"Yeah, Ma," she mumbled into the phone while ascending the staircase of her Boston apartment building, "okay, yeah, yeah, fine, I'm a detective y'know, pretty busy job—okay, okay!" While dismissing her phone and popping it into her mouth, she balanced three bags of groceries and a six pack of beer. She went for her keys just out of reach in her pocket and all items came crashing to the doorstep. With a stomp, a silent plea, and an eye roll, she dug her keys out and reached for the door.
"I know the feeling," an unfamiliar female voice chimed behind her. "Helicopter mom, long day, a constant state of the jitters and feeling rushed…" the woman approached her and began picking up the dropped groceries.
Jane had just finished turning the key and opening the door when she spun around to survey the stranger. "Thank y—" she caught the woman's eye and a strange reaction set off in her whole body. It wasn't a cop-sense which was comparable to the "spidey-sense" but was something Jane couldn't quite figure out. "You." She finally completed her sentence while standing with the door wide open to her apartment.
The woman wiggled her eyebrows at Jane, "would you like me to set these down on the counter for you?" Her lips toyed with smiling and remaining serious, as if trying to gauge the response out of the frazzled person in front of her.
"Yeah, sorry, just right over here," she paced to the kitchen. "Thank you, again," she trailed off watching this stranger set everything down cautiously and carefully.
She dusted off her palms on her hoodie and matching pants, what Jane assumed to be running gear, and reached one hand out, "I'm Stella."
"Stella?" Jane shook her hand curiously, "I'm Jane."
"I just moved in across the hall." She dropped her hand and tilted her head to the side, mirroring Jane's inquisitive face.
"Well, welcome to the neighborhood." She offered a faint smile.
"You seem worried," Stella blurted out, placing her hands on her hips.
Jane leaned back against the counter and folded her arms, "the previous tenant of that apartment…"
Stella was already rolling her eyes, "some lady drug lord, yeah." The detective shot up from the counter and stood tall. "People talk a lot in this building," she backed down letting Jane know she was innocent.
"Seems like a strange thing to talk about," the detective in her was becoming unleashed.
Picking up on the tone, Stella jumped on the quiet defense, "maybe we got off on the wrong foot here." She cleared her throat, "I'm a long-time friend of your downstairs neighbor, Marisa. I don't do drugs, except coffee, I just moved in this morning, took a job as a social worker for inner city youth, have no idea how to navigate around yet. You can run my fingerprints if you need to, Detective. I have nothing to hide."
Jane picked up on her playful personality as well as her nervousness, "nothing to hide, huh?"
Stella looked down and kicked imaginary pebbles on Jane's kitchen floor. "Well…" she wavered. "It was only one time, and it was a dare, and it's really difficult for me to back down from a dare. But I got arrested once." She watched the detective raise one eyebrow, somewhat intrigued. "…streaking across the University of Illinois Chicago campus."
After a few laughs back and forth and general directions on the best bar, restaurant, and coffee shops nearby, Jane felt comfortable enough to begin putting groceries away while Stella took a seat at the stool just on the other side of the counter. When all bags had been emptied she offered one of her beers to this strange, curious, new neighbor and sat down across from her. Their chit chat had turned into Jane sharing stories about first joining the force, her friendship with Maura, and how Stella was trying to adjust to Boston life after living all 25 years of her existence in the city of Chicago. Jane also witnessed her neighbor's ears perk up after referring to the doctor and waited patiently for a reason to her intrigue. In the hours following their drawn out discussion she finally inquired on this. The detective was remarkable at predicting countless matters but this was something she never saw coming.
A couple of beers a piece and the night had fallen quicker than they realized. Jane can't remember the last time she met a complete stranger and just immediately hit it off with them. With Maura, as she had explained, it was different. Different, in the sense that she was really the only person that Jane had allowed to get close enough to her without thinking twice, naturally and organically and still had a daily habit of challenging her and making her mind flip obstacles and impede comfort zones. Stella had made a few observations of her own regarding this about the detective though was timid on sharing them. After a few hours, they each decided to call it a night and to do it again sometime. To which they had for the two consecutive nights to follow. Each hour learning something new and picking up on the habits and body language of one another.
For her age, Jane was pleasantly surprised with her ability to hold legitimate conversations and adapt her view of her standoffish nature. The detective had wondered if she was that in tune with people when she was her age. Stella had also taken it upon herself to offer Jane advice on varying situations and issues to which she had been leery of for her lack of life experience but was surprised when she found herself trying regardless. This new neighbor may have not given up a lot of information about herself but Jane took to reading between the lines and didn't feel the need to inquire too much. For the most part, Stella had let Jane speak, rant, rave, fume, spout of baffling threads of thoughts and not only actively listened, but gave much needed feedback to the detective.
. . . . . .
"It's been a little dead today hasn't it," Jane swung into Maura's office seemingly chipper.
