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Hello Dear Readers! 

 

So we have officially begun the follow up to Partners. I wanted to write you an author's note before we begin.

First, this is a sequel and if you have not read Partners, you will likely be very confused with regard to the original characters and I strongly reccommend you read Partners before you read this one. 

While this is a Rizzoli & Isles fanfiction, please note that this story will heavily feature my own original characters. Even more so than Partners did. It's okay if that is not your personal favourite. You are always welcome to skip ahead, skip over, or stop reading altogether. Authentic feedback and critique is always welcome but do be considerate and remember Fanfiction writers are not paid. We write for the joy of writing and to tell the stories we want to see written. It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to write fanfiction so please be kind to your favourite fanficition writers! Comments and Kudos are always welcome! I do my best to respond to comments in a timely manner. I will also do my best to leave regular updates so as to not leave you all hanging. 

This fiction will feature many of the things you would find in any cop show, including very emotionally difficult cases and violence. Trigger warnings will be posted at the top of each chapter as needed. Please take care of yourself as you read along. 

Additionally, we will be joining Maura and Jane as they traverse the ups and downs of Foster Care. I fully intend for you to fall in love with all of their children, even the ones they may not be able to keep permanently. While fostering is a difficult and often controversial subject, please be mindful of your words when commenting. Foster children do not often choose to be foster children and they are no less deserving of love and family belonging. 

Finally, as this is based on a cop show, I would be negligent to not write that in the United States, policing and race are inextricably tied together. Black lives matter and are often put in danger by the policies and systems that protect those of us with whiter skin. Systemic racism is real, oppression is real, and it is killing black and brown people in America on a daily basis. I know I do not possess the answer to erradicating this problem but I also know that my silence would make me complicit. Black lives matter and we must put an end to the violent oppression of black and brown people by police forces in The United States.  

All my love, 

Lil_Leels <3

Chapter Text

February 11, 2017 

Noemi Baccay stomped her feet and rubbed her hands together, trying to stay warm in New York’s late afternoon bluster. It’s been 45 days, 14 hours and 39 minutes since Aarna Dhar had left their shared room for New York. Noemi had hoped, given time and stability, she could prove to Aarna that what they had was sustainable. That she would fight for Aarna and their relationship with everything she had. Unfortunately, it had been weeks of Aarna putting her off and insisting it was too far to visit. Perhaps, Noemi thought with all the bitterness of the sting of the cold, if it were anyone else, she’d have taken no for an answer. She would have ended the charade of their relationship weeks ago. But it wasn’t anyone. It was Aarna. And Noemi was going to get an answer for their relationship, one way or another. So Noemi had taken the beginning of the next week off to surprise Aarna for Valentine’s day in New York, she made the three hour drive, paid an inordinate fee for parking and was now waiting on Aarna’s stoop, hoping Aarna would be home soon. Hoping her surprise would be welcomed. 

Noemi scans the faces on the street, looking for those rich brown eyes and beautiful black hair begging Noemi to run her fingers through it. She looks for the woman she loves in the sea of strangers, shivering and caught somewhere between excited and terrified. Noemi spots Aarna first, wearing a white petticoat and moving through the throngs of people with the practiced ease of a local. Her hair is braided to the side, the bindi on her forehead a bright red against the brown of her skin. Noemi watches her approach. Watches the way she moves, all grace and confidence but there’s something else there too. A sadness, a stillness, that Noemi had never seen at the academy. And then warm brown eyes look up. Noemi feels it the instant they find hers. Endorphins swamp her and Noemi can’t breathe, caught with nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. She watches as Aarna processes it, her face going from blank and expressionless to a cute ‘o’ shaped mouth of surprise. Aarna’s face freezes there for a moment.

And then it breaks into a smile. Her dimples flash, her eyes seem to glimmer even from this distance and Noemi feels a surge of pleasure for having successfully surprised Aarna. Aarna moves faster then, breaking into a run, crossing the distance between them as quickly as she can. It takes Noemi a moment to realise that she’s moving too, hurtling toward Aarna in an inevitable crash course. Except, of course, Aarna doesn’t let Noemi crash. She catches Noemi with open arms, pulling Noemi into her, lifting and using their momentum to spin them in a large overdramatic circle. When she sets Noemi down, her gloved hand comes up to caress Noemi’s cheek. 

‘Noie,’ Aarna whispers reverently, her eyes soaking in every inch of Noemi’s face, as though they can’t believe she’s really there. Then Aarna’s lips are on Noemi’s and Noemi drinks in as much of Aarna as she can. Not caring that they’re on a public street, in the middle of the sidewalk, impeding the flow of New Yorkers. Aarna was right here, kissing her, and that was all that mattered. 

Even when their lips part, Aarna keeps her gloved hand on Noemi’s cheek. Holding her tenderly, as though the very reality of Noemi being there was fragile and she was doing all she could to keep it from breaking. Her eyes are wet and Noemi kisses the tear tracks on Aarna’s cheeks with affection. Aarna goes to close her eyes, only to pop them open quickly, as though she’s afraid Noemi would disappear. 

‘I can’t believe you’re here,’ Aarna says softly, ‘you’re really here.’ 

Noemi lays her hand over Aarna’s on her cheek, ‘I’m really here.’ 

‘How?’ Aarna asks, ‘why?’ Then her eyes light up, ‘Valentine’s day?’ 

Noemi pulls Aarna’s hand off her cheek, kissing her palm lightly, ‘yep. I asked for some time off. I wanted to surprise you.’ 

For a moment, guilt plays across Aarna’s face and Noemi wonders if Aarna will fight her on it but it fades just as quickly. Returning to a dazzling joy filled smile. ‘You’re my favourite surprise,’ Aarna admits quietly. 

‘Good,’ Noemi replies, hoping that bode well for the rest of the weekend, ‘but I’m also freezing. Can we?’ Noemi gestures back at the stairs. 

‘Yes,’ Aarna says quickly, leading Noemi by the hand back towards the steps, ‘I hope you weren’t waiting long!’

‘I’d wait a lot longer than that for you,’ Noemi says as Aarna enters her code to enter the building. And Noemi means it, in more ways than one. 

Aarna leads Noemi through poorly lit hallways and up the stairs, there’s a tease to her smile and a glint in her eye. ‘I hope you don’t mind getting cozy,’ Aarna says, her voice carefully light, ‘New York apartments aren’t known for being spacious.’ 

Noemi grins back, letting her desire shine through, ‘I have every intention of getting very cozy.’ 

Aarna laughs at her and Noemi wants to memorise the look on her face. The way her whole face lights up, her eyes sparkling with mischief and lust. ‘Good,’ Aarna says, ‘very good.’ She stops at a door in the middle of the hallway, in the middle floor of the building. She slips her key in and swings the door open for Noemi to step through. Noemi doesn’t bother to give herself time to look. She whirls on Aarna the moment the door snaps closed, pinning her there. Noemi freezes her lips a scant millimeters away from Aarna’s. She can feel the heat of Aarna’s breath on her lips. She can feel the whimper in Aarna’s chest, the unspoken request. 

Maybe there were words still needing to be spoken between them. But this? Noemi didn’t need words for this. This was unbridled desire and intimate familiarity. Noemi knew exactly what she was doing to Aarna, even better, Noemi knew exactly what Aarna wanted her to do. There’d be time for words later, Noemi thinks as she sinks quickly into their shared heat, reacquainting her fingers and lips with Aarna’s body. 

 


 

February 14, 2017 

The morning commute wakes Noemi and Aarna well before the sun. They make good use of the extra time, letting hands and mouths explore at a leisurely pace. Three days weren’t long enough to sate their desires for one another. When they’re both decently sweaty and moderately out of breath, they part. Aarna lying on her back, Noemi on her stomach, her head propped up on her elbow. 

‘I love you,’ Aarna whispers in between the quiet rasps of air between them. She touches Noemi’s cheek gently. 

Noemi kisses her palm, ‘I love you too Mahal.’ 

‘I’m so glad you came,’ Aarna whispers softly. 

‘Me too,’ Noemi says happily, ‘next time don’t make me wait so long. I don’t mind making the drive for you.’ Aarna flinches but nods. Noemi thinks she sees that sadness again, that same sadness she’d seen when she’d first seen Aarna. ‘What is it?’ Noemi asks. 

Aarna rolls over to face her, her body curling slightly, as if to protect itself. ‘I hate that you’re so far,’ Aarna admits, ‘I hate that either of us has to drive.’ 

Noemi smiles, ‘it’s better than not seeing each other at all.’ 

Aarna ducks beneath her own hair, hiding from Noemi. ‘It’s not sustainable.’ 

Noemi sighs sadly, she tucks Aarna’s hair behind her ear. Noemi kisses Aarna’s forehead, just above her bindi. ‘The distance sucks but it’s temporary Na. We’re not… or… at least… we don’t have to be.’ Noemi rolls over, digging through her backpack until she finds a velvet blue box. ‘I was going to give this to you at dinner but maybe now is better.’ Noemi rolls back over to show Noemi the box. 

Aarna gasps, ‘Noie.’ 

‘I love you Aarna. I know what I want from this relationship. And I know we’re young and our careers are just starting. So this isn’t a proposal. It’s not an engagement ring but it is a promise. A promise to love you and to fight for you and for our relationship even when it means long drives and long distances. You’re worth it Aarna. You’re worth it all. And I don’t know why you’ve been holding back or what you’re afraid of but if what you need is my promise, my word, to love you forever. You have it.’ Noemi flips open the ring box, revealing a dainty and delicate sapphire and silver ring. She’d designed it herself, remembering the henna curves and spirals that Aarna had adorned both of their bodies with one weekend. Aarna gasps, taking the box in a shaking hand, her eyes trace every curve of the ring before looking up to meet Noemi’s eyes. ‘I promise to love you for the rest of my life Aarna. I promise to do everything in my power to make you happy. To be there for you when you are sad or lonely. And one day, when we’re ready,  I’d like to ask you to marry me?’ Silence stretches between them. Aarna blinks away tears and Noemi feels her heart in her throat. She’d been hoping for a more immediate and positive response. 

Aarna closes the box tenderly and presses it back into Noemi’s fingers, ‘no.’ 

‘No,’ Noemi repeats her face falling. 

Aarna pushes herself up, wrapping her comforter around her as she goes, ‘no, Noie. You can’t just give me a ring and think that it will fix everything.’ 

Noemi pushes herself up, trying to not get defensive, ‘okay that wasn’t what I was trying to do but since we’re talking, what is the problem between us?’ 

‘This,’ Aarna gestures wildly between them, ‘we have to drive hours to see each other. And it’s wonderful. It’s like coming home but then you leave and it hurts. It hurts so badly to be so far from you. And I don’t want to hurt all the time and I don’t want either of us to have to choose between each other and our career.’ 

‘I’m not asking you to!’ Noemi says defensively, ‘I don’t want you to. You’re a wonderful agent.’ 

‘So are you,’ Aarna says reassuringly, ‘but loving you this much hurts. It feels like my heart is walking around outside of my chest, three hours away, in a city I don’t live in.’ 

Noemi frowns, ‘I know Mahal but what else can we do?’ 

‘We could break up,’ Aarna whispers. 

Noemi clutches her chest, right above her heart, ‘that definitely doesn’t make it hurt any less Na.’ 

‘No but it would hurt shorter,’ Aarna whispers in defeat, ‘we’d hurt for a bit and then we’d move on.’ 

Noemi stares, slack jawed. ‘You cannot be serious Aarna.’ 

‘I am,’ Aarna says, not meeting Noemi’s eyes, ‘I think we have to break up.’ 

Noemi moves then, tugging on clothes through blurry eyes. Aarna doesn’t have the heart to tell her that, that’s her sweatshirt or that one of Noemi’s socks is inside out. Noemi grabs her keys and backpack, throwing it on her shoulder in a manner that makes Aarna wince for her recently shot body. ‘Fine,’ Noemi whispers when she’s dressed. ‘If you want to break up that’s your choice. I can’t make you have faith in us. But you’re wrong. Breaking up won’t fix anything Aarna. This will always hurt, it doesn’t matter how much time passes, losing you will always hurt.’ Noemi storms toward the door, wrenching it open in anger. She pauses, looking down at the ring box. She turns around, storming back towards Aarna. She grabs Aarna by the wrist and tugs her in pressing a fiery kiss to Aarna’s lips until neither one of them can breathe. Noemi pulls back to look Aarna in the eyes, sorrow and love warring in her heart, ‘I will never not love you, Aarna Dhar.’ 

Then Noemi is storming away. It isn’t until the door slams, snapping Aarna back to reality that she realises Noemi had left the ring in the palm of her hand, her promise searing its shape on Aarna’s broken heart. 

Chapter Text

Late April 2017

Maura Isles smiled as soft warm lips found the bare skin of her shoulder, her mind still caught in that fuzzy space between sleep and wakefulness. ‘Mmmgh,’ Maura moans incoherently.

‘Morning,’ her favourite raspy voice greets her, speaking into Maura’s skin directly. Her voice is husky, still layered in sleep but evidently awake enough to form coherent words.

‘More,’ Maura murmurs, pushing herself back into the warm and welcoming arms of Jane Rizzoli. She wiggles her shoulder slightly for emphasis. Jane smiles into Maura’s sensitive flesh, raising goosebumps on Maura’s skin and making Maura’s stomach flutter. Maura would never get over how effortlessly sexy Jane was. How much a simple smile could get a rise from her. Jane presses another kiss to Maura’s shoulder sending a shiver of delight down Maura’s spine. A second kiss calls heat to Maura’s cheeks and just as Maura’s mind is waking to the possibilities their baby monitor cackles to life with a gentle cooing that belayed their daughter’s desire to be up.

