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On Her Knees

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“Wow!  Shay!  You have excellent taste!”  Maura was currently gawking over their friend’s engagement ring, her hand cupping Hallie’s as she rattled off facts about the diamond.  It was so different than the Maura a few years ago, the Maura who asked Jane why she would squeal about a colorless crystalline form of pure carbon.  So much about that interaction was wrong, Jane realized it now.  Looking back, that time in her life was not one she liked to revisit.

The younger woman grinned, deep dimples showing in her cheeks, while her now fiancee stood behind her.  “She really does!”  Her free hand rested on her shoulder, within reach of Shay, who held it tight.  “Oh!  But please keep it quiet.  We haven’t told our families yet.”

This made Jane’s chest swell up with pride, her eyes settling on the two younger women.  “You told us first?”

“Well, yeah.”  Shay watched them from behind Hallie, her face beaming.  “You guys are like our older protective sisters.  We wanted to let you know first.”

Maura reached them before Jane did, but it didn’t stop her from adding her own weight to the group embrace.  “We’re so honored.  And so happy for you both.”  Jane could hear Hallie shaking with laughter between them, and Shay’s fake groan as she tried to break free.

They had met the two younger women their first night at Nine Lives, a lesbian bar right outside the city.  They had almost decided not to go, but after reminiscing about their case at Merch, they decided to give it a try.  “Best case scenario, we come out with some new friends in the area."  Maura had reasoned, curling her hair at Jane's old vanity.

"Worst case, we end up slightly drunk but still go home together."  Jane had supplied the other half of that conversation, watching Maura get ready while she sat on the foot of her bed.  Their bed.  Maura had officially moved in, though most of her stuff was still in a storage unit.  Only a few of her kitchen appliances had made it to the counters, and only the shoes that were in season were in their closet.  It was becoming more and more obvious that they needed a space that was theirs, but at least now they were together.

Jane fiddled with her hands, impatient, waiting for Maura to be ready.  "Maur, if you take too much longer, we'll miss the show."

"That's impossible, Jane.  The flyer says that the music will play all night."  Whether she was done, or if she was just appeasing Jane, she never knew.  But Maura put down the curling iron, giving her hair a quick comb through with her fingers.  She had turned to look at Jane.  "How do I look?"

Jane took the moment to take in the sight in front of her.  Maura was dressed in a black dress that hugged her curves in a delicious manner, but that still covered her in a way that she almost looked professional.  Her blonde hair fell gracefully over her shoulders.  And she had done her makeup in a way that accentuated her eyes.  "Amazing.  You always look amazing."

Maura blushed, turning to give herself one last look before leaning to grab the clutch on the nightstand.  She stood then, stepping toward the door, pulling Jane up with her long the way.  Her fingers laced with the taller woman's, she looked up at Jane with genuine eyes.  "You look really nice."

"Oh please."  Jane was wearing black work pants and a purple blouse.  Even the pleading of the Doctor couldn't get her to wear a dress.  Her hair was down, she hadn’t done much with it, though that had more to do with a lack of time as opposed to a lack of wanting to try.  “It’s clear which one of us is reaching and which one is settling.”

Maura cut her off by covering her lips with her own.  The move was surprising, but of course not unwanted.  When she pulled away she wore an expression Jane couldn’t read.  “Don’t talk like that.  You’re gorgeous, and I love you.”  With that she pulled Jane to the front door, their fingers still laced together.

Nine Lives was more of a lounge than a club.  There was space for the musicians and a small dance floor, but the ambiance was more low-key than Jane was expecting.  They found a plastic couch to sit on, one with an end table, and settled in for a minute.  A waitress came by and asked what they would like to drink, and Maura ordered for them.  It was becoming clear to Jane that they didn’t quite fit in as they sat by themselves, listening to the music, not talking to any of the other patrons.  The theme was Latin night, and Jane didn’t recognize any of the songs the band was playing, although they did sound competent.

