Chapter 1: Cuts Like a Knife
Immediately, it warms her, a sound that dances out to the doorstep and brings her lips into an easy smile. She can envision what awaits her in the kitchen: the detective’s head thrown back, curls swaying as a laugh rattles her frame. With fingertips she presses the door open a crack, slipping heels off slowly to allow a continued moment of anonymity.
A glimpse around the corner reveals two backs hunched conspiratorially over the edge of the counter, Frankie and Jane. Eyes skirt across the granite top to spot Tommy, upper body resting heavily upon flattened palms, a deep frown gracing the handsome face of the youngest Rizzoli. His head cranes toward the ceiling in an effort to conceal the playful glimmer that has lightened his features; he’s in on joke, too, but does not want to lose ground. Maura cannot help the sharp intake of air as she watches them before her. She marvels at just how comfortably the family exists in her home, how natural and alive this vibrant scene seems to be. She pauses before fully breaching the entryway, not for fear of interrupting, but to steel this visual into her memory.
“Hey, cut it out, will ya?” Tommy protests, earning an additional snort from his siblings.
“Ah, Tommy, we’re sorry man,” Frankie soothes, elbowing Jane to encourage an additional apology. He flattens the paper he’s holding and slides it towards his brother, a truce.
“Yeah,” she adds, with a clear of her throat, “Tommy, we’re only kidding. Show ‘em to us.”
“Show you what?” Heads turn to greet the doctor and she can’t help but notice the six eyes that drift from bare feet over soft hips and the peaks of cleavage, before finally settling on her smirking, knowing face. It is Jane’s two that first crinkle upwards in a smile. Genuine.
“Oh hey, Maura,” Tommy gestures with an upward jerk of his chin, “come check this out.”
Reaching the island she lends Frankie a warm smile before a gentle hand alights on the crook of Jane’s arm, a silent greeting.
Tommy pushes a black canvas wrap towards her before snatching the worn piece of paper resting on the counter. He makes a show of smoothing out the crinkled edges before offering her a look.
Maura’s leans forwards to grab it, the hand that presses heavily into Jane’s thigh for added leverage does not lift when she rights herself back into an erect position. Reading the pamphlet her eyes flit upwards to meet Tommy’s, offering a smile. “Culinary Certificate Program?” He nods.
“Yeah, it’s in Cambridge. 19-weeks and then I got a chance to join the professional course, ya know?” He points to the various bullets on the paper that describe the program before unrolling the nylon case between them. “And they got this awesome set of knives, see? You got your baking knives and your cooking knives, and they give ‘em to you once you enroll and they’re yours to keep.” Maura smiles at the pride in his voice as much as at the pride she can feel radiating off of Jane.
“It’ll be a good skill to have in case he lands back in the slammer,” Jane ribs, lips pursed on the edge of a beer bottle, ready to drink. Maura gives a warning squeeze to Jane’s thigh, causing the brunette to jostle the bottle’s contents onto her suit. “I think it’s great, Tommy. You just gotta finish it,” she amends.
“I’m gonna finish,” he growls. His tone is not angry, just forceful, and Maura notes a hint of the determination she often finds in Jane’s eye.
“Well, you’re more than welcome to practice here,” Maura offers to Tommy, a smile playing at the corner of her lips, “and I can be the one to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Speaking of fruits, wine anyone?” She pushes herself away from the counter and cannot help but notice the way Jane’s body leans backwards with her, as if in an effort to prolong contact.
“Ah, I don’t know about that, Doc,” Frankie warns with a slow shake of his head to rid his face of the growing smirk, “Janie here was just entertaining us with the story of how Tommy almost burned the house down with his cooking skills.”
“One of the stories,” the detective corrects.
“I’m sure, with the proper instruction,” Maura interjects, “Tommy will be an excellent chef. It appears to be a wonderful program.”
“With the proper instruction, anyone could,” Jane stage whispers into her shoulder, earning a snort from Frankie.
“Yeah, even you, Jane!” Tommy exclaims with an outstretched finger in her direction for emphasis. An exaggerated eye roll accentuates his next point, “a real Emeril Lagasse ova here.”
Jane meets Frankie and Maura’s muted laughter with a pointed gaze before fixing her stare on her youngest brother, “Bet I could do better than you,” she says tauntingly. She watches as Tommy’s lips pinch in a tight smile, eyes challenging. “And I’d be that Giada chick, anyway,” she adds flippantly, waving a hand in his general direction.
