Author: Javanyet PM
A continuation of the events of Mortal Wounds. Maura's creative vengeance against Kevin Mitchell complicates Nick's life at home and at work.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Supernatural - Chapters: 4 - Words: 15,097 - Reviews: 2 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 08-21-06 - Published: 07-28-06 - Status: Complete - id: 3072765
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Since Wednesday was the first day of Maura's work week she spent Tuesday nights getting ready. As loudly as Maura would have denied harboring anal-retentive tendencies, her personal schedule hadn't so much settled into place as it had been carved into granite. Tuesday night was coffee grinding night. Her bone-deep addiction to high-end caffeine was a thing that had to be fed on as regular a schedule as Nick's need for blood. The electric coffee grinder, fancy chrome French coffee press, cinnamon and nutmeg grinders, and electric kettle that Nick had bought her for no particular occasion ("self defense" he had declared… "the sooner you have your coffee every day, the safer I feel") got regular and enthusiastic use. On the Tuesdays Nick had off he would sit reading in the living room with the stereo headphones firmly planted over his ears to drown out the ceaseless whine of the coffee grinder.
This Tuesday night, though, Nick was navigating yet another difficult shift at the precinct. In addition to coping with the usual Toronto mayhem, he had been working with Schanke to tie up the loose ends of the presumed escape of Kevin Mitchell, the murderer of Maura's friend Christopher. It had been a week since Mitchell had (apparently) slipped away during his transfer to his arraignment, and no leads were forthcoming. The sooner the case was declared cold the better. For Nick, and Maura as well. They were the only two besides Janette and LaCroix who knew what had actually become of Mitchell, forced into the daylight by Maura after he'd been brought across by LaCroix at her insistence. She had believed that for her it would be the resolution of a loss she'd been unable to accept. Of course the reality was that killing Kevin achieved nothing resembling resolution for anyone, and Nick was not always successful at keeping a lid on the revulsion it triggered in him. No question that he still loved Maura and was relieved he'd been able to persuade her to abandon her plans to leave after the killing. But Nick was realizing this was going to be a whole lot harder to deal with, both personally and professionally, than either of them had imagined. Mitchell's speedy arrest and the near certainty of his conviction hadn't been good enough for Maura; perfect justice was what she'd wanted, and her rage of grief had convinced her she could achieve it via one unconscionable act that turned her life with Nick, and his job, upside down.
Shortly after the fatal night Maura had offered to confess to helping Mitchell escape (without mentioning his demise to the police) but Nick refused to consider it. Tonight before he'd left for the precinct she repeated the suggestion.
"Nick, really, I'll tell them I hired someone to help me get Kevin out because I wanted him to serve more time or something like that, maybe get shot while being captured, that I never really expected him to disappear." She was thinking with her mouth, frantic to come up with a solution that would allow her at least some semblance of relief from the guilt that was eating her up every time she looked at him. Nick wasn't impressed. If anything it seemed to piss him off.
"Then what? You do five to ten for aiding in the escape of a confessed murder suspect? It won't matter why, you'll go down either way. At least Schanke and I won't have to track you down. Maybe I can get time off to visit you in prison in Ottawa…" his voice became more bitter as he went on.
"Nick, I'm just trying…"
"It's too late to try, Maura," Nick interrupted testily, then managed to throttle back his frustration. Given his own unspeakable past, he honestly didn't want to make things worse for her than he knew they were already. He hardly had the moral authority, in any case. He paused for a moment and forced his voice back to normal. "Let's just deal with things as they are, okay? I'll think of something. It's not as if I never lied before." The last sentence cut her, though he hadn't intended it to. There were just too many words to be careful of and too many landmines to avoid. Maura didn't react except by a saddening of her already somber expression.
"Okay. Whatever you think is right."
He grabbed his wallet and keys and shrugged into his leather jacket, leaning down to where Maura pretending to read so he could kiss her goodbye. "I have to go in early. Don't wait up. Two new cases and, well, you know."
