Bass was dozing in his usual space in front of the TV as Jane lolled on the couch with her feet propped comfortably on his shell. Her soft breathing had lulled him to sleep as they watched some irritating man hunting for snakes in the wilds of Africa. After a good half hour of cheering for the snakes, they had each drifted off, as had become their habit. Bass was awakened by the door opening and the sounds of Maura entering the apartment. He would normally go to meet her unless, like now, he was an integral part of his hero's comfort zone. He waited patiently, and in a moment Jane began to stretch and yawn, pulling her feet back to turn sideways on the couch so she could better see Maura at the door. Bass took the opportunity to move around the couch and give his own greeting. He stopped short as he observed Maura holding on to a wiggling ball of fur.
What is that? Bass thought, glaring at the strange creature disdainfully.
"Look what I've got," Maura called to Jane with a joyful smile.
I'm looking. I see nothing to smile about. Bass continued to glare, his look becoming even more baleful.
"Jo Friday!" Jane laughed, clearly glad to see the newcomer.
What is a Jo Friday? Bass turned his head ponderously to stare at his hero and savior. More importantly what is it doing here?
Maura set the wiggling fur ball on the ground, and it raced towards Jane, jumping on the couch to swipe its tongue over her face and neck as she laughed and ran her hands over its fur.
Suck up. That is totally unsanitary not to mention embarrassingly servile, Bass thought as he turned away and refused to watch any further. Instead, he fixed his most evil stare on Maura. After all, it was she who had brought this rival for Jane's affections into their family and after everything he had done for her, even helping her to start a relationship with his hero. This will never do. Take it back. He ordered Maura, stomping one foot and hissing to show his displeasure.
"I stopped by Korsak's and picked her up on my way home," Maura informed Jane, ignoring the antics of her tortoise. "It isn't good for her psychologically to be apart from you for so long. Studies have shown that pets begin to grieve when separated from their owners for extended periods. You're well enough to take her out for short walks now, so there's no reason she can't stay with us," Maura finished with a delighted smile.
Stay with us! Stay where? Bass hissed. Oh, no. No, no, no. Don't even think it!
"I'll go get her bed from the car. She can share Bass' room," Maura continued, heading back out the door.
Share my room! But she's a girl! Sh-she has girl parts! He glanced back at the couch where Jo Friday was lolling on her back getting her belly rubbed by an adoring Jane. And she shows them! Scrambling up on his clawed toes, Bass hurried down the hallway with more speed than one would expect from a tortoise of his size. With a determined gleam in his eye, he blocked the doorway to his room with his body. Over my dead shell you put that bed in here, Maura Isles, he thought with a snap of his strong jaws.
Oblivious to her tortoise's firm stance on the matter, a few minutes later Maura came down the hall with a large fluffy dog bed in one arm and a basket of dog toys under the other only to find her way blocked.
"Bass, move please. I need to put Jo Friday's bed in there." She waited in vain for him to make way. "Really, Bass, you need to be more cooperative. We're a family now and where Jane goes so goes Jo Friday. We can't have one without the other. Do you want Jane to go back to her apartment? I don't watch baseball, though nor do I make you wear funny hats."
Hanging his head in defeat, Bass edged his way out into the hallway. He didn't want to give up his hero, the Red Sox or his hat. "It's the shell for my head. It makes me feel safe, he protested, irritated that she continued to call it a "funny hat." He watched from the door as Maura arranged the pillow and basket on the opposite side of the room from his bed. He narrowed his eyes at the disparity of the thick fluffy pillow and his own thin blanket. Designer label notwithstanding, Bass wasn't at all pleased by the difference in perceived comfort levels. Just because he slept in a shell didn't mean he was immune to creature comforts.
The rest of the evening did nothing to alleviate Bass' ire. Jo Friday rained chaos on his ordinarily quiet existence. She raced through the apartment, continually dragged Jane out into the night for one of her interminable "walks" interrupting their TV time and left toys lying randomly about forcing Bass to walk around or climb over. After one particularly embarrassing episode where he ended up stranded, rocking helplessly to and fro, on top of a large rubber chewy something that necessitated his rescue by a solicitous Jane, he acceded that walking around was the lesser of two evils.
Bass supposed he could learn to live with the irritating canine were it not for the constant jumping back and forth in his face, growling and yipping. He would never understand why Jane Rizzoli, hero of tortoises everywhere, had to have a "yippy" dog. A Great Dane, or some other large regal breed, seemed more appropriate for his savior, or even a growling, snarling Doberman to reflect her strong protective side, but not this yipping, yapping, dust mop imitation of a canine. On the other hand, Jane also seemed to love Maura who, though brilliant, hid behind counters and under desks when bad men with guns showed up. He could still remember Maura's relieved and elated exclamation of "Bass, its Jane!" when his hero had come to save them. Since keeping Jane in his home meant having Jo Friday there, too, Bass sucked it up and tried to get along.
