The sun had gone down before Maura saw Jane again that day.
It wasn't for lack of trying, at least on Maura's part. She had spent most of the morning unpacking their luggage, waiting for Jane to stop by as promised. Perhaps naively, she had hoped they would be able to lunch together, but there was no such luck. Jane was bound to be extremely busy getting caught up at work, a task Maura did not feel up to doing yet herself. Hour after hour ticked by as she figured out how to break the news about Angela, and then slowly started to fret. It was past five o'clock now. Jane never went this late without checking in at home, Maura's office, or at least sending word with someone.
What got Maura preparing to rush out the door was the overdue realization that it was entirely plausible for Jane to have run into Angela and been told everything.
She had just finished lacing up her shoes when she heard footsteps on the front porch and froze. Maybe that was finally Jane. But a knock quickly deflated her excitement, and she hastily went over to open it.
"Sheriff," she said, sounding a little surprised. "Um, hello! How are you?"
Korsak walked inside when Maura opened the door a little wider, then shut it behind him. He was turning his hat over nervously in his hands, avoiding Maura's eye, wishing he was about to talk about something more pleasant like the trip Maura had just taken back home. Instead, he felt pressed to ask, "Have you seen Jane today?"
"You mean since this morning? No," Maura quickly replied. She tensed when Korsak sighed gruffly. "Do you know where she is?" Her anxiety ratcheted as Korsak still didn't meet her gaze. "Sheriff, please, you're starting to worry me."
"It completely slipped my mind," Korsak blurted out.
"Well, I meant to tell her, but I wasn't sure when you two were coming back, and I thought I'd have more time to figure out a way to break it to her, or that he'd be gone by then."
"Who's Dr. Pike?"
Korsak sighed again, wearily sitting down on the arm of Jane's favorite chair. "While you were in Boston, you very dutifully asked Dr. Callahan if he could make himself or his assistant available to come down from Green Forge and help in our town when necessary. Unfortunately about two days after you left, Dr. Callahan was struck quite ill himself."
"Oh, poor man! Is he all right?"
"Doing better now, apparently. He was still present enough to feel bad about possibly letting you down, so…" A third sigh, and Korsak wiped his brow, wishing he had a shot of bourbon to get him through all this. "So Callahan sent another man down here to take his place, which is to say your place, temporarily, while you were gone."
"This Dr. Pike person? All right, so what does he have to do with Jane?"
Finally lifting his eyes to meet Maura's, Korsak said heavily, "Pike is the reason Jane can still use her hands."
He bit back the urge to say more, watching Maura's expression carefully and hoping she would be able to connect the dots herself. More than once he had seen Jane and Maura together, Jane's hands glove-free—he knew Maura must have noticed those scars, the ones Jane used to so fiercely hide. Slowly he saw sorrowful comprehension dawn on Maura's features: someone had to have operated on Jane the night Hoyt had scarred her hands, and Dr. Byron would've been too young at the time to have been the town doctor.
"I don't know how much about that night Jane's told you," Korsak said softly. "But suffice it to say it changed the course of her life, and obviously not in a good way. I could tell she was uncomfortable every time Pike saw her afterwards, tried to check up on her. I think she was ashamed."
"Of what?" Maura asked breathlessly. "He saved her—shouldn't she be grateful to him for that? Shouldn't she want to see him because of it?"
Korsak was shaking his head before Maura even finished asking the question. "He didn't save her, I did," he said, and he was able to do so without making it sound puffed up. "And make no mistake, Maura, Jane was embarrassed around me, too, for a long time. But I'd been close to her family before it happened, and I think that helped. She distanced herself for a while, but not completely. She'd never known Pike, though. Not really. She'd never needed a doctor before that night. So…"
"She associated him with weakness," Maura guessed. "He had first met her when she was barely holding onto life, and she hated that that was his first impression of her."
"Yeah," Korsak muttered.
"Has she always been so proud, then?"
"It ain't just a matter of pride, Maura. It's everything Jane went through that night. Pike was a constant reminder of how close she'd come to death, and I think that scared her, even if she'd never admit it."
"Where's he been? I mean, what precipitated Dr. Byron coming to replace him?"
"Oh, there was another doctor before Byron came in, after Pike. My former superior officer, Lieutenant Cavanaugh, asked Dr. Pike to leave a few months after the whole thing happened."
