Actions

Work Header

Exactly As It Seems

Chapter Text

Geodesic - Frost

The first time Frost notices the behavior he deems it a nervous tick, an outlet for the nuclear energy that buzzes through long, tanned limbs. He is tempted to ask her about it, his new partner, but frankly the young detective is still wary of the piercing gaze that rests under her dark brows. Instead he watches. Studies the way her hand forms a loose fist, middle finger bouncing against the base of her palm as if she is keeping beat to an unheard melody.

At first, he struggles to find any discernible pattern. Four taps here, seventeen there, then only two. Occasionally a shake of her wrist and a nearly imperceptible tilt of her head indicates an error, and just as quickly she’s begun again. But Barry Frost has always been good at puzzles, and Jane Rizzoli is nothing, if not a jigsaw waiting to be solved.

It takes a double homicide and a poorly ventilated Tudor on the outskirts of the city for Frost to finally piece it all together. They enter to find the first body splayed face down in the foyer. Two shots to the torso have left a thick pool of blood and a heavy iron smell in the air, but a slather of Vick’s and minimal gore have resulted in a scene that he can nearly stomach. The second body, unceremoniously draped across the upstairs bathtub in a small, mildew-y room, proves slightly more offensive to his senses. He has barely reached the top landing when one misguided whiff of stagnant air leaves him weak in the knees and eyes watering. Mercifully, Jane turns to him with gentle authority and tells him to process the scene downstairs. She adds a lot of somethings about crowdedness and splitting up for efficiency in a way that is so convincing that even Barry nearly forgets his unfortunate aversion to bodies of the dead variety.

By the time his partner has finished upstairs, the first floor is crowded with crime scene technicians, staff from the morgue, and a good deal of the force’s upper brass. A perfunctory glance into the pocket of a displaced overcoat had identified the deceased as a senior member of the City Council, not the home’s owner, as it had been presumed. Frost had made a single phone call and before long a swarm of SUVs had descended upon the street, each salt-and-peppered head working to get in front of what was sure to be a media circus. He took the opportunity to slink quietly to a far corner, still green in experience and from nausea, not wanting to take up space. It is the perfect position for observation, and allows him a full view of Jane Rizzoli as she thumps down the wooden stairs. At first her gait is loose, careless. He watches her press a bony elbow into the side of the Chief Medical Examiner. Watches, with curiosity, as the blonde protests in a way that is entirely unconvincing. Then, the detective falters. She catches sight of the scene below and immediately her body stiffens, her steps slowing with a deliberate control of movement. He takes it for professionalism at first, a response to the slew of superiors that now mill about the first floor. But then he sees it—the flash of fear that darkens chocolate eyes. Eyes that search for Maura, briefly, before returning to the task at hand. The pair have just reached the bottom stair when the tapping begins. One, two, three, four. Pause. One, two, three, four, five. Pause. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Jane’s focus is drawn to a foot patroller who enters the front door. Her tapping starts at two, but finger hammers into palm as the man moves deeper into the home, until eventually he is out of view. This time, Frost finally understands.  

Early winter brings a string of homicides, and with it, opportunity for Frost to confirm his theory. It is the same at every scene. They arrive, and after a sweeping view of the room, Jane begins. Counting. Always counting. Mentally closing the distance between herself and the others in the room—how many steps lay between her position and each of the potential threats? How many taps on scarred palms ‘til she feels like she’s back in control? Frost imagines it’s exhausting, always being on edge. But after a late-night dip into Hoyt’s file, Frost feels profoundly impressed with the woman he calls his partner, and supposes her intensity is justified by her trauma.

It is several weeks before the young man finally comments on the behavior. A few inebriated nights at the Dirty Robber and a hearty game of pick-up basketball have left him feeling something like a friend. The fact that Jane shows up to the scene and presses a large coffee to his chest only bolsters him further, and it is nearly without thinking when he calls her attention to a man her eyes had passed over during her initial counts.

“You forgot him,” Frost says with a jerk of his head towards the uniform in the far corner. One eye squints in concentration as he imagines himself crossing the room, “Seven,” a pause, “I think.” He turns to her with a smile, but pales when it is returned by an icy stare. “I’m… I’m sorry…”

She brushes past him with a wave of her hand and a roll of her eyes, “Don’t be. Just process the front of the house.” Frost gives a nod and feels his stomach sink to the floor.

He manages to avoid her face for the remainder of the morning. The fact that he finds her retreating back whenever he enters a room seems largely intentional, so it surprises him when she slips quietly into the passenger seat of his cruiser as they prepare to head out.