It was when her drink was halfway gone that the lead singer spoke to the crowd, telling them he was going to slow things down.  That’s when Maura grabbed her hand and started to pull her up.  “Dance with me?”

Jane raised one eyebrow.  “I hate dancing.”

“I know.”  Maura leaned forward, whispering in her ear.  “But you love me.”

Jane couldn’t help but smile as the blonde pulled away, a knowing look on her face.  “You got me there, babe.”  So she let herself be pulled to the dance floor, let Maura rest a head on her shoulder, held her close as they swayed to the slow ballad, her hands roaming the Doctor’s back.  For a moment, she and Maura were the only people in the room.  It took her a moment to come back to reality when the music sped up again.  Feeling Maura pull away, her hips swaying to music that neither of them knew definitely did the trick.  And as much as Jane wanted to go sit back down, to go back to her beer and watch from afar, she was having entirely too much fun watching Maura enjoy herself.  

It was about fifteen minutes after they decided to stay on the dance floor that Jane heard voices behind her that made her stop.  “Dude, get off me!”  She turned to the source.  A younger brunette was yelling at a man, who seemed like he was way too close to her.  Most of the men Jane had seen were security guards, but there were a few peppered into the crowd.  This one in particular was not heeding the woman’s warning.  Maura too had stopped dancing, her hands on Jane’s shoulder as she watched the scene in front of them.  “I already told you, I have a girlfriend.”

The man leered, making Jane’s skin crawl.  “Maybe you just haven’t met the right guy?”  He pointed at the woman behind her, shorter, stockier, with a short haircut and a bowtie.  “Is that your girlfriend?  You must like men a little bit if you want to be with her.”  This was the phrase that had Jane walking over there, a familiar spring in her step that she hadn’t felt in a long time.

“She is more than you could ever be.”  The younger woman stood her ground, making herself look bigger, stepping out of her girlfriend’s grip.

“I can show you how a real man would take care of you.”

Jane pushed herself between them, facing the man.  He reeked of alcohol, and he stumbled as she invaded his space.  “I believe the lady told you to get lost.”  Her voice dropped as she talked, an intimidation tactic she’d learned years ago.

His eyes narrowed as he laughed, his hand swatting at her.  “Go away, Gram.  You’re ruining the vibe.”

Jane stepped closer, making him back up.  “No, you’re ruining the vibe by coming here and ignoring women when they tell you to buzz off.  There’s no age limit on having a good time, pal, and you’re ruining my good time.”

“Go away, Gram, you're ruining my good time.”  He then tried to shove her aside to get back to the woman behind them.

Jane, used to shoving, stepped back in front of him, her shoulders squared.  “You’re not gonna want to touch me again, pal.  Walk away, leave her alone, and we can all go back to having fun.”

“Seriously bitch, get out of my face.”

This time when he shoved her, Jane was ready.  She had him pinned to the ground before he knew it was happening, one hand behind his back.  She heard Maura say her name in the background, noticed the music had stopped, the sounds quieting as people saw what was going on.  Leaning down, Jane spoke to him while she waited on security.  “Seriously asshole, you’re coming to a lesbian bar trying to pick up girls, and have the audacity to be a jerk when you’re rejected?”  He struggled to get up, but Jane had experience with this.  “No!  When security comes, you can tell them your side of the story.  I wonder who they’ll believe?”

“Ma’am!  Ma’am, we’ve got him.”  A man in a bright orange shirt knelt next to her, taking over and taking control of the situation.

“That bitch tackled me for no reason!  I want her thrown out!”  His words slurred as he yelled, pointing erratically in Jane’s direction as he stood.

“He was pursuing a young woman after she told him to stop.  He then shoved me when I tried to intervene.”  Jane’s voice had raised in pitch as she explained herself, the guard looking back and forth between the two of them.

A voice spoke up from behind her.  “I was the woman he was harassing.  She’s telling the truth.”  She stood next to Jane, her shoulders back as she addressed the man in orange.

