSTROUS CAREER”

 

“It’s a little weird to not see it in Scarlet—“ she says as Sutton and Kat congratulate her. She tries to be ok with this, to act like she’s ok with this, when she most definitely is… not.

 

“I know it’s not the way you imagined it, but it’s still pretty amazing,” Kat says encouragingly.

 

When the topic of conversation turns to Sutton’s fashion show, Jane is mercifully distracted, having officially relegated thoughts of Pamela Dolan, Jacqueline, and Ryan to the back burner. 

 

Until she sees him, that is.

 

“Oh my God. Ryan is here.”

 

*

 

“What’s going on?”

 

“I have to tell you about something.”

 

“Okay…”

 

“Something happened… on tour.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“I screwed up. Last night I was drunk… I was actually really, really drunk and… I kissed somebody else.”

 

*

 

Jane climbs the steps back to the bar on shaky legs, having told Ryan in no uncertain terms not to follow. She feels jarred, like she’s just been shaken awake from a deep slumber, her dream world rapidly crumbling and disappearing around her as reality sets in. 

 

When she enters the room, it’s all too much - the noise, the people, the lights. Wiping away at her tears, her breathing shaky, her eyes flick everywhere, trying to find something, anything, to anchor her as she attempts to pull herself together. 

 

And then Jane sees her. Jacqueline is chatting with Oliver a few feet away when the woman’s eyes find hers. Jane takes a deep breath as she focuses on her face, on the smile that appears there as soon as she lays eyes on Jane, and slowly fades as she seems to realize something is not quite right. Jane continues watching, unblinking, as Jacqueline touches Oliver’s arm and whispers something to him, and she finds herself wishing she could reset the clock. Wishing that she were still in Jacqueline’s office, barefoot, sipping whiskey and sitting quietly beside her under the cover of semi-darkness. There is no place in the world she’d rather be at this moment.

 

Just as Jacqueline’s eyes find hers again and she starts to make her way over to Jane, someone stops her - a young blonde in a glittery dress who Jane doesn’t quite recognize, but looks vaguely familiar (she’s modeled for Scarlet, maybe?). Jacqueline greets her politely and shoots Jane an apologetic look over the woman’s shoulder as she listens to her talk, trying to silent communicate to her that she’ll be there as soon as she can. Disappointed and a little frustrated, Jane’s eyes reluctantly leave the two women and flick around the room again, until she locates Sutton and Richard. Realizing Jacqueline’s going to be more than a minute, Jane’s feet move. Interrupting the couple’s conversation, her heart in her throat, she says to her friend, “Hi. Can I talk to you?”  

 

*

 

Sutton is giving her a hug when their eyes meet across the room once again. 

 

Jane looks at Jacqueline over her friend's shoulder, returning her worried gaze with a small, tight-lipped smile to let the woman know that she’s fine. Exhaling shakily, Jacqueline gives her a brief smile of her own. Still holding Jane’s eyes, with a pointed look worth more than a thousand words, she turns and moves away. 

 

Jane keeps watching until she disappears from her line of sight.

 


 

 

VIII. 3x10 Breaking Through the Noise

 

“Hi. Are you Jacqueline Carlyle?”

 

“I am. And you were on our last issue—“

 

That particular exchange, that took place about an hour ago backstage at Sutton’s fashion show, rushes back to Jane now, when she’s about to go have a word with Jacqueline and sees yet another tall and skinny young woman that screams model beating her to the punch at the after party.

 

“Okay, what exactly is the deal with the walking fetuses drooling all over Jacqueline?” The unkind question slips out without her permission. She blames it on the champagne and her general bad mood this evening - which is turning sourer and sourer by the minute -, but the fact is that Jane’s starting to see a pattern of sorts emerging, one that she finds impossible to ignore. The journalist in her needs answers, she tells herself. 

 

She’s not looking at her friends, her eyes glued to the scene across from her but, to her left, she can hear Kat’s breathy laugh. “Well, I don’t know, Tiny Jane. Aside from the fact that that is Jacqueline and she is pretty… impressive, some girls do have a mommy kink?” she suggests. 

 

“Oh, could also be an authority kink,” Sutton pipes up, to her right.

 

“Or both, really,” Kat concludes.

 

“What is yours?” Sutton casually asks.

 

“Hmmm?” Jane mumbles, eyebrows furrowed, still staring at the young (“At least this one doesn’t seem to be in the ‘should-not-be-up-this-late-on-a-school-night’ young category”, Jane ponders), impossibly tall, model, still monopolizing Jacqueline’s attention - long, elegant fingers touching her chest, clearly flattered by something the Editor-in-Chief just said. Not just flattered, she corrects herself. Charmed. Smitten. It’s the Jacqueline Carlyle effect, one that Jane is very much familiar with. 