She nodded. "Yeah. I know. I've turned your work into hell, I'm so sorry…"
"Ssh," he kissed her again. "No more circles, okay?" Maura used to chide Nick for being "addicted to the 's' word" but lately she'd been unable to stop saying it. He was right, she was just stuck in a useless loop.
Hours later Maura wearily ran the Dust Buster over every surface within a 10 foot radius of her work space. She was exhausted, having been unable to sleep for some time now. She'd honestly believed that her bottomless pain and agitation would magically disappear once she'd disposed of Kevin. How could she have been so wrong? She hadn't laid anything at all to rest, merely thrown a brick into a well-managed pond and now the ripples were washing over Nick, and Schanke, and the poor young cops who were convinced they'd screwed up. She was no more sorry for Mitchell being dead than she'd been the night she killed him, but how she wished now she'd thought harder, had listened even to LaCroix's half-hearted warnings of the trouble that would follow, and been satisfied with Nick's "imperfect" justice.
Maura heard the back door close as she finished putting her coffee things away. She no longer asked Nick how his nights went, feeling unable to offer the calm refuge from work he'd always found at home with her. She knew too well the tightrope he was walking because she'd strung it herself and pushed him out onto it. Now when Nick came home stressed to the max much of it was because what she'd done.
Nick shared few of her troubled conclusions. He longed to meet in the middle somehow, to listen to her fears and make her understand that while she'd made things difficult, and yes he'd been stunned and angered by her betrayal and violence, his feelings for her remained constant. It troubled him to see her back away every time he tried to draw them closer together. Until she could understand she hadn't killed their connection along with Kevin Mitchell Nick didn't know how he'd keep Maura from drifting farther away. It was obvious that she saw herself, and not what she'd done, as the problem. For some reason the gentle logic she'd always plied him with for his identical errors in judgment didn't seem to reach her now that their roles were reversed.
"Hey, did you make your coffee music tonight?" he asked as he greeted her with an exhausted kiss.
"Yeah, managed to repair the damage before you got home." He wanted to tell her not to worry about it but she headed him off with, "I need some air," before going upstairs and to the roof. She spent so much of her time there lately, as if she felt she was intruding on his life. As Nick watched Maura go her sadness came to him in waves. He knew now her cold declarations the night she killed Kevin were empty, wishful thinking. Maura had never been sorrier in her life for anything. He knew too that she understood that instead of easing her pain all she'd done was spread it to a wider population. She'd been wrong about Christopher's brother James as well. Rather than understanding as Maura had insisted he would, James had been so disturbed to hear what she'd done he had cut her off completely. "What have you accomplished?" he'd asked her, "Chris is still dead, and you've just made life harder for everyone left behind. Nothing's resolved, and nothing's even. I can't believe you thought I'd want this. How could you believe you were doing it for Chris and not yourself?"
Thus the friendship that had begun in the darkness of mutual loss never made it into the light; James' goodbye had been, undeniably, final. Finally Maura became intimately acquainted with what Nick had known for so long: the desperation to make up for what could never be undone. It was a knowledge he would have done anything to spare her, but there was nothing to be done now but to deal with things as they were. Maura's self-imposed exile seemed to be the penance she'd decided upon, and rather than make things easier it just removed the one source of comfort that had seen them through every other difficulty they'd encountered since coming together.
The night was damp and overcast, no sparkling stars or skyline to get lost in, so Maura simply leaned on the railing and contemplated the fog. If anything her recklessness had deepened the hole in her heart left by Christopher's death, had separated her from everything she'd clung to in order to survive his loss.
Nick slipped a jacket around her shoulders. "It's chilly up here." He stood close behind her. "Why don't you come back inside, Sweet? Lately I'm afraid you might move up here permanently. I know I've been a little edgy, but don't hide from me."
Maura turned quickly to look in his eyes, tormented. "Edgy? I can't imagine why. I'm not hiding, it's just that everything I do and say feels like I'm imposing. I fucked up your work, I fucked up our life, what business do I have even pretending to belong here?"
