Title: Run
Category: TV Shows » Rizzoli & Isles
Author: ArcadiaArden
Language: English, Rating: Rated: M
Genre: Angst/Romance
Chapters: 40, Words: 72,255

Summary: Post Season 2 Finale: It is when you run the hardest that you realize you can never escape the changes within. Especially if Angela Rizzoli is the person forcing you to look in the mirror. Will be M to M+ across several situations & pairings, ultimately Rizzles.

Rizzoli & Isles – I certainly don't own them. I give a lot of credit to the people that do and thank them for letting me mess about with them for a bit. I own the story line and a few characters that my muddled head came up with, but trust me - TNT et all is okay with that.

If you enjoyed, please let me know at arcadia_arden@yahoo.com



by ArcadiaArden

She'd forgotten so much.

Part of Maura remembered the collision of sound and smell but maybe time had dulled the overall effect. Standing at the side of the dirt airstrip every sense felt assaulted and overwhelmed.

She could trace designs in the powder-fine dust on her arms that had mingled with the constant light perspiration. The layers collected and dried causing a hazy camouflage pattern. Rubbing lightly did nothing but turn the splotches into streaks.

It was like this before, she had distinct memories of the hedonistic pleasure of a camp shower and watching the dirty rivulets run down her legs before disappearing under the wood pallet. But she couldn't remember the sensation irritating her before. In abstract she knew the dust hadn't changed. She knew the noises and smells had always been part of the landscape. Yet everything seemed different, altered from what she remembered. She didn't know what she had been expecting. That this land and these people had frozen in time? More than a decade had passed. Of yes there were changes, lots of changes.

The shanty outskirts of the main city yesterday seemed larger, bordering on infinite and the contrast to the modernized business center downtown garish. Two new upscale resorts and countless buildings coupled with paved streets would lead her to believe that at least here was proof that overall life was more stable, more conventional, than a war- torn existence. But she couldn't be sure. There were secrets to this region of Africa that the media was not privy to, by design or by choice, and what felt like a lifetime away had retuned Maura to an outsider.

Thankfully there were certain things that stayed the same. Knowing the right people could open the right doors. Requests that took some years to attain could be bought on a whim if you knew the price. Frankly, Maura felt it was no different stateside but at least here there was nearly a sense of honesty to the transaction. Illegal or legal, the distinction was vague. It just was the way it was.

So a few well placed handshakes later Maura waited for the sound of a single engine Cessna with her bags and the boxes of supplies for company, perspiring under a late afternoon sun and rubbing her left forearm aimlessly.

Chapter 2: Chapter 2

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

It was her fourth time navigating the congested street and Angela Rizzoli was just about ready to let the All-Mighty hear His name in vain when a flash of brake lights in the perfect spot saved her from her second sin of the day. Parking in Jane's neighborhood was always a pain in the ass.

17 hours of labor should have made knocking unnecessary but Angela knocked, listened to Jo Friday bark defensively before whimpering excitedly, waited and then gave a deep sigh before unlocking the door. At once she felt relief that the key turned smoothly and then irritated for feeling relieved. Natural childbirth, grey hair and raising the woman meant that Jane's door had better open for her. But recently there was always a moment of fear.

Heaven help her offspring if the day ever came that Angela was locked out. Lord knows it wouldn't last because with God as her witness Angela knew one thing. She was the mother. More importantly she was a good mother. Damn good.

If her children needed a meal or a hug or the shirt off her back they had it. In return she asked them for one promise, to love each other and remember that family came first. And Jane had taken that to heart. Right down to taking a bullet for Frankie, her own hand helping pull the trigger. It made Angela proud and terrified her all at once.

Lately she found herself covertly watching her daughter as if she could somehow recognize her child in the woman she had grown up to be. And she could. Jane was still the protective, loving, tidal-wave of personality that had put holes in her living room wall and protected her brothers from those Amatucci boys down the street.

What Angela couldn't say for sure is that she knew Jane. Not anymore, not for certain, and that devastated her. A mother was supposed to know her child. And heaven help them both she was going to get to know her daughter again. She loved Jane. From the moment the doctors had handed her that scrap of an infant with the shock of dark hair she loved her daughter with the type of tenacity that would make her rip out her own heart with a spoon if Jane needed a transplant.

And right now Jane did need a heart transplant of sorts. Angela fully understood this, despite the anger, the irritation and may the neighbors forgive them, the arguing. Jane needed her mother's heart.

Almost as much as Angela needed to know her daughter.

She dropped her purse and the bag of groceries on the counter and surveyed the space. Dirty dishes and some whirlwind disaster but at least today the counter was free of empty bottles and discarded take out containers. Quick walk down the hall to the open bedroom door showed an unmade but empty bed. Returning to the front door she could see various pairs of boots and dress shoes but no sneakers.

Angela let go of the last bit of tension and felt a smile coming on as she leaned on the kitchen counter. Jane was out, later than usual, but Jane was out with her running shoes and this was good.

At first it had shocked Angela. She had showed up that first Sunday when her calls had gone unanswered, determined to make Jane leave her apartment and get some air even if she had to call Frankie and have him help drag her out.

Only she walked in, and while the apartment was a complete disaster with enough bottles to send Angela's heart racing, she realized the space was also empty. Panicking she'd dialed Jane and cast her eyes upward promising to get better about attending Mass if Jane would just pick up.

"Rizzoli" her voice had been gruff and sounded tired.

"Janie! Where are you? Are you trying to kill me? I thought you were dead. Can't take five minutes out of your morning to call your mother back?"

"Really Ma? It's Sunday, it's probably barely past 10 am. I'm jogging. You know, like I always do? Over the Mass Ave Bridge with the traffic and the crowds? I mean come on, MIT was having a rally or something, it was freaking noisy and I didn't hear the phone. "Angela could imagine the eye roll directed at her.

Confused Angela opened her mouth and was about to reply before her mind caught up with her mouth. Swallowing her original retort and biting back a small smile she did her best to sound annoyed "Well I'm at your place and I'm making breakfast so jog your fanny back here and come see your mother. "

It was true. Jane usually did jog on Sundays. Sunday morning she'd fetch Maura or vice versa and they'd go for a run and out for brunch. It was a standing event that started when they'd trained for the marathon and just continued. Maura always made a point to say how much she looked forward to it and Jane always made sure to complain with dramatic flair. Everyone else enjoyed needling the hell out of her just to see her bring out her sarcastic best. At this point it was almost a Sunday dinner tradition. Jane would eventually growl something that would make even Tommy back off and Maura would sit demurely beside her and bite the corner of her lip to keep from laughing. So jogging was hardly Jane's first choice for exercise but running on Sunday made Maura happy. Maura looked forward to it, end of story.

That Maura was gone and Jane was still running on Sunday was telling. What Angela couldn't figure out yet was what exactly the gesture meant. She wasn't sure her daughter even knew. Grieving a loss or keeping a tattered connection alive? Either way Angela had decided not to ask. Maura was unmentionable.

Day to day she never knew what she'd find. Often there was anger. Always sorrow. Time and again Angela ended up hurt and exasperated trying to deal with her. But at the right moment, with a mother's intuition, Angela would find a lost and lonely Jane who was very much her child just in need of a hug and to let someone else hold the pieces of her together.

So, whatever the reason, whether she knew it or not Jane Rizzoli needed her mother's heart until she got her own back together. One way or another. Reaching down Angela gave a whining Jo a tummy rub hello "So for now Jo, you and Janie are just stuck with me"

Chapter 3: Chapter 3

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

"Dr Isles?" The voice was strong and carried a hint of natural humor. "Dr. Giles Brigby, pilot, escort and one of Ian's best mates. Sorry to be late got a bit hung up fueling Berta here. The avgas shortages are making the vaccine runs a nightmare."

The firm handshake matched the voice and Maura had to clear her voice a bit before assuring him there was no delay and insisted that he call her Maura. Even to her own ears her voice sounded dry and unused. She wanted to return his good natured grin but her attempt felt forced. She just wanted to get on the plane and get to the clinic.

Together they made short work getting the supplies on board and distributing the weight. Maura did her best to engage in general pleasantries, letting Giles ramble on with updates to the area and the political tensions, grateful he seemed happy to accept her small smiles and nods as interaction.

"Right then." He hit the cargo door with a good natured thud. "Let's get her up and I dare say we'll have you at the Kaabong District clinic in a few hours."

As rough as the ride tended to be in the small plane Maura was not going to complain. The general noise and awkward headphones were her excuse to lean back and just close her eyes. Perhaps it was the constant vibrating thrum of the engine or being fully encapsulated in white noise but the second she allowed her eyes to close her mind spun, rapid flashes of memory, forcing her think, review and analyze.

Always there was her mother, the feeling of losing her balance as she was pushed sideways, the disturbance of air as a car flew by and that sickening, dull thud. Waiting out the long hours at the her mother's bedside with just the sound of the monitors for company and the swirling questions in her head, staring at her hands and wondering whose shape they took after before feeling disloyal and fixating back on the blips and cationic sounds of the ventilator.

Memories flowing rapidly of the damp air of the warehouse and the over powering smell of melted plastic and burned wood. There was the flash of fear seeping down her spine when she realized that the department wasn't going to be in time to prevent a bullet from tearing into her. And then there was Doyle, the crack of gun fire, followed by commanding voices yelling final warnings, Dean and Jane, one after the other, their voices hitting her mind seconds apart and intermingling in her memory, guns drawn and guns firing.

Lastly, that ominous creak above her head coupled with splintering wood and the finality of flesh on concrete. The screaming of her own voice, the terror on Jane's face and the strange moment of silence before everything burst into rapid staccato jostling her into action.

Wheels bouncing woke Maura and she shook her head a few times trying to orient herself. Kaabong , Uganda in Africa or at least someplace considered part of it, not Boston . She became aware of tears and rubbed her face stealing a glance to see if Giles had noticed. He seemed engrossed in steering the Cessna and it wasn't until they came to a stop that he caught her eyes briefly and chuckled "Good afternoon and thank you for flying Air Brigby. The temperature outside is a scorching 43 degrees or approximately 110 Fahrenheit for those of you who insist on not seeing the perfection of the metric system. "

She raised an eyebrow and took the ribbing with a shrug and a quirk of her lips. "Some of us Dr. Brigby are perfectly happy with both."

Giles was flipping switches while Maura unbuckled trying to see out window. Satisfied he worked on opening the door and could feel the agitation rolling off her as she pressed behind him. "Don't worry about it Dr. Isles, unless our boy Ian has cabbaged out with the locals that dust cloud at 12 o'clock will be your ride."

Ian cursed a bit as the jeep slid briefly where the hard pack dirt was disturbed. Straightening the wheel he could make out her form, half on tiptoes, shielding her eyes from the sun. Seeing her outlined in the haze he thanked whatever deity listening that he'd convinced Sampada to wait at camp. Sam had hesitated, dark eye narrowing but the honest excuse of the supply run plus Maura's luggage had convinced her.

He needed a moment alone to explain. Maura, he knew, would be fine but Sam was certainly a differently type of girl. He sighed momentarily before pushing the guilt aside. Sometimes life just is what it is and Sam was on annual leave back to India for the next two months and Maura was here to cover. He was just going to go with the flow.

The jeep slowed and rolled to a stop and Maura watched Ian swing casually out in a single bound and with a big smile open his arms.

She ran to him. She always did. Ian prepped himself for her enthusiastic launch into his arms and stood ready to feel her passion surrounding him, absorbing him, making him feel like a combination of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca and Superman.

But instead of the expected leap into his arms with her lips stealing his breath, Ian found himself being pulled down by thin arms wrapping desperately around his neck, her head ducking out of reach and burrowing into his chest. Surprised he hesitated just a second before wrapping her tightly to him, feeling a tremor run over her shoulders.

Chapter 4: Chapter 4

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

"Your ass is mine punk!" Jane was the embodiment of glee. Frankie may have been bigger but he just wasn't light on his feet and it was easy to duck, spin a quick half circle and bounce the ball to Frost who caught it with a shit eating grin and lobbed it into the basket for the winning point.

Slapping Jane's hand as she jogged up he waggled his fingers at Frankie and a groaning Tommy. "And that children, is how a real partnership works. Strategy…"

His sentence was cut off by Jane, dribbling a circle around her brothers, lacing bravado through every word. "Strategy whatever, you just can't handle my bad self and Frost has more game than either of you will ever have." She blew kisses at them both before paddling their behinds.

Tommy spun and made a quick grab for the ball, missed and took off after a sprinting Jane. "Janie, now come on, I don't know what the rules are for your girly ball in the WBNA but that has to count as traveling" He had stopped and his slight gasping breath trailed white in the cool evening air.

"Girly ball, seriously? Who again just lost that last game? Who couldn't even steal this ball away from this girl five seconds ago? If that is girly ball then count this bitch in." Jane stopped half way down the court and spun the ball on her finger smirking.

Tommy took three slow steps forward before pausing to analyze his quarry.

"Yo Frost, 20 bucks on my sister" Frankie watched Jane raise her eyebrow as she locked eyes with Tommy and waited for his next move.

"Oh hell no, I bet against Rizzoli and she finds out? You don't want to know what my week at work will look like." Frost watched Tommy slowly stalk forward while Jane would take one giant step back to his every two forward. Flashing back to a recent arrest where she did the exact same maneuver Frost shook his head and tried not to laugh. "Besides, Tommy is about to get taken to school."

"Huh, how is that going to happen?" From what Frankie could tell Jane was about to be cornered into the chain link surrounding the court.

At that moment Tommy surged forward like a coiled spring full throttle. Jane waited about one breath before dropping down, tucking the ball into her stomach and rolling to the left letting Tommy slam into the fence before springing up behind him and swatting his bottom, again.

"Shit, oww that fucking hurt!" Tommy stumbled backward and cupped his nose.

"And that, Frankie, is what I call class dismissed." Frost gave him a half smirk as Jane jogged back up the court mildly curious as to why Frankie was doubled over laughing.

"Alright are you pansies done with the comedy hour? We probably have time for one more game before Ma starts buzzing all of us to get back for manicotti" Walking by she grabbed Frost's shirt sleeve and pulled him along.

Tommy growled and grumbled his way back and finally rejoined them twitching his nose. "Christ, okay no more girly comments Janie but I'm telling you I right now I miss girly match up games. Where the hell is Maura when you need her? At least with her around you don't try to rearrange my face and we actually play basketball. Fucking streetball. Fucking cat fight. Cant' you two just kiss and make up already?"

Frost was well versed on the many stages of Jane Rizzoli and her ire. Watching the set of her shoulders and the full flush on her face, he was rather sure she skipped right to the place that let her tackle 300 pound meth addicts while sporting a set of cracked ribs. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed Frankie roll up on the balls of his feet, seemly in the middle of an internal war to step in between his siblings or preserve himself. He was having the same internal battle himself.

Suddenly though, Jane seemed to lose color and her shoulders slid forward. She swallowed reflexively a few times and her voice was subdued. "Fuck this shit. I'm going to help Ma." Then she was turning on her heel and tossing the ball down the court as she stormed away.

Chapter 5: Chapter 5

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

"So here we are back at the main quarters. The clinic must be a lot larger than you remember." Dr Sampada Khanapurkar lead the way back through the white washed concrete barracks and unlocked a door, gesturing Maura inside. "We'll share tonight and then after I leave tomorrow you'll have this space when you take over for me."

The last part of the sentence came out sharply and Maura studied Sam for a moment. Maura was relatively sure that there was more nuance than the face value of the words. Lately she had gotten so much better at catching influences beyond the direct spoken context but now there wasn't anybody else she could look at to gauge if she interpreting correctly.

Maura allowed her eyes to make contact with two dark and direct pools. They were strong and unwavering and for a moment a startling reminder of another, more familiar set. The sensation made Maura stare off to the right for a moment to regain her composure. She used the moment to pick her words carefully before replying "I'm hardly going to be able to take over for you but I'll do my best to put everything back just as you left it."

Sam sighed and nodded. To Maura her body language seemed resigned as she sat on the bed and stretched her dark limbs forward before leaning back a bit on her elbows and crossing her ankles, staring at the ceiling. Maura wanted to reach out and reassure her but anything she might say was likely a lie and they both knew it.

Honestly Maura had no idea why she was here or for how long she'd end up staying. The decision and the actions were more reflex than reflective and right now she didn't even understand herself. So she did her best to arrange her luggage under the temporary cot in the corner trying to break the silence by asking Sam questions about her childhood in the United States, her medical school years and if her parents had enjoyed returning to India to retire.

Just as Maura was tucking the last corner of the sheet under the mattress, Sam sat up, drawing one leg up, bent at the knee, and rested her chin on it. The movement caught Maura's attention and Sam's voice seemed to come out as a command "Why did you leave before?"

Maura sat on the cot making their eyes level across the space. "It was just time. We were evacuated because of the floods and reposted temporarily. DWB Headquarters reposted me to South Africa and I ended up on the epidemiology team specializing in outbreak investigations. There was a HIV cluster that became a statistical anomaly even for the region and back then the antivirals weren't commercially available. It was a death sentence and a fast, ugly one."

Maura wrapped her arms around herself, remembering the ward that was simply a hospice. So many people with no place to go and no family member willing to visit. "There were so many deaths. We were desperate and willing to try anything."

"I isolated a unique viral marker and by pure luck, traced the virus to local Polish expatriot working here for a contract research organization." She could feel that rush, that moment where the blot reading finally gave them a fact to explore.

"In the end we found out he was spreading the disease deliberately. He was so angry he'd been infected. I just remember him sitting there, full access to the current best in western medication, reveling in the suffering of everyone else he'd touched." Sam was nodding, Maura felt relieved; Sam seemed softer somehow. "I had stopped him or rather let his victims use me to stop him. I just knew it was what I needed to do. Stop people like him. It's who I am, what I am meant to do."

Sam stood up and rummaged around in a bedside table until she pulled out a bathroom kit. Pulling a towel off a hook on the wall she paused at the door. "I'm glad you found your place. I love it here, I can't imagine being anyplace else. If I'm not back tonight don't worry about me." The door clicked closed behind her and Maura was left to the sounds of a foreign night.

Chapter 6: Chapter 6

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

Vince Korsak didn't care what his doctor said. He had taken all a man could take and he wasn't taking any more. Gone were the cigarettes, his hard drinking 6 out of 7 nights and he actually knew how to turn a treadmill on. All that doctor nagging he believed and hell if he'd done any of it earlier he was rather sure at least one of his ex-wives would have been cooking for him this morning rather than cashing an alimony check.

So it was with absolute conviction he had decided no man was meant to eat cardboard with milk or congealed white snot. There were limits.

Thankfully, Angela Rizzoli could take an egg white and create something that St. Peter himself would open the pearly gates to get a taste of.

"Angela your cooking is heaven sent." Vince was certain that he owed his last positive check up to Angela Rizzoli's presence in the Café. His own experiments had resulted in happy dogs with full stomachs and a resigned trip to Mikes City Diner. Amazing hash aside, Mike's wasn't earning him a pass during his physical.

" Well Dr. Isles made me promise before she left that I'd make sure you stopped living off the pastry case and I'm not going to deal with her when she comes back." Angela finished wiping the table behind Vince and noticing the lull in business slide into the seat across from him.

"You really think the Doc will be back?" Vince brushed lightly at the toast crumbs on his shirt front hoping he didn't come off as an absolute mess.

"Honestly, I don't know. It seemed like she left so fast and I'm not even sure she truly knew why she was going. I wish you could have seen her when she told me she was leaving the next day, all alone in that big house, sitting at her kitchen island just staring at a glass wine. I have no idea how long she'd been there."

Angela could practically smell the pizzelle that she had been baking that afternoon. Her apron, covered in powdered sugar, was still on when she'd gone through the back door to drop off a dozen in the kitchen.

Maura had startled her. The lights were off in the house save the few under the cabinets and silence had greeted her when she had yelled out a hello before walking in.

Lost and alone had been Angela's first impression that night.

Maura's normal perfect poise slumped forward, weight resting on elbows, staring into the dark living room. Angela couldn't remember the last time they'd talked. Everything had been one big blur of activity for so long. Between the hospital visits, Maura's mother recovering, her father arriving and the chaos of moving the recovery back to their Connecticut estate, she'd barely spoken to her.

The entire situation at work was madness between Internal Affairs reviews, FBI involvement and temporary suspensions before temporary reassignments. Angela knew her daughter and Maura were barely talking and the disarray at the office just made it easier for them to avoid one another.

"You know Vince she was so careful to leave requests for each of us." Angela held a finger up at herself. "I am supposed to watch the house and take care of Bass so of course I still have to live there. She asked if I'd tell Frankie he was going to be an excellent detective every few days and to leave him alone about his weight for now. "

Angela pointed the finger at him "I was supposed to keep you out of the pastry and give Frost someone to talk to after he came up from the morgue. Apparently he always buys coffee after to get rid of any lingering autopsy odor."

Vince considered what Angela said and continued to chew in thought for a moment. "Sounds like the Doc. I don't think she always realizes though that it's not enough just to arrange for things to get taken care of. Sure you can live in her guest house, but now you're always alone. Frankie may hear from you that he is going to be a wonderful detective but you already tell him that and you're his mother. Not the same."

Draining the last of his coffee he continued "I am not going to complain about the cooking but the Doc is the only one that can read my last blood panel. Frost, well he only knows about the coffee trick because the Doc started it."

Vince burped softly into his fist and pushed back a bit from the table. "It's not always the actions, it's whose doing the actions that counts. So the Doc doesn't realize that she left all of us in some little way. A lot of us miss her."

Angela stood when he did. He was right. She hadn't been able to put into words what exactly seemed hurtful about the entire situation. But Maura wasn't going to understand any of this and didn't have an Angela showing up weekly to make her brunch and poke into her life, reminding her that there was a whole world that loved her.

Or did she? An idea popped into her mind "That's a good point. Don't worry Sergeant, I'm going to make sure Dr. Isles remembers she has a home to come back to and people who need her."

He was almost to the Café door before something occurred to him. "Did Doc Isles leave any thoughts for Janie?"

Angela twisted the rag in her hands. That night she'd agreed to all of Maura's requests but one. Maura had run through the list before looking away, Angela could see her swallowing slowly and trying to keep her composure. Jane's name had out softly, the cadence cracked. The atmosphere seemed heavier somehow and Angela went with a mother's intuition before doors that should be left open were closed.

"Oh Vince she started to but I wouldn't let her. I just told her that I'd mother Janie to death and whatever else Jane needed Maura could fix when she got back."

Vince nodded a bit and left.

Angela finished cleaning up his table remembering how she had placed the cookies on the kitchen island next to Maura and pulled her close into a one arm hug for a long moment before placing a kiss on her crown.

"It's late and it sounds like tomorrow is going to be a big day for you. I'm going to head off to bed."

Angela had turned around at the back door and knew Maura was crying, forehead resting on her hand. She'd left Jane earlier in the same way pounding on that ridiculous boxing dummy and refusing to eat the gnocchi she'd brought.

Both of them simply devastated.

Chapter 7: Chapter 7

Please see Ch 1 disclaimers…

The same morning Sam left Ian ended up on an emergency trip a few hundred km west to set up an outpost clinic and vaccination station to deal with a sudden influx of refugees. That was over a week ago and there had been barely a moment alone to scoop Maura to him and kiss her goodbye before the caravan of vehicles moved out.

He flipped through his notes and realized they'd given out around a thousand shots and the wards were filled with people in need of the prepped rations. Satellite uplinks were sporadic away from the main base but reports indicated about a thousand more displaced people would cross into The District.

They'd run out of room in the tents and he wandered to the less needy patients resting under makeshift tents of branches and cloth, eyeballing closely the weights of tired children.

He wondered how Maura and the rest of the epidemiology unit were fairing with the staff shortage. Protocol dictated they would handle the usual traffic unless the death rate in the camp went above statistical norms or they faced an obvious outbreak.

He worried a bit, Maura's technical skill set was excellent but in the past she had dreaded working in the larger stations, relishing covering the remote outposts, always the first to volunteer for an intervention camp like this one. Anything to avoid constant bombardment of a full regional team.

Memories put a smile on his face; Maura with her boundless curiosity, carefully going patient bed to patient bed her encompassing stare finding what other people had missed. Of how he'd find her in the oddest places, journal in hand absorbed with her writing. Some families sent their loved ones care packages, Maura seemed to get a steady stream of textbooks.

And what she read she applied. Need a plane engine fixed? You'd find her half in the engine, tinkering away. He'd seen her deliver a baby in the morning and work out the hydraulics of a cistern system for a local town in the afternoon.

Mechanic, midwife or engineer, whatever role she was in, Maura was absorbed by it with an almost childlike glee. It never occurred to her that something might be impossible. And she'd embraced Ian in the same fashion, reading him like a textbook and absorbing him in her. She was ardent in her passion and he allowed her to sweep him along, seemingly in an infinite wave.

But then the floods came and when the reassignments were over and the teams started to reassemble, he found himself alone at the camp with a long letter detailing the correct care of the old Cessna and the address of her family solicitor so he could always find her. Gone, swept away by a new calling and obsession.

Over the years she had become his sanctuary, her house an embodiment of home and her body a place of welcome. He'd taken to surprising her. Her solicitor would confirm her location and he'd wait for that moment when she'd open the door, startled in wonder like a child on Christmas morning and sweep him back into her vortex.

Ian tripped over an exposed root and forced back into awareness, he realized he travelled further than he thought from the main tent. The sound of wailing let him know he'd be adding to the death toll momentarily. He rummaged back a few pages and compared death counts to vaccine counts and realized the numbers were precariously close to the threshold. He wondered if he should just call Maura up to review, it was a good excuse for the records.

Sitting on a warm boulder he considered the idea. It would kill two birds with one stone. He'd be able to check on her and nobody had the experience Maura had with deciphering the dead.

He let the pen bounce on the page. It would help with his worry, Maura wasn't herself. If he were to be honest she had seemed different his last trip stateside too. After their initial reunion his stay was hardly the usual quiet respite. Granted in the years since his last visit, she'd moved to Massachusetts , became Boston 's Chief Medical Examiner and developed a network of people that seemed involved in her life to the point of anarchy for someone like Maura. Despite the pandemonium or maybe because of it, Ian noted Maura had seemed truly happy.

Her friend Jane had him a bit turned around. She blew in and out, as intense as Maura but with an edgy cynicism and a hostile distrust that made him feel almost haunted when she wasn't around.

A few days into his stay, as the last of the supplies came in; he realized the haunted feeling was slowly becoming a hunted feeling. Surviving in Uganda had taught him to trust his instincts and he was already packed to go when Maura had rushed in that last night.

Her face had crumpled when she noted the organized boxes and bags and he was surprised she was sobbing as he scooped her up and carried her to bed, leaving her later with a soft kiss to the back of the neck when his taxi's horn sounded outside.

At the time he'd felt the experience was a parting of sorts.

Which was why he was surprised to find that there had been a special request made for an old alumnus to spend a leave of absence in the field.

Initially he thought he'd been wrong about the goodbye. Maura Isles was coming back to Africa and returning, by request, to his field team. But then he was holding her during that original greeting and powerful as it was, it lacked passion and joy, her grip translating a need for protection and strength.

It set every alarm bell off in his head. Dr. Maura Isles wasn't running to him. Maura was running from something else.

Chapter 8: Chapter 8

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

Black female, approximately 30 yrs of age, found by a couple of trespassing kids who'd cut a corner off chain-link fence in the section of the Nashua Street Park squared off for the last of the repair work from the Charles River disaster over the winter.

Korsak had picked up the original call. Frost and Janie were up and it was a slow enough that he tagged along. The fresh air and walking down by the Charles beat henpecking report summaries any day even if he did have to listen to Frost and Jane bicker over who was lead. Why Frost even bothered, Korsak had no idea.

By the time they'd made it through Government Center during the snarled afternoon commute tempers were already fraying. Barry conceded lead to Jane just to diffuse the tension and nobody objected when he suggested it was just easier to park the car at North Station and walk over.

Crossing under the yellow tape they were immediately alarmed when one of the techs announced they were almost done processing the scene. Jane stormed off to find Pike and Frost trailed behind her while Korsak stayed back to start photographing the body.

Within the first five minutes of conversation with Dr. Pike Jane was in a rapidly escalating foul mood. Pike was droning on about how he was fully capable of deciding they had what samples they needed for review.

Frost was trying his best to get her to focus back to the victim and off the interim medical examiner. He figured he might even be successful if Pike would just shut up for a minute. Pike for his part had decided he was done talking to either of them and just walked away.

Frost tossed Korsak an almost desperate plea for help as Jane stalked over to where Dr. Pike was peeling off his latex gloves.

"Shit Pike, there is no way you have this place processed!"

"It's Dr. Pike, Detective Rizzoli." His pencil thin neck craned towards her, eyes peering over wire rim glasses and his arms locked behind his back, waiting.

Jane's hands balled into fists. "Seriously?"

He continue to stand there rolling up to the balls of his feet and back.

She tossed her hands up. "Fine, whatever, Doctor." she enunciated the word, elongating the syllables. "How can a murder scene be processed in less than an hour?"

His finger reached up to push his spectacles back. "Doctor who? I have a name Detective Rizzoli."

Frost made a big show of dropping his cell phone at Jane's feet and reaching down in front of her to retrieve it, knocked her knee with his shoulder, hard. "Dr. Pike what I think Jane means to say is that we're concerned that we might be missing some additional evidence if we release the scene too quickly. Perhaps we can wait until you get the body back to the morgue for an initial assessment before we let the rest of law enforcement in?"

Pike pointed his finger between Jane and Frost. "You two are the homicide detectives. I am the medical examiner. You can hold the scene as long as you wish."

He started to move towards his car door. "However, this is a straight forward case. Petechial Hemorrhage in the eyes with the bra wrapped around her throat means she died of strangulation. No doubt caused by doing whatever unsavory things she did to acquire the drug habit all those needle marks on her arms indicate. Probably killed by whatever John Criminal she was acquainted with. She must have owed him money, he cut off two of her fingers and we only found one near the body."

Jane's hands were animated as her temper escalated. "Oh my god, Pike you did not just say that! You have no clue as to what her cause of death is yet, never mind the rest of that bullshit."

Korsak finally decided that Frost was about to be out of his depth with Jane and started over to give him a hand.

"Did you even spend more than 5 minutes with the body? Assume much Pike?" Jane was irate and Frost had her jacket sleeve in his fist. She glared at him trying to dislodge her arm as she blocked Pike from getting in his car.

Pike flushed. "While you may feel fit to tell me how to do my job I would suggest you start to do yours. Maybe call in a cadaver dog and see if you can't find that finger. "He tried to push past her. "Detective if you will please step away from my car."

Korsak arrived in time to grab her left bicep and started pulling her out of the way. Jane let him move her back while she continued to yell. "That barely qualifies as guess work. Maura sure as hell would have never assumed that sort crap!"

Pike paused before closing his door and rolling down the window. "What Dr. Isles may or may not have done is not my concern. I am the Chief Medical Examiner. This is not her crime scene or her body. She is not here."

Jane boiled over and wrenched free from both men, screaming at his taillights "You are not the Chief you prick. You're the Interim Medical Examiner! "She stormed back towards the yellow tape.

Frost and Korsak shared a sideways glance. Korsak dug out a granola bar from his jacket and handed him half. "I'd give her a minute."

Both chewed slowly as she pulled the tape up and snapped it in her haste. She threw both hands up and growled at the fluttering edges before pushing forward, yelling at a uniform to put it back up.

"In fact perhaps we should just wait here for the dog. Show him where to start and all."

Frost nodded sagely. "I like your thinking. We could walk in behind the dog too. Most of those K9s are trained in forcible detainment and personal protection right?"

"You're a smart kid Barry Frost. You learn quickly. Your mama must be proud."

Chapter 9: Chapter 9

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

Maura was positive she'd have a bruise from where her shin repeatedly hit a crate corner on the ride up from the main clinic. The two hour trip was exhausting and uncomfortable. Conversation seemed pointless and nobody bothered trying to engage her. The terrain was dotted with people moving towards the main Kaabong camp, swaths of brush and winding, spindly, trees.

After arriving late morning the entire team spent the day reviewing notes and seeing patient after patient presenting with the same overall weakness, difficulty breathing, headache, nausea and vomiting. Ian's notes showed cases where some people seemed to improve and survive while others dropped into convulsions, gasping for breath until they lost consciousness and eventually died. Everything was too vague to be definitive. So many diseases from malaria to malnutrition could lay claim to the same set of symptoms.

The heat meant bodies were quickly processed. Maura would have to wait before she could see if there was an internal indicator and she tried to repress her frustration. She could only imagine what people would think. Probably that she wanted someone to die. She snorted, hardly. It was just a given that somebody would, probably tonight, and until that event happened she felt superfluous. The anxiety that caused had her pacing in the bunk tent, alone for the moment.

She heard a guitar tuning up and thought briefly about joining but even the consideration made her tense. Ian was still in surgery and she just couldn't muster up the strength to cope with the nuances of interpreting a new group of people. The sun was lowering on the horizon but there was still enough light to see. Grabbing her journal she wandered off.

When Ian found her, Maura was perched on his boulder from the other night, studying the landscape in front of her. Her leg drawn up, journal balancing on a knee creating a makeshift table to rest her elbow on, thumb gently tracing the left side of her neck.

The sun was setting and the image made him smile. He'd been here many times before, scouting her out at the end of the day. He noted subtle changes; age had replaced the casual posture and soft curves of youth with an almost feline elegance. The wire rim glasses perched on her nose were new.

Time had only enhanced her beauty.

In the past they'd almost had a game. Ian would track her down and try to casually sneak up on her. It never worked, no matter how absorbed she was in her reading or writing some part of her always knew where he was. Side by side, it was in those moments where they'd had long conversations about any topic or dream that crossed their minds and with her he'd found peace.

He waited behind her, watching the sun slowly drop. He scuffed his boot on the loose dirt and pebbles trying to hint he was there. Maura shifted, her thumb stopped tracing her neck and her other leg came up as she rested her chin on both knees, arms grasping her calves, lost as she contemplated the horizon.

He waited another handful of minutes before he quietly left.

The bourgeoning colors in the low light of late day reminded her of her old place in Charlestown on the harbor. On a night like this she'd be up on the roof deck watching the night settle over the city, colors bleeding away to night. Jane had always loved that deck and she'd begged Maura not to sell it for the place on Beacon Hill .

Unbidden memories of times on the deck, bottle of burgundy open, mood and conversation dictated by the day. Shared laughter, tears and passionate debates peppered with times of quiet reflection. Both of them wrapped in the smell and sound of salt water jumbled with the low buzz of urban life.

Tears started to form when she realized she'd been tracing her scar. Anger came precariously close to the surface and she drew her knees closer, clasping her hands tight, arms around her calves, desperate to prevent the reflective habit. She had traveled thousands of miles to get away from Boston and the second she had a moment to relax it was the only thing on her mind.

Not Boston , Jane. Sitting there she buried her forehead on her knees as she tried to push it all away.

She'd spent hours sorting through the events, and every data point could be explained in a perfectly rational way. She'd read every report, sifted through every memory over and over.

The data was undeniable. It was a storm of avoidable and unavoidable decisions cumulating in a perfect cascade of dominos, defined and precise in hindsight.

Data did not conclude that years of friendship could be destroyed by a simple series of events. But the result was trending towards undeniable.

Once the chaos of the months following the shooting slowly cleared, Maura realized in herself imposed isolation she was left to cope on her own. She was so angry but there was no one to talk to and that hurt. And the more she hurt, the angrier she got at Jane and the angrier she got the more she needed her. It was perfectly illogical and for Maura, who enjoyed the precision that came from logic and order, it scared the hell out of her.

It was the fear one night that finally fueled her frenzy to save some semblance of herself from the emotional shambles of her own confusion. Several glasses of wine later she came to the only decision she felt she could. Maura needed to leave Boston .

Wine in hand she had stumbled exhausted and drunk towards her bedroom knocking one of her tribal masks off the hallway wall. Somehow that hollow eyed echo of her time in Africa brought a sense of stability and calm in the middle of her personal storm. Resolution made, she had finally slept well that night.

She just wished she could say the same for every evening since then.

Maura abruptly stood getting her bearings in the dark, lightly rubbing her forehead where her knees had pressed before heading back with determination. It was enough, enough thinking, enough tragedy and enough preoccupation with a past she could not change.

From the shadows painting a picture through the tent wall Maura knew she'd find Ian hunched over his card table using the solitude of the field lead's tent to review the day's notes and plan the staff workload for the next day.

Pulling down the zipper on the netting and slipping her way in she was met halfway. She placed her fingers against his mouth briefly as she slide her other hand slowly up his torso to the back of his neck and standing on tiptoes brought their lips crashing together.

Her name passed through his lips on a whisper and his arms came around her, gliding down, grasping her bottom, pulling her closer as he supported her weight, losing himself in the moment.

It occurred to Ian as she lay naked beneath him, spine arching forward encouraging him wordlessly to touch and take that other than a gentle whimper as he bathed her breast and drew her nipple between his teeth that Maura was silent, a change. He traced his way back up her body, lips ghosting along her neck and forehead as his hand smoothed down her stomach.

