Googlemouth has decided to completely retire. As such, she's taking down her FFN account soon, and she's
allowed me the chance to repost what we worked on together.
This was originally posted on 5/31/2011
Characters aren't ours. They belong to Tess Gerritsen, Janet Tamaro, Turner Broadcasting, Warner Brothers, and
other assorted important people. I gain nothing from writing these stories but the fun of doing it. Please
don't sue me.
This story was co-written with Googlemouth.
Maura Isles had been somewhat wary of trying to cook an authentic Italian recipe, knowing that Jane Rizzoli would be able to tell success from failure. After all, Jane's own mother was a gifted and experienced cook who had spent her adult life specializing in Italian cuisine, which meant that Jane had grown up eating the very best. She would recognize anything that didn't measure up, even if she did not possess the ability to critique the dish as would a chef or food critic. However, Maura really wanted to try out the recipe for chicken cacciatore that Jane's own mother had given her, and so she decided to take a chance. The risk had paid off. Jane couldn't stop raving about the richness of flavor and the perfection of the sauce. The side vegetables had also been received well, though the grilled vegetables had been seasoned with Maura's own mix of spices instead of an Angela creation.
"You know, this stuff's as good as my Ma's. She makes it about once or twice a year." With those words out of her mouth, Jane had paused, staring suspiciously at the last bite of chicken on her fork. "Actually, it's not just as good as Ma's. I think it is Ma's. Maura, where did you get this recipe?"
Rather than being embarrassed at being caught, Maura had smiled in delight. "Angela gave it to me, last time I came with you to gnocchi night. I was hoping you'd recognize it. You have a very discerning palate." She stood to clear the used plates and utensils and put them into the dishwasher. "Would you like dessert right away, or let dinner settle first? It's gelato, from your father's mother's recipe." Maura did love a themed dinner, and Italian certainly qualified as a theme.
She also loved knowing what was going on in Jane's mind, but the two of them had spent those days largely apart. Work had been busy, which was never a good thing, and there had been little time for either woman to rest, let alone socialize. Maura had taken note of Jane's tension, the darkening of her nasojugular folds, and the increasingly obvious way that Jane worried at the twin scars at the center of her hands, but there was no opportunity to find out what was bothering her best friend. When she did ask, Jane had shaken her head and said, "Later." That meant, whatever it was, it wasn't something that could be discussed on the way to and from crime scenes, during elevator rides, or while standing at the coffee table; nor was it something that would sort itself out without being discussed, letting Maura simply hear about the resolution of the matter when Jane had wrapped her mind around it during the week. Whatever was bothering Jane, it was worthy of a longer talk in a setting conducive to conversation.
Hence the dinner on Friday evening.
Hence the relaxed atmosphere Maura had purposefully created, what with the good wine, the delicious meal that wasn't too filling, the calming colors in the dress she had chosen to wear, and the way she had chosen to serve dinner in the breakfast nook off the kitchen, rather than in the formal dining room with which Jane was not quite comfortable. She had not brought up any concerns or annoyances, keeping the conversation light, letting Jane guide their talk, and Jane had not been forthcoming. She had been nervous, though. Her tells, as poker players called the little behavioral cues that indicated mental state, had been plentiful. Maura wondered if Jane would want to talk with dessert in hand, so that there would be some sort of distraction, or if she would rather talk first and then have dessert afterward as a sign that the conversation was over?
"You got Nonna's gelato recipe? That's probably my favorite dessert. Tell me you made the chocolate one." With a wistfulness playing on her features, Jane gave a quick lick of her lips as she remembered the taste and texture of the food in question. "Can we have it now?"
She's so cute. She would hate it if I called her cute, but she really is like a child, whenever sweets are offered. Well… maybe not quite like a child. Unintentionally, Maura licked her lips in response. She, too, was an epicure of discerning palate who loved foods in all their luscious tastes, textures, and scents. Unlike Jane, she had had the pleasure of smelling the gelato during its preparation, and her mouth had watered then for just a taste. Virtuously she had resisted, however, and put it in the ice cream maker and from there into the freezer, tongue unsatisfied. They would taste it together. "Chocolate-hazelnut," she said with a smile as she brought the little tub of it from the freezer, nodding towards the cabinet where dessert cups were kept as a hint to Jane. "I knew you would want the chocolate, and I knew I wanted hazelnut, so I compromised."
"Sounds good to me." Taking the hint, Jane pulled down the cups, grabbed utensils, and resettled at the table. "I don't normally do nuts, but I bet whatever you made is perfect." She gave a hint of a smirk. "It normally is. Want me to go grab a couple of glasses of water while you serve?"