"You'll always belong here. We'll find a way out of this." If he said it often enough it might come true.
"How? Will you convince the department they should just let it go? Will you get Schanke to give up trying to avenge my loss? Shit, Nick, I wish I could take it all back, even if it meant Kevin would get off clean." She had completely abandoned her wild, self-righteous posturing of a week ago.
"I know." She saw in Nick's eyes he did know, exactly, every conflicting and desperate emotion that raged inside her. He brushed light fingers against her temple as if the gesture were a direct link to her thoughts. "I know what you wish. I know what you'd do if you could. I've been there, remember? A million times. There's no way out of this except through. Haven't you told me that often enough?"
"Yeah, I'm a fucking genius, aren't I?" She stepped away and went to a far corner of the roof. "I should've just left before you came home that night."
"What then?" He stood where she'd left him, by the railing. "We'd still all be dealing with what happened, and I'd be left alone."
"Better off, maybe. Safe from my stupid, reckless..." she trailed off, out of words. It was as if nothing she said made sense anymore.
Nick's face creased in a frown as he approached her slowly. "Maura, how can I make you understand?" He gave up logic for the moment, trying instead to coax her out from behind the wall he feared might become permanent. "I miss you when you're up here. When you're all wrapped up tight inside yourself I have nobody to be with, I'm lonesome when you hide like this."
"Maybe you should find someone who'll be with you and not fuck up everything you care about. When you come home all tied up in knots you deserve not to have to deal with the person who tied 'em in the first place."
"I care about you. I won't pretend it's easy, I won't lie to you and say it's no big deal. But you acting like an interloper in your own home isn't making anything easier for either of us. So why can't you let the evil be sufficient unto the day?"
She gestured helplessly. "I just don't want to hurt you anymore."
"That's easy, then." Nick crossed the distance between them with a long reach, taking her hand. When she didn't go to him he went to her, cocking his head to look closely into her eyes. "If nothing else makes sense right now, believe in this," he leaned forward to kiss her, glad she didn't pull away.
"The reality upon which the universe is based?" Maura ventured, remembering a time when their life together was almost as uncertain.
"Uh-huh. C'mere, will you? I'm too tired to keep chasing you."
So she let him hug her, sounding so weary as he buried his face in her hair with a sigh.
"I'm sorry," she told him, "I'm so, so, sorry, I know I swore you couldn't live long enough to hear that, that I would live and die glad I'd done it, but I wasn't thinking right. I hurt James, I hurt you, and those two cops who think they lost Kevin from custody, and I've forced you to tell lies because how could you tell the truth about what I did? If I'd shot him, you could just turn me in with nothing to hide."
Nick tensed. Even the thought of having to make such a choice disturbed him. "Don't even think that." He stepped back, still holding her shoulders, then gently touched the corner of her eye. "Where's it gone, I wonder."
"What?" She was so tired, and had no idea what he was talking about now.
"That light in your eyes. The one I saw when we first met, the one that puts the world on notice, it's everything that's kept you from giving up. It's kept me from giving up sometimes." He looked almost as sad as she felt. "I can't find it anymore."
"Neither can I." She couldn't think of anything else to say.
He drew her with him to the stairs. "Come on to bed. I know you haven't been sleeping. I find you on the sofa at four in the morning."
She didn't think he knew, his sleep was usually too deep to disturb. As always, he seemed to read her mind.
"Do you really think I don't know? You'll never be clever enough to hide yourself from me. Why do you keep trying?"
Now in the bedroom, Maura stood awkwardly beside the bed she hadn't slept in for nearly a week. "You're right, Bats, I'm acting like an interloper, I feel like an interloper, I feel like I stepped over a line and can't come back. All I can think of is that when you see me you're reminded of what I did, that I used you and what I knew about you and killed someone. I did the thing you've put yourself through hell for a hundred years to stop doing." His pained look spoke volumes. Wasn't there anything she could do that wouldn't hurt him?
