A/N: So this chapter has I believe a Daria reference and one from Gilmore Girls, also.
And I couldn't help myself - went and stuck in another painting. If you'd like to see it, it's on my tumblr and can also be found by googling Leroy Neiman Hall of Famer.
When Jane woke up the next morning, it took her a few moments to orient herself. She was lying on a couch with her feet on an ottoman, neither piece of furniture being one that she immediately recognized. It was only when she glanced to her right and saw Maura still sleeping on the other side of the couch that it dawned on her what must have happened. The light coming in through the windows indicated that it was morning, and when Jane tried to sit up to see if where she'd left her phone or if there was a clock somewhere, she saw Bass out of the corner of her eye and yelled.
Reptiles on their own were not inherently frightening to Jane, but as had been the case when she'd seen Maura's pet for the first time, it was his sheer size combined with the unexpectedness of his presence that was so startling. This morning, the fact that Jane had just woken up disoriented did not help.
In addition to yelling, she jumped back on the couch, inadvertently knocking into Maura. The doctor leapt to her feet, immediately adopting a fighting stance, but Jane was already laughing at herself in mild embarrassment. Maura initially thought it was laughter at the stance, but when she saw that was Bass and not an intruder which had caused the upset.
"Bass, you naughty boy," Maura laughed, throwing her couch pillow at Jane. "You scared the wimpy detective."
"He caught me off guard," Jane chuckled, rubbing her eyes as if to somehow wrest the tiredness from them. "It's like having a dinosaur in the place, geez!"
"Actually, if you want to be technical, it would be more like having a dinosaur in the place if I were to have a bird," Maura said with a yawn. "They're much more closely related to feathered dinosaurs than our reptiles of today. Isn't that right, Bass?" She bent over to gently caress his shell.
"Can he even feel that?" Jane asked. Maura sat on the ottoman and reached for Jane's hand, asking for it.. "Hm? Why?"
"Just give me your hand." When Jane acquiesced Maura made no remark about the scars, nor did her fingers needlessly linger over them. She instead gently rubbed her thumb along one of Jane's fingernails, then scratched it with the same sort of gentleness. "You see?" she murmured, glancing up at Jane's confused expression. "Tortoises can feel touch and pressure through their shells the same way we feel it through our fingernails." When Jane remained silent and did not pull her hand away, Maura asked, "You can feel it, can't you?"
Jane smirked a little and finally took her hand back. "Yeah. Feels nice, I guess."
"Would you like to pet him?"
"Uh…sure, I guess."
When Jane reached to stroke the back of Bass' shell, Maura let out a gasp of horror so loud and sudden it nearly caused Jane to flail off the couch again. "No, sorry, not from the back! You'll scare him if he can't see you and suddenly your hand appears."
"Well, we'd be one-for-one in that sense, then," Jane grumbled, but she nevertheless got off the couch and walked to Bass' other side, kneeling on the carpet. Maura got down as well, and Jane cautiously mirrored her movements of stroking the shell in slow circles. Privately, Jane couldn't help thinking this was a strange exercise and a strange pet, but Maura was clearly as enamored with Bass as Jane was with Jo, and inexplicable as it was, there was something cute about it.
"There, you see? He likes you," Maura said quietly. "Bass never did warm up to Ian very much. But Ian just wouldn't pet him correctly. He went right for the feet, which you are never supposed to do. And he poked Bass in the nose once. Jane, if you ever wanted to pet his head, you must avoid the eyes and the nostrils."
"Avoid eyes and nostrils, got it."
"And if you ever want to lift him up for some reason, make sure you're wearing gloves. Ian tried when Bass was a bit smaller, and Bass urinated on him."
"No way!" Jane laughed. "Nice!"
"I'm afraid it wasn't very, at the time." They continued to pet (as it were) Bass for a while, and now that the tortoise in the room had received his fair share of attention, Maura felt it was time to address the elephant. "Jane, I'm sorry, I… don't quite know how this happened."
"How I wound up asleep on your couch? Yeah, me neither," Jane said with a shorter laugh. "Guess that meditation really worked, huh?"
