"Your hands hurting?"

She frowned at him, tightening her grip on the bat in defiance of his concern. "Shut up and pitch, Frankie."

"Your hands are hurting again, aren't they?"

She sighed at the implied criticism and rearranged the onion that she was, apparently improperly, dicing. "It's just gonna rain, Ma."

"Your…uh…your hands hurt?"

She winced at the awkward sympathy; as always, her own pathetically moaning voice ("It hurts, it hurts, it hurts.") echoed in her ears. "Gettin' colder, Korsak; that's all."

"Someone put a mark on you, Vanilla?"

She glared and stuffed her hands in her pockets. "None of your damn business."

The truth, of course, was that her hands most certainly weren't okay.

They hurt.

The weather had been changing almost hourly as fall fitfully sputtered its way into Boston, and her hands ached viciously, constantly, like a toothache; she was self-aware enough to know that her temper had been a bit…frayed.

She'd spent most of the last few nights with her hands sandwiched between two heating pads, hoping against hope that she'd get some relief. Jo Friday had been delighted and had settled herself atop the hand sandwich, reveling in hours of continuous contact with her favorite, though captive, human.

So, yeah, they hurt. They hurt most of the time, actually, though she was – mostly – able to put it out of her mind.

Months of rehab, and they now worked just about how they had before, though her handwriting was a bit sloppier than it used to be – not that, according to her mother, that was saying much – and her knife skills weren't up to the usual Rizzoli gourmet standard.

Months of agonizing pain, when it had at first been all she could do to wiggle her fingers without screaming.

Months of daily torture.

She hadn't cried, of course.

Not where people could see her, at least.

Not when she knew everyone from her mother to Korsak to the goddamn commissioner had been bugging her doctor for progress reports. They had seen her broken once; they wouldn't – any of them – see it again.

When she'd mastered finger wiggling, when it had only cost her a flinch or a grunt, the bar had been raised and she'd been asked to make a fist. And then to hold a roll of gauze.

There had been nerve damage, of course, above and beyond the tissue damage, but she'd forgotten – had never really cared to know, to be honest – the details. It had meant that any fine movements of her fingers had remained both clumsy and agonizing, long after she'd begun to regain her strength and stamina.

She could now drive, write, tie her shoes, swing a bat, hold a gun, but there were still moves that made her flinch, still places on her thumbs and index fingers that she couldn't quite feel, still keys on the keyboard that seemed to move from moment to moment.

She had yet to summon the courage to try playing the musical variety.

It was like a bad joke – Doctor, will I be able to play the piano? – and she'd never quite had the nerve to ask, or to find out herself.

"Did you know that humans have more pain receptors than any other type?" Maura had asked once, over a gruesome autopsy. "The hands are one of the most sensitive…." Her voice had trailed off, seeing her friend's frozen expression as she stared at the narrow strip of skin holding the victim's hands to her wrists. "Oh, Jane, I'm sorry," she'd said, stricken. "I wasn't thinking."

Strangely, Jane had felt pleased by that.

"Your hands are bothering you."

It wasn't a question.

In fact, it was spoken with a diagnostician's utter certainty.

She froze, realizing that she'd again been caught rubbing the scars on her palms, and opened her mouth to brush off Maura's concern, when it occurred to her – what did she have to prove, at least to her?

Maura had already seen her at her worst – hiding from Hoyt, fleeing her mother, utterly failing to do something as simple as eating a fish. She'd already admitted to being scared; hell, she'd even admitted to being haunted by stupid childhood taunts.

She began fidgeting with her fingers instead, poking and prodding at them and reassuring herself that all the places that usually could feel stuff still did.

Here, with this one person, she didn't have to pretend.

She didn't have to be brave to keep her mother from giving her another lecture about how dangerous her job was.

She didn't have to put on a front for the guys, who barely accepted her as one of their own when she was ten times as tough and stoic as they were – Korsak had seen her, frightened, crying, and she would never live down the shame of breaking down in front of him.

Showing weakness to Crowe or any of the others? Unthinkable.

But Maura…Maura knew. Maura had seen and, for some reason, it was different.

They'd been lying in bed, chatting about stupid stuff for at least an hour. For all of her social quirks, Maura clearly understood that she didn't want to think – about Hoyt, about the guard patrol stationed around her apartment, about anything – and was actively engaged in trying to distract her.

Finally, as her body slowly relaxed, as the adrenaline leeched out, as she became accustomed to the thumps and bumps that apparently came with life with a tortoise, her eyes began to drift closed and she began to yawn.

"Do you want me to stay?"

Yes was what she wanted to say. What she did was mutter, conscious of the fact that she really didn't know Maura all that well, outside of a crime scene, was, "S'all right."

Maura had peered closely at her, perhaps sensing her ambivalence. "Are you sure?"

Jane waved her off and, after a long moment during which she was sure her bluff would be called, Maura rolled off the bed. God bless her inability to lie – it made her very bad at detecting them as well. "Do you want the light on?"

"I'm not a baby, Maura."

But when the room plunged into darkness, she couldn't ignore the shudder. It was so quiet, and, yet, she could hear her own heartbeat thundering in her ears.

She rolled over, grabbing blindly for a pillow, and wrapped herself around it as tightly as she could, hoping that if she squeezed hard enough, she might force down that little bubble of unreasoning, stark terror back into the hiding spot she normally kept it in.

Eventually, she fell asleep.

Only to be woken up by the sudden glare as someone threw on the light and the sound of what she'd thought were her own screams but what Maura, later, steadfastly insisted had been 'faint moans.'

"Jane!"

She flinched from the touch, even though she recognized the voice.

"Jane, it's okay. You just had a dream."

She fought the terror, but it was no good; her breath came in harsh, rattling gasps.

"It's okay," Maura said again, sitting across from her without touching after that first, instinctive moment, somehow knowing she needed her space to gather herself. "It's okay."

So, there, in the privacy of her own kitchen, over empty takeout containers and half-empty wine glasses, she was able to take a deep breath and admit, "They ache like hell. It's the damn weather."

Maura tilted her head. "May I?" she finally asked.

Despite herself, she flinched. "May you what?"

"May I see?"

"As a doctor, or as a – "

"Jane." Amazing how she could put so much exasperation and patience simultaneously into one word.

Silently, she extended her hands, palms down. "Hurts more up here." She noticed that her fingers were trembling slightly and frowned. As Maura took one hand, she joked weakly, "Exit wounds are always messier, you know?"

"Can I try something?"

A skeptical look. "What?"

Maura turned her hand over and examined it carefully. Then, without warning, she reached out and poked Jane in the stomach. Hard. Jane yelped and jerked away, then froze, staring at her hand. "What the hell?"

"The intestines are a common reflexology center for hand pain. Reflexology is…well…unorthodox, but it has been practiced since – "

Jane winced. "No Google. Please." She looked at her right hand again, in something akin to wonder, then extended the left. "Please?"

Prepared this time, she did no more than hiss as Maura pressed two fingers deeply into what she assumed were her intestines.

Nothing.

For the first time since Hoyt had rammed the first scalpel through her palm.

Nothing.

"It won't last long, but – "

"I – it's – " Jane stammered, "I can't remember the last time they didn't…. I forgot what it felt like to not…."

She ran out of words and met Maura's eyes, hoping she could convey her profound gratitude in her gaze alone. Then she decided that even a few seconds without pain were worth more than that and enveloped her friend in a tight hug.

"Thank you," she whispered, closing her eyes and reveling in the moment.