Author's Note: This is Rizzoli & Isles set in the Hunger Games book universe. The fic will not be set during the timeline established in the books but may borrow some minor characters from the books while completely discarding most major ones. As such, Hunger Games spoilers in this fic will be mostly in terms of setting and history, though Rizzoli &Isles characters have been written to mirror the scenarios presented in the books and faced by Suzanne Collins's characters. This fic does depict violence. It will eventually be a solid M and will be moved.
Summary: Life in District 8, like everywhere else, is in service to the Capitol. For former Hunger Games victor, Jane Rizzoli, each day is spent trying to cope with the pain of haunting memories. Can a seamstress give her something worth fighting for?
CH 1: Awake
There was no shortage of wailing in the projects. That's why she chose to live there instead of the fully furnished and plush house provided to her in the Victor's Village. Tortured screams brought on by nightmares that came more often than not blended into the cacophony of misery down in the dingy blocks with the crumbling tenement buildings packed like sardines in the ugliest part of an already ugly district. The noise was a painful symphony of screaming babies, sick old people and injured workers with no money for proper medical care, not that there was much of that even for those who could afford it. No one heard her wake in the night, moaning, screaming, clawing and kicking – sending the glass of water by the bed flying across the small barren room until it shattered to the floor.
The dreams were just varying manifestations of the same theme: the Games. The faces of the other tributes – the ones she killed almost seventeen years ago and the ones she didn't but who her dreams also blamed her for.
Sometimes Frankie was there. Little brother, she whispers as she battles the memory of him.
Everyone says the victor has it made: a lifetime of ease provided by the Capitol, the reward for the entertainment provided in the arena. A band-aid over a gaping wound that can never be healed: a life destroyed, sacrificed in order to be the living reminder to all in Panem that the Capitol always wins.
Little brother, she whispers again, thrashing. Frankie shouldn't be in her Games, he was reaped three years after her. But, she shoulders the burden of his death too.
Her arena was somewhere you might like to go on vacation. If such a thing as vacation existed. It doesn't. Everyone in District 8 works…all the time, most more than one job. You couldn't leave the district anyway...even if there was such a thing as leisure.
The mirage: a docile forest, cool breeze dancing through limbs, a crystal blue lake and in the distance the pristine snow capped peaks of mountains. It had been difficult not to marvel at it – the striking verdant contrast to her grey industrial district that always reeked of machinery and fumes. But it wasn't just a forest; it was the arena. It was an abomination and so was everything that went into it and everything that came out. Everyone that came out. One. She was the only one that had come out her year.
"You killed me," Frankie says in the dream, the sweet brown eyes that looked up to her when they were children are hollow. Tears of blood streak his face and soon spill from his mouth too, "You killed me."
And that's when the glass shatters.
Jane sat up, drenched in sweat, chest heaving as she labored to breathe. "I'm sorry," she choked out into the darkness. Always the same futile I'm sorry that's never enough because it can't take away her pain and it can't bring Frankie back. She fumbled for the bedside lamp and switched it on. Electricity. That was one good thing about District 8. They were never without power. No power means no factory operations. And the people in the Capitol love their clothes.
Sleep would only bring more nightmares. Once they came they camped out in the deepest recesses of her mind for the night. What sleep could be garnered in between the waking fits of screaming was restless. She had learned long ago there was no point in trying. Jane swung her legs over the edge of the bed and lingered there for a moment. She couldn't go back to sleep and yet she couldn't stay there. Her tiny efficiency apartment always seemed like a coffin after the dreams. There was only one place to go. She threw on a pair of old work pants, laced her boots and donned her father's old maintenance jacket before slipping into a night that hummed with the whirring purr of the thousands of industrial sewing machines running through the graveyard shift
District 8 was as uniform as they came. Before the Dark Days it had been the economic center for textiles production. Now, it was a slave to that past. The sweatshop of Panem. Each street, block after block of the same brick and stone buildings dotted with factories. Closer towards the city center the projects slowly morphed into slightly less decrepit buildings. Still brick and stone. But, some occasionally bore the signs of long ago attempts at transformation: embellishment around the windows and sculpted molding that skirted the complexes like some kind of decorative belt. The factories didn't reach into this part of town, no, the factories were nestled deep in the projects – where the workers were. This part of town was for those lucky enough to be born in a slightly higher station – craftsmen, shopkeepers, entrepreneurs – to the small extent the District allowed. She laughed at the thought of "being lucky." It was a matter of degree. Life in District 8 wasn't really easy for anyone.
