The Clouds Roll By, Part 1 of 1
Spoilers: A bitty one for the first R&I novel; major ones for "When the Gun Goes Bang, Bang, Bang," and my prior story "The More Things Change"
Disclaimer: The only thing that's mine is the plot, such as it is.
Note: Think of this as a "missing scene" story-within-a-story; in this case, "The More Things Change," my post-season-one-finale story posted last year. In that story, I made a belated decision in the very last part to move Jane and Maura's relationship a little further than I'd anticipated. After I posted that story, I went back and began writing this. I wasn't sure I'd ever post it, to be honest, but I've gotten quite a few reviews from new readers to TMTC recently and decided to go for it. I don't think you necessarily have to have read TMTC for this to make sense, but it might be helpful.
Title taken from the lyrics to "The Glory of Love." ("You've got to laugh a little, cry a little / Until the clouds roll by a little.") Yes, from Beaches. Don't judge me.
"Out here!" She was reclined against the wooden porch railing, watching Jo Friday play in the yard as dusk fell. "Finished that autopsy already?"
There was no answer; Jane, puzzled, turned just in time to see Maura barreling through the living room towards her before she wrapped her arms tightly around Jane and buried her face into her neck.
She was trembling and her breathing was uneven; something was terribly wrong, and it was knowing that that forced her to suppress the gasp of pain as Maura squeezed even tighter.
Bewildered, Jane instinctively brought her arms up to cradle her and began to rock the both of them slightly from side to side. "Maura? Sweetie? What is it?" she finally asked, when the arms around her loosened slightly, but Maura simply shook her head and retightened her grip.
Finally, Maura sniffled. "Did…Detective Crowe mention anyth – no, of course he didn't."
"Just that he'd gotten a case and that you were doing the autopsy. I was headed out to therapy when the call came in."
Maura bent down to give Jo Friday, who had been circling both of them with a worried whine, a friendly scratch on the head. She watched with a smile as the dog, reassured, frisked away to chase a dust mote in the middle of the yard.
They'd been trying to give her as much outside time as possible; the first snowstorm of the year was due over the weekend, suggesting a long winter, and being stuck inside was something akin to torture for her.
"The victim…. It was…." She wiped her eyes, then wrapped her arms around Jane again. "It was a point blank abdominal gunshot."
Jane's eyes closed in sudden understanding. "Aw, Maura…I'm sorry."
"There was GSR on…." Her fingers traced the spot on Jane's stomach that had carried the lingering odor of gunpowder for weeks. "The gun was held right up against her abdomen," Maura added flatly, mechanically.
"It could have been you, Jane. A half an inch one way or the other. Traffic delaying the ambulance, even for a minute. Doctor Brooks waiting at the emergency room and not riding along in the ambulance." Her breath hitched. "Infection. Leaking stomach acid or bowel contents. It could so easily have been you."
"But it wasn't."
"I almost had to do your autopsy." She shivered. "And I would have. No one else…. I wouldn't have let anyone else…." She trailed off, shaking her head.
"You didn't. You didn't have to. I'm okay, Maura, and I'm gonna stay okay."
Maura swallowed. "My head knows that. But I can't seem to get my heart to agree. I left James sewing the victim back up."
Now, that said something. Maura was notorious for the meticulousness with which she cared for her 'patients' post-autopsy; more than one funeral home had, in fact, tried to lure her away to work for them. That she had left that job to her current intern was unprecedented.
Jane sighed. "I'm sorry. If I'd have known what killed that kid, I'd have skipped therapy and stayed in the morgue with you."
"I know." She glanced up at Jane. "Thank you for that, by the way."
"Got your back, remember?"
They stood there in silence for a long moment, watching Jo Friday yap and jump at a startled squirrel; it had taken refuge on top of the fence surrounding Maura's yard, eying the dog warily.
Finally, Jane said quietly, "I stopped by my place today. I'm…okay to go down those steps on the stoop."
Maura frowned. "I thought – "
"Frankie was there." Jane smiled faintly. "You freak out when I try stuff like that. Figured he'd just catch me and yell at me if I fell on my face."
Maura nodded silently, her eyes on Jo, who'd begun to chase a mosquito through the yard. "Now that you feel safe on the steps to your building…."
