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Part 14: Tomorrow

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“D’ you think they’ll be strong enough?” Jocelyn asks, finally letting go the blistering tension in her back and shoulders. She twists her torso slightly to the right to catch a sideways glimpse of the woman behind her, trying, for the first time since Maggie interrupted her surly solitude, to get back to where they were earlier this afternoon. Together.

Maggie looks out across the green, rolling downs in search of an answer to Jocelyn’s question. But she hasn’t the faintest fucking idea. And truth be told, she almost doesn’t care right now. All she knows is that she’s knackered. Past knackered. Existentially exhausted. And Jocelyn’s relapse into this irksome pattern of egocentrism certainly hasn’t helped her mood.

For her part, Jocelyn knows she’s done it again: Told Maggie to ‘go away’ when what she really meant was ‘I love you.’ Folded in on herself and her own feelings when she knows very well how spread thin Maggie’s been this past year, how much she’s been supporting the Latimers. And Oliver and Lucy. The whole bloody town, really, with her impeccable journalism and weekly editorials. And supporting Jocelyn, too.

As she takes another swing of gin, Jocelyn is reminded anew of how intimately Maggie knows her. How deeply she sees her, even after so many years. And she’s immediately transported back to that long, warm autumn when, in those rare instances when she did lose a case, instead of squirreling herself away with a bottle of gin before diving into her next brief, she found that talking to Maggie, hearing her voice, her warm laugh, her stories of everyday life in Broadchurch, quieted and calmed her in ways that work and alcohol never had. When regular phone calls overtook letter writing as their primary means of communication. When they would ring each other up just to talk, to check in, to share news, and sometimes to commiserate or seek advice. When Jocelyn would take the cordless phone out onto her tiny balcony in Farringdon and sit for hours just chatting with Maggie. Learning from her. Laughing with her. Arguing with her. And loving every minute of it.

Of course, Jocelyn had never allowed herself to dwell on the implications of any of that. Or on the way her heart would race every time the phone rang. Or on how thoughts of Maggie, of how she would touch her, of how she would ask Maggie to touch her in return, had begun to invade her dreams. Maggie was her friend. That was all. Or at least, that’s what she had convinced herself of back then.

Jocelyn knows full well, too, that she’d never have been able to get through the past six weeks without this remarkable woman. She’d never have taken on the Latimer brief, that’s certain. Which means she’d most definitely still be shut away up in the house, curtains drawn, stewing (to use Maggie’s apt word) away in the dark. Missing this beautiful sunset, the gorgeous late evening breeze. Still missing life. Missing Maggie.

“I shouldn’t have treated you the way I did the day of my mum’s funeral,” she says, swinging her legs around on the overturned boat so they can sit side-by-side, hips and shoulders just touching through spring coats and light sweaters. “And I shouldn’t have told you to ‘go away’ just now.” She passes back the bottle of gin as a peace offering, “I’m sorry.”

Sighing wearily, Maggie takes the bottle and pronounces, just before downing another swig, “You wouldn’t have to keep apologizing if you’d stop doing it.”

“I know,” Jocelyn concedes. “But,” she teases, using her shoulder to playfully nudge Maggie’s upper arm, trying to chide her best friend, her lover now, into looking at her, “I crumbled the stone wall all by myself this time. And in record time, too. I call that progress.”

Maggie lets loose a chuckle as she shakes her head. It’s a lovely surprise, Jocelyn’s use of self-deprecating humour.

And there are, she supposes, bound to be setbacks. What Maggie’s asked of Jocelyn, to let her in, to let her love her, is a massive task after so many years of hiding. What must it be like, Maggie wonders not for the first time in these past few weeks, to spend one’s entire life in the closet? Afraid of love? Afraid of life? All the while thinking you’re unlovable, convinced that you have to navigate this complex, and often cruel, world entirely by yourself?

“I know you don’t mean it, Jocelyn,” Maggie begins, finally meeting those stunning pools of blue, “but it cuts deep.”

Jocelyn reaches for Maggie’s free hand and grasps it tightly, trying to convey even a fraction of all she’s feeling, all she wishes she could express. Now that she’s finally taken the first steps toward putting things right with Maggie, she’s beginning to realize that the depth of her love for her intrepid journalist is beyond anything she had ever anticipated, expected, or even thought possible. And she doesn’t want ever to hurt her again.

“So, when you really want to be alone,” Maggie continues, recognizing and respecting her prickly barrister’s occasional preference for solitude, “all you have to do is say so, alright? But kindly.” She gently squeezes Jocelyn’s hand for emphasis. “Yes?”

Jocelyn nods in agreement, understanding.

“Because,” Maggie warns even while twining her fingers with Jocelyn’s, “if you tell me to ‘go away,’ or even to 'leave you alone' again, I will. And I won’t come back.”

Jocelyn’s breath catches at the unyielding conviction in Maggie’s tone; Maggie is dead serious, and she punctuates her point by plunking with a dull thud the half-empty bottle of gin beside her on the little skiff’s wooden hull.

“I need you to understand: This is is a deal breaker for me, Jocelyn. And you need to pull yourself together. Don’t do it again.”

“I won’t,” Jocelyn affirms sincerely while caressing the top of Maggie’s hand with her thumb. “Forgive me?” she asks with wide, doe-like eyes, a softly raised brow, and a tantalizing little pout, lifting and turning Maggie’s hand to slowly, methodically, kiss the tips of those long, strong fingers, the lines of her palm, working her way to the inside of Maggie’s wrist.

Maggie just rolls her eyes and grins, knowing full well that Jocelyn is playing her as if she were the strings on her childhood cello. And make no mistake, petal: she’s enjoying every damn second of it.