"Please," Maura replied with a smile as she scooped a little of the gelato into each footed glass cup. "Actually, there are no nuts in this. It's a hazelnut liqueur. I prefer my gelato smooth, too, for the most part. The chocolate comes from actual cocoa powder, not from a syrup or the addition of candy chunks – it's less sweet, so you can taste the other flavors without being overpowered. At least, that's what I hope." She set down each cup at their respective places before seating herself. "Would you like the first taste? Tell me what you think. I haven't tried it yet." Jane's movements appeared less stiff, more natural, and Maura was glad. She wanted to ask what had made Jane so tense all week at work, and whether the problem had actually been resolved, or if it had been Maura's own efforts at relaxing her best friend that had done the trick. That would wait, however. If Jane still wanted to talk, still had something to talk about, she would come to it in her own time, without being rushed. Patience is a virtue, Maura.
Jane's eyes flickered from the small bowl to her best friend and back again. Like a three year old version of herself, eyes wide, face bright with excitement, she dipped her spoon in and took the first bite. "This," the brunette said after giving an appreciated smack of her lips, "is amazing, Maura." She sighed. "I mean, it's really good, might even be better than Nonna's, but don't tell Pop I said so." Just as suddenly, she frowned, shook her head, and glanced to Maura's dessert dish. "Are you going to eat yours?"
As with so many cooks, half of Maura's delight came from the enjoyment of those eating her food. She had actually forgotten for a moment that she, too, had a portion to try. Once reminded, the lighter brunette dipped the tip of her spoon into the dish and took an experimental lick, then dived back in for another, slightly larger spoonful. "Mm. You're right. I do believe I'm proud of this. I'm going to have to bring some to your father as thanks for the recipe. Your Nonna really knew what she was doing in the kitchen. Wow, this is so creamy. I never would have guessed that just using goat's milk instead of regular would have this much effect."
"The woman had a gift," came the husky answer between bites of the creamy dessert. "Too bad you couldn't have met her, she was a pretty cool woman. When we were teenagers, Nonna always liked meeting our… friends." Again, a frown tugged at the corners of Jane's mouth. "Next time, tell me when you're making this, and I'll show you how we do the handmade whipped cream. It's good stuff, I'm telling you."
Maura chuckled as she promised, "Oh, I know how to hand-whip cream." However, she also knew that Jane enjoyed demonstrating things, and cooking was one of her lesser known but more impressive talents. Who is wise? He who learns from everyone, for whom everyone is his teacher. "But if there's a special technique, I'd like you to show me." With half of her gelato left, Maura stood and headed for the kitchen again, mentioning on the way, "I just realized that I didn't pour the coffee. It's been sitting there in the French press, getting richer and stronger. I hope that's all right." And I hope the caffeine doesn't contribute to more nervousness. Jane seems fine now, but there's still something right below the surface.
"You know how I like my coffee. I don't care as long as I get enough sugar in it." Finishing off her gelato, Jane leaned back, holding the small bowl in her hand and staring down into it, eyes thoughtful. She carefully rolled the stem in her fingers, turning the bowl to watch the left over bit of the dessert roll about the bottom of the dish.
As she poured the coffee and doctored it to Jane's exacting standards, Maura watched her friend from the kitchen. She took in the distant but piercing stare, the particular set of shoulders, and the tension in Jane's face. She was almost ready, Maura judged, and went back to the table with coffees in hand, hoping to interrupt the thought process just as Jane decided to talk, but before she could second-guess herself. "Here you are, a little coffee with your sugar. Two dollars for your thoughts?" Off Jane's distracted look, she smiled. "Inflation. That, and your thoughts are usually worth at least double what I'd pay for anyone else's."
"Cute." Jane took a tentative sip of the coffee. "This is good. Is this made with those beans you bought when we went to that open air market last weekend?" She took another sip, eyes politely making contact before pulling away to glance about the room and settle on the mug she held between her hands.
The caramel-brown head tipped to one side as Maura spotted her friend's attempt at distraction, then elected to allow the diversion for the moment. "Yes, I thought this would be a good night to try something new."
"It's good. We should buy some more." With a heavy sigh, Jane sat the mug down. "I mean, if you want, you should buy some more. I'm not trying to demand you keep stuff around just for me. That's something that… um… it's just good, that's all." With a roll of her eyes, the lanky brunette stood up to head back into the kitchen. "I'm going to get a water refill. You want one?"
With any other guest, Maura would have hopped up to refill the glasses herself, but she knew that Jane would rather have something to do with herself when nervous, and so she let it go. "Yes, please, and I think you're right. I'd like to go back and get more of these unroasted beans." I'll keep them right near the beer that I keep around for you, silly girl. She smiled to watch Jane, at home in her kitchen. But the nervousness was back, as if it had never left, and therefore Maura's concern returned as well. As Jane came back with two full water glasses, she asked the darker woman, "Are you having nightmares again?"