It was the last barrier; if Jane were to be honest with herself, it was the last excuse, the one last reason she could come up with to possibly justify staying at Maura's any longer.
Jane swallowed, her eyes also fixed on Jo. "She loves being here."
"I love having her here."
"She's gonna hate leaving," she said hoarsely. Any sense of triumph she'd felt as she stepped down onto the sidewalk under her own power completely evaporated as it hit her: going back to her place meant leaving here.
Maura glanced up at Jane, then returned her gaze to the happy dog. For once, she seemed to pick up on the underlying message; she reached out and squeezed Jane's hand. "She doesn't have to."
Jane's heart leapt, but only for a moment as anxiety swooped in behind the joy and relief. "You've never had a – a dog before."
"No, but I like having this one."
"Big decision. For Jo, I mean."
Maura nodded, glancing at the sky as clouds began to roll in. "We should take her inside."
Jane nodded and called to the little dog, who cocked her head and gave both of them a mournful look before slowly trudging back to the porch. "Why do I feel like a mean parent?" When Maura opened her mouth to respond, Jane held up a hand. With mock severity belied by the twinkle in her eye, she growled, "Rhetorical. Question."
Jo followed them both to the living room, where Jane settled on the couch, petting the still slightly pouting dog. "By the way, you got a call today…some dead people conference wants you to give a speech next month about that paper you wrote about Mathias and the monkshood? I wrote down the details."
"Where is it?"
"It'll be okay," Jane said. "I can even watch Bass for you. I'll get one of the guys to carry him upstairs." She glanced at the tortoise, who had lumbered into the living room. "I gotta admit, he kinda grows on you."
"Jane, you're not even cleared to be on active duty yet."
She frowned. "Look, I can drive. I can cook. I can clean. I can do laundry. I can go to work. 'Bout the only thing I can't do is pass that damn physical. Yeah, it still hurts a little, but I'm not an invalid anymore. I can be alone for a couple of days."
Maura hung her head, and Jane immediately felt like a compete heel.
She sighed. "Maura – "
Maura shook her head, got up, and headed upstairs to her bedroom.
Jane sighed. "Well, crap."
Jo whined at her, and Bass stared at her from across the room. "What?" She scowled at both of them. Jo whined again. "Yeah, I know," Jane sighed. "I was a bitch."
She'd managed better than even she'd expected, really, but every once in a while, that little voice that insisted she must be completely self-sufficient chafed at all the restrictions her injury had put on her.
She bit her lower lip as she debated what to do, but she couldn't get past Maura's violent reaction to her autopsy long enough to figure out how to fix the secondary mess she'd just made.
She'd already had to deal with one other abdominal gunshot wound – she'd even managed to offer a backhanded compliment at Jane for her good aim – but this was clearly different.
"What…is it 'cause I wasn't there?" she asked Bass, who poked his head out of his shell to give her a faint glare.
She had her phone in her hand and was dialing before she realized what she had done. "Crowe, it's – yeah, it's Rizzoli. Listen – "
"Hey, Jane, glad you called."
Jane pulled the phone away from her ear, stared at the display, and then, frowning, put it back up to her ear. "Crowe?"
"Did you just say you were glad I called? And did you call me Jane?"
Silence, for a few very long beats. "I did. Look, Rizzoli, we started off on the wrong foot – "
Jane interrupted, scowling, "You put a tampon in a water bottle and left it on my desk. That's not the wrong foot; that's sexual harassment."
"How did you know that I was – okay, it was stupid. You're a good cop, Rizzoli, and the Doc's a good person."
Jane winced. They hadn't gone out of their way to keep their relationship a secret, but they'd also not flaunted it either. She also knew it was as close to an apology as she was likely to get. "What are you getting at?"
"The vic today – she freaked the Doc the hell out."
Jane glanced up the stairs towards the master bedroom. "Yeah, I kinda got that impression. What I wanna know is…why?"
She thought about demanding to know whether he'd made some kind of asinine comment, but in the current spirit of temporary reconciliation – she was under no illusions that it was permanent – she held her tongue.
"She looked just like you, Rizzoli. I mean, hair, build…clothes, everything. Coulda been your twin." There was an uncomfortable pause. "I know you and Doctor De – I mean, Doctor Isles – um, I think it made her think about the day…Marino…died."