“Yeah, and he shoved her first.”  The second voice was higher in pitch and turning, Jane saw that it belonged to the girlfriend in the bowtie.

Maura linked arms with her on her left.  “Actually, he shoved her twice.  After the first time, she warned him not to do it again.”

The guard regarded all of them before looking back at the seething drunkard.  After a beat, he grabbed the man’s arm.  “Sir, harassment and fighting are not tolerated in this establishment.”

The man screeched.  “But what about that bitch?”

“Self-defense is always allowed.  I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

Jane could hear him arguing with the guard the entire way out.  As she breathed, she could hear that the music was still stopped, and about sixty sets of eyes were all fixed on her.  Maura’s touch on her arm helped bring her back to the present, and she waved dramatically in the air with her free hand.  “Show’s over people.  Go back to your music.”  The lead singer seemed to look at her funny for a few moments more, but thankfully her guitarist was more than happy to get things going back to normal.  As the music started, more people turned away, switching their focus.  And once she felt like some of the attention was off her, she pulled away from Maura and walked back to their seats.

Sitting on the bench, she rested her head in her hands, and as the adrenaline wore off she felt herself begin to shake.  She felt the bench depress beside her, Maura pulling her in and rubbing circles in her back as Jane began to breathe.  A few minutes went by, Maura unwavering by her side when she heard the clink of a glass on the table at her right.  “Can we join you?”  Looking up, Jane locked eyes with the woman she had helped, her face soft with a genuine smile, her girlfriend’s arm resting protectively around her waist.

“Uh, yeah.  Pull up some chairs, I guess.”  The women did so, positioning them so they sat across from the two older women.

The woman with the bowtie spoke first, breaking the ice.  “Hallie and I discussed it, and we decided that you are totally kickass, and we want you to adopt us.”  She wore a smile on her face and watched carefully to see how Jane would react.

Jane could feel Maura’s smile, her cheek rested against her shoulder, and she allowed herself to chuckle at the statement.  “Well unfortunately for you, our apartment is barely big enough for the two of us.  I wouldn’t know where to put you two.”

“Damn.”  The woman with the bowtie looked at the other woman, Hallie, her hand resting on her knee.  “Foiled again.”

“How many other people have you asked to adopt you?”  Maura’s voice was light with amusement, and as Jane relaxed, so did she.

Hallie giggled, showing dimples as she faced Maura.  “Shay asked my Mom to adopt her, but she said she would have to make an honest woman out of me first.”

“Oof.  That’s tough.  My Mother practically adopted this one before we ever thought about dating.”  She pointed with her thumb in the blonde’s direction, delighting in her giggle and the swat of her hand.

“Do you guys come here often?”  Shay asked, addressing them both, a hard cider in her hand.

“Tonight was our first night.”  Maura supplied the answer, reaching over Jane for her glass of white wine.  “Do you?”

“We come mostly on weekend nights.”  Hallie crossed her legs, becoming more comfortable.  “Shay teaches music, so we try not to keep her out late on a school night.”

“It is not always successful.”  Shay punctuated this with a sip of her drink, making them all begin laughing.

Jane relaxed a bit more, taking a sip of the new beer the younger women had brought her.  “So how often are there creepy guys here like that?”

Hallie clicked her tongue, pushing her hands forward in disgust.  “There are guys here just about every night.  But usually, they go away when you tell them to.”

“Yeah, they usually respect you if you say you’re in a relationship.  That guy was the worst one we’ve seen so far.”

Hallie nodded in agreement.  “And look around.”  Jane did as she was told, taking in the composition of the room.  “There’s like three guys here that don’t work here.  To like, fifty or more women.”

Shay hummed, pointing at one.  “And I know that one is gay, so he doesn’t care.  His name is Tim, he’s pretty cool.”

“Yeah, most of them come with their friends and hope there’s a straight girl they can go home with.”

“Or a bisexual.”

Shay nodded in agreement, looking back and forth between both Maura and Jane.  “It’s really not a bad place, I swear.”