“Came with Maura,” she offers with a shrug, throwing a thumb towards the doctor’s car, “she has some meeting or something after this.” Frost gives a nod and pulls the car out of the drive, hoping to convey a casualness that is starkly in contrast to the sudden clamminess of his palms.

They are nearly back to the precinct when she finally speaks, her gaze fixed out the window. “I didn’t always do it, you know.” She turns to him as if expecting a response, but something in the way her shoulders tense tells him she would be happiest with silence. She sighs heavily before returning to the passing scenery. “It’s only been after Hoyt. I just like to have my bearings.” He nods, prompting her to continue. “I mean, I’d been taken off guard before. Caught an elbow to the nose—the usual. But this… I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m always missing someone. That someone is going to come up from behind and grab me.”

The slight shake in her palm does not escape him as he makes the final turn into the parking lot. “It’s silly. A room full of cops. But… it just makes me feel better. I do it for everyone, even Korsak, even though I know he’d die before he hurt me.”

Frost refrains from mentioning that he has never seen her count the distance that separates the detective and Dr. Isles, not once. He doesn’t dare admit that he’d noticed she counted for him, her partner. Instead, he pulls the car into a spot and throws it into park, leaving fingers to hover over keys for only a second before he pulls his hands into his lap. He knows she has more to say, and that the conversation will die with the ignition. His intuition proves correct, because a sheepish request sounds from the passenger seat as the car idles quietly at rest.

“Don’t tell anyone, okay?” It is not the hurt in her voice that surprises him, but the fact that she is letting it show. “Everyone already thinks I’m some kind of time bomb ready to go off or fall apart. Can this just stay between us?” And then, to lighten the mood, “I think I’ll actually go crazy if I have to pull anymore desk duty.”

“Of course,” he promises, killing the engine with a twist of his wrist. He remains silent as she unbuckles and slips out the door, but suddenly his assurance doesn’t seem enough. He is desperate to show her he will be more than just loyal, he will be her partner. “Jane,” he calls. She ducks her head back in to meet his gaze. “I’ve got your back.”

She gives a small smile and a nod of raven locks, “I know, Frost.”

It is four days later when they are called to a scene of a woman’s murder in Beacon Hill. Jane, having spent the morning jogging with Maura, arrives separately to the home. The pride that fills his chest when she skips him in her counting leaves him feeling as though he’ll float through the ceiling and up into the clouds. To him, it is a more honest testament to his ability than any diploma from the academy or his promotion to detective, and he vows to never to make Jane Rizzoli question that judgement. Weeks pass into months and he begins to notice that her counting has dwindled. Before long, it is only with strangers—mostly suspects—and the habit is rare to appear when Maura or Frost stand resolutely by her side.

And then, without fanfare, her fingers still completely. He sees her continue to mentally case each room, to search for any hidden danger. But apart from the days when low pressure systems hang above the Boston skyline and Jane digs thumbs into pink scar tissue, her hands remain remarkably still. It’s been close, on occasion. A particularly shifty witness, or a brusque traffic cop can put her on edge in a way he is still learning to identify. But he’s found that a subtle, firm step towards her or a passing glance from Maura calms the energy that he can see gathering in sinewy muscles. The tension dissipates and the tapping never comes.

Until Hoyt.

For what felt like eternity they had been tangled in a game of cat and mouse with the ailing Surgeon. And while Frost respected Vince Korsak more than most, he prickled at the way the older man spoke of times “before you” when Frost would ask a question about the case. It felt suspiciously as though they were in a race, and Jane Rizzoli was the prize. He was so caught up in earning his place beside his partner that he nearly missed the signs. It was with both a sense of pride and soul-crushing fear that he rushed with Korsak to the prison, having matched Mason’s prints to the bills. Never in his life had he been so happy at the sight of blood. For this time, the same coppery scent of death that he had grown to abhor meant just that—Charles Hoyt was dead and gone, and Jane Rizzoli might finally be free.

Despite the newfound safety, Frost was certain that the counting would start again. He was positive that the betrayal of a prison guard would trigger a distrust in personnel and leave the woman wary of the unknown—and rightly so. On her first day back in the field, Frost was pleasantly surprised to find that she did not tap for him. He was shocked when his partner’s hand remained limp at the sight of two fresh-faced rookies that stood hunched in a door frame. But Barry Frost was baffled when he finally caught glimpse of the movement he’d be expecting. Jane had stood passive at a room full of armed men, but there, clear as day, fingers curled to fist and the tapping began—but only at the sight of Maura.

