Ball Games-Chapter 4

Disclaimer: If I own it, it's the first I've heard of it. You know all the rest.

It took nearly three-quarters of an hour to get through all the speeches and finally, the moment arrived when Stanley was to receive his commendation. His team cheered, and led the tumultuous applause as he was presented with a gold medallion in a velvet case. They gave their boss a standing ovation as he returned to his chair and were pleased to see many of the other officers, including Superintendant Waverly, following suit. Matt could see that Stanley looked a little embarrassed as he sat back down beside his wife, Linda.

With that, the formalities were over and all around them; people were getting up and hurrying off to the restrooms or the tables at the back of the room where food had just been put out. A line was already forming at the bar. Matt, Duncan, Simon and Jen walked over to where their boss was sitting to congratulate him in person. He smiled at them as they approached. In turn, they offered him their congratulations and examined the medallion he had been given. "Thanks guys," he said to them. "It's a real honour to work with you all. The best team of detectives I've ever had." "Thanks Sarge," said Simon while the others nodded in agreement.

At that moment, Superintendant Waverly appeared to congratulate Stanley, the team stayed just long enough to greet her before heading back to their own table. Claire and Amy were waiting for them, looking bored. Without further ado, Simon whisked Amy off to the dance floor and Duncan and Claire wandered off in the direction of the food table, leaving Matt and Jen by themselves. He could feel the nerves starting to creep up on him again and didn't dare look at her, lest she might notice it in his face. Instead he turned his attention to what remained of his drink, hoping it would provide some sort of distraction.

Silence reigned. He couldn't think of a single thing to say that wasn't utterly stupid and so they sat, occasionally taking a sip from their drinks. He wished that Jen would say something, but she too, didn't seem to have any ideas for conversation. Things between them had never been this awkward before, not even when they had first met. Matt recalled the day she had arrived in Homicide; she had made an offhand comment about the crappy coffee, which had prompted an in-depth discussion about the best coffee shops in Melbourne. They had spent almost an hour comparing their favourite haunts, which had also included clubs, bars, and restaurants. As far as he could remember, he had never formed a rapport with anybody as quickly as he had with Jen.

He smiled at the memory. Simon had come in about halfway through the conversation and was surprised at the sight of them chatting away like old friends, rather than two people who had only just met. "What's so funny?" Jen asked curiously. He started a little. He had been so engrossed in his thoughts he had almost forgotten she was there.

"I was just thinking about the day we met," he confessed. "How we talked for ages about coffee and bars and how it wasn't nearly as awkward as it is right now." She laughed. "I know. Weird isn't it? You were the first friend I made when I came to Homicide. Duncan hated me at first." Matt shook his head. "He didn't hate you, he thought he was being replaced. Besides, you guys got over that." She smiled. "Yeah, we did. But after all this time Matt, you're still my number one guy." She carefully avoided his gaze as she said that, and he could tell without looking that she was blushing. "I mean, seeing as I don't have a social life or anything," she went on in a rush. "I get it." Matt said. "And I suppose that you're the woman in my life for the moment." If she only knew how true that statement actually was.

"It's kind of sad, isn't it?" she remarked. "Do you think we're going to be the kind of people who are just married to their work?" Matt considered this for a minute. "I hope not," he said eventually. He cast around for a change of topic but came up empty. A few more wordless minutes passed. This time, he was the one to break the silence. "Do you want to dance?" he asked. She beamed at him. "Love to."

He offered her his arm once more and the two of them walked across the room where a few couples, including Simon and Amy, were dancing. The band struck up a fast song and finally, he had an excuse to take her in his arms, which he had been wanting to do all night.

He whirled her around the floor in time with the music and on the final beat of the song dipped her back dramatically, grinning at the surprise on her face. A smattering of applause alerted him to the fact they had an audience. He grinned at them and gently pulled her back up and twirled her around. "Wow," she said breathlessly. "Where'd you learn to dance like that?" He pulled her in closer as a new song started, this one much slower. She did not protest, in fact she rested her head on his shoulder as they shuffled from foot to foot.

"My mum taught me," he said softly, ignoring the pang that always occurred when he thought or spoke of her. "When I was about 11 there was this girl I had a crush on, Penny Morton, and I somehow managed to work up the nerve to ask her to the school dance. It was only after she'd said yes that I realized that I didn't know how to dance. I worried about it all day and when I got home I told my mum all about it. She took me into the living room, put on some music and spent nearly three hours teaching me every dance she knew. I guess I've never forgotten it." She raised her head from his shoulder and looked straight into his eyes. "She taught you well. Thanks for sharing that with me. I know it upsets you when you talk about her." He just nodded. She settled her head on his shoulder again and he pulled her even closer.

