Shelter From the Storm, Part 1 of 1
Spoilers: Not really, except for the broadest general ones about the setup of the series
Disclaimer: The only thing that's mine is the plot, such as it is.
Note: After a crazy start to the school year (education is so not an eight-to-three job), three separate disk failures, and subsequent writer's block, I somehow started writing four stories in about as many days right around Thanksgiving. This is the first; I thought some schmoopiness might be nice around now. Also, to anyone who kindly left a review on my other stories in the last little while who didn't get a reply, it's not out of lack of appreciation – it was out of sheer being-overwhelmed. So, publicly, thank all of you. Each review was a bright spot in sometimes very stressful days.
The first snowstorm of the year was always torture. While rain – and even later snowstorms – generally led to insistent aches and pains, that first storm invariably left her unable to do much but endure the hours and pray for it to be over.
She could only hope that no one ever put together the weather and the yearly winter cold she made a point of complaining vociferously about.
Excepting Maura, of course, who didn't need to be told at all. She'd come over the first year, a month or two before Hoyt reappeared in Jane's life with his damn apprentice, with chicken noodle soup and a lecture on the most recent study that proved it actually was effective, only to find that what her friend needed was something else entirely.
She'd been dozing fitfully on the couch when she heard the repeated knocks but stayed put, hoping that whoever it was would just go away.
She'd already jerked to her feet in alarm at the sound of her door opening when she heard Maura call, "Jane! Your mother gave me her spare key – oh!"
It hadn't taken Maura more than a few moments to scan the room and note the absence of medicine, tissues, and other assorted detritus that accumulated when someone was sick.
She set down the bag she was carrying, glanced at the window, at the heating pad on the couch and the extension cord leading to it, and to the way Jane was standing, with her hands hidden behind her back, and came to the obvious conclusion with typical alacrity.
"Oh," Maura said again, this time in a very different tone.
"Wanna be alone," Jane grunted, knowing the hoarseness and strain in her voice would give her away as surely as presenting her hands for inspection would.
Not that it mattered; she'd seen the shift in Maura's face that said, unequivocally, that she knew.
"Oh," said Maura, the woman of many words, once again. This time, it was a small, quiet, hurt sound that cut right through Jane's resistance.
The look that came with that tone of voice always did. It was the damndest thing.
"Sorry. It-it's not you. It's just – I don't like people seeing me like…this."
"But I'm your friend," Maura protested quietly.
Jane's shoulders slumped. "My best friend," she said absently. "Still…." She looked up to find Maura staring at her in quiet, open-mouthed wonder. "What?"
"I'm your best friend?"
Jane's eyes widened. "Yeah?"
"Oh," Maura said one more time. "Okay. I, um – I'll – if you need anything – "
"I'll call you," Jane said, fully aware that neither one of them believed her.
"You know," Maura said with mock severity as she patiently massaged Jane's trembling hand, "no one would think any less of you if you told them what was really happening."
The next year, more confident in their friendship, Maura had endured the pouting and even yelling that had accompanied her refusal to leave. In the end, she'd been unable to do more than keep up a steady stream of conversation – or, rather, monologue – to try and distract her, but it was better than the thought of Jane suffering alone.
By the third, the protests had been half-hearted at best. By the fourth, there'd been no protest at all – just a look of quiet gratitude, which left them where they were now – huddled together by Maura's fireplace, a heating pad standing at the ready if that warmth weren't enough, as blizzard winds howled outside and Maura employed every trick she had to ease Jane's pain enough for her to sleep.
Jane had no ready answer; she just slumped backwards against the coffee table and closed her eyes, drifting in the same twilight doze that was all she'd managed the past two nights.
After some time, she became aware that Maura had stopped and opened her eyes, only to find her friend staring at her right palm.
"You know," she said quietly, eyeing the jagged scar there before she gently probed it with the tip of her finger, "it's always amazed me that the EMTs who saved your life after the shooting went through the same training and had the same certification as the EMTs that pulled those scalpels out in that basement. Best practice for…impalings…is to wait for a surgeon to – "
"I told 'em to."
"I told 'em to. I didn't want everyone seeing me like that. With his – with that bastard's scalpels sticking out of my hands like…I don't know what."
Maura's lips parted in surprise. "I should have realized," she breathed.
"Yeah, you should've," Jane muttered, then sighed. "Sorry."
Maura brushed her apology off with a wave of her hand; she knew better than most just how much pain her friend was in, and she didn't begrudge her a few moments of pique.
"But – "
"But you really think I'd let a bunch of unis or, hell, the press, or any of those other bastards see what Hoyt did to me? Bad enough they saw me…the way they did."
Silence fell again as Maura resumed her work.
Finally, unexpectedly, Jane blurted, "I told 'em if they didn't take the damn scalpels out, I'd just move my hands and yank 'em out the hard way."
Startled, Maura glanced down at Jane's right hand, which always pained her more than the left when the weather got bad. Typically, because she was left-handed, her left hand felt the aches and pains more simply due to the rigors of daily use, but the weather left her practically unable to use the right.
And, suddenly, she understood.
The additional pain; the knotted, more jagged scar; the lingering numb patches on the tips of her fingers that Jane had once confessed to after failing to notice she'd cut herself on Maura's cheese grater.
"You started to," Maura breathed. "Didn't you? You moved."
Jane nodded jerkily. "Figured if I was gonna screw things up, I should do it in the hand I don't write with."
Maura wasn't quite sure whether to be impressed with Jane's levelheadedness under pressure or to be angry at her impulsive actions.
In the end, she just shook her head and went back to work; the forecast hadn't been at all encouraging, and the last thing Jane needed on top of the nightmares – which were always stirred up when she felt more pain in her hands – was sleep deprivation-induced hallucinations as well.
"Maura?" Jane, half asleep, mumbled much later as she trudged to the guest room.
Maura smiled. "You're welcome. Would you like me to stay, in case you have nightmares?"
Jane looked down at her hands with a self-conscious frown. Before she had a chance to protest, Maura was trotting up the stairs to her bedroom to change, calling a promise to hurry back over her shoulder.
Jane watched her go, then scowled at a framed photo of Maura and her mostly-absent parents that sat on the coffee table. "You're idiots," she said with finality before heading into the guest room.
If anyone noticed that Maura began catching 'colds' at the same as Jane every year, or that she invariably called Frost or Korsak, who – being able to lie – reported the absence to Personnel for her, no one ever mentioned it.