Jane popped her head into the medical examiner's office, where Maura sat, entranced by her computer screen. "Maur? You finish the autopsy already?"
"Yes…. Sure," Maura said, without looking up.
"Sure? Is there a sale at Neiman Marcus or something?" Jane walked over to see the screen. Nothing but text.
"Huh? Oh, no, it's… it's just a story someone sent me. Fiction."
"Dr. Isles, reading a novel? 'The Angel's Wings of Desire'?" Jane snickered, looking closer.
Maura minimized the window before Jane could read anything, and looked up for the first time, specifically to give Jane an unamused frown. "No, of course not. It's… it's a western."
"I didn't think westerns were your thing."
"Well, not usually, no. This one is quite good, though."
"Oh yeah? Maybe I should read it. What's it about?"
"Come on, let's get that autopsy started."
"Oh, ho! Not on your life! You're trying to hide something! Come on, Maura, you might as well out with it, you know I'm just going to weasel it out of you sooner or later!"
"Jane, be serious. It's just a story. I have a dead man to autopsy, and you have a killer to find. We don't have time for stories."
But as Maura got up to put on her purple latex gloves, Jane slipped into her desk chair and opened the browser window again, paging up to the top. "Calamity Jane Meets Dr Isles, Medicine Woman. Maura. Is this a story about us?"
Mentally debating whether to share her interest—she had read far enough to know Jane might not like where the story was going—Maura said nothing. But this gave Jane the time to read the first line aloud. "'Calamity Jane Rizzoli had a voice like sin.'… Maura! It IS us! Who would write a story about us?! Is it good?! This is so cool!"
"Uh, Jane, I don't… um…"
But Jane was already moving on. "'For many an unlucky soul, Jane's voice was the last sound to ever pass through their ears.' Heh, I'm badass. 'It was deep, it was rough, it was… sensual?' Whoa. Seriously, who wrote this? And how do they know me so well?" Jane joked, smiling up to see Maura wringing her hands. "Hey, what's wrong? It looks like a fun little story. Let's read it."
"It's almost three hundred thousand words, Jane."
"The Grapes of Wrath is 169,481 words. The Adventures of Huck Finn is only 109,571." As Jane's face showed no recognition of her point, Maura spelled it out. "It's long, Jane. It would take hours, days even, to read the whole thing. And we have work to do."
"YOU have work to do. That guy took a .38 caliber to the head. Prove me wrong. Frankie and Riley are out canvassing the neighborhood and Frost is running his fingerprints. Until we have his identity, I have some reading to do."
Exasperated, Maura finally came clean. "Jane, I don't think you're going to like it."
"Maura, I'm a trigger-happy outlaw in a western. I'm Clint Eastwood. What's not to like?"
"You're also a cross-dresser."
That stopped Jane in her tracks. "What?"
"The character modeled after you, anyway. She dresses up as a man named Jake Wyatt, with a costume mustache and everything." Jane was speechless, so Maura kept trying to explain. "You have to admit, it's not far off the mark," Maura gestured toward Jane's pants suit.
"Consider it artistic license, Jane. Wouldn't you prefer to be Clint Eastwood, rather than some demure, oppressed prairie woman? Or worse, a bar maid? There weren't many options for women in the old west."
"Is that what you are, a bar maid?" Jane scrolled down, skimming.
"No, my character is a doctor. But I think she's somewhat meek. And she's engaged to Garrett Fairfield."
"Fairfield! Ugh! I hope THAT doesn't last long. Come on, you go do the autopsy, I'll just read this first chapter." Before Maura could object, Jane waved her hands, "Ok, shoo!"
"I am comfortable concluding that the victim died as a result of a single .38 caliber shot to the head." Maura tossed her bloody gloves into the biohazard waste on her way into the office.
"Ok, just a sec."
Maura waited patiently for exactly that long.
"Don't you trust me?"
"What? You know I do."
Jane finished the chapter and smiled up at Maura with a wag of her eyebrows. "I think you like me."
"No, I mean you in the story. Western Maura likes Western Jane. Jake. Jane."
"Oh, I suppose Western Maura finds Western Jane intriguing." Maura unconsciously swallowed.
"Right. So what's this about the vic?"
"Frost confirmed his identity. Your turn, detective."
Despite her penchant for getting the bad guy, this murder wasn't nearly as interesting as her own personal spaghetti western. She looked back at the screen. "Do you know who wrote this? It's like they know us. Frost and Korsak are also in it, and I think other people too, but I'm not sure yet. It's probably someone here at HQ."
"No, it was sent from an anonymous email address. I tried to answer the email, but it bounced back."
"Hmm. Must have been a disposable address. What about this penname? Jo, Beth, Meg, Amy…"
"They're the sisters in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women."
"Right. So probably a woman."
"There aren't many women around here."
"But Jane, there are things in the story… things only you and I know about."
"What do you mean?"
"Situations, scenes, that mirror events that happened in real life. Except that they're events only you and I know about. We were the only people there. This isn't just someone who knows us. It's someone who's been watching us. Without our knowledge."
"I'm going to get Frost on it."
"We're detectives, Maura. If anyone can find out who this Jo, Meg, Amy person is, it's us. Frost can work his computer magic and—"
"No!" Maura's voice took on an urgent, high-pitched tone.
Jane just stared, wide eyed.
Back to her normal voice, Maura elaborated, "No, I don't want you to tell Frost about this."
"You know how gossip spreads around this building. I don't want everyone at headquarters to be reading this story and making assumptions about us."
"Assumptions like I'm a cross-dressing outlaw?"
"Exactly. And other things."
Jane narrowed her eyes, wondering about those "other things," but didn't press it. "Ok, we'll keep it just between us." At least for now. Jane headed for the door. "I'll get to work on the case. Let me know if you find anything interesting. About that guy," she pointed to the corpse, "OR about this," she pointed toward the computer.
Maura just nodded.
After Jane was out of sight, Maura pulled up the screen to see that Jane had finished Chapter 2. Maura paged to Chapter 3, which started with an author's note:
"I'm weirdly fascinated with how women in this time period might handle their sexuality, particularly gay women, I should say. We've seen plenty of male homoeroticism in Westerns, and I guess I wanted to play the opposite side of that."
The blood drained from Maura's face. She put her forehead in her hand and swore softly to herself.
Jane sauntered into the Division 1 cafe with a little more swagger than usual, as if she were wearing chaps. Her elbows were splayed, hands on both hips, fingering the gun she had and an imaginary one she didn't. She walked right by Maura and up to the counter, then suddenly made a 180, squinted her eyes, and pointed her fingers, thumbs up, at Maura and said, "You looking' at my scrawny ass?"
Startled and a little worried that she had, in fact been caught staring, Maura blushed, but smiled with relief when Jane just winked and grinned. Satisfied with this tacit response, Jane returned to her usual countenance and bent over the counter, where her mother stood, bewildered.
"Hey, Ma, how about some coffee?"
"Sure, Jane. Got a tough case today?"
Jane leaned against the counter with one hip. "Sure do. Say, you ever do any… creative writing?"
"What do you mean?"
"You know, like short stories. Maybe, you take people you know and put them in different situations… or… an alternate universe."
"Oh, I'm not much of a writer, Janie. It's hard enough keeping up with my website, I don't have time to get creative."
After a beat, Jane decided to take a different tack. "How about reading? You ever read Little Women?"
"Yeah, I think I read that in school. That's the one with all the sisters, right?" Jane nodded, happy she was getting somewhere. "And Mr. Darcy? Ooh, what a dreamboat!" Jane glanced over at Maura for confirmation, but instead got a quick shake of the head.
"Pride and Prejudice. Written by Jane Austen more than fifty years before Alcott wrote Little Women, and takes place in England, whereas…" her voice trailed off after she realized neither Rizzoli was listening.
"Why do you ask?"
"Nevermind." Jane took her coffee and sat down with Maura.
"Did you think she wrote the story?" Maura's voice was hushed, conspiratorial.
"Ah, not really. Just making sure. That part in 'Angela's saloon' made me wonder, though. Whoever IS writing this thing knows my whole family. And Dean. But they sure don't like Dean."
"Neither do I," Maura said, flatly.
"Yeah, well." Jane took a sip. More somber now, "Maura, I think Hoyt is in it."
Maura just nodded.
"You're sure? How much of this have you read?"
"Enough to know that Hoyt is in it. And whoever wrote it knows his MO."
"Shit. What if it's him? Maybe he left this for me, with an apprentice, just so he could fuck with me from beyond the grave. Damnit, Maura, I don't want to read it if that's what it is."
"No, I don't think so. Whoever wrote this likes us, Jane. They know us and they like us. A lot of it is just us spending time together, building a friendship. We're—or, our characters, they're sweet and generous and… they just enjoy each other. Like we do. They bring out the best in each other." Maura shrugged, for once at a loss for words.
Jane just gave her that kind smile, the one that made Maura feel warm and awkward at the same time. Did she say something without realizing it? Before she could rethink her words, Jane stood and gave Maura a squeeze on the shoulder.
"I gotta go. We got the vic's address—an apartment building near where the body was dumped. Me and Frost are going to talk to the landlord, see if there was any disturbance."
Maura smiled and nodded. Good, maybe this would keep Jane's mind off that story.
Jane returned to the morgue that afternoon with a box full of evidence from the victim's apartment. "Here's a bunch of stuff for you to swab for DNA, plus a sample from the guy's wife. She's pretty beat up."
