Jane Rizzoli stretched her long arms over her head, running a hand through the dark waves that trickled well past her shoulders. She padded from the creaky hardwood of her bedroom into the bathroom, turning on the taps and blearily blinking at the mirror. Practically hearing her mother screeching (Angela would call it 'advising') at her to cut her hair, she grumbled, fishing for her toothbrush and the toothpaste. It was breezy in the apartment, the last vestiges of spring swirling through her cracked bedroom window. Jane loved this weather.
The creak coming from the kitchen caught her off guard and she paused, toothbrush looming close to her mouth as she wrenched off the taps and stood stock-still.
Holding her breath was easy; she'd had enough of these scares to know what to expect. There was no need to go jumping out of her skin every time the wind blew. She'd just make it to her bedroom, grab her pistol from the nightstand and calmly investigate whatever it was making noise. Calmly.
High arched feet padded silently back to her bedroom, gently easing open the drawer to her nightstand. She lifted the dusty Bible and reached into the drawer, expecting to touch the cold metal. Feeling nothing, she froze in place, body tingling at the presence of someone else in her bedroom.
She spun around slowly, eyes widening and breath stopping in a muted gasp.
"Hello, Jane," said Charles Hoyt, standing with his scalpel twirling whimsically between his fore and middle finger. Her gun was in his other hand, cocked and ready to shoot. "Even right out of bed you smell like lavender. You know who also smelled like lavender? Doctor Maura Isles— right before I killed her."
She opened her mouth to respond but all that came out was the croaked utterance of "No" just as the shot fired into the early Boston morning.
Maura Isles awoke to the sound of her phone ringing. Reaching one Yves Saint Laurent pajama-clad arm out of the Egyptian cotton, she clutched the noisy object and stared at the caller-id.
"Jane, what is it? Are you all right?"
"I was just calling to say hi."
"It's 3:09. Are you a inebriated?"
"No. Do I have to be tipsy to call you?"
"Generally past three you seem to inherit the behavior of phoning me while intoxicated."
"I'm not drunk, Maura. I fell asleep on my couch working on the Marion case."
"Oh!" Maura said, smiling as she sat up, turning on her lamp. "Any leads?"
"Same as before, but, I—well I was…and then I just…"
"Bad dream?" Maura guessed, voice dropping to a whisper.
"Nope, dreamt I was playing naked Twister with my hot upstairs neighbor, Cliff. Don't all people call their friends in the middle of the night to talk about their wet dreams?"
"Jane," Maura sighed. "Would you like me to come over?"
"To talk about my wet dreams?"
"I'm kidding, Maura. The real dream I had was a little spooky is all. I just, the last time I dreamt of him. Do you remember—"
"So you believe you're having premonitions?"
Jane laughed at how serious Maura sounded. "I didn't say that, just a weird feeling. The last time I had a dream like this that whole thing with Emily St—"
"Jane," Maura said, soothingly. "I'll be right over."
"Thanks," Jane breathed, the word feeling like lead falling out of her mouth.
Jane, her gun (cocked and pointed at the apartment door), Jo and Marlin the turtle sat in quiet wait for Maura. Each groan of a neighbor getting up to pee had the brunette reeling. She hated feeling like this—trapped. She was Jane freaking Rizzoli for crying out loud. She didn't get spooked over what went bump in the night. Her job was things that go bump in the night. Two pops from her .45 usually helped that notion.
But this time it was not only about her. It was about Maura. Usually she could go back to sleep after these nightmares, brush them off with a shot of Jameson and a deep breath. But, when it came to her best friend, something felt different about the whole thing. She thought of Maura like she thought of Frankie or even Tommy, despite their differences. Maura was family.
At the same time, Maura was different. Maura was something Jane felt like she had to protect. If anything ever happened to her, especially because of psycho stalker Hoyt, she'd never be able to forgive herself.