This middle part of town was also where the Peacekeepers lived – shipped in from the Capitol to maintain order…to maintain subjugation. She passed a Peacekeepers' hub; it was empty. The graveyard shift Peacekeepers would be down in the projects, where people were actually awake and about.
The Victor's Village rose like some cruel joke from the brick red and grey monotony of the city around it. Its own self-contained little hamlet encircled by decorative wrought iron fencing. The ten houses sat spaciously on manicured lawns: the only shred of green that could really be found in District 8. The Capitol's reward. Only three of the houses stood occupied: the first, inhabited by Cayden Crawford, District 8's oldest victor at 65, the second, her house – lived in only by her mother and which she'd not set foot in since the day Frankie was reaped fourteen years ago and finally the house she now stood in front of with ever increasing pairs of feline eyes coming to roost in the window and regard her with suspicion. Jane looked out once more on the pathetic excuse for a village and wondered how different it must be in District 1 or 2, from which the victor usually hailed. They must have a proper village for all their winning tributes. A veritable city within a city.
She knocked on the door.
"How do you always know when I'm up?" The grey-haired man exclaimed with a smile as he threw the door open.
Jane walked in, shooing a couple of curious kittens away with her foot, "Because Korsak, like me, you're always up."
"Nightmares?" He asked, though he very well knew the answer. She nodded, taking a seat at the dining room table and gladly accepting the mystery beer in an unmarked bottle Korsak offered her.
"I hope this is better than old Pete's last batch," Jane eyed the bottle with trepidation, taking a whiff of the hoppy odor before giving in. Prohibition Pete, he kept those who could afford it plied with booze. It could be a dangerous affair, alcohol being illegal and all – too many accidents from workers showing up to the factory shifts drunk or hungover. But, District 8 was a drab and miserable place and the Peacekeepers turned a blind eye to old Pete so long as his brew was good enough to buy them off and not too many workers tested their skill while intoxicated.
"Saw your Ma today." Touchy subject. Korsak knew it too.
"Yeah. And?" Jane replied curtly but with a touch of sorrow. "She well?"
"As well as…well, you know." As well as a woman could be whose husband had left her, who had one son incarcerated – probably turned into some mute Avox slave in the Capitol, who had lost her other son to the games and whose daughter…
Whose daughter had essentially been lost to the games as well.
"Yeah, I know." Jane replied, taking a long draw off the beer. Old Pete had done alright this round.
"How long is it going to go on like this Jane? Between the two of you?"
Jane's face hardened and her brow furrowed as she stared back at her mentor, "She knows where I live."
"And you know where she lives," Korsak replied pointedly.
"Yeah!" Jane slammed her palms to the table sending a stinging burn through the scars in each center that radiated out to each finger, "In the house I murdered 8 people to win!"
She didn't murder eight people to win a house. Deep down, she knew that. She murdered eight people because it was them or her. The female tribute from District 9 that year had run as long as she could; avoided everyone until the Gamemakers forced them together. Her face haunted Jane most of all: the resigned look of defeat but also the flicker of relief – she didn't have to run anymore.
"I'm glad it's you," she had said as they stood only ten feet apart. "You seemed…one of the least cruel in training." She turned her back and dropped to her knees. She didn't even try to fight; she never intended to. Pure. "Please. Make it quick."
"What's your name," Jane asked.
