Swaying Not Dancing
by Jessica (la_belle_dame)
Jennifer Finch has never claimed to be graceful. Not in movement and not in manners. She was an awkward child, a shy teenager, and a serious junior collegian before finally settling into a career that, quite conveniently, precluded any hope of a normal social life. Come Monday morning, the only one with stories to tell about the weekend was her partner, Stern.
Stern, or as his conquests insisted on calling him, Kev, was the kind of guy Jenny had lusted after in high school. Okay, college too. Blue eyes, great arms, thick hair. The hot and he knows it type. She’d even swung a date with the police academy’s version, Terrence, a local god with a cop family. He spent the whole date trying to get into her pants with lines lame enough to merit an armada of wheel chair. At the end of the night, she’d let him kiss her, sloppy and showy with no real pay-off, because she knew she’d never go out with a guy like that again. And she hadn’t.
She wondered what Robert Goren kissed like.
It’s not that Jenny’s sexually frustrated. Well, not entirely about that. It’s just…that stupid dance with Goren had crawled under her skin and taken over her fantasy life. It’s not even about how he’d smelled sort of spicy or that she couldn’t remember the last time she’d been that close to a man she wasn’t cuffing. He made her feel graceful. Pretty and girly and graceful.
Jenny had taken an ill-fated course of ballroom dancing back in high school. One of her mother’s well-intentioned attempts to develop her accident-prone daughter’s finer motor skills. The class was an overview of fox trot, waltz, two-step, and tango, taught by a wiry matron and a fantastically gay man. Within two lessons, Graham had declared her utterly devoid of rhythm and incapable of following a lead, and Jenny had to bite down hard on her lower lip to keep from crying. Once Graham had flounced off in a huff, Madame Rayelle had come over and patted Jenny’s hand. “You’re a strong young woman,” she’d said. “All you need is a strong leader. The dancing will come after that.”
Say what you will about his investigative methods, Robert Goren was a strong leader. None of her missteps felt clumsy or stupid with his hand on her back. He’d even twirled her. Twice. She’d tried twirling on her own in the privacy of her apartment. She was doing a decent job of it, too, until she realized she was spinning alone in her silent living room and stopped, too embarrassed to go on. Then she’d thought that if only Goren were here—and she flatly refused to go down that road. Work stayed at work and out of her personal life. Her non-existent personal life. Even Stern had noticed.
“Jesus, Jenny,” he said, slamming down a cup of doubtlessly too-sweet coffee on her desk. “You need to get laid.” Jenny winced. You could take the boy out of Jersey.
“I could report you for harassment for that,” she snitted. Stern grinned and kicked his feet up on his desk.
“You wish I was harassing you,” he said. “Seriously, when’s the last time a guy saw you in your skivvies? Or what’s under your—”
Jenny pitched her paperweight at her partner. He ducked and caught it left-handed, much to the pretty new temp’s appreciation Jenny noted. “Okay, never mind that. When’s the last time you had a date?” She paused a moment too long and Stern pounced. “’S what I thought. Listen, I got this friend, right?”
Jenny stood and grabbed a blank ME request form. “Finish that sentence, Stern, and I’ll be forced to kick your ass again today at defense practice.” Stern’s grin dropped away and Jenny felt a little better.
“I only keep you around ‘cause you make me look tall. You know that?” he called after her as she headed for the elevator.
Vicky was waiting for Jenny when she pushed open the door marked Medical Examiner, PD. Jenny stopped short. “Vicks, you psychic now?” Victoria Smiths was tall, leggy, and had skin that would put Tyra Banks to shame. On top of the medical degree, the last thing Vicky needed was supernatural powers.
“What the hell was that at the fundraiser last week?”
Jenny dropped the request on the exam table. “You were there?”
“Mark and I got a sitter at the last minute. You were dancing with Robert Goren.”
Jenny groaned and pushed the form toward Vicky. “Pretend to fill this out so I don’t have to go back to work for twenty minutes.”
“In fact, I use the term dancing loosely. You two were melting all over each other.” Vicky ignored the paper and poked Jenny with one elegant finger. “What gives?”
“Temporary insanity,” said Jenny, trying not to remember how deftly Goren had turned one of her stumbles into a dip. “And believe me, I was the only one melting there.”
“Bull,” stated Vicky, narrowing her eyes at Jenny. Jenny had seen her peer into open chest cavities that way and it was making her nervous. “I saw how he was lookin’ at you. Melty.”
Jenny tramped down the spark of irrational hope that flared in her. “I don’t know what it was. Goren’s not exactly all together there, you know?” She cleared her throat and tapped the request.
Vicky jotted down something in the notes box and scribbled her signature without looking at the paper. “Yes, I do know. I know what I saw.” She dashed into her office and Jenny heard the sound of rubber-stamping. Vicky returned with a half-sheet of yellow paper. She signed and stapled it to Jenny’s form. “As I am completely swamped here,” she said as she indicated the deserted office, “I am referring you to Elizabeth Rodgers in Major Case.” She gave Jenny a shove toward the door.
“What? Vicky—” Jenny protested.