Jane chuckles pressing her forehead to Maura’s shoulder, ‘I’ll get her. You sleep.’ Jane presses one more kiss to Maura’s shoulder before the warmth surrounding Maura disappears. Maura groans in displeasure, listening as Jane’s voice comes through the monitor now. ‘Good morning my little Mak-a-doodle!’ The sound of a raspberry being blown and the giggles of their daughter makes Maura smile even in her own sleep filled haze. ‘We’re gonna let Maman sleep in this morning and make her breakfast in bed. What do you think? You want blueberry pancakes.’

‘Eh. Eh.’ came the stunted sound from their daughters lips and Maura could see her making the baby sign for eat, her fingers touching her mouth.

‘Yeah,’ Jane says, her voice cheery, ‘you want to eat Mak-a-doodle? Why doesn’t that surprise me?’ Maura can hear movement as Jane changed and dressed Mak. ‘You’re always hungry, just like Mama huh?’

‘Ma!’ Mak screeches happily at Jane. ‘Ma! Ma! ma!’ Maura grins at the ceiling, picturing Mak tugging at Jane’s curls or squealing away in delight as Jane’s long dexterous fingers tickled her exposed belly. Maura had known happiness before but all of it paled in comparison to hearing Jane playing with their daughter.

A cold wet nose bumps into Maura’s hand making Maura yelp softly. Boston’s warm brown eyes stare pitifully at her, urging her to get up and play. ‘Good morning Boston,’ Maura says with a chuckle. She strokes the dogs head affectionately, ‘you’re all ready to be up huh?’ The dogs tail wags happily in response. ‘And I suppose you want me to get up too?’ More tail wagging. Maura makes a show of sighing and throwing back the covers for the dog but truthfully, if her family was up, Maura didn’t want to miss a minute with them. Even if it meant a little less sleep.

‘Boston,’ Jane whispers as she opens the door to their bedroom, ‘come on girl, let Maura sleep.’ Three faces look in at her. Berry is at Jane’s feet, loyal first and foremost to Jane and second to Mak. The russet dog could usually be found with one of them. Jane’s face was framed in sleep wild curls, eyes shining with guilt as she saw Maura rising. Mak’s round baby face was all toothy grins as the girl reached for Maura.

Maura grins at the three of them reaching back toward Mak, taking the girl from Jane. Maura presses a kiss first to Mak’s cheek, then to Jane’s ‘good morning my loves.’

‘Ma,’ Mak says happily her fingers wrapping happily in strands of Maura’s hair.

‘Did I hear someone say something about blueberry pancakes?’ Maura asks cheekily, pressing another kiss to Mak’s cheek, breathing in the scent of her.

‘Yup,’ Jane says with a smile, ‘Mak and I were going to make you pancakes with extra love.’

‘Is that so?’ Maura asks bringing the girl over to their bed, pretending to flop the girl down with a big woosh eliciting a riot of giggles from the girl. Jane leaned against the door frame, watching them, a silly grin on their face. ‘Do you want to eat Mak?’ Maura asks. The girl responds by bringing her two pointer fingers together. ‘More?’ Maura asks, ‘you want more woosh?’

‘Muh,’ the girl says bringing her fingers together again, ‘muh.’

Maura picks the girl up before whooshing her back on to the bed, careful to support the girls head as she did. Jane was better at rough housing with the girl, more certain. Maura couldn’t shake the doctor in herself to do much more then whooshing the girl on to the bed but as Mak wasn’t even a year and a half yet the girl didn’t seem to notice that her ‘falling’ was in a very controlled fashion and she giggled just as hard at Maura’s play as she did at Jane’s. As soon as the giggles have stopped, Mak brings her fingers together again asking for more. Maura obliges with a smile.

Jane moves to stand next to her, ‘I’ll take her if you want to get dressed.’

Maura grins at Jane, ‘what you don’t want me to wander around the house in my pyjamas all day?’ Maura gestures to her silky shorts and tank top that left nothing to be imagined.

Warm brown eyes look Maura over from head to toe, the look sparking that same heat Maura had felt earlier that morning. Jane’s reply comes out in a deeper and more husky tone than usual, ‘that’s definitely not what I said.’ Jane grins at her, ‘by all means, wear that and only that but you know Mak-a-doodle will find a way to spill coffee or syrup or something on it.’

Maura groaned. Babies and fashion were not always terribly compatible. ‘On second thought,’ Maura says shifting to give Jane full control of Mak. ‘Perhaps I’ll wear some of your sweats instead.’

Jane shrugs, offering a dimpled smile, ‘fine by me. I like the way you look in that too.’ It’s casual, Maura knows, not meant to elicit anything in particular but it makes Maura’s stomach drop with desire.

Maura gulps and tries to swallow down the sudden sexual tension. ‘That is good,’ Maura says when she’s certain she has control of her voice again, ‘I hope you like syrup too.’

Jane swoops the baby off the bed, heading for the door. Just as she’s about to disappear beyond the doorway, Jane pauses, swivelling to look back at Maura. Her dimples are on full display and there’s a mischievous twinkle in her eyes, ‘only if I get to lick it off of you.’ Then she’s gone, taking Maura’s breath with her. Apparently it was going to be that kind of day. Maura smiles to herself, hurrying to pull on Jane’s second favourite pair of sweats and her ‘federal boob inspector’ shirt. And if Maura happened to put on some fancy lingerie underneath, that was for Jane to discover for herself later.

 


 

Aarna Dhar finished ringing the customer up, reading off the total amount and bagging the clothing efficiently as she did. When the customer had paid and collected their things, Aarna forced a smile on to her face and said ‘thank you for shopping at Second Chances where every purchase helps give a second chance to someone in need!’ The customer smiles, nods and disappears out the front doors of the boutique and into the crowded New York street. Aarna lets out a sigh of relief, with luck that would be the last customer of the night and Aarna could straighten up and leave for the night. She had forty minutes left on her shift, she could do forty minutes. Aarna watches the count dutifully waiting the ten minutes until she could lock the door and flip over the ‘open’ sign. After that, she does a quick round of the store, neatening and refolding clothes, picking up trash and depositing lost items in a box beneath the counter.

Aarna let herself out of the boutique, flipping the lights on the way out. She shifts the weight of her backpack as she locks the door. Aarna crosses the street, ducking around a corner and into the subway system. She scans her pass, pushes through the turnstile and waits for her train. A performer is strumming a guitar and singing a love song. Aarna blinks quickly, shoving away the tears stinging her eyes. Aarna pushes past those disembarking the train, escaping the crooning sound of heartache. Three stops later, Aarna exits her train, navigating the underground system to the exit. She pushes past other pedestrians, all busy looking busy. Aarna punches in the gate code, tapping the box hard on the side when it doesn’t accept the code the first time. Then Aarna slipped into the quiet cramped apartment building, heading to her fifth floor studio with the floor space of a closet. Aarna slips her key into the lock, letting herself in. She drops her backpack by the door, slips off her shoes and makes a beeline for the fridge. Aarna grabs a box of leftover takeout, refills her water bottle before sitting down at her kitchen counter which doubled as a table. Aarna drew her notepad to her and jotted down some of her thoughts for the day while she wolfed down cold curry.

The screeching of car tires, honking of horns, and general buzz of people talking drifted in through her one window. When Aarna had moved to New York three months ago, the noise had overwhelmed her. It never stopped, going on and on. Now, like most New Yorkers, it was white noise. Aarna rarely bothered to close her window anymore, as it was inaccessible from below, barred from the outside, and unbearably stuffy with the smell of humans living on top of one another when she did. Every time rent came due, Aarna wondered what the hell she was doing paying so much to live somewhere so crappy.  Of course, wondering what the hell she was doing was standard operating procedure these days. Aarna had spent every waking moment for six months preparing to be an FBI agent. She’d graduated with top honours. She had potential, promise. Now? She couldn’t bear to tell her parents that she paid far more than a grand a month to live in a closet without a working stove, working retail at a second hand clothing store. Her parents would be mortified. Aarna groaned. Maybe they’d be right to be mortified. Every good thing Aarna had in Virginia had slipped through her fingers in a matter of months.

Aarna stood, stretched, pulled off the days clothes and flopped into the tiny twin bed. Aarna stared at the ceiling for a moment, her eyes tracing the staining there from where the paint was hit by the light filtering through the window, met by the darker paint that never saw direct sunlight. When her eyes grew heavy, Aarna rolled to her side. Her eyes are drawn, as they always are, to a picture on the nightstand. Noemi’s face is beaming out from the frame, her hair falling over one shoulder. Aarna is in the photo too, arms wrapped tight around Noemi’s waist, her lips pressed softly to Noemi’s cheek. Some nights Aarna wondered at herself in the picture. It didn’t show much of Aarna’s face but so much happiness was radiating off of her. Aarna sometimes wondered if she would ever know happiness again. But tonight? Tonight her eyes traced Noemi’s face. The soft curve of her neck, the fullness of her cheeks, the arch of her brow. Noemi was breathtakingly beautiful, even in the diminished experience of a photo.

Aarna tugged her pillow closer, burying her nose in it. Noemi in the flesh was so much more beautiful. She was warm and sensual and aloof and prickly. She was the kindest person Aarna had ever met and the most take no bullshit person too. She was a mess of contradictions and Aarna loved her more than she’d even known possible. Aarna could happily have spent forever with Noemi. Better yet, Noemi loved Aarna too. That was evident in the picture too. At least to Aarna. Noemi is relaxed, her arms holding gently to Aarna, her smile genuine. Her brow isn’t furled in confusion or hesitation. She’s happy. Really and truly happy, at least, she was.

Aarna can still see the ring. It’s curving, glinting silver band with a carefully set sapphire stone. It’s simple and gorgeous in its velvet blue box. She can see the look on Noemi’s face as she asks Aarna to marry her, one day. The way her eyes are soft and trusting but laced with the power of a single question. Aarna can feel the plushness of the box as she closes it. Can see Noemi’s heart break as Aarna refuses. Aarna can feel the echo of it in her own heart. Saying no to Noemi when she had wanted to say yes more than she had ever wanted to do anything in her life had nearly killed Aarna. Watching Noemi leave, tears streaking down her face, actually might have. Aarna knew what everyone said about break ups. To give it time. To let it heal. And maybe they were right. Maybe one day Aarna would feel like she could breath again. Maybe she would feel like she could live again. But that had been months ago now. Aarna had spent months living in agony, feeling acutely aware of just how wrong everything was without Noemi.

Aarna sighs shaking her head. She closes her eyes, forcing out the memory of their last time together. She wills the hurt to lessen. Wills herself to feel less. When she’s moderately calmer, Aarna whispers ‘I just want you to be happy.’ She says it without opening her eyes, ‘goodnight Noie.’ Then Aarna rolls over, facing away from the picture and begs for sleep to usher her away from another useless day.

Chapter Text

Saturday, May 13th 2017 

Nina Holiday parked her car, grabbed her lunch box and walked to her usual park bench. Being a detective meant routines and habits were hard to build and keep. Whether it was working a case or being on call, Nina never knew what her day to day would look like but Nina had developed the habit of taking her lunch, or sometimes dinner, in this park at this bench for the last several months. She’d become a fixture of the park and she had slowly worked her way into the good graces of most of the homeless community that spent their day there. 

Knowing Rondo had helped on that front. At least once a week, Nina and Rondo had a meal on this bench and Nina was introduced to much of what she considered Rondo’s court. Face after face, name after name. When Nina saw an obvious need, she did her best to meet it through Rondo. She’d bought more wool socks than any person ought to over the winter. She’d taken up a coat drive at the precinct passing off boxes upon boxes for Rondo to distribute as needed. 

The need was great and Nina could never do enough. When the need became overwhelming, Nina thought of Marcus. She reminded herself that all she could do was show up. So she did. On days so cold it made Nina’s jaw hurt from teeth chattering, on days when the rain came down so hard it felt like a thousand little cuts on your face. Nina came on her good days and on her bad days. 

Nina meets Snickers first, almost entirely by accident. The girl, a dark skinned teenager, with hair braided tightly to her skull and beautiful brown eyes, approaches Nina one day out of the blue in February.

‘You that cop friend of Rondo’s?’ She asks, her voice has a lilting accent. 

‘I know Rondo, yes,’ Nina affirms, putting a hand over her eyes to shade out the sun and get a better look at the girl, ‘can I help you?’  

The girl shrugs surly, ‘Rondo said we had to look out for you. Said you’re good for the park.’ 

‘Oh,’ Nina says blushing, ‘he’s sweet but I don’t need anyone to look out for me. I’m just here to eat my lunch.’ 

‘I know,’ the girl says shoving her hands in her hoodie pockets, ‘that’s all you ever do.’ 

Nina offers an easy smile and shrug, ‘I like this park.’ 

The girl scuffs her toe in the snow before shrugging, ‘Rondo said to watch your back. Your meter was up. Meter maid was gonna write you a ticket but I slipped a quarter in for you.’ 

‘Oh,’ Nina says in surprise, ‘well thank you. Can I pay you back?’

‘Nah,’ the girl says, ‘it was just a quarter. Just thought you should know your timer is almost up.’ 

‘Thank you,’ Nina says, beginning to pack up her things, ‘what did you say your name was?’ 

The girl shrugs, ‘what's it matter to you?’ 

Nina shrugs, ‘I prefer to thank people who watch out for me by name.’ 

‘Rondo calls me Snickers,’ the girl offers. She rolls her eyes but Nina can see the pleased look on her face. 