"It usually doesn't entail falling asleep," Maura said flatly, though the tired smile on her face told Jane that she was in no way upset. "I think I may have just been overcome with emotional exhaustion."
"Yeah, that kinda stuff can be tiring. I know."
Maura looked at her a moment, as if assessing her, before saying, "It was nice of you to stay."
Jane shrugged. "Hey, that's what friends do, right?"
"I'm not used to it." The comment slipped out before Maura could stop it, though she realized immediately how pathetic it made her sound. The look on Jane's face certainly confirmed that, and Maura tried to sound a little less sad when she said, "Thank you again, Jane. You really didn't have to do that."
"I know I didn't have to."
They had both gotten to their feet at this point, and while they were close enough to hug—and Maura had to admit she'd have welcomed one—it somehow seemed awkward to initiate one now. Maybe it was the brightness of day. Maybe it was that Jane had already exceeded her comfort level. Maura only hoped it wasn't that Jane was sorry or thought it was weird. But Maura wanted to do something, establish some sort of connection, to let Jane know that her gratitude was sincere. It turned out to be a bit more awkward than a hug if only for the odd promise of intimacy: Maura placed her hands near Jane's elbows, and Jane in turn took hold of Maura's forearms.
"I feel like we're about to make like… an ancient Scottish war pact or something," Jane said, after a few moments of this with Maura staring her in the eye. She laughed it off while Maura looked a little unsure of where to begin correcting Jane on that strange reading of this position.
Maura pulled away as Jane's laughter died out. "Yes, well, um… would you like to take a shower, or something? What's your morning routine?"
"I—uh, thanks for the offer, but I should probably head back to my apartment," Jane said, stifling a yawn.
"Oh, you'll want to change your clothes, of course."
"That'd be cool, yeah."
"Can I get you something to eat first? Toast, eggs, quiche?"
"That sounds really awesome, but uh…" Jane checked her phone and scowled at the time. "I better head out if I want to clean up and stuff. But hey," she said, gently touching Maura's wrist. "You wanna talk at lunch or after work or whatever, just let me know, okay? Hell, even during work. We can uh, we can multi-task. But only if you want."
Sufficiently reassured, Maura thanked Jane and sent the detective on her way.
Jane was just about to unlock the door to her apartment when one down the hall opened, and she instinctively glanced over to see Riley quietly exiting Marissa's apartment. For a brief moment they stared each other down, and then Riley's gaze dropped to Jane's somewhat-wrinkled apparel.
"Isn't that what you wore to work yesterday, Rizz?" Riley asked curiously, and Jane huffed in annoyance and opened her own door. Riley jogged over, taking the cue that because Jane hadn't shut a door in her face, she only wanted to move the conversation out of the hallway.
"Don't get smart," Jane sighed. "I just wound up crashing at a friend's last night."
Riley didn't press, and instead nodded at Jo, who had just come running over. "Marissa figured something like that might've happened, on account of your not coming by to pick up your dog. She got up early to walk her, and dropped her off here like twenty minutes ago."
"What's going on with you two, exactly?"
"Exactly? Uh…well, I'm pretty sure I'm getting her apartment once she moves. And in the mean time, I'm getting lucky!" When Jane turned from the coffee pot to look at her, Riley shot her a wink that so over-the-top that Jane couldn't decide whether to groan or laugh and wound up doing both. "Hey, you know that girl has a crush on you, right? I'm serious," she said when Jane just snorted.
"Yeah? Did she tell you that?"
"She didn't have to tell me. I could hear it in her voice and see it in her face. She thinks you're a hottie."
"Hey, just thought you might wanna know. It always makes me feel good to know someone out there is interested in me!"
"Okay, well, the next time I want to get in a woman's pants, I'll let you know."
"Hey. I've got a whole list, any time."
"Get outta here."
Jane just shook her head as Riley saw herself out. They had never been particularly close, but something Jane had appreciated more than she knew how to express was that Riley was one of the few people at BPD who had never made it her feel like a pity project after Casey's death. Other officers who didn't know Jane very well had walked on eggshells around her, and she'd caught them staring at her sorrowfully more than once. That, almost more than anything, was what had gotten her to agree to take the leave that Cavanaugh pushed for. For her part, Riley had expressed heartfelt condolences and left it at that. Their relationship had remained essentially the same: casual, polite, comfortable. Riley never apologized for herself. She didn't feel the need to backpedal unless she picked up on a cue from the person she was speaking to.
