Touch a Butterfly's Wings
“Was it really necessary to book a limo, Maura?” Jane asks, as she stumbles out of the aforementioned limousine in her sleek black dress and gold gladiator sandals.
She crosses her arms upon reaching the curb and does what she definitely would not call a pout, but what else could an extension of the lower lip – the labium inferior oris – be? A plain white mask sits over her eyes.
Maura follows Jane with more grace. The hemline of her deep Byzantium gown is considerably longer than Jane's, because she couldn't get Jane to commit to both a long skirt and heels. Her mask mimics a purple emperor butterfly to match her dress; its wings tickle her cheeks. “It's a charity benefit, Jane, and you're being honored. Your mother would never forgive me if I let you go willy-nilly – which, by the way–”
“Maura, cut it out!” Jane says, stomping one foot. “Geez, I feel like this is my junior prom again. I hated junior prom.”
Maura lets her mouth click shut. She'll find someone to discuss etymology with inside, but right now, she merely trains her most disarming smile at Jane and extends her arm, elbow crooked. Jane ducks her head, grins, and accepts. They both turn to look at the Marriott Long Wharf, reserved by the Boston PD's wealthy patrons for the night, and enter together.
It's hardly Maura's first soiree, but she gasps at the lovely décor within. Small, round mahogany tables have been set up along the brims of the Marriott's banquet hall, for intimate dinners later. Gold light halos across the dancers in the center.
They find Frost and Korsak a few steps in. “Can you believe what he's wearing?” Frost asks them, a teasing smirk firmly in place, perhaps even a touch mean. He and Korsak still don't get along.
Jane's laugh suggests to Maura that she doesn't realize, at least at the moment, that there's a power-play going on for her partnership. She gives a sulking Korsak a pat on the back of his admittedly bedraggled brown suit and says, “Let the poor guy be.”
“Thank you,” he exclaims, glowering at Frost through a standard white mask like Jane's. Frost shrugs, utterly unabashed. Korsak sighs. Even though there are waiters roaming around with champagne and wine glasses to choose from, he inclines his chin at the bar across the hall. “I'll be nursing a drink. Bartender's cute, huh?”
He's gone before Frost can think up a witty retort. Now, Frost's labium inferior oris juts out. Maura has to admit, he's dressed well, in a dark gray, almost blue, Hugo Boss pinstripe, and a corresponding mask.
“Frankie's here,” she tells him, in hopes to cheer him up.
She slides a look at Jane, who adds, “Oh, and he's without a date.”
“I guess I'll go find him, then,” Frost says with a grin. He disappears into the crowd.
“Boys,” Jane says, snorting another exasperated laugh.
“Boys,” Maura agrees, and reassess the crowd. There are policemen and women, detectives, other law enforcement personnel, politicians, and even a few civilians who either contributed money or came as dates for the invitees. Maura smiles at Jane again. “Shall we?”
Jane huffs a newly curled lock out of her eyes. “Yeah, yeah. Time to pay the piper.”
Maura hides a chuckle and decides not to explicate the idiom's origins. She and Jane slip into the mass of bodies atop the ballroom floor. Soft, classical music meets her ears, too unobtrusive and instrumental to truly bother Jane.
They make small talk with other people for a while, Maura about clothing choice and science, Jane about the new gun policy in the department. Perhaps a half hour in, Maura feels the chaste weight of someone's gaze on her back. The hairs on the nape of her neck rise, but when she looks, she sees too many masked eyes, and can't hone in on the right pair.
Hands fall on she and Jane's shoulders and she startles. “Are you all right, Dr. Isles?” the police commissioner, a woman named Geraldine Spokes, inquires. Maura nods curtly, despite Jane's frown. Spokes doesn't notice. She instead gestures to the tall, portly redheaded man at her side, whose mask is vermillion and a bit too square. It looks like someone threw a brick at his face and it stuck there. “This is Sergeant David O'Reilly.”
O'Reilly comes forward to shake Jane's uninjured hand. The other has healed, for the most part, but Maura keeps its arm hooked to hers, for precaution's sake. She doesn't want Jane getting it infected somehow. It'd be such a Jane thing to do.
“I've, ah, heard a lot about you from Frankie. He said you were the only reason Hoyt was brought in. I'm really impressed with you, Detective,” O'Reilly says, in a rapid, barely cohesive babble of words. He doesn't acknowledge Maura beyond an initial nod.
“Oh, er, thanks,” Jane replies. She subtly extricates her hand and wipes it on the thigh of her dress. O'Reilly must have overactive sudoriferous glands. The bright sheen of sweat across his forehead only corroborates the diagnosis. “Is there something you need from me?” Jane continues, when he doesn't immediately amble off like most of the people they've stopped to talk to.
O'Reilly flushes two shades darker than his hair. He looks like a human tomato now, save his bashful smile. “I, um, well, I was hoping to ask you to dance.”
Jane's jaw drops. She's about to reject him – and she has basis, too, Maura thinks fiercely, because 'hoping to ask' and 'asking' are two different things – when Spokes says, “Go on. You don't have to go up for another hour.”
“B-but,” Jane stammers, which isn't something Jane does often.
“Go on, Detective,” Spokes says again. She makes a shooing gesture, her gnarled skin a contrast to her beautifully manicured nails, refined suit-dress and well-coiffed gray hair. “You put yourself at risk so often, you deserve a little fun. Take that from a fellow woman in the business.”