‘Is that your favorite snack?’ Nina asks, trying to contain her excitement. ‘I could bring one tomorrow to say thank you.’ 

‘Nope,’ Snickers says, ‘I’m allergic to nuts.’ She makes a face, ‘seriously five-oh don’t worry about it.’ 

‘Well,’ Nina says as casually as she can, ‘thank you again and I’ll see you tomorrow.’ 

When Nina returned to her car, she couldn’t help her grin. Of course, Rondo would name a girl with a nut allergy Snickers. Nina chuckles, it was a step in the right direction. She doesn’t know how she’s going to help those two runaway girls but at least Nina’s met one of them. It was a start. 

Nina met Kit Kat nearly a month later when she was on her dinner break. Nina and Snickers had been exchanging hellos and waving at each other in passing for most of the month. Nina would hardly call it friendly but it was something. Which is why she was surprised when in March the girl plops down on the bench beside Nina pulling a second girl with her. 

‘This is Kit Kat,’ Snickers offered by way of explanation to Kit Kat she said, ‘this is Rondo’s Etta.’ 

Kit Kat had pale skin, her cheeks a bright red from the cold, her hair cropped short enough to not be visible beneath her beanie. Nina couldn’t tell much more about her beyond her baggy clothing. Kit Kat nodded by way of greeting and Nina smiled as reassuringly as she could. 

‘Nice to meet you Kit Kat,’ Nina said with a smile, ‘are you allergic to wafers?’ 

Kit Kat stared at her with bright blue eyes and shook her head. 

Snickers chuckles, ‘nope that’s just her favorite candy.’ 

Nina feels her cheeks heat, ‘of course.’ Nina does her best to examine the girls without them noticing. Kit Kat is definitely older. Snickers was 14, maybe 15. Kit Kat looked to be closer to 17. It was hard to tell, both girls were rail thin and dirty. ‘How are you both doing tonight?’ 

‘We’re fine. Got a bit skeeved out by some of the guys playing ball. Figured we’d sit with you till they’re gone. Everyone knows you’re five-oh,’ Snickers says. She looks at Nina with a sideways glare, ‘don’t go thinking this means we want to talk or something.’ 

Nina shrugs, ‘okay. I packed some extra for dinner tonight thinking my fiance would be able to join me but he got held up. Would you girls like his share?’ It was a lie but Nina could always stop by a burger joint later. Nina watches as the girls share a look, clearly communicating. At last, Snickers shrugs for both of them. 

‘Sure,’ Snickers says, ‘thanks five-oh.’ Nina passes off her lunch bag and lets the girls help themselves, glad that she had stopped making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches last month. 

A month after that, Snickers had approached Nina for help getting Kit Kat some art supplies for her birthday. Nina had happily procured everything Snickers had asked for. Nina would have done it with no expectations in return but Nina saw the stubborn look on Snicker’s face and knew the girl expected to pay for it. Nina had shuddered to think of how exactly Snickers planned to pay for it. Nina quickly proposed that Kit Kat do some sketches for her and Frankie. Snickers had seemed relieved and agreed happily. 

The Saturday after, Nina and Frankie met the girls at the park where Snickers posed them and Kit Kat spent several hours sketching the pair of them. It was the oddest ‘photo’ session Nina had ever had but Frankie had gotten the pair of girls laughing and they walked away with some impressive sketches that Nina promptly framed and displayed. 

By Easter, Nina had started bringing three sandwiches in her lunch. She made note of what the girls liked and always had food on hand. When Snickers had asked to borrow a tampon, Nina started bringing extra feminine products as well. It was a war of attrition. Nina was winning their trust, little by little, day by day. 

The consequence of that, Nina thought as she turned over in bed, was that the more she got to know them and the more she got them to trust her the more she worried for them. It had been three days since Nina had seen either girl and Nina’s heart was tied in knots. Images of them beaten and bruised, left for dead, floated unbidden into her mind. Nina sighs and climbs out of bed, careful not to disturb Frankie. 

Nina does some yoga to steady her mind before working on wedding planning. She spends hours writing in a fancy scroll for their wedding invitations. On instinct, she writes one for Snickers and Kit Kat. She seals the envelope as the first rays of light begin to filter through the living room. Nina dresses for a run, texts Frankie her route, grabs her keys and makes her way to the park. 

The park is quiet, the grass still frosted from the coolness of night. Nina climbs from her car. She stretches slowly, her eyes taking in the park and it’s usual residents, searching. Not seeing either girl, Nina goes for her run. She circles the park several times. Each completed circuit sits heavier on her heart. The possibilities are mind numbing. As Nina goes to complete her final circuit she resolves to ask about the girls until she found them. She couldn’t do another day of what if’s and could be’s. Nina makes the last turn and goes sprawling, her feet tripping over themselves in her distraction. Nina lands hard, scraping her knee and her palm. 

‘Woah!’ Nina hears a familiar voice call, ‘you okay there five-oh?’ 

Relief courses over Nina when she sees Snickers and Kit Kat standing over her both wearing identical expressions. Snickers holds out a hand to help her up. Nina takes it gratefully. She winces as pain lances through her ankle. ‘Ouch,’ Nina says, ‘I think I sprained it.’ Snickers and Kit Kat do the silent look thing again.

‘We got you Nina,’ Snickers says, using Nina’s real name for the first time since Nina had told them it. Snickers and Kit Kat both loop one of Nina’s arms around their neck and help her hobble back to her car. ‘You should be more careful,’ Snickers says in such a motherly fashion that Nina is certain she must be an oldest child. 

‘I wasn’t paying attention,’ Nina admits, ‘I was keeping an eye out for the two of you.’ 

‘Well you found us,’ Snickers grunts. Kit Kat nods soberly which was about as much of a conversation Nina had, had with the girl thus far. ‘What’d you need five-oh?’ 

Nina pants as she tries to hop on pace with the girls, ‘I have a wedding invitation for the two of you.’ 

Snickers and Kit Kat stop wearing matching shocked looks. Nina is grateful for the moment to breath. 

‘That’s nice five-oh,’ Snickers says awkwardly at last, ‘but you don’t want a couple of homeless kids at your nice fancy wedding.’ 

‘Rondo will be there,’ Nina counters, ‘and Frankie and I were very much hoping you would both come as well.’ Then in a moment of inspiration Nina adds, ‘we were hoping Kit Kat could do some sketches of the venue and alter and what not.’ 

‘Oh,’ Snickers says trading looks with the older girl, ‘well we’ll talk about it.’ 

Nina nods and they hop in silence back to her car. Nina hands them the invitation. Snickers takes it with a look of terror on her face. ‘You know we don’t have anything fancy to wear or anything?’ 

‘That doesn’t matter to me,’ Nina reassures the girls, ‘but if you want help finding something Rondo or I can do that.’ 

Kit Kat shrugs and looks away. Snickers on the other hand, narrows her eyes and looks at Nina, ‘why are you doing all of this five-oh? What do we mean to you?’ 

Nina is tempted to tell them the truth. To tell them about Marcus and his dreams. About making a difference where you can. About how she worries for them. That worrying for them keeps her up at night but Nina can see the mistrust on their faces. The skepticism in their eyes. She shrugs and tries to keep her tone light, ‘because I like the way Kit Kat draws. Plus I owe you for helping me back there.’ 

It’s not a full answer and they all know it but Snickers seems to accept it. She shrugs and says pointing to Nina’s knee, ‘you should get that cleaned up.’

‘I will,’ Nina promises. It’s not what she wants to say but it’s an admission to caring, however small, so Nina counts it as a win. She waves goodbye and feels her chest lighten. They were safe. For the moment. Nina puts her head down against the steering wheel. She needed to get them off the streets. Soon. 

 


 

Sunday, May 14th 2017 - Mother’s Day 

Jane bounces up and down on the balls of her feet, excitement pouring from every inch of her body. Mother’s day had never been Jane’s favourite holiday. She loves her Ma but Angela had expectations about what the day would be like and most of the time those expectations flew in the face of what Jane wanted. It usually meant wearing a dress, smiling prettily, and doing whatever Angela wanted. But this Mother’s day? This Mother’s day was about Maura. Well, Maura and Jane and Mak. It was about their family. Their tiny, full of love, perfect little family. 

Jane had known the minute she had seen Mak nestled safely in Maura’s arms that life would never be the same again. The fourteen month old had irrevocably changed their world. Jane didn’t know it was possible for a heart to expand in the blink of an eye but it had. Jane didn’t know that she could love Maura more but she did. Jane had never been certain she wanted to be a mother but now it was the title she was proudest of. So Jane was excited for Mother’s day. She was excited to celebrate their family and she was having a difficult time containing it. 

Jane had woken before the sun. She’d crept from the bedroom, careful not to wake Maura on one of the few mornings the other woman got to sleep in. She’d taken the dogs for a morning jog, burning off some of her own energy, showered and was now working on bacon, eggs, and waffles. Jane makes Maura the slow drip coffee the woman loved but rarely had time for. 

When Mak begins to wake, Jane gets the girl and forgoes dressing her in the outfit Maura had chosen for her the night before. Jane settles Mak in her high chair with some waffle pieces and apple sauce and lets the baby go to town under Jane’s supervision. 

Warm arms slip around Jane’s waist. ‘You’re up early,’ Maura says huskily into the space between Jane’s shoulder blades. Jane turns in Maura’s hands, tilting the shorter woman’s chin up and claims her lips softly. 

‘Happy mother’s day,’ Jane says with a beaming grin for Maura when they part. 

‘Happy mother’s day Jane,’ Maura whispers back, wonder in her eyes. ‘I can’t believe we’re mothers!’ 

Both of their eyes go to Mak, who is happily slamming her spoon in apple sauce with a satisfying splat every time. Jane chuckles, ‘to the cutest kid in the world too.’ 

‘Thank you for not dressing her,’ Maura says as Mak smears apple sauce across her entire face, a tiny portion of it ending up in her mouth. Mak smacks her lips happily before trying again, this time with the spoon upside down. 

‘I figured you had plans for that outfit,’ Jane says with a dimpled grin. 

Maura rests her head on Jane’s chest, continuing to watch their baby, ‘I do. Pictures! What about you? What do you want to do today?’ 

Jane kisses Maura’s head, ‘whatever you want to do.’ 

‘Oh,’ Maura says pulling back to give Jane a mischievous grin, ‘so you want to go window shopping at expensive boutiques too?’ 

Jane chuckles, ‘yup. Sure do. Never wanted anything more.’ 

Maura’s eyes narrow, ‘you’re a horrible liar.’ Then Maura smiles, ‘but thank you for trying.’ Maura presses another kiss to Jane’s lips, this time slow and lingering. Jane loses herself in that kiss. In the softness of Maura’s lips, the way they feel like silk moving against her, in the heat of Maura’s body pressed deliciously against hers. 

Maura pulls away, sniffing, ‘something’s burning.’ 

‘Shi-znit,’ Jane says whirling back to the waffle maker. Jane pulls off an extra crispy waffle before switching the machine off altogether, ‘aw well. One for the girls.’ 

Maura laughs and moves to Mak. She presses a kiss to Mak’s head, skillfully dodging a smack to the face with Mak’s apple sauce spoon, ‘good morning baby girl.’ 

‘Ma,’ Mak says happily, ‘Ma, Ma, Ma, Ma.’ 

Jane puts Maura’s plate and coffee in front of the woman with a kiss to her cheek before grabbing her own. They eat breakfast together, talking about nothing in particular and sharing laughter as Mak proceeds to make a head to toe mess of her applesauce. Jane steals Maura’s last bite of bacon and Maura takes Jane’s last strawberry, popping it in her mouth with a wink that makes Jane gulp. If Jane had a perfect day, this was how it would start. 

Maura volunteers to clean Mak and Jane tackles the kitchen with an assist from Berry and Boston on the burnt bits and the applesauce on the floor. It takes the better part of two hours to get everyone cleaned, dressed and ready to go. Jane takes Maura window shopping for the morning, walking hand in hand with Mak in her stroller. They stop for lunch at one of Maura’s favorites before heading home for Mak’s nap. 

Jane makes the most of that nap with Maura, pressing kiss after kiss to swollen soft lips until Maura comes unraveled. Pleasure and pride roar in Jane’s chest as she watches Maura go limp beneath her. Making Maura moan her name while coming was definitely a part of Jane’s perfect day. Making Maura do it twice? That was the epitome of a perfect day. Jane pauses, listening for the sounds of Mak waking before devoting herself to making her own dreams come true. 

When Mak wakes and Maura has put herself together again, with a knowing laugh at Jane’s pleased smirk, they head to the park with Berry and Boston. Mak giggles with riotous glee watching Boston goad the other dogs into chasing her. The little girls piercing squeals of delight made Maura laugh too and Jane does her best to memorise this moment. To memorise the sound of motherhood on Maura’s lips. To memorise what happiness feels like. 

Maura makes dinner, her head bopping along to music while Jane plays on the floor with Mak. Mak scoots and crawls in circles around their kitchen island, babbling happily at her Mama. Boston and Berry take turns darting in to press surprise kisses to Jane and Mak’s face. When Mak’s energy begins to wear out the girl sits herself down on Maura’s feet. Maura looks down to rosy brown cheeks, big brown eyes, and tight black curls with a smile. 

‘I think she wants Maman to pick her up,’ Jane says laying stretched out on the kitchen floor, her own cheeks pink from the playing. 

‘Do you want up Mak?’ Maura asks, bending carefully to not dislodge the girl, ‘do you want to come to Maman?’ 

Mak nestles her head in the crook of Maura’s neck and makes a happy ‘Ma ma’ babble. Jane wants to memorise this moment too. The look of utter adoration on Maura’s face as she holds Mak close in her bare feet with a spatula in the other hand. Jane never knew perfection looked so domestic. 

