“I’ve been worried about something,” Elena says.
“Can it wait?” comes Sabina’s reply, before Elena hears her take a deep breath, give a few huffs, and the unmistakable thud of a body hitting the floor.
Elena is snaking her way around the complex a few floors below as Sabina distracts. Why does the security facility of a building always have to be so well-hidden?
“No, this is actually the only time we can talk about it.”
“It’s a Jane thing.”
Jane was left out of the mission just because it didn’t need her skill set and her height would have gotten in the way. Her tattoo wasn’t wired in to the comms for it, which she was upset about, but Townsend had to do it because if there’s anything they can’t risk, it’s their secrecy.
“Babe, we both always have a Jane thing,” Sabina replies.
“No! It’s more—ugh, I don’t know.” Elena halts in the middle of her step and hangs her head. “I don’t think she’s into me that much.”
“Are you serious?” Sabina exclaims, in a voice much too loud if she wants to conserve her energy. She sounds winded already, unsurprising considering how many 250 pound men have been trying—and failing—to stop her. After a few more huffs and thuds, she adds, “You’re dating!”
Elena rolls her eyes and resumes the mission. “Yeah, but like—did she want it? Or was she just being … I don’t know, considerate of you?”
“Elena, baby—wait. Shit. Hold on!”
There’s glass breaking, muffled cries, more thuds, and of course, more cursing from Sabina. In that span of time, Elena finally manages to get into the utility room, where she knocks out the two personnel with relative ease. She inspects the equipment, wracks her brain a little, and after some thinking she thinks she’s got it.
In the middle of her trying to disable the security system, Sabina’s voice comes again. “Elena, Jane’s absolutely batshit for you.”
Elena’s fingers seize their typing. She rolls her eyes and counters, “No, she isn’t.”
Sabina lets out a long sigh. “Expressing feelings just isn’t her strong suit, and you know that.”
There’s a ping and Elena surmises that it probably means her work is done. “Yeah, but still—”
First, a tightness in her upper arm, like it’s being squeezed. White-hot pain in her shoulder burning, burning, burning. The telltale gushing of blood.
When Elena wakes up, her shoulder still aches.
She takes in her surroundings. Hospital room, lights off, rhythmic beeps, cold.
I was shot, she thinks to herself. Her training tells her just as much.
Jane appears above her, cheeks streaked with mascara and eyes swimming with relief. She puts a hand over her mouth before leaning over and putting her forehead to Elena’s. She sobs quietly, and Elena lets her, and before long Jane pulls back and strokes Elena’s face with the back of her hand. “You scared me,” she whispers.
Elena doesn’t quite know what to do. She’s still groggy from whatever sedative’s in her, sure, but it’s also because she’s never seen Jane like this. It’s actually so incredulous that Elena wonders if it’s even actually happening or if she’s only hallucinating this all.
“I’m sorry,” is all Elena can manage, her voice like sandpaper.
“Oh, God, you idiot, don’t be, you need some water—what am I doing, you woke up and I didn’t even call the nurse, hold on, Elena, darling—nurse!” Jane promptly walks out the door.
Elena would shake her head and laugh if she could.
She turns to the side, finding a face she was expecting to see. Sabina opens her eyes and shoots Elena a smirk. She was feigning sleep.
I told you, she mouths, batshit.
Elena never saw this coming.
The first time she met Jane and Sabina, Elena was a bit too preoccupied with making sure that something she helped design wasn’t going to be used as a weapon of mass destruction.
But when all that died down and she was training to be an Angel, she realised now that she had … feelings.
Okay, maybe not feelings. But Jane is literally an Amazonian warrior goddess, who can kill as easily with a look as she can with a gun. Sometimes she smiles and Elena sees the gap between her teeth and she needs to remind herself to take a breath.
And does she even need to talk about Sabina? Funny, charming, and literally looks like every queer woman’s dream. She’s touchy, too—whenever she places a hand on Elena’s wrist Elena feels her entire body go on fire.
So here she was, helpless against her two crushes who she’s always around, all in the midst of trying to be a spy.
She let out one, final punch onto the poor bag she’d been letting all this out on. Who knew she only needed romantic frustration to motivate herself to train?
But then there’s a whoop! behind her and Elena saw—to her misfortune—Jane and Sabina.
“That’s our girl!” Jane yelled, a hand cupped around her mouth.
Sabina was applauding as she said, “Looking good, baby!”
They were both leaning against opposite doorjambs, proud smiles on both their faces. “Wanna take a break? Jane and I are planning to get sushi,” Sabina told her.