"This is nice," he said presently as the song continued. "Spending time together, just you and me. No murders, no violence. We should do this more often." She looked up at him, eyes sparkling playfully. "If I didn't know better Detective Ryan," she said. "I'd say you were trying to seduce me."

"That depends," he replied. "Is it working?" He could see she was surprised by his response, she was searching his features, to figure out whether or not he was joking, but he made sure that his face gave away nothing. "What is that supposed to mean?" she asked uncertainly, pulling away from him a bit. He sighed. "Can we go somewhere a little more private? I don't want to discuss this here." He was all too aware of Simon eyeing his every move from somewhere off to the right and he had a sneaking suspicion Duncan was watching them too. She nodded and allowed him to guide her off the dance floor.

He led her through a side door onto a small terrace that was mostly used by people wanting to have a quick smoke after dinner or in between dances. Fortunately, nobody was out there at the moment and the terrace was bathed in pale moonlight. Had he not been about to put his heart on the line, he may have cared to appreciate the romantic setting.

She turned to him. "All right Matt, spill. Is this the reason you asked me to come with you tonight? Is this all some elaborate charade to try and get me to sleep with you?" She was angry, and even worse then that, he could see the hurt in her eyes and it hurt him too, knowing that he had caused it. "I can't believe you could do this to me Matt" she went on. "Is this honestly the kind of woman you think I am? I thought you knew me better then that."

"I do," he said. "I do know you better then that. I know plenty of things about you. I know you take three sugars in your coffee, but only one in your tea. I know your favourite colour is purple. I know you hate clothes shopping, but you hate shoe shopping even more. I know your favourite pizza topping is supreme, even though you pick off all the olives. Should I go on?" She just stared at him, which he took as permission to continue. "I know that when we're working a case, you never sleep until we catch the killer. I know you get migraines from the stress of this job, but you never complain about them. I know that you are the smartest, most beautiful woman I've ever met. And I know that I'm in love with you."

There. He'd said it. After all the planning for this night, it had all just spilled out without him being able to stop it. "I'm sorry," he said, meaning it. "I know that it's unethical and that things between us will never be the same, but I do Jen, I love you." He focused on her face, which was blank with shock. "I'll understand if you never want to speak to me again, but you had to know. That way you can tell me flat out that you don't feel the same way, and I can finally stop hoping that there might be a chance for us."

It could have been five seconds, or two hours that passed as he watched her, waiting for her to say something. She seemed to be frozen in place, unable to speak.

Then all of a sudden she ran. Before Matt knew what was happening, she had flung her arms around him, and was kissing him like he'd never been kissed before. He kissed her back with all the passion he could muster and was disappointed when she broke away from him, much too soon for his liking. But she quickly redeemed herself when she smiled that dazzling smile and then kissed him again.

Epilogue

It had been two years since Matt had finally professed his feelings for his one and only love on the terrace at the very same function centre where they now stood. Another year, and another Police Ball.

Stanley had agreed to keep them both in Homicide, provided that they kept their relationship out of the office, a condition to which they had both readily agreed. Simon and Duncan were so relieved that their two co-workers had finally gotten together they didn't even tease them. Or at least, not anymore.

Matt glanced around the ballroom. Everything looked exactly the same. Even his girlfriend looked as beautiful tonight as she had done two years ago. He bent his head down and whispered in her ear. "Meet me on our terrace." She smiled at him, kissed him, and walked away under the guise of getting more drinks.

Out of the corner of his eye, Matt saw her slip through the side door. He too excused himself, and as he turned away he thought he saw Duncan giving him a conspiratorial wink. A second look informed him that Duncan was deep in conversation with Simon, apparently not even aware that Matt was leaving.

He set off for the side door, being careful not to walk too quickly, in case it should arouse suspicion, all the while with his hand clenched around the diamond ring in his pocket.

I hope I didn't give you cavities with all that fluff. Some people and situations in this fic may be a little OOC but I had the best time writing this chapter. So finally, we have reached the end of "Ball Games." I still can't believe that a one-shot grew into a four-chapter story. Thank you for reading and special thanks to langfieldl and AmyDSC who reviewed. You guys made my day.