O.K. So, I wrote a Iona fic. I really never expected to but such is the nature of the muse. I admit this is a subject I know nothing about so I apologize if I'm far off base. I just wanted to write something that addresses the pain that Jo, whether by choice or necessity, must repress. This isn't slash; it's just Iona doing her job and Jo getting some of the help she desperately needs. Takes place during episode 1:8 after Henry's rescue.
"Detective," Iona greeted as she opened the door to her office. "Please come in."
Jo walked into Iona's office, following her over to the couches. "We found Henry," Jo said, answering the expectant look on Iona's face, as she sat down across from her. She had just come from dropping him off at home after they had rescued him from Cliff Wadlow. It was late, but Jo knew that Iona would have wanted to know what had happened.
"I'm really glad to hear that," Iona said, a look of relief evident on her face.
"I, uh, I just wanted to thank you," Jo said a bit uncomfortably. As much as she didn't like Iona, and didn't want to have to thank her, Jo knew she deserved it. Iona had helped save Henry's life and for that Jo owed her more than she wanted to think of.
"Thank me? For what?"
"For the information you gave us to help find Henry. I... don't think we would have made it in time if we didn't have the lead."
"It was the least I could do," Iona said sincerely. "I'm glad I could help. He's alright?" she asked, noticing the concern that had appeared on Jo's face.
"Yes," Jo said nodding. "He's fine. Thanks to you."
Jo looked down and silence filled between them for a moment. It hurt to think that they might not have made it in time. Jo couldn't imagine that she might have lost Henry tonight. Even just considering it sent nagging feelings of grief to the edges of her mind fighting to get in.
"You don't like me very much do you?" Iona finally asked, breaking the silence.
Jo was broken out of her thoughts and turned, surprised at Iona's words. "Uh, what makes you think that?"
Iona smiled. "You've been defensive ever since the first time you stepped into my office."
"No," Jo said quickly, shaking her head. "No. Not defensive. Skeptical is the word that I would use."
"I see," Iona said seeming to think over Jo's answer. "Skeptical of what exactly?"
"You don't think it's effective?"
"No," Jo admitted.
"I just don't happen to think that beating someone is therapeutic."
"I think you would be surprised, Detective," Iona said amused.
"I really don't think I would," Jo said firmly, doubt clear in her tone.
Iona shrugged and sat back a little, dropping that particular subject for the moment. "It bothers you, that he came to see me?" she asked.
"Why would it bother me? We aren't a couple."
"I didn't say you were. That still doesn't mean it doesn't bother you."
"Henry can do whatever he wants," Jo said, suddenly feeling defensive and uncomfortable at this turn in the conversation.
"But he's your partner, your friend?"
"Yes, but that doesn't mean he answers to me. Henry does what he wants no matter what anyone says. "
"I'm not talking about permission; I'm talking about trust. He's your friend, so he should want to talk to you over a stranger."
Jo felt a lump starting to form in her throat. She had been trying to ignore it ever since it had happened. But finding Henry here, handcuffed in Iona's office had hurt. It had been humorous, initially, but when she had actually thought about what it meant, it hurt. It hurt because it meant that Henry had a problem, a problem he was seeking out help from, and he hadn't come to her. She had been trying to get Henry to talk to her for weeks now. She knew he had secrets, things he struggled with but kept from her. She had been trying to prove herself trust worthy but it had not yielded any result. So, to find Henry in Iona's company, willing to talk to her, had hurt.
She wasn't about to let Iona know that though. Jo wasn't sure how Iona had been able to make such a good guess about the way she was feeling but she wasn't going to let her know how much her words were true.
"Henry's a private man," Jo said, careful to make her tone sound calm and indifferent. "He doesn't trust easily and he keeps a lot to himself. I accept that about him."
"But if he keeps you at a distance to protect himself then he won't get close enough to realize that you need to talk."
Jo eyes shot up and met Iona's at her words. She felt as if Iona was looking right through her. How else could she possibly know the things she was saying? It was obvious that Iona had powerful skills of observation; she had been a therapist after all. She was trained to read people so it shouldn't come as a surprise. Jo just hadn't been around someone who could so clearly see the things she was trying to hide in a long time. To have someone voice her thoughts was unnerving. "Why would you say that?" she asked defensively.
"How long has it been?" Iona asked gently.