The dainty knock on her door followed by the "Jane, it's Maura, you can lower your gun" sent a palpable wave of relief throughout the brunette's body. Lowering the gun and uncocking it, she put on the safety and set it down. After undoing the bolt and chain locks on her door, she was even more comforted by the smiling doctor standing in her doorway.
"Your pajamas look like they cost more than my apartment," Jane commented as the shorter woman shuffled into her apartment, toeing off her running shoes.
"That would be a little preposterous, don't you think?"
"I don't know. I've seen you tip toe through crime scene carnage in heels higher than my head, so anything's possible with you, Maura."
"That metaphor doesn't make much sense, Jane," Maura countered calmly.
Sighing, Jane leaned on the island, rubbing her eyes. "You want anything? Water? Wine?"
Patting Jo's sleepy head, Maura shook her own. "Sleep, if that's okay with you. Unless you'd like to talk about your dream."
"I don't. I'm fine." Jane scoffed.
"Sleep then," Maura grinned at the detective, if not a little knowingly.
"He was here, in my apartment, standing right in my bedroom with my gun and his scalpel and he was smiling that jack-o-lantern smile at me, and it was just—"
"Jane, it's perfectly normal to experience dreams like that after such a harrowing experience. Post traumatic stress is rea—"
"No, no diagnosing. I'm just telling you about my dream."
"I'm not diagnosing. I'm not a psychiatrist."
"But you're smart about stuff like this, and I just… I don't want to hear it right now. I don't even want to sleep in my bedroom. What am I? Some fucking five-year-old too scared to sleep 'cause of the monsters under her bed?"
"It's okay to be frightened, Jane. You should sleep in your bed, though. I'll be there, and I am refusing to let you sleep on this couch. Your posture doesn't need to suffer any further than it already does from your daily wear and tear."
"You really coming over here to tell me to stand up straight?" Jane smirked, enjoying the enthusiastic way Maura nodded.
"God, now I know why my mother adores you so much. You're her!" Jane ribbed.
Another one of those dazzling little grins crept across the face of the pajama-clad doctor. "I'll take that as a compliment."
Maura stood and walked over to the apartment door, bolting the heavy lock and sliding the sturdy chain into place. She gestured for Jane to look at it, to make sure that the detective could see it was secured. This was their routine, after all.
"We really should rest, despite not being able to fulfill a proper night's worth of REM sleep. I think a few hours will do us both some good."
"I agree," Jane yawned as she filed behind Maura and made it into her bedroom.
Maura pulled back the duvet and sheets on the right side of the bed, shuffling underneath the covers while Jane did a quick check to make sure all of her windows were locked. The doctor yawned, snuggling into the pillow she was beginning to sleep on even more than her own. Jane finally relented, slinking into the bedroom and gently placing her gun on the nightstand. If Charles Hoyt actually did appear, he wouldn't make it three steps into this apartment without resembling Swiss cheese after.
Jane turned onto her side, facing Maura who was lying on her back with her eyes closed. "Are you sleeping?"
"No," Maura mumbled, exhaustion clear from her tone. She reached out for one of Jane's hands, holding it tightly, knowing the gesture relaxed the woman beside her.
"You think I'm ever gonna be normal again?" Jane rasped, feeling her throat tighten at the prospect of tears.
"Oh, Jane," Maura murmured softly, stroking the back of the detective's hand where the scar tissue made an obvious thickness. "You can't define normalcy. I don't believe anyone is truly normal, and I don't think that normalcy is a pinnacle anyone should strive for. We're humans, with flaws and feelings. I believe you're just fine the way you are."
"Just fine?" Rizzoli chuckled. "Thanks, I guess. I feel like the prettiest show dog in the blind AKC championship."
"They have a dog show for the blind?"
"No, Maura, they don't."
"Oh. That would be truly spectacular if they could organize something like that. Can you imagine?"
Jane smiled, noticing Maura's wheels turning even in the darkness of her bedroom.
"Does your brain ever turn off?" Jane asked sincerely.
As Maura soothed her thumb across Jane's knuckles she furrowed her brows. "I'd be dead if my brain turned off, but in the figurative sense, no."