Maura nodded beside her, passing the glass back and forth between her hands.  “We were having fun until Jane heard the commotion.”

“I have to say, you were handling yourself pretty good out there.”  She offered a smile to Hallie.  “But he wasn’t backing down and I’ve seen tons of situations like that escalate really fast.”

The younger woman blushed, glad for the compliment.  “Thank you.  For saying that, and for helping me.”

“We hope you’ll come back.  Like, please don’t let this incident stop you from coming.”

Jane felt her stomach drop.  “I’m not sure…”  She watched as two young faces simultaneously fell, and stopped her sentence before she bothered them more.  “I’ll agree to this.”  She went into Maura’s purse, pulling out a business card.  “Next time you guys are here, text this number.  If we’re free, we’ll come.”  Shay took it with a smile, tucking it into her wallet for safekeeping.

Maura’s hand squeezed Jane’s knee, making her look at the blonde.  “Jane?  If you’re feeling better, can we go back to dancing?”

“You were having fun, weren't you?”  Maura nodded in response, her hazel eyes large, and Jane was powerless to resist her.  She sighed.  “Okay.”  She bit back a smile at Maura’s squeal of glee, and how quickly she stood up.  Turning her attention to the younger women she asked, “are you guys coming back to the dance floor too?”

Shay held out a hand for Hallie, wiggling her eyebrows in a way that made her laugh.  “Milady?”  Hallie giggled, taking her hand and standing, letting Shay lead the way to the dance floor.

What started as a protective relationship for Jane really grew into a friendship.  They had movie nights, where Hallie and Shay showed them all the cinema they missed.  On Saturday nights they went down to Nine Lives to listen to music and dance.  Once, and only once, Shay convinced Jane to play piano while she and Hallie sang show tunes while tipsy, Maura watching on in awe of how ridiculous it all sounded.  So when Shay popped the question, naturally, they couldn’t wait to tell Jane and Maura.

Maura pulled out of the hug first, sitting back in her chair and looking between the two women.  “So what’s the plan?”

Hallie giggled, lacing her fingers with Shay’s as everyone situated themselves.  “We haven’t done much planning yet.  My mother will be over the moon.”

“And we’ll be lucky if mine ever picks up the phone.”

Jane pointed at Shay, getting the shorter woman’s attention.  “Well, at least Hallie’s Mom will adopt you now.”

“And if we sit you at the same table as Angela at ours, she’ll probably adopt you too,”  Maura added, bringing levity to their conversation.

Jane laughed.  “Yes.  Then you can be like Maura with her three Moms.”

Shay looked at them both at the mention of their wedding, a sly grin on her face.  “So when are you two doing the deed?”

At this Maura looked at Jane, her eyebrows raised and her arms crossed.  “I’m not sure, Shay.  Ask Jane.”

“Jane has a plan.”  She hadn’t meant to refer to herself in the third person, but it seemed to make Maura giggle, her expression amused.

Hallie interrupted, her blue eyes falling on Jane.  “You really had me going after that race.”

Maura’s eyes grew wide as she turned to face the younger brunette.  “She did, didn’t she?”

Jane scoffed.  “First of all, I told you I wouldn’t propose to you while you were all hot and sweaty.  Second, I wasn’t even trying to fake propose!”

“Sure you weren’t.”  Maura’s eyes narrowed as she spoke, her gaze disapproving.

“Maur, I asked you to wait while I tied my shoe.”  It was the truth.  She stopped in an awkward spot where other people were finishing because she had almost tripped.  Worried about losing Maura (and Hallie, who had run with them) in the crowd of finishers, she had called out for her to wait.  Both Maura and Hallie thought it would become a proposal.  “Why would I have chosen that very inconvenient spot to ask you the most important question of our lives?”

“Why would you have chosen any of the other fake proposal spots?”

Jane threw her hands up in the air.  “Exactly!”  She grinned.  “I promise, when it happens, it will all make sense.”  She reached across the table, taking Maura’s hand in her own.  Maura smiled back at her, her eyes filled with amusement, before turning her attention back to the younger women and dropping the proposal talk.