Maura could feel his knowing touch pressing lightly on her stomach before drawing through her wetness. She bit his lips lightly as he shifted his other leg to part her legs, his erection tracing along her inner thigh. She needed this, needed him in her, reaching inside and touching her deeply. Her hand moved between them, her grasp knowing, testing him and running her hand down his length before bringing him to her.

She sighed in relief, feeling him fill her and reached her hands around him to trace his back and around to grasp his rear, feeling the muscle flex as they began to move together.

He tangled his lips with hers as his breath became more labored, pulling away and noticing that her eyes remained closed, another change. He paused briefly while he still could and waited for her hazel orbs to flick open before the sensations forced his body to move and her eyes slid closed again.

Ian held out as long as he could before giving in and allowing his orgasm to rush through him. He shuddered surprised. With Maura he never came first. He kissed her deeply, hands that knew her body well traveling between them, touching stroking, teasing until his whispered "come then love" had her grabbing his back reflexively on a shocked grasp.

Maura felt the warmth of release lingering as she regained her breath. She had wanted to desperately to come with him, she had struggled on the edge, willing herself to just let go. She buried her head in his neck, grateful he was thoughtful as she rolled with him to her side and stayed there feigning sleep until he drifted off. Gently shifting herself free, she slid back into her clothes, disturbed by the hollow feeling that remained untouched.

She paused before leaving his tent, admiring his long, powerful grace, before she slipped out, more disorientated and conflicted than when she arrived.

Chapter 10: Chapter 10

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

It was the damn K9s fault.

Jane had pounded the dummy until sweat had soaked her clothes and left her chilled as she sat downing her third beer, flipping the cap between her fingers, reveling in the burn and ache in her body. Now this was some good pain.

Standing up as she drained the last from the bottle, she raised a bare fist to punch the dummy again as she walked by and slid the bottle up on counter to clink against the other two before she pitched the cap at her blue cloth adversary watching it bounce off the head before hitting the floor.

Jane slugged it again as she walked by and watching it sway, raised her fourth beer in salute. "I dub you, Vince Judas Korsak."

Damn dog and its superior olfactory system and vomeronasal organ.

Slightly buzzed she tersely stopped. What the fuck? Why in the hell did she know or even need to know that a dog had an olfactory system, never mind some shitty thing called a vomeronasal organ. Fucking Maura. Jane had been perfectly fine without that kind of crap in her head. Dogs could smell good, end of story.

Tossing the beer down on an end table she marched back to imitation Korsak ready to blast him a new sense of hurt because didn't he understand that the last thing Jane Rizzoli had ever needed was to have some running crap like a dog's olfactory system in her head? She needed to forget anything like that before her brain exploded. She'd had all she could take of useless bullshit that didn't serve any purpose but to dig its way into her, taking up space in her head. She'd been doing alright too, until today.

She hadn't even had time to slip her second boxing glove back on before there was knocking on her door. The glove dropped to her feet. Oh no, no, she knew that knock. It paused for a beat before starting up again with vigor. And the voice, oh the voice, grating her nerves right through the door. The sound of the key in the lock and then the door hitting the security chain. Jane rubbed her face with her hand. Oh god, had she done up the chain? That was not going to go over well.

Jane sprinted to the door and quickly slid off the chain, jumping out of the way as Angela swept in. She watched her mother survey her apartment as her hands came to her hips and narrowed eyes focused her.

Angela watched as Jane's arms crossed over her chest and she cocked her hip to the side and stared back at her. Alright so it was going to be like this today.

Jane tried to pull away but her mother had her and spun her towards the hall.

"Jane Rizzoli this place is disgusting! You look like a disaster. And you stink." Jane was struggling and Angela saw her draw in a deep breath ready to yell back.

"Oh no you don't." She gave her a shove towards the bathroom. "Don't you dare yell at your mother. Get your ass into that shower and clean up your attitude while you're in there. I'm going to put on some coffee and cook dinner." She held up a hand to shut Jane up. "Because I'm hungry and I've had a long day. I don't care if you eat or you don't, but I'm cooking."

Jane tossed up her hands and widened her eyes as she backed up. "Really Ma? Really?" but she was already halfway down the hall.

As the warm water ran over her Jane was almost willing to concede that her mother had been right about the shower. The last couple of weeks had just been hell.

First that stupid dog had failed in finding the missing finger. Which really didn't surprise anybody. Whatever psychopath that killed her either had it or tossed it someplace. That was just the way this kind shit went down.

But no, good old Fido had to make up for the finger by making a hit and surprising everyone because there wasn't a finger just lying there. Nope the grass was undisturbed. And of course they all thought the vic just been left there for a bit. And since the dog's ability to smell was something like 44 times greater than a humans of course he was going to hit there.

Jane bounced her forehead on the shower wall. Great, fantastic, there her head went again. Who in the hell cared that a dog could exponentially smell 44 times greater than man when you included training? She did not need to know stuff like that to get by, yet there it was, no matter how hard she was trying to forget.

She started washing her hair vigorously wishing she could just start scrubbing out parts of brain along with it.

Protocol was protocol and Pike had to send one of his techs back. They had to make sure the finger wasn't just buried under the perfectly undisturbed grass. Undisturbed, fingerless grass. It was illogical to waste the money digging a hole to nowhere. If Maura had been there she would have made some remark about how to assume made "an ass out of you and me". But Maura wasn't there as Pike pointed out so Jane could assume whatever she wanted.

Frankly now that she remembered, she was still kind of pissed Frost wouldn't let her make the call to Pike telling him to get his ass back to the scene. Those sorts of back-at-you bastard moments didn't come around every day.

Pike sent some pathetic sacrificial tech in his place and Jane had to wonder what the poor man had done to get sent back to her or what Pike had said to him before he left. The poor guy looked like he wanted to vomit every time Jane asked a question.

When the finger hadn't been under the first layer and super dog kept hitting on the same place even as the dirt was removed, Jane started asking his handler if the animal had even passed remedial tracking 101. Which might not have been smart considering it was aggravating the guy and the dog was trained to use those teeth for more than eating biscuits.

Of course animal loving Korsak had pulled rank and started in on her and maybe she should have shut her mouth but it was just a dog, it had no idea she was insulting it. He finally gave her a choice of heading back to the precinct or getting them all, including that handler with the obviously dim dog, coffee. She seriously wanted to punch Korsak. Jane Rizzoli was nobody's coffee bitch.

Two blocks later she was willing to admit she was angry at Pike and the dog probably could smell something and it probably wasn't decaying bologna from some construction worker's lunch. She had thought briefly about buying Korsak some foo-foo concoction just to make a point but that seemed mean, even for her. He most certainly did, however deserve for her to forget one of his sugars.

When she got back it turned out that the damn dog wasn't super dog but Einstein dog and the hit had been unearthed. And it wasn't a finger; the freaking dog had found a whole skull. From that moment all it was all downhill. The dog had 2 other hits in rapid succession and they were all good.

So 4 bodies in one rather public setting? Brass and every politician was all over this and of course the first skeletal identification was Marilyn Roberts from missing persons and the MO from the current vic did match the New Bedford Highway Killer.

Then some political genius, pissing his pants because the words serial and killer were getting plastered in the Globe, brought in a profiler from the FBI.

So she even had to deal with the fact that Agent Dean's FBI clones were around and the idiots kept trying to talk to her. Slimy bastard had ruined her life and it was like he'd split into 100 more drones and literally invaded her space. And she still wasn't sure exactly what happened but some big wig FBI suit called Dr. Pike's skills into question. Which really, Jane had to give him props for but it started some sort of turf scuffle this morning that ended with Lieutenant Sean Cavanaugh calling Korsak into a meeting with the governor.

Cavanaugh had rounded them all up that afternoon with Big Wig FBI man at his side and announced they were holding any forensic work on the case until a specialist was called in. Then he suggested that everyone use this time to recharge and get some rest while they could.

When most of the Dean Drones had left to go plug themselves into the wall or whatever else they did at night Jane was left with Korsak and Frost. Neither one was talking and neither one was looking at her. Jane stared at Frost until Frost mumbled something about needing a snack and almost running out. Suspicious she pushed away from her desk and stalked over to Korsak and just stood behind him. He sighed before he closed the cold case folder from Deborah DeMello's autopsy and braced his hands on his thighs.

"Janie, they're going to try to call Maura back in"

Time seemed to stop. "What the fuck Korsak? She's not even in the country."

"Jane, I suggested it."

He turned to look up at her. She was rubbing her hands reflexively, eyes dark and feral. It was a lost cause but he was going to try to explain anyhow.

"Doc is the perfect compromise. FBI already uses her as a consultant. Pike is screwing up. He has some personal issue with the vics being prostitutes. You know it and I know it. FBI was going to pull this all into their Boston office and Sean doesn't deserve that kind of press."

She had her jacket in her hand before he had even finished speaking and shouldered Frost out of her way as he was walking back in, muttering coward under her breath at him as she charged out of the building.

Now hours later as Jane stepped out of the shower, anxious at even the idea Maura might be back, she realized whatever progress she thought she'd made at moving past their friendship was a lie. Vigorously she dried off trying to muster at least the pretense that she was okay before facing the banging and clanking of Angela Rizzoli in her kitchen.

Chapter 11: Chapter 11

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

Days kept turning over to night without an answer to the clusters of illness and intermittent mortality. Autopsy findings were consistent but not indicative and Maura was frustrated with feeling incompetent.

Finished with the latest casualty she jotted a few notes down before notifying everyone that she was stepping out. She found her way to her favorite boulder, sitting on her journal to protect her legs from the blistering rock.

This place was her ritual, a part of her routine that brought her peace.

Allowing her mind to fold inward she closed her eyes in reflection. She had always held an image of herself as a woman of great sagacity. Yet here she was after running thousands of miles fueled by convictions that were proving foolish at best and catastrophic at worst.

That first night she'd had sex with Ian was the initial hint that coming here was not the epiphany she'd thought it to be. Even with the taste of him on her lips and the feel him buried inside her, she did not regain her sense of completion.

That reality shook her very core. Ian was not just supposed to be sex. Ian was supposed to be the definitive embodiment love and passion for Maura. When her orgasm had left her empty and disjointed she'd run from his sleeping form, and come here to pull herself back together.

She'd sat on the cool rock that night and welcomed the slight punishing chill. Worn out and broken down, she was finally too exhausted to muster any anger as the continual loop of memories fluttered through her mind. Lacking the passion and animosity to fuel her sense of justice, she realized she was never going to escape.

There wasn't a way to erase years of her life. Maura had lived that life, it was always going to be a part of her and she had better accept it or go mad from futility. And so she'd come to a sense of amity with herself, the peace allowing the memories to morph into reflection and she embraced them.

Gradually the people she left behind incorporated into her thoughts as she went about her day. She'd see groups of women gathered and talking, children at their feet and she knew that Angela would have been there with them fussing over the babies. A visit from the regional director and watching him argue with Ian reminded her of Korsak and Frost.

Not surprisingly, Jane was just everywhere, a specter hovering over her shoulder in autopsy, encouraging her to keep looking, firing off questions, in full Detective Rizzoli mode. She was a welcome sentinel, supporting and driving Maura as she dealt with the futility of an underfunded, poorly equipped hunt for an intangible murderer. But Jane was more than Detective Rizzoli. Jane also existed as Best Friend Jane and this Jane was an entirely different being, most alive when Maura was at her most vulnerable.

Like now, as she sat in her favorite place for reflection, Best Friend Jane swirled through her, forever a barrage of moments and a visceral taste on her tongue. Maura's life was so closely intertwined with her that separating who she was without Jane was impossible. Deciphering what this meant for her future was agonizing.

When the grief threatened to overwhelm her she'd seek out Ian. During the day they were attuned colleagues, consulting easily as they pushed through the work or occasional lovers on the nights she couldn't face the long hours alone.

The loneliness was an unanticipated complication. It was troublesome; she hadn't anticipated she'd feel so isolated. Her coworkers were cordial and respectful but she'd come to the realization that unlike Boston there was no affinity between them.

Maura closed her eyes and tilted her head back, letting the sun hit her face. Perhaps it was her usual social awkwardness. Or maybe there was loyalty to Sam. Either way the social subtly of how to overcome it eluded her.

If Jane was here, she would have known how to fold her into the group. Jane would have known what to say to get everyone talking to, rather than around her. Jane would have known to squeeze her hand briefly if she felt overwhelmed or started to ramble.

Except, Maura let go a sigh, Jane wasn't here and Ian seemed to assume as long as she was beside him she was included. She couldn't remember if it was this way or not before. Maybe it was and she didn't notice it, didn't expect anything other than to be included in a peripheral fashion.

Jane hadn't tolerated that. No she'd forcibly goaded and pushed Maura until she went home at night worried about Vince's health and Barry's aversion to death, Frankie's fragile self esteem or Angela's panic about becoming obsolete in life. Personal involvement with a complex network of people whose connections to her had altered her to the point where being on the outside looking in just left her miserable.

Really there was just no help for it, the answer to this equation unavoidable. She shifted and tugged the journal out from under her legs and pulled the pen from behind her ear, jotting down an unquestionable conclusion with a sigh before placing the book to the side.

It was earlier than usual for Maura to be out here thinking and without the fading evening light she had to shift to the right to block the sight of the leveled and naked earth. It was an ugly blight on the landscape and strip mining for gold upset her. These people had nothing and what little they could lay claim to was often taken in the most violent way, leaving ruin behind.

Of course this would have been one of those things Jane would have picked a debate over just to incite her.

Right now Jane would have been sitting here bumping their shoulders together and saying something about how at least the mining provided jobs. And when Maura pointed out that they hardly hired local labor for anything but the most dangerous tasks, Jane would have said that at least that was one more option than they'd had before.

Maura would have countered with how it was hardly an option if you were displaced from your home with no place to go and your home was stripped of everything it used to provide. Back and forth until eventually Jane would burst into laughter at how rigid and formal Maura had gotten, conceding the argument and breaking the tension until they were both chuckling.

Maura could even imagine Jane leaning against her shoulder, allowing the rambling discourse on the various irreversible environmental impacts and chemical biohazards. Pretending to barely endure Maura's lecture while secretly absorbing every bit of knowledge, chemical substructures of organic and inorganic compounds included.

A breath later, Maura was bolting back to the tents. Jane Rizzoli was about to be a hero in Africa and she didn't even know it.

Chapter 12: Chapter 12

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

Angela opened Jane's freezer fully prepared to have to make do with ice encrusted personal pizzas and if she was lucky, some hot wings. Instead she found herself pulling out several packages of chicken breast and shock of all shocks, what appeared to be, wild caught shrimp.

Inspired she kept the shrimp out and thought with some modification she'd pull together scampi. She debated what ingredients she could exchange for what she knew her daughter would actually have. Her search unearthed spaghetti to switch out for linguini, surprisingly there was some usable garlic in the on the fridge door. Parsley flakes were not as good as fresh but she personally had stocked that item on the spice rack. Vegetable oil would be okay instead of olive oil provided Jane even had that.

If Angela hadn't bumped her head on the counter lip as she retrieved the pasta pot she would have missed it. Left of the stove in a decorative green bottle there appeared to be olive oil. Dabbing a taste on her finger she was impressed with Jane. It was excellent olive oil.

Then it all just made sense, Maura. Angela could see her handiwork in the ingredients spread around her. She started opening cabinets and taking a hard look before chuckling under her breath and humming lightly as she went to work.

Jane slouched her way into the kitchen, pausing in front of Angela and swirling a hand around herself as she slumped, boneless, into a chair, "Happy Ma? ".

Running some cold water over the spaghetti, Angela gave the colander a few firm shakes. "I'll be happy when I have a chance to eat something but you do smell better." Dropping the pasta back into the pot she drizzled in a touch of oil and pointed at the dummy. "You going to tell me why you were pounding away at that thing?"

"Who, good ol' replica Korsak over there?" Angela shot her a look and Jane thought on a Ma glare rate scaling, that had to have at least scored a 5 out of 10.

"Just this case Ma, you work at the precinct, you see how it is. Between the brass, the FBI and the governor up the Lieutenant's ass I just needed to blow off some steam."

Angela dropped a plate in front of her. "That's not what poor Barry said when he came down for a muffin."

"Frost is a cowardly fink." Jane glowered at a hapless shrimp before giving it a forceful stab. She would deal with her wayward partner tomorrow.

"Jane Rizzoli you leave that boy alone. He's worried about you."

Angela defending Frost pissed Jane off. Agitated she started stabbing at her food. "Frost needs to grow a set."

"Can you try for a minute to remain calm?"

"Who's not calm? I 'm the picture of calm. Sitting here, eating dinner, "she shoved a bite of pasta in her mouth, "with my mother. Who is here in all her meddling glory, courtesy of my gutless partner and that backstabber I get to call Sergeant Korsak. "

"If only everyone had your problem of having too many people caring about them." Angela waved her fork at her. "You missy don't know how lucky you are."

"That's right I'm so lucky, this whole friends thing is really rocking for me right now." Jane's voice was taking a belligerent edge, rising in volume. "Some fucking friends I manage to make. Really great at showing they care."

"Knock it off Jane. Right now, I mean it." Angela let her own voice rise to match Jane's. "You knock it off right now. You're not mad at Vince or Barry."

"Yep you're right Ma." Jane was yelling now. "I'm not mad I'm fucking furious." Jane stood up.

Angela was on her feet a half second behind, reaching over the kitchen island and using a finger to stab Jane's chest, yelling right back. "You sit your fanny down right now young lady and you answer me this. What in God's name are you so angry about?"

Jane slapped her palms on the table as she sat back down. "You just have to push everything don't you? And Frost already told you so why in the hell do I have to? But fine, whatever Ma, you win."

She glared at Angela with everything in her. "They're calling her back in Ma! Korsak and Frost are actually happy about it!"

Angela sighed in relief. It was out in the open now, the taboo subject of Maura. She started to walk around the island, her voice softened, "Jane, honey, would you listen to yourself? If everyone else thinks it's a good idea, what is wrong?"

Jane struggled to swallow as her throat tightened. Her voice came out thick even to her own ears. "Maura left! She just up and left. She left the fucking country and went back to Africa ."

Angela was gentle now. "Yes she did, she left. But we've all known that for weeks, nothing new there. So again, what are you so upset about?"

Her mother's hand on her shoulder deflated Jane and she lost control of her tears. "I miss Maura Ma. No matter what I do I miss her and it makes me so angry."

Angela pulled her close and held her tight. "I know baby, I know."

Chapter 13: Chapter 13

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

Maura carefully pulled the aliquots out of incubator. Despite the number of people in the space there was a stillness present. The anticipation only broken by the occasional clearing of a throat, the rattle of a table as someone shifted and the sound of cardboard as Ian flipped an empty kit box in a perpetual spin between his hands.

Ian listened to her gentle hum as she rapidly pipetted the acetic acid and flipped on the agitator briefly. She was the epitome of confidence, completely tranquil and serene. Glancing around the room he could see the effect on everyone. This was a Maura he was seeing for the first time, the embodiment of a professional top in her field. Here, in this moment, this was who she was. What she was meant to do.

Each sample was analyzed in rapid succession, pen jotting down numbers. Walking back across the space she patted his hands and stole the box back. "I need that for a second." She sat down where her laptop was running and pulled the remaining box contents out, tossing the MSDS sheet to the side before skimming the assay protocol again.

A few people crowded a bit closer as she dropped numbers into MedCalc and the standard curve popped up. Maura's hand flew over her paper, murmuring for the onlookers benefit, "I just have to use this." She pointed her pen at the laptop screen "to correct the absorption."

She turned in her chair to face them all, her eyes seeking Ian's. "The plasma samples were quite good so I don't anticipate that there was interference and the read is accurate. Our readings are between 7-10mmol/L" His eyes bore in to hers for a minute, the moment theirs alone for just a second, "indicative of lactic acidosis. Under the circumstances I am willing to speculate the outbreak is cyanide poisoning. "

Pandemonium broke out. His eyes never left hers. People were clapping her on the back, others tossing balls of paper at each other or applauding. She was looking at him and all he could see was the girl he always knew, eyes sparkling. "Maura girl, you're a genius." And she was laughing and in his arms kissing him. She broke the kiss and stepped back, patting his chest and looking at him with her bottom lip caught, eyes promising later as she turned back to the group.

The entire staff hovered around her, helping decide which patient was best suited to what type antidote kit, consulting her and peppering her with questions. In the midst of the commotion Maura kept catching herself looking for Jane, wanting to celebrate the victory with her, to thank her for helping figure it out.

Back in Boston they would call her their genius and drag her out to celebrate. Then the story would get retold at the bar and Jane would find a way to distract her every time she'd want to talk about the method in which cyanide worked.

Maura could just imagine Jane pushing her glass of burgundy at her, maybe even grabbing her hand and putting it on the glass. The classic Jane Rizzoli smirk as she gestured for Maura to drink up, the tone teasing. "You, fill your mouth with this. Drink up. I'm clicking the Google window closed, search complete. 500 million hits for cyanide is poison, poison kills people, case closed. The drinking window however is open."

Chapter 14: Chapter 14

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

Jane was still making up her mind as she walked into the elevator at work if she was keeping her promise to Angela. Technically it had been made under emotional duress. Technically Angela didn't understand the laws of the bullpen. Like technically she could have saved Frost's ass when she'd fired at Doyle, because that was what partners do. You have to have each other's back no matter the personal cost. Frost obviously still had some learning left. Jane would be doing them all a favor if she took care of that, promises be damned.

As far as Korsak went, well, Vince knew better.

She made sure to fling the door open with every ounce of stored indignation. Maybe she'd be lucky and one of them would be standing near it. Jane Rizzoli had arrived.

Korsak didn't even bother to acknowledge her. He knew better.

Sitting down at her desk she considered the offering placed center on her keyboard. A handful of manila folders topped by a large coffee and a brown paper bag. She sent her best death glare at Korsak but he was still ignoring her.

Growling she pushed the bag aside and noticed what was under it. The first folder had a photo of a smiling young girl paper clipped to the outside, hair carefully rolled and twisted with pink beads at the ends. Her brown eyes danced off the page and she was missing both front teeth, the tip of one adult tooth just poking through. It was the daughter of the latest victim. A girl who deserved the best team to bring her mother's killer to justice and Pike was not part of that team. The best was Maura.

She lobbed a defiant stare at Korsak until he looked over. She pitched the folder down and glowered at him, pointing at the picture and enouncing each word carefully, "You are an asshole."

He shrugged and nodded a bit but he still wasn't saying anything. After all, he knew better.

Jane sniffed the coffee, and took a sip, hot and just the way she liked it. She opened the bag and pulled the chocolate cruller out and bit down as she started reviewing.

She was still buried re-examining the old files hours later when Frost returned with Frankie in tow.

Jane raised her eyebrows. "Really Frost? You brought my brother for backup? What color bra did you put on this morning?"

Frost opened his mouth to speak but before a word could make its way out Jane's hand was held up. "Nope, not a word, I promised my mother not to kill you. You start talking and all bets are off."

Frankie put a hand on her shoulder "Jane, Frost just went to buy a muffin. You know Ma, she's got meddling radar factory installed. He didn't stand a chance."

Jane shook him off. "You must be wearing the matching panties to Frost's bra. Let me know what china pattern you boys pick out and I'll buy you the soup bowl."

Frankie snorted, "I find them extremely comfortable and since you usually wear them I know you're just jealous. Besides, we came back because Frost here would like to apologize like the gentleman he is and take you to lunch."

Frost was nodding enthusiastically. "Your choice Jane."

She stood up, arms folded across her chest. "My choice?" Frost nodded. "Summer Shack?" Again he nodded. "Lobster?"

He hesitated a second before catching Korsak's raised eyebrow. "No problem."

"Okay then." Jane grabbed her blazer and shrugged into it as she walked to the door. "You two coming already?"

Frost squared his shoulders and Frankie clapped his shoulder lightly in solidarity as they walked out together. This could either go really well or critically bad, for both of them.

Chapter 15: Chapter 15

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

Dawn had given way to early morning light by the time they'd handled the immediate cases and triaged the rest. Maura finished organizing her temporary lab space and finished drafting a resupply list for the crew leaving tomorrow. Satisfied she walked over to pick up her laptop and logged on to shut it down noticing the Outlook icon. It was her email program for the BPD and a tangible link to Boston . Scrolling over the icon briefly she watched it highlight and was overcome with an intense longing.

Both mobile phones, personal and work, were back on her kitchen island in Boston . The precinct had the family solicitors contact information if it was necessary to get in touch with her and only the firm had her satellite number.

The laptop was optimized for satellite and the BGAN pack was under the table. Maura traced a finger along the top of the screen. She looked to the entrance of the tent. She'd promised Ian she'd be along shortly. Clicking the Outlook icon it opened to a perfect snapshot of the day she'd left. She scrolled through the familiar names and the subject lines. As the received dates got later she found herself in the days before the shooting where almost every other email was from Jane.

Good mornings, coffee alerts, lunch dates, random jokes, dinner requests, offers of movies , invites to The Dirty Robber and scores of case updates painted a picture of her life. Or precisely her life with Jane, no other person graced her email even a third as much.

The satellite was set up before she had even consciously decided. The VPN took a few attempts to log onto the precinct servers but when it did she realized she was rubbing her palms on her shorts, a nervous thrill making her hands sweat.

Outlook connected and the inbox cascaded with unread email. Department blasts, meeting requests, updates to the 403b plan options, invites to conferences and various emails she'd been copied on before coworkers realized she was gone. A brief bite of joy when the name Rizzoli popped up over and over before a wave of disappointment when Maura noticed Angela's name followed the comma. The subject line was all the same, "Turtle Update."

She opened the earliest one and it was a rambling update of sorts as to what was going on and with everyone and it was signed off with a "Bass was hiding under the coffee table today, I don't think he likes that you're gone. Thinking of Bass lounging under the coffee table made her smile. That was one of his favorite spots. She reread the email to make sure but there wasn't a single mention of Jane.

The rest of the emails were similar. She found out who Frankie was dating and that Tommy was getting busy with his pet sitting business. Vince was being better about the pastry but slacking off with his exercise program. Barry was surviving autopsies but recently lost a bet with Crowe and the retribution was making it through a decomposed body. That had not gone well. All of them were signed off with an update on Bass and Jane was conspicuously missing.

When Maura was down to the last update she hesitated for a moment, not ready to lose the connection. Stalling, she went back through and read them all again, imagining everyone living Angela's stories, not even trying stop her tears. For once there wasn't anger or hurt accompanying them, just pure emotion and longing. Was this what homesickness felt like?

Maura opened the last one and part way through was laughing through her tears over an incident involving Korsak, Angela's anal boss Stanley, a 5 pound bag of flour and a cat that had escaped from the basement. In the sign off was one line that she read over and over, hearing Angela's voice, "Okay I got to go now honey, Jane should be almost done with her run and I'm going to be late getting to her place for brunch. Miss you and the turtle was in the laundry room hiding, can Bass get depressed?"

Jane was out jogging? Maura checked the date on the email and sure enough it was sent on a Sunday. The thought of Jane jogging alone broke her heart. That was their time together. The longing for Boston was fierce and visceral and the crying intensified.

She just wanted to go home.

That thought alone bewildered her. She had always moved about place to place comfortably. It was a natural part of her life shifting between her parent's residencies, boarding schools and later colleges, Africa and the jobs she'd held. Location was just the physical, not something that left you aching.

She stood and took a few deep breaths, getting control back over her heart rate and rubbed her cheeks lightly. She realized that for the first time she really had a home. A place with people who missed her and heaven help her, she missed right back.

It was time to stop running and go back before she lost the very things she had been searching for, love, acceptance, family and a place to call home. Her life in Boston had come so naturally that she didn't realize what it was until she was far enough away to actually understand it. Now she could only pray she hadn't thrown it away in her haste.

His fingertips skimmed back and forth over the soft skin of her back. Maura had her elbows on his chest and her face framed by her hands and she was talking and talking. Her eyes were animated and her voice light. This was the girl Ian remembered and the woman he adored.

She bounced from topic to topic. Sharing updates from Boston between random facts about cyanide and somehow Jane was responsible for her epiphany but he still wasn't exactly certain as to how. To be fair he wasn't listening to the details, Jane's name was featured every few minutes and that woman still prickled his skin. Better to tune out the words. Besides, he was enjoying seeing her smile.

Vaguely something about the Massachusetts governor and her solicitor caught his attention. Focusing fully on what she was saying he realized that Maura was telling him the governor had left a message with her solicitor. Something about a call being missed because she hadn't powered up her satellite phone during the haste to run the test samples and then treat the patients.

An unsettled feeling rolled over him and stole from the moment.

"What did the governor want then?" he realized his voice was a bit brusque and Maura picked right up on it and dropped her arms until they crossed over his chest and put her chin on the back of her hands, bringing their eyes level. Her eyes were steady pools of hazel and she looked at him for a long moment.

"I'm needed back in Boston . A big case with a lot of political impact and families looking for answers."

His hands stilled as he realized what was actually happening. This time Maura was the one who was doing the leaving. The woman in his arms was not in tears, was not holding him close as if he'd disappear that very second. She was relaxed and as carefree for the first time in a month, the only tension he could find was a small furrow between her eyes as she carefully watched his reaction.

"Right then, can't avoid that kind of request. We'll alert the crew at dinner to make room on the morning flight."

For a moment Ian let himself drown in her eyes, committing the sight and the feel of her in his arms to memory before he asked the next question, the haunted feeling from Boston coiling through him already giving the answer. Maura wasn't just leaving, she was telling him goodbye.

"Is that your only reason then? Can we expect you back after you sort it out?"

Maura braced lightly on one forearm before trailing the other softly through the light hair on his chest, drawing a random pattern and feeling the texture as she formed what she wanted to say. Ian knew her well. His question was phrased in such a way that she would have to answer honestly.

She would miss him but they'd cross paths again she was sure. They did not need to be lovers to be friends. She would always help this cause, his mission and these people, each time she'd come here she'd gotten so much more than she'd given. The first time she'd figured out what she was meant to be and today she learned where she was meant to be. Africa had defined her.

Her elbows framed his face and her thumbs caressed his temples, her lips kissed his forehead, his nose and one last kiss ghosted lightly over his lips. Maura brought her gaze up and admired his features and natural beauty. She would always love him but it was time to let this part of their story end where it started.

"No, I'm not going to come back." She pressed a hand over his heart as if it would protect it. "I miss Boston . I miss everyone."

She gently pushed up and pulled at his arm until they both were sitting side by side on the edge of the bed. She picked up a blanket and wrapped her torso. "Ian, you and I both know you're never going to leave here and that's the way it should be. Africa suits you, it made you and you're home here."

Maura's next words came out as a sigh "When I came back here I didn't think it through. I think some part of me just thought if I went back to when life was rather uncomplicated that it would unravel everything that had become complicated and make it all make sense."

She picked lightly at the edge for the blanket. "It was a flawed deduction. Erroneous and egotistical even. In being so myopic I overlooked how my decision would have downstream effect and in missing that variable I made everything more complex. Including for you and Sam."

He looked at her sharply but she turned her eyes away. This had to get out. "Don't be foolish Ian. Sam is coming back in less than a month. Sam is the one who is coming home, home as in here, to you. By choice, her choice, you need that. Don't wait until one day you look back and realize you let that go."

She ran her fingers through her hair considering what she had just said and decided he deserved the full truth. "Honestly we both know I made my choice years ago when I left here and solidified it when I turned Boston into my home. I want to go home Ian."

Maura made contact with his intense gaze. He had to completely understand, "No, that's not quite right. It's not just want, Ian, I need to go home. "

He stood, his back to her. Finally he pulled on a pair of shorts, staring at the steady glow of late morning lighting the fabric tent wall. "It's not really Boston though is it? We've known each other too long Maura. Is it Jane then?"

Maura gave a relived sigh, he understood. "Yes, she isn't the only reason but she is primary. I'm lost here Ian. It is not exactly logical and it might not make sense but I just need to go home to Jane."

Chapter 16: Chapter 16

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

Summer Shack was right across from Alewife so it was easier to jump on the T and take the Red Line out of the city than deal with a car. After the Harvard Square stop Jane started to notice her brother was rather silent. By the time the train had stopped in Davis Square the car was empty and both Frankie and Frost were sitting there staring at their shoes.

Jane could feel a tension headache coming on. What in the world were Detective Frick and Officer Frack up to now? She should have realized something was up when Korsak stayed behind. When did that man ever give up a chance for fried clams?

She let out a sigh. Well whatever it was it couldn't be worse than sobbing like a teenager after her first heartbreak in Ma's arms last night. She was never going to live that down, never.

Signs were ominous as they entered the restaurant. First Frankie didn't even look at the giant sea captain near the door, never mind stick to tradition and try to mimic the giant head.

Next as they were walking by the giant lobster tank in the middle of the room Frost even didn't roll his eyes at her when she used her favorite Hitchens quote about how the four most over-rated things in life were "champagne, lobster, anal sex and picnics."

It was like watching a couple of condemned men on the way to the gallows, both of them walking behind the hostess, glancing occasionally at each other.

Watching them, Jane knew she was going to have to take whatever this disaster was into her own hands just to get it over with.

She waited until after the waitress left with their order before placing her elbows on the table, steepling her fingers against her forehead and peered at them both from under then. "Alright out with it. And you both should be ashamed. Any perp with half a functioning brain cell during an interrogation would be able to call any bluff either of you attempted. "

Frankie actually looked affronted. "Hey we got you here didn't we?" Jane just stared at him and shook her head slightly. Frankie ran a hand through his hair but there was no going back "Okay well see Janie, Frost and I, well we were talking to Ma this morning."

Frankie stopped when Frost kicked him under the table and groaned out, "Dude, not helping."

She crossed her arms over her chest. " "Frost, isn't this, and I'm putting it in quotes, apology lunch, supposed to be some sort attempt to make up for the last time you ran your mouth off at my mother? "

Frankie scrambled to explain "No, Jane, we weren't talking to Ma about you! See Ma was talking to Korsak about you and Maura and then we walked by and" Frankie never finished his thought as his mind just caught up to what his mouth was spewing. He dropped his forehead to the table. He really should have let his mother handle this.

Frost just looked nauseous. This whole idea was going from bad to worse.

The food arrived but nobody moved. Jane glared at both of them but her life had tipped into the absurd at this point and she couldn't muster the indignation to back it up. Besides, she wanted to eat her fries while they were still hot.

She dragged her food closer and squeezed some ketchup on her plate, swirling a fry through and taking a bite.

"Let's just get whatever little intervention you two schoolgirls have dreamed up over with already." She took a bite of her lobster roll before using it to gesture at Frost. "But you had better do the talking. I'm not allowed to kill family and he's plucking at my last nerve."

Frost shot a glare at Frankie's sigh of relief. He carefully cut a bite of haddock off and chewed while he figured out how to start. In the at least 50 times he'd rehearsed this conversation since this morning, not once did he count on Jane being fully aware something was coming. It was unsettling. She was just sitting there eating her lunch, studying him. Not unlike one of Korsak's basement cats and they were just creepy.

His silence earned him two raised eyebrows from Jane. "Well Jane, we were talking about how the next couple of weeks are going to be hard. You know with the Nashua case. And it's already been a tough one right? "

Jane didn't bother answering him. Enjoying watching Frost squirm as she picked parts of her paper napkin off in between bites of lobster roll, staring at him. She finished her sandwich and rested her chin on her right hand, smiling at his discomfort.

It was Jane's cocky smirk that did him in. Frost grabbed the napkin from her and tossed it off to the side. This was not in his job description. "Alright Rizzoli, I can't handle this anymore!"

Jane at least looked slightly startled. Frost pushed on. "I'm tired of walking on eggshells and tired of watching you bitch at everyone and mope around the office. Just so you know we all like Maura, she works with all of us. I even consider her my friend. So for one moment stop being so selfish and realize you were not the only one affected."

If she were being honest, Jane had to admit that Barry Frost on a tangent was impressive. He certainly had her attention and it would appear he was just warming up.

"Now I know my friendship is nothing like what the two of you have going on, whatever exactly it is that you two have. Which by the way, if I'm still alive after our little heart to heart here, we are going to discuss, not today but one day soon. Just putting it out there while I'm already about to get my ass handed to me. But you and I? We will be talking."

Frost took a great deal of satisfaction from Jane's eyes going wide as her head snapped up. He'd been meaning to get that out there for awhile and at the moment it served a dual purpose of knocking Jane off balance. Now he knew he had her full attention.

"Jane, you have to remember this is Maura we're talking about. I know it hurts but she probably still hasn't processed everything that happened. She probably has no idea what she actually did. Genius IQ aside she doesn't perceive stuff like you and I. "

Frost rubbed the back of his neck for a second, trying to decipher what exactly Jane was thinking. Her normal expressive body language was schooled into apparent calm. No matter, he was in too deep now, he may as well just continue.