After dinner, Jane picks noodles out of their daughter’s hair and gets her ready for bed. Maura reads them board books in a litany of voices, drawing laughter out of both Jane and Mak. Jane hadn’t known, before Mak, that Maura was good at reading children’s books. Obviously Jane knew that Maura was good at reading but Jane had never considered that Maura could read in voices or make silly sounds with her mouth. It might be one of Jane’s favorite discoveries about Maura the Maman. Considering all the other things Jane might learn about Maura in parenting with her makes Jane feel giddy. 

They end the day with Jane’s head in Maura’s lap, the TV playing sports highlights from the weekend. Maura cards her fingers through wild curls, her nails scratching lightly against Jane’s scalp. 

‘Did you have a good first mother’s day?’ Maura asks when the next commercial plays. 

Jane grins up at Maura, the woman’s features appearing upside down to her, ‘I did. I think I had the most perfect day ever.’ 

Maura blushes lightly, ‘I think so too.’ Maura bends down and presses an upside down kiss to Jane’s lips. 

‘I love being with you,’ Jane says happily, ‘and I really, really, really love parenting with you.’ 

‘Me too,’ Maura whispers, her tone soft and awed, ‘I do not think I realised how fulfilling parenting could be.’ 

‘It’s pretty amazing,’ Jane admits quietly, ‘but don’t tell my Ma. She’ll ‘I told you so’ us to death.’

Maura laughs, ‘I promise not to.’ 

Silence lulls between them as Jane’s show returns. When the next commercial break comes, Jane switches the TV off and looks up at Maura. Hazel green eyes look back at her, one eyebrow arched in an unspoken question. ‘I’m really happy Maura,’ Jane admits, a flush making its way to her cheeks, ‘I know it sounds silly to say but I didn’t realise it was possible to be this happy.’ 

Affection and joy burst on Maura’s face. ‘Jane,’ Maura whispers softly, her fingers brushing Jane’s temple as they card tenderly through Jane’s curls. Jane closes her eyes, her throat burning with a sudden swelling of emotion. ‘You deserve to be happy,’ Maura says at last, her voice tender but firm. ‘You deserve to be this happy every day,’ Maura adds bending over to kiss Jane again. Her lips brush against Jane’s on every word, ‘I want to make you this happy every day.’ 

‘You do,’ Jane whispers, ‘you make me happy Maura. You make me so happy.’ Maura pulls back, surprised by the fervor of Jane’s words. Her eyes are wet. Jane sits up, turns in place and climbs in Maura’s lap. She presses kisses to Maura’s forehead. Jane repeats herself, ‘you make me so happy.’ Jane presses a kiss to both of Maura’s cheeks, ‘so, so happy.’ Finally Jane tugs Maura’s chin up and into a kiss. It’s tender, reassuring, familiar. It's all softness and devotion. 

When Jane pulls away, Maura sits looking up at Jane with a stunned look on her face. Jane chuckles huskily. She loved making Maura speechless. Maura’s hands respond first, rubbing up and down Jane’s sides never quite straying to intimate places but being tantalisingly close. Maura bats her eyelashes prettily, the green in her eyes sparkling brighter, ‘marry me?’ Maura asks breathily. 

Jane chuckles again, ‘you already asked me that.’ 

Maura pouts, ‘so tell me again. Say you’ll marry me.’ 

Jane grins, her dimples big and bright, ‘yes I’ll marry you. Any time, any place you want. Say the word and I’m there.’ 

‘Tomorrow morning in the kitchen?’ Maura asks, ‘Mak can officiate.’ 

‘Will you wear your pink silk pyjamas?’ Jane asks, biting her lower lip, ‘you know I can’t say no to those.’ 

‘Yes,’ Maura breathes out, ‘if you want me to be.’ 

‘It’s a date,’ Jane retorts. Her lips meet Maura’s in the middle. Maura’s fingers grasp at Jane’s shirt, a gasp escaping her lips, as she pushes and pulls at Jane, needing more. Jane’s lips have found their way to Maura’s pulsepoint when the baby monitor crackles and Mak begins to fuss. 

Jane deflates on top of Maura, letting out a sigh, ‘things were just getting good too.’ 

Maura chuckles softly, ‘I’ll get her. Why don’t you head up?’ 

‘I don’t know if I’m ready to go to sleep yet Maura,’ Jane teases. 

‘No one said anything about sleeping Jane,’ Maura retorts. 

Jane pretends to be scandalised before darting in to press another kiss to Maura’s lips before dashing up the stairs two at a time. She doesn’t see the other woman’s fond smile and affectionate head shake. 

Warm arms slip around Jane, who sighs and shifts caught in the world between sleep and wakefulness, ‘Mak okay?’ 

‘Mmmhmm,’ Maura hums, she presses a kiss to the back of Jane’s neck, ‘go back to sleep.’ 

‘But sex,’ Jane whines, trying to get her fuzzy brain to comply. 

Maura chuckles, ‘it’s okay Jane. We can always have sex tomorrow. For now, let me just hold you.’ 

‘Mmm,’ Jane moans, ‘kay. Happy Mother’s Day Maura.’ 

‘Happy Mother’s Day Jane,’ Maura replies softly but Jane’s already fast asleep. Maura presses a kiss to Jane’s temple before settling in and falling fast asleep well before the clock struck 10 pm. Mothering, as it turns out, was exhausting work.

Chapter Text

‘Baccay,’ Noemi’s supervisor, Megan Overbeck, says as she hands out assignments.

‘Yes ma’am?’ Noemi says, leaning forward eagerly. She’d been case-less for the last two weeks which had meant a lot of coffee and lunch runs. Noemi hadn’t done all that work to become a federal agent just to be a glorified and over paid delivery person. 

‘You’re on cow counting,’ Overbeck says, she flicks her fingers on her tablet and there’s a whoosh of an email being sent. It wasn’t quite the manila folder being slid across the table. 

‘Cow counting ma’am?’ Noemi asks, her brow furrowing in confusion. Noemi can see the other analysts grinning and for a minute she wonders if she’s being hazed. 

‘Ranch embezzlement scheme,’ her supervisor says as if that clarified everything. 

Noemi opens her email skimming the briefing. Noemi can tell it would be a headache of a case complete with a celebrity victim but arguing the point of asking for reassignment was out of the question. ‘Yes ma’am,’ Noemi says, ‘right away ma’am.’ 

Overbeck offers a wry grin, ‘you’re just tracking the numbers Baccay. You don’t have to make the arrest personally.’ 

‘Yes ma’am,’ Noemi says with a slight blush on her face. Having arrived in Boston in a sling, her co-workers had teased her endlessly about being a ‘hands-on’ agent. Noemi didn’t know how to explain what had happened with Cailin or why she was there in the first place. So Noemi accepted the good natured teasing and kept her mouth closed about the events of that night in November. 

The meeting is dismissed shortly thereafter and Noemi returns to her desk. Noemi opens the file and begins reading. The CEO of Pancake Palace was accusing one of his employees of embezzlement in the course of their duties caring for ranches across much of the United States. The employee maintained their innocence and asserted the costs were associated with the normal care and maintenance of running a ranch. 

When the file dives into the spreadsheets and graphs that were supposed to be her forte, Noemi groans. Her supervisor had meant counting cows, literally. There were also pounds of feed, vet bills, bails of hay, and on and on and on. When the graphs begin charting manual labor for the removal of cow waste, Noemi groans. She had a feeling she was about to learn more about cow caretaking than she ever wanted to. 

‘That bad, huh?’ Reese Grafton asks. Noemi turns her head to look up at the other woman, a wry smile on her lips. Reese sets a cup of coffee down for Noemi. 

Noemi sips gratefully at the hot liquid, trying to fend off the worst of her headache, ‘thank you. You’re a saint.’ 

Reese  laughs a faint blush on her cheeks, ‘nonsense. How many times did you save me with coffee last week? It’s the least I could do.’ 

Noemi takes another grateful sip, closing her eyes, ‘she meant actually counting cows.’ 

‘What else were you expecting?’ Reese teases, her blue eyes twinkling. ‘Tracking millions through the Caymans?’ 

Noemi laughs, she’d learned early that most of their cases were far more mundane than that. Especially as a rookie agent without a specialty. A few hundred cases and a couple of years from now, Noemi would be able to petition for assignment to particular types of cybercrimes like financial tracking or IP tracing but until then? She counted cows. ‘Hardly,’ Noemi retorts, ‘just not looking forward to figuring out the value of manure per pound.’ 

Reese’s face bunches into a wrinkled look of disgust, ‘yuck.’ 

‘Tell me about it,’ Noemi says with an eye roll. 

‘I’d say let me know if you need any help,’ Reese teases, flipping her blonde hair over one shoulder, ‘but actually please don’t.’ 

Noemi laughs, ‘you will be the last person I go to, I promise.’ 

‘Thank you,’ Reese says with an exaggerated grin, ‘so….’ Reese hesitates, her finger tracing the lid of her coffee cup, ‘want to grab a bite to eat for dinner tonight?’ 

Noemi misses the blush on the other woman’s face, her attention already returning to the cows, ‘oh, uh,’ Noemi zooms in on a graphic, ‘sure. Dirty Robber?’

‘Sounds great,’ Reese says, ‘I’ll swing by your desk and we can go together?’ 

‘Sure Reese,’ Noemi says. She waves goodbye without looking at the other woman. Noemi misses the small pleased look on the other woman’s face and the way she walks away, hips swaying to draw attention to her figure. 

Noemi’s eyes are beginning to blur when Reese returns at 5:30. ‘Hey,’ Reese says, ‘you ready Noemi?’ 

Noemi sighs. She wasn’t but she also knew she wouldn’t accomplish too much more today when her eyes were refusing to focus. ‘Yeah, let me just,’ Noemi saves her work and signs off, ‘pack up.’ 

Reese catches Noemi up on her own case while Noemi packs up. They walk out together, swiping their badges as they leave. They make their way to The Dirty Robber on the T. Noemi grins and waves at Kiki and Korsack. Reese, who had been introduced to the pair, offered her own wave before claiming a booth in the back. 

They haven’t been there long when Angela drops their usual drink orders in front of them. ‘Hey there roomie,’ Angela teases Noemi, ‘how was work today?’ 

Noemi groans, burying her head in her elbows. 

Reese laughs, ‘don’t mind her. She got a little bull dozed.’ 

Noemi groans louder, shoving fingers in her ears. She can hear Reese still laughing at her. Noemi assumes Reese catches Angela up just enough because Angela pats her shoulder sympathetically and then asks her, straightfaced, if she still wants a beef patty. 

‘You’re the worst,’ Noemi says with a groan, ‘you’re both the worst.’ 

Angela walks away cackling. Reese just grins at Noemi impishly. She reaches across the table and pats Noemi’s hand sympathetically before blushing and taking a swig of her beer. Noemi takes her own sip, trying valiantly to stop her brain from going over and over hay bails and cow manure. 

Nina and Frankie join them just as their burgers come out. Nina steals the seat next to Noemi and steals a couple of french fries. Noemi squeaks in protest, ‘hands off Holiday.’ 

Nina laughs, ‘nope. You owe me.’ 

Noemi blushes, ‘I asked you for a favor one time. One time. How long do I gotta pay you back for?’ She says it grumpily but she pushes her fries closer toward the detective regardless. 

Nina laughs and steals a few more, ‘forever Baccay. Forever.’ 

Neither woman notices the look of jealousy on Reese’s face but Frankie does. ‘So,’ Frankie asks, clearing his throat, ‘how was everyone’s day?’ 

‘Beastly,’ Reese retorts, quirking an eyebrow up at Noemi. 

Noemi laughs sarcastically, ‘good one Grafton.’ She rolls her eyes. Reese giggles, ducking behind her beer bottle. Frankie raises an eyebrow at Nina who shrugs and helps herself to another pair of Noemi’s fries. Frankie frowns. For a federal investigator, Noemi was absolutely clueless. Especially since she was trained by one of the best. Nina had pointed out that Reese was also a federal agent and she hadn’t figured out that Noemi wasn’t interested. Frankie sighs and sips his beer. It was only a matter of time until someone got hurt.

Chapter Text

Maura keeps a careful eye on the small child scooting around the master bedroom while she folds laundry. Mak was ‘chasing’ Boston which was to say that Mak would scoot towards Boston who would leap away, bending down her front paws and wagging her tail in a ‘come get me’ stance prompting bubbling laughter from the little girl. Berry, for her part, would scoot along with Mak and nose her gently whenever it looked like the girl might be off balance. 

‘Ba!’ Mak lets out a happy squeal making grabby hands for Boston, ‘Ba! Ba!’ Boston lets out a loud yip in reply startling the little girl. Her face freezes, confusion and perhaps a flash of fear flying across it as she processes the new sound. Maura is half way towards putting the onesie she was folding down to pick up the little girl when Berry swoops in with a well timed lick to the girls face. Mak’s face splits into a grin and a belly laugh pours out of her. 

‘Here you guys are,’ Jane says from the doorway. She steps easily over the baby gate entering the bedroom. 

‘Hello love,’ Maura says with a fond smile for the lankier woman, ‘how was your day?’ 

‘It was good,’ Jane says with her own affectionate dimpled grin, ‘I missed you girls though.’ Jane picks up a pile of folded laundry and moves towards the dressers, ‘I see you got the laundry party started without me.’ 

Maura lets out a wry chuckle, ‘yes well she was in a good mood after her nap.’ 