Feeling the steady thrum of Maggie’s pulse under her lips, Jocelyn smirks and then places Maggie’s hand in hers, resting them together on her knee. They sit quietly like that for a few minutes, side by side, each lost in their own thoughts.

“I can only imagine the day you’ve had,” Jocelyn finally muses, “the year you’ve had. It’s been—”

“A right shit storm,” Maggie confirms.

“You must be exhausted. I’m exhausted. And you’ve been in it for longer than I have. And much more personally.”

In thorough agreement with Jocelyn’s assessment, and relieved that she understands even a little of the chaos that has constituted her life recently, Maggie tilts her head to rest on Jocelyn’s shoulder. “Is there any chance I can get a hug?” she asks, her voice finally breaking under the weight of it all.

Welcoming the invitation to do what she wanted to do anyway, what she should’ve done as soon as Maggie sat down next to her on the upside-down skiff, Jocelyn eagerly wraps Maggie into an embrace. Instantly wracked with sobs, her soft body slackens against Jocelyn’s. Aching for security and comfort, for compassion and understanding. Jocelyn strokes her hair with one hand while using the other to caress the small of her back, pressing their bodies more closely together.

“I love you,” she murmurs into Maggie’s hair, just letting her cry out all the tension and disappointment and grief and frustration, “I love how fiercely you love this town. And the people who live here.”

“It’s just so fucking unfair!” Maggie weeps, letting go of Jocelyn to dig into jacket her pocket for one of her trusty crumpled coffee shop napkins, “He murders Danny and just gets to walk free!” She blows her nose and, looking pointedly up at her lover, who happens also to have been the Crown Prosecutor, demands, “How is that justice?”

But there’s no answer. Because it’s not. It’s not justice. Jocelyn knows it. Ben knows it. Even Sharon bloody knows it. The Latimers know it. And so does Maggie. If only she’d had the confession. If only D.I. Hardy hadn’t played fast and loose with procedure. If only D.S. Miller hadn’t attacked her husband. If only if it had been anyone else but Sharon bloody Bishop defending! If only she could’ve more effectively countered Sharon’s alternative version of what happened that terrible night last July. If only Mark had been honest with her. Maybe if she’d done something, anything, differently. Maybe if her closing statement had been stronger...

But all Jocelyn can think to do, all she wants to do, is kiss away Maggie’s tears, kiss away all the ache and hurt. So she does. Slowly. Tenderly. First one cheek, then the other. Then each eyelid in turn, tasting salt as Maggie closes her eyes, luxuriating in Jocelyn’s gentle touch and dipping her nose down into the soft skin, like crushed silk, under Jocelyn’s chin, inhaling her warmth, breathing in her sweet scent. And as Maggie’s searching fingers find bare skin underneath jacket and vests and blouse, as Jocelyn cradles Maggie’s beautiful face in her hands, their despair, their frustration, their grief at the inequity of it all, flips in a heartbeat to overwhelming desire.

Answering the visceral lurch deep in her abdomen, Jocelyn leans swiftly forward to catch the curve of Maggie’s lips under her own. They open their mouths to each other. To taste. To texture. Earnest and firm. And Maggie responds ardently, grabbing at the front of Jocelyn’s coat to pull her closer.

Then, breaking their kiss into little bits, Jocelyn whispers joyously, boldly, into Maggie’s ear, “We’re going to grow old together, you and I,” and she wraps her arms more tightly around Maggie. To comfort, to reassure, to support.

“We’re pretty fucking old already,” is Maggie’s reliably sarcastic response, her lips forming the words against Jocelyn’s lips, in between light kisses of her own.

Laughing quietly together, at each other, they lean into another kiss that is now slow. Tender. Certain. Familiar. And exhilarating.

“Older, then.”

“I’m gonna hold you to that,” Maggie states, emphasizing her point on the word ‘hold’ by catching both Jocelyn’s hands tightly between her own. “Because if we’re doing this, you and I, then we’ve got to do it together.”

“We will,” Jocelyn murmurs definitively into Maggie’s ear, “I promise.”

She is more certain of this than of anything in her entire life. And she vows, ever so tenderly kissing Maggie’s temple, inhaling her citrus-y scent, and relishing the tickle of the short strands of Maggie’s hair on her nose, to do all she can, everything in her power, to, quite simply, make it so. From this moment forward.

“Now,” Maggie queries, twisting the screw top back on their bottle and reaching down for her bag, “what say you to some food?” She slides the bottle into one the bag's inner pockets for safekeeping. “I think the chippy by the pier should still be open.”

“I can’t believe you want to eat.”

“I don’t particularly, but I do want to drink the rest of this gin,” she says, slinging her bag over her head and across her shoulders, “and I’m gonna need sustenance to avoid the worst of a hangover in the morning.”

“There are leftovers from our picnic in my refrigerator,” Jocelyn suggests. “Saves us from having to go into town. Which, honestly,” she admits with a deep sigh, “I don’t think I can do right now.”

“Sold,” Maggie exclaims, rising a bit stiffly from her perch on the hard wooden hull; her right hip isn’t what it used to be. She reaches for Jocelyn’s hand. “And then I’ll read to you. Maybe something you need to prepare before you talk to Sharon?”

Taking Maggie’s proffered hand (and ever so briefly remembering the last time Maggie held her hand out like that, inviting Jocelyn to dance that Saturday night in London), Jocelyn grimaces at the thought of what will no doubt be, at least at the start, a rather terse and trying conversation.

“You said you would,” chides Maggie, pulling Jocelyn up and into her arms.

“And I will. Tomorrow. But for tonight,” Jocelyn pronounces, planting a kiss on the tip of Maggie’s nose, “let’s go read some lesbian poetry.”