"I'm sorry, Crysta." Jane slit her throat.
In the years that passed Jane wondered if the girl from 9…Crysta…if she didn't have the right approach. Each day in the Games, each death at her hands she told herself it was one person closer to going home…to being free…to having her life back. But, the life she got back was a waking nightmare. The girl from 9…she was free.
"Wake up," Korsak gave her shoulder a shake and Jane's eyes flashed open. They had stayed up most of the night drinking but now the light of mid morning was flooding the room. "It didn't look like you were having any more bad dreams…so I let you sleep," he said.
"Thanks," Jane mumbled as she reached for the steaming cup of coffee Korsak set down in front of her. She blew on it, pushing the steam away with her breath and then letting it come back to lick at her chin and nose. When it was cool enough she slugged it down in a couple of gulps, hoping it would take the edge off the mild headache from old Pete's brews.
Jane reached into her pocket and pulled out the small switchblade, flicking it open and closed as Korsak shook his head. Her eyes wandered up to him and back to the blade, she knew what he would say…what he always said. She pulled her jacket off and tied it around her waist before slicing a four-inch long gash across her upper arm.
Korsak sighed and tossed her an old hand towel, "You know, one day she's going to figure out you hurt yourself on purpose just to come by and see her."
I'm gonna die. I'm gonna die. The words raced through her head as she ran from the Cornucopia in the arena. Run, that's what they had told her…Korsak and Cayden. Run as fast and as far as you can. Standing there on the platform, looking out at the Cornucopia and the other tributes, it was like a switch flipped. Running won't keep you alive. She had to have supplies; she knew that much, so against Korsak's advice she'd plowed head first into the fray. A couple of bags secured she ran…but she could feel the wet warm liquid seeping down her face. When she was far enough away and feeling safe enough to stop she did…to take stock of her injuries. Blood had never looked so red.
Jane watched the red trickle down her arm for a moment and then wiped it up and held the cloth to the gash, "Yeah…maybe one day."
The city center was awake now; shops were open and people were bustling about. Jane spied Darla Flannery coming out of her bakery with a broom, intent on setting a couple of street kids to flight. So, she gave Darla more than enough money for a dozen rolls and a few cookies for the kids, which had them scamper off delightfully without needing to be asked twice.
Finally, she rounded the corner and could see her destination. The letters that spelled "Maura Isles: Seamstress and Alterations" had chipped and worn partially away after years with no attention to their freshening up. It would really be pointless to anyway, Maura's reputation with fine fabric was known by all and most of her business was comprised of private orders from the Capitol. But, Jane wasn't there for a fancy silk tourniquet.
The storefront was tiny, a place where Maura mostly kept the items she worked on that people in District 8 would actually be interested in or could afford. Her other work of varying ilk she did upstairs, in her apartment.
Jane knocked on the door and did her best to contain the grin that often tried to plaster itself across her face in the fair-skinned, caramel brunette's presence. "I…uh…" she nodded towards her arm.
Maura shook her head and waved her in, "I swear, Jane Rizzoli, I think you must be the most accident prone person in District 8. Thank God you don't work in the factories, you might not have any limbs left." She smiled that beaming grin of jest, a glint in her hazel eyes as she pulled back the screen that hid the doorway to the back room. The rest of the apartment was just as one might imagine a seamstress's abode to be: fabrics and dummies, drawings and sketches, orders pinned to the wall, garments in various states of completion. The back room was something entirely different: a high, hard table with a thin mattress, disinfectant, medical tools and a pharmacy that rivaled the real pharmacy in town.
Doctors were hard to come by in District 8, but injuries and ailments were all too common. There were several apothecaries in the District, who operated on holistic practices passed down through generations, but none save Maura had honed true surgical skills or had access to medications like she did. When you're a favored seamstress for customers in the Capitol you can ask for a few hard to get things in return. Technically, it was forbidden to practice certain types of "medicine" without a license – anything that was more like real medicine than witchcraft. People in the District needed her services; so people in the district kept their mouths shut.
