A/N: Special thanks again to loneranger67, CharlietheCAG and speakers77. In conclusion, thank you-thank you so very, very much for your notes, your support, and your kindness.
Ch. 4 - Dessert
Before the headache, cotton tongue, aching eyes or hollow stomach, Maura woke to the feel of long arms locked securely around her. Cradled safely in the bed's shifting turbulence, she tried for just a moment to struggle awake and then surrendered to the intoxicating mix of exhaustion and comfort. Two hours later, she surfaced again and managed this time to stay conscious as she began to catalog her surroundings. She was in her own bed, wearing one of Jane's many t-shirts that had mysteriously migrated to her closet, and it was Jane who was curled around her now, protecting and calming her as they slept together.
Maura hadn't drunk so much as to lose all sense of what had happened last night, but it was only the highlights which came immediately to her. Images of staggering across the parking lot, with Jane's hands tentatively slipping into her hair as they began to kiss, of her own very un-tentative response, and there was something about a six pack (which made no sense, she didn't even like beer). Then stumbling up the stairs together, Jane helping with the ridiculously impractical clasp on the back of her dress, and then…
For the first time since she had experienced her blazing epiphany yesterday morning while re-reading the dating profile Jane had composed, Maura felt a stab of doubt. Jane was so empathetic and protective of the victims she fought to defend, and Maura had admittedly been a victim herself and found herself pouring out all her insecurities to Jane. She knew Jane would do anything for her, so would she perhaps have taken pity on a drunk, pathetic…
"G'morning," Jane murmured. Stretching slowly, her fists curled above her head and arms outstretched, she turned onto her back and shuddered her muscles into wakefulness. Maura watched in open fascination and was reminded of a life drawing class she had taken her sophomore year which had taken them on a field trip to the National Zoo where she had spent the morning sketching one tiger in particular as it prowled its domain.
Hi, Maura's lips moved but her throat had completely seized up.
Then Jane smiled, a wonderful, radiant, heartstopping smile that melted Maura's speech processing center. It was the smile of someone who regretted nothing. "How does your head feel?"
Maura realized Jane had pitched her voice low purposefully, so the warm rasp of it wouldn't aggravate her hangover.
"I have a headache," she said honestly. "My own fault."
"Hmm." Jane had reached across and gently brushed her forehead with the tip of one finger. "I can get you some aspirin or something if you tell me where. I'm assuming it's all alphabetized."
"By manufacturer, then active ingredient. But wait…" She stopped Jane from slipping out of bed. "I need to apologize."
Jane propped up on one elbow, her dark hair falling in a cascade over her shoulders. "There's nothing to feel bad about, Maur. I…I didn't know I was your emergency contact."
"Bass can't get to the phone fast enough."
Jane laughed so hard that she rolled onto her back again and covered her eyes with one forearm.
"I was being serious," Maura said which only made her laugh harder.
"OK…OK." Jane took a long breath and held it as if to force her lungs to calm down, then exhaled. "I'm just glad that you called and nothing happened."
A tendril of fear began creeping back up her jaw, twitching and leaping. "I wouldn't exactly call this nothing."
"Huh? No, no, at the bar, nothing bad. But you might not wanna go back there for a while or, maybe, ever."
Maura, who had always prided herself on never doing anything in public that she wouldn't want videotaped, had the creeping feeling that Jane was right. She also had an inexplicable desire to hum "Rhapsody in Blue" by George Gershwin, but put that aside for the moment.
"That's what I need to apologize for. I meant every word of what I said last night, but that wasn't the right time or place. It wasn't fair of me to spring that on you out of the blue and throw myself at you like that."
Jane had turned onto her side now and was listening patiently, watching her with those dark expressive eyes.
"You might've noticed that I wasn't exactly unhappy about what you said. In fact," she found Maura's hand under the sheets and laced their finger together, "I was pretty thrilled once, y'know, once I realized it wasn't just the wine talking."
"Well, there was a lot of wine."
Jane let out a groaning laugh. "You have no idea and you owe me for the bar tab, by the way."