"Like you say to me "That guy is as dumb as a box of rocks" and I instantly realize we're dealing with a guy who is lucky to remember his own name. You say that same cliché to Doc Isles and she'll spend 20 minutes rambling through how rocks are inanimate objects, incapable of awareness and as a result unable to have the ability to think and therefore unable to have that process evaluated and rated. Life for the Doc just is what it is. Charming most of the time, draining as all get out right now. "

Frankie nodded at this, now Frost was getting back to what they'd come here to remind Jane about and he cut in. "Janie you know Maura, everything to her, even a phrase, is like some math problem. You take X and add Y and you end up with Z. Put too much stuff her head that has to be sorted through before she can isolate the facts and you're going to short circuit her head . Even as mad as she was at you, if she honestly knew what leaving was going to do here, I don't think she'd have done it. "

Jane's face was buried in her hands and her shoulders started shaking soundlessly. Frost looked in alarm at Frankie. Frankie reached across the table to grab her wrist. "Ummm Janie?"

She looked up at them, the laughter going from silent amusement to audible chuckling. "Oh, god, I'm sorry, this actually is really, really sweet." She gestured between all of them watching them go from panicked to confused, their combined fluster endearing her further.

"Come on guys, give me some credit. Maura is, or was at least my best friend. You think any of this is news to me?" They were both still starting at her. Jane was tempted to wave her hand in front of their faces.

"Okay look, I'm going to be real honest here and we're going to have your little heart to heart. Only neither of you speaks a word until I'm done and Frost, you're now buying me dessert. We also will never, and I mean never speak about this lunch again. Are we clear?"

They both nodded and Frankie caught the waitress's eye so they could order.

Jane drummed her fingers on the table trying to figure out exactly how to start, she was still sorting everything out for herself and right now it was too much to try to actually understand it, forget explain it.

"Umm….. So really I guess the first thing I need you both to understand is I'm not mad at Maura. Well I'm angry but I'm not only angry, and I'm not just angry at Maura. It's like there are two parts to this." Jane chewed the side of her thumb for a few seconds, staring at the salt shaker on the table.

"Obviously I'm angry about her freaking out over the warehouse shooting. I mean I think I know now, getting the way Maura's head works, why she was just so focused on that issue. It was the easiest, undeniable fact. Something for her to hold onto and deflect every other thing that bouncing around in her head that she couldn't get to line up. My bullet hit Doyle and that caused him to fall."

The waitress arrived and dropped off their sundaes. Jane spooned a bite in, twirling the spoon in her mouth before using the utensil to emphasize her next point.

"I've had nothing to do but think about it and basically it would be uglier than one of our normal fights but if that shooting was the only thing, just the shooting? I don't think any of us would be sitting here right now. I mean the woman is a freaking genius who loves clarity, facts and order. She knows the protocols for each department operating procedure better than any of us plus whole sections of the Massachusetts penal code, verbatim. Trust me, I've heard it. "

Jane continued to measure out bites of ice cream covered in the exact right amount of hot fudge. "I think it's safe to say she knows that Doyle getting shot was almost unavoidable. Me, her best friend, doing the shooting? Eh, questionable but fits the protocol. So I'm not saying it would be fun for anybody, but at least we'd still be arguing over it in the hallways and over autopsies."

She pushed her dish aside. "It was just too easy between the mess at the precinct and our perfected game of avoidance that I didn't even realize that she wasn't merely angry, she was hurting. Some best friend right?"

Jane cleared her throat before continuing. "In my mind I was 100% justified and I was outraged because to me if it was Korsak that had shot Doyle she wouldn't have been half as bitchy. So I just kept stabbing back at her. "

She focused on the lobsters in the tank watching them struggle against the side, sympathizing, feeling her voice crack. "Maura doesn't run from an argument. Maura runs when she gets hurt. Only this time the person she used to run to kept hurting her and I didn't even realize it."

Jane studied her hands, emotion and nerves making her fingers feel cold. "She was hurting and hurting all alone. So she ran. Left her home, left her job, "Jane sighed "and left me. Every day I have to wake up knowing she is out there, still hurting and it rips me fucking apart because I can't fix it."

She grabbed another napkin and ran it under her eyes swiftly, avoiding eye contact with Frankie and Frost. "What's really pathetic about my life right now?" She pointed to her chest "I couldn't even figure out why I still so furious that I couldn't even handle people talking about Maura. It took Ma barging in last night and knocking me on my ass."

Frankie look surprised. Jane reached over and stabbed one of his hands with her finger "Remember the rule little brother. Not talking about this after this and you're not telling Ma her meddling did me any good. Never, ever. "

Frost looked like he was going to say something. Jane turned the finger at him "One word and that's it, bonding time finished." His mouth shut and Jane nodded in satisfaction.

"So yes, Ma comes over and we're fighting and I'm just so frustrated that she won't stop asking stupid questions that I can't answer. Then bam, in the middle of all the yelling everything makes some sort of weird, convoluted sense."

She let her eyes scan the restaurant as she struggled for a moment on how to explain the next part. It was the battling lobsters, vying for a way out of the tank that provided the answer. She tapped them both on the hands and pointed behind them at the teeming tank.

" Homarus americanus belongs to the family Nephropidae." Jane waved her hand in circles "Aka Jane's lunch, the American lobster. I can also tell you that my lunch actually does not have a brain. However a lobster does have 15 nervous ganglia that span its body length so unlike a person that does not think with their gut, a lobster kind of does."

Jane rubbed her temples "And that is my problem right there. We all know the only reason I know anything like that is Maura. It's like she lives in my head even when she isn't around. I didn't even notice it happening and now she's in there and I can't escape it no matter how hard I try. "

She took a deep breath. "It's like that phantom limb syndrome that amputees sometimes get. When the person can still feel pain from the body part they lost?" Frost nodded but Frankie looked lost.

"I'd be going along trying to just get through my day and I'd look at something and my brain would crunch out some Maura-like factoid and it was like she was right there. As in I can almost feel her. As in to the point I can't actually stop myself from looking for her."

Jane stared at them both. "Then reality hits and that fucking hurts. And the hurting over and over when I should be able to just box it up and deal with it like a big girl? Well I'm royally failing at doing that and it makes me angry. Not Maura, at myself."

She folded her arms on the table and buried her head in them, her voice coming out muffled. "So despite acting like an asshole yesterday I'm not angry Maura is coming back. I'm angry because I need Maura to come back."

Chapter 17: Chapter 17

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

" Stanley that was Jenny from upstairs, Beth's still on maternity leave and the poor thing is out straight." Angela waited but there was no response from the front as she hung up the café phone. She poked her head out the door. "I'm going to go set up breakfast for the governor's meeting."

He shooed her away, scowling while trying to ring up an order.

It could have been either the customer or the register he was cranky with but she didn't care. She marched over and used her hip to push him out of the way. St Jude himself couldn't save the grouchy fool. You'd think he didn't want any business at all.

" Stanley I need help organizing the cart to take upstairs, can you go figure out where to put the platters and the coffee?" Angela looked heavenward before winking at the line as he went fuming into the back.

Angela grinned at the young man patiently waiting and patted his hand "Good morning Billy. Did you pick out a ring for June yet? Pretty girl like that putting up with you after that fiasco with her grandmother's vase and that pony you call a dog. "

She glanced at the clock as the last person stepped away from the register. Morning rush was in less than a half hour. There was no help for it, she was going to have to hustle now and her morning regulars deserved her protection.

Hand on the door Angela paused for a moment, repeating her favorite Stanley mantra. "I can catch more beeswith honey rather than vinegar. I can catch more bees with honey. "Only problem was she wanted to pour the honey over him and toss a beehive at him.

Bees and honey, bees and honey.

She pushed into the back to grab the cart, profusely thanking Stanley who ignored her, pretending a sudden fascination with wiping down the metal prep table. It was going to be a long day, she could just feel it.

Visions of him running screaming from the bees at least gave her the strength to smile sweetly as she left.

The cart was cumbersome with the two coffee carafes threatening to tip at any bump or rattle. Luck was with her when a couple of nice young officers practically tripped over each other to help her out of the elevator. Nice handsome boys like her Frankie. Maybe she should send Stanley to them for a few lessons in good manners. They had guns, they could handle him.

Angela stopped outside the closed door, reviewing the order slip when she saw the reserved notice taped to the door and the "in use" placard switched to red. She went quickly and checked, but the Civic room up the hall was dark and empty, a sign proclaiming it for use by the Nashua Park taskforce only. She shrugged a bit and walked back to her cart, if the room was wrong they'd just have to forgive her.

Angling the swinging door open a hair Angela peered in and when she didn't see anybody she used the cart nose to bump it ajar. Leaning forward she slowly tried to wiggle the cart over the aluminum threshold with one hand splayed over both carafes, eyes downcast watching the wheels.

"Oh, here let me help." the soft voice startled Angela as both coffee pots were picked up. Angela sighed, that was an obvious fix.

"I'm sorry, I should have thought of that. I didn't realize anybody was in here. Thank you." Angela stopped talking and looked as the familiar voice registered.

"Oh my god, Maura honey, you're home!" Abandoning her cart, Angela ran over and scooped her up, squeezing hard. Pulling back she ran her hands over her shoulders pinching a bit and down her arms, before pulling her back in. "When did you get in? Who picked you up from the airport? Why didn't you tell me? I could have picked you up. "Angela stepped back long enough to examine her head to foot, "Your hair is so long."

Overwhelmed Maura touched the ends of her hair. She didn't know how to reply. "I couldn't get to the salon yet. I was delayed in London " She cleared the emotion from her throat before clarifying "My connecting flight from London it was delayed."

She kept toying with the bottom of her hair "I just had the car service drop me home long enough to freshen up and get the car."

Watching her Angela decided to step back for a moment and went back to the cart. "Honey, your hair is beautiful, it's just longer than when you left." She grabbed basket of bagels and muffins." Would you mind getting that tray of fruit? Careful of the juice with your pretty dress."

Maura dropped her hand from her hair, snapped into action by the request. She stood shoulder to shoulder with Angela carefully removing the plastic wrap from the tray and helping arrange everything. They stood together staring at their efforts. In the silence Maura's hand drifted to her hair and down her dress. There was so much she wanted to say and desperately she wished could figure out how to start.

"Stop worrying, it will be fine, you just got back." She rubbed Maura's arm. Maura stared at the hand, not sure if Angela meant her hair or her return.

Voices filtered in from the hall, growing louder until Korsak and Cavanaugh appeared.

"Gentlemen, look who I found." Angela squeezed Maura's forearm. "I had better go now before the governor shows up." Grabbing her cart she lowered her voice and whispered "I didn't vote for him."

"Hey it's the Doc." Korsak clapped her on the shoulder before walking over to close the door. "Welcome back, wish it were a bit happier. Wait until you see what Pike did to the lab, never mind his reports, all while Sean here has BAU trying to pull the whole thing into the FBI offices. Intense bunch but they can wait next door with the rest of the taskforce."

"Business, must be slow in the Capital is all I'm saying." Cavanaugh chuckled and shook her hand "Good to have you back Maura. I'm going to owe you for cutting your leave short but Pike gave them a valid argument."

Firm knocking interrupted them as the door swept inward omitting the low din of hallway traffic from the taskforce. Cavanaugh's assistant Jenny stood, leaning on the door to keep it open as she let in Special Agent in Charge Wellborn. "Sean, Governor Sanford is running a few minutes late. He's stuck on Storrow."

Maura heard her before she saw her. Jane's voice, distinctive and sounding slightly incensed filtering in from the hall.

Nervous tension bloomed fast and hard. Conflicting needs pressured her from all sides, wanting to slip deeper in the room and wanting to stay where she was. Her hand flew to her hair. It was different, Jane would notice, she should just wait until she had it trimmed.

Jane was trying to be patient, orders were clear from Cavanaugh. She was to get along with the FBI or get along without her badge. Grimly she increased her stride. She took a deep breath, she could handle this. The Civic room was just steps away.

Besides, in theory, Agent Bates had a point. It just wasn't a relevant point. Jane could work with that. "I agree that Dr. Pike didn't do all that he should have but we're all pretty sure the victim didn't drown, so not blowing the chest hasn't ruined the case. "

Craig Bates swept his hand briefly through his hair. Rizzoli was beautiful but frustrating and he'd been up late last night trying to figure out what kind of conversation he could start that would last more than her nodding yes or no and walking off. She hated Dr. Pike. The scenario wasn't implausible. At least it hadn't seemed that way around midnight.

Of course once the words left his mouth and she had done more than nod at the fact he existed it sounded ridiculous even to his own ears. He could see her diplomatically trying to step around the conversation.

"Anyhow, our ME is expected back shortly and I personally guarantee she is the best, if it's there something to be found we'll have it."

Those words ultimately immobilized Maura, held in place by the desire to see Jane's expression as she endorsed her, faith and confidence lacing the sentiment.

Anything Bates said in reply buzzed around Jane. She was lost the minute she'd lifted her head.

Maura's gaze consumed her. Jane moved a step forward unconsciously, the unwavering connection causing her pulse to gallop through her body and lodge in her throat.

Maura felt a faint buzzing in her ears and she worked to control her breathing. So much seemed to flicker and swirl in Jane's dark eyes, inscrutable and transparent all at once.

Each painful second was an undeniable validation of her return.

Maura startled at Vince's touch on her elbow. Governor Sanford had arrived and Cavanaugh was moving towards the conference table, commiserating about commutes. Maura was forced to step back as Jenny let the door shut.

She composed herself for a moment as she sat down, an indulgent second of closing her eyes, her head in her hand before focusing back on the meeting. As she looked around Maura caught Vince's compassionate expression and she quickly picked up her pen and daybook, concentrating on the blank page.

Chapter 18: Chapter 18

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

Inez had first called Frost to back out on lunch, describing how Maura arrived back in the lab, stared for a minute before storming into her office, grabbing scrubs and stalking off to change. She then had everyone stop any non essential task until both the lab and the autopsy suit were reorganized, her words tight and measured about the sense of responsibility and professionalism.

Late afternoon Inez had called again, purely for business when the BAU forensic experts and Maura had reviewed Pike's report and decided to pull the body immediately.

Hanging up the phone Frost fervently wished Inez had called Jane instead.

Clicking on his desktop brought up the video footage from Route 93 side of North Station, decreasing the speed by half and watching each frame click past, glancing over every few minutes at her huddled form. She'd been spookily silent for hours after the taskforce meeting. From what Frost could see she'd been staring at that same page for at least an hour.

He took a deep breath, he could do this. "Jane that was Inez, BAU is down in the morgue and they're reprocessing the Nashua Park body."

When her posture didn't change he tried again a little louder. She looked up from the manila folder she was hunched over, hands toying with each other under the desk. "I'm not deaf Frost."

He kept his eyes glued to the rolling footage. "Well then respond already. I'd take a 'I'm busy Frost' or 'Go away Frost' or the correct response of ' I need 10 more minutes to finish up here before we go down and observe Frost.'"

When he didn't even get a sarcastic verbal slap he forgot the video and stared at her "Hey, Jane, you doing okay?"'

Jane spun her chair to face the file cabinets and leaned back, studying the overhead fluorescents "I'd be better if I hadn't spent 3 hours in that taskforce meeting only to really hear that they had nothing, knew nothing and weren't going to know anything until forensics came back. Why the freakin' Feds have to have each individual person stand up there with their very own 40 slide PowerPoint presentation, complete with animated charts, I'll never understand."

What she didn't mention to Frost was she had sat in the back, intending to draw stick figures on her notepad when she realized that Maura was physically in the room behind her. Maybe even in one of the chairs close to the wall, only a few feet of sheetrock between them.

For the next several hours as slide after slide reviewed each point and image of the case Jane suppressed the impulse to put her ear to the wall and listen. She wondered how long their meeting was. She tried to remember what Maura was wearing and couldn't recall. That bothered her.

When Governor Sanford and Cavanaugh bustled in towards the end to address the team Jane had to suppress the flash of jealousy. She bet they knew what Maura was wearing. They got to talk to her too, bastards.

Bet they had a nice conversation about the case, without annoying animated slides. Maybe Maura smiled at them as she'd made an important point or statement. Jane knew she would actually listen to what they said, just sit there and listen in that serious way she had when things were important. Intent gaze, slight head tilt, maybe making a note or two with her eyebrows drawn together.

Jane would trade her soul for a whole conversation like that. Words not crowded by months of things that should be said and more that shouldn't. Things that made listening hard and understanding complicated.

"But seriously, I'm fine." Jane grasped the chair arms and turned around, her eyes steady, silently begging him to just let her pretend it was a regular day and not the day that Maura Isles stood in a hallway and made Jane want to cry just by looking at her.

Frost stretched his arms over his head "Yep that was a bitch of a meeting. I think the spinning pie charts were a nice touch. "

Jane sighed in relief. Barry was at heart a gentleman and a good friend. "Yeah, it's nice to see our Federal dollars literally in action. Speaking of pie, I haven't had anything to eat today. I'm going to run out and grab something. I saw the original autopsy, why don't you take Frankie and give him the chance? "Jane was up and out the door before Frost could formulate a reply.

Frustrated Frost threw his pen at the closing door. Here they go again. Damn woman could face down a serial killer with her bare hands and give herself a gut shot without flinching but try to get her to deal with a petite medical examiner in kitten heels? She was off and running.

Chapter 19: Chapter 19

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

Frost pushed through the doors of the café, grasping the side of his tongue hard between his molars and moving deliberately to the coffee. Eyes darting around, groaning internally as he spotted Korsak eating what smelled like a Ruben at the counter. He counted backwards in his head, slowly breathing through his nose, biting back the nausea.

Angela stopped cleaning the counter long enough to ring him up, touching his hand sympathetically. "Rough autopsy Barry?"

Korsak snorted.

Angela shot him look as she hit the empty spot beside him with her towel making him jump. "Vince, leave it alone, you boys can duke it away all you want upstairs but down here I appreciate nice young men who can be sensitive."

Frost wanted to crawl under the counter. He swallowed a sip of his drink, letting the warm coffee aroma soothe him. That statement was going to be verbal gold to Korsak. For months.

Doing his best to disguise a laugh Korsak coughed into his napkin, a chuckle escaping. "The Doc already reautopsying Ingrid Gaynor?" At Frost's nod he continued "How'd it go? I'm surprised she pulled her that fast."

"I'm not sure why so immediately or what she was looking for but I got the call from Inez that they were going to reprocess this afternoon. " He pulled the lid off his cup of coffee to drain the last bit. "Never thought I'd become a connoisseur of autopsies but after a couple of months of Pike she was like watching an artist at work. Even the Feds were silent the whole time. "

Frost walked over to the trash "She was just closing when I left. Frankie's still down there I think. Wanted to wait to welcome Maura home."

Angela's attention snapped to them. "Wait a second. What is Frankie doing down in the morgue? Where is Jane?" Angela started drumming her fingers on the counter as she started to put the pieces together.

Frost looked to Korsak for help.

Korsak just waved him off. Personally he was done with this. There were only so many moments of crying medical examiners and moody detectives a man could take. Angela was welcome to handle it.

"Barry Frost, where is Jane?"

Frost swallowed, Jane was going to kill him.

"You can try sitting there in silence but this is ending right now." Angela walked over and locked the café door and flipped the sign to read closed. "We're talking about two grown women. This is getting ridiculous. Months this has been dragging on. Months. In two countries!"

Angela was ranting at the ceiling. "I'm getting too old for all this, do you hear me God? Too old!"

Angela slapped her hand down on the counter next to Korsak. "Vince you get on that phone and you find Jane right now and when you do you go bring her to me."

She spun to Frost. "You get back downstairs and between you and Frankie you say whatever you have to say to get Maura up here."

Alone for a moment Angela sat down and crossed her arms. Obviously leaving them to their own devices to figure this disaster out was going to either drive her to drink or put her in an early grave. Maura looked tired, frail and completely lost. Obviously her time over in that god forsaken country had done a number on her. Jane was withdrawn, prickly and a walking poster for depression.

So of all the foolish, stubborn, idiotic things possible for them to do, going back to avoiding each other was not going to happen. Not on her watch. They wanted to go toss knives at each other? Fine. Scream at each other? Even better, but go around avoiding each other while falling apart? Not anymore.

Angela Rizzoli figured everybody needed a good reminder that there were two Rizzoli Family rules. Love each other and family comes first. Maura would get a small concession from her. After all she wasn't born a Rizzoli, however, Jane knew darn well what was expected in this family and she was going to get her butt in this café and she was going to listen to her mother or else.

Maura arrived first and Angela was grateful for that. There was something to be said for finishing school and the instinctive conduct that made her much more pliable in this situation.

Angela smiled at her and gently put an arm around her, walking her to the swinging door of the kitchen. "Maura honey, I'm sure you're just exhausted but I really needed to talk to you for a minute. Can you wait back here, go sit back at my desk? Just let me go finish up front okay? "

The questions were obvious on her face but innate decorum made her nod and walk into the back.

Frankie was confused. He looked to Frost who was just sitting at the counter shaking his head.

"Don't go there Frank, trust me. You don't want to go there right now."

Understanding started to twist in his gut. Staring at the gently swinging door he lowered his voice to stage whisper "Ma! Ma come on. What are you doing? Not a good idea Ma."

"Frankie Rizzoli you listen to me and listen closely. You either shut up or get out of here. "Angela walked over and pushed his shoulder until he was sitting and she could look down at him, lowering her voice "Or if you want you tell me right now that you'll be responsible for your sister because I'm done as of tonight. You think you can manage it better? Than go ahead have right at it."

Frost cleared his throat "Um Frank, just a thought before you answer. Summer Shack"

Frankie looked over his shoulder with a grimace and started nodding. "You want to know what? You're right I got nothing. Besides, anything is better than watching Maura looking more and more like a kicked puppy every time somebody that was not Jane walked into the morgue during the autopsy. "

Frost's confirmation of Maura's decided dejection died off at the sight of Jane arguing with Korsak as they rounded the reception desk.

Korsak looked determined.

Angela looked resolute.

Frankie still looked petrified and Frost just crossed his arms and braced himself muttering "Incoming" as Jane pulled open the door.

"Ma I was at my desk, what in god's name could you not say by picking up the phone?" She was growling at Angela but glaring at Korsak.

Angela had her by the wrist. "How about enough is enough? Missy, you are coming with me."

The door flew open and hit the edge of a service cart, sending it flying into the steel prep table. The smash of metal on metal startled Maura to her feet.

Angela continued to march across the room towing Jane behind her. Angela felt the change in Jane the second she saw Maura, resistance shifting from annoyance to hesitation.

"Maura honey, please sit." Wide eyed Maura primly returned to her seat.

"You, sit down. Now. And don't say a single word." Angela's hand on Jane's shoulder pinched lightly until she sat down stunned.

"Now both of you are going to listen to me, and listen quietly. As in not a word until I'm done. Are we clear?" Maura nodded but her attention was clearly on Jane. Jane crossed her arms over her chest and a leg over her knee but kept her mouth closed and her eyes on the floor.

"Alright you two, I'm going to list out a whole bunch of facts and then I'm going to leave this room and what you do or don't do is your own business but this has to stop for everyone's sake."

Angela leaned on her desk and turned towards Jane. "I have to start someplace so let's just go with an easy example of what's going on here. Let's review the day you had the bright idea to shoot yourself."

Jane snapped her head up "Ma!"

Shaking her head Angela held up her hand. "You are not talking. I am the only one doing the talking, period."

"I don't care what the reasons were Jane, even if it was for the most valid reason on the planet. You have to understand that something like that affects people. All of us got left with the unavoidable thought Jane. THE thought. The Jesus Christ God almighty Jane could have died thought."

She turned to Maura "Scared you didn't it? I could see it in the way that Dr. Slucky became fascinating to you. He saved her, I get it sweetie, but we have to work on how you handle emotion. I know you took it personally when this one" Angela's tossed her thumb over her shoulder at Jane "started not allowing anybody to visit, but when do you really think her addiction to the home shopping network and declining hygiene started? Why do you think I wasn't allowed to go in and clean it up? "

Maura was just swallowing and staring at her. "Maura, it wasn't supposed to be me that went over and tried to fix her. Dr. Slucky wasn't a random date with the yoga instructor was he Jane? You saw him and you saw a potential match for Maura."

Angela looked over at her daughter. Jane was bouncing a knee and staring at the floor.

"This idiot over here didn't actually want to be left alone. She wanted to make sure she was still more important than Byron Slucky. What happened when you showed up the night of the banquet and dealt with her? In the end where were you sitting? Who did you choose?"

Maura inhaled ready to answer but Angela just shook her head no.

Angela turned back to Jane "Jane Rizzoli you're not 16 years old use your damn words already. Maura does not possess some sort of psychic powers." She sighed and looked at Maura "And now Maura you know why I sent you over there the night of the banquet. There was only one person she was going budge for, end of story."

Silence filled the space for a minute. Angela waited until both women looked at her. "What should we discuss next ladies? How about when it was Jane's turn to get scared out of her wits? Let's talk about when this whole mess actually started."

Her fingers lightly drummed against the desk. "I can tell you both one thing, it had nothing to do with that shooting in the warehouse. That shooting was one of the results. This mess started the day Ian Faulkner showed up at Maura's front door."

Angela let a long sigh escape and softened her voice. "He was the first real threat to your special place with Maura wasn't he Jane? All the Slucky types in the world were irritating but when you threw enough of a temper tantrum Maura always made sure you came first."

She paused. Maura was staring wide eyed at Jane. Angela could see her thinking. "Ian was different. He made you happy Maura. You wanted time alone with him. He was a part of you that was off limits, a secret. It cracked the little universe you two had built around your friendship didn't it? "

"Maura look at me for a second." Maura's eyes were bright, the fingers of one hand lightly tracing the knuckles of the other in a soothing pattern but she looked at Angela.

"There is nothing wrong with that Maura. We all deserve to be happy. To love somebody and be loved back, it is a gift. But for whatever reason you stayed here. For all the tears over the love of your life and how you couldn't be together it took this mess for you to even try."

Angela pressed on "Losing Maura was a scary thought Jane wasn't it? Easier to just make sure you could handle her not being there at any time. Agent Dean was in the right place at the right time wasn't he? He pursued you, actively said over and over that he wanted you. I'm going to admit at the time I even encouraged it. So that is my part in this mess. "

She held both hands open. "I think I finally realized what was going on when I found out from Frankie you stayed away from the hospital that night. Maura might have sent you off to go find who hit her mother but why didn't you go back? Why that particular night to sleep with Dean? Because having her need you while you were trying to figure out how not to need her was scary wasn't it?" Angela could see Jane, now completely deflated, still, staring at her hands.

"The warehouse became the spark that just set off the explosion, but girls? This has nothing to do with Patrick Doyle and that shot, this is about all of the actions that made it possible for that shot to happen in the first place."

Angela dusted her hands together. "Okay that's it. Or not it, but I've said all I'm going to say, but you two? Look at the both of you."

"Do either of you understand how exhausting it is for everyone?" Angela pointed towards Maura "What with the worry about you running off to practically a war zone in Africa with no way to make sure you were okay." and then towards Jane "And you, watching you beat yourself up for months, everyone trying to keep you whole."

She waved a finger between them. "Clearly not being in each other's lives is not an option. Supposedly one of you is a genius and the other a detective, accept it and figure a way out of this mess."

Angela headed to the door. "Now I love you both. I don't expect you to say a single word to each other at least for tonight but I'm calling a temporary truce and you will hug each other before I let you out of this room."

Both Jane and Maura watched the door swinging back and forth in her wake.

Jane ran a trembling hand through her hair and took a deep breath, feeling the air pushing out shake her a bit. Bracing herself with her hands on her knees she looked at Maura.

Maura could feel Jane's eyes on her. She studied her hands as they sat motionless in her lap. Angela's words had been an assault to her equilibrium that she couldn't have predicted. Breathe in and breathe out. In her mind she counted the space between each inhale and exhale. Posture ramrod straight, legs crossed at her ankles in perfect stillness.

Jane fidgeted for a few minutes before tension just shot her to her feet, toppling the chair in her haste. The noise snapped Maura's eyes up and in that moment Jane understood how she had missed it before.

How obvious it became when she looked, really looked that Maura's poise and reserve was the only thing she had to hold herself together. All those months of rigid formality wrapped in anger had been the only defense she had. The aloofness had been easy to latch onto and rage against, the hostility between them, an easy release of all the tension from months of disputes that neither had understood.

Then the second she paid attention, looked beyond it, Maura's eyes gave her away. Swimming with everything that needed to be said, to be asked, but she didn't know how.

Jane walked up to her, keeping her eyes locked into hazel as she approached. Maura stood stiffly, backing up a little before her calves hit the chair; arms came up bent at the elbow, palms out. A gesture of defense or welcome? Jane wasn't sure. She studied her for a second more and her voice sounded shaky to her own ears "Please Maura, you know she's dead serious. She'll leave us blocked in here until they have to go put us on your table."

Maura was frozen but she wasn't looking away. The brightness in her eyes slowly ran over and trailed down her face. Jane was gentle as she embraced her, instantly shocked at how very small she felt. Maura's self assurance had always made her feel so much larger and stripped of it she was so very petite.

Holding her brought an intense wave of relief.

Jane's arms encased her softly, oh so very hesitant. It was a jarring contrast to everything that made up Detective Jane Rizzoli to Maura and a palpable sign of how far things had unraveled. That uncertainty broke what reserve Maura had kept intact and she couldn't stop the tears from turning to silent sobs. She wanted all of her Jane back, no hesitation, no holding back.

But she didn't have the right to ask for that anymore.

Feeling Maura's shoulders shake and realizing her hands were still up between them Jane felt tears well up and she bit her bottom lip. Some things just could not be pushed.

Maura felt Jane start to step back and desperation ripped through her.

Jane was startled when she realized Maura had grasped her shirt tightly in her fists, her knuckles white with the effort and violently shook her head no, gasping softly as the sobs became harder. Jane wrapped herself around Maura immediately, squeezing tightly as silent promise to hold her together.

Feeling Jane's arms enveloping her securely, holding her close, Maura buried her face into the side of her neck, breathing her in, feeling the tears slow, unclenching her fists and bringing them around Jane's waist, content.

Chapter 20: Chapter 20

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

Korsak flipped the signal as the Columbia Road exit came up. Jane had been silent the whole ride, body leaning against the door watching the traffic fly by.

"I'm sorry Jane. That was piss poor timing."

"When do murders ever have good timing?"

Korsak just gave a small shrug.

Truthfully she was grateful that Korsak had come into the kitchen apologizing, telling her that she needed to go with him to help secure the scene of a shooting over at the Fields corner station T station. The day had been one emotional cluster fuck and a murder was a good enough excuse and distraction until she could get her head back together.

Jane ran her left thumb over the back of her right hand, absently tracing the textures of her scar.

She had jumped away from Maura when Korsak had barged in. Her heart started racing and she didn't know what to say. It was so easy to just leave, to avoid looking at Maura and just leave. She was just doing her job. Maura would get that, expect it even.

Angela was actually unlocking the café door to let them out when Jane just couldn't ignore her pounding pulse. She looked back at the kitchen door. She spun around and went back.

Jane peered in the small oval window before pushing the door open and Maura was just standing there alone, utterly still, head down, shoulders curled, leaning on the fist of her right hand on the steel prep table as if it was the only thing holding her up.

Every protective instinct sparked in Jane even if she wasn't exactly sure who or what Maura needed and she reacted without thought.

This time there was no hesitation, she walked up to Maura and hugged her quickly, dropping a brief kiss to the top of her head, whispering welcome home into her hair before ushering her out of the kitchen with an arm around her shoulders, bringing her to Angela. "Ma's going to drive you home okay?" She didn't wait for an answer just left with Korsak, looking back, satisfied that Maura wasn't alone.

Jane propped a knee up against the dashboard "Better really anyhow. I think that was about all I could handle. I mean I'm too tired to even be pissed at all of you right now so that should tell you something."

Too tired to be pissed but not too tired to notice that it was Korsak with her. He had given her some bullshit excuse about Frost but it was taking everything in her not to call it like it was. She hated feeling managed.

Korsak glanced at her. "You know sometimes not fighting the world is the harder option to take Jane. I know you're hurting but you can either let the past few months damage your friendship or grow it. "

"Fantastic, you're playing the part of sensitivity guru now?" Jane let her head hit the cool window with an audible thud.

"Hey, I know a thing or two about letting hurt go because I value the person too much. You know that scar you've been playing with this whole drive? Well Jane you forget I was there that night. I was your partner remember?" Vince stared dead ahead hearing her sit up quickly. He pushed on before he lost his chance. "Not only did I have to feel like I failed to protect you, I then had to sit in front of Sean and be told that you wanted to be reassigned. That stung Jane. It stung like a son of a bitch at a time in my life that I didn't need that."

"Vince, come on, you know I'll apologize forever for it too. I've told you over and over why. I just couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't be your partner after everything, after all of that." Her voice was tired and strained.

Korsak maneuvered the car between two patrol cars with their lights flashing and put it into park. "Yes you did Janie and I had to decide if I was going to let that hurt ruin my relationship with you or if I was going to let it become part of my relationship with you. It didn't mean that I didn't get angry and we didn't argue about it, but I didn't let it break us. Hell maybe today we're even stronger for it, I don't know. It was a choice Jane. That's all I'm saying."

Curled against Angela's car door Maura absently catalogued the familiar streets and landmarks on the route home. The dark brick churches, lit drugstore windows and restaurants all recognizable, all precisely as she'd left them.

Why then did she feel as if everything was alien and unknown?

The radio played soft rock favorites and Angela was humming softly along with it. The quiet vibration of her voice was strangely soothing. Maura pressed her lips together. She owed Jane's mother for so much and all the knowledge in the world wasn't going to help her articulate it. Clearing her throat she fell back on the strongest sentiment turning over and through her thoughts.

"Thank you." It seemed too ambiguous. Maura tried again. "Thank you so much. I mean, just, the emails, Bass, and then today." Maura ran her hand up to tuck her hair behind her ear "For everything, thank you."

Angela slowly smiled and her shoulders seemed to sag a tad, like she'd been holding a burden and could finally relax. "It's my job. What would all you people do if I wasn't around?"

Maura felt the first real smile since returning slowly slide over her cheeks. A reminder, Angela needed her too. "Those emails especially. I didn't expect that. I didn't even think to check. I found them all one night when I just," Maura sighed "I just was alone and I missed everyone so much."

Angela looked out the window, signal flashing on the dash, waiting for her opportunity to turn into Maura's driveway. "We all missed you too. It's hard when a chair is empty at the dinner table, but I don't have to worry about that this week right?"

Maura sucked her bottom lip in "I'm so sorry."

Angela shook her head affectionately as she put the car into park, a little guilt never hurt when a person needed to make a lasting point. She reached a hand over to squeeze Maura's shoulder quickly as she opened the door. " I'm just happy you're back to fill that seat and give me a bit of feminine balance before I take my sauce spoon to the back of their collective heads."

The words tumbled out before Maura thought about censoring them. "Angela why did you write about everyone but Jane?"

"Oh honey, I just didn't want to upset you too much or have you stop reading my emails, but I know I slipped Janie in there."

Maura sighed and slowly opened the door, the answer clarifying once and for all how harsh she must have appeared when she left.

Angela grabbed Maura's elbow as she came around the car. "Now come on, I've been storing meals in your freezer for the past couple of months so you'd have food when you got back and now we're going to put them to use, alright?"

Maura started to stiffen but Angela stopped and turned around so she could see her face. "Because my daughter handed you over to me and that means until I've watched you eat my job is not done."

There was no point to declining so Maura just nodded.

"Good, now you can go change and say hi to that tortoise of yours."

Maura's brow knitted in confusion. "You just called Bass a tortoise." She stopped walking and just stood there.

"Well that's what he is right? I've heard you correct Jane enough." Angela was by the door rummaging around in her purse for the keys.

Maura shook her head slightly, bewildered "Yes, but in all those emails you called him a turtle."

Angela unlocked Maura's door and looked over her shoulder. "Well yes I did, but that's what Jane calls him isn't it? She told me once it's because she loves the face you make every time she does it."

Maura watched her disappear stunned. Every time Maura had read the subject line with "Turtle Update" she'd happily flashed to Jane and mentally corrected it to tortoise.

Maura eyed the open door with newfound trepidation. Under all her kind humor and colloquial warmth Angela Rizzoli as matriarch was a master in her medium.

Jane had been present right in the subject of every single email.

Chapter 21: Chapter 21

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

"Oh my god, just stop ringing" Jane buried her head facedown in her pillow even as one hand blindly crashed about her nightstand feeling for her phone.

Squinting she dragged her finger over the screen, at the moment missing a good old fashioned talk button that wouldn't require the actual effort of sight. "Rizzoli"

"Hey Jane, sorry to be the bitch on this one but they've called in the taskforce for 9 am." Frost sounded like she felt.

"Damn it. It's Saturday and it's a Saturday that we're not scheduled for or on call for. "She heard Frost groan in response. He'd been with her at Field's Corner until sometime after 2am. "I don't suppose we know why?"

"Update from Forensics I think. Korsak called me on his way in for an 8am briefing with Governor Sanford and Agent Wellborn. Apparently Maura asked for them to come in for an autopsy report review."

Jane slowly sat up and ran her spare hand through her hair. "Well that was quick. If that report was ready by 8am I doubt Maura slept either." Mumbling more to herself than Frost "I swear one way or another she is trying to kill us both." she wasn't sure what Barry said in response but she confirmed she'd see him at 9 as she ended the call.