Maura set to work, and Jane just sat, letting her mind wander.
It started with this battered woman. After being smacked around for who knows how long, degraded and made to feel like nothing, she's in mourning now for her abuser, the person who probably controlled every aspect of her life. She's free of him now, but she probably feels lost. She has a lot of recovery to do. Despite all the horrible things he did to her, she depended on him, needed him. It made Jane mad. Pissed, actually. It made her want to stand up for every woman who's ever been hit, ever been verbally abused, ever been so much as cat-called, and put those offenders in their place.
She got to thinking about how times haven't really changed all that much. Sure, women could have careers in just about any field. They could be CEOs, professors, hell, even cops and chief medical examiners. They could be unmarried in their thirties and not be called an "old maid." But there will always be men who think they have the right to treat women as property.
That was what Maura meant when she called her character "meek," Jane realized. In the story, Maura was adventurous, moving out west without really knowing what she was getting into. She wanted to try new things and meet new people, but as soon as Fairfield was ready to marry her, she would be weighed down with that proverbial ball and chain. Jane didn't want to see that happen to either Maura.
Jane couldn't see into the future of the real Maura—the real Garrett Fairfield was long gone—but her curiosity about Western Maura got the best of her. "Mind if I use your computer?"
Jane pulled up Calamity Jane on the lab computer and picked up where she had last left off.
Maura recognized the website and was amused to see how her friend had so immediately become enthralled in the story. (She had concluded, based on Jane's continued interest, that Jane had been skipping the author's notes, and focusing on her character and recognizing all the peripheral characters, rather than the budding relationship between the two protagonists.) But she was acutely aware that at some point, the story would stop being just a fun diversion. Maura kept a portion of her awareness on Jane as she read. And the transformation took place right in front of her eyes.
"Man," Jane said, shaking her head. "They really don't like Dean. He punched me!"
Later, "Aww, I gotta tell Ma I love her more often."
Then, "Wait. This is what you're talking about, the real life stuff. When Ma tricked me into having dinner with Grant? And she bought me that dress? And I didn't stick around for five minutes before I split and came here to see you."
Maura smiled, "Yes, I remember that."
Jane turned back to the computer and leaned in toward the screen. "That was a riot."
Jane was silent for a moment, then even without looking up, Maura could feel Jane's sober gaze upon her. Maura put down the evidence and took off her gloves. She knew what was coming, and that it would require her full attention.
Jane's head bowed. She was staring at the desk but seeing something else entirely.
"Jane? It's just a story, Jane."
Maura's voice knocked something free in Jane's head, and she immediately stood and moved toward the door. "I, uh, gotta go. See you tomorrow." And like that, she was gone.
Maura easily found the passage that spooked her:
Maura had been bathing. She had been nude. In water. Ah! Why are you thinking about that, Rizzoli? Her heart was racing mildly, not enough for her to really notice, but definitely faster than a normal rate. She really wanted Maura to want to see her, and for some reason felt extremely insecure.
Her impossibly shiny, golden hair was slightly damp and pulled up, leaving her neck bare. Some sort of gorgeous fragrance was emanating from her, and mixed with the wildflowers in Jane's hands, the scent was almost overwhelming.
How was she so lovely?
Maura had to knock very hard to be heard over the noise of Jane's vacuum. But when Jane turned the machine off and looked through the peephole, Maura could feel the pause. "Open the door, Jane. I know you're in there."
"Go away, I'm busy."
Jane finally swung the door open. "No? That's it? You're not going to even threaten to yell so my neighbors can hear?"
"'No' worked, didn't it?" Maura walked past Jane and set some take-out containers on the counter. "You hungry?"
"No," she mimed. "What are you doing here, anyway? Did I invite you over and forget about it?"
Maura smiled, both of them knew she didn't need an invitation to bring dinner to her friend's apartment. "I thought we could read together."
"I'm done reading. That story isn't very good anyway." Stubborn Jane was being stubborn. She slumped on the couch and picked up a rubber band, all the better to fidget with. "This morning, why didn't you want me to read it?"
Maura sat down and looked directly at Jane, but Jane was still focused on the rubber band. "I was worried you would identify too strongly with Calamity Jane. She's a great character, but she's not you. The things she says and does… who she is…. This is just one person's interpretation of you, based on who knows what. She doesn't know you, she doesn't know how you'd think or act. She's making it all up and I don't want you to let this character redefine you."
Jane nodded, still not looking up.
"Sometimes it's hard for me to see the differences between me and that Maura. I thought, if we read together, we'd be here to remind each other who we really are."
Jane finally made eye contact, but only for a second. "Ok." As if to punctuate the end of their conversation, Jane shot the rubber band across the room. "Whadja bring to eat? I'm starving."
After eating, Jane and Maura settled in. Each had her back against one of the arms of Jane's sofa, and her legs across its length, her feet tucked next to the other's hip, laptop on her lap. They were on different chapters, but that didn't prohibit conversation.
"Boy, she's got you pegged." In a mocking tone, Jane quoted, "'Really Jane, your grammar is awful.'"
"At least Calamity Jane has an excuse. She dropped out of school and can't read. You went all the way through school and still get 'there,' 'their,' and 'they're' mixed up. Sometimes I think you call Bass a turtle just to torment me."
"Ahh, you're catching on!"
"Just so I'm prepared… this is a romance, right? Like, they're going to get together?"
"Jane and Maura? Yes, I think so."
"Hmm. How far have you read?"
"I just started Chapter 15."
"Have they gotten together yet?"
"No. They don't even realize they're attracted to each other yet."
"Has Jane found Hoyt yet?"
"No. But she's getting closer."
"Ok, I have to keep reading."
"What part are you on?"
"They're talking about kissing…. Do you like kissing or being kissed?"
Maura thought for a moment. "Both, I think. Being kissed makes me feel treasured. Kissing makes me feel empowered."
"I think I like being kissed better. Makes me feel feminine."
"Is that why you like strong men, like Casey? They make you feel more feminine?"
"Yeah, I guess so. I mean, I can fight my own battles, but it feels good to know somebody else has my back anyway, you know? Like I don't need to be tough all the time."
"Oh, no…. Oh, Jane."
"Your—I mean, her—Calamity Jane's backstory. It's so sad."
"Is it going to give me nightmares?"
"Where is it? Which chapter?"
"It's the second half of Chapter 15. Just… don't read it tonight. Stop after the stars. That part is so beautiful. Dream about that."
"And then… Promise me you won't read without me?"
"Do you think it will get worse?"
"I don't know. But I want to be here with you in case it does."
"Do you know who Angie Harmon is?"
"This author's note says, 'how hot would it be to hear Angie Harmon say something in Italian on the show?' I'm going to Google her….oh my god, Maura, look at this."
"That's her? So who is she?"
"She's an act—That's it? C'mon, Maura, doesn't she remind you of someone?" Jane held the screen up next to her face and smiled big like the picture.
"She's pretty I guess. What are you getting at?"
"She looks just like me!"
Maura looked back and forth from Jane to the computer screen. "I see some similarities in bone structure. But that's it."
"Aww, they're—" Jane stopped herself when she saw that Maura had fallen asleep. Only then did she realize how late it had gotten. She sat for a moment, reminded of a passage she had read just minutes ago.
"Let me carry her," Jane breathed. "I don't wanna wake her up if I don't have to… she looks like an angel asleep like that, don't you think?"
Inspired, Jane gently put both their computers on the coffee table and stood. Bending over Maura, she slipped one arm behind her back and the other under her knees. One hundred sixteen point eight pounds wasn't nothing, but as Maura, still appearing asleep, shifted and wrapped her arms around Jane's neck, the weight became bearable, at least for the short walk to Jane's bedroom.
Jane's alarm woke her bright and early. After hitting snooze, she rolled onto her back and stretched her arms, inadvertently giving Maura a slow-motion right arm in the face. Maura made a little whimper in protest.
Taking her arm back, "Oh, sorry, Maur, I forgot you were there."
They both turned on their sides to look at each other.
"Sweet dreams?" Maura asked.
"Yeah. Or, well, no dreams. I slept soundly. I stopped where you told me to… You?"
"Mmm. Last thing I remember, they were dancing." Maura had this goofy half-awake smile.
"With each other?"
"Maura was teaching Jane to dance. It was very cute."
"They're starting to realize…"
"How do two women who don't know what 'gay' is… get together?"
"I think we're going to find out."
While Jane and Frost continued investigating the case, Maura had no pressing work to do and found herself thinking about Calamity Jane. Maura had made the point the night before that Calamity Jane was NOT the real Jane, but she couldn't help noticing the similarities. Most interestingly, Calamity Jane used 'Jake Wyatt' to put on airs of confidence and intimidation, and in the story only Maura was allowed to see her vulnerability and insecurities. In real life, Jane's facade was less literal, but it existed all the same. And Maura was the one Jane always called when that facade was crumbling.
How did this author know such a personal characteristic of Jane? Maura looked around the room for cameras or bugs, but found nothing obvious, like a film crew. She decided to do some research.
Opening the Calamity Jane web page (which she had bookmarked), she started looking for links. She tried clicking "PM" next to the author's name, but she'd have to create an account to send a message, and Maura wasn't ready to do that. Instead, she clicked on "Rizzoli and Isles" at the top of the page.
Maura's jaw dropped. There were 1,942 stories in the "Rizzoli and Isles" category.