 

“Nevermind,” Sutton says quickly, giving up on her question. Jane forgets the exchange - forgets her friends, really - immediately, as she drains her flute and keeps on watching the scene playing out not that far away from where she’s standing. She watches as the girl (“Her arms are so long she looks like a fucking praying mantis”, she thinks) fishes her phone out of her clutch and takes a picture with Jacqueline. Good, she thinks. This will probably be over soon.

 

She’s so focused on watching the girl’s reactions that by the time Praying Mantis is putting her phone back in her purse and Jane finally takes her eyes off of her, she finds herself locking eyes with Jacqueline, who’s regarding her with a slightly raised eyebrow, a corner of her lip lifting up in a tiny smirk.

 

Jane doesn’t know why, but she feels like she’s just been caught with her hand in the cookie jar.

 

*

 

If Ryan cheating wasn’t bad enough, him showing up at the Breaking Through the Noise panel and pulling that stunt was the final nail in their coffin - Jane knew that straight away. 

 

Between the egg freezing and roommate debacles and his cheating, Jane has finally realized she needs to stop hanging on to something she knows is not going anywhere. In some ways, Ryan is her high school boyfriend all over again, as it is her idea of the man, not the man himself, that has had her overlooking all his faults and the problems in their relationship in hopes things would get better. 

 

But Ryan Decker is not just the sweet, generous man who offered to pay for her egg freezing procedure when there was no hope in her horizon. He is also the passive-aggressive boyfriend who somehow expects her to read his mind instead of communicating his thoughts and needs and who has shown, on more than one occasion, a remarkable lack of respect for her boundaries. 

 

He’s the guy who cheats.

 

He’s Pinstripe.

 

His appearing uninvited at her doorstep now, late at night, to plead his case once again and ask her to take him back, is just overkill. 

 

Jane is not so patiently waiting for him to end another one of his rom-com moments, where he professes his love, apologizes to her and says, for the umpteenth time, that it was nothing but a drunken kiss, one that didn’t mean anything, when she gets two text messages.

 

‘Good work on the piece.’

 

‘I hope you’re ok.’

 

Not ‘your friend’. You. Jane feels the corners of her lips tugging into a gentle smirk. Of course Jacqueline saw right through her. And even if the article she’s referring to is about the very man standing in front of her, the messages are a welcome reprieve from the unpleasant scene taking place at her front stoop.

 

“Are you listening to me?” She hears an exasperated Ryan ask, bringing her thoughts back to the present. 

 

“Yes, Ryan, I’m perfectly capable of listening to you and reading a text simultaneously. I can also walk and chew gum at the same time.”

 

“Who’s that?”

 

“It’s Jacqueline. It’s work. Why does it matter?”

 

He just looks at her, a smile that doesn’t reach his eyes appearing on his face. He sounds sad when he asks, “I could never compete, could I?”

 

“Don’t you dare turn this on me,” Jane is quick to say, seeing red. Is he seriously making this about Scarlet? “Your cheating has nothing to do with my workload—”

 

He shakes his head, “That’s not what—“, he starts saying but stops, abruptly, looking away and rubbing his face with a hand. “You know what? As much as I wish it were different, it doesn’t seem to be my business… any longer.”

 

Something is not quite clicking, but Jane finds herself unable to care at this moment. “No. No, it’s not.”

 

This exchange feels final, all of a sudden. And as much as Jane needed Ryan to finally understand that she’s not the kind of person that can just forgive a betrayal like it’s nothing, that they can’t go back to the way they were before, it still hurts. 

 

He nods at her before saying. “Ok, I finally get it. Goodbye, Sloan.”

 

When she drags her feet inside and enters the kitchen, Alex is already twisting the cap off a bottle of whiskey and pouring her a shot without saying a word. She takes a seat at the table as he leans against the counter, and the two drink together in silence.

 

“You make a good Sutton, you know,” she mumbles after a while.

 

“Happy to be of service.”

 

*

 

Later that night, Jane is tossing and turning, unable to fall asleep. It’d be only too easy to blame her insomnia on her break up with Ryan, but it’s not him she sees when she closes her eyes. 

 

Instead, her brain is bombarded with flashes of dark eyes attentively watching her from the front row when she’s walking down a runaway - the same eyes that later look at her inquisitively when they catch her paying attention across a room. She then sees herself ignoring her boyfriend’s call until it goes to voicemail, only to cover a woman’s hand with her own on the floor where they’re sitting.

 

And just like that, Sutton’s question the night before, which didn’t initially register, comes back to her, making her heart jump in her chest. 