‘Is that so Mak-a-doodle?’ Jane asks of the toddler over her shoulder as she puts the laundry away. 

Mak pulls at the bedpost, pulling herself up to a standing position. ‘Ma!’ the little girl squawks looking determinedly at Jane. 

‘Jane!’ Maura says quietly but urgently, her eyes intent on Mak. 

Jane whirls at her name and sees Mak standing. She kneels down opening her arms for the little girl to see, ‘come to Mama Mak-a-doodle. You’ve got this. First steps!’ 

Maura fumbles for her phone as Mak seems to consider the offering. She reaches for Jane and says ‘Ma!’ 

‘Yeah!’ Jane coaxes as Maura begins filming, ‘come to Mama Mak!’ 

Tentatively Mak slides one foot out in front of her, then another. Her chubby hand is still instinctively grasping the bed post and Maura finds herself holding her breath in anticipation. ‘You’ve got it Mak,’ Maura encourages quietly, not wanting to distract or alarm the little girl. 

‘Come on Doodle!’ Jane says excitedly, wiggling her fingers excitedly, ‘just a few steps baby!’ 

Mak lets go of the bedpost, standing independently. For a moment she rocks on her feet, clearly finding her balance. She hesitantly moves her foot again, tottering forward. ‘Yay!’ Maura cheers quietly, ‘that’s it baby!’ Jane’s face breaks into a grin. 

‘Ma!’ Mak says, her eyes fixed on Jane. 

Mak goes to step again but Maura can see her center of gravity is off balance. She pinwheels, falling backwards in a slow motion. Only then she’s not. Berry’s head is firmly in the girls back and her chubby fingers have grabbed a tuft of fur. Mak giggles, her concentration broken by the dogs. She sits down hard and Berry offers kisses in plenty. 

Jane crawls over and saves the little girl from overly adoring pups. She picks Mak up and pulls her up to her face. ‘You did so great, Doodle!’ Jane blows a raspberry into the little girl’s belly. ‘Not bad for your first steps!’ 

Maura stops recording then. She frees herself from the piles of laundry, patting both dogs on the head as they wagged their happy tails. ‘I think we all deserve a treat,’ Maura says offering a hand to Jane, ‘how about a family walk to the park.’ 

Berry chuffs her agreement, russet tail wagging. Boston jumps, whuffles, jumps again and then takes off for the door only to ram into the baby gate. Mak giggles again, her eyes following the silly dog all along. ‘That’s a yes,’ Jane says with a head shake and grin, ‘you okay there Boston?’ The black and white dog shook her head before leaping gracefully over the baby gate, looking every inch like the athletic animal she was bred to be. 

The rest of them took a more leisurely and conventional pace. Maura frees the baby gate from the doorway and goes to pack toddler snacks while Jane wrestles Mak into the stroller. It’s a pleasantly warm evening, the smell of cherry blossoms filling the neighborhood with a sweet summery scent. 

They’ve just reached the end of their driveway when Jane stops Maura, ‘hey.’ 

‘Did you forget something?’ Maura asks, confused at the sudden stop. 

‘No,’ Jane says, offering a small smile that would be considered shy on anyone else’s person, ‘I just… I realised I hadn’t kissed you since I got home.’ Maura feels her cheeks heat and her stomach flutters. Jane leans in, her lips close to Maura’s, she whispers ‘you look beautiful in this light.’ Then their lips meet and Maura gasps, her breath fleeing. Maura smiles into the kiss, content to stay there for forever. Jane seems to agree. Boston, Berry, and Mak do not. It’s Mak’s fussing that gets them moving again. They walk on but every once in a while, Maura catches Jane’s eye and she promises herself she will never, ever forget what home and family looks like. 

They’re just sitting down to dinner when Maura’s phone rings. Maura would typically ignore it but seeing the caller ID, Maura shoots a look at Jane who gestures for Maura to take it. Maura does. On speaker phone. 

‘Nia,’ Maura says with a panicked glance at Mak, ‘how are you?’ Jane’s fingers go white knuckled around her fork. Her lips grow thin and tight. 

‘I’m doing well Doctor Isles,’ Nia’s voice comes through the speaker with disarmingly calm clarity, ‘how are you all? How’s Makayla?’ 

‘We’re doing well,’ Maura offers, ‘you’re on speaker with Jane and I.’ 

‘Hello Nia,’ Jane offers, ‘Mak is doing well.’ 

‘Hello Agent Rizzoli,’ Nia says, ‘I am glad to hear you’re all doing well. I was calling because Grace Scott, Makayla’s mother, is moving into a new phase in her rehabilitation. She’ll be granted visitation rights shortly if she can stay on track.’ 

‘Yes,’ Maura says, her appetite suddenly gone. Given the nauseated look on Jane’s face, she was feeling similarly, ‘is there anything we should know?’ 

Nia sighs, as though she can tell where Maura’s mood was, ‘not at the moment. She’s working hard on her recovery. We’ll begin in a neutral space. Both Miss Scott and you two as foster parents have the right to request your absence at such visits. In that instance, I would take Mak to see her mother and I would supervise her at all times. However, whenever possible we encourage all of the child’s family to be present to support the child in question.’ 

Maura and Jane have an entire conversation in a look. Jane speaks for them, ‘we want to do whatever Mak needs, Nia. So as long as Miss Scott is alright with it, we’d like to be there.’ 

‘As of this moment,’ Nia replies, ‘Miss Scott has not made such a request but it’s possible right up to the last minute.’ Neither Jane nor Maura know what to say to that so they say nothing. ‘I know all the unknowns can be difficult,’ Nia says with a softer tone, ‘but you’re doing great. Really. I promise to be in contact as I know more. Keep up the good work.’ 

Jane and Maura say their goodbyes, their eyes trained instantly on the child squishing cooked carrots in her palm with gleeful pleasure. For a moment neither of them can move, neither of them seem to be breathing. Mak changes that, landing a gob of carrot mush on Boston’s waiting nose, the dog ecstatically, licking her own face. 

‘This is good,’ Jane says quietly, ‘we want her mom to get better.’ She puts a hand over Maura’s own. Maura doesn’t reply. She doesn’t want to. But she also doesn’t point out that Jane doesn’t sound like she believes her own words either. She simply tries to soak in all in. 

Their bedtime routine takes a little longer. It’s a little more somber. Jane and Maura are both disinclined to turn down Mak’s snuggles. They hold her, hug her, kiss her, until the sweet girl is nearly passed out in their arms. And when, at last, they lay her in her crib, Jane takes Maura’s hand and leads her straight to the freezer for a few shared bites of ice cream. 

Maura doesn’t know what tomorrow holds or even the next week. What Maura does know is that Makayla had made her and Jane both mothers. Mak held a part of their hearts. She always would. Maura loved her with her entire being and Maura would take every second she had with Mak.

Chapter Text

Aarna steps out of her apartment building. Goosebumps rise on her arms and legs as she hurries through the shady spots on her street. She had dressed for the gym, workout shorts and a tank top. Her yoga mat is slung across her back, her gym bag hanging from her side. Her hair is braided tightly, coming over her left shoulder. The morning was brisk for June but Aarna knew it would warm up quickly. Indeed, by the time Aarna reached her gym, the first beads of sweat began percolating at her hair line. Her hair begins to itch where it rests on her shoulder. 

Aarna waves to the woman at the front desk and offers a smile before ducking into the locker room. Aarna drops her bag and yoga mat onto the bench and fishes her keys out of the bag's side pocket. She unlocks her locker, shoving in first her mat and then her bag. She undresses quickly, folding her clothes and settling them onto the top shelf. She winds her fingers through her braid, undoing the twisted tresses and shaking them out. Finally, she removes the small gold hoop that clipped onto her left nostril, dropping it into the plastic bag. She places that baggie on top of her clothing and pulls out a pair of plain black flip flops for the shower. Aarna closes her locker, double checking the lock and heads for the showers. 

Aarna loves her gym shower. For one thing it meant as much hot water as she could stand. Even if it meant wearing flip flops doing it. Aarna lets the water flow over her, rinsing away every bit of Aarna the yogi and retail store assistant. Aarna listens as women come and go, talking workouts and calories, families and businesses. Aarna listens as they change, shower, dress and when Aarna is certain no one who has seen her enter the shower, Aarna steps out. She goes to the opposite end of the locker room and opens a completely different locker. 

Aarna drops the key to the first locker on the shelf, shoving it towards the back. Then she finishes drying off. She dresses quickly in simple black pants and a blue blouse. Aarna uses the mirror on the locker door to apply a few quick touches of makeup. She adds a pop of red to her lips and cheeks, adds mascara and eyeliner for good measure. Aarna brushes out and blow dries her hair. She grabs the simple but well made black briefcase, closes her locker and slips it’s key into the case. With one last look in the mirror, Aarna confirms her own transformation from yogi to young professional. When Aarna is pleased with herself, she slips on her sunglasses. 

It isn’t a perfect disguise. It was overwhelmingly dependent on people not paying attention. Not really looking at the brown woman in their midst. Of course, in this instance, being Indian did Aarna a favor. White people often struggled to tell brown people apart under the least confusing circumstances. Still, a voice sounding remarkably like Jane Rizzoli’s urges Aarna to be cautious and in Aarna’s experience when Jane Rizzoli told you something it was a very good idea to listen. So Aarna does. She takes the back exit. Her eyes scanning the world around her for oddities behind those black lenses. She takes a breath and then walks with purpose, wrapping herself with an air of arrogance and the hectic energy of a busy professional. It seems to work. People step aside for her, moving unconsciously away from Aarna as she walks towards them. 

Aarna boards the subway, her eyes warily tracing the comings and goings of the other passengers. Aarna slips off at the next transit hub, transferring lines. She rides the next train several more stations and then transfers again. She does this again and again, taking the most circuitous route she can until she ends up in the middle of Queens. She steps into the dingy light of a mediocre cafe. She settles herself in a booth far from any windows and orders herself a plain black coffee and then she waits. 

Paul Handler is the quintessential image of a middle aged white guy. There is absolutely nothing distinguishing about the man. His head is covered in an oddly cropped dingy hair, so light in color, that Aarna can never decide if his hair is more brown or blonde. Handler never does anything with it either, letting it grow in every direction so on the whole he wore a look of constant disarray. His eyes were a dull blue behind plain wire framed glasses, completely unremarkable on the whole. His nose is angular and, beyond an abundance of nose hairs that Handler never thinks to trim, utterly average. On his top lip sits a fuzzy and thin growth of hair that Aarna supposed passes as a mustache in white culture. It wasn’t the thick, shapeable hair that some of her family sported. It wasn’t well groomed or oiled for softness. It was left to grow unchecked, stiff and itchy. Aarna often had to avoid looking at Handler head on lest she find crumbs of the man's last meal in it. He wore wrinkled button ups, only half tucked in, and pants too short for his frame revealing scuffed shoes and mismatched socks. Aarna liked him. She thought his personal style choices might make him a good candidate for Queer Eye but she liked him. He had a kind of gruff steadying presence. So when he sits down across from Aarna in that back corner booth, she offers him a genuine smile. It was good to see her partner. 

‘Dhar,’ the man says in a light tenor as he snaps open a menu, ‘I trust you had no issues getting here.’ He means I trust you weren’t followed

Aarna pops her chin onto her palm, ‘nope.’ She enunciates the pop of her p in nope, knowing it would irritate the man who often ranted about millennials. Handler, for his part, rolls his eyes and makes only a grunt of acknowledgement, knowing he’s being goaded. 

They order, sipping on terrible black coffee, waiting for the waitress to bring their food. To the woman’s credit, she barely blinks an eye at the odd pair. It wasn’t unusual for people to give the two of them odd looks, Handler being a middle aged white man and Aarna being a young Indian woman. Aarna could only imagine the things people assumed about them. When they are certain the waitress will be a while, they get to business. Not that there’s much to go on. 

‘I don’t think it’s a front,’ Handler argues for not the first time, ‘the books are clean and you’ve been surveilling for months. You haven’t seen a thing.’ 

‘Their books are a little too clean,’ Aarna counters, ‘like they knew someone would be sniffing around. And even if it’s not the front it’s still the only place our victims overlapped.’ 

Handler scoffs, dumping creamer into his coffee, ‘there’s nothing there Dhar. It’s time to scrap it and find a new angle. We aren’t getting anywhere.’ 

Aarna sighs, ‘what angle? We worked it for months before I went undercover. This is our best lead. We know they’re down several girls. Maybe they’re being cautious right now but we know they’ll have to replace those girls soon.’ 

‘Or maybe,’ Handler counters sipping his coffee, the liquid shining in his mustache hairs, ‘they’ve moved to a different playground and we’ve already missed our chance.’ 

Second Chances is too tempting a target,’ Aarna says shaking her head, ‘vulnerable, money strapped young women new to the country and in desperate need of money? The women who walk through those doors are a traffickers dream.’ 

‘We can’t sit on a boutique just because you’re soft on the mission,’ Handler says, annoyance flickering in his eyes. He removes his glasses, pinching the bridge of his nose. He lets out a heavy sigh before looking at her, without his glasses, ‘I get wanting to protect them. I do. But we’re FBI agents. We’re trying to protect a lot more than one boutique.’ 

‘I know bu-’ Aarna begins before Handler interrupts her. 

‘Look you’re a rookie. You’re all raw optimism. It’s nice, refreshing really,’ Paul offers a small smile that is borderline patronizing, ‘but it’s not reality. Sometimes operations don’t work out. Sometimes you don’t get the bad guy. Sometimes there just isn’t enough there. We log our notes and we move on and we hope that maybe, someday, some where, they’ll slip up and we’ll get them. Sometimes there is no justice.’ 