She swung her legs over the side of the bed. Yesterday had been one of the most emotionally conflicted days she had lived through in a very long time. Jane was rather sure she should be mad at her mother but mostly she wanted hug her and grab her some cannoli. She stretched before walking into the bathroom.

The minute the water was warm enough she ducked in. It felt weird but she kind of wanted to hug Korsak too. Every so often Korsak shocked the hell out of her. A little old fashioned, completely politically incorrect by nature and apparently the only person capable of making sense. She held up her hands and studied the scars. A lot of fucking sense.

She'd already looked at life without Maura. Not pretty.

Analyzing what would have to happen to fix their friendship. Not pretty.

It would likely involve tears and conversations that would make her entirely sick to her stomach. Jane got out of the shower and as she dried off she considered the absolute emotional shit storm she was going to have to be willing walk through.

It was telling then that she considered Maura to be worth it. But what to even make of that thought she was too exhausted to deal with and she shoved it aside.

Water was dripping from her hair, making her back feel cold as she stared at her reflection. Idly she traced the shadows under her eyes and contemplated pulling out her makeup kit. Even she was going to admit she looked a bit peaked as she pulled the skin near her eyes taunt. She wondered if Maura would tell her she had pronounced periorbital darkening and puffiness.

Maura might notice and then she would do that Dr. Isles analytical stare thing that Jane used to pretend drove her nuts. Maura would diagnose her and Jane wouldn't act irritated this time. If she happened to try to touch Jane's face to examine her closer Jane especially wouldn't shrug her off. She'd thank her. Thank her for caring.

Just so Maura would be clear that Jane wasn't honestly irritated if she cared.

Because like Korsak said, things were different and things had to change. They either moved on or didn't and her Ma was right, not having Maura in her life wasn't working, apparently for either of them.

So maybe she should be happy she was getting her ass dragged into work on her day off, periorbital puffiness and all. Jane sighed, pulling at her eyes a bit more. At the very least the dark circles could be a valid way to start a conversation because right now she needed all the help she could get.

Jane groaned feeling the tension build just thinking about everything. She rolled her shoulders and pushed the thoughts aside. At the moment, there was a case that needed her attention and thinking about Maura's return was not going to solve it.

She analyzed herself one last time. Yep, pretty good reason in her book to skip makeup. Some things just called for going natural all the way.

Making her way back from the bathroom Maura paused at the door to the Civic room, hand hovering over the door handle.

She'd been dutifully taking bites of ravioli last night using the Nashua Park case to allow her thoughts to settle between Angela's ongoing queries about her time out of the country when the pieces from Ingrid Gaynor's autopsy finally started to make sense if she shifted them together.

Angela had been hovering and Maura had decided the only way to obstruct the probing about her time in Africa was to at least direct the questions to topics she could control. Mostly she had wanted to avoid any conversation that went beyond the simple dialogue needed to get through the meal and recounting the cyanide trouble was a perfect way to deflect deeper conversation.

It was in the middle of breaking down how the cyanide was used and why the unusually long drought made the failure of the tailing system a disaster that it occurred to Maura that everything in the body is about how your unique system processes what is put into it.

After Angela had left she'd pulled out the files and over the next few hours the pile of textbooks around her grew. The fan from her laptop whirred as she called article after article up on PubMed. It all became so very clear. Pike's injudiciousness had caused significant cost in time, money and answers.

She immediately went to call Jane but her mobile phone was not where she left it on her kitchen island. Angela must have put it away somewhere and by the time she grabbed the handset to her landline she remembered it probably wasn't appropriate anymore to call in the middle of the night. It would have to wait until morning. The thought was sobering and it subdued the elation of having an idea of what to do next for Ingrid Gaynor.

Her fingers had traced the smooth plastic and keys. It was so tempting to just dial and see if Jane would answer. She had returned to Boston to figure out if she could come home but now that she was here she couldn't figure out what exactly she should do next. There wasn't a publication on PubMed she could refer too for this.

In the end phone remained where it was and she sent a meeting request for an emergency briefing and a request to assemble the Nashua Street Park Taskforce. When she saw that Cavanaugh had pulled together both meetings before the afternoon the rush to prepare was a relief just for the excuse to get to the station early.

Maura turned the handle. At least for this morning her actions were clearly defined. She just needed to walk through the door in front of her and present her findings. The taskforce would come up with the theories and maybe even the answers. She deliberately left all the copies of her report down in her office. If she was lucky a certain member of the Nashua Park team would start considering the facts and would appear downstairs, demanding Maura start confirming her speculations.

Chapter 22: Chapter 22

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

The Civic room was packed.

Frost craned his neck trying to find Jane. She had been right next to him, casually claiming ownership of one of the back chairs by resting a foot on it while they listened to Agent Bates and Agent Murphy discussing the recent deposition of the remaining detectives from the New Bedford killings. But then Cavanaugh had called everyone to attention by telling them that Dr Isles would be arriving momentarily to review some overlooked considerations on the Ingrid Gaynor autopsy and Jane had just vanished.

Finally finding her, Frost rolled his eyes when he saw Agent Kim Lewis scrambling away from a chair in the first row. He was going to have to have that talk with Jane, apparently sooner rather than later, but in the meantime he caught Agent Lewis's attention and pointed out the spare chair next to him.

Jane watched in satisfaction as some mousy little Fed agent took one look at her striding to the last chair in the front and immediately backed off, suddenly finding an interest in sitting elsewhere. She noticed Frost's invitation and figured she owed him at least cup of coffee for smoothing that over.

She ducked her head for a moment and ran a hand through her hair. It was just, this was a legitimate opportunity to get to sit and openly study Maura and she wasn't going to try to do it through 20 other people.

Jane watched Maura stride to the front and thank everyone while her presentation was brought up. Her hair was up in a twist which was a bit discerning, Maura had always favored leaving it down. The highlights needed a touch up too, uncharacteristically overdue, but the color seemed lighter too. Perhaps that was an illusion from the tan though. Jane couldn't remember ever seeing her skin tone so dark.

She was thinner but Jane had felt that yesterday. Too thin. It made her angry all over again at Ian. Didn't he understand that Maura had a tendency to forget to eat when she was busy or upset? Didn't he notice? He had to know she was unhappy. If the situation was reversed Jane would have made damn sure the woman at least ate enough.

Jane crossed her arms over her chest. She also never would have let Maura leave again. If that was the best that Maura Isles could do for the love of her of her life then Jane really had to have that talk they avoided the last time Ian blew into their lives. Maura could do a hell of a lot better.

Now Jane couldn't help the full on frown creeping over her face. The thought of anybody else taking care of Maura actually made her chest feel tight. Okay maybe they'd still skip that talk but starting today Jane was going to make sure that between her mother and herself that Maura lost that gaunt look.

Maura pressed the remote to move to the next slide when she noticed Jane's expression suddenly darken. She paused, all of a sudden self conscious. She wondered if the hair up was a mistake. Her dress was dark to try to camouflage her tan. Jane wasn't a fan of change. Maura just wanted to erase the past few months, hide any hint of alteration.

Jane noticed the change in Maura's voice right before she seemed to lose her train of thought. She refocused her attention and noticed the slight anxious touch of Maura's hand to her hair. The uncharacteristic nervous demeanor as she stood lecturing. She sat up quickly and tried to catch Maura's eye. Maura was always the image of confidence at the front of a room when she addressed the precinct. Personal conversations she might flounder in, but in a situation like this? She owned it.

Maura closed her eyes for a moment. She could handle this, it was just mild tachypnea. She counted back from 10 and opened her eyes, startled to find Jane's piercing gaze locked on her. Then Jane was giving her that half smirk she loved so much and a ghost of a wink.

Jane was lost the second Maura smiled at her. It was the one look Jane just loved when she managed to bring it out. The type of smile that just lit up her whole face, from her lips to her eyes everything just drew Jane in. God help her she missed that more than just about everything else.

Maura raised her laser pointer "As I was saying, although at first appearance it was concluded that Ingrid Gaynor's death was a continuation of the New Bedford Highway Killer serial murders my review and subsequent findings lead me to question this assumption."

She called up the slide with Ingrid's hands and arms displayed, next to another set. "In my detailed review of the New Bedford killings it became apparent that the struggle of the victim was part of the process for those murders. Each of those women's autopsy reports list extensive injury that would correlate with an extended pre-mortem fight. "

She used the small red dot to highlight the second photo on the slide. "You'll notice the jagged nails and the cuts to the fingers and significant forearm contusions present."

"In direct comparison Ingrid Gaynor does not appear to have any defensive signs and what dermal disturbance I found appears to be post-mortem." Maura clicked to the next slide with photos of the known victims of the New Bedford Highway Killer.

"The New Bedford victims were consistently women with a lifestyle involving heavy drug use and often prostitution. Ingrid Gaynor had a history of drug use but from all interviews I reviewed, it would appear she had been clean at least from the time she gave birth to her daughter. She had moved forward and received her G.E.D and held steady employment. "

Maura walked back and forth a bit, giving her words time to penetrate the collective conscious of her audience. To date they had been thinking of this case in only one fashion thanks to Pike's indolent handling of the evidence.

"Ingrid Gaynor's tox panel came back clean for most common illegal drugs. She was clean for almost all popular legal drugs that a user could abuse. Except for these two."

She switched the slide to the one with the drug names circled on a tox panel. "Ketamine or Special-K. Ingrid Gaynor did have this in her blood as reported in her earlier autopsy report. She also tested positive for 4-hydroxybutanoic acid or GHB"

Everyone's attention was on her. The questions apparent, this was not news.

"But what I found noteworthy is that the levels were much higher than expected for the Ketamine and she had multiple puncture wounds to the inside of her right arm. By all accounts Ingrid Gaynor was right handed. "

She could see Barry narrow his gaze. He was listening, starting to hear what she was saying.

"This aberration however only highlights the unusual levels of the Ketamine. Per the pop pharmacokinetic sample the GHB was well past the half life of the drug yet still present at such a level in the plasma that it was unlikely that Ingrid Gaynor could have been cognizant enough to inject herself with the Ketamine, never mind multiple injections. Please also note the lack of any earlier injection points. "

Maura put up the next slide showing the angry red dots to the inside of the victim's right elbow.

"More importantly the Ketamine injections appeared to be attempted intravenously. Ketamine is popular as a recreational drug precisely because it can be injected intramuscularly or orally. In fact the intravenous injection use of Ketamine is primarily limited in humans to surgical anesthesia for superficial procedures or, notably as part of a euthanasia cocktail in veterinary practice."

Maura turned off the slides behind her and continued her gentle pacing. Noticing the change in the room, the silence, they were all listening intently.

"Although the actual cause of death is correct on the original autopsy, Ingrid Gaynor did die from manual strangulation with her undergarment, she would not have survived the drug cocktail in her system. "

Jane was staring at her. Maura could see her tossing things in and around her mind, questions churning as they formed rapid fire in her thoughts. She could almost guarantee that Jane would be down to visit her now.

"Ingrid Gaynor's death has several aberrations from the known proclivities of the New Bedford Highway Killer, so at this time I cannot in good conscious contribute her death to that serial murderer. I also cannot speculate why the body was found in the precise location the missing bodies from the original case were located."

She held up a hand as the questions came, gathering her briefcase. "I'm sorry but I'm not able to answer any questions at this time until we have additional feedback from ongoing testing. Please see Inez Diaz for a copy of my report or download it directly for those of you with access to the BPD servers. "

Maura looked directly at Jane as she concluded, "I'm available for the rest of the day in my office if anybody wishes to speak with me."

Chapter 23: Chapter 23

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

"Hey Ma you're going to want to hear this"

Angela glanced at Frankie as she worked through the line at the register. "I'm going to want to hear what honey?"

"Hear what Frost is saying about the taskforce meeting this morning." Frankie bit into his sandwich.

Frost just rolled his eyes.

Angela picked up an order from the counter and sighed at the customer "Officer Murphy, I distinctly promised your wife not to let you survive on salami and potato chips. Wait here a second." Angela hustled through the back and came out with a dish of baby carrots and salad dressing. "Eat these first. "

She shook her head as he wandered off, his ears slightly red. "I swear all of you are going to die of malnutrition."

Satisfied that everyone had what they needed she wandered over to Frost and Frankie. "So now both of you are suddenly willing to talk to me? In fact, Barry you don't even look worried."

Frost shrugged. "I figure after last night when there wasn't bloodshed and Jane was actually pleasant at the Field's Corner scene that Mama Rizzoli here" He tossed his thumb at Angela "is all the protection I'm ever going to need." He gave her a mock salute. "All hail the power. "

Frankie nodded. "I told you Frost, even Jane fears being late for a family dinner. You don't' mess with Ma."

Angela ran her hand affectionately over Frankie's head and tugged a bit. "What happened at the meeting?"

Frost finished chewing and leaned back "Brass called us all in today for a taskforce meeting and apparently Maura was the one who requested it. Man you should have seen Jane when she heard it was Maura giving the update, she cock blocked poor Agent Lewis for a front row seat. I mean literally stalked up there while this woman was just turning around to sit down."

"She caught one look at Jane and bolted." He pantomimed a take off with his hands "In fact she owes me one for apologizing for her. "

Frost snorted a bit "Not like that is likely to happen, but like I was saying Jane gets a front row seat and we all get walked through Pike's autopsy report. Then I have no idea happened but Maura gets all quiet and lost. Which if you've ever watched Maura giving a case review she really commands the room, so this was totally not Maura. "

Frost popped a chip into his mouth, swallowing quickly. "Next thing you know, Jane must have done something because Maura was smiling at her like you wouldn't believe and was almost cheerful as she finished the review."

Frost took a sip of his drink and shook his head "But what was great was at the end she announces she won't be taking questions but she'll be in her office all day if anybody wants to talk to her. She said it to the group but she was staring only at Jane. I mean she just tossed that gauntlet down and walked out."

Frankie broke in. "So now we're thinking of starting an office pool on how long it will take Jane to go down to the morgue with questions."

Angela just shook her head. "Don't bother boys. If this all happened before you came down for lunch and you've already finished? Jane is downstairs by now."

At their confused looks she continued "Barry call and ask one of the other detectives where she is. Is Vince upstairs?"

"He might be. He was headed back to his desk with Jane when the meeting broke up." Frost pulled out his mobile and dialed Korsak.

A minute later Angela was standing there smirking at both of them as Frost ended the call and put the phone away, his respect for Angela multiplying. Frankie was just chuckling.

"Angela, Korsak said Jane just left. Korsak also said to tell you he'd buy you that drink he owes you tonight if you want." Frost kept shaking his head "Damn that was just spooky, how do you do that?"

Angela gave a contented sigh, confident at last. "It's not hard Barry. I just know my daughter."

Jane peered into the autopsy suite but she didn't see Maura working on any of the ongoing autopsies. She checked the decomp suite but that was empty. Looking into the laboratory she noticed the door to Maura's office was cracked open.

She debated walking through the lab rather than go all the way around the hall to her front office door but didn't know if popping in so casually was okay anymore.

Jane lightened her footsteps as Maura's office came into view, the blinds on the window were open but down. She pressed her shoulder lightly against the wall and peered in.

Maura was alone and at her desk, her attention drifting between her lab notebook and her monitor as she transcribed her thoughts. Jane could hear Maura's voice playing back from the recorder, recounting what sounded like the autopsy from her Fields Corner case.

A finger reached out and paused the playback before pushing a tendril of hair that had drifted from the twist at the back of her head. "Jane, it might be easier to ask your questions if you actually come into my office."

Startled Jane took a stumbling step back but Maura was still staring at her monitor typing. She took a deep breath.

Maura looked up as Jane filled her doorway. Her eyes a bit sheepish, her swagger subdued but still there. She noticed a slight flush crawl across Jane's cheeks as their eyes connected and Jane shoved the fingers from both hands into her front pockets.


"Hello Jane."

"So we're looking at a copycat killer?" Jane slowly stalked in, circling the chairs.

"I didn't say that, I said I couldn't attribute the most recent murder to the serial killer from the New Bedford Highway murders" Maura watched Jane run a finger over the back of her sofa, looking up as her breath came out in a half laugh that seemed to propel her into pacing a bit.

Jane walked over to the wall staring at the tribal masks her posture becoming still and tense. "You'd think that two months of baking your brain in the African sun would at least give me a bit of an edge on getting you to guess." Jane shook her head a bit before looking up, calmer. "Though Pike was willing to guess at just about everything, he really screwed this up didn't he?"

Maura bit her bottom lip, making a mental note to make some adjustments to her décor for at least the short term. There was just so much pain to work through and before last night she hadn't quite realized how much. For a moment she closed her eyes trying to push back the drive to just go up to Jane and pull her close, whisper that she wasn't leaving again.

"Yes, he made some unfortunate choices. We lost evidence once he forgot how to be purely objective and dedicated to the facts. "

"What were you leaving out today in the Civic room? What were you not saying?" Jane continued to circle the space, pausing at the print on the wall, studying the people.

Jane was never sure if she liked this print or not. She guessed it was appropriate for a medical examiner's office but the garish expression on the dead body was haunting. The man was lying there completely exposed as the 19th century garbed autopsy attendants crowded around him ready to cut. The overall impact of the image increased her queasy feeling.

When Maura didn't answer right away Jane turned and leaned against the credenza. Maura was looking at her with an expression she couldn't quite decipher. She fidgeted a bit with her suit coat trying to quell the restless energy that was making it so very difficult to stay still while they were both so close.

Jane looked ready to bolt. Maura quietly got up and shut the door between her office and the lab. "Jane, it might be easier if I just show you, would you close the front door and I'll pull it up on my monitor? Until the consultants from Harvard and BCU come arrive tomorrow anything I'm telling you is unsubstantiated and confidential."

Curious and finally given the instruction to come closer Jane shut the door and walked quickly around to Maura.

It took everything in Maura not to twitch when Jane stepped behind her chair, the abrupt proximity startling as she leaned over from behind, her weight on one hand by the computer mouse. Maura had expected she'd lean against the desk or even sit across from her but Jane was standing close enough for Maura to feel the edges of her clothing brushing her shoulders and her forearm as she moved the mouse. She tried to clear her mind and concentrate by controlling her breathing as she brought up the photos of the three skeletons.

Jane leaned over to study the first picture, catching the inviting combination of Maura's perfume and body heat tickling over and into her. It was soothing and maddening all at the same time and the sensations from last night came flooding back making her pulse increase.

"These remains were identified as belonging to Christine Monteiro, a suspected victim of the New Bedford Highway killer". Maura knew her voice was slightly throaty but it was the best she could do with Jane leaning over her to look at the photo. "There is a surprising amount of connective tissue and some areas of preserved skin present on the bones. I suspect there may have been much more when the remains were originally interred at Nashua Street Park but that is conjecture. "

Unable to help herself Maura leaned back slightly, letting the back of her head contact Jane's torso, clicking on the next set of photos.

At the slight pressure from Maura's head against her Jane curled her fingers into a fist on the desk. Maura's hand was occasionally brushing hers as she maneuvered the mouse to pull up pictures. She pressed her lips together tightly and tried to concentrate as Maura continued walking her through the next series.

"Marilyn Roberts' remains are similar in their state of preservation and decay as Christine Monteiro. Again we'll know more over the next few days with greater accuracy but I would be comfortable with saying these two skeletons were stored similarly." Maura could feel the slight increase in Jane's breathing against her, a solid physical response proving that she was not alone in this moment.

It was new to Maura, this purely visceral awareness. Somehow their estrangement had instigated an almost instinctive need to reaffirm their natural dynamic through touch and for Maura it intensified the very innate chemistry between them.

Jane knew her voice sounded dry and she swallowed in reflex wishing she could just pull the pins out of Maura's hair and rest her chin in the fragrant softness she knew was hidden there, an impulse that was so very familiar and foreign all at the same time. "Stored how? Inside? Outside?"

Hearing the husk in the voice behind her Maura wondered what Jane would do if she just turned around and pressed her forehead into her abdomen, the desire for last night's comfort warring for control. "I can't tell you where or how beyond the fact they were protected by and large from heavy environmental impact unlike our Jane Doe skeleton. We still don't have a hit for this victim but look at the comparison."

Maura put up the last series of photos, blinking rapidly as she realized the conversation was coming to a close, grateful that Jane was behind her as tears threatened. "See how the bones have significant pockets of demineralization? Notice the discolorations and the extensive wear on the periosteum? This skeleton was buried and exposed to the elements for quite awhile."

Jane realized she would have to straighten up now that the last of the photos had been reviewed. She hesitated just a moment and was surprised when Maura's hand covered hers on the desk, holding her in place.

Maura felt Jane tense at her touch but she didn't move. Maura gently pressed with her fingertips, asking for permission, reveling in the sensation of passing over skin and bone when Jane loosened her fist to entwine their fingers, squeezing lightly back.

Maura cleared her throat "I just wanted to thank you for earlier today Jane. I don't usually get sidetracked like that when I am presenting."

Jane thought of several ways she wanted to respond and swallowed every thought but the simple truth, feeling the weight of it on her tongue "Yeah, well that is what friends do right?"

Not waiting for Maura to reply she gave in for the need to touch and followed the path of Maura's hair from her ear to where it was bound into the French twist. "I'm not used to seeing you with your hair up for anything but a formal function."

Maura shook her head just slightly, the tension dissipating slightly at the rapid superficial change in topic, allowing Jane to gloss over her first statement. "I thought it best this morning, I let my hair go too long before I left and it got a bit wild while I was away. It was the first thing your mother noticed. I have an appointment this afternoon to get back to normal."

The second the words were out of her mouth Maura regretted them as her mind raced through the ways Jane could interpret them.

Jane surprised her though and she just brought her hand down to Maura's shoulder and squeezed it gently, leaning down to teasingly stage whisper against her ear "Maura Isles with wild hair? Perish the thought." The teasing tone coupled with the intimate position ripped a wave of awareness up Maura's spine and she bit her bottom lip hard as the shock twisted low in her abdomen.

Jane stood up but left their hands in contact, bringing her other hand up again to play along the twist in her hair. "Sometimes change is okay. Maybe even better and you know what they say; the only thing that stays the same is change."

Maura bit her lip, still trying to reconcile the sensations and nodded.

Jane abruptly stepped back and pointed to the time on her computer. "Okay, I have to run upstairs, I'm already 5 minutes late for the afternoon taskforce meeting. I get to find out what ridiculous thing the Feds want Frost and I to do next. Be totally jealous. Who knows, maybe I'll be lucky and it will be more dumpster diving over at Nashua Street . "

Jane smiled over her shoulder as she sauntered out, only to reappear in a flurry of motion a moment later, a disembodied head in her doorway "You'll be at dinner tomorrow right?"

"Yes, your mother was rather explicit on dinner tomorrow."

"Okay good, I'll see you there. Save me a seat next to you okay? I don't want the boys stealing it if I'm late because I went jogging."

Jane was gone before she could say another word.

Chapter 24: Chapter 24

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

It was one of those rare Boston days where the weather remained steady and true. Just warm enough to draw the smell of asphalt into the dry breeze, the acid tang mixing with swirling hints of salt water. Jane drew rhythmic pulls into her lungs in time to her jogging.

At first she thought it was her imagination but as she made her way up Charles Street the unmistakable form of Maura Isles was stretching against the wrought iron fence and Jane couldn't help but smile a little at the familiar sight.

Maura turned to face her and Jane could see the moment she was spotted. The slight tension in her posture and as she got closer, the silent question in her expression as she offered a tentative smile, quietly falling into stride next to her. They moved along in a silent duet of sneaker to tarmac warming up as the city morning milled around them.

Jane let out a deep breath as she felt her muscles fully relax into motion. "So Dr. Isles think you're up for Longfellow to Mass Ave or do I need to take it easy on you?"

Maura slid a sideways glance at her, consideration wrinkling her forehead before she seemed to come to decision. "That would be acceptable but you have to promise to keep up" she winked at Jane and increased her pace, shifting easily away from warm up and settling into her stride.

It was easy then, with the familiar embrace of Boston around them to fall into their habitual cadence of running together. Jane jockeyed for position over the Longfellow, Maura calmly waiting for her to relax in her lead before shooting past tapping her shoulder, a questioning, hopeful look tossed over her shoulder.

There was a bark of laughter almost lost in lightly panting gasps and Jane's longer stride easily caught up and lengthened past Maura slapping her hip on the way by.

The familiar game continued past the sailboats and rowers dotting the Charles and gained competitive intensity over the Mass Ave Bridge .

Rejoining Beacon Street their pace slowed and eventually wound down to a walk. Approaching their starting point Maura turned to her. "Rebecca's or Mike & Patty's for brunch?"

Jane felt a wave of panic slosh in her stomach as she considered facing Maura across a table, just the two of them without a case or people blocking the words that had to be said, needed to be said, but she just couldn't. Not right now while everything seemed so inside out and confusing.

Jane bent at her waist leaning back a bit and shook her head "I can't this morning, I have to run some errands if I'm not going to be late for dinner. But I'll see you and gang at 4 on the dot."

Maura nodded a bit, the jovial air from earlier lost but she offered a half smile "Yes, 4 o'clock. I should still save that seat for you right?"

Jane smiled a bit in return "Absolutely."

Maura turned and walked away, continuing up Beacon, the sun playing with her highlights and Jane gave into the luxury of watching her for a moment before she turned and walked towards home.

Frankie and Korsak were men at work.

Angela clearly believed a meal should be rated by the number of dishes, pots, pans and utensils she used while cooking and the more they fit in the dishwasher, the less they had to wash by hand.

Angela was humming to herself as pulled out the tins of cookies she had hidden in Maura's pantry.

Tommy watched her opening the familiar containers. "Hey Ma where were those yesterday? I searched your whole place for something to snack on. Even the biscotti canister was empty. "He tried to grab one over her shoulder and then frowned at the stinging slap.

"Not on your life young man. Nobody gets dessert until this place is picked up." Angela chuckled at his dramatic hand shaking "Stop it you big baby I barely touched you."She walked over and kissed his cheek and handed him a sponge to wipe the counters with. "You think I don't know you boys? These were kept in a secure location. If I left these in my kitchen nobody would have gotten dessert today."

Frankie frowned over his shoulder from where he was pulling the bottom of the dishwasher apart to reload it "You boys? How did I get dragged into it? Anyhow, Jane would put away half of them before we even got a chance to get a hand in there."

Jane turned away from Maura's confusing coffee system "It's because I'm her favorite. Right Ma?"

Angela nodded "Yes, you are my favorite daughter."

Jane pursed her lips, a hand on her hip while she punched the last of the settings and relieved when whirring of the coffee grinder started. She turned around with a mock glare "Hey I'm your only daughter."

"Exactly, though if I get to count Maura your status could change." Angela grabbed the cookie trays and put them out of the path of temptation.

Maura looked up startled, pausing over the pot of meatballs she had been dividing up. She darted her eyes between Angela and Jane trying to read which way she should answer, torn between possibly hurting Angela or crossing a line with Jane.

Jane went over to where Maura was sorting out the leftovers and picked up a few empty containers, purposefully standing shoulder to shoulder with the woman in question. "Ma you are living in her guest house, meddling in her life and just destroyed her kitchen. I think it's safe to say you can count her, right Maura? "Jane tugged the serving spoon out of Maura's hand and quickly filled the containers she was holding before handing it back.

Taken aback Maura watched Jane randomly opening drawers until she found plastic wrap and seemed to use half a roll covering the containers. "Jane I love having your mother and she did not destroy my kitchen."

Maura frowned slightly when Jane's hunt through her kitchen continued. "Angela I've considered you as a second mother for a long time so you can count me anyway you wish."

Jane turned to her mother, purely exasperated. "Ma where is Maura's label maker or even some tape and a sharpie?"

Angela turned both hands on her hips ready to reply when Maura walked by with a quick wink at her.

"Jane isn't it obvious? It's under 'T' for tag. "Maura walked over to a drawer next to the fridge and pulled out a container with both items.

"Really? No, of course its tag. Why wouldn't it be tag?" Jane continued to grumble as she dated both containers and put them in Maura's freezer.

Maura looked ready to protest. Jane gestured to the pile of neatly filled containers on the counter. "Maura, are any of those for you?" Jane watched while Maura hesitated before shaking her head negatively. "Okay then, now you don't have an excuse to miss dinner some night this week."

"But Jane, Tommy or Frankie could use a dinner more. I have your mother right here, honestly."

Jane just stood there in front of Maura, arms casually crossed waiting.

Giving up Maura nodded "Okay."

Satisfied, Jane grabbed the dirty pots from her and brought them over to the sink, shaking her head as Korsak and Frankie stood up triumphant from their dishwasher loading. "Do you guys even realize that you wasted more time figuring that out than if you had just washed a few of those by hand?"

Korsak nodded "Yes but it wouldn't have been half as rewarding." He turned to Frankie " Wash or dry?"

Finally the kitchen was organized and cleaned. Maura was putting away the last of the pots and Jane was just waiting on the coffee to finish brewing before joining everyone else around the cookies.

The coffee machine beeped and Jane stepped back trying to figure out which cabinet would be 'C'. She wanted to grab Maura's thermal carafe, relieved that at least carafe and coffee pot started with the same letter. Counting in time to the alphabet she opened her third option and tossed up her hands in frustration as she turned and leaned her back against the counter to yell for her mother.

Jane felt a tentative touch on her shoulder as Maura gently pushed her aside. She crouched down and opened a door, pulling the internal shelf forward. She absently held up the carafe as she picked up two mobile phones off the shelf that had been hidden behind the carafe and stared at them intently.

Forehead creased in confusion she slowly stood up and partially turned to face Jane, so absorbed in staring at the phones she failed to notice Jane's widened eyes as they stood just a hand's width apart, front to front. Muttering "Oh, I get it. 'C' for cell phone, well that answers that mystery."

Jane stood there, holding the carafe, pinned against the counter and willed Maura to move while praying that she wouldn't. She took a deep breath in, enjoying the familiar perfume.

Jane knew the second Maura registered their positions.

She watched Maura's body stiffen slightly and her eyes flashed up. Jane could feel the quickening of her own breathing matched when their eyes met. Something new yet achingly recognizable filtered into Maura's gaze and held Jane frozen in place until the sounds of a heated debate from the living room cracked their connection and Maura recoiled backward.

Maura quickly turned and walked to where she kept the coffee cups and started to pull together a service tray. She kept her eyes down and let her hair fall over her shoulder like a curtain, hiding her embarrassed flush.

The silence from Jane was unsettling.

Maura had promised herself that after ruining this morning by expecting too much too soon she wasn't going push Jane. Mentally she could handle it. Physically control seemed beyond her. Each interaction teased at her mind, suggesting a conclusion she had not predicted but was wholly logical. She just needed time to analyze it.

Maura pulled a handful of coffee spoons out with a trembling hand and added them to the tray, fussing again with the arrangement of the cups.

Jane finished filling the carafe as her mind raced over the past few days. She took a deep breath as she tried to gather her thoughts and felt herself calm down slightly. Focused, she registered Maura's nervous energy as she fussed with turning each coffee cup handle in the same direction. Maura thought she was upset.

Jane took another deep breath and let it out on a sigh. She might be flustered but she was not upset, not at all. Confused yes, but certainly not upset and definitely not upset with Maura.

She walked up to Maura and stood behind her caressing her shoulder and upper arm slowly, trying to show they were okay. Right now, if she still knew Maura, Jane could see by the perfectly stacked spoons that Maura needed a minute to herself.

"Why don't I carry that in with the coffee? It will prevent you from getting hit by the caffeine stampede, they all know better than to mess with me." Jane stepped back and pulled the precisely organized tray over so she could pick it up and take it to the table.

Chapter 25: Chapter 25

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

Maura wiped down the sink. She cleaned the glass door on the refrigerator, the inside of the microwave and set the coffeemaker to brew a new pot if necessary. She plugged in both her mobile phones. She looked over her shoulder at everyone sitting in her living room arguing over the case and took a deep breath.

After fixing a cup of coffee and a plate of cookies, a new problem occurred to Maura. Before their estrangement, she had squeezed onto her sofa against Jane, usually with Frankie and Angela on the other side. It was cozy but tight. Before, the proximity to Jane hadn't mattered and now it likely did. She looked at the lack of seating and realized she'd have to pull the chair from the desk over.

The scrape of chair or the bump of the desk against the back of the sofa must have alerted Jane and Maura met her gaze as she looked over her shoulder. She could see Jane figure out the problem and for the first time since her return home Jane's eyes held only that unique softness that they got when Maura needed her and she patted the spot beside her.

Jane sat up a bit, squeezing over as far as possible and crossed her legs as Maura placed her plate on the coffee table and sat down carefully, primly and took a sip of her coffee.

Korsak glanced between them and gave a soft sigh. He leaned forward and put his elbow on his thighs. "Hey Doc, I don't know what you overheard in the kitchen but we're talking about your report on Ingrid Gaynor. So she was strangled but she was heavily drugged?"

Maura nodded "She wouldn't have been able to put up a fight. What I didn't know yesterday was that the pharmacokinetic levels of the two drugs placed the administration of them at different times. I can't be sure because we don't have a formal profile to compare to the known absorption rates, but it would appear she ingested the GHB first and the ketamine was administered after. Pop pharmacokinetics is not an exact science due to individual variability, but from my review I believe she may have had them far enough apart that she was semiconscious at the time the ketamine was introduced to her system. "

Jane looked at Korsak. "Korsak are you thinking the killer loaded her with GHB somehow? Got her so she couldn't fight back at all, but then maybe she started to come out of the GHB. He sees that she was still too out of it to swallow so he hits her with special-K to knock her out."

Korsak nodded. "And that says something because it's a different sort of killing. Feels to me like it was much less about the process and more about the actual death."

Frankie popped another piece of cookie into his mouth. "Could it have been because the killer is older now? Can't handle a struggle anymore?"

Maura shook her head. "Not likely, the psychological needs that drive a patterned killer are largely fed by the ritual and the gratification derived from the pattern. It would be highly unusual for it to deviate as much as this particular murder does."

Jane unconsciously touched Maura's knee as she nodded. "We also have the three skeletons that were there before Ingrid Gaynor was left practically right over them. Plus she was killed to mimic their murders. "

She started playing with her hands thinking. "Korsak, what if the reason she has two different drugs in her system is the perp hits her up with GHB first, and then wants to transport her still alive to the Nashua Street Park site? But ends up needing the ketamine before he gets there? He'd have to be smart enough to know there was a risk she'd start to come out of it. What if he needs to kill her there for some reason? Maybe he knows the skeletons are there. Kills her like a sacrifice to the original murderer?"

Korsak nodded sticking out his bottom lip a bit. "I was kind of thinking the same thing. New Bedford is about two hours to Nashua Street . Doc, Is that enough time for Ingrid Gaynor to start coming out of the GHB?"

Maura tilted her head before shaking it a bit. "No, I don't think so, not at the levels present." She stood up and wandered over to her bookshelf and pulled a file from the cabinet, looking at the articles she had printed the other night. "No Vince, I would think Ingrid Gaynor would have been under strong effect for at least 4 hours."

Angela jumped in "Maybe he stored the poor girl in the trunk of his car. I saw an episode of SVU where the rapist drove around with the girl in his trunk for hours."

Korsak shrugged. "Fair enough he could have stored her Jane."

Jane parted her legs so she could lean forward, elbows on her knees, worrying the scars on her hands. "Frost has reviewed the video several times though. Feds are thinking she came in by the water. The Yacht Club in Charlestown and the Harbor have the only cameras and it wouldn't take a rocket scientist to avoid those and still make it over there. Damn risky with the harbor police and the coast guard during the actual dump but less if he had to park a car and try to bring the body in with the highway right there."

Korsak stood up and slapped Frankie on the shoulder as he walked by. "That changes everything. Small craft going from say New Bedford , all the way around Provincetown and up to Boston ? If the engine is small enough you're looking at a 5 hour trip at a minimum."

Angela looked at him in admiration. "Vince, that is so smart. Isn't he smart Jane?"

Jane looked at Frankie who shared her horrified expression. She felt Maura's hand tentatively rest on her back and rub a bit before returning to rest in her lap.

Maura smiled at Korsak as he sat back down and saved Jane from answering. "I've always found Detective Korsak to be very astute Angela."

She felt Jane knock their legs together in silent thanks and Maura smiled at her clasped hands.

Jane sighed. "So that could be why the two drugs were in her system the way they were. We're looking at two killers, with one possibly trying to honor the other. Question is, how does Ingrid Gaynor's killer know the New Bedford Highway Murderer?"

Tommy took a deep breath. "Prison maybe? Perhaps you guys already caught the New Bedford guy and the new guy hooked up with him in the joint. Like Hoyt."

Everyone looked at him. Jane nodded. "That's pretty good. Maybe we'll have the Feds or Frost cross reference all the new releases and at least check them out. But that doesn't help with" suddenly she closed her mouth.

Jane rested her head in her palms as she leaned on her knees and turned her best begging look up at Maura. She lost her intent for a heartbeat as she looked into Maura's hazel eyes, treasuring the connection she found there. "Can I share? You know, some of what you told me yesterday?" Maura nodded.