He looked the other way when Jo Friday pounced on his shell and tried to flip him over. He sighed in resignation when his feet slipped in one of the ever present water puddles that resulted from Jo Friday's less than fastidious drinking habits. He glanced elsewhere when the immodest hair ball insisted on licking areas of her person that embarrassed him profusely. He even bit back his angry words when she scratched his blanket into a twisted, rumpled mess and then had the audacity to take a nap on it. He gazed in frustration at the scattered hairs on its normally pristine surface and then took his own nap in the middle of the floor. His one moment of pleasure in it all came when Jo Friday decided to make a chew toy out of the right shoe of Maura's favorite pair of Jimmy Choo heels. He almost offered the fur ball the right one as well, thinking it would serve Maura right for bringing the disruptive creature into their home in the first place.
The final straw for Bass came on a baseball night. Jane had returned to work part time, doing desk duty that she groused over every evening. Bass wasn't sure what "desk duty" was, but it made Jane unhappy. That was enough for him to hate it in theory, if not in practice. He was hoping for a close game and a last minute Sox win, since that always made Jane especially happy and effusive in her affection which in turn made Maura happy as well.
His hero had gone out to meet Maura and their friends at their favorite bar for an after work drink and some 'cop talk,' something else Bass didn't understand but it made Jane happy, and that was good enough for him. Knowing they'd be home in time for the game and realizing it would start soon, Bass made his way into the living room to take up his place in front of the couch so he'd be ready when Jane came in. Their pre-game ritual involved her changing into sweats and a t-shirt, grabbing a beer, and placing Bass' head shell, as he'd come to think of the little batting helmet, on his head before turning on the game.
As he rounded the corner of the couch, Bass noticed various pieces of twisted red plastic scattered across the carpet. One large piece with mutilated edges that currently rested between Jo Friday's furry paws had a white Sox emblem emblazoned on it. Jo Friday lay in the middle of the carnage, tongue lolling, as she panted happily before once again attacking the plastic with her sharp, pointy teeth. Bass felt the world stop and then spin dizzily out of control.
He was still frozen in place, eyes bulging and jaw hanging agape when Maura and Jane walked in.
"Hey, Bass buddy, you ready for the game?" Jane called as she hurried down the hall in the other direction to change clothes.
Maura, who had come into the living room, called after her. "Ummm, Jane? I think you better come here. "
"What's up?" Jane asked as she came into the room to join them, though one look at the floor quickly answered her question. "Jo Friday!" she called sternly.
Jo Friday looked up at them and grinned in glee, a tell-tale shred of red hanging in her beard.
Dropping his head, Bass turned slowly and began lumbering his way down the hall. His beloved head shell was gone, destroyed. There was no where safe for a tortoise, not even his own home.
"Bad dog! Bad!" Jane's voice floated after him.
"Where are you going?" Maura asked as Jane grabbed her coat and headed for the door.
"Sports store," Jane said reaching for the knob.
"Jane! It's late. You'll miss the game."
"Maura, look at him," she pointed down the hall to where Bass was still visible, his shell seeming to droop in depression.
Maura sighed in defeat. She'd never seen Bass look so down and if she were honest, it warmed her heart that Jane was so intent on making it right for him. If Jane would go to this much trouble for her tortoise, how much more wonderful would she be with their child one day?
"Okay, but be careful. I'll clean up this mess while you're gone."
An hour later, Jane had returned empty handed, her frustration apparent in her downturned lips and the angry flashing of her eyes.
"I can't believe there isn't a sports store still open. It's not that damned late," she snapped.
"You'll get one tomorrow," Maura attempted to soothe her.
"That doesn't help anything tonight," Jane pointed out with infallible logic. "I can't believe Jo Friday would chew up his helmet. He loved that helmet." She dropped on the couch with arms crossed over her chest and stared moodily at the blank TV screen. "It's not like he has complicated tastes. He likes strawberries, the Sox, and his helmet. No one should mess with that, especially not his own family."
"A group of tortoises is called a bale," Maura corrected reflexively, though Jane merely nodded her acceptance of the information. Maura couldn't help the little thrill that went through her at Jane's words. She thought of the four of them as a family but hadn't realized until that moment that Jane did as well.
"The other things he likes is you, Jane. He adores you. You're his hero," Maura said, hugging her lover. "Bass didn't eat his dinner. Why don't you take him a few strawberries and talk to him?"