"Oh Jane, I am so sorry. I thought they took my card information when I ordered. I'll pay you back, I promise."
Before Maura knew how, she found herself gathered in the same arms that had protected and carried her the night before, neatly but carefully pinned beneath Jane who was grinning down at her. "I think I might have some suggestions about that." The kiss began gently enough but rapidly progressed as every lingering hesitation dropped away, all except…
"I need to tell you something," Maura gasped. When Jane didn't stop what she was doing, not that Maura really wanted her to, she forced herself to break away. "I think I was very, very drunk last night."
Jane nodded as she got her breathing under control. "I don't think that's much of a secret, sweetie."
Perfect, Maura thought glumly. "I mean, if you're expecting an encore, that's going to be hard because I don't," her voice dropped, "exactly remember the debut."
Jane's smile erased itself with a nearly audible sound. "You…seriously? You don't remember last night?"
Maura thought hard, squinting, then gave her best please forgive me smile. "I remember being in the parking lot and kissing you."
"Tackling me onto the hood of my car would be a little more accurate."
Now Jane mentioned it, she did remember being unusually assertive as she struggled to explain her feelings to Jane who had picked that moment to be annoyingly chivalrous. "And there was something about a button?"
Jane nodded. "Yeah, you were trying, literally, to rip my clothes off and kept muttering 'My pants, my pants' and finally it just popped off."
One hand was creeping up to Maura's mouth to hide her expression of horror.
"Then it bounced around on the pavement and you rolled off after it, but it went under the car so you tried to crawl under to get it, and that's when I had to put you in the back of the car."
"We did it the back seat of your unmarked?" Maura gasped. "That was our first time?
Jane rolled her eyes as she sat up beside Maura, pulling up the sheet to cover herself. "God, your house is freezing," she grumbled, "no wonder you don't mind the morgue—it feels like home. No, we didn't 'do it' in the car. What am I, sixteen? I drove us back here and you were completely coherent the whole way, not that I actually wanted to know the five generation history of the vineyard that produced the stuff you were inhaling all night. You bounced up the stairs, checked on Bass, told him not to worry because 'George isn't Lonesome anymore', and then you tried to destroy the rest of my buttons."
"I'm so sorry," Maura whispered. "I'm not usually that aggressive, I promise."
"Who said I was complaining?" Jane grinned. "The only thing you need to promise me is that you'll always tell me what you want in bed. My track record as a psychic is pretty awful. Deal?"
Maura nodded but she didn't feel any better until Jane leaned over and whispered on her ear. As she listened, she felt her face begin to turn warm.
"There." Jane pulled back but not without a kiss. "Now you know one of mine."
Yes—yes, she did, and plans were rapidly beginning to form in her head, ones that would involve a custom ordered Red Sox jersey and a very private box at Fenway Park.
"Do we need to go shopping for a new shirt?" Maura asked contritely.
"No, I managed to convince you—and you're very difficult to talk out of things when you're drunk, by the way—that it would be better to let me take off my own clothes instead."
Something about the way Jane suddenly wouldn't meet her eyes set a warning bell off in her head. "And then what happened?"
"Oh, um…you thought…I needed some music to go along with it, and y'know, I really don't know what you were trying to sing, but it was hard as hell to do a strip routine to it, I can tell you that."
"Oh my God." Maura groaned and buried her burning face in both hands. She couldn't decide if she was more upset at having humiliated herself again, although at least in private this time, or for having completely blacked out the memory of Jane Rizzoli stripping for her. "Was it really that bad?"
When Jane didn't answer, Maura cracked one eye open and saw her holding a black plastic card between two fingers. "What's…how'd you get my credit card?"
"You tried to put it in my briefs. I guess you don't carry singles."
Very slowly, Maura Isles pulled the comforter up over her head.
"Hey. Hey." One corner peeled back and Maura shut her eyes tightly but couldn't block out the image of Jane's irrepressible grin. "Y'know, I'm available for private shows, reasonable rates."