Korsak shrugged. "Cavanaugh had a soft spot for Jane, I think. And he hated Pike, and Pike was intimidated by Cavanaugh, so he left pretty fast. But Cavanaugh's been gone for a while now, and I guess Pike didn't end up going too far if he wound up back here."
"Jane saw him?"
"I think so," Korsak said uncomfortably, shrugging one shoulder. "She was supposed to meet me in town, but she never did."
"So she could be anywhere," Maura reasoned, her panic resurfacing when Korsak failed to mention a likely place where Jane might be. "Where's Frost?"
"Frost's out of town, as a matter of fact."
Normally Maura would have been curious enough to ask where exactly Frost had gone, but all she could bring herself to care about at the moment was the fact that she had no idea where Jane was, and the only person who probably could have told her was not reachable. Jane had left without word: either she was in some kind of trouble, or she was hiding herself away on purpose.
Maura was jarred out of her reverie only when Korsak gently put a hand on her shoulder. "You just sit tight, Dr. Isles. I'll find Jane and bring her to you."
"No," Maura said softly, pushing Korsak's hand away. "I'm not just going to sit around waiting. She'd look for me if I was gone. I'm not going to do any less."
And so they split up to search. Korsak rode back into town, where he first went to Tommy and Frankie's, then Angela's tavern. Maura went to the corral, and after looking it over, mounted Wind Whistler and headed over to Sparrow Lake. She urged her horse quickly down the same path she and Jane had ridden last night, ultimately letting out in the alcove Jane frequented for privacy. It didn't take long for Maura to see that nobody was there, and she felt her heart plummet in disappointment and further concern: she had been so sure Jane would be there. As she wasn't, it seemed to point to a determination not to be found even by Maura.
The search went on for hours: Maura ventured the long way to Wohaw Springs, Korsak went up to Green Forge, and Frankie (once informed that Jane was gone) canvassed the town once again. He had thought of asking Angela if she might know anything, but he was wary of worrying her just yet if he could avoid it.
It was past nine o'clock when Maura, desperately and dejectedly returning to Hollow Creek, was finally hailed down by Frankie. He was pale, breathing heavily, and for a moment Maura feared the worst. Frankie had apparently run fast and long to find her; once he was close enough to speak, he leaned over with his hands on his knees, all but gasping for breath.
"Jane's home," he wheezed. He had to call out when Maura swiftly turned to head back to her and Jane's house. "Not your home," Frankie explained, wiping he sweat off his face with dirty kerchief. "Ours. The old Rizzoli place."
Maura frowned slightly, a sign of worry creasing her forehead.
"She's in a bad way," Frankie said, stepping in Maura's path when she looked ready to walk in the direction of the Rizzoli house.
"You mean drunk," Maura said tartly, looking down and needlessly pulling on her gloves. When she glanced up, it was to see Frankie nodding glumly. "Well I'd better get over there, then."
Frankie blocked her again. "Please, Maura. Jane's here now; she'll be all right. Go home tonight and rest, get some sleep. We'll send her over tomorrow." It did not appear as though Maura felt like complying. Even though there was no one around, Frankie lowered his voice to say, "Please. You remember what happened the last time you were around Jane when she was like this."
He looked afraid to bring it up, but Maura understood why he had. After all, Frankie had been the one a very drunk and remorseful Jane had asked to throw her in jail for mistreating Maura. At the time, Maura had been appropriately afraid and hesitant to forgive Jane's admittedly brutish behavior. How else could she have reacted, when she had been handled with nothing but kid gloves until that point in her life?
Since that incident, Maura had experienced first-hand much more of the darkness which the world had to offer. She had learned how it felt to lose one's control to alcohol. She had learned how it felt to be kidnapped, tied up. She had learned how it felt to pull a trigger at someone, and also to be on the receiving end of intentional, perverse violence—to be on the brink of death. That crevasse was one Jane had been forced to stare down daily since a young age, ever confronting her own mortality and rarely taking pleasure in it until Maura came into her life.
But how was Frankie to know exactly how much and how well Maura understood his sister?
"I need to see her," Maura said, her throat dry. When it looked as though Frankie was going to protest, she added, "That is not a request, Francesco. I will be seeing her whether or not you like it."