 

“What is yours?” 

 

What is her… what, exactly? Her deal? Her… kink?

 

At this moment Jane knows that if the blonde hadn’t moved in with Richard she’d be standing next to her bed by now, shaking her awake to ask because… what the hell?

 

She goes to her kitchen instead and pulls out Alex’s bottle of whiskey from a cupboard and a fresh carton of ice cream out of the freezer. She stares at both items for a while, when another comment from her friend appears unfettered in her brain.

 

“Your nipples are hard.”

 

Quickly putting the ice cream back, as if it’d bitten her, Jane takes the bottle to her room with her, not bothering to get a glass.

 

 *

 

“What’s the emergency?” Sutton asks as she barges into the fashion closet, barely taking the time to close the door behind her before approaching Jane, who’s sitting on one of the futons.

 

“I wanted to ask you something.”

 

“You have a question? That’s why you texted ’911 fashion closet’?” the blonde asks, blowing a strand of hair off her face.

 

“It’s… kind of a big one.”

 

Sutton tucks her hair behind her ear and looks expectantly at Jane.

 

“You asked me what my deal was.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“At the after party. When I saw that model... talking to Jacqueline.”

 

“If memory serves, you used the term ‘walking fetus’ to describe her,” Sutton corrects her with an amused chuckle. “That was a good one.”

 

Jane feels a little bad for being so bitchy about someone she doesn’t even know, at first. Then she remembers the girl, all limbs and giggles as she spoke to Jacqueline and, just like that, she’s more than fine with her choice of words. “Potato, potato,” she finally says with a shrug of her shoulders. Fine, so she is that bitch when it comes to other… women... flirting with... her...

 

...boss? 

 

Former boss? 

 

“Co-writer”? 

 

Jesus Christ…

 

“Yeah, I remember,” Sutton says, snapping her out of her reverie. “So?” 

 

Laying down on the futon, Jane covers her face with her hands as she muffles a scream.

 

“Come on, I was joking!” Sutton laughs. “You seemed… annoyed… by that girl, so…” she trails off, and Jane doesn’t need to be looking at her to notice something straight away—

 

“That’s not what you were going to say,” she points out in a flat tone, removing her hands from her face and staring at the ceiling.

 

When Jane hears crickets, she sits back up to look at her friend.

 

Sutton crosses her arms and regards her for a long moment. She then admits, with a heavy sigh, “Fine. I was going to say ‘jealous’.”

 

“I could never compete, could I?” 

 

She feels faint when she says with a humorless chuckle, “So I am the last to know.”

 

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Sutton quickly reassures her. “I mean… I know. Kat knows.” She reflects for a moment. “I don’t think anyone else knows—” 

 

Jane nods again, more than a little relieved. 

 

“—per se…”

 

“Ugh, why did you have to say per se?” Jane whines. “So close…”

 

Sutton chuckles. She has a small smile on her face that strikes Jane as somewhat condescending, a little exasperated, maybe, when she takes a seat next to her. “Okay. How can I explain this...”

 

Jane shrugs and they’re quiet for a while until the blonde breaks the silence.

 

“You… are Jane Sloan. Scarlet Magazine’s golden girl. Jacqueline Carlyle’s young protegé—“ 

 

“What are you do—“

 

“Shhh— I’m trying to paint a picture here,” Sutton says, clearing her throat before continuing like she’s narrating a movie trailer. “The prodigal daughter who walked out and was welcomed back by her with open arms—”

 

Jane sputters at that. “With open arms?! Do you even remember what—“

 

Sutton shushes her again and continues, “You’re the writer who gets assigned all the meaty stories, including Jacqueline’s very own, deeply personal story, which she trusted you, a junior writer, to tell. You-honest to God-yelled at her in front of the entire bullpen and not only got to keep your job, but scored a dinner invitation… to her house. You’re the one employee who can get away with bypassing Andrew and entering her office unannounced or without making an appointment, whenever you feel like it, because as busy as she is, she always seems to have time… for you. Speaking of time— even though she’s no longer technically your boss, no one would know that, since she spends so much of it in your company, way more than she spends with anyone else from the magazine’s writing staff, that actually work for her—“

 

“We’re conducting an investigation and writing a story together, so of course—“

 

“You can add ‘conducting an investigation’ and ‘writing a story together’ to the list of things I just said.”

 

“But that doesn’t mean—“

 

“What I’m trying to explain to you is that this is what people see when they look at the two of you and your relationship. They don’t know what’s going on—“

 

“How could they when I don’t know?” A frustrated Jane interrupts once again. Does Jacqueline know? Her head is starting to hurt.