"Please let that be the end of your story."
Maura felt a sudden rush of air hit her as Jane completely pulled off the comforter, then replaced it with her own body. "I hope not." Her voice was serious now and Maura reflexively opened her eyes and was lost in the dark brown ones staring so earnestly into hers. "I want this story to last a really, really long time."
Maura held her breath and searched Jane's face, finding nothing but what had always been there—affection, devotion, tender ferocity, and so much love that she felt herself beginning to drown.
"Me too," she whispered as she kissed Jane. "I don't suppose we could go back and rewrite the first chapter? It sounds like I wasn't really myself last night."
"Hmm," Jane considered, letting her head tip from side to side. "I was actually hoping I could get you drunk again sometime. I should definitely keep my day job, but you could make some serious bucks as a dancer."
"I don't believe you," Maura said flatly.
Jane shrugged. "Fine, check your phone, but forward the video to me before you delete it. I thought you were adorable."
Deciding that the night probably couldn't have gotten any worse after that point, Maura resigned herself. "I don't need a full performance evaluation, but please tell me that I shut the camera off before we actually had sex."
Jane's expression gentled and she settled beside Maura, mindful of her injured ribs. She smoothed back Maura's hair, her fingers lingering in the soft tendrils at temple and ear. "What if I told you that when I finally got the phone away from you and turned back around, you were passed out cold facedown on the bed?"
"You mean, after all of that…we still haven't…?"
Jane solemnly shook her head—nope. "But if you want to tell people that we've slept together, you can do that without fear of hives, but that's literally all we did. I wouldn't mind. If people knew that we were, y'know, together."
Maura let out an aggravated groan, pulled a pillow over her face and screamed into it, which didn't completely drown out Jane's laughter. A moment later, the pillow was plucked away and Jane was peering down at her, propped up again on one elbow.
"If it makes you feel better," she said, "it wasn't for lack of trying on your part. I'm the one who was trying to slow things down and y'know? I'm glad. Because anything we did last night just would've been about me and that's not what I want, Maura. I've wanted this with you for…I don't know how long, probably at least a week before we met, and that means your brain being there for it as well as your body. Trust me, you wouldn't have wanted to miss it."
"True, but any good experiment can be replicated." Maura's hand was drifting up Jane's arm, headed in a very particular direction when it was firmly taken into custody and kissed but not released. "For verification purposes."
"I don't think making love should be like a throwaway experiment. It counts, first time and every time, no takebacks. At least for me," Jane added with a small hesitation, something slightly uncertain in her smile.
"I think I agree," Maura said cautiously. "I wouldn't know. I've never been in a situation where I needed to differentiate between the physical act itself and any emotional connotations that would be carried because there was, I suppose, only the…" She found herself being kissed not quite as gently as before but with the end effect of taking her breath away and stopping her nervous recitation.
"Maura Isles, are you trying to say you've never made love before?"
She wasn't sure why that was such a difficult question to answer, but in that case she knew the answer must be yes. "Well, the expression would imply that…no, I suppose not," she admitted.
"Then I absolutely would want this to be something you remember, for both of us. Here, close your eyes for me." Jane's voice somehow, impossibly, deepened as she began to paint a picture.
"What I want is for you to be able to remember how it feels when I take your face in my hands and the first time I lift you up so I can pull your shirt off and what it feels like when there's nothing between us. I want you to remember me telling you how beautiful you are and what it's like when my fingers learn your skin, your neck, your shoulder, and kisses are following over every inch."
Jane was kissing her hand now, nipping a fingertip for each word, as she slowly ran her thumbnail down the length of Maura's spine.
"I'm careful anywhere you hurt, but kissing does make it better so every bruise needs a kiss, and when I reach that point on your hip that shows when your black scrubs gap when you reach for something on the top shelf in the storeroom, I want you to wonder, wait, is she going to keep going, is she going to do that? Because I am, and I won't stop even if you beg me to…in fact, especially if you beg me. I want you to remember that moment when you give in and trust me and fall open, and how it makes you feel to be so vulnerable but so safe, and I'll be patient," Jane whispered, one long finger stroking her cheek, "so patient until you're shivering and shaking and about to drop and that's when I tell you I love you for the first time and you can't do anything but fall as you say my name and I catch you safe, then and always, because you'll never be alone again. That's what I don't ever want you to forget. Do you understand?"