Maura peered up from her desk covered in paperwork, "that is an interesting choice of words considering you are standing next to the morgue." She tried her best at a joke, laughing more than Jane did.
"Good one, Maur." Jane showed her dimples and sat down on her funky shaped ottoman. The ME shot her head up and aimed laser eyes at the detective. "What?"
"You're displaying signs of happiness. It's obvious. It's natural and unforced." She stood form her desk and approached Jane to assess her more. "You're using new shampoo too."
She tried to wave her off as Maura began smelling the top her of head, "okay knock it off Dr. Isles, I'm just in a good mood."
The doctor ignored the movement and continued to cross that barrier. "You met someone." Maura stated, taking a seat on the chair next to her friend.
"Yeah, well, sort of. Not like that though. Just met a new friend, I guess."
"I leave for a few days to attend a conference in New York and in my absence you have managed to replace me?" Maura joked, though slightly irritated and concerned.
"No one could replace you, Maur," Jane placed the ME's hands into her own and soothed circles across her palms. "She is my neighbor. Much younger, though thoughtful, real, and pretty straightforward—she's refreshing."
Both slightly irked and curious of Jane's unusual behavior she removed her hands and flattened out her skirt before opening her mouth to let a stream of thoughts come out. "Well, I suggest you let me, your best friend, meet her."
"Oh my God, you're jealous." Jane laughed.
Maura said nothing in response to her accusation and instead recommended they all meet at the Dirty Robber for drinks tonight so they could be introduced to one another. The ME was wildly interested in meeting this woman who had Jane so enchanted. A quick text message to Stella and the night was settled. Maura paid close attention to her friend's micro expressions and was surprised with her own conclusive findings.
"I'm very interested in meeting this woman, Jane." Maura stood from her seat and Jane moved with her like strings were attached to their joints.
A silent conversation brewed between them as they walked to the café where Jane's mom had prepared their animal shaped lunches. Amongst bites Maura inquired more about this new friend so she was equipped with what to expect from her. She couldn't see how after a few conversations the past couple of evenings with this woman would have Jane gabbing about her constantly. From the information she had collected, this Stella person was new to the area which made sense she would seek interest in a friendship with Jane who was a native to Boston and didn't have much exposure outside of Massachusetts itself. Apart from that, Jane's demeanor may come off as rough, but she is a gentle and heartwarming soul and when approached directly her typical response is affable.
"Maura, stop," Jane forked a bite into her mouth. Her friend cocked her head to the side, not having said anything, wanted to know what Jane was trying to address. "You're over-thinking this way too much. You'll like her. You really will."
She remained silent the rest of the meal while still monitoring Jane's reactions.
. . . . . .
"She's prompt." Maura took a sip of her wine and watched Jane's expected glare. "You're positive you told her the correct time?"
Jake swigged her beer motioning for another, "yes, I told her the right time. She is new y'know. Give her a break."
Just as Maura was prepared to dismiss this Stella person, she came walking into the door appearing to be somewhat weary. The detective spotted her as her eyes had been glued to that position awaiting her arrival. She jumped up from the booth unsure if a hug was appropriate so instead put her arm around her and began the introductions.
"Maura, this is Stella. Stella, this is-" Jane was cut off.
"Dr. Maura Isles. I know." She smiled with a giddy demeanor and offered her hand out to the ME.
"It's nice to meet you, Stella." Maura remained composed yet protective and motioned for her to take a seat right night to her.
"It's really nice to meet you too, Dr. Isles. Jane has spoken very highly of you which honestly, was unnecessary."
Maura glared her eyes and pursed her lips at Jane while Stella dug through her bag. "Unnecessary?" She was beginning to show signs of irritation.
She pulled out a stack of organized papers and displayed them for Maura, "I'm a bit of a science nerd, my current field of employment doesn't reflect my passion but it pays my bills and supports my hobbies. Anyway, I have been a fan of your work for a while now."
"A fan of my work?" Maura scattered her confused look across the table to Jane and back to Stella.
"Yes, I believe I have read almost every article you have ever written for numerous science and medicine journals." She presented the stacks of papers on the table complete with notes in the margins and highlighted portions of text. Maura's jaw had completely dropped. "It really is an honor to meet you."
She looked from Stella, to Jane, and back to Stella once more. "I had no idea I had fans…" she was surprised to feel her eyes well up a little bit.
"Stella, didn't you say that when you were in school there was a group of you who would meet up and discuss the works of Dr. Maura Isles?" Jane clasped her hands together under her chin as an underlining for her best friend to see. She knew what was coming next.
Maura's palm completely covered her mouth, "surely you can't be serious."
Jane's new neighbor looked her square in the eye, "of course I'm serious. I feel that would be a strange thing to fabricate."
She was convinced. She now knew why Jane was so captivated by this woman. She was breath of fresh air to them both. Jane and Maura dealt with criminals and dead bodies respectively so a real person not only stepping, but grounding herself in their lives simultaneously must have been the work of angels.