Jo had a feeling she already knew the answer to the question but she asked anyway. "How long has it been since what?"
"Since you lost your husband?"
Jo looked down. She wanted keep to remain strong but this was a crushing blow. It always hurt to talk about it. Blinded by the pain she found herself answering Iona's question. "Nine months." 2 weeks, and 4 days, she added mentally, to herself. "How did you know?
"Anyone who was really paying attention could see. The pain and loneliness in your eyes are only found in the grieving." Jo sincerely hoped it wasn't that obvious to everyone. She tried hard to move on, or at least make it appear as if she were moving on.
"But he's not paying attention," Iona continued. "You want to talk about it, but he never sees and he never asks."
"I could talk to him if I wanted. I don't have to wait for him to bring it up," Jo said in his defense and maybe in her own as well. But her defense sounded weak even to had only come here to thank Iona for her help tonight and she wasn't sure how they had gotten into such a difficult conversation so quickly.
"But you won't," Iona said certain, seeming to take the words right from Jo.
Jo was surprised by Iona's statement because she was exactly right. Jo wouldn't bring it up. How Iona knew that, though, she didn't know.
"You seem certain of that."
"I am. That's because you run from your pain. You dull it; you numb it at all costs. Even right now you're doing it."
"I meant no offense," Iona said, noticing the tone in Jo's voice. "I realize that it's necessary, to an extent, for your job and for your survival in general. And it protects you from having to feel it. But it also keeps you from fixing it. If you don't allow yourself to feel it then you will never be driven to fix it."
"Maybe I don't want to do that," Jo said irritation in her voice.
"No, I don't believe that. You say you're fine because you're afraid to face the pain yourself. But deep down you want to conquer it, you want someone else to help you face it."
"Is this how you do it? Is this how you convince your clients to let you tie them up and beat them?" she asked her words biting. She noticed the anger in them and realized she needed tone it down or Iona would know how upset she was. Already, just with her defensiveness she was proving that the words that Iona said were true. She wasn't sure how this woman with just a few words had broken through her defenses so quickly.
"I'm sorry; I've upset you. I didn't mean to. I just think that you do want to deal with that pain. I can help with that."
"What? With your... as a...with whatever it is you do?" Jo asked stuttering, clearly flustered at what Iona was suggesting.
Iona only smiled. "It's alright. There's no reason to be embarrassed. I have female clients you know."
"I know. Doesn't mean I want to be one of them." How was it that Iona seemed to know exactly what it was that she was thinking?
"I'm not a prostitute. I don't sleep with my clients. You know that," Iona said looking clear at Jo.
"Sure. That's why you dress in lingerie and take your clothes off as a first impression," Jo spat out. It was unnecessarily harsh, Jo knew, but she didn't care. She wasn't impressed by Iona. She didn't like having her inner feelings opened up and looked at and she wasn't going to be put under some spell just because Iona had a good eye for details. She didn't like how much Iona seemed to know her and she focused on her anger in an attempt to cover her growing upset.
Iona, however, didn't take the bait. She didn't get upset at Jo's outburst. "I help people unlock their pain and I think that you, Detective, have some pain you want to unlock."
Jo swallowed hard, nervousness building in her stomach. "I'm not here to be one of your clients," she said firmly.
"Then why are you here, Jo?"
"Like I said; to thank you for your help finding Henry."
"Which you've already done. And yet, you're still here."
Jo felt busted. Why was she still here? She really didn't need to be here. She was sure she knew the reason she still was but for some reason she was ashamed to admit it. She felt as if her feelings and thoughts were written all over her and there wasn't anything she could hide from Iona. If she was going to get out of here she knew she needed to leave now but she couldn't make herself move.
"I could give you a demonstration?"
"Oh my work; help you understand it better."
"Is that how you convinced Henry into those handcuffs?' By calling it a 'demonstration'?"Jo said with a smile, amused.
Iona smiled. "You know I can't discuss Henry's time here. But I will tell you, that Henry came here of his own accord. Just like you. He had a reason for being here. Just like you do. You just don't want to admit what it is."
Jo felt uncomfortable. She did know Iona wasn't a prostitute. She knew that most of it was just for show, just to people make uncomfortable or put them in their place. She knew now that what Iona did wasn't what she had initially thought it was. But it still felt wrong for some reason. It felt like it blurred too many lines she shouldn't cross. And she knew it wasn't a healthy way of handling her problems. But then again neither was the way she normally handled them. She wouldn't admit that maybe she had come here for help, but she also couldn't ignore that pain inside that had been suppressed for far too long.