Frost was suddenly left wondering what happened in that medical ward that gave Jane a profound distrust of her friend. He wracks his mind for other signifiers of this shift in alliance, but can find no additional support. All he envisions is the way a barely composed Jane had rushed to cup Maura’s face in her hands, tilting her chin gently to better assess the thin incision on the doctor’s neck. He can call to mind Medical Examiner’s recounting of the afternoon—how Jane had sprung to action as Hoyt’s scalpel had plunged into the lighter woman, a powerful fury giving her immeasurable strength. It is easy for him to picture the way the blonde squeezes his partner’s shoulder when Jane slams a file onto her desk, and the way the detective stills at the contact. All he can see is a hug, a touch of a hand, a lingering gaze as elevator doors close. And then he gets it, he is a detective, after all. Jane is not worried about how close Maura may be, but she is deeply unsettled by any distance between them.

The realization doesn’t surprise him, as much as it takes him off guard. It had been mere days on the job before he noticed the near constant push-pull between the two women. A subtle dance fueled by chemistry, desire, and a complete unwillingness to bend. He had mostly ruled it sexual tension, but with this, he was not so sure. Was Jane loyal? Of course. Protective? Like a junkyard dog, the thick chain of the law her only restraint. But this was something else entirely. It was so obvious now; Jane Rizzoli was in love with Maura Isles. He would bet his life on it.

As weeks pass he sees it time and time again. If Maura is left to speak with an officer, Jane counts. When the doctor comes upstairs to assist with a witness, Jane counts. But it is more than just movement of a finger. Frost begins to notice the way Jane’s eyes are never lighter than when they are reflecting one of Maura’s smiles. He sees how the Medical Examiner relaxes when the detective enters the room. How they seem at rest in each other’s presence. It is so endearing that he nearly resigns himself to letting it be, to keeping his big mouth shut.

But then Jane is, well, Jane.  

It is a particularly trying Tuesday when he finally snaps. Summer heat has left them cranky, and Jane finds the best release of tension is to tease him relentlessly. Frost never would have leaned in so closely to the barista, had he known his partner stood at the back of the line. But nevertheless, he did, and now Jane chatters endlessly about “Barold’s smooth moves” and his “game” to nearly anyone willing to listen.

He is counting down the hours to an ice cold beer at the Robber when they head down to the basement level. Her voice fills the hallways as they walk towards the Medical Examiner’s office, a playful recanting of the morning’s events bouncing off linoleum.

“It’s cute, really,” she is concluding as they reach the door. Frost pauses, but Jane shoulders past him, waltzing in without so much as a knock.

“Maur,” Jane starts with a smile, “Casanova here wants to know if those tox results on the Sherman case are ready yet.  Isn’t that right, Frost?”

Maura looks up from her screen with a practiced delay, her eyes meeting Jane’s with a look of lighthearted warning. “Hello, detectives.” She stands and crosses the room before resting a hand on Frost’s upper arm, “Hello, Barold, how are you holding up today?” He touches her hand in acknowledgement before replying with a shrug, both ignoring the bouncing detective at their side.

“He’s fine,” Jane interjects, “don’t you want to know why I called him Casanova?”

Maura sighs and points to the two chairs that face her desk, “Sit, stay. I will be back with the results shortly.”

Jane slumps into the nearest seat with a whine of protest, not liking that she’s been ignored. Frost’s echoes with his own groan upon glancing at his watch. Still four hours ‘til that beer.

“Chin up, Frost, I’m sure she likes you too,” Jane ribs.

He lets his head loll to face her. “You’ll pay for this,” he warns.

“Ah, but I don’t get crushes.”

While Frost knows this to be true, it is too easy of an opening for him to ignore, and before he has fully mapped a game plan in his mind he is blurting it out. “You’re doing it again!” he says a bit too quickly.

Jane looks suddenly self-conscious, unsure of what it could possibly be, “Doing what?”

Frost merely raises his palm and taps his middle finger down with exaggerated force, eyebrows cocked in challenge.

“What?” Jane exclaims incredulously, “I am not.”

“You are, just not in the way you used to.”

“What the hell does that mean?” she asks with a snort.

“You’re not counting how close people are, you’re counting how far,” he draws out the last word, inviting the detective to reach her own conclusions.

“Frost, you’re losing it, buddy,” Jane’s tone remains casual, but he can tell that he’s struck a nerve by the way she reaches for a stack of papers, mindlessly organizing the perfectly aligned sheets. “It hasn’t happened in months, maybe a year. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Jane,” he says pointedly, leaning back in his chair to check that the hallway is clear, “you do it for Maura.”