"Yeah, okay," Jane agreed. She disappeared into the kitchen for a few minutes before making her way down the hall. In seconds, she was back, gesturing for Maura to follow her. "Com'ere, you've got to see this."
The two hurried down the hall, Jane holding a finger to lips in a classic gesture for Maura to be quiet. They peeked around the door of Bass' room and Maura's eyes widened in astonishment. A subdued Jo Friday lay on her bed, or rather, tried to lie on the bed. One very determined Bass Isles was slowly but surely making his way onto the pillow and pushing the dog firmly off onto the floor. After a moment, Jo Friday got up and moved to a different spot on the bed and Bass turned once again shoving her off the bed from that side. It was quite clear Bass intended to claim the bed for himself. This went on for several minutes until Jo Friday heaved a large sigh and got up to go lay on the thin blanket. Bass settled himself on the middle of the large pillow and pulled his limbs into his shell, apparently ready to sleep.
With a crooked finger, Jane gestured for Maura to follow her and the lead the way to their bedroom.
"Bass has declared war," Jane grinned.
"Apparently," Maura agreed. "I'll go make him get back in his own bed and give Jo Friday back hers."
"No, you won't," Jane objected. "Those two have to learn to live together. Bass has been too accommodating. It's time Jo Friday learned her limits. If she messes with his stuff, he's going to mess with hers. They'll work it out. All's fair in love and war."
Maura wasn't as sure as Jane seemed to be. She worried that one of the two stubborn animals would hurt the other one before it was over, but if that happened, then she and Jane could step in. In the meantime she had a detective to cheer up.
"All right, we do it your way. Now come to bed," Maura purred, sliding her arms around Jane's neck.
The next few days became a test of will for the pets and of nerves for the humans. Bass, with stoic resolve, isolated Jo Friday to a tiny corner of their shared room. If she left toys lying on the floor, she next found them beside the trash can in the kitchen. If she left a trail of water while drinking, she soon found the entire bowl turned over. After the second clean up, Maura washed her hands of the whole situation and delegated Jane to managing the damages incurred after each skirmish.
Jo Friday learned to curl her tail around her body while she napped unless she wanted it stepped on by a large, heavy tortoise, though to be fair Bass just pressed on it and didn't really step down. He wasn't cruel, just determined to make his point. If he wasn't safe in his own home, then neither was the fur clad interloper.
Maura was starting to wonder if the whole thing had gone too far when she noticed Jo Friday peeking around corners before she turned them. Gradually, she noticed a lessening of hostilities. Bass began to ignore the small dog entirely, going about his business as if Jo Friday didn't exist. Jane, for her part, had brought home a succession of batting helmets, but other than a cursory glare, Bass had ignored the offerings whenever Jo Friday showed interest in them. Maura wasn't sure who was more frustrated with the stubborn tortoise, Jane or Jo Friday. Neither seemed to be able to get any positive attention from him. Oh, he still watched baseball with Jane, but now he stayed at the far end of the couch well out of reach of her long legs while Jo Friday lay beside Jane on the couch. The game just didn't seem to hold the same joy for either of them.
"I don't know why he's punishing me," Jane groused repeatedly. "I didn't chew up his helmet."
Not really sure she understood it either, Maura just shrugged and went back to her reading. She did wish the whole thing would end soon. She wasn't getting the attention she wanted from Jane with her lover brooding over Bass' snubs. When Jane finally gave up and went to bed, Maura went in search of her recalcitrant tortoise.
"Bass, we need to talk," she announced settling on the floor beside his newly-claimed bed. She pretended not to notice when he gave her what appeared to be a sullen look. "I know you're upset over Jo Friday chewing up your little hat…"
It's not a little hat. It's a head shell, or it was until she got hold of it.
"…but you really need to stop this. You're tearing up the family and upsetting Jane. Loving people and being a family should mean you forgive them too. Jane loves you both and you're hurting her with this. What if you drive her away, Bass? It's time to stop. Now you think about it. I'm going to bed." Bass watched Maura exit the room leaving him to his thoughts.
Throughout the night, Bass sat in the silence of his shell and thought about what Maura had said. He peeked out, opening one eye when he heard movement in the room and watched Jo Friday timidly make her way to the pillow and curl up on a corner. She had attempted to do the same on several nights and each time Bass had run her back to the blanket in the far corner. Tonight he pulled his head back in and let her be. She really wasn't hurting anything after all.