Elena didn’t know if she could survive a dinner after that.
“Can’t, guys,” Elena said, maintaining her composure. “Another time?”
Jane shrugged. “Suit yourself. But don’t push too hard, okay?”
Elena nodded and held up a gloved hand. “Promise.”
The two walked away, and Elena steadied her breaths. She turned to her punching bag. “Sorry, lil guy,” she murmured to it.
And she let out her frustrations again.
Elena’s recovery goes smoothly. An Angel getting shot is probably as common as the sun rising, so Townsend was more than ready to handle it.
The bullet shot cleanly through, and Elena only needed two surgeries. Her shoulder doesn’t feel the same—probably never will—but within a month she’s training again, gaining back her strength. Saint has her on a diet that can only be magical, because it’s both delicious and makes her feel better.
After going out for a coffee, Elena finds Bosley in the lounge, going through her Netflix recommendations on the huge TV mounted on the wall.
“Bos,” she greets. They hadn’t seen each other since Elena started physical therapy.
Bosley turns and her eyes light up. “Houghlin!” she exclaims, getting up and opening her arms for a hug. They embrace for a few seconds before Bosley lets go. “Oh, you look fantastic! How’s your shoulder?”
Elena rotates it. “Better,” she answers. “Thanks.”
“That’s good.” Bosley nods. “It sounded really bad when I got the call.”
She’d, of course, been in charge of the mission that they were on when Elena got shot. “Sabina called you?”
“You didn’t know? Well—of course she did.”
There’s a stretched-out moment of silence, confusion on both their faces, until Bosley sighs. “You still don’t know what happened, do you?”
She doesn’t. Elena doesn’t know what’s been keeping her from asking—fear? Concern? After all, the only person she could ask was—
“Sabina was pretty shaken up by it, I—” Elena shakes her head. “I didn’t wanna bring it up with her.”
“Fair point.” Bosley switches off the TV and pats to the empty space beside her. “Come, sit.”
Elena does. Bosley turns to face her.
Elena braces herself. She’d never particularly wondered about the circumstances around her getting shot—she was a bit too preoccupied with making sure it didn’t cause too much damage.
Bosley clears her throat. “When you took out the two personnel in the room, that actually wasn’t all of them. Another one had been on shift, just out of the room. You were just unlucky. It happens. We’d confirmed that he wasn’t a third party who knew of our plans.” Bosley shifts in her seat. “He’d panicked when he saw his colleagues on the floor. He wasn’t aiming to kill.”
Elena nods and pretends she isn’t trembling. It’s a stroke of luck, fate being kind that it was that man who’d seen her. “Okay, yeah.”
“Sabina called me, asked what happened. I said you weren’t responding—that was your first time getting shot, right? You probably blacked out from the pain—and then she asked permission to locate you. I granted it. She got there before you lost too much blood.”
Elena nods again. But she tried to picture it, what Sabina must have felt, seeing Elena in a pool of crimson. A stroke of luck again, that Sabina found her in time.
“The guard who shot you wasn’t any trouble, Sabina told me he’d been sobbing. His gun was on the floor. We took you to the nearest hospital and that was it.”
There’s such a detachment to it, Elena thinks. This whole time, she’d just been going through the motions. Surgery, medicines, exercises, recovery. Doing what the doctors tell her. She has no idea what she looked like, crumpled on the floor, bloodstained. The pain had subsided to a dull throbbing when she came to. Hearing it like this from Bosley, who’s delivering it like the morning news. She was lucky twice, and escaped death by a hair, but here she is, a little bit unfeeling. The shot wasn’t an experience for Elena; its repercussions were.
But for Sabina, who’d seen her…
And for the one who didn’t.
“Jane,” Elena says. “Who told her?”
“I did that, too.” Bosley’s face grows dark. “Her face turned to stone, but I saw her knuckles go white. She just asked where you were and got there as fast as she could.”
She can imagine it. Jane just pushing it all down. Getting on the nearest motorcycle she could find and speeding away.
“Right, okay.” Elena blinks. She stretches out her hand, closes it. Repeats. Rolls her shoulder. Inhale, exhale. “Thanks, Bos.”
“You’re welcome. And Elena?”
“I don’t think I’d ever seen Jane so scared in her entire life.”
When she enters her quarters, wrung out and shoulder aching, she finds Sabina and Jane snuggled up in one bed.
They were watching a movie, Elena guesses. There’s a shared pair of earphones between them plugged into a phone lying on Sabina’s belly.