The woman makes a sound of protests, but stills her head just as it begins to shake, her mind clearly having recognized Frost’s words as truth.

“Holy shit,” she breathes. He expects that to be the last of it, but her eyes go wide and she turns to her friend, “Why?” As if Barry Frost has any clue as to why this woman behaves the way she does. He scoffs. “I mean, I know why. But… what?”

Frost smiles, enjoying how it is now his turn to watch his partner squirm. “It’s cute, really.” Jane groans as her own words are parroted back, deeply regretting the morning’s torment. He continues, “You could save yourself a lot of counting, though, if you just told her how you feel.”

Jane’s head whips towards his with a look that is all at once dangerous and pleading, “Frost,” she warns.

“Really,” he adds, pretending not to notice the way she glares at the side of his face, “pretty easy to tell the distance if you’re holding hands.” They are interrupted by the sharp clack of Maura’s heels approaching the doorway. Frost meet’s Jane’s gaze in a look of surrender, but cannot help adding, “think about it,” just as the blonde clears the threshold.

“Think about what?” Doctor Isles asks from behind them, head buried in the file she carries.

“Nothing,” Jane grumbles. She shoots Frost a warning glance that he ignores with a toothy grin.

“Oh, just a little discussion of mathematics. Finding the shortest distance between two points, you know, A to B type stuff.”

“Ah, a geodesic,” the doctor offers, returning to behind her desk and handing Frost a thin folder. She sits down before her gaze meets two blank stares, prompting her to continue. “The shortest possible line between two points?” She waits for acknowledgement, “No? Well, it’s merely a term utilized in applied mathematics, typically during the study of the earth. Measurements on a sphere.” She gives a shrug, “Were you in need of directions?”

Barry laughs, “Jane might be in need of some direction, you could say that. I think we are set for today, though. Thanks for these,” he adds, lifting the folder.

“Yeah, thanks,” Jane adds as she snatches the file from Barry’s hands, “Well, we’re off to find the shortcuts and all.” She motions for Frost to follow her back upstairs. He rises slowly, enjoying the rare upper hand he’s been awarded in this room.  

“Don’t cut any corners, Jane,” Maura admonishes, calling after two retreating backs.

“Oh, don’t worry, Doctor Isles,” Frost calls over his shoulder with a laugh, “Jane loves to take the long way.” He pauses before adding under his breath, “the long, convoluted way.” It earns him a sharp punch to the upper arm, a price he deems entirely worth the look of embarrassment that flashes across his partner’s face.

That will be the last time they speak of the habit, and it isn’t long before she has lost the instinct entirely. Frost never knows if Jane has told Maura of the behavior, but he doesn’t dare spill the secret, and so it is left to rest between them. Years later, it will return, altered once again. Jane Rizzoli always taps twice at the entrance of the precinct. Two quick steps. For where Frost is supposed to be, by her side.

Chapter Text

Swing for the Fences - Frankie

At ten years old, Frankie Rizzoli had spent his lifetime thinking that his last name could only be spoken in a shout. Sandwiched between the stalwart, willful Jane and the hurricane that was his younger brother, Frankie’s own demeanor seemed soft-spoken by comparison. Not that it made a difference. No amount of tucked-in shirt tails or please and thank yous managed to distinguish him from his siblings, and Frankie found himself an equal target of the sharp, shrill calls of Rizzoli whenever his attention was desired. He supposed it had something to do with their near-constant companionship—three dark-haired heads blurring into one continuous ball of motion, separated only into different classrooms and respective beds. In the whirlwind of knock-knees and stained tee-shirts, he imagined they were difficult to tell apart. There were differences, though. Despite the same heavy brows and strong jaws, Frankie saw a million contrasts between his siblings and himself. Where Jane was brash he was watchful, and Tommy was an angular mess of elbows and ribs compared to the soft roundness of Frankie’s young face. He could list their dissimilarities for hours, but none seemed as prominent as the way they each played baseball.  

Their summer days were spent in a vacant lot two blocks from their house, a gaggle of neighborhood kids sporting worn mitts and scuffed tennis shoes. With a backwards cap and a thick wad of bubblegum, Jane had a way of looking tougher and poorer than they ever were. He imagined that a few of the home runs she hammered into the street were thanks to the erratic pitches from a nervous kid at the receiving end of her glower. He knew that even more were due to her sheer force of will. When a Santino brother claimed her stats were thanks to a shiny new aluminum bat, Jane grabbed a stray piece of plywood and hit the next pitch into an adjacent zip code.  She was powerful—her muscles controlled in a way his younger limbs could not yet harness—but even more, she was focused.