Iona didn't wait for Jo to come up with whatever response she was scrambling for. In the time that she hesitated, Iona got up and walked over to her, slipping her hand into Jo's. Jo looked up at her questioningly but she let herself be led into the next room. There was something extremely comforting about Iona's presence, the calm way she spoke and smooth way she moved, that put Jo at ease. There was something about her that felt comfortable, despite the fact that she was leading Jo to a room where she kept whips and chains.
Jo felt herself starting to get angry again as she realized that she was falling under Iona's spell and Iona was going to have things her way. Who did this woman think she was? But still, she didn't stop her from leading her into the next room. Once they were in the middle of the room Iona stopped and turned towards Jo, sliding her jacket off her shoulders and for some reason Jo let her.
Iona reached her hand up to clasp Jo's in the handcuffs that hung above them but Jo suddenly jerked it back. Iona looked at her surprised and Jo was embarrassed that she reacted so quickly. "I'm sorry," Iona apologized. "I don't have to cuff you, if that frightens you."
Jo's anger grew. She wasn't about to admit that it did frighten her. It wasn't the pain she feared. It was the lack of control. It was the vulnerability and trust she would have to show if she were bound. She wavered for a moment considering it, and knowing she wasn't ready for it, but also unwilling to admit it. "I'm not afraid," she said harshly trying to cover the growing distress she felt and holding out the wrist she had jerked back.
"Of course not," Iona agreed but the smile on her face said she knew what Jo was really feeling. It obviously was something she was used to hearing. Jo wanted to smack that smug smile right off of her face.
It was just as Iona had clasped the second handcuff tightly on Jo's wrist that Jo realized this was a mistake. Why had she so felt the need to prove herself? Why did it even matter what Iona thought of her? Why hadn't she just left?
She had to give to Iona; she was good. She knew what kind of woman Jo was. She knew that she couldn't sweet talk her way into getting Jo to agree to this. She knew that so many of the tactics she used with her other clients wouldn't work on Jo. She knew she couldn't baby or seduce her. She also knew that Jo was the kind of woman who couldn't refuse a challenge. She knew that Jo was stubborn and that if she said Jo couldn't do something then Jo would have to disagree with her. It was the only way that Jo would agree to it, and Iona had known that. Jo practically kicked herself for falling for it.
But it wasn't anger she primarily felt. Iona turned her back and headed for a cart with supplies on it and Jo took the opportunity to bite her lip. With Iona's gaze off of her she allowed herself a quick moment to give into what she was really feeling. This was a mistake. She already knew it. Iona hadn't even started yet and already Jo felt the fear invading her, making her feel vulnerable, breakable, pliable. With her hands bound she felt terribly powerless. It was not a sensation she was accustomed to or one she enjoyed. She was used to being the one in control; she put other people in handcuffs. But now she had given her physical control over and she feared that, in time, she would give over that emotional control as well. That was the intention of this, wasn't it? It was all, strangely, starting to make sense to her. She still wasn't sure that this was a healthy way of dealing with one's problems but she was starting to feel that it could be effective and she was terrified by that.
There was nothing she could do about it now, though. She would not admit, especially so soon, that Iona's tactics had any effect on her. Running now would only prove all of the things that Iona had said about her. So, when Iona turned to face her again, she made sure that her confident and defiant face was back in place. She practically dared Iona to come at her with all she could manage, even though the sight of the cattle prod in Iona's hand shot fear through her extremities.
Iona walked towards her and she worked hard at keeping her features and breathing steady so as not to betray her growing unease. Iona got uncomfortably close, the instrument in her hand just inches away. Iona could do anything she wanted to Jo and there was nothing she could do to stop her now. She was completely at Iona's mercy.
"You aren't going to beat me?" she asked, just to fill the silence. She was stalling. She was suddenly so nervous and was trying to put off what she knew was the inevitable.
"Would you rather I beat you?"
"No, I, uh, just thought that's what you did." Jo wished she didn't sound so much like the idiot she thought she did.
"I tailor my approach for every client," Iona said her voice sounding more clinical than it had a moment ago. "I don't use electrocution often but I thought this would be the most ideal method of your therapy."