Elena gingerly takes the earphones out, coils it, and puts it aside. She fishes for Sabina’s charger and plugs her phone in—she can’t leave the room to start the day if it isn’t at 100%. Jane senses all the movement, but her response is to hold Sabina closer.
Elena smiles, crawls into her own bed, but somehow she doesn’t feel alone.
There’s times where you don’t know how to describe how you’re feeling, but there’s also times when you don’t know what you’re feeling altogether.
Elena was smart, she had her suspicions. Jane and Sabina aren’t shy to intertwine their fingers, they’d shared glances that were a bit too long once or twice. They’d emerge from the same washroom together, too.
There’s also just this … aura surrounding them. Like you could tell how much they mean to each other. Elena didn’t know if it was just one of the things borne out of the fact that you put your life on the line together. They’ve saved each other's lives more often than they could count.
It could always be something more.
It was odd, because Elena was so devastatingly attracted to both of them, so them being together would be one of the weirdest situations she’d had to deal with. Ever.
But Elena Houghlin’s always had a penchant for getting into weird situations.
Lone woman of colour in her graduating class? Check. Youngest member of the engineering and design division? Check. Corporate whistleblower? Check. Lethal female assassin in training? Check.
So naturally, of course, this happens:
There’s a new mission briefing, and Elena tagged along because she was going to be observing when they actually carry it out. Of course, Jane and Sabina were the ones assigned to it—Elena wouldn’t be allowed to do it otherwise. Dirty politician, election fraud, ghost employees, untouchable because he has power and money, the usual fare.
In twenty minutes, the brief was over. Elena made sure to do further research on what kind of people make donations to him, which PACs have supported his campaign, etc. There’s bound to be a gala sometime in the mission, so Elena wanted to ensure she was ready then.
She was striding over to Saint’s—she could really use a mango banana smoothie right now—but whispered voices stopped her in her tracks.
Elena peeked over the corner, and saw Jane twirling a lock of Sabina’s hair before leaning down and giving her a quick kiss. Sabina smiled as she pulled away and looked up at her, a finger hooked onto Jane’s belt loop.
Thank God Elena’s had sufficient training, because otherwise she would have let out an enormous gasp.
She leant back against the wall and covered her mouth. She didn’t know what to make of it.
It’s not heartbreak, despite the fact that she just found out both her crushes were taken. Relief? She didn’t have to agonise over them anymore. Happiness, maybe, for her two best friends who have made each other less lonely. Longing for what they have, and for them, too.
She reeled herself backward, then made sure her steps were loud so Jane and Sabina have time to compose themselves.
She turned the corner, gave them a “Hey guys!” before heading to Saint’s.
When she got there, she said, “Tequila, Saint. I need tequila.”
“You’re really cute today.”
Elena frowns and looks down at the garish shoulder support she’s wearing. It goes all the way down to her forearm and begins on her opposite clavicle. She’d decided to wear a tank top on top of it anyway, because if she wore a t-shirt it would be way too stuffy.
Elena raises her eyebrows. “I look like the victim of a mummifier who got lazy a third into the job.”
Sabina snorts. “Don’t be ridiculous. You kind of have a—” she gesticulates randomly—“CrossFit thing going on.”
“You know—tank top, leggings, compression support. Plus, we’re in the cereal aisle, which I think adds to the whole thing.”
Grocery shopping for the outpost (for them currently Los Angeles, because that’s where the training facilities are) kind of became a thing for Elena and Sabina. Sabina’s patient and a boredom-killer, and Elena had the most experience grocery shopping prior to being an Angel. Jane would tag along occasionally, but right now she’s asleep, and Sabina and Elena decided to let her get her rest.
“Please shut up,” Elena counters, no seriousness in it at all. She laughs through it and heads toward Sabina, who has made herself comfortable leaning against the cart. Elena dumps two boxes of Frosted Flakes and a box of Cheerios into it.
As she’s bringing her arm back up, she feels a sharp pain shooting down her arm, and before she can stop herself she winces and puts a hand against her bullet wound. She probably stretched too far when she was picking up the cereal from the shelf.
Sabina’s expression drops instantly. “You okay?” she asks, brows furrowed.
When Elena nods and drops her hand, Sabina puts her palm against the bullet wound, too.
(She put it on the exact spot, despite the fact that it’s completely hidden from view. Elena doesn’t want to think about the whys and hows of it.)
They finish a half hour later, and soon enough Sabina is driving home.
Elena busies herself on her phone, but she jumps when she hears a sudden whir and feels wind blowing at the back of her neck.
“What are you doing?” Elena asks, turning to face Sabina.
“Putting the roof down.”
That gets an eye-roll from Elena. “Yes, I can see that. Why?”