What Tommy lacked in concentration and honed skill, he made up for in pure, unbridled energy. The youngest Rizzoli had barely learned to wield a bat before he had scrambled off to join his siblings, drowning in Frankie’s hand-me-downs and sporting a fierce determination that he’d learned entirely from Jane. The older boys called him “mini-Jane”—partly for the way his brown eyes matched hers, but mostly for the way he constantly trailed at his sister’s heels. They both claimed to hate it, but Frankie saw how Jane would take Tommy aside in quieter moments. How she would rearrange his fingers on the bat and kick at the inside of his ankle until his stance was aligned. In the end, it wouldn’t matter. Quick feet and an eye for opportunity would make Tommy the best base-stealer in the neighborhood, and he promptly abandoned his quest for home runs. The kid on the mound would exhaust his shoulder before the second inning, just trying to hold the youngest Rizzoli on base. Years later, Frankie would note grimly that the habit had stuck—only Tommy had stopped seeking a thrill in a stolen base and went looking for it in the bottom of the church’s collection plate or the driver’s seat of a neighbor’s “borrowed” car.  Like it was all still a game.

Frankie was different. With a dog-eared copy of an ancient Baseball Almanac perpetually tucked in the waistband of his pants, he made an excellent scholar of the sport. He could recite statistics and obscure rules, the appropriate distance from pitching mound to home plate, and more names of Major League umpires than was strictly necessary. But in practice his swings were timid—halted even—as though his mind and body were fighting between proper form and instinctual action. He always seemed to be waiting for things to line up, for an elusive perfect opportunity.

Most days Angela would pry details about their afternoons from food-filled mouths at the dinner table, a mess of mumbles and head nods. But on rare occasion, Frank Sr. would end his day early and arrive at the lot to watch the last pitches, sitting on the tailgate of the truck as the children played in the golden glow of the early evening sun. A good show meant ice cream from a soft-serve stand at the edge of the neighborhood, and though he promised that only a home run would earn a cone, they each left with sticky chins and spoiled dinners regardless of their performance. 

It was clear that his sister loved when their father played spectator, and Frankie understood why. Jane welcomed any chance to prove herself, but she was especially eager to impress her idol. And it was fitting, Frankie mused, that the Rizzoli patriarch seemed equally enamored with providing them opportunity to withstand scrutiny. Quick to applaud their successes, but even faster with his judgement. Seemingly always at the ready to wonder aloud why his daughter swung like she was planning to bring the Commissioner’s Cup to Boston, but his damn namesake still stutter-stepped to the plate, as though he might make a break for the bench before facing a single pitch. A joke, their mother promised.

He imagines that this is why he feels the prick of sweat at his palms when he sees his Pop’s truck pull into view on a Thursday in late July. A sweltering day that has left Frankie with shorts stuck to the backs of his thighs and a salty upper lip. He isn’t sure if it is nerves or the sun beneath the brim of his cap that keeps him from connecting with any of the pitches, but the most he can muster in his father’s presence is a stray foul that scatters the players behind him. He watches as the shoulders of both his sister and father slump, matching his own. A choreographed display of disappointment.

“Frankie, son, you scared of the ball or something?” Frank Sr. asks later. They all sit snugly on the shaded side of a plastic picnic table, each engrossed in their battle against the summer heat and the rivulets of ice cream that stream down the backs of their hands.

“I was just waiting for the right one,” the boy mumbles, eyes to the table.

“What are you tryin’ to do, marry it?” he asks with a tousle of his son’s hair. “Hitting isn’t about loving the ball, it’s about owning it, ain’t it Jane?” She gives a small shrug as she examines the chocolate and vanilla swirl, determining which dripping side is most in need of her attention.

“If you wanna love the ball, start pitching.” He waits for Frankie to comment, but is met with silence. It is not the first time they have shared this conversation, and Frankie wishes desperately that his father could let the game be just that—a game between friends on the cracked streets of Boston. When he starts again his tone is sharper, almost angry. As though Frankie is the physical manifestation of his father’s disappointments. “If you can’t be a magnet like your sister, then the least you can do is learn to throw.”

The edge on her father’s words makes Jane’s head snap, abandoning her focus on maintaining the cone in her hand. Even at ten, Frankie can recognize her launch into talk of Red Sox salaries as an attempt to defuse. And though he wants to hate her for it—for needing her rescue, for being strong and brave and smart in ways he is not—all he can really do is worship the girl.

