The first thing she would do was take a long, leisurely soak in her tub. She would add all the little luxuries to make it extra special and to soak the ordeal out of her pores. Lavender body wash so she could carry a hint of Jane’s smell wherever she went, bath beads, the whole works. And when she finally dragged herself from the bath she would rub lotion into her skin until it was so soft and so supple that she would feel like a newborn baby. And then her pajamas. The silk ones, the ones that were expensive even by her standards. She wouldn’t bother with underwear; after the harsh canvas of prison orange she needed to feel the silk on every inch of her body.
Then she would get in bed.
Her bed, her “indecently immense” bed, as Jane called it. It stood on a platform so she had to climb into it, and the blankets sometimes felt as thick as the mattress. She would burrow in, she would hug her pillow and curl up in the plush darkness, and she would just relax until morning. She smiled out the car window as she imagined it, the fantasy enough to overcome how grungy and disgusting she felt. Jane had gone to the trouble of bringing her beauty products to the jail so Maura didn’t have to walk out wearing days-old cosmetics, and the gesture was enough to make her feel human. But she couldn’t wait to get home, peel off the outer layer of dead skin cells, and become Maura Isles once again.
She turned away from the landscape outside the car to watch Jane drive. She was focused on traffic, occasionally muttering under her breath - “Oh, what’s this idiot think he’s doing...” - and Maura smiled at her agitation. Jane looked at her, looked back at the road, and then laid on her horn to prevent the guy in front of her from clipping the bumper. Maura put her hand on Jane’s thigh and squeezed.
“It’s my job.”
“We both know you went above and beyond for me.”
Jane shifted uncomfortably. “Yeah. Well... you’d have done the same for me.”
Maura smiled and decided her fantasy would have to be revised in order to be perfect. “Stay with me tonight.”
“You sure? I’d understand if you wanted to take a day just to--“
Jane gave up the fight. “Sure. I’d love to.” She took Maura’s hand off her thigh and brought it to her lips. It was such a tender and romantic gesture that Maura’s eyes filled with tears. She reached up to wipe them away with her free hand, hissing when she put pressure on the still-tender bruise next to her eye.
“Oh, and Ma is staying with Frankie for a few days just so you can get settled in.”
“She didn’t have to do that.”
“Yeah, she did. Maura, she handed over the tape of your self-defense lesson.”
Maura shrugged. “She had to, Jane. She had a moral obligation to turn over the tape.”
“To her boyfriend.”
Maura shrugged and then smiled. “In a way, it’s kind of ironic. A tape where I demonstrate self-defense was instrumental in leaving me defenseless.”
Jane kept her eyes locked on the road. “It’s not funny.”
“I didn’t say it was funny. Just ironic.” She reached up and stroked Jane’s hair away from her face. “I love you.”
Jane’s features relaxed. “I love you, too.”
She pulled up in front of Maura’s house and they both climbed out. Jane hesitated as if there was something she needed to carry, a suitcase or a valise or something, but eventually she just followed Maura to the front door and came in behind her. Maura breathed deeply the scent of her house, smiled as she turned on the lights, and stopped when she looked into the kitchen and saw what was on the floor.
“Damn it, Tommy said he’d clean this up. Hold on. Sorry.” She stepped over the wall of three couch cushions that formed a barricade between the kitchen wall and the center island. She stooped and picked up the bowl with the remnants of dandelions in the bottom and put it on the counter next to the sink. Maura bent forward and looked at Bass, who lifted his head to gaze at her in an impersonal “Oh, you’re back” sort of way.
“Did you get him to eat?”
Maura straightened and stared at the back of Jane’s head. “How?”
“You know the stuff you normally feed him? I just mixed the dandelion leaves into it. A little at first, and then I adjusted it. Less regular food, more dandelion. And then by the end he was just eating the dandelions.”
“When did you do all of that?”
“The night I took you in.” She finished rinsing the bowl and turned to face Maura. “I came back here and spent all night on my belly on the floor getting this stupid turtle to eat his weeds because it was the one thing I could do for you at that moment in time.” She took a deep breath, sagging against the counter and looking down at her shoes. “I couldn’t save you, Maura. So I thought the least I could do was finish what you’d been doing. I could take care of your turtle. God, tortoise, sorry.”
“Turtle, tortoise... it doesn’t matter. Come here.” She cupped Jane’s face and kissed her tenderly. “I love you. Thank you.”
Jane put her arms around Maura. “I was so scared, Maura.”
“I know,” Maura said softly.
Jane kissed her neck. “I love you, too.”
“I know.” She nuzzled Jane’s neck just above her collar. “And... Jane?”
“Technically the dandelion isn’t a weed. It’s a flowering plant, so...”
Jane growled and leaned back to cover Maura’s mouth with her hand. Maura smiled under Jane’s muting fingers, and Jane smiled back before moving her hand to kiss her lips.
Maura relaxed into Jane’s embrace and decided that weeds or flowers, turtles or tortoises... being exact wasn’t always the most important thing in the world.