“Babe, you haven’t gotten fresh air in over a month. Come on!”
The roof’s completely retracted now, and Elena finds herself suddenly drenched in the California sunshine. Sabina honks loudly and lets out a loud “Whoooooooop!”
Elena cackles. “What are you doing?” she asks again.
“Try it!” Sabina has to shout over the noise now. “Just let it out, Ells! Whooooooooop!”
Elena indulges her girlfriend, but not without rolling her eyes first. She cups her hands around her mouth and lets out a “Yeah!”
“You call that letting it out?!” Sabina speeds up and honks again. “Yeeeaaahhh!”
“Yeeaah!” Elena tries again, but it’s still weak.
“Oh you’re gonna get nowhere if you’re gonna be stuck in your seat!” Sabina tells her. “Come on Elena, get up!”
Sabina’s always made her laugh, and right now wouldn’t be an exception. She looks like the girl’s dream she always is, windswept hair with one hand on the steering wheel. Elena gets on her feet and finally lets out a formidable “Hell yeeeeaaaahhhhh!”
“That’s it!” Sabina yells in approval. “That’s my girl!”
Elena laughs again, and she’s almost taken aback at how deep inside her the laugh came from. She probably hasn’t laughed like that in a long time.
“How’d that feel?” Sabina asks, earnest, taking a moment to spare a glance at Elena.
How did it feel? Sabina was right—Elena had been stuck in a metal box for the better part of two months. She had either been in the compound or a (completely closed) car.
But now feels air against her face and sun against her skin and sees a blue sky. Now there is no hole ripped through her shoulder, there is no weight on her chest.
And it’s not because the roof’s down on their car—Elena doesn’t think so.
Sabina’s always made her feel this way, she thinks as she looks at her. Comfortable. Free. Careless. Uninhibited. It’s with Sabina she laughs the loudest, it’s Sabina who tore down all her walls.
So she smiles and leans down and takes Sabina’s face in her hands. She gives her a kiss, road safety be damned. Elena’s still smiling against Sabina’s cheek when she declares a soft “I love you.”
Sabina’s reply is taking hold of Elena’s hand and never letting go.
Sabina was the one who made the first move.
They were on a new, more time-consuming mission now, and it was still in its early stages. The three of them had rented out an apartment near the home of a man suspected to be involved in laundering for an illegal arms dealer. Sabina was the most skilled probably in the whole agency at observation, Elena tagged along for experience, and Jane tagged along because—well. It would be weird if she didn’t. The three of them are kind of a package deal at this point.
(Which meant Elena was going to be in a small, confined space with the two women she’d been hopelessly mooning over—who, by the way, were dating each other. Just great. Absolutely fantastic setup for her.)
It’s been about three and a half hours, but all laundryman had done was do actual laundry and feed his pets.
“Hey, Elena—mind taking over the eyes for a bit?” Sabina asked, leaning away from the window and holding up her pair of binoculars. “I’m starving.”
Elena shrugged. “Sure,” she replied, then took the binoculars and adjusted her view.
“See him?” Jane asked.
“Yep, I’ve got him.” Why do these kinds of people always have to be cliché? Elena wondered. Laundryman was literally reading the paper while having a cup of (what Elena assumed to be) coffee. Because of course he was.
Unglamorous part of spy life, by the way—the patience needed. Elena has learnt to deal with it by singing songs in her head.
In the middle of her State of Grace (which was preceded by All Too Well and Begin Again), their suspect started putting on a jacket. He was headed out.
“Guys, he’s on the move.” Elena turned to her partners-in-busting-crime, who both immediately sprang into action.
Jane started assembling a rifle (unsurprising) while Sabina headed straight for the window, picking the binoculars out from Elena’s hand and surveying for herself (maybe a bit surprising.)
Sabina rested her elbows on the windowsill, and she was so close to Elena that Elena could feel the heat off her skin. And Elena was just kind of … left there, frozen, staring at her killer green-greys and her dark lashes. Elena hadn’t allowed herself a moment of this—of succumbing to her feelings for Sabina—in a long time, and so it’s now crashing down, the awareness of it. Their shared space was already small to begin with, and it’s shrunk to a hair’s width now.
“Like what you see, Houghlin?” Sabina asked, not even looking.
“I—what—no—I—I—what?” Elena sputtered out.
Sabina put on that smirk of hers, put the specs down, and faced Elena. She took her chin in between her two fingers, and inched closer and closer and closer.