"Tell me you trust me." He was reading her mind again. Or her eyes. He'd gotten so good at it.
"I do Nick, I always did! How can you think I don't?"
Nick disappeared and re-emerged from his dressing room in black silk pajama bottoms and loose kimono. "How can you think you need to hide from me? You're a part of me, Sweet, and when I see you and hear you and feel you near me the only thing I'm 'reminded' of is how much I want us to survive this together. Yes, you stepped over a line, and far. But you know what?" He turned down her side of the bed. "We'll figure out how to draw a new one. Now come on, I'm tired of waking up alone."
Maura had gotten changed into a night shirt, but still stood away from the bed. "I've been waking up a lot. I didn't want to disturb you."
"It 'disturbs' me to wake up alone. See how you've spoiled me?" Nick's quiet insistence was overcoming Maura's uneasiness. Finally she crawled into bed and when he took her in his arms she went boneless against him, hoping to give up the torture she was putting herself through.
"I love you," he whispered, as if by saying the words he could force the knowledge into her, "Saint or screwup."
"I guess we know which one I am. I love you too, Bats, I swear I do even though I acted like you didn't matter at all."
"Enough," he scolded gently, "go to sleep now."
She tried to. It was no use. The painful knowledge of the trust she'd betrayed continued to whirl in her brain like a hamster on a wheel, and with just as much progress. Desperation fed on futility, a feeling of being trapped and needing to search again and again for an escape that didn't exist. She wanted to break away and run out the front door, run and run as if she could get away from this panicky feeling, the certainty she'd ruined absolutely everything that mattered. When she was certain that Nick was deeply asleep, Maura carefully withdrew from his embrace and crept out of bed to go downstairs. An interloper, he told her it wouldn't help things to act like she was an interloper in her own home. But it didn't feel like hers anymore, it felt like she'd forfeited all of it. She found her way to the sofa without turning on the light and lay down facing the back cushions. She knew she wouldn't sleep but it felt less wrong to be on her own.
Even deep in slumber Nick felt Maura leave his side. He opened his eyes and could feel her distress across the distance she kept putting between them. He slipped out of bed and flew down to find her.
Pain, guilt, and exhaustion were combining to erase every last bit of Maura's inner strength and certainty. She didn't even know who she was anymore, besides a killer who acted without consideration for anyone except Christopher. An empty consideration that was, too, because he was the one person to whom none of it could have mattered. And there was something else. A feeling of permanence nagged at her, of something broken that couldn't be fixed. Everything she'd made here in Toronto she'd broken without a backward glance, the friends she'd made and the life she and Nick had fought so hard to keep together, she'd smashed them all in a million pieces. She wanted to beg Nick to forgive her, even though she knew somehow he already did. He'd willingly forgive in others what for so long he couldn't accept in himself. But she'd given up the right to ask him to, hadn't she? When the tears came they came in silence, for the first time since the trip home from Christopher's funeral. Stupid, and useless, and absolutely all she had to offer everyone she'd driven away.
Nick could feel Maura's silent weeping even before he reached the sofa. How could he comfort her when he knew how impossible it was to rage against history? No amount of reassurance or kindness or even love could affect that bone-deep desperation to undo the past. He knelt next to her, then decided instead to stretch out behind her where she lay, pressing against her head to foot and working his arms around her to at least try to overpower her persistent illusion of being entirely alone. For now, all he could do was try to keep closing the distance. Patience was a thing Nick reserved for everyone but himself; he was determined to prove to Maura that he knew where she belonged even if she didn't.
"I'm here," he told her. He knew she was awake, and whispered softly with the knowledge of his own ancient torments, "I know where you are. You're running in the dark, you don't know where you are or where you should be. Nothing seems right, or sure, or yours. I know I can't change that. But I'm here, I'm always here, and I won't let you go no matter what. You can't put enough space between us to lose me."