"Why is that?" Jo found herself focusing on the nervousness she felt instead of the quick flare of curiosity that flamed within. She wanted to admit that was there even less than she wanted to admit the fear.
"The whipping is for much more advanced clients. Electrocution is much gentler but just as effective."
Jo let out a humorless laugh. It sounded nervous. If she wasn't more careful her true colors would show. "Gentler?" she asked skeptical.
"Yes," Iona replied calmly. "Whipping is harsh from the start and there's no room for adjustment. Electrocution is much more controlled. I can start it out low and increase as need be. That makes it ideal for a new client who isn't used to the pain and needs to start slow. But also for the client that might be a little stubborn and will need the heat turned up," she said grinning and leaning in close to Jo's face. Jo glanced away to disguise the grin that had somehow made it to her own face.
"And it doesn't leave a mark," she added. "Which I thought you'd appreciate. Most of my female clients prefer it for that reason."
Jo hadn't even thought about that. She hadn't thought about after, or having to explain this to anyone. Thinking about it suddenly made her situation very real to her. It hit her with sickening certainty that this is actually going to happen. She knew that Iona was going to shock her but she didn't exactly know what else she was getting herself into. "Oh," she said followed by a shaky breath.
"Are you sure you're alright with this?" Iona said as she reached up and tucked a strand of hair behind Jo's ear, breaking her out of her train of thought.
It was such a gentle gesture; Jo had not been expecting it and it through her for a loop "Yeah. Sure," she said and she was angry at herself for how it came out, wavering and not strong.
"We can stop anytime you want. Just let me know when it's too much for you to bear."
Jo had regained her senses and was able to draw on some of the strength she'd had previously. She also braced herself for what she knew was coming. "I'm sure it won't come to that," she said with more confidence than she felt.
"You doubt my ability to get you to that point?" she asked with a smile.
"Honestly? Yes, I do," Jo said firmly, sure. Iona could hurt her physically; she had no doubt about that. But that didn't mean she was going to break down and let all of her emotions out.
Iona smiled. Jo watched as the look on Iona's face got hard. "You will ask me to stop," Iona said, her voice just as certain and her words fierce. "I will get you to a point where you can't stand it any longer and you will beg me to quit."
"I wouldn't be so sure of that."
"You know how I know?" Iona asked. She leaned in and touched the ring that hung around Jo's neck. She rubbed the ring in between her fingers and Jo reached to stop her, forgetting she was bound. Her hand jerked painfully against the handcuff. She groaned quietly from the pain and frustration. She was unable to stop Iona from touching it and it bothered her more than she thought it would. That was hers. It was the symbol of her love and of her loss, of all the happiness she'd ever had and all the grief she now held. She didn't like having someone scrutinize it.
She felt it was private and she felt completely helpless that she couldn't do anything to stop Iona. She felt herself aching just to have to it looked upon. She was trying to stay strong but with this it was hard. She felt the pain she kept at bay trying to come out and she was sure that was Iona's intention. When she glanced up at Iona's eyes she found them looking at hers. Iona's mouth tugged up slightly at the edge. She was looking for weak spots on Jo, the places that hurt, and by her distress Jo had just shown one. It was, in fact, the only one that mattered. Jo knew she was in trouble. This was the pain Iona would try to unlock and Jo worried she couldn't keep it in.
She let out a desperate sigh and Iona let go of the ring. "You aren't as strong as you say."
"And how would you know that?"
"It's just an act. That strength is just a façade. I understand it's a necessity for your career. But it isn't real. You've been fooling everyone for so long you've even started to fool yourself. It's not who are inside."
"And just who do you think I am inside?" she challenged.
"Broken," she said reaching out and grabbing Jo's chin and holding her face hard in her hand. "And pretty soon you will be on the outside too."
Jo was just barely able to contain a shiver. "We'll see about that."
Iona released Jo's face and walked around behind her. Jo was even more anxious now that she couldn't see Iona. "All it will take is a little pressure on the outside and you'll crack to pieces."
Jo jerked when she felt a firm hand on her shoulder and the cattle prod dig into her back. She breathed out in relief when she realized it wasn't on yet. At least now, with Iona behind her she didn't have worry about the expression on her face.
