The Space Between
Disclaimer: Rizzoli & Isles and all of its parts belong to Tess Gerritsen, Janet Tamaro and TNT.
A/N: A quick piece written during my lunch break that addresses the time between the rescue at the reservoir and Maura's coming home.
Jane sloshed through the onslaught of rushing water, catching up with Korsak and tossing Maura's other limp arm around her shoulder. Despite the chill of the air, the medical examiner's skin was hot to the touch, and Jane felt fear slice through her. After Maura passed out, she had continued as directed, slicing the other side of the her thin leg and massaging it until the blood flowed, thick and black. She had tied the wound as best she could, but it had quickly been saturated, and the way she had been handled by the gunmen hadn't helped matters.
"I didn't want to go swimming," Maura slurred. "Who swims in toxic water…"
Korsak glanced at Jane over the top of Maura's lolling head. "Luckily, no one's going swimming," he said, raising his eyebrows. "How much blood has she lost?"
"I can lose up to 2,000 milliliters before going into stage four hypovolemic shock," Maura replied, her words sliding into each other.
"Well, we won't let you lose that much," Jane offered as she glimpsed Korsak's patrol car coming into view just up a small incline. She had never been so happy to see a dilapidated BPD-issued vehicle in her life.
"Jane's strong," Maura said, lilting her head up toward Korsak as they struggled to conquer the hill, the medical examiner's good leg starting to drag.
"Maura, just a little more to go," Jane said encouragingly. "Just up the hill."
"Are we exercising?" Maura mumbled. "I love to exercise." Her head lolled backwards. "My leg likes to exercise."
"Your leg will keep exercising, Maur, don't worry," Jane assured her, glancing down at the t-shirt that wrapped the wound. It was now a deep, red black, with crimson streaks marring Maura's ankle.
Korsak ducked out from under Maura's arm as they came to a halt beside the car, and he yanked open the back door of the car.
"Okay, Maur," Jane said, easing her onto the seat before elevating her leg as best as she could. "Here we go. Camping trip is over."
"Noooo," Maura called, her voice low, but then seemingly changed her mind. "Yesssss."
Jane slid in beside her, pulling Maura against her and the blonde immediately let her head fall into her chest. "I think we've had enough camping," Jane said as the car rumbled to life underneath them, the siren suddenly blaring into the silence and causing both she and Maura to jump. She glared up at Korsak. "We're in the middle of nowhere, Korsak, you want to save that for when we get on the road?"
Korsak shrugged, flipping it off, the headlights illuminating their way along the gravel road toward the guard station. Jane glanced down at Maura, who had become suddenly quiet. Her eyes were open, but they widened with some newly felt fear, prompting Jane to give her midsection a comforting squeeze. "It's okay, Maur," she said, brushing the damp hair off her forehead.
"What if I get necrotizing fascitis?" Maura whispered.
"You're not going to get necrotizing fascitis," Jane replied, unsure of what the condition was, but nevertheless hoping for the best.
"Flesh-eating bacteria," Maura said. "My biggest fear. It slowly eats the muscle tissue, rendering your limbs useless. This is prime breeding ground for it."
"Maura, you're not going to get necro...fertilizer...itis," Jane said uncertainly. "I washed my shirt the other day, it's completely clean. No bacteria anywhere. Besides, I didn't saw through your leg with a piece of glass just to have you lose it." She heard Korsak groan from the front seat, locking eyes with her, but he said nothing, instead pressing harder onto the gas as they turned onto the main road.
"Okay," Maura replied, her dazed tone light compared to Jane's own shaky voice.
"Hospital's about fifteen minutes away," Korsak said, peering around at them. "You okay?" he asked Jane, and by the glint of his eye, she knew he meant more than physically.
"Yeah," she said with a nod, glancing down at Maura, whose eyes were fluttering slowly as she tried to stay conscious. "We're okay. Right, Maur?"
"We're always okay," she murmured in reply, prompting an anxious smile from Jane.
She kept talking to Maura, not only to keep the blonde awake, but to keep her own fear from clogging her throat. The responses she got, however, kept getting fainter and less intelligible, and Jane tapped a free hand nervously against the back of Korsak's seat. "How much longer?" she asked, hoping to keep the anxiety from her voice. As a cop, she prided herself on being cool under pressure, but after the events of the day, she was having trouble keeping her wits about her.
"Seven minutes," he said, offering nothing more, instead focusing on the road.
"Thank you for turning down the heat," Maura whispered, prompting Jane to look down at her. Her skin was grey, but chilled, her lips tinged with a hint of blue, and she was startled at how quickly the blonde's temperature had changed.
"Maur, tell me more about your dream," she tried, attempting to keep the blonde's eyes open.
