DISCLAIMER: Rizzoli & Isles and its characters are the property of Tess Gerritsen, Janet Tamaro and TNT television network.
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I Want Candy
Jane didn't need to be a police detective to recognize that something was a little bit off as she approached Travis and his friends. They seemed a tad too festive for the occasion, playfully punching and dodging each other a bit unsteadily, as if they were attending a different kind of event.
Well, not all of them. Boz was his usual, solid self. Burt Osterman, known as Boz to all around him, was a giant of a man. Of the colleagues and friends Travis had introduced her to, he was her favorite.
Tonight he was dressed as some sort of lumberjack, which was highly effective considering his massive size. Jane didn't know if he was supposed to be Paul Bunyan or the Brawny paper towel man, but either way, he was quite impressive. She shot him a questioning look.
Barely meeting her gaze, he shrugged apologetically and lagged behind, indicating that he was going to stay out of any confrontation.
Before she could cut her eyes back to Travis, the cowboy to his left let out a piercing wolf-whistle.
"T-Mac! You should be dressed like a dog, boy! 'Cause you are one lucky sonofabitch!" This inappropriately loud suggestion was accompanied by a strong back slap and an obnoxious laugh.
As fond as Jane might have been of Boz, she was equally disgusted by Duke, Travis's partner and best friend. Detective Caleb Cuddahee could occasionally be a charming Southern gentleman, but more often than not he was just an ass.
And what was the freakin' deal with guys and their obsession with nicknames?
Every time she met someone new, there were two names to remember. The real name and the "popular use" name. And they were so damn proud of explaining them.
When tested, she'd incorrectly guessed that Caleb's came from an admiration of John Wayne. They couldn't wait to tell her and act out the real inspiration. He and Travis had turned into twelve year olds as they demonstrated how Caleb could run at his car, slide across the hood and swing into the seat through the window. Like the Dukes of Hazard.
Jane had just nodded and smiled tightly while they high-fived and grinned. Yay?
Hell, even Frost had tried that shit when he'd first been assigned to work with her.
"Gonna grab a sandwich. You want anything, Zo?"
Her face frozen in a scowl, Jane had demanded, "What did you just call me?"
"Uh 'Zo' short for Rizzoli. I uh thought it would be come in handy being one syllable and all. 'Riz-zo-li' that's three." He was visibly twitching. "You know, it takes longer to say so if we were in a tight spot one would be better."
"Here's a lesson for you." She pointed. "You Frost. Me ..." Her finger swung back toward her chest. "Jane. Both one syllable." She'd stalked away rolling her eyes. Jesus.
As Travis stepped closer, she took in his flushed cheeks and glassy look and all of her pent up irritation nearly exploded. Trying not to cause more of a scene than Duke already had, she hissed, "You're drunk!"
"Aw, don't be mad, Jaybird. We didn't have that many " His hands fell heavily onto her shoulders.
Gritting the words out between her teeth, she warned. "I've told you a thousand times not to call me that! And you've obviously had enough to cloud your judgment. This isn't a frat party."
Dressed the way she was, Jane felt somewhat hypocritical for lecturing him on gala decorum. But dammit, everything about him and this entire situation pissed her off!
She shrugged one hand off and leaned closer under the other so that she could continue her point. "I cannot believe that you asked me to meet you here so that you could go off and get tanked with your buddies."
It was starting to sink in with Travis that she was being serious. "I'm sorry it's just tradition with us, that's all."
"Yeah. Except that we 'traditionally' don't make it to the benefit afterward!" Duke's oblivious hilarity made her want to punch him. Instead she just glared.
"Well, you probably shouldn't have showed up tonight. I'm sure you were having a blast wherever you were, seeing as how you're just an Indian away from being the Village People." She could feel the onset of a killer headache.
She turned back to Travis. "You should have told me you don't make it a habit of attending. I would have been fine with that. Once you knew I was expecting you, you should have had the decency to show up on time and somewhat sober. I'd turn around and get the hell out of here this minute except we need to talk. In private. Now."
Before she could lead him away to a less crowded, friend-free space, she heard a voice ask, "Can I get a picture?"
Without warning, and without giving her a chance to protest or even register what was happening, Travis had his arms around her, dipping her awkwardly. She couldn't gain any leverage without falling, even as she realized she wanted no part of what about to take place.
Then Travis was kissing her enthusiastically, his mouth tasting of sour, stale liquor. Her stomach churned as she struggled to stop him, all while she heard clapping and catcalls from those surrounding them.
Pushing against his shoulder and wrenching her neck, she finally seemed to reach him. As soon as he righted her, she shoved him away with all of her might.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" Seething, she swiped her lips with the back of her hand. Her white cap had been dislodged, and hung precariously by one bobby pin.
"I was just for the camera he asked " Travis reached for her arm and she swatted his hand away. It had become unnaturally quiet in their area of the ballroom.
"What part of my mood, conversation or behavior since you got here would make you think I'd be okay with that?" She was mortified and furious that this had turned into such a spectacle, but she wasn't going to stop halfway.
"Let me spell it out for you. So there will be no further confusion. We're done! I should have told you weeks ago, and I hate that I'm telling you now here like this but you gave me no choice."
All at once, everyone seemed to find somewhere else to look or somewhere else to go. Jane was aware that Maura was standing just to her left, her expression concerned and murderous at the same time.
"Jane, I really am sorry " Travis pulled his white sailor hat off and squeezed it in one hand. "I had way too much to drink and I was being a stupid jerk "
Exhaling slowly and losing some of the fight in her words, Jane waved his explanation off. "It's not just tonight. It's the whole thing it's not working. It needs to be over." She wasn't going to change her mind. Staring firmly at him, she repeated, "Travis it's over."
As his shoulders slumped in defeat, Jane made eye contact with Boz and quietly requested, "See that these two make it home?" At his nod, she turned toward Maura, startled to find that at some point earlier she had drawn her nightstick and was holding it in combat mode, gripping it so that it was snug against her arm from her wrist to her elbow.
Amused, she started to mention it, but Maura spoke first. "Are you all right?"
Stretching her neck and rotating her shoulder, Jane nodded. "Mostly."
They were both distracted by the commotion Duke was making. "I don't need a big damn burly babysitter!" He half-stumbled back toward where the women were standing, brightening when he noticed Maura.
"Now, if this sexy lady decided to see me all the way home, I wouldn't resist one bit. How 'bout it, darlin' I'm 'wanted' in at least 3 states." He doffed his cowboy hat and attempted a wobbly bow.
Jane thought for a second that Maura was going to smash his face in with the billy club, but she just wrinkled her nose slightly and responded in her usual clear tone.
"No, because heavy alcohol consumption correlates very strongly to instances of impotence I'm afraid it just wouldn't be worth it."
Boz's roar of laughter overshadowed Jane's delighted chuckle. He snatched Duke by the collar and winked at Maura and Jane as he slung him away. "I got this."
Maura slipped the baton back into place and softly gripped Jane's forearm, her eyes examining everywhere she could. "Come on. Let's get you cleaned up."
Meekly following her lead, Jane didn't bother to ask where they were going or what exactly "cleaned up" might entail. She knew people were staring as they passed, but that didn't seem to bother her as much as it should have either.
As hideous as exposing her private business to the whole damn world had been, she was just so relieved to be free that the sting of embarrassment was far milder than she would have expected.
She never saw Maura wave off Korsak and Frost, which was just as well. That might have spoiled her arguably inappropriate high.
Besides to see anything going on around her, she would have had to take her eyes off of Maura's remarkable ass.
Those were some spectacular glutes.
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