Jane gently tore her eyes away "Maura told me yesterday that the three skeletons were stored differently. We all know they were moved during the original construction of Nashua Street Park ." Her voice died off.

She stared and Korsak and he stared back. He knew exactly what she was thinking and nodded pointing to her phone. "Call Barry."

Jane sighed waiting for the call to be answered."Frost, yeah it's me. Do we have the Feds review of the original construction crew for Nashua Street ? Anybody from New Bedford or surrounding the towns at the time?" She looked at Korsak and nodded yes. "Deceased? When? Any priors? Just on a hunch can you check and see if he also had a boating license or registration tomorrow? Of course, I'll fill you in on the drive down in the morning."

Jane pocketed her phone and leaned back to spread her arms along the back of the couch. "The Feds checked everyone on the crew and the only guy who ever had an address in the New Bedford area died in 1998 from colon cancer. Frost said he had a clean record too. Still Frost and I have to play UPS tomorrow and go grab the remaining original files from the New Bedford Headquarters and Cavanaugh wants us to have our own interview with the lead detective. I think I want to drive by his old address."

Korsak stood up. "Okay I'm beat and I still have dogs that need a walk. Are you going to come back to the precinct tomorrow after the New Bedford trip?"

Jane nodded and stood, grabbing her plates. "I'm with you, dead on my feet and we're leaving early so yes, we'll most likely be in."

Angela watched Jane walk into the kitchen to drop off her plates. Maura was also watching Jane leave and Angela couldn't quite tell what was going on in her mind but she looked confused. Watching the two of them tonight had been telling.

Angela just shook her head. Mothering this family was a full time job. She decided to test her theory out a little. "Jane honey, don't worry about those, Tommy can help us with the last of the clean up."

Jane stiffened before turning around to eyeball Tommy. They had already had this talk and there was an understanding. Fight with Maura or not, certain facts did not change. "No Ma I'm not in a rush. I'll stay and help clean."

Tommy's eyes flashed to his mother and then felt the heat from his sister's glare. Oh sweet Jesus no. He looked at his mother and shook his head "Sorry Ma, I have work in the morning and I'm walking dogs before and after. So really, I have to leave right now. Frankie can you give me a lift?"

"Nothing would make me happier right now. Come on." Frankie kissed his mother before she could stand up.

Korsak saw Jane resolutely standing her ground in the kitchen and looked at Angela with new appreciation. She was a hell of a woman. It explained a lot about Janie. He grabbed food off the counter and passed it out.

The three of them thanked Maura and escaped with containers in hand.

Maura looked anxiously between Angela and Jane "I'm fine, really. I don't need anybody to stay and put anything else away."

"What if I wanted to stay and help?" Jane gaze was direct and steady.

Maura's pulse was pounding hard enough to feel it in each fingertip. Wanting Jane to stay, wanting her to go, feeling the conversation simmering between them not sure she could handle it tonight. Not sure exactly what conversation they actually needed to have anymore.

Terrified if she didn't try she'd ruin any tentative effort they'd made to move forward.

Angela made the decision for her as she appeared between them with a container of food. "I don't know what took Korsak and Frankie all night to load that dishwasher because I found space for almost everything. Don't worry about it Jane." She grabbed Jane's arm and walked her to the door calling over her shoulder "I'm going to the guesthouse Maura, thank you for hosting. Good night."

Maura remained standing by her kitchen island, suddenly aware of the hum from her refrigerator.

Chapter 26: Chapter 26

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

Frost merged onto Route 24 off of Route 93 South, checking the clock. 20 minutes of silence. He sighed. They still had at least an hour to go to New Bedford . "Would you stop sulking Jane? You lost the coin toss. I won the coin toss; therefore I get to drive the car."

Jane turned so her back was facing him as she stared out the window.

"Fine then, you don't have to talk. In fact, I happen to like the sound of my own voice and this way I can choose the topic. You're kind of a pain in the ass when you have opinions." Frost dramatically rubbed his chin. "Let's see what can we talk about for the next hour?"

He waited but she continued to ignore him. He smirked. In less than a minute Jane was going to regret this. "How about we have a heart to heart about the breakup of the great womance?"

Jane stared at him over her shoulder "What the heck are you talking about?"

Frost was staring at her like she was missing something obvious. "Come on Jane, you and Maura?"

Jane looked at him with a completely furrowed forehead as she sat back up in her seat. "We are certainly not talking about Maura and me. You had your one chance at Summer Shack. Never talking about it again." She turned back to the window.

"Well I didn't say we were talking about it. I said that if you were going to just sit there for the next hour looking out the window that I was going to talk about what I want."

Jane sighed. "Fine, I'm talking. I wanted to hear about how the Dean Drones did with their research assignments anyhow."

Frost sighed and shook his head."I thought we agreed that after Cavanaugh threatened your badge we'd refer to them as agents, colleagues or Feds?"

"Really, in a closed car? Fine, whatever. Did our fine upstanding colleagues, also known as Federal Agents, find any links in their research?" Jane crossed her arms over her chest.

Frost relaxed back into his seat. "Well we know that New Bedford area construction worker Randy Shaw didn't have a boating license or any sort of boat registered to him. That doesn't mean he didn't have a boat and just skipped license, registration and insurance. But if you ask me, if he was a serial killer trying to move his trophies it would be a huge risk boating into the Harbor. Plus with the skeletons I can't figure out how he'd be able to bury them without anybody noticing. This wasn't just a body dump."

Jane bit the side of her thumb as she thought. "Did you have a chance to read the interview with his old boss yet? I went over it this morning and it would seem that Randy Shaw was a stand-up employee. Showed up on time or early, didn't miss a day. Well liked."

Frost shrugged "Like you always say, killers can be charismatic."

Jane nodded conceding the point as they both sat there contemplating. She propped a foot up on the dash. "What the hell is a womance?"

Frost smirked "Womance is the female version of the male bromance. You know, when two friends go way beyond friends with the exception of sleeping together. "

Jane frowned at him and clasped her hands as she started tapping her thumbs together "So Shaw dies in 1998. Any immediate family or relatives?"

He shook his head "He was an only child and his mother was alive when he died in 1998, but passed on in 2003. The father left when Shaw was just a kid and died in 1988. I think the Feds are still looking into any extended family but other than a couple second cousins who live in Canada and an uncle in a nursing home in California he didn't have family."

Jane traced her scar on her right hand while rolling her thumb against the palm side."Womance, what the hell? Since when did having a best friend get some trendy title?"

"Jane you can't be serious? I have a best friend. We grew up together. Dude made me the godfather of his daughter. He also lives in Colorado . Being separated by a few thousand miles has not turned me into some hormonal, heartbroken 16 year old." Frost tapped his fingers on the steering wheel trying not to get frustrated. "I don't think best friends quite explains you and Maura."

Jane pressed a fist into her forehead. "What is it with you people? That would be two people now comparing me to a teenager in the last week."

Frost just rolled his eyes.

Frost took a deep breath and waited a minute, choosing his words. "I'm just calling it like it is. The past few months haven't been normal Jane. This wasn't a fight between girlfriends. Friendships can come and go and not devastate people. Hurt people maybe, but not devastate. It was like living around a bomb, never sure what was going to set you off. I was scared for you."

She let out a groan. "Christ almighty, I'm sorry I've been a bitch. I'm not going to be able to stop being a bitch until you all stop acting like bored housewives. I've already been blessed with my mother. I think that fact alone fills the meddling quota in my life. "

He kept his eyes dead ahead, ignoring her. "Korsak and I used to joke about you and Maura all the time. We used to call it the great girl crush. I just thought it was cute and sweet. But the past few months showed me really that I had it all wrong. I mean I'm a detective I can put together a case when I get all the pieces."

Jane was staring at him, fingers running rapidly over her scars. Her voice was low and serious. "What exactly are you saying here Frost."

He clenched his jaw a few times before replying "I care about you Jane, a lot. I'm lucky we ended up as partners. We make a good team. "

Frost let that sit out there as he watched Jane play with her hands. When she didn't acknowledge him or start yelling he knew she was at least listening. "I'm not exactly sure what I'm saying here Jane. Maybe absolutely nothing. But all I know is when I broke my engagement with Anna off, I didn't go through half of what I've seen out of you since that day at the warehouse."

He shrugged a bit. "And you're the one that pointed out that I still had feelings for Anna. Called me out on my shit. You forced me to think about the whole situation. So I'm just trying to have your back like you had mine."

Jane surprised him by not saying a word and when he dared to glance over she had turned to stare out the window. Frost turned the radio on and settled back for the drive.

Chapter 27: Chapter 27

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

"Maura, honey, are you in here? That nice girl Cindy Tran said you were back here someplace."

Maura barely had time to look away from her screen before Angela came in through the lab with a soft sided cooler over her arm.

Angela held up the cooler. "I had cooked at home but when it started to get a bit late I figured I'd just bring it over. It was a nice night for a walk but I'm telling you I am not 22 anymore. That last block was murder on my feet."

Maura stifled a sigh. She was not in the mood for dinner. But there was no way out of it. Angela was standing there with a big smile on her face and it seemed so rude to refuse when she had gone through all the trouble walk it over.

Besides, considering the situation Maura wasn't even sure she had a choice. Angela didn't ask her if she wanted dinner, she told her she brought dinner. In face she hadn't even waited for her to reply before she cleared the table and started unpacking.

Containers started to pile up around Angela. "Tommy is going to meet me here shortly, so let's get you a plate together before he shows up and inhales most of this. Out of the three of them he is like a human vacuum with food. "

"Tommy is coming to the precinct?" Looking over the offerings Maura was relieved to see lighter options than Angela's usual hearty fare and suddenly realized she was, actually, hungry.

"Yes, I'm making him pick me up and we're going to buy at least some bedding for his new place." Angela started to laugh gently "Sometimes it is no different than when they were children." Angela stood and put her hands on her hips, dropping her voice to mimic Tommy "Ma I don't need to go buy a bedspread, the blanket that is on there keeps me warm enough."

Maura laughed as she sat down "They're lucky to have you."

"They absolutely are and someday when I finally get grandchildren they'll understand a heck of a lot more how good they had it." Angela sat down with her own plate. "The three of them are so much work. I wouldn't change a minute of it though. You have to have family in this life. It's how you get by. "

Angela cut part of a scallop off. "Thinking about family, how is your mother doing?"

"She is doing well, progressing better than expected. She can be very determined and goal oriented so I'm not surprised. I just spoke with her last night." Maura could see Angela eyeballing her plate so she cut a bite of asparagus and chewed before continuing. "She actually called me."

"Is that unusual?" Angela tried to imagine what it would be like to not talk to each of her kids at least daily and actually couldn't picture it.

"Oh yes, usually when we speak by phone we arrange our schedules by email first. Sometimes it is problematic with work and time zone changes. This time she spontaneously contacted me." Glancing at Angela Maura made sure to eat a bit more. "Delicious Angela, thank you so much."

Maura was honestly, thoroughly, enjoying the meal. "It wasn't a very easy conversation though. I think I may have disappointed her."

"What did she say to make you think that?" Angela was fussing with a small spot on her shirt, trying to use a paper napkin and water to clean it off.

"Nothing too specific, she thought my leave of absence may have been inappropriate. I do not think she approved of my decision of going back to Africa at all. She would like to have me come down to Connecticut at the end of the month to discuss Doyle. I'm not sure I want to go though." Maura put her plate down, no longer in the mood to eat.

"What I didn't tell her was part of the reason I went specifically to Africa was to escape her and my father. It's one of the places I could go that they couldn't follow or easily contact me." She sighed softly and leaned back to stare at the ceiling. "Everything I understood about myself and my life became upside down in barely more than a year."

Angela nodded. "I know honey but that is how life works, if you choose to live it. If you didn't want that chaos you wouldn't have spent most of your life trying to fit in. Turmoil is part of it."

Angela gave a deep sigh. "Look at me. I lost my entire world when Frank walked out. My house where my kids grew up and I thought I'd see grandchildren running though, gone." Angela shook her head sadly. "I had to go at almost 60 years old from a homemaker to a working woman. I used to think I'd retire down to Florida and now I know I won't be able to do that. There is a good chance I will never even get to retire."

Angela closed her eyes for a moment before leaning back and continuing, her food forgotten. "Life can be very painful Maura, but it balances out the pain with laughter, joy and love. That is what makes family so important. I see my kids and I just think how lucky I am. I'd live through my life again a hundred times over if it meant having them. "

She put a hand on Maura's knee. "Don't run from life honey. You have to run with it or it will knock you down and pass you by."

Tommy's boisterous arrival saved Maura from having to answer.

Angela walked up and gave him a hug and tapped his cheek several times. "Family is everything even if it means going out on my night off to shop for bedding. I'm going to wash up before we go and run upstairs to check the schedule in the café. Tommy, meet me up there okay?" He nodded as she left.

Tommy walked over to Maura's red chair and sat down, started to frown and stood up. "That is the most uncomfortable thing I have ever sat on or in."

Maura couldn't help the laughter. "I'm sorry but Jane says the exact same thing and you both make the same face."

A small half smile quirked on his lips, also similar to Jane's. Maura studied him a bit. He seemed to be struggling with something. "Tommy, are you okay?"

"Oh yeah, I'm fine. I didn't really get to say welcome home with everybody there last night so welcome home and I'm really glad you're back. I have been trying to figure out how to have a chance to talk with you alone so this is lucky."He was looking at her now but his forehead was furrowed.

Maura winced a bit and tried to think of an easy way to make sure Tommy understood. "I don't know if this is such a good idea considering. I think you are a very sweet man and I'm glad you are happy that I'm back, but I can't talk about much else at the moment."

Tommy cut her off "Oh god no! Not like that, I mean you're still a beautiful woman and I'd totally be into you, but trust me, Janie and I have an understanding. I'm just trying to be a brother right now and I'm completely fucking it up."

Maura narrowed her eyes. "You and Jane have an understanding? You both have an understanding about me?"

Tommy nodded.

"What does this understanding entail?" Maura folded her arms across her chest.

Tommy closed his eyes for a minute. Part of the understanding was that Maura was never to know they had an understanding. Shit. "Mostly it was just to lay off you and to realize that dating her friends was not cool."

Maura was just staring at him with an eyebrow slightly raised. He rubbed his hands on his pants. "Okay listen, I wasn't supposed to tell you that but I also really don't care. Janie has been telling me to stay away from her friends since we were kids. It's a sibling thing and usually it doesn't stop me."

He pointed at her "You're different though Maura. When she cornered me and told me off it wasn't the usual, stay away from my friend, thing. It was intense. I thought she was going beat the shit out of me like when we were kids and I broke her stuff."

Tommy winced slightly "Not to freak you out or anything, but it was made pretty clear to me that that you belong to her." He waited to see how Maura would react.

"Jane told you that I belong to her?" Maura carefully watched his face, reading the nuances.

Tommy shook his head, "Not in those words exactly. It was just something I got you know? Which is why I wanted a chance to talk with you alone. I don't really know what happened between you two, but when you left? Jane got really fucked up. I mean I've seen her upset but not like this."

Maura bit the inside of her lip. Part of her did not want to hear this. Tommy was going to tell her though, completely oblivious to her turmoil.

"Frankie had mentioned to Ma one night over dinner that he hadn't seen Jane at The Dirty Robber in a while and that Barry was worried about her. Jane had skipped the last Sunday dinner and I hadn't seen her for at least two weeks. So I thought I'd just stop in and check on her, say hi and see Jo."

Tommy was shaking his head "It was bad, like really, really, bad. It wasn't just that she was drunk, it was just like she had decided to stop living. I kind of picked up her place and got her cleaned up a bit. We don't talk about that."

He looked at Maura "Did you guys do something on Friday nights?"

Maura could feel tears threatening "Not always, but usually. We'd go to The Dirty Robber with everyone and depending on our on-call or work schedules go out to dinner or do something after."

He nodded. "Makes sense, it just always seemed to be a Friday so I figured. Nobody really knows but ever since that first time, I just made sure that I found out from Frost or Frankie if she was with them. If she wasn't with them on Friday, I'd go over. She won't drink in front of me you know? All protective big sister, doesn't want to mess me up. So I'd show up and she'd feed me pizza or something."

The tears were embarrassing but she couldn't stop them. Using a napkin she tried to wipe her eyes before looking up, surprised that Tommy looked almost relieved to see her crying but panicked at the same time. Almost like he'd found what he was looking for but had no idea what to do for her.

Flustered and red faced he continued. "I need to ask you to not hurt her again Maura okay? I'm happy you came back but I don't think she can take it if you leave again. She's impossible to understand and frustrating as hell but when she loves you she loves you with everything. Guys like me? The ones that always mess up? We need people like that in our lives. So please, this time just make sure you know what you want. I need my sister. "

He glanced at the clock on the wall and realized he needed to leave fast or his mother would be down looking for him. "Look, I really am happy you're home. It hasn't been the same. Please don't tell Janie I made you cry because I like my face looking like it does alright?"

Maura nodded but Tommy had already turned to walk out.

Chapter 28: Chapter 28

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

It had been fucking hell for the past 10 days.

Staring at the ceiling Jane drifted back to the start, to the day she drove down with Frost to New Bedford . They'd spent most of the day with the old lead detective from the New Bedford Highway case but he didn't give them anything that wasn't already in the files.

On top of that Detective Wilson had been retired for over 10 years and he certainly had nothing better to do than to rehash the case. It made for a long morning and longer afternoon.

The second Jane put the car into drive the day's worth of pent up energy mixed with the persistent prickling along her skin. She wanted to at least have the chance to see where Randy Shaw used to live. It took a little cajoling and the promise of the finest drive thru dinner money could buy, but Frost finally relented and they headed over to Rochester , MA .

The address turned out to be one of the rare historic colonials in Massachusetts that had managed to keep some acreage around it. When they'd pulled up in front of the attractively maintained home, they'd sat there in stunned silence, slack jawed.

"Frost, please tell me we're seeing what I think we're seeing?" Jane just kept shaking her head.

"If you think we're seeing a sign for Rochester Animal Clinic, I say you're seeing what you think we're seeing." He started to chuckle. "Please tell me it can't be this easy?"

She should have hit him over the head right then and there, or at least made him tap some wood to cover all the superstitious bases they could, because Jane was sure Frost had jinxed them.

Jane sighed. It would have been too easy to just link ketamine to the vet clinic. Why couldn't life be like TV? In a perfect world, the veterinarian would have been some deranged looking psychopath and the case would have come together.

Only Dr. Lena Rinaldi, the vet, turned out to be a very petite woman who lived alone. She also happened to be away at the University of Kentucky at the time of the murder presenting some research she was collaborating on with Tufts University .

According to Maura it was research that was supposedly groundbreaking concerning horses and reproduction. Jane had tuned out exactly what type of research the minute Dr. Rinaldi started using words like telomeres, grafting, oocycte and semen collection but Maura had been fascinated.

Jane shuddered as she remembered the way Maura and Dr. Rinaldi had talked animatedly over lunch. It was just a little creepy the way Dr. Rinaldi gushed over her research, not serial murder creepy, but creepy all the same.

It also didn't escape Jane that Maura could kind of be the same way about research, but with Maura it just brought out that overly inquisitive side of her that didn't come off as obsessive. It was actually pretty cute.

Jane sighed. Not that Dr. Rinaldi even being the murderer would clearly explain the New Bedford Highway Killings. The veterinarian was still in college at Colorado State during the original murders. It certainly wasn't going to explain why Ingrid Gaynor was dumped in the same location as the skeletons. The FBI had pushed her aside as a lead suspect.

To Jane the ketamine connection kept her front and center . Her gut was screaming to just look harder. Maybe she really was part lobster. After all she'd followed exactly what her gut told her to do and her guts proved to be at least as smart as lobster ganglion. Randy Shaw's old home was now a veterinarian clinic. Ketamine was a standard pharmaceutical in a veterinarian practice. It couldn't just be a coincidence but it was baffling as to where it fit in.

Frost and Korsak felt the same way. The answer was there if they could just figure out what it was and she wasn't in the mood to be picky. Sure there would still be lots left to tie together but at least it would be a solid lead. She put her head in her hands. They just needed a single thread to follow in this case.

So Dr. Rinaldi was her thread and she was going to keep picking at it.

She put her legs up on her desk and looked around. Her end of the bullpen was quiet. People were probably home or at least out for dinner. It was the first night in at least the past 7 things had slowed enough to even think about life outside the precinct doors.

If she didn't have to get through her annual requalification over at Moon Island tonight she would be out of here too. She sighed and looked at the stack of files on her desk that had been multiplying during the Nashua case.

Feeling a little guilty she made up her mind. She was tired and she was just going to sit at her desk and breathe for a minute while she opened up the small, soft, cooler that had been sitting on her chair. It appeared to be an Angela Rizzoli standard issue. She figured her Ma should just buy stock in Igloo coolers.

She reached inside the first level and pulled out a still warm container of what appeared to be leftover lasagna from Sunday. Unzipping the next level revealed two other containers nestled against a cold pack and a bottle of sparkling water.

Biting her lip and smiling in contentment Jane pulled out the two remaining containers and opened them up. An outright grin pushed through as she pulled out the apple. It was neatly sliced into wedges and put back together. Jane removed the sleeve keeping the wedges together and it opened to reveal squares of cheddar cheese where the core used to be. Popping a piece of cheese in her mouth she opened the last container up and admired the artful salad. The lasagna may have been her mother's, but no way was her mother going to slice her apple and then put it back together so it wouldn't brown.

Jane plucked a radish off the salad and held it in the palm of her hand, admiring the tiny flower. Her Ma would also never carve salad toppings for her. For a second it was like Maura was right there in the room with her.

Moving her fingers so her palm shifted under the radish Jane admired the way the light changed over the red skin and white flesh, highlighting the intricate precision that created the flower pattern. She took a deep breath.

She missed Maura and just thinking about her made her chest hurt. Not in the desperate, painful way she'd come to expect when they'd been completely estranged. Right now she just wanted to be able to look up and see her.

It was different now, their relationship. Something had shifted during the separation and changed the way they fit together. At first Jane had just attributed her hyperawareness of Maura to the raw emotion surrounding her return. But between Ma, Korsak and fucking Frost it was like she had another big case in front of her that kept nagging at mind to try to put all the puzzle pieces in some sort of order.

After that trip to New Bedford she'd been up half the night bouncing between the possible break in the Gaynor case and being annoyed about the insinuations Frost had made on the drive down about her relationship with Maura. Womance. Whatever. It was a stupid word.

At first Jane had thought Frost needed to go spend some time with the department shrink but when she was unable to sleep that night she had nothing better to do than to examine the clues and put the facts side by side.

By the time the first light of dawn started sifting through the sky, she was in full detective mode. She had to grant Frost that it made for an interesting case but in typical rookie fashion, it was lacking hard proof. If there was evidence to be found she'd unearth it, she just had to pay better attention.

She ended up getting her first chance the next morning at the court for the arraignment of the Fields Corner suspect. Frost was playing magic tech guru on the computer chasing down whatever he could on the Rochester Animal Clinic lead so she got stuck going by herself.

The lack of rest had her running late and it was just good luck she was able to dart into the courtroom before they closed the doors. Sliding onto a galley bench she had been shocked to see Maura there instead of a lead technician. Maura tended to be only personally present when legal called for testimony during the trial period.

Sitting just behind her Jane considered her night of case building and added her first fact. Just seeing Maura had made her morning instantly better. No other person could quite do that.

Jane tried to pay attention but 9 times out of 10 the lawyers didn't need her for anything beyond confirming a fact or two. Right now she was distracted as she catalogued the fact that she could tell from Maura's body language that she knew Jane was there and that she was looking at her. When they all stood together as Judge Allen took the bench Maura turned a little and smiled over her shoulder, her eyes a bit lidded and a small question in the tilt of her head.

Jane smiled back as awareness of how lovely Maura was teased at her. It wasn't a new sensation but this time Jane gave herself permission to appreciate it and didn't reflexively look away. When the galley took their seats again Maura seemed startled by everyone sitting around her and snapped her attention back to the court bench.

As Jane had suspected she wasn't needed and the arraignment was fairly straight forward. The minute it was over Assistant District Attorney Mark Brochu had cornered Maura with a hand on her arm and was leaning down a bit as they spoke. Jane knew they'd dated off and on in the past and Mark was someone who Maura claimed she enjoyed her time with.

Curious Jane stood for a moment and studied Maura while she interacted with Mark. They had what Maura called an 'understanding'. Watching them, Jane was willing to admit she didn't like that Mark understood anything with Maura.

Maura seemed friendly and open but Jane noticed that she took a clear step back to reclaim her personal space even while leaving his hand on her arm and smiling at him.

Jane thought back to the skeleton conversation in Maura's office and where they both were in relation to each other almost the entire time. It was an interesting comparison.

Interesting comparison or not, the more Mark stood there flirting with Maura the more Jane realized she would like to walk up and grab Maura and drag her out the door. Exasperated with herself, Jane turned and walked out of the courtroom fully intending to get back to the precinct.

Lost in thought she somehow found herself sitting on a bench facing the courtroom door. Oblivious to the hallway traffic she played with the scars on her hands lost in deep reflection as she replayed Sunday's dinner in her head. Again it was interesting to consider where she and Maura were the entire night in proximity to one and another.

Biting her lip she realized there wasn't anything new about it either. Sunday dinner was a regular event. Maura's regular seat was beside Jane's chair and they always shared that same corner of the couch at dessert. It was hard evidence to add to her file.

Lost in thought she didn't see Maura until she sat down beside her. The first thing Jane noted was there was plenty of space on either side of her but Maura sat close enough that their thighs touched. The second thing Jane noted was she was instantly, intensely aware of every millimeter of contact, yet comforted by it all at the same time. It was confusing.

Maura had broken the silence first. "Good morning Jane. I thought I had missed you. Mark can be aggressive at times."

Jane had shrugged "It's probably why he's a pretty good ADA . Are you headed back to the Department?"

Maura shook her head no. "Since I'm already at court I'm staying for another arraignment, but fortunately it starts in 10 minutes." She reached into her purse to pull out a brown paper bag. "I brought you this."

Jane took the bag and looked at her quizzically.

Maura had reached out and very gently grasped her chin to angle her into the light, studying her. "You look so tired Jane. I think you need more vitamins." She quietly pulled her hand away.

Remembering her earlier promise to herself about not berating Maura for caring, Jane nodded. "You're probably right." Jane peeked into the bag and gave a little smile "Thanks Maura."

She nodded and stood up. "I'll see you later?"

Jane nodded back "Yeah I think we're in-house all day."

Back at the precinct it was a good two hours before Jane had a moment to open the brown bag. Biting into the banana she frowned a bit at the organic, plain, overly-healthy-probios-something yogurt. Yogurt was supposed to have fruit on the bottom, not probios.

Cheerfully she moved to a heavenly smelling tin-foiled object and unwrapped it to reveal a blueberry muffin. Snorting to herself Jane started chuckling. Parchment paper covered the muffin with Maura's distinctive script "Jane, please eat the yogurt first."

It was as she was scrapping the bottom of the yogurt container with the spoon that Jane realized she had just did what Maura wanted, without her standing there watching. It was yet another fact for her file.

Jane also couldn't help but notice that she was hardly a bystander. Like, yesterday Frost had decided they needed get out of the building for lunch. The decision may have conveniently come after she suggested to Agent Bates that his parents might have been too closely related to reproduce successfully.

Frost had actually hit her on the back of the head with a ball of crumpled paper over that. Completely outraged she'd turned around and he'd just given a shake of his head and tossed his thumb at Cavanaugh's office. She'd made sure to roll her eyes and frustrated, she tossed her hands up.

Cavanaugh may have threatened her badge but there were limits. Regardless, by the time she'd turned around to deal with Bates she had been left with just the click of the bullpen door closing behind him. It was entirely unsatisfying.

What she couldn't understand was why she had to take the time to tiptoe around some Dean Drone trying to tell her they wanted to waste her skills to man one more hotline. It was clear that the answer was somehow tied to Rochester Animal Clinic and every minute she wasted on useless leads was another minute the case was delayed in actually getting solved. She could feel the answer taunting them from the files. They all could. They were missing something and she need to focus and figure out what that was.

Even if she had to step on some toes to get it done.

Frost apparently had a slightly different opinion and decided that they needed to go out to lunch. It was annoying to admit but it wasn't a bad idea. The walls were closing in on her. On the upside it also meant that she was comfortable calling down to Maura and inviting her along. Frost going with them was a guarantee the chatter would be about work.

Chaperone in place Jane enjoyed the easy camaraderie during the walk to Sam La Grassa's. Putting aside the Nashua case she decided to see if she could gather a few more facts for her personal Jane and Maura case file. Right away she was stunned to realize that at each crosswalk she instinctively put a hand on Maura's elbow until she felt it was clear to cross and she caught herself placing a hand against the small of her back until they made it to the other side.

Consciously she knew Maura was perfectly capable of walking across the street. Hell the woman trotted around the globe without Jane's assistance. At the next crossing she tried keeping her hands in her pockets and it was actually uncomfortable. Halfway across she saw Maura glance at her with a brief questioning expression before darting her eyes away and flushing a bit when she realized Jane was watching her.

Jane stopped in her tracks for a minute. So apparently Maura was fully aware of what she usually did and Jane herself never even realized it until right now. Well fuck.

Giving up the façade Jane jogged a few steps in order to help Maura up the curb. Flicking her eyes over at Frost he smirked at her. Asshole.

The little slice of everyday life continued to be informative. At Sam's they sat down at a small four top against the far wall and Maura sat in the back, almost tucked into the corner. Jane pulled the extra chair off to the side to give them all a bit more room in the tight dining room. By the end of the meal Jane realized that Frost was no longer directly to her right and she was talking with him from across the table. Between getting up to get their food and running for extra napkins when she'd spilled half her water, she'd unconsciously moved her own chair until she was almost in Maura's lap.

But the bigger part of that entry into her evidence log was when she realized what had happened she couldn't even muster up a thought about moving over. Covert glances at Maura didn't provide any clues other than she seemed perfectly relaxed. Apparently this too must be a regular occurrence.

Unlike the wall they'd hit with the Nashua case it was like each new day brought a slew of new evidence to sift through, evaluate and consider. Such as the dinner in front of her, it didn't take much to realize Maura always took care of her. Before the warehouse it might not have been a dinner left at her desk, instead it would have been Maura showing up at her apartment with food or demanding Jane take her out to eat. Staring at her salad with the radish flowers Jane wondered when they'd get back to that place.

Jane picked up her fork and was halfway through her salad when she thought she saw Maura walk by. Glancing at the time she jumped up and ran out into the empty hallway pausing until she heard the telltale footsteps around the corner.

Chapter 29: Chapter 29

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

Maura could hear Jane's jogging tread and knew she'd been spotted. She turned around and waited for Jane to appear around the corner.

Jane stopped abruptly several feet away and leaned against the wall "Hey Maura. It is you, I wasn't sure. I thought I saw you through the window. I just really wanted to, you know, thank you for dinner."

Maura couldn't help the flush building and started to fiddle with her ring. "Barry told me you had to re-qualify at the gun range tonight and I didn't think you'd go home to eat first."

Jane walked forward a few steps. "I wasn't going to bother. Did you already eat?"

Maura could tell she already knew the answer "Not yet. I brought something to eat downstairs while I caught up on my transcription and I have to review and sign off on Inez's reports."

"Would I bother you if I came downstairs to eat? It's too quiet up here." Jane had partially turned away as she said it, confident in the answer before catching herself and turning back. She shouldn't assume.

Maura bit the inside of her top lip. Prior to their fight and her absence Jane would have just told Maura that she'd be downstairs. No questions or qualifications needed.

Perhaps by trying not to push she wasn't being very clear either. Maybe she needed to at least make sure Jane was clear on where she stood. "No, I enjoy your company. If Barry or Vince had still been upstairs I would have just joined you." She gave a tiny smile to temper her words "It just seems that you are so careful not to be alone with me."

Maura paused a second before continuing, forcing herself to stop twisting her ring."So when I checked to see if you had found dinner and saw you were by yourself I just figured I'd eat downstairs. I don't want to make you uncomfortable."

Jane flushed. She hadn't realized that it had been so obvious. Explaining why would be awkward so she wasn't going to try. She just stared for a moment trying to read Maura, but her hazel eyes revealed little. "Let me just go grab my food and I'll be down in a minute."

Maura wandered into her office and weighed her options. Her desk was easy to eat at and that would give Jane the chance to choose if she wanted to pull up a chair and share the space, or grab any other spot to sit and eat. On the other hand, it also was formal to walk into and carefully designed to be that way. Formality between them was certainly part of the problem.

Tilting her head she considered the space, knowing her rather direct comment to Jane about avoiding being alone with her had already predisposed Jane to being apprehensive. The desk was out then.

She continued to evaluate the room. She could go sit on a chair and leave the rest of the seating as an option, but a chair also made a statement that Maura wanted space. Maura crossed her arms, tapping her fingers against her elbow. Wanting space was the exact message Maura was trying to avoid.

Maura sighed, thinking. This wasn't intuitive for her and it was confusing. Part of her wondered what Jane would do in the same situation.

Nerves aside Maura knew. Jane would have just taken the obvious risk and sat on the couch. She could do that too. She could take a chance and sit on one side of the couch. Then Jane could pick to sit on the couch with her and even pick how close they sat. If Jane didn't want to share the couch she could just sit on one of the chairs across the coffee table and maintain more personal space.

Maura gingerly sat on the couch. Her pulse built in strength at the base of her throat and she could feel each beat of her heart. It was going to hurt if Jane chose one of the chairs. It shouldn't, but it was going to. She narrowed her gaze at the hapless seats.

Jane walked in and saw Maura sitting on her couch, legs pressed together, hands in her lap and her shoulders perfectly straight. Her nerves settled immediately, she knew this Maura now. Maura was just as hesitant as she was. They were both in this together and would get through this together.

She walked over to Maura and placed her food down. "Maura, why are you looking at your Rashid chair like you'd like to melt it? Usually you're all gushy over that red monstrosity." Jane sat down, grabbed her salad and leaned against Maura's side. "I mean, you know I'd support you, that stupid thing is painful to sit on and look at."

Jane's sudden appearance and then casual drop next to her startled Maura. She caught the teasing rise of Jane's eyebrows and she felt her tension dissipate as she chuckled "I love that chair."

Jane took a bite of salad. "I'm telling you, you'd be doing the entire BPD a favor if you donated it to the interrogation room. " She waved her fork around circling the chair in the air "It would be our secret weapon. Our interviews would get done in half the time because everyone would be desperate to escape that chair."

Maura picked up her own food and started eating. "If you don't respect the chair Jane, I'm going to replace every seat in here with Karim Rashid designs and then where would you sit?" She raised an eyebrow at Jane and took a sip of her water.

Jane simply gave her a little half smirk and a wink. "Your lap." and knocked Maura's knee with her knuckle, enjoying the changing expressions on Maura's face as her quip registered.

Instant images flashed though Maura's mind and she accidentally inhaled her sip of water and she coughed uncontrollably, red faced, while shaking her head at Jane. Two could play this game.

Recovering she took another sip allowing her eyes to slowly peruse Jane, stopping to lock her gaze into two laughing brown eyes. She put her glass down and leaned back, gradually crossing her legs at the knee. "Is that supposed to be a deterrent or an incentive?"

Wide-eyed, Jane swallowed her bite of lasagna. Maura was leaning back, relaxed, against the back of the couch watching her through lidded eyes. Jane put another forkful in her mouth trying to come up with a response.

Maura chuckled low and deep her throat and reached out to grab Jane's knee for balance so she could lean over her lap to steal a slice of apple; knowing she'd made her point when Jane suddenly stopped chewing until she sat back up. "Did you have a chance to read the forensics report on the skeletons yet?"

Exhaling audibly at the sudden change in topic Jane rubbed her palms over her knees for a minute, regrouping her thoughts. "Yeah I did. You might claim you're not anthropologist but you were pretty darn close. I did notice that they said the two better preserved specimens showed stress cracking indicating that while they were protected from direct contact with most environmental pressures, that they were exposed repeatedly to extremes in temperatures."

Maura let out a contented sigh as she leaned shoulder to shoulder against Jane. "Harvard's team believes that they may have been stored in a cave. The bones do show some trace mineral deposits that would indicate there was some moisture in the environment and the deposits came back as mix of minerals we generally call granite which is regionally pervasive in New England ."

Feeling Maura relaxed against her was soothing. The warmth along Jane's side, enjoyable. "Great, so a cave with granite in New England , for a second round of fun we'll look for a needle in a haystack."

"You know we use that idiom somewhat incorrectly. Originally it was written as needle in a bottle of hay, when bottle referred to bundle. Later it was adapted to haystack and today most hay is baled so perhaps we should call it finding a needle in a bale of hay." At ease the words reflexively poured out of Maura.

She grimaced a bit when she realized she was lecturing and regretted her outburst until she realized Jane was relaxed against her, listening, just like she used to. How many times had she daydreamed this moment in Africa ? Maura's throat tightened and she blinked hard.

Utterly content sitting side by side, it took Jane a few minutes to realize that Maura had stopped talking. Her phone buzzed and she glanced at it with a frown, the alarm reminded her that it was time to get to her appointment.

