between your ribs
Thank you all, so much, for embarking on this journey with me. Your reviews have meant the world to me. I hope that this last instalment does not disappoint.
December 3rd, 2016
Jane's foot slips a little on ice as she rounds the corner, panting, shoulder bumping off of the building wall. The suspect shoves a trashcan over but she leaps over it easily, gripping him by the shoulders when he realises he's lead them down a dead end.
Korsak, red in the face and rounding the corner after she's cuffed their guy, takes over, leading him to the car. Jane laughs, bending for a moment and resting her hands on her knees to catch her breath. She's been getting lazy. Not been jogging as much as normal – but, oh, man. Dragging herself out of bed every morning is such an unappealing option now. Not when there's Maura, bright and soft and effervescent. Jane laughs, swiping her hand across her forehead. Okay. Maybe she's getting soft.
"Why don't you go home? I'll do the paperwork," Korsak says, closing the car door after their perp climbs in.
"It's not even twelve," she protests half-heartedly.
He shrugs. "I'll cover you. I know what day it is. You'd rather be at home."
Jane purses her lips before bumping her shoulder to his. "Thanks, Korsak."
The house is quiet when she gets home, save for Jo Friday's random grunts as she sleeps in her bed at the end of the couch. A freshly made cup of tea sits on the kitchen island, steam still rising from it and curling in the air. She lets her fingers hover above it, indulging herself in this warmth before pulling off her coat and blazer. This winter has been especially biting, frost nipping at every patch of her exposed skin.
"You're home early."
She twists to see Maura heading down the stairs, pulling her hair free of a bun. The honey locks fall down to her shoulder blades in loose curls, making her cheeks seem rounder somehow when she smiles. The sweater she wears is a deep red, fitting for the festive season, somehow drawing out the pleasant rosiness that flushes across those cheeks with her delight. Jane feels her own numbing as she smiles so wide at the sight of her girlfriend. Not a day goes by where she doesn't count her lucky stars that they are able to be here, like this.
"Case closed. Korsak volunteered to do my paperwork," she tells her.
Maura lifts on her toes to kiss her, hand squeezing hers for a moment before she heads past her to collect her mug. Hums when she takes a sip of the tea.
"I'm glad he did," she admits softly, watching Jane through her eyelashes.
The windows are frosty by the time the afternoon rolls around, Jo Friday sniffing at their toes. Jane huffs, pulling her legs up onto the couch and crosses them as Maura lifts her head from her shoulder, laughing. They'd been carefully avoiding the subject since Jane had arrived home. Instead they've watched movies, Maura resting against her, warm body alive and real – something she must remind herself time and time again. As Maura lifts away, standing, she wants to reach for her hand, circle her wrist. Wants to ask should we talk about it? Do we ignore it?
"I'm going to take her for a walk," Maura says.
"I'll go with you."
Maura shakes her head, pushing Jane lightly when she moves to stand. Jane bounces back onto the couch, watching, confused, as Maura moves away to find Jo Friday's lead, pulling her coat on as she does.
"Maur – "
"There you are," Maura mumbles upon finding the lead. At the sight of it, Jo Friday's ears perk up before she starts running in circles, making Maura laugh.
Jane stands, heading towards her. Still, her girlfriend behaves as though she hasn't said a word, bending down to attach Jo Friday's lead to her collar. She moves to grab her keys but Jane catches her wrist, pulling her closer, even as Maura keeps her eyes trained on her floor. Her breath catches when Maura's wrist slips free from her hand to twine her own with it, fingers locked, squeezing.
"I'm going to come back, Jane," she whispers, pushing up on her toes to kiss her softly. "The date doesn't matter. I'm going to come back. It's just a simple walk around the block."
"I know. I do, I just – "
Maura sighs, swaying into her, their hips brushing. She circles her arms tight around Jane's back, hands resting against her shoulder blades as her cheek pillows against her shoulder. Jane feels her eyes prick with tears and tucks her chin down, pressing her nose into Maura's hair, breathing in deeply for the familiar smell of her shampoo. Feels her throat close up when instead of the familiar cherry blossom smell, it is her own shampoo scent. Of course.