Hallie gave them their moment before continuing, her thumb playing with the new rock on her finger.  “What are you guys doing tomorrow?  Want to come by our place and help us start planning?”

“I’m taking Maura out to dinner.  Somewhere fancy.”

Shay let out a fake French laugh, making the whole table laugh, and a few other patrons look over in their direction.  She spoke in a terrible fake French accent, the kind Jane had heard in old movies.  “I hope you lovely ladies have a wonderful date.”

Maura shook her head and muttered a phrase in French, the words falling out of her mouth with ease.  Shay opened her mouth and eyes wide, pointing at the Doctor in awe.  “I didn’t know you spoke French!”

“I said, ‘if you want to learn to speak for real, I know a wonderful teacher.’”

“Is it you?  Please tell me it’s you!”  She turned to Hallie.  “Babe, how much more sexy would I be if I could speak French?”

“Mmm, you want to see sexy?”  Jane asked, standing behind Maura.  “Take this one to Paris.  She speaks lots of French.”  leaning down to kiss Maura’s cheek, she squeezes her hips, pulling away.  “First round is on me.  Maura’s buying next.  Newly engaged folks drink free all night.”

As she walked away, she could hear the younger women chattering away.  “Babe, can we go to Paris?”

“Shay, you don’t even speak French yet!”

Maura emerged the next day from their bedroom wearing a forest green off-the-shoulder dress with a ruffle shirt that looked a bit like a tulip.  Her hair was half up, her shoes matched perfectly, and she was ready for their night out.  Jane couldn’t help but stare at her, eyes wide, taking it all in.  “Wow.”

Maura chuckled, taking in the sight before her.  “Wow yourself.”  Jane’s dress was black with a halter top, and silver accents down the side and along the bottom of her skirt.  The Doctor linked her arm with Jane’s, letting the Brunette lead her through the door.

Le Cœur de la Rivière was a small French restaurant in the heart of the city.  Jane looked up reviews before making a reservation, and people could not stop raving about the authentic French cuisine.  When they arrived, she was impressed at the architecture and ambiance.  The ceilings were high and vaulted, the decor reminded her of Paris when they went a year earlier, and even the music playing in the background seemed to transport them out of DC and into France.  “Jane, it’s gorgeous in here.”  Maura looked around, eyes wide

Jane could only watch her, though, the way she took it all in, or the way her fingers trailed over the posted menu.  “Yeah, gorgeous.”

Maura turned to her as she spoke, a smile ghosting across her lips.  “Could you stop that?  You already did that.”

“I did.  But here we are, a year later, and nothing has changed.”  She shrugged, biting back a giggle, and pushed her girlfriend to the maitre d.  “Hi, I have a reservation.”

“Name please?”

“Jane Rizzoli.” 

He tapped away at his screen before picking up two large leather-bound menus and a smaller wine list.  “Follow me.”  He sat them at a small table in the center of the room, the chandelier directly above them.  After a brief mention of the specials, he told them that recommended wine pairings were on the menu next to each entree. 

It was after he left that Jane realized that the menu was in French.  “Babe, help.”  At Maura’s inquisitive look, she continued, running her hand up and down the menu.  “What do I want?”  Chuckling, Maura began giving suggestions, pointing to each as she spoke.  When she had narrowed it down, she put her menu on her plate, waiting for the server to come back.  “You’ll order for me, right?  I’ll just butcher it.”

“Yes, I will order for you.”

Jane grinned, watching her eyes return to the menu as she picked out her own meal.  “Maybe Shay’s not the only one who needs French lessons.”

Hazel eyes looked up, studying her.  “Do you want to learn French, Jane?”

Jane paused to consider it.  “You know, I’m not sure.  On the one hand, it would make situations like this easier.”  She glanced at her closed menu.  “But on the other, when would I ever need to use it in my everyday life?”