At this, Frankie guffaws, leaning back in his stool to survey the scene. With a cock of his eyebrow he offers a suggestion, “Well why don’t you two make it a little more interesting then? A cook-off, see which of you actually has the stones. Winner gets braggin’ rights and loser—well, loser has to attend that pottery class Ma has been naggin’ me about for the last six weeks. And,” he adds, pointedly, “Maura’s definitely the Giada.”
“Frankie!” Jane admonishes with wide eyes. Frankie ducks his head and offers an upturned gaze towards Maura as an apology, earning an embarrassed laugh from the blonde. “And nah, no thanks,” Jane says with a grimace, nursing a long drag from her beer. “Besides, he’s getting all of that instruction, I got a job and a life. How am I supposed to learn to cook?”
With a slight gasp and a bright smile Maura reinserts herself into the conversation, “I can teach you, Jane,” she chirps. Jane shakes her head vigorously in disapproval, but Maura’s smile is unrelenting, she knows she will win. “Please, Jane?” Another shake of dark brown curls. She is pouting now, gliding slowly across the kitchen floor to rest smooth palms on the detective’s lean shoulders, “I didn’t have siblings growing up,” she begins, ignoring the exaggerated eye-roll she receives from Jane. “No one has ever included me in a challenge like this. Please? It will be fun. Educational, even.”
Jane sighs, wondering how the woman who cannot lie has managed to become so very skilled in the art of manipulation. “Fine. One cook-off, four dishes each and we’ll get Korsak and those guys to judge so that it’s an even match, alright?” Behind her Maura squeals, clapping her hands together offering Jane a quick hug around the neck as a ‘thank you.’
“You think eight weeks is enough time for you to graduate from Hot Pockets?” Tommy teases. Jane returns the comment with a sarcastic smile and another swig of beer. In a distant room a clock chimes bringing the group back to the moment.
“Ah, shoot,” Frankie breathes with a roll of his neck, “Ma’s gonna flip. You two can work the specifics out later. C’mon, Tommy, we were supposed to be out there helpin’ ‘er moves those boxes. We’ll be right back.” Ushering his brother to the door, he shouts, “Don’t start the game without us, Janie, I got it saved on the TV!”
“At Maura’s house,” she whines, “c’mon Frankie, you got your own queue to fill up with our crap.” A low chuckle brings her attention back to the blonde standing beside her. “This’ll be good for Tommy.” A pause. “Hey, you think I have a shot?” Jane asks with a smile, ducking her head to meet Maura’s quickly averted gaze.
“Come on, Maur!” she rasps.
“Your cooking is terrible,” Maura squeaks, a deep flush already rising up her neck.
“From you, too? Cuts like a knife,” Jane teases, taking a swig from her beer and landing a playful punch on the doctor’s arm as she saunters towards the couch. “Good thing I have an excellent mentor,” she calls over her shoulder, giving Maura a wink that sends a shiver down the medical examiner’s spine.
Later that night, a moment of self-reflection will reveal that perhaps Maura’s eagerness to participate has less to do with rewriting events of a strangled childhood, and significantly more to do with the prospect of having Jane in her kitchen more often. Either way, Maura cannot wait to begin.
Chapter 2: Feast or Famine
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to Rizzoli and Isles or the characters that have been so brilliantly crafted. They all belong to TNT, Tess Gerritsen, Janet Tamaro, Jan Nash, etc.
Author’s Note: Thank you to everyone who took the time to read and review the previous chapter! Hope everyone is feeling up for a slow burn this afternoon. As before, feedback is always welcome!
Apart from the steady clump of heel against cobblestone, the tree-lined street is entirely silent, the evening’s weather having driven its residents indoors. Tall, ivy-strewn brownstones of Beacon Hill are picturesque under a light dusting of snow, dark brick and the mossy layer of fallen foliage contrasting with brilliant white. At mid-October, the flurries are considered an early appearance for the New England city, and the gentle squalls of flakes incite a dull buzz of panic even in those accustomed to heavy winter blanketing. Jane, in particular, is not ready for winter. Winter is slow and forceful in its ways, curbing Jane’s hurricane of activity with slippery sidewalks, downed powerlines, and heavy winter coats. And though she can appreciate pond hockey and the way your lungs feel alive with crisp December air, winter is, above all else, boring.
“Violent crime rates rise and fall in accordance with the temperature. Some studies have shown more than a two percent spike in crime during summer months. Winter isn’t boring, Jane, there are simply fewer murders,” Maura’s voice appears in her head, sing-song in its recital of facts, and Jane wonders if these are statistics she has heard from the medical examiner, or if she simply recalls all tedious information to the tune of the blonde’s intonation.