With that she finally stepped around him, self-assured that the only thing which could stop her now was physical interference, which Frankie would never resort to with a lady.
"Well I'm coming with you," he said, catching up.
"You may come to the house, but I insist on seeing her alone."
"As a deputy of this town, Dr. Isles, I'm afraid I can't permit that. Jane's a danger to herself and others at the moment, and I can't in good conscience leave you alone with her."
"I don't give a hang about your conscience, junior deputy," Maura said, stopping and turning to face him. "I am properly equipped to handle Jane, and have some private matters to attempt discussing with her."
Frankie snorted. "She's not really sound enough to discuss much at the moment."
Maura started walking again, lifting her chin up. "I'll be the judge of that," she said in a lofty voice. "If it will make you more comfortable to wait outside armed, all right then. I presume Tommy is watching her now?"
"Yeah, she just showed up. But you gotta understand—"
"Understand this, Frankie!" Maura said in the sharpest tone she had ever directed at him. "I am tired of being underestimated by people! I do not need your permission to speak with my current companion, much as I appreciate your intent. All I ask is for your cooperation. If I need protection, I will not be too proud or shy to ask for it."
Frankie was sufficiently cowed by Maura's impressive outburst, but Tommy put up a fight once they reached the house. He saw no point in Maura endangering herself, but she quickly wore him down with a sermon not dissimilar to the one she had just given Frankie. Although both brothers were extremely hesitant, they agreed to let Maura go inside so long as she promised to call for help if she needed it and defend herself if she thought it necessary. Making note of their concern, Maura left them on the front porch, squared her shoulders, and walked inside.
As soon as the door closed behind her, she was prepared for the worst. The dark house was entirely quiet, and Maura suddenly found herself hyperaware of the noises from outside: the breeze, the crickets chirping, a dog barking somewhere down the street. When she called out for Jane, there was no answer. Maura lit a nearby lamp and carried it with her down the hall she knew led to Jane's old room. But it seemed to be another dead end—one sweep of the room with her lamp proved that it was empty.
She very nearly screamed and dropped the lamp when she turned around to see Jane suddenly standing in the doorway.
"Put that down," Jane said, her voice nothing more than a husky whisper. She pulled the lamp out of Maura's loosened grip, placing it on the floor. Straightening up, Jane took a step closer to Maura, who moved back on instinct. "Hello there, Mrs. Rizzoli."
"Maura." She moved closer again, hands resting on her hips in a sort of pseudo-casualness. Maura could smell the alcohol on her breath, and wished she could see for sure the look in Jane's eyes. But the light was too far away now, and Jane was backing her further from it. "Tell me something."
"Husbands and wives… or wives and wives… whatever the hell we are, we ain't supposed to have secrets. Agreed?" When she got no verbal response, Jane lowered her voice even more. "Tell me, Maura. Say somethin'. I thought you said you couldn't lie."
"You lied to me about Angela!"
"I did not!" Maura cried, lifting her hands and stopping in her tracks. Jane came to a halt as well, and Maura got the feeling she was getting a dark stare. "I kept something secret from you, it isn't the same thing."
"Oh yeah? You didn't go lyin' to Angela, then? Couldn't tell her we was just friends? No, you had to go all out. Just went ahead and told her we don't mean nothin' to each other but pure physical satisfaction—only the way she sees it, it ain't so pure."
"Jane, that isn't what I said."
"Well that's what she got out of it," Jane snarled defensively. "I'm the monster and you're this poor weak innocent thing I've bewitched to satisfy my needs." She let out a bark of a laugh, as if someone like her could never have something as inanely mortal as sexual urges. A light push was all it took to get Maura on the edge of the bed, and she sat there in momentary trepidation. Jane stood over her, slowly undoing her belt. "Was she right, Maura? That all we are to each other?"
Maura's mind had gone blank, from what she wasn't entirely sure. She shivered when Jane pulled her belt out of its loops, inadvertently slapping the leather against Maura's face before letting it fall to the floor. Maura found herself transfixed as she watched Jane slide her thumb beneath the strap of one of her suspenders, running it upwards before reaching her shoulder. With a snap, the suspender fell, and the other soon followed.