It was too much all at once, and Elena couldn’t process anything that was happening. All she knew was Sabina, Sabina, Sabina and all the want she had for her, and so when Sabina leant further in Elena’s eyes fluttered closed.
“Guys,” came Jane’s voice.
And the warmth dissipated from in front of Elena’s face, and so she opened her eyes and—oh, fuck.
Sabina almost kissed her, but that’s not even the worst of it.
Sabina almost kissed Elena, right in front of Jane.
Jane, her girlfriend.
But Jane seemed completely fine, no trace of anger or resentment in her face. Just impatience and even maybe amusement. A small smile was on her face when she rolled her eyes at Elena’s no doubt deer in the headlights expression.
Sabina still had that smirk. “Let’s go, newbie.”
Tired is an understatement for how Elena’s feeling.
There’s body-tired, where her muscles ache but the one by her shoulder especially. She just came from strength training, and what she’s called the Wheel Of Death—basically a rotating board mounted on the wall that has an adjustable, perpendicular handle, which can be anywhere from the center all the way to the edge. When her injury was still fresh, the handle was located fairly near the center and she’d have to spin the wheel, in a sort of cranking motion. Today her trainer decided to put the handle on the very edge of the damn thing, so Elena was stretching the hell out of her arm to get a revolution. It was a nightmare.
But then there’s tired, tired.
“Ugh,” Elena sighs, flopping onto one of the weight benches.
“What’s wrong?” a voice comes.
Into the gym strides Jane, hair slicked back into a ponytail and in (deliciously fitting) training gear. There’s wraps around her fists—she’s going to go for combat training.
“Oh! Hey, babe.” Elena licks her lips. (Her girlfriend is hot, what do you expect her to do?) “It’s just—recovery isn’t going well.”
“Well,” Jane says, sitting on the floor in front of Elena. “Why not?”
“I don’t know, it’s—” Elena sighs, her shoulders slumping. “It’s dumb, really.”
“Oh, I’m sure it’s not, love.” Jane’s voice is soothing, sweet. “C’mon, you can tell me.”
Elena blows the hair in front of her face. “It’s just—I can feel myself getting rusty.” Elena flexes her hand open and closed. “I want a sparring evaluation. Not because I’m itching to get back in the field, or whatever, like I trust Townsend on when to clear me. I just want one session. A diagnostic one. To see if I can or not.”
Jane raises her eyebrows. “And?”
“And of course, people are speaking for me. Again. ‘No, Houghlin, you’re not ready,’ ‘You’re going to waste all the work we put in’, like— what the fuck? The work you put in? I was shot! I’m killing myself in recovery! I’m asking for one evaluation. I deserve that much.”
Jane doesn’t reply, lets Elena continue, but she holds out her hand and takes Elena’s, rubbing her thumb across the back of it.
“Like, this was the same kind of shit they pulled with me with Calisto. And I was right! Thought that I wouldn’t get that anymore in here of all places, but surprise! Yup! Still expected to be quiet like a good little girl.”
“It’s not even the fact that they’re not allowing me to spar—it’s not that, it’s them robbing me of my agency. If I’m not ready, fine! Then I don’t start combat training! But don’t just put me down like that. It sucks, Jane. I’m just so tired of it.”
“Darling,” Jane coos, then gets up and cradles Elena’s head in her hands. She kisses her, soothing, brief, then says, “I’m so sorry that the world isn’t smart enough for you.”
Elena snorts. That’s what she likes about Jane—she has a knack for knowing the right thing to say. Jane doesn’t bother with niceties; just straight facts. And, okay, yeah, sometimes Elena feels that people don’t see just how intelligent she actually is.
“I’m also sorry to Townsend,” Jane adds, and for a moment Elena is horrified, but then she continues with, “because I think I’ll ditch my training right now to spar with you, yeah?”
Elena’s jaw drops. Do her girlfriends surprise her all the time? Is that their job? “I—what? No, you don’t—”
“C’mon, Ells, wraps and gloves,” Jane says, already putting hers on.
Elena needs to edit her earlier sentiment.
What she loves about Jane is her knack for always knowing the right thing to do.
Jane goes easy on her, but Elena can’t fault her for that. Everyone has. Sabina doesn’t shove her anymore, even playfully. Saint once leant on her shoulder out of habit then recoiled, like he was burnt, uttering a quiet, “Sorry.”
Elena feels sluggish, slow, and nowhere near as sharp. Her mind says go but her body says wait and as frustrating as it is, she knows that it’s part of all this.
They go for a solid thirty minutes, Jane giving instructions and Elena trying her best to follow. They went with basic boxing. “Jab, straight, jab, uppercut,” Jane tells her, and Elena follows.