 

“—but that doesn’t stop them from making assumptions. Or gossiping. It’s human nature. So yeah, people know. But they also don’t know.”

 

Jane doesn’t ask Sutton what the gossip is about. She doesn’t have to.

 

She flops back down on the futon, and the blonde follows suit.

 

“Why did you never…“

 

“What, tell you? How would that conversation go, exactly, miss ‘I’ve-never-been-curious-about-being-with-a-woman-before’?”

 

The two lay side by side for a while, not saying anything, when Jane finally speaks. “When I heard you say it all together like that, it does look a little… suspicious,” she admits. “It’s just… it’s Jacqueline, you know?” Jane says with an incredulous little laugh. “It’s me and Jacqueline. I never stopped to consider how… unique our relationship was. Is. Or even recognize that what I feel when I’m around her means... what it means.“

 

“Oh, you’re not writing it for me. You’re writing it with me.”

 

“But Patrick—“

 

“It’s Scarlet. It’s still my magazine.”

 

Is Jacqueline even aware that when she made that decision, she not only claimed Scarlet - she also claimed Jane as hers? 

 

Jane doesn’t know how long she’s lost in her own head - only that her voice sounds too loud to her own ears when she speaks. “Do you know what’s the worst part?”

 

“What’s the worst part?” Sutton asks gently.

 

“The worst part is that I don’t even know if I’d be able to deal if things were any different.“

 

*

 

“Andrew… where is Jacqueline?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

And just like that, Jane knows she’s about to find out just how different things can be.

 

This is it, she thinks, as she watches a bunch of Scarlet employees walking around and speaking in hushed tones, looking as helpless as she feels as movers dismantle the place and pack everything up. The beginning of the end. 

 

Next to Jane, watching the dramatic scene unfolding in front of them, Kat and Sutton are taking turns telling her (and each other) not to assume anything, saying that no one knows what happened yet, that this is all probably just a big misunderstanding… but Jane knows better. Jacqueline’s words from the day before reverberate in her brain. 

 

The stunt she just pulled with the Fall issue was the final straw. She ended up pushing her luck one too many times. After Jane’s article about Safford’s policy on female healthcare coverage, that culminated with Patrick taking over the dot-com, all she had left was the magazine.

 

And now…

 

Jane is too stunned to feel much of anything, but she notices her hands are shaking a bit when she pulls her phone out of her back pocket and dials an all too familiar number. 

 

It goes straight to voicemail.

 

“Anything?” Kat asks.

 

Jane doesn’t reply but marches up to Andrew, who’s still talking to Sage a few feet away.

 

“What’s her personal number?”

 

Jane is more than willing to fight him for it, and even at 5 foot nothing, with the adrenaline coursing through her body, she actually likes her odds. Andrew either agrees with her assessment or sympathizes with her, because he doesn’t argue and just motions for Jane’s phone with a trembling hand.

 

As soon as he types in the number and hands the device back to her, she mumbles her thanks as she looks at it. Then she raises her eyes and finds herself looking straight into Jacqueline’s office.

 

It’s one of the few places on the floor the movers haven’t gotten to yet. It sits undisturbed. An oasis of calm amidst the chaos. She fights the instinct to go inside and sit on the couch one last time. But the thought of being there when strangers arrive and start packing up Jacqueline’s things is too painful to even contemplate.

 

“I’ve… already tried it,” Andrew says, his voice shaky. “She’s not answering.”

 

Jane nods, and then she’s back to staring at the numbers on the screen. Without saying anything to him or anyone else, she turns on her heel and heads straight for the elevators. 

 

She’s more than ready to leave this place. 

 

It’s no longer Scarlet.

 

*

 

She’s in an Uber going home when she first dials the number.

 

The call goes straight to voicemail.

 

“Hey, it’s Jane. Please call me back when you get this. I— don’t know what’s going on but I— I don’t need details if you can’t… say anything. I just need to know that you’re okay.“

 

As she disconnects the call, mentally patting herself on the back for keeping the panic out of her voice, if not for her eloquence, Jane feels scared for the first time since walking into that bullpen and facing the scene that greeted her. What she wants more than anything right now is to hear her voice, make sure she’s okay, or as okay as she can be under the circumstances. 

 

There’s also a small - tiny, really -, part of her that hopes Kat is right, that this is all some huge misunderstanding, one that will get cleared up soon. In her heart of hearts, she knows better, but the thought of some random intern or newbie employee giving out the wrong location of a Safford office to a moving company makes her chuckle. 

 

The chuckle then turns into a full-blown laugh.

 

Soon she’s laughing so hard tears are rolling down her cheeks.