"I'll be back in ten minutes," Maura murmurs, pulling away a little to look up at her. "Please don't smother me, Jane."
The pleading note to Maura's voice has her shifting away, letting her go with one last squeeze of her hand. Stands still as her girlfriend – more than that, really; the woman she would walk through fire for – chatters to Jo Friday until she is gone, out the door, and she is stood alone.
It's melodramatic and she doesn't care.
Even leaving for work this morning had been Hell, the thought of leaving Maura all alone on this day making her heart spasm with fear. It's been exactly two years since the day Maura had been taken. Since the day she had sat with her and watched movies, just like they have done today, said goodbye and arranged plans for later in the week and then Maura was just – gone. Taken from her without any warning. Taken for two hundred and ninety two days.
Jane turns, sighing, and sets a ten minute timer on her phone.
When her phone buzzes on the counter soon after, she rushes over to it, heart pounding, thinking it's the timer and that Maura still hasn't returned. Already awful images flow through her mind, of shadowy figures emerging from alleys, grabbing Maura just as she looks the other way. But when her fingers close around the cell, it is not the timer lighting up the screen, but Agent Phillips' name.
She pauses for a moment, confused. What does the FBI want with her now?
"Detective Rizzoli. It's Agent Phillips, I worked Maura Isles's case with you – "
"I remember you, Agent," she says, shifting nervously, eyes flickering over to the door. It remains shut. "You need something for her case?"
"No, actually. I have a… proposition for you."
Jane shifts away from the counter, to the windowsill, smiling as she runs a finger over a photo of herself and Maura at a Red Sox game. Taken maybe a month ago, after she had first officially moved in – she had lived here for months away, but had still kept her old apartment, just in case. It was her Ma who had forced her to take that step, told her as long as she kept one foot out the door she and Maura would always be full of uncertainties. Then again, she had also been hinting for more grandchildren since the day she and Maura had told her they were together, so maybe that was why.
"A job offer. With me, on my team, working for the FBI."
Jane grips the windowsill as her mouth drops open. "You're offering me a job?"
"Yes, Detective," Phillips hums, amused. "One of my agents recently… we lost her. I thought perhaps you would make a good asset for the team – you seemed to work well with Agent Ito. Of course, you'll need to pass training, but I know you will with flying colours."
"I – uh, wow."
It's a fantastic offer. It's – kind of more than she had ever dreamed. But Maura –
Phillips laughs at her silence. "I'm not going to force you to make a decision on the spot, Detective. You have until next Friday to decide. Let me know if you're interested."
"Yeah, sure. I'll uh – call you."
"Don't be a stranger, Rizzoli."
Phillips ends the call, leaving Jane staring down at her phone.
What on Earth had just happened?
When Maura gets home, she's leaning against one of the counters, deep in thought. Actually misses her coming through the door, Jo Friday shaking and getting water everywhere. It isn't until Maura's hand curls around her hip and her body presses into her side that she jumps, finally returning to reality, to her home with Maura. Her girlfriend watches her with a smile, fingers reaching up to press against her cheek.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I – "
She hesitates, which only makes Maura frown.
"Nothing. Not really. But, uh, Phillips called – the Agent who ran your case once you were found," she says. To her credit, Maura doesn't flinch, simply continues to watch Jane, curious, but also analysing. Trying to find the source of the problem. "She offered me a job."
Maura gives her a strained smile, the hand resting on her hip squeezing tightly.
"That's great, Jane."
"I guess. I don't know. She says I have until next Friday to decide."
Her hand reaches out to wrap around Maura's shoulders, pull her closer, but she moves away. Jane watches her go with a frown as she begins pulling out food from the fridge, completely normal, face blank. Well. This isn't good news. She knows her girlfriend's tells.
Maura's hands shake as she digs through the cupboards for a baking tray. "I'm making roast chicken tonight, is that okay with you?"
