Reciprocity, Part 1 of 2
Pairing: Well, none, really...but it's a pretty fuzzy line Jane and Maura have goin' on
Spoilers: "See One, Do One, Teach One" and "Boston Strangler Redux"
Disclaimer: The only thing that's mine is the plot, such as it is.
Note: The second of four stories that attacked my brain after Thanksgiving. I suppose the fact that it's now March is testament to the nitpicker perfectionist in me. It was inspired, of all things, by a rerun of The Big Bang Theory, in which Sheldon says, "The foundation of gift giving is reciprocity." I'm a sucker for hurt/comfort fics (my very first story ever was) and I decided that I'd give both ladies a chance to be...reciprocal, so to speak.
A week had passed since Leahy was taken into custody, and the department was still in chaos.
The press had had a field day with the copycat killings and although everyone from beat cops up to and including the damn police chief had tried to be vague about Leahy's motive, the attempt had lasted less than twenty-four hours. By dinnertime the next day, it had been all over the news.
Damn the Boston Strangler, whoever he was, anyway. First modern serial killer to get the media all riled up, and here he was doing it again. No matter who the real Strangler was, Leahy hadn't killed him – he'd just renewed the aura, the mystique.
And the media was eating it up.
Sometimes, Jane thought, it would pay to know someone who worked for the press.
Grant had been holed up in his office all day, every day, trying to find some way to salvage the situation – and his own reputation.
Far as she was concerned, that was just fine.
It wasn't that Grant was awful, per se; it was just that she'd worked so hard to become Detective Rizzoli and now her boss – her damn boss – remembered the awkward, ungainly teenager she'd been. Remembered the girl who could take on all the guys in just about any sport on weekends and whip their butts in the classroom come Monday morning.
Hell, he probably remembered her application essay for BCU – their damn College Writing teacher had read it to the entire class after she'd asked him to read it over.
At least no one knew she'd actually gotten in – all she needed was for the department to know she was smart.
It was bad enough being a girl.
She'd gotten out of the whole Leahy mess with nothing worse than a verbal reprimand for smuggling evidence out of lockup, but she wasn't too torn up about it. Nothing could be put in her official record since – officially – the damn stuff was supposed to be in a safe somewhere.
Seeing Joey's mug in the paper had sent her mother clear over the edge, though. She'd called three times a day each of the past three days to make sure that she was being polite to her new boss – who, as far as Angela was concerned, was still the charming youngster she'd met at catechism class all those years ago.
And, Jane was pretty sure, to make sure she was considering sucking up in…other…ways.
She was typing up what she hoped would be her final word on the matter, at least until she and Maura were inevitably called in to testify, when it started.
She was able to brush off the first few errors as distraction, but as she pecked away at the keyboard, she slowly became aware that the usual ache was morphing into something…else.
She took a moment to stretch her fingers, then got up and got a cup of coffee, nursing it with both hands; sometimes that would stop it.
The warmth felt good, but when she went back to the keyboard, her fingers felt slow, clumsy, and she was now making more errors than she was typing correct letters.
Damn it. Damn it, damn it, damn it.
Finally, she shoved her chair back in frustration. "I'm – "
"Morgue," Frost said without even looking up from the paperwork he was filling out. "Got it."
She shook her head, stalking through the squad room and to the elevators before it occurred to her to wonder why he'd come to that conclusion when there were no pending autopsies.
Or to wonder why he was right.
Instead, she just reached out to push the down arrow, noting with an internal wince the staggering amount of effort and concentration it took to convince her index finger to move at all, then everything went gray for a long moment when her entire arm exploded into agony.
She managed, somehow, to stifle the moan, but couldn't stop herself from barking a curse. It drew a few curious eyes, but most of the department was used to her mercurial moods and they went back to their business without a second glance.
It had been a long time since the nerves in her hand had gone this crazy, and it was all she could do to walk into the elevator and wait for the doors to close before she doubled up, waited out the worst of the storm, and then pushed the basement button with her right hand, which blazed in pain of its own.
This time, without prying eyes to bolster her courage, she couldn't quite stifle the whimper, and she hated herself for it.