 

Jane can see her driver giving her odd looks through the rearview mirror, and it just makes her laugh even harder.

 

Just when she’s starting to wonder if she’ll be able to stop laughing before she ends up with a case of the hiccups, or the puzzled driver freaks out and asks her to get the fuck out of his car, a text message awakens her screen.

 

“I’m okay,” it reads, and even though there’s no user name attached, she’s already memorized the number and knows exactly who it is from.

 

And just like that, she stops laughing.

 

Jane doesn’t think, barely hesitates, before replying, “Buy you a drink?”

 

She doesn’t have to wait long for an answer.

 

“Drop me a pin.”

 

*

 

“If there’s a better excuse to day drink, I’ve yet to hear it,” Jacqueline says, breaking the silence as she takes a generous sip of her whiskey. 

 

They’re on round three, but judging by Jacqueline’s relaxed posture and slightly slurred speech, Jane strongly suspects she’s playing catch-up. She did say she’d been with Adele Ritter when she received her call, and even though Jane only met the woman briefly at Jacqueline's anniversary gala, that memorable interaction ("It was nice meeting you, June--", "It's Jane, actually...") is enough for her to deduce there was probably liquor involved.

 

“I’ll drink to that,” Jane says, raising her glass. The alcohol burns her throat as she swallows, but she successfully fights back a wince as she sets her glass down on the table. Jacqueline regards her with something like admiration, and Jane returns the look with a proud little smirk.

 

Now that Jane’s mind feels settled enough, that she knows Jacqueline is fine, she can’t help but ask the question. “What happened?” 

 

In lieu of answering, Jacqueline takes another sip of her drink. She’s quiet for what feels like a long time, twirling her glass in her hands, and Jane opens her mouth to apologize for bringing up the subject when Jacqueline interrupts her.

 

“I... pushed it too far,” she admits. “I knew what would happen. Publishing an issue without board approval... even if I had a clean slate with RJ and the rest - which we both know is not the case -, I’d have been lucky to keep my job.”

 

What she said only confirmed Jane’s suspicions about what’d happened. “No matter what happens next.”

 

Across from her, she hears Jacqueline ask, “I’m sorry?”

 

“During your speech, when you were… congratulating us on the Fall issue, you said you were proud of us, ‘no matter what happens next’.”

 

“You caught that, huh?”

 

“I did. I just told myself I was being paranoid. Dismissed it straight away. Knowing what I know about Patrick and everything going on with the board, I should’ve known better.”

 

“Well, if it’s any consolation, it’s not like there’s anything you could’ve done to change things.”

 

“In all seriousness - and I’m aware this is coming a bit late -,  you really should stop listening to me,” Jane advises as she takes another sip of her drink, draining her glass. She flags down the waiter for another round.

 

Jacqueline is smirking at her, clearly amused, when she quips, “Setting aside the fact you’ve just advised me not to listen to your advice, which means I should ignore what you just said… and are about to say—” 

 

Jane snorts at the Catch 22. “Touché.”

 

“—why is that?”

 

“Because…” An agitated Jane explains, guilt and frustration clear in her voice, “The first time you did, you published my article and lost digital. And the second time, you decided to revamp the entire Fall issue with less than 24h before going to press, against the board’s wishes… and lost print!”

 

“That was all my doing, not yours,” Jacqueline says then. Her eyes narrow. “I feel like we’ve already had this conversation.”

 

“I guess I’m still not convinced I’m not to blame for what happened,” Jane says with a shake of her head.

 

“Then I guess I need to work on improving my persuasion skills.”

 

Jacqueline’s eyes are sparkling, her tone warm and teasing. In other circumstances, Jane would’ve quickly lost herself in those eyes, replying with something along the lines of “You’re more than welcome to try...”, only too happy to banter (i.e. flirt) with the woman across from her. But now she’s feeling everything too hard, her guilt an oppressive, heavy thing that’s making it hard for her to breathe.

 

It’s like Jacqueline can sense it. She becomes serious, finding Jane’s hand on the table and squeezing it. “It was the right thing to do. I have no regrets. You shouldn’t either.”

 

Jane’s gaze drops to their joined hands, the butterflies in her stomach doing happy somersaults. She raises her head and is about to speak when something catches her attention. She rolls her eyes. Oh, for crying out loud—

 

“It’s like I can’t take you anywhere,” Jane jokes then, her tone light but her words nothing but honest. She vaguely wonders if this is how Ian feels on a regular basis, and just like that, she has to suppress another wince. Nope, she’s not doing this right now.

