A/N: A story told in four courses-Appetizer, Dinner, Drinks, Dessert.
Huge thanks to the supporters on Tumblr-speakers77, msloneranger67, ericahahans, charliethecag, et al.
Det. Jane Rizzoli rang the doorbell a second time, then began an internal countdown to the moment she would dig out her keys and simply barge in. It wasn't that she hadn't done that before—that was why Maura had given her the key in the first place—but she had been trying to respect her best friend's space in the week following her release from jail after being cleared of charges in the Brad Adams murder. Sometimes being polite took an enormous amount of effort and was, in Jane's opinion, overrated.
But for all that Maura was a gracious, welcoming person, she intensely valued her privacy and that had been utterly stripped away, even if only for a brief time. She had said that all she wanted was to go back to work, but Jane knew her well enough to know that was a coping mechanism for a deeper hurt. Hell, she'd written the book on that one. Something about Maura had been distracted and withdrawn, not at all her usual bright, inquisitive, occasionally annoying self.
Sighing, Jane took out her keyring and was thumbing through the bundle just as the front door opened.
"Hi, I was just…wow."
Maura Isles stood in the doorway wearing a blue terrycloth bathrobe pulled tight around her, her hands nearly disappeared within the sleeves. Her hair was disheveled and slightly bunched to one side, her makeup utterly non-existent, as if she were ready for bed except it was…
"It's 7 o'clock."
Maura nodded at her, blinking unsteadily.
Jane shifted her weight until she realized that was all she was getting. "Maur, you were going to meet us at the Robber at 6? After work?"
Sighing, Maura waved her inside and shut the door. "I'm sorry, Jane. I just thought I'd get a quick nap. I didn't realize the time—is everyone mad?"
Jane pulled her to sit down on the sofa and felt the cushions warm beneath her where Maura had been sleeping. Mad? No. Worried? Hell to the yes.
"No, of course not," she said gently. "You don't have to do anything you're not ready for, but let me know, OK? I thought something familiar with people you know would be good for you, getting back on the horse, but if you'd rather stay in, that's fine too." She thought about adding that it looked like Maura was dressed to eat popcorn and watch a marathon of Hoarders but decided against it.
Maura looked chagrined as she nodded. "I know, I just haven't felt like myself since I got home and I've been sleeping so much." She was rubbing her face in her hands and Jane could still see the traces of bruising on her jaw from where she had been decked while in the holding cell. The thought of it still made her angry—not hot and irrational, like most of her gut reactions, but the kind of cold anger that was infinitely more dangerous. Jane could appreciate that Maura liked her independence—she squirmed herself whenever her own mother clucked over her—but that would be the last time she ever let Maura stay behind at a party or take a cab without her. Or walk around the block without me or order a drink without me or convert oxygen or…
"It's good you've been sleeping," Jane said encouragingly. "In your own bed, like I said." Although that wasn't exactly true. The couch seemed to be the only place Maura was comfortable, at least according to Angela who had stopped by Jane's desk with her concerns that afternoon. "I worry about you," she confessed. "It's kind of my job."
Maura attempted a half-smile which at least was more than she had tried in the last week. "You're a good detective."
"Actually, it was Ma who blew the whistle."
"Oh, she's just dropping a dime on everyone."
"Very good, that's…" Jane shook her head with a bemused grin. "That's actually exactly how you should use that phrase."
Maura gave her a thin smile. "A little something I picked up on the inside. And despite what you hear, orange is not the new black."
"Do you wanna talk about it?" Jane hoped that was the right thing to say—it had always worked before—even though she didn't know what the right questions were. "You're safe and you're home now, but I know how scared I was and it must've been ten times worse for you."
Scared wasn't even remotely the right word for how Jane had felt. Helpless, trapped, horrified, frantic, and so on down the thesaurus but even that didn't have a word to truly capture her desperation.
Maura patted Jane's knee, letting her hand linger. "I knew if anyone could save me it would be you." Her smile was full now, genuine and grateful. Before she even realized the impulse, Jane slid her arm around her friend's shoulders, pulling her into a hug, but just as Maura's head came to rest on her shoulder, Jane felt her body tighten and flinch away.
"Whoa, sorry—are you OK?"