Jane stood and stretched. "I have to leave so I can make it through Quincy in time." She glanced at Maura who had sat up a bit and was fussing with the leftovers on the table. Jane could feel the apprehension in her movements. The detective in her took a chance. "Want to come with me?"

Jane could see practically see the anxiety wash out of Maura and she had a delighted smile on her face. "My reports can wait and I'll take Inez's home. I'd like to see Moon Island ." Maura walked over to her closet and pulled out her bag and an empty tote for their leftovers.

"Okay I have to run upstairs for my keys first. Want to meet down here or upstairs?" Jane snagged the tote out of Maura's hands and loaded it with the containers from dinner.

"Don't bother. We can just take my car." Maura pulled her coat out and slid into it watching Jane try to mask the hesitation. She held back a smile while holding up a set of keys. "I was in the mood to drive the Mercedes this morning."

Maura headed for her office door confident Jane was following, grinning as she heard her office door close behind her as Jane rapidly caught up.

"Okay we'll take your car but I still want to drive." Jane eyed the keys in Maura's hands wondering if she could steal them. Maura looked over her shoulder pointedly and wrapped her fist around the keys.

Dark eyes pleaded.

"Alright Rizzoli I'll let you drive on the condition you do not jump the green lights. I just ate and my stomach can't take it." Maura dangled the keys out.

"I don't jump green lights Maura. My foot just slipped." Jane tossed the keys up and down.

Maura rolled her eyes. "Once I could buy. However, statistically abnormal reoccurrence would lead me to believe you have a transient tic disorder brought out by green lights and this car. In theory you absolutely should not be driving."

"I thought we talked about you and the diagnosing." Jane unlocked the car and opened the passenger door for Maura before cheerfully trotting over to the driver side and eagerly buckling in. "Are we ready?"

Maura was shaking her head. "No."

Jane adjusted Maura's mirrors "Let's rephrase the question. Are you buckled in?"

She gave a drawn out sigh. "Yes."

"Good enough." Jane put the car into drive.

Chapter 30: Chapter 30

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

The target was adjusted for the final time to reconfirm Jane's accuracy at 25 feet. Halfway through Jane's requalification, Maura had left the range officer's booth and was standing behind her watching. As the target came back, riddled with the 6 holes in the light grey circle, Jane pulled her muffs off and waited for Range Officer Jason Hill to confirm her trigger pull time.

"Not bad Rizzoli, a half second shaved off your last time and nobody can fault your accuracy." He came out of the booth to sign off on her service weapon and checked her back up against his file before putting up the new targets.

Putting aside her service weapon she picked up her back up and paused. It occurred to her that Maura hadn't moved a muscle. Jane felt her senses prickle as a dull heavy feeling hit her stomach. The last time Maura would have seen her shooting was the warehouse. Her breathing increased as her heart started to thud. Swallowing she looked over her shoulder.

Maura was standing there, lips pressed tight enough together that they almost disappeared. Her arms were wrapped around her torso. Jane looked at her weapon, over at the booth and back at Maura. At least Maura was still standing there and hadn't left.

The routine repeated itself but now Jane was aware of Maura behind her, watching her every move.

Hill walked back out as she finished and hit the switch to pull the targets back. "Seven even Rizzoli. That's slow for you. Trigger finger getting tired from braiding your hair?"

Jane hit his shoulder. "Watch it Hill, I know which car is yours in the lot."

Maura appeared on her right. Her voice was precise and low. "You are extremely accurate Jane."

Oblivious to the tone Hill gave a hearty laugh. "Rizzoli accurate? She is a hell of a lot more than accurate. If Benny was here we'd have to pick him off the floor. Rizzoli is his, and I'm quoting 'Center Mass Centerfold'. Guy almost passes out drooling every time Jane comes out to requal."

"You'd be picking his ass off the floor because I'd kick it there if I ever heard that shit out of his mouth." Jane tried to put her normal gusto into her retort but she was watching Maura whose finger was tracing the target. Tendrils of warning reached into her gut and took hold.

Maura turned to Hill. "Officer Hill, could we have one last target?"

Jane shuddered. The atmosphere wrapped ominously around her. "Maura I don't think you want to do this." Jane could see Maura warring with herself with each touch of her finger to the holes on the silhouette.

"Yes, I believe I do." She stared unwavering at Jane. Eventually dark eyes left her and Maura watched as Jane picked up a blank silhouette and clipped it up. She grabbed Jane's arm before she could send it out and pulled a lab marker from her purse.

"Maura don't. Please let's not do this." Jane's voice was soft and pleading.

Maura marked the target. "I need for us to do this." She had read the forensics reports at least 50 times. Jane had been standing 27 feet from Doyle.

"It's not going to be accurate. Doyle was on a catwalk." Jane's fingers were tracing her gun on the table.

"The catwalk was approximately 1 story in height or 12.53 feet in this case." Maura turned to Hill. "Can these go up 12 feet?

Hill was confused but Rizzoli wasn't answering. "Yes, you just have to move that joist above the switch and use the red clip line. I don't have muffs or plugs so I'm going to head back into the booth."

The red clip was just high enough that even with heels Maura was having difficulty reaching it. Leaning forward precariously she felt a hand steady her back as Jane's other hand closed around her wrist lightly and tugged. "Here let me do that, you're going to hurt yourself."

Jane's voice was sad and tired "27 feet correct?" Between internal affairs and her own obsessive review of the forensics report she would never forget that number. Or rather she would never forget that she had been standing precisely 26.89 feet away from Doyle when she took the shot that almost lost her everything.

Maura just nodded as she put her ear protection back on.

Jane picked up her gun. In her mind she'd replayed those three seconds from trigger to impact that almost stole her career, her sanity and Maura in an infinite loop. Right now she wished she knew exactly what Maura was thinking as she again aimed her gun at a target 27 feet away. Jane swallowed against the lump in her throat.

The three shots rang out unswerving.

Maura watched the target make its way back and Jane unclipped it and handed it to her as she walked away with both guns and used another table to put everything away. Maura glanced at it before she folded it up and put it in her purse as she walked over to Jane. Staring at Jane's back she didn't know what to say or if she should say anything.

Jane felt a tentative hand on her back as Maura reached around and picked up Jane's ear muffs. At the touch she turned her head so she could see Maura. Maura's eyes were bright and her movements cautious.

Maura slid her eyes to Jane briefly but just the glance made tears threaten and she decided to study Jane's hands where they braced on the table "I'm going to return these for us and go wash up. I'll meet you at the car."

The drive to Jane's was quiet. Maura pulled up alongside the parked cars in front of Jane's building and put the car into park.

"Thanks for the ride home." Jane opened the passenger door and hesitated for a minute. Taking a deep breath she quickly asked "Are we okay?" What Jane wanted to ask was if they would ever be okay. She wanted to know if they'd ever get to leave that day behind.

Jane's uncertain tone hit Maura's core and she swallowed the need to sink into Jane and hold her tight. She settled for a lingering touch over Jane's shoulder and down her arm. "We're okay. Thank you for doing that."

Jane looked like she wanted to say something but just nodded instead as she got out of the car and walked away.

Maura entered her dark house, turning on lights as she went. She changed for bed and carefully arranged Bass' dinner.

Settling onto her couch she opened her laptop and patiently waited for her VPN to connect so she could pull up Inez's reports. Partway through the first one she realized that she wasn't paying enough attention and she closed it.

Looking at her unread email was equally unappealing and she pushed the top down on her laptop and stood up. Even with all the lights on, her house seemed dark and unwelcoming and she shivered. Walking over to the thermostat she adjusted the heat and as she passed her purse, she pulled the range target out.

Sitting back down on her couch she opened the target up over the coffee table. The three bullet holes were almost dead on her circles. She examined the one on the left first. That one was about where Dean's bullet had hit. Right below her father's shoulder and an inch or so more would have made him drop his gun. The second one she put her finger on was right in the dead center of the silhouette's torso. Center mass, where law enforcement is taught to hit. Maximum impact and maximum stopping power, Dean hadn't missed and his shot was too deliberate. Dean wanted the best chance of Doyle alive and in custody.

Jane's wasn't center mass either. It wasn't as deliberate as Dean's shot but it wasn't center mass and after tonight Maura knew with mounting certainty that she didn't just miss.

Maura stuck her finger in the hole. Not too far above her finger would have been the heart and a more likely spot to hit if Jane had been trying to kill rather than stop. In a strange coincidence the strike on her father was almost a mirror image of Jane's own self inflicted wound.

Or was it a coincidence? It was a shot that Jane had survived.

What was it that Officer Hill had called Jane? Center Mass Centerfold, crude perhaps but the police force didn't hand out nicknames lightly. You earned them for better or for worse. Maura would imagine that Jane must have quite a history in marksmanship to have earned that.

Jane's hit on Doyle was also a shot well outside the large circled section of the torso, certainly not center mass.

Staring at her finger pushed though the hole, nothing made sense. Absolutely nothing, Doyle was a wanted man who understood the game he walked into that day. He was there knowing that risk. When he fired his gun he knew he'd be a target. When he returned Dean's fire he guaranteed it. Dean's shot made sense in a way but was Jane's miss deliberate or just bad luck? Maura knew she'd screamed at the last moment.

Maura smoothed both palms over the paper on the table. In the end she knew she was touching her answer. Jane could have easily missed tonight and left Maura to her own conclusions but she knew what was being asked of her and she answered honestly. Protocol dictated that as the first in before Frost that her job was neutralize the threat. Maura was even willing to guess the reason Jane was first in was because Maura was bait. The minute Doyle shot at Dean she didn't have a choice.

That part Maura knew. It had taken her a long time to honestly accept it but she did.

In fact if she hadn't taken the shot the investigation into Jane would have been much worse. Logic dictated that Jane would have had a higher likelihood of being labeled dirty. That outcome ran the greatest risk that the investigation into Maura would have been handled differently. She knew she would hardly still have her job and it wasn't unreasonable to lose her license.

Tonight Maura realized that where Doyle was shot ultimately told the rest of the story. It was also the type of story that you didn't put words too unless you wanted to risk everyone else involved. So Jane didn't.

The drop of water hitting the paper next to her hand surprised Maura. She hadn't realized she'd started to cry. Wiping at her cheeks seemed to make everything worse and as the tears increased the silence of her house closed around her. She wanted to call Jane and have her come over. She needed her to come over. How many nights before she had left had she sat in this exact spot wishing for the same thing and sobbing?

Instead she'd run all the way to Africa only to end up exactly where she'd started. Blindly she got off the couch and walked over to her back door, pulling her car keys off the hook as she walked out.

The sports update on the 11:00 pm newscast was on but Jane barely caught a word as she stared at it from her couch. Sliding down, she pulled her feet up and rested her head on the couch pillow She reached up and pulled a blanket over herself. Jane sighed. Two separate IA teams had reviewed that shooting and nobody had asked the right questions. Now the one person she never wanted to know had asked and she happened to be the one person smart enough to put the rest of it together.

On top of everything it just didn't feel right ending the night like that. Knowing Maura, she would sit on her couch and ponder that stupid target all night. Her gut was begging her to call a cab and go over. Jane rubbed her forehead, frustrated. Maybe Maura was right and she should leave the intestinal thinking to the lobsters. Not that it mattered. Problem gut or not, the rest of her didn't want to stay in her apartment either.

Glancing at the clock she realized she would have to push the want aside. They might be trying to fix their friendship, but Jane didn't think they were at the stage where she could show up on Maura's stoop at midnight without a plausible reason. Never mind the fact that Jane wasn't entirely sure Maura would even want to see her after she put the puzzle together. It could go either way with Maura's fierce independent streak.

She sighed and rolled onto her back. It was still such a mess.

Despite the blanket she was cold and Jane frowned at the open window. She stood up, wandered into the bathroom and grabbed her robe. She pulled it on as she walked back to pull the window down. Flipping the casement lock closed, Jane noticed the blue Prius across the street. Distorted light from the streetlamp reflected off the dew that had settled as the temperature dropped.

A flash of something pale in the driver's seat caught her attention and Jane was out her door instantly.

Jane knocked on the car window as she pulled on the handle. She saw Maura's hand unlock the door and Jane tried again, relieved when it opened. "Maura?" Maura didn't answer but she did turn to her. One look at her face and Jane reached a hand in and took Maura's, startled at how cold it felt and saw she wasn't wearing a coat.

Pulling her out Jane shrugged out of her robe and wrapped it around Maura, noticing she wasn't wearing shoes and was standing on damp, cold asphalt in thin silk pajamas. "Jesus Maura, you're going to catch your death out here. " She pulled the key fob out of Maura's hand and locked the car as she ushered her inside.

Closing her apartment door Jane turned to face Maura who was standing there with her arms wrapped around her torso with Jane's robe almost touching the floor. Needing to touch her, Jane reached out and hesitantly brushed her cheek with the back of her fingers.

Maura gasped as the tears started again and when Jane moved closer to place a hand on her shoulder, she launched herself at Jane burrowing her face into her shoulder, sobbing.

Jane held her tightly. "Maura?" Maura just ducked her head and wrapped her arms tighter. Jane ran her hand up and down Maura's back "It's okay. I have you. You're going to be okay."

Maura kept shaking her head feeling and breathing in the unique sensations that represented Jane. Struggling for the right thing to say, she settled on the heart of everything. "I miss you so much." The words were whisper quiet. "I'm so sorry Jane. I'm just so very sorry. I'm sorry for everything." Maura just kept repeating them, sobbing, and her grip on Jane was resolute.

Jane stood there returning the embrace until she felt her own tears turning cold against Maura's hair "I miss you too. I don't want to do this anymore without you okay? It's going to be okay. I'm sorry Maura. Never again. It's a promise."

Not letting go Jane maneuvered them to the couch, pulling Maura down and against her, increasing her grip. Maura looked up at her once, gently tracing the back of her finger against Jane's tear tracks before sliding down to drop her forehead to rest below Jane's collar bone, holding her tight.

Jane traced idle patterns against Maura's shoulder, feeling her own tears finally stop. Exhausted she realized that Maura's grip had loosened and she wasn't trembling anymore. "Maura?"

There wasn't a response and feeling the rhythmic breathing Jane fumbled for her remote to turn the television off as she reached back for the table lamp. She pulled the blanket off the floor and over both of them. Carefully, she eased herself back as she closed her eyes.

Maura's weight was warm and comforting and all she could think about was how perfectly Maura fit against her as she drifted off, content.

Chapter 31: Chapter 31

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

One eye cracked open as Jane turned her head to face the relentlessly ringing phone on her coffee table. Slowly she woke up enough to recognize the muted glow of morning in her living room. She was partially on her side, leaning up against the arm of the sofa, with half of her torso trapped under a boneless Maura. Judging by the feather soft shape being traced on Jane's trapped forearm she appeared to be awake but perfectly comfortable where she was.

The phone finally stopped ringing and the voicemail notification dinged a minute later. Jane let out a sigh as she moved the arm up that she had draped over the other woman so she could gently rub Maura's shoulder blade. "What time is it?"

"Sometime after 8 I think, it was around quarter of when I woke up." Maura pushed up a bit to look over her shoulder and read the clock. "8:22 to be precise." She reached over to grab Jane's phone and handed it to her before dropping back down and reclaiming her spot.

Jane chuckled. "8:22 huh? You're usually in the office for over an hour at this point. You probably have the lab techs in a panic right now." She unlocked her phone and pulled up her voicemail.

"It's not my fault you are comfortable. I haven't been sleeping well either, so I'm not about to complain." She turned her face to squint up at Jane and wrinkled her nose. "They are all adults and can manage without me for few hours." Turning her head back she rubbed her cheek a bit against Jane's shoulder and inhaled deeply.

As Maura rubbed her check against her shoulder Jane became aware of how intimately entwined they were and it made her acutely aware of Maura's body moving along her torso as she breathed. Jane felt a shiver zap though her.

Gripping her phone tightly for a minute Jane glanced down, looking at Maura against the length of her and felt her heartbeat pick up as an unmistakable tug teased through her torso. She pressed play on her voice message and stiffened briefly as Maura resumed tracing patterns on her arm.

Maura watched the goose bumps form up Jane's arm and registered the slight increase in Jane's breathing under her cheek. Flicking her eyes up briefly, she noticed the brace of Jane's knuckles against her phone before focusing on the slight flash of Jane's teeth against her bottom lip. Maura felt her body warm in response and the delicious tingle made her stretch a bit as an excuse to move. Feeling daring, she tossed a leg over Jane's.

Jane tried to focus on Frost's voice playing into her ear, barely registering the information as Maura stretched and the action dragged Maura's arm up along her abdomen to rest under her breasts. The message ended just as Maura repositioned with a sigh and tossed a leg over Jane's. Jane slid up as much as possible feeling her nipples tighten against her shirt.

Tommy's words again echoed in Maura's thoughts as she ducked her head a bit to hide her smile at Jane's reactions. "Who was the message from?"

Jane stared into space as she catalogued every bit of this evidence into her Maura and Jane file. She shook her head a bit to clear it when she realized Maura had asked her a question. "What was that again?"

The shoulders under her arm shook a bit as Maura chuckled. "I was asking about the voicemail Jane. I thought it might be the precinct looking for one of us."

Distracted, Jane ran her fingertips over the smooth silk covering Maura's arm. "Oh yes, it was. That was Frost. I'm supposed to call him back as soon as possible. There might be a break in the case."

Suddenly her own words registered and Jane sat them both up abruptly. "Shit! I'm supposed to call Frost back because there might be a break in the case." Jane jumped to her feet. "I have to get dressed." She started walking to her bedroom before turning rapidly on her heel. "You have to get dressed." Jane paced back to stand in front of Maura. "You didn't even come over with shoes last night."

Laughing at the way Jane's hair framed her face wildly Maura shrugged. "I drove the Prius so I have my travel kit in the trunk with a full change of clothes. Would you grab it along with a pair of my crime scene boots when you take Jo out? Just leave the boots outside your front door, don't bring those inside. I'll jump in the shower now and finish getting ready while you shower." She stood and stretched. "I'll drop you at the precinct and go swap my clothes at home. I have to feed Bass anyhow."

Jane looked at her with her brow furrowed, genuine worry creasing it. "That almost works but you forget I know how long it takes you to do your hair. There is no way you'll be ready by the time I'm done."

Rolling her eyes Maura replied dryly. "Jane, just go walk Jo."

Frost and Korsak leaned together in the front seat, belting out AC/DC at the top of their lungs "And I'm going down, all the way down…I'm on the highway to hell."

Jane buried her head in her hands and peered accusingly at Maura from between her fingers. "This is why you don't let Korsak drive. This is also why you don't make me give Frost the front seat when Korsak drives."

Korsak looked at her in the rearview mirror cheerfully. "1979 was a good year Jane. I need to teach you youngsters the appropriate appreciation for decent music."

"You singing anything is a guarantee to ruin the experience for me, forever." Jane looked out the window. "Are we there yet? I don't remember it taking this long the last time. This backseat is so uncomfortable. The circulation to my legs is permanently cut off."

Maura was sitting there shaking her head. "Your legs are fine. It takes more than an hour of bending your knees to damage your circulation." Watching Jane twist to lean against the door so she could dramatically move her legs to the side she rolled her eyes. "If this is you as an adult, I can only imagine you growing up. Your mother is a saint."

Korsak nodded in agreement. "Angela is some sort of woman that is for sure. "He sighed. "Quite a looker too. You got good genes on board there Janie."

"Korsak, ewwww, that is my mother. No, just no." Jane put her face in her hands. "Frost, change the subject. Do the partner thing and save my ass and change the subject."

Frost was looking at Korsak. Korsak was looking at Frost. Frost took a deep breath and opened his mouth only to catch Korsak's eye and they both smirked. "I'm sorry Jane, I got nothing. Korsak is right. Your mom is a good looking woman for her age."

"I hate you both right now." Jane unbuckled her seatbelt and put her head in Maura's lap and both arms over her eyes. "Make them stop Maura. They're talking about Ma."

"Jane, would you please sit up and put back on your seatbelt? Do you know the statistics for car accident victims that don't have a seatbelt on at the time of impact?" Maura had to lean back as Jane's hand waved in front of her face.

"Not interested, if Korsak crashes you'll protect me. The back seat of the Prius is uncomfortable. Your lap on the other hand is comfortable and I get to stretch out. " Jane moved an arm to look at her with lips pursed a bit to one side. "Unless I'm bothering you?"

Maura shook her head no and draped an arm over Jane. "But I have to agree with them Jane. Your mom has aged extremely well and she is a beautiful woman. "

Jane sighed and put her arm over her eyes again. "You too Maura? Loyalty is a fickle thing in this car."

Maura picked up one of Jane's arms so she could see her eyes. "I might be more inclined towards loyalty if I knew you had your seatbelt on. "

Jane frowned but slowly sat up and put her seatbelt back on. "Okay I'll buckle back in if mother talk is out for the rest of this ride. Talk about my mother, in any fashion not related to her being my mother, is out for the rest of eternity."

Korsak continued to chuckle a bit into his fist. "Okay how do you want to play Rinaldi? Cavanaugh is giving us a few hours head start before he calls Special Agent Wellborn with an update."

Frost leaned against the door. "Well when Dr. Rinaldi called she was looking for Maura. When she referred to the Nashua case she was patched through to me because I was the only person in the building from the task force. "He tapped his fingers together. "She sounded honestly upset. She said she was inventorying her clinic and the ketamine was missing several doses. At first she thought it had been logged wrong but she was up half the night reviewing her patient cases and she absolutely is missing ketamine vials."

Korsak sighed. "If the ketamine was stolen why would anybody go through the trouble to just take a few doses? The only way any of this makes sense is if it is linked to the Nashua case. "

Frost grunted. "Round of drinks on Rinaldi not being directly involved, tied to it yes, but not the perp."

Rolling her eyes Jane stared at him. "Why, because she's a petite little woman? Don't forget this woman handles 1100 pound horses on a regular basis."

Maura shook her head. "I don't think she was involved Jane."

Jane snorted. "Okay I'll bite. Dr. Rinaldi is not involved because why? Her unique ability to do amazing things with grafting oocytes together?"

"You don't graft oocytes together Jane." Maura gave a long suffering sigh. "The reason I don't think Dr. Rinaldi is the killer is simple. The killer couldn't find the vein to inject the ketamine. An experienced animal veterinarian wouldn't have had that issue. "She could tell by the look on Jane's face that she'd made her point.

Korsak slowed the car down as he turned into the driveway leading up to the gold house. "Well kiddos, killer or not killer, that is the question. Since we're finally here I'd imagine we're about to find out."

Chapter 32: Chapter 32

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

Maura looked up from the patient file she was taking numbers from and watched Jane pacing before she picked up a new file. Jane had apparently appointed herself as Maura's sentinel and she'd been a few feet away for the past few hours while Maura reviewed each file that had required ketamine dosing.

Korsak sat with Lena Rinaldi on the couch, one of her dogs across his feet and another curled between them on the couch. Korsak ran his fingers over silky ears. "Your guys must love having the space to run around. My crew would give their favorite chew toy for your yard."

"You have a way with dogs Sergeant Korsak. Bahloo there does not like just anybody. Makes it difficult to get away but luckily he has always gotten along with my stepson well enough. "Dr. Rinaldi leaned over the large Labrador mix and the second her eyes were off Korsak, he locked eyes with Jane who nodded a bit in understanding.

Jane walked over to Frost and brushed against his back on her way around the room. Frost noted that she was looking at pictures intently and when her eyes flicked to Korsak he carefully listened to the conversation.

Korsak reached down to pat the dog at his feet. "Man, I wish I had family that could handle my brood. More often than not my guys have to suffer with these two." He pointed to Jane and Frost. Korsak let out a sigh and stretched as an excuse to look at Jane who nodded slightly and ran her finger along an antique drum table in the corner.

Dr. Rinaldi smiled. "At least you have help. Johnny is a godsend. Now that he is an adult I can trust the whole place to be standing when I get home too."

Maura had been watching the three detectives at work as she pulled the final files towards her. She could see Barry carefully change places with Jane to look at the photos on the drum table and realized what was going on. "I didn't know you had a stepson Lena . How lucky you are to have that coverage for your lecture tours."

"Well I think stepson is a bit liberal in title. I never married Johnny's father, but we were together from the time he was 9 until he was 12. We actually got along quite well. Richard was kind enough to share his visitation with me even after we separated. Johnny likes to spend most of his summer here. "Dr. Rinaldi stood up and walked over to where Frost was standing and picked up a photo off the drum table. Walking back over to Korsak she handed it to him. "This is Johnny last year when we did a greyhound adopt-a-thon here."

Korsak smiled and nodded. "Perfect place for that here. Pretty, plenty of parking and you have that giant New England barn for cover in bad weather. I love old barns like that. Amazing how they built them using only wood pegs and hundreds of years later they're still standing. Think I could see it before we leave?"

Jane gave Korsak a little grin before she turned her back to him. Korsak was smooth as silk when it came to interrogation.

"Oh I'm happy to show it to you but we'll be cramped in there I'm afraid. I let Richard and Johnny store their cabin cruiser in there this year to save the dry docking fees. " Dr. Rinaldi put the photo back, oblivious to the four other people furtively looking at each other.

Jane cleared her throat. "With Johnny liking animals as much as he does, do you think he'll take over your practice one day?"

Dr. Rinaldi sighed. "He helps in the clinic every so often but he doesn't like to interact with my clients at all. He is painfully shy. His mother is the same way and I don't think she was able to help him figure out how to interact with people." She shrugged. "I keep trying to get him interested in research but he is majoring in business at Johnson & Wales University . It's a shame that his dad lives close enough that Johnny doesn't live on campus. I think would be good for him."

Suddenly she looked embarrassed and glanced at Maura in particular. "Sorry, I am just running off at the mouth. " She walked over to the files and rested her hand on them. "Did you find the same thing?"

Maura slowly nodded. "I'm not through all of them but unless you're going to tell me that you have a few elephants for clients, I am finding the same result."

Dr. Rinaldi sighed. "So I'm not crazy. I feel bad you drove all the way down here. I could have come to Boston with these."

Korsak watched Jane covertly point to her phone. He gave a slight nod yes as he stood. "To be honest, we all wanted an excuse to get out of the city on a Friday. If I had known you had a farm like this I would have done the initial interview out here too." He limped a bit. "I could really use to stretch these old legs. Would it be trouble to see the barn?"

"Not at all, if you appreciate historic farms this much Sergeant we'll have to walk by the old family cemetery too. " She turned to the others. "Would anybody else like a small farm tour?"

Maura stood quickly and walked up to Korsak. "I'd love to see the cemetery. I adore the history on those old markers."

Jane stared at Maura. What had Rinaldi just said that made her jump up like that? Jane instantly walked up to her and stood behind her. "A walk sounds good right about now."

Korsak glared at her and ran a finger over his own phone. Jane stuck her chin out a bit and took a small step closer to Maura. No way in hell was Maura going to walk out that door without her. Maura looked between Korsak and then back at Jane before leveling an annoyed glance at the brunette and stepping away.

Jane crossed her arms over her chest and returned the look, daring Maura to move as she took a step closer. Maura pursed her lips tightly but remained where she was.

Frost rolled his eyes at Jane and tilted his head at Korsak. "Mind if I join the tour a minute behind everyone Dr. Rinaldi? I just need to wash up first." Korsak shot him a grateful look.

Dr. Rinaldi smiled and pointed down the hall. "Washroom is the third door on the left. We'll start at the barn so you can find us easily."

The barn was a beautiful example of an old New Englander and the wide peaked roof and cavernous space was perfect for storing a boat off season. Korsak whistled appreciatively. "Your ex and stepson have excellent taste. She is a beaut of a Bayliner. Not your average fishing boat."

The veterinarian sighed. "Richard always did have a thing for flashy toys. He doesn't even use it all that often. Johnny is pretty much the only one who takes it out to go deep sea fishing. At least it gets used instead of just sitting at the dock New Bedford ."

Frost came jogging up and looked at Korsak "Okay I'm all set." He stared at the boat. "Whoa, that is some boat, must have a large engine."

Jane nodded from behind Maura "Frost, Dr. Rinaldi was just telling us that Johnny likes to go deep sea fishing."

He raised his eyebrows but didn't say anything.

Maura walked over to the barn doors, hearing Jane jog a few steps to catch up. Maura frowned over her shoulder at her. She was being ridiculous. " Lena , I'd love to see the cemetery you were telling us about?"

"Oh right on back through here." She led them through the barn and pulled open the back doors. "The cemetery is from the original homesteaders and some of the earlier stones you can't see the dates on. I had a historian come out and date some of the carvings and he thought the earlier ones might date back as early as the late 1600s, early 1700s. The last gravestone is from 1873 when the family line appears to have died out in the area."

The iron fence around the property was aged but well tended and the grave plots mildly overgrown. As they got closer, Jane was surprised to feel Maura grip her arm tightly under the guise of balancing on the uneven ground. Dr. Rinaldi opened the gate for them and Jane gave Frost a quick nudge.

Frost looked at Jane who was pointedly staring at Korsak and Dr. Rinaldi's back. He caught sight of Maura who held up Jane's arm and used a finger to indicate the back of the cemetery. Understanding, he left to go distract Dr. Rinaldi.

Maura walked quickly, pulling Jane along with her until they were out of earshot. She pointed at a large grassy mound "Jane I think that is a crypt or keep. I just need to see the back side." She dropped Jane's arm to slip between the fence and a large tree.

They came around the side and stared at the steel door. Maura murmured beside her "We'll need sample to confirm but that rock appears to be granite around the door. Early colonial crypts were called keeps and usually were used only for storage until ground thawed enough to bury the body. Most were built like root cellars but a few were also lined with rock to help keep the temperature even."

Jane looked at the door. "That hasn't been closed for hundreds of years either. I don't think it has been opened recently, but those hinges are soldered, not solid iorn and I'm going on a limb here, but I don't think MasterLock existed in the 1700s."

Looking up and seeing everyone else intently viewing the graves, Jane glanced at Maura beside her. "Maura?" Hazel eyes looked up at her. "I'm sorry I annoyed you earlier."

Maura tilted her head and took a deep breath. "I'm not annoyed anymore, but I wish you had respected my ability to make a decision about coming out here. Korsak would have been with me."

Jane stared at the ground. "Yeah, I get that. I even get that you can take care of yourself. But after how close we came to screwing up with keeping you alive at the warehouse I'd like to make sure that I never come that close again. I had no idea what was out here."

Maura grabbed her forearm. "Is that what you think happened that day? You failed to protect me?"

Jane bit her lip and nodded slightly. "Kevin Flynn came too close Maura."

"Jane that was a horrible situation that went wrong for many reasons. You have to realize you're not to blame for it. Nobody is solely responsible. All of us were there and we all made choices and took risks. It was my own idea."Maura took a deep breath. "And even if I took it out on you, Paddy Doyle knew the risks better than anyone when he chose to be there. So please, just don't."

Jane swallowed and raised her head but keep her eyes off in the distance. "I'll think about it, but Maura? I meant what I said last night. I've already seen what my life would be like without you in it and I didn't handle it well."

Jane felt Maura squeeze her arm and when she looked over Maura was also staring off into the distance, her eyes bright. "So I know you can take care of yourself but I'm going to make sure you're safe. It has nothing to do with you being capable of anything. This is me asking you for a favor." Jane swallowed and her voice felt thick against her throat." Help me keep my mental sanity by putting up with me, at least for now."

Maura didn't reply but Jane felt her hand drift down her arm until their palms brushed together, pausing for a moment as their hands met. The tips of Maura's fingers continued the slow graze of skin against skin as they slid between hers, pushing forward until the base of their fingers melded together. Jane felt a delicate pulsation echo against their grip.

Maura bit her bottom lip. The return squeeze of Jane's hand highlighted her pulse as it beat against their pressed fingers and the sensation flickered along her ribs. She looked up at Jane who turned her head to stare at Maura. Dark swirling eyes caused a tingling to quiver along her lips and her breathing deepened.

Without breaking eye contact their hands untangled and they stood staring at each other for a moment.

Korsak's voice grew louder as he approached with an upset looking Dr. Rinaldi. Frost was walking just behind them, speaking intently on his mobile phone as he looked at Jane with a hearty nod. It was time to go.

Chapter 33: Chapter 33

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

"Yo Mickey, turn up the TV, that's my sister!" Frankie elbowed the officer beside him. "Jimmy, check it out, Janie is going to be on Channel 7."

Jimmy laughed at the TV. "Rizzoli looks pissed."

Setting his beer down Frankie just grinned. "She hates the media. She hates the fact that she was forced to be up there by the Lieutenant and she really hates the fact that the FBI is getting most of the credit for the case."

"Well that explains why it looks like Frost has her pinned on one side and the Queen of the Dead has the other." Jimmy choked on his drink mid sip at the punch on his shoulder and he glared at Frankie.

Frankie rolled his eyes at him. "Last time I checked our medical examiner is Dr. Isles you moron. At the very least she should get some respect today. I mean last time I checked nobody else was able to tease out evidence from the New Bedford Highway Murders that actually helped solve it. "

Frankie sighed. "Plus you just saw the mood Jane was in from this afternoon. Imagine what she'd do to you if she heard it. Consider it a public service warning. I don't think she has slept much in the past 48 hours and most of homicide will probably be in here tonight. Those odds are not in your favor."

Sliding the bowl of peanuts part way to Frankie, Jimmy popped the shell on one and dumped the nuts into his mouth. "Fair enough, I'm warned okay? Besides, I didn't mean any disrespect to the fair Dr. Isles so Rizzoli can keep it in her pants. It's just a nickname. I actually think the doc is pretty hot. Maybe I'll buy her a drink to celebrate. She'll probably be in a good mood right?"

Frankie stopped mid chew. "For chirst' sake please don't go there tonight Jim."

Puzzled Jimmy just ate another peanut "Doc is single right? So what's the worst thing that can happen? I get shot down, big deal."

Finishing his beer, Frankie signaled for another. Staring at his empty glass he couldn't figure out what he could or should say. He could see why Frost might be right, but Jane had strong feelings when it came to family and Maura counted as family. Maybe Korsak would come in first and he could figure something out. He turned back to the bar and saw his fresh beer. He claimed it with a hearty swallow and the bar quieted a bit as the news pulled up the press conference from earlier.

The screen panned between Governor Sanford and Special Agent Wellborn as they shared the podium. Governor Sanford adjusted the microphone. "We would like to thank you all for coming this afternoon. Thanks to an incredible partnership lead by the Boston FBI unit and supported by the Boston Police Homicide Unit we have arrested and charged a subject with the murder of Ingrid Gaynor. We would like to reassure Massachusetts residents that Ingrid Gaynor's murder was an isolated event and she was not a victim of the New Bedford Highway Killer."

He stepped to the side to let Agent Wellborn speak. "Thanks to a lead from the Boston homicide team, our tactical unit arrested Rhode Island resident John Schnieder for the murder of Ingrid Gaynor. During a search of the subject's home, definitive evidence was discovered linking the skeletal remains found interred at the Nashua Street Park to the New Bedford Highway Killer. The investigation is ongoing and additional details will be available shortly. Now I'll open the floor to questions."

"Oh my god Mickey, turn that thing off. " Jane's voice carried over the crowd as she walked up behind Frankie.

"Usual Rizzoli?" Mickey didn't wait for an answer as he popped the cap on her beer and pulled a wineglass out and briefly glanced at Maura. "I only have the house Merlot on hand Doctor Isles. If I knew you were back I would have ordered in some of your Malbec."

Maura shrugged. "I'm in the mood for Jane's beer tonight." She reached over and grabbed the open bottle and sauntered over to an open booth.

Jane yelled at Maura's retreating form. "Hey, that actually was my bottle too, thief!" Maura just held it up in silent toast and drank from it. Jane shook her head as she waited for Mickey to open another beer. "I think I've been a bad influence on her."

Korsak laughed a bit, grabbing his own drink off the bar and handing a beer to Frost. "True enough, before long we'll have the Doc swearing and wearing jeans with sneakers."

"Remind me to get pictures if that ever happens." Jane tapped her brother's shoulder. "Awful quiet there Frankie. Do you want to come over and sit at the cool kid's table? I promised Ma that I'd let you play with us. I might even let your little friend there join us."

Jimmy grinned. "Thanks for the invite Rizzoli but I'm going to wait for the rest of Vice to get over here. I'm supposed to be saving our end of the bar, it has more room down here."

Jane snorted. "Only Vice would pick the end of the bar closest to the ladies room. You forget dear puppy that I was working vice before you graduated the Academy. I know your playbook. "

"Rizzoli you may think you know our playbook but trust me, the chapters I've added are epic. I'm irresistible. "Jimmy winked at her.

"If you're what women are finding irresistible these days, then I really haven't been dating enough. Mickey has a better shot at landing a live one from fishing the bathroom line." Jane pointed to the bartender who just rubbed his bald spot with a grin. "You just show me how many sets of digits you actually land tonight and then we'll talk about how epic you are."

Jimmy raised his glass to Jane. "You're on Rizzoli. I was feeling lucky tonight anyhow."

Watching his sister walk off Frankie shot a worried glance at Jimmy before getting up and following her.