Sighing, she catalogues a mental retort before trudging on, tongue outstretched in an attempt to catch a snowflake—she could make winter fun. It isn’t long before lean legs have propelled her to Maura’s doorstep. She adjusts the heavy paper bag to rest in the crook of one arm before reaching for the handle, breaching the barrier with a flurry of stomped boots and a shake of raven locks. She watches as Maura startles briefly before tense features melt into a welcoming smile.
“You know what? I wouldn’t scare you like that if you’d just lock your door,” she says with a cocked eyebrow. Her tone is serious, but Maura cannot help but chuckle as the detective struggles to remove snow dampened boots, long limbs fighting to regain stability as she balances on a single foot.
“I knew you’d be back shortly,” she replies, moving to relieve the brunette of the grocery bag that threatens to tip from lithe arms. A gentle hand steadies Jane at the elbow, and the detective is momentarily slowed by the way Maura’s thumb rubs absent-minded circles through the fabric of her sweater.
“Would’ve been a lot shorter if you didn’t insist on that butcher. This better be the best damn lamb I’ve ever had,” she’s muttering, “trudged halfway to North End just to get this grass-fed crap you and Tommy were going on about at dinner.”
This time, Jane knows she is recalling a conversation when she imagines Maura’s words. “He’s right, Jane. Grass-fed lamb has proven to be a leaner, more marbled cut of meat than similar grain-fed counterparts. Not to mention it contains nearly twice the density of Omega-3s. The variance in diet does lead to a less consistent flavor profile, however.” Jane forcefully closes an eye, willing the memory to stop before Angela’s shrill voice scolds her again for failing to include her own mother in this conquest to master the culinary arts.
With a look of puzzlement this Maura interrupts the internal dialogue. “Thank you, Jane,” she says sincerely as she returns to the counter.
“You’re welcome. This recipe better give me an edge against Tommy,” she grumbles in response, then, more gently, “I’m sorry you got roped into this.” Eager eyes contradict her words, however, and she moves to unpack the spoils of her expedition with no hesitation.
“Don’t be silly,” Maura admonishes, “you know I’m happy to help you,” then, after a beat, “always.” Jane smiles, she knows this to be true—in feast or famine.
Jane swirls the remnants of her wine glass haphazardly, eyes studying the snow-covered sidewalk outside of Maura’s window. While they have uncorked a hearty red and recounted the day’s events, outside, the early Autumn dusting has transformed into a full-fledged Nor’easter. New England through the mid-Atlantic will sleep soundly under a carpet of wet, heavy snow tonight, and Jane is thankful to have had the forethought to bring Jo Friday to the medical examiner’s home. In the background she can hear a newscaster— a local, judging by the accent—discuss what this storm means for salt reserves with a fervor Jane deems entirely too impassioned for the topic. The detective finds she cares very little about winter preparedness. In fact, she cares very little about anything outside these sturdy walls, at the moment.
Not usually one for wine, Jane is secretly grateful her friend had insisted on opening a bottle born from the delectable Sangiovese grape variety (there is her voice again). Maura had promised the detective that it would warm her from the inside out, and true to her word, Jane had felt the first sip radiate from the tips of her toes to settle comfortably behind her ears. It was the perfect companion to the unusually early chill, and she was enjoying the way the alcohol slowed her movements and steadied her thoughts. Now, gaze fixed firmly outdoors, Jane wonders if she had perhaps enjoyed slightly too much.
“Are you ready to begin?” Maura asks cheerfully, interrupting the brunette’s thoughts.
“Mmm?” Jane turns to face the doctor, eyes taking a second longer to focus than is the norm. Jane notes the blue floral apron the blonde has draped loosely over her chest, ties hanging slack along her shoulders entwined with loose ringlets of hair. More specifically, she notes how the neckline eclipses the low cut of Maura’s dress, and how her wine-addled brain moves quickly to imagine that said dress ceases to exist.
Maura speaks slowly, noting the dazed look on her friend’s features. “The lamb has finished marinating, are you ready to begin cooking?” Jane only nods. She is ready to do whatever Maura asks, whatever will prolong this moment of domestic bliss. “Good. A little help, then?” Maura requests, rounding the edge of the counter and presenting her back to Jane.
They stand in silence for a moment, neither breathing, until finally Jane breaks. A gentle hand brushes honey locks to the side, the backs of lean fingers grazing from nape of neck to shoulder blade, leaving a trail of goosebumps in their wake. Slowly, deliberately, she ties the strings of the apron, hot breath raising tiny hairs on the back of Maura’s neck. “There,” she whispers, forcing herself to take a step back from the blonde.
