Ephemera: plural n. things that exist or are used or enjoyed for only a short time
You frown at your reflection. Squint one eye close, then the other, sigh, shrug your shoulders. The movement causes a slight twinge of pain to shoot down your spine, but it's nothing. Fleeting, then gone. The image that stares back at you however, is not as kind.
You gather the tail ends of the head scarf that are fastened tightly around your skull, pull the triangular pieces of navy silk so that they land together over your left shoulder.
"Lipstick?" you ask, bite your chapped lips to get an indication if some color might help the whole situation.
The nurse sitting across from you hands the tube over, watches as you apply it to your lips.
"Sweetie," she starts, pauses when you reach out to move her hand so that the other woman holds the mirror for you at the appropriate angle. "You sure you don't want me to help you down there?"
You cap the lipstick, press your lips together. You bite back a reproach over the term of endearment. It's silly of her, this nurse, to have gotten attached. A sigh makes its way out of your mouth as you pick your ring off the side table, automatically sliding it onto your middle finger. The metal skims over your skin, does not hitch on a knuckle. You sigh again, move the ring to your thumb where it still won't fit, give up and set it back on the table.
"No, thank you," you reply softly.
The nurse looks crestfallen but you learned a long time ago that you cannot take care of other people. You, Maura Isles, have had to train yourself not to feel other people, their emotion, their sorrow, their concern. She's twenty-nine, this nurse. Young, really young. You asked her for the detail in a moment of weakness. A moment of fever when the ice chips being held to your lips was the best gift anyone had ever given you. There had been vomit staining the front of your hospital gown and this nurse had sat next to you and held that pan while you threw up more than a stomach could possibly contain for over an hour.
Tammy, that's her name, had rubbed your lower back and whispered soothing attempts into your ear as pain ricocheted off every last vertebrae of your spine. She was twenty-nine and healthy therefore she was naive. She was still hopeful. She still thought that someone like you had to have a chance.
You smile at the woman sitting across from you. Glance once more in the mirror and give your sunken face, much too sharp cheekbones, and yellowish hued reflection a tight smile. Your lips at least look pretty.
"I can manage Tammy."
It's not that difficult of a concept to understand.
Terminal: causing, ending in, or approaching death; fatal.
It's right there in the definition of the word. There is no room for uncertainties or who knows, maybes or maybe nots. Prayers, hopes, and miracles do not belong. The science does not lie.
Seventeen, you hear them say. The nurses on this floor, whispering it to each other when they think you're too sick to hear anything. The sadness in their voices, however, always carries.
You pull a loose string from the hem of your t-shirt. Smooth your skirt, make sure it isn't bunched up in any way. You aren't quitting. You're fighting this thing. Have been fighting this thing and you're going to squeeze out every moment from this that you can. Extend your time, that's the goal. But there's an expiration date on your life and it's coming a lot sooner than for most. You don't understand why it's so hard for others to understand that.
You are an ending.
You slip your fingerless leather gloves on and click the lock off your chair. Your hands find their way as you start to navigate yourself towards the door. You're getting better in this chair.
You do however pause to look over your shoulder at Tammy. "Thanks for helping me get ready."
Tammy only nods, tries to hide the emotion that can not be hidden. Twenty-nine, you think again. Wonder what that would even feel like.
You look forward to these things. They're lame as so many of the other teenage patients say, but you still enjoy them. The hospital makes any tiny holiday into a big event, a celebration of sorts, a social as you like to call them. Patients who have been discharged, some even for a few years, still come back for these gatherings. A reunion, of sorts. Except it's less about who is doing what now and more about who's still alive.
Today is Flag Day, the fourteenth of June, and as you make your way into the conference room you're met with bright flags, patriotic music, and the nation's colors dripping in the form of streamers. You grin. It's festive.
You take a moment to observe who else is there. Quickly you find a familiar face that is smiling back at you. Barry Frost, also seventeen, is all white teeth.
"Hey Doc!" he says, leaning down to embrace you but then pulls back suddenly. "Okay?" he asks.
"Get down here," you say, pull at his shirt so that he puts more weight into the hug than he intends. "I won't break."
He laughs, lingers there for a moment then gives a little squeeze. "Good to see you again friend."
He pulls back, turns his head briefly and you give him a second so he can pretend you don't know he needs the moment to make sure no tears fall. You missed the last two of these events and not because you got to go home and live a semi-normal reenactment of life.
"You have to stop calling me that Barry," you say, give him something else besides your expiration date to think about.
He laughs, wheezes slightly, and moves a chair up so he can sit next to you.
"Well," he starts, "like I say, you're smarter than most these real doctors in here anyways."
You grin, pleased with the compliment. "Well, still. It's a title that is earned and I have yet to do so."
He smiles at you and you smirk back. You both know you aren't going to be given the opportunity. And it's not sad. It's not whiney or dramatic. It's just honest.
"Whatever you say, Doc. Whatever you say."
You met Barry Frost two years ago. You remember it clearly. The evening started at home, sitting at the dining room table with your parents attempting to choke down this beautiful lemon birthday cake your mother had ordered from the finest bakery in all of Boston. You were a month out of your first round of chemotherapy and just a few hours into your fifteenth year when the taste of the lemon zest mixed with the raspberry sorbet created an all too unpleasant combination. The pain struck you so suddenly that your fork hitting the marble floor was the first indication that something was happening. The second was the sound that came ripping out of your throat, the third was you passing out from the pain.
It was later that night and you were in the Emergency Room with a whole slew of drips stabbed into your arm. The events of the busy room floated by you in a warm haze that not only made you dizzy but that seemed to act as a sedative, independent from the one being pumped into your blood. Still though you noticed Barry Frost and his mother immediately upon their arrival. Focusing on them, observing their behavior, somehow made it easier to ignore the pain that was still lingering and its most likely indications.