This last exchange reminded Jane of one of the first things Riley had ever said to her: "Y'know, Rizzoli, I'm glad you're not a lesbian. Frankly, I don't need the stress that comes from competition."
Her brazenness had been kind of amusing and unexpected, and where Jane would've thought she'd be uncomfortable or defensive, she'd just said, "Yeah? I got you running scared?"
"Well look at you! Listen to your voice! You could be drowning in pussy if you wanted to."
"Mm, well, good thing for both of us that I'm married to a dude, then."
"Yes, thank every deity for that."
Damn that woman. She always had a weird way of putting a smile on Jane's face.
Unfortunately, Jane's semi-good mood did not last for long. After a stressful couple of rounds with Angela at the Division One Café, she stalked her way down to Maura's office and onto her couch with melodramatic flair. Maura, who had only recently gotten in, was somewhat taken aback by this, but nonetheless got up from behind her desk to shut the door. Jane, lying down and taking up the entire length of the couch, grabbed one of the throw pillows and yelled into it.
"I may not be a detective," Maura said, pulling over a chair, "but I glean that something unpleasant has happened in the relatively small window of time from when you left my house this morning to your arrival at work."
"My mother happened," Jane said, though her voice was garbled by the pillow.
Maura patiently tugged the pillow out of Jane's hands so she could actually make out what she was saying. "Care to be specific?"
With a heavy sigh, Jane turned her eyes back up to the ceiling. "Geez, Maura. I said I'm come in today all prepared to help you through anything you wanted to talk about, and I'm the one who comes trudging in with some trumped-up issue…"
"Actually, hearing about someone else's problems might help distract me from my own," Maura said bracingly. "Please, go on."
Jane glanced at her to make sure the offer was sincere, and took comfort in the supportive if rueful smile on Maura's face. For her part, Maura was just strangely thrilled that somebody felt close enough to her to want to confide in her. It was a foreign feeling, and she couldn't help thinking back to her youth when she had wished desperately for a friend who wanted to tell her and only her a bunch of secrets. She wanted to be that person for someone, a trustworthy friend. Jane definitely gave off the impression of the being one who did not talk about things with just anyone, and Maura was honored to be deemed dependable.
"You know what's kind of bizarre?" Jane asked quietly, after a long silence. "Realizing that when you get older, your parents get older, too. Like …I know that's obvious, but there are just these moments where it really sneaks up on you. Okay, like I have a cousin who's about seven or eight years younger than me, and we don't see his family very much because they moved to Dallas when I was a kid. And every time we did see them, I'd always be so shocked at how big Robby was, or how much his voice had changed. And my aunt and uncle and cousins didn't really notice because they were around him every day, you know? So the change was gradual and it didn't in as much. I didn't think that happened the other way around, like, with adults. Your parents just start getting older around you and you don't think about it.
"But then one day you realize that your dad needs help lifting a heavy piece of luggage up the stairs. Your mom needs to put on reading glasses in a restaurant because the typeface on the menu is too small and there's not enough lighting. And it's weird, I mean—I don't know if this is happening with you and your mom, but it's like the older I get the less patience I have for her and that makes me feel like a jerk. The older she gets, it's like her filter, which was barely ever there in the first place, is totally just disappearing and she's becoming louder and more immature and just… impossible!"
"What exactly is all this about?" Maura asked, her tone patient.
"She's never been happy that I wanted to be a cop," Jane said. "Because she doesn't like that my life is in danger on the job, and I can appreciate that concern. It makes sense."
"Right. And I dunno what it was about Ian leaving, but that just sort of gave me another little kick about this conversation I tried having with her a while ago. After Casey… after Casey died. You put someone in a life-threatening career like a cop or a soldier, and you get so used to it that you just don't really let yourself think about the possibility of them dying young."