<><><><><><><><> 

By the time they have both settled comfortably into their thirties, Frankie still finds that Jane has influenced the way people say his last name. He is not sure whether it is her storied history or the threat of her wrath that leaves others entwining the sturdy sound of respect throughout the syllables, but he knows that it is her reputation that gives weigh to the Rizzoli name. When he’s honest with himself, he can see that her work has afforded him opportunities on the force. But other times—most days—it feels as though he’s drowning in his sister’s shadow, watching her shatter goals while he waits for the dregs of opportunity to trickle down. He is not jealous of her successes, he is proud; but he longs desperately for the drive and determination that she alone seems to harness. Jane is a maker, a doer, and Frankie still feels like he is ten, waiting for the perfect pitch to pass over his plate. 

Sometimes, Frankie wonders whether his dreams of being a homicide detective are really his own, or if he too has been swept up in the gravitational pull of his sister’s energy. As it turned out, their father had been right about at least a few things. Frankie had, indeed, made a comfortable home on top of the mound. Wielding a talent that left pitches flying from his fingertips like shots from a gun, until torn ligaments and aching joints had exhausted that avenue. But mostly he’d been right about Jane. She was something like a magnet, attracting respect, glory, and danger like a lightning rod.  Frankie had spent his entire life by her side, but he still marveled how an afternoon with Jane could feel like being caught in a rainstorm—a taste of the unexpected, soaking you to the bone. She had a one-track mind, operating with a swiftness that verged on the side of reckless, but you couldn’t help but be drawn into the cyclone. 

The only task that the famous Jane Rizzoli could not seem to tackle? Finding a husband.

To their mother’s chagrin and Frankie’s unending relief, his sister seemingly had little interest and even less ability to settle down. Her failed relationships and aloof response to their mother’s suggested suitors left Jane’s dating woes at center stage. Meaning, at least temporarily, that there was less pressure on Frankie. Though his sister maintained that the demands of the job and a slim number of eligible bachelors made finding worthy men difficult, Frankie secretly suspected that, for Jane, she may be dipping into the wrong pool entirely.  The idea had something to do with the fact that his sister always seemed to be the first to point out an attractive woman at the bar, playing up her role as wing-woman. And Frankie was relatively certain he’d caught all three of the Rizzoli siblings staring in unison at the retreating form of Doctor Isles, even if only he and Tommy got a smack on the head as a result. In fact, he’d caught his sister staring at the Medical Examiner more often than not when the two shared a room.

So, it is with mild disbelief that he notices the flashing glint of a diamond ring adorning his sister’s finger at Tommy and Lydia’s engagement party. He does not call attention to the piece of jewelry that keeps finding its way out of Jane’s pocket, mostly in Maura’s presence, for fear of the scene his Ma would most certainly make. But he notices it all the same, and it fills him with a fear that feels foreign and raw. He had resigned himself to a career of trailing in his sister’s footsteps, but he had never imagined that he’d be the final Rizzoli to start a family, a single sibling left alone. Yet here he is, at his brother’s engagement party, bouncing his nephew on his hip, and watching a practiced smile grace Jane’s features as she turns her left hand side-to-side, allowing the stone to catch the fractured light.

He is immensely grateful for the distraction Cavanaugh provides by asking him to tag-along to the crime scene, though he knows he is at best a second choice to the vacationing Frost, and more than likely just a readily available floating detective. Focusing on work allows him to ignore the gnawing feeling that has been steadily growing in the pit of his stomach, an anxious drive to prove himself equal. He greets the diversion readily, throwing himself into the case of the Senator’s daughter and a fair bit into theories of conspiracy. But the urge is rejuvenated by his brawl with Tommy at the bar, and he can’t tell if it is her proximity, or the challenge in Tommy’s slurred words, but suddenly Maura is all he can focus on.

In a way, he knows that his younger brother had been right. There was no universe in which he would operate in the same league as the Medical Examiner, the picture of poise and grace. But Frankie’s hope is bolstered by the fact that his family’s antics have not yet alienated the doctor—that they’ve seemingly done the opposite, and pulled her further into their tangled web of loud dinners and endless drama.  Even more, he is spurred by the implications of Tommy’s words. By the idea that he alone is the unworthy Rizzoli. That there is something admirable and exciting in the promise of Jane’s friendship or Tommy’s flirtation, something that Frankie doesn’t share. It angers him, mostly because it is a sentiment he has long thought true, and he wishes for nothing more than to prove it otherwise.