It also helped you ignore the fact that while your parents were efficient in making sure you were settled in and taken care of, they had also retreated back home as soon as the doctors had finished their tests and had decided to hold you for a few days. But that was okay. It was just how they were. It didn't mean that they loved you less. Their lack of physical commitment didn't really feel bad, it was just the way it was.
It was clear to you however that this was a first time trip for the boy across the room. There was panic on his face and much more of it on his mothers. At one point in the evening while you were waiting for someone to come collect you, admit you and escort you to the pediatric oncology floor, another woman had joined the two novices. This new woman dropped off a bag of clothing, a few water bottles, and you watched as the sick boy raised his hands to sign to the woman a thank you.
You immediately sat up, wincing as you wiggled into a position that didn't feel like a knife was lodged into your spine. The three of them signed for a few minutes more and your eyes picked up the language. The summer prior you learned American Sign Language when your parents first pulled you out of school. Had spent hours curled into those hospital chairs practicing the hand movements while the poison that they thought might actually save you was dripped into your system. Keeping your brain busy was the only salvation you knew.
The woman had left and the boy and his mother had gone back to talking except you couldn't hear them from across the busy E.R. Finally the boy's mother had brushed a hand over his forehead, whispered something to him and took leave as a nurse entered. You waited until he happened to glance your way. Smiling at him you gave a shy wave and then proceeded to ask if he was okay. The boy had raised an eyebrow as you sent the signs. He flashed those white teeth of his before responding that he was okay. He then asked how you were.
Me? You signed. Lemon cake and chemotherapy don't go well together. Other than that, okay.
And so it began. Your first friendship.
You don't really agree with this whole talking about people behind their backs thing. Gossiping. But from your observations, this is something friends do and neither of you are being hurtful so you allow yourself to indulge in something so very teenager.
"The latest iPhone, can you believe it?" Frost leans in closer to you, propping his elbow on the armrest of your wheelchair.
"I have the latest iPhone Barry." You scowl at him.
"Yeah, but you're loaded and," he emphasizes, "seventeen."
You look back at Shirley West. She's showing off her new device to a few other patients, grinning as she flicks her thumb over its screen. She's eleven.
"She's not even dying," Barry concludes.
This is true.
"What I wouldn't give for appendix cancer," you quip.
After a beat you look back at Frost who is wide eyed at you. "Nice Doc." He laughs.
You do too. Cancer has made you more sarcastic than you ever imagined. But it's in good fun and besides Shirley West is going home today, indefinitely.
Frost signs it to you and you shake your head, grinning. The two of you decide to choke down some red, white, and blue cookies.
She's been staring at you for quite sometime. You chance a few glances over your shoulder and her quickness to divert your eyes is too extreme for the staring to be in your imagination. You appraise her in small bursts, then go back to your conversation with Barry. She's tall. Lanky. Olive skin. Barry is talking about some action figure that he just has to get his hands on.
From your quick glances it is apparent that she is not a patient. She's skinny but in an athletic way. Sharp cheekbones but in a genetic way. And the masses of wild dark hair that curl every-which direction are just a little bit vulgar for this room. She sits with a boy who looks to be a few years younger than she. Frost notices you glancing back.
"Who are the new kids?" he asks.
It's probably the chair. She's staring at the chair. It's somewhat of a stare magnet. But every time you check, in that moment before she jerks her eyes away, well it's the stare of interest. You've been looked at that way before. Not lately though. You shake your head. Yellow hued skin, skinny legs and no hair is probably not her type. You will not let yourself indulge in silly thoughts.
Barry is asking when you might get to go home.
"Probably tomorrow," you answer. "You could come by?"
"Yeah, yeah! Well, I'll have to ask my mom but she loves you. Keeps asking me when I'm going to ask out that pretty girl from the hospital."
The two of you laugh. You and Barry practically live at each other's homes. When you're not in the hospital, joining him and his mom for dinner is a common occurrence. They're both good for you and you're good for him. You're especially good for his study habits.
"And what do you say?" You grin at him.
"I tell her I've got one, rather large if I say so myself, body part that just doesn't do it for you."
"Barry!" You smack his shoulder. "You do not!"
He laughs, closing his eyes. "Okay, I don't say it exactly like that."
You hold your reddening face. It feels good to laugh again. Tomorrow it will feel even better when you're home, in your own bed, surrounded by your books, waiting for Barry to come over so you can crush him at Scrabble.
"So should we go check her out?"
You jerk into awareness. "What? Who?"
Barry widens his eyes at you. "Don't pretend with me Maura. I can see the way the two of you keep glancing at each other. Come on."
And he's already standing, heading in that direction. You glance over at the two strangers, the girl now leaning against the wall with her hips jetting out, talking with the boy.
You let out a breath of air. Adjust the ends of your head scarf. There is zero point is arguing with Barry about anything. He's the best friend you've got and besides the strangers are blocking the punch table. Punch is your favorite part about these gatherings.
Barry's joking voice can already be heard as he approaches them. "Blocking the punch table, eh? Bold move."
Clearly he agrees with you.
A/N: Details of Maura's disease are coming. Frost too. This story will be about the romantic relationship between Jane and Maura. I can already feel it happening and am sure it will continue...Maura's characterization will be a little more...hm, less calculated, more risky, more sarcastic than her cannon self. She has to be. She's dying and that changes a person. I'm going for a mix.
I know I have an unfinished story out there, Come Sing Me a Song. And to be honest, it will probably remain as such. I know better than to start a cannon-ish story only to have the new season blow the whole idea into AU. Apologies. At least no risk with that on this one as it is AU all the way.
I'm posting this with an M rating from the beginning so I don't have to bother changing it in the next few chapters. Let me know what you think about this start!