Aarna frowns, he’s right of course. She knows that but she also can’t just give up. What kind of agent would she be if she did?What would Jane say if she did? What would Noemi say? ‘I just need a little more time,’ Aarna counters, ‘give me until the end of the summer. They just promoted me. They’re starting to trust me.’ 

Handler sighs, he replaces his glasses, ‘fine.’ He looks angry but it fades in a flash, ‘I’ll argue to the brass that you’re making progress but they won’t fund this dead end forever Dhar. Eventually, we have to move on.’ 

‘Thanks,’ Aarna says offering her own smile, ‘for having my back.’ 

‘Of course kid,’ Handler says before clearing his throat, ‘that’s what partners are for. Just…’ Handler pauses considering his words, ‘be careful. There’s an awful semblance between you and the two latest victims. If they are using the boutique, I don’t want to have to come riding in to save you at the last minute just because you’re a wet behind the ears rookie who didn’t know when to pull out.’ He holds Aarna’s eyes for a minute, conveying a seriousness to his teasing. 

Aarna nods once, acknowledging the truth behind the teasing before flipping her hair over her shoulder, ‘I’m always careful.’ 

After, Aarna leaves. She boards a subway station several blocks from where she’d gotten off. She rides a completely different circuit, careful to switch often. She enters the gym from the front door. Unlike yogi Aarna, she does not greet the front desk staff. She keeps her sunglasses on, breezing past the desk with an air of indifference. She ferrets out her locker key, undressing and storing her clothing. She climbs into the shower for the second time that day, her mind focused on catching her prey.

Chapter Text

Nina claps her hands as Snickers walks out in a beautiful summery dress and twirls like some kind of model. Angela, to Nina’s right, let’s out a soft ‘oh my!’ Snickers cheeks flare pink and she offers a small smile as she tucks an errant strand of hair behind her ear. 

‘You look beautiful,’ Nina says standing and offers a warm smile. The girls had surprised Nina earlier that week by agreeing to attend her wedding. Nina had been thrilled. Then Snickers had asked Nina to take them to the thrift store for dresses. Nina had happily agreed to do so. Angela had caught wind and insisted on coming too. Which was how the four of them had ended up packed into a small fitting room. 

‘Thank you,’ Snickers says with a grin. ‘I think this is it. What do you think five-oh? Wedding approved?’ 

Nina beams, ‘it’s perfect!’ Tentatively, slowly, so the girl could move away if she wished, Nina places a warm hand on Snickers shoulder. To Nina’s delight, the girl permits it, offering another smile. 

‘Will you take it home with you?’ Snickers asks, ‘I don’t have anywhere to keep it clean.’ 

‘Sure,’ Nina says reassuringly. ‘You both can keep your outfits at our place, I’ll pick you up before the wedding so you both have time to get ready.’ 

‘Thanks Five-oh,’ Snickers says before retreating to the dressing home. 

‘She looked beautiful,’ Angela whispers just loud enough to be heard through the whole fitting room.

‘She did,’ Nina agrees. 

‘You don’t have to be the one to pick them up,’ Angela offers, ‘I could do that Nina.’ 

‘No,’ Nina says with a slight head shake, ‘I appreciate it Angela but I want to do it.’ 

‘Alright,’ Angela says, shifting in her chair, ‘but I’m happy to help if you need it.’ 

Snickers exits again, dressed in her street clothes, her dress tucked over her arm. She frowns as she looks around, ‘Kit Kat still not out yet?’ Nina shook her head in response. Snickers turns to the dressing room beside hers and knocks lightly, ‘you okay in there Kit Kat?’ 

Silence greets her and Nina’s heart begins to race. She stands, ‘Kit Kat?’ Nina approaches Snickers side, ‘are you alright?’ 

The door peeps open and bright watery blue eyes in a pale set face stare out at them, ‘I can’t.’ 

Nina and Snickers exchange a frown. Snickers asks, ‘can’t what?’ 

‘I can’t wear this,’ Kit Kat whispers miserably. 

‘Well,’ Nina says diplomatically, ‘we can always find you something else. You don’t have to wear something you’re not comfortable with.’ 

‘You loved that dress,’ Snickers responds, ‘does it not fit or something.’ 

‘No,’ Kit Kat replies, ‘it fits. I just…’ Kit Kat lowers her voice. ‘I’ve never worn a dress before.’ 

‘Is that all?’ Snickers asks, amusement in her voice but kindness in her eyes, ‘well get out here and let me see it.’ 

‘No!’ Kit Kat  exclaims, terror in her eyes. 

‘Could I possibly come in?’ Nina asks gently, interrupting the budding fight.

Kit Kat hesitates, considering then nods, ‘just you.’ Snickers rolls her eyes and stomps back to sit with Angela. Nina slips through the crack in the door and gives the girl a quick smile. She looked beautiful in the blue dress but she shuffled her feet uncomfortably. 

‘Do you like the dress?’ Nina asks gently, ‘sometimes clothing on the hanger just sits differently on our bodies.’ 

‘Yeah,’ Kit Kat mumbles. 

‘Good,’ Nina says, ‘are you comfortable in it?’ Kit Kat shrugs. Nina gives the girl a once over and thinks. For as long as Nina had known Kit Kat, the girl had dressed in baggy clothes. It was rare for Nina to even see the girl's hands unless they were busy drawing. ‘Kit Kat,’ Nina begins softly, ‘are you maybe feeling exposed?’ 

‘Exposed?’ Kit Kat asks, frowning. 

‘You typically are far more covered,’ Nina offers gently, ‘perhaps you feel uncomfortable with how much skin you’re showing.’ 

‘It’s not my skin,’ Kit Kat blurts, ‘it’s my shoulders.’ 

‘Your shoulders?’ Nina asks, confused. She had hardly noticed the girl’s shoulders. She had noticed the young girl's self harm scars on her forearms and had to resist wanting to cry over them.

‘They’re too big,’ Kit Kat says, ‘they’re giant.’

Nina frowns, ‘your shoulders aren’t giant. They’re perfectly normal sized.’ Kit Kat looks like she’s ready to cry or argue but Nina cuts her off, ‘but if you don’t want to show them, we could find you a sweater to go with the dress.’ 

‘Do people wear sweaters with dresses?’ Kit Kat asks, her eyes wide. 

‘All the time,’ Nina says with a smile. ‘They wear leggings too,’ Nina offers casually, ‘when they get cold or if they don’t feel comfortable without pants.’ 

‘Could I try that?’ Kit Kat asks, looking at herself in the mirror. 

‘Sure, sweetie,’ Nina says with a smile, ‘let me see what I can find.’ 

In the end, Nina manages to find both navy leggings and a navy cardigan and Kit Kat agrees to wear the dress. They visit another thrift store for shoes and even Angela walks away with a few items. After Nina takes them all out for lunch where Angela has both young women in fits of laughter over some of Frankie, and by extension Jane’s, teenage antics. 

Nina drops the girl at the park that afternoon and waves goodbye. Angela, who was sitting in the seat beside Nina lets out a sad sigh, ‘I wish those girls weren’t on the street.’ 

‘Me too,’ Nina says quietly, watching their disappearing silhouettes. 

‘Hey!’ Angela says excitedly, ‘maybe you and Frankie should take them in! I’ve always wanted more grandbabies!’ 

Nina stares at Angela a moment, excitement written all over her face, then she laughs. ‘Oh Angela. I would in a heartbeat but what am I supposed to do? Just ask them to move in?’ 

‘Yes!’ Angela says, ‘why not? They need a home. You and Frankie would be wonderful parents.’ 

Nina laughs again, ‘you’re grandbaby crazy Angela.’ 

‘Well,’ Angela says slightly defensively, ‘maybe I am but you love those girls. I don’t see why you can’t at least ask.’ 

Nina shakes her head, dismissing the idea. She needed to find them a shelter. A program. Something more reasonable. Something they’d agree to. Somewhere they’d be safe. She’d talk to Rondo. Again. 

The thought, however, doesn’t leave Nina completely. It follows her through dinner, the empty chairs at their dinner table filled with the girls smiling faces. It follows her through the apartment as she shuts off the lights in the guest bathroom and down the silence of the hall. It follows her into bed as she settles in next to Frankie who was reading a comic book. 

‘Hey Frankie?’ Nina asks softly, the semi darkness giving her bravery. 

‘Yeah?’ Frankie asks, clearly distracted. 

‘Do you want to have kids with me?’ Nina asks, heart hammering in the walls of her chest. 

That gets Frankie’s attention. He sets his comic down and rolls to look at Nina. His brown eyes are warm and full of affection. He tucks one hand under his head, fingers sticking his dark hair out in odd angles. Nina can’t help reaching out to brush her fingers through his hair to straighten it, affection overwhelming her. ‘What’s this about Nina?’ Frankie asks gently. 

Nina sighs, ‘I’ll answer but I want your unbiased answer first please.’ 

‘Do I want kids with you?’ Frankie asks, considering the thought. ‘I always wanted to be a dad,’ Frankie admits, ‘you know, I thought I’d be great for teaching them to catch or how to fix their sinks or their cars.’ Frankie frowns, ‘then my dad left my mom and things got…’ Frankie hesitates, his voice cracking, ‘complicated. And I guess I figured I’d be like my dad, you know. And suddenly, I didn’t want to be like my dad. But I don’t know any other way to parent either.’ Frankie takes a stuttering breath, ‘you’d be an amazing mother Nina. You’re smart and kind and thoughtful and our kids would love you. I know that in my heart. But I guess it’s harder to feel that confident about myself.’ 

‘Frankie,’ Nina begins, voice full of raw emotion and affection. But Frankie stops her, raising a hand to cut her off. 

‘Yes, Nina Holiday. I very much want to have children with you,’ Frankie continues. ‘And I promise to be a co-parent worthy of you, okay? I’ll read all the books and I’ll better myself and I’ll do whatever our kids need to be the kind of dad they look up to. The kind they want to be when they grow up.’ 

Nina can’t think of a better response than to kiss this man she loves. She presses her lips lovingly to his. ‘Thank you,’ she whispers. 

Frankie grins, his dimples on full display. ‘So,’ Frankie asks, ‘what brought this on? Was it my Ma? Did she ask about grandbabies?’ 

Nina laughs, ‘she did. But she was more suggesting we take in the girls.’ 

‘Huh,’ Frankie says, his eyes glazing over as he considers it.

‘What?’ Nina asks, trying to get a read on his face. 

‘Nothing,’ Frankie says, shaking his head, ‘I just hadn’t considered that. Think they’d go for it?’ 

‘I don’t know,’ Nina admits quietly, ‘would you? Go for it, I mean?’ 

Frankie grins, ‘sure. Why not? I mean, it could be complicated, with them being runaways but surely we’re better than the streets.’ 

‘Are they runaways?’ Nina asks, ‘I genuinely don’t know.’ 

Frankie shrugs, ‘they had to have run from someone Nina. Parents, the state. Someone.’ 

‘I suppose,’ Nina says behind a yawn, ‘perhaps we should find out more about them.’ 

Frankie smiles and presses a kiss to Nina’s forehead, ‘I’m sure you will.’ His confidence radiates through her, warming her to her toes and nestling her gently off to sleep. 

Frankie watches his fiance slip quietly off to sleep, a silly smile on his face. He didn’t have words to describe how much he loved this big hearted woman all Frankie knew was that whatever their future held, he was glad it was Nina at his side.

Chapter Text

Noemi stares at the invitation in the mail. Not that she was surprised by it. In fact, she’d been expecting it. It was just different seeing it in person. Not that it wasn’t a lovely invitation. It was soft and elegant with a stylish script that somehow perfectly encapsulated Nina. It was the tiny little ‘plus one’ bit that made Noemi’s heart stop. Such a tiny nondescript little thing. A pre-existing formatting choice. But it made Noemi’s heart hurt. She missed Aarna. She always missed Aarna. Not that Aarna needed an invitation to Frankie and Nina’s wedding. She probably got her own. She probably had her own plus one and because Aarna was Aarna, beloved by all, she probably could find a plus one easily. Noemi sighs and hurriedly slashes the vegetarian box option before stuffing the invite back into its envelope and tossing it unceremoniously onto a pile of already returned invitations waiting for Angela’s attention. It wasn’t that Noemi wasn’t happy for Aarna. Or that she didn’t want Aarna to be happy. It was just that seeing Aarna with someone else might actually kill Noemi. Not that Noemi would call what she’d been doing in Boston living. She went to work, she came home, and every once in a while, Jane’s family or Noemi’s coworkers dragged her out for a night cap. Noemi hadn’t laughed, truly laughed since… and she hadn’t been happy since…. 

Noemi lets out a disgruntled groan and decides she’s had enough feeling sorry for herself. What Noemi needed was a distraction and Reese had told her that if she ever needed a distraction she knew just the spot. Noemi pulled up Reese’s contact info and fired off a quick text before she could think better of it. Reese’s reply came quickly but not fast enough to keep Noemi from glancing at her invitation again. 

Noemi shifts her attention back to  Reese’s text, ‘Operation Blow Off Steam is a-go.’ It was followed with a long string of emoticons and then a link to a club. Noemi squeezes her eyes shut, willing away thoughts of Aarna and heads back to her room to get ready. Not that Noemi knew what to wear that was more in the wheel house of…. Noemi groans. It was going to be a long night. 

Reese is already waiting for Noemi outside, waving gleefully as Noemi walks up. ‘Aright! Are you ready?’ Reese says in a cheerful shout to be heard over the din of noise inside. 

‘Yep!’ Noemi says, forcing herself to smile at her one not-Jane related friend in Boston, ‘let’s do this!’ 