 

Jacqueline tilts her head in a silent question. Jane then nods towards a group of young women behind Jacqueline, gawking at her. As Jane mentally kicks herself for picking a model hangout spot (this is the same bar where they met with Eden a few nights ago), and a helpful waiter arrives with their fresh drinks, Jacqueline turns around to look. The girls take that as their cue and approach their table.

 

Jane’s entire world has been turned upside down. Up until this morning, she was gainfully employed, having just finished one of the most important pieces of her career. Now, a mere few hours later, her very place of work is probably no longer there. She doesn’t know if she still has a job to go back to.

 

Which is why this upsetting feeling in the pit of her stomach, that up until recently she had chalked up to a platonic sense of entitlement where her mentor is concerned, but later came to recognize as straight-up jealousy, feels somewhat… comforting. This... this is something she knows, at least. 

 

Doing something about it, of course, is a different matter altogether.

 

Several autographs and a group selfie later, Jacqueline is back in her seat. She gives Jane a half-smile and expectant look, clearly not ready to let her previous comment slide. 

 

“I see it all the time, you know,” Jane ponders, playing with her already half-empty glass. “People… impressed with you, in awe of you. Which I understand, of course. Maybe better than anyone. People like Adena... Cammy Hartmann… or Patrick at Kat’s fundraiser, when you showed up with Sasha Velour in your arm.” 

 

Jacqueline chuckles at the memory. “I did relish that moment, I cannot lie.”

 

Jane ignores the humor of that particular situation and the perfect opportunity she has just been presented with to deflect and return to safe territory and goes on with the truth. “I just— I sometimes will see these... girls… flocking to you... and…“

 

“And it upsets you.” 

 

Jane’s heart jolts inside her chest. Her breath catches. Straight for the jugular, that’s the Jacqueline Carlyle way. 

 

“Why does it upset you?”

 

Jane can feel the flush creeping up her cheeks and swallows hard. 

 

“I want to hear you say it.”

 

This is the moment Jane realizes they both have had too much to drink. The worst kind of too much, as far as she’s concerned - the kind that doesn’t keep one from walking in a straight line or remembering the bad decisions they made when they wake up the next morning, but that gets them saying things that are way too honest and, therefore, way too dangerous.

 

“Well, I’m still trying to figure that out myself…” Jane offers, peering into her glass like it holds all of the universe’s secrets.  

 

“Really?” Jacqueline asks. Jane’s not looking at her anymore so she can’t see her expression but she sounds not only skeptical but… disappointed? As Jane’s head snaps up to look at her again, unable to help herself, she sees the steely look in her eyes. She’s calling Jane’s bluff. Her heart starts beating erratically in her chest.

 

Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, Jane really looks at Jacqueline then noting the flush of her cheeks. Her glassy eyes. The look that says she understands exactly what a bad idea this is, but doesn’t care. Just like Jane doesn’t care, she suddenly realizes. Not with the way their relationship has changed this past year, especially since working together on the Pamela Dolan story. Not after everything that happened in the last few days, that culminated with Jane (voluntarily) losing her boyfriend and Jacqueline (also voluntarily?) losing her job of a decade. Not with the alcohol running through their veins, warming their blood, and most definitely not with this new unexpected freedom in their dynamic, which feels scary but oh so delicious. 

 

Jacqueline’s no fucks given attitude emboldens Jane.

 

“Actually, no. I-I think I’ve already figured it out. It’s just…”

 

Jacqueline doesn’t rush her. She patiently waits. As a mentor, if there’s one thing she’s always seemed to instinctively know when it comes to Jane is when to push, inspire and act and when to sit back, wait and listen.

 

“I’ve been thinking lately about how I was one of those girls when we first met. Another… one of those girls, in a sense. But I also like to think that’s not the case… anymore?”

 

“I’m Jacqueline Carlyle.”

 

“Jacqueline Carlyle…”

 

“And… you are?”

 

At Jacqueline’s stunned silence, Jane quickly adds, her biggest fear summed up in a handful of words, “That’s not how you see me, think of me, anymore… is it?”

 

Jacqueline looks at Jane like she has two heads for a moment. She seems almost angry, and is as serious as a heart attack when she says, slowly and carefully, “You were never just one of them.”

 

“Even in the beginning, you were… special. The girl with her little notebook, who told me she prefers to write by hand, always with a story pouring out of her that she simply had to tell. Not some… random model or intern whose face and name I’m going to forget the second they turn away to leave. Someone who I watched grow into a remarkable woman and one hell of a writer and more stunning to me than any of these other... girls could possibly dream of being.”

 

Jane feels high. This... this is every compliment, every smile she’s ever received from this woman times a million. 

 

Just like that, everything clicks into place. “You chose me.”