He has slowly begun working up his nerve to do just that when he finds himself with one of Maura’s fingers pressed gently to the fresh stitches along his lower lip, a souvenir of the punches exchanged with Tommy. Before he can stop himself, he has raised a hand to grasp her own, a move that leaves the blonde stiffer under his touch, but does not drive her away from where they stand. They separate hastily, though, when Jane reenters the apartment, his sister sporting a thin smile that bares resemblance to the disappointment that used to settle on their father’s face. Back when his opinion still meant something to them. And he swears he sees something else brewing in her eyes, something like fear, but the idea is quickly lost to embarrassment. And then to the excitement of closing their case. And ultimately, it is drowned in several bottles of beer at the Robber’s happy hour, where old friends from his patrol feed him enough praise and congratulations on a stint in homicide that he begins to wonder if this is what is feels like to be Jane. If maybe he’s finally found his swing.

Frankie heads to Jane’s when the crowd disperses, not wanting to end his celebrations or sit idly at home, and by the time he arrives at his sister’s apartment he is already filled with a heady sense of abandon. The unstoppable Frankie Rizzoli. A risk taker. Brought in to solve murder cases and about to sweep Maura off her feet. Even in his mind it is said with a swagger.

He is so preoccupied with the hypothetical scenarios he’s orchestrating in his head, that he fails to note the exasperated sigh he is greeted with when his sister opens her door. Like he is not the one she was hoping was standing on the other side.

“Need something, Frankie?” He is present enough to catch the sharpness in her tone as she settles back behind the counter, fingers drumming an impatient rhythm on the edge of her opened laptop. 

“Man, talk about a case,” he offers, head buried in Jane’s fridge, searching for two beers. He carries his findings over to the counter, twisting both caps off before sliding a bottle across the surface. Curious when his sister eyes the beverage, but fails to bring the bottle to her lips.  

A groan, “I can’t talk about this case anymore.”

He lifts his eyebrows over the bottom of an upturned bottle and swallows a hearty gulp. “I feel you, it’s been a long week. Plus, you never know who’s watching.” He adds a meaningful nod and a quick glance around his sister’s ceiling.

She huffs. “Enough with the NSA crap.”

He shrugs, switching topics, “So, Tommy, eh?”

She cuts her hand through the air in a dismissive gesture without meeting his gaze.

“Didn’t take him long to jump straight off that wagon, huh?”

“Frankie, give him a break,” she says, her head settling heavily into scarred palms. She looks broken, her lean body hunched, dark curls grazing the counter-top where elbows rest. It occurs to him that seeing her this way should make him take pause, make him put objections aside for the time being. Instead, it only fuels the anger that is simmering—a physical heat that is rising slowly into his chest.

“What is with you right now? I mean, you always do this shit, but Jesus.” Her head snaps to meet his stare, it is a warning look. A message he reads loud and clear: whatever this is, not tonight. He presses on, a challenge. “You always take his side.”

A deep sigh escapes her lips. It is an argument they’ve kept kindled since adolescence, rooted in his lingering insecurities and fodder for a heavy guilt that seems to physically stoop her shoulders. And though they’ve done this song and dance for decades, they both still fumble for words.

“Frankie, you know that’s not true.”

He does. He knows that it is often quite the opposite. That Jane is relentless on their younger brother, demanding and quick to judge. If anything, the rippling consequences of Tommy’s slip-ups have brought the older pair closer together. Made them conspirators on courses of action, on plans for how to best clear the wreckage.

But he is even more acutely aware of how Jane and Tommy are so alike. That while it has manifested in different ways, they share the same spark: a reckless energy that propels them between varying states of action. Something he doesn’t have. And though he is beginning to see her perspective—beginning to understand that she may see herself in Tommy, but she sees something pure and promising in her middle sibling—that knowledge is swallowed by the feeling that he is an outsider. That no matter how much he himself has tried to emulate his sister, it will always be Tommy that is the “mini-Jane.”

“Doesn’t it bother you? What he said?” He waits a beat to see if she bites, taking a slow drag from his beer. “About Maura?”

“Leave it alone.”

“I mean, I know it’d bother me. Someone talking about my best friend that way.”

“Frankie,” she growls, “I said drop it.”

He doesn’t.

“You think I’m not good enough for her, too?” His voice is rising now, a growing energy of which he is quickly losing control. “That it?” he asks, slamming the bottle down on the counter.

Jane throws her hands up in frustration, a true scowl arranging on her face, “What the hell is it with you two?” She watches as Frankie slinks back from the confrontation, deflated by her anger, which only enrages her further. “What is she, some kind of prize?”

“That’s not—”

“No, shut up. I am so tired of you two treating my best friend, the Chief Medical Examiner, like she’s a piece of meat. Like she’s just waiting to see which one of you morons wins the contest before she runs off with the victor.”