The bluntness of the question threw the detective, and she nearly fumbled her water glass before she recovered. "Are you going to tell me I look awful, too? You normally like this shirt on me." She glanced down, frowned at the button down that, once crisp, had been slightly wrinkled from wearing it all day. "You tell me red's a good color on me. You could have told me my third button was undone." A sound of annoyance issued from the detective as she continued to stare down at her shirt. "Not sure I'm thrilled with you knowing the color of my bra." She reached up to correct the wardrobe issue.
"I do like that shirt," Maura replied, and then added in complete honesty, "but I hadn't noticed that it was unbuttoned. For what it's worth, I didn't notice your bra color, either." Drat. Wait, what? No, never mind, there are more important things to worry about. "You don't look awful, Jane, you just look tired. Normally when you look this tired, it's because the nightmares have been keeping you awake." She lay a hand atop Jane's, once the detective had finished rebuttoning her blouse. "Is that what's been bothering you all week?"
"Nightmares about Hoyt? No, not really." Jane pulled her hand away to pick up the mug again. "It's the same color as the shirt," she deadpanned, then winced. "Not that you're asking. I mean, why would you even… Hey," she set the mug down again but kept her hands wrapped around it, away from Maura's touch, "did I leave one of my jerseys and a pair of pants over here? I think I did."
Maura's hand slipped away as she took a leisurely moment to sip her coffee, using it as a mask for her real aim, which was the study of Jane's face and the shadings of posture that would give her more information as to her friend's mental and emotional state. "You have a few things here, yes." When it became clear that Jane was about to recognize that she was being studied, Maura decided to be forthright about that fact. "Jane, something has been on your mind for several days, and I suspect it was too complicated to discuss it in passing, which is all we've had time for this week." Concern was apparent in her features, and affection, and understanding. "I think… I think you want someone to help, or at least to understand whatever it is, but you don't want to have to talk about it. Is that right?"
"I think I want to change. I'll be back in a few." Without another word, the detective pushed away from the table and headed to the guest bedroom. The door closed swiftly behind her.
Maura stood to clear the dessert cups and move the water glasses towards the coffee table in the next room. She didn't worry that she wouldn't realize that there had been a slight change of venue; Jane was a detective and would figure it out based on the absence of Maura at the kitchen table. Just like Bass, she thought with a tiny sigh as she spotted the Geochelone sulcata disappearing into the dining room, where he liked to stare at the chair legs and sometimes knock into them. No sudden movements, or she gets scared and retreats. She stood still for a long moment, breathing meditatively to calm herself, then gave in to her body's sudden urge to stretch. Perhaps that would calm her down enough to make it easier to tiptoe up on whatever was making Jane so edgy. She would not startle her friend back into her shell.
"Yoga's made you super bendy," Jane commented as she passed the stretching doctor on the way to the couch. Hopping over Bass, she gave him a quick greeting, "Hey, buddy, don't go so fast, you'll sprain something," before sitting down. Wearing a pair of well-worn jeans and one of her Boston Homicide jerseys, she should have looked more relaxed. Instead, her eyes darted around as if unsure of where to look.
Maura smiled from upside down, thankful that she'd chosen a knit silk dress instead of a more constricting linen, then righted herself. Her hair looked freshly fluffed, but she did not smooth it down as she sat. The stretch had done wonders for the state of her spine and hamstrings. "Oh, that's not from yoga. The yoga maintains it, but this is originally from ballet." She curled her legs up beneath the skirt of her dress, once her shoes were off and tucked neatly under the coffee table, and smiled as she waited for Jane to talk. Waited and waited. She had asked once; it was up to Jane now. She would ask questions as much as Jane wanted, but only if she knew that it would not anger the lean detective, or make her leave before Maura had been able to do whatever it was that she needed.
"Ballet," Jane gave a snort. "You know, I saw that move, Black Swan. That's some brutal stuff. I don't know how you dealt with that. I think it's less harsh being an Attacker." She frowned, her final lingering thought said almost to herself. "You're a lot stronger than I give you credit for."
"To be fair," Maura replied easily, "there was no supernatural component to anything I experienced in ballet school. It was all quite natural." She smiled warmly before going on. "Also, I was dancing because I loved to dance, not because I wanted to make it a career. I didn't choose to subject myself to torture from my ballet masters, or starve myself to look more like… well, you; which is good, because it wouldn't have worked. That's not my body type." She swirled the water around in her glass as if it were a perky little wine she was evaluating. "But yes, ballet can be a harsh mistress for some. It was, for many of the other girls. Anything can be harsh for those who want something desperately enough. Wanting things is good, but obsessing over them can be harmful." Without lifting her face, Maura glanced up at her friend, wondering if that was the source of Jane's recent conflict.