Jane was silent for an achingly long time, and Maura shifted restlessly in her chair. They had talked about Casey in the past, but it had always safely been confined to snippets of memories, not his actual passing. Please, please, please don't say something stupid, came Maura's inner thoughts. Say something helpful.
But nothing came to mind, and it seemed as though Jane hadn't been waiting for a reply, so it was smoothly that she kept going: "I mean, I married a soldier and still never dreamed I'd be a widow when I was only thirty-seven. And here I am. That's something that happens to other soldiers' wives. Not me. And I remember being really shocked at how … how unprepared his mother was. I think that made her grieving process all the more difficult; she just didn't know how she was supposed to handle anything. And I don't want that to happen to my mother. But she can't stand even broaching the subject with me."
"The subject of the possibility that she may outlive you?"
"Well yeah, that and stuff like, you know, planning a funeral and stuff."
"Why don't you discuss this with someone else in your family if it's obviously upsetting to her?"
"Because my dad's a jackass and nobody has talked to him for almost a year," Jane said, mindful of her terseness, "because Tommy's in prison, and Frankie's in the same boat I am. The same job, I mean. What good would it do for us to give each other plans for how we'd like our services to go when there's a good chance one of us could die on the job? It has to be Ma, and she refuses to hear it."
"Jane, you can't be upset that your mother doesn't want to talk about your funeral with you."
Jane sighed loudly again (and Maura thought to herself that of all the times she'd heard this sound during their time spent together, she could well make a drinking game out of it). "No, I mean obviously I get why she's sensitive about it, but we need to talk about it and she refuses to do it. She's supposed to be the grown-up!"
"You're both grown-ups."
"Yeah, but she's older than me and she's acting like a—"
"Like a mother who doesn't want to actively think about the thought of losing her child."
With a slight groan, Jane rolled her body up into a sitting position. She looked at Maura and knew the woman wasn't being facetious and that she was just trying to help.
"Maybe you could talk to her about it," Jane said.
"Me?! Doesn't that seem incredibly inappropriate to you?"
"Actually, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. She seems to like you more than she likes me these days, and she definitely respects you a hell of a lot more. But I mean, death doesn't freak you out. You understand the whole circle-of-life thing, and I—I dunno, I think you could do a good job of trying to help her not be so scared of it. I'm not asking to help her plan my funeral or something," she hurriedly added. "Just, you know, prep her to be able to have the conversation with me. I mean look, if you can use that to explain feelings about death?" She nodded at the abstract painting hung by the couch. "You can help Ma feel a little more secure. Is it something you think you could maybe consider?"
"I will consider it, yes, Jane. I can't make any promises."
"Hey, that's okay. It's kind of an odd request, I guess."
"A bit. But I'm a little odd myself, so it works."
Jane had to smile at that, and Maura was glad to be able to return it. When Jane started kneading her hands, the doctor assumed it was her old nervous habit resurfacing; in reality, Jane was trying to keep them occupied, so they wouldn't reach out for Maura's when she asked, "How you doing? Or is that a stupid question?"
"Not a stupid question, although I'm not sure I can answer it in a satisfactory way," Maura said, getting up and grabbing her laptop off her desk. "I'm not sure you'd approve of my coping mechanism."
A little wary of what she was about to be shown, Jane almost averted her gaze when Maura tilted the screen towards her. But all it proved to be was a luxury retail site, which included—
"Six hundred dollars for shoes?!" Jane cried.
"That you walk in?!"
"On the ground?!"
"I knew you wouldn't understand," Maura chuckled, pulling them back. "Don't worry, I'm only looking …for now. I can't help it, buying things relaxes me. That's silly, I know, but I like that it's something I can control. They bring me pleasure, and I know that sounds selfish, but…" She sighed upon noticing the other tab she had up. "Oh. I suppose if you were having an argument with your mother upstairs about funeral arrangements, she didn't discuss massages with you?"
"Well, before you got home from work last ni—I mean, before you came over last night, I told her that Ian and I had broken up. I didn't get into any detail with her, I just told her so she'd know. And this morning after you left, we were having breakfast and she said she'd splurged and paid for a couple of masseuses to come over this weekend for you and me."