“Jane—”

“Stop. I can’t believe I stood up for you earlier.” The outburst has left her nearly breathless, and Frankie watches with a cocked head as Jane’s thoughts settle, a slender hand bringing the beer bottle nearly to her lips before hastily setting it down, out of reach. She takes a sharp breath through her nose and steels herself once again. But her voice is calmer, eyes searching his own, “You’re going to fuck this up. For all of us.” A pause. “Maura deserves better than having you drool all over her because you feel sorry for yourself.”

“That’s not it,” he promises.

 “Or because you think she’s hot?” She offers sharply, “Sometimes you have to push past whatever you’re feeling, it’s not worth messing it up.”

The line sounds practiced to Frankie’s ears, like Jane has repeated the sentiment in her mind. On a normal day he would concede, let emotions settle and adopt a logical, objective view of the matter. But now, with a hearty dose alcohol, and a restlessness that seems to leave every cell buzzing, all he can do is fight.

“You would like that, huh?” he spits.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“You would love if you were the only one of us to get it right.” At her puzzled look he continues, “I saw your ring. I know about you and Casey.” She makes a noise to interject, but he raises his voice, “And she’s not yours Jane. You make it sound like it, but she isn’t.  Would it be so bad if me and Maura—if your best friend and your brother were happy?”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about Frankie,” she says with a shake of her head. “Just go home. You’re drunk.” He expects her voice to hold venom, for it to come out in a defensive flare. But her words are nearly emotionless, voice held just above a whisper, and it hits him like ice water. “Please.”

This time, he listens. After all, there is no glory in the beating of a passive opponent. With a slow roll of his shoulders and a sheepish wave he heads out the door, knowing that they will both ignore the exchange tomorrow. Pretending things were never said, the true Rizzoli way. He has just resigned himself to an evening of self-loathing when he sees her in the hallway. A vision. One that, through the haze of alcohol, looks something like the trophy he’s just promised that she isn’t. The ultimate conquest, tauntingly unattainable while being so, so close.

“You shouldn’t play with your sutures,” Maura chastises, noting the way his thumb grates across his lip.

“Where’d you come from?” he asks with a lilt.

She smiles and he works to focus on the way her lips turn upwards rather than the hint of pity that rests in her eyes. He’s seen that look before, it’s usually reserved for Tommy.

“How’s your lip?”

“Fine.” It isn’t, but he almost enjoys the way it stings when he runs his tongue heavily over the stitches. He figures it’s just something you say, especially when face-to-face with your makeshift surgeon. And he should leave it at that. But he is tired of being fine. Of being middle of the pack, just okay. He wants to be great. He will start right now. “You wanna see how fine?”

He knows that it is wrong the moment he leans in for the kiss, a sharp sear of recognition starting at the center of his chest and reverberating outwards. It is not that he fails to enjoy the soft, suppleness of Maura’s lips against his own. It is the knowledge that he’s stolen this moment, taken it without invitation. And it hits him then, the realization that this bravado he’s mustered, all in the image of Jane, is exactly what makes him different from his sister. Anyone could act mindlessly with attraction, but it took a particular devotion to love a woman—to love your best friend—and never act on those impulses. It was the difference between lust and love, between greed and an unwavering respect. And for Frankie, it is as though a curtain has been lifted, one that he’d left in place for his own comfort and reassurance. But now he is sure, his sister is in love with Maura Isles, the woman whose lips are currently on his own.

The silence that follows their kiss makes Frankie wish he could evaporate into thin air. His stomach is heavy with the weight of shame, and he does not quite understand how one can go from feeling so confident to feeling so utterly disgusted with oneself, and he makes moves to hastily leave. They spend the ensuing days awkwardly avoiding one another, stammering too many hellos in hallways as they pass. The mere sight of her makes him flush with embarrassment in a way that he hasn’t since he called his 10th grade English teacher, “Mom.” Finally, when he can delay their meeting no further, he steals a moment in the hallway, stuttering half-words until he blurts out what he hopes can be viewed as an apology.

“You’re like a sister to me,” he whispers conspiratorially, and the lie is almost worth it when he sees relief flood her features. He has never thought about his sister the way he thinks about Maura Isles. But he is equally positive that he has never thought about Maura Isles in the way his sister does every time the doctor enters the room—like she’s replaced the oxygen in Jane’s lungs. And though he wishes he could resent Jane for it—for taking away the illusion of an opportunity, for being the better person—all he can really do is worship the girl.