Jane could afford the real doctor; but she always went to Maura.
"Let's take a look," Maura peeled back the cloth and began cleaning the wound. "So, how did you manage this?"
"Well, Korsak and I were up late, uh…"
"Drinking," Maura completed her sentence with sly smile.
"Yes, that. And, I don't know, I must have snagged it on something while I was…"
"Drunk," Maura added again.
"Yes, that." Jane watched the woman's dainty hands slide over her skin.
"Well, it's quite a clean wound, not jagged or torn…" Maura regarded Jane with an air of amused suspicion as she retrieved some supplies from one of her drawers.
"Oh good," Jane exhaled, "I'd hate to have a bad scar."
Maura laughed, "Yes, because you're always so concerned with your outward aesthetics, what with your underground boxing hobby and all. You don't really need stitches and I'm running low on sutures anyway, my client that sends them has been ill."
She placed a gooey salve on the wound before wrapping it in a clean bandage. "There…all patched up," it took a minute before Maura realized she was still holding onto Jane's arm, her thumbs stroking back and forth across the skin above and below the bandage.
Jane smiled as a slight flush crept up the other woman's neck and colored her cheeks. Suddenly her palms ached and she clenched her fists open and shut to try and vanquish the discomfort. The action was not lost on Maura who reached for one of her hands.
"Do they hurt?" She took Jane's hand in her own and began massaging gently, pressing into the scar tissue and kneading it with her thumbs to Jane's palm and her fingers to the scar on the back of the hand.
"Just…a little. I got a angry last night and slammed them into a table," Jane bit her lip, wondering if this would be the time Maura would ask about them. After she'd won the Games they had hospitalized her in the Capitol, cleaned her up, polished away all the wound scars inflicted by the arena and the other tributes. The scars on her palms were different. She didn't get them in the arena. She got them in the hospital. A special gift. A special reminder from President Hoyt that there are limits to victory. He didn't let the doctors erase those scars. Only Korsak knew how she got those. A few had dared to ask and it sent her into such a seething rage they never asked again. Now, she never offered her hands to anyone…except for Maura.
"I have a new cream I've been working on, a topical analgesic. Would you mind if I tried it on you?" Maura looked her in the eye with a genuine smile, still holding tightly to and massaging her palm. That smile. Jane was fairly certain she'd let Maura thrust her hand in a fire if she asked.
"No, I don't mind."
Maura held the jar to Jane's nose, "Plant extracts, from peppers and mint as well as willow bark, mostly. It's not particularly strong but I think it could be helpful for low-grade arthritis and muscle pain." She scooped a dollop of the cream onto her finger and then worked it into the scar.
"It tingles," Jane watched Maura work the cream until it was fully absorbed and then move to the other hand. The effect was almost immediate. The tingling sensation rolled through her hand and then turned to a very dull burn before fading away, taking the ache with it. "Wow."
"Did that help?"
"Yeah, a lot actually," Jane hopped down from the table marveling at the change and the absence of discomfort. She dug through her pockets and pulled out the remaining cash she had on hand.
Maura reached for her hands and pushed them and the money away, "No…no, you don't need to pay me."
"I know," Jane protested, "but if you're low on supplies maybe this will help, so you know, you can keep helping the people that really need it." She forced the money into Maura's still objecting hands and closed her fingers around it. "Take it."
Maura nodded and they exited the room, taking great care to again conceal the door…just in case. Jane paused at the door to the apartment, her hand on the knob before she turned, "Thank you."
"Jane," Maura walked towards her but stopped a few feet away. She glanced down and fidgeted with the pincushion secured around her wrist by a thin elastic band, turning it round and round. "You…you don't have to be hurt…to come by." It was almost a whisper.
Jane chuckled and nervously swept her hair back from her face as she nodded and then left.
Thanks to Angela_V for the beta