A few rounds of drinks and Stella was preparing to call it a night and had asked Jane for directions back to the apartment building. "I'll call you cab, it's a pretty far walk and I don't want you taking the subway at this time of night."
Jane stepped outside with Stella to wait on the taxi while Maura watched the conversation between the backs of their heads.
"She's wonderful, Jane." Stella adjusted her shoulder bag.
"I told you." She smiled. "I'm glad you were able to meet her. I think she likes you," her eyes darted back inside at Maura as Maura pretended to not pay attention. Jane looked pensively at the ground for just a mere second before she was caught.
"I think that bothers you." Stella took a step closer and squared off in front of Jane to get her full attention. "The way you talk about her, the micro conversations you two have, the looks, my God, don't even get me started on the looks." She gestured methodically with her hands.
Stella batted her eyelashes at Jane, squinted them together and pursed her lips, cracked a half smile and winked, turned her head slightly to the side never losing sight of her pupils as her eyes danced around the detective's face.
"So." Jane blushed.
"So, you're out here, while she is in there sitting alone. It took you mentioning her name twice when we first met for me to know that you were into this woman. How could you not be? She's brilliant, she's so incredibly kind, she's gorgeous, this list could go on forever and you're still standing here like a goddamn fool."
Jane's jaw was dropping more and more as soon as she began to realize everything she was saying was in fact true.
"The more you stand here, the more I'm going to detract everything I just said and write it off as my own jealousy." Stella crossed her arms at Jane.
"Wait, what?" Jane came back to earth just in time to hear the envy in her voice.
"Wow, you are naïve when it comes to your personal life, aren't you?" Jane changed quickly into her defensive stance upon that comment. "Didn't mean that as an insult, Detective," Stella paused. "That entire time in there, I felt like was intruding on a very private moment between the two of you. The looks, the obvious eye sex, the touching of hands and arms, I can't believe I'm the first person to ever tell you this." Stella exclaimed. Jane took in everything she had said, swallowed a huge lump in her throat, and pointed to the cab approaching down the street. She hugged Jane goodbye and kissed her on cheek, making sure Maura saw it happen.
"Hey, Stella! What the hell—"
"I just wanted to make sure Maura was as jealous as I was." She whispered into Jane's shoulder before disappearing into the cab.
. . . . . .
As most Friday nights, Jane and Maura were sitting together in Maura's living room while the television murmured news in the background. Though it was much later than either of them intended on staying up, their eyes were cracked wide open and staring at the TV with barely even a blink. Maura was concerned about the dismissal of her "fan" Stella, and Jane was still questioning what was said on the curb outside the Dirty Robber.
Maura knew better than to ask Jane anything until she was ready.
Instead of speaking aloud, she rested her head on Jane's shoulder. Jane's blushing peach cheek moved immediately to Maura's forehead. Their hands atop the blanket that was sprawled across their laps, Maura reached over to rub the surgeon's scars leftover on the detective's hands. Comforted in the slight movement of the ME's gentle fingers, she relaxed her slouch into the cushions which guided Maura just a little closer to her.
Neither of them knew how long this went on for, but the news had been ended and infomercials were now playing. They each would let out a short giggle in their chests every now and again to the overacting. Jane looked down at their hands after a few commercial breaks to see their hands had been laced together. She couldn't recall when that happened.
Maura picked up immediately on the change in Jane's body language and lifted her eyes to her.
"Something the matter?" Her voice cracked having not been used in hours.
Jane searched her eyes and traced the shape of her friend's face before answering, "I don't think so," she began and scooted closer on the couch and placed her free hand on Maura's knee.
The ME said nothing, but instead waited to see if Jane was ready to continue or not. She moved her hand from Jane's grasp and began to rub her arm in the meantime; assuring her friend she wasn't going anywhere.
"Maura…" Jane didn't know where to start, was scared out of her skin, so did the next best thing to speaking. She reached for the doctor and wrapped her arms around her for a hug. Maura complied by doing the same and rubbing circles on her back.
Jane pulled back after a few moments, softly. Her dark eyes locked on Maura's hazel eyes. "I need to test a hypothesis," Jane gave the most subtle, whisper of grin that no one other than Maura would have ever been able to tell.
"It would be imperative to test a hypothesis prior to concluding specific found data." The doctor grinned back.
Their eyes softened in the stare between them. Jane smoothed a strand of hair behind Maura's ear and contoured her jawline with her fingertips. As she was about to lean her cheek into Jane's cupped hand, the detective tenderly pulled forward so their noses were centimeters apart. She gave one last penetrating stare into Maura's eyes before guiding their lips together. It was soft, slow, and more than anything else, it was easy. Every moment their lips embraced, it struck like poetry and in the brief half seconds when they would pull apart to breathe, short smiles escaped from both of them and hid between each kiss.
Maura's hands found Jane's and she placed it up to her heart so she could feel the racing and reaction without her ever having to say anything.