The More Things Change, Part 30 of 30
Spoilers: Through "When the Gun Goes Bang, Bang, Bang," with a few references to a slight twist on the events of Ice Cold, the most recent (until July) R&I novel
Warnings: Nothing that I can think of.
Disclaimer: The only thing that's mine is the plot, such as it is.
Note: Wow. I mean it: Wow! Thank you everyone for the comments and reviews as I've posted this story. It's easily double the length of the longest thing I've ever written – just finishing it was accomplishment enough – but it's been a blast to share the story with everybody! Hopefully the ending lives up to everyone's expectations – and it'll hopefully be clear from the end where I got my title, as well. For those outside the U.S. or not acquainted with the saying, the whole thing is generally: "The more things change, the more they stay the same."
It had taken three text messages conversations over two days to convince Dean that she had been kidding, but at least it had been something to think about other than the ridiculous echoing silence that she'd gone home to every night.
She'd never minded living alone before, but now the silence was about to drive her mad. She talked to Jo – hell, she even talked to Bass – but it just wasn't the same.
By Thursday, she'd watched everything on her TiVo, including a few things Maura had programmed for herself.
By eight o'clock that night, she had dozed off on the couch, curled around a pillow, Jo Friday resting on her hip. She yelped, jumping up from her spot, when her phone rang and vibrated itself onto the floor.
When she finally managed to pick up the phone, Jo Friday staring at her in mournful reproach from her hiding place behind Bass's bulky carapace, she was somewhat breathless. "Hey," she said.
"Hey," Maura answered. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah, just – you know, never mind. I'm fine. What's up?"
"Just thought I'd call and…and…."
Jane smiled wistfully. "Check up on me?" She fell silent for a moment, wishing this were one conversation she didn't have to have over the phone. "Listen, I uh…I meant to call you. I'm on call tomorrow. Finally off desk duty."
"I know," Maura said, though her voice was even and didn't betray her emotions in the slightest. "Frost texted me."
Jane sighed. "Why does everybody meddle in my life?"
"He cares about you."
There was a long, long pause. "I'm…I'm sorry I didn't tell you myself," Jane finally said. "I just…."
"You were worried about how I would react."
"No," she said. "Maybe." She sighed. "Yes. I just – Maura, I know you're still – that what I did – "
"It's okay," Maura said.
"No, it's not."
"Yes, it is," she insisted. "Look, Jane, you have a dangerous job, and that's something I have to come to terms with. But you're very, very good at it, and statistically you're far more likely to be killed in a car accident than in an officer-involved shooting."
After a long silence, Maura admitted, "I'll always worry. I can't help that. But I can be rational about it. I've learned to be rational about it. I had to. And I trust you."
Jane took a deep breath. "I get where you're coming from, Maura, I do. Sometimes I have dreams where I-I walk into the morgue, and you're lying there on the dead people table with an ice pick in your head."
She shook the image off. "So what do we do?"
"Be careful," Maura said. "That's all either of us can do, really." Jane had opened her mouth to make small talk when she added, "Oh – how many sit-ups did you do?"
"…thirty?" she said sheepishly.
Reluctantly, she added, "Seven. Thirty-seven. A really…fast…thirty seven?"
"Remember that last Percoset I saved, just in case?"
Jane winced. "So, uh, how's the conference?"
"It was…all right." There was something off in her voice. Jane quickly lowered the volume on the TV. "The breakout sessions were very interesting, and my speech went well, but – "
"I – I ran into an old…someone I knew in medical school."
From Maura's tone of voice, it was hard to tell whether she was pleased by this or not. "Oh?"
"He – he invited me to go cross-country skiing with him and some friends."
Jane winced, but forced her voice to be impassive. "Did you have fun?"
"I didn't go."
"Maura – " Jane cut herself off. What was she going to say? Don't have friends?
"It – it's a good thing I didn't," she said, though her voice was now tight and tense. "They were in an accident – they were snowed in…in a ravine. One of Doug's friends…didn't make it."
Jane closed her eyes; immediately, she was flooded with images of –
She gulped, imagining being on the receiving end of that call. "God, Maura," she whispered.