"Yeah, no kidding," the dark haired brunette mumbled before taking a long drink of water. "Bass," she glanced down at the tortoise now under the coffee table, "I told you to slow down, Buddy, before you strain something. You keep running like that, and you're going to wreck on the table leg. It'll be a regular turtle fender bender." She chuckled to herself. "We'll have to start calling you Speedy Gonzales or something."
Dutifully, Maura chuckled at the joke that she didn't quite understand, lacking a reference point for Saturday morning cartoons, but her heart wasn't in it, nor was it in the correction she offered automatically. "Tortoise. African spurred tortoise, and he won't strain himself. Bass is aware of his size in relation to the width of the table legs. Well, he is now. There was a brief period during a growth spurt in which he got caught a few times." Bass was, in fact, not doing much of anything at the moment. He was looking at Jane, mouth open, one forefoot stamping idly. "Lift your foot so he can pass by, Jane. He doesn't like to go around, if he doesn't have to."
"Stubborn." She obediently lifted her leg, almost putting it on the coffee table, but correctly herself at the last moment. "Figures your pet would be as determined as you are most of the time." She waited, her leg held awkwardly up as the animal slowly passed by.
Maura patted the couch in front of Jane, indicating where she could put her leg if she wanted, though the couch wasn't so long that the taller woman's foot wouldn't wind up in Maura's lap if she straightened her leg. "Tortoises are very attached to routines. Do you remember last year, when he wouldn't eat?" Oh, please, don't let this be about that day. That was the worst day of my life. "His veterinarian said that it was because of recent changes in his routine. Now that he's absorbed the fact that those changes are likely to be permanent, he's better, but he still doesn't want to find things in his way when he's trying to get somewhere."
Setting her glass down and moving her leg to the spot Maura had indicated, she replied quietly, "Hard to forget that day," her hand automatically went to cover the spot on her torso where the scar was from the bullet wound. "What were the changes? I can't imagine you changed up anything on him. I mean," she stretched her leg, letting her bare foot tentatively rest in Maura's lap, "you haven't even moved your furniture around since I first saw your pla… oh, was it me?" She made an apologetic face.
"I don't know that it was you, personally," Maura temporized. "In fact, I suspect it was more the fact that someone was in his room increasingly than about you simply being here more often. It's okay, though. Bass is used to it now. Sometimes when I come in to wake you up, he's sitting near the bed. I think he's come to view you as a part of his routine now." After another sip of water, during which she surreptitiously watched Jane's expression for minute changes, she said, "I don't want to push you to talk about anything you don't want to say, Jane, but I'm… Well, I'm here for you. No matter what it is." Hoyt? Being shot? Something else entirely?
"I know, Maur. I just… I'm having some… issues right now that I don't really know how to deal with, and it's been keeping me up at night." Jane sighed, eyes on Bass. "If I can just get a hold on what's going on in my head, I think I'll be okay. I just don't know how to … it's just… it's complicated."
The caramel-haired woman lay a reassuring hand atop Jane's foot, just to tether her to something safe and solid. "I don't want to intrude, but you are my best friend, and I'd feel like a bad friend if I didn't try to help somehow. Unless you don't want me to try." She paused, then made as if to move. "Would you like some more water?"
"No, thanks. I'm good." Brown eyes fell on the hand resting on Jane's exposed foot. "I don't know how to… okay, look. I'm just going to… man, this sucks." She let out a frustrated groan. "I'm going to be a little vague here because I can't… I'm not comfortable being specific, but I need to talk to someone, and Ma'll keep prying into I told her everything, and I'm just… I just can't." She finally looked back into Maura's compassionate eyes. "I know you like all the facts, but I can't give them to you. You think you could deal with that? Not knowing everything?"
"Realistically, one person cannot know everything. It's a matter… That's not what you meant, is it?" Maura broke off, looking abashed as she set down her water glass and tucked the newly empty hand beneath Jane's ankle, having nowhere else reasonable to put it. "You mean, can I live with you speaking in vagaries for the sake of protecting yourself from being hurt? Yes, Jane, I can. You never have to tell me anything you don't want me to know. If I'm going to be of any help to you, then you'll have to be comfortable. So say whatever you need to say, and omit whatever you need to omit. If I need clarification, I'll ask; and if I ask something you don't want to answer, just say so, and I'll let it go. You have my word." Unlike many who offered it, Maura's word was worth something. She subscribed to the theory that one's breath was one's life sustenance and the most intimate part of oneself, and that breaking one's word was a destructive act.