“Elena,” Jane says, voice still low. Never once did she raise it during the entire session. “We need a break first.”
“Jane, come on—”
“Your entire left arm is shaking.”
Elena brings it up to look at it, but she feels it before she sees it. The trembling is subtle, but definitely there.
Jane smiles. “Come on,” she says, then kisses Elena’s forehead. “Let’s sort that out.”
She guides Elena to the same weight bench she was sat on earlier. Elena plops onto it and when her arms hangs, she feels like it’s attached to her shoulder by a thread. Jane puts one foot on the bench and props Elena’s arm up onto her knee.
Jane makes quick work of the gloves, then the wraps around her hands. She grabs a few pain relief patches and places them on Elena’s forearm.
“Do you have a replacement wrap for your shoulder?” Jane asks.
“In my bag.”
Jane manages to reach for it without dropping Elena’s arm. She grabs the new roll, sets it aside, and begins unwrapping the current one Elena’s wearing—sticky, wet, uncomfortable.
There’s a skill and gentleness and precision to Jane’s movements, and Elena can only think of how many times Jane has had to do this to herself. No shortage of injuries in MI6 or Townsend.
Her finger grazes Elena’s scar, and Elena flinches.
“Oh—I’m sorry,” Jane says, voice still soft.
“No, it doesn’t hurt, it’s just—”
Jane continues her work in silence, finally having unwrapped the entire thing. She inspects Elena’s shoulder for a long moment, so long that Elena wonders if there’s something wrong, that Elena worries that she’s frozen by something she can’t see.
Jane lays Elena’s arm back down and puts a finger to the scar—careful, almost reverent. “Sabina told me.”
And it takes Elena a few seconds to unpack that, and there’s a thousand things Sabina could have told Jane, but with her touching Elena’s shoulder like that, it could only mean one thing.
Elena’s stomach sinks with dread.
“Hey, Jane—look. I’m sorry. It wasn’t—It was dumb.” Elena looks into Jane’s eyes, pleading. “I was frustrated at how long the mission was taking, then I saw you giving Sabina flowers, and I didn’t get any, then I saw the two of you bingeing Friends and I wasn’t invited to that either, and I’m pretty sure that was your idea, and then before we went in for that raid you wished Sabina to get home safe and all I got was ‘good luck.’”
There’s hurt all over Jane’s face, and all Elena wants to do is take it away, jam it into the hole in her shoulder.
“Which, by the way, are all stupid reasons, because I know I shouldn’t be jealous, because I’m very secure in your love, and in Sabina’s, and you and Sabina’s, and I’d like to think that you feel the same,” Elena adds. “It all just kind of … piled up, and—”
“My fault,” Jane murmurs, still tracing the scar.
Elena’s heart shatters.
She wonders how long Jane had been keeping this. How long since she found out about the conversation between her and Sabina, how long since she probably thought that it distracted Elena and ended up getting her shot.
“No,” Elena says, firm. “No, not your fault. Mm-mmm.” She shakes her head. “Don’t you say that ever again.”
“I’m scared,” Jane admits quietly. “I didn’t give you flowers because I remembered you had a stalker once who’d pester them with you endlessly, and I—I didn’t want you to know I was into something as trashy as Friends, and I just—” Jane exhales, slow. “I don’t know why I didn’t wish for you to get home safe, honestly, but with that on top of everything … I totally get it.”
Elena knew the moment she saw Jane’s face when she woke up in the hospital that all of her assumptions (which she founded her insecurity on) were ridiculous. Right now, they feel like the stupidest thing she’s ever thought of.
“I’ve been around Sabina longer, so she’s seen me at my worst,” Jane continues, “but you haven’t. And I’m just so scared of losing you, because you never settle for less than perfect, Elena Houghlin—and you shouldn’t. Because it’s what you deserve. You’re smart, and funny, and so beautiful, and you can make the world fall to your feet if you wanted to, darling. I just want to be good enough for you.”
Jane looks at Elena with something she can’t quite place, but Elena’s chest stirs with the enormity of it. She doesn’t know if she’s on the verge of tears or loud laughter or both or neither. Jane’s eyes are filled with multitudes, universes.
Behold the cosmos turning within my body, Elena thinks, and the other things you desire to see.
Elena reaches out to touch Jane’s face, and Jane closes her eyes and leans into it. She’s so vulnerable, and open, and unguarded that Elena’s reminded that Jane is actually the youngest of the three of them.
They’re like that, frozen, until Elena can’t quite take it anymore. She takes Jane’s lips into hers and tells her that you’re perfect, you’re perfect, you’re more than good enough.