She didn't answer. In fact, she barely breathed. He knew, didn't he, he knew she was intent on exiling herself even if she didn't pack up and go. Why wouldn't he let her, why did he insist on holding her back? So focused was Maura on the bridges she felt she'd burned to ashes nothing else seemed to matter. Nick's persistence just confused her. The answer she hadn't been listening to came again, the words Nick couldn't stop repeating.
"I love you."
Her voice was faint with disbelief. "Still?" His forehead rested on her shoulder then, a pained sigh in her ear.
"How many languages, how many words, what will it take to convince you that you're not powerful enough to destroy this?"
She was quiet for a long time, then asked again in a tentative voice, "Still?" She wanted so much to believe him.
His silent answer was to nuzzle her neck. It wasn't even near new moon, but her fragrance surrounded him anyway. She'd been so far away for weeks now; they hadn't made love in any fashion since before Christopher was killed. He missed her warmth and texture, the connectedness when he drank from her. Even though she refused to believe it Nick missed the comfort he found with Maura at the times he could barely hold his own against the mortal world and his immortal doubts. He missed the knowledge that came to him in her blood and in honesty he missed the intoxication as well. Feeling just a little like a cad Nick pulled them tighter together and opened his mouth to feel her pulse beat against his tongue, the one thing about her that was constant and unchanging. He didn't even pull back before biting her, just kept his open mouth pressed against her and let his fangs slip in as a natural extension of his kiss.
Just make it go away, just make it all go away even for a little while. Two minds longed for the same thing. Two pairs of eyes fluttered shut, simultaneous whimpers of relief escaped two bruised psyches. No words, no thoughts, just the connection that wiped out all other concerns. Even on the tight confines of the sofa Nick managed to rock them, the mere inches of motion a familiar part of their sharing. Everything between them had become so unfamiliar these past weeks. The craving was for more than blood or comfort but for even the barest trace of something recognizable in the midst of so much disturbing confusion.
Drowning in sensation, the pain dulled and cares dissolved in a wash of color and light as both of them sank into the warmth and pleasure they found only with each other. Nick drank longer than his usual habit, he hadn't fed at all this evening so drawing from Maura filled more needs than one. His inner gauge relaxed as he fell deeper and deeper into blessed peace. The fears and doubts that tormented Maura flowed freely into Nick, but so familiar was he with such things he merely accepted them as wounds that would heal in time. She tasted so sweet and strong, and surrounded him with a velvety cocoon that kept the hard-edged world at bay.
Through the flickers of warmth and surrounding tenderness Maura could feel an unaccustomed drift drawing her away from her awareness of Nick's embrace, away from even the light and color he filled her with. He was careless, losing himself more than usual because he needed so much to escape from where she'd trapped him. Good, she owed him that. She felt as if she were approaching something else, something she needed, as she floated farther away, farther from pain, farther from the danger of her own recklessness, good, Nick, do it, bring me across to the only place you can, for good and ever.
Nick was jolted so violently he nearly fell to the floor. "Do it," her blood had told him, "bring me across," but she knew her nature made that impossible, he couldn't bring her across, not really, he could only… oh god, he jerked his mouth from Maura's throat abruptly enough to spray a fan of blood along her shoulder. "No!" he whispered hoarsely, pushing himself away then as quickly nearly crushing her against him. "No, no," he moaned in her ear, "don't ask me that, don't think that," but she was too far away to hear. He pulled himself together and listened carefully, sensing he hadn't drained her enough to give her what she wanted. Gathering Maura into his arms, Nick flew them upstairs and tucked her tight against him in bed, her head on his shoulder. Her pallor worried him, but the strength of the pulse Nick heard and felt convinced him she'd survive. He didn't sleep at all, as if her insomnia had left her to infect him.