Maura let out a low hiss in response, her eyes opening briefly, but only to flash up at Jane. "I don't like this," she mumbled.
"What, you don't like almost losing a leg and nearly drowning?" Jane asked with a nervous smile. "Is that not your idea of a good camping trip?" She waited for Maura's response, but it didn't come, and she leaned over, squeezing her shoulder. "Maur, I need you to wake up," she said. "You're going to miss out on the car games. That's the best part about the ride home." She glanced up at Korsak, her panic bubbling just below her chest. "Where the fuck is the hospital?" she asked.
"We're two miles out," he said. "We'll get there, Jane."
"Hear that, Maura, we're two minutes away," she said, glancing down at the blonde, whose eyes had closed. "Come on, Maur, you hear that?" she repeated, rubbing a hand along a limp arm. She waited for some sign of acknowledgement, but when it didn't come, she placed her hand quickly on Maura's chest, checking her breathing before placing two fingers against her neck, where she was met with a rapid and thready pulse.
"Shit," she said, her voice escalating in panic. "Shit!"
Korsak glanced back at her, but only for a moment as he jerked the wheel, navigating through an intersection. "Hang on, hang on," he said, whether for Jane's benefit or for Maura's she didn't know. A few yards ahead she finally saw the bright lights of an "EMERGENCY" sign along the left of the road. The tires squealed as they rounded the turn, and Korsak lurched them to a halt in the roundabout outside the building, his door open before he had even stopped.
Jane let Korsak lift Maura out of the car, carrying her as fast as he could towards the double doors of the emergency room. The lights blared out at her, too bright after being in so much darkness, and her vision swam as she followed him. By the time she focused again, Maura was lying on a nearby gurney, her skin eerily reminiscent of the sheets she lay on.
A nurse was upon them, questions pouring from her mouth, and Jane worked to get her brain working, attempting to morph back into 'cop' mode and trying to remember the vocabulary Maura had used in the woods. "She was injured in a car crash," she said to the nurse. "Uh, something about a leaking artery. It was leaking and I cut her in order to let the blood out. I did a, uh... a fasciotomy or... I cut her leg open." She didn't like the way her voice was shaking, her composure suddenly wafer thin.
"Okay," the nurse replied, already opening Maura's eyes and peering into her pupils, one hand feeling for her pulse. "We'll take her back. Stay put, and we'll be out to let you know what's going on, okay?"
Jane nodded, watching with a fist over her mouth as the nurse wheeled Maura behind the double doors. But it was that sudden separation that suddenly rocked through her, and she leaned heavily into a wall as another nurse approached her. "Let's get you checked out, okay?" she asked, studying her with a clinical eye.
"I'm fine," Jane replied quickly, not bothering to look at her. She wasn't going anywhere until she heard that Maura was okay. "I just want to wait on my – on my friend."
"Then how about we at least get you cleaned up?" the nurse asked with a delicate smile, her eyes running over the scrapes along Jane's brow and arms.
"I need to call my mom," Jane said suddenly, glancing at Korsak.
"I'll handle it," he replied, giving her a pat on the shoulder. "Just get yourself taken care of, all right?"
She let the nurse lead her through the same double doors, where scrubbed nurses and doctors milled around her, all of them walking too fast for her brain to process and it was then that her brain suddenly went black, the floor dropping from underneath her.
Jane sat on a gurney, circling the scars on her palms as she waited, a used ice pack lying beside her. She had been embarrassed after fainting, and had spent the next hour convincing every nurse around her that she didn't need anymore undue attention. She heard her mother's voice before she saw her, but rather give her the usual eye roll of a greeting, she let her mother wrap her arms around her, rocking her gently back and forth several time. "Jane, sweetheart, are you okay?" Angela asked, her hands tracing Jane's eyebrow, worry morphing her expression.
"It appears that way," Jane replied, inching out of her grasp. For now, at least, she was done with the hugs.
"How's Maura?" Tommy asked.
"I don't know," Jane said. "She's in surgery, but I haven't heard anything for an hour now."
"Korsak said it was her leg," Angela said, still unable to keep her hand from patting Jane's arm, as if confirming that she was indeed standing in front of her. "My god, I was so worried about the both of you. I was certain you'd been in an accident." She cocked her head. "A mother's intuition is never wrong."
"Spare me, Ma," Jane muttered, pacing away from her mother's worried hands. "Where's Frankie?"
"He's with Korsak and Frost, processing," Tommy said, punching a text message into his phone. "I'm keeping him updated." He glanced up at Jane. "Why was Maura with you in the first place? She's not a trained cop, she's a medical examiner. Why the hell would you take her on some investigation?"
"I didn't take her," Jane exclaimed, throwing her hands up as she glanced accusingly at her mother.
"Tommy," Angela warned, holding up a hand. "Ease off."