"Wh—what?" Jane groaned, pulling the computer over and looking at the tab.
Maura cringed a little at the expression on Jane's face. "She thought it would be relaxing for both of us."
"Good God, she can be so oblivious!" Jane groaned. "I mean, a couples massage? Really?"
"It's an easy mistake," Maura said.
"Uh, are you seeing the picture here?" Jane asked, gesturing to the screen. "These are massages for people who are a couple, not for a couple of people! I mean I'm sure it's not in the fine print, but it looks pretty damn obvious to me that these people are about to go have sex after this massage. And, I know we're friends, but you don't wanna sleep with me." Maura was quiet for a little too long, and when Jane glanced over to see Maura's head thoughtfully tilted, she got startled. "Do you?"
"Wh—no! No," Maura assured her. "Sorry, I was just looking at the—at the picture. Maybe your mother just got the number and didn't see the website."
"Yeah, well, I don't like the thought of stripping down and having a stranger rub their hands all over me," Jane grumbled. "If a couples massage sounds good to you, you should go for it, but… I dunno, get someone else?"
Oh, yes, good. Because I have so many other friends. "I'll ask around."
"I mean if nobody else takes it, I…I will, but…"
"You're uncomfortable. I can appreciate that, not to worry."
The next few days of work went by fairly fast, and Jane left the ball in Maura's court to talk about Ian again if she wanted to, but the subject never came up. Jane had also forgotten about the massages until she got to her apartment late on Friday night to see Maura sitting on the steps.
"What…you look guilty about something," she said as Maura stood up. "Oh no. You've booked the massage to be in my apartment. They're already there. The mood is being set."
"Nothing like that," Maura laughed, holding up a long, cardboard tube. "I have something here I got for you. One of my impulse buys, rush delivery."
Jane's expression softened, and she asked Maura if she'd like to come upstairs. Jo Friday leapt at them the moment they stepped inside, and Jane picked her up, carrying her around the kitchen as she got a beer and poured Maura some water.
"I'm sorry, you must find me very presumptuous," Maura said, taking the water as Jane sat down on the sofa. "But growing up with someone like my mother, my eyes have always been trained to pick up on negative space and interior decoration. Particularly, I was struck by the emptiness of your wall, there."
"Yeah," Jane said, turning around to look at it. "Never could, uh… decide on something to put there."
(She was going to say "agree," as in she and Casey had never been able to be reasonable about it. He wanted to put up an elaborate set of wedding photos his mother had put together for them, but Jane always thought that felt so pretentious. She didn't feel comfortable having such a showy display of herself in her own place, odd as that sounded. What bothered him most was that she didn't have a suggestion of something to put there herself. The empty space didn't bother her, but she could see how it might seem depressing to someone like Maura.)
"Well, I was perusing some online galleries and came across this," Maura said, opening the tube and pulling out a rolled-up poster. "I couldn't find a proper print, and I'm afraid this is relatively cheap, but I thought you might appreciate at least the idea of it."
She unfurled the poster as best she could, and Jane sat up in interest. Maura couldn't help feeling encouraged, even a little excited, when she heard Jane gasp softly in awe of something that her own mother would admittedly likely find a little tacky. The image on the poster was a painting of an unidentifiable baseball player taking a swing, a catcher behind him seemingly look up in shock at a powerful hit. The colors weren't quite inside the lines, they didn't all quite match the areas where they were—spots of pink and green on the uniform; a rush of blended colors by the hitter's arms and waist, indicating motion. A clean sweep. Jane had never seen anything like it before, and she was so stunned that she didn't even think to complain that the player was in what appeared to be a Yankee uniform.
"Obviously I thought of you because it's baseball," Maura said, "but I thought you would appreciate Leroy Neiman's style, too—it's realistic enough to be able to tell what the image is intended to be, but still applies certain rules of abstract impressionism. Do you like it?"
"Maura, it's…it's incredible," Jane said with a small laugh. "I don't know what to say, except…I don't know. You have this unique gift of always leaving me speechless."
A/N: Thank you for sticking with me and this story.