Maura heard the phone ringing far away. Ringing and ringing, then the murmur of the machine and an indistinct message. Where was Nick? As she struggled awake she recognized the weakness and suddenly remembered last night. Obviously her careless plea had gone unheeded. She felt strangely well, as if some of the darkness and misery had been drawn away along with her blood. Now things were a little clearer, if no brighter, and maybe she could accept her own grievous mistake as she'd accepted his past ones, as he seemed to accept hers now. A sin of behavior but not of substance. Let the evil be sufficient unto the day. And Maura recognized something else, that what was helping her was as much the certainty of love and support as it was the rare feelings Nick's feeding always raised in her. It's not always magic, he'd told her on more than one occasion. Sometimes it's just us.
She met Nick in the doorway as he returned from his shower. He went to her and took her hands. "How are you feeling? I think you slept well for the first time in weeks."
Maura nodded. "Yeah, and I think you siphoned some of my bad karma out. Thank you." She hugged him around the neck, kissing his damp skin. "Mmm you smell good." He held her away from him.
"You asked me for something last night, something I still can't believe."
Maura looked away. "I didn't really ask, did I? I wouldn't have asked, you know that, I can't help it if you can read deeper than what I want to say." She looked him in the eye again. "I'm just so tired, you know? I don't think I really meant it, I'd never have thought of it if I believed you'd do it, really." She didn't want him worrying about some latent suicidal urge that didn't exist. He looked doubtful, so she hugged him again. "I wouldn't lie to you, not again, I swear. Not about that. Please, don't worry about me, you have enough to worry about."
Nick held Maura in front of him, his face inches from hers, peering into her eyes for hidden clues. Seeing none, he kissed her and pressed his cheek in her hair. "Okay, I won't. You scared me though, I scared myself."
"I'm fine, Nicolas, better than I've been for a while now. I guess I just needed a little of that Knight magic."
When she raised her head to look at Nick Maura was relieved to see affectionate smile was back. "Not magic, Sweet, just us."
Maura showered and changed and headed downstairs to get some much-needed coffee, where she saw Nick talking to his partner and a stranger. Schanke must have been the phone message she heard while waking. The young woman with the dirty-blonde hair who stood at Schanke's side looked eerily familiar, though Maura couldn't put her finger on it at first.
"Hey Schank, what's up?" She felt awkward; after all, his newest obsession was to find Kevin Mitchell and bring him to justice. She waited for him, or Nick, to introduce her to the woman.
"Maura, this is Karen Mitchell. Turns out Kevin has family after all, Karen is his twin sister. She wants to help us find him."
It was then that Maura noticed Nick's expression, a mix of trepidation and fatalism. Another albatross around his neck, another link in her self-made chain of remorse. "Twin," she echoed stupidly.
"Detective Schanke told me what my brother did to your friend. You have to believe he wasn't always like this."
Maura wasn't sure how to respond. "Christopher was Kevin's friend, too. Or he thought so anyway." Karen shifted uneasily, frowning. What a dumbass thing to say. At a loss, Maura looked at Schanke.
"Karen has some ideas where Kevin might have gone."
Does she really, Maura thought silently with a glance at Nick. Over his initial shock, his expression was now inscrutable. He shrugged.
"No reason not to listen."
"But why do you need me?" Maura asked.
Karen looked apologetic. "I don't really, we don't, but it's just that you knew my brother a little anyway. He took so much from you, I guess I wanted to say I'm sorry. I know I had nothing to do with it, but blood connects us so I guess it's left to me to say I'm sorry."
Something twisted inside Maura as she listened to the earnest words. "It's okay, really. Things have a way of evening out." And how. She zoned out as they sat in the living room, Nick pretending to take note of Karen's insights into Kevin's habits and where he might have gone, Schanke prompting Karen when she faltered. Did he have a habit of killing his friends, Maura wondered so distinctly in her head she was afraid she'd spoken aloud. And can you imagine he might have gone up in flames? Suddenly Maura felt compelled to do something, anything but sit there and listen to the sister of the man who murdered her friend reason out how to find the brother she believed was still alive.