"Right." The detective took in a deep breath. "I think I'm… attracted to someone, but for the first time in a really long time, I have no idea if it's mutual. I can't read them like I can other people, you know? I'm a freaking detective. I figure stuff out about people as part of my job, and I can't tell what this person is thinking half the time. It drives me nuts, but not really. I mean, it's part of what I like about… them." She pinched the bridge of her nose, cheeks blushing. "I don't want to ask because, if the answer is no, then things will get awkward for me, and, if the answer is yes, then it means I have to deal with some stuff about me that I don't know if I can. It's… complicated, and I hate it."
Maura's face bore nothing but compassion, not even curiosity. Nevertheless, she did attempt to ascertain, "This is someone you know fairly well, and who knows you fairly well? Don't worry, I won't ask who. That isn't my business unless you choose to tell me. I only want to make sure that this goes beyond thinking that someone's hot. Is it deeper than that?"
"Yeah, we know each other pretty well. I mean, they're hot. I can think of a dozen guys off the top of my head that'd give their right arm to get in just one date. But it's more than that." Jane's eyes had gone soft and distant. "Personality, intelligence, character, integrity, strength of will… it's the whole package, not just looks. At least, it is for me."
Careful, Maura cautioned herself without a change in her facial expression. There were multiple reasons that a person might continue to use the gender-neutral plural as a third-person singular pronoun, just as there were multiple reasons that one might be attracted to someone and see members of the opposite gender as rivals. She could come up with at least six reasons without even trying, and therefore, no assumptions could be made. Most of those reasons would also be cause for Jane not to want to have to deal with 'some stuff' about herself. "You've given this a lot of thought," she noted softly as she held Jane's foot, the upper hand starting to pat reassuringly. "Whoever this is, I hope they'll eventually appreciate that you're not taking your feelings for them lightly."
"I don't think y—no. That wouldn't happen. They know me better than that, I think." Jane's eyes resettled on the hands wrapped around her foot. "But, I don't want to mess up the friendship I have with them, and I don't want to run them off because I'm me." With a frown, the detective pushed on, eyes still on her foot and Maura's hands. "I have a dangerous job. I get hurt a lot. I almost died last year because I shot myself to get to the bad guy. I already worry them. I know I do, and I don't want to make it worse or make them feel uncomfortable around me if they knew. I couldn't deal with knowing I make their life harder than I already do by just being their friend."
She closed her eyes, shifting where she sat but keeping her foot in Maura's lap. "But I don't know if I can deal with how I feel about them, either. Now that I've finally figured it out, it eats at me. I haven't slept well in days because I just keep thinking about y—stuff… them… God. You know, maybe I should just go? You don't need to be bothered with my internal drama." She made a move to pull her foot away to stand.
Fingers tightened softly over Jane's ankle and foot. "Stay. You're not bothering me," Maura said soothingly. "I told you, Jane, I'm here for you no matter what. For whatever this is worth, you're my best friend, and you've never made my life harder for knowing you. You challenge me, but you don't make my life harder. You don't make your family's lives harder, either, and you do everything in your power to help them whenever you can, whenever they need you. If you aren't making their lives harder, or mine, then you're not going to do that to this person, either. Whoever… whoever this is, they're going to be so lucky to have you, when you sort out whatever is holding you back."
With a shake of her head, Jane allowed herself to be kept on the couch. "I'm scared, Maura."
Maura nodded as she wondered, "Has this person given any indication that he or she wouldn't be romantically interested in you?" Her upper hand resumed its light, reassuring patting of Jane's foot. They had always been able to provide stability and comfort through touch; it was one of the ways their friendship had been cemented.
"Yes." Again, the detective closed her eyes, crossing her arms over her stomach as she remembered the incident that gave her the answer to Maura's question. "According to them, I'm not their type."
Calm down, Isles. Lots of complete idiots have probably said that, not just me.
Maura took a little more time to reply than she normally did, feeling her way carefully. "But you said that you couldn't read her," she said, deliberately ghosting past the pronoun in the hope that it would not register on Jane's conscious mind unless it was, in fact, apropos. "That means there's a conflict. What evidence do you have to contradict that statement?"
Jane cracked an eye to glance at the doctor before closing it again, the only indication she'd heard the pronoun. "I can't say because, like I said, I can't read her well. If I could, I wouldn't be here like this trying to figure stuff out in my head." Her jaw clenched, eyes still closed, breathing becoming slightly labored as if the strong-willed detective was trying not to panic.