Maura had made Jane promise not to read Calamity Jane when Maura wasn't with her, and it didn't seem right for Maura to do the reciprocal. But that didn't mean she couldn't read another story.
Jane was pumped with excitement from making progress in their investigation, but once she arrived at Maura's that evening, she was more excited to settle in with Calamity Jane and Dr. Isles, Medicine Woman. She found Maura already engrossed in a story, while Angela was in the kitchen preparing dinner.
"Hey, you said we would read together!"
Angela piped in, "What are you girls reading? I can't get Doctor Isles here to tear herself away from it."
"Just case files, Ma." Jane pulled Maura out of Angela's earshot and whispered with her teeth clenched, "What are you doing? She gets a whiff of this and it'll be all over the station!"
"Jane, there are almost two thousand of them. Written by hundreds of people. And almost all of them are about us."
"Who are the others about?"
"Well, everyone we're close to. There's even a few about Bass and Jo Friday. And there are several about Frankie and Frost."
"Frankie and Frost…. Frankie and Frost, like what they did with us, Frankie and Frost?"
"Oh, good lord."
Somehow, Maura and Jane managed pleasant dinner conversation without discussing either the story or the case. After cleaning up, Jane shooed her mother out of the house, saying they had work to do and needed privacy.
"Ok, Janie, I get it," Angela nodded knowingly, and left the women to their "work."
Jane and Maura settled in on the couch, as they did the night before but more comfortably (given Maura's significantly more plush sofa), and Maura read other stories while Jane caught up to the dance lesson. When she did, they decided to huddle together over one laptop, to ensure that neither would read ahead.
At one point, Maura suddenly asked, "Do you have any tattoos?"
Maura mentally flagellated herself. She had walked right into that one. "Yes." Pause.
"It's an Ouroboros, an ancient depiction of a circularized serpent eating its tail. It represents the cycle of life, and rebirth. It reminds me of the good that can come from death."
"Can I see it?" When Maura hesitated, Jane added, "I just want to see what the symbol looks like. It's hard to picture."
Maura doubted this, but without a word of protest, she stood and pulled up the hem of her dress, exposing one hip. Just above the bone was a small snake eating its own tail. It was beautiful, but not elaborate. Jane felt the urge to touch it, but refrained. When she made eye contact with Maura again, Maura smoothed out her dress and sat.
"Nice," was all Jane could say, so they continued reading.
Jane stopped reading and looked at Maura intensely. Maura made eye contact and Jane put on her deepest, sexiest voice. "Derriere." Both busted up laughing.
Once they regained composure, Maura pointed out, "The author's choice of scenes is interesting, don't you think? She spends so long describing how these two interact, and then completely passes over other scenes."
"Well, for instance, near the beginning, when Garrett takes Maura to dinner on his steamboat. We didn't see any of the dinner, and in fact that whole scene seemed to be an opportunity for Maura to marvel at Jane's muscles."
"They're sexy muscles, aren't they?" Jane flexed her bicep and grimaced menacingly.
"Jane! That's not my point. And then after just two days together, spread over 14 chapters, Jane goes off for almost a month, and all that time is covered in a single chapter?"
"Well, there wasn't really anything going on during that time."
"I would have liked to see more of Jake, to build that character a bit more. Or Maura settling into town. She seems to have formed a connection with Jane's family."
"But that's not the point of this story. Who cares what Jake is doing? I want to see how Jane and Maura get together."
"Don't you think some of this is… gratuitous? It's like the author is trying to think of excuses for Maura and Jane to touch—the dance lesson, the tailor's assistant is out sick…"
"Yeah, it's totally gratuitous, but… so what? It's cute. They're falling in love."
Both women grew tense during Calamity Jane's action scene to catch the thief, and it only got worse when (Western) Maura found (Western) Jane drunk the next day.
"Oh, that's not good. Why would Jane act that way?" Maura seemed genuinely troubled.
"She's got dark things in her past, Maura. She can't always be so happy-go-lucky. I'm not defending her actions, but I see where she's coming from. She knows what kind of evil there is in the world, and she doesn't want Maura to become another victim."
"Do you do that, Jane? Is there a darkness inside you that you keep hidden?"
"No," Jane said quietly. "You've seen me angry. Drunk. Scared. You know all sides of me."
After Maura silently acknowledged this truth, Jane went on. "She's got a point though. I worry about you sometimes, with the guys you date. It's like you'll go out with any guy with big muscles and a nice smile."
"You worry about me?"
"Jane, you don't have to worry. I'm an adult. I know what I'm doing."
"What are you doing, Maura? I don't get it. I mean, aside from Ian, they're all body, no brains. With all your brains, I'd expect you to want a guy who can think, too."
"Those guys didn't mean anything to me, Jane." She squeezed Jane's hand for emphasis. "They were just… dalliances. I don't need a man to make me happy. I already am happy. And I don't want to change that by introducing an unknown variable."
Once Western Jane and Western Maura were friends again, Real Jane and Real Maura could breathe easy. Western Jane was about to take an accidentally drunken Western Maura home to the boarding house when Real Jane caught Real Maura yawning.
"We'd better call it a night. I don't want to have to carry you to your bedroom."
Maura swallowed a guilty look.
"You were awake! You little sneak! Why didn't you get up and walk like a normal person?"
"…I was tired… and you volunteered…"
"My arms have been sore all day because of you!"
"Are you calling me fat?"
"No! Wait—Did you just make a joke?"
Maura smiled, proud of herself for properly using the colloquialism.
"Go to bed. I'll shut the lights when I'm done."
"You're going to keep reading?"
"Yeah, I'm not tired yet."
"Ok, but you should read in my room."
Jane understood that Maura's motivation was to prevent Jane from getting too wrapped up in the story, but at this point, any Hoyt-related plotlines seemed a ways off and innocuous. Jane gave a doubtful, low-pitched, "Really?"
"Yes. Neither of us knows what happens next, and I want to be here for you, even if I'm asleep. Let me do that for you."
It wasn't the words she said, but the expression on Maura's face, that made Jane cave.
Maura fell asleep quickly, with Jane sitting beside her. Jane kept reading, as Drunken Western Maura watched Western Jane change out of her Thanksgiving dress. As Drunken Western Maura clumsily made Western Jane carry her home. As Real Jane realized that both Mauras secretly enjoy being carried.
When it dawned on her, Jane felt so stupid. She was a detective, after all. How could she be so blind to the obvious? She put the laptop aside and scooted down in the bed, bringing her face nearer to Maura's. She gently pushed aside Maura's hair, trying to wake Maura just enough to get an answer.
"Maur…. Maur, are you sleeping?"
"Maura, did you write this story?"
"Did you write Calamity Jane Meets Dr. Isles, Medicine Woman?"
"I don't know, Jane, I'm tired. Go to sleep." Maura turned over, her back to Jane, and frustrated from not getting a straight answer, Jane went back to reading.
Frustration quickly turned into alarm when Western Maura woke in the middle of the night and decided to bathe. Jane's heartbeat raced, and the line between fiction and reality blurred as she was overwhelmed with anxiety, but couldn't seem to tear her eyes from the screen, except to glance at the woman beside her. How could she sleep so soundly at a time like this? What if she did write this? What if she were to wake up and find Jane in such a panic?
Maura shifted in her sleep, prompting Jane to bolt out of bed and into the kitchen.
Beer. That was what she needed to calm her nerves. Jane quickly popped the cap and swigged half the bottle. She took a deep breath and leaned her elbows on the counter, resting her forehead on the heels of her hands.
Jane's mind was still racing, but she could feel the alcohol starting to slow it enough that she could at least hang on for dear life.
Unfortunately, Jane didn't have long to calm her nerves because the rapidity with which she left the bed woke Maura, who sensed that something was wrong and followed Jane to uncover the problem. Wrapping and tying her robe as she walked, Maura groggily called out, "Jane? Jane, what happened?"
Shit. "Oh, uh, sorry, I didn't mean to wake you, Maura. I just… I got tired and decided to go to bed."
"In the kitchen?"
"No, in the guest room."
"And you stopped to get a beer?"
"Uh," Jane laughed, "Yeah?"
Now mostly awake, Maura wasn't going to let her get away with that flimsy non-excuse. "Did something scary happen in the story?"
"Uh, you could say that, I guess."
"Ok." Maura took both Jane's hands and tried to look her in the eye, but Jane was having trouble making eye contact. "Look at me, Jane." When she did, Maura continued, "You are Detective Jane Rizzoli, of the Boston Police Department. I am Doctor Maura Isles, Chief Medical Examiner of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. You're my best friend and I love you. Neither of us lives in the old west. Charles Hoyt is dead. And nothing is ever going to change any of that, especially not a silly little story we found on the internet."
"Now tell me what happened."
She couldn't bring herself to ask the one question she wanted answered the most, Did you write this? and didn't want to get into a discussion of what about the last chapter had upset her, especially if Maura was the author. Putting on her most convincing smile, Jane said, "It's ok Maura, I feel better now. Thanks… for that… I'm awfully tired, I think I just want to go to sleep. You should too. I'm sorry I woke you."
"That's alright. I'm glad you did. Do you want me to sit with you until you fall asleep?"
Perhaps a little too quickly, Jane answered, "No, no, I'll be fine. You just, you go on back to bed."