A soft smile spread over Maura’s lips, her eyes returning to their previous task.  “I somewhat like being the only one who speaks French.  It means you need me for something.”

“Maura, I will always need you for something.”

The blonde closed her menu and looked at Jane, her face set.  “Like what?”

Jane unfurled her napkin, placing it in her lap.  “When you make me coffee, you add an extra ingredient.  I don’t know what it is, but it makes the coffee taste even more amazing.  Or, only you can get me to eat healthy foods.  You push me out of my comfort zone and make me try new things, many of which I tend to like.  And you ground me when I’m unstable.  Lord knows I need more people like that in my life.”

Maura listened as she spoke, her face softening with each example.  “So it’s not just that I’m a polyglot?”

Jane recoiled in fake surprise, wrinkling her face.  “I would never call you one of those.”  Maura giggled, starting to explain, but dropped it when she saw Jane’s knowing grin.  The maitre d came back then, and Maura ordered Jane’s lamb and her salmon, as well as both of the suggested wines.  As he left, she began to copy Jane, unrolling her napkin to place in her lap.  As she did, her fork fell, clattering to the floor by Jane’s feet.

Pushing her chair back to look for it, she groaned.  “Ugh, I don’t see it.”

“Give me a sec.  I can see it.”  Jane tried to move her chair back to grab the fork, but she would have hit the guest seated behind her.  Moving forward she would have been unable to reach it.  So instead, Jane stood up, placing her napkin on the table, and knelt down on the floor to reach Maura’s fork.  She wondered to herself how many people were staring at her ungraceful act, so out of place in an establishment like this, and once she had hold of the fork she decided to give them something different to stare at.  Walking forward on her knees, she held out the fork to Maura in both hands.  “Milady.”

Instead of the laugh and good-hearted chuckle she was coming to expect, Maura rolled her eyes and took the fork, offering her a hand to stand up.  “Jane, everyone is staring.”

Getting off the floor, Jane took her seat, studying the blonde in front of her.  She wouldn’t look up, and she looked like she was biting back what it was that she wanted to say.  “Maura, talk to me.”

“It’s nothing.”

“Well it’s obviously nothing, you won’t look at me.”  At her words, the Doctor looked up, hazel eyes meeting hers, their feelings unclear.  “Please talk to me.”

Maura folded her hands in her lap, squaring her shoulders and looking into Jane’s eyes.  “You keep saying I’ll know when it’s happening for real, that everything will make sense.  And yet, here we are, in this fancy restaurant, with a menu that you can’t even read, both of us dressed up, and I thought it made sense.”

Jane fiddled with her hands, taking in what her girlfriend was telling her.  "And my joke proposal must have been like putting salt in your wounds."

"A little bit."  She took a breath, her face still stoic as she looked at Jane for answers to the questions she wouldn't ask.  "If you weren't planning to propose today, then why are we here?"

Jane squinted her eyes, her head tilting.  "Do you not know what today is?"  At the shake of Maura's head, she continued.  "One year ago, on a bridge in Paris, my life changed forever when we kissed for the very first time."

Maura's eyes widened and her face softened as she thought about it.  "That was really a year ago?"

"It was.  And although it led to the most agonizing month of my life, it also was the moment I knew things were changing between us."

As Jane stretched her fingers across the table, Maura grabbed them and held on.  For a brief moment, she saw panic in the hazel eyes she loved.  "Jane, is this our anniversary?  Because I didn't get you anything."

"No, that's still next month.  And you did get me something."

Maura pulled away, shaking her head.  "It doesn't count.  That Red Sox game was agreed upon ages ago."

"Who says it doesn't count?  Babe, I suck to buy gifts for.  And I'd rather get something we can do together than something that I might not ever use or wear."  She watched Maura's shoulders relax as she settled back into her seat.  "I'm sorry I misled you."

"It's okay."

Jane leaned forward again, grabbing her hand.  "It's not.  And it wasn't my intention."  Maura's face softened as she spoke, and she squeezed Jane's hand with resolution.  "Maur, milestones are important to me."