Maura sprang from the armchair as if from a slingshot, startling everyone present. "Can I get anybody anything?"
"I'm good," Schanke told her when he'd recovered. Karen said much the same. Nick just stared.
"I gotta get some air," Maura announced lamely and made for the stairs. "I'll be on the roof."
She didn't know how long she'd been there when Nick finally came to find her, only that the sun had gone down. This time she was sitting in the corner between the doorway and a chimney, arms wrapped around her drawn-up knees. He said nothing, only sat down beside her. Without a word she moved sideways, head leaning on his shoulder, silent, barely breathing. There was nothing to say. He reached an arm around her and gently rubbed a hand back and forth against her back.
"Tell me how to make it stop," she murmured at last, when the moon had climbed overhead. "This racing feeling inside, like a rat in a box, this desperate panic to run away. You know how it feels."
He did. But he didn't have an answer for her, not the one she needed. He tightened his arms around her. "I wish I knew."
"But it's gone from you now, or it's faded, it's not like when I met you. If you tell me how you did it maybe I can try."
Nick whispered in her ear as if it were a secret, "I let go of as much as I could. I still work on it, every day. That's all."
Maura breathed a shuddery sigh and pressed closer, hoping for some sort of osmosis of wisdom. "It won't let go of me."
"It will. I promise. You'll outlast it like I did." He felt her breathing shift then, but she wasn't crying.
"I don't have 800 years, Bats."
"I know, Sweet. Just hold on. I love you, I won't let you go."
She'd never heard him sound so burnt out. "I love you too. For whatever it's worth."
"You know it's still worth everything. Come on, let's go inside, okay? We're both so wrung out, I get nervous about falling asleep up here."
Maura rose and hauled Nick to his feet. He was right, they were both beaten flat by the recent weeks' events. They trudged downstairs in silence and each settled at opposite ends of the sofa with a book. Maura tried to lose herself in a Christopher Moore novel, hoping to be lightened by his characteristic absurdity. Nick was buried in anthropology, wandering past centuries. Worn out by questions and decisions, they didn't bother to turn on music. Somehow each found a shred of solace in the quiet that surrounded them and the words before their eyes, and the link between them that seemed to form of its own accord. Nick's free hand rested on Maura outstretched foot, his fingers idly rubbing and giving the odd distracted squeeze.
Hours passed, and Maura closed her now-finished novel. Nick was still absorbed in the burgeoning European iron age, so rather than speak she simply watched him quietly. After long minutes he felt her eyes on him, and looked up from the page.
"Yeah." She flexed her toes against his fingers. "I guess I'm too impatient." Nick's expression turned puzzled. "I mean like what you said about letting go as much as I can, like that. I can't help wanting it to be all better now."
"Try not to let it run you. I want it to be all better now, too, but the real world intrudes."
Maura nodded in agreement. "Things got good so fast when I got here, like night and day. You should pardon the expression. I don't know how after a lifetime of waiting and wanting this and that and not getting it very often I suddenly decided that instant gratification was the new paradigm. But Toronto turned out to be the Promised Land. I wanted a job and I got one. I wanted to be safe, and I was. I wanted you to love me, and you do." She pondered a moment, and her contemplative expression was colored by a faint smile. "So I guess it's all your fault." Nick's eyebrows rose.
"Please accept my apology for raising your expectations."
"Maybe just this once." Maura's tone became thoughtful again. "I have to remind myself now that a good life doesn't mean a 'normal' one, you know? Being who I am, who we are, when we screw up the stakes are higher."
Nick grimaced. "You should pardon the expression."
For a moment, anyway, things seemed almost normal. Reluctantly Maura withdrew her foot from Nick's grasp.
"I gotta get ready for work, Vachon is picking me up soon. I'll ask him to drive me home after if you want."
Nick shook his head. "No, I'll come get you. It'll give me a chance to visit with Janette."
"She'd like that." So would I, Maura thought to herself. We can use all the ancient insight we can get.