But she wasn't done. "I stopped by the hospital to say good-bye." Oh, this was the crux of it – Jane could hear it in her voice. "He was…angry with me. He said that if I had just come along…that maybe I could have – "
Jane closed her eyes. "Maura…."
"You did it too, Jane, that day. The day you…with Frankie. And Vince with you. Why does everyone think…?"
"Aw, honey," she said, in a voice so soft and soothing she was vaguely surprised it came out of her mouth, "if I could crawl through the phone right now and give you a hug, I would, you know?"
"You didn't answer my question."
Jane exhaled. "It's because you're so damn good at your job. You know so much, Maura…it's easy to think you know that too. But – but don't blame yourself. You couldn't have known."
"Your head knows."
"Get back here soon and I'll help your heart figure it out, okay?"
Maura sighed. "I-I have to go."
"Okay. Listen, we can talk about it when you get home tomorrow. Try to get some sleep, okay? Red eyes suck."
Jane frowned, sensing that she was still upset. "Maura?"
"I love you."
That did the trick; she could hear the smile in Maura's voice. "I love you too."
Jane was so deeply asleep that she didn't hear Jo's excited yapping or the footsteps as they approached her bed; when the mattress dipped and she opened her eyes to see Maura's face, she mumbled, "Huh?"
Maura smiled and whispered in her ear, "Shh, go back to sleep."
But Jane yawned, stretched, and frowned. "What are you doing here?"
"I took an earlier flight," Maura said.
"What time is it?"
"About three thirty."
Jane grunted in satisfaction and curled up around Maura. "Missed you."
A little silence fell.
"I'll be careful," Jane said. "I promise."
Maura rolled over and faced her, though she was still close enough for Jane to wrap an arm loosely around her. "I know."
"No, you don't, or you wouldn't be – wait, did you just lie to me?"
"No." Maura sighed and touched her cheek. "I know you'll be careful. I just…I also know you. You'll always do what you think is right, regardless of the risk to yourself. I understand that."
"But it's different now," Jane said, a little wistfully.
"I don't want you to change for me."
Jane tightened her hold, burying her face into Maura's neck for a moment before she pulled back. "I – "
"Please…Jane, just promise me one thing. Just one thing. That's all I need."
"Promise me you won't shoot yourself."
She smiled. "Promise."
"Even if it's Ma? Or Pop? Or you?"
Maura sighed. "Jane, no one who loves you would want to be bought at that price."
She thought about that for a long moment. "Sucks to be the one left behind."
Maura nodded, but she didn't speak.
"I don't know if I – if I could – if I'm strong enough to be the one left behind."
Maura sniffed. "Then we're even. I don't know if I am, either. And I'm the one with direct experience of the possibility."
She thought about that, too. She pursed her lips and took a deep breath, then, finally: "Okay. I promise. Even if it's you. But you have to promise me the same thing."
She nodded, satisfied. "I promise."
Jane pulled her closer and burrowed back down into her pillow. "You sleep in, okay?"
"I have to go home and unpack," Maura protested.
Jane chewed her lips for a moment.
It wasn't quite the time – but, then, when had they ever done anything the easy way? "About that?" she asked. "I thought a lot while you were gone. It was crazy lonely around here. If you still – I mean, if you still want to – "
"Frankie wants this place," Jane continued nervously. "I think he has a crush on Marissa. If you're still – "
Maura stopped her with a quick kiss. "I'd love it, Jane." She grinned mischievously. "But I think Frankie's bound to be disappointed. Marissa has a crush on you."
"Oh, come on."
Maura arched an eyebrow. "Do you know when your neighbors vacuum?"
Maura smiled and brushed her fingers over the scar on Jane's abdomen. "Please tell me you'll hire movers."
"Hey!" Jane protested, but then took stock of the lingering ache from her physical in the morning and sighed. "Yeah, okay. Oh, and I got the locks changed. I'll put your new key in your purse."
Maura smiled. "That was…awkward, wasn't it?"
"Ma has bad timing, but you're the one who gave her a key. I told you that was a bad idea."
Maura yawned, and Jane smiled. "Go to sleep. We can make plans tomorrow."
"Bring a can of tuna salad for me?"
Jane grinned. "You got it. Bring me coffee when you get there?"
"Deal," she said, and closed her eyes, a faint smile still lingering on her lips.
Thank you again, everyone!