"You know everything," Jane said, her voice black and steady. "You know everything in the world, but you also know everything about me. I ain't got nothin' to hide from you no more, so I ain't gonna. Behind all the nice talk and the pretty dresses and the clean clothes, Dr. Isles, there is a wild animal inside you that ain't nobody seen but me. So you ain't gonna blush when I tell ya how it felt the other night to have your face right here."
It took Maura a moment to realize Jane had pulled the hem of her shirt out from her trousers, and now appeared to be massaging the skin just below her navel. Jane's legs felt weak for a moment as she let herself imagine a little more fully what she had wanted to do that night, her clouded mind trying to formulate a more descriptive mental image.
"Your lips were right here," she murmured. "And I wanted ya to keep goin' down. I ain't thinkin' so clear just now Maura, so you go ahead and picture it for me."
"All right, all right," Jane said impatiently. "You're a woman, ya like to be wooed, is that right? I gotta kiss you first, right?"
Somewhat clumsily, Jane got onto the bed, straddling Maura and pulling her into the least romantic kiss they had ever shared. Maura wasn't being wooed; she was being dominated. Even after their longest separation or the most passionate of their encounters, Jane had never gripped her this tightly or kissed her this hard. In no time at all, Maura was on her back, something she didn't realize until Jane had broken off the kiss, looming over her.
"These?" she panted, caressing the fingers of her left hand against Maura's cheek. "They've been inside ya, deep inside. And yours have been in mine—I mean, in me. Hidden away by those dainty white gloves you wear, but there ain't nothin' refined about 'em where I'm concerned, huh? Ya feel sorry for me, so you're stayin' with me for now to help with my urges, until some man comes and takes ya away, 'cause he can give ya stability and your own damn kids—"
The argument flew right out of Maura's head the moment Jane shifted her knee up hard, right between Maura's legs. The pressure was felt distinctly through her layers of skirts, ramming into a very strained and aroused area. Maura's thighs squeezed Jane's leg on impulse, just as her hands grasped blindly for the sweaty shirt on her back.
"You want me to stop, I'll stop," Jane choked out, thrusting against Maura with every ounce of her considerable strength. "Just tell me."
Maura was only tangentially aware of the soft, desperate noises coming out of her as she gulped for air, frantically pitting resolve against the animalistic arousal surging through her. Even though each faculty was demanding the impending release which only Jane could provide, Maura knew she could not allow herself to be so easily and completely bowled over when Jane was in this state. It wasn't right.
The first time she whispered "stop," it was so quiet and restrained that it easily lost amidst Jane's heavy panting and even the sound of the wooden frame beneath them bumping the wall.
"Stop," Maura said loudly, more forcefully.
At the word, Jane pulled back almost instantly, breaking off the hot, wet kiss she had been leaving on Maura's neck. "Stop?" she whispered, breathing heavily.
"I can't be with you like this," Maura said, her voice garbled by tears she hadn't even realized she'd been shedding.
Jane shoved off her, turning away and sitting on the edge of the bed with her back to Maura. "You're the one who came lookin' for me," she said angrily, rubbing her arms. "I was tryin' to stay away from ya so wouldn't—'cause ya said ya don't like it when I'm like this way. Dammit, Maura, I can't help it. I didn't hardly drink a damn drop in Boston, all the hell we went through! And you ain't even apologized yet!"
"I should hardly think so, when you're in this state," Maura said, standing up.
"Ya should've told me Angela knew somethin'," Jane said gravely, getting to her feet and stepping in front of Maura. "You didn't have no right keepin' that to yourself."
Maura smoothed her shirt, redoing the buttons Jane had ripped open, almost beyond repair. She looked up, trying to gauge how present the Jane she knew and loved was at this moment. "I know you're upset," she said softly. "And you have the right to be, but I'm sure it also hasn't helped that you saw Dr. Pike here t—"
Jane cut her off with a wordless shout, waving her hand. "Don't say his name!" she slurred. "I don't care, I don't give a hang that he's here! You think he scares me? You think I ain't got what it takes to take care of myself, Dr. Isles? I do! I don't need him or Angela or nobody else but me! You ain't leavin' till I know you know that!"
"Oh, I'm leaving!" Maura huffed, pushing Jane aside and heading for the door of the room.
"Apologize!" Jane growled, blocking her way again.