Back in the guest room, Jane tried to regroup. She thought if she could read past the… hard part… she'd get back to the fluffy, innocuous, daytime interactions between their characters. But she couldn't focus. Her mind's eye kept wandering back to Maura in the tub, only it was Real Maura in her own tub, one leg up on the side, her back arched and her eyes closed….
Maybe Maura was right: she had to remind herself that Western Maura was just a character. Maybe all she needed was a reality check. A visual reminder.
Jane moved through the house as quietly as possible, expecting to just peek in on the sleeping Real Maura, see the same Maura as always, and go back to bed in the guest room. When she slowly opened the door without knocking, Maura was sitting up with her laptop, having just read the offending chapter.
There was nothing different about the way Maura looked up at her. They were the same eyes as always, but now they seemed to be seeing Jane's soul, and understanding it completely. Jane had seen Maura's mouth the same way thousands of times, its corners turned up in patient anticipation. At this moment it conveyed the message that anything Jane asked for would be granted. This expression Jane had tossed aside so often in the past now explained what Maura had said earlier about being happy. Maura was simply happy to be the person Jane came to when she was upset. In this moment, Jane knew that she was the most important person in Maura's life, and knowing that made Jane see her in a new light. Maura's hair was messed from sleep, her face devoid of makeup, and her pajamas unremarkable. And yet for the first time, Jane saw the inimitable beauty of someone who loved her unconditionally.
Her voice almost a whisper, Jane said simply, "Hi."
"Still can't sleep?"
"Would you like to talk about it?"
Jane shook her head.
"Would you like to read with me?" Maura patted the bed next to her.
Jane nodded and got into the bed. "I love you too."
Maura held her hand.
The next day, Jane wandered into the Morgue looking lost.
"Need a distraction?"
"Yeah!" Jane pulled up a chair and together they read about Constance Isles on the lab computer.
"Jane, is that part true? Did you chide my mother at her installation?"
"Not in so many words, but yeah, I told her she could be a better mother to you. You didn't know that?"
"In retrospect, it makes sense. After that night, she made an effort to spend time with me. But I didn't realize it was your doing. Thank you."
Jane smiled and bumped shoulders with Maura.
Jane spoke before her brain could stop her. "So you didn't write this, then."
"Me? No. No, I couldn't— Oh! NO. No." Maura was visibly flustered, and Jane was relieved to see a little of what she must have looked like last night.
"Are you sure?" Jane teased. "Because it sounded like—"
A break in the case meant Jane spent the afternoon in booking and writing up her report. The killer, a friend and neighbor of the battered wife, admitted it wasn't exactly self-defense, but it followed a long history of domestic abuse and occurred during a particularly violent incident. A tiny part of Jane believed that justice had been served. Jane followed protocol in closing out the case, but found herself thinking, what would Calamity Jane do? Calamity Jane was just a kid when she was almost killed. Would her need for revenge trump her sense of morality? When she found Hoyt, as Jane assumed she would, would Calamity Jane kill him? Could she be satisfied with justice as levied by the law?
Maura and Jane stopped for an end-of-case drink at the Dirty Robber. They hadn't been sitting for five minutes when some dick started making eyes at their table. Maura couldn't help but smile back at him, but Jane pulled out her badge. Showing it first to Maura, she said, "Mind if I…?"
"Not at all."
Jane flashed her badge at the guy, who lost interest completely. She explained to Maura, "Sorry. I would rather it be just us tonight." She set the badge on the table and turned it on its edge. Repeating this—set it down, turn, set it down, turn—was a nervous habit that Maura recognized immediately.
"The human condition is under debate in the scientific community."
Jane sighed and put down the badge, deciding to humor Maura. "Is that right?" Jane's right hand came up to rub the back of her neck.
"Some say it was the development of a sophisticated spoken language, made possible by the descent of the larynx, a genetic polymorphism of the FoxP2 transcription factor gene, and the enlargement of Broca's area."
Jane faked a pensive frown, pretending to consider the merits of the argument.
"Others focus on the unique capacity of our large brains: our ability to teach and learn, to innovate. To infer what other people are thinking."
"And here I thought it was walking on two legs that set us apart from the monkeys." Jane just barely managed to keep a straight face.
Seeing Jane's smile emerging, Maura couldn't help but mirror it. "Bipedalism probably allowed the development of the large brain, an essential precursor to several uniquely human traits."
"You could have just said, 'Penny for your thoughts.'"
"Penny for your thoughts."
"I was thinking…" Jane let out an amused puff and shook her head. "What did I ever do to deserve you?" She pursed her lips and bit the inside of her cheek.
"You saved my life," Maura pointed out. "More than once."
Jane shrugged. "Was nothing."
"Nothing comes from nothing."
"Nothing ever could."
Both women now wore wide grins and locked eyes, each daring the other to continue the lyric, but neither willing to sing in public.
Jane finally broke their gaze and took a swig of her beer. "And I was thinking… what do I need to do to keep you?" She put her beer back on the table and tapped the bottle with her fingernail, keeping her gaze downward.
Softly serious now, "I'm not going anywhere."
"I know." The corner of Jane's mouth curled and she looked up again at Maura.
"What is it you want most?"
Jane took a moment to think. "Stability…." Jane was practically whispering now. "Security…." This conversation was getting a little deep and she felt like she was losing control of its progression. "You?"
"I want to see Calamity Jane kill Hoyt."
Jane's eyes widened, happy to be consumed once again by fiction. The irony of such a thought, that a fiction based on the most horrific true events of her life could provide levity, occurred to her, but she dismissed the thought without comment. She chugged the rest of her beer and stood up, throwing a ten and a five on the table to cover their drinks. "Let's go."
Maura kicked off her heels and tucked her feet underneath her on the couch. She held up one side of the blanket so Jane could scoot underneath. They hadn't been reading long when Calamity Jane, having had a nightmare after returning from Chicago, snuck into the boarding house to check on Maura in the middle of the night.
"That's kind of creepy, isn't it?"
"Going in to watch her sleep."
Maura frowned at Jane. "Isn't that what you were trying to do last night?"
"Nooo," Jane drew out the word, obviously caught. Then, wagging her head, "Yeessss," she admitted, earning a laugh.
Seemingly out of the blue, Jane said, "You're not meek. You know that, right?"
"Where did that come from?"
"The other day, you said your character was meek. But that's not you."
"Ok." Maura didn't look convinced.
"This Maura," Jane pointed to the screen, "she's trying to please Garrett. She's trying to get to know the boring ladies in town and make friends and bake pies and be a boring housewife. But I don't think she's going to be happy with that, and I KNOW you wouldn't be happy with that."
"No, I don't think I would."
"You couldn't be boring if you tried. And you wouldn't even try."
Maura's brow was still creased. "I…"
"You're the strongest, bravest person I know."
"Are you feeling alright, Jane?" Maura put her hand to Jane's forehead, feeling for a fever.
Jane chuckled and took her hand. "I'm serious. All my life I've had my family to support me. When push came to shove at school, I had my brothers' backs and they had mine. But you didn't have that, and you didn't even really have your parents to lean on. Maybe that sounds sad, but it means you're independent. You can take care of yourself and you're not going to latch on to any Garrett Fairfield, just because… just because he's there…. And that takes guts, Maura."
Maura looked down at her hand, which Jane was squeezing more tightly than she realized. "Even if it means I'm alone." It was a statement, not a question.
Jane's grip loosened and transformed into a gentle rub. "Do you feel alone?"
Jane felt like her eyebrows had been permanently relocated to the top of her forehead by the time they finished Chapter 37. Maura let out a breath she didn't realize she had been holding. Jane found her voice first. "I think I need a break."
"You want to stop?"
"No, just a break. I'm hungry. Let's order pizza."
Maura's nose scrunched. "I'll make a salad. You need vegetables."
"Pizza and salad it is!"
After ordering, Jane leaned her elbows on the counter and watched Maura tear up lettuce. "So… do you think Maura has the hots for Jane or Jake?"
Maura answered without hesitation and without looking up. "Definitely Jane. She knows Jane. All the time they spend together… Jake is sexy, for sure, and, oh, when he held her like that…." She finally looked up and blushed at the surprised amusement on Jane's face. "What? It was a… vivid description…."
"It sure was."
"I think the corset was real."
"The one you wore to…"
"Merch, yes. You remember that?"
"Awful hard to forget."
Maura grew a satisfied smirk and popped a cherry tomato in her mouth. "Then it worked."
The next chapter wasn't any easier to take in, but for a completely different reason. Jane squirmed as if trying to evade Hoyt's grip. "Ugh, the way he talks…"
"It's very authentic, yes."
Maura put a hand on Jane's arm and left it there until Jane looked at her. "I'm ok," Jane said. "Let's just get to the part where the bastard is dead."
But then he wasn't dead. He was in jail, and while Calamity Jane might have been satisfied with that, Real Jane wasn't. "It's not over. He's going to get out. He's going to come after her and she's going to have to kill him. I can feel it." She rubbed the heels of her hands over her eyes to steel herself against what she knew was coming.
The anticipation was agony. Jane had a horrible feeling in the pit of her stomach through the opera, despite Maura's attempts to lighten her spirits. "They're so cute!" Maura exclaimed, more than once. "Everything they say is adorable. It's like they're already married." Then gasping suddenly, she exclaimed, "How are they going to get rid of Garrett?"
"Maybe Hoyt will kill him."
"Maybe. Or maybe… Maura will finally tell him off and run him out of town."