"I think you'll find I'm stronger than you think," Jo said even though she worried that what Iona said was all too true.
"Alright then. Let's find out just how strong you are Detective Martinez."
Jo felt a hand reach up in her hair, tight, too tight and hold her firm, unable to move. The next time the cattle prod hit her in the back it was on.
It was her own fault. If she hadn't been so stubborn it wouldn't have gotten this bad. She should have just given in a lot sooner. But Iona was right; she was stubborn. She had been practically pushing Iona to have to get this rough with her. She had refused to give into the physical pain which had increased with every click of the dial on cattle prod. Her body involuntarily jerked with the shocks but she was held in place by the cuffs at her wrists and Iona's grip on her hair. She hadn't wanted to give Iona the satisfaction of hearing her cry out from the pain so she bit the inside of cheek until it drew blood rather than scream. But the longer she kept it in, the harder it got. And the more intense the pain got. She knew that Iona would increase her efforts until she got a reaction and yet she refused to give her one.
She could tell that Iona had tried to go easy on her. She had started out on the lowest settings where it hadn't even really hurt. She had spent a great bit of time on those settings that weren't necessarily painful but uncomfortable, gently trying to encourage Jo to admit her frailty. But rather than making her feel better Iona's kindness only made her angrier and more determined not to prove her words were true. Iona kept talking but Jo refused to answer. Every time she struck Jo she told Jo that she wasn't strong. That she was delicate, that she was breakable. Jo refused to cry or scream. She wouldn't even disagree with her; she was too afraid of what might come out of her mouth. She wasn't strong enough now to act as brave as she had before this had started. The only sound she made the entire was one curse word that had slipped out when the prod hit her in the back, not one but several settings higher than the last time. It had taken her so by surprise but the satisfaction Iona seemed to glean from getting a reaction was enough for Jo to make sure it didn't happen again.
But it wasn't the physical pain that the was the hardest to deal with. The verbal blows were much harder to handle than the physical ones. There was no relief in the spaces after a shock, because that was when Iona spoke. As she tried to recover from the pain of a shock Jo would also have to deal with the pain of Iona's words. They hurt because they were true. For all of her confident words earlier Jo really didn't feel strong. She was good at acting a lot tougher than she actually felt. She often felt she was just barely on the brink of crumbling. She really did just want to give up like Iona was telling her to.
So, Jo had found that had even focused on the physical pain, placing all her attention on it. She didn't shy away from the pain in her back, all the places where it felt like needles of fire had jabbed her, or the roots in her hair that felt like they were being pulled out or the hard pull of metal on her wrists. They all hurt. But she could deal with the physical pain. It was the other pain she refused to give in to; the emotional pain from within that had been pressing up wanting release. She felt it coming to shatter her from the inside out.
Jo hadn't wanted to admit that it was working. She hadn't wanted to prove to Iona that the physical pain was stripping away whatever strength it took to hold in her emotional pain. She hadn't expected it to work like Iona said it would. But being physically at the mercy of another was making her feel more vulnerable. But even more she wanted to prove to herself that Iona's words weren't true. Jo didn't want to believe that it was true. But every time she struck Jo and her body cried out Iona stated those fears that Jo had buried for so long. The physical pain seemed to prove that the words were true.
She had held it all in until it was truly unbearable. She didn't even know how long it had all gone on for. She could tell at some point that the pain wasn't getting any stronger. Either Iona had gotten to the highest setting or she had gotten to the highest setting she was comfortable inflicting on Jo. Jo took it as a small victory. She told herself that she only had to hold out a little longer. At some point Iona would have to admit defeat. But even though the pain wasn't getting worse her ability to deal with it was. The pain didn't need to get worse; she was already so weak and getting weaker. Her jaw ached from clenching it so long and she realized that she had dug her nails so hard into her palms that she had broken the skin. Iona could hold on a lot longer than she could and it was her who would have to admit defeat.
"Stop!" she finally screamed. "Stop it! Please! Stop it." Jo begged. Shame washed over her at the realization that Iona had won. She had succeeded in breaking Jo; she had gotten her to beg for mercy she like she said she would. But this didn't bother Jo for long because at her words the pain mercifully ceased at once, just as Iona promised it would. The pain, physical and otherwise hit Jo all at once and she fell to pieces. It was the physical pain that had made her scream at Iona to stop but it was the emotional pain that now made her weep.