Maura opens her mouth to rebuff that Jane won't have fun with O'Reilly, but Spokes winks and seems so excited about helping 'a fellow woman in the business' out, that Jane relents to the dance with a nod.
“One dance. You'll be okay, won't you, Maura?” she asks, ignoring O'Reilly, who's blush spreads further across his face, a forest-fire of flesh.
Overactive sudoriferous glands and rosacea, Maura surmises, before releasing her hold on Jane. She beams. “I'll be fine. Have fun.”
“...Okay,” Jane replies, then allows O'Reilly to whisk her away.
Maura hikes her skirt up above her ankles and offers Commissioner Spokes a nod of her head, before retiring to one of the empty tables at her right. She begins counting down the digits of pie. She could mingle some more, but she wants to be there, if Jane comes looking. When, actually.
The heart of the room clears for a tray to pass through. That's when she notices the young man sitting exactly parallel her. His mask suits his pale skin perfectly, unlike O'Reilly's garish red on red. It's Persian blue to accessorize what looks like an Armani suit in the same color, and rather than ending above his nose, it follows the shapely curve of his lips, down to his jaw. Dark curls frame around it.
There's a sketchbook in his grasp, for whatever reason, but he's not looking at it. Although it should be impossible to tell from their distance apart, he's smiling at her. Maura shudders before she can help herself. She's grateful when Jane lopes toward her soon after and says, “Come on.”
Maura feels so dazed that she doesn't object to Jane guiding her to her feet. “What's going on?” she inquires, only after Jane puts one hand on her hip and joins the fingers of the other with hers.
“I, uh, I told O'Reilly I couldn't dance with him a second time...'cause I owed you one,” Jane replies, blushing as fervidly as her unwanted partner now.
“Oh,” Maura says, then, “Oh. Well, that sounds fun.”
Jane gifts her with an apologetic look, but Maura feels a genuine, giddy swell in her chest. She doesn't even want to think about the endorphins that create it; she's just happy, and why shouldn't she be? Hoyt's behind bars, Jane is okay, the ball's musicians are playing Chopin. Neither the curly-haired artist in blue nor O'Reilly's heartbroken glance can ruin the night for her.
They swish through one dance, then another, Maura's cheek hovering over Jane's shoulder. Another tap on the back jars them for the second time. They disentangle and turn, only to find the curly-haired artist, who bows slightly at the waist.
“May I cut in?” he asks Jane, all but his kind smile and dark green eyes, perhaps a shade lighter than Maura's, hidden from sight.
Jane looks to Maura with both her eyebrows arched, but Maura gauges the table he'd been sitting at, instead. His sketchbook is still there, near an empty dinner plate, and there's another young man now, too. He cradles his cheek in one palm, and though he's too far away, though its improbable because of his silver mask, Maura suspects he's glaring.
“It's...fine, Jane,” she says, turning back to her worried partner. She flashes a grin and tucks an auburn strand behind her ear.
“Okay, then. I'll, uh, go find Frost and force him to look like he's dating me.” Jane points to a random spot in the crowd. At Maura's nod, she awkwardly wanders off, leaving Maura alone with her...what, stalker? Watcher?
“Colin,” the man says, in a light, cheerful way that suggests he's amused. He extends a gloved hand to her. She accepts and they fall into Viennese waltz stance. She gasps when he dips her. “You're rather good at this, Dr. Isles.”
“As are you,” Maura replies, once they're level. She marvels yet again at his eyes, at the intimately familiar slope of his jaw, but doesn't let them flummox her. “Do you work in the Boston police department, Colin? I confess, I've never seen you there.”
Colin shakes his head and his curls fly. “No, I'm simply a...fan, I suppose you can say, of your work.” At her skeptical frown, he chuckles. “It's true. I may not look it, but I found your articles on estimating times of death for Egyptian mummies fascinating, especially when your method was applied to antiquated artwork, as well.”
“You did read my articles, then,” Maura says, and there's that burst of contentment again.
She's not truly certain why. She can tell from Colin's bone-structure, and from the unblemished state of his skin alone, that he's young. Mid-twenties at most, which is too young to be her type, yet she feels pleased by his interest in her. It feels different from her usual burst of pride at impressing someone, though maybe it's merely the adrenaline from the dance.
“I wouldn't lie,” Colin replies, then hesitates. His smile smooths into something more neutral and he reaches up to trace a hind-wing on her butterfly mask, gentle against the veins. “Well, not to you, anyway. You're a hard woman to find, Maura Isles. Honesty might be worth you.”
Before Maura can ask what he means, the dance ends and he steps away. She sees the young man from his table come up to him and whisper something in his ear, fingers clenched tight around his bicep. Colin directs a final bow her way, before he's lost in a wall of prim dresses and proper suits, led out by his angry gentleman friend.
“Who was that masked man?” Jane inquires, coming up behind Maura abruptly.
There's probably a reference in her words that Maura is missing. Jane's using her pop-culture quoting voice. Whatever it is, though, it flies over Maura's head. “Colin,” she whispers, more to herself than anything.
They're interrupted by the police commissioner tapping against a wine glass to start the award ceremony. They hurriedly take a seat beside Frost, Korsak and Frankie. After the event ends, however, Maura realizes that Colin's sketchbook still sits, abandoned, on top of his table.
She picks it up and discovers that the first three pages are blank, but the fourth... A detailed pencil sketch of her adorns it. She's smiling.