Sliding into the booth beside Maura, Jane raised her beer. "A toast the fact that, again, we are amazing. Even if nobody will even know how amazing, since nobody knows the FBI would still have us answering a damn hotline rather than actually being detectives."

Frost snorted. "You're not bitter at all over this one are you?"

"Well come on already. We handed them the vet clinic and they couldn't sort that out. They did most of the interrogation of Lena Rinaldi. Did anybody think to check her ketamine supplies? No. The suspect had to call us. I mean come on really?"

Jane hit the table with her palms. "But the FBI did think we had to man yet another phone line. They also did the background check. Frost you totally would have found that link to the stepson. "Jane nodded definitively. "I mean Maura told them ketamine was actively used in veterinary work. They couldn't spend 5 minutes at Rinaldi's place but they had that whole sub-team chasing known dealers of special-K in Massachusetts . Because, I mean obviously, the only place in the world to buy special-K is on the street in Massachusetts ."

Korsak rolled his eyes. "We got the credit Jane as much as we were going to on this one. Sean made sure we were there behind him at the press conference. Johnny Schneider was over state lines. Sean lost any leverage at that moment. You should actually be a little grateful to the FBI tonight. If we had to fight jurisdiction and go through extradition procedures we'd still be waiting to interview the little bastard."

Jane shook her head. "I don't really care. Maura even managed to figure out that crypt thing with skeletons. We would have been able link it together enough even without the murder book."

Frankie looked confused. "What murder book?"

Frost grimaced. "If we get our hands on a copy of it I'll show you. Sick stuff. When the Feds tossed the Schneider house they found this leather journal written by Randy Shaw in Johnny's room. Apparently he found it in the old milk room back at Rinaldi's place. It was a detailed book of every murder that the New Bedford Highway Killer did." Frost let out a long sigh.

Maura was picking at the label on her beer bottle. "It was horrible. I am not formally trained in behavioral sciences but I was asked to read through a copy and give my opinion. Randy Shaw was a disturbed man, fascinating in the way he processed and validated himself but it was unsettling. It is going to take the FBI a long time to formally review and track down the rest of the murder victims too. At least they'll know where to look for the remains."

"Plus the Feds won't have to beg for sonar equipment like we'd have to." Jane finished her beer with a long swallow. "This case makes me wonder how many serial killers we miss. Randy Shaw would store his favorite victim's bodies in that crypt on his property. Who would have ever even thought to look there? He was then able to move and bury the remains as his own twisted memorial on any construction job he thought needed to have a souvenir. It went on for over a decade and nobody ever caught him. "

Maura sighed. "I just feel for Lena . She doesn't seem like she has much in the way of friends and her family is all so far away. Johnny was the closest person to her I think. Now she doesn't even have him." Maura relaxed a bit against Jane as she moved a bit closer. "I know what that feels like, when the only thing you have is your work and your pets for company. If circumstances were different I think I could have been friends with Lena ."

Korsak nodded his understanding "Me too Doc. I feel for her. Hit me hard because of Josh and she has it worse than I do. Johnny isn't going to see the outside of a cell. Not that Johnny behind bars is a bad thing. "

Frost snorted. "Not a bad thing? Were you watching the same interrogation I was? That guy was spooky. Waxing poetic about the entire experience and was actually ashamed he made a mistake about which finger he was supposed to cut off."

Frankie whistled under his breath. "It really all does come down to some weird ass luck at times doesn't it? If Johnny hadn't made that mistake with the finger, BPD wouldn't have had a reason for the cadaver dog and we would have even known the skeletons were there." Frankie gestured at Maura "If it hadn't been the threat of a serial murder, Pike wouldn't have been such an issue and we wouldn't have had an excuse to call you home Maura. Ingrid Gaynor's killer would probably still be on the loose. Strange how things work out."

Jane stiffened at Frankie's words. She forgot that Maura had agreed to return early as a favor. She'd even managed to forget she'd been off with Ian. The case was over. Maura's role here in Boston was technically over. Jane tried to remember if there had been any conversations about Maura not going back to finish out her leave.

The conversation bubbled around her. Frost said something that made Frankie toss a waded up paper napkin at him. Korsak made some quip about it that had Maura laughing against her side. Jane plucked at the label on her empty bottle, feeling the crowd at the table close in on her. She slid out of the booth quickly and called over her shoulder as she walked away. "I'm going to just hit the head and maybe grab another beer."

Maura studied Jane's retreat. She'd felt the change in Jane the second she braced and pulled away. Replaying the conversation she tried to at least partially understand what happened. Confused, she stood up to follow. "I'll be right back and I'll get us another round."

When Maura reached the bar and Jane wasn't there, she went over to order at the spot closest to the ladies room to catch her as she came out. She recognized most of the Vice team and smiled a little as she approached.

The newest detective on the team grinned broadly at her and stuck his hand out. "I just want to shake the hand of our evening news star. Rumor has it that you were a brilliant in cracking open the New Bedford Serial case."

Maura studied him and finally recalled his name "Detective Brown right? I provided the facts, Homicide cracked the case." She shook his hand and noticed Jane exiting the bathroom behind him.

"Call me Jimmy and that isn't quite what I've heard. Rumor has it you literally flew in from some vacation you were on and saved the day. From what I hear the BPD owes you. At least let me pay you back a bit by buying you dinner to celebrate the case." Jimmy looked expectantly at her while she ordered from Mickey.

Jane was still standing by the bathroom watching them intently.

Distracted by Jane, the request caught her off guard and she laughed, flattered that he had asked. Her mind raced as she tried to come up with a way to let him down gently. Maura finally decided that honesty would actually work and it was time to send a hint to her silent observer.

Jane watched Jimmy trying to pick Maura up. He had balls she'd give him that. Maura was way out of his league. It was almost cute and he couldn't seem to see the let down that was headed his way by the way she stepped back and casually crossed her arms over her chest.

Jimmy went in for a last ditch effort seeing Jane standing there. Getting Doctor Isles' number would certainly make his point. "I know tonight might be poor timing considering the case and all. At least give me your number and we can do something this weekend."

Maura smiled. "Normally it would be an offer I couldn't refuse, but I'm actually involved with somebody at the moment and it's a bit complicated."

Stunned, Jane swallowed hard. Well now she knew. Of course Maura was involved with someone. Ian was the love of her life. Jane knew that. Maura came back because the Lieutenant and Governor Sanford asked her for a favor. The conversation buzzed around her and her throat felt tight. Maura was laughing and her stomach squeezed at the sound.

Turning away Jane stalked over to the table and grabbed her keys. "I'm actually beat. I'll see all of you on Monday." Not even looking at the table she stormed out.

Maura appeared and handed out the drinks, pausing with Jane's and looking around the bar perplexed. "Where did Jane go?"

Three sets of eyes looked back at her just as confused.

Frankie suddenly groaned. "Maura, did Jimmy Brown just try to pick you up?"

Frost muttered something that raised Maura's eyebrows as he just started drinking. She nodded. "He was very sweet but he took it well when I turned him down."

Korsak took a swig from his bottle, if Maura didn't accept the date then what the heck had just happened? "Doc can you think back to exactly what happened and what you said? Because Jane just blew out of here like you two were fighting again."

Maura stood there, frowning, drumming her fingers against the bottle in her hand. Listening to the light tapping noise on the glass she remembered why she went up to the bar in the first place. Jane had been upset at what Frankie had said. Maura had felt the exact moment Jane had locked up beside her. Frankie had been talking about her being called back from Africa . She then put the exact words she had used to turn Jimmy down into that context.

The bottle slamming against the table startled all three men as Maura reached for her purse and her keys. "I think Jane believes I'm leaving again."

Frankie jumped up but Maura grabbed his arm with force and spoke firmly. "Sit back down. You can't do anything Frankie." She looked at all three of them. "That goes for all of you, leave it. Nobody here is going to be able to help. This is between Jane and me."

Chapter 34: Chapter 34

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

"Open the door Jane. " Maura knocked on the door to apartment 12 with a vengeance. Her other hand clutched her mobile phone. Jane wasn't answering her calls. She stopped knocking long enough to dial again and she could hear Jane's mobile reply with Maura's ring tone on the other side of the door.

Irate, Maura pounded the door. "Damn it Jane, open the door or I swear my next call is to your mother!"

The door flew open but Jane was stalking away, her back to Maura, as she pulled a sparing glove on. She walked up to her dummy and Maura could see a light sheen of sweat on her back between her sports bra and workout shorts.

Incensed, Maura slammed the door behind her, satisfied when the bang stopped Jane, who slowly, woodenly, turned around.

Jane watched Maura open her purse and pull a leather book out before tossing her bag on the floor by the door. Breathing hard, trying to restrain her temper she glared at Maura.

Maura put her free hand on her hip and raised her chin, glaring right back.

Staring into Maura's resolute gaze, Jane could feel every throbbing second of hurt push against her anger, warring for control. Her breath came in short, chaotic bursts.

Absorbing the sheer tension between them Maura refused to look away, watching as Jane's face slowly altered from rage to agony. Tommy's words haunted her. She could only imagine what he found. "Jane, are you going to tell me what is going on, or are we going to have to play 20 questions?"

Maura took a step forward. "Because all I know is we were sitting with our friends, celebrating the end of a hard case like we always do, and then you ran out the door."

Jane flinched as Maura took another step closer, holding a hand up and shaking her head. "Why did you even bother coming back if you were so involved with Ian again? Does your family owe Governor Sanford some debt that you just fly in from another continent at his beck and call?"

Ignoring Jane's hand, Maura took another step closer. She could see Jane twitch slightly as if she wanted to step away. "We can't keep doing this. You don't get deflect, you don't get to be obstinate and you don't get to chase me away."

Anger flashed and Jane stepped backwards. "Chase you away? You ran away. I found out during a fucking department meeting with every other cop in the precinct." Jane took a deep breath, her own words cutting away at her control. Remembering the meeting, remembering looking for Maura. Always looking for her, even as angry as she had been. She could see Cavanaugh as he sat at the head of the table, updating them that Maura was on an extended leave of absence.

Jane threw her hands up. "We had finally adjusted to you not being here. Then you just show back up and push your way into the middle of everything. If working the case was so important, then fine, why couldn't you just do your job and leave us alone? We would have been okay." She gestured between them. "I'm not deflecting Maura. This is me telling you, I can't do this with you anymore."

Maura clenched her jaw, trying to control the flash of pain, pushing through it, refusing to give in and walk out. She stepped directly in front of Jane. "You would have been okay Jane? Honestly? Because I know I was not okay." She took a large step forward surprising Jane when she bounced the spine of the journal against Jane's chest, forcing her to take a step back. "I had decided to come home before the department called me back." Another knock caused Jane to back up again. "I am not involved with Ian." The next tap brought Jane's back against the chairs on her kitchen island. "But you are not going to know that unless we actually talk instead of stepping around each other in circles. We have to deal with this or we're never going to get anywhere."

Feeling trapped Jane took the final step backward, fitting between her chairs, feeling the edge of the island press into her. Maura was so close. Jane could smell her perfume, could see the slight shine left behind as Maura's tongue darted over her lower lip. "I heard what you told Jimmy Brown. You turned him down because you're involved with someone. You're involved with someone and it's complicated. It was pretty clear to me. You're the one that says you don't lie Maura." Jane took a deep breath, struggled and took another.

Maura took the journal in both hands and pressed it against Jane's chest. "You are right Jane, I didn't lie." She stepped into Jane, their legs melding as their abdomens slid together. Maura closed her eyes at the exquisite warmth building along the front of her thighs, feeling Jane's breathing became labored. "I am involved with someone and believe me, you are very complicated." She opened her eyes and looked up, feeling herself shiver in response to the intensity in Jane's face.

Maura swallowed and wet her lips. It would be so easy to just reach up and taste, to take. Her fingers clenched on her journal and the edge bit into her thumb, reminding her why she was here. Jane needed to understand once and for all where her place was in Maura's life. She lifted her head and moved back slightly.

Pulling her eyes away, Maura looked down and the journal she was pressing against Jane, watching it move with each ragged breath Jane took. Her voice was whisper quiet "I don't know how to do this Jane. I can tell you every hormone coursing through me right now and which part of the nervous system triggers each gland and why, but I don't know how to do this." she pushed the journal firmly into Jane again. "Please, take this. Read it. Maybe it will help, or maybe it will make everything worse, but it is all I have. "

Jane reached a hand up to grab the book. Trying to breathe as everything tumbled through her, turning in sharp dimension. She watched as Maura walked to her apartment door and picked up her purse before looking over her shoulder. "Don't mistake this Jane. I am not running. I am not leaving Boston ." Maura opened the door. "Apparently that option disappeared the moment I met you."

All Jane could do was watch as the door closed. She swore sharply against the craving pounding through her and inhaling she could still smell Maura's perfume. The scent intensified the need and she slowly slid to the floor, cradling the journal in her lap.

Jane pulled the towel off her head and dragged it through the ends of her hair for good measure. The brown journal sat on the bathroom counter. She combed out her curls and pulled the damp locks back before brushing her teeth. Finished, she stared at the book before walking away and leaving it behind.

Wandering into her bedroom, Jane reflexively dressed before she walked out the door with determination. She made it a few steps into her kitchen before she uneasily looked behind her at the bathroom. She took another step before she sighed and turned back. Standing in the bathroom doorway she considered the journal on the vanity counter for a long moment. Finally she walked over and picked it up, carrying it into the kitchen. It landed with a resonant thud on the island as she passed.

Pouring the last of her cereal into a bowl she mechanically flattened the box and tossed it into her recycling bin. One whiff of the milk and the remainder was dumped down the sink. Rinsing the empty container out, she tossed the bottle across the room, watching with satisfaction as it landed on top of the cereal box. Putting a hand on her hip she tried to remember when she'd started recycling. It was after some earth day thing Maura had made her go to.

She turned to face the island and looked at the journal again. Frowning at it, she wandered over to her dry cereal and picked up the bowl, eating a handful while staring at the book. She grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator and jumped up to sit on her counter. Another handful of cereal was chased by a quick sip of beer.

Pushing her food and drink away, Jane slid off the counter and walked over to the island. Her fingertip glided across the smooth leather and pressed against the stamped designs along the binding. She picked it up and opened the cover. The paper was heavyweight. The first page was blank except for Maura's name in her own elegant script at the lower right corner. Jane moved her thumb to press against it.

She walked over to her couch and sat down with the open journal on her lap and turned the page as she started reading.

Page after page, Maura's own words shaded and defined her life while she was gone. Foreign people, places and situations intertwined with thoughts and memories of her life in Boston . Frankie, Frost and Korsak jumped in and out. Her Ma appeared in frequent bursts. Maura's parents drifted in here and there along with Doyle.

As Jane continued to turn the pages she realized she featured, in some way, on almost every single one. Emotional imprints of all that they were together set against the backdrop of another world.

Reading she absorbed the days of anger and of hurt. Felt the loneliness and the confusion. Smiled when there were happy thoughts and basked in the obvious affection. She turned to the last dated page. The final paragraph was definitive in a way that was so very, uniquely, Maura. She read it several times, uncertain as to what exactly the words implied as her stomach clenched.

Jane traced her fingers over the script. "The totality of the components allows me to characterize the situation by the fact that I love many people but I physically need Jane. Continued, retrospective analysis proves the data trends to this inevitable conclusion."

Chapter 35: Chapter 35

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

Part 1 of 2

Maura turned the open wine bottle so the gilding on the label picked up the subdued light that bounced off the countertop from under the cabinets. The glass of burgundy sat in front of her untouched. It was quiet, bordering on silent. Not even Bass broke the stillness.

The muted sound of a car door slamming resonated through the room. Jane had arrived.

Behind Maura the handle of the front door rattled before it opened. Maura turned the glass by the stem, watching the wine creep up the sides, hearing Jo's nails ping off the hardwood as she ran into the dark house.

"Damn it Maura, I've told you a million times, lock the door. " Jane could hear her voice bounce in the dark room. Maura was sitting at her kitchen island, shrouded by the shadows at her back, the light from under her cabinets outlining her silhouette.

Maura turned around. Jane was standing there in worn sweats, the laces of one sneaker trailing behind her. She held the journal in one hand.

Jane stalked up, stared down at her and dropped the journal with a thump between them. Maura didn't respond, she just picked her wine glass up and sipped it, acutely aware of where Jane's knee pressed against her own.

Jane tried again. "You don't get to just leave like that." Tapping the journal cover with her finger, Jane leaned down. "You don't get to drop something like this on me and just leave."

The journal cover indented under Jane's finger and Maura studied the way the leather surface creased under the pressure. She took another sip of wine. "I didn't leave. I came here to wait for you."She raised her face to look up at her.

Jane flinched the moment their eyes met. Hazel eyes bored into her and Jane's frustrated reply died before a single word escaped. She could make out each fleck of color in Maura's eyes. Gradually she straightened up as each thrust of her heart amplified up into her throat.

Endless dark eyes. Jane had infinite, endless, dark eyes. Maura swallowed, aware of the scrape of her own teeth against her tongue. Refusing to look away, she pushed the wine glass to the side as she stood, brushing their bodies together, denying Jane her infinitesimal retreat.

Jane breathed in the heat that was Maura and compressed her lips as her pulse pounded against them. The hand on the journal smoothed along the cover before sliding forward to gently wrap around Maura's wrist, her thumb gliding up and down the soft underside.

The simple touch sparked a visible shudder that raised goose bumps along her arms and melted any pretense left between them. Maura rested a hand just above Jane's heart, leaving it there, feeling the pounding assent. She dropped her gaze and looked at the way they fit together, biting her bottom lip as the picture throbbed between her legs.

When Maura looked up again her cheeks were flushed and her eyes begged Jane for permission.

Defenseless, Jane tried to speak, her voice sounding rough to her own ears. "Your journal, what you wrote in the end. Help me understand Maura, what do you need from me?"

Maura wet her lips as she leaned into Jane. "I know that you love me." Her hand reached up to trail along Jane's jaw before her fingers pressed against the nape of her neck, drawing their lips close enough to share her words. "But what I need is for you to let me love you back. "

The first slide their lips caused a gasp to escape Maura. The second sparked a need to consume.

Jane's hand tangled in Maura's hair to angle her head back as she kissed the corner of her mouth and traveled up to taste the arch of her lip, drawing it in to trace the peak with her tongue. She felt Maura press forward into the kiss, her hands sliding firmly around her rib cage.

Her heart racing, Maura moved her hands lightly down Jane's back drawing firmly over the ridges of her hips, pulling her closer, needing more. At the first tentative touch of their tongues she leaned into the kiss, pushing her hands under Jane's shirt to skate her palms up over the muscles in her abdomen.

The graze of Maura's hands over the skin of her stomach caused Jane's mouth to open on a sharp intake of breath and their kiss deepened, the wet heat of their tongues melding together, warring for control.

Their lips tangled repeatedly in a dance of give and take. Hands and hips moved in primal responses to soundless questions.

Her body thundering, Jane groaned at the first touch of her hand along the bare skin of Maura's back. She pressed her against the kitchen island and bringing their hips together, reveling in the answering pressure and the bite of Maura's nails as they traveled up her sides to tease along the edges of her bra. Jane pulled back just enough to see her winded breathing mirrored in swollen lips.

Maura reached up, twisting Jane's top hard in her hand, pulling her back down, sighing in the back of her throat as their lips crashed together again. Moving restlessly she pressed upwards reveling in the sensation of her breasts against Jane, craving more contact. Breaking free, she struggled for air as she dragged her hand down Jane's arm to grasp her hand and pull her along toward the bedroom, her body pounding from head to foot.

Part way down the hall Jane gave a startled cry as her back hit the wall and Maura's lips claimed her again. Maura's hands were sliding under her top, seeking her hips, pressing her thumbs under her waistband, sweeping downward and Jane couldn't stop her hips from jerking forward.

Maura swallowed Jane's tiny gasps in the back of her throat as Jane arched into her touch, her hips subtly moving in time to her breathing. Pulling her mouth away she trailed open mouth kisses wetly along Jane's jaw and the length of her neck, biting lightly where neck joined shoulder, pressing back when Jane pushed hard upward. Franticly she grabbed the edge of Jane's shirt, pulling it up and over her head.

At the sudden draft along her bare skin, Jane struggled against Maura, overpowering her until she could reverse their positions, sliding her hands over and down the curves of Maura's backside to intensify where their lower bodies met. Binding their lips together, she felt Maura grab her hips to continue to grind into her. She met Maura's every move, pushing and pressing, increasing the pressure between them. Jane's hands kneaded up and over curves in encouragement before sliding along Maura's back, releasing her bra and spreading her hands down and over her back. Struggling for breath Maura pulled back, pushing the shoulders under her hands, whispering into her ear "Bed Jane, I need you to take me to bed. Now." Panting Jane pulled her into the bedroom and stopped by the bed, reaching for Maura only to have her step back.

Standing by the bed facing Jane, Maura locked their eyes together. She reached over to turn a table lamp on. Slowly she moved a step closer, pausing to pull her shirt and bra off, holding them suspended by an index finger, before letting them drop to the floor.

Powerless Jane stepped forward and placed both hands against the softness of Maura's abdomen, feeling the feather soft skin, gliding her hands inward and then upward, tracing the ridges of her ribs before brushing the back of her fingers along the underside of Maura's breasts. Fingertips moved to barely stroke back and forth along the sides before traveling up to her collarbone to skim her thumbs along the ridge of bone. Watching Maura's breathing grow ragged she ran her hands down Maura's sides to her waistband and yanked her forward, hearing her gasp of surprise before Maura reached up and twisted her hands in Jane's curls, crashing their lips together.

Need, white hot and electric, sparked deep in Maura and she pushed all her weight against Jane, pressing until they fell on the bed together. Looking down , Maura found the claps of Jane's bra, struggling a moment before she wrenched it off, trembling when she felt their nipples brush together as she drew Jane into another kiss, absorbing her low moan.

Jane uncontrollably shifted, hips seeking, under the weight of Maura straddling her. Hungry lips ghosted up her neck and her body arched as Maura drew her earlobe against her teeth, pressing their breasts tightly together. Maura's hand trailed down the underside of her arm and her nipples tightened even more in response. Snaking her hands around Maura's rib cage, Jane pushed up and over until Maura was under her.

Wet, warm, lips encased her nipple and Maura cried her name out softly, hands grabbing and pulling against Jane's back as she felt the press of her tongue pulling against the sensitive tip. Teeth grazed lightly, before lips traveled over her torso to the other side. At the second pull against her other breast Maura desperately ran her fingers to the front of Jane's pants, pushing her fingers down against Jane's hips, sliding her pants down.

Jane sat up long enough to pull off the rest of her clothing and untie the linen cord at Maura's waist to free her of the last barrier between them. Bending over Maura, her eyes absorbed the body below her, memorizing the sight. Touching a hand slowly along Maura's abdomen she felt the muscles twitch in response and Maura's teeth flashed against her bottom lip as she shifted. Reverently, Jane leaned in and as their lips met, Maura reached up and locked her hands behind Jane's neck, pulling her down.

Skin slid against skin, curves slipped over curves, breasts meshed as stomachs pressed, and thighs tangled tightly together.

Trembling in relief, Maura closed her eyes at the fit and feel of their bodies pressing together, whimpering at the contact. Need drove her to push up and twist so she could bring Jane under her, sliding a leg between her thighs and crashing their lips together, swallowing Jane's moans against the back of her throat.

Jane pulled her mouth away muttering incoherently as Maura's thigh pressed harder against her center and her hips thrust in response. Sparking sensations ripped up her torso as Maura's nails dragged up her sides and around her breasts, circling the nipples before following the same path with her tongue. The sharp test of teeth dragged ragged breath from Jane's lungs as she repeatedly ground against Maura's thigh and convulsively gripped her hips.

Tasting, touching, and driving the body under her Maura could feel the unrestrained movement increasing against her thigh. Feeling Jane's hands flexing rapidly against her back as her motion became frantic, Maura kissed her deeply, sliding her fingers slowly down Jane's torso until the tips touched saturated folds. She paused to savor the moment before sliding fingers down and along the bundle of nerves.

Shocked at how fast her body reacted to the gliding touch of Maura's hand, Jane reached a shaky hand up to slide along the inside of Maura's thigh, searching, until she pushed two fingers quickly in, sliding fluidly and plunging deep. She heard Maura cry out in surprise as her eyes darkened at the intrusion. Stroking her thumb across the swollen ridge of nerves she felt Maura's body start to rock around her.

Dark eyes connected with deep hazel pools as their bodies combined in an instinctual dance. Backs arched to share short gasping kisses while ragged breaths intermingled. Voices blended as seeking hips thrust and plunged over and over. Driving, spiraling rhythm pounded between them as friction and resistance increased in pressure and speed. Voices burst as their bodies released against closed lids into a kaleidoscope of color, as they crested, one after the other.

Chapter 36: Chapter 36

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

Part 2 of 2

The length of Maura on top of her was the most comforting sensation Jane could recall. When she closed her eyes and concentrated, she could feel her gentle breathing against her as she ran her fingers up and down her back. She brought Maura's hand up to her lips to kiss the bend in her fingers, feeling the contented sigh and the delicate brush of lips to her shoulder.

Jane shifted slightly and looked at the way their bodies were melded together, reveling in the simple relief that there were no barriers between them. The sensation gave her the assurance she needed to finally ask. "Maura, earlier tonight you said you already knew that I loved you. How did you know that?"

Maura moved down a bit and turned her head so she could look up at Jane. She delicately traced a fingertip over Jane's eyebrows and down the side of her face to her neck, tracing the faint scares. Bracing up on her elbow she traced her own scar, the line almost indiscernible. "We match. That's how. One night in Uganda I was just sitting on this rock, trying not to think of home and I couldn't stop rubbing the scar on my neck. All I could think about was that moment in the infirmary when you saved me. "Hugging Jane tightly Maura breathed in her scent. "You fought when I was attacked by Hoyt. Not when he was attacking you. I was more important to you than your own fear. " Maura kissed the faint, thin scar. "It meant that I mattered more to you than your own life. You protected me like you did Frankie on the day you got this. I was family to you." Maura's hand traced the indented texture and thin, thickened lines of her bullet wound.

Maura slid up to kiss Jane on her forehead and cheek. She slid her lips along Jane's, feeling the ready response in return, luxuriating in the ability to finally communicate fully through touch. "I think your mother was right about so much that day in the café, but not everything. The day you shot yourself at the precinct was worst day of my entire life and I think that was the start of everything. I didn't know how to handle it." Maura kissed the space between Jane's breasts and put her ear against her heart, listening carefully until she could hear its steady rhythm.

Biting her lip against her body's responsiveness to Maura's touch, Jane exhaled sharply. "I'm sorry Maura. I should have said that back then. I should have asked if you needed to talk about it and I didn't. It just wasn't something I felt I could do, but that wasn't fair to you." Jane's hand stopped its path on Maura's back for a moment." I just couldn't change anything, so why bother? But it wasn't the right thing to do."

Outlining Jane's lips with her finger, Maura shook her head."No, it's okay now. It's just after that day I realized that if you had died I would have been utterly alone. That was even before my mother started to reach out. You were my world Jane. Any friends I had at the precinct were tied to you. Your family welcomed me, but they were your family. It just hit me all at once that you were all I had." She kissed the space under her cheek before putting her face back down and rubbing it against the soft skin. "And you were enough, but I didn't know how to cope with the thought you might not be there someday."

Jane shook her head. "That isn't true. You never would have been alone. Everyone loves you."

Maura reached up to slowly kiss her quiet, pulling away only after the body under her was breathing rapidly. "I love that you see me like that. Maybe it is a little different now, but on that day you were the substance and the connection. It made me think long and hard about my life. I realized that if you had died, I wouldn't have had anybody to go see a movie with, or call when something exciting happened, or even to just go grab a cup of coffee with." Maura ducked her head into Jane's shoulder. "When you were discharged and wouldn't let anybody visit, I actually got to experience what it was like to live that nightmare. It was so horribly lonely after having had you as my best friend. Byron was never marriage potential but he was a distraction and your mother was right. He saved you and for that he will always have my gratitude."

She turned her head to the side and kissed along Jane's neck, tasting the salt of her skin slowly. "Then on the night of the banquet, I saw you with Casey and I realized that you might have survived the shooting but I was still going to lose you someday."

Shivering at the onslaught, Jane wrapped her arms around Maura. "Hmmm… I felt the same way about Ian." Jane was surprised to feel tears threaten. She ran her hands rapidly along Maura, feeling the texture of her skin, running a thumb along the swell of her backside, caressing where it met her thigh. The intimate press of Maura's hips as she pushed against her was reassuring and empowering. "Ian showed me what it would feel like to be your best friend after you met someone that you loved and wanted to spend time with beyond dinner and sex. I couldn't do it Maura. I couldn't take standing there in front of you and not having you see me. It was like he walked in and took my place. He wasn't a Giovanni."

Maura shook her head against Jane's shoulder. "It wouldn't have been like that, not with us. You still would have been my best friend."

Jane turned her face to kiss the top of Maura's head. "My Ma's been best friends with Maria Vitale for over 50 years. They grew up a block away from each other. They talk on the phone at least once a day, usually more."Jan snorted. "Why am I telling you this? She lives with you. You probably know because after they hang up Ma likes to rehash their entire conversation with someone. "

Jane sighed "Maria moved to Westford 30 years ago when she got married. Ma and Maria are lucky if they get together a few times a year." She paused as she ran both hands up Maura's ribs and ran her thumbs along the underside of her breasts "I would be miserable if I never saw you, even if I could talk to you every day. One of the hardest things I have ever done was when I offered to drive you to the airport the day Ian left."

Maura kissed Jane slowly, deliberately, feeling the glide of their tongues pound between her thighs and she pressed hard into Jane. Pulling back she whispered in Jane's ear. "I chose to stay in Boston with you on that day Jane. I won't lie, I will always love him, we have our history together, but you and I? Our bond? Even fractured, it was strong enough to call me back. You're my home Jane." She caressed the ear under her lips, feeling Jane's hands flexing against her ribs, sliding down over her hips to pull her tighter. "I love you Jane. I'm just sorry I didn't say it sooner."

Jane rolled, reversing their positions. "You did say it Maura. The night with the wine from Tommy, I know you tried to say it. Maybe we both didn't fully understand it, but we knew and you were brave enough to say it." Jane sucked lightly against the scar on Maura's neck, breathing in her scent. "You were right about this scar, even Hoyt could see it."

She moved her nose against Maura's temple, pressing her lips there. "I didn't know what to say when you said you loved me. I didn't understand why, but I knew I was hearing something other than simple friendship. I knew at least you were saying you loved me enough that my happiness was more important than your own."

Maura's hands were lightly running along her sides and over her back. Shivering Jane kissed her forehead before capturing her lips, taking her time. She let her touch express what words could not and felt the reassuring answer in the body shifting under her.

Jane pulled away slightly and stared into Maura's eyes, letting herself absorb the moment, feeling the rapid breathing against her lips. "Then the reunion came up and Casey was supposed to come back. You were so supportive whenever we talked about him."She smoothed a palm up and over Maura's hip before pressing it down the front of her leg, returning upward by drawing a line with her index finger along the inside of her thigh.

Feeling the pressure building, Maura trembled as Jane's finger continued its assault, reaching the apex of her thigh, rubbing the tip along the crease. She slid her leg up, capturing Jane's thigh between hers, seeking the increased contact.

Jane nipped along Maura's jaw, feeling her move her chin up to expose her neck in supplication, murmuring approval as Jane replied by drawing her open mouth along the length, nipping as she moved down one side and switched sides to taste her way up the other. Reaching Maura's ear she traced the delicate folds, feeling Maura's legs moving along hers at the sensation. Whispering she confessed "The night at the hospital, if you hadn't told me to go, I wouldn't have been able to leave. I was holding you and you needed me and nothing else mattered. For the first time I couldn't put my job first until you asked."

Jane shivered, remembering her complete confusion and the struggle while trying to work. "I didn't make sense to myself anymore. Then Dean showed up. Everyone had been telling me I had to make an effort if I expected anything more in my life. So I trusted him with the most important thing to me, you." Jane reached down and grabbed Maura's hand, entwining their fingers tightly. "He was supposed to put everything back in order, but he didn't. Waking up next to him didn't change anything." She buried her face into Maura's shoulder. "I woke up and I still just wanted forget the case and be with you."

Maura brought a hand up to tangle through dark curls so she could pull Jane's lips to hers, murmuring against them, "I know Jane. Maybe I couldn't figure out what the right thing was to do before, but I'm claiming you now. No more questions or uncertainty from either of us." She brought her calf over Jane's leg and pressed her closer, closing her eyes against the increase in weight as she shifted. Maura kissed the corner of Jane's mouth. "I just need you to love me." She enveloped Jane's mouth with her own, pouring herself into the kiss.

Breathing heavily Jane pulled back, staring intently, memorizing the sight. Maura was under her unguarded, with her eyes half lidded, lips parted wetly and body open. Jane could feel her arms locked together loosely against her back. It was explicit permission to possess.

Not breaking eye contact Jane brought Maura's hand up and kissed her fingertips gently. Moving down she pressed her lips to the inside of her palm, feeling the softness. Hazel eyes drifted closed as she slid her lips down to kiss the inside of Maura's wrist, lazily kissing up the trail of pale blue veins. Hazel eyes flew open on a gasp as Jane ran her tongue around and over the softness of Maura's inner elbow.

Feeling the breathing increasing under her, Jane replaced her mouth with the scarcest touch of her fingertips, traveling up and down the silk of Maura's upper arm. She moved up to nuzzle against Maura's temple, combing her fingers gently through her hair. She kissed her forehead and the slope of her nose, the corner of one side of her mouth and then the other. Pausing she ran the back of her finger along the ridge of Maura's cheekbone as she stared deep into Maura's eyes, feeling their connection run through her.

Jane's eyes consumed her and Maura could feel her pulse pounding along her body, centering against the pressure of Jane's thigh between her legs. She lifted her hips and squeezed her legs together to increase the friction, murmuring approval at the unexpected sensation of Jane lightly sucking at the junction of her shoulder. Jane's mouth was hot and wet against her collarbone as she traveled across her body. She could feel her nipples scraping along between them and the tingle ran down her arms and over her thighs driving her to press her hips harder.

Drawing her other leg to bend at the knee, Jane rose up slightly increasing the pressure on Maura's core, feeling the body under her stiffen at the increased contact. Bracing her weight on one elbow, she took her time worshiping the parted lips below her, letting their tongues dual and dance. Whispered entreaties broke against her lips as Maura's back arched in offering. Jane ran her hand upward, over Maura's ribs, to envelope her breast, letting the nipple run slowly through her index and middle fingers.

Maura tore her mouth away when Jane closed her fingers tightly together and her nails bit at her waist.

Watching the flash of Maura's teeth grabbing her bottom lip as the air hissed out of her, Jane replaced the hand with her mouth, tasting the delicate skin along the underside of her breast before moving up to suck the tip against the back of her teeth, feeling the impression of each touch echoed in the rising body beneath her, as she moved from right to left.

Maura pulled desperately at Jane, her hips rolling of their own accord, feeling each tug of her nipple spark against the pressure at the apex of her thighs. The wet heat of determined lips slowly left her breast to travel along her ribs, mapping the slight ridges first on one side, then on the other, before trailing to the top of her abdomen.

Feeling Jane's thigh slowly moving away as she tasted her way down her torso Maura whimpered, letting her nails bite into the skin under her fingers in protest. She couldn't stop the deep groan as the flat of Jane's tongue left a slow, moist, wake as she wound down and around to just above her navel. Teeth closed softly against the sensitive spot and she cried out.

Moving her hands to lie against the points of Maura's hips, Jane felt the seeking thrust of Maura's body slide against the pressure of her palms as she continued to stroke her mouth downward. Skirting to the side, she nipped her way over a muscled thigh, stroking along the outer edge before sliding a thumb along the underside. Raising her hand she drew Maura's leg up and touched her lips to the inside of her knee. She could feel a faint trembling against her cheek as she slowly kissed her way up the smooth skin of Maura's inner thigh. Reaching the top, Jane placed a lingering kiss and looked up, absorbing the knowledge that she was one of the only ones to see this side of Maura, defenseless, arching, seeking and craving her touch. She lowered her mouth to claim her, reveling in the power of the intimate moment.

Maura was vaguely aware that words and cries slipped from her mouth in a breathless staccato as she felt Jane's mouth repeatedly over her clit, the flat of her tongue pressing down and sweeping up. There was a seeking pressure and she felt her body convulse as Jane slipped into her. Maura arched upward at the invasion, opening herself more as the friction swept inwards before pulling out. Helpless against the onslaught, her hips moved to drive the pressure inside with each delicious slide. She could feel Jane invade and fill every corner hidden in the heart of her and she brought a leg up and over Jane's back to drive her deeper.

Jane felt the pulsing strength wrapping her fingers and the bundle of nerves harden under her tongue. The thigh against her cheek started to vibrate uncontrollably and Jane twisted her fingers around until movement was almost impossible. Tenderly, she pressed her fingers up against the frantic motion and gently closed her teeth around Maura, hearing and feeling her cry of release at her touch.