Fortunately, impending panic was one emotion Maura Isles was a past master at identifying. Quickly, she got out from under Jane's foot and, without standing all the way, scooted up to sit right beside Jane on the couch, hip to hip. "Shh, breathe," she counseled quietly, calmly, soothingly. "I've got you, Jane. You're safe. Breathe. I've got you. Shh, you're okay." Somewhere within that litany of assurances, Maura offered a hand to clench, and the other arm to hold Jane until the tension lessened in her friend's shoulders and back. "You're okay, Janie, I'm right here for you. I'm right here."
"No, I'm really not okay." Jane finally managed to say after taking a few gulps of air. Slowly opening her eyes, she turned her head to face the woman invading her personal space. "Maura, did you just call me Janie?"
Immediately, Maura recognized her mistake and sat back, hands fluttering together to fold in her lap in the 'good girl' pose she had perfected in charm school and cotillion. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to… um, to overstep."
"You're practically sitting in my lap. If you were going to worry about overstepping, calling me Janie would be the least of your concerns, if I were you." Narrowed brown eyes regard the women next to her. "How long have you called me 'Janie' in your head?"
Maura rose instantly and took a step backward, away from Jane's personal space. "Just now," she replied in a whisper, looking downward as her helpful, ready mind catalogued every single time she had touched Jane without being touched first, had assumed it was okay. How could I assume? I hate assumptions. I've been invading her personal space for two years, and she never said anything. Her face pinched tightly for a moment before becoming contrite and increasingly flustered, edging backward and narrowly avoiding tripping over Bass. "I'm sorry, Jane. I apologize for overstepping in both ways. All sorts of ways, I guess. I should have realized."
In an instant, Jane's hand shot out to capture Maura's. "Don't." It was a warning and a plea. "If I hadn't liked it… if I'd wanted you to stop, I'd have told you." Her grip tightened around the doctor's wrist. "Don't pull away from me now… please."
Surprised clean out of her considerable wits, Maura plopped right down where she was, which was half on the couch and half off. It was an entirely ungraceful move, dispelling years of ballet, cotillion, charm school, yoga, and insistence on ladylike demeanor and graceful movement from every authority figure in her young life. What's more, it made her squawk and flail in an attempt to remain on the couch instead of falling onto the floor and her tortoise. She looked ridiculous, and felt even more so.
Jane, for her part, watched with a mixture of amusement and concern. Straightening up and moving one foot to the floor, she pulled Maura further onto the couch, and back into her lap with her free hand, trying to help stabilize the smaller woman. "Maur? Sweetie, are you okay? Are you hurt?" Worry for her friend's safety overtook her amusement for the situation or her concern for her internal turmoil for the moment.
Fortunately, the sheer comedy of the situation broke the moment, causing Maura to laugh, not cry. Tight, embarrassed giggles turned into freer ones, and from there to an all-out belly laugh with a big, open smile, until finally she was wiping her eyes and subsiding into lightheaded, breathless gasps as Maura held onto her aching diaphragm with one hand and the back of the couch with the other. Much belatedly, she nodded, bobbing her head and causing her curls to bounce into one another messily. "Oh, Jane, I needed that. I think… I think I just got too tense and worked up for a minute." She glanced, barely, at the hand on her wrist, chuckling renewed as she added, "Thanks for catching me."
"Hey, that's what I'm here for," a classic Rizzoli smirk curving her lips while a question played in her eyes, Jane glanced down at their hands where her long, finely boned fingers wrapped around Maura's delicate wrist. "You should be more careful. I understand Bass doesn't like it when his racetrack has obstacles that he has to go around."
As both women looked at Maura's wrist, safely and firmly caught in Jane's grip, just like that, the tension returned. Maura's breath hitched. She swallowed, opened her mouth to speak, closed it and licked her lips. "Jane," she said, and then had nothing to follow up with. She shivered. No, she did have something to follow up with. "Jane, I'm sorry I never explained that stupid, stupid thing I said."
"When have you ever said something stupid? You're the smartest person I know." It was out of Jane's mouth before she could stop it, and the blush that followed burned her skin. Yet, the detective's grasp never loosened, and her eyes never moved from where they were locked, on their joined hands.
Maura thought it over, then nodded. "All right, it wasn't stupid to say you weren't my type. It wasn't even inaccurate." Her hand, the one Jane wasn't holding, left the back of the couch so that she could tip Jane's face towards herself, making sure she had the lanky brunette's eyes on hers while amending her previous statement, "As far as I knew at the time." Don't let me be wrong. Please, please, don't let me be wrong.