It’s Jane who pulls apart, but she puts her thumb to stroke Elena’s cheek.
“You know,” Elena says, “I only don’t like flowers when it’s from creepy men.”
Jane laughs, tender. “Yeah?”
“When it comes from a pretty girl, though …”
Jane smiles, and there’s that gap between her teeth, and it’s all sorts of wonderful.
“Noted, Agent Houghlin.”
It happened over nachos.
They had a free day, and Sabina had a mad craving for the best nachos in town, as she called it. The place that served it was this hole-in-the-wall that had one working light. The air was muggy and the tables were sticky but the food was delicious, which immediately made up for everything.
“Elena,” Jane called, beer sloshing in her glass, “do you wanna see how I got into MI6?”
Seeing Jane like this—so loose, so languid—was about as odd as an iPhone in the Renaissance. She was standing by the far wall, and Elena walked over to her.
As she neared, Elena saw that Jane had darts in her hand. She looked around to see if there was a board, and—ah. There.
Twelve feet away.
“Watch,” Jane said, and that’s what Elena did.
She threw one, but it didn’t land in the bullseye. Nope.
It landed somewhere way more impressive.
Right there sat Jane’s dart—in treble twenty.
“Holy shit!” Elena exclaimed.
Jane flexed her biceps. “Marksmanship, baby.”
“You have got to teach me how to do that.” Elena picked up a few stray darts she spotted on the floor, and made her way to Jane, who had moved much closer to the board.
“It’s all in the wrist, love,” said Jane, and she moved behind Elena. “Right foot forward—yes, good, and raise it to your eye.” She guided Elena’s elbow to the right spot.
“Where do you want it to hit?” Jane asked.
Elena shrugged. “I don’t know. Bullseye, I guess.”
“Okay. Oh—and tilt the dart, just the tiniest bit, in your hand—yeah. That’s great, Ells.” Jane put her hand on Elena’s hips and whispered, “Go for it.”
Elena let it fly, with a flick of the wrist just like Jane told her. It landed with a thump in single four—a good five inches away from bullseye. She winced.
“Not bad, though,” came Jane’s voice, “at least it’s on the board.”
“Stop it,” Elena countered, rolling her eyes. She turned to give Jane a playful poke on the cheek, but then—
Oh, she thought. Here it is again.
The space between them vanished, as if it was sucked out with a thwoop , and Elena’s breath in her lungs did the same. She felt all of Jane’s hops-stained exhales on the tip of her nose, and maybe Elena was getting intoxicated, too. Her eyes closed and she inched closer—pulled, really, by Jane. Jane, Jane, Jane.
And there was that want that makes itself known again, that Elena had been resisting for so long that she was too weak by now, worn down and weary and a bit helpless. So Jane closed the distance and Elena let herself this one blessed moment, the softness of Jane’s lips against hers and the feel of her finger under Elena’s chin.
But in the back of her head somewhere, Elena realised that she’s clinging onto this so desperately because she knew that it was fleeting, and the bucket of cold water to her face was Sabina yelling, “Yo, Kano, what the fuck?”
The reverie was broken so harshly that Elena swore she could hear glass shatter somewhere. They jolted apart and while Elena can only look down and fiddle with her thumbs, convinced that she ruined the best thing in her life right now—her life-filling bond with these two girls—Jane said, “Oh, honey, come on.”
“We talked about this!” Sabina countered through her teeth.
“Oh, like you’re innocent,” Jane retorted. “Remember the stakeout?”
Oh, fuck. They probably had a fight about that, too. Elena was such an idiot, ruining a perfectly happy couple like that.
“Yeah, where I stopped myself. On your command.”
“Look—I’m sorry, Sab.” Jane sighed. “I really am! Promise! I just got carried away, okay?”
Elena heard Sabina give a long exhale, resigned, and she knew that that was the end of it. If there was one thing Elena knew, it was that Sabina Wilson can’t resist much when it comes to her Jane.
“Elena? Elena, baby, look at me?” Sabina asked, voice much softer.
Elena looked up, sheepish.
“Let’s talk about this, okay?”
Sabina was still holding her bowl of nachos, hair mussed and weight still leaning to one side, as cool and lax as ever. She grabbed the nearest chair and sat on it, the chair’s backrest at her front, her chin leaning on top of it. The nachos were set on the table. Sabina tiled her head toward the two other seats and asked, “Sit?”
The chairs’ legs creaked as Elena and Jane pulled theirs aside to sit. Jane sat awkward, as she always did, her legs splayed out to the side.