Jane finally grinned at the thought. "That would be perfect."
"Oh boy. Now she HAS to kill him." Jane was actually getting excited to finally find out how Calamity Jane would off her nemesis. She sat up straighter and slammed her left fist into her right palm, as if she were Calamity Jane's backup in the fight.
"She has to kill him just because Maura got hurt?"
"Yeah. It's like, you hurt me?" she pointed both thumbs at her chest. "I can handle that. But you come after my family?" She traced a circle in the air. "Nuh-uh. You're goin' down."
"Maura is Jane's family?"
"More than family. She's Jane's girl."
"Well, what if Maura goes after him instead?"
Jane smiled, but knew that wasn't going to happen. "If it were real life, maybe you would. But this Maura," she pointed to the screen, "I dunno."
"She was pretty convincing with that rifle."
"Yeah, but…. I really want Jane to take him down."
That answer satisfied Maura. It wasn't that she couldn't kill the bad guy. It was that Jane wanted to be the one to do it.
"'Nobody owns me,'" Jane read aloud. "'I'm Calamity Jane. And I get what I want.' Bam!" Jane punched the pillow next to her. Jane was practically jumping up and down, thrilled that Calamity Jane finally handed Garrett Fairfield his hat and practically kicked his butt out of town. "See? SEE?! She's gonna do it!" Jane started pacing, her whole body animated now.
"Oh, but Jane, first she's going to go see Maura!" Maura had read a few lines ahead while Jane was celebrating, and the idea of Calamity Jane climbing in her window gave Maura the warm fuzzies. "Come sit back down, it's a romantic part first." Jane obliged, hardly able to contain herself. Maura rested a hand on her leg in an effort to help calm her.
A few minutes later Maura emitted… a whimper? Her palm was pressed against her chest, as if trying to keep her heart from exploding. And Jane noticed the tears spilling from her eyes. Embarrassed at her own reaction, Maura tried to explain, "It's just… they're both so…"
Jane handed her a tissue and tried not to laugh at her friend's sentimentality. "I know." Jane put her arm around Maura, whose head flopped onto Jane's shoulder. Jane didn't really know what to do with this, so patted it as she would Jo Friday. "They're cute."
"Impossibly cute!" Maura exclaimed, lifting her head again for emphasis.
Jane laughed again. "Impossibly."
They both froze at the end of that chapter and made only two movements for another 20 minutes: Maura's palm went again to her chest, this time in terror, and Jane's hand retrieved it, in comfort.
When it was all over, they both sighed in relief.
"See, you got to help."
"I did better in the story than I did in real life."
"You were tasered in real life. I'm glad you didn't have to shoot anyone."
"I wish I could save your life, for once." Maura sat forward, resting her elbows on her knees.
"You do." Jane rubbed Maura's back. "Every day. You ground me. You keep me sane. You're the only one who can."
Maura turned her head to look at Jane, her eyes teary for the second time tonight. Jane couldn't resist pulling Maura into a hug. Not that she wanted to resist.
Upon emerging from their embrace, Jane kissed Maura's forehead, eliciting a shy smile.
"What time is it?"
"Almost ten. You want to put it away for tonight?" Maura couldn't hide her disappointment at this thought. She knew Jane had been looking forward to Hoyt's demise, but Maura really wanted Calamity Jane and Western Maura to… well, she admitted to herself, she wanted them to hook up.
"No, but I think I could use a break. Actually, I think I could use a shower."
"Sure, I'll get you some towels."
"Don't bother, I know where they are."
Jane took her time, letting the hot water wash away the residue of Hoyt's memories. She dressed in her pajamas, boxer shorts and a tank top, and snooped around Maura's bedroom while towel-drying her hair. She sniffed a few bottles of perfume, opened a few lipsticks. Two photos, framed and set on the dresser, caught her eye. In one, Maura's parents smiled lovingly at each other in what looked like some European plaza. The other showed Jane and Maura at Jane's last birthday party, the one that followed their mutual nightmare of Hoyt. Jane didn't even remember the photo being taken, but it must have been Angela's doing, because Jane was rolling her eyes. Maura wasn't looking at the camera either, but at Jane, laughing as if Jane had just done the most hilarious thing ever. Both women had bandages on their necks, but no worries on their faces.
Jane found Maura in the kitchen, preparing a dessert of raspberries and whipped cream. Jane leaned back against the counter and watched Maura pick the berries from a plastic carton four or five at a time, wash them in her hand under the faucet, shake them dry, and deposit them into two small bowls. Maura's gentle touch, the patience of this act, preserved the integrity of the fragile berries.
Jane recognized perfection and wanted to taste it.
It was as if her body were possessed. Her self control had been eroded by Maura's persistent affection. Here and now, Jane could do no wrong and whatever instincts were now controlling her actions decided to take a risk. Her body stood tall and took two small steps toward Maura. Her hands raised to pull Maura's hair back over one shoulder, then touch her shoulder blades and smooth the silky blouse down to her waist, next wrapping around her front and molding their bodies together. Maura's head tilted to the side, allowing Jane's nose to nuzzle her bare neck. She found the faded scar on Maura's jawline before closing her eyes. She breathed in perfection. When Maura's arms came to rest atop her own, gently squeezing them tighter around herself, and confirming what Jane had subconsciously known all along, Jane's lips made contact. The tiniest of kisses sent a shiver through Maura that found its home in the small of her back, where it relaxed all her muscles, pressing her impossibly closer to Jane.
Maura's plea was so quiet Jane had to ask her to repeat it.
"Don't tease," Maura whispered a second time. "I don't think I could take it."
Jane loosened her grip, allowing Maura to turn and face her. Jane's hands found home on Maura's hips.
"I can do friendship, Jane, if that's all you want. But don't play with my heart."
Sobered by Maura's candor, Jane tried to explain what she herself didn't understand. "The last thing I want to do is hurt you, Maura. I don't know what I'm doing, and I don't know where this is going, but… I know I've been making excuses to touch you all night. And I don't want to make excuses anymore."
Intracellular signal transduction pathways have amplification steps. The initiating signal, maybe a hormone binding to a cell surface receptor, causes a conformational change in the receptor, activating intracellular tyrosine kinases that amplify the signal. With positive feedback and costimulation, a signaling complex of many proteins forms. Downstream signaling molecules are activated, signals building upon signals, each reinforcing and amplifying the rest, and working together to create drastic changes in the cell's identity and function. This is the analogy Maura's brain was drawn to, and she could only conclude that the initiating signal, the event that sparked these drastic changes in Maura and Jane's relationship, was the anonymous email that sent her a link to the story. Once activated, the cascade of events could not be stopped.
Maura's hands were shaking when they wrapped around Jane's neck. She could see that Jane was struggling to understand what had changed in the last twenty-four hours. While Maura had had years to identify and evaluate the connection she felt with Jane, Jane was only just coming to realize that their relationship went deeper than any either woman had before experienced. Maybe this was the first time Jane realized she was attracted to another woman, and that added surprise troubled her. Maura could see in Jane's eyes that she was scared and needed rescuing.
Maura's whispered words, "You don't need an excuse to touch me," was the signal for Jane to rest her forehead against Maura's, and this in turn encouraged Maura's next move. It was Maura's turn to be brave, to amplify the signal. Her arms pulled Jane fractions of an inch closer, and her chin tilted up a few degrees. That was all that was needed for Maura to press her lips to Jane's with the confidence of a woman who knew what she wanted.
If she had been able to think, Maura might have been thankful that she had put her heels back on, and so had more leverage against barefoot Jane than she might have otherwise. Maura might have been reminded that two nights ago, Jane had told her she liked being kissed (as opposed to doing the kissing) because it made her feel more feminine. Maura might even have noticed the drop in cortisol and corresponding increase in oxytocin that occurred as the kiss went on. But as Maura let her lips part just enough to taste Jane's, all conscious thought dissolved.
When Maura finally pulled her lips away, she looked up at Jane for some sign of repulsion, but found none. Indeed, Jane was pleasantly surprised at Maura's assertiveness. "Wow."
Of course, this made Maura blush and turn her head toward the floor in embarrassment, but that only allowed Jane to pull her closer into a hug, Maura's head resting on Jane's shoulder.
They held each other, feeling their lungs fill with air, then deflate again.
Maura heard Jane's heartbeat gradually relax into serenity.
Jane recognized the perfume of Maura's hair.
It wasn't a hug. It was an embrace.
With her wits back about her, Maura was able to start worrying again. "What about Casey?"
"What?" Well, that ended the moment. Jane put air between them, but kept her hands on Maura's hips.
"What happens when Casey recovers?"
"Maura, I haven't heard from Casey in almost two months. I feel bad for him—"
Jane actually guffawed. "Oh my god, Maura. Badly. Whatever. He was a jerk to me. Even after I found out why, he's still not man enough to accept help or sympathy. He disappeared again, and I'm done. I don't need that."
"But you love him."
Incredulously, "No I don't."
"I thought I could love him, if we ever lived in the same city. But a one-night-stand and a couple of video chats don't add up to love. I liked him because I knew him. I didn't have to get to know him."
"What's so funny?"
"It just occurred to me that we're opposites. You want to date guys you already know, I want to date guys without ever getting to know them."
Jane smiled, "Yeah, I guess so." She looked down at her hands, still resting comfortably on Maura's hips. "Is that what we're doing, then?"
"I'm happy to be done dating men, if you are."