In true Rizzoli fashion, Tommy ignored her, looking back at Jane. "I'm just saying, you guys may be having problems, but that's no reason to tear off and put her at risk, is it?"
Jane lunged off of the bed she had been perching on for the last hour, her anxiety fueling her anger at her little brother. "You think I would ever put Maura deliberately at risk?"
Tommy threw up his hands. "I don't know, Calamity Jane," he said, his voice rising. "All I know is that trouble follows you just as much as it follows me, whether you like it or not."
"Tommy!" Angela said, matching the pitch of his voice.
"And this time, Maura got caught in the cross-hairs," he continued.
Jane lashed out at him. "You need to shut your fucking hole," she said, eager to funnel her fear into something. She hadn't been able to fight back earlier that night, and she hadn't managed to save Maura. If Korsak hadn't arrived when he did, an amputated leg would have been the least of their problems. "And you need to lay off, Tommy." She shoved him, hard, catching him off balance.
Tommy appeared shocked more than angry, and didn't make a move toward her, but Angela didn't give him the chance, jumping between the two of them. "All right!" she yelled. "Both of you back off, or I'll put you both in the ER!" she commanded. "Tommy," she said, turning toward him. "Take a walk."
Tommy hung his head as he left, his face reddening, an expression that Jane recognized from when they fought as kids. It was always pride with Tommy, rather than anger. Angela turned back to Jane with a pair of empathetic eyes, but the look wasn't returned. Jane's anxiety had reached a new level, and she wanted to pummel her brother, for more reasons than she was comfortable with admitting. She knew Tommy harbored a crush on Maura, and had even acted on it once. And that not only made her protective, it made her jealous.
She paced, her anger finally giving way to exhaustion as she leaned against the wall, slowly sinking as she put her head in her hands. She heard her mother pad to her over, and caught the white Keds she wore out of the cracks in her hands. "Ma, I don't want to talk right now," she said.
"You don't have to talk," Angela replied, letting out a sigh as she sat down next to her daughter, the motion taking more effort than she liked to let on. "I'm going to talk."
Jane rolled her eyes, but Angela put up a hand. "If you don't let me talk, then I'm just going to resort to hugging."
"I thought that by forcing you and Maura together today, that it would help both of you remember why you had been friends in the first place." She glanced over at Jane. "But that's not the problem, is it?" she asked thoughtfully.
Jane stayed silent, fumbling with a lace on her shoe before finally offering a response. "The problem is she was confused about her biological father," she replied. "The guy that I shot. Remember that, Ma?"
"Of course I remember it," Angela said. "But let me tell you something, Jane, relationships are about communication and honesty. Whether it's friendship or something else, you got to talk to one another."
"I know, Ma. We've been through this. Stories, couples therapy, the works. I got to say, though, it's always the near-death experience that mends a friendship." She tried to chuckle, but the sounds merely came out as a muffled sigh. "Maura and I will get there, don't worry."
"If you have something to say to Maura, Jane Rizzoli, then I would hope that today, of all days, would teach you that you can't wait to say it."
"We should all just go around tossing out heartfelt confessions, then?" Jane muttered. How many times had she rehearsed her own in her head, only to back down the minute Maura's inquisitive eyes met hers?
"Sure," Angela said with a satisfied wave of her hand. "I'll start." She ignored her daughter's slumped shoulders and residual eye roll, and continued. "You're my daughter, and I love you. No matter what. But I won't stand for you not being true to who you are."
Jane looked over at her. "What do you mean, Ma?" she asked quietly, but she felt as if something was slowly being bared between the two of them, layer by layer.
"You can't help who you love," Angela replied with a comforting smile. "But you're lucky."
"Lucky?" Jane repeated. "I don't know whether to agree with you or to call your bluff," Jane said, waving at their surroundings. "I'm sitting in an ER waiting to hear whether Maura loses a leg or not. That's not generally my idea of lucky."
"That's not what I mean and you know it. Why is a heart to heart always so difficult with you?" Angela asked, shaking her head.
"Maybe because you're doing it wrong," Jane said defensively.
"No, you're doing it wrong," Angela replied with a wag of her finger. "If you love Maura, you tell her that you love her. You're lucky, Jane, because she loves you back. A blind man could see that."
Jane felt something open up inside her, that was rawer and newer than she expected, but nevertheless, it felt good to hear those words from her mother, as if the battle she'd been playing out in her head wouldn't be fought alone after all. "That's all I have to say," Angela said, patting Jane's knee. "Now get up so you can help me off the floor."
Jane rose slowly, reaching down and pulling her mother up. "I appreciate this... pep talk, Ma," she said, running a hand through her hair. "But for now, can we keep it between the two of us?"
Angela smiled at her. "Sure. If you give me a hug."