Chapter 37: Chapter 37

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

Maura felt the mattress move as Jane returned to the bed and moved up behind her, draping an arm back around her waist with a contented sigh. She slid her hand down Jane's forearm, running her fingertips lightly back and forth along the scar on the back of her hand before pressing their fingers together and drawing Jane's up to fit between her breasts.

Kissing the head in front of her, Jane tried to clear the remnants of sleep from her voice. "I'm sorry I woke you up, I had to go let Jo out."

Maura squirmed back a bit and pressed Jane's hand tightly against her. "What time is it?"

"A little after nine by now." Jane buried her nose in Maura's hair and inhaled. "I'm actually surprised I woke up before you. You never sleep in, even if it is a Saturday."

Maura chuckled, enjoying the sensation of their bare skin brushing. "You're proud of yourself aren't you? I can hear it."

Jane laughed "No, I'm not." She felt a heel connect firmly with her shin and she laughed harder. "Okay, so maybe just a little."

"You're lucky I like you." Maura took any sting out of the words by pulling Jane's hand up to kiss it.

Jane braced up on her free elbow to lean quickly in whisper teasingly in Maura's ear. "What happened to the love?" She quickly nipped the sensitive ear and ran quick kisses down a twitching neck.

Twisting around quickly with a tiny squeal Maura wrapped an arm around Jane, pinning her arm at her side and tossed a leg over Jane's thighs to hold her in place. Nuzzling the hollow of Jane's throat she muttered "You are evil." Placing a kiss there she squeezed her arm and leg in a quick hug. "And the love goes without saying." She slid down and moved her thigh off Jane, tucking her head under Jane's chin. "I actually have to go into the morgue this morning. The funeral home is coming around at 11:00 for Ingrid Gaynor and I wanted to personally release the body."

Jane rubbed her hand along Maura's shoulders. "Do you want company?" The head under her chin nodded. "Okay well, I'll go use the other bathroom and feed Bass and Jo while you get ready." When Maura didn't move Jane chuckled. "To do that you need to let me go." There was still no motion out of Maura. Jane pulled her head and neck back.

Maura opened her eyes and looked up at Jane with a half smile. "I was thinking about it." She lifted her arm off Jane and rolled onto her back with stretch, taking her time, enjoying the fact that Jane's eyes were half lidded and locked on her as she arched up. Maura raised her eyebrows and waited until Jane focused back on her face. "I thought you were in a rush Detective?"She gave a wink and enjoyed the blush that bloomed on Jane's cheeks.

"Oh my god, now which one of us is evil?" Jane rubbed her forehead as she sat up. "You're the one that needs to be someplace this morning." Moving her legs off the bed, she winced and gave a muttered ouch at the twinge in her abdomen as she stood up. She shook her thighs out a bit and started walking to the door until Maura's quiet laughter made her turn around with a frown.

Maura sat up with a huge smile. "Apparently you're going to have to go to yoga more if you expect to keep up with me." Tilting her head she made sure Jane knew she was scrutinizing her."And to think, I wasn't even feeling creative last night."

Jane put a hand on her hip "You should see the smug look on your face right now Dr. Isles." Shaking her head she spun on her heel and walked out, her voice floating back in from someplace up the hallway. "I should be offended but I'll have to get there after I go take a cold shower."

Maura couldn't help grinning as she got out of bed and went to go get ready.

Jane double checked the contents of the filed box in front of her and signed off on the manifest, putting one of the copies in with the rest of the folders. Carefully she filled in the front of the box before moving it to join the two others she'd reconciled before they transferred them to the Boston FBI office.

Glancing up at the clock, she was surprised to see it was already after 2 pm. Frowning, Jane double checked her desk phone and mobile to make sure the sound was on and up on both. Maura was supposed to call her after the funeral home picked up Ingrid Gaynor. She could understand that the funeral home was caught in the Saturday traffic coming up from the Cape but this was getting ridiculous.

She looked at the empty Dunkin Donuts bag on her desk. Her breakfast sandwich had definitely burned off. Jane debated starting another box, but while the tedious task did keep her occupied, the repetition was getting on her nerves. Jane sighed, looking at the bullpen door. Finally she just gave up the pretense and headed downstairs. She wanted to go be around Maura, so she was going to just go be around Maura.

Crossing from the elevator to Maura's office and finding it empty, she wandered through the open door to the lab. The space was half lit and deserted but the light was on in the autopsy suite. Approaching the glass Jane was surprised to see Ingrid Gaynor's body out and saw the back of Maura as she sat, staring at the body with a file on her lap.

Jane pushed through the door. "Hey, is there something wrong?"

Maura glanced over her shoulder, her expression serious. "No, I just wanted to thank her. She is something of a hero."

Jane walked up behind her and put a hand on Maura's shoulder. "Hero is an interesting choice of words. Why is she a hero?"

Exhaling, Maura touched the edge of the autopsy table. "Her death was the catalyst to so many answers. Her body provided answers that gave us John Schneider before he continued his spree to honor each of Randy Shaw's burial places with a victim. All those families from Randy Shaw's kills who never knew what happened to their loved ones will at least get closure. I even owe her a personal debt of gratitude." Maura brought her hand up to cover the one on her shoulder, pulling it down against her chest. "Solving her death forced us back together."

Maura pointed to Ingrid Gaynor's case file, touching the picture of her daughter still clipped to the cover tenderly with the back of her finger. "My heart breaks for her daughter. She is going to have to grow up without her mother. Maura leaned her head back against Jane. "Children need their mothers."

Jane moved her other hand to cross over Maura's chest, embracing her, understanding the emotion coming from Maura a bit better. "Ingrid's daughter will at least grow up knowing her mother's killer is behind bars. You gave her that gift Maura. Nobody else came up with the facts that let us solve the case."

Looking up, Maura could see the understanding etched on Jane's face and she pulled her hand tightly against her, swallowing against the tightness in her throat. "This little girl has no mother and I'm selfish enough that I've been obsessing about the one that gave me up and avoiding the one that I have." She blinked hard against the tears.

Leaning over Jane rested her chin on Maura's shoulder and squeezed her gently. "There is nothing wrong with wanting to know your birth mother, don't go there for even a minute. It has nothing to do with Constance and your mother is an amazingly intelligent woman who knows that. I'm not saying that every moment will be easy, but it will be okay."

Maura nodded and tipped her head against Jane's. "My parents want me go down to see them in Connecticut . I think they want to talk about my adoption." She closed her eyes against the tears. "They're offering me what I've always wanted, so why am I so scared?"

Jane didn't have an answer so she just held her and moved her head to kiss her cheek. "I don't know Maura, but I'm right here with you okay?"

"Okay. Thank you Jane." She bit her lip, considering, deciding to risk the question. "Would you go with me?"

The question was so quiet and hesitant. Jane squeezed her briefly. "I was hoping you'd ask so I didn't have to figure out a way to tag along." Her mobile started to blare out her mother's ringtone. "Speaking of mothers, mine has been trying to convince me that she needs to come over and make me dinner. She's been trying to guilt me for days, saying she hasn't seen enough of me because of the case."

Her phone beeped, alerting her to a new voicemail. "She has left me three voicemails so far about it. This makes number four. I hope you're in the mood for a family affair tonight because I think she is showing up no matter what I say."

Maura just smiled. "I love your mother. Tell her I'll make éclairs for dessert."

Jane frowned. "Feeding her homemade pastry is not going discourage this behavior in the future. We'll never get a moment alone again. You forget she lives with you. In fact, because of that, we're cooking at my place tonight."

The loading dock door buzzed and Maura slowly stood up. "I know exactly what I'm doing Jane. We both owe her complaint free pastry and dinners for the rest of her life."

Pulling her phone out to call her mother back, Jane gave a long suffering sigh and called after Maura's retreating back. "You only say that because you want to be the favorite."

Chapter 38: Chapter 38

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

Jane darted a hand out and swiped a bit of chocolate icing out of the bowl from over Maura's shoulder.

Maura elbowed Jane in her stomach. "For the 10th time, get away from my elbow and keep your hands out of the food."

Sucking on her finger, Jane stepped around to lean her back against the counter. "I wasn't at your elbow. I was at your back this time." She reached out again, only to have her hand smacked away by Maura. "And we're at my place. My house, my rules. And stealing tastes of chocolate is a rule."

Exasperated, Maura turned and used the spatula she was stirring with to point to Jane. "I'm going to go make you sit on the couch in a second."

"Oh no, you had your chance earlier. I tried to get you to sit on the couch with me but you refused." Jane studied the space between Maura and the bowl of icing, considering her next move carefully.

Maura put a hand on her hip, daring Jane to move. "We both know if I joined you on the couch the éclairs wouldn't exist and while I think telling your mother we're together is the least we can do, I'd rather let her know with words instead of visual representation."

Still analyzing her options Jane debated her chances of just pushing Maura out of the way. "I'm not telling her because I feel obligated Maura. I'm telling her because, first off, it's the path of least resistance. You don't lie and she has a nose for news that rivals anything the K9 unit has in the kennel. "

Jane noticed Maura lean away from the counter, opening up space between her and the bowl of chocolate icing. "Secondly, she's like one-stop shopping for gossip. I tell her and then I don't have to repeat myself a million times. When I tell her she can tell anybody she wants, she'll probably double fist the phones, a landline in one hand and her mobile in the other. If this works we'll go put a flyer up at Merch and people like Miranda can rent her out instead of leaving messages on their parents' answering machines."

Quickly Jane made her move and scooped another taste of icing out with her index finger only to feel something wet slap against her nose at the same time. She wrinkled her nose and watched a blob of icing fall to the floor. "Oh my god, you did not just swipe that spatula on my face." She took a step forward, raising both her eyebrows, holding out her loaded index finger.

Maura bit her lip and started backing up, letting the spatula hit the counter. "Jane, I didn't wipe it down your face, really. It was just your nose, and only a little bit is left."

Jane evaluated the room and the escape routes and took a step to the right before she started to slowly move forward.

Take a couple of rapid steps back Maura realized her only opportunity to escape was to move left and Jane had stepped in that direction. She took another step and felt her heel hit the wall. Watching Jane smirk and close the distance between them she grabbed Jane's wrist and held the icing away. "Jane, icing is sticky and did I mention this blouse is silk? Chocolate doesn't come out of silk."

"Somebody should have thought about that before decorating my nose." She pressed against Maura's braced arm. "Now I just have to decide where I'm going to put this." She stepped closer, using the leverage to push their arms right "Maybe this side?" Struggling a bit, she started to move her hand to the left "Or perhaps…"

Jane couldn't get another word out as Maura suddenly stopped pressing back. Caught off guard she fell into Maura, who pulled her finger into her mouth. Every nerve in her fingertip sparked a message to every hormone in her body as Maura carefully and slowly twirled her tongue around, taking her time until every bit of icing was removed.

Satisfied at the hooded eyes staring at her, Maura pulled the offending finger out and placed a final kiss to Jane's fingertip. "That really is delicious. Perhaps there is something to eating icing off body parts. I could even be persuaded to let you offer me another taste." Jane's eyes flickered to her lips in a second of warning before she brought her mouth down to Maura's, wet and demanding, as her hands grabbed her waist to pull them closer.

Jane had just managed to tug Maura's shirt out of her skirt on her quest to find bare skin when the distinctive knock broke them apart. Breathing heavily she groaned. "Of course she'd actually be early today." Sighing she smoothed Maura's shirt, walking away as the knocking started up again.

The moment the door opened, Angela pushed the shopping bags at Jane. "Parking on your street is a pain in the neck. It took me nearly 15 minutes this time. You need to move before you have to arrest me for killing somebody over a spot." Bustling into the kitchen she noticed Maura frantically tucking the back of her shirt into her skirt.

Maura could feel Angela analyzing her and flushed a bit. "Hi Angela, can I help with anything?"

"Just grab us some glasses down for the Pinot Bianco. Your guy at the wine store helped me pick it out. I thought it would go nicely with the fish, olives and tomato sauce I'm making." Angela started to unpack the groceries, her back to Jane. She heard the refrigerator door open "Jane Rizzoli you are not wrecking my dinner by drinking beer, put it back. Go sit down and have a glass of wine like a civilized human."

Sitting down with a huff Jane took the glass of wine from Maura. "Nonno always drank beer with this meal."

Angela just shook her head, frowning when she noticed Jane's face. "That was my point exactly Jane. Now drink the wine or go get some water, but either way just sit down and close your mouth until you can open it without complaining." She pulled out the cutting board noticing Maura drizzling icing over the éclairs. "Oh Maura, those look delicious."

"Thank you. I just needed to get the icing on them before it set up any more. It's already a little thick for a glaze." Maura put the finishing touches and stepped back, regretting she didn't have anything else to keep her occupied. "Angela, are you sure I can't help you?"

Looking up from the tomatoes she was dicing, Angela noticed Maura fiddling with one of her bracelets. She looked at Maura's face. Interesting. Now the atmosphere was starting to make sense. Chewing her lip to keep from smiling Angela pointed behind her to the island where Jane sat staring morosely at her glass of wine."No, I have this all under control. Just go sit with Jane."

Silence filled the space, broken only by the noise of Angela preparing dinner.

Opening up Jane's freezer, Angela stole another quick glance at the two women sitting at the island. One was upright with razor like precision and the other had her upper body spread over the island, resting her chin on her arm while she tilted a wine glass back and forth. Finally locating a container of frozen tomato sauce in the back, Angela decided it was time to let them both off the hook. "Janie did I tell you that I had lunch with Kay Amatucci over in Cambridge yesterday?"

Not bothering to sit up Jane just shook her head. "No you didn't. How is she?"

"You'd have died if you could have seen how grey she got this past year." Angela put the fish in the oven and walked over to stand across from Jane and Maura. "I gave her the name of the stylist you took me to Maura. I think it would take 10 years right off her to have a little color added back in." She picked up her glass of wine and took a sip. "Anyhow, we had lunch at the cutest sandwich shop across from Cambridge City Hall ."

Something in her mother's voice made Jane look up.

"Such a beautiful old building and it has been a part of so much local history, even recent history. Maura did you know they handed out the first marriage licenses to gay couples there?" Angela took a long swallow of her wine, enjoying the wide eyed expression on Jane and the rapid glances Maura was giving each of them.

Maura had to clear her throat several times before she was able to reply, trying not to give into the urge to squirm in her seat as Jane grabbed her knee under the counter "I think I did know that Angela, May 17, 2004 at midnight. I remember watching it on CNN."

"Wouldn't it be lovely to have a wedding there next year Jane?" Angela watched Jane flush a bright red. Maura was just biting her lip and smiling softly as she stared at the hand on her knee.

"Ma!" Jane was shaking her head, trying to find something to say and failing.

Angela walked over to the oven and opened the door, peering in to check on dinner. "What? I'm not getting any younger and a mother likes to know her children are settled in life."

Jane groaned. "Enough already, really. Sometimes my life is like a bad B rated movie." Taking a big gulp of wine she immediately went for another, deciding it wasn't half bad and it was better than nothing at the moment. She looked to Maura for support but she was just looking down, laughing quietly. Jane muttered at her "You are not helping right now." Eyes bright and twinkling Maura just shrugged.

Giving up, Jane just leaned back and stared at her mother. "Alright, well this didn't go at all how I pictured." She watched Angela set the timer on her stove before she came back over. "I don't suppose you're going to share how you figured it out?"

"I keep telling you I'd make a good detective." Angela poured herself more wine. "I'll start with when I first figured out you two were attracted to each other. I'll admit I was pretty slow figuring this one out." she gestured to Maura. "I didn't seriously start to consider it until that night I found you all alone in your kitchen, drinking wine in the dark. You were leaving for Africa the next morning and you weren't happy or even relieved. You looked exactly like I felt the night Frank left me."

Maura felt the hand on her knee squeeze and she covered it with one of her own, running her fingers back and forth against Jane's wrist.

The buzzer went off and Angela put down her glass and walked over to the stove. Pulling out the pan to sit and turning off the oven, she grabbed the green bottle next to the stove. "After that I found signs every place I looked and it all started to make sense. Even right here in your kitchen, Jane."

The bottle landed on the island between Jane and Maura with a clink. Angela walked to the freezer and pulled out a package skinless chicken breasts, dropping it front of them with a hollow knock. "I know my daughter and I know her well. I figure I'm lucky if I show up and find vegetable oil lost in the back of a cabinet. I certainly know you didn't buy olive oil, never mind truly good olive oil in a decorative bottle. "Staring at her daughter she picked up the chicken. "Since when does your freezer have a package of chicken that isn't breaded or in wing form? Which one of you two bought these two things?"

Maura cleared her throat. "I bought the oil. It has healthy fats, vegetable oil is just trans fat."

Indignant Jane looked at her mother. "Okay Maura did get the olive oil but I'll have you know I bought the chicken all on my own."

Angela sighed. Jane would always be Jane. "Why did you buy it?"

Jane opened her mouth to respond before closing it. Her mother was just looking at her with one of her patent Ma stares. Deflated, she muttered "Because Maura doesn't like me to eat that stuff and I needed something for her to eat when she came over."

Angela nodded. "Exactly and I live in Maura's guest house so I share her cable." She smiled at Maura." By now I've figured out that you almost never watch television and certainly never one of the 18 different sports channels your cable package seems to have. I'm not even going to get into what is on your kitchen shelves or the fact that for a woman that doesn't really drink beer you have a case of it stored in the pantry."

The timer went off again and Angela pointed at her daughter. "Jane can you please go get us some plates and something to eat with?"

When the food was served Angela took a long look at both women and smiled brightly. "You both are so entangled in each other's lives that nobody noticed the fact that you've been growing together for a long time. Not until it was all ripped apart and you saw both of you react the way you did." She sat down to eat. "As far as how I figured out you two are finally a couple?" Angela gave a pleased sigh. "That was easy. You forget I'm your mother Jane. I know your expressions better than you do."

Chuckling a bit, Angela continued. "If your flushed face didn't give you away when you finally opened the door, Maura desperately tucking in her shirt in the middle your kitchen would have been hint enough." Unable to help herself she started laughing harder, gesturing at both of them. "But really, the fact that you both have identical chocolate icing smudges across your noses pretty much gave it away."

Both women flushed a deep crimson as Angela just kept laughing between bites of food.

Jane rubbed her cheeks. That icing that Maura had wiped on her nose. Actually looking at Maura for the first time since her mother arrived, she noticed the faint trail of chocolate. "Maura, please tell me I don't have chocolate on my face?"

Maura just stared at her for a moment before the absurdity of the situation just made her give a light laugh. "I can't Jane. I believe we may have failed in my intention to not tell your mother by means of visual representation." She stood up. "I think I need to go wash up before I eat." She turned to Jane. "You might want to do the same."

"I'm sorry, but I still can't believe she figured it out before we could say anything." Jane added more soap to the pan she was scrubbing at the sink. "I mean, I didn't think she'd freak out, not after the past couple of weeks, but I at least thought she'd be a little bit surprised. Maybe have some questions or something."

Maura just laughed and shook her head, rubbing a sponge over a spot she had missed on the counter as she double checked the rest by running a palm over the surface. "I don't know why this is so hard for you. You have this strong streak of your mother in you. I know this will annoy you, but the skills that make you intuitive as a detective might have some genetic influence. Angela and you instinctively see patterns when there isn't a single fact to correlate it to and you both understand what is being said even when words are not used."

"You're not wrong, that thought is particularly annoying." Jane made a face over her shoulder but there wasn't any ire in her words. "Let's just not go there. I am not my mother."

Walking up behind Jane, Maura reached around her to return the sponge before wrapping her arms around Jane's waist. She leaned her forehead down to rest against the nape of Jane's neck. "Oh just be grateful for the gift you have. I've been studying for years and it still takes me watching video to pick up what you do intuitively. "

Jane snorted. "If I'm so good at reading people how in the hell did I miss this." She tapped the arms around her waist."I've been thinking about that today."

"What is the expression you always use when you're trying to figure out some detail on a case? Not seeing the trees because you're in the forest?" Maura kissed Jane's back. "Part of me wishes I had never left Boston to go abroad but sometimes I think it in the end it was only in being completely away, with Ian right there instead of on some pedestal in my imagination, that I was forced to challenge my own assumptions."

Jane rinsed the pan in her hands, choosing her words and tone carefully, ready to put the past year behind them. She dried her hands off on the dish towel before pulling Maura's arms tighter around her waist, keeping her voice light. "Close enough on the figure of speech and fair enough on the rest. I might even say something similar but why don't we make a deal instead? Next life altering argument we get into nobody gets to skip the country or even the city for that matter. And trust me we're both stubborn enough so there will be others."

Jane thought a moment before adding "Not talking is also not allowed. You might have to force me on that one sometimes." She let out a long sigh. "You also need to add into that big brain of yours that even when people hate each other they can still love each other. Do we have a deal?"

"The terms are acceptable." Maura leaned against her in silence, enjoying the quiet moment while Jane started to dry the pots and pans. "It's supposed to be beautiful weather tomorrow. Why don't we go for our run outside the city? Maybe take a drive up Route 1 to Salisbury beach?"

Jane groaned. "You still want to go running tomorrow?" She could feel the head nodding against her back. "You're going to be the death of me, you realize this right?" Letting out a little yelp when the hands at her waist pinched lightly, she gave in with a sigh."Okay but I am not setting an alarm clock. We'll go when we get up."

Maura sighed, breathing in Jane for a moment, the scent and the feel of her in her arms tingling along her senses. "Alright, no alarm clock, but then you have to agree to no whining." She stepped back to finish putting the containers of leftovers away.

"Oh no, there will definitely be whining. Lots and lots of whining, I'm still sore from last night." Smirking Jane looked over, expecting a reaction and was disappointed when Maura was just wrapping up the remaining éclairs. Frowning she leaned over to open the dishwasher and analyze what space she had left for the dishes.

Maura waited until Jane was focused completely on loading the dishes before casually commenting. "You know, I have to admit you were onto something earlier with the icing. It did taste better off your finger."

The detective in her made Jane look up sharply but Maura was busy doing something in her refrigerator. "Oh, really? What happened to squealing about icing being sticky and warnings about silk blouses?" She grabbed the dinner plates and tried to fit them into the bottom of the dishwasher, leaning over to rearrange the space.

Maura's calves and heels appeared in her line of vision as she felt something drape along her back before sliding off to land at her feet. Jane felt her breathing accelerate as she looked at the silk shirt at her kitchen floor.

Slowly she stood up. Maura was standing there, the icing bowl in her arms with an eyebrow raised, shirtless. "I believe that was a problem that was easily remedied."

Swallowing hard Jane tried to come up with something witty, but she couldn't seem to get a word to come out of her mouth.

Maura held up her finger coated in chocolate. "I believe I owe you for the taste I stole earlier." She painted Jane's top lip with icing, reaching up to slowly remove it before whispering in her ear. "I think I'll spend the rest of my night seeing what else might go well with icing. "She pulled back with a tweak of her shoulders. "Too bad we only have half the bowl left."

Jane cleared her throat, her voice cracked a bit. "I need to go turn in my badge or give it to my mother. How the fuck did I miss this side of you before?"

Her laugh was low and full of promise as Maura stepped forward to lean into Jane." Forest and trees perhaps?" She painted Jane's lower lip and ran her tongue over the icing before following it with a long slow kiss."Then again, I have never claimed not to have secrets. Perhaps you'll have to put those interrogation skills of yours to work Detective." She pushed away to saunter out of the kitchen.

Still standing in there Jane managed to remember to breathe. Heaven help her she loved this woman. Shaking her head to clear it she jogged out of the kitchen to catch up to Maura.

A/N – The reviews and notes sent have been fabulous. I just hope everyone understands how much I have appreciated the effort you take to review, they've been a bright spot. I've noticed questions etc… I can't really answer without giving up the end so just stick with me. I'm not ignoring you :)

Chapter 39: Chapter 39

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

Pulling her windbreaker closed at the bottom, Jane waited for Maura to finish stretching her quadriceps. Bouncing up on her toes, she ducked away from the wind."It's cold out here." Hazel eyes set in an annoyed expression peered up at her with a small frown.

"It's not cold Jane, it's brisk. It will be nice once we're down near the water jogging." Maura stood up and shook her arms out a bit as they started to power walk from the parking lot to the dunes.

Jane turned her head up to squint at the morning sun. "Staying in bed would have been nice. This running thing I'm classifying as some odd ritual torture that you seem to be set on making me go through weekly."

"Save the ritual torture comments for when we start seriously training for the Boston Marathon." Maura breathed in the salt air and admired the seagulls swooping above. "Besides, running on a beach, on a perfect day, with the sand and sea as a backdrop is a great way to soak in some vitamin D. Did you know that The New England Journal of Medicine published an article just last week on the correlation between low levels of vitamin D and cancer?"

"No I didn't, but I have you to keep m up to date on stuff like that and I don't need to be jogging to soak up vitamin D. You're always telling me that all I need to do is spend 20 minutes out of the office every day." Jane admired the way the ocean met the horizon as they crested the dunes. "Okay I'll admit this is pretty. I never come here in the off season." She started the trek down. "It's almost empty too.” She pointed off in the distance. "I didn't know people could ride horses here."

Maura could just make out the riders chasing each other at the water's edge as they finally made it to the sand and smiled. "Glad to know you actually do listen to what I say sometimes." She looked left and then right, trying to decide which way to head.

"You know I always listen to you and I might complain but let's just get honest, I usually do what you say." Jane gestured to the beach around her. "Again, I point out where I am on a weekend morning that I am not even on call for and I still have to face a family dinner this afternoon." She grabbed Maura's elbow, walking off to the right, dragging her along towards the water's edge. "Let's just go this direction and no deep sand until I've warmed up. It's low tide and I'm starting off on the packed surface Madame Drill Sergeant."

Breathing in a lungful of salt air Maura couldn't help the grin as they started jogging along the water's edge. The wind was light and playful around her and she was running with Jane at her side. It was perfect and it was everything.

Moving along Jane felt the muscles of her legs slowly adjust, the underlying soreness dulling as she warmed up. A golden retriever ran up to them with a stick of driftwood hanging out of its mouth, bouncing along beside them with its prize. It was looking up at Maura hopefully and Jane laughed at her confused expression when the dog kept bumping her thigh. "Just toss the stick Maura."

Maura couldn't help but make a face when her hand slipped on the well slobbered wood. "This is a prime reason Bass is a superior pet. I don't have to touch slimy wood." Maura tossed the stick and laughed at the leaping frenzy of excitement out of the golden dog.

"The turtle has the personality of a moving rock Maura. Jo at least climbs into your lap. She also doesn't need to have six different breakfast options and her own eco system in the laundry room. Pour some kibble in a bowl and you've just made her day." Jane waved to the man running past them, a leash in hand and she pointed to where the dog had run off to, catching his grateful smile.

"My, tortoise Jane. Bass is a tortoise and don't think I don't know you do that on purpose. Your mother told me. I enjoy his personality, plus he lives a long time." Making a face at Jane, Maura took off, lengthening her stride hearing Jane curse behind her. She yelled over her shoulder. "I'd save that language for later. You're just going to waste your breath and I'm just warming up."

Catching up Jane slapped her hip. "One of the benefits of long legs is a quick recovery."

"Those legs didn't help you last night. You fell asleep on me Rizzoli." Maura winked at her before she darted off into the deeper sand.

Charging after Maura Jane quickly reached down and grabbed a handful of seaweed that had washed up on the shore. "I did not fall asleep. I think I passed out. There is only so much a human being can take." Jane pushed a little harder, gaining ground. "I would also like to point out that it was after two in the morning and you did that thing with your tongue and thumb. Where in the hell does somebody learn something like that?"

Smugly, Maura called over her shoulder "Secrets Jane, a girl needs to have some secrets. Besides, I already told you that you'll have to use your interrogation skills to get them out of me." Turning her head to look for Jane she spotted the seaweed hanging out of her hand and took off with a squeal, heading for deeper ground near the dunes. "Oh my god, no you don't Jane. Do not even dare to think about it."

Laughing Jane ran harder. "You forget I'm a police officer. I'm bound to uphold the law." She grabbed at Maura's jacket, just missing her. "I'm pretty sure that tongue thing is illegal in parts of the United States ." Taking a small leap she managed to catch Maura's sleeve, whose own momentum pulled her around. "Forget interrogation, I think I should just arrest you, I was a witness." Suddenly, Jane felt a hard sweep to the back of her legs and startled she fell down with a triumphant Maura straddling her, pinning her hand with the seaweed into the sand.

"You're going to arrest me?" Maura leaned down until their lips almost touched. "Finally we're speaking the same language." Feeling Jane lose focus on everything but how close they were, Maura quickly grabbed the seaweed out of her hand and tossed it at Jane's face before leaping up and taking off, back down to the shoreline. She called out behind her. "And I believe your active, willing, participation at least makes you an accessory."

Jane sat up stunned. Maura had just rolled her. She had just gotten taken out by Boston 's petite Chief Medical Examiner with a self defense move she had taught her. Hell no was Maura getting away with that shit. Growling she took off like a shot, thanking god that nobody from the BPD was around and yelled at the sprinting figure in front of her. "That's right, do me a favor, and keep running right near the water." She noticed how far they had come and started to slow down a little, watching Maura fly around the bend ahead.

It wasn't until she sprinted around the turn in the sand that Maura realized her error. The shoreline was cut high on both sides by a sea wall and a channel for water craft to go from the inlet out to the open water. With a resigned sigh, she turned around and waited.

Taking her time, Jane walked around corner and leaned against the sea wall resting a hand on her hip, silent. Keeping eye contact she reached down and grabbed a handful of wet sand, letting it playfully drip through her fingers. Minutes slipped by as they stood there staring at each other. Jane raised an eyebrow.

Maura looked behind her as a small speed boat motored through the channel. She turned her head back to Jane and took in the gleeful smirk and the casual, cocky stance. Defeated, she sat down in the sand, knees drawn up, facing the water and yelled over to Jane. "Okay I give up. Just whatever revenge you're planning, please avoid anything very wet okay? I'm actually rather cold. This vest isn't near enough by the water."

Shaking her head, Jane leisurely walked up to Maura, standing at her back. "Oh so you're cold now? I thought it was a lovely, brisk day, perfect for a run?"

Jane laughed at the rather eloquent glare leveled in her direction and added a sinister edge to her voice. "I would suggest that you duck your head."

Flinching backward with a yelp, Maura hit Jane's shins when her head was suddenly covered. Sitting back up, she uncovered her head and smiled, running her fingers over Jane's windbreaker. "But now you'll be cold."

Jane snorted. "Ha, not after that sprint, you're fast when you want to be. Besides, I'm 100% pure hot blooded American Italian in a thermal running shirt and you Irish types are entirely too white for your own good." Maura looked ready to argue. "Just, put on the jacket, it will make me feel better."

Pulling the material around her Maura felt Jane sit down behind her and tug at her until she leaned back against her chest and Jane slipped her arms under the jacket and around her waist. They sat in contented silence, watching another small speed boat fight the incoming tide on its way out of the channel before slowly growing smaller and smaller.

Jane placed a kiss against the side of Maura's head. "God, I really do love you."

Maura wrapped her arms around the ones at her waist. "I love you too, more than anything."

Jane squeezed Maura briefly and rested her chin on her shoulder. "I know."

Chapter 40: Chapter 40

Please see Ch 1 for disclaimers…

Happy season three everyone!

Leaning on his elbows at Maura's kitchen island and staring at the television, Vince Korsak winced as the batter struck out for the second time. The Red Sox had the bases loaded at the bottom of the seventh inning. The New York Yankees were up by one run. He started twisting the dishrag he had in his hands.

Frankie was on one end of the couch, elbows on his knees, face partially covered. "I don't know if I can watch this."

Tommy was slumped back, hand on head. "Why do they bother allowing that guy near a bat?"

The batter at home plate brought his bat up and against his shoulder. Frost was sitting on the edge of his chair. "Forget the pitcher, why can't they have a designated hitter for this guy?"

Sitting curled up next to Jane, Maura waited but nobody else answered "Well according to Rule 6.10…" She glared at Jane over the hand suddenly covering her mouth.

Jane shook her head. "Not a real question Maura. I knew I should have never bought you that book on the MLB." The hazel eyes narrowed. Cringing a little, Jane took her hand away from Maura's mouth and grabbed her hand instead.

The baseball flashed white on the screen for a moment and the bat slashed through the air. The connecting crack vibrated over Maura's sound system and all eyes watched the ball fly through the air and into the outfield. It was headed right for the Yankee's mitt, when it seemed to glance of the top and bounce behind him.

Frankie slapped the coffee table in front of him. Frost and Tommy were up, knocking their knuckles together and cheering. Jane flushed bright red when Maura kissed her cheek before she hugged her.

Angela smiled, noticing Jane's embarrassed flush and half grin as she hugged Maura back tightly. "Alright, commercials are on you guys. Who would like dessert?"

Making it over to the table first, Frankie grabbed a slice of ricotta pie. "Oh cool, my favorite, where did you buy it Ma?"

Smiling, Angela looked at Korsak. "Vince remembered how much I enjoyed it when you bought it for me on Mother's Day and he went all the way to Tripoli 's to get it for me."

Frankie pursed his lips and knitted his eyebrows, carefully looking Korsak up and down. "You don't say Ma."

Frost glanced quickly at Jane, but she was too busy talking with Maura to notice the exchange. He rolled his eyes at Korsak, who just shrugged merrily. For a moment he wanted to hit Korsak over the head, but that would just alert Jane. Helping himself to dessert, Frost figured out how to save Korsak's ass. The man might not know it, but lunch was on him tomorrow. Thinking it through he decided distraction should work, at least on Frankie. Frost elbowed him and pointed up at the screen. "Look, the game is back on, check out that replay of the triple. Damn."

Tommy walked over from the kitchen with Jo Friday like a football under his arm and a cup of coffee with his dessert plate precariously balanced on top in the other.

Cringing, Angela watched Tommy's plate wobble and instantly stalked over, grabbing his pie "Oh no you don't young man, put the dog down and use two hands to carry it carefully into living room. Maura's furniture and floor doesn't need you loose with a dog and a cup of coffee."

"Janie is doing the exact same thing and you're not yelling at her." Tommy pointed over to where Jane was doing almost the same balancing act while she gave Frost and Frankie a fist bump over the replay.

Angela groaned. "Sometimes I feel like I failed as a mother." She yelled over to Jane. "Jane Rizzoli put your hands on that plate. Just because you're dating Maura, doesn't mean you can wreck her place and break her dishes."

Jane just rolled her eyes at her mother.

Turning around to point out the up close footage of the ball glancing off the outfielder's mitt, Frankie hit Frost's elbow with his coffee cup and yelped as the contents splashed all over his shirt and the floor.

Running over with a roll of paper towels, Angela caught Maura's eye, shaking her head. "At least he missed the couch. I swear I did attempt to give them manners."

Maura just gave a little shrug and a half smile. "I don't mind Angela. It is just furniture and even if they had ruined it, I can always buy another one. Personally, I think you did an amazing job raising them. I'm rather fond of all three of them."

Angela smiled and put a hand on Maura's shoulder. "Well the older one is now your responsibility. I have two others that need some extra attention from me. I don't think either one has dated a decent woman in ages."

Tentatively, Maura reached out and gave her a quick hug. "I absolutely will try to take care of her, but I still need you for backup. I am positive that Jane is not a one woman job."

"Deal honey. Now go eat dessert. I'm going to go make Frankie let me put his shirt in the wash before the stain sets." Angela watched Maura walk over to the couch and hand her dessert and coffee to Jane. Jane scooted over and leaned a bit to the side, and put the dishes on the end table before holding a hand out to Maura. Happily, Angela watched Jane help her onto the couch so Maura could curl into Jane, using Jane's hip like a table to hold her plate, while they debated something with Tommy.

Angela walked over and held her hand out to her other son. "Don't argue, just do it." Frankie glared, but he handed his shirt to her. He always was her easiest.

Returning from the laundry room, Angela noticed Vince had cleaned up after dessert. The ricotta pie was on the island, ready for second helpings and she heard the second pot of coffee brewing behind her. He was such a sweet man. She cut a slice of pie for herself and put another generous wedge next to it.

"Here Vince, give me your plate quickly while Maura's back is turned." Angela slid a piece from her plate onto it. "Thank you for helping me."

He nodded. "Not a problem. A smart man knows that you have to keep a good cook happy."

She laughed around a bite of pie as they both stood at the island enjoying dessert together. Angela pointed with her fork to where Maura was curled into Jane. "Well I have one down and two left to go."

Korsak shook his head and chuckled. "After those two, anything else will be child's play."

"Tell me about it. I feel like I just made it up the Boston Marathon's Heartbreak Hill at a flat out run." Angela took a sip of her coffee. "Worth it though, seeing them both so content. You need a home and a family in life."

Korsak looked at Jane for a long time, enjoying the sight of her relaxed posture. He paused a bit, his tone soft. "I'm just happy Janie learned it earlier in life than I did. She isn't one to make the same mistake twice." He shrugged. "I finally learned that truth the hard way. For me it was just a little too late."

Angela put her hand on his shoulder and squeezed. "Well, you are always welcome here. You know what they say, friends are our chosen family and taking a good look around, I think we have a perfect family."

=The End=


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