Jane crosses the distance between them until Maura has no choice but to look at her. Her eyes meet hers hesitantly. Okay. Something is wrong. Isn't Maura the one who, just ten minutes ago, was telling her not to worry?
Maura sighs, setting the baking tray on the counter.
"Nothing, Jane. You should take the job."
"But that means moving, how would you – "
"I'd go anywhere with you," Maura murmurs, pressing a kiss to her shoulder. "As long as you wanted me to."
"Of course I'd want you to. I want you with me always," she confesses to the space above Maura's head.
She feels Maura's breath hitch, and then her girlfriend moves away, smiling just a little. But there's still something there, something bubbling beneath the surface, that seems to be niggling away at Maura, lurking in the corner of her eyes. It's the same look she'd had for the first few weeks of their relationship, when things were still new and tentative between them, before they had been willing to tell anybody. Just a subtle insecurity that still lurks as a result of the abduction, but enough to still create a small rift between the two of them sometimes, no matter how many times she whispers I love you into her skin.
"You know, sometimes, I get the feeling you're still waiting for something to go wrong."
She shrugs, attempting to turn away but Jane catches her hand. Her skin is so rough compared to Maura's, something she always notices whenever she holds her. And yet, Maura turns and looks at her like she cannot quite comprehend why she's still here.
"Nothing's gonna happen, Maura. You're safe. You know that."
"I do. But… "
Maura sighs, looking away for a moment to collect herself.
"Sometimes I wonder if you're just with me out of guilt. Because of the abduction. Because I need you in order to be happy."
Jane feels the air rush out of her lungs, tears pricking her eyes for the second time today. She releases Maura's hand, taking a step away for a moment, pulse loud in her ears. This isn't – how could Maura ever belittle what they have to something like that? Something so twisted and wrong? She loves her, more than anything – she would die for this woman. Not out of guilt. Just love.
"Is that – Jeez, Maur, do you really think so little of me?" She whispers hoarsely.
"Little? Jane, you're the – the most compassionate woman I've ever known. So, I'm giving you a choice," Maura takes a deep breath, hands flattening against her red sweater. "You can go after that job. Do what you love. You don't have to baby sit me anymore."
Jane laughs, dropping Maura's hand so that she can cup her cheeks. She leans in to kiss her, softly, slowly, tasting all of the insecurity Maura holds and sweeping it away. When she pulls away, Maura's hands tighten around her waist, afraid she'll leave.
Maura's eyes widen. "What?"
"Will you, Maura Isles, marry – "
"Yes!" She cries, covering Jane's mouth with hers, hands greedy against her now, pulling her t-shirt up and over her head to get to her skin. "Yes. Yes. A thousand times. Yes."
When she wakes the next morning, she stares up at the ceiling for a moment to collect her breath, convinced that last night had been a dream – the job offer, the proposal. Maura saying yes. It feels too good to be true, even as her hands travel across the marks Maura had left against her last night, the purpling hickeys on her hips and the inside of her thighs. She'd never seen or felt Maura quite as enthusiastic, as happy, as last night. Jane hums low in her throat, content. Finally.
What is it Ito had told her once? After rain comes fair weather.
Jane rolls onto her stomach, propping herself up on her arm. The day is beginning outside, the city already waking. Maura is light.
She runs her fingers through Maura's hair, curves them around her bare shoulder. Real skin beneath hers, together, even after all of the things that tried to keep them apart. At her touch, Maura snuffles in her sleep, lightly, and Jane laughs, pressing kisses she'll never hold back again against the woman's cheek. Oh, god. She loves this woman with a passion that frightens her.
Maura's eyelids flutter, brows furrowing, until her hands land on Jane's waist and pull her close. Jane smiles, resting her chin against Maura's hair as she lies back down to sleep, cradling Maura against her.
Yes. This. Simplicity of love with Maura.
It's all fair weather.
The fog is so thick that I could lose you in it, you say -
and I put my hand on your hand until our fingers mix up.
There is a shipwreck between your ribs and it took eighteen years
for me to understand your kind of drowning.
- What It Took To Understand, Shinji Moon