A smile crept back onto Jane's face. "Yeah."
Jane and Maura sat side-by-side at the kitchen island, eating their raspberries. Jane's knee wandered until it bumped into Maura's, jolting her just enough to interrupt the spoon on its way to her mouth. Maura turned a playful glare at Jane, who licked some whipped cream off her spoon before saying, "Oh, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to do that."
Maura pursed her lips and replied, "Quite alright," and took another bite. It wasn't long before Maura felt a tap on her shoulder, the far one from Jane. When she looked, Jane couldn't help cracking up. "Oh," Jane almost snorted, "Maura, over here." It wasn't the stupid pranks, or even Jane's unrestrained laughter; it was the fact that Jane felt comfortable enough to pull these pranks that made Maura smile. And of course, that smile was why Jane did those things.
They were still laughing when Angela knocked on the back door, then let herself in. "Hello, girls, don't let me interrupt, I know you're both working very hard over here." Angela wrapped one arm around each woman's back and continued, "I just came to tell you that I love you both very much, and I'm just so happy for you both." As she stood up, Angela pushed their shoulders inward, knocking their heads together.
"Ma! What are you doing?!"
"Nothing Janie," she wiped a pink smudge—Maura's lipstick—from the corner of Jane's mouth, then tried to hold Jane's chin, but Jane squirmed away. "I'm so proud of you." Turning to Maura for one more hug, "And Maura, I love you like you're my daughter too, ok?"
"Ma. Can you see in this kitchen window from the guest house?"
"Only when I'm looking."
"And have you been 'looking'?!"
"Don't worry, sweetheart, I didn't see anything… un-us-u-al." Angela drew out the word to instill it with meaning. Maura's jaw dropped, realizing what Angela had, in fact, seen. "Close your mouth, dear." Angela gently pushed up on Maura's chin, doing the job for her. "I'm an adult. I've seen all sorts of things you wouldn't believe."
"Ok, sweetheart, I'm leaving. Don't let me keep you two up." Angela shut the back door behind her.
Maura just stared at Jane, eyes and mouth wide open.
"Close your mouth, dear," Jane mimicked her mother's accent, eliciting another laugh from Maura.
"I think we should go to bed."
"Well, shit, Maura, you always have been straightforward."
"What do you mean?"
"This… tonight, I mean… has been… nice… but I could use some time to process, you know? Maybe we could take it slow?"
"Oh, did you think I was suggesting sex? No, I just meant it's late, and we have nine chapters left to read."
"Oh, thank god. Wait— nine chapters? What can they possibly do for nine chapters?"
"They have to kiss, Jane."
"For NINE chapters?! C'mon!"
"But Jane, it'll be sweet." Maura took Jane's arm and pulled her down the hall.
"It better be some good kissin'."
"If it's not, I'm sure we can make up for it."
"Whoa!" Jane couldn't help blurting out when Western Maura slapped Garrett.
Maura just smiled smugly, and said, "Good for her."
When Calamity Jane jumped on her horse and rode into the rain, Maura scooted down a little and let her head rest on Jane's shoulder. Jane wasn't so into the lovey-dovey stuff, but sitting here with Maura wasn't the worst thing she could be doing at the moment. She raised her arm so Maura could snuggle in closer.
A few minutes later Jane said, "Aww. Ok, next chapter."
"Jane, don't you want to savor it? It's so romantic."
"I want to see what happens next. Five bucks says Angela walks in, because she was spying on them."
"Ok, ok. But my eyes are getting tired. Maybe you should read it to me." Jane scooted all the way down and wedged her head between a pillow and Maura's side, forcing Maura's arm around her. "This ok?"
Maura read aloud the intimate details that start off Chapter 43, but eventually decided Jane had fallen asleep and continued reading silently to herself. The way these two women opened up to each other, immediately professing their intentions to be together forever and always, it filled Maura's heart. She didn't expect such a vow from Jane; despite Maura's penchant for planning and organization, she was satisfied to live in this delightful moment: Jane in her bed, snuggled up to her, dreaming peacefully…
"You stopped reading."
"I thought you were asleep."
"I just closed my eyes for a minute. Keep going, I like your voice." Jane still hadn't opened her eyes.
"It really seems as though you're sleeping."
Jane proved it by opening one eye and pointing it up at Maura. "Wide awake, see? Now get to the good stuff."
Unable to deny Jane such a simple request, Maura kept reading. She managed to vocalize much of the chapter without letting on how much of it was hitting home for her, especially the physical desire the characters felt. Now that Maura had had a taste of what it was like to kiss Jane Rizzoli, she wanted more.
It helped that she was doing voices. Maura could focus on trying to get Calamity Jane's western accent and deep timbre just right, and the words could slip out as if they had no meaning. Maura was quite sure that if Jane had actually been awake, she would have laughed at the impression. She made a mental note to repeat her Calamity Jane impression when Real Jane was more awake.
Maura paused when she read, without derision, in Jane's voice, "I just want to feel you."
Sensing Maura's hesitance to proceed, Jane tried to reassure her by wrapping an arm around her waist and gently squeezing.
But it didn't work, at least not as intended. Instead of reading on, Maura closed her eyes and savored the weight upon her middle. Best not to push her; I'll take what I can get. It was a mantra she had often repeated, but after tonight's events, it was becoming more difficult to abide.
Jane didn't know what was wrong. Maybe the next line was somehow inflammatory, something Maura didn't want to say aloud. Jane sat up a little to read it to herself, finding nothing provocative. She looked to Maura for an answer, and found it in the serious way Maura's gaze shifted from Jane's eyes, to her mouth, breasts, legs, then, conscious of Jane's scrutiny, they held steady on Jane's eyes before guiltily sinking back to her lips.
Jane spoke Western Maura's next line, "So feel me."
Without hesitation, Maura dove into Jane, the laptop falling to the floor. She kissed, with abandon, every inch of skin she could find. She wove her fingers into Jane's hair. She straddled Jane's legs, not in an attempt to arouse her, but to be closer to her. Somehow, even pressed together like this, Maura couldn't get close enough.
Jane simply let herself enjoy being loved. For someone who avoids just that, hugs from her mother, sentimental moments with her family, serious relationships with men she genuinely liked, it was unusual for her to feel so comfortable accepting affection. But with Maura it had never been a problem. Jane had always relished a hug from Maura, or a hand hold. Now that she had the opportunity for more, she took advantage of it. Jane slid her hands beneath the loose silk of Maura's pajama shirt, kneading the skin underneath and burning imaginary handprints on Maura's back.
Maura involuntarily pressed her back against the warmth of Jane's hands, sitting back just enough to allow Jane's hands to sneak around her sides, grasping Maura's ribs with all eight fingers, and leaving her thumbs to graze the underside of Maura's breasts.
Jane's intimate caress, though not unwelcome, shocked Maura into opening her eyes and taking a breath. Jane looked as if she had been caught stealing from the cookie jar. She inched her hands back down to Maura's waist.
"I'm sorry, Jane, I…" She looked around the room as if she had never been there before. "You said you wanted to take it slow. I should have respected that." Maura carefully withdrew herself from Jane's lap and from the bed, removing the temptation of physical contact. Maura felt drunk, or at least tipsy, and she didn't trust herself to make conscientious decisions. She grabbed her robe and wrapped it tightly around herself, pacing.
"Hey, don't be sorry. I'm just surprised, is all. I've never seen you like this." Maura looked at her questioningly, but couldn't form the words to ask for clarification. "Uncontrolled. Wild." Jane's face showed the hint of a smirk, and indeed she had to admit to herself this side of Maura was exciting.
But the thought of losing control scared Maura. She had always been governed by logic and reason; though she would take care to acknowledge and understand the basis of her emotions, they never overruled her brain. She bit her thumb, trying to bring sense back to the forefront.
Jane began to see that something was really wrong. She got up and took hold of Maura's shoulders. "Talk to me, Maur. What's going on in that big brain of yours?"
"You didn't do anything wrong."
"I don't want to push you."
"I like it when you push me."
"No, I don't want to push you away."
"You won't." Jane hugged her, platonically, this time. "You can't. I promise. Now will you sit down and breathe?"
They both did, and Maura began to calm. The half-life of epinephrine is two minutes. It would be at least eight before she could fully relax.
Jane spoke quietly. "I was scared last night. I kept thinking of you in that bathtub, and… I don't know, I… was turned on. I'd never thought of you that way before. Not really. I was worried about what you'd think of me, if you realized what I was thinking. But you let me know that no matter what, it'll be ok. We'll be ok. And we will."
Maura nodded to her lap, but didn't appear convinced. She said nothing.
"I didn't know you loved me like that."
"I think maybe you have for a while now."
Maura shook her head, embarrassed and still somewhat tense from the adrenaline rush—it had only been four minutes. But Jane pulled her face up by the chin, forcing Maura to make eye contact. "About a month after we met."
"Oh, Maura, you've been holding it in all this time?"
Maura nodded, tears spilling. "You chose me. I never made friends easily, but with you it was like we had been friends all our lives. You made me feel normal. You were my home. You are my home. I didn't want to jeopardize that."
Jane wiped the tears from Maura's face and smoothed her hair back, then sighed. "Ok, I have a plan." Maura liked plans. "I'm going to go get you a glass of water. Then I'm going to come back and skim the rest of the chapter. I'll tell you what happens, so you know what to expect, and if it's ok, we'll read it together." Maura began to object, but Jane held up her hand to silence her. "This is your rule, Maura. We read together. And whatever happens, we handle it together."