"What, you're resorting to bribery now?" Jane asked, mirroring her mirth with a small grin and leaning into her, giving her a healthy squeeze. She only broke the embrace when a nurse popped her head into the small station, a clipboard in her hand. "I have news, Detective," she said.
Jane's stomach clenched as she straightened, gripping her mother's hand. "You're smiling," she observed. "Either it's good news or you have a horrible bedside manner." Her attempt at humor didn't lift her anxiety, though, and she fidgeted as the nurse flipped through the clipboard with a breezy laugh.
"Maura will be fine," she said. "She did lose a lot of blood, but we got her stabilized and her vitals are all normal. She pulled through surgery without a problem, and thanks to your surgical skills, there was no irreparable damage to any nerves or tendons. We moved her into a private room for the night."
"Can I stay with her?" Jane asked immediately, only letting out the breath she'd been holding when the nurse nodded at her.
"Of course," she said. "Would you like to see her?"
"Yes," she answered breathlessly, letting go of her mother's hand. "Yes."
Maura's coloring had returned to the way Jane remembered it from that morning, its normally healthy hue, and Jane let out another relieved sigh as she caught sight of the blonde's left leg, which was wrapped in bulky white bandage. At the sound of her footsteps, Maura turned, greeting her with tired, droopy eyes, but she lifted her head and offered a genuine smile.
"Hey Maur," Jane said, returning it. "I don't remember the last time you smiled at me."
"This isn't me," she replied. "This is my leg smiling at you."
"Well, I see you're kind of making sense again," Jane observed, stopping at the side of the bed and looking down at her. "That's a good sign."
"She won't be making sense for long," a voice said behind them, and a large, round nurse walked in and greeted them with a matronly nod of her head. "Those sedatives will be kicking in shortly, Dr. Isles. You'll be out like a light." She picked up a marker and wrote her name across a dry-erase board. "My name's Rhonda. I'll be checking in on you throughout the night." She glanced at Jane. "You the partner?"
Jane let go of Maura's hand, which she had subconsciously held, and shook her head. "No, I'm... Jane," she said, unable to come offer up anything else.
"Well, all right, Jane," Rhonda replied, walking over to Maura and studying the IV that ran to her arm. "You look like you could use a hospital room too, if you ask me." She straightened. "But nobody asks me." She patted Maura's hand, glancing down at her. "Looks like it's kicking in," she said, as the medical examiner's eyes drooped. "Call me If you need anything," she called as she headed for the door, closing it lightly behind her.
Jane moved toward a nearby chair, but Maura grasped her hand, pulling her back. "Come here," she said, her voice thin. "I was worried about you." She pulled Jane down, studying the bruises and cuts along her temple. "Are you okay?"
Jane laughed. "Jesus, Maura, yes, I'm fine." She nodded towards the bandaged leg. "I think you're the one we need to worry about."
"I'm so tired," Maura replied, her eyes drooping again.
Jane reached for the chair behind her, pulling it over without breaking Maura's grip on her hand. "That's good," she replied. "I'm just going to stay right here."
Maura looked over at her as she settled into her chair. "You stayed," she said.
Jane shook her head, confused. "Yeah, I'm staying," she repeated. "I'm going to stay until we take you home tomorrow."
Maura shook her head, as if freeing herself from muddied thoughts. "No, you stayed with me. You didn't have to stay with me, Jane."
Jane balked, squeezing her hand. "Of course I did," she said. "That's one of the most important mantras of a Scout Trooper: "never leave a fallen comrade"."
Maura curled her lip slightly. "That's the soldier's creed," she said drowsily. "But I'll take it." She attempted to open her eyes, which were heavy with both natural and chemically-induced exhaustion. "That's why you won Sweetest Camper... sweetest soldier..."
Jane grinned, once again resigned to a less than fully cognizant Maura. "Yeah," she replied. "About that - "
She leaned in closer to the lethargic blonde, whispering lightly into her ear. "Yeah, Maur."
Maura returned the favor, turning to her, eyes closed as she murmured, "I'm sorry," repeating the words again and again, becoming a tired meditation.
"Shh," Jane said, pressing her lips lightly into her hair. "We'll get to all those formalities tomorrow, don't you worry." She rubbed her fingers gently along Maura's hand, finally clasping it in her own as she brought it to her lips and kissed each of the raw knuckles. "Maura," she said softly, almost imperceptibly, hoping it would sound like a dream to the sleeping woman in front of her. "I love you."
The words had come out easier than she expected, but maybe that's because it was truly the first time she had admitted them to herself. The hardest part, the most vulnerable part, would be sitting down with Maura and explaining exactly how she felt. For now, though, she would simply stay with her.
Yeah, it's just a one-shot, but it's still nice to hear from you. Reviews will be rewarded... :)