 

Jacqueline is barely smiling but her eyes are intense and warm when she says, offering it up as an explanation, “You found me.”

 

“I—“ Jane starts saying, but she has no words. She wants to ask Jacqueline what she means by that when the woman speaks again, another clear challenge in her voice when she repeats her question. 

 

“Why does it upset you?”

 

Jane has to think. She can’t think. She opens and closes her mouth, as Jacqueline keeps her gaze trained on her, expecting an answer.

 

She shuts off her conscious brain and lets her instincts do the talking. “Because… I don’t like it when you pay them any attention.”

 

“And why is that?”

 

 “Because… I want you to pay attention to me.”

 

Jacqueline’s eyes narrow.

 

“And only me.”

 

Jane wants everything from this woman, she knows that now. More than that, she wants to be her everything as well. 

 

There’s simply no room for anyone else.

 

Jacqueline sits there without moving a muscle. Then the small smile on her face morphs into a familiar smirk. She seems pleased, if with Jane or with herself, Jane doesn’t know, but she feels she’s just passed a test of sorts. With flying colors. 

 

When Jacqueline finally speaks, it's in a voice that sends shivers down Jane’s spine and that she swears she can feel vibrating on her skin. 

 

"That's a good girl."

 

And just like that, Jane finds out what it's like to almost have an orgasm without being touched and with all of her clothes on.

 

*

 

Jane has discovered a few things about herself just now.

 

Praise kink - I have a praise kink, is the first thought that registers in her dazed brain. She makes a mental note to tell Sutton later because she doesn’t feel the least bit inclined to whip out her phone and do so now - not when Jacqueline is still looking at her like this. Not when her heart is beating so hard inside her chest she fears Jacqueline can hear it. Not when she's still riding the aftershocks of a deep, pleasurable throb between her legs that she's never experienced just from foreplay before.

 

Yes, because another thing Jane's learned today is that nearly every interaction she's had with the woman sitting across from her, in some form or another, dating back to the day they first met, has been just that - foreplay. Every hand touch, every shoulder squeeze... every time they looked into each other’s eyes for a second too long to be considered appropriate. The time Jane rebelled and walked away, wanting more from Jacqueline but not knowing what exactly or how to ask. The moment she realized she couldn’t stand to be away from her and begged to come back. All those times Jacqueline attempted to keep Jane at arm’s length only to find herself pulling her back into her orbit... It has all led them here. To this.

 

The quiet is laden with something so thick and intoxicating, Jane is loathe to break it. 

 

But Jacqueline has her own plans.

 

"What is it you want, Jane?"

 

Well, if that isn’t a loaded question. That husky voice makes Jane automatically clench her thighs together and she draws a shaky breath. Of course Jacqueline would ask her that, even though the answer should be painfully obvious to her at this point. Of course she’d be all about that consent, being in the position she’s in, although - Jane quickly reminds herself - she’s no longer the boss. And the only position Jane’s interested in seeing Jacqueline in right now involves her bed. 

 

Also the armchair in her living room. 

 

Focus, Jane thinks. What does she want? Jacqueline asked her that like the world is her oyster and Jane can have whatever she wants if she were to only... ask.

 

The woman is not about to make the first move, that much is clear. Her boss or not, out of a job or not, she still holds power over Jane. And in order for Jane to get what she wants, she’s going to have to use her words. 

 

Lucky for her, she’s so far gone she has no problem doing just that. 

 

She figured she’d start with the basics.

 

“I want you to kiss me.”

 

The myriad of emotions Jane sees flicking across Jacqueline’s face make her hotter than she was before - something she didn’t think possible. 

 

Until that heavy gaze drops to Jane’s lips, that is, and she feels like she’s about to burst into flames.

 

And then—

 

“That can be arranged.”

 

Jesus fucking Christ. 

 

*

 

Jane is sitting on the left side of the backseat of Jacqueline’s town car instead of her usual, preferred right side. Her head is spinning, both from the alcohol she’s consumed and the most arousing conversation she’s had in her life, and she doesn’t understand why such a stupid thought registers in her brain in the first place. Especially when all that means is that the woman she’s obsessed with... head-over-heels in love with (yes, she can admit as much to herself now)... is currently occupying that spot, and that seems like a ridiculously small concession to make for the privilege of her company.

 

But when Jacqueline covers Jane’s right knee with her left hand, and Jane instinctively looks down to catch a glimpse of that soft hand touching her leg, making her shiver, she sees it - and immediately realizes what her subconscious mind has been trying to tell her since she climbed into this car.

 

Her wedding ring.

 

It’s like a bucket of ice cold water has just been dumped on Jane’s head, sobering her up immediately. What are they doing? 