"You are a coward!" Maura nearly shouted. "Is this what I should expect when you're confronted with unpleasant situations which can't be handled with a showdown or a fight? You just run away from the people who love you, regardless of who you might hurt?"
"Hurt? I'm the one hurt, Maura!"
"You scared me to death today! I had no idea where you'd gone, if you'd left by choice or been taken! I made a mistake in not telling you, but you shouldn't have run away like an insecure child, like a coward! You should have come right back where you'd left me and talked it out!"
"You wanna talk? Fine! Let's talk right now!"
"I am not going to torture myself by staying here and listening to your drunken rambling for one more minute, Jane Rizzoli! I will not entertain you when you're in such a mood, and if you think otherwise, you are even more frighteningly far gone than I had thought."
Without another word, Maura stormed out of the house and Jane didn't try to stop her this time. Tommy asked Maura if she was all right, and she briskly replied that she was fine and had merely decided that it would in fact be prudent to wait until tomorrow to try and talk some sense into Jane. Wind Whistler was tied to a post in town near the boarding house, and Maura resolved to walk there, turning down Frankie's offer to lend her his horse. It wasn't too far of a distance.
Once Maura was out of sight, the Rizzoli brothers re-entered the house, only to see Jane in the kitchen downing some bourbon. Tommy tried to wrestle it away from her, telling her she'd had more than enough to drink, but Jane was not feeling particularly amenable. Frankie had hoped she would be drowsy at this point, but the opposite turned out to be true: she was so riled up and raw after her encounter with Maura, and she needed something to channel all of her sudden energy into. Unfortunately, this translated to a fist fight with Tommy where no punches were pulled on either side. Frankie was eventually able to at least inject some sanity back into his brother, and together the two of them managed to get Jane into her room.
She stayed there, but only until she was sure they had long fallen asleep. Jane had nodded off herself, but eventually woke up in the middle of the night feeling heartsick.
Maura wasn't sleeping well either. In fact, she wasn't sleeping at all. Upon getting home, she had gotten ready for bed in a flurry, hoping that restless activity would keep her from being able to seriously ponder what had just happened. But then she was lying alone in bed with absolutely nothing to distract her from the misery seeping through her.
It had been wrong, so wrong, to keep something of such magnitude a secret from Jane. Maura took comfort in knowing they would talk through it all tomorrow, but she felt horrendous guilt for having driven Jane to such an angry place tonight. And she had certainly hated the way Jane had left without giving anyone any word, worrying Maura to a degree she didn't think she had ever reached before. Goosebumps rose as she remembered in painstaking detail how harrowing it had been searching for Jane, not having the slightest idea of her whereabouts.
Reading didn't help. Star searching didn't help. Writing a letter didn't help. Nothing could distract her. Maybe she needed a companion, a lively one. Maura opened her door to go find Jo Friday, when she finally heard it—loud, ugly sobbing from the front porch. The moment she located where the noise was coming from, Maura hurried through the house and wrenched open the front door.
Jane was sitting there, knees pulled up to her chest, wailing pathetically. Maura had rarely seen her cry like this, and that was jarring enough in itself, to say nothing of how heavily it contrasted with the determined anger she had seen embody Jane earlier that night. Jane wiped at her eyes, sobbing relentlessly, gasping for breath when she saw Maura was there.
"I'm sorry!" she choked out. "I'm sorry, I'm s-sorry!" She inhaled deeply, and the breath came out as a loud, twisted sob. "I love you, Maura, please—I'm sorry!"
Maura wasn't sure how much more of this emotional turmoil she could take. She leaned over to help pull Jane to her feet, and judging by her lack of balance, it was wondrous to think she had made it all the way over here at all. Jane's evidenced self-loathing made Maura feel all the worse for having kept a secret from her, and she almost wished Jane would go back to angry shouting. It would make her feel less guilty.
"Sh, sh," Maura soothed her once they were back inside. They stumbled to the sofa, where Jane fully let herself go and just rested her full weight in Maura's arms. She kissed the top of Jane's head, running a hand over her hair. "I'm sorry too, Jane."
"You ain't got nothin' to be sorry for," Jane said between short, aggravated sobs. "I'm the one actin' like a child, like a coward." Before Maura could say anything, Jane held up one of her hands, fingers spread. "My scars," she said, taking another pass at wiping her arms. "You're right, Pike fixed 'em up and now he's back. Here's… he's here."