"Maura," Jane swallowed, eyes flicking nervously over the doctor's face as she tried to decide what to say next, "if I ask, it changes things. You sure you want to do that?"
It wasn't easy to answer, but Maura knew that if she didn't, no one ever would. She took a long, measured breath. "Do you want me to be a little more brave, or should I stand up, straighten my dress, and say goodness, that wine was delicious, but I probably shouldn't have had that third glass, because it's caused me to misinterpret several perfectly innocent and unrelated comments?" It was, after all, still Jane who had hesitated long enough for plausible deniability, and Maura who had caught up and passed her, Maura who was now exposed, Maura who dangled far out on the limb of confession. "I don't mind being embarrassed for your sake, Jane. Feel free to back away from this. I'll hurt, but not forever. I'll move on. I never, ever chase the straight girl, not since high school. Straight girls," she added, directly to Jane, the entire point of her mini-speech, "are not my type."
Maura concluded with subtle amusement, "But I'm in your lap, Jane. You're still holding me by my wrist, and I'm sitting in your lap, and I've just told you that my previously held position that you are not my type is, in fact, a previously held position. I think things have already changed. The question is, how much more change do you want?"
"I don't know." It was an honest answer, though not really an answer that would settle anything.
Finally dropping Maura's hand, Jane had an awkward moment to think of where to put her own hands before rolling her eyes, clasping them together, and laying them in her lap and on top of Maura's thighs. "I always thought," she began, voice barely above a whisper, "that I was 'the straight girl'. But, you… you make me feel things that scare the crap out of me, and I know you do it without even trying. I can be having the crappiest day of my life, and just being in the same room with you makes me feel better." She gave a humorless chuckle. "You were there on the second crappiest day of my life – so far – and you did make it better. You saved my life, you saved Frankie, and, when I finally woke up at the hospital, the first person I wanted to see was you." She took in a deep breath as she remembered. "And it was you I saw first. You can't know how relieved I was that you were there, Maur. I… I need you in my life. If things change too much and I drive you away somehow, what will I do?"
Maura lifted one of Jane's hands from her thigh and cradled it within her own, warm and calming. "You're serious," she marveled with gentle humor. "You actually think you could drive me away." Her head shook. "Jane, I'm not going anywhere. The only way for you to get rid of me now would be to tell me you don't want me in your life. Until and unless that happens, I'm here. I'm staying here."
"Of course I'm serious. Just look at all the guys I've already run off who thought they wanted to be with me." The detective was becoming agitated. "I lost Grant because I was too pigheaded to realize he was interested, and, by the time I figured it out, he was gone to DC. I had a chance with Dean, but I told him no because I didn't want someone to worry over me, which is the lamest thing I've said in I don't know how long. I could have had an easy hookup with Jorge, and you know how that turned out. I mean," she let out a grunt as she searched for the words, "Maura, I am not easy to date. Why would you want to do that to yourself? I don't want to hurt you, but I don't know that I could stop myself."
"What? When did you hurt—"
But Jane was on a roll, her words coming out without thought or filter, and she wasn't stopping for love or money. "I know how badly it affected you while I was recovering from the last gunshot wound. What about the next? Can you handle that? God," she began to shake her head, her eyes slightly watery, "I hate that I already hurt you so much. I don't want to hurt you even more. I care about you in a serious way. I can't," she stopped herself, eyes pleading with the other woman, "Maura, please don't leave me."
As Jane ranted and panicked, Maura simply sat, becoming both more serene and more intensely involved at once. Again, she tried to soothe through contact, placing a hand to a shoulder, stroking the feverishly hot head, attempting to catch wildly gesticulating hands. "Shh, Jane, I'm here. I'm not leaving, Jane. Shh, breathe, sweetie, calm down for me, shh, I'm right here. You didn't hurt me enough to make me go away before, did you? I'm okay, I promise. I've still got you. See? I'm right here. I'm not leaving, baby, I'm never leaving. You've got me. No matter what, you've got me. Now, get it through that beautiful head that I'm not going to be chased away like Joe Grant or Gabriel Dean. I have more moxie than that. Or maybe I'm just more serious. But I am here, Janie. You have me. In whatever capacity you want me, you have me."
"No, Maura, you don't understand! Being with me could get really complica… wait, what?" Jane shook her head, suddenly deflated, her rant over as if it had never happened. "Did you just say 'moxie'? What is this? 1942?" She chuckled, eyes lighting up with an unexpected bout of humor.
Maura's lips pursed. "Moxie is a perfectly useful word, and it happens to be the most appropriate word to both denote and connote the exact nuance of what I..."
