Detective Jane Rizzoli arrived at her apartment building after work and found a kid, probably ten or eleven years old, playing in the small yard outside the building with a football. He was tossing it in the air and catching it and then running around as if tacklers were pursuing him.
"Hey buddy, do your parents know you're out here?" Jane asked as she entered the yard.
"Yeah, my mom is right in there," he answered, pointing to the first floor windows on the left side of the building.
"Okay," Jane said, knowing he was pointing to an apartment that had been empty for a few weeks and assuming his family had just moved into the building.
"Do you know if there are any other kids who live around here?" he asked.
Jane smiled. "Uh, no, I'm not sure. I don't know any," she answered. She knew there weren't any kids in any of the other six units in their building, but she really didn't pay close attention to know about the rest of the neighborhood.
"Oh," he said, clearly disappointed.
"I could toss the football around with you a little bit if you wanted though," Jane offered. He looked unsure and she added, "My name is Jane. I live on the the third floor."
"Do you play football?" he asked and Jane realized his apprehension was probably not because she was a stranger and an adult, but because she was a girl.
"Of course," she answered and held up her hands in front of her chest, indicating he could pass her the football.
He threw her the ball and she caught it easily and threw it back to him in a passable spiral. He caught it Jane figured she passed the test because he smiled and said, "My name's Billy," as he threw the football back to her.
After a few passes back and forth, he asked, "Do you have a favorite team?"
"Patriots, of course," Jane answered. "What about you?"
"49ers," he answered.
"I guess they're pretty good," Jane said playfully.
"Yeah, they went to the Super Bowl last year, but they lost. Did you watch it?" he asked.
"I did. I was routing for the 49ers in that game."
"My mom took me to a game last year. It was against the Bears. The 49ers won that game."
Before Jane could respond to that, the front door of the building open behind her and a woman's voice said, "William?"
"Mom, did you see that catch?"
"What are you doing out here? You know you have to ask me before you leave the apartment."
"I was bored. I want to play outside," Billy whined.
"I'm sorry, I didn't know he wasn't supposed to be outside," Jane said as she made her way over to the building's front steps. "I live on the third floor. I saw him playing alone when I got home. He said you knew he was out here but I figured it was better to have someone keeping an eye on him."
"Thank you for looking out for him. I was unpacking and I didn't realize he came outside."
"Sure, it's no problem. I'm Jane Rizzoli." Jane held out her hand as she introduced herself and took the opportunity to take a closer look at her new neighbor. She wearing light linen pants and a loose short sleeve top and her hair was pulled back into a ponytail. She looked casual but she was more dressed up than Jane would have been for moving or unpacking.
The woman took Jane's outstretched hand. "Maura Isles."
The name was familiar and Jane quickly realized where she had heard it before. "Dr. Maura Isles?"
"Yes. How did you know that?" Maura asked, obviously surprised.
"I'm a homicide detective with the Boston PD," Jane answered. "You're the new medical examiner, right? I got a memo about you the other day."
"Yes, Chief Medical Examiner."
"What a coincidence. I guess we'll be seeing a lot of each other. When do you start working?"
"In two weeks I think. I want to get Will started in school when the school year starts and make sure his schedule is all set before I start working. Speaking of schedules," she said and turned to Billy who was still playing in the yard. "Will, it's time to come inside for dinner."
"Already? Can I please play a little longer?" Billy asked, although, Jane noted, he was already walking towards them to the stairs, anticipating his mother's response.
Maura rubbed her hand over his head and patted his back as he passed by them. "Sorry sweetie. I need you to clean up and eat. I'm sure Detective Rizzoli has things she needs to do tonight too and we should let her get to them." As they all walked inside she said, "Will, is there something you want to say to Detective Rizzoli?"
He turned around, smiled, and said, "Thanks for playing, Jane," before running inside his apartment while dodging pretend tacklers.
"Thank you again," Maura said. "He really loves football and I don't have the same ball handling skills you do."
"Ball handling skills?" Jane said with a small laugh as she walked Maura to her apartment door. "It was really no problem. I had fun," Jane assured her. "Let me know if you need anything at all as you get settled. Or if you have any questions about working with BPD, I'd be happy to talk with you about that too."
"Thank you," Maura repeated sincerely.
Jane went upstairs to her apartment and once inside she looked at her hands. She flexed them a few times, extending her fingers out fully, and then massaged each palm around the scar. They felt a little stiff, maybe a little sore, but they didn't hurt. She went to the bathroom and took two ibuprofen just in case. More importantly, she hadn't even thought about her hands before offering to play catch with Billy. It was only after catching the ball and throwing it back the first time that she had realized it was the first time she had touched a football since her injury.
A few days later Jane came home after spending most of the previous forty-eight hours working on a case. When she entered the apartment building, the first floor apartment door flew open and Billy rushed out saying, "Hi Jane. Wanna play football again?"
Maura was right behind him ready to apologize, but Jane just smiled at both of them and said, "Sure. Let me just go change and then we can play, okay?"
Billy ran inside the apartment to get his football and Maura said, "You really don't have to play with him. I'm sure you have things to do."
"I'm happy to," Jane responded. "There's a park about a block and half from here with more room to play and run around. If you've got some free time now, we could all go over there."
Maura smiled at the suggestion. "Alright. I'll go get ready too and we'll meet you outside."
Ten minutes later they were walking to the park. Jane had changed into shorts and a t-shirt. Maura was dressed similarly to the day they had met but she carrying a huge bag.
"You know we're going to the park for like an hour, right? We're not moving there," Jane joked when she saw the bag.