Maura nodded, eyes closed as she seemed to struggle to catch her breath.
"Ssshh sshh, just sit still." Jane slid to kneel on the floor, looking up worriedly into Maura's face. "You're not OK," she said flatly. "We need to call a doctor."
"I am a doctor."
"I'll be fine—there's nothing to do."
"Nothing except you could tell me what's wrong," Jane blurted.
Maura opened her eyes, breathing steadied now. "When I was hit in jail," she said slowly, "I fell against a bench when I went down. I thought it was just bruising at first, but I went to see my own doctor after I was released and they ran x-rays. I cracked two ribs. It's all right," she said soothingly as Jane's jaw clenched. "They're not fractured and there's nothing to do but let them set. I just have to be careful how I twist and I have some breathing exercises. I thought you would be happy that I won't be pestering you to go to yoga with me for a while."
"I'd be happier if you were healthy and svanasannaning all over the floor." Jane wasn't ready to admit that she had come to find yoga with Maura sort of fun in its own way, if only for the opportunity to offer running commentary which made Maura roll her eyes.
"Tell me the truth," Maura said. "You're keeping tabs on that woman, aren't you? The one who hit me."
"Who, Gomez?" Lucia Gabriela Gomez, three priors for possession, child endangerment and assault, now confined to solitary for assaulting an officer of the court, and who would be coming up before Judge Hardiman next week, a judge who owed Jane a favor and who was looking forward to adjudicating to the fullest possible extent? Oh, that Gomez? "She's in jail, you're not, that's what matters. How bad is it really? Let me see. Maur, please, I'm making it a lot worse in my head."
Maura shifted uncomfortably but let Jane coax her into undoing the belt of her robe and raising the hem of her pajama shirt to show the purpling bruise that spread across her right side. Jane inhaled a sympathetic hiss, murmuring how sorry she was.
"It's not your fault," Maura repeated. She had taken Jane's hand in hers to deflect the detective from reflexively reaching out to touch the injury. "How many times do I have to say that?"
"Uh…more than you have?" Jane grinned up at her, then softened as she saw the lingering pain. "Doesn't matter whose fault. I'm not going to stop being sorry that it happened."
"And that's what makes you a good friend." Maura smiled faintly as she tucked herself in again, cinching the robe's belt and hugging herself once more.
Jane sat back on the couch, easing herself down as if even that might jostle Maura somehow. "Is that why you didn't say anything to me about it? Because you knew I couldn't do anything and you didn't want me to worry?"
Maura considered and nodded. "I don't think I consciously knew I was pulling away, not at first, and then I thought if I could just shake myself out of this mood before you noticed, then everything would be…back to normal, whatever that is."
Except that Jane noticed everything about Maura, even when she pretended she didn't. She did actually know the names of her ridiculously expensive shoes, her favorite organic non-fat Greek yogurt, her favorite opera (La Traviata) and what brand of hand lotion she kept in her desk. She knew these things because they were a part of Maura and that made them inexplicably important to her. Some days she even admitted to herself why that was, but it was easier to just stay busy.
"I notice," Jane said softly. "You matter to me and you can't ask me not to care that right now even Bass is more out of his shell than you are." She had expected at least a smile for that and felt her heart crash when she saw two tears begin to trickle down Maura's face. "Oh God," she blurted, "is something wrong with Bass?"
"He's fine," Maura sniffed. "He even had extra strawberries tonight. I put on Animal Planet for him in the bedroom. At least he's not…"
Jane waited, her forehead creased so hard she wondered if she would ever get the wrinkles out. "He's not what?"
"A Lonesome George."
Jane's eyes darted around the room and found nothing helpful. "Is that prison slang for something I don't wanna know about?"
Maura sighed, collecting herself as she stared down at her hands. "He was the last Pinta Island tortoise and he died in captivity a few years ago. If Bass wanted, I could find another African Spurred Tortoise and they could be friends at least, maybe more. But…" She hesitated, lips pursed, starting and stopping her sentence. Cautiously, Jane put her hand out to cover Maura's and found her fingers caught in a tight grip as the floodgates opened. "Apparently I'm so hopelessly odd that the only compatible man I've met in years was completely lying about everything just to fool me into thinking that someone would actually have something in common with me."