"I know that, Jane."

"I don't hit milestones.  Even when I was dating Casey, we were on and off so much that we never hit or celebrated any important events, like anniversaries, or birthdays.”

Maura raised an eyebrow, watching her.  “You were going to marry him.”

“I was!”  She couldn’t help but laugh, the memories flooding back.  “Talk about rushing something.”

It was those words that had realization rushing across Maura’s face.  “You don’t want to rush it.”  She gestured between the two of them.  “To rush us.”

“I don’t.”  Jane breathed a sigh of relief that Maura understood her thinking.  “And I don’t want to miss our milestone.”

The maitre d stopped back at their table with their wine selections and asked if they needed anything else, giving their conversation a much-needed pause.  After sampling her selection, Maura leaned forward, meeting Jane’s eyes once more.  “So about how much longer after our milestone do you think you’ll do it?  Because I’m not sure how much longer I can take this anxiety.”

“Not long.  Not long at all.”  The plan was more clear now than it had been two months ago.  She’d planned exactly what she wanted to say.  She was even planning on flagging down some strangers to take pictures.  “Not the day of.  But you won’t have to wait more than a month.”  Jane sampled her own wine, a red one that she probably wouldn’t have picked out on her own.  “Are you tired of me teasing you?”

“I’m not sure that I’m tired of it.  I’m just surprised at the variety of ways to trick me that you’ve come up with.”  She wore a sly grin, her hurt from earlier seemingly forgotten.  “There’s a part of me that is interested in seeing what else you can come up with.  And another part that will do anything for the real thing.”

Jane nodded, her hands landing in her lap.  “Noted.  I can tone myself down.”  She grinned then, imagining the future.  “You’re gonna love the real thing, though.  The ring is gorgeous.”

“Jane!”  The blonde groaned.  “Why must you tease me?”

Jane giggled.  “Because I love you.”

Maura shook her head and rolled her eyes, her head tilting as hazel orbs settled on her girlfriend’s face.  “I love you too.”

The Maitre d came then with their meal, and they paused once more to take time to eat.  The food was delicious, yet overpriced for the small portions.  After the meal they took a walk in a nearby park, talking about their past, things that they wanted at their wedding, and future travel plans.  Walking along a river, Maura’s arm interlocked with hers at the elbow, the blonde leaned against Jane for support, trusting her completely to not let them fall.  Jane was content to stay like that all night, Maura nestled against her.  So when a small voice asked, “What if we never kissed?”  it took her by surprise.

“What brought this on?”

She picked up her head, looking up at Jane, the light from the streetlights giving her skin a soft glow.  “I was thinking about that time right before you left, playing that game on the bench.”

“Maur, I play that game to rationalize bad things in my life.”

Her face set, her expression resolute.  “I understand.  But it shouldn’t be difficult to extrapolate that game to explore your more positive experiences.  How else would you be sure that you are at your happiest now?”

“I see.”  The blonde dropped her head back on Jane’s shoulder as they walked.  “Well, I probably would have continued to try and date Davies.  And I would have run into the same problems with him that I did with all my past relationships.  I think he would get sick of it after a few months, and I’d have ended up single and alone in a city far from home.”

“So because we kissed, your life is more satisfying.”  She could almost feel the Doctor smiling against her, her free hand coming up to grab Jane’s elbow.

“I would say it is.  Your turn.”

There was silence as Maura considered the question, her answer formulating.  “I would have gone back home to a very changed station.  At some point, your mother would have moved out, leaving me truly alone for the first time in years.  Frankie and Kent would have dragged me out a few times a month, but it wouldn’t be the same.  Something would be missing.  And my manuscript would have been left on my laptop, forgotten.”

“So… Better?”

 Maura leaned up then, pressing a kiss to the brunette’s lips, making them stop in their tracks.  When she pulled away, she grinned, whispering in Jane’s ear.  “So much better.”