 

What the fuck... are they doing?

 

She immediately freezes and promptly forgets how to breathe.

 

“Jane?” Jacqueline squeezes her knee, trying to get her attention. Jane flinches, and the woman quickly removes her hand. The loss of her touch almost makes Jane cry out in protest, and she can’t comprehend what her body is doing right now.

 

“What’s wrong?” Jacqueline asks quietly. “Talk to me.”

 

“We can’t do this,” Jane manages, even more quietly. They’re sitting so close she can feel Jacqueline tense up next to her, and finally turns her head to look her in the eye.

 

She looks... sad. Disappointed. And more than a little confused. It angers Jane, that she has to spell this out for her. “You’re married,” she spits out, as she practically hears her heart cracking inside her chest.

 

There are many obstacles and red flags that Jane is willing to overlook to take this leap with her, but this isn’t one of them. Jane Sloan is not the kind of person who stays with someone who cheats. 

 

And she’s not someone who cheats either.

 

“Is that the only reason why... why you say we can’t do this?”

 

“The only reason?!” Jane manages. She can feel the hot tears she’s been fighting escaping the corners of her eyes and angrily wipes them away. “It’s all the reason I need. It should definitely be reason enough for you.”

 

Jane feels like she just slapped Jacqueline in the face without laying a hand on her. The woman blanches, and Jane regrets her words almost immediately. As angry as she is at herself, at the situation, and even at Jacqueline, she can’t bear to cause her any pain.

 

“I didn’t... mean it like that," Jacqueline says. "This is my fault, we should’ve talked about this... before...” she trails off, shifting in her seat to look straight ahead as she appears to gather her thoughts.

 

Jane’s chest and throat hurt as she valiantly fights to keep the sob that is threatening to escape at bay. She turns to look out the window.

 

“...before things got out of hand.”

 

It takes two to tango, she thinks. “We’ve both been drinking,” Jane offers after a moment, her voice tight. 

 

“That’s no excuse, not on my part. You... you deserve to understand what’s happening.”

 

Still facing the window, Jane squeezes her eyes shut and holds her breath, bracing herself for impact. 

 

“Ian and I, we’re... separated. Have been for almost six months now.”

 

Jane immediately turns to look at Jacqueline. What did she just say?

 

“I... I don’t understand.” The man showed up at her anniversary gala just a few weeks ago.

 

“We’ve been living together, keeping up appearances, until it’s time to file. Our relationship is still amicable, and since New York is a no-fault state, and doesn’t require a separation period, we figured that would be the easiest way to keep the press at bay as we work out the details of our divorce agreement. To protect the boys... for as long as possible.”

 

Jane’s mouth opens and closes like a fish. 

 

“Oh.”

 

“Work keeps him away often... sometimes for weeks at a time,” she explains. “And God knows the loft is big enough - and I’m away at work enough - that we don’t see each other much even when he is home...”

 

“I...”

 

“He shows up at certain events with me, and I make public appearances with him as well, to make sure no rumors begin to circulate. Only the boys and our lawyers know... so far.”

 

“And me,” Jane mumbles, unnecessarily.

 

Jacqueline smiles softly as she looks at her. “Yes and... now you.”

 

Jane doesn’t know what to say, so she stays quiet. Warmth slowly returns to her limbs as she attempts to process everything she’s just heard. Laying her head against the backrest she closes her eyes, her mind running a thousand miles a minute. Next to her, she can hear Jacqueline’s quiet breathing.

 

They ride in silence for what feels like forever. When the car finally pulls up to Jane’s place, she silently asks Jacqueline to follow her with a nod of her head. Her legs are shaky as she slowly climbs the steps leading to her front door, Jacqueline following closely behind. She blames that unnerving proximity on how long it takes for her to get the key in the lock, her trembling hands not cooperating, until she finally, mercifully, succeeds.

 

Once the door closes behind them with a soft click, Jacqueline turns to fully face Jane, taking a breath as she prepares to speak. Jane knows what she’s about to say without her even saying it.

 

“I understand if this is too messy for you.”

 

“This is probably not a good idea.”

 

“It’s okay if you don’t want to do this.”

 

“I’m gonna go.”

 

It’s all of those things - but especially that last one - that makes Jane cut her off before she has a chance to utter the words.

 

Yes, this is messy. No, this is not a good idea, on many levels. Yes, she is scared shitless to do this.  

 

And yet.

 

“I believe I was promised a kiss.”

 

Jane barely has time to register ocean blue eyes turning stormy gray when she feels her back press against the door behind her. Her eyes automatically fall shut, her relieved whimper muffled by Jacqueline’s mouth covering hers.

 

She is finally home.