‘First rounds on me!’ Reese says grabbing Noemi’s hands and interlocking their fingers, tugging Noemi forward into the club. The music washes over Noemi, a thudding percussion so overwhelming it coursed through her body, pulsing through her toes all the way up to her sensitive eardrums. The beat pulses too, it’s a simple minor scale but it repeats creating a pattern that becomes all encompassing even as the sweaty heat of bodies presses in on Noemi and the smell of perspiring humans tickles Noemi’s nose. Overwhelming, Noemi would call it but it does succeed at driving out any of Noemi’s own thoughts so when Reese guides her to a dance floor Noemi accepts it. She lets her body awkwardly sway in place while Reese moves around her. Noemi closes her eyes and loses herself to the pulsing music. 

 


 

Noemi’s phone rings incessantly, waking Noemi in the early morning. She fumbles, cursing, through the dark, hand searching. The unknown number glares brightly off her phone. Too brightly.  ‘Baccay?’ Noemi says when she answers. 

‘Hello, is this Noemi Baccay?’ A woman’s voice asks on the other side of the phone. 

‘This is she,’ Noemi says sitting up, rubbing at her tired eyes, ‘who is this?’ 

‘My name is Doctor Medina at Inova Fairfax Hospital,’ the woman says slowly, carefully, making sure Noemi understood every word, ‘I am calling because your grandmother Amihan Reyes was brought in to us suffering chest pains.’ 

‘What?’ Noemi asks, not understanding. No. Not processing. Her ears still hearing the music of the night before.  

‘I said my name is Doctor Medina at inova Fairfax Hospital. We are treating your grandmother for a heart attack,’ the woman on the phone repeats herself. She speaks louder this time and a touch slower. It’s enough for understanding to crash over Noemi like a cold wave. 

Noemi flings herself from bed, tossing her covers, and fumbling for the closest bits of clothes she can find while keeping the phone to her ear, ‘is my grandma okay?’ Noemi asks hopping in place as she tugs on mismatched socks. 

‘Your grandmother suffered a myocardial infarction, that is a heart attack. We were able to stabilise her and will be taking her in for surgery to clear the blocked artery shortly. The prognosis is very good but there is always a risk with surgery.’ 

‘I understand,’ Noemi said, having stuffed herself into some semblance of acceptable attire. She grabs her keys, wallet  and backpack with her laptop, ‘you said Inova Fairfax Hospital?’ 

‘That’s correct,’ the Doctor replies, ‘will you be joining us?’ 

‘Yes,’ Noemi says without hesitation, ‘I’m currently in Boston but I’m on my way.’ 

‘I’m glad to hear that,’ the Doctor replies, ‘your grandmother did not want to bother you but it is procedure to notify a next of kin.’ 

‘No,’ Noemi says, ‘thank you so much. I want to be there.’ 

‘Good, I expect we’ll be seeing you shortly,’ the doctor says, ‘safe travels.’ 

‘Thank you, please don’t hesitate to call if…’ Noemi trails off. She can’t bring herself to finish that sentence. 

‘We will,’ the doctor says hurriedly, ‘your grandmother is in good hands.’ There’s a deafening click as the line goes dead, a click that feels like it drops into an abyss in Noemi’s stomach.

‘Who was that?’ a groggy voice behind Noemi asks. 

Noemi whirls to see a partially undressed Reese in her bed. ‘A hospital in D.C. My grandma had a heart attack. I have to go.’ Noemi doesn’t wait for Reese’s response. She hurries from her room, stopping long enough to scribble Angela a note, explaining what had happened and where she was going. In the car,  Noemi calls her supervisor, leaving a voicemail to explain why she wouldn’t be in to work this week. Noemi manages to escape the city before it truly wakes, avoiding the worst of the traffic. She hits the city limits faster than she expects. 

It’s a sign that breaks her. A stupid nondescript sign saying ‘Washington D.C. 389 miles.’ 

Her Lola. Her Lola had a heart attack. Noemi swallows a sob. She’d almost lost her Lola. Then Noemi would be alone. Tears start pouring, Noemi does her best to stem the flow, tries to keep her vision clear. She sniffs and swipes at her nose with the back of her hand. Then Noemi does the only thing she can think of. She fumbles with her phone and finds the contact she’s looking for. 

‘Hello, you’ve reached Aarna Dhar! Leave a message after the beep!’ 

‘Na! It’s me… I know we haven’t talked since but…’ Noemi says in a whimper, her heart taking comfort from just hearing Aarna’s voice, ‘I got a call from Inova Fairfax Hospital last night. It’s my Lola. She had a heart attack. I… I’m on my way to DC but… I couldn’t… I needed… I don’t know. I just… my Lola had a heart attack. And I… just I don’t know. She’s the only family I have and I guess I didn’t know who else to call.’ 

Realisation dawns on Noemi in that moment, ‘oh God. I should have called Maura. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry Aarna. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m so sorry. Forget about it. Okay? I’m sorry I called.’ Noemi hangs up, more tears pouring from her eyes. What was she doing? What was Aarna going to do for her Lola? She was in New York and they weren’t together anymore. Noemi had no right to call her anymore. Besides, Maura could actually do something. Maura was in DC. Maura was a doctor. 

Noemi finds Maura’s contact and hits the call button. The phone rings for what feels like forever and then a sleep filled voice answers, ‘Doctor Isles?’ 

‘Maura! Hi!’ Noemi says, ‘I’m so sorry to call so early.’ 

‘Noemi?’ Maura asks for clarification, ‘is everything alright?’ 

‘She okay?’ Noemi hears Jane’s voice in the background sounding groggy and gruff. 

‘My Lola had a heart attack Maura,’ Noemi replies her words tumbling quickly over her clumsy panicked tongue, ‘I got a call… a Doctor Medina at Inova. My Lola suffered a myocardial, a myocardial… infarction. A heart attack? And they called me because I’m her next of kin and she needs surgery on her arteries.’ 

‘Oh Noemi I’m so sorry,’ Maura says, her voice sounding more awake, ‘what can I do?’ 

‘Could you…’ Noemi hesitates, did she have any right to ask this? Noemi felt affection for Maura and she loved Jane but to just call and interrupt their lives. To ask Maura to go to the hospital? She must have hesitated too long because the warm voice of Doctor Isles interrupts her thought. 

‘I’ll be there within the hour,’ Maura says, clarifying, ‘I meant, what do you need? A plane ticket? A car? How can we help?’’ 

‘I’m already on my way, driving. I didn’t know what would be faster but I’ll probably be in DC for a while. The doctor said she would need someone to help with her recovery.’ Noemi admits, ‘and Maura?’ 

‘Yes, dear?’ Maura asks and Noemi can already hear the soft rustling of movement in the background. 

‘Thank you,’ Noemi says softly, ‘I really appreciate it. I can’t thank you enough.’ Noemi takes a deep breath, a weight lifting off her chest. Afterall, who would take better care of her Lola than Maura? What could possibly go wrong with the great Doctor Isles there?

‘Of course,’ Maura says clearly, ‘you’re both family. I’ll call when I’ve found out more. Drive safely Noemi.’ 

‘I will,’ Noemi answers back, easing her foot off the gas as she speaks. She couldn’t afford an accident now. Noemi does her best to focus on driving. True to her word, Maura calls her and gives Noemi a full and overall very positive report on her Lola’s health, promising she’d be on hand as they took the older woman into surgery. Maura promises to stay until Noemi gets there and for the moment, it’s enough. Her Lola was going to be okay and she wasn’t alone anymore. She wasn’t alone. 

Noemi throws her phone in the passenger seat, oblivious to its low charge. She doesn’t see the blinking battery icon flashing red or the missed text messages from Reese. Nor does she see when Aarna’s contact picture flashes across the screen calling her back before the screen finally fades to a pitch black.

Chapter Text

Jane groaned when Maura’s ring tone blares through their room. ‘Maur-’ Jane’s sleep filled voice grouses, ‘make it go away.’ 

Maura fumbles in the dark for her phone, internally ticking through who could possibly be calling so early in the morning on a weekend. Maura could only think of a few likely scenarios and none of them bode well for their family plans that afternoon. Maura clears her throat trying to rid it of the last vestiges of sleep  as she accepts the call, ‘Doctor Isles.’ 

‘Maura! Hi!’ A breathy Noemi answers. If the early phone call wasn’t a dead giveaway, Noemi’s voice would be. Noemi was not a breathy person. ‘I’m so sorry to call so early.’ 

‘Noemi, is everything alright?,’ Maura says more for Jane’s benefit than her own, letting her nosey partner know what was going on. The name prompts Jane to drag the blankets down from over her head with only the barest hint of a glare left over. 

‘She okay?’ Jane grunts out concern etched in the line of her eyebrows. 

Maura shakes her head lightly as Noemi explains her grandmother was at the hospital having suffered a heart attack. Jane’s frown deepens as Noemi talks on. The woman was typically direct bordering on curt. 

‘Could you…’ Noemi finally trails off. Maura fills in the rest for the woman. She wanted someone to be with her grandmother and they were the natural people to ask. She’d called Maura because Maura was a doctor but her grandmother had doctors. What Noemi needed was support. Only, Noemi was a little too like Jane and a little too disinclined to ask for that help. The fact that Noemi had gotten shot for Maura and her family wasn’t even a consideration. 

‘I’ll be there within the hour,’ Maura says, deciding to pull the girl out of her spiral before she gets too far along. Jane’s moving then, rising from bed and heading to the bathroom to start the shower. Maura’s grateful, beyond grateful that Jane can anticipate Maura’s decision. They’d sort out Mak, Noemi and Noemi’s Lola and they’d do it together.

Maura confirms the final details from Noemi, urges the woman to drive safely and then hangs up. Maura uses her short routine that morning, skipping all but the essentials as she gets ready. Jane had showered and gotten Mak breakfast by the time Maura trotted down the stairs. She passes Maura a cup of coffee and a bagel made just the way Maura likes it. 

‘Thank you,’ Maura says, taking her first sip and letting the liquid finish chasing off her weariness. Maura presses a kiss to Mak’s curly hair and adds, ‘I don’t know how long I’ll be. Lola is headed into surgery and I don’t want Noemi to be all alone when she arrives.’ 

‘Don’t worry Maur,’ Jane says, flashing Maura a genuine smile despite the fact that it was still in the ‘too early to be awake, much less polite’ zone. ‘The girls and I can hold down the fort here,’ Jane continues, ‘you just worry about taking care of Noemi and her Lola.’ 

Maura nods before crossing the space between them to press a kiss to Jane’s lips. ‘I love you,’ Maura says softly, ‘I’ll call as soon as I know something.’ 

‘Love you too Maur,’ Jane says with another smile before she returns to her coffee. Maura could only expect her to be parted from her coffee for so long. 

When Maura arrives it takes a little arranging to find out anything about Lola’s condition but a few promised favors and one small white lie about being Lola’s personal physician later and Maura knows enough to offer a report to Noemi and then Jane. Lola was in good hands and with a good prognosis. All that Maura really had to do now was weather the boredom until Noemi arrived. 

That is, at least, until Aarna walks through the doors, her face pale and grim.



 

Noemi’s ringtone woke Aarna from her sleep, her smiling face covering Aarna’s screen. Aarna stared at her phone with some mixture of longing and confusion, not sure if it was really happening or some sweet dream. Then her phone went silent and Aarna groaned. 

‘Leave a message,’ Aarna whispers quietly, ‘leave a message Noie. Please. Leave me a message.’ The minutes between the call and the voicemail alert are torturous. But her phone dings at long last. 

Aarna listens almost immediately, her eyes squeezed shut and she drinks in the first contact she’s had with Noemi since February. Her heart throbs when she hears Noemi use her nickname. Then it plummets when she hears about Noemi’s Lola. Aarna listens again. Noemi doesn’t say what happened. She doesn’t say whether her Lola was alright. Aarna listens a third time to be sure. It takes Aarna some time to summon her courage to call Noemi back. 

Noemi’s phone rings twice before going  to voicemail, ‘Hello, you’ve reached Agent Noemi Baccay, technology analyst with the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Please leave me a detailed message and I will call you back at the earliest opportunity.’ 

‘Noie,’ Aarna says, ‘I got your message. You never have to apologise for calling. I… it wasn’t clear. Is your Lola okay? Are you? I…’ Aarna hesitates, ‘I wish I could talk to you.’ Aarna hesitates again before deciding for herself, ‘I guess, call me back if you get the chance. Otherwise, I’ll see you at the hospital. Okay?’ 

Aarna hangs up and stares at the phone in her hand. What had she just done? Telling Noie she would meet her at the hospital? What right did Aarna have to try and be there for Noemi? And yet… Noemi had called her. Noemi had reached out to her. Maybe they weren’t lovers anymore but that didn’t mean they couldn’t still be friends. And friends were there for each other when they needed it. Aarna moves quickly then, calling into work, packing an overnight bag. On impulse, she grabs an extra change of clothes for Noemi. Just in case she had run out the door without thinking twice about what she would need. Aarna packs Noemi’s favourite pair of sweats of Aarna’s and her second favourite hoodie. Noemi had taken her first favourite in February. Then Aarna is on her way, headed for DC. 

Aarna parks at the hospital, slings her duffle over her shoulder and heads in, looking for the family waiting room. Maura Isles looks up when Aarna walks in, a slow smile spreading across her face. Aarna crosses the space and asks in a hushed tone, ‘how is Lola?’ 

‘She’s doing well. In surgery at the moment but her prognosis is good,’ Maura says patting the seat next to her. 