“And the bottom?” Maura asks with a glance over her shoulder that drifts from Jane down to the loose ties that hang at her own waist.
With a clear of her throat Jane closes the distance between them once more, grasping the course fabric between finger and thumb. She is half-way to a knot when she pauses, hands paralyzed. She knows that Maura is far from incapable. Knows that yoga-toned arms could easily reach behind tender hips, that dexterous fingers could fashion an impeccable bow. Suddenly, before she even realizes it, Jane is imagining what else those nimble fingers could be doing, where else her own touch could be better put to use. A gentle sway of blonde hair brings Jane out of her reverie and she hastens to complete her work. Her lips move to speak, but can only muster a short breath. She does not want to signal the completion, does not want to relinquish the closeness of their bodies just yet.
Maura turns at the feeling of inactivity and the way the apron no longer tugs against her chest. Dark eyes immediately meet her own as she stands to face the brunette. Her arms press closely to her sides, afraid that any contact will elicit a shock with the way the air between them feels positively charged. “I’m ready now,” she breathes, and Jane’s eyes flit restlessly between a piercing hazel gaze and the gentle parting of soft lips.
Ready. Ready for so many things.
With a clear of her throat Jane steps away, battling the feeling of her soul tearing at the seams, as though a million magnets draw her back towards the other woman. Her voice is an octave lower when she speaks, “Good, let’s get started.”
Maura smiles in return, a puff of air forced through her nose: a sigh contained. Jane moves to stand behind the cutting board, fighting to forget the flash of disappointment that had settled on the doctor’s brow when she had placed distance between them. Afraid that the wine has her seeing things that were never there.
Empty plates lay forgotten on the table, but the second bottle of wine is well attended at the counter. The two women sit knee to knee, Jane recounting a tale of her early days with Korsak with an invigorated animation. Maura is captivated, less by the narrative and more so by the way the detective’s abdomen grows rigid with breathy laughter and the lean hand that reaches towards Maura’s thigh, inviting her into the story. Spurred by the halted awkwardness of the apron encounter, Jane had consumed her fair share of the wine over the course of dinner and its preparation, and her wild gesticulations reflect accordingly. Maura, having objectively noted the glossy sheen to her friend’s eyes and the loss of fine motor coordination, had quietly brought a glass of water to Jane’s seat, hoping to encourage rehydration. The gesture had gone unnoticed and now Maura watches as Jane’s arm dances dangerously near the vessel. The medical examiner barely flinches as she observes the glass tip. Jane, however, reacts instantly—razor sharp reflexes are dulled slightly and her attempt to halt the fall leads to an overcorrection, the clear contents now rushing towards the seated pair. Both stand quickly, moving phones and stray papers out of the path of the small river. Maura laughs as she watches Jane run a hair through tangled locks, dark eyes showing genuine confusion at how she has created such a mess.
“You seem a little flustered, Detective Rizzoli,” Maura’s attempt at a tone fit for an interrogation is stymied by the deep smirk that dimples her cheeks.
Jane walks to grab the hand towels that are homed along the handle of the oven, tossing one to Maura from across the island. Jane meets her eyes, they are laughing and kind. A grin. Jane knows this game, and her voice is low and sultry when she replies, “Is this making you feel flustered, Dr. Isles? Something you care to tell me?” Jane moves to rejoin her at the counter, letting one leg linger slightly behind the shorter woman, pressing it flush against the blonde as Jane reaches to mop up stagnant liquid.
Maura cannot move. There are a million things the medical examiner wishes to tell her friend, several that she is beginning to feel she needs to share with the detective, and no way for her to lie. Instead, she stands in silence, the heat of untruth rising up her neck and tickling the base of her ears. She does not realize how heavily her hips are pressed against the counter until she notices a spreading dampness along her abdomen, the spilled water having seeped along the silky billows of her dress. “I’m wet,” Maura states, head cocked at the realization.
Jane takes a sudden side step, head swiveling to meet Maura’s eyes and brows knitted in confusion. These are not the rules by which they usually play. She is afraid to ask for clarification, but she is not sure what answer it is that she fears.
“Uhm,” Maura swallows forcefully, recognizing her misstep, “what I meant to say,” a clear of her throat, “what I meant to say is that my dress—my dress is wet.” She steps back and gestures towards the darkening circle along her middle, and Jane cannot help the bark of a laugh that escapes her lips.
Later that night, in the darkness of the guestroom with quiet snowfall outside, the detective would replay the conversation in her mind. In all of the scenarios that she imagines, it is never Maura’s dress that is wet.