Maura felt a kiss on her chin, forehead, then nose, but remained transfixed by the night which had never happened.
"Sweetie, you OK? Open your eyes now," Jane coaxed. Maura's eyelids fluttered and she blinked up, pleasantly disoriented. "Where'd you go?"
Cautiously, she cleared her throat. "I don't know if I went anywhere, but I think I came."
Jane smiled at her, beautiful, shy and proud. "I think you'll know when you do, and I promise you will. And," she added more seriously, "I promise I'm not going. Not anywhere. This, Maura, this is the life I want."
Maura nodded, then struggled unsteadily to push herself upright against the pillows. Her head was hurting less now and spinning pleasantly, but she still needed food at the very least before she could hope to face today, the first day of the rest of her life. "Me too, as I so very inelegantly tried to explain last night. So let's start over now, day one. Let's spend it together, do everything we'd already planned, come home and order in tonight—no more wine—watch television, take Jo Friday for a walk, talk until it's too late for you to drive home, and you'll ask if I think you should sleep over, and…"
"And then you want dessert with that?
The smile that grew on Maura's face was slow but anything but hesitant. "Oh yes."
Jane grinned back. "What flavor?"
Jane's expression stuttered as her brain seemed to hit an icy patch and went skidding completely off the roadway and into a ditch. "I-I…I think that can be arranged," she said weakly. It took another moment for her to pull her focus back as she swallowed hard to regain her voice. "OK, good plan. Now, in my first official act, let me suggest a shower before we go anywhere because you have a reputation for amazing hair and right now it's exceeding expectations but not in a good way."
Maura cautiously put one hand to the top of her head, feeling with her palm, until she found the shark's fin cresting up from the crown of her head. "Fifteen minutes," she said, rolling out of bed. "No, thirty, I promise."
Jane said nothing, enjoying the view as Maura scurried to the shower, the hem of her t-shirt barely covering the essentials as she went. She waited for the bathroom door to close before slipping out of bed and heading quickly down the stairs to check on the laundry. She hadn't lied about anything, not even the drunken attempt at a credit card tip, but there was no reason for Maura to be even more embarrassed by remembering that the other reason they had stopped last night was that she had thrown up all over Jane as well as herself, more than once. It had been when Jane got her dressed again in a clean t-shirt, coaxed Maura into a quick brush and gargle, and then went to throw their clothes in the washer that she had returned to find Maura passed out in bed, snuggled up to Jane's backup blazer which had been hanging in the closet, just waiting to be called off the bench in case of emergency.
She had woken several times in the night to check on Maura and transfer everything to the dryer, and now her shirt and pants were clean and still slightly warm from the tumbler, but also still missing a button. Jane zipped them up and they held precariously on her narrow hips, but as she climbed the first flight, they began to work their way down and she had to hold them up with one hand while juggling the rest of the laundry.
Entering the bedroom, Jane heard the shower running and guessed that the water was steaming hot by now. Maura had let her use the master bath a few times when she stayed over and it was a vast improvement over the cramped shower stall at her own apartment where she could easily hit her elbow or knee, even sometimes her head, on the fixtures. The tiled floor alone was three times the size of a standard shower with recessed ledges, a bench, off-set lighting and multiple shower heads that created the effect of standing under a tropical waterfall. Jane had thought, idly at the time, that it would be a hell of a place for a romantic…
Her grip loosened at the thought, no longer idle, and her pants finally got their wish, falling to her ankles as their clean clothes tumbled from her arms to the bed. In a burst of adrenaline, Jane kicked her feet free and crossed the bedroom in three long strides, not bothering to knock at the bathroom door.
Just this once, maybe it would be OK to have dessert first.