"Must be weird." Jane yawned.
"Yours doesn't turn off either, Jane. You just process things in a different manner than I do. Your feelings are stifled and sometimes they manifest in say, dreams."
"No more, Lucy. No more psycho-babble." Jane groaned into her pillow.
Maura laughed, closing her eyes once again. Jane's pulse seemed to regulate and the doctor contentedly held onto her friend's hand, knowing that this simple touch was taming the wild Rizzoli.
"There was another part of my dream that I…wanted to talk to you about," Jane started after a long lapse in silence, feeling Maura jolt back from half-consciousness at her words.
"What is it?"
"Well, in my dream. He—he kinda brought you up, too."
"Oh? In what manner?"
"He told me he killed you. It was weird. You're usually not in my dreams about Hoyt."
"We're friends, Jane. There's a good bit of feeling and attachment that goes into that. You know Hoyt is a sociopath, and he'd stop at nothing to get what he really wants, even if that meant killing me in the process. He said he wanted to break you down psychologically; that would follow suit."
"So you're saying he's actually winning?" Jane mumbled, bitterly and a hint defeated.
"No, not at all. They're nightmares, not reality." Maura tightened her grip on her friend's hand, scooting closer to her in the bed. She wanted her to feel secure, cared for. "You see me daily. I'm undoubtedly part of your subconscious, therefore fair game for your dreaming brain."
Relaxing again, the taller woman sighed, glancing behind her at her alarm clock. They were barely going to get three hours of sleep and, REM or not, dealing with murders on a light sleeping schedule wasn't exactly a picnic.
"I dream of him a lot, probably more than I tell you. But in this dream…this time… Maura if something ever happened to you…"
Reaching over, Maura gently pressed her fingertips to Jane's mouth, stopping her words. "I know you would stop at nothing to keep me safe. I would do the same for you."
"You're damn right," Jane said after she wiggled free of Maura's fingertips, ignoring the tingle they left in their wake.
6:23 am came faster than Jane or Maura would have liked. At the annoying buzzer of her alarm, Jane groaned, debating on pistol-whipping the electronic device into submission. When she reached for her gun to do so, she noticed Maura's eyes were open, sort of staring at her.
"Can I do somethin' for you, doc?" Jane grinned.
"No, you're just very fidgety when you sleep. But when you're not fidgeting, you look quite peaceful. It's strange."
"What, that I can be peaceful?"
Maura just smiled.
Jane rubbed her eyes. "If you need something to wear, you can borrow something from my closet. I'm gonna go make us some coffee."
"Oh, no. I have an emergency dress in my car."
Jane snorted, "Of course you do."
"Besides, I don't think we're the same size. Plus, you have deplorable taste."
"Thanks for reminding me for the millionth time."
"You're welcome," Maura smiled.
Jane's phone rang and she leaned over to pick it up, "Mornin', Korsak."
"Jane, we got a vic at 381 Daily Street in Dorchester. Gonna need you, asap. Lemme go, I gotta call Isles."
"Don't worry, she's here. I'll tell her."
The pair shared a knowing glance and Maura waited patiently to be told.
"She's there? It's 6:30 in the morning."
"Yep, came over early to help me paint my toenails and curl my eyelashes," Jane rasped.
Korsak sighed, "See you soon."
"Where are we headed?" Maura asked after Jane tossed her phone on the bed.
"Oh, in that case… may I borrow a pair of shoes?"
"Why? Yours too good for Dorchester?"
"Absolutely." Maura nodded solemnly. "They're Louboutin, they're not ever going to Dorchester."
Jane shuffled in the direction of the bathroom. "And I thought you couldn't get any snobbier."
Two hurried cups of coffee, teeth brushing, changing and a speeding car ride later, Jane drove the squad car down a back alley in Dorchester, spying Korsak and Frost talking to one another outside of a small row house, caution taped off. The detective pulled up, parking and opening her door. Maura did the same, smoothing the skirt of her dress down.