"He'll be gone soon," Maura said. "I can make him leave tomorrow."
Jane swallowed heavily. "I woke up and I didn't know w-where I was. I thought I was in hell, I hurt so bad. Everything hurt so bad, Maura. My hands, especially." She gulped down another sob, giving Maura enough time to realize Jane was talking about the night Hoyt had almost killed her. "Dr. Pike was there, standin' over me with some sorta tool, like I woke up before with Hoyt and his scalpel. I thought he was gonna hurt me. I thought he was gonna kill me."
"Oh, Jane," Maura whimpered, holding her closer and eliciting more tears.
"And he—he made me feel weak, and stupid, and scared more'n anything else. I didn't think he was gonna ever be here again. I can't be here if he's here. I gotta leave."
"He'll leave," Maura insisted. "Jane… please. Don't run away again. Don't ever run away."
"I do, though," Jane cried. "I do run away. I ain't so brave as ya thought, Maura, you called it easy. I didn't ever wanna hurt ya, I swear. I don't ever wanna do that. Angela …she m-messed me up, and it all just …I can't think of…" She sighed heavily, wearily. There were words she knew she wanted to get out, sentiments she wanted to express, but none of them were coming to her. Even sober she might not be as eloquent as Maura, but it seemed nothing intelligent was willing to come out of her just now.
Maura kissed her forehead, rubbing her arm. "Why'd you come here tonight, Jane?"
Jane's voice sounded strangely dry now. It cracked as she bent over, putting her face in her hands and muffling some words. "I yelled at ya. I made out ya mean less to me than you do. I couldn't hardly sleep, I felt so sick for it."
"Me too," Maura whispered. "You really scared me today."
"I know," Jane said thickly. "In a lot of ways, I reckon."
"You reckon correctly."
Jane laughed weakly. It was an exchange they shared often as a small joke, Maura commenting on the Western phraseology. Maura smiled as well, then sobered up enough to ask, "Will you come to bed, then?"
"No," Jane said softly, still wiping away the errant tear. "I oughtta stay out here."
"I'd really rather you stayed where I can be with you and make sure you don't run away."
This time when Jane laughed, it sounded more pitying than pitiable. "Maura, you're a child if ya think I couldn't find a way to sneak outta bed without you're noticin'. I reckon it's best for me to sleep out on this sofa here tonight. I promise I ain't goin' nowhere."
"And Jane Rizzoli never breaks a promise," Maura said quietly.
Jane nodded. "Hell no she don't." With one more sigh, Jane got out the last of her tears. It was silent for a few moments as she stayed hunched over, Maura rubbing her back. "How come you're always so quick to forgive me?" she finally asked.
Maura took her time answering. "Well in this case, you did what I once asked. Am I angry with you for leaving without word? Absolutely. Do I think it's unwise to drown all your sorrows and insecurities in alcohol? Indisputably. But …I told you never to drink like that around me again, and so you left to do it elsewhere. I feel justified in coming to find you, but even when I did and we were both upset, you… you didn't let things go beyond where I was willing to allow them."
Here she carefully examined Jane's expression, her eyes adjusted fully to the dark. It was clear Jane was hanging on to her every word, but it also seemed like a safe bet to say she wasn't following much of it. It was probably an equally safe bet to say that if any words were in fact managing to get past the inebriated haze of Jane's mind, they would be forgotten in the morning.
"In essence," Maura sighed, "I promised to stand by you for better or for worse. If this is the worst, I want to know it."
After a long pause, Jane reached up and brushed her fingers against the faint scar on Maura's neck. "Weren't that the worst?" she whispered.
Maura gently took Jane's hand away from her neck, kissing the wounded tissue on her palm. "It was. Sets a pretty high bar for you."
"Don't say that," Jane muttered, pulling her hand away. "I don't ever wanna hurt you, Maura, and I ain't ever gonna."
Not if you can help it, I suppose. "I know," Maura said. "I know, Jane. And you won't ever, will you?"
"I'd sooner marry Grant!"
Maura finally laughed. "Let's not be drastic! You wouldn't leave me for him, would you?"
"No, Maura Isles. You might make me mad sometimes, and I might make you mad sometimes, but I wouldn't leave you."
A/N: Another hard one. Questions? Comments? Westerns?