A slow thawing in the chill of his attitude began to set in after that. Each morning when he woke, Bass found Jo Friday curled a bit closer to his shell until finally he opened his eyes to find her sprawled on her back, wrapped around his bulk. He stopped turning over her water bowl, and she was a bit more careful not to splash water everywhere as she drank. She kept her toys confined to the space under the coffee table, and when she forgot, he no longer deposited them beside the trash can for disposal. During that week's game, Bass came halfway down the couch, though he didn't seem inclined to be a foot rest for Jane. A tentative truce and a small return of peace descended on the Rizzoli/Isle household.
Feeling effusive and wanting to reward Bass' gestures, Maura arranged for Bass to attend the 'Tortoise Play Date' that an acquaintance of hers hosted once a month in his back garden. Bass had attended several times, and always seemed to enjoy interacting with those of his own species. Wanting to make it a family outing of a sort, she sought and received permission to take Jo Friday along as well. Several of the tortoise owners also had small dogs that were used to being around the large reptiles and, as long as they remained well-behaved, the dogs were welcomed. It was usually a small group with only four or five tortoises of various types and sizes in attendance. Only one other African Spurred Tortoise lived in the area, and Maura hoped he wouldn't be in attendance at this particular event. Going by the name of Alexander, Maura always thought he had something of an attitude problem.
The only difficulty proved to be convincing Jane to go as well.
"A tortoise play date?" Jane repeated in amazement. "Don't you think Bass is a little old for that sort of thing?"
"Jane, he has a wonderful time with the other tortoises," Maura defended.
"How can you even tell that? It's not like he gets all excited and grins when you suggest it."
"You enjoy hanging out with Korsak and Frost, don't you?" Maura argued.
"Yes," Jane admitted slowly, not sure what one had to do with the other.
"And you're around cops all day. Bass never sees another tortoise other than at these play dates," Maura finished triumphantly. "Beside which we've never been on a family outing and this would be a perfect one."
Rubbing a hand over her face, Jane admitted to herself that she couldn't refute that logic even though she wanted to. Not able to quite figure out how, she gave in with a wry grin.
"Ok, fine. I'll go. But if Bass doesn't look like he's having a good time, we come home," Jane asserted, figuring she could at least use that as a reason to leave early since Bass never looked like he was having a good time, even when he was.
Bass enjoyed the feel of the grass beneath his feet. He lifted his head and inhaled the aroma of the various flowers. The first time he had attended one of the events he had been unsettled of all the strange aspects that made up nature, but he soon learned to enjoy these times. He didn't even mind that Jo Friday had been accompanying him around the yard, seemingly intimidated by all the large reptiles after her recent introduction to Bass' temper. His nose was buried deep in a Dianthus Barbatus, Jo Friday at his side, when he heard a sound he would rather not have.
Who's the furface? Alexander asked with a sneer.
Ignoring him, Bass turned away to admire a particularly lovely spray of violets only to turn back when Jo Friday gave a frightened yip. Jo Friday was backing away from the other tortoise, her tail tucked between her legs and a low warning growl emanating from deep in her chest. From his position behind and to her side, Bass could see a reddish stain spreading on the tip of the tail she held clutched to her belly. Jo Friday's tail wasn't the only thing red that Bass saw as a haze of rage clouded his vision. That furface was part of his bale, and nobody messed with her.
Scrambling forward Bass placed himself between Alexander and Jo Friday, stomping his feet and bobbing his head threateningly.
Why don't you pick on someone from your own species? Bass snarled at Alexander while sticking his head as far forward as possible, wagging it threateningly.
And who's going to stop me? Alexander challenged mockingly. A footrest?
Oblivious to everything except the larger tortoise in front of him, Bass didn't see Jo Friday streaking across the grass and barking excitedly to Jane and Maura. Unable to quiet the agitated animal, they followed back over to where the two tortoises were squared off.
"Bass!" Jane's voice carried across the lawn.
Yes! Jane had his back. Bass Isles was invincible, head helmet or no. He launched himself forward, charging Alexander. Claws tearing into the turf for traction, he tried to wedge his shell under Alexander's carapace. Sharp jaws nipped at the side of his neck causing Bass to snarl and surge forward driving under and up, flipping Alexander to his back. Fighting the instinct to do a victory dance on Alexander's face, Bass turned away and trudged towards his family. Jo Friday met him half way there, gently licking the small scrape on his neck. Blushing, Bass ducked his head back into his shell.
Women, he scoffed, peeking out at Jo Friday's grinning face before looking beyond her to where Maura stood frowning.
"Bass, what do you think you were doing? You'll be thrown out of the play group," Maura chastised.
Heaving an internal sigh at the unfairness of it all, Bass glanced at Jane who stoop and ran an evaluating gaze over first him, then Joe Friday and finally Alexander. Before she could give her considered opinion, a fashionably dressed man marched up and began to spout indignantly.