When the elevator stopped at the morgue, she made the mistake of making a fist to stretch the stiffened muscles in her hands, only for the pain to flare up again. In frustration, she viciously kicked the elevator wall, then kicked it again just because the pain in her foot made the pain in her hand easier to bear.
"Hold the door, please!"
She kicked the wall once last time, even knowing that Maura would surely hear it, then stuck her foot in front of the doors to keep them open.
Maura took one look at her, frowned deeply, and demanded, "What's wrong?"
She held the "Door Open" button and stared at her. "I don't believe you."
"Oh? And why is that?"
Maura raised an eyebrow, outwardly unfazed by Jane's harsh tone. "You're very pale. Your hands are shaking. And you kicked the elevator."
Jane struggled for composure. "Just…it's nothing."
"No…it's not." Maura glanced at her shaking hands, then at her strained, drawn face. "Come with me," she said, breezing back out of the elevator.
"Maura – "
She stopped and turned, looking Jane over head to toe, then put her hands on her hips and raised both eyebrows. Jane rolled her eyes but followed her through the morgue and into her office.
"Does this happen often?" Maura said after she closed and locked the door, knowing her only chance of getting a truthful answer lay in assuring Jane of her privacy.
Jane winced and wrapped her arms around herself, dropping onto the couch with a sigh.
Maura busied herself with arranging some papers on her desk, observing Jane out of the corner of her eye as she fidgeted uncomfortably.
Finally, she met Maura's eyes and slowly put her hands down in her lap.
"I was typing," she said hoarsely. "They got clumsy. And my palms…started aching. Then I went to push the button on the elevator and – Maura, they…hurt."
"What can I do?"
Jane shook her head. "Nothing. When they get like this…nothing. I've tried hot showers. Icy Hot. Heat pads. Ice packs. Cold…cold is bad, but hot doesn't help."
Maura looked at Jane's hands, then back up at her face. Jane sighed, watching her. There was no pity, no judgment – just deep compassion. "May I…may I try to massage them?"
"I could massage them for you."
Jane flinched. "No…no, Maura, I don't – "
Maura nodded slightly and put her hands in her lap. Jane held out for all of a minute, looking at that crestfallen expression, before she presented her left hand for inspection. "Please – " She cleared her throat. "Please be careful."
Maura gave her a look that managed to be gentle affection, reassurance, and a slight rebuke all at once before she took Jane's left hand and began massaging the wrist. After a moment, though, she glanced at Jane with a slight frown and moved up her arm to start at her elbow.
Jane followed the movement with her eyes and cleared her throat. "My…hands…hurt? That's not my hand."
"Yes, and these two muscles…" She traced them with her index and middle fingers. "…are tense all the way up your forearm."
Jane blinked. "You're not gonna tell me the medical name for 'em?"
"Do you want me to?"
It was a remarkable moment of self-awareness and self-censorship; Jane thought briefly she'd have to congratulate her later, when she could manage something approaching coherent thought. "No."
By the time Maura had reached the halfway point between her elbow and her wrists, Jane was hardly aware of her surroundings, though she heard the ding of the elevator and heavy footsteps treading down the hall. She wasn't really focused on the sounds, though, until she heard Korsak's voice and her eyes widened in something approaching panic.
"Hey Doc – oh, um…."
Maura had cracked open the door to her office and poked her head out to answer whatever his question was; Jane knew she was visible inside, but it was hard to say how much he could see.
"I – uh – "
Before she could say anything, Maura spouted off a string of Doctor Language unlike anything Jane had ever heard, even from her.
A little dazed, Korsak glanced at Jane, then at Maura, then back at Jane. "Well…uh…glad to hear you're…okay…Jane. I think." Shaking his head, he turned and went back to the elevator.
Jane was fighting back a grin as Maura firmly closed and re-locked her door. "What did you say was wrong with me?"
Maura smiled as she began again to massage Jane's forearm. "I was describing the state of your musculature, which is really quite well-developed."
"So that was lots of words to say nothing?"