Maura awoke in an otherwise empty bed. It took her a few minutes to realize why this troubled her, what was missing, and what all had happened the night before. But when she got up, she saw Jane's work clothes in a pile on the floor, so she mustn't have left, right? She put on her robe and heard noises in the kitchen. She found Jane sitting at the island and Angela at the stove.
"Morning, sleepyhead!" Jane stood to kiss Maura on the forehead. "I'd make you some coffee, but I don't know how to use that fancy contraption. Want some instant?"
Bewildered and speechless, Maura just shook her head.
"Good morning, Maura," Angela joined in. "I'm making bunny pancakes. Should be ready in about five minutes."
"Thank you, Angela." Maura shot Jane a questioning look.
Jane shrugged and whispered, "She wants us to be happy."
That melted Maura just a little bit, enough to be easily wrapped into Jane's arms.
"You ok, Rizzoli?"
Frost used his eyes to point at her tapping leg.
"Oh. Yeah, I got a lot to do today. Errands."
Maura stepped off the elevator just in time to throw in her two cents. "You should make a list. Lists have been shown to relieve stress and focus the mind. Are you stressed, Jane?" An unmistakable smirk graced her face.
"No, Dr. Isles, I'm not stressed. Just unfocused. I've been distracted the last few days by… this book I'm reading."
Maura kept smiling at Jane.
Jane smiled back at Maura.
Frost went back to work, noticing nothing unusual.
The women got lunch and brought it back to Maura's office to read.
"This is really addicting." Jane's mouth was full, but she still managed to scroll the page, chew, and talk all at the same time.
"Your tuna salad?"
"No, this story. I don't think I've ever looked forward to reading anything as much as this."
"It probably helps that you're in it."
"And that you're in it."
"And you're a cowboy."
"And you're in love with me."
Maura smiled at Jane.
Jane smiled back at Maura.
There was a lot of smiling going on.
Jane chuckled amusedly. "Oh, Adelaide."
"She is a fun character. But who is she? In real life, I mean?"
"Maybe she's the author."
Maura tilted her head in question.
Jane elaborated, "She keeps pushing them together, literally, by accident or not. The author is doing the same thing, but figuratively, by writing this story about them." She shrugged. "Us."
"That's very astute, Jane. The question is, does the author want Calamity Jane and Dr. Isles, Medicine Woman to get together? Or us?"
Jane returned to her apartment laden with shopping bags, which she quickly stowed in her bedroom, before her mother could inquire. Angela had already started cooking dinner—she had been planning the menu all day, since Jane had asked her for this favor that morning.
"Smells great, Ma. Thanks again for doing this." Jane dipped a finger in the sauce for a taste. "Mmm. I don't tell you this enough, but I love ya, Ma. And thanks for being so understanding about… me and Maura."
"I'm happy to help any way I can. And if it's gonna be a girl, you couldn't pick a better one than Maura. You hold on to her, Janie. She makes you happy."
Jane couldn't hide a bashful smile. "Yeah, she does."
Angela had gone, and Jane was still trying to tame her hair when she heard the knock at her door. "Shit. She always has to be on time, doesn't she?" She finally just tossed it to one side, slipped on her shoes, and smoothed out her dress. After taking a deep breath, Jane opened the door to a surprised Maura.
"You didn't tell me this is a black tie book club."
"And yet you're dressed impeccably." Jane's eyes lingered more than usual.
"What, this?" Maura gestured at the snug white skirt and silver silk blouse. "These are my reading clothes." Maura smiled impishly.
Jane grinned back at her.
"Are you going to let me in?"
"What? Oh, yeah, of course." Jane stepped aside to let Maura pass, her eyes lingering a little more.
Maura deposited her laptop bag next to the couch, then started toward the bedroom to stow her overnight bag, but Jane stepped in the way. "I'll get that." She slipped it inside, closing the bedroom door behind her.
They chatted about little nothings over dinner, but when their plates were empty and Jane divvied up the last of the pinot between their glasses, Jane began a semi-rehearsed story.
"My brothers always hated going to the doctor, growing up. But I didn't mind it so much because the waiting room had this kids' magazine, with games and stories and stuff. My favorite game was the detective one, figures I guess, where there's a drawing with hidden objects, and you have to find them?" Maura nodded. "I was pretty good at that, but sometimes I just couldn't find something. I'd look and look and look and swear it wasn't there. But then I figured out a trick: if you turn the page upside down, all the other things in the drawing, the distractions, they don't look like anything anymore. And then you see it. And once you see it, it's so obvious, you can't not see it."
Maura leaned back in her chair and swirled the wine left in her glass, patiently imploring Jane to continue.
"Calamity Jane did that for me. It turned the world upside down so nothing made sense, and the one thing that still made sense was you. And now I think, how could I have missed something so obvious as the way you smile when I make a dumb joke? Or the sound of your laughter. Even the way your chin quivers when you're about to cry—please don't cry, Maura, this is supposed to be a good thing." Jane reached across the table and took Maura's hand in hers. "Now, every time you look at me, I see love. And I realize it's been there all along, I just wasn't seeing it.
"I knew in my head that you were attractive. Men are always falling all over you, and I understood that, it made sense. But somehow now I see it for myself and it... it hit me like a train: You're the most beautiful creature I've ever seen. Your eyes, your hair… your boobs, I mean, seriously, Maura, look at your boobs. How could I not have noticed them before?"
"I think you did notice them before, Jane."
"Yeah," Jane gave a satisfied sigh and rubbed the back of her neck at the recollection. "Well, I had a little help that night."
"Support, so to speak."
"Right." Jane laughed, but then paused, taking a sip from her wine glass and becoming serious again. "I asked you here tonight because I wanted to do something special for you. To show you that I'm not taking this lightly. Our friendship will always come first for me. I want you to stay the most important person in my life, and I'll do whatever it takes to keep it that way.
"I know you waited a long time for me to come around, and that must have been… madness. But you were patient and you let me come to it on my own. I want to thank you for that, but I want you to never have to hide something like that, or anything, from me again. I want you to trust that I can handle it. That whatever it is, we can handle it together."
"I trust you, Jane."
"Thanks, but I'm not done yet."
"Oh, ok. Go on."
"I meant it when I said it before: I love you. I feel it in here," Jane patted her chest, "every time I see you, when I touch you, hell, just thinking of you this morning, I'm surprised Frost didn't laugh me out of the office. I must have looked like such a dope.
"When we were reading this afternoon, I kept thinking how dumb it was that they kept arguing over spending time apart to figure out what they want. I tried to imagine if you did that—made me stay away for a day—and I hated the very idea. When you know, you know. And I know. I'm in."
"Oh Jane, you don't know what it means to me to hear you say these things. A big part of me thought we'd always be friends, but you'd find someone—a man—to be your… your companion. I thought, if that happened, I'd still want to be here for you, to talk, to vent, to go running, solve crimes, whatever you needed, I knew I could do that.
"But it made me so sad to think of you with someone else. I want to be the person who cheers you up when you're sad. I want to be the one you come to when you're lonely or frightened. I want—always—to be the one who gets to make you smile. Anytime I thought about someone else filling that role, I got jealous. Insanely jealous. The strength of those emotions scared me. I felt like I was losing my mind, and I couldn't turn to you, the one person who always seems to understand me.
"But I was even more frightened of losing you. For all the difficulty of keeping this from you, the joy you bring me makes up for it, a thousand-fold. Some days I actually hope someone is murdered, so that I have an excuse to see you. And your swagger."
Jane bowed her head and smiled in amused embarrassment.
"You know what I mean," Maura got up and demonstrated—poorly—an exaggerated and affected swagger, arms akimbo and hips propelling the rest of her forward. Her chin stuck out and her eyes squinted.
God, you're adorable. Jane couldn't help but laugh, "No, sweetie, it's like this." Jane's swagger didn't have quite the same effect in a dress, without her holster, but when she stopped with her hip jutting out, almost touching Maura's, and looked down at her love, Maura's heartbeat rose all the same.
"I'm irreversibly in love with you, Jane Rizzoli."
"Just kiss me."
There's nothing more beautiful than the feeling of your love's arms around you, her gentle kiss on your lips, her torso pressed against yours. The warmth of her embrace envelopes you, sealing the two of you away from the world, and nothing outside your four arms matters anymore. The sun could stop shining and you wouldn't notice because in your universe, nothing exists but your love.
"Why can't we read in your bed?"
"That's not a reason, Jane."
"Because if you're in my bed, I won't be reading."
"Would that be so bad?"
"I want to finish the story before I take you to bed."
"Well, let's get to it, then."
"Do you worry that I'll get hurt in the line of duty?"
"I can't stop being a cop."
"I would never ask you to."
"It's part of who I am."
"It happened before, it could happen again." Maura's middle finger traced the scar on the back of Jane's hand.
"All I can do is promise not to do anything foolish." Jane's hand turned to grasp Maura's.
Maura's eyes met Jane's. "I almost died that day."
"Figuratively. I almost died with you, when you were shot. I wanted to."
The tears rolled in response to the memory. "You were unconscious. I knew the wound wasn't necessarily fatal, but you were losing so much blood. It seeped through my clothes and stained my hands when I tried to stop the bleeding. I held you until they took you away from me."
"I never knew."
Jane's eyes were wide when she turned to look at Maura, not far into Chapter 47. "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea."