"Whoa, nice kicks, doc," Frost grinned, pointing to Maura's pink and grey Puma sneakers.
"Yep, they're mine," Jane smirked as she pulled her aviators off her face, sidling up to Korsak and hooking the sunglasses onto her V-neck.
"So what do we got?"
"Well, the guy has a freaking rainforest inside there. Plants in every corner, exotic lizards and snakes in huge terrariums. Some of the animals seem a little too exotic." Frost warned. "Like illegally exotic."
"Snakes," Rizzoli cringed, stuck on that single word. "What kinda snakes?"
"The big kind that eat mice and the little ones with the rattles," Korsak explained absently as he checked over his notes. "You two can head in, I'll just be out here helping Frost find his balls."
"Korsak, you were pretty jumpy in there too."
Vince just glared at the younger detective.
Looking wary at the prospect of snakes, Jane climbed the wooden stairs into the modest house, taking a deep breath as she walked through the door. The place was messy, smelling like an aquarium with tanks and cages on nearly every surface imaginable.
"This place is basically a breeding ground for E-coli and staphylococcus. Don't touch things unless you have to," Maura grimaced, reaching into her jacket pocket for her hand sanitizer.
The women doused their hands in the alcohol-based cleanser and then pulled on their rubber gloves, ready to go to work.
Walking through the narrow kitchen, Jane crept into the dining room, listening as Maura sighed some. "This is a Mitragyna Speciosa; I don't think our victim was simply selling exotic reptiles, I think he was pushing exotic herbs as well. It's just a guess though, I can't be certain."
"What is that?" Jane asked, studying the rather innocuous looking plant. "It just looks like a house plant."
"It's from Indonesia. Basically the leaves are dried and ground up to make a powder that's ingested, simulating mild effects of cocaine and borderline crippling if taken in high enough quantities."
"You're kidding?" Jane asked. "That doesn't seem legal."
"Well, a lot of head shops sell it, but it's not technically supposed to be consumed by humans. Oh and that is definitely a boa constrictor."
Jane whipped around to spy the large snake coiled lazily on the table. She was torn between running out the door and vomiting, but instead decided to hide behind Maura.
"Jane, you're a homicide detective, and that snake has just eaten," she gestured to the lumpy protrusion on the reptile's underbelly. "It's digesting, probably a little alarmed by all the commotion."
"I'm fucking alarmed, too," Jane grunted.
"The faster we investigate the faster we can leave," Maura soothed, smiling at Jane who was not impressed by the cramped pseudo-jungle in this man's home.
"Detective?" called Byron, one of the rookies. "Body's this way."
Carefully, and watching her path intently, Jane followed Maura into the room where the younger detective was, feeling her breath leave her when she spotted the victim. He was slumped inside an empty snake terrarium, face blown up like a balloon, and obviously very much dead.
"Two questions: what was in that box and where is it now?" Jane asked, immediately checking the space around her shoes.
"Can't be sure. There's so many damned snakes in this friggin place," Byron mumbled. "Whatever it was, musta' been poisonous, guy's got bites all over his neck and face."
"So you mean there are poisonous snakes, who've had a taste for human flesh, roaming around this place? I'm outta here…" Jane started walking back toward the door. "Korsak! Korsak, I'm off the case."
Maura grabbed Jane by the back of her blazer. "Take a deep breath and relax. The only reason for the snake bites is because he most likely invaded their habitat in a manner they found hostile. They're not going to come out searching for new opportunities just yet."
"Who are you, Steve Irwin?"
"I believe that man is dead, Jane. Now, let's quickly gather evidence and head back to the lab."
Jane began walking again, cautiously, spying a spray of blood on the wall. "Hey, Maura."
"If that's blood the spray pattern indicates a pretty close-range projectile. Our victim was probably side swiped with something big and heavy, but I don't see anything but snakes here."
"It's definitely blood, Maura. I'm thinking our perp took whatever it was with him thinking he wouldn't be traced."
Looking exhilarated, Maura smiled at Jane, "And that's why we have DNA."