Jane nodded, drawing in a breath. It happened all the time in Homicide – a victim who looked like a loved one, hitting too close to home. "Okay. Listen…um, thanks. For letting me know."
There was another long pause. "Yeah, no problem," Crowe finally said.
She gave it ten minutes before she followed Maura up the stairs, only to find the door to the master bedroom closed. Jane sighed again and knocked once. "Maura? Can I come in?"
It took time – it seemed like forever, but was probably only a minute or two – but eventually Maura cracked the door open and stood back to let her in.
"I'm a jerk," Jane said without preamble.
"No you're not," Maura protested, though it certainly sounded as close to a lie as she ever managed to get.
"Yes, I am. That was a lot to spring on you after that autopsy. I'm sorry." She sighed. "I wish I coulda been there."
Jane sighed and sat down next to her on the bed. "You know, we had this case…while you were speaking at Stanford a couple months ago, remember?"
Maura nodded; the argument she and Jane had had about the risks involved in traveling so soon after Colin's death had been…well, Jane had called it 'epic.'
"You ever look at the case file?"
Jane glanced at her out of the corner of her eye. "The victim – she looked a lot like you. Single kill shot to the head. She had dark hair, but otherwise…she coulda been your sister. And, before you ask, yes, I had them run the DNA, and, no, she wasn't."
Maura was beginning to smile, just a little.
"I freaked out about it. I went home that night and got absolutely plastered. It was worse than that time we had that vic that looked just like Ma…remember that?"
"Jane – "
"I know; I know…stupid thing to do."
"No, Jane – you called me that night."
Jane's jaw dropped. "I did? Hell, I drunk dialed you? Oh, crap, just shoot me n – I mean, um…." She winced, reaching out to wrap her arms around Maura, who let her sweat it out for a few seconds before reclining back against her. "Sorry. I didn't say anything stupid, did I? At least, not anything as stupid as what I just said."
"No," Maura said. "You asked if I was alive. I pointed out that I couldn't have answered the phone if I were dead. You accused me of being overly literal." Jane snickered. "And then you asked me to talk until I heard you start to snore, so I started reciting the periodic table."
Jane nodded. She turned to face Maura. "I'll do that for you tonight, if you want. Well, not the periodic table, but…."
Maura sniffed. "Thank you…for understanding. About that."
"Look, I'm…I'm just gonna start talking, okay? I don't know what's going on in my head…but…maybe if I talk it out I'll figure it out." She took Maura's hand. "I love the idea of living here. I do. I never thought I…that I…but I so don't want to go."
Maura looked at her, then away. "Then why…?"
"I think it's awesome that you asked. I know that wasn't easy for you. Especially 'cause I can tell you really want it. Which is all kinds of awesome."
"But it's a big deal, and I wanna be sure that when I say yes – 'cause I'm probably gonna say yes – that it's not just because I'm still freaked out by what happened. I – I wanna know I still can hack it on my own, before I decide not to. You know?"
"I think so."
Jane carefully knelt on the floor in front of Maura. "Hey. Look at my face. Turn your big brain on and watch all those little muscles, okay? I'm telling the truth. I wasn't saying no. Hell, Maura, I already think of here as home. I just – that's a part of me I need back. I need to know I can do it. Okay?" She chuckled self-deprecatingly. "You know me…I gotta prove stuff to myself."
Maura sat on the bed, staring carefully into Jane's face, observing every minute detail that she could. Finally, she drew a long breath. "I'm sorry I reacted so badly," she said.
Jane's mouth opened, shut, then opened again. "Maura," she finally croaked, "haven't we talked about this whole apologizing thing?"
Jane pressed her lips together, wrinkling her nose, and fighting her own instinctive reaction. Finally, she managed to say, with something approaching a straight face, "Did you – you just – you just apologized for apologizing."
"I'm sor – " Despite herself, Maura began to laugh, which turned into out and out guffaws, as she and Jane ended up on the floor in a tangle of arms and legs, laughing hysterically.
They'd just about regained their equilibrium when Jo Friday poked her head into the doorway and gave them both a baleful look and the whine that meant 'I'm hungry.'
"Sorry, Jo," Jane said reflexively, which just started them both again.