Jane ignored her, beginning to focus on the substance of what Maura had said. "You just said you're not," wonder began to seep into the detective's voice, "going anywhere." Wonder and confusion. "You're not going anywhere?" She repeated it, telling herself what she'd just heard come from the woman still in her lap, who was patiently nodding confirmation. "And I have you?" She blinked, rapidly processing. "I have you?" The lanky woman shook her head, her face displaying a myriad of emotions from humor to confusion to sadness to mischief to something more, something darker than any of those things. "I have you, and you're not leaving? God, Maura, that's one hell of a … a gift." She shook her head in the negative, "No… no, I don't deserve that kind of… it's just too… it's too much." She pulled back, sliding herself off the couch and away from the doctor.
Standing, she looked down at the all too expressive hazel eyes looking back at her. "You need someone who can take care of you, doesn't embarrass you at high class functions, who won't hurt you like I can." Her hand ran over her torso, eyes flinching. "Like I already do."
So close, and then those self-doubts of Jane's had stolen it away again. Dethroned, Maura sighed as she got to her feet, but did not approach Jane. "I don't need someone to take care of me, Jane. I can take care of myself. I've done it since I was a child." She had sent off for the brochures for French boarding school herself, taken the initiative to get herself far away from the parents, the home, the country she knew, and had gone off to start her life in a place wherein she never expected to have a support structure. "I don't need someone who doesn't embarrass me, either. I know you're going to embarrass me, Jane, because you don't care about the…trappings and the window dressing of Society. You care about what goes on in people's minds, what they feel, what they do to help or harm other people. Do you think I give a sweet goddamn," Maura swore on purpose, knowing that the rarity of profanity from her lips would arrest Jane's attention, "whether you know which fork to use or how to tell a cabernet from a shiraz? I don't."
Now she did step forward, but only a single step, underscoring her point without crowding Jane. "So far, you've only offered one real argument that could carry even a little bit of weight with me, and I think you already know that. Yes, it hurt me immeasurably when you had to shoot through yourself to get to Bobby. I hate that you got hurt, and I hate that you didn't have any other viable options at that moment. I hurt so much to know that you were going to wake up in pain, if at all." Strangely, she was no longer even close to tears. Instead, she pled her case from a position of strength, nerves finally steady. All she had ever needed was a hint, just a hint, that Jane could consider responding to her.
"Now, ask yourself this." Maura squared her shoulders, preparing for the moment of truth. "If it's ever me hurt instead of you, would you rather watch me lying in a hospital bed and know that I was lying there alone in my own brain, or would you rather know that at some point before I entered the coma, I had felt your love?"
Defeated. The normally strong, resolute, obstinate detective sounded defeated. Her shoulders slumped faintly, head bowed down, and the frown on her face deepened. "You know I care about you, Maura." Slowly, she met the doctor's eyes. "He was going to shoot you, you know… Bobby, I mean. He whispered it when he saw you coming to the doors to walk outside. I freaked out. I think that's when I realized that I lo… I care for you more than I should as a friend, even a best friend. All I could think about was life without you, and it sucked. I couldn't let him do it." She wrapped her arms around herself, shivering with the memory. "Can we really make this work?" Her eyes pleaded, showing all the uncertainty and reservations she felt, all the confusion.
"I don't know," Maura replied honestly, "but I know that I'd rather try and find out than always know that I was too cowardly to do more than wonder." She closed the space between them and slid her hands up Jane's arms, a hint that perhaps they might feel better wrapped around Maura than around herself. "Reach for the stars. If you fall short, at least you've made it to the moon."
Jane chuckled, dropping her arms and putting her hands on Maura's hips. "That was on a poster in my 10th grade English teacher's class. I'd stare at it instead of paying attention to the lessons on Shakespeare. I did, however, pay attention to the poetry section. Don't tell anyone, but I actually like that stuff."
"I would never," Maura promised solemnly, despite her growing smile, as she contemplated certain poets she wanted to introduce to Jane. I wonder if she'd mind if I had to translate some of them into English first.
Jane was visibly calming down, though her cheeks were still flushed. "I always like the carpe diem ones. You know, 'Had we but world enough and time' or 'Gather ye rosebuds while ye may'? That kind of thing? I figured they made a good point." She leaned down, inching closer to the smaller woman. "Maybe I should pay attention to what they mean. What do you think?"
Warm fingers trailed up Jane's shoulders to her neck, some burying themselves in her night-black hair while the others swept forward to trace the lines of her sun-bronzed face. "I think," Maura replied with a languid but intense focus, "that we don't have to have a sleepover tonight… but this is my way of saying I'm attracted to you." Then she closed the distance between them in an easy, soft kiss that was almost perfectly chaste. Almost… but not quite.