Maura's brow crinkled in response. She pulled her hands back into her own lap and leaned forward, breaking their physical contact. "You've changed your mind so easily?"
"I don't know. I mean, after that…" Jane looked to the screen.
"It was intense."
"Did you find it… arousing?"
Jane's head snapped back to look at Maura. "Didn't you?"
"Very much so. But if that kind of thing doesn't interest you…"
"Are you kidding?"
"No…. You're having second thoughts about us?" Maura was visibly crushed, her shoulders slumped, her head bowed, hands clasping each other.
"Maura! I meant it wasn't a good idea to wait!" Jane took both Maura's hands and ducked her head close to Maura's, close enough to whisper in Maura's ear, "I don't know if I can live up to that."
Maura's eyes lifted to confirm that she had misunderstood, and found trepidation in Jane's eyes. She paused for a moment, trying to find the right words to reassure Jane. What came out was, "You don't think you can lie there and kiss me, while I bring myself to climax? That's not an exceedingly difficult task, Jane. I would think that's the least you could do."
"Well, when you put it that way…"
Maura and Jane snuggled closer during the toasts.
"I'm going to be sad when this is over."
"Why? It's a happy ending."
"It's still an ending."
Jane tried to read Maura's mind, for once succeeding. "I like reading with you like this."
"I do, too."
"It's a good story. They're fun characters, even if they're not exactly like us. I think what I like best is that it brought us together."
Maura smiled. "Me too."
"But it did its job. The story is ending, but we're just beginning."
As they finished reading the epilogue, Jane threaded her fingers between Maura's. Maura's head rested on Jane's shoulder, and they both took a deep breath.
"Happily ever after."
"Should we leave a review?"
"It seems to be greatly appreciated."
"Ok, but let's keep it simple."
Maura typed in a short note and Jane nodded her agreement.
"Now what?" Maura's lips tucked between her teeth in hopeful anticipation.
"Well, I have something for you—it's not a ring or anything—just… well, I don't know, I just thought it might be… funny, I guess…"
Maura was baffled. Funny? "Ok…"
"Just… stay here. It might take a few minutes."
Jane looked her reflection in the eye. "She loves you. No matter what she thinks of this, she will still love you. She'll probably just laugh, right? Whatever. You do it for her. If she laughs, then you've made her laugh. If she likes it, even better." She checked one more time that her gun was unloaded, then holstered it.
Jane surreptitiously stuck her head out the bedroom door. "Maur? Close your eyes."
"Ok." Maura heard heavy footsteps, then felt Jane's hand gently pull her up to standing. Hands on her hips turned her around, facing away from Jane. Hands pulled her hair to the side, then wrapped around her waist. Maura easily melted into this familiar embrace, but there was something different. Jane was taller, for one thing, wearing shoes, but also the tickle on Maura's neck wasn't Jane's lips.
Maura opened her eyes and tried to turn around to see the surprise for herself, but Jane held her tightly. Getting the message, Maura relaxed and Jane's hands began to wander over the silk of Maura's blouse. First they found the curve of Maura's hips, her small waist, and her lower ribs, which expanded rapidly in response to Jane's touch.
Feeling the desired effect on Maura, and tempted by the memory of last night, Jane's hands braved northward. Thumbs first glided over the soft contours, then capable palms gathered and kneaded them gently. Maura let out a soft moan, which Jane felt more than heard. It resonated through Maura's back, sending minute vibrations through Jane's torso. Jane closed her eyes, allowing her other senses to supplant sight.
Maura tried again to turn around, but then Jane pressed up and in, roughly forcing a whimper from Maura's lungs. She almost felt badly about being so aggressive, but Maura's obvious arousal absolved her. In a low growl, Jane's voice reverberated through Maura's skin, making the hairs on her neck stand up. "Tell me, Maura." Jane could feel Maura's heart beating rapidly, her chest heaving with each ragged breath. "Tell me what you want."
It was barely a whisper, but it was music to Jane's ears. Her grip loosened and Maura turned and took over. She pulled Jane's mouth to her own and sucked voraciously. She only broke the kiss when she realized something was interfering.
Blinking in confusion, Maura finally got a good look at Jane. Jane had on cowboy boots, a pair of dark jeans with her holster slung over them, a black button-down shirt, a black leather vest, a red bandana around her neck, and her hair tucked into a black cowboy hat. To complete the look, she had applied a small fake mustache to her upper lip. Embarrassed at her getup, Jane raised her eyebrows and smiled big, waiting for a response.
"Hello, Jake Wyatt!" Maura held Jane at arms length and looked Jane up and down a few more times, then said, "My god, Jane. This is… sexy."
"But—do you mind if I make some adjustments?"
"Anything you want."
Maura smirked; that's exactly what she planned on getting tonight. She gently peeled away the mustache. "This tickles."
Then she picked up the hat and tossed it on the couch. "And your hair is beautiful down. Don't hide it away."
She fingered the dark brown curls for a moment, then pointed to Jane's gun. "Is this loaded?" Jane shook her head. "Let's take it off anyway. It's going to get in the way." Jane did as instructed.
Maura ran her hands from Jane's hips up to her shoulders, then tugged off the bandana. "I want to be able to kiss your neck." Wrapping her arms around said neck, she rose to her toes and did so.
Next, she pushed Jane down onto the couch and knelt in front of her, pulling off the boots. "I want to be able to reach you up there." When this was accomplished, Maura's hands glided up the jeans and planted themselves on the cushions on either side of Jane's hips. Maura was bending over Jane and the loose silver silk provided Jane one of her favorite vantage points. Jane unconsciously licked her lips as she gazed down Maura's blouse.
Maura loved that she could do this to Jane. The woman was usually so guarded, able to let free only her feelings of anger or frustration, never letting her needs or wants show. Now, however, the object of her desire was obvious: Maura.
Maura leaned in minutely closer, one knee wedged between both of Jane's, and stole her gaze away with a kiss. Of course this did nothing to satiate Jane, it only made her want more, closer, more feverishly. Her hands floated up to Maura's body, moving down her sides until they found what she was looking for, sliding Maura's skirt up to her waist. She felt lace underneath.
Jane slid two fingers under the thin waistband and guided Maura's hips closer. Startled and off-balance, Maura stood up straight, inadvertently letting Jane get another look at her tattoo. This time, Jane had no reservations. She rubbed her thumb over the ouroboros, then leaned up to kiss it, next trailing kisses across Maura's abdomen to her other, unmarked, hip. She looked up at Maura as her fingers tugged on lace, tacitly asking permission to remove it, but Maura said, "Not yet."
Jane was visibly put out by the rejection. She clicked her tongue, "Tease," eliciting a hearty laugh from Maura.
"I'm not done with you." Maura explained, as she sat, straddling her partner. Starting at Jane's shoulders, Maura's hands traced the collar of Jane's vest until she got to the first snap, where she yanked, pulling the vest apart in one swift motion. "Leather is nice…" she moved on to the buttons on Jane's shirt, "but skin is better," and slipped her hands inside.
While Maura's hands and eyes prowled, Jane studied Maura. Her expression was serious, as if she were trying to memorize every contour. In fact, she already had, at least the ones she had been able to spy over the years through occasional yoga classes and undercover costume changes. The parts she didn't know by heart her imagination had filled in, and she was simply comparing that to reality. In a way, it was incredible that reality won, no contest. As idealized as her imagination had been, nothing compared to the real thing.
Maura had essentially stripped Jane of her Jake Wyatt costume, leaving what she really wanted. As intriguing as Jake Wyatt and his cocky confidence were in the story, it was this living and breathing Jane she had fallen in love with. This Jane, who acted confident in front of most people—and usually was—but who was able to let down her defenses and show Maura her vulnerability. This Jane, who was compassionate with victims' families and gentle with children. This Jane, who defended the defenseless, and who stood up for integrity and righteousness on a daily basis. This Jane was eager to please Maura, and while the costume did little for Maura on its own, the very fact that Jane would take such a risk was a gift that made Maura love her even more.
For Jane's part, she was simply amazed to find herself here, being loved by such an extraordinary person. Had she, at this moment, the mental capacity for complex thought, Jane would wonder how things had changed so quickly, and how she had overlooked it all in the past. Never before had Jane felt so completely alive than when Maura touched her. Sometimes it didn't even take physical contact; just the way Maura's eyes poured into Jane filled her to capacity. Jane still hadn't figured out what she did to deserve Maura's love, but she vowed to herself that she would spend the rest of her life trying to keep it. The costume was the first of many endeavors and it had missed the mark, but as Jane's pep talk had predicted, it didn't matter. Jane had a lot of learning to do, and she welcomed the process.
Indeed, Jane's education had already begun, and in a moment of acuity she wanted Maura to know that there would be errors along the way. She pulled Maura's hands from her chest, forcing Maura's focus away as well. "Maura, I've never done this before. With a woman, I mean." Maura shook her head, not getting the point. "Sex with guys is easy. I don't know what… how to…. I was hoping the story would have a little more guidance on that part."
"Do you still want to?"
Maura smiled and kissed her gently. "Then we'll figure it out together, Jane."
Jane held her love tightly, sitting forward and standing, Maura's legs wrapped around her waist, arms around her neck.
"And if we need any ideas, there are two thousand other stories we can research."
"Just as long as we research together, Maur."
Jane carried Maura into the bedroom and kicked the door closed behind them.