Vicky slammed the door in Jenny’s face. “Say hi to Detective Goren for me!”
It took Jenny thirty-five minutes to get to One Police Plaza, in which time she had talked herself in and out of stopping by to see Goren eight or nine times. She’d lost count when her excuses had dwindled down to being shy. Shy? Shy be damned! The man had texted her in the rain. That meant something, right? She strode up the steps to the imposing building feeling purposeful and determined.
It took Rodgers all of five minutes to advise Jenny that yes, the victim should be tested for gunpowder residue if he was a bystander at a gunfight. “Exactly how busy is Smiths if she doesn’t have time to sign this?” Rodgers asked as she tossed a pair of soiled gloves in a Bio-Hazard bin and snapped on a new set.
Jenny thought of the silent ME’s office back at the station and shrugged. “It’s just one of those days, I guess.” She took the elevator all the way up to the eleventh floor and her heart rate seemed to double when she saw the little silver plaque that read New York Police Department Major Case Squad, commanded by Captain James Deakins. The office here was just like the 96th’s, perhaps with a little better lighting and a slightly classier dress code. Detectives shouting down their phones, temps rummaging through filing cabinets, stacks of papers threatening to tumble to the floor at any moment. A short, efficient-looking woman in a turtleneck breezed past Jenny. She looked like she’d deck anyone who tried to put his feet up on a desk. A grey-haired man appeared from behind Jenny and grabbed the woman’s elbow. “Eames, where’s your partner?”
Jenny half-expected this Eames to rip her arm away, but to her surprise, she swayed into the man slightly. “Goren’s downstairs. He had Janice run a full background check on Mr. Williamson and his nephew. If he’s not there, he’ll be in the interrogation room soon enough.”
The man smiled. “Excellent. I need five minutes of your time.” He let go Eames’ arm and gestured across the bullpen. “In my office, if you please.”
“Anything you say, Captain.” The woman’s smile as she made her way past Jenny toward the far door was bordering on kittenish. Jenny craned her head around the corner after the pair disappeared from sight. A glass door stood open to reveal Robert Goren hovering in front of a corkboard, dipping and weaving as he tacked up bits of paper and the occasional picture. A small radio sat on his desk playing an orchestral version of one of Jenny’s favorite songs, though for the life of her, she couldn’t remember the name.
“I’ve Got A Crush On You,” said Goren.
Jenny jumped. He was staring right at her, a photograph of a smiling couple swinging precariously from a tack. “I’m sorry, what?”
Goren twirled a finger at the radio. “The song. It’s I’ve Got A Crush On You. Frank Sinatra. You—you mentioned you like the standards.” Jenny just stared at him. “At the fundraiser.” Why wasn’t her voice working? “When we danced.”
She bobbed her head like a manic dashboard doll. “Oh, that’s right. The fundraiser. And the standards. Which I like.” Pull it together, girl. Goren nodded and then he moved.
When she thought about it later, Jenny could never be exactly sure how Robert Goren was suddenly towering directly over her. In fact, when she replayed the scene in her mind on the taxi ride back to the relative safety of the 96th, she thought for certain that he’d stepped backwards. But that couldn’t have been right because two seconds later, Goren was in front of her, close enough to necessitate Jenny tipping her head back. She thought she’d remembered how tall he was, but when she realized that she was staring at the detective’s mouth instead of his eyes, she took a couple quick steps back.
“I should be getting back.” Jenny flipped a hand at the door. “Just wanted to check in. Say hello.”
Goren tipped his head to the side and smiled. “Hello,” he said. Jenny made a mental note to add ‘boyishly charming smile’ to Goren’s list of accomplishments. She couldn’t help it. She grinned back. “You know,” said Goren, “I still know that jazz place.” He blinked at Jenny. “If you’re interested, that is.”
Jenny opened her mouth to say I couldn’t possibly, I have to wash my hair, my imaginary boyfriend and I already have plans, I’ll never hear the end of it from my partner, but what came out was, “I’m free this Friday.” Oh, my God, she thought, I think I might have just—
Goren sidled a little closer and smiled that surprisingly effective smile again. “Friday,” he said, “sounds great.” Yep,she concluded as the tinny music on the radio changed to a forgettable Glen Miller tune and Goren returned to scrutinizing his corkboard. I just asked out Robert Goren. She thought about what everyone else would think of a Friday night with Goren the Golden Boy.
She thought about it all the way back downtown. She thought about it at her desk later that day. She thought about it on the train ride home. She thought and thought until she couldn’t handle being inside her own head, and cued up a CD on her stereo to block out her mental lists of all the potential ways this could go wrong. She found herself humming along with Ella Fitzgerald after a few minutes. “It’s not that your attractive / but oh, my heart grew active / when you came into view,” she crooned as she paged through the latest issue of People. Then the chorus swelled and Jenny nearly dropped her trashy magazine. I’ve got a crush on you. Jenny chuckled to herself and dropped People on her coffee table. She spent the rest of the CD twirling in her living room. Practice for Friday night.
Oh, and any thoughts about the car issue? Emily, could I pay you for the month of August and park in your spot for a couple weeks? Yes, no? Not a good idea? Marco?