Author's Note: And then this wrote itself. It's in the same style as Once, but different timeline and different perspective so couldn't group them together. But... yah. Didn't have a choice. Heart spoke - and that's the winner over any muse. Hope you enjoy.
Disclaimer: Don't own them, not at all. Love them to pieces, wish I could take them home and carry them around in my bag all day but no, can't. Sadly. I do however get to write about them :) Thank you to TNT and Tess Gerritsen who do own them. I'm happy to babysit, by the way, if you want.
Rating: K+? I'm terrible with ratings... but there's nothing too naughty here
You know the definition of family. You could recite it, off by heart – the Collins, the Macquarie, the Webster, they all have subtle versions of the same but you could recite them all with their tiny intricacies like they were tattooed to the inside of your eyelids.
The feeling of belonging, the unspoken truth that there is someone tied to you, by blood, who is a part of you and you a part of them.
A part of something.
You pick uneasily at the lint on your skirt, as you contemplate the glass of wine in your hand. Ahead on the small table in front of you sits its twin, next to a bottle with ornate lettering and an intricate floral pattern winding around the label. You bought that bottle almost six months ago, having coveted its elegance in the locked cabinet for weeks, much to the surprise of the shopkeeper who expected it to be one of those unmoving items on his shelf.
The entire reason the cabinet needed to remain locked in the first place.
It is one of a very select few of its kind.
You thought it was time to open it. You thought it would be symbolic.
She had been away for six weeks on an assignment interstate, one that entire jurisdictions were prepared to bargain over – resources, personnel, funding - just to get her there. You pushed it, of course – how could you not? You were her best friend, it was a tremendous opportunity. She deserved it. And, as you put it quite plainly to her in your office while she was still torn over the decision, she was brilliant, and she would be brilliant there… and they would notice, unlike those at the BPD who –while unquestionably appreciative of her skills –had in many ways come to take them for granted.
Even though you were never one of them.
You can smell the bouquet of the wine lilting away from the perfect curvature of the glass, captivating your senses like an indecent affair. It is mesmerising, both in its complexity as well as the dizzying reality of what you paid for it. Like each breath was worth hundreds of dollars.
Not that price matters. It never did, and never has.
All you wanted was to have a reason to fill that other glass.
You knew she was due back yesterday, and only because of the subject heading of an email you found in your inbox
And you had responded with
'Best news of the day – drink tomorrow night?'
And her response
'Need to see Ma first, she's booked me up! She's staying out near CT with Carla. Tommy and TJ visiting too."
"But might see you Friday?'
All conversed in the subject headers and first line of outlook.
It didn't start out that way of course, you had regular phone contact, skyped every second day, she joked about Iowa and you joked – in that way that only she understood and it warmed your heart every time she laughed – about the state of the BPD without her.
But you left things out . You left out the part where you realised how much you missed the smile she gave you every morning when she saw you for the first time, no matter where that was – the morgue, her desk, the street outside her house, your kitchen… You left out the part where you missed her banter and the habits that you pretended drove you crazy, but secretly didn't.
But most of all, you left out the part where you missed feeling like yourself because without her, at work you were only Dr Isles and at home, you felt only a dulled version of Maura.
And you regret not saying it, now.
Because as the weeks went on she spoke more and more about how busy she was, how crazy things were. You worried, and she told you not to, that she was doing good – she was doing BPD proud – that she just needed to make it through the next couple of weeks, and then she would be home.
But you urged her on, even as you heard from her less, and you contacted her less for fear she might feel pressured to respond.
You still arranged for a six pack of beer and a DVD to be in the apartment she was staying in every Friday night - because that was your way to let her know that no matter what, you were friends and you were thinking about her. The first time she skyped you, eyes and smile wide, glinting with happiness, to show you. You laughed together at your choice – 7 years in Tibet – but she promised to watch it anyway. The second time she called, the third time she texted, and the last three weeks, you heard nothing at all. Not that it stopped you. You knew she was busy, but that didn't change your gifting routine.
Nor did it change how you felt when on the same night, hundreds of miles away you opened a bottle of wine and chose the movie for yourself that over the weeks, became less and less the type you would watch and more and more the type she would.
And as your eyes wander down the list of movies, for the seventh time without her, they come to rest on the one you always swore you'd never watch, no matter how much she pleaded at you to watch it.
Field of Dreams.
You press play.
And as the screen fades and introduction begins you look at the beautiful burgundy in your hand, and abandon it untouched to your table, along with your hopes of seeing her.
Because tonight, she is with her family, and as much as they all include you, welcome you, and yes, love you - you, you are still… only a penultimate. In the end, when it counts, you are not a Rizzoli. You are at best an Isles, at worst a Doyle. And no matter what, you are on the outside.
You pick up the empty glass, that sits, taunting you next to its poured counterpart and perfect bottle, and you stand, walking softly to your wine refrigerator.
You think, if your evening is to be with Kevin Costner, a far less fancy Chardonnay seems more appropriate.
And you imagine her, laughing at your comment, rolling her eyes and pushing at your shoulder.
For some reason, that thought above them all makes your throat tighten and your eyes sting. The sting becomes a burn and the burn is followed by a steady stream of hot tears down your cheeks. You catch your breath in your throat and it only makes the discomfort worse.
Steadying your hand against the kitchen island fixes nothing. All it does is give your abdomen a reason to tighten, another reason for un-named grief to rip through you and into the solitary air of your kitchen.
Gripping the side of the counter you force yourself to quell your thoughts. You remind yourself you are a 38 year old woman, experienced in the ways of human interaction if at least not only recently so. You can work this out. So you turn to the bottle in your fridge like it is the only source of your answers, and you pull it out.