Oh. Jane very carefully squeezed back. "No, sweetie, you can't think like that. Adams was lying because he needed you to trust him. It couldn't have been anyone else; he needed you so he could get to the evidence. Maybe one of those other guys was totally obsessed with modern art and you just didn't get a chance to meet him."
Maura shook her head, her eyes dull and downcast. "At my age, Jane, statistically if that person existed, I should have at least caught a glimpse of him by now. I just feel so stupid," she whispered. "I let myself think for just a moment that there might be someone else who was interested in the same things, someone I could talk to and…and that doesn't happen very often, Jane. I feel so alone some days, I suppose I always have, and I let my guard down so easily for just a little flattery. I know it seems trivial compared to going to prison for the rest of my life, and trust me this wasn't on my mind while I was in jail. I just realized that when there's the slightest chance I could be kindred spirits with someone, I let myself hope so quickly and…" She let out a small bitter laugh. "Isn't that ironic—my mother's name is Hope and I feel like that's what he took from me."
"No," Jane said thickly. "Your mother's name is Constance and that's exactly what you are—faithful, loyal and devoted." It's what I'll be for you, always. God, Maur, you deserve so much better than this.
Maura wiped her eyes, trying to pull herself together. "I just realized that the reason I feel so alone is because I am—there really isn't anyone else like me and I've only just figured it out and it's sad and…and I feel stupid for only now understanding that I'm like a…a…"
Maura nodded as her eyes strayed to Bass who was ponderously making his way from the guest room back to his feeding area.
"Don't take this the wrong way," Jane said, "but I think this is a little self-centered."
The corner of Maura's mouth began to tremble. "Do you really think so?"
Jane wondered if it were possible to literally shove her own foot down her throat because if so, she was up to her knee. "No, that came out wrong. I mean, you have such high expectations of yourself, because you're, like, amazing and brilliant and wonderful, but this is just the reality of human nature. People lie to get what they want, and unfortunately you're not the only person who's ever been fooled. It's horrible, but you're a target because you're really nice and don't you ever stop being that."
"You're my best friend," Maura said quietly, trying to smile. "You're supposed to think that."
"I'm a detective and that's my professional judgment. And by the way, I'm not exactly batting a thousand in this department. I trusted Dean with the Paddy Doyle operation and look where that got us. I walked into Hoyt's basement. Both me and Frankie missed that his wonderful new girlfriend who could cook was really an apprentice, yeah? So you're not nearly the idiot I am."
Maura gave a reluctant nod. "It still hurts," she said quietly. "Right now it feels like the only ones I can trust are you and Bass."
"What about Korsak?"
"Did you see his tie/jacket combination today?" Solemnly, Maura shook her head. "Doesn't speak well for his personal judgment."
"Yeah, fair enough," Jane chuckled. "Not that you're exactly centerfold material right now." Her words slowed as she spoke and the niggling thought which had been trying to fight its way to the surface finally broke free.
"That's it," she declared. "I know what we're doing." She patted Maura's shoulder, gently urging her to stand. "C'mon, we're going out, somewhere nice. Go get dressed."
"Did you listen to anything I said?" Maura stared at her in disbelief. "There's no point. It's not worth it."
"Yeah, I heard you and yeah, you are worth it." Jane grinned. "You're going with me. I'm your date tonight. You said it yourself—you can trust me. It's like training wheels! We'll get a good meal and you'll feel better for getting out of the house. I promise you'll have a fun time, I won't do anything to make you jostle your ribs, and you won't get your head worked up about sending mixed signals to your date. I'll even be the guy and pay. Although," she grumbled, "I wouldn't mind being the girl sometime."
Maura had gradually begun to perk up as Jane explained the plan. "Aren't you the girl with Casey? Have you heard from him?"
"Who are we talking about again? Oh right, Casey, so—no!"
"Maybe you're not really dating," Maura suggested. "I think there's a name for this kind of arrangement. Friend-buddy? No, that's not right."
While an alert, livelier Maura had been Jane's intention, she hadn't envisioned it coming at her own expense. "This isn't about me," she said hastily. "Go on get dressed. It's that or watch HGTV with my mother."
She might have been grumpier than Bass, but Maura was at least marginally faster.