"Your tortoise is a ruffian. He should be expelled immediately," he snapped.
Rising, Jane stared the man in the eyes, flipping out her badge for good measure.
"Detective Jane Rizzoli, Boston PD. Your name is Justin, right? I'm assuming the one laying on his back looking like a cereal bowl with legs is yours?" she quipped.
Bass snickered silently at the description.
"Yes, that's my Alexander, and if he's at all injured, you'll be hearing from my attorneys," Justin threatened.
Attorneys! I'm going to jail? Bass thought, turning panicked eyes on Jane who winked subtly.
"You mean before or after I charge you with not restraining a dangerous animal?" Jane asked conversationally.
"Not restr—have you lost your mind?" he snapped.
"No, just following the evidence. My dog clearly has blood on her tail, as doe Bass on his neck. Maura, as an ME, you'd call that blood, wouldn't you?"
"Well, without lab confirmation—" Maura began, only to receive a nudge from Jane's foot. "Ummm…yes, definitely blood."
Jane nodded and continued. "There's not a mark on your animal, though there's blood on his mouth, while neither Bass nor Jo Friday have any on their faces. It seems clear that Bass was acting in defense of himself and his bale mate," Jane finished with a pleasant smile. "So by all means, call your attorney. He can bail you out. Of course, I'll have to get Animal Control out here to impound your turtle."
"He's a tortoise!" Justin snarled before struggling to bring himself under control. "Fine. I'm willing to overlook this, if you are."
"Well, since kids will be kids, as they say, I'm agreeable." Jane suppressed a chuckle as Justin stomped away and attempted to right his upended pet with a loud grunt. "Way to defend the bale, Bass buddy." Jane dropped to one knee and gave him a knuckle bump to his shell.
Bass looked up at her with adoration, pride radiating from his dark eyes.
"Let's get them home, Jane. They both need first aid. Though none of the injuries will require stitches, Jo Friday's tail is going to be sore for a while," Maura gave her medical opinion as she inspected the dog's injuries.
"Good idea," Jane agreed, helping her love up. "Come on, guys. Treats and strawberries all around when we get home."
Maura walked into her apartment, having stayed late to finish some paperwork on their most recently case. A loud whoop followed by a sharp bark let her know the rest of their household was in their accustomed places watching yet another baseball game.
After changing her clothes, she drifted into the living room, book in hand, and dropped into her accustomed place on the couch. Jane was slouched down with her feet resting comfortable on Bass' shell and Jo Friday tucked into her other side. Maura bit her lip to keep from laughing at the sight the two animals presented in their matching red plastic helmets.
The solution to the "head shell" issue had turned out to be amazingly simple. Jane simply brought home two helmets at the same time and painted the animal's initials on the top. Both seemed to recognize their own helmet and left the other one alone. Maura really wasn't sure how or why it worked; she was just glad that it did. Jo Friday's helmet was a bit chewed about the brim, while Bass' was still pristine, and neither watched baseball without them on.
Opening her book, Maura smiled as a long arm reached out to tug her into Jane's side. They were indeed a bale, and she enjoyed these evenings, though she'd given up on understanding the appeal of baseball. Instead, she curled into Jane's side and listened as her love chatted with their pets over the events of the game. Bass nodded, and Jo Friday barked at all the appropriate moments, something Maura credited to their perceiving Jane's excitement. She had just begun to doze when Jane reached for the remote and turned off the TV.
"Ok, guys. Bedtime," Jane announced.
Jo Friday hopped down from the couch giving a small yelp when the tip of her wagging tail came in contact with the edge of the couch. Bass moved towards her solicitously and waited patiently while Jo Friday crawled up on his shell and stood atop it. Then he started slowly down the hall towards their bedroom, careful not to dislodge his passenger.
Maura watched them go for a moment before turning to Jane.
"How long you think they'll continue with that behavior?" she asked.
"For as long as Jo Friday can milk the sympathy," Jane grinned. "It's better than them fighting."
"True," Maura laughed. Rising, she pulled Jane up by one hand. "I think it's time we headed to bed, too."
Jane laughed and turned her back. "Hop on. I'm all healthy, and I wouldn't want you to feel left out."
Laughing, Maura did just that, attacking Jane's neck with her lips as she was carried to their bedroom.
"Bet they stop before we do," Jane teased, kicking the door shut.
Bass opened one eye and peaked out of his shell as a loud cry echoed through the night. He looked up as Jo Friday whimpered from her place draped across his shell.
Go back to sleep, he told her. I've got your back.
Drawing back in, he closed his eyes, content that all was well with his bale.