“Elena, we’ve—” Sabina exhaled, gathers herself. “I need you to know first that you’re not guilty of anything, okay?”
Elena bit her lip, swallowed. That was going to be hard to believe. But, she’d try. “Okay.”
Jane and Sabina shared a look, before Jane continued with, “Sabina and I … we’ve been talking quite a while.”
“About?” Elena raised an eyebrow.
Elena’s nerves ramped up, and she was hit with a sudden wave of anxiety—like the feeling when you skip a step, the breathlessness, only it lingered. “W—What about me?”
Sabina grabbed her hand. “Elena, please, it’s nothing bad—Jane, we have to tell her, look at her—”
“We like you, Elena,” Jane said, plain and simple. “We like you, and Sabina and I have been working out how to ask you out without freaking you out for at least a month now.”
And there’s an awful split-second when Elena wondered if this was all a joke, that there must be a hidden camera stuck in here somewhere, because surely she didn’t just hear that. But Sabina was still holding her hand and she had those bright, earnest green-greys of hers, and Jane’s expression was so vulnerable, so unguarded.
Then Elena finally strung together what Jane just told her, and all she could say was, “Wait—what?”
“We wanna date you, Houghlin,” Sabina replied, taking another chip into her mouth. “Pretty sure you wanna date us, too.” She nudged Jane, who laughed.
“How did you—”
“We’re spies, Elena,” Jane deadpanned.
“Right. Right. Okay.” Elena put her hands to her temples, trying to process. “So … us three.”
Jane shrugged. “As it’s always been.”
As it’s always been.
“So,” Sabina said, kicking her feet up onto the table and leaning back.
Jane held out a nacho chip. “Girlfriends?”
Elena looked between the two of them, her axis and her orbit, the two people most important to her in her life. She looked at their wide, expectant eyes and Elena was just so full of love for them that she’d want nothing more than to dive in and see where the depths of it could go.
It was unglamorous, and the air was muggy and the tables were sticky, but it was real. And that’s what made it perfect.
She bit into the chip. “Girlfriends,” Elena answered.
“Yeah!” Sabina slammed a fist on the table while Jane laughs. Elena was smiling, too, until Sabina took it into her own hands—or should Elena say lips?—to wipe it off her face.
She was right, by the way.
Definitely the best nachos in town.
Jane carries her back.
The training-turned-emotional outpour took everything out of Elena, and coupled with the fact that it’s well past midnight, Elena was beyond exhausted. So when Elena joked that she couldn’t move anymore, Jane simply positioned herself to piggyback Elena and hoisted her and their belongings up as if they weighed nothing.
The steady cadence of Jane’s walk lulls Elena further, but Jane interrupts when she asks, “What have you got on tomorrow?”
“Ugh,” Elena sighs. Tomorrow and what it held was the last thing she wanted to think about. “I have field work tomorrow. Survival skills.”
Jane pauses. “Yeesh,” she says, before she resumes heading back to the room. “Good luck with that.”
When they arrive, Sabina’s still awake, freshly showered and seated on the bed.
“Whoa,” she greets, before hurriedly getting up to help Jane with the bags. “What happened here?”
“Poor baby’s wiped out,” Jane says.
Elena groans. “Tired. Need sleep.”
“Come on, you,” Sabina says, before gently pulling her off of Jane’s back and toward one of the beds.
Elena all but collapses into it, her eyes already shut, and Jane nudges her legs into position. Sabina somehow goes over Elena and squeezes herself between Elena and the wall. There’s a few minutes of rustling in the bathroom before Jane ultimately joins them, too, all three of them an awkward tangle of limbs.
“We’re all cramped,” Elena mumbles.
“I’m fine with it,” Sabina replies.
“Same here,” comes Jane.
Elena opens one eye, and she shuts it again. “Okay, then.”
As cramped as they may be, there’s a strange comfort to it. Sabina’s shampoo and Jane’s cologne are scents Elena’s long associated with home, the bed is warm, and Jane’s stroking Elena’s hair while Sabina draws patterns down her arm.
Elena falls asleep with all her worries forgotten.
When Elena wakes up, there’s a bouquet of marigolds on the bedside table. A notecard beside it reads,
Hope field training goes well today. Modern Family marathon later @ 5, don’t be late. Get back safe. -J&S
Elena smiles and holds the notecard to her chest before setting it back down.
She stretches out her neck, then her legs, then the most tedious—her arms.
She evaluates the scar still there. A shot through the shoulder , she thinks to herself. Then she turns her attention back to the flowers and the note.
And a shot through the heart.