The knock at the door is as soft as rain on a rooftop, and at first you don't hear it – because if you were honest with yourself, for the last six weeks you've stopped listening for it.
But the second time, you know it is there, and like a foreign object you stare at the door, blankly.
The third time your instinct for politeness has kicked in and you've swiped at your eyes to attempt to make yourself look more respectable even though you don't, and you make your way to the door wondering if perhaps Angela has had a fight with Carla and come home early, or maybe Frankie has dropped by…
But you open the door to the one single person, you never expected. And you gasp.
"Hey Maur-" She starts with a grin, then steps more into the light and it is her - tired and drawn and thinner than you remember but still breathtaking... and it surprises you that against every fibre of your being your next thought is that you wish it wasn't her - because anyone else in the world you can hide from, anyone else you can fool.
But not Jane.
And you don't.
"Maur…? You okay?" Her smile dissolves and face turns stricken at your appearance, and immediately she steps towards you, her body inches from yours, her hands on your shoulders.
You feel like a robot, until the moment she touches you.
She's looking into your eyes with concern, and they are the same, intense, incredible eyes you remember before you missed them like you missed existing. "What's happened?" She asks fervently, "What's wrong?"
You stifle a sob but fail.
"You weren't here." Blurts out of your soul instead. It is a fact. It is all you can say
"Hey-" And suddenly she's pulling you towards her, cradling your head against her chest, her arms wrapping tightly around you, and all you can smell is the scent of lavender and spice and what you had decided was the in-between of summer and autumn, because you loved it so much.
"Maur, I'm so sorry I didn't tell you. Hey- " She is still wrapped around you and you worry you can't breathe, you can't exist this close to a ghost of a memory without breaking.
But her voice is relentless.
"I'm so sorry I'm late… But I had to see Ma, it was important."
And that awful definition of family, the one you were never really part of invades your consciousness and gives you the strength to nod against her chest and pull yourself away, sniffing control of your tears.
"I understand Jane, I do. Family-"
And her hands – strong and warm and rough and beautifully scarred are against your cheeks, the word ricocheting in your ears as you try to understand its origin. She holds you still, and you wonder if she is actually holding you upright with those hands.
"Maura, I needed to talk to Ma, because I needed-" Her voice wavers, and like clockwork the hint of hurt in her banishes all of your own and suddenly you are completely alert, aware, and in control. You place your own hand against hers on your cheek. Her eyes slide closed. "-I needed… her to know… before I asked-"
Her eyes open again, and suddenly you are staring at an expanse so dark and beautiful and wide you could get lost in it a thousand times over. And there, in those black pools you readily locate your missing 6 weeks of feeling, of enjoying, of belonging.
It catches up to you with such force you struggle to breathe.
"Jane-" You whisper, without even realising the word has been spoken until the desperate intonation reaches your own ears.
She shakes her head, her hands still firmly around your face but her thumb shifts ever-slightly and feather light across your lips.
"I've missed you Maura, so much." The gravel in her voice settles in your stomach and you can feel it churning, burning. You don't dare to hope but you choose to feel and you are so grateful in that moment to have two hands, that you can still hold hers steady against your cheek while at the same time allow your other hand to slip behind her head, sliding over the softest of hairs on the back of her neck, your fingertips weaving into her hair. "You have no idea..."
You are so busy reacquainting your hands with her presence you only barely notice the way she bites her lip at your final touch.
"I do, Jane." You say "I've missed you too, more than anything." and it's the truth.
She closes her eyes again and turns her head, her lips coming into gentle contact with the inside of your forearm. Reflexively your fingers bite into her neck, but she doesn't flinch, simply turns back again and smiles, eyes open, wide, knowing.
She takes a half–step forward. Her eyes flick down to your lips, then back up again, and you know what she is asking even as your heart is pounding in elated disbelief.
'Maur-" She whispers, so softly that you feel your knees tremble and your whole body ache. "Can I-"
Without another word, you answer her. You answer her with everything – with trembling lips and salty tears and years of love and friendship and complexity and an uncompromising compatibility that is only reinforced when you feel her tongue against yours for the first time, and you wonder where your space starts and hers ends, and don't care either way.
Her hands clench against your jaw and you think it is the most exquisite feeling you have ever felt, until one hand shifts forward and gently wipes the tears you didn't know were spilling down your cheeks as if all your pain and emptiness could be wiped away with the very same motion and filled by the warmth of the body and the lips and the hands and the woman in front of you.
But you always knew that was the remedy, didn't you?
You break apart in enough time for a hasty breath and your fingers against her neck pull her down so your foreheads can rest together, and you close your eyes against the perfection of it all and hope it isn't a dream.
The whisper is pure and true and it's there and your heart shakes off its shadows and springs back to life, you pull away with a smile – the first genuine smile you remember in long weeks.
"Hi." Is all you can think to say.
And you watch those beautiful eyebrows twitch upward like they have been sketched with fine charcoal and she smiles, and you finally allow her hand to leave your cheek but only far enough to trail across your forehead and down your nose, to your lips, to your chin.
"Are you sure-"
"Yes" Your answer is immediate, assertive, definite. Her smile widens to now expose the most incredible dimples and she leans forward to kiss you again, a reminder and a promise.
"You are family, Maura." She says, "You're my family. And Ma knows."
And if those words aren't enough to melt you then the way she grips your waist and urges you inside with her hands, her lips, threatens to bring you completely undone. You have barely a moment to push the front door closed with a free hand before she retreats from your lips and pulls away, staring at you with such wonder you are stifled as to a reason why.
Then her eyes travel beyond your shoulder and her brow furrows at the bottle on the table, sitting next to the poured glass to the right of it, and she looks back at you, and raises an eyebrow
"Where's my glass?" She says, looking at you indignantly.
And you smile.