"Thanks." Jane inhaled. "Can…you keep going? I think it was starting to help. I mean," she added hurriedly, "you don't have to, but if you want to, I'd love it if you – "
Maura smiled. "Jane."
Jane subsided into silence.
It took almost half an hour before Jane could honestly say her hands felt at all better.
"Maura, you gotta stop," she said, trying unsuccessfully to pull her hand away. "We've both got work to do."
"But you're still in pain."
Sometimes it was hard to reconcile that forthright, literal good nature with Maura's job, with her background, and the sophisticated façade that was all she showed most of the world.
"Yeah. But – "
"Do you have a pressing case?"
"Do you have paperwork that has to be done today?"
"Do you have a court appearance to prepare for?"
Jane smiled slightly. "No."
"So you have nothing that absolutely must get done right at this moment?"
Jane's smile grew. "No."
"Then what, exactly, do you need to do that's so urgent?"
Now, Jane scowled. "I need to…go be…Detective Rizzoli."
"Because it's my job?"
Maura pursed her lips and stared at her for a few moments before she reached behind herself and picked up her desk phone. "Detective Frost?" A pause. "Well, I was calling because…." She frowned. "Y-yes, I have several old case files down here that – " Again a pause. "Well, yes, it would go faster if I had some help." She smiled. "Thank you."
"What was that?"
"He offered me your help."
Maura grinned. "He offered me your help in organizing some of my old files."
"He said I was being bitchy and should stay down here, didn't he? And you offered the files as an excuse."
Maura crinkled her nose. "Well, not in so many words, no, and I do have extra files, but – "
Jane sighed and shook her head, before the façade broke and she offered her hand with a faint grin.
"Maura, seriously, you can stop now."
It had been nearly an hour and a half, and the stabbing pain had subsided, finally, into the usual low-level ache.
"But this muscle here, and this one here – they're still tense. It must still hurt."
Jane shook her head. "It always hurts. It's just…normal…hurt now."
Maura's face went slack with surprise. "Jane…do your doctors know it still hurts?"
"'Course they do. They're the ones who told me it wouldn't ever stop. Hoyt skewered some important muscle, and took some nerves with it."
Jane found she couldn't meet Maura's shocked eyes, and looked down as she continued, "He – he knew what he was doing. He knew…if I survived…I'd have…they'd be something that wouldn't ever let me forget him. Ever let me be alone." Jane had stared at the floor when she said it, but Maura's not-quite-stifled horrified gasp pulled her eyes back up. "Not a big…I mean, no sense worrying about it. Nothing they can do."
"It hurts…all the time?" Maura asked quietly. Just to be sure.
"Pretty much, yeah." She squirmed, watching Maura as she visibly forced herself to show nothing but compassion. Still, there was horror in her eyes; from anyone else, it would be driving her crazy, but Jane discovered that it really wasn't…bad…to know that Maura cared. "Look, I'm alive," she said. "Bastard didn't kill me. That's gotta be enough, right?"
That the constant ache, pulsing in time to her heartbeat, sometimes carried with it the sound of Hoyt's delighted laughter didn't bear going into.
Maura shook her head silently. The silence stretched and grew awkward before she cleared her throat and said, "Promise me something, Jane?"
"Sure. I guess. I mean, I'm still not eating snails, but other than that – "
Maura rolled her eyes. "Escargot." She glanced back down at Jane's hands; she was still lightly rubbing the palm of her right. "Please let me help…when it gets bad?"
Jane bit her lip. "I don't like owing people, Maura."
"We – we're friends."
Though it was ostensibly a statement, Maura's hesitance marked it clearly as a veiled question, and Jane started. "Damn it, Maura, of course we are."
"Friendship isn't a balance sheet."
"No, but – "
"Please, Jane. I don't mind; and, besides, things have a way of evening out in the end."
Jane chewed on her lower lip for a few long seconds. "I'll try. Best I can do." She sighed. "And – Maura, anytime you need…I mean…you know what I mean, right?"
"I do," Maura said with a smile. "And thank you."
The next morning, they'd crossed paths at the elevator and burst into laughter, each handing over a cup of the other's favorite coffee.