She felt Iona's hands reach up and release her hands one by one from the cuffs and she fell on her knees once she was free, broken and spent. Now she was sobbing.
She felt an arm wrap around her from behind and she flinched at first before she realized it was gentle. "Shh," Iona quietly reassured. "We're done. You did great."
Iona wrapped an arm around her shoulders, holding her and keeping her from falling completely to the ground. The other hand fell to her head, brushing her hair. Jo knew she shouldn't let these hands comfort her. They were the very hands that had afflicted her. But she did. She even found herself leaning into them, seeking more of her comfort. Ironically, she knew if she hadn't let Iona hurt her she never would have allowed her to comfort her now. Jo wasn't sure how someone who had been so harsh only moments ago could be so gentle but she was grateful for it.
She sobbed, hard, ugly sobs that shook her entire body. She felt Iona's arm around her like an anchor, holding her up when she knew otherwise she would have collapsed. It was secure around her shoulders holding her tight and it felt like maybe she could even help keep the pieces together.
"You're alright," Iona whispered in her ear.
"No, I'm not," Jo said, shaking her head vigorously. Right now she felt like she never would alright ever again. There was so much pain she wasn't sure how she could ever get over it. She was broken, just like Iona said and she wasn't sure she could be out back together again. "I'm not alright."
"You will be. You've just left in for too long. Let it all out. There's no reason to hold back now," she said. Her hand was still gentle, stroking Jo's hair and Jo was so distraught so she allowed herself.
It had been a long time since she had cried this hard. The last time had to have been surely been not long after Sean's death. Now that she was letting the pain of it out at full force she remembered those times, those days following his death. She had sobbed like this then. The grief of it had nearly been her undoing. Even in her sorrow she he had felt herself wandering into dangerous territory. She could see how it could have ruined her life if she had let it. And so she had dulled the pain. She had filled her mind and time with work and when that wasn't enough alcohol or meaningless nights with men she would never remember. She had been afraid of the pain, of the grief and loneliness. To acknowledge them was to give them power and she knew they could destroy her. As long as she kept moving, kept occupied, she could ignore it.
Iona held her and let her sob for as long as she wanted, whispering words of comfort Jo couldn't hear over her cries. It had been so long since she had allowed herself to mourn like this and she had never done so in front of someone and it felt good to have someone there. She knew that this affection was clinical, timed and planned for maximum affect but it sure didn't feel that way. Right now, Jo didn't care if it was real or not. She needed it too much. As her sobs dissipated into softer cries she felt herself even tugging at Iona's arm, needing her closer. She felt Iona slide over into a sitting position beside her and pull her toward her side. Jo allowed herself to fall against Iona, her face buried against her shoulder. Iona wrapped one arm securely around her side drawing her in and the other on her head holding her close.
She hadn't even been aware that she had said something until Iona said gently "It's alright; you can say it."
Jo nodded. She took a breath. "Sean," she whimpered again. "Sean." Until she had lost him she had never known that loss could be so complete that she would even miss just being able to say his name. She had never known how many pieces of grief could be attached to the loss of one person. It was so much more than she had ever known and she had run from it because she wasn't sure she could survive it.
"I miss him so much," she cried. "It hurts so bad."
"It's alright. Don't push that pain away. You can get through it. Face it."
So, Jo faced it, faced the pain, full force. She didn't try to deny it or downplay the size of it. She allowed herself to really feel it, completely, maybe even for the first time. And it hurt, oh how it hurt. But she eventually found herself somewhere she had never been before. She found herself on the other side of it. Never before had she faced her pain and rode it out until it had started to go back. It wasn't gone; it would never go away. But it was defeated for now. She had won this round.
Her cries had stopped and it was quiet now. She gasped for air, trying to catch her breath. She was covered in sweat and now that she was starting to cool down she felt herself start to shiver. She felt embarrassed at her shaking as Iona detached herself. But she didn't go far. Iona grabbed a towel that was nearby and kneeled in front of her. She wiped Jo's face off, removing all the tears that were on her cheeks and the perspiration on her forehead. The towel was really soft and she had to admit that it felt good.
Iona reached for Jo's shirt and asked for permission. "May I?"