"I know, but I like to be prepared. I brought water, sunblock and a blanket. Oh, and a first aid kit."
Jane just laughed. When they got there Jane directed them to an open section of grass. "Are you going to play today?" she asked Maura.
Maura was already taking a seat on a nearby bench. "I think I'll just watch."
Jane and Billy threw the ball back and forth for a few minutes and then he decided he wanted Jane to be the quarterback and he would play wide receiver. Jane asked him if he knew anything about the basic receiver routes and he said no. So they crouched on the ground and Jane traced routes with her finger on the grass and explained what each one was.
Then Billy lined up to her left and Jane said, "Okay, let's try a post route. Go." He ran straight ahead for several yards and then diagonally towards where the center of the end zone on the football would be.
Jane threw the ball and he caught it in stride and then immediately ran towards Maura saying, "Mom, did you see that?"
Maura was already clapping and said enthusiastically, "That was fantastic."
He ran over to Jane who held her hand up for a high five and then said, "Ready to go again?" He gave her the ball and lined up again. "Let's run the slant," Jane said and he took off.
Once again he caught her pass but this time he ran right back to Jane, flipped her the ball, lined up, and said, "Ready."
They kept going, with Jane calling out corner, quick out, hook, slant, or post routes for each throw. There were dropped balls and some mis-throws on Jane's part, but after a little while after each catch Billy started doing different touchdown celebrations with each one before returning the ball to Jane. Maura continued to cheer each catch.
They continued playing until Maura noticed Jane was rubbing her left hand after each throw. She got up and walked over to where Jane was standing and for the first time noticed the scars on Jane's hands.
"Ready to join in?" Jane asked her.
"Oh. No. Not yet anyway," Maura answered. "I think it's time for us to get going though. It's almost dinner time."
"Jane, can you come over for dinner?" Billy asked.
Maura had come to the conclusion this afternoon that she didn't need to make any excuses for Jane and she could answer for herself, but this time Jane said, "It really depends on if that's okay with your Mom. I don't want to intrude on whatever she has planned for tonight."
"Oh, of course you're welcome to have dinner with us," Maura said.
"There's a pizza place on our walk back. Why don't we just get some food there? That's easy, right?" Jane suggested, but then realized when she saw Maura's face that she shouldn't have suggested that without running it by Maura first.
"Yeah, Mom, can we get pizza?" Billy chipped in.
"I suppose that would work for tonight," Maura agreed. Jane mouthed "sorry" silently to her, but Maura just smiled at Jane and said, "It's fine. It's a good idea."
Jane showed them to the restaurant and Maura took care of ordering the pizza, along with a salad for herself, and insisted on paying for the food. They brought the food back to Maura and Billy's apartment, which Jane thought looked pretty well organized for only having moved in less than a week ago, although Maura apologized for the mess.
While they ate, Billy recited a steady stream of San Francisco 49ers facts to Jane. When he was done eating, Maura sent Billy off to clean himself up and change into pajamas.
While helping to clean up dishes, Jane said, "Hey, sorry if pizza wasn't a good recommendation. I shouldn't have said anything without knowing what your food preferences are. I forget that you can't really say stuff like that in front of kids without following through."
"It's fine. I've been trying as best as I can to keep our regular routine since moving and we've been doing pretty well. One night with pizza as a treat is good. And you are so good with him. I really can't thank you enough for playing with him so much."
Jane shrugged. "Like I said before, it's fun for me too."
"Still, it's very kind of you to take so much time to play with him and I really appreciate it. Maybe…maybe if you have time in the next week, I could make you dinner and you can tell me a little bit about what to expect working with the Boston Police Department?"
"Sure, anytime. Where did you work before anyway?" Jane asked.
"I was an Assistant Medical Examiner in San Francisco."
"And you chose to leave there for Massachusetts?"
"You don't like Boston?" Maura asked.
Jane shook her head. "I love Boston. I grew up here. I've never lived anywhere else and I don't plan on leaving. But people are always leaving here for California. You don't hear about the other way around too often."
"This job was a great opportunity. As the Chief M.E., I have more control over my own schedule and hopefully won't be away from home as much as I was before, especially overnight. And we'll be somewhat closer to my parents. They spend most of their time in Europe and San Francisco was a long trip from there. I'm hoping they'll see Will more often now."
"How often did they see him before?" Jane asked.
"Once a year usually. Maybe twice depending on their travel schedules and if we traveled to them. They Skype with him every once in a while too."
"Damn," Jane said with a laugh. "If I had a kid, my mother would practically move in with me. I'd never get rid of her."
"They were not exactly what you might call hands-on parents and I don't think they really know how to interact with kids. I was an only child and I suppose I was fairly independent so I don't think I demanded much from them. But now that Will is getting older I think they might do better."
Jane couldn't quite imagine how a child could be independent but she didn't know how to respond to that so she said, "Where did you grow up?"
"I primarily lived in Europe and New York City as a child, but actually I was born in Boston. I don't remember anything about living here though. We moved away when I was only two. One of the reasons I was interested in this job was the chance to get to know Boston."
They lapsed into a moment of silence until Jane said, "Well, I should go and get out of your way." She started moving towards the door as she said, "Thanks for dinner and anytime you want to get together just let me know. I mean, I'm happy to answer any questions you have about BPD or whatever."
Maura followed Jane to the door. "Thank you. I'll let you know."
"Tell Billy I said goodnight and I'll talk to you soon."
Jane left and went up to her apartment. She took a couple of ibuprofen and collapsed into bed, thinking as she drifted off to sleep that she was far too interested in her new neighbor.