‘Good,’ Aarna says, dropping her duffle and sitting next to the older woman, ‘Noemi didn’t say and I thought… I mean… I didn’t want her to be alone if…’ 

Maura shakes her head, amusement written all over her face, ‘you and Jane are remarkably similar.’ 

Aarna blushes, unsure what the doctor meant by that, ‘um… thanks?’ 

‘Are you sure I meant it as a compliment?’ Maura teases before opening her medical journal back to the page she had been reading. 

Aarna shifts, feeling uncomfortably for a minute before curiosity got the better of her, ‘did you?’ 

Maura purses her lips, her gaze piercing as she looks at Aarna. She takes a long moment before she answers, ‘mostly. Yes.’ 

‘But?’ Aarna prompts. 

Maura considers her a minute longer, ‘no conjunctions. You both love deeply and are unflinchingly loyal. You show up for those who need you even at great cost to your own wellbeing. You are also both prone to self flagellation in matters of the heart.’ 

Aarna frowns. She’s pretty sure she’s never had any desire to play with whips, much less whipping herself. ‘Not to kink shame Jane,’ Aarna says carefully, ‘but I’m not really into BDSM.’ 

Maura laughs, ‘I meant you both work against yourselves when it comes to love. Tell me why did you break up with Noemi, Aarna?’ 

‘The distance,’ Aarna supplies immediately. 

‘And yet when she needed you, you drove nearly an hour longer, just to be there for her,’ Maura points out patiently. Aarna blushes but Maura continues, ‘and if I’m not mistaken, you have every intention of staying as long as she needs you.’ Aarna blushes harder but nods. Maura sighs dramatically, ‘oh you romantic types. You are in love with her, she is in love with you, and you could have her if you wanted to but, of course, you will not let yourself.’ Maura shakes her head, ‘does it not hurt so much more to be apart?’ 

Aarna glares at her hands in her lap. She’d thought when they broke up in February that she would move on, eventually, that the pain would fade but it hadn’t. It had grown worse and worse and worse. And Aarna would be lying if she didn’t admit she was wondering if she had done the right thing after all. ‘I…’ Aarna clears her throat, ‘she couldn’t still love me after what I did Maura. I wouldn’t deserve her even  if she did.’ 

Maura looks at her again, her eyes softening slightly as she took in the features on Aarna’s face. She clicks her tongue, ‘my official diagnosis, Aarna Dhar, is that you are heart sick and the only cure for that is to talk to her about it.’ Aarna knows Maura is right but Aarna is not certain that she deserves to be anything other than heart sick. Not that she mentions this to Maura, the woman would probably say something extremely kind and unflinchingly honest. Maura lets out another sigh. ‘Well,’ Maura says at last, ‘my money’s on the two of you figuring it out.’ Then Maura changes the page of her journal as though she were changing the topic of conversation as well. 

Noemi arrives in the next few hours. Maura stands to greet her and explains everything immediately. Aarna stays where she is, watching Noemi from her seat. Aarna knows Noemi must be miserable, knows she must have spent the last eight hours panicking and stressed out. Aarna knows Noemi has definitely looked better but she still manages to steal Aarna’s breath away. Her hair is shorter, cut in an angular bob that framed her face beautifully. There’s an intensity and seriousness that Aarna had always been drawn to, tempered by kindness and a devotion to her Lola. 

Noemi is led away by one of the nurses but not before glancing back over her shoulder, her eyes falling on Aarna. There’s a question in her eyes that Aarna can’t quite read. Aarna raises a hand in a half hearted wave and offers a reassuring smile. She’d be there when Noemi got back, she’d be there for as long as Noemi needed her. Noemi might have given Aarna the ring, but she wasn’t the only one to make a promise of forever love.

Chapter Text

‘This is Handler’ Paul Handler says as he answers his phone, his eyes glued to sports center. 

‘Handler,’ Dhar’s voice rings through the speaker, ‘hey, I know I said I’d only need the day but I’m going to need to take the week off. I have an emergency.’ 

Paul sighs in annoyance, ‘Dhar you’re the one who wanted to continue surveillance. How am I supposed to convince the brass to keep funding the operation when you aren’t even there to surveil it?’ 

‘I’m sorry,’ Dhar says, sounding more defiant than apologetic. That was Dhar’s M.O. afterall. She was plucky and sometimes down right insubordinate but Handler had to admit she was good at her job. Ridiculously so. Most rookie agents blew their first cover in a matter of days. Dhar was months deep. ‘I wouldn’t call in if it wasn’t a true emergency,’ Dhar continues, ‘you know that Handler. Just buy me a couple of days.’ 

Handler grunts, ‘okay let’s say I do manage that. What about your position at Second Chances. You’re a retail worker. If you don’t show up for your shifts they’ll fire and then what do we even have to surveil?’ 

‘I’ll…’ Dhar says hesitating, ‘I’ll swap some shifts or something. Maybe someone has seen something on a different shift or something.’ She sounded very much like someone reaching. 

‘Dhar,’ Handler says more roughly than he means to, ‘you might find someone to cover a shift or two, no one is gonna cover you for a week. If you really need the week off, that’s fine. The bureau isn’t gonna dock you for it but maybe it’s time to pull the plug. It’s not like we’ve really found anything.’ 

‘No!’ Dhar says, ‘just buy me some time okay, Paul? I’ll figure out the shift stuff. Just-’ A woman’s voice in the background interrupts Dhar. ‘I’ve gotta go,’ Dhar says quickly, ‘two days. Just give me two days.’ Then the line goes dead. 

Paul huffs out a breath and considers his options. His eyes are glassy as the program turns to a commercial selling a medication for headaches. Paul debates calling their number next as he was sure he’d need it after talking to his bosses. 


Noemi holds Lola’s hand in her own. Her Lola looked more fragile than Noemi had ever seen before. Noemi usually thought of her Lola as a terrifying force of nature. Noemi thought hurricanes should be named after her. Noemi wasn’t ready for her Lola to die. She wasn’t ready to be alone in the world. 

‘I’m not ready Lola,’ Noemi whispers, ‘so you make sure that you get better and you stay healthy for a long time. A very long time. Okay?’ 

Lola is spared from answering by a nurse walking in. The nurse shuffles around the room, fussing over this and that before she finally approaches Lola’s bed. The nurse checks vitals, making note of them in her chart. ‘She won’t wake up for a while yet,’ the nurse offers, ‘from what I understand she spent most of the night here and didn’t get much in the way of sleep.’ 

‘Oh,’ Noemi says, straightening up and swiping at her nose, ‘that’s okay.’ 

The nurse smiles gently at Noemi, ‘why don’t you go get yourself some coffee, use the restroom. I’ll find you if she wakes up but in the meantime take care of yourself. You look like you could use a good meal.’ 

Noemi is about to protest but then her stomach grumbles and Noemi yields. She hadn’t eaten anything beyond gas station fare since the night before, having been reluctant to stop on the way here. ‘Yeah,’ Noemi says, ‘yeah okay. But I won’t be far.’ The nurse shoos Noemi quietly from the room. 

Outside Noemi takes a breath, sucking in the sterile scent of disinfectant, before looking around. Maura was no where to be found but Noemi could see Aarna at the end of the hall, talking to someone on the phone. Noemi shoves off of the wall she’d been leaning on and heads that way. Noemi’s call had pulled Aarna out of bed and hours away from home, the least Noemi could do was buy her some coffee. 

‘Aarna!’ Noemi says as she approaches not wanting to startle the other woman or overhear something she shouldn't. 

Aarna whirls, a look of relief blossoming on her face. ‘I’ve gotta go,’ she says quickly into her phone, ‘two days. Just give me two days.’ Then she ends her call and gives Noemi the full weight of her attention. Noemi almost staggers under it. ‘Noie! How is she?’ The affection and concern in Aarna’s voice are so real, so tangible. 

‘She’ll be okay,’ Noemi offers, ‘they said she’ll be sleeping for a while. I figured I should grab something to eat and since I dragged you all the way out here… my treat?’ 

‘I’m glad she’s alright,’ Aarna says, offering a real smile, ‘and food sounds great. Maura said to tell you she was going home to check in on Jane and Mak but that one of them would be back shortly.’ 

‘Good,’ Noemi says, clearing her throat, ‘that’s uh good.’ 

Silence stretches between them. ‘So,’ Aarna says falsely cheerful, ‘shall we?’ she gestures back toward the visitors center, ‘I left my duffle.’ 

‘Right,’ Noemi says, ‘lead on.’ 

Aarna brushes past Noemi, close enough to make the hairs on Noemi’s arm rise. She smells different though. Odd. Like something was missing. ‘I thought you might have just rushed off when you heard so I grabbed you a few things, just in case,’ Aarna offers, grabbing her duffle. It’s such a simple statement but it hits Noemi like a bag of bricks. 

‘Why,’ Noemi asks, her voice barely a whisper. 

Aarna misunderstands her and teases, ‘because that’s what you’d do. Just head off without thinking about what you’re going to wear tomorrow.’ Aarna tugs at the hem of the hoodie Noemi had tugged on that morning. The hoodie that Noemi kept on her desk chair. The hoodie she’d stolen from Aarna in February. ‘Not that you don’t look good in this,’ Aarna offers almost quietly. 

‘I meant,’ Noemi says tugging at the hems on her wrists uncomfortably aware of how close the two of them had gravitated, ‘why did you come?’ 

‘Oh,’ Aarna says, jumping back. She looked crestfallen, as though Noemi had slapped her. ‘I left you a message. You didn’t say how she was doing and I didn’t want you to be alone if….’ Aarna trails off her eyes darting over Noemi’s shoulder and over to Lola’s door. ‘I just did what any fr-,’ Aarna’s voice breaks as she continues, ‘friend would do.’ 

Friend. The word feels so wrong in Noemi’s mouth. Almost vile. But seeing Aarna? Being near to her? That felt right. So right. Maybe it wasn’t what Noemi wanted but maybe having Aarna as a friend in her life was better than not having Aarna at all. ‘Well…’ Noemi says not sure what else to say, ‘thanks.’ 

‘Lunch?’ Aarna asks shifting her weight from foot to foot, clearly wanting to move on from this subject. 

‘Yeah,’ Noemi says, shaking her head to clear it of doubts, ‘let’s.’ 

They walk to the cafeteria in slightly uncomfortable silence. Noemi isn’t sure what to say so she goes to what felt safe, benign. ‘Did you happen to bring a charger?’ Noemi holds up her phone, its black screen on display. 

Aarna laughs, ‘yeah I did. We can eat by an outlet and let it charge. I thought you never went anywhere without an extra charger.’ 

‘I don’t normally,’ Noemi replies as she grabs a tray and gets in line, ‘I usually have one in my backpack but I let Reese borrow it when she spent the night. I totally forgot as I was packing in a hurry this morning.’ Noemi doesn’t notice the look on Aarna’s face as she takes the offered scoop of cafeteria food and offers her thanks. ‘I could have grabbed one at the gas station but I didn’t even notice my phone was dead until I got here.’ 

‘Oh,’ Aarna says from behind her, ‘well I brought one and you can keep it. I probably took it from you in the first place anyways.’ 

Noemi pays for their meals and they cross the expanse of tables in relative quiet. When they settle in, Aarna busies herself digging through the duffle until she finds the charger and then plugs it in offering the opposite end of the wire to Noemi. ‘Here ya go,’ Aarna says with a lack luster smile. 

‘Thanks,’ Noemi replies, plugging her phone in before digging into cafeteria potatoes. It had been so long since she’d eaten that they almost tasted good. 

‘So,’ Aarna says, a sort of forced cheerful veneer back in place, ‘your Lola will be okay?’ 

‘Seems like it,’ Noemi responds before shovelling in more food.’ 

‘And you’re going to stay with her for a while?’ Aarna asks, shoving the piles of food on her plate around with her spoon. ‘I mean, I assume she’ll need help with recovery.’ 

‘Probably,’ Noemi offers, ‘I can do most of my work from my laptop anyways.’ 

‘Right,’ Aarna says, letting the conversation die off. 

‘How’s undercover stuff?’ Noemi asks, ‘is it everything you thought it would be? Do you have a cool nickname like 00-7 yet?’ 

Aarna laughs lightly, ‘no I don’t and it’s good. It takes a while to establish everything and then it’s a lot of boring day to day stuff. You know?’ 

‘Oh you mean you aren’t drinking martinis and blowing people up with click pens?’ Noemi teases back. 

‘No,’ Aarna says grinning for real, ‘the coolest thing I’ve gotten to do so far is own two gym lockers.’ 

‘Ooooh,’ Noemi says with exaggerated emphasis. It makes Aarna laugh. Really laugh. Not a forced one that felt more painful than joyful. In a moment of stupid bravery Noemi reaches across the table and squeezes Aarna’s hand, ‘it’s good to see you laugh Na. I missed it.’ 

Aarna stops nearly as soon as Noemi touches her. For a moment she stares wide eyed at their joined hands, a deer in the headlights. Then ever so slightly, she squeezes back. ‘I missed you too Noie,’ Aarna says in barely more than a whisper. 

‘Sorry I made you haul yourself to D.C. today,’ Noemi offers. 

Aarna clears her throat, ‘I know after… everything… things were difficult but I still love you Noemi. I’m always going to love you. I hope you know that I’ll always be here for you. No matter what.’ 

‘Ditto,’ Noemi says trying to keep the pieces of her heart from shattering anew, ‘only straight people can’t be friends with their exes. We’re better than that.’ 

‘Right, exactly!’ Aarna replies and for a moment, just a moment, things shift a little closer to normal. A feeling that comes to a screeching halt when Noemi’s phone rings, Reese’s face lighting up the little screen.