Jo nodded giving her consent. She had endured the pain so why not just give in and let her get the comfort? But she closed her eyes shut, anyway, embarrassed as Iona undid the buttons on her blouse, sliding it off her shoulders and down her arms when she had them all free, leaving Jo in just her camisole. She was soaked in sweat and Iona took a towel and brushed it ever so softly against her arms and shoulders. Jo knew the towel was soft but on her sore skin it hurt and her breath caught in her throat. Iona murmured an apology and once she had Jo dried off she ran her hands against the burnt skin. Iona's hands were cool as she ran them comfortingly along Jo's arms. She couldn't help let out a satisfied sigh, it seemed a lifetime since she'd felt something good but then blushed in embarrassment.
She felt Iona place her shirt back up on her shoulders and redo the buttons. When she felt Iona's movements cease she braced herself realizing she must open her eyes. She now had to face reality and she was mortified at the way she had so completely lost it. "You alright?" Iona asked when Jo opened her eyes.
Jo nodded and Iona held out her hand for her to take as she stood up.
Jo got up, with as much dignity as she could manage given the situation, and walked out of the room. She gathered her coat and purse up and took a shaky breath as she headed for the door. She brushed her hair back, knowing she must look a sight as she looked up at Iona who gave her a reassuring smile. She expected her to be smug. She certainly had earned the right to be so, after how cocky and sure Jo had been that Iona couldn't break her defenses. But Iona never said anything of the kind and her face bore no evidence that that was where her thoughts were.
It had been a long time since Jo had had to eat her words this much. She didn't like to admit when she was wrong but she knew that it was due now. "It seems I owe you an apology."
"There's no need."
She was glad that Iona seemed to have mercy on her but she knew she didn't deserve it. "No, I was wrong. I judged you and your work, unfairly. And I was wrong."
"Well, I appreciate that Detective."
"I just didn't expect..."Jo said her words trailing off. She hadn't expected to need Iona's services. She still felt embarrassed that she did.
"I'm just glad that I could be of assistance," Iona said, seeming to understand what it was that Jo couldn't say.
"You, uh, you won't tell Henry, that I was here?" Jo asked nervously. She couldn't help but ask.
"Of course not," Iona replied. "You know my confidentiality policies."
"Yeah," Jo said remembering how firm Iona had been about them. She'd been willing to go to jail rather than reveal the name of a client. It had been something Jo had tried to break her of but it was something she was now immeasurably glad for. She knew she could trust her.
"Uh, thank you," Jo said, unsure of what else to say as she turned toward the door to leave.
"You're going to be alright, Jo," Iona reassured, touching Jo's arm for a brief moment.
"How do you know?" Jo asked, looking down, still feeling vulnerable, all pretense of her strength now shattered.
"You made a lot of progress tonight."
"It doesn't feel that way," she admitted.
"I know. But it's true. You were afraid to face your pain; you were sure it would destroy you but you faced it tonight and you survived. Right?"
Jo looked up and smiled slightly when she saw Iona's reassuring smile. "Right," she agreed.
"It broke you but it didn't destroy you. Remember that. As long as you do you won't be so afraid to face it. Use that pain; use it to make you let people in."
She thought about Iona's words and they did make feel better.
"If you ever find yourself in need of my professional services again, you know where to find me," Iona added.
Jo had eaten enough of her own words tonight and she had learned enough not to say that wouldn't happen. "Yes," she said looking down sheepishly and turning to leave.
"Oh, and Jo."
"Talk to Henry. He's wants to listen."
Jo took a deep breath. "Thanks," she said as she walked out the door.
Jo hurt. Her muscles ached, deeply and her skin still felt as if it were on flames. She couldn't wait until she could collapse in her bed. For once she knew she would have no trouble falling asleep. She felt empty, like she'd been opened up and hollowed out, and she figured, in a way, she had. But it was not the kind of emptiness she was used to. This emptiness made her feel light, she could feel a weight had been removed that she wasn't even aware that she had been carrying. And though she felt weak, physically, and vulnerable emotionally, she also felt strong. This was not the false sense of strength that she projected, that facade that Iona had seen right through and had stripped away; this was real strength. She had faced her grief, full force and though she had felt as though it would consume her, it hadn't. She knew she could allow herself to face it. And she felt, for the first time, that maybe she was strong enough to let someone else know about her pain.
She sure hadn't expected to benefit from seeing a domination therapist but she supposed it was as Henry said: There was a first time for everything.